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Working with Teens is "Not My Thing"

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Our wonderful Teen HANG Time began just a few months ago and as an OTM staff member, I was drafted to help get the program off the ground. Now, understand me, I was not drafted because I have excellent skills in working with teens, because I am so patient with this transitioning age group, or because I already had great relationships with these teens. Nope. I have none of those, but I was drafted because I was willing to be drafted. That’s right, I was just an adult human being willing to spend my afternoon with teenagers.

I could spin this story in a positive light and tell you the wonderful little moments where I connected with teens. Or, I could spin this in a negative light and explain my many mistakes and failures. But, I don’t plan on doing either of those. My point here is this: sometimes God calls us to do things that are not in our comfort zone and outside of our gifting. In Matthew 28:18-20 Jesus tells us to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations”. He did not allocate specific areas to each of the disciples, he simply said “go.”

Now, Jesus said “go”, but he also said, “and I will be with you to the end of the age”. What a promise! When we go, we are not alone. Every time I serve outside of my gifting, I am given the opportunity to really see that Jesus is with me. I’m not relying on my gifts, I’m relying on Him. As Paul said, I am learning to be “content with weaknesses…For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10) How does that work, you may ask? Because God says, “my power is made perfect in weakness.”

So, what other conclusion can I draw, but that teen ministry is a perfect place for me right now? My weaknesses are abundantly clear with these teens, but that means that God’s power is perfect. And really, do I want my power or His?

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Why I am an Oak Tree Intern...

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Hi y’all, I’m SK and you’ve probably seen me around the Treehouse. I’m a sophomore at Samford University majoring in Journalism and Mass Communications. How did I become involved in Oak Tree Ministries? Well, because of a program called Micah Fellows.

Micah Fellows is a service based honors program at Samford that revolves around Micah 6:8, which says “And what does the Lord require of you? To do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God”. Freshman year, my cohort of Micah Fellows studied the meaning of justice. This year, we are focusing on mercy. Junior year we will focus on humility, then throughout senior year we will be learning about grant writing. Micah Fellows has already provided me with knowledge I wouldn’t have learned inside an ordinary classroom.

For example, I filed taxes for Birmingham citizens in low income areas through Impact Alabama. Numbers are not my strength, so I had multiple breakdowns before realizing it’s not about me or how well I can file taxes. It’s about providing a service to people who may not be shown this kind of love if it weren’t for volunteers. I also got to be a listening ear to those who just needed someone to talk to. I heard many stories that stick with me to this day. Because of this experience, I wanted to do something more to make even a small difference in low income communities.

At the end of freshman year, the Micah Fellows had the opportunity to interview with non-profits in Birmingham. Service is a central theme within the program, so each of us are required to intern at a non-profit for three years during our time at Samford. Most people wanted to find one that related to their major, but God was tugging at my heart, telling me I shouldn’t go down that path. I interviewed with multiple places. None of them felt quite right for me. Finally, I sat down and talked with Halie and Jesse and I learned about an organization whose mission is something I am passionate about.

They explained how Oak Tree Ministries focuses on reconciling people with God and people with other people in their community. How they work to provide relief to Marks Village, whether that’s in times of crisis over over a long period of time. How they work to rehabilitate the community and people, physically and spiritually. And how they build relationships with the people in Mark’s village in order to spread the news of the goodness of God.

After interning here for a little over a semester, it’s helped me confirm that community is so necessary and that everyone benefits from it. We are all broken, and sometimes the only way to rebuild ourselves is through connecting with others while connecting with God.

So what do I do here? I get to help out a little behind the scenes by helping to organize the newsletter and doing any kind of work needed to prepare for the day. I also volunteer at Reading Club on Thursdays and Bible Club on Sundays.

Recently, God has been telling me to work on vulnerability. I spent a lot of time suppressing that calling, until He broke me down and proved to me I needed to be vulnerable. So, I love getting to talk with my small group of second and third grade boys at Bible Club. Through this time, we all share struggles we face at school with our peers. Then we discuss little things we can change to reduce conflict and show love towards one another. At Oak Tree, God has showed me that vulnerability breeds vulnerability. Trust is gained as relationships are built, which is a pathway for sharing how loving God is and how we can share that love with others.

If you ever see me around, please stop me to say hi!

Peace.

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If we're honest, often times at Bible Club we feel like we are shouting the gospel over the chaos, wondering if anyone can hear us, wondering if it's making any difference at all... volunteers, can I get an "amen" that I'm not alone in that? 

As we've been teaching peace the last few weeks, I feel the tension. Peace probably wouldn't be the first word that came to mind if you asked someone to describe life in our community. Yet, here we are, proclaiming that peace is possible... right in the middle of breaking up fights & dodging rocks as they fly through the air.

Jesus offers us peace. He IS our peace.

I prayed that God would make the reality of His peace visible to me this Sunday. Please, just give me a glimpse to remind me that it is possible. He faithfully answered. He always does. 

As Jason began walking the boys through the gospel, I saw it. I had the privilege of popping in just in time to see part of the gospel, that good news we've shared countless times, finally click. The Spirit made a little lightbulb turn on above one of our boy's head. Eyes suddenly locked in on that gospel picture - fully in tune, listening & asking questions - 1 minute ago he was distracting the group, talking over Jason, mumbling rude things. How does that happen?

The power of the gospel. The power of Jesus offering us peace with God when it's the last thing we deserve. The power of peace standing strong in a war zone. 

"Wait, why would I have to die?! Why would you say that Jesus had to die for me?!" 

It just so happened I had a little incident with this child the day before. What I thought was a random encounter, where I was in the right place at the right time (or wrong time, depending on who you ask), turned out to be God's detailed attention to the child He is pursuing. He was making the gospel personal to him. I knew the specific sin that was fresh on this child's mind, I knew that peace was far from him in this moment, & I knew which real life example to give to explain the work of Christ on the cross for us in a context he would understand. The perfect moment. God had it rigged. Suddenly what completely confused me just a few hours ago all made sense. I knew why it all happened & I got to see a little bit of what God was up to. 

The rest of Bible Club, this child was calm & peaceful. The anger had somehow disappeared. 

It's not my job to make it "click." It's not my job to save. It's my job to keep showing up, carrying the gospel of peace, even on the days when I feel no one can hear it over the chaos. The Spirit does the rest. Just wait on His faithful timing. 

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Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, & is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, & those who hear will live.
John 5:25

Thank you, faithful Bible Club Volunteers! You continue to show up, speaking & living out the gospel, even on the hard days. We are thankful to wait on those moments with you, when the Spirit moves & we are reminded that nothing is wasted. 

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We always need more friendly faces at Bible Club! If you're interested in joining the family & serving with us on Sunday afternoons, just contact Raquel to start the conversation. You can be a part of Bible Club twice a month or you may just love it so much that you'll have to come every Sunday! ;) 

I Lost All the Bibles!

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A few weeks ago I was getting ready for Reading Club and needed to gather up our collection of Jesus Storybook Bibles. I went to the library and couldn't find a single copy. I checked the office, the kindergarten room, and the teen room. No Jesus Storybook Bibles. Where did I put them all? I brought Bubba into the hunt and we continued our circuit around the building. I finally found them in the place I should have looked first: the kids' book bins! Every single Bible was "checked out" of the library. Our Reading Buddies are choosing to read the Word of God in their free reading time! 

The Jesus Storybook Bible is beautifully done and always reminds us who the Story is really about! We would love a few more copies for our library and to send home with the kids! If you would like to help us to keep "losing Bibles" into kids' hands, please click here to send us a copy through Amazon. 

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Happy New Year!

Some of the best moments are the little, seemingly insignificant ones that often fade from our minds by year's end. I took many pictures this year and as I scrolled through I found dozens  filled with little moments I had forgotten. As we reflect and look forward, I thought I would share a few with you!

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Some pictures just speak for themselves! 

Why don't you join us this year?

Come learn more about our ministries and find a place to plug in this New Year! 

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The First Christmas in the Village

The Tree House transformed last weekend.

The large room usually filled with children running, playing, and learning became a calm and cozy living room filled with adults and volunteers, complete with fireplace and warm beverages. The kindergarten room changed into an overflowing toy store. The homework zone was a Christmas wonderland for children to explore while parents shopped. The stage where Bible lessons are taught became a photo studio to capture family memories. The teen room faded as a gift wrapping room appeared, with enough paper to wrap around the state of Alabama! 

This wasn't just another Christmas event. This was a community, coming together to say they want something more than the status quo. This was Birmingham saying we want more than Christmas charity, we want mutually transforming relationships that last all year long. We want to work together, as neighbors, to bring reconciliation and dignity. 

Christmas in the Village was Oak Tree's first large event specifically focused on adults. We didn't know how it would be received, we didn't know who would get behind the idea, but as we stepped into the unknown, you jumped on board with more enthusiasm and support than we could have imagined! You donated toys, you baked cookies, you offered your skills, you spread the word, you volunteered so much time, and together, we created something beautiful.

Moms, Dads, and Grandparents walked into the Tree House, many for the first time, with heads held high. Today they weren't receiving a hand out, they were shopping for a good deal and choosing unique toys for their own children.

One mom shared her experience with a volunteer while chatting over cookies and coffee on the sofa. She was hesitant to come at first. She thought it would probably just be another charity event where she felt judged and different. But, after being greeted at the door by kind faces, finding a special gift for her son at a great price, and watching him enjoy the Christmas activities, she decided to come back on Saturday and get to know us more! She said she has never been to an event like this, where she felt loved and welcomed as a neighbor. These newfound neighbors continued to chat and get to know one another, sharing stories of Christmas and God's faithfulness in their lives. 

That is what Christmas in the Village was all about.

It is amazing to imagine what is possible when everyone comes together. One toy donated, one hour serving, one toy purchased, one conversation shared... it takes a Village to create change, and I think we're on our way! 

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Fall Fun!

Friends of Oak Tree,


We had such a fun, colorful October that we want to make sure you never miss out on what's happening in the Village! If you haven't already, make sure you sign up for our monthly newsletter so that you never miss an update! 


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Picking Out Pumpkins! 

The Reading Club went on a field trip to Old Baker Farm last month! We climbed a mountain of hay bales, held a baby goat, went on a hayride, and picked out a pumpkin a piece to take home! While the pictures are precious, insert the sound of giggles and the smell of hay for the full effect. 


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Welcome, Raquel!

We are excited that Raquel has joined our team at Oak Tree! Many of you already know Raquel, who has been serving in Marks Village for several years in her work with Serving You Ministries and Discovery Clubs at Oliver. Raquel will be working and coordinating across ministry areas with our women, teens, and children. She is clearly right at home with our neighbors! Please welcome Raquel to the family when you see her next!

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Teresa's Farewell

What a wonderful evening celebrating Teresa and her time in ministry with us! Neighbors, volunteers, and friends all gathered for a dinner and sweet speeches. Teresa helped to start the Bible Club at Ambassador for Christ Church almost five years ago and has been faithfully serving with both the children and women in Marks Village. We will miss her, but we know she has so many new opportunities ahead as she moves to live near her children and grandchildren.

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Women's Fellowship

This month we had the opportunity to hear from Forge, breast cancer survivor center, to find out what resources are available to the women in the Village who are facing the battle with cancer. Thank you, Forge!


Give Thanks!

Friends of Bible Club, you are invited to join us for a Thanksgiving meal! We want to celebrate with our neighbors & give thanks to God for all He is doing in the Village!

Click HERE to find out more & RSVP.

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Volunteer Opportunities

There are many ways you can get involved serving with us! Check out the opportunities listed below and always feel free to contact us with any questions or ideas you may have.

THIS MONTH'S HIGHLIGHTED NEED:
We are in need of childcare assistance during our women's fellowship group on Monday afternoons & Thursday evenings.

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  • Bible Club - We need more disciple-makers for K-12th graders on Sunday afternoons.
     
  • Reading Club - We need more volunteers to join us Tuesdays and Thursdays to make disciples who love to read with K-5th graders.
     
  • Meals - We need volunteers willing to make sack dinners for our Bible Club kids. Click HERE to find out more or to sign up.
     
  • Interested in working with kids or teenagers for the glory of God? Ask for more information here.

Look what we're reading!

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Join us for our monthly Book Club to discuss Cross-Cultural Servanthood on November 30th at 6:30 p.m.

Neighborhood Brew
5184 Caldwell Mill Rd. #206
Hoover, AL 35244

RSVP to halie.kawell@oaktreeministries.org


 

You Can Now Follow Us On Instagram!


Praises and Prayer Requests

  • We are so thankful God provided a new van through a generous donation! Bible Club pick up time has been cut in half and it makes field trips so much easier with two vehicles! 
     
  • God has sent so many new volunteers to serve with the Reading Club and we are so grateful.
     
  • Pray for more Reading Club volunteers so that the kids on our waiting list can join soon!
     
  • Join us in praying Psalm 37 this month: "Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him..."

The ministry we do each day is only made possible through your partnership! We could never say thank you enough for laboring alongside and loving our neighbors with us. We hope to see you in the Village soon!

With grateful hearts,
The Oak Tree Ministries Team

Christmas in the Village

This year, Oak Tree Ministries will be reinventing our annual
“Christmas Shop” in Marks Village!

As we learn to love our neighbors as ourselves, we begin to see the world from their point of view, challenging us to reevaluate our own views. Some of us love shopping for Christmas! Others prefer online shopping. But we can all agree it is a joy to give a special gift to our loved ones!

Many parents in our community do not have the privilege of shopping for a special Christmas gift for their child. We want to change that! Rather than giving children gifts from us, what if we were able to provide a way for parents to shop at affordable prices and choose their own gifts for their children? We want to support families in the Village by letting parents have the joy of watching their children open gifts on Christmas morning that come from them!

It’s fun to play Santa, but we want to pass that role on to parents so that they can receive the credit, while we take the role of his little helpers! Would you join us in being elves this year?

If you would like to see what this looks like in Atlanta, you can watch THIS SHORT VIDEO.

So, how will this work?In the coming months, we will collect new toys from partners like you! We will price toys at an extremely reduced rate and organize them like a store at our “Tree House.” On December 15-16, we will open up “Christmas in the Village” for parents to come shop for their children. All funds raised from toy sales will go toward summer programs for their children. With the help of our neighbors and gracious volunteers we will have a gift-wrapping station, door prizes, cookies and hot chocolate, childcare with Christmas activities, and more!

Our heart is to see “Christmas in the Village” strengthen our relationship with our neighbors, allow us to have tons of fun with our community, and share the hope that Christ brings through the Christmas story!

Christmas in the Village will be a unique giving opportunity because it provides four gifts in one: 

1. The gift of a toy at Christmas for a child. 

2. The gift of pride for the parents who are able to provide for their own families. 

3. The gift of fellowship and community as we celebrate Christmas with our neighbors.

4. The gift of funding for summer programs for children in the coming year!

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There are many ways YOU can be involved!

o   Be a business sponsor!

o   Donate toys (shop on our Amazon wish list to deliver right to us, or get gift ideas HERE)

o   Donate wrapping paper / gift bags

o   Volunteer your time!

 

For more information or to volunteer, contact Raquel at raquel.patterson@oaktreeministries.org. 

Stay tuned! We will be posting updates & specific volunteer needs in the weeks to come!

 

Family Fun Night

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Some of my favorite childhood memories include evenings when all the neighbors in our cul-de-sac came to our house. Parents were standing around the grill while kids played in the yard together. There is something about those peaceful, fun evenings as a child I will never forget.

September 28th, Reading Club had its first Family Fun Night and the evening resonated in my mind as those sweet sounds from childhood.

Our two fifth grade buddies planned the event for weeks! They decided on our menu: Nachos and Faygo, our decorations: a rainbow of tablecloths complete with flowers and homemade confetti, and voted that games would be an important part of the evening. They did a terrific job and were proud of their hard work!

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Several moms joined us Thursday evening after Reading Club and we all enjoyed a delicious meal, prepared by Oak Tree’s Women of Faith Fellowship. We were so thankful for these neighbors who served us!

After dessert, we formed teams with our family members and played Minute-to-Win-it Games putting Books of the Bible in order, stacking library books so quietly the librarian wouldn’t say “SHH!”, and keeping balloons afloat! The smiles and giggles were infectious!

We capped off the evening with a story, as all good Reading Club events must! We listened to Catching the Moon by Crystal Hubbard reminding all of our spunky kids to keep dreaming and working hard and thanking their parents who support them every step of the way.

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Thank you, Reading Club Families, for a wonderful evening, but more so for pursuing God with us and enjoying his wonderful gift of words!

Drenched in the Gospel

I love studying the Old Testament with children because it is drenched in the Gospel. Every story points to who God is, who we are, and the fact that God is coming back to save us! We started walking through the Old Testament together as a Reading Club in late Spring. We learned about Creation and marveled at God's work, we studied the Fall and asked question after question, we grieved as Cain killed Abel and talked about how this was only the first murder, but not the last. We read about Noah and the animals bobbing along in the flood waters and about men trying to reach heaven with a tower instead of a Savior. This past week we played a game in Family Meeting to help us get a better idea of the Tower of Babel. We got out the Lincoln Logs and attempted to build a tower without talking! We didn't get very far! It is hard when everyone is trying to work on different parts and we kept undoing each others' work! 

We also reviewed Noah's Ark in Storytime reading Old Noah's Elephants. We imagined what life might have been like on the Ark during those long days and nights. Then we made an Elephant craft melting crayons for colorful sprays of water! 

We will continue learning about the Tower of Babel this week. Abraham and Sarah coming soon!