Thursday, May 29, 2014

May 2014

Challenge House 1 has been full of activity and planning for our busy summer season. We have also been living life with our neighbors...this includes the wonderful blessings and the gritty hard stuff.

Here is a glimpse of our month...

A huge blessing to our family has been the Durrett Avenue Neighborhood Association. We have made friends with the other board members, met many neighbors and have partners that also are seeking to see our neighborhood thrive.

We decided a good way to share information with our community would be through a Facebook page, so Ellen took on the task of creating it and shares duties with the Vice President of the Association with sharing posts of activities at Challenge House, in our neighborhood and in our community.

If you are a Challenge House 1 partner or live in Durrett Avenue Neighborhood we encourage you to like the page to receive updates:

Our Beautification committee for the city also has a Facebook page...we encourage our neighbors to nominate others that have beautified their property...if you would like to nominate your yard, but aren't on Facebook or don't have a camera...let us know - we would be happy to snap a photo for you!

A favorite part of May for us is that it is a time for planting and even a time for some crops to start producing....last year we planted the Broad Street Orchard in partnership with UK Extension Office and Micah's Mission. We actually have begun to see the efforts of the labor put into the plantings with our first strawberry crop!

We walked to the orchard and we were able to pick three clamshells of strawberries. The best part...walking home and sharing them with our neighbors on the way and then taking the rest to share with our neighbors at the neighborhood association meeting that evening.

The biggest blessing of all with the orchard has been meeting "Shorty" he invested himself in the orchard from day one. Last year he faithfully mowed  and weeded the orchard plot. He does the job for pride in the neighborhood, to be a good neighbor, not for recognition and he always disappears when we seek to offer praise or thanksgiving. He has been such a blessing and example in our walk to love our neighbor as ourselves.

With all the good in the neighborhood and our community comes the hard stuff...we are not immune to what many others face. An example of this surfaced last week when the window of our vehicle along with many others across our neighborhood and city were shot out with a BB or pellet gun. The insurance and Workman's Auto Glass took care of us in less than two days, but we think of neighbors that may not have the funds or good insurance to replace broken windows by vandals.

This comes on the heels of several shootings and robberies within our town. It is frustrating and disheartening to see that all the programs, money, or education we promote it will not change what is happening....but what hope we have knowing this is a heart issue and we know the one that changes hearts!

On May 24th our family attended a Stop the Violence Rally at the Boys & Girls Club hosted by Means Avenue Baptist Church. It was wonderful to see men women and children standing against the violence that has recently plagued our neighborhoods. To see men of God proclaiming the Word of God and challenging us to walk worthy lives and to build relationships with those around invest in our neighbors and let them know that Christ can be the answer.

We continue with our Wednesday Night Lady and Teen Girl Bible Study - Soup Conversations! It is always fun to see what group of ladies and teens we will have...some weeks we may have 3-4, other weeks, like last night we have to pull out extra chairs for everyone to sit! We have finished a study on finding the meaning of Easter and are now studying 1 John for the next few months. One thing is for sure we will have good soup, good fellowship in learning, and just meeting God there in His Word and prayer...ya'll I can't tell you how much these ladies bless my soul!

Amongst all the things we are doing in the month...we are always looking forward and planning for the months ahead...June will bring two summer programs - Be the Church with Hillcrest and a summer reading program for our students in Durrett Avenue neighborhood! We are so excited for both and continue to seek new ways to bless our neighbors and share the love of Christ with them.

If you would like to support us there are many ways:

...snacks and paper products (napkins, toilet paper, paper cups, etc) are always great additions to our ministry...

...volunteer your time to coordinate, lead, or assist in a program at Challenge House...the many partners we have are building wonderful relationships with the neighbors around us...

...prayer - we need prayers for safety in our neighborhoods for our neighbors and our ambassadors, for us to have divine appointments with our neighbors to partner in sharing Christ and to share Christ that do not know, prayer that we will share godly guidance with those that come to us for mentoring or support, prayer that hearts will be changed in our families, in our neighborhood, and in our town.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Throw Caution to the Wind

Remember: A stingy planter gets a stingy crop; a lavish planter gets a lavish crop.
I want each of you to take plenty of time to think it over, and make up your own mind what you will give.
That will protect you against sob stories and arm-twisting.
God loves it when the giver delights in giving.
God can pour on the blessings in astonishing ways so that you're ready for anything and everything, more than just ready for anything and everything, more than just ready to do what needs to be done.
As one psalmist puts it, He throws caution to the winds, giving to the needy in reckless abandon.
His right-living, right-giving ways never run out, never wear out.
This most generous God who gives seed to the farmer that becomes bread for your meals is more extravagant with you.
He gives you something you can then give away, which grows into full-formed lives, robust in God, wealthy in every way, so that you can be generous in every way, producing with us great praise to God.
Carrying out this social relief work involves far more than helping meet the bare needs of poor Christians.
It also produces abundant and bountiful thanksgivings to God.
This relief offering is a prod to live at your best, showing your gratitude to God by being openly obedient to the plain meaning of the Message of Christ.
You show your gratitude through your generous offerings to your needy brothers and sisters, and really toward everyone.
Meanwhile, moved by the extravagance of God in your lives, they'll respond by praying for you in a passionate intercession for whatever you need.
Thank God for this gift, His gift.
No Language can praise it enough.
II Corinthians 9 (MSG)
Have you ever thrown caution to the wind? When we hear that phrase it usually is a reference to sowing wild oats in ones younger years. However, what about in your daily life, what would it look like to throw caution to the wind?
This passage talks of the blessing and gift involved in caring for others...building relationships...not so that you can rescue others and receive accolades for service, but because in extending love we are a true reflection of the love of Christ...sharing the extravagance of God...bringing abundant and bountiful thanksgiving to Him.
My friends, this is counter to what you will hear in this world - watching out for "#1", let others help themselves, chasing our own dreams...but I can tell you - this reckless faith, throwing caution to the wind to serve and bless others with what He has given to us...there is nothing like it.
To all those that are serving with us, loving our neighbors, sharing our burdens, teaching, giving of what Christ gave to you...Thank you...your dedication, friendship and reflection of Christ's love is true nourishment to our spirits and is leaving a lasting mark on eternity for the lives you are impacting.
For those that are praying for our needs with passionate intercession...Thank are blessing with a gift like no other and arming us to serve with grace and strength.
If "throwing caution to the wind and giving to the needy with reckless abandon" is a term that makes you uncomfortable...challenges your faith, priorities, or plans...I challenge you to embrace it...take one step in the next week and month to meet the need of another...likely you will never be the same...

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Year One in Review

A year ago we set up this blog anticipating our move to Challenge House 1 and excited about all we would experience and have to share as we embarked on our adventure. The year has not disappointed in experiences and adventures....we have made new friends, learned many lessons, and had so many new experiences.

What I quickly learned is that my lofty goal of blogging on a weekly or monthly basis was much harder than I had dreamed. Writing has been a favorite past time in my college days and something I have longed for years to do again. It is not for lack of content that I had writer's block many times over the past year, but rather often due to "living" out the experience and then having so many emotions to process along with all that has transpired.

We have no doubt after a year in our home that God appointed us to live here and is transforming our lives, our thoughts, and our faith through this calling. We have had so many wonderful moments, but they have often been in the midst of very hard things. Either by naivetés or rose-colored glasses or maybe even being wrapped up in our own lives...we somehow missed some very big things in the lives of those around us...this "ignorant bliss" of prior years is probably one of the hardest things to process.

So first to start with the good things....

Our neighbors are such wonderful people...we have been so welcomed and in many cases taken under the wings of others to teach us about the culture of our neighborhood, the history and tradition of where we live, to come along side us and work to share the love of Christ with those around us. We have shared stories, meals, and wonderful conversations.

Our neighborhood association...under Reverend Jones' leadership...this group of people have made me feel so welcome and included. They have given us a voice and also given us advice.  I could not ask for a kinder group of people to have as friends and neighbors.

Our church family...from the beginning when the Hillcrest 20/20 youth prayed with us and our friends from church and the community came to commission and pray over us, our home, and neighborhood...prayers, encouragement, and sometimes listening hearts have proven so precious to us. Then there are those that have come to our home and served with us, whether handing out bags, picking up trash, or sharing times with the kids of our neighborhood...those who are serving with us are treasures to our souls.

Then there blessings that we could not have known before moving here...Kerri Pepper and the Holiday Elementary volunteers that tutor the students....John Allen and Kelly Jackson with the orchard project...the many Project Hopkinsville and backyard Bible club many people that see the mission and vision of Challenge House and love the people of Durrett Avenue.

So many other people and things that I fail to capture with mere words...

Then there is the hard.

Hard to endure, hard to process, hard to believe to be true.

There are times when serving in a ministry like this is so know there are others available if you need them, but sometimes it is hard to know what to ask or how to convey all that you learn and see. Then there are some that you expect to be there, but they cannot do the hard with you...

Hard things - kids with no food...families with no electricity...families with no with absent parents...friends that are trying to make a living, but are 10 steps behind and struggling to keep hope...neighbors that are lonely, because their family have moved on to better jobs, nicer neighborhoods...broken families...neighbors that once served our country in honor, that struggle to have their own kids show them respect....people that are lost and seeking salvation in alcohol or drugs...teens that are seeking approval in relationships leading to teen that reach out for help or those that cannot trust because they have never been in a truly safe place to learn that we reach only to learn they are gone to another town or state....

In all of this hard...the reality is...these hard things are not isolated to our neighborhood here. It is likely that some if not all of these "hard things" existed in our former neighborhood...hurting people are not isolated by income, gender, race, locality...pain is no respecter of persons...yet we did not see many do not see...cannot imagine...

Yet amongst all the good and all the hard...we have learned perhaps above all else that God is faithful. When we feel alone, we do not know what to do, when there is hurt we cannot fix...there are the promises of God that stand as a foundation. He does not falter even when we are emotionally exhausted and heartbroken...He has the resources, the answers...He is faithful.

So as year one at Challenge House 1 has come to a close...I hope once again that next year will be just as full as this one with wonderful and hard things...for it is in the hard that we have seen God's hand moved so precisely.

Friday, July 26, 2013

AT&T: Attitude Training and Team Work

Two weeks ago, 19 teenagers in 9th -12th grade ascended upon our home...each one chosen from many applications received for the AT&T program...the goal was to earn the $150 paycheck they would receive at the completion of their training and work.

I would guess that many of them came knowing the fun, friendships, and break from the routine they would experience each day...they probably didn't realize the work, change in their outlook on life, and the challenge to their futures this program would present.

The first week began with workshops from community owners, pastors, school leaders, social workers, employees, volunteers...people from our neighborhood...people from the community...all people who realize what it is like to be a teenager with your entire life in front of you...young and naïve about all they would experience in life...people who have made mistakes, been mentored by great people, and who had continued regardless of life's challenges to reach for their goals.

These leaders taught about work and faith and attitude impact both. A school leader shared with them how the Bible tells us, "you will reap what you sow." A pair of community leaders shared the many valuable lessons one can learn in Proverbs. Several men shared the challenges they faced growing up in these streets and very personal losses life has brought and how they continue to persevere.

(News Article: Kentucky New Era)

We started the program with nineteen and ended with eighteen graduates...we were recently can't help them all...they have to want to learn and grow...these words are true, but it also makes us more determined to reach out to the one and let them know that they matter.

Parents, friends, community leaders, job training mentors, and workshop leaders all gathered today at Challenge House 1 to celebrate these teenagers. Their hard work, their learning, the maturity they gained over the past two weeks. The students brought in timesheets, essays, and shared with all of us about their experiences...the good, the bad...some learned in job shadowing that they are in pursuit of their dream job...others decided they still have decisions to make regarding the big question of what they will be when they grow up.

The hope for these kids is that they leave a little wiser, motivated and inspired to always give their be grounded in their pursue their dreams...





(News Article: Kentucky New Era) 
Challenge House hosts this program, but there are so many others that contribute to make it a  success...the grant from AT&T that provides the funding for the paychecks the graduates receive...mentors that spend their time pouring their knowledge and experience into these kids...adults from our community that care enough to provide job training and on the job experience for these kids.

Attitude.... Training.... Teamwork.... a life changing experience for so many...

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Planting a Garden

Luke 8:5-8
New King James Version (NKJV)
5 “A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell by the wayside; and it was trampled down, and the birds of the air devoured it. 6 Some fell on rock; and as soon as it sprang up, it withered away because it lacked moisture. 7 And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up with it and choked it. 8 But others fell on good ground, sprang up, and yielded a crop a hundredfold.” When He had said these things He cried, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”

This passage of Scripture I have read many times in my life, but has led me to contemplate our ministry and a current project we are undertaking with a new appreciation and understanding.

Specifically I was struck by the four types of soil on which the sower went out to plant:

- wayside
- rock
- thorns
- good ground

We are currently working on a neighborhood project to plant a community orchard. Just as with farmers we are not going to the lot and planting trees...there is a great amount of preparation work to ensure the soil is ready for planting, so that the conditions are right, and the trees and plants will produce a great amount of fruit.

With our orchard plot we will have to take several actions:
- Test the soil to ensure it has the right amount of nutrients and acidity levels
- Remove an old foundation and rocks from the lot
- Clear out any garbage, weeds, and thorn bushes
- Cultivate the lot, so that the entire plot is good ground versus just small sections

If we went out today and just planted the likelihood is that many trees and plants would die, but with cultivating the entire lot, the trees should be able to take root and grow to produce much fruit.


When entering our neighborhood we knew that we would face challenges in sharing our faith and reaching some people. We know if we rush in and go house to house to offer our services and share our faith that some may be receptive, but others may refuse us indefinitely. You see as people we all are like the plot of land described in this passage on the sower....some of us have fallen to the wayside, some of us have experiences in our lives that have hardened us to others leading us to live in mistrust and building barriers of protection around us, and then there are times when we become ensnared in situations that leave us trapped, weary, and burdened. Then there are some that are ready, longing for help, direction, guidance.
As neighborhood ambassadors we are not planted here to quickly toss out seeds and then quickly harvest those that are ready and consider we accomplished the task. Rather we must enter our neighborhoods as if it is a plot of mixed ground that needs to be cultivated for a planting and do we do this?
We must first evaluate our neighborhood:
- Who out there are partners in our ministry?
- Who is ready to be reached - longing for direction and hope?
- What areas are off the beaten path, that need to be brought in as part of our outreach?
- Where do we need to build relationships, break down barriers, and build trust?
- What things ensnare the families in the neighborhood - how can we help free them from those things?
Relationships and trust are the foundation to our work here and they are not built in weeks or months, but it can take months and years of cultivation, however, with God's guidance and the support of prayers, resources, and fellow workers in time we will have a beautiful orchard that bears much fruit in this community of Hopkinsville, KY!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Depraved Indifference

God has been working on my heart since moving in Challenge House 1. You see for years I have been blind to the hurt and struggles of my neighbors. There is an indifference in our society if we do not see it and if we do not cause it, then it must not be our responsibility.

Friends that is so wrong. The hurt, the struggles, the seeking for something is our responsibility. My adoptive mom friend, Sarah Westerfield posted this above video, as adoptive parents we were able to see a need, in our cases around the world, and take action, but that does not in itself complete our commission to care for the fatherless and widows. It is not a one time act, fulfilling our obligation and we can then live our American Dream expecting others to take care of the rest of the hurt and pain in the world.

Our town, Hopkinsville, has widows and fatherless that are struggling to make it through each day. They are faced with trials that I could not fathom before moving into our home. It breaks my heart and overwhelms me with guilt and shame that I could live with an indifferent attitude for so long. However, God does not want us to dwell there...He commands us to take show HIS love and HIS grace, because it is not overwhelming for HIM.

Friends we need your help...we need others to come along side of us and say, "This is the time to take action....this is the will and command of GOD...these HURTING and BROKEN people are our mission field." Then we need you to not just say these words, but to TAKE ACTION...

This neighborhood, these children....they are GOD's HUDSON...

Friday, February 1, 2013

4H & Challenge House Woodworking Program

A time for learning new skills...
Pallet Projects:               

  • 02/15/2013 and 02/22/2013

  • (5pm – 6pm)

Cornhole Boards: 
  • 03/8/2013 and 03/22/2013
  • (5pm – 6pm)

Woodworking projects can be entered into the local fair as a 4H project entry.

  • Classes are for ages 9 – 19 and will be limited to the first 10 kids to complete the 4H registration form at Challenge House 1. This is a free program.

  • If you are interested in working as a volunteer on these specific dates, a 4H volunteer form must be completed before the first class begins. Forms are available at Challenge House 1.

Please contact Nathan Ragsdale at 270-305-9129 or by email at for more information.