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Unique encounter

January 8th, 2014 — 11:37am

It was on a late Wednesday night in November after KidsChurch when I found myself in front of this little baby. He laid in his buggy, not moving. I had been told that this not-even-one-year old baby had been very sick and almost died a week before because of some disease. So I settled down in front of him and prayed. Then, I tried to cheer him up making weird faces and every kind of noises. But other than other babies, this little boy wouldn’t even move his eye lashes because of what I did. He would just lie there, starring at me. Eventually, I grabbed my guitar, played some chords and started singing to it. I sang how precious he was and how he was a beautiful and unique creation of God. Having not shown any emotions to me up to that point, he suddenly started crying. That was touching for me and it showed me how God used me through my musical skills to move a heart. I gave a testimony on the Sunday after.
What I didn’t know was that this was the first and the last time I got to meet this boy. A month later, he died unexpectedly due to his disease.

I didn’t ask: ’Why, O God, do you let such things happen?’, I asked:’Why did you made me meet this baby?’ God sends us people along that we get to know; people who we may get friends with, for instance. But he also lets us encounter people who we probably never see again in life and though may have an effect on us. I think God made me realize that life is to be appreciated all day and all night. God sent me that baby to make me realize once again that it’s all about Him. It also showed me that God wants to use me more and more to touch other people’s hearts.This baby neither knew me, nor understood me when I worshiped God. All he did was crying – Not because he wanted to see his mother, not because it was time to change his diaper, but because God was present.

Maybe some of us forget to appreciate life because it’s tough out there and there is nothing to laugh about. We suffer from everyday-diseases, namely stress, unanswered questions about life and others. The things we struggle with make us numb and insensible for divine things. But once we hear God singing to us that he loves us, once we hear his voice calling us by name, we will have nothing else but to run to him. We will break out in tears because we realize what’s wrong in our lives without him. We will break out in tears because all of a sudden we are released from burdens and diseases that we think we carry by ourselves. We will cry because of God’s immeasurable mercy proven with deep compassion for us – He will take our numbness and sickness away because we are his beloved children. He doesn’t have for us to literally die from our sicknesses.

But first and foremost, God showed me through this encounter, how much most of us forget to appreciate life. Life and health is a God-given, undeserved gift we most often take for granted.
Jonathan Philipp

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Adventure

November 5th, 2013 — 5:14pm

There may be several happenings in life one retrospectively would call ‘unique’, ‘crazy’ or simply ‘adventurous’. Those outstanding events are happenings that you won’t forget as long as you are a citizen to this world. You will probably tell everybody about what once happened to you. However, one of these unforgettable events happened to a bunch of volunteers of Agora.
Overseas, hiking, among others, has been one of my passions that I had been missing the most over here. Why? Because I ended up in Ohio – One of the flattest states throughout America. However, last week we got the chance to go out for a getaway. It was one of the craziest things I have done in life so far.
It is Friday night when Lukas, Julian, Robert and I pack up our stuff for a hiking-weekend in the woods – somewhere in the countryside of Ohio. We all look forward to a nice, cozy cabin in which we all are planning to sleep overnight. Keith and Jordan, two American friends and volunteers, planned the whole trip they invited us to go on.
Keith is on his way to ours to get us over to Jordan’s. We so will get sleeping bags, food and other equipment for the trip.

10:00 pm: Out of nowhere, I get a call of Jordan. It’s bad news. The cabin is already occupied by others. Despite the fact that we, up to this point, don’t have a place to sleep, we all decide on going to Jordan’s. At the same time, the doorbell rings as Keith eventually arrived. We hesitate to join him since plan B is to sleep outside in the woods – Keith and Jordan want to go hiking overnight.
10:45 pm: We arrive at Jordan’s and eat Pizza while thinking about going on Saturday in the morning instead of tonight.
11:45 pm: We still aren’t sure about going anywhere. It’s freezing cold and dark outside. Only some idiots could go hiking out there…
Almost 12:00 am: We decided on going. The area we want to hike in is two hours away from where we are right now. Let’s roll.
1:30 am: We finally arrive. But something else is crossing our plans. We don’t have a map. Two leave to look for some map. Furthermore, we sadly take notice of a posting saying there are wolves and snakes out in the woods…Well, let’s get to know them! But where is our map?
3:00 am: We eventually got a map and start our trip.
In the woods we get lost a couple of times, find fresh poop of some animal and hear weird sounds in the bushes. Moreover, we make out wolves in the distance… Lord, help!
4:00 am: Jordan announces that he can’t feel his elbows no more. Is he in the first stage of frostbite?
5:40 am: We still don’t know how to get to where we want to go. We decide on asking a hunter we meet randomly in the woods. We wonder why he didn’t shoot us by now… He can’t help us. Our GPS gadget tracks our ways. It says we are on the right way. To make this sure, Jordan decides to run ahead to see if the GPS trail is on the map.
6:10 am: Jordan is still somewhere out there. Didn’t he say, he is going to get back in 1.30 minutes?
6:20 am: We begin to pray about the whole situation. Jordan is still out there…or he eventually got to know the wolves, who knows…?!
Right in the moment we end our prayer, Jordan whistles from afar. We follow his whistle.
7:00 am: We get to ‘Camp 3’ – a place with nothing but two fireplaces. That’s why we took on all the burdens of this trip?! Okay!
We begin to chop wood and collect dry branches to light a fire. It is dawning already as we settle down. As we don’t have tents, we all sleep around the fire…What a trip!
1:30 pm: We begin cleaning and finally hike back.
3:00 pm: We stop at a lake and go swimming in the ice-cold water. The sun is out and we all chill at the shore. Jesus, thank you for a new day!
5:00 pm: We get to our parking lot and subsequently head home. On the way, we eat at a restaurant. All of us are tired.
The actual question one should ask these seven brain-washed guys is: ‘Why in the world would you hike in the night?’ Well, sometimes you have to be crazy to enjoy life.
Jonathan Philipp

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Making dreams come true

October 10th, 2013 — 2:31pm

Recently Jacob, a guy who’s around 6 years old, came up to me in class asking me if I could finish his long-term-craft project with him. I showed him how to cut on and stay in lines while drawing. One could see great excitement in his eyes. I was really impressed by how motivated he was to bring it all to an end. After a while, he had one of these fancy Nintendo DS gameboys both cut out and colored. It was a pleasure to me to see him smiling about his masterpiece.
But all of a sudden his mood changed. Being frowned, he somehow looked sad and depressed. I eventually asked him ‘What’s the matter with ya, buddy?’. While looking down, he slowely responded: ‘I will never have the real one.’ At first, I didn’t really know how to react on his frustration. As a matter of fact, he was totally right. He would never have this toy he longed to have. I finally said that you simply can’t always get what you want in life. I added ‘Life would be boring if you would always get what you want.’ He put on a big smile and said: ‘But it would be much more fun!’. I grinned back.
Finally, I had an idea for how to make his dream come true. I pretended to hit buttons on his new, self-made game console. Jacob started hitting other buttons on the arrow keys. Then I added weird sound effects that made us both laughing. We seriously ended up playing a made-up game on a console that simply did not exist. We were happy with what we had – Each other and a plain piece of paper that didn’t even move. We could have been the producers of a new game, I could tell!
That’s how a touch of imagination and creativity can make dreams come true. To see a child smiling because I made it happy was an incredible blessing to me. That’s when I considered the American dream being not only centered about wealth or visions for a nation – far off reality for kids – but realistically in what I do for children. The proof is Jakob – A six-year old who just needed a little help to find the way to fulfill his wish.

Jonathan Philipp

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December 14th, 2011 — 12:17pm

Here at Agora, time keeps passing and the weeks seem to be going faster than we can keep up with. We have had so many blessings come through the doors and can hardly keep up with everything that God is doing!  In the past few months we have received a large number of chairs which were very much NEEDED! Also, we were able to do some renovations to the sanctuary for the after school program. New carpet was installed as well as a fresh coat of paint to the walls.  The storage room by the sanctuary has now also become part of the after school program, it too has gotten fresh coats of paint.  Some carpets were also donated to us to use as reading corners for the children.  Two mini vans were donated to be used for the child care center as well as kids church.

Last Saturday evening we celebrated the annual Christmas party with roughly 150 kids and lots of helping hands filled with presents from WCMC. We thank all of you who donated a gift, made food, and most of all lifted us up in prayer for this special evening! I do not remember a night going so smoothly with that many children present. Thank you prayer warriors!! This was such a special evening and we look forward to it year after year. This could very well be the only gift a child receives this year. Every year us as Staff members find ourselves almost more excited than the children because of how much this evening will mean to them. We have been truly blessed at Agora with people that have hearts to be like Jesus. Prayers being heard from near and far around the globe. Keep the kids in your prayers as some of them will not have a joy filled Christmas. Pray that God’s protecting hand would surround them and that they would have opportunities to share what they are learning at church. The heart of a child is so precious and pure, Lord may we have faith as a child!

The Christmas program for Little Gems will be taking place next Monday evening. We ask you lift us up in prayer as this is a time where parents have an opportunity to see what their child has been working on as well as us as staff members to talk one on one with the parents and be a witness.

Also pray that He would keep bringing children through the doors of Agora for the child care center. Our numbers are down but, we are trusting in his plan for us. The Lord provides for his people.

Wishing a Merry Christmas and a joyous time as we celebrate the birth of our living Savior!

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God Can Fix Agora Cars Too!

April 3rd, 2011 — 9:41pm

Last Wednesday evening, we were studying 1 Corinthians 12 where it talks about all the gift the Spirit left for each one in the body of Christ. One of the members in our group had a terrible headache. The Bible says to lift one another up in prayer. We layed hands on Jana and her headache was gone :) Jesus hears even the smallest troubles we have and cares for each one.

By 9:00 that evening, the vans are filled with many energetic children ready to hit the road home. Driving along I began to realize I have no headlights. I have a van load of children and have not dropped even 1 of them off yet…Oh Jesus, give me some wisdom! So I called Pastor Rich and we do not have any other cars to take kids home in…O NO! Ok Lord, this is all yours! I pulled beside the road and explain to the children what is happening. They all are more than ready to go home by this point, but were even more ready to take a minute to pray! I have never seen this many hands go up when I asked who would like to pray. At least 9 kids prayed while I was praying for this to be a time of witness and testimony for these children. I kept flipping the switch to see if they would come on..no, not yet. The Lord told me to get out and give the headlight that hadn’t worked for 5 months a solid tap. LIGHT!!!!! The kids were so excited..’so now pray for the other one!’ I opened the hood, knowing I couldn’t see a thing, but trusting the Lord. Then let the hood nicely shut with a solid thud…and LIGHT!!! Both lights are up and running!

In the mean while, James was running to Auto Zone to get us some new lights. The Lord had another agenda on His mind. Trusting Him. The people at the parts store couldn’t quite believe that James didn’t need the lights anymore..God is so good!!

Knowing the shape that our cars are in at Agora, please keep us in your prayers. We are looking to buy 3 mini vans for kids church and the day care. We are trusting to Lord for the provision and knowing that His timing is perfect. Always.

Also on Friday evening, Becky’s mother passed away. What a life of testimony she lead. Serve the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. She’s walking on those streets of Gold with the One who gives true Life. Keep the family in your prayers as they mourn but rejoice in seeing a wife, mother and grandmother finish the race to victory.

 

 

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Trust

March 18th, 2011 — 10:59am

Though I have been at Agora for 3 ½ years now, I continue to be surprised by the trust that parents place in us. Many parents have never even met us.  They may have come out with their child the first time that they got on our vans, or perhaps they called to ask us to pick their child up.  But beyond that most parents have had little to no interaction with the people that pick their children up and are responsible for them twice a week.  To be honest, I have always blamed this on poor parenting.  I could not imagine doing the same if I were in their shoes.  This week God completely shook up that notion.

A few of the children that do chores on Wednesday and Saturday evenings like to save their money so I keep it in an envelope for them.  Once they have saved up about $5 I take them to the store so they can spend their money.  This week two girls had finally saved up enough money.  They had been begging me to take them to the store so I finally made some room in my schedule and took them.  Monday night I picked up Alyssa and Kerstin at their homes; both were so excited.  Kerstin even put her coat on upside down because she was in such a hurry!  As usual the parents did not ask any questions, even though I had not called ahead of time.  One parent had never even met me before, but I did not even get to introduce myself—she chatted with me the whole time I was waiting!

After the evening was over and the girls were home, I was thinking about all this as I drove home.  I realized that perhaps I had been wrong about why parents seem so comfortable with me (and other staff members) taking their children, even when they barely know us.  These parents know that we are from a church, that we are Christians; they know the values that we represent.  In their minds Christians are good people, so why would we not take good care of their kids?  This thought truly surprised me.  In the media and in my college classes I am often bombarded with accusations about Christians being hypocrites.  It was entirely new to me to have someone trust me especially because I am a Christian—This is how it should be!  We need to be living up to the example that Jesus set for us, not the one that the media presents.  People should see a difference in us because of the one who lives in us.  In this neighborhood the difference between followers of Christ and followers of the world is staggering, but I had to think: do I seem so different outside of this neighborhood? Do I stick out in my college classes? Do I stand apart in less obviously lost communities? The answer I think is no. What a humbling thought! I pray that God will help me to live like the person he has set me apart to be so that my life can be as obviously different to my peers as it is to the parents and children we work with.

Romans 12:2

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

 

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Its not fair!

February 17th, 2011 — 6:11pm

Last evening at church one little girl would not obey me.  I gave her several warnings which she disregarded, and then I took her into the sanctuary for a time out.  This did not go any better than my warnings.  As soon as I sat her down she bolted out of her chair and took off running.  So there I was, chasing down a 6 year old.  I finally caught her and tried again, except this time I held her.  It took a while but she finally calmed down and did her time out.  Afterward, I talked to her about it.  We talked about how important it is to listen to adults, and how much more fun it is to make good choices than to be in time out for making bad ones.  The whole time she sat there with her head down and bottom lip out.  She finally said, “I try to be good but I just can’t!”  It was a little hard not to laugh, but I knew she was telling the truth; she really feels like she can’t be good.  So I asked her if she ever prays to God about it, and I told her that he could help her be good even when its hard.  She turned her face to me and said very sincerely, “I pray but I can’t hear him.”  I can tell you that I was not expecting this answer!  “But he can hear you!” I responded. When a child says something like this, only God can give you the words to say, and I trust that he gave me the right things to tell her.  Nevertheless, it was so difficult to explain to a little child that God does speak to us in all kinds of ways.  Through his bible verses, our church teachers, our feelings, and yes, sometimes we can even hear his voice.  I asked her if she wanted to pray and she did.  We bowed our heads and she prayed first and then I prayed for her next.  Afterward, she still looked so sad.  I asked her what was wrong and she said, “Its not fair!  He can hear us, but we can’t hear him! Its not fair.”  I didn’t know what to do besides hug her and tell her differently.  I pray that it was the right thing and that she knows that she can hear God if she listens carefully.

In the end, the whole encounter really made me think.  Had my little brother, or a child from my church back home said this, it would have been a cute and funny story to tell on a Sunday morning, because we would know that the child would learn differently as they grew.  The problem is that this little girl is not growing up in a home where she will learn that God really does speak to her, and she really can hear him.  This church and we volunteers are the only opportunity she has to learn that.  I pray that God will speak to her in a way that she can hear and understand so that her young faith can be strengthened.  Please pray for her too!

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Tough Times

January 21st, 2011 — 11:50am

As we were taking children home on the van, I had only one more boy left to drop off on a Wednesday evening after church.  He said he would have to go right to bed when he got home since it was his bedtime.  I started asking him what he needed to do to get ready for bed, and I was surprised when he didn’t mention brushing his teeth.  Upon inquiring about it, he said that because toothpaste is so expensive he can only brush his teeth once a day.  He went on to say that his family gets most of their food from the dumpster behind the store.  I was not sure how to respond.  It was not a family I would have suspected with this kind of a problem.  On a regular basis we have families asking for food and such but this is a family that we would not have guessed. The needs in the community are great.

Becky

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Life or Death

January 19th, 2011 — 5:42pm

Whenever something keeps coming up over and over again in my conversations or interactions with other people, I often find that it is because God is trying to tell me something.  On both Saturday and Wednesday night of last week I had conversations with children about Heaven and Hell.  The first conversation took place with Ranaja.  After church, Ranaja spent a long time drawing a picture for Jesus.  She wrote, “I love you Jesus” on the paper and drew  a beautiful picture of a rainbow and two people standing together.  When she was finished she brought the picture to me and put it in my hand.  Then she whispered in my ear while pointing, “If we die and I go down there and you go up there, will give this to Jesus for me?”  I have to admit I didn’t quite know what to say to this.  I was shocked that this girl who spent so much time writing a love note to Jesus thought she might go to hell.  I did all I knew to do and held her close and told her that as long as she loved Jesus just as much as she does right now, she never had to worry about going “down there.”  We talked a little while longer and when she left I think she understood, but she still looked a little sad. I realized that she had no assurance of her salvation.  She is a little girl, just 8 years old, and she truly loves Jesus, but somehow she doesn’t realize that this means she is saved from hell.

The second time this came up was a few days later on a Wednesday night when I was outside watching the kids play.  Some of them were misbehaving.  Lacea came up to me and whispered while pointing at the boys who were misbehaving, “They’re going down there.”  I told her that that was a pretty awful thing to say about someone and I asked her why she thought that, “because they’re being bad” she said sincerely.  I told her that if that is the case then we really need to pray for those boys, that they will get to know Jesus and stop being bad because hell is a terrible, terrible place and we don’t want anyone to have to go there.  She nodded and then asked,”Do you know that little red guy with a fork?” Was it God’s plan for him to go to down there?”  I was astounded that this question was coming from an 8 year old.  Once again I felt like I was so unprepared and unqualified to answer.  I said a quick prayer and told her what God put on my heart, “No, God never wanted anyone to go down there, but the devil, that red guy, made really bad choices.  He stopped loving God and went against what God said, so he had to go to hell.  Now when people do the same thing they also have to go down there with the devil.  That is why it is so important for us to love God and listen to him.”

I don’t know exactly why God placed me in these two very similar conversations.  I think that he was trying to remind me that salvation is not something to be taken lightly.  They were a reminder to me to talk to the kids about the salvation message, which  has never been easy for me!  I can spend all kinds of time showing love to kids and teens, but if I never tell give them the salvation message does it really matter?  The fact is that Lacea was not being mean in what she said about those boys; they really are living ungodly lives.  We can’t judge, but Lacea just spoke what she saw and unfortunately it was probably right unless they make some major changes in their lives.  I thank the Lord for a sad, but much needed reminder.

This is life or death.

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