Weve just finished our biggest personal project of the year, our summer camp. Though not a work of the local church, because some recreation is involved, it gives us hours to pray, study and talk with young disciples and their friends. This year we had over 175 young people primarily from the Northeast and Canada and 40 older staff. Our theme was Johns epistles.
It is gratifying each year to see the growth of many of the young Christians during the one week of concentrated effort. Some who arrive unsure and aloof, leave with hugs and tears promising to stay in touch with their newfound Christian friends. I encouraged our teenagers to leave the comfort of their group to spend time talking to new arrivals and those from other areas. I noticed that several such as Melissa Severino and Anthony Payero made special efforts to help others.
One young man, Andy Imhof, was baptized into Christ after spending hours studying with Wes Gossett. Andy, from Columbia, New Jersey, is a friend of Raymond DeLorenzos and has been attending Bible studies and worship services for about three months with Raymond. He is leaving shortly for college at the University of Kansas in Lawrenceville, Kansas. We will be seeking the help of brethren there to help Andy to follow through with his commitment.
It seems that I am constantly reporting about the congregation in Upper Manhattan because of the constant growth there that seems to be accompanied by constant challenges. I try to spend just as much time with the Spanish-speaking congregation at Fair Lawn as with Upper Manhattan. Though more stable doctrinally and emotionally, it also has been less exciting in its growth. Brethren who attend at Fair Lawn are scattered throughout a large area of Northern New Jersey, generally work longer hours and therefore are able to spend less time together than those in New York.
One of our recently restored Christians in Fair Lawn, Vanessa Rodriguez, has organized several gatherings in a local park for the brethren to eat, play and pray together. We need more of these gatherings.
Juan Carlos Romero, who was recently restored, has been growing again in Christ along with his new family. Juan Carloss restoration came after Antonio Velasquez spent extensive time studying with him and his wife.
Michael Monclus, pictured on the left and who is about 15 uears old was baptized into Christ at Upper Manhattan. Tim Bunting and Emily Ferencze have who have studied worked and prayed with Michael for over a year. Gradually his street defensiveness and teenage self-centeredness have given way to a kindness and concern for others as the Holy Spirit has worked on his heart through his sword, the word, and the influence of Tim, Emily and others.
This weekend, a cousin of Michaels in the Dominican Republic was kidnapped, but thankfully released after a hefty ransom was paid. Michael was in tears most of Sunday morning before his cousins release. The brethren huddled around him, praying for strength for him in the midst of the crisis. Many parts of Latin America are increasingly affected by this type of lawlessness.
The building in Sherman is always crammed on Sunday mornings. The past two Sundays weve put a speaker out in the back of the building and about 20 -25 of our better behaved teenagers sit there in a shady spot listening to the message, since theres no room for them inside. This solution to overcrowding will work fine until the winter, or a thunderstorm.