Rit Vik and 4K

Rit Vik just finished a 4000 mile bicycle ride and he along with his compatriots dipped their bicycle tires in the Pacific Ocean. They rode for those who battle cancer and those who survive – “4K for Cancer.” Most young, students, or recent graduates and they ride for the experience and for the cause. Rit spoke about his mother who battled and eventually died from this horrible indiscriminate disease. She was his support system and he rode for her but on the anniversary of her death he was riding into the sunset somewhere across America and his teammates, all twenty five of them, surrounded him with love and let him ride as the sun went down on that day and then embraced him as he cried. They were all family at that moment; not just a family of bikers but a family with anyone who has battled, will battle, or who lost the battle with cancer.

Rit spoke with passion and compassion as did so many of these young people. Some will head off to college now, others to new jobs, and a few still search to find themselves. I couldn’t help but tear up as these young people talked about aunts, uncles, mothers, fathers, grandparents, and one who survived a cancer scare. My family knows that pain and loss all to well. It is still fresh in many ways and the thought of riding 4000 wouldn’t even seem hard if you could take the hatred of that disease away. It is unfair.

Three churches will welcome them to Tillamook tonight: St. Peter’s ELCA, St. Alban’s Episcopal, and St. John’s UCC. They will feed them and take them into their homes for showers and sleep and soon they will be on their ways to new adventures. I feel more hopeful for my country tonight. I feel more hopeful for those who battle the terrible disease of cancer because they are those who share in the journey to make a difference.

Thank you Charles and Marcille and all the folks of Cape Meares, Oregon who had a pot luck lunch to welcome them and hear their stories. Thanks Rit for your courage and to the rest of your team for supporting you. Let the tears cry out to God and bring healing and hope.

Be Well…


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The Pacific Ocean is far from peaceful but as the waves come in at high tide in Cape Meares I kept thinking about how we need some peace in the angry factions of society.I’m thinking how the tide can change things so much. As I flew out to Oregon yesterday I spoke with an English professor from Lewis and Clark College in Portland. We each recalled a civil conversation between William F. Buckley and Alan Ginsberg – an arch conservative and acid dropping liberal poet. Why was that? They could talk without yelling at one another. Why does everyone seem to yell and attack each other jumping to conclusions without listening anymore?

The volume in discourse and the anger in rhetoric is vastly different in 2016. You see it in social media all the time. People not so anonymously attacking each other – thinking that their cyber-posting makes them somehow invisible. Then they become indignant when they are questioned about their rudeness or incivility. Let’s each try to tone down the rhetoric a little and listen to each other more. Let the tide of civility rise and lets ask our leaders to do the same.

Peace be with you and be well…

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Mission Trip Feedback

Mission Trip Feedback

I a recent Journal entry I mentioned that I’d like to hear about some of your mission trip experiences. Here is what some of you shared.

Shirley A. West: Our mission trip to Pine Ridge is the one that sticks in my mind. I’ll never forget the expressions on the faces of our kids when we drove into that little town and they encountered such deep poverty for the first time in their lives. It was a life changing moment. It so warmed my heart to see how our kids gave of them selves during those days. I’ll never forget it.

Tammy Jacobi: Kemmerer Village Mission trip was life changing. We worked with children and youth who were placed in this facility some as a “Last chance” before jail. The relationships we built and the hope of Jesus’ redemption was extraordinary. The youth lead bible study and discussion groups strengthened our faith and gave great and real meaning to ” The Great Commision”.

Rebecca Hipskand: I will never forget Leonard who we met in West Virginia. He was so thankful for the help we provided him that he cooked us food and made us a CD of Michael Jacksons greatest hits, that Kimberly Snyder and I had been singing all week. It’s truly amazing how we think we are helping them but in reality the things I have learned from mission trips and the compassion in the hearts of people who have next to nothing is a much greater gift then I could ever give to them. I have learned so much from the people I have served who may not know Jesus but have a heart of service much greater then mine, which always encourages me to change the way I do life. I also believe God can build deep relationships with the ones we are serving next to, and I would have never built such strong lifelong relationships had my brothers and I not been invited on a mission trip after our second week visiting Bethany. God seriously works in different but amazing ways through all of us.

Nate Ulery: I was blessed growing up that our congregation sponsored all of the youth who wanted to go on mission trips. The ones most impactful for me were organized by the Society of St. Andrew.

Their phase one trips were centered around the original tithing — gleaning food from fields. We worked in farmers fields, either in the 10% they left for volunteers to harvest or in fields they couldn’t harvest before it went bad. We picked corn, collard greens, potatoes, etc. We also worked with local processors to sort thru the rejected food to separate the rotten, bad food from the simply non-perfect food that is usually thrown out. We then had the opportunity to take food to local shelters and help prepare the meals as well as food banks to give clients the fresh food they seldom receive. To have the experience of working the fields, the education on the amount of food wasted, and the blessing to serve those who need it grounded me in an understanding of how much I have and how small acts can help. Seeing an entire semi truck load of the corn we picked be distributed in two hours at a food bank is something I will never forget.

The phase two program was in Washington DC where we worked in shelters and soup kitchens. The experience of seeing the powerful of this country in the majesty of our capital while working with the homeless, who were often veterans or suffered with addiction colored my views on what it means to be a society that cares for the poor. We also met with our elected representatives to remind them of our collective responsibility to help those who need assistance.

The most powerful memory of the DC trip was the picnic we hosted for families who lived in a shelter. We made food and went to a park and families from a shelter were bused in to enjoy an afternoon away from the violence of the DC inner city. One of our tasks was to take Polaroid photos of the kids and give them to their mothers. This was pre cell phone cameras and these moms didn’t have access to cameras. The appreciation of these moms who wanted a photograph of their child just like all mothers do was another powerful reminder of the inequity of our society and if the things we take for granted.

Later in the afternoon, a family came by on horseback and stopped to take a quick break. We ended up chatting with them and when we told them what we doing they immediately told us to collect the children. They spent the next two hours letting everyone one of those kids take a ride on the horse. This group of kids who live in the inner city and many of whom had never seen a horse in person before squealed in delight to ride the horses. That family will never know the impact they had in those kids, or on me, from that gesture of hospitality and kindness.

Mission trips have left a mark on who I am and who a strive to be. I hope all of our youth have the opportunity to experience the lessons we can never fully teach in the pews or classroom.

Thanks for sharing and remember you can be on mission wherever you live.

Be Well…

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Faceless Epidemic…

FEThis past Friday Frontline Foundations hosted an event which is part of an organization called Faceless Epidemic. This is what they posted:

Thank you Faceless Epidemic and Tasia for the opportunity to play a part in this powerful project’s message of hope and awareness in our communities! We’ve been moved and humbled by these portraits and by the beautiful people and families behind each and every one of them. NWIndiana Times also reported on it saying:

LAPORTE — These faces brought to life in artwork are not what heroin addicts are often assumed to be.

They also illustrate those who died from using heroin are not merely a statistic, but they were human with a wide variety of emotions and loved ones just like everyone else.

“Their lives mattered,” said Debbie Spurling, director of development for Frontline Foundations, which operates faith based outpatient substance abuse treatment centers in LaPorte and Chesterton.

“You can just see the people through the eyes and the smiles. It is very impactful,” Spurling said.

A moving gallery called Faceless Epidemic was unveiled Friday and plans are to take it to other places to raise awareness.

Presently, the gallery of nine portraits of deceased heroin users is at the LaPorte clinic, which opened last year at 605 Michigan Ave.

All of the images were painted or sketched and the people depicted, including a brother and sister together in one portrait, were from LaPorte and Porter counties.

Listed above each portrait is the first name of the person and the years they were born and died.

Jodi Lawrence showed up to view the portrait of her daughter, Lynsey, whose image was captured from a picture of her on the beach during a family vacation in Florida a year or two prior to her death in 2012.

Lynsey, who grew up in Westville, was taking college level courses at 16 and studying architecture and interior design at Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis when a heroin addict enticed her to try it, said Lawrence.

A year later, she was dead at 25.

‘’It was the guy that she met that she trusted who talked her into it and that happens so often to so many people,’’ Lawrence said.

The gallery on Aug. 5 will move to 7th and Franklin streets in Michigan City for the monthly First Friday event showcasing the revitalized Uptown Arts Districts.

It’s scheduled to be at LaPorte City Hall during the week of Aug. 8 and Bethany Lutheran Church in LaPorte on the week of Sep. 11.

Other similar venues are being sought to showcase the gallery through the rest of the summer and fall.

Faceless Epidemic is the brainchild of Tasia Stockstill, a LaPorte native moved by a story on the radio about a woman who dealt with the grief of losing her daughter to heroin by drawing a portrait of her then later others who lost their lives to the drug.

Stockstill contacted her professional artist friends whose stunning creations were based off the pictures of victims presented by their families.

The frames were custom made by clients at the clinic as part of their therapy.

Surprisingly, perhaps, Stockstill has never known anyone using heroin but simply acted upon the emotions in her heart for the pain she can only imagine experiencing.

“So many people are doing things to bring awareness to the community. I thought this would just be another way to do it and show who these people that we’re losing,” said Stockstill.

Frontline Foundations started in 2007 at Valparaiso.

Since expanding to LaPorte in May of 2015, that clinic has seen about 70 clients, said Alan Grecula, director of clinical services for the treatment center.

Grecula said things have gone well but people knowing the center is there and that it’s more than just a methadone clinic has been a challenge.

“We have room to grow. We know there’s a need for it,” he said.

Heroine is deadly epidemic and the Church of LaPorte County is trying hard to partner and address the issue head on. Share your story when you get a chance.

Be Well…

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Mission Trips for…

Have you ever wondered about the purpose of mission trips for youth or adults? I’d like to hear your stories and experiences of mission trips both in the USA and outside of our country. In my experience the mission trip experience varies dramatically. Some of the site leaders are skilled and compassionate and others seem to be – well-intentioned but…you know. I also have found after nearly twenty years of being involved in mission trips that to return to a site and develop a long term relationship with the community is the most helpful even though you limit your travel experiences. Kids might think that fun travel is the main purpose when it comes to mission trips or meeting kids from other parts of the country but the relationships are by far the most important. Relationships cause us to encounter Jesus. Relationships change lives.

As far as foreign travel and mission goes, I think that college and adults should be the ones to experience that or perhaps families that travel together. Again I’d like to hear about your mission trips. Where have you gone, what have you experienced. I will share with you some of the things that I hear – if I hear. There are pockets of poverty so severe in our country that even years of dedicated focus will not bring these areas out of poverty. Consider your home town mission project too; Rebuilding Together is an annual event that helps to fix up and improve neighborhoods in your hometown.

I remember several years ago when President Bill Clinton visited Pine Ridge, South Dakota, one of the poorest areas in our country. What has changed? How have we helped alleviate the poverty? Have we brought in new jobs, a sense of purpose, or hope? These are the things along with faith that can truly make a difference when applied year after year. That’s where I want to head in the future.

Bless your heart if you are one of those adults or families that dedicate yourself toward helping youth to truly experience the relationships that change lives thought mission.

Be Well…

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VBS Kids

Many churches have Vacation Bible Schools and as I write this the after school kids are singing and dancing in the room down the hall from my office. So many congregations have a chance to reach kids who’s parents are often disconnected from a church home. I want to urge everyone who has a VBS program to reach out to the families who’s kids are in VBS. The songs are engaging and energetic and I love the voices of these children who praise God. As you study Jesus life he always seemed to love children and have fun with them. He taught the adults when he was with them. We have often got that backwards. We teach the children and just love the adults.

If you have a VBS program let me know about it. Especially if you are doing something different or unusual. Bethany has an after school program for kids from noon until 4:00PM on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday – great for parents and fun for the kids. (They will sleep well tonight.) I find myself dancing and singing with them because their enthusiasm is so contagious. They have the politics of love and laughter. I’m looking for your ideas and news as the summer begins to wind down. Share it with me at pastordenny@gmail.com

Be Well…

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Finish Strong Journal – New Name and New Purpose

I’m introducing a new name and new purpose for this blog. More information will be coming out soon. It will still be at dennymeyer.com  but soon will be at finishstrongjournal.com

It will be a blog to encourage pastors, lay leaders, and other Christ-Followers in this area and beyond with the groundbreaking work we are doing in the Church of LaPorte and Michigan City, Indiana. It will also have other topics that we will share and guest writers who will participate. More to come in the near future.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,” Hebrews 12:1

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