Compassion and Justice Hosts a Volunteer Event

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The Compassion and Justice staff team is committed to providing volunteers with relevant training. On Saturday, August 25th from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., the team will host a can’t miss Volunteer Event featuring world class speakers including keynote speaker, Rev. Dr. Soong-Chan Rah.

The morning will kick off with worship led by Willow’s own Aaron Niequist. Then Dr. Rah, Associate Professor of Church Growth and Evangelism at North Park Theological Seminary, will deliver the keynote message on where evangelism and justice meet.

Breakout Sessions
Volunteers can choose from two breakout sessions which will be led by Rev. Dr. Alise Barrymore, Dr. Robert Lupton, Rev. Dr. Soong-Chan Rah and Willow’s own Heather Larson. These sessions will offer in depth exploration of various topics, such as intercultural intelligence, self-care, community development and the values of compassion and justice.

Soul Care:
Rev. Dr. Alise Barrymore invites us to discover a Biblical foundation for caring for ourselves no matter what season of life we are currently experiencing.

Community Development:
Dr. Robert Lupton will share insight about the complexities of compassion and the future of community development.

Intercultural Intelligence:
Rev. Dr. Soong Chan Rah will help us understand intercultural intelligence and give us practical steps for raising this value in our lives.

C&J 101:
Heather Larson and the directors of Compassion & Justice will share the many ways you can use the gifts God has imparted to you to serve others and make Jesus known in the world. (Intended for those exploring serving opportunities within C&J)

This dynamic training experience will inspire and equip current C&J volunteers, and offer those still exploring the ministries of Compassion and Justice an opportunity to learn more about where God may be calling you to serve.

Register today!

A Continued Conversation with Dr. John Perkins

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One month after joining staff as Willow’s new Church Engagement Director for the department of Compassion and Justice and I was receiving the opportunity of a lifetime – to help interview Dr. John Perkins. For years I have recognized Dr. Perkins as a community developer, advocate for racial reconciliation, and mentor to my mentors, but never would I imagine that I would be sitting in his living room!

On January 2nd I flew down to Mississippi with members of the video team to interview Dr. Perkins for the Martin Luther King Jr. Day worship services. We knew that we wanted to create a short video which would effectively introduce the congregation to the life and work of this civil rights icon. Just a couple minutes into what turned out to be a 5 hour interview we knew that Dr. Perkins was giving us gems of wisdom that far exceeded a simple retelling of his life-story.  As he expounded on his knowledge of justice and revealed his heart for reconciliation, it became clear that he considered this a great opportunity to share with Willow his hopes for the future of the Church.

In addition to viewing the video we shared for the Martin Luther King Jr. Day services below, we are pleased to offer our community an opportunity to continue the conversation. The three videos following in the subsequent posts are Dr. Perkins, in his own words, talking about the pain of his past, his hope for the future, and his passion for the God he loves.

-Austin Brown

Dr. Perkins Expounds on Justice

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Ask for examples of justice in the Bible, and you’ll hear about Noah and the flood, Ananias and Sapphira lying to Peter, or even that famous passage, Romans 6:23, “the wages of sin is death”.  Ask Dr. Perkins about justice in the Bible, and he points to an entirely different story – the gospel! Dr. Perkins encourages us to seek a sense of justice that redeems rather than condemns.

Dr. Perkins Rebels Against Injustice

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Dr. Perkins was born into a segregated system that told him he was inferior, without dignity, and nothing more than a bad name. Rather than accept these images of himself Dr. Perkins rebelled. With love, kindness and conviction, Dr. Perkins rebelled against segregation by building community. He rebelled against racism by pursuing reconciliation. He rebelled against economic inferiority by developing neighborhoods. At 80 years old, Dr. Perkins is still a rebel at heart!

Dr. Perkins’s Challenges the Church

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Every year, America tunes in one for one of the most watched television shows – The Super Bowl! We gather in houses, turn on our televisions and cheer for our teams. We follow the ball with every kick, groan with every tackle, and cheer with every point scored. But for all our excitement, we are not in the game. Dr. Perkins challenges us to consider how often we participate in our Christianity the same way – from the sidelines.

Could We End Poverty in Our Lifetime?

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Entrapped in Slavery—for Life

Sanjiv, his wife, and their children are slave workers in a quarry in India—all because of a $680 loan.

Sanjiv borrowed the money from a private lender in order to provide the needed dowry so his 17-year-old daughter Amuda could marry. When Sanjiv was unable to repay this loan, he borrowed money from the owner of a quarry. This unscrupulous owner paid off Sanjiv’s first loan with a high-interest second loan—and put him to work in the quarry until he could pay off his new debt.

That was a few years ago. Today, Sanjiv and his family still work in that quarry, cutting stone with heavy sledgehammers and sleeping in a rickety hut. His loan is not paid off—and there seems to be no hope in sight.

“I have to carry on with this work,” he says. “There is no way out.” Sanjiv and his family are slaves, entrapped in extreme poverty.

Capturing God’s Heart

In 2008, a small group of Christians in Oxford, England prayed, asking God for guidance for the next generation of Christ followers. God’s answer was short and clear: 58—as in Isaiah 58, a passage of Scripture that captures God’s heart around issues of poverty and oppression.

This small group of Christians took action and formed 58. And they are on a mission to engage the global church to end extreme poverty by 2035.

Free Pre-Release Movie Screening of 58

On May 4, Willow Creek airs a free pre-release screening of 58, a film that dares to envision a world where people have sufficiency. A world where the local church becomes the transformative agent that can wipe out extreme poverty. You are that agent.

A Time for Celebration

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Loneliness.  It is difficult anytime of the year, but at Christmas time it is especially challenging.  It is even more so for the residents of the Illinois Youth Detention Center in Warrenville Illinois, the only maximum security facility for female youth offenders in the state.  Separated from family and friends, isolation hits hard.

Volunteers Bring Cheer

On any given Saturday, most residents are confined to their cells usually working on homework or completing cleaning chores.  Those on good behavior can help out the staff by working in the kitchen, mowing the lawn in the summer or shoveling snow in the winter.  Like most routines, it is monotonous especially for teenagers who’d rather be hanging out with friends or at the mall.

That’s why it was a cause for celebration when, on Saturday December 18, a group of 11 volunteers from Willow Creek put on a Christmas party for the incarcerated girls.  For several hours, volunteers shared conversations, games and food.  Willow provided the pizza and the volunteers brought soda and chips.  One volunteer, who was also a teacher, gave a special bookmark to each girl handmade by her students.

Christian Community Development Association

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Coming to Chicago September 7 -11 is the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) annual conference. Celebrating their 20th year, CCDA has been instrumental in shaping the way how to best serve those in need in our communities. Many of the underlying principles developed by CCDA have been vital in developing Willow Creek’s approach to serve our partners and those in our communities. Consider learning more about this great opportunity to attend the conference right here in Chicago.www.ccda.org/ccda-national-conference-chicago-2010-sept-7-11.

Blitz Build Makes a Difference

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The Building Blocks of Willow's Construction Teams

What makes volunteers at Willow sign up for construction projects year after year? "It's like a family reunion," explained Kim Rapach, who has participated several years in a row, and most recently as a team leader to rebuild a foreclosed home. Generally, the goal is to put people in safe, affordable, housing, but the real work is about developing relationships.

Strong friendships between the volunteers develop after laboring intensely for seven days together, not to mention a strong relationship with the homeowner. Taking vacation time to rebuild a home, or remodel a church kitchen, or rehab a store to give kids a job, is a "testimony of love, grace, and compassion."

Something to Build On

Kim admits that working side by side, the homeowners or recipients of the project are the hardest workers. But that's not all. Grateful for what they have received, it is common for the recipients to volunteer on the next housing project.

Still even more amazing, many of the homeowners have a new, improved perspective of the church through this experience. Some even make the decision to become baptized.

At the June 2010 baptism service at Willow, Kim was astounded to see so many people wearing t-shirts from her latest construction project either getting baptized, or helping someone else get baptized. Maybe that's why volunteering in this way is "addictive."

To watch a video about this year's Blitz Build impact, click here.

Royal Heroes

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Barton and Karen Francour, long-time Willow Creek members, always make room for children. Raising four children of their own, they also opened their hearts and their home for fifteen years to sixteen foster kids. At Camp Paradise (Willow Creek’s campground in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula), they experienced the powerful impact of a week of wilderness camping. This collided with what they knew was a huge need – caring, loving and supporting children of neglect, violence, or abandonment.

“These children are abused, physically attacked, emotionally damaged, or severely neglected—often by the people they have loved and trusted most. They don’t deserve the life they have been dealt,” explains Barton.

The Francours longed to positively impact youngsters coming out of these horrendous home situations, but who still had the deep longing to be loved and accepted. Why not marry the two needs—camp and foster kids?

Kids Again
The dream was simple: create a fun week of positive memories where kids can just be kids. Six years ago, the Francours joined forces with Royal Family Kids Camp, a national organization, whose goals match the Barton’s dream. Barton became a local Director, with Karen providing much needed administrative and logistical support. Seeking to act locally, Barton and Karen targeted the needs of foster children from Lake and Cook counties. Three years ago, they tackled the challenge of directing the camp and began to recruit dozens of Willow Creek members to help serve as volunteer leaders.

This Year’s Camp
From the moment they get off the bus at the Lake Geneva Camp, the children attending Royal Family Kids camp are treated like royalty. Each counselor makes a poster for their campers and the kids are regally introduced to each other and their counselors. It makes a huge difference in the lives of these children. These particular campers come from very difficult family situations; some abused and abandoned, now living in foster or group homes.

Yet if you ask the volunteers, who gladly give up a week’s worth of vacation to make this camp happen, they will tell you that they are the ones that are blessed. Coming from all walks of life, the volunteers feel camp can positively impact the campers’ lives simply because they are shown love and compassion in a fun environment.

It Happens in Between
Activity centers, games, sports, hiking, swimming, and boating are all part of the program…yet the change takes place in the interactions between the volunteers and campers. There is plenty of time to talk, to receive hugs, to have a gentle hand to reach out to. Volunteers come because they have a passion for working with children, but they are the ones that come away blessed. Sharing God’s love is an exceptional delight. It is a rare gift to be able to show a child his or her potential – to patiently be with them and teach them.

Coming Back
Royal Family Kids Camps encourages the children to come back year after year until they “aged out” of the program. But what keeps the volunteers returning are the campers. One child, when asked what was the best part of the camp, answered that it was “when my counselor told me that he cared for me.” Volunteers revel in the change a week can make when a child arrives unsure, but by the end of the week, they feel they belong to God’s family.

If you would like information on Royal Family Kid’s Camp, please email Bart at rfkc_lakecook.il@sbcglobal.net. In the course of a week, volunteers positively touch the lives of these children. But many are needed. Each counselor only has two campers assigned. Behind the scenes are social workers, nurses, volunteers who function as grandmother and grandfather, craft workers and others.

Category : Current Events, Local Outreach