The Travis & Cari Hicks Orphan Care Story

“God has gifted us each 24 hours in a day and we have a choice in how we spend it.

We knew going in to this that our schedules stay pretty packed, but what are they packed with? Are we aiming to glorify God with all of the time He has given us?

He made it clear to us that if we could make time for all of the other great things in our life, we could surely make time to care for the orphan – for HIS orphans.” – The Hicks

 

 

The Aaron Suhre Story

“We’re just this small story in the greater, bigger story of what God is doing. These are some things God has done in this life for his greater good.”   – Aaron Suhre

 

The Gilbert George Story

Gilbert George prayed to receive Christ in the summer of 1962 when he was 10 years old.

Now at 69 years old, Gil has been attending Clear Creek Community Church for just over a year. He’s a member of a men’s small group and has started serving on the Prayer Team at Egret Bay.

But there’s something you should know about Gil. He is visually impaired.

For over a decade he’s lived without sight.

But that hasn’t prevented him from wanting to grow. Although he’s been on the journey of following Christ for a long time, Gil knows he’s still only scratched the surface of who God is and how he loves.

So, each week on an alternating schedule, one of the guys drives to Gil’s home and brings him to small group. And to further include him, they even recorded a special audio version of Clear Creek’s Missional Community small group study, so Gil could study the material and participate in the discussion.

Gil’s impairment also hasn’t prevented him from wanting to serve others. Although he loves to meet new people, Gil knows he doesn’t need his eyes to pray for them. Ears to hear, a hand to hold, and a voice to speak to God are his tools of ministry.

And so each week, when he is scheduled to serve, a guy from his small group drives to Gil’s home and brings him to church so he can passionately pray for people who are hurting and need encouragement.

Growing together to stir up affections for the Lord and caring for one another in order to serve others — this is what authentic gospel community looks like.

And even if Gilbert George can’t see it all for himself, he knows it deeper still.

“For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them…” Romans 12:4-6a

4 Ways to Host on a Budget

What does it mean to be hospitable?

I think for many people the idea of being hospitable means we must be able to craft a beautiful meal and have a picture-perfect home that could be featured on HGTV.

When that’s our standard it’s easy to see why so many people are hesitant to open their homes and host people.

The truth is, hospitality has very little to do with the food or the state of your home. There are no set rules for what this is supposed to look like. We’re simply called to love the people in front of us with what God has given us, be it little or much.

So, what if it’s little?

I know many of us truly desire to serve people in our homes but are working with tight budgets that can make the whole idea feel stressful.

If that’s you don’t worry! There are inexpensive and practical ways to welcome people into your home without breaking your budget.

Here are four budget-friendly ideas that can easily aid you as a host:

1. Make a Plan

Being hospitable isn’t something that happens automatically, it’s something you must choose to be intentional about. I’m not a natural planner, but I’ve come to learn that if I don’t plan to spend intentional time with friends and neighbors, it will never happen. Our schedule will fill up or we will be “too tired,” when the time comes.

A few years ago, my husband and I sat down and made a list of the people we hoped to share a meal with that year. We looked at our calendar to see what nights of the week we routinely had available and committed to keep those nights open, dedicating one night a week to inviting someone to share a meal with us. Planning ahead helped us create regular rhythms of hospitality in our home, and also helped in budgeting time and resources accordingly. 

2. Allow Others to Contribute

One of the first things people tend to ask when someone has invited them to their home is “what can I bring?” Often we respond with “Nothing! Just bring yourself!”

That may seem like the most hospitable way to respond, but, by not allowing others to contribute, you are putting more of the burden on yourself while also denying your guests an opportunity to serve you. Simply let guests, who offer, bring something you know they can easily go grab at the store. If you are planning to have a larger group of people over, share the cost by planning a meal in which everyone can easily contribute. Make a list of all the things people can bring to complete the meal.

Remember, the whole point of the meal is not just eating, but creating an opportunity to spend time with people you love. When you allow others to contribute, not only will it cost you less, but it will save you time, and everyone sharing the meal will be blessed.

3. Be Prepared for the Unexpected

While many opportunities to be hospitable are centered around a planned meal, there can be times that demand spontaneity. You could get a phone call from a friend who just needs to come over and talk, or a neighbor may stop by for a quick chat. Maybe it’s a hot day and you notice your mail carrier would benefit from a cold bottle of water, or perhaps your house is the hub for all the neighbor kids, which means they will probably eat all your food too. It’s good to be prepared for little moments like these with small things on hand to offer.

It could be as simple as keeping your fridge stocked with bottles of water, having extra coffee on hand, or stashing break and bake cookie dough in the freezer just in case.

I also always include one meal I know will feed more than just my family of five. The weeks we don’t end up having people over we get good leftovers. But if we do host, we know there is a meal in the refrigerator ready to share. It’s a win-win all around!

4. Be Yourself

Our lives and homes don’t have to be in perfect order to invite others in. If you wait until everything is just right, you will likely wait forever.

When people see that you have unfinished dishes and dirty laundry in your house and you ordered take out instead of cooking, they aren’t going to judge you, and they aren’t going to wish they hadn’t come over.

Instead, they’ll breathe a sigh of relief knowing you are a real person, just like them. In fact, when you’re truly yourself and let people into your life (your REAL life), it dissipates a lot of pressure and allows for genuine community to flourish.

Being a good host does not mean you need to pay someone to clean your house within an inch of perfection or that you should spend a week’s grocery budget on fine wine and a lavish meal.

When you let go of what the world (and Pinterest) tells you your home should look like and just be who you are — who God created you to be — then your table will begin to look more and more like Jesus’ table which was never so much about the table, but rather who sat around it.

 

So, here’s the moral of the story: you can do this!

And I hope you will!

In the end, few people will remember the quality of that cup of coffee or how perfectly put together your house was. What they won’t forget is the way you opened your doors, welcomed them into your home, and nourished their souls.


 

111: Hospitality — A Conversation with Dave & Carla Vanderweide

As Christians, we are called to care for the poor and the widows, to love our enemies and our neighbors, and to serve one another with the love of Christ. One of the ways we do that is by inviting people in and making them feel welcome whether that’s through inviting them into our homes, sharing a meal around a table, or even inviting them to a rock concert. On this episode, Jon Coffey talks with East 96 Campus Elder Dave Vanderweide and his wife Carla about how they use their time, talent, and treasures for the kingdom of God, how that doesn’t look the same for everyone, and how God uses us in different ways in the different seasons of our lives.

Resources:

Table Talk: When Faith Meets Food — Week 2

 

 

Is it Okay for Christians to Celebrate Halloween?

October is a great month in Texas. There’s college football, playoff baseball, cooler weather, and… Halloween. So how can we leverage this holiday for the kingdom of God? Or should we even try?

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More Than a Meal

Growing up, food was important to my family. My parents regularly served exquisite dinners on weeknights, and really went all out on holidays. Meals were a huge part of our traditions, and so many of my deepest childhood memories take place around the dinner table.

Food was a pillar of our family culture, essential to the depth of our relationships.

But it was never really about the food. There was something bigger going on around the table.

While I have always associated meals with family traditions, food took on a deeper meaning when I found myself overwhelmed with grief over a series of deep losses.

The night I gave birth to a sweet baby boy that I would never bring home, my friend Lisa arrived with a ham. It was a gesture of support and love to our family but ended up being so much more. As she hugged me on the way out the door, she told me I felt feverish and that I should take my temperature. A short time later I was rushed to the hospital — a new, struggling life about to be born and then just as quickly, to pass.

That night, a ham was not just a ham.

During an 8-week hospital bedrest stay in Houston’s medical center, I received gourmet meals almost weekly. Each delicious dinner was accompanied by expensive plates and precious linens. Often friends would deliver the meals on the chef’s behalf with specific instructions on table setting and food presentation. These meals were more than sustenance, they were tangible reflections of love — my friend showing me I was seen, I was known, and that she cared.

When I was pregnant with my now 7-year-old, I received dinners every week, delivered in a beautiful Longaberger basket lined with a freshly pressed red gingham kitchen towel. The basket always arrived on time, and it always included warm, crusty bread that reminded me and my family that we weren’t alone on this journey.

After Hurricane Harvey devastated our house and made cooking impossible, friends delivered sack lunches and demanded I eat, even when I didn’t want to. Their love, wrapped in a paper bag, sustained me when it was hard to just stay standing.

As we rebuilt our home, we pulled tables together on our street to share a meal of spaghetti and lemonade with our neighbors who shared the same plight. We had no idea how long it would take to rebuild our homes, but we laughed, prayed, and for an hour, forgot about the harrowing journey we had ahead of us. Food brought us peace, strength, and warmth in the midst of rubble and debris.

When our adoptive son arrived a year ago, I remember the warm, fresh cookies delivered to our door and the abundance of snacks brought in bulk.

Through these experiences I learned that food brings so much more than physical nutrition or energy. Food became a comfort not just rooted in family tradition, but a symbol of love, care, and presence from those outside my family circle.

When shared with someone you love, or gifted to you by someone who cares, food is a relationship builder. It’s intimate, humbling, and communal.

Sometimes meals are memorable — the specific flavors and aromas — but more often it’s the experience of fellowship that sticks with us long after the meal is over.

Whether you make it or buy it, whether you send it, place it in a cooler on a front porch, or hand it directly into someone’s arms, the gesture shows those friends you care, you see them, and you love them. It shows them you acknowledge their pain, even if you have never experienced it yourself.

These profound experiences of receiving love in the form of food have changed me. I have learned to pay attention to the circumstances of others and when in doubt, send food.

It isn’t what you send but that you send.

As believers, our prayers and love for others should propel us to action, especially when we see others hurting and in need, but even when it’s just a simple gesture of kindness. Our friends don’t have to be in a deep pit of despair for us to send them a meal, it can just be a Thursday.

For believers, a meal is more than food. It is a symbol of God’s love and compassion for his creation, and we should share that in every possible way we can.


Bay Area Turning Point

“It’s a really neat opportunity to grow spiritually, to step out of that comfort zone, and to bring a little bit of joy, and share Jesus with people that are hurting today.” – Gina Holstein

 

Learn more about Bay Area Turning Point and how you can help make a difference at https://www.bayareaturningpoint.org/

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Bring the Fish

There’s a character in the Bible who you’ll miss if you aren’t looking for him. He’s only mentioned in one verse, but his role in the story is fascinating.

He’s a young boy. We never even learn his name. But one day somewhere near the Sea of Galilee, in the midst of a crowd of over 5,000 people, he gets to give Jesus something.

You see, there’s a problem.

Jesus – an emerging celebrity in the land – is ministering to people, healing the sick, teaching about God’s kingdom, and making extraordinary claims about who he is and what he’s on earth to do. All of that adds up to a lot of people wanting to see this guy for themselves; to see if the stories are true. Jesus wants to teach them about the love of the Father. He wants to dismantle their false beliefs about who God is and what he wants for them. And he also wants to meet their needs.

In this case, he wants to feed them.

But where can you find enough food to feed a stadium full of people? And who’s going to pay for it?

That’s what the disciples want to know.

Until our pal – the boy – enters the story.

One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?”

– John 6:8-9

Scripture doesn’t say whether Andrew just happened to notice this boy with a picnic lunch, or if the boy came and tapped him on the shoulder to offer his meal. But however it happened, the moment comes where this bread and fish is offered to Jesus.

And he gets that look in his eye; that look the disciples have come to know all too well.

Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.”

– John 6:10

I’m willing to bet he said it with a grin.

Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted. And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten. When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!”

– John 6:11-14

And that’s the end of the episode. We never hear about the boy again. Jesus leaves the crowd and journeys on.

So, doesn’t the boy seem kind of insignificant?

Well, here’s the thing: he is insignificant. He’s just a kid who brought some fish to a get-together.

What is significant is the impact these offerings made. What is significant is the miracle-working fully man, fully God Jesus ending up with the fish in his hands.

Did he need this boy’s meal?

Of course not. He could have produced fish from thin air or called bread to rain down from the sky. But, instead, he invited this picnic-packing kid into the work he was doing.

And it’s the same with us.

In the middle of this great big world and this grand eternal story, it’s easy to feel small and insignificant.

It’s easy to feel like you have nothing to offer God, or, at least, like you have less than someone else.

But God doesn’t care how much you have. He’s concerned with what you do with it.

Just like the boy in the story, we are invited into the work he’s already doing, and that makes what we have significant. Because in the hands of the God of the universe, even the smallest offering of our time, energy, talents, or resources can have an exponential impact – an eternal impact.

All we have to do is bring the fish.


 

Being the Church

As far as Josh Fasske knew, it was going to be another long and cold work night driving around the greater League City area.

The last few days had passed like a whirlwind for him and his wife, Brittani, owners of Grand Slam Plumbing, a small business they started in 2017. As Winter Storm Uri wreaked havoc in League City, Josh and his small crew worked long days and nights and even into the early hours of the morning to restore running water to their customers.

They were already slammed just a few days into the storm, and Josh was exhausted physically and mentally. Not only was he working around the clock to help panicked customers, but he and his wife and young children were displaced from their apartment as their building went without electricity and running water.

It was on such a night the week of the storm that Josh received a welcome surprise from fellow church member, Vijay Rajaji.

“I was at a job in Seabrook,” Josh recalled. “When Vijay got there, he sent me a text that said ‘Hey, come outside.’ I saw it and thought he sent it to the wrong person, so I called him. He said ‘Hey, come outside. I’ve got something for you.’”

Vijay had brought Josh food.

“Not just food,” Josh said, “it was a warm meal, which I wasn’t getting a whole lot of.”

Before Vijay left, he told Josh, “If you’re out and about, I’m going to be out and about. However long you’re doing this, I’m going to be bringing you food every night.”

And Vijay kept his promise.

 

***

 

Years ago, Sonia and Vijay Rajaji experienced one of the most traumatic events of their lives. Their first child, Maya, was born premature, just shy of 26 weeks gestation. She spent the next three-and-a-half months in the NICU and the remainder of her first year at home under strict guidelines in order to avoid any communicable illnesses.

Sonia and Vijay were fairly new believers attending Clear Creek Community Church. Neither had been raised in families that invited other people into their personal lives, but this new church life was challenging all that they understood about community. For five months, the people of Clear Creek — a few friends, but mostly strangers — brought meals to the Rajajis three times a week in order to serve them and help them get through that tough season.

“I thought we didn’t need it,” Sonia recalled. “I didn’t understand how meals help. After I came out of that season and out of the shock, I realized this is what church family is all about. This is about serving people even when they don’t think they need it. And it’s hard to take help.”

“That was the thing that really changed me,” Vijay added. “When you’re a new believer, you pick up everything by osmosis. You say what people say, you do what people do, and you think that’s the baseline. And so, because we were so new, my expectation became if you’re going through something, the church takes care of you, period. That’s just the expectation.”

Maya thrived, and Sonia and Vijay continued growing in their faith at Clear Creek. Later, they took the Financial Peace University course in order to gain a better understanding of how to get out of debt as well as how to honor God with their financial resources.

“One of the things that came out of that for us was creating a line item in our budget for generosity,” Sonia said.  “When we have it in our budget, it gives us freedom to be generous. God has given us all this financial security. So, part of our responsibility as believers is to show people his love.”

As the years have passed, the Rajajis have given help to many church members and those outside the church in an effort to show God’s love. They’ve also received help many times from their church family and have had to learn over and over again to accept help.

“We just make people take our help,” she laughed. “We [have been] served so well that we can’t say ‘no’ to people when they say, ‘Can we help you?’”

The week of the winter storm, Sonia had been praying specifically for a way to serve someone “over the course of time.” When she saw a Facebook post Brittani Fasske made one late night about delivering dinner to her husband who was out repairing customer’s pipes, she knew God was leading them to serve the Fasskes in a specific way.

“A lot of times people don’t know what they need,” Sonia said. She and Vijay had known the Fasskes as acquaintances through church, having served together at different times through the years. She knew they had two young children, they ran their business from home, that they were currently displaced from their home and normal routine, and she saw that Josh was working a crazy amount of hours doing a very necessary job in a moment of crisis. Their need became clear.

“We can work this into our schedule easily,” she realized. “We can do this as long as we need to because he needs to eat!”

Vijay was totally on board.

 

***

 

Brittani excitedly answered the phone when her husband called that night. She knew Vijay would have delivered the meal by now, as she had secretly helped by giving Vijay the address where Josh was working that night.

“I could tell he was emotional so that made me emotional,” she said.

“It just made me feel pretty special and important that they would take time out of their day to bring me food, which seems like something pretty small,” Josh said. “But when you’re working that much and not seeing your family, it’s actually something really huge. It really made me feel loved and taken care of.”

Josh also expressed the importance of being appreciated for his hard work in an extreme season.

“A lot of times, working a lot of hours and irregular days in plumbing just seems normal,” Josh said. “Plumbing problems happen all the time, so it really becomes a normal thing that people don’t really think about. But when a natural disaster happens, long hours really get pushed to the extreme. A lot of times it goes unnoticed. But for somebody to realize, He’s away from his family. He’s not getting a good meal at night. For them to see that need and come running to help me out was really cool.”

The friends took notice.

“They said, ‘That’s the kind of church I want to be part of. That’s the kind of love a church should show to their church family,’” recalled Brittani.

Once over the course of serving Josh, Vijay and his son, Samir, were able to also take a meal to one of Josh’s employees who was on a job with him. The man was dumbfounded by Vijay’s generosity.

“Seeing him ask questions like Why are you doing this for me? was so awesome,” Vijay recalled. “I have been praying that I will get to see him at church someday, his life changed.”

And it was not lost on Vijay that his son got to witness the exchange.

“We hope that by the way we live our lives our children see how you love people,” said Vijay.

“Being the church” was a theme that had the greatest impact on Josh during his chaotic work season.

“We want people to see the difference of a church that takes care of each other… and helps any way they can,” Josh said. “The people don’t just go to church; they go out and they are the church.”

“When a community is in need, our church and community steps up,” Brittani added. “It’s just like This isn’t a burden for us. This is my way to serve you. And they do it with an open heart and open mind. I always feel proud to be part of our community and our church.”

 

***

 

Sonia and Vijay continued to serve the Fasske family for another two months. Both families made it clear that serving is not just about being on the giving or receiving end — everyone benefits from service and generosity because it is simply an expression of God’s abundant love for his people.

“At first I thought I didn’t want to inconvenience anybody from taking time out of their day, even though it was a nice thought,” said Josh. “But I remembered back to when we were in a small group with Aaron Lutz. He once said, ‘You don’t want to take away somebody’s opportunity to serve you because it might be a next step of growth for them.’”

That “next step of growth” can be something life-changing or just another small way that God molds us further into the likeness of Christ – the one who has served us most generously. Sonia emphasized the importance of serving as a way to take the focus off ourselves to see others more clearly, the way God sees us.

“When we are serving others,” Sonia said, “it helps us grow in our devotion to God. This is one of the things we can do to try to diminish our selfishness and serve somebody else without expecting anything in return.”