Hometown Perspective Change: An Interview with Bridge Leader Betsy Hall

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Betsy is part of the leadership team of Beautiful Gate, the church plant in Los Feliz, CA initiated by Sam & Priya Theophylus, which launched January 4, 2015.

 

Though Bridge leader Betsy Hall lives in Los Feliz, her story really begins on Mount Wilson many years before her birth.

Colonal Griffith J. Griffith had an experience of looking through an eyepiece on the largest telescope in the world at Mount Wilson Observatory: “Man’s sense of values ought to be revised. If all mankind could look through that telescope, it would change the world,” he is reported to have said.  It was this experience of looking through the telescope and seeing the world differently that gave him his vision – to change the way that people saw themselves in the world and through that, how they understood creation and the Creator. He left provision in his Will of 1916 for construction of a public observatory.

In 1936, Hall’s grandfather, Dr. Clarence Cleminshaw, came to be the Assistant Director of the Griffith Observatory the second year it was open. He settled in Los Feliz, (a neighborhood in Los Angeles, CA), bought property, and supported a church – and his legacy continues.

“I’ve lived in my grandparents’ home in Los Feliz for 30 years, raised my children here, helped local businesses,” shared Hall. Then one day Jim and Ava Kramer, missionaries from the U.S. to Hyderabad, India invited her into something more.

They suggested that Hall participate in a prayer walk with them – or, alternatively, walk her own neighborhood, praying.

(Sam Theophylus, Betsy Hall, Ninoshka Ned)
(Sam Theophylus, Betsy Hall, Ninoshka Ned)

Soon after, Hall had a conversation with Bridge Leaders Sam and Priya Theophylus, who were planning to plant a church in Hollywood. They too had been prayer walking and Hall, curious, asked, “Where?”

“It turned out that they had been walking a block from my house,” said Hall. After having tried to determine for some time what might be her ministry with Bridges, there, in that moment, it became clear – she would come alongside them and be part of their team.

“I love the vision of Jim Milley and of Bridges – to help people see the world differently, to see creation and the Creator anew, and to create an organization that in so doing, is able to change the world,” continued Hall.

Her current position with Bridges is as Sponsorship Catalyst. Her ministry within Bridges is to ‘come alongside’ businesses, as well as Bridge Leader’s raising their own support.

“It is such a joy for me to be working and encouraging leaders – those who are not living in the land of excuses but who have a high value for creativity, leadership development, and for helping people to know about Jesus,” Hall shared.

She is also on the leadership team for Beautiful Gate and World Wide Worship, Sam and Priya’s bold faith movements. After a lifetime of ‘filling up’ in her Christian life – through going to church, educational opportunities and a life of being nurtured in her faith, Hall is ready to serve outside of traditional churches.

“I am realizing that my job now is to observe, to figure out where God is already in the world – in the language, in the architecture, in the stories of people – and in so doing, help people find God,” Hall explained.

So often, she shared, we Christians are taught that the place to find God is in the church. It can be a shock to realize that those ‘outside’ are spiritual and that the Spirit is, of course, everywhere – not just in a sanctuary on Sunday mornings.

“Bridges has helped me learn to see the world differently – for that I am unbelievably grateful – and excited to see where God will lead us next.”

It’s that ‘coming alongside’ that Bridges offers those who seek to follow God’s call in whatever context they find themselves. For Hall, it was a realization that God was already at work right in her very neighborhood – her task was simply to respond faithfully in service. Discover more about Beautiful GATE’s vision, values and mission, and follow their growth at their website: http://beautifulgate.la/.

In what ways do you think God is already at work in your own context, in your own neighborhood, amongst your neighbors? To explore more how Bridges might come alongside you, contact Jim Milley at jim@bridgesus.org.

Listening for the Gospel in our Backyards

Los Feliz Lodge Front

By Norm Gordon, Associate Pastor (PCUSA)

I was at a Bridges conference recently when I heard a speaker say : “It’s one thing to know the gospel; it’s another to be knowing it.”

When I first heard his phrase, I thought it was someone trying to sound smart. Until he started to explain what he did. His name is Sam and he and his wife are missionaries – from India. To the U.S.A. Hollywood, California to be exact. “I was 18 years old when God called me to America,” explained Sam Theophylus, born in Hyderabad, India. “I didn’t know what it meant then, but the call was clear and the burden for your country stirred in my heart.”

They have settled into a neighborhood in Los Angeles and are ministering out of their home to Americans who don’t know the gospel. Or church. Or anything Christian. He spoke of meeting people one on one. He spoke of praying for them. He spoke of sharing time with them. He relayed the numerous times the Lord has put him and his wife in places where they have seen God work in people’s lives. Most of all, they have listened to what God looks like as He enters neighbors’ hearts.

He used to have a working definition of the gospel. Now he simply watches it happen. The gospel used to be a concept. Now it’s an event – many events, in fact, throughout the year as they simply walk with the unchurched and offer whatever they can to their well-being.

As I listened to Sam speak, I realized that the gospel is less about a creedal statement and more about God getting a hold of someone and infecting their disposition. Have you seen this lately?

This year, let’s listen. Let’s watch. In our homes, in our neighborhoods, at school, at work. Pray for God to show you His gospel. I guarantee you He’ll show up. He wants to show you His redemptive work up close and personal.

As Sam and his wife testify, you don’t have to go off on the mission field to see the mighty acts and wonders of the Almighty God. Welcome to the new mission field – your backyard.

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Sam & Priya Theophylus and their team launch “The Beautiful Gate” church plant Sunday, January 11th in Los Feliz, CA. Follow the gospel’s development here.

Join us at Bridges next conference focused on being Bi-vocational, coming up the weekend of February 6th-8th in Lake Hughes, CA. Learn More & Register!

Missional Hospitality

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Under enormous cultural pressure and stress, families have become highly protective. They have become fortresses from the world around us—defensive units designed to keep the cultural onslaughts at bay….This is “our” space, and those we may “invite” into that space are carefully chosen based on whether they will upset the delicate status quo, inconvenience us, or pose a threat to our perceived safety. In other words, visitors, especially strange ones, stress us out. And while this is in some sense culturally understandable, the negative result in terms of our spirituality is that the family has effectively become a pernicious idol…. Culture has once again trumped our social responsibility. In such a situation, missional hospitality is seen as a threat, not as an opportunity to extend the kingdom; so an idol is born….

It’s not hard to see how this is absolutely disastrous from a missional perspective. Our families and our homes should be places where people can experience a foretaste of heaven, where the church is rightly viewed as a community of the redeemed from all walks of life (Revelation 21). Instead, our fears restrict us from letting go of the control and safety we have spent years cultivating…. Any sense of personal obligation is tapered down to exclude anything beyond “me and my family.” This culture of fear is totally inconsistent with Jesus’s redemptive vision of the kingdom of God.

~ Deb Hirsch from UnTamed: Reactivating a Missional Form of Discipleship

Life-Changing Decisions

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For the last five years, I’ve been leading Growing Pains, a resource group for pregnant and teen parents. We come alongside young families to offer emotional and spiritual support, to teach parenting skills and to provide for basic family needs like diapers and cribs.

I want to tell you a story about Maria. Maria and her baby, Faye, joined Growing Pains after we met her at a continuation high school. One day she chose to hang out with some girls who were trying to steal a phone. Maria was charged and sent to jail for 3 months.

She could have fallen into shame and guilt. She could have returned to that group of “friends.” But she didn’t. Instead, she decided to live for God. She set goals and made a plan to work hard toward a better life. Then she broke up with her boyfriend who was taking drugs. And she came back to Growing Pains for our support in helping her meet her goals.

Not only did she make up the classes that she missed while in jail, but also she was able to graduate ON TIME this past June with her original high school class! During the summer we helped her earn her drivers license, and this fall she began studies at a local college. We were able to equip her for this new collegiate challenge (and adventure) with a laptop, printer and gift cards for food and gasoline.

Maria is living a very different life today than two years ago. Are there still difficulties? Yes! But our commitment is to walk beside her to encourage her that she can overcome the obstacles and build a beautiful life for herself and her daughter. Maria’s future is bright indeed, and what a privilege and joy to be on the journey with her!

 

By Susan Fudge

Advent: The Sacrament of Waiting (in line?)

A few years ago I was waiting in a long line at the Costco in Irvine, California. In spite of my best efforts to find the shortest line, of course I ended up in the slowest moving line of all.store

As I stood there, I could feel my blood pressure rising. The more I waited, the more frustrated I became. Words I never say (well, almost never) filled my mind, and I’m not referring to “Happy Holidays.”

Then, all of a sudden, it dawned on me. (I had one of those moments of grace in which God managed to slip a word into my consciousness.) As I stood in that slow-moving line at Costco, I was waiting. Waiting! In a way, I was experiencing exactly what Advent is all about. Of course I wasn’t waiting for God to save me or anything momentous like that. I was simply waiting to get out of that store so I could go home. But, nevertheless, I was waiting. I was forced to experience something that’s at the very heart of Advent.

So I decided, right then and there, that I was going to use the experience of waiting in line while Christmas shopping as an Advent reminder. I was going to put myself back into the shoes of the Jews who were waiting for the Messiah. And I was going to remember that I too am waiting for Christ to return.

Forced waiting became a moment of Advent reflection rather than a cause for getting an ulcer. I found my anger quickly drain away. Get this: I even found myself thanking God for the chance to slow down a bit and wait. By the time I got to check out, my heart was peaceful, even joyous. I felt as if I had discovered hidden treasure.

This was, indeed, a miracle. What I hate most about the days prior to Christmas – waiting in line – has become a quasi-sacrament, a time to experience God’s grace.

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Caption: Yes, it works in heavy holiday traffic too!

 

Citation: : http://www.patheos.com/blogs/markdroberts/

What’s God Up To at Your Post Office? Your Starbucks? Your PTA Meeting?

At Bridges we bridge the gap between church culture and all the cultures around us in everyday life: neighborhood culture, school culture, work culture, gym culture, etc. We nurture leaders who join God in their local cultures to build relationships and see what happens …

It’s an adventure, and we’d love for you–all of you at any age or stage–to join in!

Here’s some of what starts to happen when we open ourselves to the people around us to love and be loved…

Broom man
Stomping down leaves with “The Broom Man,” who lives around the corner. He tends his foliage religiously and invites Noah to play with his collection of rakes and power tools (gasp!) His lovely wife says, “I didn’t realize how much the routine of seeing you meant until you went away for a few weeks. I missed you!”
At a local restaurant for Easter brunch, Noah hands a lady waiting in line a flower he just picked.
At a local restaurant for Easter brunch, Noah hands a lady waiting in line a flower he just picked.
“I’ll keep it forever!” she says.
Handing out homemade treats at the cafe, to the shock and delight of all. Responses?
Handing out homemade treats at the cafe, to the shock and delight of all. Responses?
“Thank You! How kind. I just moved into this neighborhood and feel so welcomed now!”
Forming a superhero squad at school. Including the younger ones, taking them under his cape. Classmates say,
Forming a superhero squad at school.
Including the younger ones, taking them under his cape.
Classmates say, “Noah is my best friend! I want him to sit by ME!”
Bridge Leader, Noah, in the arms of his favorite Trader Joe's Employee, wishing her well in his own way as she transfers to a new store. Her response?
Bridge Leader, Noah, in the arms of his favorite Trader Joe’s Employee, wishing her well in his own way as she transfers to a new store. Her response?
“You guys make me feel more like me! You’ve been such an encouragement. Come visit me at my other store. I love you!”

What do we hope our neighbors, mechanics and tellers say about us?

Field Notes: InterVarsity Press Publishes Bridges Trainer

Nick Book Release
Nick Warnes’ Starting Missional Churches: Life With God in Our Neighborhood (2014) is being published by InterVarsity Press!

“All mission is local—the people of God joining the work of God in a particular place. In Starting Missional Churches Mark Lau Branson and Nicholas Warnes introduce us to seven missional churches while examining common challenges regarding their genesis. Using stories, interviews with pastors and a look at common preconceived notions of church planting in the West, this guide brings together resources of the missional church conversation with the creativity and energy of those who are experimenting with diverse planting activities and practices across the country. Curated by a pastor and a professor, this work highlights diverse modern examples of congregations focused on reaching their communities with a missional mindset. Learn from these stories how to build a vibrant, engaging church—one that generates redemptive witness in our neighborhoods and in our world.” -Amazon’s official book description.

Beyond investing in the Bridges movement as a trainer, Nick is the organizing pastor of Northland Village Church in Los Angeles, California. He loves to spend his extra time supporting others to start new churches. He does this as a coach and church planting assessor for the Presbyterian Church USA and as a co-creator of a regular cohort for people discerning church planting. Nick also serves as teacher and advisor for the Fuller Theological Seminary Church Planting Certificate.

Field Notes: A Missionary in Her Own Neighborhood

Beth asked her neighbor, Kathy, to come to church. No, she had too many errands to run that Sunday. Beth encouraged her to check out an in-home Bible Study. No, the family had plans already. Even a backyard play date invite was met with “No, thanks.”

dessert heart

With the traditional outreach attempts not working, Beth became a missionary in her own neighborhood. How? To start, she made space on her calendar just to be available to her neighbors however they needed, in any way possible. One evening, Beth texted Kathy that she was going to relax on the porch with dessert and instantly Kathy’s schedule was clear! On the front deck, they shared more than cheesecake—they shared life. In that simple and sincere act of neighborliness, Kathy found a place to open up about her broken marriage, challenging children and depression. Beth listened. They prayed together. The next day, Beth was the one who received a text. Kathy felt lighter and had HOPE for her life.*

Praise God for his creativity in reaching out to us in highly personalized ways. He truly knows our needs and just how to meet them. Praise God for Bridge Leaders like Beth who partner with Him in loving those around us in ways they are ready to receive. We also praise God for YOU and your support of the movement to bridge God’s love to those where we live, work and play.

*Details changed to protect identities.

Snapshots of Growth

At Bridges, we experiment with new ways to do church in America. We currently nurture 50 Bridge Leaders (local missionaries) through Assessments, Coaching, Trainings and Support services.

Recently, we asked a few Bridge Leaders to compare where they are in their ministries now to this time last year. Here is what they report God doing through their efforts, Bridges’ partnership and your support:

 

NvardNvard Ter-Matevosyan

“Sunland Tujunga Foundation” – Community Center

Then: A year ago I had completed the application process for tax-exempt status for the Sunland-Tujunga Foundation.

Now: This August I received the tax-exempt status from the IRS. Currently, we are completing the requirements to receive consistent donations to our food bank from a large grocer. We are also in communication with the City Council’s office to oversee and develop a community garden that will grow food for Sunland-Tujunga locals.

 

CissyCissy Brady-Rogers

“Alive & Well” – Womens’ Wellness Ministry

Then: I thought I was moving toward a business model for my work in womens’ wellness.

Now: I have discerned the need to adopt a Christ-centered ministry model instead of a business model. I’m now meeting regularly with a Bridges’ Coach, assembling a Board and pursuing financial partnerships for my non-profit “Alive & Well.”

 

JohnJohn Polite

“Remix” – Christ-following Community in North Hollywood

Then: Our artist-centered worshipping community was in a location that was not welcoming to unchurched people.

Now: We’ve moved back to meeting in North Hollywood, which is a much more welcoming environment. Participation has grown to the point of considering a storefront worshipping space. We’re also developing a free head shot ministry aimed at helping starving artists.

 

DaveDave Cameron

“Eucharist” – Christ-following Community in Pasadena

Then: We really had no real structure or concrete plans. 

Now: Bridges has really helped us clarify our vision. We’re now regularly gathering people in our home to worship. I’m currently filling out grant paperwork to help fund the leadership of the worshipping community while also working bi-vocationally at Starbucks.

 

RamesesRameses Sorrell

“International Faith Ministry” – Inter-faith & Arts Website Ministry

Then: I was just thinking about the ministry I wanted to start.

Now: We’ve developed an inter-faith website incorporating artistic expressions of faith. We’re now ready to pitch our proposal and receive funding. During the day, I continue to practice architecture but am always active as a Bridge Leader.

 

CatCat Moore

“Cat Chat” – Cafe Ministry in Atwater Village

Then: I was getting burnt out doing everything on my own and didn’t know a network of like-minded ministry pioneers (Bridges) even existed.

Now: I have an amazing Coach, cool Support Group, the beginnings of financial partnership, and, overall, a much better understanding of my strengths (and weaknesses!) in ministry. Best of all, I have more trust in God’s guidance and my ability to hear Him. I’m grateful that Bridges puts a premium on cultivating a sensitivity to God’s voice, because in this kind of work, there really is no map. It’s more like God is your GPS telling you the very next step.

Field Notes: Warming Up Cafe Culture

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Noah and I befriend everyone walking in and out of the neighborhood cafe. One of our favorite ways to get to know people is to hand out homemade baked goods or tangerines. One man was so moved by the “no strings attached” gesture, that he started to cry and to tell us that seeing a little child joyously being generous gives him hope. There’s absolutely nothing I’d rather be doing with my son than sharing who we are and what we have, and excitedly receiving the gift of the amazing people all around us. Jesus sometimes shows up largest in the smallest, sincerest acts of love.