“Rise & Shine” is a series of articles highlighting current ways West Church members are “shining brightly” for Christ on the North Shore. The Holy Spirit enables believers of all ages to share the gospel in varied and creative ways. The groups and individuals featured in “Rise & Shine” have responded to the Spirit’s prompting and serve as encouragement and motivation for us to “go and do likewise!”
“Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
Milk and Cookies
In the mid 1990’s, Jeff Thompson from Eastern European Outreach spoke at West Church about the need for mission trips to Russia. Stephanie Pointner was saddened to hear of the high suicide rates among young men being released from Russian prisons. “If only they could hear about Jesus!”
Stephanie eventually joined four mission trips to Russia, making sure to visit the local prison with an interpreter. She told the inmates that her reason for traveling such a long way was to tell them about Jesus.
Back home, Stephanie prayed about getting involved in a similar youth outreach and found Straight Ahead Ministries in Lynn, joining their weekly boys Bible Study for “level 1” youth offenders (ages 9-19) in Middleton, which later moved to a facility on Lowell St, Peabody. Along with food for the boys’ souls, Stephanie also brought “treats for their stomachs” thanks to the donations of cookies and milk by West Church volunteers.
Eight years ago, George Trainor joined the “Cookies and Milk” outreach, catching a vision of the connection between offering faithful, unconditional kindness along with the Bible lessons. The Department of Youth Services moved the pre-trial detention home for 15 boys to Amesbury where George and Stephanie have continued the “Cookies and Milk” Bible Study for the 9 boys who choose to attend. “We start each meeting by throwing a party for the guys, with ice breaker games, and desserts.” explained George. “Every day they’re being examined for what they did wrong. We want them to feel loved, no matter what.”
While working through the Straight Ahead Ministries 9 lesson curriculum of foundational Bible truths, each boy completing all 9 books receives a personalized Bible. After one study, a boy was eager to show Stephanie his certificate of completion hanging on his bedroom wall. “I’ve never won anything before!” he beamed.
The most effective Bible lesson over the years has been the parable of The Prodigal Son. George sees the boys respond to messages of “you’re not God, come to your senses and God is waiting to welcome you home no matter what you’ve done.” The required DYS staff monitoring the room hear the lessons as well. Several have been impacted over the years.
“Pre-trial correctional homes exist all over.” George sadly explained. He was recently asked to conduct a weekly 8-step, Christian recovery program in a higher level Methuen facility along with the help of Bob Harris.
“The invitation is open for anyone to come and meet the kids.” George and Stephanie welcome the help. “It means a lot to the boys to have people from the outside come. Just tell your story of what Christ has done for you!” For more information about this ministry contact the West Church Community Outreach Group at firstname.lastname@example.org.