Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Death Next Door

Volume 11, Issue 5
Death Next Door
Tuesday shortly before noon, turning left onto Bickett Road ahead on my left was a 2NEWs truck.  “Hmm what could be news worthy here on this side of the road and out here.” I pondered to myself driving on the two lane road in-between two college campuses.  Hours later, my husband inquired, “Did you see the news about Wilberforce?”   Instantly I made the connection as to what caught my eye on the country drive earlier that day/ on my way home from a midweek meeting at our church in Cedarville.   Less than ten hours prior in the wee morning hours (typical for some college students) a sedan (Toyota Corolla) car with four passengers lost control that became a deadly crash for one of the women and the three other passengers presently in ICU.  The student who’s picture and flowers sit at the foot of the tree was a sophomore and a part of the choir and dance team on her college campus.

AIA has a ministry presence at Wilberforce and Central State University.   (Three exits on 35 from our house in Xenia also one exit from AIA’s Head Quarters.) That morning of the accident one AIA staff was contacted and her presence was requested.  The death of this young woman unveiled opportunity for spiritual conversations.
I (Lisa) work on campus as the women’s basketball team chaplain.  Students were wondering why God would take someone so young.  I was talking to the coach and he said that students were needing people to talk to and I knew that one of AIA’s staff was a part of a Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) program that helps athletes and athletic programs walk through unexpected deaths within athletic departments.  I talked with our AIA staff and he got the ball rolling with his team to come and talk with the students.  On Sept. 28th the women’s basketball, dance, and cheerleaders all met with the CISM group.  This meeting allowed the girls to ask questions “Did she go to heaven?  What happens after you die?  Why would God let this happen?...” The girls also told how they were feeling in the process. It was an amazingly hard hour and a half, yet it was so good to see the girls remember their friend in this way.  The women’s basketball team have been involved with AIA through Bible studies the last 6 years.  This tragedy has opened the doors for Bible studies with the cheer and dance teams as well.  On Oct. 3rd, the men’s basketball team also asked for the same CISM team to come and debrief with them as well.  I was amazed at how open these young men were and how they trusted these men, and me, that they didn’t know that well in a time when they were unsure and hurting.  The doors are truly open for the Lord to come in and fill a void!

 I (Leslie) recently had the privilege of sharing at a family memorial and these words are fitting here as well.  Death is a bookend reality of life on earth.  Psalm 39: 4-5 Show me, Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you.  Everyone is but a breath, even those who seem secure.

{To see our previous month's newsletter, please see it at this link}


Sunday, June 25, 2017

On Mission with God

Volume 11 Issue 2
On Mission with God

“Someone has prayed for you.  Athletes in Action has prayed for you….” spoken by Mark Householder (President of AIA) at the commissioning of recent college graduates passionate about Jesus and on mission from God to serve a 1 year internship with AIA.  A privilege it is to continue to equip, train and mobilize new laborers. These interns will reach out to/minister to people who are broken, spiritually harassed, helpless and in need of as Shepherd.  …we have something to offer them that the World and their sport can’t.

This spring our LDHR services team hosted two of these Intern trainings (April 21st-23rd  & June 9-11).  This was a first for us to offer two trainings so we get include athletes competing in spring sports that couldn't come to our April date.

10 of those are new laborers that  have bravely accepted the call to ministry in other countries (Puerto Rico, Czech Republic, East Asia).  New this year Mike and I team taught all the Ministry Partner Development (MPD) material and had a BLAST.  Let’s just say Mike was on “fire” and even staff serving at the training came up to me and said, “We’ve never seen this side of Mike!”  A highlight for me was being asked to give the devotional again this year. 

The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.  Thank you for the part you play in our ministry and in sending these 51 new missionary laborers.  Also, Let us thank the Lord for answered prayers for more laborers!  We pray for these workers as they prepare to take the message of the Gospel….to college campuses, sports teams and countries.

Karyn, now coaching interns, Leslie was her MPD coached last fall.
April Interns  trained  (above)
June Interns trained (below)

Mike Teaching  MPD principles
Commissioning of  Interns

Friday, March 24, 2017

AIA Internationally

Volume 11, Issue 1
Hablo Espanola? Atletas en AccĂ­on

Yes, I have a little familiarity (some words I know the meaning of) in speaking Spanish however I am not fluent!  Have you ever studied a foreign language in school or as an adult?
Imagine for a moment, being in a country where a language is spoken that you have no experience speaking, much less you have the life-saving message of the Gospel and your mission is to tell others by using the platform of sport.  We know “sport” is a universal “language” around the globe.  There is an ability is to “get” the challenges, pressures, and mindset in “sport” regardless of a language barrier or where you are from.  While our short term international (STINT) missionaries are not required to know the language before they go, they are required to take language classes or get tutoring once on the field. 
Last year we had an eight person team STINT in Puerto Rico.  Presently AIA doesn’t have any STINTers in Puerto Rico. However for next year, we have a married couple from MN that will be the team leaders. We currently have more applicants than we can send for this 8 person team (two leaders and six participants). 
Overseas on the field right now we have Bethany and Landon in Central Asia, and Nicole in the Middle East. The STINTers in Central Asia are reaching an unreached people group. They have seen around 8 people accept Christ just this year, which is incredible for this Muslim culture.
AIA has 3 priority countries that we are trying to raise up STINT teams.  We have begun to investigate 5 additional countries for future teams.
Praise & Prayer:
  • Praise for the 100+  applicants in process (Interns, STINTers, staff) with AIA.
  • Prayer for  implementation of new ministry tool in MPD coaching as well as All Cru Staff that Leslie will be training others.
  • Prayer for wisdom and capacity as Mike is overseeing implementation of two major ministry programs.
  • Praise for ministry partners and prayers said on our behalf.  Thankful for community and the body of Christ.
  • Prayer for peace as we face important appointments for our kids in April.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas Greeting 2016

As this Advent season approached, the Lord etched the word “wait” on my mind and heart. Think of all the things we have to “wait” for. Perhaps you find yourself in a season of waiting as well right this very moment. (a cure for disease or cancer, marriage proposal from the love of your life, a job offer, reconciliation of a relationship, a season of darkness to lift, a loved one to come back to Jesus, a pregnancy test turn positive, being chosen as the prospective adoptive parents, or return of loved one from an extended time away.)

Did you know Advent in essence is a season of “wait”, marking the coming of the New Born King, the fulfillment of God’s promises, Messiah? In Deitrich Bonhoeffer’s Reflections on Advent and Christmas titled God in the Manger he shares, Whoever does not know the austere blessedness of waiting-that is, of hopefully doing without-will never experience the full blessing of fulfillment…For the greatest, most profound, tenderest things in the world, we must wait. It happens not here in a storm but according to the divine laws of sprouting, growing and becoming.

So, I’m pondering waiting differently. It is an opportunity to remind us of God’s story (brokenness, redemption, hope, true joy) being written on the tablet of our lives. What sets me on the plain of peace again amidst waiting is not the answer but the WHO in my wait. Just like in the awaiting of Jesus, God in human form. The Psalmist captured this heart-cry, “For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my deliverance and my honor; my mighty rock, my refuge is in God. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us” (62:5-8 also see Ps. 37:7;27:14).

…The waiting reminds us that this is God’s story, His plan, and His promises. He is in control, and He will take this story wherever He pleases. And it reminds us, slaps us in the face at times, that we’re not the center of the story. It’s not about us, and things don’t always (or often!) go the way we’d like. Finally, all the waiting helps us think differently about both the present and the future: valuing the present as a gift, cherishing the future as our ultimate hope.
Used with permission (Cortez, Marc “Forced to wait: An Advent Reflection.” Web blog post. Transformed. Western Seminary.17 December 2012)

May this advent season cause you to see waiting in a new light.

With love,
The Rebholz Family
Mike, Leslie, Benjamin, & Baby M

Because of foster care privacy, we are unable to share Baby M's face electronically. If you would like a physical picture, please let us know by email and we will be glad to send you a copy of our family photo.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Stepping Up - A New Chapter

Volume 10 Issue 5
Stepping Up - A New Chapter

Transition has been the norm for us in ministry these last 10 years.  No surprise God would move in ways we never expected!  Can you relate?  (Email us as we’d love to hear how God has done so in your life!)   Mike along with another HR associate have recently stepped up to take the interim role of LDHR Director of AIA.  (overseeing the care of 600+ AIA staff)  While the search process for a new team director continues, Mike and Michael are both sharing the load in addition to their normal jobs on the team.  Mike’s days are filled with meetings helping the team to keep moving forward.  This varies from dealing with growth conversations, health crises, hiring decisions, staff trainings, and the like.

Our former executive director of LDHR pulled me (Leslie) into his office for a random meeting one of the hot Ohio summer days.  He asked  me to take the role of Ministry Partner Development (MPD) Coordinator for all of AIA, I was astounded and humbled!  My initial response/reaction was “um no…How can I do that job AND still be fully engaged with my children/mom to my children?”  After much prayer and conviction by the Holy Spirit, by faith I said yes to this new leadership role.  The Lord showed me that if I didn’t take this role I would be disobedient to Him. Surely, a desperate area to rely on the Holy Spirit and not my own strength.  This opportunity means added work (I enjoy most of the time) but also a means to grow (spiritually, leadership-wise…) while playing an integral part in laborer’s lives and impacting the plentiful harvest…(see Matt 9:27-28)

What does this mean?  I have the privilege of overseeing 5 AIA MPD coaches (Mike, myself and 3 others) and 30+new AIA staff raising their initial support.   Already I have begun coaching new staff in groups because of the few MPD coaches AIA has.  Last Friday 11:30am I hung up the phone from a 90 minute conference call with 6 new staff.   I marveled in my head, “Lord, thank you I LOVE my job!”  We had a lively but heavy-hearted discussion about this quote by Philip Yancey: “Most of my struggles in the Christian life circle around the same two themes:  Why God doesn’t act the way we want God to and why I don’t act the way God wants me to.  Prayer is the precise point where those themes converge.”  We unpacked how this has implications for them presently not to mention envisioning ways this plays out in ministry.

What a privilege we have to build up, mobilize, equip, care for and minister to AIA staff as they go out to their mission field through the platform of sport (college campus, pros, sports teams, international teams, and digital communication )  Frequently I share this verse with new staff I’m coaching “no eye has seen no ear has heard the things He has planned for them….”  (1 Cor 2:9).  Moving to Ohio and serving with AIA has been a step faith and transition.  Never did we imagine our scope of influence and touching so many lives so that the Gospel can go forth!  THANK you for joining in this incredible, daunting, humbling mission.  We are grateful for your financial support and prayers.
YES!  We LOVE OUR JOBS!  (granted they aren’t easy and can’t do it through our own strength.)
 Praise & Prayer:
  • Praise: God continues to be our sustaining power and strength.
  • Pray for Wisdom and discernment for Mike as he oversees many critical decisions in his new role.
  • Pray for the ability to create margin in our present reality.
  • Praise for the many opportunities we’ve had in our new roles and being foster parents to give testimony about Jesus ,what He’s done and how He’s changed our lives.[Baby M had to be cut out of this picture due to foster care policy.]

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Summer Lineup

Summer is here! The Rebholz family has stayed put this summer (no moving and no travel trips). We are jumping right into athletic world by working alongside athletes. Mike worked with the high school Ultimate Training Camp at AIA HQ.

Leslie discipled 3 college interns for the summer who were here as a part of a larger group serving at AIA HQ’s (see photo to right). Recently, we hosted all the summer interns for a Monday night meal. What a neat opportunity to get to know them (see photo bottom rt.). We will also continue to equip and inspire laborers to be Christ-centered, fully-funded, and financially faithful as we coach and mobilize a 20+ laborers between the two of us.

Scope of the AIA Summer happenings:
Many athletes ponder this question “Can I be competitive, all the while being a person who has surrendered their life to having Christ on the throne?” AIA Ultimate Training Camp (UTC) seeks to answer that question. The heart and goal of the camp is to help current competing athletes give their lives and talents back to God and in turn, find freedom. Freedom from placing their identity and overall value in their sport. We see it in the world we live in, athletes in the media are idolized and put on a pedestal. Yet, sometimes, as glamorous as their life may seem, they sometimes may be spiritually broken. It’s because they succumb to the pressures of the world, demands of their sport, coaches and university. All taking the place of God.

The Spring and early summer was a flurry in our ministry for Mike and I. Praise the Lord we came out still breathing and praising the Lord– we are blessed and life is FULL! AIA celebrated its 50th Anniversary as over 400 of our AIA staff family were present for our biennial AIA staff Conference called Springboard. (see photo at left) Thankfully, Xenia is AIA’s Headquarters so we didn’t have to travel but down the road. Mike ran the tech for the conference. Leslie took over 1,000 photos of the commemorative event (not a professional by any means just a hobby). Amazingly, all 4 AIA president’s past and present were there. What a tremendous opportunity to hear stories of God’s mighty hand blessing and using this ministry to sports and athletes in the world!

NEW AND UPDATED: The official AIA ministry website is now at www.goaia.org. www.athletesinaction.org in NOW the evangelistic website, “The Assist”. The articles are sports centered yet Biblical as they tackle current and controversial topics in the sporting realm and news media. 

Monday, May 09, 2016

Ready, Set, Spike

Volume 10, Issue 3
Ready, Set, Spike

Amber and Leif stepped out in faith as they moved to a town of 25,000 people in Ohio this past December. They are a young married couple in their 20’s born in the south and raised Texans. This past summer they went through Cru’s new staff training to join with Athletes in Action.

Amber playing competetive volleyball
Amber is 6 ft tall and the build of a volleyball setter. Having played her sport in college, she understands the challenges first hand athletes face. Immediately, upon moving to Xenia, OH she found an adult volleyball “club” league and joined. Having now been playing in weekend tournaments with other women in their 20-40s she’s developed new friendships.

Once such friendship is with a gal, Emma (name has been changed). Amber met Emma as she was a sub that weekend for another girl on her Club volleyball team. From the start they hit it off not to mention a love for the game of volleyball. On several occasions Amber and Emma have met together over meals.

During a recent weekly development time with Amber, she and Leslie were discussing evangelism. This struck a chord with Amber as we dialogued about being intentional in learning people’s story, since Emma’s been weighing on Amber’s heart. Emma attended a Christian university and even grew up in a Christian home. However, over the years her heart has hardened to the “church” (the formal gathering of believers) and perhaps other Christians. She attributes this to “legalistic people” and bad experiences. At this time in her life she’s not “walking with Jesus.” Emma knows truth in her mind but it’s thousands of miles from her heart -- her emotions and will to surrender to the Lord.

“We must learn to find the backdoor to people’s hearts because the front door is heavily guarded.” Says Author Ravi Zacharias about today’s evangelism. To Amber the back door to Emma is through her beloved sport, volleyball. Their friendship began through the platform of sport. Since their initial meetings just 3 months ago Amber has been able to ask Emma open-ended questions that tap into her life, the deep stuff, hurt, struggles, and marriage. Their conversations aren’t a monolog rather a dialogue that illustrates care, heart, friendship and bows the knee saying “I’m listening, tell me your story, I’m may not have all the answers but…”

I love seeing how the Lord is leading our new staff step to out in faith and engage in spiritual conversations. It is a privilege to mobilize and help train our new staff so that they are better equipped to start such transforming conversations.

Mike coached them as they raised their initial support in Texas. Leslie is presently coaching Amber through new staff development training. (all 1st year staff going through this training cycle.)

Prayer Requests:
  • Pray for Emma; that her heart would be softened.  Through the friendship with Amber and ongoing heart conversations that she would experience a freshness to God’s love.
  • Pray the Lord would strengthen and provide good sleep as this month is crazy busy. (Mission’s conference, both Mike and Leslie work back to back conferences, foster son’s case plan meeting, Leslie’s b-day, Leslie’s in an out of town wedding, perseverance with Benjamin’s treatment plan for a medical issue, ministry projects deadlines.)
  • Praise:  Life is FULL and we are blessed!