Growing in Christ

Regular church attendance is not enough for a vibrant spiritual life. My active church ministry is not the best indicator of my spiritual growth. It is easy to turn my religious activities into a really nice regimen. Growth may get substituted by idle repetition of religious rituals. The same way parents watch their child’s growth and celebrate every step of their maturity, Christ is encouraging us to grow in our character and practical actions. When we seek this growth we realize that there is no limit to forgiveness, love and grace. Every step on the path of spiritual growth inspires us to reach new summits in the way we relate to God and to other people around us.

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I was planning to join the Young at Heart lunch last Wednesday, but unfortunately had to be somewhere else that afternoon. Willis Adams shared lots of great photos with me. I wish I could post all of them here, but for the lack of space I’ll share only three. If you are not a part of this nice group of our church members and friends then talk to Willis and he’ll be happy to introduce you to them.

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Last week I shared several pictures from our church bonfire. Lora Standish sent me a few more awesome photos. Enjoy! It was truly a perfect event.

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The Cornerstone Church Ministry Expansion fund is growing every week. Thank you for your generous and regular support. We are praying about reaching 2.2 million by December 31st.

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Many of you are asking about our support of the people in Ukraine. Here are a few pictures from this week. Lots of medications and warm blankets were delivered to our brothers and sisters suffering in the Chernihiv region. Please remember to pray for these dear people.

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This Monday Galena and I are departing for a mission trip to Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan. Thirty five million people live in this Muslim country. There are only 10 small Adventist churches in Uzbekistan. The country is five times bigger than Tennessee and there are less than 700 members all together. There is no religious freedom in Uzbekistan. I’ll be holding meetings nightly in the SDA church building in Tashkent. Galena will be arranging meals for the visitors and providing help for the children. Please keep us in your prayers.

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I am looking forward to a wonderful Sabbath with you.

pastor Peter

Our Communion with Christ.

“When Jesus girded Himself with a towel to wash the dust from their feet, He desired by that very act to wash the alienation, jealousy, and pride from their hearts. This was of far more consequence than the washing of their dusty feet. With the spirit they then had, not one of them was prepared for communion with Christ. Until brought into a state of humility and love, they were not prepared to partake of the paschal supper, or to share in the memorial service which Christ was about to institute. Their hearts must be cleansed. Pride and self-seeking create dissension and hatred, but all this Jesus washed away in washing their feet. A change of feeling was brought about” ( DA 646).

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I hope many of you enjoyed the church bonfire last Sabbath night. I was so pleased to see how many of you came to fellowship with your brothers and sisters. The Bradford family led us in music and singing and John Moldovan, SAU theology student and our current extern, reminded us about the faith and courage of our Adventist pioneers. Our social committee arranged a great outdoor dinner. Thank you all for making this a very special time for our church family. Personally, I was very blessed.

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The Pathfinders are collecting non-perishable food items to help those in need during the Thanksgiving season. If you would like to donate food, please bring it to the fellowship center by October 29. Thank you!

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The Samaritan Center needs volunteers on the fifth Sabbath of the quarter with moving donated items inside the warehouse. If you are interested in helping, come to the warehouse about 30 minutes after the sunset this Sabbath. Your time and your help will be sincerely appreciated.

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Happy Sabbath!

pastor Peter

Called to Serve.

There is great joy in serving people. If you feel the need to establish your dignity and earn respect, show your humble spirit in kindness and willingness to serve. Jesus said’ “… the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28)

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Women’s ministry had a great fall event last week. Summer Bradford messaged me saying that they had a lot of fun and made over 40 quarts of homemade applesauce. It was a great way to connect. Here are a few photos from Summer:

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Nearly 1500 Pathfinders from the Georgia-Cumberland Conference attended the Southern Union Pathfinder Camporee at Camp Kulaqua in Florida. We are proud of our young people! This camporee helps Pathfinders make connections, not just with other young people but also with their Heavenly Father. Thank you, David Reynolds and your team, for your leadership in this important ministry. I am glad everyone came back safe and happy. I saw many posts on Instagram from our Pathfinder club members. Here is a quote from David: “The Pathfinders had fun in the sun as they participated in honors and activities during the Union Camporee in Florida. We had several pinewood derby cars rank high. Kids enjoyed pin trading and swimming, long lines and good food. A huge thanks to the staff and support of parents!”

Here are a few photos shared by Mike Haughee and David Reynolds:

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Two weeks ago we celebrated Anberlyn Higg’s baptism. Anberlyn is a student at OAKS. Pastor Matthew was studying with her and officiated the baptism.

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Our Cereal Barrel is running low. Julia Easter is seeking your support of this excellent community outreach opportunity.

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This Sabbath night you are invited to participate in our Fall Bonfire event. We’ll start with music and singing, followed by food and games. Bring your whole family or come on your own. It is a great place for the young and not so young … Everyone is welcome!

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Last week, nine of us, including a 5-month-old and a 3-year-old, ventured to Maine. We rented a house outside of Belfast, ME and spent a few fabulous days together. I am so blessed to have a loving family that sticks together. The weather was absolutely wonderful. We explored the nearby coastal towns, watched the fishing life at local harbors, celebrated Dasha’s birthday, climbed a mountain (including the baby), suffered from muscle pain the next day, and returned filled with unforgettable memories. Here are a few photos from our trip. (Four members of our family couldn’t join us on this vacation.)

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I feel totally humbled by the kind cards and text messages I have received showing your appreciation and support. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I do not deserve your gracious love.

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I hope you’ll have a blessed Sabbath day!

Peter

Are You Ready?

“You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” (Luke 12:40). Are we getting terrified when we read these words of Jesus? Should we? I am pretty sure Jesus does not want us to be nervous at the thought of His coming. He loves us and He counts us as His friends. He is getting ready to be reunited with His family (John 14:1-3). Are you?

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Last Sabbath a hundred and fifty volunteers from our church participated in a fun event. We were packing meals for the children around the world suffering from starvation or malnutrition. The whole process was well organized. I could see young children working right next to their parents and grandparents. It was truly a Sabbath day filled with good deeds. (Matthew 12:12). This event was planned and promoted by Lucas Patterson. Thank you, Lucas!

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During the first service this Sabbath we’ll celebrate Anberlyn Higgs baptism! What a joyful event for our church and for the Higgs family.

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This Sabbath everyone is invited to join our church potluck after the second service.

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Here are two big events that need to be on your calendar for this month:

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Happy Sabbath,

pastor Peter

God is Still on the Throne.

Presidents and rulers of this world may claim that they are in charge. They sign laws, start wars and offer peace treaties. They speak and act like they control the present and the future. However, history has proved a simple truth: these rulers come and go. I find comfort in the assurance that God is still on the throne. “

Kings take their stands.
Rulers make plans together
… The one enthroned in heaven laughs.
The Lord makes fun of them.

Yet, the Lord is enthroned forever.
He has set up his throne for judgment.
He alone judges the world with righteousness.
He judges ⌞its⌟ people fairly.

(Ps. 2:2-4 GW, Ps. 9:7-8 GW)

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Last Sunday the youth of our church had a great time. About twenty of them went rock climbing at High Point in Chattanooga. After that they all had pizza together. What a fun day! Jenny shared a bunch of photos with me. I wish I could post all of them, but a few are below:

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On Wednesday night our Health Ministry team started a seminar which goes nightly though Saturday. I am grateful for the dedicated volunteers. They greet people, help visitors register, cook food for them, etc. Last night Barbara Weimer spoke on the importance of physical exercise and fitness. She will continue tonight.

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Tomorrow, Oct 1, is a big day for our church. We’ll be packing food for thousands of starving children in various parts of the world. A hundred and fifty volunteers from our church have signed up to participate in this event. There will be another 150 from our neighbors, the United Methodist church. What a perfect way to show that we care about the suffering children. “I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat. … Whatever you did for one of my brothers or sisters, no matter how unimportant ⌞they seemed⌟, you did for me.’ (Matt. 25:35,40 GW)

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A fun church social is coming up soon. Please, add October 22 to your calendar and plan to attend. We have not had a big outdoor church event for a long time. Here is a poster for you:

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Yet another excellent program is scheduled for an earlier date. On October 16 all the ladies are invited to participate in the Autumn Applesauce Canning Party. Talk to Summer Bradford or Rhonda Hicks if you need additional information.

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I pray that we’ll all have a great Sabbath!

Hugs,

pastor Peter

Under His Wings

The world seems so fragile. Wars, financial challenges, health concerns. Is there a way to feel safe? How can I have peace in my heart? The Lord speaks to us today through prophet Isaiah: “Can a woman forget her nursing child?
Will she have no compassion on the child from her womb?
Although mothers may forget, I will not forget you. I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.” (49:15-16 GW)

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Men’s Ministry Update from Matt Geraghty:

“YES Already we are at the tail end of the year and are closing in on the last two men’s Ministry breakfasts for 2022! Gentlemen… & Ladies of the Gentlemen… I thank you for the support over the last year.  It has been a very great time for me as I have learned many of the names and faces of the group!  But admittedly, not all of them, so please come to the last two breakfasts and help me make more connections. Our last two breakfasts will be as follows:

THIS SUNDAY September  25  & Sunday October 23! 

Both of these are in the fellowship hall at 8:30 for the food and 7:30 for fun & games as we set up to cook & gently poke fun at the silly things we do and say… In addition we have a few projects that we will be looking to complete as well so lets come together to make those a shining success as well. Blessing to all and I hope to see you all at the breakfasts.”

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This week was our church school Week of Prayer. Every morning all grades met in the sanctuary for prayer and a song service. There were two speakers, pastor Tony Sandoval for the higher grades and Mrs. Connie Reynolds for grades K through 4. This was a great spiritual start for the new school year. We’ll be praying for each student who made a decision to study God’s Word. Both worship services this Sabbath will be the culmination of the week of prayer. You’ll see many OAKS students participate in the services. The services will be held in the Fellowship Hall.

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Let’s talk about Christian marriage this Sabbath at 6 PM. Everyone is invited to attend. It’s OK if you didn’t RSVP. There will be enough room and food for everyone. Come if you are happily married, divorced, widowed, considering divorce or excited about starting your family in the future.

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October 1 is our big day with a hundred and fifty volunteers packing food for the starving children of the world. Please, contact Lucas Patterson if you signed up but forgot your time slot or your responsibilities 😉

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Thank you for your prayers for our daughter. Barby is safely back from Ukraine. More info will be shared in the next few weeks.

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Happy Sabbath!

pastor Peter

The Magnet of the Gospel

The proclamation of the Gospel generates power the same way as power is produced in the movement of the dynamo device. It is the unspeakable love of Christ that draws people to Him. Jesus said, “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.” (John 12:32). Some Christians try to draw people to themselves, to their ministry or to their church. All these efforts will fail. Lead them to Jesus. Show them Jesus and He’ll exercise his magnetic power of grace, He will draw them to Himself.

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Jen Dempsey shared the following photo with me from the Women’s SS class having dinner at Panera Bread. What a great way to connect and to support each other.

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Many of our church members participate in home based Bible groups. Mike and Sharon Harrell started their Bible group not so long ago. I asked Mike to share the story with our church. Here is his brief report. Hopefully it will encourage you to start your own friendship group or to join the existing one.

Sharon and I have shared a dream since moving to our neighborhood at Stonebrook in Ooltewah: to share and experience God’s love with our neighbors. On June 2 of this year, five of our neighbors met with us around our dining room table to study the book of John. God answered our prayers in a powerful way! 

Each Thursday evening our small group meets to discover more about the wonderful character of God as revealed in John’s Gospel. As we study each passage together, we ask three questions: “What does this say about what God is like?”, “What does this say about the relationship God wants with me?”, and “What does this say about my relationship with God?” It has been exciting to discover together more about God’s character and tremendous love for us. Studying together, we learn from and about each other, and develop stronger relationships with each other, and with our Father God. 

 Stepping out of our “comfort zone” in this way was at first a bit unsettling. But as we prayed together, felt God’s Spirit moving, and developed friendships with our neighbors, inviting our friends to study as a small group together became natural. 

We do not know where God will lead our small group, but we are confident that He will lead. It was a temptation to worry about how our invitation would be received by our neighbors, or fear that our lack of skill in group Bible study would embarrass us. It is clear now that these concerns were based in self-centeredness and a lack of trust. God is more than capable of providing guidance, wisdom, and strength when we intend to honor His name. It is “all about Him”, and we praise His name for the blessings our group receives on Thursday evenings!”

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Next Sabbath evening we’ll come together in the Fellowship Hall to talk about the Christian marriage. Galena and I will be happy to spend an evening with you and to share what we have learned through the 38 years of our marriage.

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Let me thank you for the faithful support of our local church budget. This is why we see many exciting activities taking place in our church. I pray that this month, once again, we’ll all contribute generously towards our local budget needs.

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In the last few days Barby and Dana travelled thousands of kilometers through the war-torn regions of Ukraine. They didn’t haver much time to sleep. I talked to Barby just an hour ago. She is overwhelmed with the devastation she witnessed in Eastern Ukraine. Destroyed homes, lack of food, sick children… Many new areas of ministry were identified for the next few months. Below are just a few photos from their days right by the front lines. Dana had to stay in Kyiv for the next two weeks. Barby spent 36 hours in the car trying to get to Bucharest. Now that she’s there Air France went on strike. Her flights are cancelled. Being totally exhausted mentally, physically and emotionally she cried on the phone. … We are praying. I also appreciate your prayers. God always has a way.

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See you this Sabbath morning.

pastor Peter

Signs and Wonders

“Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.  Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” Acts 4:29-30

“Christ’s crowning miracle—the raising of Lazarus—had sealed the determination of the priests to rid the world of Jesus and His wonderful works, which were fast destroying their influence over the people. They had crucified Him; but here was a convincing proof that they had not put a stop to the working of miracles in His name, nor to the proclamation of the truth He taught. Already the healing of the cripple and the preaching of the apostles had filled Jerusalem with excitement.” (E. White, AA, 67)

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“The Ooltewah Tiny Timberwolves Adventures Club is off to an amazing start! We began our year with our first meeting, held on August 24th, and then our Induction service and fellowship meal on September 2nd. We also had a special visit from Lt. Eric Kitchen and his team with Tri-Community Fire Department this past Wednesday. What a wonderful experience that was for our club, even a few Pathfinders were able to join the fun! 

As of today we have 27 children enrolled in our club. AMEN!!! We also have several new staff members joining this year: Fredra Andrews, Tom McCullough, Michelle Clinton, and Abri Ronel. I also want to mention Kaelyn Orsburn who felt in her heart the call to serve and is participating as our group assistant. We are so grateful to these families for bringing their children to the Adventurers Club and also to our staff for supporting them in learning together and growing in Jesus this year. Thank you, church family, for your outpouring of love, support, and prayers. Please continue to hold these children and their families close in prayer as we continue our year.” – Reported by Staci Rivera

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Men’s Ministry remains strong and active. There were 20 men at their last Sunday breakfast. If you have not yet joined the group talk to Matt Geraghty. This may be the blessing that you need in your life.

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William and Nancy Mack, good friends of Margo and Mike, who serve in India as ACI (Adventist Child India) directors, will be in Ooltewah this Sabbath. They will share their story during the Vespers @5 P.M. this Sabbath afternoon at our church.

The ACI office is stationed in the country of India. By the answer to prayer this program was started in 2005 by (Late) Mrs. Dorothy Watts. At this time they have about 1,400 children in the Adventist Child India program. The children they help are from Adventist laymen, while some of them are orphans and semi orphans. This program helps children from all over India. They are affiliated with 30 boarding schools located across 16 states in India that help in taking care of the children. They see these dear children who come from very poor and sad homes attend these boarding schools. ACI helps them to become strong and faithful young people that will become strong pillars in their societies. There are so many parents that come to them for help. Like all parents they wish that their children would have the chance for an education that they did not receive, which would help their children achieve their own dreams.

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Please uplift in your prayers Vicky McCormick and her family. Her father passed away yesterday.

Prayers continue for Paula Wolf who has a serious health concern and cannot be with us at this time. She is staying with her son. We hope Paula will recover and be with us soon. Meanwhile we’ll miss her organ music.

Last Sabbath Edgel Phillips had an episode during the Sabbath school study. An ambulance was called to evaluate Edgel’s condition. I am glad to share with you that Edgel is doing good. This week he had several doctor’s appointments. We’ll keep Edgel and Carol in our prayers.

Barby (our daughter) and Dana Ursulenko are once again en route to Ukraine. This time they will be coordinating the Light of Hope humanitarian help in the Dnipro region. Dnipro is just a few miles away from the front lines of the war. Your prayers are appreciated. I’ll be sharing more about this mission in the next few days.

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Don’t forget to check our church website for more information about the current and the upcoming events. www.ooltewahchurch.org

pastor Peter

Chosen for the Kingdom

Everyone is invited to be part of the Kingdom of God, but not everyone will enter His Kingdom. Christ made a number of statements about the “separation” process. I remember a moment at the passport control booth in the Atlanta airport. A gentleman in front of me was escorted to the office of the border control officer. All I overheard was a short statement about a “fake visa.” I suppose he had a visa. It looked good enough. It looked almost real. I suppose it was hard to tell the difference between the authentic one and the counterfeit, but the officer was able to see the difference. The gentleman didn’t cross the border. Some of us may look almost like the followers of Christ. We may have many features of our character that resemble the ones of God’s children. However, there is chance Christ will say, “Stop! Your visa is fake.” How can I be sure I’ll enter His Kingdom? Let’s talk about it this Sabbath morning during our morning worship services.

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This morning I had a great time speaking for OAKS chapel. What a fine school we have! I hope you remember to pray about our teachers and students.

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After Chapel our church and school parking lot turned into a fun waterpark. Enjoy a few photos shared with me by the OAKS staff.

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Have you signed up for the “Feed My Starving Children” event scheduled for October 1? Please see Lucas Patterson this Sabbath morning in the church foyer. He’ll be happy to answer your questions and to help you get your name on the volunteer list. No fundraising is needed or expected. We raised all the needed funds in 2020. This time bring your caring hands. This will be all that is needed.

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I plan on seeing you this Sabbath morning.

Hugs,

pastor Peter

Living with God Today

Jesus promised to come again. His words are thrustful and trustworthy. The day will come when we’ll see our Savior come back. However, God desires to live with us today. He wants to walk with us daily the same way as He walked with Enoch. The “coming of the Lord” can actually be our daily experience. Let Him in. Talk to Him today. Accept His Spirit now. Reflect His glory in your relationships and your attitude now, not only in the future when you hear the “trumpet sound.” If we live with God in our heart today, we’ll have no problem meeting Him at His second coming. “I am crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live in faith, the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself up for me.” Galatians 2:20

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This morning I received a picture from our school principle, Shelly Caswel, with a simple, but powerful caption: “Full church.” This was a photo of OAKS weekly Chapel in our sanctuary. Praise God for the successful ministry of our church school.

We prayed for our teachers and staff last week. Let these prayers continue daily.

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Our Women’s Sabbath school class continues its vibrant ministry and fellowship. Jen Dempsey told me that last Sabbath they had 18 ladies in their class. This week they had their night out at Cracker Barrel. How fun!

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Our church is getting ready for the Feed My Starving Children program which was postponed because of the Pandemic in 2020. Here is an update from Lucas Patterson:

On October 1, our church will be involved in a special project with the nonprofit Feed My Starving Children. We are part of three-church team in the region, working alongside Ooltewah United Methodist Church and ChristWay Church, packing emergency rations to be sent all over the world to schools, orphanages, and other partner locations. Will you consider helping? Our church is responsible for providing 150 volunteers at the event. The jobs are really simple (watch this video to see), and it’s a fun activity for people of all ages. Invite your neighbor or co-worker to join you. Together, we’ll make a huge impact!

We’ve already raised the necessary funds for this project, and Feed My Starving Children brings the food … so all we need now is your participation. We will be packing the food just steps from our church campus at the neighboring Ooltewah United Methodist Church, and there are three sessions that day to accommodate your Sabbath schedule: 9-11 a.m.12:30-2:30 p.m., and 3:30-5:30 p.m. OSDA has 50 volunteer spots reserved in each session, so pick whichever time works best for you and sign up online using those links.

If you would rather sign up in person, we will have a table in the church lobby for both services this week. Questions? Please reach out to Lucas Patterson, our project coordinator: (423) 582-1678 or lucaspatterson@southern.edu.

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Please continue to pray for our updated goal of raising an additional $65,000 by September 1. If we all contribute we’ll certainly reach this amount. God bless you for your faithfulness.

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This Sabbath afternoon you are invited to join a seminar on mental health presented by David Sherwood. The seminar starts at 4 P.M.

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This week I’d like to say a special THANK YOU to the leaders of the Cradle Roll class. Their program is spiritual, engaging and fun. Every day through out the week I hear my 3 year old granddaughter singing the songs from the SS class. What a blessing. You are making a lasting impact on these precious little lives.

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Hugs,

pastor Peter