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Champions of Public Ed. – Thanks!

Champion of Public Eduction Award

Hi Everyone! I am proud to announce that we recently received an award from the SC School Board Association for being a Champion of Public Education!

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We had the privilege of receiving this award at the  Richland one School Board Meeting in late October. We couldn’t be more thrilled to work with such great folks, especially Dr. Norton, Mrs. Lyles and the team at Watkins Nance Elementary School! Praise the Lord for all He is doing in this community through the staff, parents, volunteers and supporters! We are so thrilled to get be a part of it!  We can’t wait to see what he will do through our continued efforts in the Two Notch Rd. Corridor and in other areas of Columbia, where children are in need of hearing the Truths of the Gospel and gaining the tools needed to succeed in our culture!

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Merry Christmas!

 MerryChristmas-Amari

 

Merry Christmas from Ezekiel Ministries! We are so thrilled that you have been with us in this journey God is carrying us through at Ezekiel Ministries. We have so much hope for the future generations of Columbia’s inner city that we can’t help but to pause and take in the season of Christmas. God gave so much for us.  He created us and then he paid for our redemption with the sacrifice of Jesus. Wow! That is worth celebrating!

At Ezekiel Ministries, we desire for all men, women and children to feel that excitement for Jesus, the King of Kings, to finally have come.  Our mission at Ezekiel is to be the church to those in the inner-city of Columbia, SC by becoming family with families in poverty who come to know and follow Christ. We specifically do our best to provide children with Christ-following mentors who will be a long-term friend, and guide in life. We also provide an after-school program for kids to provide a healthy environment for them after-school, including daily Bible Study and as many fun enrichment ideas as possible.  Our prayer is that through these experiences, these kids will come to know Jesus and desire to make Him known!  This year the 3rd-5th grade girls class decided that they wanted to make Jesus known by providing gifts to orphans at Epworth Children’s Home.  The girls did three different fundraisers to raise $96, and bought gifts for three kids that didn’t have gifts at Epworth.  What an incredible display of loving others because of Jesus’ love for us!

In this season when we remember the coming of Christ and the price He paid for us, we encourage you to be reminded of Christ’s love for us displayed by Him coming to earth to be the sacrifice for us.  We encourage you to not just remember, though. This Christmas, take a step towards Jesus. Dig into the stories telling of His coming in the Old Testament. Share your stories and listen to stories of how Jesus has changed lives all around us. For most of us reading this, there is some step of faith we are contemplating. For some that might mean going to church on Christmas. For others it might mean something big, like giving away your car, or giving to those who don’t have much like the girls at Ezekiel did, or simply telling someone who doesn’t know the good news of Christ, about Jesus. There is no one reading this that can’t take a step toward Jesus. Whatever it is, we pray you will take that step towards Jesus this Christmas season, because of His love for us.

Lastly, I want to humbly ask you to join us in our mission at Ezekiel. We are looking for men, and women who follow Jesus to give their most valuable assets to a community that needs to know the love of Jesus. Would you join us in our mission? Their are 3 assets we always need. We speak of them in the video below.

Merry Christmas!

Josh Whitlock and the Ezekiel Team

 

IMG_1310-1Our Girls getting a tour of Epworth’s Childrens Home.

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Meet Marissa!

At Ezekiel Ministries, we are truly grateful and humbled by the support we receive from our supporters, volunteers and staff. We simply could not exist without you. With that being said, we would like to take the opportunity to introduce some of our FABULOUS volunteers in our after school program. This week, we would like for you to meet one of our newest interns, USC sophomore Marissa Torgerson. Marissa is the teacher of the Kindergarten and 1st Grade class. Here is what I recently learned about Marissa.

Hometown: Anchorage, Alaska ( you read that right, folks)

Major: Public Relations, with a minor in Political Science

Future Plans: “I’m hoping to work in public policy with a focus in education. I’ve interned in the United States Senate twice, and hope to continue my work there.”

How she heard about Ezekiel: “I heard about it through a program at my school.”

Her involvement with Ezekiel: “I started working with EZE at the beginning of January, and I work everyday, Monday through Thursday.”

What she enjoys most about volunteering there: “I love working with the kids and am truly blessed to have this experience. There truly isn’t anything quite like the look on a child’s face when they figure out a math principle or the joy they have when we learn about the Bible together. The kids are so excited and their energy is infectious.”

What she would say to someone considering volunteering with EZE: “I would say definitely do it! The experiences I have had at Ezekiel, even in my short experience there, have been so fulfilling. You are able to teach the children, but they end up teaching you as well. I have learned so much about my community and the ability I have to make tangible change in the lives of others.”

Closing thought: “Working at Ezekiel reminds me everyday how lucky I am and how much I have been blessed with. It is such a privilege to share the word of God with these kids and watch them grow in their faith. ”

Well said, Marissa. And those kids are lucky to have you! It has been said that we cannot all do great things, only small things with great love. It is this “great love” that Marissa and the other volunteers show the EZE kids that will make a difference in their lives and, hopefully, in the community around them.

If you or someone you know would like to know more about becoming a volunteer, click HERE.

Click HERE to give financially.

Merry Christmas!

20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, andyou shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”   Matthew 1:20-21

Look what He has done!

It’s been 4 years since it all began.  When looking back, we are overwhelmed by the goodness of the Lord.  God has brought us so far.  Here’s just a glimpse…

It all started with a dirty, old duplex that needed LOTS of work.  So we set to work… somewhere in the process we fell in love with a bunch of kids that we now call family.

Now it’s a fun building, full of decorations known to all as “The Center”

The Center has been the center of all sorts of fun…

We’ve had pancake breakfasts.

Played for hours

 And we’ve learned so much about God.

Over the years so much has happened…The kids have grown physically and spiritually

And gotten cuter as they have grown.

The kids have gone to camp each summer and several of them made commitments to follow Christ.

We’ve celebrated Christmas every year…

And many weddings.

The kids have learned about marriage and commitment.

Volunteers have come and gone.

We are so thankful to have them, even if it’s for a season. Their impact is eternal!

We have had many firsts.

And loved every minute of it.

Through it all we have learned that we’re all on the same team.

Afterschool has  brought it’s challenges… but the spiritual and academic success has been well worth it!

We have a full time director- who not only loves the kids but loves their families also.  He desires above all else for Jesus to be glorified in that community.  We can’t thank him enough for all he does!

Mentors have loved on the kids and truly changed those kids inside and out with the love of Jesus.

We have been to the zoo and the lake more times than we can count.   We have played for hours… and in the process we have all learned a little more what love really looks like. 

We have fallen in love with those smiles.  Life wouldn’t be the same without them.

Thanks to our kids, their families, our families, our friends, volunteers, and our director for an amazing 4 years.  God has truly been such a good father.

We believe God is building a vast army in us and in that community… breath is entering the dry bones as we live life together.

“So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them(dry bones); they came to life and stood up on their feet – a vast army”

– Ezekiel 37:10

 

Why do we doubt?

Last Monday morning I was eating breakfast with the pastor of Grace Church of Columbia, the church that graciously offered the use of their building to Ezekiel for our after-school program. We had previously planned to use their bus to pick up all of the kids that go to Watkins-Nance Elementary for After-School.  However, the pastor informed me it was definitely not going to work for our volunteers to drive the bus due to insurance problems. Only members of the church could drive the bus, and as big of a commitment as it was, nobody could commit.

This was kind of bad news, but I wasn’t too worried since God usually makes me look silly when I doubt Him. The conversation continued and i discovered that one of the applicants we were going to hire couldn’t make her schedule work.

So, over breakfast, we went from solid transportation to no transportation, and from two applicants for two positions, to one.  I had all kinds of thoughts in my head, but the main one was “God, could you please let me know what’s going on here?”

This is how the rest of the day went down…

I got a phone call at 1PM from a young lady who works for a campus ministry at USC. She wanted to do a fundraiser for Ezekiel. I thought, “Where do I sign?” We ironed out the details and then I mentioned the job to her to see if she knew any solid college men or women who would be interested in applying.  She said she would, but then she said hef boyfriend might be interested. At first I was skeptical, but then something crazy happened. She told me his name. I knew who he was and that he would be BETTER than any applicant we would be able to hire for the job. As a matter of fact, we’d even talked about how great it would have been to have him working with us in the past! I told her he didn’t even need to interview if he could take the job with the terms I had given her.

But… I still didn’t believe it could happen. It just didn’t make sense. We can’t afford to pay him what he’s worth. As a matter of fact, not even close. He probably would laugh at the job opportunity, I thought. I knew God was going to take care of His ministry, but I just didn’t think he would align the stars for us to have such a seasoned teacher with us.  I didn’t get my hopes up and went about my day with no bus and no teachers.

I received a call at 2:00 PM from an unknown number. It was my guy. He asked me about the job and by the end of the phone call he had accepted the position. I couldn’t believe it!

But really, why would I doubt? I mean, He is the God who created the universe, who nobody has ever laid eyes on without falling on their face in fear. He can move mountains. He says that if we aren’t the ones to tell people of His Glory that the rocks will do it.  My doubt was made so clear to me this week. I was selling God short. He looked at my expectations and said “nice try, but I’ve got something better planned!”

Here’s the kicker, Abiel, the teacher we just hired, is a member of Grace Church, so he is now our bus driver too!

Once again, God has shown provision in a crazy way! Thank Him for us in your prayers!

I hope your week will be filled with God showing that when you’re working in His will, he puts all the pieces together better than you can.  So when you’re plans fall apart, remember, God is in control, and His plan has no holes.

Have a great week!

Josh

Does God Play Favorites? – A trip to the Aquarium!

From Zach Farrar –

Does God play favorites? I think most of us would immediately respond with a firm “no” to that question. While we probably can’t answer that one way or another, we do know that He has a special place in His heart for certain people. Don’t believe it? Deuteronomy 10:18 says that the Lord “executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and he loves the foreigner, giving him food and clothing.” Psalms 68 says that God is the “Father of the fatherless, (and) defender of the widow.” In fact, James even says the pure and untainted religion is “caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you,” (1:27).

So, while we can’t say God plays favorites, we can say that He has a special place in His heart for orphans, the fatherless, and widows. In short, God has a special love for broken families, particularly those without a strong, godly father presence.

So how do we practically show this special love of God? At Radius and the Ezekiel Center we do it through loving, serving, and living life with inner city children in downtown Columbia. This summer we had a great opportunity to take 15 kids from downtown Columbia to the Charleston Aquarium. With a mix of 15 college students as leaders and mentors, we packed up our vans and headed out! The trip was great – the kids enjoyed singing to music (including the one and only Justin Bieber, and of course Taylor Swift). We stopped at Chick-Fil-A on the way for a quick lunch. This was a special treat since most of our kids never get a chance to eat out. Then we finished our 2 hour drive at the Charleston Aquarium. We spent three hours exploring the exhibits. The kids loved seeing so many odd creatures, including, our personal favorite, a very large-headed fish known affectionately as a “Bighead” by 4 year old Mikal.

All in all the trip was a great success. We took the kids to the aquarium for a number reasons. First, we like having fun – we believe it glorifies God and is an act of worship. Second we wanted to join God in His loving pursuit of broken families. The real treat for the kids that day was not going to the aquarium, it was having godly, affectionate love from adults lavished on them all day. The boys finally got to be tossed around by some older guys and the girls got to enjoy music and even some dancing with older girls. The true beauty and purpose of our trip was to love the fatherless and the orphan – to show those who have been deeply hurt that their heavenly Father loves them passionately. It was our great joy to practice genuine religion in loving these people, and for a brief day to shower young boys and girls with the love, attention, and affection that God desires all His children to enjoy. While we can’t say God plays favorites, we can certainly say that we are happy to join Him in His loving pursuit of broken children.

(Everyone after a GREAT day at the Aquarium!)

(Couldn’t help but post…they were quiet for just a hot second!)

Camp Joy Recap

They’re back!  Nicole posted earlier in the week with pre-camp pictures and thoughts.  Now it’s time to recap the awesome week they had!

Everyone seemed to have a blast. Here’s the whole gang.

Everyone had fun and learned so much about God.  When they returned home we were given the highlights of the week (of course with very limited details).

Kica: Learned “take wood off of the fire, don’t add wood to the fire”  which means “Do not be bad, walk away if someone is arguing”

Favorite activity: swimming

Hannah learned “don’t use poisonous words only use healthy words”

Favorite activity: playing the Wii, learning about God

Quintin: Learned about God inside of me and I had let Jesus in my heart

Favorite activity: “I had shot the bow and arrows and we had did art and we had played sports”

Devin learned “God is going into my heart”

Favorite activity: Swimming

Alterik learned “how to make bracelets”

Favorite activity: bow and arrows

I couldn’t resist adding this photo… who says they don’t love each other???

On the way home:
Cow Appreciation Day= free food for everyone… as long as you dress like a cow!

And so everyone played the part quite well!

Thank you to everyone for your prayers and financial support.  We are truly blessed to have such amazing friends! We believe that this week had truly changed these kids’ lives.  We can’t wait to see the fruit that will come!

A special thanks to Josh, Ben, and Nicole who were our taxi drivers.  And thank you, thank you to Carrie Brown, the mastermind behind everything creative.  Carrie made sure that each kid received a frisbee in the mail at camp.   Each frisbee had a note of encouragement written on it.  The kids loved them!

Over the mountains and through the woods . . .

From Nicole…

What an awesome day Sunday was!

Josh and I loaded up 7 kiddos who have never really been away from home and drove them to Camp Joy in Hickory, NC. I must admit that I was really nervous! Josh and I checked their bags to make sure they had everything and then loaded up to leave the Center around 1:00 pm. Each with a bag in hand, and a huge smile on their faces, the kiddos were excited to get rolling!

Riding in a car with the kids was fun, especially when we got to where we could see some mountains. The girls thought some of the sites on the road were awesome like the extra low flying planes when we were passing near the Charlotte airport.

When we finally made it to camp, all of the kids filed inside to check in. They were excitedly asking who their counselors were and when they were eating and if they got to swim. I was getting more and more excited for them! “This is such an answered prayer,” I kept thinking. Little did I know, it all was about to get even better.

Meet the counselors!

A prayer of ours for along time has been that our boys have young, African American male influences. Our fellas need guys in their life who look like them, giving them more authority and credibility to the boys and to the neighborhood. The other half to that prayer, though, is that these mentors be solid men of Christ who are setting examples for our boys to follow. And look who the Lord provided! Terrance and Jordan are two awesome guys who have spent a lot of time and energy pouring into boys who need them…boys like ours.

The girls had some awesome ladies to care for them, too! Meet Maegan and Katie. They immediately started getting to know the girls, and the girls were super comfortable and open with their counselors. As Josh and I were giving the low down on our girls to Maegan, she looked in the direction of our three girls and said, “They’re all so beautiful.” Yes, they are, Maegan! Inside and out! I know Hannah, Tay, and Kaci are having a blast with a week long slumber party with these ladies who can spend some time showing them their worth and their beauty.

Now I’m just spending the rest of the week praying for each kid. Pray with me that the boys learn what it means to respect themselves and each other. Let’s pray that they learn to not be so angry and that they learn to find peace and rest in the Lord. I’ll be praying that the girls can understand what is means to be a princess, an heiress to the Lord’s throne. Pray with me that they understand how they should be treated and respected. Let’s pray that they can find protection and security in the Lord, relieving them of always having to defend themselves.

Beach Fun

On Saturday we packed 2 cars with 7 kids, 5 adults and headed to Isle of Palms for the day.  We were headed to the sunny coast of Charleston.  Too bad, we never saw the sun… But the kids loved it nonetheless.  We were all amazed at how wonderful our kids were!  Most of them had never seen the ocean.  How amazing it was to experience the ocean with them for the first time!

The trip was a reward for good behavior all semester.  Every other Sunday afternoon is spent having “Center Time.”  During “Center Time” there are skits to be had, games to be won, verses to be memorized, and more importantly… a Jesus to be loved.  Those who didn’t lose their marbles (literally) got to go to the beach for the day.  It is days like these that make everything we do so worth it.  You can’t help but fall in love with those smiling faces.  And can’t help but pray that those smiling faces fall in love with Jesus. Continue reading →

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