In Poncha Springs, Colo., VBS changes a young woman’s life


Darren Adams and Micaela Lowe after her baptism.

Six years ago, a Colorado teen first connected with the Edmond Youth Group. The relationships she formed would lead her to give her life to Jesus.

• • •

By Bobby Ross Jr.

Each summer, the Edmond Youth Group (EYG) lets its light shine in a Colorado mountain community more than 600 miles from home.

Why do teens and adult sponsors from our congregation pack into white vans and drive all the way to Poncha Springs?

They go to host a Vacation Bible School for children eager to learn more about Jesus.

They go to make a difference in the lives of young people like Micaela Lowe.


Darren baptizes Micaela.

“I met the Edmond Youth Group six years ago after my mom had encouraged me and my siblings to attend their VBS held in Poncha Springs,” said Micaela, who was 14 at the time and joined by her younger brother, Nate, and sister, Olivia. “On the first day, we immediately hit it off with several of the teens in their youth group. We had so much fun that we decided to go the whole week.”

Friendships blossomed, and the Lowe kids couldn’t wait to return to VBS the next year — and the year after that.

“This is a time when our teens shine,” youth minister Jeremy Robertson said. “They lead and serve in every capacity, as they prepare their classes, decorate the church building and, most importantly, touch the hearts of many kids.”

Kids like Micaela.

“The people from Edmond were so joyful and kind,” said Micaela, now 20 and a nursing student at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. “They were always greeting us with big smiles, and they made us feel welcome and (like we) belonged. People like Maryn Kingsley and Casey Farrar were just such real and authentic people. The EYG showed me how to love Jesus and have fun along the way.”

Poncha Springs is not a place where church is a high priority, youth ministry deacon Darren Adams said.

“You live in the mountains, and you’re getting up Sunday morning and riding your bicycles or climbing a mountain,” Darren said. “Church is the furthest thing from your mind.”

But the EYG is helping change that. The mission effort has resulted in at least nine or 10 baptisms, Darren said.

Via text messages and Facebook, Micaela and her siblings stayed in touch with their Edmond friends all year long.


The Edmond Youth Group in Poncha Springs.

Over Thanksgiving break of her senior year of high school, Micaela flew to Oklahoma to visit with the Kingsley family — Geoff, Rhonda, Maryn, Caleb and Asa — all of whom had participated in the Poncha Springs mission trip year after year.

This past December, Micaela returned to Oklahoma for the wedding of Maryn (now Thompson), who is about to graduate from Harding University in Searcy, Ark. While here, Micaela asked Darren — whose entire family also has made the Poncha Springs trip several times — to baptize her.

“What’s a better feeling than that — somebody asking you to baptize them?” he said. “It’s pretty awesome.”

“Amazing,” Rhonda Kingsley said of Micaela’s decision to give her life to God.

“I wanted to be freed and forgiven from all of my sins and be included in His Kingdom,” Micaela said. Maryn was so happy to hear the news.”

Darren immersed Micaela and welcomed her to the body of Christ on Dec. 28, 2015.

Screen Shot 2016-03-07 at 4.45.44 PMA big group of EYG teens — many of whom will travel to Poncha Springs again this summer — came to celebrate the spiritual milestone that night.

It’s a night that would not have been possible without the entire church’s support of missions, which is funded through our Commission Sunday contributions.

“Financial times are hard, and that helped us go,” Darren — whose wife Nicole and daughters Mariah and Paige all traveled to Poncha Springs six years in a row — said of Edmond making mission trips affordable. “We couldn’t do it without the funds the church gives.”

Rhonda Kingsley agreed.

“It is expensive to go on mission trips,” Rhonda said. “When the church started paying for more of it, it became more reachable.”

Because of Edmond’s commitment to missions, Micaela’s life won’t ever be the same. She now belongs to Christ.

“It was the best decision I could ever make,” she said of her baptism. “I felt so humbled that members from the EYG put a pause on their daily lives that night to come and support me. I also will never be able to thank Darren Adams enough for baptizing me that night. I was so humbled by everyone’s support, and I will never forget that night.”


Marriage mentoring helps strengthen Edmond members’ relationships


By Bobby Ross Jr.

For Paul and Bonnie Howard, the need for “marriage mentoring” became clear years ago when they lived in Oregon.

This realization struck as they watched friends in their home congregation divorce.

Paul and Bonnie Howard

Paul and Bonnie Howard

“It was born out of the frustration of friends getting divorced,” Bonnie Howard said of the couple’s passion for helping strengthen fellow Christians’ marital relationships. “We had no idea there were any marital problems at all.”

Until it was too late.

After moving to Oklahoma, the Howards helped develop the Edmond church’s “marriage mentoring” program — matching older couples with younger couples who get together at least once a month for food, fellowship and frank conversations.

Paul and Bonnie oversaw the ministry from its formation in the fall of 2010 until just recently, when they handed the reins to Neil and Jeny Roberts and Jay and Holly Parks.

“It kind of runs under the radar,” preaching minister Randy Roper said of the ministry, “but it is a great blessing to many couples.”

Matt and Carly Batchelder had been married just a few months when they signed up to be mentored by older couples in 2010.

Matt, Carley and Myles Batchelder

Matt, Carly and Myles Batchelder

“At the time, we were part of the Honeymooners Bible class, which placed a special emphasis on building strong marriage foundations,” Matt said. “Marriage mentoring was a natural extension of the focus we had in the class. It provided the opportunity to not only share with couples our age, but also with couples that have been married 20-plus years.”

Above all, the ministry provides the encouragement to keep the marriage relationship a high priority, Matt said.

“Rarely would a spouse consciously make the choice to put his or her marriage on the back burner,” he explained. “However, when the demands of life start to pressure us, it’s easy to get distracted.”

Edmond elder Mike Cain and Helen, his wife of almost 36 years, have mentored seven couples.

“We welcomed the opportunity to bond with and serve younger Christian couples,” Mike said. “We have rarely missed a month where our group has been together — which is quite an accomplishment given the size of our group. We always pray for all marriages and families. The most important benefit has been the friendships that we’ve developed.”

The Cains’ group includes one other older couple and five younger couples with a total of six children.

“Everyone has someone else in the group with whom they share an interest,” Mike said. “Our time together is relaxed and enjoyable and always includes a meal. We plan the next event every time we meet.”

Mike and Helen Cain

Mike and Helen Cain

He and Helen hope that their relationship with the younger couples “makes us more approachable in times of need.”

“Our first young couple stayed with us for a couple of weeks when between homes,” Mike said. “We have been able to watch children so couples could have a night out. We have been there when some have needed to talk. While our goal is to serve, Helen and I always enjoy the time together and cherish the friendships we’ve developed.”

As Paul Howard points out, “There’s something powerful about five (or more) couples getting together and investing in each other’s marriages.”

Matt Batchelder said he’d definitely recommend marriage mentoring.

But he cautions that “you’ll get out what you put in.”

“The mentor meetings are just the start,” he said. “The conversations with your spouse between the meetings are where the real growth occurs. We’ve formed deep, lasting relationships with people we wouldn’t have otherwise.”

And the Batchelders’ 1-year-old son, Myles, “has a few more sets of adopted grandparents and aunts/ uncles!”

For more information or to get involved in marriage mentoring, contact the Robertses or Parkses.

Meet Jana Miller, Edmond’s newest missionary

Jana Miller in Zambia

Missionary Jana Miller reads with Joseph and Reuben in Zambia

By Bobby Ross Jr.

Growing up in the small farming community of Lockney, Texas, Jana Miller — Edmond’s newest missionary — learned to love her neighbor.

Really love her neighbor.

“No one ever said, ‘This is how you love your neighbor.’ They just lived it,” said Miller, 28, an Oklahoma Christian University graduate who recently moved to Zambia to work full time with The Haven, which provides temporary, home-based care for orphans.

Miller attended the Edmond Church of Christ for 10 years — first as an Oklahoma Christian student and later as a faithful member of the Pathfinders class. She regularly joined the campus ministry’s spring break mission trips to the small mountain village of Aquiles, Mexico.

For a young woman from rural Texas, those trips helped nurture a love for mission work.

“I still vividly recall the first time I worshiped in Aquiles and fully realized what it was like to be a part of the global community worshiping the same God on the same day and how powerful that was,” Miller said. “It doesn’t look the same or sound the same, but we’re
all serving and praising the same God.”

Jana Miller makes a home visit to see Daisy.

Jana Miller makes a home visit to see Daisy.

‘The Holy Spirit kept whispering’

Five years ago, two of Miller’s best friends decided to serve at The Haven. She instantly decided to go, too, and ended up spending nine months at the Namwianga
Mission, which includes The Haven.

After that, Miller traveled to Zambia three more times and began to dream — and pray — about what it would be like to live there.

“There were many times when I would try to push those thoughts away and label them ‘crazy,’” she said. “But the Holy Spirit kept whispering to me in those moments, reminding me of the ways God was working through The Haven and the ways he could work through me if I let him. The door in Zambia stayed open for the past several years, which doesn’t happen very often in life.

“Luke 12 says, ‘From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded.’ Sometimes, that means you end up on a different path than the one you imagined. But if you are stepping out in faith, the Lord can take away your fears and use whatever you are giving him.”

Almost all of the children served by The Haven are under age 4. Most end up at the home because their mother has died, and other family members are unable to care for an infant at that time. The Haven arranges to care for the children during the years they are most vulnerable, with a goal of reuniting them with extended family.

“Families are encouraged to visit as often as possible, and our end goal is for our kids to have a home with family in their village,” Miller said. “The Haven is Zambian run and could not happen without the love and work of 45 women who work as Aunties, providing
day-to-day care.”

Jana Miller with Seth, Jana, Mary, Kurt and Carol.

Jana Miller with Seth, Jana, Mary, Kurt and Carol.

‘Pure religion’

James 1:27 says: “Religion that God our father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted in the world.”

Providing financial and spiritual support for Jana Miller’s mission work in Zambia is just one way that the Edmond church heeds God’s call to serve the marginalized and vulnerable, specifically orphans, preaching minister Randy Roper explained.

Other examples include the congregation’s annual mission trip and ongoing support for Hope for Haiti’s Children and its assistance with Jochebed’s Choice Home in Indonesia.

“All provide global opportunities for us to practice pure religion while reaching children in desperate need,” Roper said. “God uses our efforts — through going and giving — to help children have a safe and nurturing place to grow up and to grow in faith.”

Edmond short-term missionaries pose with children in Haiti.

Edmond short-term missionaries pose with children in Haiti.

‘More blessed to give than receive’

In Haiti, short-term missionaries from Edmond stay at an orphanage in Thomazeau.

“A big part of how we serve the orphans there is simply by interacting with them,” Edmond member Brian Eastman said. “They don’t get a whole lot of individual attention.

“For those of us who have been to Thomazeau multiple times, it has been such a treat to come back and feel like they remember us, but also to see how much they have grown and learned since we saw them last.”

Besides the one-on-one interaction, the Haiti mission teams conduct Vacation Bible Schools at two orphanages serving 90 children and donate sweat to improve the living conditions at Thomazeau.

In the past, the group has purchased new mattresses for the children and a new freezer for the kitchen.

“I believe it is a very important mission for us as Christians to help orphans,” Eastman said. “As Christians, we are told to look after the orphans and to defend them. Our theme verse for our trip this year is Acts 20:35, which stresses that we must work hard to help the weak and that ‘it is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

Jana Miller with Joel.

‘A real picture of what Christ does’

Back in Zambia, Miller said she sees her efforts as “a beautiful and real picture of what Christ does for us.”

“He guides us through the difficult times with the promise to make us whole and provide his children a place to thrive in our church family,” she said. “There isn’t a child that comes through The Haven that doesn’t learn that God made them and loves them and can
provide for them.

“As they go back with their families, they are given a Bible, and we talk with the families and pray with them. Anytime someone asks why we are helping, the answer is always, ‘Because we love Jesus, and he calls us to help.’”