Goodbye Summer!

In just two weeks, the Henderson and Las Vegas Centers will reopen their doors for the new school year. We are so excited for what this year holds for our students, their families, and their communities! Before the adventures really begin, we wanted to share special moments from our summers with YOU!

Evan, Executive Director 

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This summer was all about our two boys, Owen and Ethan. My wife Vanessa and I brought Owen to see the Sesame Street Live show which he absolutely loved. We spent time in our backyard cooling off with his kiddie pool when temperatures reached over 100 degrees. And with a pregnant wife at home, there have been plenty of trips to Cold Stone for a tasty treat to cool us adults down. We also had a scare with Vanessa having to spend a few weeks in the hospital because of pregnancy complications with our son Ethan. She has been on bed rest for over a month now and thanks to the generosity of family and friends we have been blessed with meals every night to help get us through this season. Again, we are reminded of the overwhelming love and care our God shows us when we are in need. So thankful for our summer and the ways we saw God at work!

Kendall, Henderson Center Director 

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I was able to bring three of our Club Christ students to my church’s summer camp in Big Bear, California. It was so much fun taking them to the mountains and getting away from everyday life in order to encounter God and grow in our faith together. Those three students are now attending church weekly and actively participating in youth events!

Angela, Las Vegas Center Director 

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This was a wonderful summer for me, with lots of changes! I officially joined the Club Christ staff (yay!) and moved into a house with three of my friends. I also traveled to San Diego and Denver,  BUT I think one of the coolest parts of my summer was going to Disneyland for the first time ever earlier this month! I went with Maryann, who is basically a Disney pro, which was helpful as she navigated us through the parks. My top three favorite attractions were Toy Story Midway Mania, Jungle Cruise, and Mickey’s Magical Map show. I had a great time and I hope to go back sometime soon!

Kendra, Program Director 

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We kicked off our summer by celebrating our anniversary in Utah near Kanab. Then on July 6, we added another child to our home by welcoming a foster daughter we call Baby K. She is the newborn sister of our other foster child, Miss P. Our son Etsen has added a slew of signs to his repertoire and has made dinosaur his favorite word. We plan to close out the summer with a camping trip to Arizona.

Next on the Club Christ blog, we will be introducing our new UNLV interns, Kayla and Tayler! 

Kendra’s Untold Story

It took 20 years to birth the first Club Christ Center in Henderson.  Long before the first child learned about Jesus there, a group of women began to pray that God would send a missionary to reach the families in the Landsman Gardens community.  Little did they know that she was sitting in their Sunday school and had also been baptized that same year. That year I (Kendra) was just eight years old.  It took some time before God answered their prayers and revealed his plan to me.

Fast-forward to the year 2007.  On a drive home from a service project with my school, God challenged me to begin a work with children: a work that would be long-term and would take place in the community.  While these thoughts were swirling through my mind, we drove past Landsman Gardens. It was a blank set of forgettable buildings that housed 100 families.  “That community needs it,” God said… yet it was not the time.

Another decade would pass before I found myself driving to interview for a Center Director position with a small ministry that only had one location at the time: Club Christ.  As I was en route, the Landsman Gardens apartment complex came to my thoughts.  Wouldn’t it be curious if it was the that community that needed a center, I thought.  And indeed, it was.  A year later, we would open the doors and begin a journey that would bless hundreds of lives.  An outpouring of support soon had the center packed with children.

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2010 Landsman Gardens

This past week we reopened Landsman Gardens.  Due to mold and asbestos in the walls, they had closed the community in 2012.   A soft-spoken fourth grader girl with intelligent eyes arrived and I recognized her immediately.  She had been a part of the original center.  During the afternoon, she said, “It’s the same.”  If you look at the paint, faces, and furniture, everything is different.  If you look beyond those things, it is the same.  It is still a place of hope and love.

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2015 Landsman Gardens

That building has a piece of my heart that no other place ever can.  God’s glory has been palpable to me within those four walls.  I feel it in the smiles and the tears, the laughter and the heartache of the hundreds of students who have been reached within it. It is a place where hardened hearts are have been softened.  My own heart has been revived within its life-giving walls many times.  God will continue to transform that community by renewing it from the inside out.

Our TOP 3 spots to celebrate the 4th of July!

In the city that never sleeps, it’s often quite easy to find FUN and FREE things to do in the valley during a holiday. But the question is which one will your child MOST enjoy and which ones are family friendly?

Here is our list of our favorite things to do on the 4th of July here in Las Vegas and Henderson!

1. Boulder City’s Veterans Memorial Park Firework Show!

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Boulder City is a great place to just go and hang out any day of the week, but it’s especially fun on the 4th of July! With all day events starting at 7 am there is lots of fun things for you and your family to do!

TIP: Make sure to arrive early to get a good spot to see the fireworks. The fireworks don’t go off until 9:00 pm, we suggest arriving around 6:00 pm in order to lay out your blankets to save your spot. Make sure you pack a cooler full of snacks and water to keep the kids entertained while you wait. There’s even a splash pad and bounce house that your kids can enjoy!

2. Summerlin Patriotic Parade

This 4th of July enjoy a parade in Summerlin that is guaranteed to fill your little ones with excitement! The parade travels along flag-lined streets from Hillpointe Road and Hills Center, then south on Hills Center Drive concluding on Trailwood Drive at the entrance of the Trails Village Shopping Center. Arrive early to get a prime viewing area along the route. The parade commences at 9:00 AM!

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TIP: Make sure to bring LOTS of sunscreen and water! Everyone knows the Las Vegas heat is pretty grueling, but with some sunscreen, cold water and a umbrella, your children will be comfortable enough to take in all of the floats passing them by!

3. Celebrate America at Lake Las Vegas

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Head on out to Lake Las Vegas and enjoy some music, food and fun! Enjoy an incredible Fireworks Show over the lake at 9 pm! What’s great about this event is that there will some fun kids activities such as face painting, balloon artist, washable tattoos, a stilt walker, Glo-works, and some fun games!

TIP: Make reservations to watch the fireworks from a yacht at $20 a person. If you’re thinking of a way to make this 4th of July different and special, Lake Las Vegas is the perfect spot.

We hope you all enjoy this special holiday with your family and friends! From all of us at Club Christ we wish you and yours a Happy 4th of July!

Untold Story-Angela

It seems common for a person to say that one book or one movie altered their life, but whether they actually mean it is another story. For me though, I can confidently make this statement:

The movie Unconditional forever changed my path.

It was just over two years ago that I was wondering what would be the next step in my life. I had been teaching the last five years at Mojave High School, which is located in a low-income, at-risk area in North Las Vegas. Several of my students and their families faced similar struggles and challenges, and at times, it seemed like they were in an endless cycle. That led me to begin kicking around the idea of starting a non-profit that combined my love for Jesus, education, and the kids who live in areas like where I had been working. I had no clue where to even start, so instead I decided to continue my Netflix binge and watch a movie before bed. In what was seemingly random in the moment, but clearly not in the scheme of my life, I chose to watch the aforementioned movie.

“My heart was stirred by the realization that this could lead to something great”

Unconditional is based on the true story of a man named Joe. A series of events led him and his wife to found a non-profit, Elijah’s Heart, to help love and support the kids and their families who live in at-risk areas. At the end of the movie, there was a little announcement about a website that would allow the viewer to find local faith-based organizations like Elijah’s Heart in their community. My heart was stirred by the realization that this could lead to something great, so I went to the website and searched for any available opportunities in Las Vegas. There were only two results: The Shade Tree and Club Christ Ministries (CCM). I clicked to CCM’s website and just knew it was the PERFECT place for me to volunteer. It was as though Evan had seen into the future and learned of my exact idea, years before I had even imagined it!

Even though at this point it was almost midnight, I immediately texted two of my very close friends to tell them about CCM and my desire to volunteer there. My friend Nicole responded back that she knew one of the current Center Directors, Maryann, and would connect the two of us. A couple of days later, Maryann and I talked on the phone (little did I know she would become one of my best friends!) and I was set to begin serving when the school year began.

“…one of my favorite things about Him is how He weaves the littlest things together to bring you to where He calls you!”

Volunteering and then interning at Club Christ has been such a fulfilling experience the last two years and I am beyond thrilled to continue the work of my co-workers as I run the third Center, which is in North Las Vegas, an area so close to my heart, this fall. There is a lot about God that amazes me, but by far, one of my favorite things about Him is how He weaves the littlest things together to bring you to where He calls you! Who would have known a late-night movie would bring about one of the greatest joys and journeys of my life?

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It started out as a way to impress my wannabe girlfriend and it turned into so much more.

I surrendered whatever plans I had for my life and God empowered me to encourage students to take heart in Jesus.

It’s still amazes me how I ended up on staff with Club Christ Ministries.

Three years ago my passion for education, ministry and fatherless youth lead me to volunteer at the age of 21… Or at least that’s what I like to tell myself.

Truthfully, I began as a volunteer because my soon-to-be girlfriend (and now, fiancée) Katie was a volunteer. So as a wannabe boyfriend, and college student with some extra time on my hands, I agreed to volunteer once a week.

Within two months, I fell in love with a generation of mostly fatherless urban youth.

I grew up middle class, with a single-mom, and got to see my father a few times a year. But throughout my life I carried the weighty burden of wanting his approval.

When I started volunteering at Club Christ Ministries was when Jesus began the long process of healing my wounds, and he called me to use my story to change the lives of children growing up without their fathers. I surrendered whatever plans I had for my life and God empowered me to encourage students to take heart in Jesus.

Fast forward three years and I transitioned from volunteer to intern, and from intern to Center Director. I thank God for this opportunity to speak truth into the lives of countless disadvantaged children growing up without fathers. Today, my prayer is that Jesus take their disadvantage, hurt, and insecurity, and turn it into the passion and joy that comes from serving him.

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photo by: http://www.thechristianmessage.org

Evan’s Untold Story

I’m not the guy you would expect to be leading a ministry like Club Christ.  In fact, I don’t know anyone from my graduating class at my high school, Bishop Gorman, that are now in the non-profit field.  They are lawyers, financial planners, realtors, and more.  I’m not really much different from my peers I grew up with.  I was raised in a sheltered, upper middle-class home with a full-ride scholarship to college.  But then I fell in love.  First with Jesus… as an insecure 18 year old fresh out of high school.

Then I fell in love with the city… when I said yes to a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

I was just 19 when I decided to spend the summer of my sophomore year at UNLV in Fresno, California.  Some know it as the “armpit” of California and as one of the poorest urban communities in the country.  I know it as the place that changed my life forever. I had naively signed up for Intervarsity’s Fresno Urban Internship expecting a fun mission trip to the inner city with my college friends.  Each week there I fell more and more in love with urban ministry and by the end of the summer I was itching to do something, anything to help meet the overwhelming needs I saw.

One of the last nights in Fresno, my friend, Bethany, and I were worn out from a long day serving at the area soup kitchen. “Let’s go for a walk.” As we walked along the sidewalks, broken and jutting, we both were so overwhelmed by all that we had been taking in.  I remember saying desperately to her, “What more can we do?” I suddenly had an idea, “I have some cash.  I’m gonna throw it on the ground so someone will find it and be blessed by it.”  So there we were, two white college kids throwing cash down on the street in the heart of the inner city.  It wasn’t my brightest idea.

The method might have been impractical but the motive was pure.  I wanted to help people in need but I didn’t know where to start. That same kid would find a better way do urban ministry than throwing a few bucks on the ground.  In fact the place where I served that summer, Mustard Tree Foundation, was the first ministry I had encountered that served kids out of a rented apartment.   Who knew that literally would be the “mustard seed” that inspired Club Christ a year later.

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Photo by: artofthechristianinja.com

I look back at that summer and it reminds me of why I am still here over ten years later.  In those six formative weeks, God unlocked a passion in my heart for what has become my life’s work.  It broke me then and still breaks me to this day to walk the streets of my city.  I hope you too can find that thing that breaks your heart and unlocks a passion to do something.  Anything.  Even if it is just to throw a few bucks on the street.

All seven called him “Dad.”

It was somber as we drove through Henderson thinking about how unfair it felt that Sharon’s family would most likely be split up at an impending custody trial. It had only been a few months since Sharon’s death at the hands of lung cancer.  We (Kendall and my fiancée Katie) arrived to the center with heavy hearts. We would hear the court’s decision very soon. Three years spent building relationships with this family and we could find ourselves with only a few days left with most of them.

Sarah, the third youngest of seven children, arrived to the center wearing her emotions on her sleeve.  She wanted to talk, but she didn’t have to.  Her face said it all.

I came to say goodbye Mr. Kendall. Today will be my last day at the Learning Center. All of us have to move to live with my aunt (Sharon’s sister) except for Jessica and Rachel (who are her two youngest sisters and daughters of Derick, Sharon’s boyfriend of 10 years).”

The court custody trial was between their aunt, who wanted the older five children for the government assistance that would follow them, and the only man they have ever known as Dad. The decision would be announced the next day, but Derick knew he probably wasn’t going to get custody.  He and Sharon had never married. Though only the two youngest girls were his, he loved all seven with all his heart. All seven called him “Dad.”

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If Derick lost the custody battle, the five oldest children would be taken immediately, including Sarah. This tragedy seemed like it was never going to end. Not only do these girls have to work through losing their mom, but the rest of the family would be split up.  No more Mom, no more Dad, no more brothers and sisters.

Feeling like this might be the last time we see her, we sat down with her while the rest of the kids started their homework. As we opened up the Bible the scripture we turned to was Psalm 23…

“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

Katie, who had been her Bible Study teacher at Club Christ for a few years, told Sarah, “God loves you and your siblings so much. He will always protect and comfort you, but he needs you to be a leader.” You could see in that moment that Sarah understood. I asked Sarah, “What are you going to do when you move in with your new family?” Sarah stoically said, “I’m going to be a leader.  And I’m going to help my brother and sisters by loving and trusting God.”

I could not be more proud after investing into her at Club Christ.  She had grown so much as a leader, student and follower of Jesus.  I was heartbroken that this would be the last time we would get to have her in our Center, but I’m glad she planned to hold fast to her faith. Katie and I prayed with Sarah and said our goodbyes as she left.

Derick lost the custody battle.  The police picked up the siblings at school and they were taken to live with their new family. They left behind a heartbroken single father and their two younger sisters. With the swing of a gavel, the family of eight was reduced to a family of three, and five siblings were sent away.

Our team of staff and volunteers at Club Christ Ministries were humbled that we had an opportunity to be part of Sharon’s story. Thankfully we get to continue to pour into the lives of her two youngest, Jessica and Rachel, who are still with us at the Henderson Center today. Please pray for Sarah and the rest of her family.  Pray that The Good Shepherd will see them through.

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