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Dec 2022 Student Acteens Panelist Blog

Missions Is about More Than Long Trips Abroad

Due to the start of the pandemic in 2020 and some health complications the year before, it had been quite a while before I physically participated in anything missions-related. I recently had the opportunity to help with an outreach ministry with my school’s Bible study club to make gift boxes for children in Mexico. Sure, it was more so behind-the-scenes work, and I was not on the frontlines along with the people that would deliver the boxes and share the gospel, but in a way, I was helping those missionaries and experiencing a small part of the overall mission from that little classroom. We met on a Friday after school to assemble the boxes to send to the Regalos de Amor ministry, the ministry that would deliver the gift boxes to the children in Nuevo Leon, Mexico. They would then share the gospel with the children and their families. As soon as I entered the classroom where we were meeting, I was surprised at the various items that were donated for the kids. I knew that we provided several announcements that we were accepting donations to make these boxes, but I was not expecting so many donations from both the students and faculty members. Regardless, I knew it was such a blessing that we had so much support and help to complete this project. All the other club members were equally thankful for our school’s generous contribution. After a short prayer over the boxes and the children that would receive them, we began to assemble. The experience was not anything out of the ordinary or extravagant. The items for the kids were spread out on tables, we had some music to make the environment livelier, and of course, we had a few snacks. While I was assembling the boxes for the kids, I felt so overwhelmed with many emotions and thoughts. In my mind, I remember praying and asking God to bless the child or teenager that would be provided with each box. I prayed that the gift would help them and their families in any way that He would choose and that the gifts would establish the beginning of a connection with God. As I assembled the gift boxes, I was also able to reflect on my life. I remembered how much I like to serve and how much I missed serving during the time I was unable to do so. I mostly missed the feeling of doing something for someone other than myself for the right reasons and with the intention of showing God’s love to others through my actions. Even though I would not be there to see joy on the faces of those who received the gift boxes, I find joy in knowing that I played a significant part in the whole process. This, in a way, made me realize how much serving and doing missions positively impacts my life and it brought me closer to God all at the same time. At the end of the entire process, before we knew it, we had assembled more than 15 to 20 boxes in total. All that was left to do was to put a few personalized notes in the boxes and send them to Regalos de Amor ministries to be shipped off to Nuevo Leon. By the time we finished securing the boxes, it was time to leave and go home. On the way home, I made a promise to myself to do everything I could to try and participate in more missions like this. I was very thankful that I had the chance to participate in missions again. The entire experience reinforced the concept that doing missions is not only about long trips to places abroad but is also about serving behind the scenes. The good news is the mission field is not limited. The mission field can be in your own city, your neighborhood, and even in your schools. Your mission field should be anywhere and everywhere you are. Aileen Gregorio Mejia, a 2022 National Acteens Panelist, is from Garland, Texas, and attends Freeman Heights Baptist Church.

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Dec 2022 preschool devotion

Hope in Christ: God Is With Us

My friend tells the story that as a small child, she carried the baby Jesus figure from her family’s nativity set around with her the entire Christmas season. She remembers that she loved the little baby Jesus and wanted to have Him with her all the time. She would carry the figure in her hand. If her mother ever put the figure back in the nativity set, my friend would pick up the baby Jesus again later to keep with her. My friend had baby Jesus with her constantly. Her story reminds us of the hope Jesus gives because He is with us constantly. At Christmas we celebrate that Jesus came to earth to be God with us. John 1:14 tells us, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” We also read in Matthew 1:23, “See, the virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and they will name him Immanuel, which is translated ‘God is with us.’” These are words of hope to us today in assuring us that Jesus dwells with us. This means that He stays and resides with us. He is with us in our difficulties as well as on the days that are smooth sailing. May this bring hope in Christ, even in times when we need to be patient in our troubles. This Christmas season, celebrate that God is with you constantly. May this be a time of hope in knowing that Jesus is Immanuel, God with us. Pray: I praise you, Father, for sending Jesus to be “God with us.” As I celebrate Christmas, may I be mindful that You dwell in my heart. Thank You for the hope this brings. Guide me to share the joy of Your presence with others around me. As I teach preschoolers, help me to share Your love with them. In Jesus’ name, amen. by Joye Smith, WMU Preschool Ministry Consultant

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Dec 2022 Preschool Interest Areas Art and Blocks

Interest Areas in Mission Friends: Art and Blocks

Interest Areas in a Mission Friends classroom are specific areas of focus where activities are designed for preschoolers to learn through play. Interest Areas, found in Mission Friends Leader, are spread throughout the classroom and preschoolers are encouraged to choose an activity that appeals to them. The Interest Area approach creates exciting ways for preschoolers to explore the missions area, missionaries, and Christian concept area for each unit — all while allowing them to learn through their own interests. The Interest Areas employed in Mission Friends are Art, Blocks, Books, Homeliving, Music and Movement, Nature, and Puzzles and Manipulatives. In this blog we’ll cover Art and Blocks.   Art Age-appropriate art activities help preschoolers grow and develop through the manipulation and exploration of art materials. The Art interest area in Mission Friends helps preschoolers express creativity, encourages self-expression, and allows them to use their imagination while learning about missionaries, the missions area, and the Christian concept area. Tip 1: Engage an adult or student to occasionally help with art activities. Extra hands will be much appreciated as they help preschoolers cut, color, glue, assemble, or paint. Both preschoolers and your extra helpers will be learning about missions while helping in the Art interest area. And who knows? You could even be mentoring a potential Mission Friends leader. Tip 2: Involve adult groups in your church by asking them to donate art supplies for your Mission Friends. Share a list of needed items. Show some completed art activities and pen a thank you note. Click here for a list of supplies that are great to keep on hand in your classroom. Tip 3: Store art supplies in clear containers to make weekly preparations easier. If you share a room with another class, this will ensure that your resources stay together. All items should be age-appropriate for preschoolers.   Blocks The interest area of Blocks provides opportunities for all ages of preschoolers to gain skills in problem-solving, color sorting, social skills, and creativity. A block area should have a large space so preschoolers can spread out as they build and create. The use of varying sizes of blocks will enhance the skills of your preschoolers. Wooden, plastic, and cardboard blocks allow creativity as they build and pretend. Sit on the floor with your Mission Friends to provide help when needed and guide the conversation about the missionaries and the missions area in which they live. Tip 1: Occasionally, consider using the hallway for block play. The hallway allows more space, especially when building a roadway or city. Use painters’ tape on the floor to mark off the area of play or mark roads to build with blocks. Tip 2: In a plastic container, store a variety of sizes and textures of cardboard, painters’ tape, cardboard tubes, carpet samples, craft sticks, small food boxes, and plastic tablecloths or flat sheets (blue, white, green, and brown). These items allow preschoolers to expand their imagination as they create landscapes and cityscapes using the additional materials.   Interest Areas make learning about missionaries fun! Hearing your Mission Friends exclaim, “What are we going to learn tonight, Mrs. Phyllis?” makes the preparation of each area worth the time and effort. by Beth Campbell

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Dec 2022 Preschool web article

One Bulletin Board + One Photo = A Mission Friends Invitation Idea!

December is a wonderful time to invite new preschoolers to join your Mission Friends class. Use this idea with your December 2022 unit in Mission Friends Leader. Supplies: December 2022 Bulletin Board Idea (PDF) “You Are Invited!” Invitation Template (PDF) digital camera paper cutter card stock markers glue sticks invitation envelopes stamps Instructions: Create the December bulletin board. Click here for the bulletin board sample, supply list, and directions. Print a copy of the “You Are Invited!” Invitation Template. Fill in the meeting time, day, and place. Then make copies on card stock and cut each sheet into two cards. Fold cards in half to make invitations. Arrange your Mission Friends near the bulletin board and take a picture of them with a digital camera. Print copies of the picture. Caution: Follow your church’s guidelines for taking and sharing photos of preschoolers. Invite preschoolers to decorate the cards with markers. Help glue a photo on each card. Place cards in envelopes. Distribute invitations. Here are some ideas for distributing invitations: Send one home with each preschooler so he or she can give one to a friend or neighbor. Ask at the church office for names and addresses of families with preschoolers. Address and mail a card to each family. Carry invitations with you. Give one to families you see with preschoolers (at church, at work, while running errands, or in your neighborhood). Get ready to welcome new preschoolers to Mission Friends! by Janora Skeens

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Dec 22 On the Journey

Setting Idols Ablaze

Two months ago, I started a story provided by former missionary kid Anne Lucas, who grew up in Nigeria. The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering provided funds to buy a motorcycle. Her father and a pastor used that motorcycle, named “Miss Lottie,” to travel to a remote village to share the gospel. In the process, a pagan priestess confronted Anne’s father, asking, “What took you so long?” Here’s how Anne concludes the story.   The priestess grabbed Daddy by the arm and pulled him with her toward a little thatched-roof hut. He had to bend over to enter the tiny doorway. As he did, Daddy was overwhelmed with the stench of dead animals and rotten food. There were hundreds of idols made from all kinds of materials stacked everywhere. The food and animals were used as sacrifices to those idols. The priestess said in an angry voice, “You see these gods? They do nothing but sit here. We pray. We beg. We plead. We sacrifice what we have. They don’t love us. They don’t care for us. You tell us about a God of love who has existed since the beginning of time. What took you so long to come tell us this wonderful news?” Once again, the priestess grabbed Daddy’s arm and pulled him through the doorway outside. She grabbed a piece of burning wood from the fire just outside the door. Daddy was truly not sure what she had in mind. With the wood, she set the idol house on fire. Then she said, “Sit and tell me about this God and His Son, Jesus.” The priestess became a follower of Jesus and an avid learner. Others in that village became believers that very day. A few months later, Daddy and the pastor returned to the village on the motorcycle named “Miss Lottie.” The people came out laughing and happily invited Daddy and the pastor into their homes. The entire village had become believers. They influenced neighboring villagers to follow Christ.   Think of the circumstances nearly seven decades ago. Southern Baptists surpassed their Lottie Moon Christmas Offering goal. A missionary in the bush of northern Nigeria was able to get a small motorcycle that took him and a Nigerian pastor far into the jungle. An influential villager heard about Jesus for the first time. An idol house was destroyed. A village began to follow Christ. Surrounding villages became followers of Christ. Praise God!   Father, May our passion be Your mission to redeem and restore humanity through hope in Christ. We want to see Your glory reflected in the lives of every nation, tribe, people, and language. In Jesus’ name, amen. Sandy Wisdom-Martin serves as the executive director/treasurer for national WMU. Click here to read Part 1 of this 3-part series. Click here to read Part 2 of this 3-part series.

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Jan 2023 PH Mental Health blog

Coping with Anxiety Disorders: Talking Openly about Mental Health

Anxiety is a scary thing. It often misconstrues the truth, leaving us consumed with worry that refuses to let us function in the here and now. Unfortunately, anxiety is a common thread of humanity, something we all experience. We know the Bible tell us, “Do not be anxious about anything” (Phil. 4:6 NIV), but for many, anxiety is more than a normal reaction to life. There is a distinct difference between worries we all experience and an anxiety disorder diagnosis. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, anxiety disorders are the most common mental health condition in the United States. More than 40 million people, or 19.1 percent of adults in the US, have an anxiety disorder, and approximately 7 percent of children ages 3 to 17 experience issues with anxiety each year. Symptoms The common thread of anxiety disorders is excessive and irrational anxiety and related behavioral disturbances. While there are various types of anxiety disorders, some of the symptoms include the following: Physical or behavior symptoms—chest tightness, increased heart rate, shallow breathing, sweating, trembling, feeling weak, difficulty sleeping, hyperventilation, gastrointestinal issues, headaches, dry mouth, tense muscles, isolation of self, being easily startled, irritability, restlessness, fidgeting, and avoidance of triggers (such as situations or places that might induce anxiety) Cognitive thoughts—I must be crazy. I must be having a heart attack. I feel like I’m going to faint. I might make a fool of myself in front of these people. I feel alone and depressed. Emotional symptoms—an impending sense of doom, indecisiveness, rumination of ideas, difficulty concentrating on anything except the current source of anxiety, and intrusive thoughts Diagnosis Environmental factors (a prolonged illness or traumatic event), genetics, brain chemistry, developmental and psychological factors as well as substance abuse may all contribute to the risk factors of a person developing an anxiety disorder. It is important to realize certain physical symptoms of anxiety disorders can be linked to or confused with other medical conditions, such as heart disease, chronic pain, and diabetes. Additionally, anxiety has a high rate of comorbidity, particularly with depression. Comorbidity is simply when an individual experiences two or more illnesses at the same time. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), anxiety disorders are characterized by excessive fears and anxiety that typically persists for longer than six months. They often interfere with daily living. There are various types of anxiety disorders with differing symptoms. Here is a list of some of the most common disorders: Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)—GAD produces persistent, irrational fear about various areas of life. This worrying may consume hours each day, making it hard to focus on completing daily responsibilities, and may result in a person being exhausted with headaches, the inability to sleep, and muscular tension. Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)—According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, “This disorder causes intense fear about social interaction, often driven by irrational worries about humiliation.” As a result, someone with SAD may avoid social situations or not contribute to conversations or discussions. They may worry about being scrutinized and, as a result, isolate themselves. Panic Disorder—This disorder is characterized by panic attacks and sudden feelings of terror, sometimes occurring repeatedly and without warning. A panic attack causes intense physical symptoms, such as dizziness, chest pain, shortness of breath, and heart palpitations. Often people experiencing panic attacks begin to withdraw from situations or make unhealthy behavioral changes to avoid triggering additional attacks. Phobias—People with a phobia are fearful or anxious about certain situations or objects that cause irrational fear. They will typically go to great lengths to avoid these triggers. This avoidance may overtake a person’s life depending on the type and number of triggers he or she experiences. Treatment An often-heard myth is mental illness can be “prayed away.” As Josh Weidmann said, “God is not the author of anxiety, but He is sovereign over it.” God can miraculously heal at any time of His choosing. However, anxiety disorders, like physical disorders, often need professional treatment, and the Lord has graciously provided us with those resources. Anxiety disorders are highly treatable; however, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, the sad reality is only 36.9 percent of people with anxiety disorders receive treatment. It is critical for the church—God’s children—to talk openly about and normalize mental health challenges and available treatment resources. Often, the vulnerability of one who has dealt with a similar struggle sharing his or her experience will embolden others to step forward and seek help. The type of treatment utilized by professionals will depend on the type of anxiety disorder needing treatment and may include psychotherapy or “talk therapy,” medication, and other complementary approaches, such as relaxation or grounding techniques. Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) is one of the common treatment modalities used by mental health or social work professionals treating anxiety. CBT works to examine and change one’s thoughts and behaviors. When searching for a qualified mental health professional, it is important to find someone who is both professionally equipped and shares a common faith and belief system. Keep looking until you find someone who meets both criteria and makes you feel comfortable. Ways to Support Loved Ones with an Anxiety Disorder Educate yourself on anxiety and what your loved one may be experiencing. Learn the signs of anxiety and his or her potential triggers. Listen and allow them to talk freely. Encourage them to take care of themselves—eat healthy, get enough sleep, be physically active, and seek professional help. Remember anxiety can cause physical symptoms in addition to extreme stress. This is not the same “typical” worry everyone experiences. Telling others “I know how you feel” is not helpful. Do not minimize their feelings or try to rationalize their fears. Saying things such as “It’s all in your head” or “Don’t stress about it” will likely make things worse, not better. They often know their fears are illogical, but that does not make the anxiety disappear. Encourage them to spend time in God’s Word. Help them separate truth from lies and to recognize their feelings are not necessarily the truth. Do not expect treatment to bring overnight results. It will take time. Balance patience with encouraging their steps forward. Celebrate their achievements along the way. Take care of yourself so you remain healthy while caring for them. Jennie Ard is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and chief of staff at One More Child. Her work has focused on children and families, particularly in the realm of child welfare, including foster care, adoption, and mental health. Disclaimer: The information shared on this page is not meant to diagnose or treat a mental health condition. We encourage you to follow up with your health-care provider and seek a mental health professional for individual consultation and care.

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