Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Christmas 2017


Merry Christmas! 

I hope this letter finds you hopeful and grateful as we move through the Christmas season.  I love this quote by W. J. Cameron: "There has been only one Christmas -- the rest are anniversaries." 
So we are celebrating another anniversary of the coming of Christ into his world!  The Apostle John put it this way, He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him” (John 1:10 NLT).  More than 2,000 years have passed and still today, many do not recognize him!  Our great desire is for college students and everyone to ‘recognize him’!  When we do we’re welcomed into his family and experience the new life, the abundant and eternal life as a gift!  This is the joy of Christmas! 

God continues to do great things in and through the students in Marlin Ministries!  It is a great privilege to build up young people in the faith.  The conversations, the insights from the Scriptures, students stepping up in leadership and hearing how God is at work among our alumni are all great sources of encouragement to me personally.  There have been numerous times over the semester where I’ve been able to share the story of Jesus with a student who is unfamiliar with the story and in a couple cases, the students have never heard!  Wow, to share the greatest story ever told is a phenomenal delight.

If you have been at one of our Christmas worship gatherings or Life Groups, you may have heard me share my favorite Christmas Carol.  It is Hark, the Herald Angels Sing, written by Charles Wesley.  As I write this, there are students next door are singing it, getting ready for our annual caroling of the campus!  When I was in college the words to this marvelous hymn became reality to me, as I understood them for the first time!
 
Mild He lays His Glory by
Born that man no more may die

Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! the herald angels sing
Glory to the new-born King

I had recently received Jesus as my Savior and my Lord as a junior at Old Dominion University.  In that moment, this song that I had sung every Christmas without understanding and without the life of Christ in me, gave me understanding as to what had happened in my life!  The eternal Son of God willingly set aside the glory of heaven and the glory of the presence of his Father.  He came to earth!  And his purpose in coming was to raise us, to give us a second birth! 

This Christmas know that you are loved with an everlasting love!  And the proof is the life of Jesus.  I want to challenge you and your families to read or reread the Christmas story in the Gospels.  You can cover this in just five chapters: Luke 1 & 2; Matthew 1 & 2; John 1.

Consider well Christ this Christmas, his birth, his teachings, his example, his claims & promises, his death and his resurrection and finally consider his LOVE for you and all of us . . . then act!

A blessed Christmas to you all,

Greg West

Sunday, June 11, 2017

June 2017

  June 2017

We have just wrapped up another year at Virginia Wesleyan . . . now University!  The changes happening at VWU are at a fast pace!  We in Marlin Ministries continue to lift up Jesus and the Kingdom of GOD to the students, staff and faculty.  We are seeing a deepening of many students as they pursue Christ.


The world seems to be more divided and more complex all the time.  Sharing the Gospel amidst competing truth claims is a regular thing on the college campus.  It is crucial for us to be equipped to communicate our faith in word and action as well as being able to point out the shortcomings and errors in worldviews that reject Christ.  I listen to Ravi Zacharias online frequently and know of no other person who articulates the good news of Jesus while comparing and contrasting it to other faiths and secular worldviews.  I encourage you to pull up some of his videos on youtube or online.

Last year on the Wesleyan Revival and Scottish Reformation trip I was with a group of our students in a pub in Oxford.  As we talked, one of our students, Nic Snyder, was pondering his future with us.  Numerous times in the conversation he shared that he was reluctantly heading to Law School, though his real passion was to study the Scriptures.  When we pointed out that this could be God calling him with that deeper desire, he seemed to have his eyes opened!  This past year Nic helped me launch a new “Life Group” reaching out to the fraternity and sorority population on campus.  Nic begins his formal studies of the Scriptures this Fall at Duke Divinity!
Virginia Wesleyan Students in England -
Nic Snyder in the flowered shirt, also left
to right: Taylor McIntosh, Britt & Nic Hipple

The Board of LIHN voted to send two $2,000 gifts to help vital ministries, one overseas and one local.
The first is House of Hope in Nicaragua which has expanded into San Pedro Sula, Honduras.  This city is one of the most dangerous cities on the planet, as gangs and chaos have largely taken over.  However, the House of Hope is reaching women and children with the good news of Jesus and helping them find healing, job skills, safety and salvation in Christ.  They are working towards the purchase of a 3 story building where House of Hope already meets.
I met April and Mike Havelin, the founders of HoH a decade ago on a mission trip to Nicaragua.  I have taken teams from the USA to work at and learn from ministry at HoH.  I have heard some beautiful stories of redemption from the ladies and believe strongly in this ministry.

If you are interested in finding out more about the House of Hope, check out: www.houseofhopenicaragua.com/

We also gave NEIGHBORHOOD, a Christian community development organization a $2,000 donation.  Mike Senecal, who is on the Board of LIHN, and his wife are a part of NEIGHBORHOOD.  Their ministry model aligns with Jesus’ parable of the yeast working it’s way through the dough.

He told them still another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.’”  Mt. 13:33

NEIGHBORHOOD is community development organization for families committed to making South Norfolk a thriving place to live, work, and play. The majority of families in this community are caught in a cycle of economic distress, institutional neglect and relational brokenness. The mission is to cultivate a vibrant community by connecting families with the skills, services, and neighbors they need to make a living and a life; unleashing families as “makers” of a thriving neighborhood.  NEIGHBORHOOD has the goal of providing a 2 year program for 7 families at time that addresses the following:

-     HOUSING -              Goal: Provide clean, safe, affordable housing for families to begin building wealth and planting meaningful roots in South Norfolk.
-  CREDENTIALS -    Goal: Provide ground level assistance to overcome barriers to employment and housing and credit.
-       EMPLOYMENT -           Goal: Provide skilled job training in partnership with local businesses that  leads to sustained income and opportunities for career growth.
-       CREDIT -                      Goal: Provide capital through non-predatory, simple loans for families to  buy homes or start businesses.
-        FAMILY -                      Goal: Provide families with meaningful connections with the Family of God in South Norfolk to flourish as full humans, created in the image of God.

When we consider partnerships or supporting other ministries we filter it through the mission statement of Life in His Name, Inc.:

Partnering with the church to equip God’s people to share their faith and make disciples of Jesus especially through small group ministry; And connecting the church in the States with the church in Latin America.

I did not travel to Nicaragua this year as I felt a leading from God and yes, from my wife to take a year off.  I later realized that I had gone 6 years in a row with Virginia Wesleyan and so the 7th became a year of rest!  I have been in touch with other friends in Nicaragua and they are already making plans for next year.

Emily Testroet received the Servant Leader Award at
VWC for her Christ-like service to others.  This included
a check from LIHN for $200!
Bob Boyd Sr., gave Marlin Ministries a financial gift so that I could hire an intern.  Emily Testroet is a rising junior from Richmond, VA who has a great love for Christ and an eagerness to lead others into saving faith!  It is a blessing to have her help as we organize for awakening and a faithful following of Jesus!

I have I continue to teach and preach at local churches on “The Method of Jesus” focusing on evangelism and discipleship through small groups.  I’ll be preaching a number of times over the summer at Virginia Beach Christian Church as they are in between pastors.

Thank you for your continued support and prayers for me and this ministry.  Our Lord tells us to store up treasures in heaven by giving to ministry and we do not take that lightly!

Greg West

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Summer 2016

“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.  Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together.              Jesus from John 4:34-36

To participate in the sowing and the reaping of a harvest for eternal life is incredible!  Incredibly challenging, demanding, rewarding and good.  I am grateful that God has put me in such a place where I can share Christ with those who do not yet know His love, power and purposes for their lives as well as equipping disciples so they too can be in this ministry!

After the hike . . . marvelous, but exhausting!
Precious children, made in God's image

In March, I took 11 students from Virginia Wesleyan College (VWC) and a staff person to Nicaragua.  This was my sixth trip with VWC!  As always the cross cultural service has a transforming effect!  Our dear Nicaraguan friends Gioconda and Wilfredo took us to the Jinotega District to San Jose de Bocay in the interior.  We partnered with a number of churches in building a sidewalk at a main ‘feeding center’.  This is a place where food is served to children in need as well as a location for other feeding centers to come and pick up their supplies for distribution.  I preached at three churches during evening services, the students shared testimonies and we sang a couple songs in Spanish together.  One afternoon while we were working on the long sidewalk with concrete and large stones, the Pastor asked if I would like to preach on the radio.  This central ministry had a new radio tower and had been broadcasting only for 1 month.  I agreed and the Pastor said, “Ok, five minutes.”  I questioned, “You want me to preach for five minutes?”  He replied, “No, you will preach for forty minutes.  You start preaching in five minutes!”  So with some quick prayer, laughter and confidence in our great LORD and Savior, I ventured in!  I do love the spontaneity and the unpolished ways in which the church in Latin America operates. 
It was the first time out of the United States for many of the students and the small group times of Bible study, worship, prayer and sharing were deep and moving.  One of the students recommitted their life to Christ shortly after returning and is eager to be a part of a new ministry to athletes at VWC that I’m working on!  Your financial gifts to ‘Life in His Name’ help to make this trip successful, thank you!
It was a tremendous year for ‘Marlin Ministries’, as God turned dozens of hearts around on our campus!  ‘Marlin Ministries’ is the banner name over all of the individual ministries at VWC. 
Student Leaders at our Home in Virginia Beach


Here are some happenings from this year:
Ø  Our overall participation was at an all-time high with twenty different ‘Marlin Ministry’ gatherings each week! 
Ø  The students started a second weekly worship time on Monday nights that grew into times of profound ministry in prayer, evangelism and deliverance!
Ø  We had a dozen students recommit their lives to Christ or receive Christ as Lord and Savior!  We celebrated this one evening knowing that the angels in heaven were rejoicing with us!  These conversions are deep and the students are actively growing in faith!
Ø  Two student interns served with me as a part of a new course entitled, “Servant Leadership” co-taught by Dr. Craig Wansink and me.  Both of these students, Luke Wentling and Ryan Fitzgibbon sense God’s call to serve in the future as Pastors in the United Methodist Church.
George Scott, top right & worship team
We have many students who have a real passion for Christ and his Gospel.  Our Sunday afternoon worship has a vibrancy and joy present that are having a great effect.  It is certainly the Presence of the Holy Spirit among us!  For years I had dreamed of having student testimonies at each worship service.  This year it happened!  The students were glad to share how God was at work and the redemption that they were experiencing!  One of my favorite testimony quotes from a freshman is this: “I’ve been playing this Christianity game my whole life, but now for the first time I’m on fire for the Lord!”  This is from a student who experienced God’s deliverance from some dark things going on in his life a few days before!  We heard from a number of students who are finding healing from past abuse and emotional trauma.  Our God heals and it is often through a community of disciples who love with Jesus’ love that it happens.  We are very excited about how God will work among us this fall.  We’ll have about 400 freshmen joining us at VWC.  Please pray for them and pray for us that we would be ready for the harvest and found faith in reaching out with love and truth.  It is powerful to see God using ‘Marlin Ministries’ to form us all as more faithful disciples of Jesus.  Please know my profound gratitude for your generosity and support!  You can track Marlin Ministries on Facebook.  Just ask to join.

We are working towards having a part-time ministry intern working with me this fall.  This would be a graduate of VWC, who has a passion for campus ministry.  I’m currently working with two May graduates, Forrest Teague and Gabe Higgins, who are exploring licensing and ordination in the United Methodist Church.  They are both currently serving in part-time ministry settings nearby. 
Mom and Dad at Oxford University, Magdalen College
In May I traveled to England and Scotland on a ‘Wesleyan Revival and Scottish Reformation’ trip with VWC.   We had 17 students, Dr. Terry Lindvall, Dr. Craig Wansink (both Religious Studies Professors at VWC) and other guests, including my parents!  It was a tremendous time of fellowship, learning and spiritual growth!  We helped the students to understand the theology, methods and power of the early Methodist movement, before it became a church.  The Wesley brothers, George Whitfield and other leaders were determined to take up their cross and follow Christ “spreading Scriptural holiness across the land.”  It started as a renewal movement on a college campus (Oxford U.) requiring weekly small group accountability, “How is it with your soul?”  Their field preaching with bold appeals to turn from sin to Christ and life combined with the small group shepherding and discipleship with active service to the poor, prisoners, needy and sick created a mighty movement.  I say . . . “Do it again, LORD!  And use me.”

In front of Wesley's Chapel, London England


May the Risen Christ make Himself known more and more in each of your lives so that you become like Him, a servant of all, the light of the world and a seeker of the lost!
Greg West