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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Quabbin Reservoir in central MA
Autumn scene of the Quabbin Reservoir in Central Massachusetts

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"No Lost Cause"

"But with You there is forgiveness" (Psalm 130:4).  "Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him" (Hebrews 7:25). "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9).

Wayne & Yvette Gallagher 10/14/12
Wayne and Yvette Gallagher

We recently had the privilege of visiting with Wayne and Yvette Gallagher in their new church plant in Southbridge Massachusetts, an old mill town of nearly 17,000 in Central Massachusetts.
In considering a name for their church they drew from the town's history and used the name "New Vision Church", for a diverse group of people who are being transformed by Jesus Christ.

At one time the town had the unofficial title, "Eye of the Commonwealth". The American Optical Company became the world's largest manufacturer of ophthalmic products. At its height the company employed more than 6,000 people. Many of its workers were exempted from the draft during World War II since they were doing vital defense work, including making Norden bombsights and even some work on the atomic bomb. The American Optical Company shut down in 1984, and Southbridge is still struggling from the loss of these and other manufacturing jobs.

Yvette came into the church we pastored in New England when she was in her mid-thirties. She has a powerful testimony of God’s forgiveness and restoration and is pleased to share her testimony with the hope that Daily Encouragement readers will rejoice with her in the transforming and sustaining power of Jesus Christ. Her testimony is rather graphic but certainly not unlike that of many ravaged by sin. Sin is a brutal taskmaster that will take us in our weakness and drive us farther than we ever expected to go.

Raised in an ungodly home Yvette experienced physical, sexual, and emotional abuse from her mother’s boyfriend and his step-dad. Due to this ongoing abuse Yvette ran away from home when she was fourteen and lived on the streets.

She describes her life for the next 20 years as a series of addictions to alcohol, drugs, tobacco and sexual immorality. She had an abortion, as well as two children by two different men in abusive marriages. Many would call her life a "lost cause." But with God there is no lost cause!

A friend invited Yvette to her church and for the first time she heard the message of Christ’s love and forgiveness. She accepted Christ and thus began the major overhaul that is the process of spiritual transformation. After a couple years of staggered spiritual growth she came into our church with a tremendous amount of baggage that often contributed to her wavering Christian experience.

Over the next several years Brooksyne and I, along with the congregation, spent a great deal of time praying with her and sharing specific Scriptures pertinent to the current trial she was facing. She spent a lot of time in our home – we wanted her to witness a Christian family setting.

Yvette continued to experience great loss in her life and was homeless for a period as well.  She did tremendous battle with the enemy who still greatly desired to have her. But her heart was tender and Jesus desired to have her far more than Satan because He wanted to take the ashes of her life and turn them into something beautiful, and He has done just that.

Due, in part, to her lifestyle prior to becoming a Christian, both of her children followed in her path and entered into a sinful lifestyle. I recall as her pastor, along with our church, frequently praying for her children but seemingly to no avail. Since there were no visible signs of change I must admit my faith was often weak, but we continued to pray.

Yvette stayed faithful to the Lord, and in the years since we moved to Pennsylvania from New England, both of her children, Nicole and Joey, also accepted the Lord and are in active Christian service. 

In Christ there is complete and continual forgiveness! There’s no hopeless cause. He is able to save to the uttermost. A statement from a book I read many years ago by Max Lucado comes to mind. He uses it to conclude a powerful redemptive story of a wayward child. It’s God’s call to all: "Whatever you have done, whatever you have become, it doesn’t matter. Please come home."

We moved to Pennsylvania in 2001 but kept in touch with Yvette. She met Wayne while working at a Christian rehabilitation center called Teen Challenge.  Wayne received Christ and renounced his old way of life while he was a student there. I had the privilege of returning to Taunton, MA to perform their wedding ceremony in January of 2006.

They prepared for ministry together in the ensuing years after their marriage and are living testimonies of God's redemptive power.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, Yvette's story inspires and spurs us on to pray for our loved ones who just don't get it. Though we've prayed year after year and have felt great frustration at their willful defiance to spiritual truths we pray for them again. Not one of them is a lost cause, but rather a fragile lost soul with a rough exterior who has yet to recognize or acknowledge his need for redemption from a life of sin. Thank You, Father, that You save the vilest offender who surrenders his will to You.  All who come to Christ are miracles of Your grace and we commit our loved one(s) to You once again believing You for his or her miracle of redemption. In Christ's Name we pray. Amen.

A personal word from Yvette: I want to encourage those who are struggling to keep on pressing forward. Do not give up, and don’t lean on your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5,6). God is faithful to those who earnestly seek Him and put Him first (Hebrews 11:6 and Matthew 6:33). When you’re praying for your loved ones don’t give up when you don’t see instant results or outward change. God works where only He can see the thoughts and intents of the heart (Galatians 6:9).

Information on becoming a Christian

Wayne and Yvette's wedding
Wedding ceremony for Wayne and Yvette in January 2006
(Brooksyne's note: It's a good thing the wedding was in Massachusetts. If Stephen's mouth was that wide open here in Lancaster County surely a fly would make its way in. I've seen many a Lancaster preacher shoo the fly away while preaching.)

Mom with Joey Cullen
Joey, Yvette's son hugging my Mom.
My Mom loved all the kids in churches we served and the kids loved Mom. We found this photo of Joey giving my Mom a hug in 2001 right after we moved to Pennsylvania during his visit. Mom went to be with the Lord in 2005.

Joe Cullen ordination
This spring Joey (now Joe) was ordained to ministry. He serves as a youth pastor at Philadelphia Christian Center pastored by Phil Menditto, a friend I went to college with. In fact he married Phil's daughter!

Joe, Nicole and Yvette
Yvette with her children Joey and Nicole at her wedding. Nicole and her husband now have a daughter and she is preparing for ministry at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

Prayer service for Wayne and Yvette
Last year Wayne and Yvette visited our church in Mastersonville and several of us prayed over them. They had not yet launched the church plant but told us of their future mission.

Today we also want to share some photos from our activities yesterday!

Mike Stillman, Mike Cobb with Sports World 10/23/12
Mike Cobb (right in photo) is a retired Chicago Bears football player visiting our area speaking at school assemblies. Our friend, Mike Stillman, (center) is the local coordinator for Sports World that brings in the speakers. I drove Mike to his school meetings yesterday.

Mike Cobb with Solanco HS football team 10/23/12
Mike is speaking to the football team at Solanco High School. You can see the boys are attentive! He shared of his football years but also challenged the boys to live upright moral lives. He then gave a testimony of his faith Christ.

Debbie Hollinger with Second Street Shop 10/23/12
Brooksyne, on the other hand, volunteered with a group from our church who sorted donated clothing for the Second Street Thrift Store. Second Street is a non-profit thriftique that provides financial support for 53 orphans in three orphan homes in India. Debbie Hollinger is the founder who gives tirelessly of her time, energy,talents, and resources to this cause. If you're a local reader you'll want to visit Second Street in Denver or the newly opened store in Bowmansville. You'll find items at bargain prices in a very lovely setting, and help support a tremendous cause as well. (See link below photos.)
Sorting clothes for Second Street Shop 10/23/12
Sorting boxes and boxes of clothing. Only the best clothing is kept for the "YES" pile. The "NO" pile is sent to a location where textiles are purchased by the pound. The money is then donated to the orphanage, so nothing goes to waste. What fun it was to chat among the ladies as we sorted. We learned a little more about our pastor's taste in clothing when he picked out several outfits he thought would look lovely on his wife. John and Faithe weren't always in agreement nor were we so we had fun putting in our two cents here and there to help our our dear sister.

Today's Suggested Music
and Supplemental Resources

"Jesus Saves"  Video  Travis Cotrell

"Mercy Seat"  Video   Vicki Yohe

Note: I appreciate those who have filled out the reader survey we posted on Monday. One reader from Japan noted: "Thank you for your Daily Encouragement. Thank God for the Word of God through you. I am not a native speaker of English, so I prefer to see the song with lyrics on the screen or below or in additional information, please. The songs you suggest are my encouragement, thank you."  That's a good point and in selecting videos I will try to keep this in mind. However not all are available this way but both of today's songs have the lyrics. If anyone would care to fill out the survey it only takes about five minutes and is here.

One of these days we want to share a testimony about Wayne (Yvette's husband). I did locate this message in the archives which gives a bit of a background and a note about his stand for Christ.

New Vision Church  Church plant in South bridge Massachusetts.

Philadelphia Christian Center  Church where Joe serves as youth pastor.

Sports World Ministries  Mike Cobb works with this organization.

Second Street Shop  Debbie Hollinger's mission store

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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