A few years ago, one of Clear Creek’s small groups was convicted that they needed to do something more. In addition to their usual times of fellowship and Bible study, they were sure that Jesus wanted them to be reaching out and serving. As they started looking for service opportunities, they quickly realized how tough it can be to get something planned. Small group members weren’t free at the times most organizations needed volunteers. Some service opportunities didn’t work well with the group’s large number of children. And the activities that were the easiest to plan, often seemed like the least interesting.
For the next year the small group tried serving in different ways, but nothing seemed right. Then one day they came across a quote from Mother Teresa, “You can do no great things – only small things with great love.” Rather than trying to plan a great service event or figure out what issue they cared most about, they decided to get involved with a community that needed love. The next month they went to Patten Towers (a downtown public housing development) for the first time. They walked around, met people and offered to pray. Nothing fancy and no big agenda – just being present and loving like Jesus did. Some residents smiled, others ignored them. Some were happy to pray, others refused. But everyone in the small group agreed that it felt right.
The small group quickly made Patten Towers a regular part of their monthly routine. Over time they met more people and began to be recognized around the building. They started offering a free dinner at the building every few months to meet more people and have more time to talk. Even the building’s housing manger asked how they could help! Being a regular part of the Patten Towers community allowed residents to see the light of Jesus. It made it easier to the small group to see the actual needs of people in their community. It also made space for God’s Spirit to work in unexpected ways.
One of the most interesting relationships to emerge from this ministry is with a middle-aged man named Ameen. Ameen is a Muslim refugee from Iraq. He speaks broken English and goes fishing a lot. He’s also incredibly friendly and willing to study the Bible. Members of the small group developed a friendly relationship that is growing into something more. There have been multiple Bible studies together. Ameen has been in their home for dinner. And he has gone to worship with them as well.
Looking back over the last couple of years, it’s exciting to see how God took a desire to serve and turned it into even more. This group has been blessed with chances to grow, new friends, opportunities to share the Bible, and so much more.
And the word of the Lord came again to Zechariah: ‘This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.’”
Blazing Hope Ranch recently accepted a third survivor of human trafficking into their transitional program at HOPE Haven. The transitional living program at Blazing Hope Ranch provides a place where Healing, Opportunity, Protection and Education can happen on a daily basis.
Clear Creek small groups have been involved at Blazing Hope in a number of ways. Some provide gifts of love and other necessities to residents at Blazing Hope. Other groups have helped at Blazing Hope’s camp by serving meals and leading activities. One of our members said he was surprised that the campers were grateful for our coming to serve food and help with the activities. The camp opened his eyes to opportunities for service that he had never considered. Partnering in the ministry of Blazing Hope has provided opportunities to join Jesus in his ministry of reconciliation and restoration.
It’s a phrase we have all had to speak when meeting new people, but imagine having to say it in a language that’s not your native tongue. The SE Asia ESL class began as a way to take the work Clear Creek has been doing for several years in Asia, and continue it right here in Hixson. Similar to our overseas missionaries, teaching English as a second language is an avenue to connect people to God and to each other.
In 2012, while thinking about our time in China (and missing Chinese food), we met Andy and Ivy Cheng, owners of New China restaurant. They spoke just enough English to intrigue someone from Soddy-Daisy, so we started a conversation and began a relationship. When we met Ivy and Andy, their children Elin and Sharon were still living in China with their grandparents, but were planning to move to America. Over the next six years, our families grew closer, celebrated holidays and spent time in each other’s homes.
In 2017 we saw how the Great Commission was being played out in reverse with people from all over the world coming to Hixson. We launched the SE Asia ESL class on Sunday mornings to build relationships, improve English and show Jesus to our Asian brothers and sisters that live in our city. God is working through these ESL classes to impact families. Ivy and her two children along with her mother and father-in-law are attending the ESL classes and connecting with other families in the Children’s ministry and other Christians at Clear Creek. What began as a craving for Chinese food, God used to create friendship and opportunity.
Early in July, a woman’s life, death, and resurrection was captured on Facebook Live…
She had spent the day with a friend riding around Chattanooga using drugs. Her friend offered her heroin and even though she had never tried it before, she let the friend inject her with the drug. The woman overdosed and started convulsing. She stopped breathing and lost her pulse. Her friend frantically beat on her chest to no avail. Horrified and afraid of the criminal charges that could be brought against her, the friend pushed the woman out of the car into the street. The woman lay lifeless in the gutter while the car sped away. A good Samaritan rushed to the woman’s aid. He performed CPR, restoring her life’s breath. First responders rushed to the scene.
Cry for the Broken reached out to this woman, giving her the opportunity to receive help if she was willing. Justin and Catrina Cabe drove her to a detox facility in Nashville and ministered to her heart on the way. This woman is now clean and sober thanks to a loving God who saw her brokenness and is now putting her pieces back together. The ladies of Cry for the Broken are following up with the woman by writing letters and sending cards. We hope to welcome her home soon. Catrina has also reached out to the friend who pushed the woman out of the car in hopes that she will accept help as well.
Cry For The Broken is a Clear Creek ministry that reaches out to addicted prostitutes to build personal relationships and share the love of Jesus as they help to transition them into sobriety-based living. They pray for and with these ladies in hope to lead them out of their broken lifestyle into a life-changing relationship with Jesus.
One of the greatest joys in following Jesus is the invitation to participate in both the great command and the great promise that he articulates in Matthew 28. The command is to make disciples and the promise is that Jesus himself walks with us as we go. One of the questions we get asked all the time is, “Why another church plant in Chattanooga?” It’s a good question, and the answer has everything to do with participation. Participation
with Jesus in the mission of God is an essential component of discipleship. The call of Jesus in the Gospels is to be with him and to do what he does. Showing up to a construction site is not enough to become a master carpenter. To be a carpenter one must learn from and be with a master carpenter. The same is true for apprenticeship to Jesus. That is discipleship – learning from Jesus to do life in the Kingdom of God.
At City Collective we’ve seen that planting a church has allowed people to rally around a vision and has given them opportunities to put their talents to work in the Kingdom. The reality in a new church is that all must participate in order for the vision to come about. This need creates space for new leaders to be raised up, equipped and discipled in the Kingdom. As churches grow and multiply there is a natural need for more teachers, more worship leaders, more volunteers and generally more participation in both the life of the church and the mission of God. More discipleship happens as people discover the love of God toward them and the way their talents uniquely equip them for participation in the mission of God in Chattanooga.
Significant discipleship happens in the context of small, committed communities that gather around the person of Jesus. Some people in our city will walk into a church plant when they are unwilling to walk into an established church. In this way, planting new churches creates the opportunity for more discipleship. There is a young woman in the church who recently expressed that learning the ways of Jesus in committed community has helped her begin to walk again as a disciple. It was relationship with people that allowed her to experience renewed relationship with Jesus in spite of the wounds and pain that life has given her. The community of faith carried her and believed for her until she could believe and trust again. The intimate community born out of the vision of partnering with God in a new expression of his Church in a city can be a catalyst for this kind of rugged discipleship.
Discipleship happens as we walk together in intimacy with Jesus. That intimacy cannot be microwaved. It only comes about by doing life together around Jesus. The beauty of following Jesus in the context of church planting is that if we can create a new space to be with others and with Jesus and to practice his ways together, he will do the transforming work of making those who have come into good disciples.
When God’s Kingdom grows, everybody wins. We experienced that
recently on a Sunday in April as Icces Furr, a college student at UTC,
was baptized into Christ.
Icces’ story is an amazing example of how God works in his own time through his people to fulfill his mission. Icces met some UCM students at the beginning of the school year when they were giving out free pizza. She became quick friends with a few UCM girls, went on a Beach Trip, started coming to Bible studies, and became a steady presence in the group.
After a couple months, Icces confided to her friends that she didn’t really know anything about Jesus. But she wanted to. Icces was raised by her mother, who wasn’t a Christian, and she knew very little about the Bible. But she could see something real in the faith of these college Christians. These were people who took their faith seriously. They served the community together, lived together and studied the Bible together. And they were part of a church together.
One Sunday, Icces went with her UCM friends to a church meeting. She loved the casual atmosphere, style of music, and friendly people. The church was City Collective, Clear Creek’s downtown church plant. Icces continued attending City Collective, growing under the teaching there and her weekly Bible study with UCM students.
When Icces decided in April that she wanted to be baptized, she knew just how she wanted it to happen – at City Collective with her church family and with all her UCM friends there as well. Icces’ story is one of God’s grace and his pursuit of those who don’t know him. It’s also a story of God using college students, a new church plant, and lots of different people to bring himself glory in Chattanooga.
Of the volunteers who help every Thursday with Inner City Outreach, one stands out as going above and beyond. Always smiling, Rosalind Crownover arrives an hour before class begins so she can ride the bus that picks up middle school children in downtown’s College Hill Courts, then brings them to and from Clear Creek. After she arrives at the building she helps teach the girls’ class, often bringing fun crafts for the girls to do.
Rosalind began volunteering with Inner City two years ago after hearing about the outreach at Clear Creek’s annual Catfish Dinner. She realized at the time that God had given her a gift to love children, which is evident in the way she interacts with the children each Thursday. By committing to spend her time this way each Thursday evening, Rosalind is able to invest countless hours in the lives of these young people who are often in desperate need of consistent love and encouragement. Not only has Rosalind decided to share the love of Jesus with these young people; she has also recruited others to join her. For the last two years, she has arranged for the Chattanooga State Girls Basketball team to come and spend time with the inner-city children. She is sharing God’s blessings with others and is inviting others in to that circle of blessing as well.
Walk the Streets in Her Shoes was a big success this year. Cry for the Broken would like to thank each and every individual who participated in our event to bring awareness to brokenness and exploitation in our city. Every year, God goes above and beyond to accomplish His purpose through our walk. This year, two men approached Steve Campbell, a Clear Creek member, and asked what we were doing on the street. After his interaction with these members of the community, Mr. Campbell said, “The two gentlemen that I had discussions with really helped me understand the plight that these ladies deal with. While middle class America, us, can’t relate to what they go through, I just found out that the people on the street don’t have any respect for them either. What a hard reality and existence this must be for them.”
Mr. Campbell’s statement exemplifies the power of awareness. When CFTB started, it began with the dream that if the church only knew what was going on in our streets, something could be done to help. The awareness that was raised by our Walk the Streets event will hopefully lead to more volunteers being the hands and feet of Jesus on Chattanooga’s streets.
Our small group has decided to “do whatever He says”, and try to seek and notice the opportunities that the Lord has placed before us to help those who need it most. We have decided to support the efforts of a young family who are intent on reaching young women who are hurt and neglected. Their efforts at Blazing Hope Ranch have taken root in a wild overgrown patch in a remote corner of East TN ground. When our group first contacted them, the dream to provide housing and support for young women rescued from human trafficking was just starting to unfold. They dreamed of a summer camp for at-risk children and a ranch where they could utilize horses in the rehabilitation process. Land was donated to them, but they needed a ramshackle barn dug out of the brambles. The sites had to be chosen for the homes – both for the cared for and the caring.
This year the camp for at-risk children arrived and Camp Run Free was held in a convenient venue where parents could bring their children. The staff at Blazing Hope had everything under control, with spreadsheets, curriculum, color coded group designations, teachers and nurses. The horses arrived, the health officials showed up and we all learned each day how we could contribute. Our part was to feed and keep watered the entire crew of 60 campers and staff. Interactions with the folks in the Clear Creek Café provided useful lessons and resources. We have already been asked to consider providing for both the campers and staff again next year.
On Friday during the camp, a small boy came grinning up to the horseman. The little fella was so proud of his fun riding experiences and the observation was made that the child had been petrified of the horse just five days earlier. We also noticed that one young lady was quietly separated from her group, having private discussions with two of the counselors on site.
One of our group commented: “Camp Run Free placed me with God’s innocent children, running and playing and at the same time being educated about God, His love and the dangers in the outside world that sometimes present themselves when we least expect it. A wonderful group of volunteers with beautiful spirits made this camp successful for a group of children who otherwise probably would not have been able to attend because of financial obligations. Having been involved with Cry for the Broken and meeting women face to face who struggle with being on the streets makes me very excited to see Blazing Hope Ranch near completion to house women like these who long for a safe place to lay their heads and dream of a better life.”
Another small group member observed: “To me Blazing Hope is discipleship at its core. From keeping God’s children safe by teaching them the dangers of predators through Camp Run Free to healing the wounds of those survivors at the Ranch who were once caught up in human trafficking are two great examples of what Christians should be involved in. By partnering up with Blazing Hope it brings real world problems front and center to our small group, and allows us the opportunity to shine Jesus’s light on some of those that need it the most. As these connections grow and the Lord directs their course, we always hope to learn better how to increasingly love our small group members. We will continue to laugh, cry, grow and learn together as we serve.”
The year 2017 has been one of growth and change for Cry for the Broken. Not only have we moved to a new congregation, we have been faced with the challenge of reaching out beyond our original mission. This year, CFTB has rescued four precious women out of a life of sexual exploitation and addiction. They have also assisted three men in their own degrees of brokenness due to drugs and alcohol. In the first six months, CFTB has approached sexually exploited women 74 individual times, most resulting in prayer and ministry by meeting the basic needs of these women who have nothing.
Earlier this year, a woman was rescued and is now working and living a sober life. She recently sent in a testimony:
Almost two and a half months ago I was getting out of jail. I had no money, no job, and no car. No family or anyone to turn to….. Now I am working full time. I should graduate the program in November. These ladies believed in me when no one else did. If it were not for them, I might not have the relationship I have with my Higher Power today…. I am no longer broken, but healed by the grace of God….
Finally, celebrate with CFTB and Clear Creek as two ladies who were enslaved by addiction found Christ recently and became new Christians through obedience in baptism. They attend church regularly as part of their program in sobriety and their walk with Christ.
Cry for the Broken raises awareness by offering church members the opportunity to ride along on outreach missions as well as several speaking engagements throughout the city. CFTB feels that as more people are exposed to this heartbreaking issue, more people can be reached with Christ’s loving hand.
Clear Creek will partner with CFTB in a prayer walk to raise awareness for sexually exploited women. Walk the Streets in Her Shoes will begin at 10:00 am at East Side Elementary on September 16. Please join us!