Encouragement & Real Stories of Changed Lives

Full of new ideas, insights, and inspiration.

Lord, don't I need new furniture?

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And in today’s story, the key to a successful neighborhood Bible study is an old, sunken in couch.
Just as we promised here is Part 2 of Nancy Samra's story. Part 1 was posted Monday, December 5th.

 

Scene 3: My husband built the houses we lived in. At this point in time, we had a brand new home but my husband was changing businesses, requiring us to live on a strict budget. As a result, the living room couches were in desperate need of replacement but were not going to be replaced. I was upset with God because, after all, since I was willing to open up my home for Him the least He could do was provide nice furniture. I thought for sure it would happen when one of our friends sat down on the couch and sunk down so low we had to help her up. Now my husband would see the need for new couches. But all he did was turn the couch upside down and pound a board across the bottom.

We were having a neighborhood Bible study with couples. Some of the attendees had a couple on their street they wanted to bring. Although the wife was willing, the husband was not. I will never forget his first evening. The two men came into my home literally dragging this third guy in. Oh, oh, I thought to myself.

Not only did this man stay for the evening, he and his wife continued to come back time after time. One of those times he prayed to receive Christ.  We were all overjoyed. When I asked him why he came back when he was so resistant, he told me that walking up to my house was threatening but when he came into my living room that first night, my furniture reminded him of his childhood home.

Lesson learned:  Physical appearance or size does not matter.  Willingly open your home with whatever God has provided for you and He will do the rest.

 

SCENE 4:  I was hosting a weekly neighborhood women’s Bible study at my home. On one particular morning, the phone kept ringing with the all kinds of reason why each lady would not be there that morning.  Finally, it came down to only one lady who was able to attend.

I told my husband that I was going cancel this week's study and we would pick it up next week. My husband told me that I could not do that. When I asked him why he replied that if I were to cancel on the woman who could come, I was telling her she wasn't important.

 

Needless to say, I took his advice and let her come, explaining after she got there that it was just going to be the two of us.  She asked all kinds of questions that day. She did not know the Lord and was too embarrassed to ask these questions in front of the group.  She prayed to receive Christ and later on so did her husband and two sons. Eventually, they joined our church and began serving the Lord in all sorts of ways.

Lesson learned: Numbers do not matter. God is a personal God who is interested in individuals. Success is never based on how many people are in attendance.

 

SCENE 5: Fast forward to today. I am a mentor mom for my daughter’s neighborhood Bible study. I got grand-mothered in when we were temporarily living with my daughter and her family while we looked for a place to live.  We were living in a brand new condo when my husband was diagnosed with dementia.  I saw the handwriting on the wall and knew that if I was going to care for him at home, I
was going to need my children's help and I needed to make it convenient for them.  Well, our condo sold before we found a house.

I attended while I lived with her but told myself I was too old and needed not to be there when I moved out of her home. I had heard about a book called, Giddy Up Eunice, and read it just before I was going to tell everyone that I wouldn't be back to Bible study. It was all about the need for the older women to mentor the younger ones. It was God convicting me not to leave the group, not to buy into Satan's lies concerning age. I stayed on and have seen much fruit from my time with these young women.

Lesson learned: Age is not a barrier to service, especially old age. In fact, my son says I am at the prime of my serving years.

 

One of the fringe benefits of having Bible studies in our home is the impact on my children. All their growing up years this is what my children saw. As a result, they figured this what you are supposed to do and I never said otherwise. All of them have had Bible studies in their homes and joy of all joys, my granddaughter had a Bible study this summer with eight of her high school friends, some of whom do not attend church.

As I look back, I see how I’ve been wooed with a grace I don’t deserve. I’ve experienced love like I could never imagine. It’s the quiet whisper of a breeze, the powerful pull of the ocean’s tide, thunder across the skies, deep rumbling laughter. It’s beautiful, it’s scary, it’s wondrous.

It’s understanding that God’s character is predictable but His activities are unpredictable. I have learned that instead of just accepting His unpredictability, I can actually appreciate and embrace it because HE IS an AMAZING GOD!

 

Haven't you enjoyed reading Nancy's story?  Would you take a minute and respond and let her know how she encouraged you?

As you set your thoughts on the new year think of the lesson's Nancy has shared with us.  Am I willing to trust the Lord with opening my home?  How do I evaluate success in reaching out to my neighbors?  Am I willing to fail?  Am I worried about my age, my ability, my knowledge?

 

 
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Hospitality is not from the hands; it's from the heart

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Lean in close and “listen” to this story from Nancy Samra. Nancy has been a member of Calvary Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan for 26 yrs. Widowed after 48 years of marriage, she is a mother of three, grandmother of eleven and spiritual mom to a number of others. Her greatest joy is being able to continue to serve the Lord. Her son, Jim Samra, is the head pastor of Calvary Church in Grand Rapids. This is the story of her loosening her grip on her plans, desires and dreams. We will post it in 2 separate posts. We don’t want you to miss ANYTHING!

 

PART 1

Play On! Scenes from the Film of my Life

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Want to join me for some Nescafe? In Macedonia?

Michelle

Macedonia or Bust


I am still pinching myself.  Was it only two weeks ago that I was in Macedonia watching God’s amazing work through years of prayer unfold before me?  

Before I get ahead of myself, let me tell you what had happened at our NBS2go prayer meetings.  Our simple prayer and cry to the Lord was “Awaken Hearts around the world.”  We had been sensing a new meaning to “GO” but had not been given specific direction to follow.

Last February, Brenda (missionary to Macedonia since 1991) discovered NBS2go on the Internet. This was an answer to prayer to find “simple, transferable and easily translatable” Bible Study resources.  She contacted us for permission to translate our materials.  She wanted to train her leaders how to use them during their National Women’s Conference.  At the end of August, Brenda extended an invitation to attend their conference.

Linda, Debbie and I (of the NBS2go leadership team) had the privilege of going and serving!  It was the largest gathering of its kind in the history of Macedonia with 550 women in attendance. People in Macedonia are very relational. Many women came by invitation to experience something different.  The Gospel was shared from the first word spoken to the closing prayer by a team of Macedonian women’s leaders.  The testimonies, skits, worship and message were built around the theme of “Our God is An Awesome God.”  

Our experience was like that of a “fly on the wall” (how often do we wish to be present yet not visible at the same time experience something we can only imagine being a part of).  It was truly amazing and surreal! We jumped in and helped to decorate before the conference sharing our ribbon curling skills while listening to piped in English 80’s elevator music. The Lord provided a translator with a lovely British lilt to her voice during the conference sessions.   We hugged and encouraged those who have been serving the Lord on the mission
field.  We drank Nescafe and listened to stories of changed lives. The Spirit of the Lord was present.


We could see the vision of NBS2go right before us and were grateful to partner with Brenda and her team in Macedonia.

 

Grateful and full of hope,

Michelle Coons

 
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That babe in the manger

Christmas time is here...well, not yet of course.  But as we prepare our hearts for this time of year we may also want to "put on our gift list" something quite different.  How about giving our neighbors the opportunity to gather, to connect and to hear the life changing message of forgiveness through that babe in the manger.  Listen to Gale Johnson of East Renton Community Church of Renton, WA as she shares a simple idea of reaching out to her neighbors.  You will love this!

 



For more information to set up your own "Christmas Gathering" please click here.

As always, please share with us if you plan to host a gathering or any other ideas.  We love hearing from you.

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When God’s Plans Include our Messes

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Enter:  Elizabeth.

Wife of Zechariah.

No children.

Old.

In the culture of the day, barrenness was not exactly esteemed. The thick Jewish traditions that surrounded Elizabeth and Zechariah must have been some of the hardest parts of their lives. Customs, festivals and holidays all involved celebrating with family. Yet they had no children. Year after year, they attended the temple and gathered with family. Yet they had no offspring to pass on their faith. The privilege of giving away your name and inheritance was also a rich part of the history of the Jewish culture. Yet, they had no one to give it to.

Was this heartache all a part of God’s plans?

Oh, the privilege we have to be on this side of history! We know the rest of the story. Elizabeth and Zechariah (in their old age) gave birth to John, the one who would baptize Jesus for the beginning of His public ministry.

Do you wonder how that “hard thing” could ever be used by the Lord?

Luke 1:58 states, “And her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her and they rejoiced with her.”

From this one verse we learn several things about Elizabeth.

  1. She was known by her neighbors and relatives. The relatives, of course, would know her. But her neighbors? Does this actually imply that she shared her “life” with those whom lived right next door? How many neighbors walked the road with her when she struggled with not having children?

  2. Elizabeth gave praise to God and everyone knew it. The news spread quickly. The Lord had shown great mercy to her. Elizabeth walked with God. Not only in the good times, but also in the hard times. Through all of life’s struggles and heartaches she still was a woman of faith. The trials pushed her towards the Lord. She kept her eyes heavenward even though she didn’t understand.

  3. Her neighbors rejoiced with her. The news was supernatural. Elizabeth had a baby and she was old! Time for a party. Time to come together. She and Zechariah called for the neighbors to come and give praise to God.


Let’s consider these thoughts for ourselves.

  1. Are we known by our neighbors? Do they know we struggle? Of course we do not need to divulge all of our lives to everyone around us. But do we allow our neighbors to walk next to us in hard things? Do you share “life” with those who live right next door? Are you a “safe person” for your neighbors to confide in?

  2. Do we give praise to the Lord in the good and hard things? Are we known to walk with our God in the struggles and heartaches? Are we known as people of faith? Would our neighbors even care?

  3. If there is something to celebrate in our hard messes, would we want our neighbors to come? Would we want them to join with us in giving praise to the Lord?


Go ahead and read all of Luke 1. Don’t read it like it’s part of the Christmas story.  Read it and look for references to being a part of a caring community focused on drawing others to look to Jesus. My guess is, like me, you will see that God’s plans include that we share life with those right around us.

How about your neighborhood? Are you known by your neighbors? Are they known by you? Go ahead … start a neighborhood Bible study and allow God's plans to include your messes. We have all the simple tips and tools you need to get started, and we would love to pray for you, too! Contact us and let us know!

Find more Fresh Stories here!


Joan Parsons, lover of McDonald’s cokes, is happiest when her home is filled with her husband and four children. She reports that her two college age boys come home whenever she offers to cook steak. Her only claim to fame is the week she got every piece of clothing laundered and matched all 126 socks. She had a dream when she was in college that Jesus returned to gather up the Christians to go to Heaven. Except one of her roommates asked her why she never told her about God. She woke from the dream with a lifelong desire to share with others the amazing news of God’s love and forgiveness.
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What is NBS2GO?

NBS2GO = Neighbor Bible Studies 2GO - nbs2go.com is simply the packaging of ideas, resources, and inspiration to equip believers to launch and multiply Bible study groups.


What's the big deal about a Bible study group?

Like a one-room schoolhouse, a Bible study group brings together a wide range of seekers and Christ-followers to study, discuss, and encourage one another toward life application of God’s Word. This blending of spiritual maturity levels creates a dynamic, life-transforming community. Friendships are formed, and group members are equipped to minister to others where they do life. Life transformation and multiplication!

NLT Scripture references on nbs2go.com and in publications, unless otherwise noted.

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