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A Perspective on Saturday

Mark 8:31-33, 9:30-32

We gather together as friends and family. It is a quiet day as we feel the weight of grief. There are moments of silence. It is hard to know what to say. Some of our closest friends are missing; they scattered, trying to process their own heartache. Who could blame them?

The noise of the city and the loud celebrations in places are too much. How could anyone rejoice over this? The events of the past few days echo in our minds—scenes we cannot unsee. 

Our leader, our dearest friend, the one who would change the world, who we knew would conquer all, now rests in a borrowed tomb. There is nothing we can do. Silence fills the room, again. 

In the midst of our sorrow, someone lightens the mood for a few moments by sharing a story or two about our friend, our brother. There is laughter, followed by tears. He is gone too soon. We needed more time.

We all agree, our lives were better when he was with us. And yet, even though He is not in this room. He is still with us.

In the silence, He is with us.
In our hurt, He is with us.
In our doubt, He remains.

His words, not our own, stir up new conversations. We grapple with the meaning.

“The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.”

Why didn’t we ask him what he meant when we had the chance?

Today is our Sabbath. A day for resting. A time for the silence to settle. Tomorrow we will visit his tomb. We will cry out our grief and sorrow to the rocks. We know God hears us. Maybe we will find answers. Surely, hope remains.

This can’t be the end.

Embracing More Than Happiness

During the fall of 2023, 12 expectant mothers participated in Schweitzer’s first Embrace Grace group. The journey with this group of single, pregnant ladies was truly beautiful. Carolyn Larsen, a volunteer leader with Embrace Grace shared, “Through a message of love, we helped the women see that they could have their babies and their dreams too!”

Fast forward nearly five months since the first special day ceremony celebrating the completion of the program, and many of these moms are now loving and caring for newborns. One mom who participated in the cohort is Brittany Stockdale.

“At the age of 16, I had ovarian cancer and major surgery. I didn’t believe I could ever have kids. As I got older, I was upset that I couldn’t have kids so I began living life doing whatever I wanted to do,” Brittany said and went on to share more of her story.

She met Louis and began a relationship. They both were working on living a clean and sober life. The couple had discussed having children but were surprised by God in a whole new way when Brittany became pregnant with a miracle baby. During this time, she learned about Schweitzer’s Embrace Grace group from the Pregnancy Care Center and decided to give it a try.

“At first I was nervous; I didn’t know what to expect when I walked into a room of women and other moms, but it became the highlight of my week,” she said.

Soon after entering the program, Brittany and Louis got married and began exploring faith together at Schweitzer. Louis waited in the car each Wednesday night while Brittany participated in the Embrace Grace group, and they began attending Sunday morning services. You’ll often find them at the 9 am service.

Embrace Grace was a pathway of joy for Brittany and Louis. “Our lives are way more full today. There is a different kind of happiness. It’s not a ‘party happiness’; it’s a true joy because there is not a void we are trying to fill,” the couple shared.

Now, in 2024, their lives are quite different as they raise their four-month-old girl, Emma Rae, in a home full of God’s love and truth. Embrace Grace at Schweitzer has truly made a difference for this young family.

A Portrait of Spirit-Led Donors

by Neil McCall, President, Schweitzer Church Foundation

On any warm afternoon or evening, after a nice steak dinner, you might find Larry and Jeannette Dills on their porch with a sweet peach tea, watching the cattle graze, and enjoying God’s handiwork. If they aren’t home, they might be off on a journey in their motor home. They only have two more states to check off: Maine and North Dakota.

Larry and Jeannette did not grow up wealthy but they had what they needed. Larry had three siblings and Jeannette had eight.

From an early age, they were taught to save and to practice generosity. Early in their marriage, they saved something from every paycheck. When Larry was just a youngster growing up in Koshkonong, Missouri, his father helped to build their new church. This taught him love for the Lord.

Larry and Jeannette knew each other in high school but didn’t start dating until after. They have been married for 55 years. Following high school, Larry attended college and joined the Army.

He was stationed in Washington, D.C., where he programmed computers. After his military commitment was completed, Larry enjoyed a 40-year career in banking. Jeannette worked as a substitute teacher for many years.

In the 1980s, the bank Larry managed in Ava was asked to participate in funding the loan to Schweitzer when the church purchased the neighboring car lot—the place where the Student Center and the Flourish Food Pantry are now located. In the 1990s, when the Dills moved back to Springfield, they joined Schweitzer as members.

Throughout the Dills’ lives, they have faced many challenges. Jeannette accidentally lost an eye in a BB gun accident around age 5. Just recently, they lost a child and five other family members during the course of one year. Their strength is their faith.

Their response to life’s challenges is always Christ. They shared, “We don’t know how we would have survived without our belief in the Resurrection.“

Recently, the Holy Spirit moved the Dills to give a Living Gift to The Schweitzer Foundation. A Living Gift is one given during a donor’s lifetime.

A Legacy Gift is a bequest from an estate or one made by naming the Foundation a beneficiary of a retirement plan.

This spring, Larry will further support the Schweitzer Church Foundation by helping lead a class called “Binder for Life.” This three-session class is beneficial for adults of all ages and stages of life, but especially appreciated by those 50+ who want to insure loved ones have the documents needed to manage their affairs should they become incapacitated or pass away. During this class, you’ll learn about legacy gifts and much more. Learn more about the Binder for Life Class here.

Encouragement for Life’s Challenges

by Pastor Sheila Pippin.
In the classic movie “It’s a Wonderful Life,” George Bailey becomes overwhelmed by the circumstances of his life and is “rescued” by a guardian angel named Clarence. One of George’s lines is a last-resort prayer that begins, “Lord, I’m not a praying man, but…”

The Congregational Care Ministry at Schweitzer Church is fully aware our lives are made up of challenges that often seem overwhelming. As a praying, caring congregation, we also believe in a constant line of prayer to express our thanks to God, demonstrate our awe of God, and to confess our shortfalls.

God never promised that our lives would be simple, but he DID promise he would be with us each step of the way. In the same way that he is with us, we also can share each aspect of our lives with him…including the challenges. We can also find encouragement and support in a community of friends.

Throughout the year, the Congregational Care team offers classes to help with difficult circumstances.

These include classes on loneliness, helping older parents relate to their adult children, and about end-of-life issues. We also offer support for grief with 13-week sessions for GriefShare and special sessions for “Surviving the Holidays” or “Loss of a Spouse,” and much more.

This spring, we are offering a class specifically designed to address the challenges you may be facing:

“Recovering from Losses in Life,” based on a book by H. Norman Wright. This class is fitting for people of all ages and situations. Whether you have recently lost a loved one, are dealing with the heartbreak of divorce, or experienced the loss of a relationship, this class could be a source of comfort and healing for you.

We invite you to join us for this four-week class and book study, beginning Thursday, April 11, and continuing each week through May 2, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Find us each week in room 102 (Entrance B). Sign up for this class at schweitzer.church/next or by using the Church Center App.

One last reminder, for whatever is happening in your life, our team is ready to provide encouragement and prayer as you navigate life’s challenges.

If you ever want to visit with a member of the Congregational Care Team, please reach out by calling the office at 417-881-6800 or by emailing me at spippin@schweitzer.church.

Adventures in Missions

by Shelley Rogers, Missions Coordinator
As we expand our focus on global missions at Schweitzer, there are many ways to ask questions, explore, and get involved. This spring, we will install a wooden world map outside the Schweitzer Kids’ check-in area. This will be a visual reminder of our focus on global missions.

Going forward, each month we will highlight an unreached people group. We will share info sheets, ways to pray for missionaries and the regions, and have items to help kids and families engage together in learning about missions. This info will be available near the missions wall and in the Schweitzer E-news. During the months of April and May, we will focus on two people groups in China, the Tujia and the Uyghur.

I’m also thrilled to share some new ways you can connect with other people interested in global outreach. This spring we have three ways to get involved.

Adventure in Missions Book Study
Beginning on April 7 at 6 pm and continuing for 5 weeks, we will read and discuss the biography of Gladys Aylward, an inspirational missionary who reached out to people in China. She followed the call of God despite obstacles and roadblocks. This is an easy read that will appeal to a variety of ages. Anyone 13 and older is welcome to attend. It is a great opportunity for intergenerational relationships and discussion. Books will be provided. Sign up for this study.

OTC International Students Partnership
In March, we began a partnership with OTC and their international students. We hope to be friendly faces to these students who are adjusting to our local community. Please email me at srogers@schweitzer.church if you would like to be involved in encouraging and mentoring a student. Recently, Gary Potts encouraged and mentored students by helping them fill out government forms.

International Night of Worship
On Sunday, June 2, at 6 pm, we will have an International Night of Worship. Join us for a beautiful night of worship with local churches serving people from around the world.

Top Concerns for Kids & Students

In a recent conversation with Schweitzer staff about the next generation, Schweitzer Kids Directors, Stiffany Taylor and Taylor Zen, and Student Director Levi Zen shared five top concerns. These are common among elementary, middle and high school students.

1. Anxiety about their future
2. Busy Schedule
3. Grades at School
4. Relationships with Friends & Family
5. Self-Sufficiency – “I want to do it on my own.”

As part of a series of articles focusing on the Next Generation, we will be talking about these five topics both in this issue of the Spark and in the upcoming issues as well.

Julie Ruble, who attends Schweitzer, has worked as a school counselor for 24 years, and now serves as a private therapist and school-based therapist for Burrell Behavioral Health. We asked her to share some insights about anxiety and kids.

“Did you know the two greatest mental health concerns for kids aged 6 to 11 are anxiety and depression? Does this surprise you? Many consider these ages to be part of the carefree days of childhood, so why would anxiety and depression be topics of concern? Having worked as a counselor with children and teens the last 25 years, I decided to pursue this further.

I took an impromptu poll of some of the young people I interact with about their top sources of anxiety. It turns out social media is their number one stressor, and busyness their number two stressor.

Perhaps less well known by young people is that a big task at this age is the development of their personal identity—who they are as a person and how they relate to others. It’s evident that identity, social media, busyness, and anxiety are all related. Oftentimes, social media creates confusion when it comes to understanding identity, which leads to more anxiety.

Not knowing who you are raises anxiety in all of us – young and old. However, the young are particularly vulnerable to this thought as they change and develop. For every age, it’s important to be reminded that we are all made in the image of God.

People who do not understand this will continue to wonder who they are and how they relate to others. As parents and adult leaders, God asks us to help guide the next generation. He simply asks us to be his hands and feet in this world – and let the Holy Spirit work through us in the lives of our young people (and everyone else, for that matter).

Practically speaking, if social media and busyness are stressing our young people (which my research shows to be true), then we should try to reduce these stressors. Here are a few ways to start:

• Set time limits for social media exposure
• Respect and maintain age limits for access to certain platforms
• Limit who can contact your kid or student online

Likewise, there are ways to slow down excessive busyness. For example, follow God’s plan and keep the Sabbath a day of rest. This means keeping it a day for family, church, praise, and relaxation. On this day, consider having your kids (maybe yourself too) fast from social media and other intrusive electronic media.

It is a big challenge to figure out how to reduce anxiety for a whole age group, but we can remember this: God loves our children even more than we love our children. This may seem difficult to imagine. Within my own family, I would often focus on the fact that God has everything under control. This thought alone often relieved the pressure.”

____

Our Schweitzer Kids and Student Ministry leaders are always looking to encourage the students and families. During the week, we invite you to stop by the NextGen office to chat or share a snack or coffee with Stiffany, Taylor, or Levi.

Student Confirmation Class 2024

Sunday, April 14, we will celebrate churchwide as 12 students participate in the 2024 Confirmation Service. This will be a time of recognition for students affirming their faith.

Since last fall, students ages 13-16 have been learning what it means to believe in and follow Christ.

For about nine months, students met weekly for lessons and discussions with volunteer leaders, including Alan and Deb Sanderson, Will and Nicole Cologna, and Bob Casady. Together, they discussed key questions of faith, covering topics like free will, grace, sin, and more. Along the way, they have visited other churches and denominations.

Alan and Deb Sanderson, who serve together as a couple, are continually amazed by the students. “Every time we hear the kids ask and discuss questions, our hearts swell,” Deb said. For the past two years, the Sandersons have had the opportunity to go through confirmation with their grandsons, Noah and Luke (pictured left).

“I can assure you that this confirmation process inspires questions and dialogue about faith not just here at church but at home too,” she shared.

Nicole Cologna has helped with confirmation classes for more than 15 years and still enjoys it!

“Each year, I notice a lot of digging deeper for answers about why we choose to follow Jesus. The students are eager to learn.” In Luke 11:9 it says, ‘So I say to you: Ask, and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.’ These students are following this command and discovering much!

When it comes to discussing topics of faith, both Nicole and Deb agree there is a big difference from week one to week four. The openness and bond between the students and leaders continues to grow month after month.

“One of my favorite things is hearing the students say, ‘Wow, I never thought about it that way,’” Deb added.

Confirmation Services will take place during both morning services on April 14. All students will share in a special time of prayer and blessing; additionally, students who have not been baptized before will be baptized. You will not want to miss this special morning as we encourage the next generation at Schweitzer Church.

New Flourish Staff

One way Schweitzer serves our community is through the ministries of Flourish Community Development Corporation (CDC). Recently, Flourish filled two needed staff roles. Katelyn Yoder is now serving as Flourish’s Resource Coordinator. Her main focus is providing resources and creating community in the two vertical communities with whom Flourish partners: Nordic Landing and Y Gardens. Rebecca Jeter also joined the team as the Program Director. Her focus is on researching and planning programs that serve Flourish and the broader Springfield community.

Katelyn is a recent graduate of Missouri State University. She is originally from St. Louis but loves Springfield so much that she decided to stay. Katelyn says her first job out of college is an ideal fit for her passions, experience, and love of social entrepreneurship.

” I am thrilled that I get to build relationships with individuals, understand their needs, and empower them to solve problems and transform their lives! The great commission isn’t just a call to those missionaries living overseas; it is a call on each of our lives to share the love of Christ wherever we are planted. I am excited to see all the people God has for me to encourage in the Flourish community!” – Katelyn

Want to get to know more about Katelyn’s role at Flourish? Reach out by email to: katelyn@flourishcdc.org or by phone: 417-501-5897.

Rebecca joined the Flourish team at the beginning of 2024 and brings over 15 years of non-profit and community relations experience. With a love for people and ministry, she feels called to encourage others to see the power in connection. Rebecca moved to Springfield in 2007 but is originally from a small town called Lonoke, Arkansas.

“My goal each day is to connect someone to a service, a resource, a mission, or their next step. We each have a unique gift. That unique gift, combined with your time and placement in this community right now, means you are bound to fill some voids no one else can fill.” – Rebecca

Rebecca loves talking about Razorback sports, especially baseball. Rebecca is married to her best friend, Jason. They were married on Leap Day 2020 and technically just celebrated their first wedding anniversary. They have four children together as a blended family.

REACH OUT: Want to get to know more about Rebecca’s role at Flourish? Reach out by email rebecca@flourishcdc.org or by phone: 417-501-5474.

Spring Sermon Series: In the Name of Jesus

Easter is the most defining moment in all of history, but what comes next? What do we do with the reality of the empty tomb? Outside of going to heaven when we die, what difference does Jesus’ resurrection make in our lives today?

Starting Sunday, April 7, we will begin a short three-week series called “In the Name of Jesus” to explore those questions. We will spend three weeks working our way line-by-line through one of the most celebrated and impactful chapters of the Bible: Romans 8.

Often, when we pray, we end our prayers with the line, “in the name of Jesus.” This line is not just a way to end our prayers, like how we end a letter with “sincerely.” No, to claim the name of Jesus is to claim a certain standing with God through the work of Jesus. In our short series, we will explore our standing with God, which is now true because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Romans 8 lays out the truth of how Jesus’ resurrection changes our lives because it changes our standing with God.

Through these three weeks, we’ll learn to see ourselves as God sees us because of the resurrection of his Son. I hope you’ll join us, and I hope you’ll bring someone with you.

– Spencer Smith, Lead Pastor, Schweitzer Church

After this series, we will dive into a series called “How to Love God.”

From Crushed to Confident

by Cherrie Segrist

The path of my life has not always been easy. In fact, it has taken time for my heart to start the healing process from many wounds. In my life, I have endured physical abuse, mental abuse, and emotional abuse.

Through my journey of healing, as part of Flourish’s Coach House program this
year, I have learned two major things. First, God hates abuse; and second, God is
close to the brokenhearted. He saves those who feel crushed in spirit.

For a long time, I felt crushed by tragedies and difficulties. As a child, I lived in fear. My father was an alcoholic, and my family was always on the run fleeing gunshots, abuse, and fighting. As a teenager, I wanted to fit in. I hung around with the wrong friends, ran away from home, and started drinking and smoking. I got pregnant twice in my 20s and experienced much abuse. I was raped, scared, and had no idea where I was heading in life.

Along the way, I met someone I thought would love me for me but was once again
hurt. In the process, I exposed my family and children to abuse and fighting – although
it was the last thing I wanted. I became pregnant again, yet this did not fulfill my
desire for love.

About 14 years ago, I entered a season of extreme grief. A child I had raised since she
was nine was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer. She passed away a year and a half after my

father. On the heels of this, my younger sister also died. Everything compounded, and I found
myself in a dark place, suffering from grief and still struggling with the abuse I had experienced
from my former husband. I fell into a deep depression and wanted to end my life. At this low point, I found a light of hope when I learned about the Flourish Coach House ministry.

My life began to change as I learned about the infinite healing power of
Jesus Christ. With the help of classes, faithful teachers, friends, family, and
prayer, I learned to love myself for the beautiful woman I have become.

Today, I am 49 years old and enrolled in college, making straight A’s. I am pursuing
a degree in Early Childhood Education and recently made the Dean’s List. I am about to
transition from the Coach House program and I know God has bigger plans for me. I am still
amazed at what my God has accomplished. I have accepted Christ in my life and can declare:

I AM ENOUGH!
I AM AT PEACE!
I HAVE LEARNED TO FORGIVE THOSE WHO HAVE WRONGED ME.


For anyone who has experienced tragedies and brokenness, let me tell you there is hope. There
are people who will accept you and love you for who you are.

YOU ARE WORTH
EVERYTHING
IN JESUS CHRIST.