Friday, March 27, 2020

A Friday Update From Pastor Craig

Water’s Edge Family –

I am discovering the coronavirus pandemic is having different effects on different people. That makes sense. Some are very concerned about their physical wellness or the health of loved ones. Some have suffered financially. Some welcome the social distancing and are enjoying a time of retreat. Some miss other people and feel isolated. Some are overwhelmed with work responsibilities. Others are bored. All of us find ourselves in at least one or two of these categories. My primary concern and the focus of my prayers and work during these days has been the church: the people of The Water’s Edge who worship, give, pray, serve, learn, love, and connect with each other and with God. I miss you and pray for all of you daily.

 

A Different Kind of Busy

 Hard to believe it was two weeks ago today, I decided to move Sunday morning worship from in-person to online. On Tuesday night, I met with the church leadership team. By the time I got around to scheduling the Zoom meeting, I discovered that all our accounts were being used by small groups, ministry teams, and Bible studies. Wednesday night, WE held a prayer service that included about 250 online worshippers. Last night, WE hosted a blood drive. The country is in critical need of blood right now and our facility works perfectly. We are hosting another one next Thursday. (This is exempt from the ten person gathering limit.) It is a joy to hear about all the church people who are connecting and caring for other church people in virtual ways. Keep doing that. Call or text somebody today!

 

Leading the Way in Generosity

Our youth ministry donated all their construction masks to nurses at Methodist Hospital. Our blanket team is currently making additional masks for health care workers throughout the city. Ordinary people making a huge difference!

WE keep collecting financial resources for people in Omaha who are struggling. One individual heard about the good work WE are doing and gave us $5,000. These donations go to help individuals and families with rent, groceries, and medicine. I’m not involved in every transaction, but examples of people WE have helped are a dental assistant, a bartender, a cancer patient, a tattoo artist, and a single parent to who to reduce hours to work at home while her children go to elementary school. Each of these recipients have been beyond grateful.

 Another cool story: Our sister church in Cuba is shut down for at least two months starting this Sunday. They don’t have online worship or EFT giving. Their collections are roughly $500 per month. One of our donors has given me the money to pay their bills for two months. My next stop is Western Union where I will send $1,000 to Cuba!

 

The Church Can Help

 Deliveries – WE have a number of people who are willing and wanting to pick up groceries or run errands for people who can’t go out. I hope you will take us up on this. They are eager to serve and look forward to helping others. Email leandra@weomaha.com to schedule a delivery.

Financial Coaching – Some of us have had our financial reality change in recent weeks and others of us have extra time to devote to budgeting and financial health. The Water’s Edge has a financial coaching ministry. This coaching is based on financial principles taught through Financial Peace University. Ron Christensen is designated as a Ramsey Solutions Master Financial Coach. He is ready to assist you. This is not advice on investments and insurance. Ron listens to understand your situation and helps you identify options, set goals, and take next steps. These sessions are confidential and Ron is waiving all fees. I strongly encourage you to take advantage of this. Email ron@weomaha.com.

 Short-Term Financial Assistance – Through the generosity of our donors, WE are able to provide short-term financial assistance to family and friends of The Water’s Edge. If you know somebody who has lost a job or income and is struggling to obtain basic necessities, email leandra@weomaha.com. We don’t have the human or financial resources of larger social service agencies, but WE have already helped over a dozen people pay rent and purchase food, medicine, and other necessities.

 Toilet Paper and Hand Sanitizer – WE have ample amounts of toilet paper at the church and a good supply of hand sanitizer too. We aren’t using much of either these days so if you really need some, let us know. Email gaileen@weomaha.com.

Prayer and Listening – Our staff would be delighted to talk to anybody in the church on the phone or via Zoom. Five of us are calling through the church roster checking-in on everybody. (There are a lot of you! We hope to have the first round of calls made by mid-April and will start again, if necessary) We welcome a conversation with you and the opportunity to pray for you. Email the ministry staff person you feel most comfortable with.

chad@weomaha.com

craig@weomaha.com

gaileen@weomaha.com

leandra@weomaha.com

michele@weomaha.com

 

Worship this Week

This Sunday WE will be worshipping online at 9:00 and 10:30. I will be talking about hope. Hope is not an idea or a dream or a preferred reality. Hope is a person and the person’s name is Jesus. I’m still working on the message, but am passionate about this subject (I’m the guy who signs most all my correspondence with the phrase: The best is yet to come…) and can’t wait to share with you. AJ and the band have some great music worked up. Make sure to greet people, share your prayer requests, and comment on how God is speaking to you.

 

WE have been livestreaming for years. The COVID-19 pandemic has moved many other churches to add this in the last week or two. Facebook and YouTube weren’t quite prepared for the volume of video they were getting last Sunday morning. YouTube was a very reliable stream for us last week. Those watching on Facebook were experiencing pausing. If Facebook is pausing or if you are losing the Facebook stream, give YouTube a try.

www.facebook.com/weomaha

www.youtube.com/weomaha

 

Practicing Generosity

The Water’s Edge is the most generous church I am familiar with. What has happened in the last fourteen years doesn’t happen without a rare amount of generosity. WE have practiced abundance over scarcity for our entire history and WE aren’t going to stop now.

If you have gone though a significant financial change in the last month, please contact me at craig@weomaha.com. I would like to talk to you and pray with you. 

I want you to know the ministry staff and leadership team is only spending money on items that are mission critical. I also want you to know that WE are doing as much ministry as ever, if not more, just in a different way.

Many of our donors give via electronic funds transfer or practice generosity by online giving. If you aren’t giving electronically, now is a great time to start! Visit www.weomaha.com/give for giving options. I recommend the electronic funds transfer, but do what works for you. If you have any questions, email jennie@weomaha.com. Consistent and generous giving not only keeps The Water’s Edge in a financially health position so that WE can do amazing ministry in our community and world, it is also an act of faith in God’s provision.

I thank you for your generosity. I hear from many people in the church and from the community how The Water’s Edge is a beacon of light and hope during this tough season. Also, know that many churches from around the country are using our resources and ideas to help them minister better in their local contexts. Your generosity is making all this possible.

 

Calm My Restless Heart

Here is a prayer I wrote about hope and peace. I pray it is a blessing to you:

Dear God, 

Calm the giant waves of my heart.

Calm this storm inside me.

Still my soul so I may experience Your grace.

Still my soul so I may find rest in You.

I have discovered the world doesn’t provide the peace I need.

Drench all areas of my life with Your peace.

Lead me to keep encountering the peace You provide.

Keep teaching me that nothing in life or death can take away the peace You give.

Amen.

 

Thanks for making it this far in my weekly update. And thank you for being the church in this season of physical distancing. I pray you experience social solidarity and more of God presence.

 

The best is yet to come…

 

Craig

March 24, 2020

A Message Of Encouragement From Pastor Craig

Saturday, March 21, 2020

A WE Kids Special Update

Parents-
First, I want to say thank you for your support and patience as WE navigate through the upcoming days and weeks together. So many of you have reached out to myself and the WE Omaha staff with words of gratitude and encouragement. I am so very thankful to be a part of this community. 

Please know that I miss “my” kids. I miss their smiling faces. I miss their hugs and fist bumps. I miss our Wednesday night and Sunday morning conversations. I miss the sounds of their voices filling the church. I took time this past week to walk through each of our classrooms and pray for our kids and families. I will continue to be in prayer for all you daily – even once WE return to “normalcy.” Like all of you, I am so looking forward to that day when WE can all be together in person again. 

Until then, WE wanted to make sure that WE Kids was able to continue helping our kids grow in their faith by providing you with resources at home. Parents are the biggest single spiritual influence in their child’s life. The Water’s Edge has always been committed to partnering with parents in their child’s faith journey and this has not changed. To help equip you, WE Kids will be providing you with resources each week so you can continue WE Kids at home. You’ll find all the resources you need at weomaha.com/kids/athome. WE encourage you to bookmark this page as it will be updated weekly. (For those of you who have kids who attend our Wednesday night studies, please know I am working on adapting those studies for at home and will be in contact next week with more information.)

I know as parents, many of us are overwhelmed right now as we navigate this new normal. Many of us have become work-at-home parents and, in a blink of an eye, also home school parents. WE certainly do not want to overwhelm you by adding more to your plate! Please pick and choose the WE Kids resources that work best for your family. Once you find what works, stick with it and do it together as a family. 

Just like the adults, our kids are also navigating a new normal. I encourage you to talk with your kids. Ask them questions and allow them to ask questions as well. Listen to them and pray with them. The Water’s Edge has put together resources to help families prevail during this season of life. Head over to weomaha.com/covid19kids for resources for kids of all ages. 

As always, I want you to know that I am here for the families of The Water’s Edge. If you need anything at all, please do not hesitate to call, email me at michele@weomaha.com or reach out to me on social media. I encourage and welcome these conversations as WE work toward staying connected with each other and God. 

With Joy,
Michele

Friday, March 20, 2020

Our Temporary New Normal

 

Dear WE Family,

My autocorrect changed March 20 to 3-20. My mind immediately traveled to Ephesians 3:20. It’s one of the closing verses to a prayer I have prayed every day for 18 years and 299 days.

Now to the God who can do so many awe-inspiring things, immeasurable things, things greater than we ever could ask or imagine through the power at work in us. –Ephesians 3:20 

A good word for today. Probably a perfect word for today. My prayer is that WE become more dependent on and faithful to the Creator and less dependent and less reliant on God’s fragile creation.

It is hard to believe ten days ago most of us were going about our normal lives. Things have changed, haven’t they? Last Sunday morning, I said there has never been a time in the 14-year history of our church that our community needs us as much as it needs us today. I sincerely and passionately believe this.

The people of our church, so far, have given in excess of $7,000 in gift cards / cash / and electronic donations. And that is without me asking for a nickel! WE are working directly with the Millard Public School and Gretna Public Schools to get these resources to the families and children who need them most. I have already distributed over $1,500 to people in our own church family. I encourage you to give to this cause. WE can take gift cards, checks, and cash at the church. You can give online at www.weomaha.com/give. Note that you are giving to the WE Assist Fund. 100% of your donation will go directly to families and children in the greater Omaha area.

In the coming weeks our building will be used to host blood drives. These events are exempt from the ten-person gathering limit. The Red Cross is beyond grateful for our hospitality. A critical shortage of blood exists. To all of you who donated to our land and building—your investment continues to serve our community and beyond.

Our mission at The Water’s Edge is to lead people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ and each other. Our mission isn’t changing, but WE have had to change how WE live out our mission. I want to give a huge high five to our staff. I met with them last Friday at noon to let them know I was moving us to online worship. They have been working around the clock to create new environments for worship, community, learning, giving, prayer, and serving. I encourage you to encourage them. The have modeled what it means to serve and they care about you deeply.

Worship

We are currently not able to hold in-person worship services. WE will be having online worship every Sunday morning at 9:00 and 10:30. WE are making changes to our worship service with the online worshipper in mind. Let’s continue to make Sunday worship a rhythm in our lives together as The Water’s Edge family. WE have put this guide together to help us worship better as an online community.

Prayer Service

WE are hosting an online prayer service this Wednesday evening. Join with each other, our staff, and others from our community at 7:00 p.m.

 Kids and Students

We are continuing to work on creative ways to stay engaged with students of all ages. Just like schools and colleges, this is a learning curve for us. Check out this resource page to help families prevail during this season of life. WE will be sharing ways your children can continue to learn about and experience God.

 Giving

Your generosity, especially during times of adversity, is what allows us to offer hope, community, and Christ’s love to people. Many of our people give online already. Some of us love to give when we come to worship. I encourage you to automate your giving online. You can also give online anytime to support the work of The Water’s Edge in the Omaha area and beyond. Visit www.weomaha.com/give to set-up online giving or to make your donation. If you have questions or problems setting this up, contact jennie@weomaha.com. She will be grateful to assist you.

 Life Groups

Meeting in Life Groups is more important now than ever before. This is the best way for us to stay connected and pray for each other. Many of our life groups have been meeting virtually through Zoom. To schedule a Zoom meeting for your group, email jennie@weomaha.com with the day and time you want the Zoom meeting scheduled.

 I have been calling and getting communication from dozens of you. I look forward to and welcome these conversations. These days are difficult for all of us for a variety of different reasons. I keep remembering—WE are in this together and God is with us. WE will be shaped, tested, and ultimately strengthened by this time of adversity. My encouragement is for us to stay connected with each other and God.

 I’m missing you all and praying for you daily.

In Christ,

Craig

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

A St. Patrick’s Day Update From Pastor Craig

Hey Water’s Edge Family,

Today is St. Patrick’s Day. Patrick was the person who evangelized much of Ireland. So the Catholics have a feast day named after him. And they should. He is one of the great heroes of our faith.

 St. Patrick lived a long time ago. In the 400s.

 Just because people are Christians doesn’t mean life is easy and life hasn’t always been easy for the Irish. Fires and plagues and wars and pesky Vikings are part of their history. They, like us, are dealing with the coronavirus today.

 I think of the early Christians. They blazed the trail that WE travel today. I think of today’s underground and persecuted church—the reality for many Christians in various parts of the world. They inspire us with their deep faith.

 Today, we face a major health and economic challenge. I passionately believe WE will make it through these days as better, stronger, and more vibrant than ever before.

 I want you to know that my first concern as a pastor is the people of the church—which is you. I miss seeing you all. I miss seeing all the children and students. I welcome the opportunity to talk to any of you and to pray for you. Email me, text me, call me, send me a Facebook message—whatever. Your physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual health are at the top of my prayer list.

 Also, if you have a need, let us know. I can’t guarantee WE can meet every need, but I can guarantee WE will try. This church is comprised of the most committed and generous people I know. WE are in this together.

 Here is where WE are today.

 Worship will be online only, indefinitely. 9:00 and 10:30 on Sunday mornings. The staff is working hard to provide a worship experience that is created for an online audience. You can participate at www.weomaha.com, www.facebook.com/weomaha, and www.youtube.com/weomaha.

 Like all schools and colleges, our children and youth ministries are working to develop online ministries to our students. Like most schools and colleges—WE aren’t quite there yet. Look for updates in this area.

 Life groups and classes can meet off-site at their own discretion. Many of our groups and teams have been meeting via Zoom and have enjoyed that greatly. If you want the church to set up a Zoom meeting for your group, just let us know.

 Many of you have asked how you can give to families, individuals, and children who have lost jobs, income, and food security because of the coronavirus. I am grateful you are thinking abundance at this time and not scarcity because God will always be a God of abundance and not scarcity.

  1. Drop gift cards off at the church during regular business hours. I have given away over $1,000 of them so far. I wish I could take a video person with me as I do this because the reaction to generosity is worth a million words.
  2. Donate at weomaha.com/give. Choose the WE Assist fund when giving.
  3. Mail a check to The Water’s Edge Church, 19600 Harrison Street, Gretna, NE 68028. Or you can bring the check to the church too.

 Our staff will make sure 100% of your gift helps the most vulnerable and hurting in our community.

 These are tough days. I have prayed with many of you and hear your fears and frustrations. I have great faith and confidence that our God is bigger than our problems and that WE will emerge from these days as a church who loves God more and loves each other better.

 I remember St. Patrick and pray his prayer that gives me great hope:

 May the Power of God preserve us.

May the Wisdom of God instruct us.

May the Hand of God protect us.

May the Way of God direct us.

Against the snares of the evil ones,

Against temptations of the world.

May Christ be with us!

May Christ be before us!

May Christ be in us!

May Thy Salvation, Lord,

Always be ours,

This day, O Lord, and evermore.

Amen.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Important Worship Information for March 15, 2020

This Sunday is the second anniversary of The Water’s Edge building opening at 19600 Harrison Street. WE will gather together differently on Sunday morning by using online streaming as our primary form of worship at both 9:00 AM and 10:30 AM. WE will come together virtually to grow in our faith and thank God even in the midst of uncertainty. 

Services will be streamed online at www.weomaha.com, www.facebook.com/weomaha, and www.youtube.com/weomaha

WE encourage you to interact with one another online just as you would on Sunday morning. 

  •     Let us know where you are watching from

  •     Greet each other in the comments

  •     Ask questions

  •     Comment on the service

  •     Leave a prayer request

 While we may be distancing ourselves socially, WE can still continue to participate in community online. 

For those who would like to worship in our sanctuary—our doors will be open and you certainly are welcome to worship in person. Seats should be plentiful and the staff will be here to welcome you. Note: The WE Kids area will be closed and WE will not be serving donuts, but the coffee will be hot and flowing! 

Many in our congregation are young and healthy. Christian ethics demands that we care for the most vulnerable people in our congregation and community. Because we are a very large congregation, we see online worship as a service to Omaha and beyond. WE are attempting to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 to help less people become infected.

This Wednesday, March 18th, WE will not gather in our building for WEYouth or The 3rd Grade Bible Project. WE will provide our students some online opportunities to interact with each other and engage the Gospel. More details to come as these plans develop. 

We will honor reservations for events and gatherings that have reserved our building for use. Our Life Groups and weekly classes can continue meeting in person or use an online meeting format. Group leaders simply need to request a Zoom meeting be set up for them. 

The above information is for this week, March 14-21. We will communicate late next week about our gatherings and meetings going forward. Stay tuned to e-mail, texts, and social media for further updates. You can find the latest information at weomaha.com/coronavirus as well. 

The last two years at The Water’s Edge have been amazing. This Sunday is the beginning of the next two years that will be even more amazing. During these days, let’s pray for each other and pray for our church as WE seek to love God, care for each other, and serve our city and world. 

-Pastor Craig & The WE Omaha Staff

Thursday, March 12, 2020

COVID-19 – Thoughts From Pastor Craig

 

Yesterday seemed a bit surreal.

I remember September 11th, 2001. I was a young pastor in Spencer, Iowa and a part-time chaplain at the Northwest Iowa Mental Health Institute in Cherokee, Iowa. I spent the day with men and women battling schizophrenia and bipolar disease. I spent the night leading a worship service at my church that turned into a community prayer service.

 

Agreement among medical professionals exists that most of us will not die from the Coronavirus or even experience serious symptoms. But Christian ethics requires we take this disease seriously because many of our loved ones are vulnerable to this sort of virus—the Coronavirus has devastating and deadly effects for some.

 

I’m a pastor and my words are spiritual, not medical.

 

This season of life will pass. History teaches us that such is the case. The stock market will eventually recover and surge. People will be allowed to travel in and out of Europe. Spectators will fill basketball arenas. Toilet paper will be in abundant supply everywhere from the neighborhood market to the big box super store. We will be able to shake hands and embrace again.

 

Paul wrote to the Christians in Philippi: Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. -Philippians 4:6-7

 

Of course the peace Paul talks about here is not the absence of problems, but the presence of God. When God’s presence is greater than our problems, then peace is ours for the taking.

 

Here are five things you can do during these anxious days and nervous nights:

 

  1. Pray for peace. Pray for patience—this disease will probably be around for a while. Pray for healing for those who are suffering from the disease and for health for those who are vulnerable to it.
  2. Take good care of yourself physically. You know the drill. Wash your hands. Stay home if you are not feeling well. Get plenty of rest.
  3. Turn off your mind to things you can’t control. You will drive yourself crazy. And those around you too. Limit exposure to news, social media, and negative people. Focus on the parts of your life you do control.
  4. Spend time and energy forming yourself spiritually. Set a goal to emerge from this season of life as spiritually healthier.
  5. Invest in relationships. Pick a person or two and intentionally spend good time with them. Plan practices and activities that will help both parties grow and prevail in these relationships.

 

Let’s be extra intentional to function as a community of prayer, support, and solidarity during this season of uncertainty. As of now, we will continue gathering on Sunday mornings. Should you feel uncomfortable being part of a large assembly, I encourage you to worship online.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

WE Omaha’s Response to COVID-19

WE Family –

The first known case of the Coronavirus reached Omaha this week. I want to assure the people of The Water’s Edge that our staff and leadership are taking this threat seriously. The purpose of this communication is to share with everybody what The Water’s Edge is doing for the health and safety of our faith community.

Practice 1 – Wash and disinfect our hands
You will notice bottles of hand sanitizer throughout the building tomorrow. Use it regularly. Also, let’s wash our hands thoroughly when visiting the bathroom and before coming to church.

Practice 2 – Greet each other warmly without touching
The Water’s Edge is known for our hospitality and welcoming environment. We are discouraging handshaking until the threat of the coronavirus passes. Elbow bumps and air waves are acceptable.

Practice 3 – Not passing the attendance pads
We will not pass the attendance pads until the threat of coronavirus passes. Guest and visitors will be encouraged to visit the “Are You New?” table so that we can give them a gift and get them helpful information about The Water’s Edge.

Practice 4 – Not serving communion
We will not serve communion during worship until threat of coronavirus passes. If the virus lingers on past what health officials believe, we will look into a different way of serving communion. Should anybody want to receive communion, email us at info@weomaha.com, and we will make it happen.

Practice 5 – Sanitizing food service and other high touch areas
We do a very through job of this already, as influenza and other diseases have posed and will continue to pose a threat to us. Our food service team is committed washing their hands and using sanitizer frequently. We are committed to doing extra cleaning and sanitizing of high touch surfaces during this season.

Practice 6 – Sanitizing the kid’s area  
We do a very thorough job of this too. We will continue sanitizing the kid’s check-in area and kid’s classrooms before Sunday morning. We will also sanitize high touch areas during Sunday morning. Teachers will be encouraged to monitor behavior that can spread disease.

Practice 7 – If you are sick or not feeling well, stay home
This has always been the norm for our staff and congregation. When we built our building, we purchased and installed equipment that allows us to provide some of the best online worship in the Midwest. We livestream both worship services on our web site and Facebook page. I encourage online worship for those who are sick and for vulnerable people who don’t feel comfortable being part of a large assembly during this coronavirus season.

Conclusion
For our large gatherings, we are following the lead of the Millard Public Schools. They are working directly with the Nebraska Medical Center on the prevention of the Coronavirus and the implementation of social distancing—should it become necessary.

I would not lead a public worship service if I believed its participants were at risk. Nor would we hold learning opportunities for our children. I believe the above measures are a proactive step to ensure our safety at the present time. Should you feel uncomfortable about worshipping in a large assembly, I encourage you to worship online and reach out to the church should you want a pastoral visit for prayer and/or communion.

Tomorrow is the beginning of Daylight Savings Time. Some of us love it. Some of us don’t. Regardless, set your clocks one hour forward before going to bed tonight.

Hope to see you in the morning,
Craig

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