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Bellefonte Update - March

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BY OWEN HUGHES, Associate Pastor, Oakwood Presbyterian Church

     The Oakwood Church Plant in Bellefonte continues to thrive as we seek to live out our vision of being a loved, placed, and blessed people. Because we have been blessed by the Lord, we are looking to bless Bellefonte and our communities! God’s faithful blessings have been evident, specifically in two areas: Sunday morning worship and small groups.  

     Sunday morning worship is a great encouragement as the body of Christ comes together to experience God’s glory revealed through singing, praying, hearing the Word read and preached, and having weekly communion. Weekly communion especially has been a much-needed “means of grace” as we have all experienced the attacks of the enemy who does not want to see this church succeed. At the table, we are reminded of who we are and “whose” we are in Christ and that we are empowered to keep going on this mission because of the grace we have been shown.

     Small groups were launched at the beginning of February. We have five groups meeting throughout the week in the following communities: Bellefonte, State College, and Boalsburg. We are all going through a book called B.L.E.S.S. which is an acronym for:

  • Being with Prayer
  • Listen
  • Eat
  • Serve
  • Story

      It is a very simple book about how to engage your neighbor, genuinely befriend them, love them, do life with them, and look for opportunities to share the Good News of Jesus with them. It has been really encouraging to hear the different stories and interactions that people have had since implementing some of these simple principles.

     Also, in order for Bellefonte Presbyterian to flourish, evangelism must be more than a value, it must be a behavior, not just something we believe in, but something we actually do. With this in mind, we invited a pastor from our Presbytery, Shibu Oomen, to do a one-day seminar in February. He shared a tool called “Share Your Faith,” which can be used to share the Good News of Jesus by using your hand. With its five major points: Grace, Man, God, Christ, and Faith, this tool is an easy way to share the Gospel in a conversation with a friend, neighbor, or family member. 

     Equipping the people of Bellefonte for ministry is the main focus of the leadership of this church plant and we are encouraged by how God is equipping those He has called to this work.

     How can you pray for Bellefonte Presbyterian?

  1. Pray for our Easter Service. Our hope is that many people from the community will come and spend Easter with us. Pray we will be bold and winsome in asking people to join us, but more importantly that we will be looking to have genuine relationships with our neighbors and friends.

  2. Pray for the small groups that are meeting regularly.  Pray that our small groups will be safe places where people can grow in their relationship with each other and in their relationship with the Lord.

  3. Pray that as a church we will keep our eyes on Christ. He is the one who is building this church, so we can rest in Him and in what He is doing.

     On behalf of your brothers and sisters in Bellefonte, I want to thank you for all your prayers and support of this work. Planting a church isn’t easy on those going or those sending, and we know that Oakwood’s support of this church plant is an investment, so keep your eyes on Christ, for He is doing something new in Bellefonte.

For the Kingdom,
Pastor Owen

Posted by Rev. Owen Hughes with

Reflections on my time in West Africa

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BY MARK HORN, West Africa Team Member

     After listening to Jim and Mamadou when they visited a few years ago and working with Oakwood’s Foreign Mission Team for the past two years, I was very excited about the opportunity to serve on a short-term mission trip to West Africa. My first trip to Africa was to Kenya between my junior and senior years in college, way back in 1981. I never lost my desire to return to Africa and as we planned for our trip, I was gripped with the same excitement I had as my 20-year-old self; a chance to share the gospel to the ends of the earth.

Mark Horn in West African dress

     The first trip to West Africa with the team from Oakwood and Crossroads PCA (Delaware) was exhilarating for me, seeing a new part of the world and spending time with people we had been praying for and with these past few years. I was truly amazed at how the Lord knit together 11 people, from ages 11 to 60-year-olds, through monthly zoom meetings from January to July. We all met for the first time in person at JFK on Wednesday, August 17, in our flight’s gate area. Experiencing new foods, famous places, worship with pastor Mamadou and the Safe Girls Home (SGH) girls, and lunch afterward solidified our team, and we bonded in just the first few days. On Sunday, we arrived at our accommodations for the week of SGH girls' “summer camp.” We all worked hard making and teaching crafts, playing and organizing games, telling and retelling the story of Joseph, and loving the girls despite the language barrier. I loved our swim time in the ocean with the girls, but it was exhausting. We had to embrace Jim’s words “be flexible or be broken!”

Owen Hughes eating a West African dish

     Owen and I stayed an extra few days so that we could have more time with the “Timothies.” These young men have been recently ordained as pastors and those who just starting their training. We also spent precious time getting to know Jim and Karen, Collin and Zury, and Donnie and Kara, who are members of the West Africa (WA) team. But one further reason for the extended time was for me to make some connections at the University (the largest in French-speaking Africa). In the Lord’s sovereign plan, I was approved by Penn State to go to an international conference being held at this same University in December.

     In December, I was on my own. All fall, items kept arriving at our house for me to take for the WA team. This was in addition to 50 French Bibles that were shipped to me from Germany free of charge. Of course, there were the gifts from Oakwood to take to the SGH girls, the WA team members, the Timothies, and Pastor Mamadou and his wife, Marie. As I departed from State College to JFK, I ended up with five carefully weighed bags, each at just under 50 lbs., one of which was my carry-on. Donnie labeled me Santa Claus, although he is the one who requested a Santa outfit!

 Donnie in a Santa outfit     I was able to have two days before the conference and three days after the conference to spend with different members of the team. I had the traditional meal with Collin, and Zury, at the home of Sebastian, Angele, and two-year-old, Marianne, who are the local pastoral family working with Collin and Zury. I attended a Christmas celebration with Reformed University Fellowship (RUF) students from the University. I had another traditional meal with Jim, Karen, Roman, and Georgia at the home of Sidy, Madeline, and baby Jim, the pastoral family for the church plant in Center City. After the conference, I visited a self-sustaining farm with Donnie and Kara and had a great time of prayer with Moustafa and his family (church planting in Malikunda) on my last stop before going to the airport.

     During the conference I walked from my hostel each day to the meetings, even attending a pre-conference workshop. I met students and professors from all over Africa. We all ate lunch at the conference and I had many interesting conversations. I was able to celebrate with my new friends at the gala dinner on the last night of the conference sporting my “boubou” (traditional garb) given to me by Collin and Zury. I learned a great deal at the conference and made many new connections. In reflecting, I was saddened to hear of the extent to which Africa continues to be taken advantage of with respect to natural resources. It was also very apparent how different higher education is in West Africa.  They do so much with so few resources in the areas of science and technology. Moreover, there is not much opportunity for graduates because there is so little industry. The most moving feeling I experienced, was walking across the campus each day and thinking about the spiritual condition of those bright, young men and women pursuing educational wisdom. It is a very different culture, with many obstacles, financial and spiritual, and yet the need for the gospel is the same there as it is here. In that regard, their university is not that much different than our universities—men and women think that their own wisdom is the key to life. I am reminded of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians where he tells them “…the wisdom of this world is folly with God.” My trips increased my resolve to pray for the Gospel to be known in West Africa, here in Central PA, and to keep asking the Lord how he can use me here and there.

Posted by Mark Horn with

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