Thursday, July 18, 2013

Weeks 3&4

                 The last two weeks of June reminded us of how loving our Savior is. It is amazing enough that “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8). But on top of that, God gives us hundreds—no—millions of blessings. He has given us food, safety, health, family, friends, and a country that allows us to worship God without fear. On top of that, he has given (to the members of Fide especially) opportunities to serve him and others, special talents to use in his service, and success in those opportunities. We have immeasurably more than we deserve.
                Imagine you are standing under the majestic Niagara Falls. You hold out your hands under the water—trying to cup as much of it as possible—but it fills your hands and runs over. You can try as hard as you can, and you just won’t be able to fit all of that water in your hands. That’s what it’s like to try to understand our Savior’s love. The little that we can grasp is amazing, but his love overflows to us more that we can understand, imagine, or even hope for.
That love and grace of God has been evident these past two weeks as we served at Living Word in Waukesha and at St. Paul’s First Lutheran in LaCrosse. God gave us more opportunities to teach children about this overflowing love God has for them as we helped run our first soccer camp of the year. We’d like to think that we’re in pretty good shape, but there wasn’t a day of soccer camp that we finished without needing a tall glass of water and a powernap. At the camp, we each served as the head coaches for the three age divisions. We had a lot of fun running drills and games, getting kicked in the shins, and teaching the kids about their Savior. Twice a day, all of the campers would meet together at the edge of the field—once for the new soccer skill for the day, and once for the devotion. I think the kids learned during both sessions, but the latter was far more important. One quick story:
I had the privilege of coaching the oldest group of campers. They were, for the most part, very cooperative. They really enjoyed playing soccer and were willing to learn from an amateur like me. There were a handful of the campers, however, that were…well…a handful. As tempers flared and children melted down, I too got a little frustrated. But these setbacks (as I originally saw them) were a great chance to teach the kids about repentance and forgiveness. Most importantly, I could tell them that Jesus had forgiven them for their fits of anger and unkindness, but we also got to talk about how we treat other people and how Jesus wants us to treat others. I think they had heard the “talk” about forgiveness before, but we explored the new concept (to some of them, at least) of forgiving and forgetting as well. After all, what good is it if you tell someone that you forgive them, but in your heart, you are still holding on to your anger and frustration? Are we modeling Christ-like forgiveness if we say “I forgive you,” but we don’t also forget it?
                At the last day of camp, our group huddled up for the last time. I asked the campers how they thought the day went and they all told me it was great. I wasn’t too surprised by this. They weren’t quick to complain. When I asked them what they like about the day, however, I was pleasantly surprised.

Coach Caleb:      “Well what did you like about today?”
Camper #1:         “We didn’t have any fights today and we all got along.”
Camper #2, 3:    “Yeah, that was great.”

The maturity and growth I saw from these 9 and 10 year olds was astounding! They had not only learned this idea of repentance and forgiveness, but were already applying it! What a blessing to see God working in their hearts!
                In Lacrosse, we got a chance to set aside the cleats and shin guards in exchange for a little more time teaching music. The VBS was a blast! The kids really enjoying stomping, clapping, and do-si-do-ing to some of the bluegrass songs. On the last day of VBS, we took the kids up to Grandad bluff so they could look out over God’s creation. They were pretty amazed at what they saw when we arrived at the top.
                A big thanks goes out to the Niemis for hosting us—thanks for playing cards/scattergories/boggle with us!  We finished off the week with a concert and a worship service in Racine, followed by another concert the next day in Winona, MN.

Please keep us in your prayers as we continue our summer ministry. Stayed tuned for more updates.
God bless!

Caleb Schmiege

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Week 2--St. John's Redwood Falls, MN

My friends, we do not have a distant God. We have a God that is living and active. We have a God that cares about lost sheep and about imperfect shepherds. We saw God working for, with, and through us this past week as we served St. John’s in Redwood Falls, Minnesota.
We had a blast at St. John’s, and especially enjoyed staying with the Gartners. Michelle, Dave, Nic, and Luke were amazing hosts, and I can honestly say that this week we were neither bored nor hungry. We ate like kings. We played basketball, golf, baseball, Brawl, and Chess; we celebrated 3 Birthdays and a father’s day, and we laughed more than we have in a while.
The VBS we were involved in didn’t start until Tuesday morning, so we had all of Monday to relax and get acquainted. It was Caleb Schultz’s birthday, so after we prepared for VBS, he spent much of the day with his fiancĂ©e, Becky. Peter and I found some stuff to do in the meantime. Thankfully, St. John’s was short a few players on their church league softball team, so we helped fill in some spots. I think we did alright…Peter hit a grand slam.
  On to VBS! We had a blast with the kids in Redwood Falls. We each taught the daily Bible lesson to a different age group, and we tackled the music as a group (big surprise there). You could tell by the smiles on their faces and the energy in their dancing and singing that the kids were having a good time with the band. They especially enjoyed our foot-stompin’ Bluegrass arrangement of “Peace Like a River.”
Ever since Peter bought an electric pickup for his banjo, we’ve started incorporating the banjo into our music a little more. Bluegrass is a surprisingly big hit with kids. Seriously. Try it sometime. On a musical note (see what I did there), this summer we’ve had more time to focus on our music than we have in the past, and it’s been a huge blessing. Instead of doing enough to get by (which happened a few times last summer), we’ve been able to work on the fine details of our music that make it sound even more polished and professional. It’s hard to beat a summer’s worth of playing music and telling both young and old about Jesus.
            Let me tell you about Miclain. Miclain doesn’t go to the same grade school, like most of the campers at VBS. Miclain, a 1st grader, was always really pumped about VBS. He was excited to see us in the mornings and was always interested in the lessons. After the first day, Miclain came into the class and we had the following conversation:
Miclain:           “Hey, Mr. Caleb (that’s what the kids call me these days).”
Mr. Caleb:       “What’s up, Miclain?”
Miclain:           “Mr. Caleb, I told my mom about the story we did yesterday.”
Mr. Caleb:       “Oh, about Bezalel?” (We had just learned about him because he helped build the tabernacle and used his gifts to serve God)
Miclain:           “No, about what Jesus did.”
It took nearly all of my self-control not to pick up this small boy, give him a huge hug and shout to the  world “YES! THIS IS AWESOME! EVERYBODY BE LIKE THIS GUY!” I think I was still visibly overjoyed—and Miclain seemed pretty happy too. If only we could all be that excited and that fearless about the good news of our Savior.
The same day, Caitlin—another  girl whose parents don’t attend St. John’s—told us about the best gift she has received. We were talking about our favorite birthday and Christmas gifts as an ice breaker and after people told us about 4-wheelers, cats, games, and walkie-talkies, Caitlin told us, simply, that her favorite gift was “God.” Perhaps she was just giving a typical “Sunday School answer,” but I like to think that God had strengthened the faith in her heart through his Word. We went on to talk about the greatest gift of all—Jesus, but Caitlin had beaten me to the punch. What an amazing display of childlike faith that trusts without asking questions. 
Caitlin's response made me think. God doesn’t just work faith through the sermons and the sacraments and the adult Bible classes, but he works and strengthens faith in the simple Bible lessons we teach our children. It's good to be reminded that their souls are just as precious as ours--just as capable of trusting in Jesus, and just as capable of showing Christ's love.
On Friday, we helped St. John’s promote their school and Early Childhood Learning Center as we played in the Redwood Falls Parade. We set up our instruments on a big flatbed trailer and played a few of our favorite hymns as we drove through the streets of this lovely town. We’ve never done anything like that before, and we may never do anything like it again, but we all agreed it was pretty awesome.
Last, but not least, we led worship Saturday night and Sunday morning. I preached and led the liturgy, while we played the psalm and all the hymns. We added some musical variety in our arrangements, including Caleb Schultz on the bass, me on guitar, and Peter on the Banjo and the rarely-used Cabasa! As he has been thus far, God was with us again in our praise and proclamation of the gospel. What an amazing opportunity he has given us!
Friends, please pray for us as we continue our summer ministry. Pray for all those who will hear the message we spread. Pray that the Holy Spirit works in the hearts of all those we meet. Pray that God keeps us safe and that he keeps us focused on HIM alone.

Grace and Peace,

Caleb Schmiege

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Summer #2!!!

We are back on the road again.  This year we are doing things a little bit differently, but still keeping the same basic idea.  This year, we aren't spending any weeks with congregations to do prep work for their programs, we are simply doing 10 full weeks of 6 VBS programs and 4 soccer camps.  The other weeks we basically have off, save for a few Sunday morning worship services and a few concerts.

We got a nice tune up Sunday at St. Marcus a little over a week ago.  It was great to get back with the guys to get our feet wet again.  Plus, it was nice, among all the graduations and call services at MLC and WLS, to get a chance to play together before we start travelling.

Our first real tour stop was at Mt. Lebanon in Milwaukee.  They have recently started having a large community picnic at the beginning of summer and asked us to be one of the live music selections.  Unfortunately, after our hour long set, we had to pack up and leave, so we didn't get to participate in many of the games.  We did, however, get to hear the United Voices of Praise and the Siloah Gospel Choir who sang after us.  It was a great experience and we really enjoyed interacting with the people at Mt. Lebanon.

Our journey took us on a 2 drive to Montello, WI on Saturday evening.  After seeing Immanuel in Mecan (the mother church), we went to the larger St. John's in Montello (daughter church).  We set up our equipment and made sure everything was ready to go for our first self-written worship service.  We stayed the night with Caleb Schultz's grandparents.

On Sunday morning, we all pilled into the van to get to church and got everything warmed up.  The preservice music was provided by the chimes choir of St. John's, under the direction of Caleb Schultz's grandfather, Rolfe Westendorf.  The service went off without a hitch.  The congregation took a little time to get into the music, but by the end, they were singing along beautifully.  Caleb Schultz preached, and got many compliments on being a "chip off the old block" since he was preaching at his grandparent's church.

After that 8am service, we packed up all the stuff and drove 15 mins down the road to Immanuel and set up there to do the same service.  It also went well.  We met a lot of wonderful, encouraging people at these congregations.  They treated us so well that when some of them asked us to come back next Sunday, we considered it for a bit. ;)

After lunch, we started one of our longest drives of the summer, a 6 1/2 drive to Olivia, MN.  We arrived at the Luetke's house safely, and visited with them before looking at a few VBS things.  Monday was preparing the annual Jesus Cares Summer Fun Night in Olivia.  Around 100 Jesus Cares campers and their helpers were there as we delivered a 7 song concert, complete with short object lessons, sing along, and many tambourines and maracas. This was definitely a highlight of Fide's existence so far.  So many souls loved by God, singing their hearts out to "We Are Singing" while tastefully and somewhat uncontrollably shaking tambourines.  It was wonderful.  We all smiled a lot last night.

Today is the first day of VBS.  We are all set up in the church and just need to finalize all the music that we will teach this week.  It will be exciting for both us and Zion here in Olivia.  Their VBS attendance numbers are a little higher than normal, so we are pumped to serve a bunch of little "Olives." :P

That's all for now.  Follow our facebook page for pictures and updates throughout the summer.

Up from the grave he arose with a mighty triumph o'er his foes.
He arose the victor from the dark domain, 
And he lives forever with his saints to reign.
He arose! He arose!  Hallelujah!  Christ arose!