We are thankful for many who seek justice and love mercy. Over the past year, we have been able to contribute to both of these organizations because of your generosity.
As the leaves begin to change, the air becomes crisp, football is on, and you may hear the words “First Fruits” thrown around at Reston Bible Church.
Each year the fall season and First Fruits go hand in hand. First Fruits is a church-wide community service project. That can mean a lot of different things, so let me explain a bit more.
On the Saturday before Thanksgiving, an army of over 700 volunteers in different teams move in full force across the Northern Virginia area from 8:00-5:00 p.m. raking leaves, cutting grass, moving things, cleaning yards, and more. Donations are then collected from the jobs, and at the end of the day the teams go to Shoppers in Sterling to buy food for a family whom they will deliver the food to that night. In physically delivering the food to the family, you have the privilege of making a personal connection with families in our community. This is enjoying the “first fruits” of your labor. We work hard together all day and then get to see what our hard work accomplishes.
First Fruits began some 25 years ago with a dream to do something different than the norm. There are a lot of great service projects out there, like collecting blankets for the homeless. Yet a desire was born to help those who are under the radar—like a single mom who has no government assistance and is working many jobs, but still cannot make ends meet. Or a family with both parents working that still has financial struggles. Or a family where one parent is battling cancer or a spouse has died.
First Fruits works with the local schools who know those who fit what this project is looking for. RBC attendees also submit forms for those they believe could benefit from this day. God has consistently used this one day of serving to provide in a unique way for our local community. Last year over $37,000 was raised in ONE day!
First Fruits started as a Youth Ministry event, but has morphed into a church-wide one, as the Lord has blessed and grown the efforts of so many since its conception. The need is BIG to allow the day to happen. We truly cannot do this without the help of each person at Reston Bible Church playing his or her part. We are in need of over 700 volunteers. Yes, 700! There are a few ways you can be involved:
- This year we are praying and asking the Lord to provide more Team Captains so we can have more teams that are smaller and more manageable.
- You can be a volunteer to work that day.
- You can provide a job for a team to do that day.
- You can refer someone you believe is in needs of food assistance.
- You can make a donation toward First Fruits.
Having participated in First Fruits for the past three years, I can say the day is truly soul satisfying, not to mention you sleep well that night. First Fruits is being “The Church” outside of the church walls. I believe the emotional and spiritual impact we have far outweighs the physical and financial gift we bring. Yet the physical and financial gift is what paves the way for the emotional and spiritual impact.
The mission of our Adopt-a-School relationship with Guilford Elementary School is to help meet the physical, relational and spiritual needs of the disadvantaged through service and generosity, and to encourage the staff who work with these families.
By leveraging the talents and resources of many RBC volunteers, we have the opportunity to positively affect the lives of students, their families, and the staff of Guilford. We can help to fill the gap created by budget cuts and a poor economy with our abundance and share the hope that is in us.
One of the ways in which Reston Bible serves Guilford Elementary is through Backpack Buddies, where we send bags of food home every Friday with the children of families living below the poverty level.
Right now, Guilford has 250 families that meet that criteria and need assistance. Last Thursday, volunteers gathered together in the clubhouse to pack bags for our first delivery of the school year. It was a time of fellowship, service, and an opportunity to show the love of Christ to our local community. Thank you to the volunteers who came out to help! This ministry would not be possible without your faithful service. We are in need of many more weekly volunteers – especially for Backpack Buddies delivery on Fridays when we take the bags of food to Guilford. If you are interested in serving with us, please click here for more information.
During the summer, International Connection, the English as a second language program at RBC, does not have classes. Instead I match upper-level students who can carry a conversation, with volunteers from the church. Students benefit from having someone that they can regularly speak English with all summer long. We suggest meeting once a week or once every other week at a public place such as cafes, fast-food restaurants, playgrounds, the mall or parks.
Recently, I met with a good-sized sampling of the 26 pairs that I put together in June and we chatted about their experiences over the summer – both the students as well as the volunteers. Early on, I had heard some negative responses from those who had trouble maintaining communication with their students (this was the tiny minority) so I was not prepared for the inspiring comments that I heard from the partners who attended last week’s meeting.
One volunteer had waded into the bureaucracy of a government-run, low-income, home-buying program in which his Chinese student and his wife had found themselves. Imagine dealing with all of that government and real estate jargon in another language! The volunteer patiently helped them figure out what documents were needed and then also why they had not heard back from the agency in question. They finally ended up with an application that is now being processed and this couple will soon start the search for their new home! This volunteer also assisted the student’s wife as she tried to find books in the library that were at her reading level. All of these activities are intimidating to people not born in this culture.
Another volunteer helped her student navigate the complexities of scholarship programs available to her high school child – a task that she was eminently suited for as a Fairfax County school teacher!
Several volunteers mentioned the hard-working nature of their students and cited their international friends as admirable examples to their own children of perseverance not only in language acquisition but also cultural integration. These students were/are serious about living and working here!
Very often we take our comfortable lives here for granted and we do not realize the uphill climb it is for 99 percent of the immigrant population that choose to settle here. When we do not develop a personal relationship with an international person, we miss out on knowing the great highs and lows of the immigrant experience. My faithful volunteers got to see this and are richer and more empathetic people because of it. Thanks be to God!
We want so give a huge THANK YOU to all who donated of their time and resources to make the Guilford Elementary School’s Community Thanksgiving Dinner a huge success. Our congregation donated over 90 pies and 1000 servings of stuffing. We also had 12 volunteers who helped serve the families by pouring drinks and carrying trays for moms with lots of small children. This was the largest Thanksgiving Dinner that Guilford has hosted to date, with over 900 people enjoying traditional North American Thanksgiving foods, many for the first time. Parents who often don’t have the resources to feed their families an abundant meal like this were truly grateful. We are thankful for you, our generous congregation and our faithful God who allows us to serve these families and staff at Guilford Elementary.
For over 20 years, the youth ministry has run the First Fruits project the Saturday before Thanksgiving. Every year, we raise money by raking leaves and doing other jobs throughout the day. That evening, we purchase lots of food and deliver the food to families in need in our community. This year, with an army of over 650 workers, we raised over $43,000 to provide food for over 100 families. We were also able to provide college scholarships to five local high school seniors.
Because we have been doing this for so many years, it is easy to just assume numbers like these will happen. But every year God does something that just makes us realize it is His work and His plan, not ours.
First, this year we had over 200 students from Parkview and Herndon High School sign up to work with us. These students have no affiliation with RBC, but the schools announced the project and they came to work with us. As a youth ministry, we are always trying to think of creative ways to reach out with the truth and hope of the Gospel to the students around us, and it’s so cool how God has taken something we designed to care for those in physical need and open so many doors for us to tell so many students about their greatest spiritual need. We never had a “strategic plan” or “vision” to turn First Fruits into an outreach, but it is now our biggest outreach of the year. Please pray for the hundreds who heard the Gospel at First Fruits.
Second, God orchestrated several food deliveries in ways that only He could. To identify many of the families we assist, we work through parent liaisons at several local public schools. We seek families that are experiencing hardships, but not currently being helped. These families are then randomly assigned to one of our 32 teams.
This year, as one team was entering the home of the family they were delivering to, the face of a young girl and her parents lit up. They were excited not for the food, but that one of the people delivering the food was the girl’s preschool teacher from several years prior. This instantly broke the ice and allowed for a powerful opportunity to share the love of Christ. When a group of strangers walk into someone’s home with bags of food and gifts, it can be awkward. But God, in providentially working out the right family with the right team, completely changed the situation. Only God can work out situations like that.
A similar situation happened with another team. They were supposed to deliver food to a different family, but at the last minute their delivery was switched. It just happened to be switched to a family a team member knew, which has opened the doors for additional ministry and care for the family.
God is not random. Our God is powerful and is doing great things in our midst, even when we don’t recognize it. Thank you so much for giving us jobs, working with us, donating to the project, and being part of what the Lord is doing to make His name known in Northern Virginia.
Below are some highlight pictures from the day. Enjoy!
Praise God with us for the work and blessings during First Fruits this year. Last Saturday, November 21, we had 32 teams composed of 659 volunteers completing 133 jobs. This day raised $43,490! The teams used some of what was raised to buy groceries and bring gift cards to 32 families with financial need that night. An additional 40 or more families will also be receiving grocery gift cards in the next few weeks. Five local high schools will be participating in a Perseverance Scholarship for seniors as they prepare for college. Teachers will also be nominated for a gift from us. All of these opportunities to exemplify God’s love to our neighbors is only possible because of the many people who sacrificed their time, energy and finances. Thank you!
To learn more about how First Fruits has an impact, read First Fruits: Beyond the Leaves.
In International Connection, the English as a second language program at RBC, we strive to meet 3 main goals as a ministry. They are:
- To provide quality English classes to the immigrant community around us
- To be a place of community where people can make friends and feel a sense of belonging.
- To “sow the seed” of the gospel in a basic way – to let everyone know that God loves them.
We hold classes on Tuesday nights and on Wednesday mornings from September through early May for adult internationals, in four academic levels. Free childcare is also provided during class times as well as a Homework Club, which is tutoring for the grade school children of our evening students. This fulfills the first goal on our list as we endeavor to improve our students’ lives through language acquisition.
The second goal – that of building community – is something that was evident this past spring in our morning advanced level class. They so enjoyed each others’ company and the English conversation practice that they organized their own weekly gatherings in each others’ homes for 8 weeks after the spring semester ended! They felt a bond of friendship with one another as well as with their teachers. They also needed a forum for problem-solving the various issues that they are met with every day of their lives in this newly-adopted country. Through the course of this felt need, seeds of the gospel were also interspersed – goal number three.
If this type of ministry interests you or if you have any questions about any part of this program, please contact me, Susan Morinaga, at email@example.com. As it stands now, there are few teacher and assistant teacher needs for Sept. 2015.
First Fruits is a service project that has rallied the RBC church body for over 25 years. It is a unique serving opportunity for families, shepherd groups, and individuals to come together and make a difference in the lives and families in our area who are in need of help and encouragement. In addition to providing food and support to local families, a portion of the funds raised goes to what we call the Perseverance Scholarship. This is a scholarship we offer in several local high schools to seniors who desire to further their education. The scholarship celebrates not only the success that may come from persevering, but more importantly the proven character of the person who has persevered and in the process become a positive example and source of encouragement for their peers. This year, Ashlyn was one of the recipients of the Perseverance Scholarship. This is her story.
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I want to say thank you to Reston Bible Church for helping me go to college by giving me a Perseverance Scholarship. I am now a freshman in the Honors College at George Mason University. One year ago I never thought it would be possible to go to college. After my junior year all my friends were starting to visit colleges and were asking where I wanted to go. All I could think was “there is no way that this is ever going to happen” for me. Things were too complicated in my life to consider the idea of going to college – I had no hope that I would be able to go.
For much of the past nine years, I’ve felt like my life was a tornado of devastation. From my father losing his job, to family bankruptcy, to losing our house, to moving from state to state, to growing tension between my parents, to my sister suffering from severe depression and an eating disorder… the list goes on. Watching all this and seeing the impact on my family as a whole left me feeling like I had to be the rock for my family. I had to be strong and supportive- hide my own anxiety and misery and fears to be there for them. I felt so brittle, so alone and weak.
In all of this the toughest challenge was living with my father. Ever since I was a child, my father controlled every living aspect of my sister’s, mother’s, and my life. He was an alcoholic and had been clinically diagnosed with major depression and a personality disorder. He took his medication with scotch and sometimes with a sleeping pill and was abusive toward us. He was incredibly manipulative and gained control over us through “mind games” which included taking guns and knives out and threatening to use them to get his way. Countless times I had to confront him- once lying on top of a rifle to stop my father from loading it. My father’s controlling behavior isolated us and as a result, we never knew how dysfunctional our family was until we finally reached out for help.
After many months of planning and many years of contemplation, this past Mother’s Day my mother moved my sister and me to another place – taking our first steps towards freedom and independence. Even though our future is still questionable and slightly daunting due to our current financial difficulties and present circumstances, moving away from my father has proven to be the catalyst for hope and new beginnings. And I am certain that any future challenges ahead will not be nearly as hard as what we have already overcome.
I couldn’t have done it without all of the support I received from people around my community. Organizations such as Child Protective and especially Loudoun Abused Women’s Shelter (LAWS). My friends and teachers have all been supportive of me. And, I am so grateful for the generosity and kindness of my drama teacher, Mrs. Young, and her family. All these people supported me through all of my adversity and have honestly saved my life.
One example I experienced that showed me how things can change for the better is, I remember, sitting down at the dinner table with my drama teacher’s family and being absolutely stunned – there was no screaming, no yelling, tension, crying, negative energy. Everyone was talking pleasantly and eating together. I had never experienced anything like this before. It was so simple, such a day-to-day activity this family had with each other, but to me it was so much more. It gave me hope that real happy, loving families exist. It was an experience I will never forget.
During the early and middle stages of my situation, I was hesitant to reach out for help because I thought it showed weakness. However, I found it is really the most important thing you can do. It shows strength in that you are brave enough to ask for help. At first it is hard to reveal your weaknesses to others, but later you realize it is better to get help then struggle on your own. It is quintessential to seek help when you are in a difficult situation; hiding that pain, anxiety, and stress only lets it fester and build up until you explode. There is always someone out there to help, and there is always hope for better days, no matter what. My counselor and others have helped me realize that the past does not define you- you do not have to be held back something you are not able to change or control. You can move past it and grow from it. The tough times and downfalls I’ve experienced have made me a stronger and wiser individual, and ultimately has taught me to persevere and never give up.
I hope sharing my story will encourage others to reach out for help in order to start a better future for their lives. Starting my new chapter in life at George Mason as part of the Honors College is a dream come true. Thank you to all those that have contributed to First Fruits in any way that made the Perseverance Scholarship possible in order for me to attain my dream of going to college and to know that nothing is impossible.
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For more information on First Fruits and how you can get involved, check out www.restonbible.org/firstfruits.
There were over 100 people lined up and waiting in the rain when we opened the doors last Saturday morning, and within the first hour we had given away more than 300 bags of clothing. (The photo above is after we opened the doors – the photo below is literally one hour later.)
We saw specific needs met over and over. Thanks to the generosity of our people, along with serving our body, and the local community, we were able to send clothing to missionaries in Japan and Ethiopia, and to a Christian rehab center here in Virginia. There were about 30 bags of clothing left at the end of the event, which went to SACS, the thrift store we partner with.
If you have ever wondered what might have happened to the books that were leftover from RBC’s book drive for Guilford Elementary last Spring, then you will love this story. Open Arms Worldwide (OAW) is a mission supported by Reston Bible Church that works in low income or otherwise at-risk neighborhoods in Brazil. Open Arms works to mobilize and equip local churches to reach and teach children who are in their community, but outside their church family. This year, Open Arms has started working in the U.S. as well, and their first project is right in our backyard. In partnership with Sterling Park Baptist Church, we have begun building a relationship with another Sterling Park elementary school, Sully Elementary.
At the beginning of the month, Sterling Park Baptist and Open Arms held a book drive with the goal of providing 2-3 books for every child at Sully to read over the summer. In the spirit of unity in the body of Christ, RBC gave the effort a huge head start by donating around 1,000 books that were left over from the Guilford drive last Spring. Your gifts have been multiplied and the body of Christ has been glorified! Win, win!
Read more about this story on the Open Arms website.
“I in them, and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” – Jesus in John 17:23
With all that it takes to become comfortable and productive in Northern Virginia culture, it occurred to me that the internationals in our English as a Second Language program would benefit from understanding how to handle emergency situations. One of our teachers, Ron Colan, has a son who is a deputy with the Loudoun County Sheriff’s office. Deputy Colantonio was only too happy to come in and share basic knowledge with our students. I also contacted the Loudoun County Fire and Rescue Squad and they sent a very capable public education manager, Lisa Braun, to provide training in all matters having to do with fire safety and calling 911.
For our two lower-level classes, I had to provide translators in order to ensure clear understanding of this important information. Thankfully, I was able to find the right people for all the major language groups. The presenters deftly maneuvered talking then pausing, over and over again, in order to allow the translators to work effectively.
Ms. Braun provided a 911 simulator which looks like a telephone and has a recording of the likely dialog that would be heard from the 911 operator. It was great for the students to try to answer the dispatcher’s questions and listen for instructions. When one is in a stressful situation, this may not be so easily done – even for a native English speaker!
Deputy Colantonio talked about what to do if one is pulled over by a police officer and also the procedure to follow should one have a traffic accident. Students had many questions on other matters pertaining to the law that have either been misunderstood or not known.
We strive to give our students practical information about how to live here as responsible citizens. Part of that is helping them to acquire the language and part of that is providing cultural insight including understanding the law. The more we show our love and concern for them, the more likely we will have a platform for pointing them to the ultimate need they have in their lives – knowledge of Jesus Christ and His relevance to every person, whether born here or elsewhere.
When children come into foster care, they are often removed from their homes in an emotional and chaotic scene.
Their biological families pack their belongings in whatever bags they may have handy, including garbage bags. Sometimes, families don’t have any large bags to give children to carry their things, as many of these children come from low income families. Many times children come into foster care with nothing that first night. To have a bag of their own, filled with items that are just for them as they enter a world that is not their own, can offer a small but powerful comfort.
This was the challenge that we presented to our body back in January. Let us be the hands and feet of Christ by providing shiny new duffel bags filled with the necessities that a child whose world has just been turned upside down would need, plus some extra goodies so they would feel valued and loved. We can’t measure the effect that holding a teddy bear that will be theirs to keep would have on a child that first night away from the only home they have every known.
We are grateful to God that our people are a generous people and embraced this opportunity to love a child they will probably never meet. We had over 200 bags donated, which filled two 15-passenger vans. The bags will be distributed to several local foster care agencies and will meet a tremendous need.
The RBC Club House room was packed with international faces and languages – children, adults, seniors – all chattering and eating. The annual Thanksgiving Dinner for International Connection (our ESL, or English as a Second Language program) was a chaotic but lively and warm gathering! We welcomed 168 guests, which made it shoulder-to-shoulder in that space.
The buffet area was set up with two rows of international cuisine – tamales, rice pilaf, spring rolls– mixed in with traditional dishes of turkey, mashed potatoes and stuffing. The International Connection volunteers (plus extra helpers) provided the traditional Thanksgiving fare to give our students a taste of North America. The students proudly contributed the bounty from their home countries. What a feast!
After dinner, the children were dismissed to take part in their own supervised activities while the adults remained to enjoy the program. Pastor Ed Nalle led us in singing “Give Thanks with a Grateful Heart” and then performed “Be Ye Glad” to a rapt audience. We watched a short video that presented the history of the holiday. Then there were class presentations and individual student speeches – the highlight of the evening. From the choral readings to the personalized expressions of why they are thankful, it was a time to count our blessings and then focus on the greatest gift of all – Jesus. Mike Meyers, Children’s Ministry Director, reminded us to stop and recognize the good things right in front of us that are easily taken for granted.
Our students come from about 25 different countries and 14 language groups. They are sometimes mystified by the new culture in which they find themselves but when they come to English classes here at RBC each week, they find an oasis where they can practice their language skills in a safe and caring environment and where they can learn about how to adapt to life in this country. Many come for the English but come back for the friendship and more. May God give us grateful hearts this holiday time as we think of those who are struggling to survive in the midst of so much upheaval
Two years ago, it snowed for Trunk-or-Treat, forcing our event indoors. Last year, Hurricane Sandy (also known as “Frankenstorm”) shut us down completely. This year, we trusted the weather would cooperate. While it was challenging to set up with the crazy wind, we tied, taped and bungeed everything down and were ready to go by 6:00pm last Thursday evening. Finally the winds blissfully died down… only for it to begin to rain.
Many thanks to all who didn’t let being slightly damp put a damper on the evening. We had 32 spots filled with decorations, games, and wonderful people in costumes giving out candy to the hundreds of children who came out to trick-or-treat with us. I have to admit, I had my doubts about how many people would venture out on a windy and rainy night with their kids in costumes – but as usual, the Lord showed me what a waste of time worrying is. Lots and lots of kids and parents dressed in costumes and ready to spend a safe, fun-filled evening with their family arrived in spite of the off-and-on rain. After playing games and trick-or-treating, the children were treated to hay rides, candied apples and popcorn, and fun Halloween crafts. Several hundred of our surrounding neighbors and friends from Guilford came out for the fun.
Our parking “spots” were amazingly creative with Alice in Wonderland’s Mad Hatter, Captain America and the Avengers, Batman, aliens, the Pumpkinmobile, a photo booth, and Duck Dynasty – just to name a few.
A HUGE THANKS to everyone that helped – set up, clean up, food, crafts, hayrides and of course the parking spots. It takes a lot of help to put on an event like this, and we couldn’t do it without our wonderful volunteers. I think it’s safe to say that everyone went home “Happy, happy, happy!”