Dear Faithful Ministry Partners,
Greetings in the wonderful name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
We apologize that this is the first update that we have sent out this travel season, but we have been very busy or without internet connections since our departure June 6. With this update we will attempt to bring you up-to-date with our travels thus far, what we have been doing, and all that the Lord has accomplished.
As stated, we departed Grand Rapids on June 6 following a very busy week of last-minute packing combined with getting my mother situated in an assisted living center. That chore was not one we had anticipated and was thrown into our schedule by a fall she took Sunday evening (6/1) and the realization that our summer plans for her had to be changed. We Praise the Lord that we were able to find a very nice studio apartment for her in a very nice assisted living center located on the SE side of Grand Rapids. She has a nice living room/bedroom/kitchenette, walk-in closet and bath, plus a small balcony/deck where she can sit outside and enjoy the summer. Her room is only a few steps from the dining area which is nice, and only around the corner from a library, beauty shop and an activity room. So far she has made some friends and seems to like the staff. Pray for her as she makes this adjustment in her life.
We then departed Friday morning, accompanied by two of our grandsons, Isaac and Noah Ritchey and headed for Stephens City, Virginia, and Sunday meetings with Pastor Calvin Lowder and his wife Judy with whom we enjoyed some great home cooking and an evening of fellowship on Saturday. Then on Sunday we shared the ministry of BDTLB with the folks of Valley Bible Church and then the Word of God in the morning service. Pastor Lowder has been a long-time acquaintance and friend from days gone by as we both attended and grew up in the Altoona Bible Church under Pastor Henry F. Kulp. In fact, Cal was my Junior Department Sunday School teacher the summer between his high school and college days. That was a l-o-o-n-n-g time ago.
We always enjoy the warmth, welcome and fellowship that we receive from the folks in the church and this time was no exception. They open their doors and their arms and make you feel like you’ve been there all the time.
We next drove to Duncansville, PA and Grace Family Bible Church with Pastor Jim Zabst. This was to be the site of our first VBS but is wasn’t to start for another week. We had intentionally planned this “down” week as an opportunity to catch up on some work and preparation that we had not been able to complete prior to leaving GR. When we arrived we discovered that a few folks from the church were meeting each evening making their own final preparations for VBS. Building and wrapping backdrops, painting the finishing touches and cutting out stand-up figures became our evening activities for the week. We had a great time of fellowship with old friends (this was the last church I pastored prior to joining BDTLB) thinking, working and laughing (a lot) together. By the end of the week Susan and I had gotten much of we needed to get done, done, as well as help the church folks get set up and ready for VBS. That week was a real-time of blessing for us.
Of course Sunday we were able to bring the folks up-to-date with the ministries of BDTLB and then preached both the AM and PM services. Then on Monday we kicked off a truly blessed week of VBS. There was concern that the numbers could be affected by the fact that two other nearby churches were also having VBS the same week (one was serving dinner) but we were blessed to see similar numbers as previous years, and the numbers increased throughout the week. As you can see from the pictures this church always puts a lot of time and effort into their VBS and I believe it pays off in many ways. First, is that kids remember, they remember what was done to make VBS fun and exciting, something they want to attend and they come back year after year. Second, because they remember, they invite their friends, and they continue to invite their friends throughout the week. This leads us to number three, and in reality the most important, a good number of kids produces a good opportunity to share the Gospel (the reason for VBS). In this year’s VBS, through the one-on-one ministry of sharing Christ we were blessed to see 27 young people make the decision for Christ. (Some people get hung up on numbers, but let me tell you something, numbers are people (kids) and people need the Lord.)
We wrapped up the week of VBS on Friday evening with a short program, a short time of sharing the Gospel with the parents and then a carnival. As the carnival was slowing down Susan and I began to pack up the trailer for our departure. Which brings me to another benefit derived from the church. They have been our first stop now from several years and each year they have been generous in giving us the fruit of the labors in decorations and banners. This has allowed us to move onto other churches who lack the talent, time or people and make their VBS experience equally exciting and effective. This is truly the Body of Christ working together for the common goal of the Gospel.
We left Duncansville and headed south to Ridgeley, WV where we would drop our trailer at an RV dealer for some needed maintenance and pick up a young man who would then accompany us to Family Bible Conference/Cowboy Camp, as well as the Cowboy Lee’s Cowboy Adventure Camp in Livonia, MO.
We have made this trip now several times over that past few years, always passing through Hannibal, Missouri, but never stopping. This year we had some extra time so I decided to take our grandsons to see the home of Mark Twain and Tom Sawyer. It was a brief stop (can’t say they were overly interested) but we did walk the street that Mark Twain walked and saw the fence that Tom Sawyer convinced others to paint for him.
What a real-time of blessing is the Family Camp/Bible Conference. This has proven to be a perfect time away for fellowship, relaxation, fun and Bible study. In addition we enjoy time with our two daughters and the grandkids. Each year our numbers increase and this year was no exception. We enjoyed messages from Pastors Matthew Ritchey, Paul Turner and Neil Schnaath, as well as from Tobin Powers and Cowboy Lee. I also was able to speak in three sessions. Each took an assigned subject and addressed it beautifully in their time slots. It is always a real joy, not only to share the Word but to be able and sit back and be fed.
On the Sunday between Cowboy Camps I spoke at the Hartford Baptist Church in Hartford, MO. The folks were very warm and receptive to the Word of God and we enjoyed our time there and were given an open invitation to return any time we are in the area.
Then it was back to camp and the opening of the kid’s Cowboy Adventure Camp. We had a great group of kids and staff. Cowboy Larry Gabbard taught in the Bible study hours with Cowboy Neil and helped with the horses. His wife Donna was the camp cookie for the week and boy did we eat good (too good). Paul Turner Sr. and myself took a different role in that we assisted Neil with some much-needed work around the camp. During the week we built a shelter over the water slide pump, painted directional signs to the camp (our wives had the job of filling in the letters I had drawn on the boards) and built three doors to the kitchen area. We didn’t really help much with the camp itself but we were blessed to assist Neil with some help. In addition we both took our turn speaking in the evening Cowboy Church time.
From Cowboy Camp we dropped off our grandsons and another camper to their parents in Champaign, IL and drove late into the night back to Ridgeley, WV arriving there at 2:30AM. The next morning we attended church then hitched up the trailer and headed to Stevensburg, VA and the Children’s Bible Movement Camp. Here we were met by James and Stacey Burnett the camp directors.
The CBM folks carry on a release-time ministry to public schools in several of the surrounding counties. This is a relatively new camp in the area. The property was given to the organization a couple of years ago after sitting vacant for nearly thirty years. It was used for a time in the 70s as the training camp for the Washington Redskins. They had put up several of the buildings and installed a beautiful swimming pool. Though the pool had gone unused for all those years when they cleaned it it was in perfect working order. Susan and I had the Mission Moment each morning and were able to present the Gospel numerous times, share the lives and ministries of several missionaries such as John and Betty Stam, as well as challenge the young people to living out their faith and sharing Christ with their friends and family. In our Friday session we gave the kids (and staff) tools to use and then had them practice on one another. Susan had the opportunity to deal with a junior staff member and was blessed to see her accept Christ as her personal Savior on Monday evening.
Then it back to Ridgeley and our second VBS of the summer. It is always a joy to arrive in Ridgeley and this year was no different. Pastor Brent Biller and his wife Saundra and the folks of the church are always more than prepared for this week of VBS. We ministered to about 60 kids throughout the week and were blessed to see 23 make decisions for Christ. In addition to the children’s VBS we always conduct an adult session each evening and we had the best continuous group of people this year than ever before. Thursday evening we had our closing program and the church was literally standing room only. Of course that meant that I had a large group with whom to share Christ.
We were surprised when a text arrived from our friends Ron and Nancy Clark who indicated that they were on their way to Ridgeley to help with the VBS. They had traveled with us for three weeks last summer and had signed on for four this summer, but not Ridgeley. They arrived Sunday evening as we were beginning VBS but were unable to stay for the evening. But they were back on Monday and were put to work helping with the one-on-one and games. They are great friends and a BIG help in the ministry. (And a good example of what one can do if they want to)
Tonight we are in Clearbrook, VA and will begin a week-long Bible conference/seminar entitled “The Unfolding Drama of God’s Word.” This takes us from Genesis to the Body of Christ and explores some of the teachings of the so-called New Testament Church and their roots in the “Old Testament”. We always enjoy our time here and look forward to a fruitful ministry this week. Please be in prayer for this week of meetings.
In closing continue to pray for the ministry of BDTLB and our ongoing financial situation. The Lord has enabled us to maintain a balance for the summer months and for that we are thankful but we are still in critical need for new monthly supporters. Folks find it hard to believe how important a gift of $10 or $20 a month really is. Pray too for Lee and Darlene as they continue their travels as well as a few upcoming doctor’s appointments back in Grand Rapids. Please pray for Susan and I as we have been struggling with sore throats and coughing for several weeks. And pray for the office staff at home (Jan, Bev and Carolyn) as they carry on the home front while we are traveling. And last, but most important, pray that the Lord will continue to be pleased to use us in the furtherance of the Gospel and that we will be used as vessels for His honor.
Joel and Susan McGarvey