Just one short year ago, New Horizons featured the story of the birth of Resurrection Presbyterian Church in Oshkosh, WI. Resurrection is a daughter church of Apple Valley OPC in Neenah, WI and a mission work of the OP’s Presbytery of the Midwest. With joy, we report that this young daughter is healthy and growing! During her first fifteen months, Resurrection has outgrown some of her “infant clothing” by adding new members, new regular visitors, and several new babies. Her growth has increased her love and fellowship in Oshkosh and has even extended to Houston!
One of the families added to her number during the past year is the Harness family, who recently felt the call to short-term missions work. This Spring, Greg Harness, a former deacon in the OPC, led his wife and three children to Houston to assist the OPC Disaster Response Team with the work they’ve undertaken in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. Resurrection’s young age did not deter her from joyfully and fervently supporting the Harness family throughout the trip. Prayers and encouragement were readily provided, and the Lord honored those prayers.
Before their departure, the Harnesses had discussed the possibility that a mom and three children might be more of a burden than a blessing and would not be able to assist much with the work. Thankfully, the Lord ensured that this was not so! Within a short period of time, it became obvious that all members of the family could contribute to the needs in Houston. Taking their directions from the Disaster Response Team, the whole Harness family dove right into chiseling, sawing, scooping, dumping, tearing, pulling, and generally deconstructing a flood-damaged church building. Once the deconstruction was complete, the re-construction could begin! Week two of work in Houston consisted of constructing a moisture-proof barrier on the outside of the walls, insulating those walls, and hanging drywall.
For two weeks, the Harnesses worked on the newly-purchased church building which will be the future home of Cornerstone OPC in Houston. It didn’t take long for that place to feel like home to the Harnesses, as well. Why? Because the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit was with them! It was refreshingly obvious. Their first few hours in Houston were on the Lord’s Day, and as the Lord met with his saints during worship, they were greeted with this encouragement from God’s Word, “And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need” (Acts 2:44-45).
This was a perfect reminder that Christians are privileged to enjoy the warmth and love of the household of God no matter where they enter her doors in this world, whether in Oshkosh or in Houston. And this reminder anticipated what the Harnesses would soon discover afresh: not only had God sent them to Houston to serve and give, but also to be served and to receive the blessings of fellowship awaiting them among the saints in Houston.
As the trip progressed, God’s Word continued to provide the Harnesses with hope and reassurance. The Lord impressed upon these volunteers the following verses: “Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them” (Romans 12:6); “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace” (1 Peter 4:10). God had given this family the gifts of strong and healthy bodies, a lifestyle of physical labor, and flexibility in their work and school schedules. Although the Harnesses had viewed these gifts as unremarkable and inconsequential in the past, they now saw that these very gifts were designed for specific service in the kingdom of God! How they now appreciated the teaching of Scripture, that “…God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be?” (1 Cor. 12:18-19).
Although it was difficult for the Harnesses to leave their beloved brothers and sisters in Houston, who had loved them so well, they returned to Oshkosh thankful to be part of the local body to which God had assigned them. The love of the saints in Houston was every bit as heartwarming as the love they had known back in Oshkosh, and it provided great comfort to the Harnesses. So, too, did the labors of the OPC’s dedicated and well-equipped Disaster Response Team. Their direction and humble service is a delightful testimony to the love of Christ. When these short-term missionaries returned to their home church, they themselves were encouraged as they shared their experiences with the saints back in Wisconsin! (And it wasn’t a bad time to share a meal together!)
By God’s grace, the young flock of Resurrection OPC will soon enter her “toddler” years, experiencing increasing independence, along with the expected bumps and bruises that come with learning how to walk on her own. Resurrection’s members have already begun to benefit from the Harnesses report on their service in Houston and the kingdom lessons they learned along the way. They have been encouraged to value and use the unique gifts given to them by Christ, both for the benefit of their local congregation and in service to the broader church. More short-term missions trips are almost undoubtedly in her future!
The saints in Oshkosh still have much learning and growing to do, but they are pleased to be where the Lord has placed them and gladly confess, “The lines for [us] have fallen in pleasant places” (Psalm 16:6). The joys and difficulties of planting a new church and developing new ministries truly are occasions to see the Lord work in new and exciting ways. If you enjoy the provision of love and fellowship within the Church of Jesus Christ, be encouraged to pray for opportunities to spread that same love in service to those beyond your own local congregation…and when those opportunities come, embrace them! You won’t be disappointed by the strength and fellowship that God generously provides!