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A Letter to You!
Sulphur Grove YF Alumni
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July 2, 2001

Once upon a time in a growing community of affordable brick homes there was an old country church. It was a simple building, yet it had an appeal that had stood the test of time. Atop the old red brick structure was a white steeple that could be seen from some distance. At night the lights would shine on the steeple and seem to call to all who passed by. The community was quickly sprawling north towards the simple and historic building. It would only be a matter of time until the houses would be right around the corner, encouraging the old country atmosphere to be transformed into the faster paced suburban image.

The congregations of the old church had earned a reputation for embracing this kind of change with a kind of resolve to reach out, to make others welcome, and to include newcomers. Each time the building was upgraded, the change was intended to make room for more believers while preserving the charm of the old building. But it was not really the building that needed to be preserved. When you think of country folk, the kind who were the founders of so many country churches across the country, you tend to associate the old country atmosphere, hence the building style, with that sincere desire to associate with and share unselfishly with other community members. When you walk into a church, don't you just really want to be greeted warmly from the first time you walk in, and don't you want them to remember your name on every subsequent visit? Well, this old country church was just that kind. The kind that didnt have a greeting time printed in the bulletin, because by the time you got to that part of the service, greetings had already happened.

Now among the believers at this church were a small handful of youth who seemed to have inherited or learned the trait of reaching out. The leadership of the church saw that other youth groups were flourishing in the community and thought that there was no reason why that couldn't happen on the north end as well. So together they found some pastors in training who were willing to serve as youth leaders, and they began to do the things that young people of that time were prone to do: hang out, goof around, do fun things. Somewhere in the middle of all that they found time to share thoughts on their faith, raise money for their group through work projects, and occasionally go on a mission trip or two. It wasn't long before the word was out, and the number of youth that participated grew to some attention getting numbers. I try not to put too much faith in numbers as an indicator of success, but this seemed significant at the time. I believe now that it may have distracted us from the really significant thing that began then, and that still is affecting our lives today.

Some 25 years later a subset of those who were there for the youth group explosion gathered again for the first time as adults. The gathering was unexpected, unplanned, and undesirable--a memorial service. As they reflected on the life of one of their members who had recently passed on, they couldn't help but also reflect on their own lives as well. It suddenly seemed desirable to try to revisit that time of fun and fellowship. They were anxious to see how it would feel to come together again just one more time. Wouldn't it be fun to see our cohorts and leaders again and remember through the old songs, pictures, and stories what it was like to be a part of such a special group?

I have heard it said that it is common for the relationships formed during youth group years to last a lifetime. So it was not a surprise to me that a reunion would be a good idea. And it was. The reminiscing and catching up went on for the allotted time. But after the cleanup it wasn't over. Something still needed to be done. My wife knew what it was even before the reunion. She began sharing her thoughts, or leadings with me as the day of the reunion approached. So after the reunion, some of the leftover participants hung around to discuss the something else. I don't think any of them knew that that was what they were doing. But something, or someone led them to wait and watch.

I consider myself to be an outside observer of most these events. I joined the group late enough to just catch the tail end of the explosion, and as such I never felt like I was much of a contributor. I think that has allowed me to be fairly objective in this summary of what has happened. I also consider myself to be good at asking questions that get right to the heart of the matter. So I posed some questions to those still hanging around.

Why did this happen? Why did this group of people come together at that particular time? How did they make such a special event happen? Why were you there?

"The church was ready. It had been building for some time. It was just ready for something like this," answered one of them.

"I did not anticipate an experience like this, nor have I experienced one like it since. If I had not experienced it, I would likely have taken a much different path in life," came another answer.

Each of the original participants will have their own answer to these questions. I can't escape the premonition that all of the answers will be similar. My conclusion is this: We were given a gift. And with that gift comes a responsibility. I believe that a seed was planted in our hearts 25 years ago. I, myself, had forgotten that it was there. But now that I am reminded, I want to take measures to make sure I don't forget again. I now realize how important it is to have a fellowship of believers who know me, on whom I can depend when I am troubled or in need, and who are interested in hearing about my struggles and blessings. So the question now is: How do we interact with each other from a distance? And what will be the purpose of that interaction? Here are some verses that I went to for answers to these questions.

Jude 1:20 But you, dear friends, must continue to build your lives on the foundation of your holy faith. And continue to pray as you are directed by the Holy Spirit. F6 21 Live in such a way that God's love can bless you as you wait for the eternal life that our Lord Jesus Christ in his mercy is going to give you. 22 SHOW MERCY TO THOSE WHOSE FAITH IS WAVERING. 23 RESCUE OTHERS BY SNATCHING THEM FROM THE FLAMES OF JUDGEMENT. There are still others to whom you need to show mercy, but be careful that you aren't contaminated by their sins.


1 Thessalonians 5:11-15
11 SO ENCOURAGE EACH OTHER AND BUILD EACH OTHER UP, just as you are already doing. 12 Dear brothers and sisters, honor those who are your leaders in the Lord's work. They work hard among you and warn you against all that is wrong. 13 Think highly of them and give them your wholehearted love because of their work. And remember to live peaceably with each other. 14 Brothers and sisters, we urge you to WARN THOSE WHO ARE LAZY. ENCOURAGE THOSE WHO ARE TIMID. TAKE TENDER CARE OF THOSE WHO ARE WEAK. Be patient with everyone. 15 See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to everyone else.

James 5:16
CONFESS YOUR SINS TO EACH OTHER AND PRAY FOR EACH OTHER so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and wonderful results.

Hebrews 3:13
You must WARN EACH OTHER EVERY DAY, as long as it is called "today," so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God

Hebrews 10:24-25
Think of ways to ENCOURAGE ONE ANOTHER to outbursts of love and good deeds.
And let us NOT NEGLECT OUR MEETING TOGETHER, as some people do, but ENCOURAGE AND WARN EACH OTHER, especially now that the day of his coming back again is drawing near.
1 Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to LEAD A LIFE WORTHY OF YOUR CALLING, for you have been called by God.
2 Be humble and gentle. BE PATIENT WITH EACH OTHER, making allowance for each other's faults because of your love. 3 ALWAYS KEEP YOURSELVES UNITED IN THE HOLY SPIRIT, and bind yourselves together with peace. 4 We are all one body, we have the same Spirit, and we have all been called to the same glorious future. 5 There is only one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 and there is only one God and Father, who is over us all and in us all and living through us all. 7 However, he has given each one of us a special gift according to the generosity of Christ. 8 That is why the Scriptures say, "When he ascended to the heights, he led a crowd of captives and gave gifts to his people." 9 Notice that it says "he ascended." This means that Christ first came down to the lowly world in which we live. 10 The same one who came down is the one who ascended higher than all the heavens, so that his rule might fill the entire universe. 11 He is the one who gave these gifts to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God's people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ, 13 until we come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God's Son that we will be mature and full grown in the Lord, measuring up to the full stature of Christ. 14 THEN WE WILL NO LONGER BE LIKE CHILDREN, forever changing our minds about what we believe because someone has told us something different or because someone has cleverly lied to us and made the lie sound like the truth. 15 Instead, WE WILL HOLD ON TO THE TRUTH IN LOVE, BECOMING MORE AND MORE IN EVERY WAY LIKE CHRIST, who is the head of his body, the church. 16 Under his direction, the whole body is fitted together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.

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Encourage, build up, warn, rescue, care for, stay united. These are the directions the New Testament writers provided for the early church. I believe they still apply to us today for how we interact with the body of Christ.

Other members have echoed the things I have shared with you. We believe we have been called to a ministry much the same way we were called 25 years ago.

This is the challenge we have been given. This website is one attempt to stay united. We will also meet again and do more brainstorming on Dec. 29, 2001 in Huber Heights. If you feel called to do so, please join us. Spouses or any adults wanting to participate are encouraged to do so. Former youth group members of the mid '70's are not the only ones God is calling. Please pray for our members and this gathering. We hope you can come, but if not, stay in touch. God Bless You!

In God's Love,
Tom Thomson