November Update: Healthy Growth, Covenant Service, and More!

Autumn is fully upon us here in central Washington. The leaves have changed and fallen, the majority of the fields and orchards have been harvested, and our clocks have been adjusted to “normal” time—or if you are like me, the clock in your office is now correct!

The new season has brought new growth and excitement to the people of The River Church. God has given us new friends in our worship gathering, more people participating in discipleship groups, a deepening in our spiritual growth through missional communities, and a healthy anticipation of the new year.

I wish I could share the story of each person that has begun attending our worship gathering; hopefully you will hear their testimonies in time! One individual unexpectedly showed up a month ago. This was a person for whom I have prayed for over 18 months! Several other friends and neighbors have also begun attending our gathering. God is causing fruit to grow from our many relationships and gospel-conversations, and our worship gatherings continue to be a sweet time of singing, corporate prayer, scripture reading, and preaching.

God is growing our discipleship groups, as well. We began two more groups last month, each of them committed to praying for one another, studying the Bible together, and encouraging each other in gospel repentance and belief. What a blessing to see these men and women gathering to grow as followers of Jesus!

This fall we have only had one missional community meeting. Since last year we had as many as four communities meeting, but most of them were quite small and struggled to establish healthy rhythms as a community. Our obvious goal is to multiply missional communities, but it has been important to invest in the one this fall. The result has been healthy growth marked by sharing life experiences, growing in knowledge of God and his ways, and putting our faith into practice. We have rallied together several times to serve one another, love one another, and be there for each other. We have grown by focusing our time on what God is saying to us from the Bible and what we are going to do about it. In September we completed “We Are Family,” a series about what it means to be the church. Since October we have been studying John 13-16, in a series called “Disciple Life.” For both series I have shared a message on Sunday morning during our worship gathering, and later, utilizing a study guide, we have discussed the content of the Bible passage in our missional community. It has been amazing to see how God is using this process to transform our community and church!

We are very excited about what God is going to do in 2016. One of our challenges has been our meeting place on Sunday mornings. In many ways it has been a great blessing to meet in our city’s community center, but we have not had adequate space to do child care during our worship gathering. The good news is that God has presented us with a possible new location. We are in the process of reaching an agreement to meet there, and when we know for certain we will share the details. In the meantime, we are praying fervently for God to make a way!

We are also excited about a special gathering we have planned for January 3, 2016. Although we have been meeting as a church for some time, we knew that at some point we would need to mark a time when we as followers of Jesus committed ourselves to membership in The River Church. In a way, a special gathering like this is a technicality of sorts, but it is still a seriously joyful moment to formally recognize our membership into Christ’s body which is our local church! So on Sunday, January 3, 2016, we are gathering for our Covenant Celebration, a time when we will formalize our commitment to covenant membership in The River Church. Our core group is very excited, and we invite all of our partners to attend and celebrate with us!

Finally, as 2015 comes to a close, I want to share how grateful I am for each of you. God has been so gracious to us these past two years by bringing you into our lives. You have prayed for us and some of you have also supported us financially. We will remain eternally grateful for every way you have partnered with us. We could not do what we are doing without you. And that remains the case going into the new year. In fact, your financial support will help us in various ways next year: rental of new facility, support of church planter intern (more on this in next month’s update!), expanded sound system, summer children’s program, mailers and advertising, pastor and staff support, and various administrative costs. If you are a financial partner, thank you! If you have not supported us financially, would you consider either making a one-time, year-end donation, or sign up to be a monthly partner? You can visit our website for more info: http://theriverchurchmoxee.com/give. Even a small amount would make a significant difference for the kingdom of God here in central Washington!

On behalf of our entire church family, thank you for your prayers and support.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21, ESV)

Grace and peace,

Michael and Cheryl Johnson

Family Update; How We Baptized Three; Our Summer Plans

To our partners in the gospel:

Greetings from Moxee, Washington!

We have allowed several weeks to go by since our last prayer update. We pray you are well and that God is blessing your families and churches.

It has been an intense and fruitful spring here in the east valley of Yakima. After a very mild winter, summer has come on strong. The orchards are producing quickly and the hop vines are spreading. Cherry season started several weeks earlier than last year and is keeping our community busy.

Our family has been busy with a number of things, but God has been very good to us. The girls are doing well in school and have finished the year strong. Michael participated in commencement from the Pacific Northwest Campus of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary. It is quite a relief to finally finish that long journey.

Cheryl was offered an unexpected job opportunity. There is a cafe in our city that we love to frequent. The ladies who opened it one year ago have been pouring their lives into their small business. As we have gotten to know them, Cheryl recognized their need for help and volunteered. Her offer has turned into a part-time job! Now she is working almost every day for a few hours, sometimes more, and is building relationships with dozens of people in our community. Many of those relationships have resulted in gospel conversations. Please pray that much fruit would develop from this opportunity.

One of the highlights of our spring was the opportunity to share baptism with three believers. On Sunday, May 17, The River Church gathered for worship in the park and baptized two adult men and one girl. It was a beautiful time as each one shared their short testimony of how they came to faith in Jesus, and we baptized them into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Along with a certificate of baptism we gave each of them a study Bible to help them grow as followers of Jesus. (Please take a look at our Facebook page for pictures.)

Here is a little about each one: One man had professed faith as a child, but his life has been full of difficulties and struggles since. Yet, God worked in his life to steer him back to Jesus. He finally came to realize that if he was going to be a faithful follower of Jesus he needed to be baptized. Another man grew up in a religion that does not teach the biblical truths of Jesus. As a young man he came to a complete, saving faith in Jesus. He desired to experience believer baptism, too. Finally, one young girl also expressed her faith in Jesus through baptism. She was saved last summer during our Summer Children’s Program but needed time to understand her new faith and what baptism signified in her life in Christ. Pray for these three, that they will grow as followers of Jesus and grow in their understanding of God and his will for their lives.

We are very excited for another summer in Moxee. This week we will be participating in the first of several “Movie in the Park” events. We will be there to do face painting, give out balloon animals, and distribute invitations to our Summer Children’s Program.

This year our Summer Children’s Program will take place August 10-14. Our theme is “The Great Campout: Journey with Jesus.” During four days of games, crafts, music, and snacks, we will share stories from the Gospels that will help children understand what it means to be a follower of Jesus. At the end of the week we will have a Block Party with the entire community. Last year we had a great response from our city, we reached around 70 children, and several of them made decisions to follow Jesus. We were able to give out more than four dozen Bibles and several families began attending our worship gathering as a result. It was very apparent to us then, as it is now, that we cannot do it without the support of our partners. We want to thank you in advance for your generosity and prayer support. With your help we hope to reach more than 100 children and their families.

Please keep us in prayer:

  • that we will witness about Jesus with boldness and faithfulness.
  • that God will send faithful, mission-minded believers to join our church family.
  • that God will send us or raise up a worship leader.
  • that some property will sell so we can use the proceeds to invest in our city.
  • that God will provide all the resources needed for the “The Great Campout.”

Summer Children’s Program and Block Party Report

From Cheryl:

Greetings from The River, Moxee!

It has been yet another amazing month at The River Church, Moxee! God has been blessing our family and church over and over again with his presence, provision and power. He has certainly done more than we could ask or imagine in the month of August!

We began the month by hosting a booth at our local Hops Festival here in Moxee. A big shout out to our friends at Helping Hands 4 Christ for providing the booth, tables and making the arrangements with the city for us to be there. You guys blessed us tremendously! We were asked to make balloon animals for the kids so that’s exactly what we did. But first, we had to figure out how to make balloon animals! (Again, thanks HH4C for the instructional video!) After a very short tutorial, we were set to make balloon animal history at Hops Fest 2014! I don’t think we actually made history, but I’m pretty sure we made hundreds and hundreds of balloon animals. None of us were prepared for how sore our fingers would become from tying off all those balloons. Ouch! But the good news was, we got about two dozen kids registered for the upcoming Summer Children’s Program! Yay, God! It was also just a wonderful opportunity to get out in the community and get to know them and let them get to know us. We even met one family there that has since joined us at The River. Praise God!!

After Hops Fest, our attention fully turned to the arrival of the Georgia mission team and the start of the Summer Children’s Program. I have to admit, I was feeling a bit overwhelmed with all there was to do. But again, through God’s power and grace, it all got done. The GA mission team arrived on August 16th and were ready to get right to work. Lucky for them, there was plenty to do! We prepared crafts, went prayer walking, handed out information about the SCP, handed out water bottles and did many, many other activities. Of course, the highlight was the SCP, which began on the evening of August 18th.

The Summer Children’s Program was amazing!! First, we had two teams join us: Chestnut Street Baptist Church in Ellensburg, WA, and Terrace Heights Baptist Church in Yakima, WA. (Thanks everyone!) The hours that led up to that first evening were insane as we raced to complete a million last minute tasks but again, God was faithful and helped us through. Everything got done and we began the week with 36 kids in attendance. The next night, we had 50 kids come out!! Wednesday night, Michael presented the gospel to the kids and several raised their hands to pray and respond to the gospel!! We were overwhelmed by what God was doing and are still trying to follow up with the kids and their families.

The week culminated with the Block Party. It was another busy day with lots and lots of loose ends to pull together but God had it all in his capable hands. After a week of near perfect weather, on the day of the block party, rain and storms were predicted. Sure enough, as we finished setting up, the storms arrived. We prayed that God would still bring people out and he certainly did! We had approximately 300 in attendance!! I like to say God sent the rain because if it had been bright and sunny we would’ve been completely overwhelmed! Hot dogs, snow cones, popcorn and face painting were all a part of the fun to the glory of God. Another big shout out to CSBC, THBC, Parkway Baptist Church (GA) and Richland Baptist Church for providing the volunteers and resources to help make this happen. Several churches were used mightily by the Lord to make His name famous and give him glory!

The day after the block party it was time to say farewell to our beloved GA mission team. It had been an exhausting but fun time serving the Lord with them. Before they left, we of course had to show off our beautiful state and took a trip to Mt. Rainier. That was a special treat!

The Lord has certainly been working here in Moxee in the month of August. So much so, we can hardly keep up. Please be praying for us as we strategically plan for the last few months of the year. We would like to start up at least two additional Missional Communities and several new Discipling Groups. Please pray for us as we disciple new friends and neighbors that God has brought into our lives. We are praying for lives to be transformed! Please also pray for favor in the community and that God would bring more people into community at The River Church, Moxee.

God bless you all!

To help The River Church transform lives, families, and communities with the Good News of Jesus click here. Thank you for your generous support!

Incarnational Living, Hop Fest, and Children’s Program

Greetings from The River, Moxee!

It has been another exciting month of church planting here in Moxee! God has continued to awe and amaze us with His presence, power and provision. This month God has taught us that He can and will use anyone, and I mean ANYone to bring people closer to Himself and to fulfill His purposes.

We made several connections with our neighbors and fellow Moxee community members in June, but two stand out as awesome examples of God’s sovereignty and perhaps, sense of humor. The first was when we went to pick up one of our girls from a birthday party. We prayed God would help us connect with the parents before we left and sure enough, we stayed at least an hour talking with them, hearing their story and encouraging them with the gospel. To protect privacy, I’m trying to keep this as vague as possible, but what I found out through that hour of conversation, is that God can use neighbors that don’t actually like each other all that much to get people where they need to be. If God can do that, He can use anyone He likes to further his kingdom!

Another conversation happened when a man came to our door with his daughter. We didn’t know him and barely knew his daughter. We were very surprised but what I’m sure was intended to be a short greeting turned into a 2 hour long conversation. We were able to hear his story, share the gospel and invite him into community. Again, I wish I could share the whole story because it truly is amazing but confidentiality prevents me from doing so. Just know that God is sovereign. Nobody knocks on your door on accident!

Incarnational Living photo

We had the privilege of having our dear friends, Eric and Kim Lee, join us to share about living on mission. They referred to it as “incarnational living.” Eric and Kim have a small business that seeks to serve the thousands of people who live in apartment complexes in Seattle, and through their business they are building relationships that lead to Gospel sharing. Their methods are simple and something everyone can do. They believe, as do we, that God has put you in the neighborhood you’re in for a reason. It’s not a mistake or inconsequential to how He wants you to live out the great commission of going into all nations and making disciples. My favorite tip was going to ask a neighbor for a cup of milk or sugar or whatever you’ve run out of before sending your husband to the grocery store for an ingredient. Asking for a cup of milk, when done missionally, can open doors for the gospel!

August will be a big month for us! First we will be hosting a booth at the local Hop Festival of Moxee. This will be a great time to let the community see who we are and put a face to the name they have been hearing about. We will offer to pray for people and will be advertising the Summer Children’s Program set for August 18-22nd. Speaking of which, the Summer Children’s Program (SCP) is fast approaching! We need all the prayer support we can get for both events.

We are still excitedly planning for SCP. We plan to have four days of what is probably a traditional backyard Bible club in the park and then the last day will be the community block party. Please be in diligent prayer over both the Hop Festival and SCP. We don’t know who will show up at these events but God does. Our prayer is that even now He will be working in those people’s hearts, preparing them to hear the gospel and be transformed.

As you pray for the Summer Children’s Program understand that it will take partners to financially support it. There are reservations to pay for, food and bouncy houses, and advertising. In addition, we want to give a Jesus Storybook Bible to every family that attends our SCP or block party. They cost around $10 each and we hope to connect with at least 100 families that week! You can do the math! If you want to support this outreach to our community please give generously, and no matter what, pray!

Thank you for your faithful prayers! We depend on the prayers of the saints going up on our behalf to sustain us. Please contact us with any prayer concerns you may have. It is our privilege to lift up our partners in prayer.

God bless you,

Michael and Cheryl Johnson and The River Church

To help The River Church transform lives, families, and communities with the Good News of Jesus click here. Thank you for your generous support!

Gathering, Service, Meeting Place, and Prayer Needs

Happy Spring from The River Church!

Spring has sprung here in the Yakima Valley! The tulips and daffodils are coming up beautifully and the trees are starting to green up. I even wore short sleeves as I walked the girls to school this morning. What more could you ask for? Well, I’ll tell you what more, prayer!

As most of you know, we had our very first worship gathering as The River Church March 30. It was a wonderful time of worship and celebration of all that the Lord has done. I would like to set up an Ebenezer stone as Samuel did in 1 Samuel 7:12 and say, “Thus far the LORD has helped us.” And he has!

We have been adding several more names to the prayer team this month. We are well over half-way to our goal of at least 200. You can join our prayer team by clicking “Contact.” Be sure to let us know how you prefer to be contacted.

We are also about to add another family to the core team! We have been prayerfully exploring how we can partner with a local ministry called Helping Hands 4 Christ to better reach our community with the gospel. They are doing some fantastic work! We have been getting some logistics together such as insurance and non-profit status. Not the most exciting news, I’ll admit, but it needs to be done and every little step is important and is evidence of God’s grace and mercy throughout this whole journey. Thus far the LORD has helped us!

Our prayer needs are very similar to last month. We are still praying for more prayer partners. We are praying for 4-6 Missional Communities to be started over the next several months. We are beginning with our core team this month and will hopefully multiply out from there. Please be praying for the core team as we step out in faith and make new connections with our neighbors to invite them into community in Christ. We are all out of our comfort zones and need the Holy Spirit to give us boldness!

We are also praying for more discipling relationships to be formed. We are especially praying for more connections with lost people around us. Please pray for several individuals and families we have been reaching out to and inviting to join us at The River.

As you know, meeting the needs of people around us is one of the best ways to reach people with the gospel. We are prayerfully considering how we can best do that here in Moxee. Each community is unique and each community has unique needs. We are more than happy to bring cookies to the teachers at our local school and to our local fire department, but we’re hoping to go a little deeper into what would be most meaningful to the people of Moxee. Can you please pray that God will show us very specific, unique ways to meet needs around us that will show Moxee that we mean business and we care about individuals, families and the community around us? Pray that God would begin opening doors to His gospel and we would be bold and faithful to share it at every opportunity.

We are exploring different options for places to meet for our worship gatherings. Our first choice is Moxee Elementary. Please be praying for us as we apply to reserve that space,and if God has another place for us, that he would make that clear.

Please also continue to pray that God would raise up more financial partners. Financial partners are critical to obtaining the resources we need to operate, stay afloat and do ministry. If God is leading you to be a financial partner with us click “Give.” I am happy to say that God came through in some amazing ways last month in this department! I wish everyone could see God working in the way that we have while on this journey. It’s been the scariest thing we’ve ever done but by far the most rewarding. Nothing has been sweeter than watching Jesus take care of us. It has also given us new meaning to “our daily bread!” God is faithful! Thus far the LORD has helped us!

I suppose that is all for now. Please feel free to contact us with any prayer requests you may have. It is our pleasure and privilege to lift each of you up in prayer.

God bless,

Cheryl