Encouragement & Real Stories of Changed Lives

Full of new ideas, insights, and inspiration.

The Next Thing: Pat's Story

Susan & Debbie
Late last summer while turning into the entrance to our neighborhood, I had a fleeting feeling of guilt for not showing a desire to know my neighbors better. After all, I have lived here for 10 years, and I couldn’t tell you much about most of my neighbors. But I quickly turned to thoughts of all the difficult things that my family has faced the last 10 years, the time spent helping with grandchildren and, of course, all the time spent in the Apples of Gold ministry. Did I mention that I am not so young anymore? So I pulled into my driveway, drove into the garage and put the door down.

Inspiration Arrives


Soon after that, I received an email from Susan Sorenson about a woman from Georgia that she wanted the Women’s Advisory Committee to meet. So I invited everyone for a meal at my house to meet her. And so begins the story of how God has been revealing my newest assignment.

Everyone around my table that night was struck by the passion for neighborhood Bible studies that flowed from the heart of Debbie McGoldrick. We were convicted and filled with excitement at the same time. Debbie talked about intentionally praying for, caring for and sharing Jesus with neighbors. We agreed that we had not been intentional about taking action in our neighborhoods.

Debbie shared how she prayer-walked her street, asking God to show her the “lost treasure” in her neighborhood. She prayed that God would release His word and let it run like a river in her neighborhood. She talked about looking for the houses with “for sale” signs and actually placing her foot on those driveways, asking God to bring believers or seekers into the neighborhood and keep evil out.

The next morning, as I was driving out of my neighborhood, I saw two brand new “for sale” signs on my street. I knew right away that God had something to say to me because we seldom see these signs in our subdivision. I went to the NBS2Go website (Debbie’s website filled with free resources for neighborhood Bible studies) and found suggestions for what to pray. I would love to say that I immediately began my prayer walks. Instead, I found every reason imaginable to procrastinate. Finally, one afternoon I told myself, “That is it. I am walking right now.” And I did.

When I placed my foot on the driveways of my neighbors I claimed the property for Jesus (at the same time hoping they didn’t have some kind of fancy alarm that alerted them to someone on their driveway). I prayed for the families in each house on our street. I prayed that God’s presence would be seen and felt in our neighborhood. I asked God to give me a love for my neighbors that could only come from Him. I am sure some of my neighbors wondered over dinner why that Cebulski woman was walking up and down the street talking to herself.

I spent the next couple of months asking God to show me the next thing to do in my neighborhood. At this point, I knew that I was being called to start a Bible study, but I didn’t know how to get from point A to point Z. I am good at planning, organizing and entertaining, but I was being stymied by feelings of intimidation at the thought of the assignment God was revealing to me. I struggled with the responsibility of it all.

Hosting a Christmas Dessert


As Christmas approached, I felt a nudge in my heart to do something to bring the women of the neighborhood together. Was this the next thing, Lord? The idea of a Christmas dessert came to mind. So I set the date and mailed 42 invitations. To my surprise, half the women in the neighborhood came that night, despite the busy holiday season. They came through the door with hugs and expressions of gratitude for bringing them together. Hours later, the last guest left. Many shared the same sentiment: “We need to do this more often.”

I was flying high after that wonderful night. Clearly there were many in the neighborhood who were hurting. They were even quick to share it at the Christmas dessert. It was so evident that many needed the relationships. But it didn’t take long for me to go back to the valley of doubt and fear. If I suggested a Bible study would I suddenly become the “religious radical” on the block? Would our relationships return to waves from car windows as we passed on the street? What if the needy started knocking on my door? After all, with all that I have on my plate right now I don’t have much free time as it is. Am I really the right person for this, Lord?

Through Scripture passages brought to me during my time of devotions and encouraging stories posted on the NBS2Go website, I realized again that all God was asking me to do was to be obedient to do the next thing. It came down to a yes or no. Either I believed God had the power to carry out His plan, or I did not. So I stopped trying to plan things out in my mind and went back to asking God to reveal “the next thing” and His plan for my assignment.

God's Mercy Revealed


The “next thing” was finding out that a neighbor’s young son was diagnosed with a very rare cancer. I contacted the neighbor and asked if I could host a prayer brunch for her with anyone in the neighborhood she would like to invite. She loved the idea. The prayer brunch was a precious time around my table with seven women who surprised me by their strong faith and love of Jesus. I realized that God was revealing the core group of women who could support a neighborhood Bible study. God used a crisis to bring us together. I witnessed the great mercy and love of God as together we cried and prayed and cried some more. My faith grew on that special morning, and I praised God for it.

I knew that the “next thing” was to send out invitations for a Bible study. I was certain I needed to do it the very next day. But God has a way of directing and leading by placing obstacles in our lives and for a few months, a crisis in our family did just that. As summer approached, God once again used Scripture and sermons to challenge me to focus on my assignment and not my problems. I thought of Paul, who while in prison asked Christians to pray for him to be able to proclaim the Gospel. So I set the date for an Introduction to Neighborhood Bible Study event and printed the invitations.

Obedience Brings Freedom


As I drove around the neighborhood distributing the invitations, I was once again the woman behind the wheel talking to myself and wrestling with God. There were a few houses where I hesitated because I already knew the prevailing attitude at the home. But there was a not-so-quiet voice in my heart that insisted an invitation go to every home. So I obeyed. And then I waited for the responses.

The first two responses came from the two women I least expected would come. My dread of rejection lessened and faith in the power of the Holy Spirit began to prevail. Within hours of the invitation going out, I received 16 responses. That was more than a third of the neighborhood. Wow! And my meager faith was hoping for just five. At that point I began to understand that any plan I might have could not compare to the plan God had already worked out for me.

God continues to teach me how to let go and just do “the next thing.” In many ways, it is very freeing. At the same time, it is not easy. God is showing me that all He expects of me is to 1) show love to my neighbors, 2) show them I love God’s Word, 3) and show them I love Jesus. He’s got the rest.

At times, doubt and fear continue to creep into my heart. A couple of hours before our last meeting I found myself saying out loud to the Lord, “I don’t want to do this.” I immediately
went to the Lord in prayer and asked Him to forgive my stubborn heart and pour out His love and power through me. When the women arrived, I found myself overflowing with joy to see them and aware of a special presence of the Lord around my table.

If God Assigns You, He'll Equip You


I do not write these words as the poster child for hosting neighborhood Bible studies. I am not. But I do want to encourage any and all who feel even a small nudge from the Holy Spirit to love your neighbors better than before. Start at the beginning. Start with prayer. From there, God is able to fill your heart with a love for neighbors that could only come from Him. The end result may or may not be a neighborhood Bible study. That is for God to reveal to you. But this I do know: the outcome is not your responsibility. Obedience is your responsibility. Whatever the assignment, He will fully equip you each step of the way, and your faith and love for Him will grow. He has promised that He will always complete the good work that He began in us.

I encourage you to open your heart to this good work. Don’t miss the opportunity to be part of the vision that He gave to our Women’s Ministry at Calvary. Ask God to show you “the next thing.” Then all you have to do is rely on His power to do it. You will be so glad you did.

This article first appeared in the August 2015 edition of Calvary Life magazine.

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Pat Cebulski retired from the corporate world several years ago but not from serving the Lord in her home. Young women from the Apples of Gold class she hosts are often hanging out around her kitchen. When she is not practicing hospitality around her table, she is playing with her five treasured grandchildren. Pat leads a Neighborhood Bible Study in Grand Rapids, Mich.

 

 

 
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If You Don't Come Apart, You Will Come Apart

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During these days of a more relaxed summer schedule, we wanted to republish Debbie's post about "Coming Apart" and spending time alone with God. Enjoy!

I often wonder ... what if my desire to listen to God equaled His longing to speak personally with me? Listening prayer for me is simply being still in God’s presence, anticipating His voice, recording His words, impressions, or pictures, and then responding in love, faith and obedience to what He whispers. It’s absolutely amazing — I always receive exactly what my heart is longing for — sweet companionship, fresh encouragement and specific guidance. I’m praying that this excerpt from my “Listening Journal” will encourage you to begin a practice of listening to God. –Debbie

LISTEN.


Mark 5:16 says, “Jesus often withdrew into the wilderness to pray.” The disciples would wake up, and He’d be gone. They knew where He was, usually on the Mount of Olives. They knew what He was doing; praying, speaking with and listening to His Father.

I think it’s interesting that the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray. His way of praying looked and felt different. It wasn’t like anything they had learned or experienced. They knew there was listening involved because Jesus often told them what He heard.

For the past 40 years, I have enjoyed a disciplined rhythm of solitude - spending extended time alone with the Lord. This time is free-flowing but often includes worship, Bible reading, meditating and studying, journaling, praying and more recently, listening.

How often I used to “pray about everything” as the passage in Philippians instructs us, without waiting to hear answers to my questions, counsel for my problems, wisdom for my decisions or guidance for my day. I have to be honest; it’s hard for me to sit still. But when I am quiet and determined to listen, I am absolutely amazed at what I hear and the intimacy it has created in my relationship with Christ.

It was during a listening prayer that God taught me the principle of “Coming Apart.” On August 29, 2013, I wrote out in my Quiet Time journal a verse that stopped me in my tracks. “The apostles were at the Mount of Olives when this happened.” (Acts 1:12) I like to ask questions when I study. What is this referring to? The next verses describe Jesus’ ascension into heaven from the Mount of Olives. It was His personal place of worship, prayer and listening. At that moment I felt immediately drawn to STOP, LOOK and LISTEN.

Copied from my Listening Journal is what I heard God whisper to me:

Come apart, come to Me.

       Intentionally set aside time to be alone with Me, to worship, pray, and listen

       both to My written and whispered Word. Be confident and expect to ascend

       from this time and place, no longer limited in your heart and mind to what’s

       earthly and temporal. You will be set free, unleashed, to walk in My power,

       My will and assignments designed perfectly for you.

 

Come apart expecting to ascend – Jesus did!

 If you don’t come apart, you will come apart. You will be captured and

      grounded by your feelings and thoughts about how incapable, unworthy

      and inadequate you feel you are. Whenever your eyes are on yourself, your

      circumstances or projected outcomes, you will be paralyzed by worry,

      fear, doubt and unbelief. The enemy of your soul is out to ...

                   Kill your faith with fear and worry

                           Steal your faith with doubt

                                   Destroy your faith with unbelief

     But I have come that you might have life – abundantly ... living ascended. (John 10:10)

     Remember My constant reminder, ‘You are not in over your head,

     I have personally invited you to walk on the water.’

 

Ascend by coming apart with Me!

Yes, I hear your heart say, ‘I want to ascend from my place of coming apart with the Father, like Jesus ascended into heaven from the Mount of Olives -- the very place He came apart with His Father, our Father.’  Yes you can, and you will. My promise to you, my daughter, is as you come apart (John 15, abide in Me and My Words abide in you) you will live ascended.

 

Do you ever feel the need to Come Apart, lest you come apart? What's stopping you from taking time to be with God?

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Debbie McGoldrick is the founder of NBS2GO and blessed to be married to Mark and the adoptive mother of Melissa and Matt. Debbie is an avid collector of heart rocks and shells, a lover of color and always looking for a reason to go to the beach.
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Where Everybody Knows Your Name

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Where do you belong?  Where do you fit in? These are lifelong questions that everyone on planet earth asks themselves at some point or another.

Sometimes my husband and I talk about the beer “Bible studies” that happen on Friday nights in local bars. Do we really think that men study the Bible during happy hour?  No, but these men know where they're welcome. They know where they can relax. They know where they belong on Friday nights.

It's a simple fact of life. We all want to belong. We all want to fit in. 

We all want to find a place where everybody knows our name. 

In my neighborhood, when Wednesday morning rolls around, we have a home where we meet, where everyone is welcome. It is a safe place we can come to relax. It is a place to find community. It is the morning of our neighborhood Bible study.

We greet each other with a warm, “Hello!”  We ask each other, "How are you?" and we actually listen to the answer. We share in the joys of children winning spelling bees and we share in the disappointments when they don't make the baseball team. We cry together when a loved one passes away. We celebrate when there is a wedding. Most importantly we talk about Christ's immense love for us and how it has transformed our lives. He has given us life and this life is in His Son. He has given us love and we share it with one another.

How about your neighborhood? Do you want a place where everybody knows your name? My guess is that everyone in your neighborhood wants a place like this too. Go ahead ... start a neighborhood Bible study! 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!

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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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Remodeling Hearts Headed for Foreclosure

Debbie headshot from book trailer
I often wonder….what if my desire to listen to God equaled His longing to speak personally with me? Listening prayer for me is simply being still in God’s presence, anticipating His voice, recording His words, impressions, or pictures, and then responding in love, faith and obedience to what He whispers. It’s absolutely amazing — I always receive exactly what my heart is longing for — sweet companionship, fresh encouragement and specific guidance. I’m praying that this excerpt from my “Listening Journal” will encourage you to begin a practice of listening to God. –Debbie

Redecorate ... Remodel ... Repurpose?

I am the same yesterday, today and forever. So don’t be attracted by strange new ideas.” Hebrews 13:8-9

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An Abundant Life: Gene and Marge's Story

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A 14-year-old boy sits around a campfire with his camp mates and counselors as the waters of Lake Michigan lap the distant shore. The summer night crackles with possibility. The fertile ground of the boy’s heart, tilled and prepared by faithful parents and grandparents, opens itself to receive the Truth. A small seed, destined to produce bushels and bushels of fruit in a single lifetime, is planted deeply on this night, under a sky sprayed with stars. Unaware in this moment of all that his future holds, the boy simply accepts the gift of Jesus and prays aloud the longings of his heart: “Lord, help me to understand the Bible. Help me to find a life partner. And help me to witness to others.”  With that simple, humble prayer, a boy sets out on a lifelong journey of sharing the extraordinary joy he found on one ordinary summer evening. 

Little did Gene Kuyers know that night at Camp Geneva how specifically and abundantly God would answer his prayers.

The life partner he prayed for, Marge Koen, was just steps away from him at the same camp where he accepted Christ, but they would not meet face-to-face for another two years. They married in 1953 and started a family. Their lives revolved around the church, each other and their young family. Their two children grew up witnessing their parents’ love for the Lord – they read the Bible together every night before bed, just one example of their deep commitment to God.

When their daughter was in ninth grade, Gene and Marge attended a conference where they learned a few simple tools to help them share their faith with their neighbors and the people they encountered in their daily walk. God was refining them, guiding them and faithfully answering Gene’s boyhood prayer the night he came to Christ: Help me witness to others. It became commonplace for their two children to hear stories of Gene and Marge quietly leading others to Christ at the family supper table. 

Gene, a tool and die maker, kept an open Bible on his tool bench at work. It was well known around the shop that he was available to listen and pray for his co-workers whenever one of the guys was going through a tough time. He invited co-workers to study the Bible with him after work, which many faithfully did every week during Gene’s 42 years at the company. In 1972, Gene and Marge joined with another couple in the neighborhood to start a Bible Study on their street where they’d all lived for years.

The couples split up the street and invited everyone to the Kuyers’ house on a Sunday evening to just “talk about Jesus."

They didn’t have a grand plan or a strategy for winning souls. They simply loved the Lord, and their passion for Him overflowed from their gentle, unassuming natures to everyone around them. The group began in the book of John, where Christ tells His disciples that He is the Vine, and they are the branches.

“Whoever lives in me and I in him shall produce a large crop of fruit.”  John 15:5

The neighbors came – they were from different denominations and some were not yet believers, but they came faithfully on Sunday nights to the Kuyers home, where they could count on loving hospitality and a caring, uncritical atmosphere in which to ask questions. Gene and Marge loved seeing the neighbors coming down the street with their Bibles tucked under their arms on Sunday nights.

It melded their street together in a special way, and over the years, they became more like family to each other than neighbors.

Now Gene and Marge, married for 62 years and in their early 80s, continue to produce an abundant crop of fruit by abiding in Christ. They have touched countless lives with their quiet and humble faith. Since 1998, the couple has spent their winters in a Florida retirement community with 1,580 homesites. A city within a city, the community boasts its own church and television station. And what did the Kuyers do soon after retiring there? The same thing they always do! Sixteen years ago they invited their neighbors to get to know God right along with them – in a personal, intimate way.

Their retirement community has six Bible studies with 12 leaders and about 126 members, from places all over the U.S. and Canada, but what is most humbling and what brings tears to Gene’s eyes? The fact that the prayers of an ordinary boy were heard – and continue to be answered – in ways his 14-year-old self could never have imagined or dreamed.

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The message of Loving God and Loving Neighbors was not only taught but modeled and caught by Debbie McGoldrick from her parents, Gene and Marge Kuyers.  Debbie attributes her passion God, His Word and others as the greatest gift her parents ever gave her. For the past 40 years, Debbie has served full-time with Cru and in 2010 founded the NBS2GO movement that has spread throughout the U.S. and into 12 countries around the world.

 

 

 

The Kuyers' story was written by Erica Rountree. Erica is a freelance writer and the communications director at Action Ministries Inc.  She lives and works in Marietta, Georgia, where she’s a member of a neighborhood Bible study and mama to two girls who constantly outsmart her and drive her to drink sweet tea.
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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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