Flavor Fest 2015 - Keith Wilks
Today I am heading to Tampa, FL, along with hundreds of other urban ministry leaders from across the country for Flavor Fest 2015: ReBuild. Flavor Fest is an urban leadership conference for current and future urban church and ministry leaders. The purpose is to bring us together to fellowship, share, pray, and network with each other to be further equipped for the ministry mission. Now in its 15th year, Flavor Fest has become one of the premiere national ministry and worship events and is attendees range across a broad spectrum of cultures, backgrounds and denominations. Focused mainly on the gospel hip hop culture, Flavor Fest began in 2000 with hundreds in attendance and now with The Lords blessing, thousands attend bringing a high level of energy and great expectation along for the ride. The conference is held at Tampa's hip hop centric Crossover Church, which is pastored by Tommy Kyllonen (aka Pastor Tommy or Urban D in gospel hip hop circles). Pastor Tommy is an accomplished gospel hip-hop artist and the conference attracts a who's who of the genre.
Having been a believer in glorifying God through the hip hop culture for many years, I am looking forward to hearing from this year's featured artists such as Flame, This'l and Derek Minor. The weekend will be filled with live concert worship performances, God-glorifying spoken word, dance and other forms of creative arts. There will be preaching from urban pastors and ministers, ministry workshops and a 3on3 basketball tournament. The conference is capped off with a community outreach block party that has born much fruit over the years and is a recognized platform for believer exhortation, gospel proclamation and encouragement for all who attend.
As one of the main missional partners of Flavor Fest, World Impact has the privilege of facilitating the urban ministry, developing missional partnerships and prayer ministry workshops being offered this year. With our mission focused on urban ministry, we are thankfully positioned to equip and resource these leaders in cities all over America. I look forward to see what The Lord has in store for Flavor Fest 2015. It's time to ReBuild! I'm out beloved. Gotta catch a plane. Pace and blessings to you. Lord willing, see you in Tampa.
Keith Wilks is World Impact East's Regional Director of Ministry.
Fruitful Summer Ministries - Stephen Hoernig
God is working in the hearts of the youth, teens and adults that we come in contact with on a daily basis in Newark. In the spring, we saw about ten of our eighth graders graduate into high school. Two guys who have been coming to our programs since they were young children – we have hopes that they will be leaders in our senior high ministry in the fall.
The summer had great times for ministry, so let us share a few highlights. The end-of-school picnics were a lot of fun for all the kids. This year, we went to Lake Hopatcong for swimming and a cookout. We love to see the kids enjoy themselves and just be kids with no worries. Later, we took some of the children mini golfing as a reward for learning all of their memory verses. It always amazes us to see how the word of God works in the hearts of these young people.
Summer camp was another highlight for the kids as well. In July, we took five boys to upstate New York for a week of Inspire Sports Camp. Four of the guys went last year, and all of them gave their lives to Jesus. Since then, they have been coming to church and youth group on a regular basis. This summer was a good chance for them to renew their commitment to the Lord. One of the guys was new to camp, and he also rang the born again bell to show that he gave his life to the Lord. We look forward to continuing the discipleship process with all of these boys in the months to come.
We also decided to continue our weekly teen youth outreaches for Junior and Senior high school students on Tuesdays and Fridays throughout the summer. We were able to stay connected to the teens in hopes that in the fall, we can kick off a new teen outreach sponsored by Young Life Ministries. We also did other summer ministries like Word on the Mound baseball camp and vacation Bible club.
Thank you for your prayers and support!
Stephen Hoernig is a World Impact missionary in Newark, NJ.
Demonstrating Compassion and Justice - Efrem Smith
Since our beginning as an urban missions organization, World Impact has taken a holistic approach to the advancement of God's Kingdom among the Poor. The transformative power of the Gospel not only leads to eternal life, but toward a new life purpose as well. What does this look like within the mission field of under-resourced communities? For us it is our staff being used by God to impact both the inner and outer reality of a person. We take on the missional work of addressing the soul of a person and the social conditions that surround them. Let me explain a little further.
For years we used a volcano as a metaphor or picture of our work among the unreached urban poor. The inside of the volcano – or the hot inner core – represented evangelism, equipping and empowerment. This part of our ministry is focused on the Gospel presentation leading to salvation and the longer term mentoring in order for a person to realize the deeper implications of becoming a follower of Christ. To a degree, the challenges within under-resourced communities will change as the hearts of the indigenous people change. But this is just one aspect of the Gospel, though a very important part.
The outer part of the volcano is what we have used over the years to describe the Gospel being demonstrated to address broader social and systemic challenges the poor face. These challenges specifically show themselves within areas such as education, healthcare, mass incarceration and unemployment. This is why over the years we have demonstrated the Gospel through thrift stores, leadership development initiatives, Christian schools, and mobile health clinics. In recent years we have developed initiatives around mass incarceration. Did you know that our Christian schools participate in dismantling the pipeline between under-resourced communities and prison? When third grade urban children are performing at grade level in math and English they are less likely to ever be incarcerated. We also have The Urban Ministry Institute (TUMI) running as a theological school in county jails, halfway houses, and prisons across the country in partnership with ministries such as Prison Fellowship. Additionally, we have launched the SIAFU (See-AH-fu) Leadership Homes the San Francisco Bay Area and Chester, PA providing mentoring, church planting training, and discipleship. I have met men recently who have already acquired jobs through this initiative. All these initiatives connected to the issue of mass incarceration come together under a more comprehensive whole known as "Incarceration to Incorporation" (I2I).
The volcano is a powerful picture of how the transformative work of the Gospel is aided by the work of compassion and justice. That volcano has evolved into the power grid we use today, where a light bulb represents the demonstration of compassion and justice, a visual sign of the Gospel's work.
The declaration and the demonstration of the Gospel combined is truly the realization of the Kingdom of God coming to bear upon the lives and communities of the urban poor. This approach leads us toward the true ends that missions endeavors should be going after, which is the raising up and empowerment of transformed indigenous leaders. This understanding of missions is what makes sense of our Global Ends Statement, "The empowered urban poor, advancing the Kingdom of God in every city, through the local church." We desire your prayers and support in gaining greater faithfulness and fruitfulness in being used by God as vehicles of presenting the whole gospel.
Efrem Smith is the President and CEO of World Impact.