Sunday, October 29, 2023

Grand Opening!

After 10 months in our new church building, we were finally done with nearly all renovations and ready to host a grand opening celebration. Although we'd been having church services there since early March, it still felt like a construction site for quite awhile. This fall, the timing was right to turn our focus outward and have a kick-off celebration, launching more outreach ministries and getting the word out more around the community about our new church. 

We kicked off the weekend with a VIP Program, inviting local and political leaders and sharing with them about the free church denomination and what our church is all about. It was very successful in making some important connections which could lead to some unique ministry opportunities in the future. Our goal of helping outsiders understand who we are and why we are there was definitely accomplished and the program was well-attended.

Immediately following the VIP Program, we had a 2-hour open house celebration. We had hoped to draw from the surrounding community for this event, but most visitors were those invited personally from someone in the church. This is typical for the culture here and something we understand. (We hope to try out other creative ideas in the future to make more local connections.) The event was still well-attended and we were very thankful for those who came and got to know us a bit better.

On Sunday morning, we had a celebratory church service. We invited local church leaders and other denominational guests, as well as friends and contacts in the area who might be interested in attending a church service (a different audience from Friday, for the most part). This was also very well attended and it was moving to look back on what God has done in the church since our launch 2 years ago and to celebrate has provided for us. We had a meal together afterwards and that was a wonderful community time. 

Overall, we continue to be astounded at what God has made possible at Crosslight and are feeling excited and encouraged about the future! It has certainly been a marathon rather than a sprint and will continue to be, but God is faithful to move and work!

Monday, March 20, 2023

New Worship Space

 Life has been pretty crazy the last few months with adjusting to having a baby at home again. Alongside that big change, there has been another big event taking place in the life of our church plant - we found and began renting our own space! It was an incredible provision from God, truly miraculous, and we are so incredibly thankful. Most church plants here can go years, even decades, without having their own worship space, so we were shocked to have this door open for us so soon. This "re-birth" of the church coincided with Penny's birth pretty closely, so we'll always know and remember when God answered this prayer! The rental agreement for the church building was signed the week Penny was born and in early January, we began paying rent and renovating the space.

Nate has been hard at work, along with other leaders and church members (including members of the Macedonian Church we'll be sharing the building with) to renovate the space. It's truly a total overhaul, including the following:

- New floors and trim 

- Turning a small empty room into a women's bathroom

- Adding a urinal and removing a shower from another bathroom (to create a men's room)

- Tearing down and rebuilding a wall

- Closing up a large window

- Adding electric blinds to several large windows on the sun-facing side of the building

- Adding in lots of wiring for lighting and sound, then spackling and painting the walls

It's been an exhausting process but so exciting to watch the space transform! Here is what the space looked like when we first saw it last October:

Main Room (previously a clothing shop and tailor)

Back bedroom (will now be the nursery)

Bathroom (now the men's bathroom)

Second bedroom (now a women's bathroom)

Here are some recent photos to show how the space has been transformed (final photos at the end of the process still to come!):

Nate preaching in the new space for the first time on March 12th

Electric blinds on the windows and fresh walls and floor

Walls being painted

A photo from yesterday of the main room

This will soon be the baby nursery (was a bedroom before)

Men's bathroom with shower removed and new urinal and tile

Once the renovations are complete, we look forward to planning some special events to invite people from the community and to celebrate with others being in the new space. Praise God! We eagerly await what God will do in this building!

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Penelope Grace

On December 16th, 2022 our family grew! Penelope (Penny) Grace Johnson came into the world at 6pm in Vienna. Her arrival was less than ideal and also quite different than we imagined, but nonetheless we were and are thrilled that she is finally here. We had planned for a relaxed c-section on December 21st, but God had other plans! In the weeks leading up to her birth, we were all sick with the flu. Maya was the first to develop a resulting infection (pneumonia) and go on antibiotics. Then I (Bethany) developed a severe ear infection (with was accompanied by 1 week of very compromised hearing) and then Nate also got an ear infection. The same day Nate started antibiotics and 24 hours after I did, I unexpectedly went into labor (starting overnight with contractions and some bleeding). We were all already sleep deprived and depleted because of the sickness and coughing quite a bit. Nevertheless, it was apparently time. Since I had already had 2 c-sections before for various reasons, my doctor insisted that she did not want to risk trying for a natural birth, so when I went into labor and when they determined at the hospital that my water had broken, they prepared for a c-section just a few hours later.

Penny was born healthy and of course, that was the most important thing. But the week prior to the birth and the 2 weeks after were some of the most difficult I've ever experienced physically. Recovering from surgery while being sick and coughing was incredibly difficult. Add sleep deprivation, challenges with nursing, hormones and a painful sinus infection that developed a few days after we got home from the hospital...and the combination of it all was quite overwhelming. As I look back, though, I can see how God provided for us during that time. Although Penny arrived early, we were able to find friends to care for the kids and the dog for the weekend very quickly. Everyone we asked was able to say yes right away! A few weeks before the birth, my midwife asked if I would try to find someone else because she had the dates wrong in her calendar. God provided just the right person - a midwife specializing in c-sections who I clicked with right away. She really helped care for me during and after the birth and was a very compassionate, caring provider. Once my parents arrived a few days after the birth, they stepped in and took over so much at home - laundry, cooking, playing with the big kids, baby holding, dog walking...they took the load off so we could recover. And having the whole experience finally come to an end and resolve itself made me really appreciate my health and the energy I had afterwards. I am still enjoying it! After my parents left, friends have been bringing us meals since then and that really helped with the transition to doing life on our own. Overall, we have so much to be thankful for and reflecting on it now is a good reminder to me of that fact.

Here are a bunch of photo highlights from these last few weeks (not in chronological order...that was too tricky to figure out. Sorry!) Enjoy!

A photo of Penny today. After concerns about her weight gain at the beginning, things are definitely working great now because her cheeks continue to get bigger!

Penny is 1 month!

Penny and Loki - becoming friends

Nate with all of his little ones

Ellie is a great biggest sister!

Maya loves being a big sister!

Penny's first outing to a new year's market at the palace

Newborn snuggles...

"Best Christmas Ever"

The girls' first meeting at the hospital

Photos from our newborn photo session: