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The Vain Things That Charm Us

Dear Family and friends,

I write you once again with deep passion in my heart, praising God for you and the wonderful blessing you have been to us. God is doing a mighty work and we could not be here and be a part of it without your prayer and support. What a joy to serve a God who loves the poor and the broken, for that is what we are without Christ, and seeing ourselves as poor and broken is what allows us to accept a Kingdom such as the one that Jesus Christ preached and made visible to us. Last week I had the joy preaching in a suburban church that is one of our key partners here. I spoke on “The Vain Things that Charm Us.”  An exert from that sermon is attached so feel free to listen to it or go to our website and hear the whole thing. I am constantly being convicted in my own life as I look at the many vain, pointless, non-eternal things I go to to try and find my significance and justify my existence. I am really seeing that anything that effects my joy that isn’t God is an idol, a vain charmer that really doesn’t bring the eternal joy my heart of hearts desires. How quickly even this ministry can become such an idol, or my family, or my music.  How quickly my heart goes to things other than God to find its joy. i see in our culture how much materialistic things have become charmers that we run to. So much of our joy is wrapped up in how much stuff we have or can get.  In working with the poor my heart has been forced into a radical re-evaluation of even my family’s spending habits and how truly selfish they really are. I look at the early church and see why the gospel was so attractive, why it had so much power to change lives: it was radical and selfless. The people who claimed to follow Christ didn’t live in the same luxury as their peers.  Those who had means and a way of making money chose to live a simple life; they chose to reach out to the margins and didn’t view their wealth as a blessing from God for them but rather as a chance God was giving them to bless others and meet others needs to the same extent they were seeking to meet their own.  Their joy wasn’t in the material, no, their treasure was wrapped up in the promises of God made real through Christ.  They wanted to follow Christ into mission and wanted to live their lives truly for God’s glory and for others, and therefore they viewed any wealth not as an opportunity to accumulate more stuff, but as an opportunity to serve the poor and broken and reflect the true Good News that Jesus taught. It wasn’t a religion that they brought to their respective cultures but a radical faith in action that left everyone around them bewildered and stunned by their selfless love for even their enemies. The real selfless love of Christ being mirrored in their love for the poor is what showed people the real Jesus. It challenges me, and it needs to challenge the true church, those who claim to follow to Christ, to stop hoping and finding joy in the fake comfort and safety we think this decaying world can offer us, but rather to hope in the “new every morning” mercies, grace and love of our eternal Father in heaven who has brought us and bought us at a price and called us His own. May His invisible Kingdom of justice and mercy be made visible in real time through our lives as we desire to know Jesus more and respond to the message of hope held out in the Gospel. This good news for self-seeking, vain, materialistic, money hoarding, glory-hungry, drug addicted, prostituting, pharisitical, judging people like us is indeed amazing. The more amazing and valued this Good News is in our lives the less value the vain treasures of this world will be to us and the less we will be in bondage to them.  May this amazing grace be a sweet sweet sound to our ears and may our lives spring forth accordingly into action that bears that same Good News to our broken world.

Here are some reports of what the Good News is doing here in Newark . If you want to hear some thoughts and personal testimony and stories about the things God is teaching us through this whole adventure, please do read everything. I promise it is worth your time and it means a lot to me to know that the sufferings and hardships we face day in and day out are being used to strengthen the church not just in Newark but around the world.  So I pray that everything written in this email will flow steady straight to your heart and awaken in each of us a deeper passion to live selfless lives for the Glory of God and the joy and flourishing of the human race, that all nations may encounter the risen Christ in us as we reflect His selfless love poured out so freely to us on the cross.

The Report (I know it is long, but God is doing so much. Praise God for His work!)

New Staff – Safe Haven is happy to report that we have been led to hire a program director. Erik Midboe, a 23 year old all star who has been volunteering with us for the last year has felt led to join our team in a permanent way. He has really stepped up to the plate and is doing an awesome job loving kids while developing and growing our programs.

Youth trips – In January the high school Crossover (our teen program) went to Lake Champion (an awesome young life camp about 2 hours away)for the weekend. we took 25 of us total and it was an amazing time of growth, new commitments to Christ and super fun. It costs $100 per person and nearly every kid signed up that they needed a scholarship and by God’s grace and wonderful generosity from some of you, each kid was able to go. In March we took 35 middle school students and leaders. God provided in amazing ways for them to go as well.  (See below) Trips like these away from Newark are where most of our kids really meet the Lord for the first time and God seems to use these trips to set them on a new course. I can not tell you how crucial it is to get as many kids as possible on these trip.  Please pray about giving toward this cause. We are growing so fast and we need to start raising funds for summer camps for our kids here. God uses these trips to completely change these kids directions in life. He has already with so many!!!!  You can give at this link online or send checks made payable to Safe Haven to 483 Ferry street, Newark Jj 07105. Put Youth Trips in the memo.

Spaghetti Dinner Fundraiser- We had our first community based fundraiser to send our middle school students on their Lake Champion retreat.  Each kid who needed a scholarship had to sell tickets to the spaghetti dinner in an attempt to raise the needed money.  As the kids participated in this they learned honesty, initiative taking, organization, and service and ultimately trusting God to provide the needed money.  We were very impressed at their ability to sell tickets to their neighbors, friends, and family and then being faithful to turn in the money and return unsold tickets.  Then each child was a “server” for each of the tables for this reasonably priced, but candlelit dinner.  They were selfless and focused in the roles we gave them.  One youth kept telling me “Thank you so much for letting me be a server, I’ve never done something like this”  (this was after he asked me about 40 times what questions he was suppose to ask his table -meat sauce?plain sauce? do you need more drink?)  We had 100 kids and adults attend the dinner (90 % from our immediate neighborhood), and had raffles for certain items.  Many people gave more than they could afford towards these kids.  We were able to raise almost $900 through this strictly community run event.  This is the kind of progress we want to see.  Our neighborhood committing to our kids, and seeking a different future for them, not just always relying on an outside source to give free handouts.

The Youth center is in full swing. Since opening the youth center last november, we have tripled the number of kids and teens coming to see what is happening at Safe Haven. Our base just got a whole lot bigger. I get to meet a new kid every day it seems. Pretty amazing but that also means we are way understaffed to meet the need.  we could easily hire two more full time staff and have plenty for them to do. (once God provides the funds we need)  Praise God we have some great volunteers really stepping up (we need more though) We are beginning some very specific programs that you can pray for. A weekly dance class,  drum class, guitar class, and video editing class.  All Lord willing will be taught by our very own teenagers under the supervision of myself and other volunteers. We are also starting a solid homework help program using our teens as the aids to teach the younger kids. This will provide jobs for the teens and help for the kids. We still ned to raise funds for this so pray for that.  Read more below about the S.H.A.C. Program.

Spring break trips – We had over 60 high school and college students visit for their spring break, 4 different groups came through for the month of March. Teams from Michigan, Virginia, Ohio, and here in New Jersey. What an amazing time it was. God really used them to impact the community in a powerful way. Whole housing projects got cleaned, the schools got tutors for the week to help with reading, nursing homes had volunteers, repair work was done in the school across the street and in the community, over a hundred kids and teens got to hear the gospel and form relationships with these students. It was awesome. Please pray as we continue to develop this program.

Futureman – We have just started a program called “Futureman” for mentoring young men. It is going extremely well and growing each week. Most of these young men have no father figure in their lives. Our goal is to see the good news break that generational curse and give them hope of becoming a different type of man then their dads and the men they see around them. We are praying that this group will draw more and more of these young men away from the gangs and into the Kingdom.

We have Vans – two vans have been donated. those of you that donated toward our fun, your gifts were used to fix up and insure the vans properly. We still need to raise a few thousand more to insure for this whole year. what a blessing!  We asked for a van and got two. One 14 passenger and one 8 passenger.

More Plans……

The SHAC Program Safe Haven After Class – This program begins in two weeks. We are hand picking 20 kids (2nd-5th grade)  out of our pool of over 100 and inviting them into an intense develop program every day of the week after school (3:00-6:00 pm)  This is a pilot program that we are doing for 10 weeks until school gets out. If it succeeds like we think it will we will grow it more in the fall and begin plans for opening another one in another community here in in Newark. This Program will utilize our computer lab, recording studio, music rooms and develop our kids on each of our four levels-creative, mental, social, and spiritual. We are doing  fundraising campaign specifically for this program as listed below.

Bidder Sweets Fundraiser – Silent Auction and Dessert… Saturday, May 3rd, 7:30 PM. PLEAE GO TO THIS WEBSITE AND HELP US!  We need to raise $15,000 to make the SHAC program a reality and this is the fundraiser we are doing.  Anything you can donate that is worth auctioning off (Tickets, time share, gift cards etc….) or any funds. Most of you on this list can’t physically be there so buying tickets wouldn’t help but any other way would be much appreciated. CLICK HERE TO SEE THE SITE WE MADE FOR THIS EVENT.

Summer Internships within the next week I hope to have the full details of this opportunity. The basic breakdown – we need 2 -3 more college students to commit to interning here over the summer. Dates are flexible but we want you here for at least the 6 weeks of our summer day camp (June 30-August 8th)  Each Intern needs to raise 250 for each week they are here. (at least $1500) This covers living expenses, and a weekly stipend. This is a missionary position in every sense of the word. there will be an intense reading list, discipleship, and outreach to our broken community. It will be a stretching and sanctifying experience but will be life changing.  Only the adventurous should apply… those who have been here during the summer know what I am talking about.

Safe Haven Summer Camp – June 30th-August 8th (9-3pm Monday-Friday) We have hired a Camp Director for the Summer named Donna Mateyka who will be leading a 6 week long program for 50 kids from the community. Our goal is for our kids to have a safe summer where they can grow in all of our four levels, creative, mental, social and spiritual. This camp will not only reach our children but also employ teenagers from the community, empower volunteers from the community, and also provide a structured environment for the youth group teams coming this summer to engage in outreach and community development (If you want to bring a college or high school group here on a mission trip we still have room for more teams.)

Ok, That was a long report. makes me tired just writing it… But isn’t God faithful. We love seeing what He is doing and being a part of it and we love that so many of you on this list are sharing in the joy of reaching and restoring this community.  We hope this encourages each of you and draws you closer to Jesus.

Below are some family pictures, the recent sermon I mentioned earlier and links to our web stuff. Check out the cool video a college student named Kaitlyn made of her spring break trip here.  we love you all and hope to hear from you.