Quarterly Newsletter - September 2016

"I Became" 
by Jon Perry

Last month a small group of us had the opportunity to attend a church leadership conference organized by the Ethics & Religious Liberties Commission (ERLC).  The theme of the conference was "Onward:  Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel".  One of the keynote speakers, Bryan Loritts, challenged us to lead our congregations to break through what he called "evangelical passivity" and not accept the barriers of race in our fellowships and instead see our fellow Christians, neighbors, and culture at large through the eyes of our creator.  His comments highlighted 1 Corinthians 9 where the apostle Paul introduces the "I became" laws.  In this passage, Paul confidently states that in order to advance the gospel, he is willing to become all things to all people whether they are Jew or Gentile or weak in order to spread the Good News and share in its blessings (verses.19-23).

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I hadn't noticed it before, but Paul's "I became" wisdom applies today, especially in the context of the current public square debates that are so filled with hateful discourse and anger.  If we are truly the body of Christ, this passage is a conviction that we must sincerely connect with others, especially those who are very different from us.  But how do we do that?  Where do we begin? 

This past Sunday Jody led us in communion by helping us connect with God through personal connections with each other that could only occur by physically moving about the room to exchange hugs and share expressions of love for one another there in the worship assembly.  It was wonderful worship and an excellent revealing of God and His desire for us.  In that moment I must admit it was a little challenging, and I was initially uncomfortable. 

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I looked around the room and wondered: how will others respond to me?  What do I say to someone I barely know?  But then I also noticed there were many people in the room who were very natural and comfortable with approaching, hugging, and embracing others who in many cases were unfamiliar or near strangers.  Even guests and new members reached out!  What an encouragement that was to me to know that someone was willing to step through the invisible but real barriers to express the love of Christ, and moreover, honor the mercy and grace He provided from the cross.

Paul, in a similar way, rather than lay claim to rights and freedoms of his calling, becomes that catalyst to reach out and make a connection and in doing so breaks through the divisiveness, fear, and dysfunction that dominate a fallen world.

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With "I became", Paul shows us that without compromising who we are in Christ, we can adapt ourselves to others based on their condition and need.  All this in order to make a connection, just as God became flesh to connect with us as his children.

So again, where do we start? How do we take the first step toward breaking down barriers and embracing those so different from us, not only in our fellowship but in our community?  Loritts offered some practical yet simple ways to connect with our culture and become all things to all people:  Share coffee with diversity by spending recreation and free time with someone that views things differently.  Build relationship with color by engaging in simple activities with someone outside your normal circle.  Bear the hurt of your companion by being patient enough to truly share their burden.  

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Finally, and probably most importantly, listen.  Just simply listen and don't try to fix anything.  Be willing to be changed rather than change someone so you will be able to share the hope of Christ.

What about you? Who can you become for the sake of the gospel?  It takes purposeful effort and a love that only comes from God.  By one connection at a time, we can be and become the true body of Christ.

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Louisiana Floods
by Steve Crigger

Earlier this year, in August, excessive and prolonged rainfall in the southern parts of the state of Louisiana resulted in flooding that submerged thousands of homes and businesses.  The governor of the state characterized it as a “historic, unprecedented flooding event” as rivers and waterways reached record levels and rainfall exceeded 20 inches in many areas.  The flood has been called the worst US natural disaster since Hurricane Sandy in 2013.  Because many of the flood areas were not considered high risk, the majority of the homeowners affected by this flood did not have flood insurance, so the damages incurred were a total loss.  Over 102,000 people have applied to FEMA for federal disaster aid.  

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Although not covered extensively at the national level due to the Rio Olympics, the US Presidential race, and the fact that this wasn’t a named storm, many found themselves in dire and troubling situations.  Help for the struggling area has come from all over the United States, and for many here, the Louisiana floods hit close to home.  Here are some of their stories, pictures, and how Twickenham was able to help.

Estabrook Family

Kristy Estabrook, a former teacher at Twickenham Kids, was the first to contact us for help as she prepared to take supplies and resources to an area hit hard by the rains where she grew up and her mom continues to live today.  The flooding in Louisiana affected all southern parishes within the state and a few further north.

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Livingston Parish, where Kristy’s and her husband’s families reside, was one of the hardest hit areas. During the 2015 census, there were 137,000 people residing in that parish. Of those, 105,000 people are estimated to have lost everything they own. There were only about three streets in the entire parish that did not flood. 

The first load of supplies sent was a combined effort between Huntsville and Nashville contributors. They were able to send an 18-wheeler full of supplies to the damaged area. On Labor Day weekend, two more loads in private vehicles were delivered to the parish. These items went to the Healing Place Church in Denham Springs and were distributed from the vehicles directly to the community. Plans for delivering the remaining supplies are underway with the goal to deliver during fall break. 

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Livingston Parish, where Kristy’s and her husband’s families reside, was one of the hardest hit areas. During the 2015 census, there were 137,000 people residing in that parish. Of those, 105,000 people are estimated to have lost everything they own. There were only about three streets in the entire parish that did not flood. 

The first load of supplies sent was a combined effort between Huntsville and Nashville contributors. They were able to send an 18-wheeler full of supplies to the damaged area. On Labor Day weekend, two more loads in private vehicles were delivered to the parish. These items went to the Healing Place Church in Denham Springs and were distributed from the vehicles directly to the community. Plans for delivering the remaining supplies are underway with the goal to deliver during fall break.

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Disaster Relief Team

In another response, our Disaster Relief Team, in conjunction with other Prepare and Respond (PAR) volunteers, made their way to the area.  They removed drywall, flooring and the insides of homes flooded by the rains.  One specific individual they were able to help was Omer Clark.  Omer is 83 years old and lost his wife last September.  He is a Christian man who didn't have flood insurance since he lived above the forecasted flood zone.  The Disaster Relief Team spent a day and a half mucking out his home, including drywall and flooring.  He tried as best he could to salvage items and save some pictures, but he lost just about all his furniture and household items. 

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Omer was quick with a joke and a pleasure to spend time with; however, he broke down in tears when the team prayed over him.  He would never ask for money; he just doesn’t do that, but since he is on a fixed income and the repair bills including drywall and flooring are significant, the help provided was greatly appreciated and accepted with joy.

Mike Johnson’s Sister

The home of Mike Johnson’s sister, Michelle Kraus, was also flooded in this event.  Mike was able to go help her and their family begin the long process of recovery that so many in the area have had to endure.  This included removing items from the house damaged by the flood waters, making needed repairs and attempting to return to some sense of normalcy with their lives.

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Annah Pollard / Hemley Road Church of Christ

On September 1st, Annah Pollard traveled to Bayou La Batre, Alabama, to assist the Hemley Road Church of Christ with its effort to help those affected by the flood waters.   A few days later, on September 5th, the group loaded up the cargo travel          trailer with donations, supplies, and equipment and left for Christ Healing Church in Louisiana.  While there, their efforts included praying with those that had suffered significant losses and sharing Christ in the midst of the hurt and despair.  

Annah met Dylan and Cody, two brothers whose father had died just before the flooding.  The group, geared with charcoal masks, began to muck out their dad’s house.  It was sad to see a large mass of everything from an old record collection to family pictures piled up in front of the house.

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The water rose 8 feet in the surrounding areas.  In addition to helping with the damages, they talked to the brothers about Jesus and prayed with them.  

Annah also helped Amanda muck her trailer.  Water was still in pots and pans under her sink weeks out from the flooding.  The water smelled bad even through the charcoal masks.  Amanda has 3 children that she is caring for.  She shared her life and story with Annah.  There are 300 trailers in the area where they were working that were affected by the flooding.   

Lynn Box / Churches of Christ Disaster Relief Team

Lynn Box heard of the need in Louisiana and decided she needed to go help.  She had hoped to join the Twickenham Disaster Relief Team but had a conflict with the dates.  

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Lynn had helped support the Hurricane Sandy clean-up through an organization called the Church of Christ Disaster Relief Team, and after perusing their website found out that they were also helping in Louisiana through the South Baton Rouge Church of Christ.  So, she packed her bag and left on September 11 for two weeks working to help people recover in the Baton Rouge area.  

She spent her time removing decayed and molded walls and flooring to prepare these homes for new floors and drywall.  She often had time to meet and pray with homeowners including a Muslim woman in despair seeking help at a church distribution site.  In her last five days, she spent time with a friend named Karen, who flew down to join in the mission, preparing food for up to 200 people in the devastated Denham Springs Community.

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There are thousands of people in crisis in Louisiana, but God chose to put these in the path of Twickenham.  Thanks for your generosity and allowing God to use some Christians in Alabama to help those in need just two states away.  While not all were able to travel to the area, we have been able to provide supplies, water, tools, gift cards and monetary support in excess of $5,000 through contributions.  Please keep all these mentioned and the many others devastated by these flood waters in your prayers as the recovery continues

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Farray's Village
by Emily Bass

Over the summer, Farrah Rollings was diagnosed with breast cancer. Farrah and her husband, Wes, have two daughters, Olivia (9) and Allison (7).  When someone you know and love is diagnosed with cancer, you want to help out in some way.  One way we can love and support Farrah is through the 2016 Liz Hurley Ribbon Run.  The 5K race will take place on Saturday, October 15, 2016.  Farrah’s friend, Traci Stewart, has set up a team called “Farrah’s Village”.  If you would like to come out and run or walk the race this year in support of Farrah, all you need to do is go to www.lizhurleyribbonrun.org, select “Join a Team” and type in “Farrah’s Village”.  This is a very family-friendly event, and all activity levels are welcome.

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Even if you aren’t able to run or walk the race this year, you can still support the effort as donations to the team are welcome! Deadline to join the team is Monday, October 3rd.  

To follow along with Farrah’s progress, please join “Farrah’s Village” on Facebook.  For more information, email Emily Bass or Traci Stewart.  

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Transformational Discipleship Assessment (TDA) Survey 
by Lee Potts

We thought it would be appropriate to update you on some of the survey results and plans coming out of our recent Transformational Discipleship Assessment survey.  First, let me thank you for taking the time to complete the survey.  We had 196 people complete the survey.  This is a really good participation rate and gives us a good set of data points to shape our future education and discipleship programs.  

First the results:  The survey measured 9 different discipleship areas and “graded” those areas on a 5-point scale. Twickenham showed consistently strong spiritual development in 4 of these 9 areas.  These strength areas  included Doctrinal Positions (4.6), Exercising Faith (4.2), Obeying God and Denying Self (4.1), and Seeking God (4). Areas showing moderate levels of spiritual development included Serving God and Others (3.7), 

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Unashamed (3.7), Bible Engagement (3.6), Building Relationships (3.6), and Sharing Christ (2.8).

A few key findings from the survey that stuck out to us were:

  • 21% report reading the Bible every day.  That’s really good news! The flip-side of the coin - another 21% say that they rarely or never read the Bible.
  • With 87% of us agreeing that Christians should be accountable to one another, we have a strong sense of community.
  • Roughly a quarter of us either believe or are open to the possibility that eternal life can be found in religions other than Christianity.  
  • 58% of those surveyed are actively involved in the life of the church while 42% reported having no regular responsibilities in the church.
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  • Just over 51% of us reported difficulty in breaking free from habitual sin.  
  • 70% of us know what spiritual gifts God has blessed us with.
  • We are a praying church with 81% of us engaged in personal prayer at least a few times a week.
  • With almost 90% of us believing that God has a purpose for all events in our life, we trust in his faithfulness.
  • We struggle to share Christ with our non-Christian friends.  63% have not shared the gospel with anyone in the last 6 months and another 25% have shared it only 1 or 2 times.

There are obviously some things in this list to be encouraged by and some things we’d like to work on.

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Over the next few months, the Teaching Council will be poring over these results in detail.  Our aim is to use this data to help identify those topics that we should include in future sermon series and Bible classes to help us all become more mature  disciples of Jesus Christ.  Would you pray over this endeavor as we seek ways to lead us all into a deeper walk with God?

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You Are Not Crazy
by Jody Vickery

You know how sometimes you just feel crazy? I mean, you feel like you are literally losing your mind. Maybe ghosts from the past haunt your present. Or a recent loss, like the death of a loved one or a divorce has thrown you for a loop. Sometimes, it’s a relationship that is struggling to stay off the rocks. It could be any combination of stressors, but for whatever reasons, you feel confused, alone and clueless. 

Read the following words very carefully – you are not crazy. You are human. And sometimes, humans – even Christian humans – need someone to talk to. 

That’s why at Twickenham, we have a variety of resources available to our members. Any of our shepherds or ministers are willing to listen, love and guide. We aren’t counselors in the clinical sense of that word, 

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but we do have years of experience walking with people through troubling times. And all of our shepherds and ministers can pull from our own struggles to better support you in yours.

Sometimes, though, you need a different kind of help. So we also have several members who have been trained in a discipline called Biblical Counseling.  Maggie Merryman and Rebecca Tucker are both certified  Biblical counselors.  Several others in our congregation have attended training, but not certification.  They are equipped to help you find biblical solutions to the dilemmas that cause you stress. Their services are free of charge and confidential.

In addition to pastoral support from our shepherds and ministers, and guidance from our Biblical Counselors, we have yet another layer of help that is available. Jeanne Vinson is a Licensed Professional Counselor with over 20 years’ experience. Jeanne, also a certified Biblical 

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Counselor, combines the best of psychology with her strong Christian faith to help men, women and children through difficult times. There is a fee for this layer of our resources, but Twickenham can provide financial assistance if needed.

You can engage any of these resources by contacting one of our shepherds or ministers, or by calling the church office (256.881.7373). 

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