February 2019

Dear Friends Pursing Christ

Last month a challenge was set before us to allow God to stretch us in our faith and to demonstrate it by how we use our time, talents, and financial giving. God has given us a vision for God’s House and a desire to reach our community for Him. The questions each of us must answer are: How do I fit into this mission? and What is God prompting me to do?

What are your answers? What commitments and goals did you make? Remember with Christ Jesus all things are possible. We have had time to think. The time has come for action!

On Sunday mornings in worship we have been deepening our understanding of grace. graceGrace is the free unmerited gift that God gives to us through the work of Christ Jesus on the cross. It is not cheap, for it cost God the life of His one and only Son. God’s grace is flowing continually through us. C.S. Lewis said, “Grace is God enabling us to be the people we were meant to be.” Hallelujah!

Let’s take the next step. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German pastor and theologian who was hanged for his part of a conspiracy to assassinate Hitler. In his book, The Cost of Discipleship, he wrote:

The cross is laid on every Christian. The first Christ-suffering which every man must experience is the call to abandon the attachments of this world. It is the dying of the old man which is the result of his encounter with Christ. As we embark upon discipleship, we surrender ourselves to Christ in union with his death-we give over our lives to death. Thus, it begins; the cross is not the terrible end to an otherwise god-fearing and happy life, but it meets us in the beginning with the communion with Christ. When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die. It may be a death like that of the first disciples who had to leave home and work to follow him, or it may be a death like Luther’s who had to leave the monastery and go out into the world. But it is the same death every time-death in Jesus Christ, the death of the old man at his call. (99)

Let that soak in. Read it in light of Romans 12:1-2: “Therefore, I urge you brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God-this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of the world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is-his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Question: What is your next step? Write it down. Commit it to God in prayer. Share it with a person who will hold you accountable.

Love in Christ, Ilona

Here are upcoming events to highlight: 2/2 workday at 10:00 a.m. 2/10 Congregation/Corporation meeting after worship, 2/16 Valentine Dinner at 5:30 (Chili and Dessert cook-off), 2/24 Coin Jar Collection, 3/6 Ash Wednesday service at 6:30 pm


January 2019 Newsletter

Dear Friends Pursing Christ,

Happy New Year! It is the time of year when we make resolutions and plans for the New Year. C. S. Lewis said, “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” A goal that I am setting for myself, and I hope that you will join with me in for 2019, is to make a commitment to grow closer to God.2019 I am asking Him to place His heart in mine. I desire to love as HE loves, to forgive as HE forgives, to give grace, as HE gives grace. I want to go beyond the status quo of the Christian life. This is risky business. God’s heart implanted in mine will make some changes in my life. One change for sure will be taking me beyond my comfort zone. Let me say to you now, I am living comfortably, not being stretched or challenged. For me that needs to change. What about you? How would you describe your relationship with the Lord? Growing? Stagnant? Plateaued?

During the month of January, I will be doing a study on God’s Grace.  My study will be incorporated in the sermon series.  Many of you have said that you would like to dig deeper into this topic. I hope and pray this series will encourage you in your walk with the Lord. Each week I will have a study sheet for further reflection with Scriptures to study and some additional comments from Christian authors.  I will also start a group page on FB who want to continue the conversation.

As we study Bible texts this January, I encourage you to incorporate the following into your devotional time with the Lord:

  • Being Still, Psalm 46:10
  • Abiding in His presence, John 15:1-17
  • Adoring Him in Worship: Psalm 96:9
  • Appling His Word: Hebrews 10:16

I would also like to challenge you in your giving. The first week in January we will set some goals for the New Year. I will ask that you join me in stretching your faith in your giving of your time, talents, and finances. God has given us the vision of God’s House and reaching our community for Him, how do you see yourself fitting into this mission? What is God prompting you to do? Think about this. For those who are home bound what can you do?  For example, Gloria helps with some of our community flyers as well as prayer. When I visit in January I will ask how you can help and how together we can make a difference for Jesus.

In closing, I want to thank you for your very generous financial gift.  I appreciate it very much.  But it is YOU that I appreciate most. What a joy it us for me to partner in ministry with you. Our journey together has been a blessing from God to me. Thank you for your love and support. I pray that I am a blessing to you. Let us continue to grow in Christ and serve HIM with joy.

Love, Ilona

December 2018


December 2nd begins the New Year in the life of the Church.  Advent is the four Sundays before Christmas.  It is a time when we prepare for the Celebration of Jesus Christ’s birthday.  It is also a time when we remember that Christ has promised that He will come again. During worship we will be singing songs of Christmas, remembering the story of a promised fulfilled by God through the birth of His one and only Son.  We will recount the stories told of Mary and the Angels, Joseph and his dream, the shepherds, the wiseman and much, much more. It is as some would say “the most wonderful time of the year”. We remember that God made the impossible possible.  God become one of us, “Immanuel, God with us.”  That story changed human history permanently. It has changed my life and I know many of your lives.

Besides spending time worshipping God, we also gather with family and friends, attend parties, buy gifts, make gifts, bake cookies, send cards, or sit at home and watch Hallmark movies (ok some watch the Chiefs).  It is a time when we open our wallets and give to those in need.  More importantly, we recognize that we are a blessed people.

The Apostle Paul wrote: “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously, will also reap generously.  Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, For God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 9:6-8.

FPC is inviting you to join in two acts of giving.  First, it has come to our attention that there are some families in our community who do not have the funds for lunch at school each day.  By the end of December, the school lunch initiative will be approximately $300.00 in the hole. The deacons requested that we take a special offering for these children and the session said agreed.  On Sundays, December 16th and 23rd there will be envelopes in the bulletin for those who would like to contribute. The second opportunity is to join along with the youth group to provide food for 12 families that have asked for assistance this holiday season through the school. Food will be collected through December 16th and taken in on the 17th so the school can distribute it to the families before the Christmas break. You can help by donating non-perishable food items or by volunteering a holiday ham or turkey. Please let Rex or Kandice know if you are able to help.

Each Sunday in your bulletin you will find a weekly devotional and daily reading for the week.  We will list prayer request and praises in addition to some ideas for making new Christmas traditions.  For those who are home bound, you will receive one of these inserts each week.

I also promised a financial update.  That will be in the December 9th insert.  The session wants to keep you up to date not only on our giving but all the ministries that we are a part of in this community and beyond.

I love you all. Have a blessed Advent and Christmas Season.


November 2018 Newsletter

Dear Friends Pursuing Christ,

November always turns our minds and hearts to Thanksgiving.  We have so much to be grateful to God for as we thank Him for family, friends, work, health, our life together in Jesus Christ, etc. In October, Andrew and Norine Brunson returned home from Turkey. I thank God for what He did and for the Brunson’s testimony of faith when they met with the President and all who helped obtain Andrew’s release. Please continue to pray for them as they adjust to life in the USA and seek God’s direction.

I thank God for all the progress at God’s House. I give thanks for the contractors who have worked hard (some volunteering labor or equipment). I am thankful for Rex and Rod working with contractors and city officials. They have given countless hours helping to make this vision become a reality. There are many behind the scenes members who have helped to paint, work on floors, and haul out trash. There is still lots to be done but I do see light at the end of the tunnel.  Jill shared this Scripture passage this week as a reminder, “Unless the Lord builds a house. The work of the builders is wasted. Unless the Lord protects a city, guarding it with sentries will do no good.” Psalm 127:1 (NLT)

I thank God that in response to God’s call on their lives Jill Smith said yes to being an elder for another three years and that Amanda Dubinick said yes to being a deacon. On Sunday, November 11, there will be a congregational meeting to affirm this call. This meeting will take place immediately following worship,

I also thank God for your generosity in serving the Lord at FPC. You have responded when calls have been placed before us for the Food Pantry, for help providing meals for Trek, for praying diligently for the needs presented to us from within FPC and the community. Thank you also for being faithful in bringing your Coin Jars for God’s House. Thank you for your generosity in helping to meet our budget. This summer and heading into the Fall our budget has been tight and during the summer our weekly collections fell short. This is not uncommon since people go on vacation and forget to send in their tithe or financial gift. The problem is that our needs for operating the physical plant and the various ministries continue. Starting next month there will be a brief financial report to know where we stand in our giving as well as highlight different ministries we are involved in within the community and world.

As I said, November is a month that triggers our hearts and minds to “Thanking God” for all that He has done. Join with me and the Psalmist as we declare: “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good. His love endures forever.” Psalm 136:1

Love and prayers,



September 2018

Dear Friends Pursuing Christ,

Friday, August 17th – Saturday August 18th, the youth of FPC encouraged us to hold a 24-hour prayer vigil at the Church. Thank you teens!  As is the case for me, there is a time before the vigil when I think, I can’t afford the time to spend so many hours in prayer.  Then when I spend the time in prayer, in quiet solitude, listening to God through His Word (and yes there are even times when I hear HIS “still small voice” speak, or prod me), I feel refreshed.  Although that is a special time for me, I have noticed the effects of the prayer time have a greater impact on me in the days that follow.

Sunday morning as I entered the sanctuary, I could feel HIS presence and peace.  Not only was I not feeling stressed, but people seemed filled with joy! That spirit carried through in worship as well.  You could feel the Holy Spirit’s presence in the sanctuary and pulsating through His people. The time spent in prayer has changed me.

In Scripture, the prayers of the people have always been linked to an offering of a sweet incense to God. In Exodus, it talks about the incense of spices being burned alongside the prayers of the priests.  The Book of Revelation speaks of worship and prayer:

“And when he took the scroll, the four living beings and the 24 elders fell down before the Lamb.  Each one had a harp and they held gold bowls filled with incense, which are prayers of the people.” Revelation 5:8 (NLT)

David prayed to God:

“Accept my prayers as incense offered to you, and my upraised hands as an evening offering.” Psalm 141:2 (NLT)

Our prayers are a sweet aroma to God.  He loves to hear us speak to Him.  He desires to speak to us.  Andrew Murray writes, “Each time, before you intercede, be quiet first, and worship God in His glory.  Think of what He can do, and how He delights to hear the prayers of His redeemed people.  Think of your place and privilege in Christ and expect great things.”

Let us try to cultivate a daily time of prayer, a time to pull aside and spend time with God. For most of us it will require a plan. We will have to mark it down on our calendar and keep that appointment with God.  When it happens spontaneously, what a blessing!  But don’t miss out on this time. It will be life changing.

During worship, we will study the letter to the Galatians with an intensive study on the “Fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5).  A special thank you to Rod and Jill for hosting the Back to School party and to Bev Claypool and Keith Cook for taking shifts to keep the sanctuary open for the Vigil, and for Rex for fixing the lights on the cross.

Love and prayers,


August Newsletter

Dear Friends Pursuing Christ,

Thank you for your participation in VBS. Moose on the Loose was led by Rangers Bev Claypool and Keith Murray. We had 36 children attend and 22 teens and adults work very hard to make it happen! It was a fabulous week! We learned about the relationship between Peter and Jesus and how God loves us and forgives us from our sins. We also learned the ABC’s of Faith. Admit that you are a sinner, Believe in who Jesus is and what He has done for you and Completely trust in Him. Good News for all! Your prayers, presence, and financial gifts made this possible. You are changing lives for Jesus.

During Lent, we did a study called the 7 Realities for Experiencing God. The teen small group asked the session if they could host a 24 hour prayer vigil at the church. You can pray at home, but for 24 hours the church will be opened Friday, August 17th at noon until Saturday, August 18th at noon. The prayer focus will be for our families, schools, neighbors and God’s House. Sign up at church to participate in this event.

The Friday small group will begin a new study called, Cultivating the Fruit of the Spirit. It is a study based on Galatians 5, the reality of the fruit of the Spirit. Christopher Wright says, “(The Apostle) Paul longed that Christian believers should be filled with the Holy Spirit that Christ himself would actually be shaping their whole lives from the inside out…these are the qualities that God himself will produce in a person’s every day ordinary life because the life of God is at work within them.” At the introduction of the book a prayer is shared that John Stott prayed every day of his life. It is a prayer that I am praying and invite you to join with me. It has been transforming my life. God always hears our prayers. It has been a good journey to travel but it has been challenging!

Heavenly Father, I pray that this day I may live in your presence and please you more. Lord Jesus, I pray that this day, I may take up my cross and follow you. Holy Spirit, I pray that this day you will fill me with yourself and cause your fruit to ripen in my life: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control. 

Friday small group meets at Carole and George Gurnett’s on Fridays at 6:00 pm. Let Carole or Ilona know if you would like to attend. We are a kitchen table group, meaning we sit around the table and discuss God’s Word together and share how God is moving in our lives. There is lots of conversation, laughter and good food. Join us if you can.

It has come to my attention that our offerings have been suffering this summer.  We are struggling to meet our budget. Please remember that while you are on vacation FPC is still in operation with doors open and ministries continuing. Your financial gifts are essential for doing the work of the Lord. The session seeks to be good stewards of all our resources. By the way, some have asked whether we are still saving loose change for God’s House. The simple answer is yes. All loose change which is brought in our God’s House containers will be used for maintenance and expenses for the new building. The next collection will be on Sunday, August 26th. Thanks for asking.

Have a blessed August. Keep your eyes on church news. Church Life has an event coming up to welcome in the school year and yes the Session will be reporting on God’s House opening.

Love and prayers, Ilona

July 2018

Dear Friends Pursuing Christ,

Good Morning! Yesterday, 6/24, we had a glorious time in worship as our mission team shared about their work at Camp Courageous.  We had about 20 teens and adults from FPC attend this year (around another 10 from Excelsior Springs joined in with us). They shared their love of the hard work that makes the camp more accessible to those with special needs.  What I was thrilled to hear was how they enjoyed interacting with the campers. I love looking at Camp Courageous through the eyes of our teenagers.  This group truly made a difference.  They are the “Light of Christ” with their actions and words.  What a blessing! I want to thank Bev, Rex and Kandice in coordinating the trip.

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After worship we shared a meal. Good food, conversation and lots of laughter. Following lunch, Rex and Rod took groups to God’s House to see the progress.  Each day we get closer to the grand opening.  Please keep the team in prayer as they work with contractors and utility companies.  There is never a dull moment. Like us on Facebook to see the frequent posts on our page being made by Rex.

This morning as I was sipping on coffee and reflecting on yesterday, I was thinking about how we are not only living as the “Light of Christ” but also offer Christ as the “Hope of the World”.  We at FPC are a people of “Hope” because daily we experience God’s work in our lives.  God doesn’t keep us in a box pinned to our past but opens us up to a future. He knows and shows us that “with Him all things are possible.”  Past hurts and decisions don’t define us.  He uses them to grow us.  God uses them to shape and mold us. People may try to limit us (maybe we even do that to ourselves) and say you can’t change, but God knows better. The Holy Spirit is our “change agent”. As we explore the stories of Jesus this month we will see how Jesus sees us, loves us, forgives us, and infuses us with HOPE that can be poured out into the lives of people we encounter.

Important dates this month: Tuesday, July 17th through Thursday, July 19th is this year’s VBS: Moose on the Loose from 6:00-8:00 pm.  On Thursday everyone is invited to join us for a short program at 7:45 pm and an ice cream social following. Every day at Moose on the Loose is a “hot fudge Sunday”.  Come see what the children learned, how the volunteers fared, and most importantly meet and make new friends!

Please continue to pray for: Corky Cook and family, Loretta Bailey, Candy Gall, Andrew Brunson and his Family.  In July we continue praying for our neighbors and the FPC neighborhood. Coming soon – the Sunday Teen Small Group will be taking us on a Spiritual Adventure!

Love and Prayers,


June 2018

Dear Friends Pursuing Christ,

School’s out for Summer! Let the celebrating begin! What a joy to see smiling faces, flowers blooming, birds singing, children playing outside, pools opening, picnics and family gatherings.  I am really enjoying this season right now!

Thinking about all these festivities made me think of my childhood and how summer was so relaxing (except when mowing the lawn and weeding) as a child and teen.  Summer can be a kid’s best friend!  This summer during the months of June and July, my preaching theme will be “Tell me the stories of Jesus”.  We will see how Jesus engaged people, young and old, in sharing the gospel message.  As we reflect on the words of Jesus, I hope that it will encourage us as we become better neighbors to those in our own neighborhoods as well as in the FPC neighborhood.

I am told that July 1st God’s House will be up and ready for ministry, pending no delays in construction.  The Church Life Team will help us in celebrating this phase of vision for God’s House.  More information will come to you as we come closer to the date.  Each Sunday in June has some exciting events taking place.  Please note them on your calendar.

  • June 3rd – Congregation Meeting following worship for the purpose of electing Amada Dubinick as a deacon and Team Meetings after meeting. We will also be delivering cookies to our neighbors.
  • June 8th-10th – Camp Courageous Mission Trip. We have a group of 32 going this year. This includes church members, members of Trek, and friends of Bev’s.
  • June 9th – Westline Christian Church will hold their annual Women’s Retreat. Our own Angelika Schmidt will be the speaker. The theme is “Staying the Course”. For more information call Loise Stark (816) 899-2227, Alicia Whitcraft (816) 645-5641 or Kaye Seabaugh (816) 899-2304.
  • June 17th – Father’s Day (special presentation by children)
  • June 24th – Camp Courageous Team leads in worship and shares their story. A covered dish luncheon will follow worship.

We continue to be a congregation in prayer. Please continue to pray for: Corky Cook and family, Vicki Raynard and family, Loretta Bailey, Candy Gall, Andrew Brunson and his family, and the EPC General Assembly.  In the months of June and July we will be praying for our neighbors and the FPC neighborhood.

Love and Prayers,


May Happenings

As I look at the calendar for the next few months I get a bit overwhelmed.  Look at just SOME of our highlighted events:

  • May 6th Graduate Sunday (we will honor Spencer Smith)
  • May 13thMother’s Day (special presentation by FPC kids)
  • May 16th – Baccalaureate (volunteers are needed to help serve cake and punch to students, friends, and family)
  • May 20th Pentecost Sunday and Midway Graduation (following worship we will gather for a meal at Harold’s to celebrate Pentecost)
  • May 27thMemorial Sunday (remembering those who have gone before us)
  • June 8th – 10th – Camp Courageous Mission Trip
  • June 17th Father’s Day (special presentation by children)
  • June 24th Camp Courageous recap
  • July 16th – 18th VBS: Camp Moose on the Loose!

Still to come is the opening and blessing of the Church Life Center (God’s House) which is moving right along.  It is amazing.  Rex took me through it yesterday and all I can say is WOW!!! It is HUGE!!!! God has some very big plans.  I felt like Noah in the Ark! Keep those prayers coming and we will keep you posted. It is hard at times to not feel overwhelmed.  I constantly keep before me that God is in charge.

Not only are we building God’s House, but we are putting together a strategy for ministering to children, teens, and families.   As we were reminded in the “New Kind of Leader” seminar, lots of churches have wonderful beliefs but if they are not lived out the church will soon cease to exist.  The Great Commission of “Go and Tell” about Jesus must be shared.  It’s not just knowing Jesus but sharing Jesus with other people. In reality, how we live our lives tells people what we truly believe.  In the June newsletter there will be more about the ministry plan for God’s House.  Please keep this in prayer.

Also, as you pray, keep Corky Cook, Vicki Raynard, and their families in your prayers.  Both women have begun their journey with hospice. Cards, visits and telephone calls, I am sure would be appreciated.  Also continue to pray for Andrew Brunson. He will be back in court on May 7th in Turkey.  The charge is “Christianization.” He and Norine and their family ask we pray for his release and that Christ will sustain them through these trials.

I love you all.  You continue to be in my prayers.

Love in Christ,


Lent and a God’s House Update

Dear FPCers (Friends Pursuing Christ),

On February 14, we will begin the season of Lent. This year as a congregation we will spend time listening to God and joining Him in the work that HE is doing at FPC and in our community. One of the ways to help us reach this goal is a new study called “7 Realities for Experiencing God”. This study will focus on Moses’ encounter at the burning bush. During the study, you will:

RECOGNIZE a direction God is taking in your life.  BELIEVE and experience daily God’s infinite love for you.  IDENTIFY God’s unmistakable activity in your life.  HEAR when God is speaking to you.  KNOW how to respond to what God shows you. ADJUST your beliefs, character, and behavior to God and His ways.  EXPERIENCE God doing through you what only HE can do.

I have done this study before and it will change your life and it will strengthen our life together as a congregation. You will want to participate in this study. We presently have 2 groups available. The first group meets on Wednesdays at 1:00 pm beginning the 14th. The second group will meet on Saturdays starting February 17th at 10:00 am at the Eckhoff’s home. The children and youth will also be involved in this study in Sunday morning Small Groups. If you can’t join us on Wednesday afternoon or Saturday morning and need an evening study let me know. I do not want anyone to miss out on this journey.

During worship, I will preach on different facets from the study and have a time to respond to questions that the groups might have. Our Sunday morning worship services will be centered around the study of God’s Word and Prayer.

We will kick off this series with a day of prayer. On Ash Wednesday (February 14), throughout the day people will be called to pray (whether at home, work, or at the church) in a unified concert of prayer.  Each hour, beginning at 6 am, there will be a specific prayer focus and at 6:30 pm we will gather for a time of worship. All of our homebound members will be sent prayer materials.

Some other highlights from the past month: Construction was able to resume on God’s House. The Elders, Deacons and Church Leaders spent a Saturday morning in training and prayer preparing for “Engage 2018”.  New teams have been formed to do the “work” of Christ at FPC.  If you would like to participate on a team (Buildings and Grounds, Church Life, Christian Education, or Worship) let me know.  All teams are meeting on February 4th after worship. A group has been engaging in weekly Biblical Reflection and Meditation to prepare for worship on Sunday.  If you would like to participate you can join a group on FB or just continue the reflection exercises.  Here are the Scripture texts for the next few weeks.

Week of 1/28: Acts 9:1-19, Week of 2/4: Acts 16:1-10.

Love and Prayers in Jesus,


God’s House Update

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