Dream Center: Final Day

God Gold of the day

Unfortunately, this will be the last Dream Center post reflecting on this year’s mission trip with the Hope Fellowship Youth group. Gosh, I have to tell you that this week has been the most challenging God Gold’s of my life. By challenge I mean in the best way possible. God continued to pour out so much of His gold into the lives of our students, our leaders and the community around us. I found myself in the best problem I’ve ever had because God gave me SO MUCH of His awesomeness to share with you!!!

I remember waking up Sunday morning before we headed out on the trip and after having the privilege of going on international and mission trips in the states, I literally said out loud before I left that morning, “Lives are going to be changed this week!” And I just grinned at the thought of what God would do! Fast forward to Sunday morning, our last day at the Dream Center after a week of serving in the Lakeland community. My thought I had a week before seemed so small compared to the literal life-changing moments that God brought together throughout the week. I was jaw-dropped and in awe of all God did in the lives of the students and my own. After going on mission trips before and always leaving with my life-changed, I have never experienced anything like this.

Sunday morning we spent a time in the morning before the Dream Center’s church service in reflection with each student and leader sharing their big moments from the week. It started with just sharing their big moments then after a few students also shared moments where other students impacted or encouraged them, the reflection guidelines changed to sharing biggest moments and the people that had impacted you the most. That in itself just shows a glimpse at the heart changes that took place in the students lives and how this group built a sense of togetherness throughout the week. Hearing the students affirming and encouraging one another brought an even bigger element to what God has done in their lives this week. They were exemplifying what putting others before self looked like and striving together for the same purpose as the church is called to do in this mission for Christ. Honestly, going through this time and hearing the things that the students learned this week, I was blown away! I began taking notes like I usually did during this time but more so because I was learning so much from them.

One of our students in particular made some big time moves in His relationship with the Lord this week. A guy who is usually more introverted and stand-offish when it comes to worshiping out loud, praying out loud, or sharing Jesus with others, a couple days into the trip he had some HUGE moments of opening up about things that had been weighing him down. After those struggles were surrendered to the Lord, you could literally see him moving quicker and more boldly in everything he did. Doing the canvasing, going from house to house, he was getting after it. He had a drive to give out all of the flyers he could as well as being intentional about conversations with others. He began to take this same passion into praying for people, as we gave out hot dogs one of the nights he would give someone a hotdog and ask to pray over whatever need they had. Not just one or two people but he laid hands and prayed over every person that was open to it. Then, as we practiced sharing the Gospel in more public settings, the dude was chasing people down to tell them the Good News about Jesus. In reflection time he shared with us his secret to how he got so bold; “I prayed every morning asking God to give me more and more boldness.” And as he prayed in faith to be bold, he moved in faith to be obedient to God as He opened up doors to serve others. It was obvious how God was faithful to answer his prayers time and time again. What’s even wilder is watching how his example of surrender and serving boldly served as an inspiration to the other students to do the same.

That story is one of so many stories from how God moved students out of their comfort zones into an uncomfortable place of service. And as the students moved they were stretched more and more. They continued to experience God in bigger and bigger ways as they simply MOVED! So many of our students showed time and time again, whether they had a more introverted personality or just in those uncomfortable moments, they showed by their example that we have no excuses not to share Jesus with others.

I was trying to think back about all the huge God moments that happened this week and as I tried to find a pattern of how all of these life-changing moments happened I kept coming back to the same conclusion.

Everything we did started with prayer and was empowered, driven by prayer. I have to give a shoutout to our fearless leader Pastor Matt because his leadership this week, like always was absolutely incredible. He continuously challenged the students in different areas of their faith, with the main areas being “surrender to God and the power of the Holy Spirit”, and starting every day and everything we did with prayer. Early in the week he made a challenge that he repeated many times after that, during our students devotional time, he would lead all of us in hitting our knees in surrender to God and pray specifically for opportunities to serve others, whether that was by loving them, praying for them or sharing the gospel. These moments of surrender, prayer and being fueled by spending time in God’s Word, these spiritual disciplines lived out by the students and leaders led to the big time work God was able to do throughout the week. It’s not even like you have to do these things in some kind of religious way of “if I do a then b then God will give me c.” It’s actually an act of doing less, surrendering our lives and bodies to God for Him to use us in whatever way He sees fit. I want to give a big shoutout to Matt for not only challenging us in this way but also modeling those principles day in and day out for us to see what “living surrendered to God and living on mission looks like.” BIG thanks to Pastor Matt for constantly serving us and impacting our lives with the truest and purest form of servant leadership.

During reflection time, it was so cool to see how God continued to move and hear how God had moved them forward in their lives. Hearing how students started the week carrying so much fear, doubt, and worry on their shoulders and how after a lot of prayer and a lot of movement with God by their side. The fear and all the other things that weighed them down just seven days earlier were long gone with no plans of returning. Also, getting to hear the joy that the students now had in doing things that used to terrify them such as sharing the gospel and praying for others. After spending time stepping out of their comfort zones and experiencing what God can do, then seeing just how big of an impact it can have on people’s lives. They realized how “living with God on mission”, brings more joy and satisfaction than anything they could ever imagine. Living in the fullness of what God has for us, what could be better?

Also, I want to share how awesome it was to experience and see students praying for one another as they faced a time of need after opening up about different struggles they have.  I can’t help but to continue hitting on this togetherness that they built with the love of Christ as the foundation. In reflection time, over and over again they shared how different people in the group impacted them by their example and reaching out to affirm those people. That was a big lesson for me this week just realizing how crucial it is to have brothers and sisters in your life that speak it to you real and affirm you in the growth moments you have. There is nothing more encouraging than somebody affirming you for who you are and how your example of serving has impacted them. That affirmation builds confidence that opens you up to serving God more and more.

Another lesson from the students that was also rooted from the moments of surrendering and prayer, having their eyes opened to seeing the way the Lord moves in even the smallest of things. In each moment, seeing how God is working things together to open up doors of opportunity to serve others with the love that He so graciously gives us. On top of that lesson, another student shared how they learned just how powerful prayer is not only in their own life but in the lives of others. Learning and experiencing the power of interceding on others behalf, praying for the Lord to wrap His protection giving, provision bringing love around them during their time of need. I was just going to share a few of the reflections shared from students but they are just too powerful so I’m going to keep going. Another student, who is also on more of the quieter side majority of the time, went through an enormous amount of growth as each day progressed. After breaking through in sharing his heart to the group, praying out loud with the group, and then God moving him to pray over a stranger met while serving on the street. He said, “praying out loud is something I never do, but God was telling me to do it, and the thought of ‘wow this may change this person’s life came up, and God gave me the confidence to just do it.” The last reflection from one of our leaders just catches the main theme of the week as God didn’t just bring impact to the people we served but an internal impact in our hearts that will forever change us. He said, “How many things can you learn in a week?? God did so much it’s overwhelming!”

We wrapped up the week with a church service at the Dream Center. The Dream Center does this every week, they set up tables and chairs, serve a nice pancake breakfast for all who attend and by meeting a physical need, they then bring them the truth of God’s Word and meets their biggest need, which is the need for Jesus. Pastor Steve, who was heading up all we got to do at the Dream Center while Pastor Mike is recovering from an illness, spoke on the purpose of the Dream Center. After seeing all the different, unique and creative ways they serve the people in the Lakeland community, hearing their purpose just made sense to what we witnessed all week. “We want to meet tangible needs that provide for people temporarily so we can meet their need for Jesus which sets them up for the long term.”

The Dream Center in Lakeland, Florida truly is one of a kind. How they attack the mission Christ has given us by following the example Christ set which is meeting a person’s physical need first then serving their spiritual needs by sharing the Good News with them. It was cool seeing the people that showed up also, with the free breakfast, it brought in people from the streets of Lakeland that may never find themselves attending a church service. Physical need then their need for Jesus. It’s such a beautiful and Christ-like way of ministering to a community that some would rule out as “impossible.’ For the last 30-40 years, their Christ-like approach and faithfulness has completely changed the landscape of that community and set up so many with LIFE in the fullest of ways through Jesus Christ.

The service was truly amazing, our worship leader Matt Howard led in worship along with two of our other students, Trinity and Savannah. God’s Spirit was so thick in the room as they proclaimed and praised the name of Jesus in such a beautiful and awesome way. Then, three of our students were able to step up to the podium and share their testimonies to the congregation. It was extremely powerful as they all shared their stories, their hardships, and their experience of how Jesus has came into their life and turned their world upside down. All three did such a great job sharing and continuing to move boldly in their faith stepping into a situation that none of them had much experience with, speaking in front of others. As all three of them crushed it, and as much as I wish I could just share the complete videos with you so you could witness this amazing work by God, there’s one student I want to highlight real quick. One of students name Paige, who recently came to know Christ just months before at summer camp, she mentioned how she’s always struggled with anxiety, especially in moments of speaking in front of others. But she also shared what was so obvious in that moment to see, that despite her fear, God spoke through her. What was awesome seeing to as most would just share the personal side of their testimony, she left the people there with some huge encouragement to what God can do and how awesome God is. A girl who is so young in her faith stepping up to do that. Once again, my mind is blown and I’m completely in awe at God for working in such a huge way this week.

The other students also served in helping prepare and hand out the pancake breakfast’s to people, we had some in the Sunday School area with the kids, and all of them continued moving forward in service as we cleaned up and got set to hit the road.

To wrap up Dream Center week, I’m just so thankful to have been able to share these awesome, real-life, life-changing moments that God brought forth this week. I’m just so thankful to get to be apart of this with this awesome group of students and leaders. My life will never be the same after this week. I’ve never experienced God in this way and I can’t wait to see how He continues to work and use the experiences of growth this week in the lives of our students and so many others. I ask that you pray for the Dream Center ministry and the faithful men and women that serve there. Please also pray for the students and leaders as we are back to our lives now that we would continue to practice the spiritual disciplines learned of surrendering and praying, that we would continue to step out of our comfort zones to take the love of God into the lives around us and continue living our lives on mission no matter where we are or who we’re around. Thank you in advance for your prayers and I’ll be praying for you also that these lessons shared in these messages bring you closer to Christ and challenges you to leave the comfortable and move on mission for Christ.

It’s those moments when you surrender your life and body to the Lord, step out of your comfort zone to serve others around you and share the loves of Christ that sparks growth like never before and opens you up to experience God in ways you never imagined. Don’t pass these moments up, MOVE in them!!!!

‘As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.’

James 2:26 

Dream Center: Day #6

God Gold of the day

Saturday, the day that our week is coming closer to the end but today was a special day also. Why? Well, all week we have been going out and helping canvas by giving out flyers for the Kid’s Club ministry. Going door to door trying to share the awesome stuff Kids club had going on, a back-to-school bash with bouncy houses, free school supplies and most importantly the chance for kids to get to experience and hear about Jesus!

Saturday was here and after doing all the ground work to get kids there, the time was here to see how many kids would come. As we woke up early to prepare for the day and get the Dream center ready to have all these young guns running around, we started with prayer. Something we’ve seen time and time again this week, if we start with prayer in all we do, when we take our requests to God, it doesn’t take long to see how faithful and good our God is to answer us and strengthen us for what He’s called us to. The lesson learned here all week and on Saturday was prayer first, go to God and then go. Things get real wild when you put God before your actions of “GO”, I’m telling ya from personal experience this week and watching the students live this out as well, this truth changed EVERYTHING!!!

Before I get into the day at the back to school bash, I want to briefly share with you just the magnitude of what Kid’s club does and has done through the years. I got to talking to volunteers that had been working there for years. The kids club has been around for over 20 years now, they have made a point to go into some of the roughest, most broken areas to take Jesus to kids. That’s it, kids who grow up in what seems like sometimes impossible circumstances, they step out on faith to take them Jesus, the only One who can meet their needs. It’s amazing to see the affects of all the many seeds planted over the years and how it’s impacted the community.

We had the chance to meet several people who are adults now but used to be one of the kids reached by the kids club. One of the coolest stories although there is so many, is with a guy named Daisean. Had the chance to meet Daisean yesterday and hear his story, I asked him, “how did you get into serving with the Kids club?” He told me about he started coming to kids club when he was 5 and just had been investing more and more ever since. He said, “as much as kids club has changed my life, I volunteer to help kids in a rough spot have that same experience with Jesus.”

A kid had his life changed by some random people planting seeds years ago, now he’s one of those people planting seeds!!! Daggum, isn’t God GOOD!!! Daisean faced a situation that a lot of these kids face now, an almost impossible environment to break through. The thing is though, these kids don’t deserve this, they are just there in that environment of darkness and until they have random strangers come into their lives telling them about Jesus, they don’t even know there’s another way!!! That’s what makes the kids club and the Dream Center as a whole such a special ministry, they don’t sit around and wait for someone to be those faithful few, they step out and are those faithful few, and it makes the difference in a life lost and a life lived with, for, and through Jesus Christ.

The volunteers continued to tell me of all these kids go through and their responses broke me. How could this kind of evil and hurt even be possible? I would list off the different things I heard about their circumstances but just look down the street or somewhere in your area because the sad thing is, these needs are literally all around us. It’s convicting to see the magnitude of hurt going on in the world but seeing the magnitude of what God has done and continues to do excites me and gives me full confidence in how Lakeland will continue to grow.

After going house to house all week, seeing the need and hurt that these kids go through, when we picked them up Saturday, it was like God had been preparing our hearts all week to love you on them. The students were split up into groups as some got on the busses to go pick the kids up. The students had the chance to greet each child as they got on the bus and begin building a relationship with them that would really mean the world to them.

The kids club ended up having a great turnout and with possible rain showers the Lord thankfully held those off. It was crazy as the kids got on the bus and went inside to eat their pop-tart and fruit breakfast, just how quickly they were attached with the students and leaders. It was neat too seeing how the students and leaders were serving them and being intentional with them, that was it, all they needed was to be loved on and some attention, then they followed us around all day as your little buddy. It’s like you spend five minutes with a kid and then they won’t let you go the rest of the day. I myself had this experience with a couple of kids but everywhere I went I could see students walking with a little kid hand-in-hand, or just seeing the kid run up and hug them. It was little moments like that, moments that would break your heart into a million pieces. For one, you wonder what they face at home, are they given attention, are they loved and cared for, so many questions could be asked but unfortunately there wasn’t many that didn’t face these battles.

It was quite an experience for the students and leaders alike to serve and love on these kids all morning. Seeing the complete joy ok kids faces and getting to plant seeds of Gods love in their lives, there is nothing better than this.

The back-to-school bash in itself was an awesome time! They had set up all kinds of different things to first off, have fun with these kids and build relationships with them where they would want to continue coming back. Also, they shared Jesus with the kids in couple of different creative ways. It was so unique and creative to see how they brought together fun by getting four bouncy houses and different activities outside for the kids. And yes, I said FOUR! Then they had bags set aside for each kid that contained tons of school supplies for the upcoming school year. For most of these kids, their parents sent them specifically for this reason. But besides the school supplies being given out which met a great need for them, the kids got way more than they bargained for as the kids club leaders led a lesson about “Never Stop Praying” with a visual example from Finding Nemo where Dory says, “never stop swimming.” This was a fun and creative way for these kids to get introduced to Jesus and why they should always be prayerful in all they do. This lesson goes right into how I started this message, take everything to God all the time no matter what the situation. They also had a little craft that went right with the lesson from Finding Nemo as they made a fish on construction paper and the Dream center had put the verse at the bottom;

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

‭‭John‬ ‭3:16‬ ‭

So the kids went home happier than they could be, they received school supplies, friendship and love, and most of all they received the Good News of Jesus which is the greatest gift anyone could ever receive. The students were definitely humbled and had their perspectives change quite a bit from seeing what these kids had to deal with on the daily. They also got to experience sharing God’s love with kids who may not know much about Him. It really does not get any better than that.

After the long morning then the kids leaving at lunch, we hung out all afternoon and ended up going to Downtown Disney with the students. It was definitely a treat as we all enjoyed the sights and sounds of what being in “Disney country” is like. It was mostly shops and music so we just walked til we couldn’t walk anymore and right before leaving, we decided to leave our mark. We saw this area of people dancing in front of a live band so we were challenged by Pastor Matthew to “bring the party.” Oh and did we ever bring it!!! It was wild and a ton of fun to end our last night in Florida. The last day is coming up and as sad as that makes me, its what must happen. Can’t wait to share the final Dream Center Gold with you tomorrow and also stay tuned for a God Gold outtakes from the Dream Center trip! It’s all the stuff that might have been left out for the moment!

I leave you with this challenge for today, be those faithful few that step out to serve others Gods love, not the few that sit around and wait until someone else does! Kids lives are more important than our comfort. If that makes you feel a certain type of way, good because it makes me feel that too, that’s what the reality we face will do to ya! I ask you pray for myself and our youth group as well in this challenge too as I know it can be tough at times, but together we can be a faithful many that attacks Gods mission with all God has given us.

Dream Center: Day #5

God Gold of the day

So I’ll go ahead and tell you that today’s Gold will be much shorter than it has been these last few days! I always try to make a point to write these messages out where they aren’t too long for you to read but God has been doing so much, like seriously there has been SO MUCH GOLD, that I didn’t want to leave out anything for you! I really want to encourage you to look back at those golds if you haven’t done so already because just as they have changed my life, my hope is that they can be a life-changing encouragement to you also! It’s been so humbling and awesome for this opportunity to share these “live-action” God Golds with you this week. I have to be honest though, what’s been even more exciting is receiving responses from you on how these messages are touching your hearts and challenging you! I spent some time to tell the students just how much their faithfulness and growth this week has been affecting more lives than just in Lakeland, Florida, but to so many of you as well. They say in awe of that and were encouraged greatly to continue moving in what God has called them to do! Gosh, this is such an amazing and unique example of iron sharpening iron! I pray these messages continue to challenge you and bring you closer to the Lord this week!

I said today’s message is going to be shorter because instead of running wild serving like crazy, we gave the students a break and had more of a fun day! They definitely deserved it after all the hard work and service they’ve been pouring out.

Reflection time in the morning was once again a very raw and real time in the presence of God. We sang a worship song or two and there was something awesome to notice. As we’ve seen the students grow and experience God more and more this week, their praise during worship continues to get louder and louder. It’s those moments praising God together where I’ve just been sitting there with goosebumps thinking, “this is so awesome.”

The kids continued to pour out their hearts and the many things God has laid on it, kids were discussing all the crazy/awesome God moments they had with people. The moments of getting to share their testimonies and the Gospel. Moments of getting to pray over people in serious need and moments of just meeting people that really touched their hearts. It’s those moments that change lives and show us what this life is all about, what’s cool is seeing the kids recognizing how these moments with God living in the fullness of life that He offers. Those are the moments we live for and strive for daily to simply be close to Him in every area of our lives.

At the end of the morning reflection time, Pastor Matt put a big emphasis on something he’s been harping on all week. The question, “what do these experiences and this serving look like for you when we get back home to Anderson?” As a group we made a list on a whiteboard of different things the students can do to stay accountable and transfer “living on mission” into their everyday lives. I’ll have the list in the pictures I post on the Facebook page but the main thing was staying close to God through their quiet time in His Word and prayer. Matt put a HUGE emphasis on how when we are having God’s love poured into our lives personally, how it pours out of us in service to others. I know from personal experience how hard it is to take the lessons learned on a mission trip back to your every day mundane life and apply them just the same. It’s extremely difficult but we are excited to see how to find ways for these students to continue living on mission and serving in their own community and schools like they have here. The kingdom impact will be enormous so I just ask you please pray for this situation.

Since it was more of a fun day, we were going to go to the beach but with the rain canceling that out we found the biggest mall in Florida to go to and spent the afternoon there. Since the day was considered a “fun” day, Pastor Matt wanted to test the students to see how they handle living on mission as they have been at the Dream Center in a more relaxed setting. The main thing we wanted to see was would they still be on fire to share the gospel and pursue sharing God’s love with others. This test was perfect for them as they are days away from going back home to their everyday lives.

After a while of going through shops and eating together, Pastor Matt modeled for all of us to see that living on mission for Christ doesn’t stop when we’re just chilling with our homies but it’s everyday all the time. Matt walked to a few guys sitting down with one of our students and shared the three circles with them which is the gospel message. It was interesting to see as Matt set the example, students immediately began paying more attention to the people around them, looking for someone to share the Good News with. It was wild watching the students go from person to person sharing the three circles with no fear at all. Also, in a setting like a mall, there was a lot of communication lessons to be learned on what sharing the Gospel looks like in public places. The two guys Matt talked to were very interested and so were a few other people that were encountered. Left with a couple of Bible Verses explaining how to commit their lives to Christ and an example of the sinners prayer, the decision was left in their hands. It’s really cool to think about what God is going to do with that but at the end of the day, the main lesson was seen by the students that planting seeds is all that matters. Just keep planting seeds and God will control how the harvest of those seeds.

It was an all around awesome day and upon returning back at the Dream Center things got even more wild. Different little pranks were being played and then before we headed off to bed, myself and a couple of students gave a concert to the group. I will also be sharing that video soon so stay tuned!!!

Since there wasn’t as much stuff happening today I wanted to share this passage from Psalms with you. I came across it yesterday and it really connected with me and the messages written out to y’all this week. I pray these verses can be a great faith builder for you and will open you to know God deeper than ever!

You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand— when I awake, I am still with you. If only you, God, would slay the wicked! Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty! They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name. Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord, and abhor those who are in rebellion against you? I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies. Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

‭‭Psalm‬ ‭139:1-24‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Dream Center Life-Changing Trip: Day 4

God Gold of the day

Hey everybody, after this week and watching God work in ways I never knew possible, not only in my own life but the lives of all of our students and leaders. It’s definitely been the biggest challenge of my short writing career but the GREATEST challenge God has ever placed in front of me. Words can only do so much justice to what all God is doing here in Lakeland, Florida this week but I’m going to give it all I got with the hope that the things you hear of God doing here and the lessons learned will be more than just words to you, but life- changing pieces of what God can do and how good God is that will reach beyond just the people on this trip. I pray that this will reach your hearts in a very special way as well. As much as I’ve called this the Dream Center “mission trip,” after the experiences with God this week and today, it’s more than just a mission trip. It’s been a LIFE-CHANGING trip in more ways than I could begin to describe.

I’m going to label out each section of the day just so my ADD doesn’t kick in and I miss out on sharing some of the awesome stuff God is doing. So, here we go!!!


Our devotion time today looked a little different than usual as we had a very special guest come in to speak to us and share his story of what God has done in his life, as well as lessons for all of us to learn from. Roger is his name, and cleaning is his game! Roger, is a man that’s been working as a handy man and janitor for the Dream Center for many years now and hearing how he got to working in this area of the Dream Center ministry is such a testament to the mighty and awesome God we serve. Roger began by painting a picture for us all, opening the window blinds to show us exactly how this community around the Dream Center hasn’t always looked like it does now. He told us about how before the Dream Center ever came to be, Lakeland, Florida was one of the roughest places in the nation, quite possibly the world. The streets here were filled with so much evil it’s crazy. Where the Dream center sits now is right beside where a prostitution and bootleg house used to be for years and years. Lakeland was a place that had daily incidents occur of shootings, stabbings, and people being killed. And that’s not here and there, every once in awhile but EVERYWHERE and DAILY!! Drugs and alcohol covered the streets and completely ruined lives in the worst ways, where the Dream Center sits now, it used to be clubs and different forms of evil going on. I want to also paint this picture for you to simply display where the Dream Center was at the beginning, the community God called them to minister to so you can better see just how much God has done since those times to bring the Dream Center and community of Lakeland to where it is now.

Man!!! Roger’s testimony was POWERFUL!!! He was living a life filled with smoking crack and drinking constantly. He felt he had nothing better he could be doing and after the first hit of crack, his life took a turn for the worse rapidly. He had came to the Dream Center a lot before to get food being handed out but that was it. Until, one day he hear Pastor Mike, the leader of the Dream Center day something that sparked something in his heart, words of truth that would change his life forever. Hearing Pastor Mike say, “no matter who you are or what you’ve done, God loves you exactly where you are despite it all.” These words hit Roger deeply as he realized for the first time how great Gods love really was. From that moment he gave his life to Christ, and prayed a prayer that would set up how the rest of his life would look. He said, “after I saw how God cleaned up the mess of my life, I told God if He wanted me to clean this building the rest of my life, I’ll do it God.” It’s funny how God answers prayers of surrender such as this. A job opened up for Roger to become the Dream Centers “handy man/ janitor.” And every day since, Randy has worked to not only clean up this building but play a role in cleaning up these streets.

Hearing Roger’s testimony was so powerful but after hearing it in that context, we were all pretty shook. This place we’re serving at, the Dream Center has truly played a transformative role in this community and it’s so cool how Pastor Mike has just continued planting seed after seed. Never knowing which one will grow but continuing to plant in patience and watching God changing lives in this community and the community one seed at a time. These moments were huge for us because now we could all see the Dream Centers overall purpose and mission even bigger, I mean we just heard from one of the seeds that grew through this mission. Hearing it specifically that morning as we were getting ready to begin our day by serving, hearing just how powerful God has worked at the Dream Center, it fueled our hearts to attack the day ahead. To follow under God’s control instead of our own and see the importance of of each seed planted in community and continuing to move faithfully to keep planting no matter what.


And of course after these huge lessons God set up an opportunity to share this fire He had placed in our hearts for His glory. We went out in the community to do more canvassing by giving out flyers for the kid’s club event coming up Saturday at the Dream Center where they will be giving out school supplies, having bouncy houses and just a lot of fun. It was LIT!!!

The students practically ran out of the Dream Center ready to serve. We watched as they took ownership of the mission, attacking streets with enthusiasm unknown to mankind!! It was so awesome to watch them get after it! Our objective was to take flyers to kids houses that we had been given addresses for but what ended up happening was BIGGER than that! Kids weren’t just staying by the guidelines but they were following the Holy Spirit’s guidance and were obedient to go above and beyond to get as many kids as possible into the Lords presence on Saturday as we have the Back-to-School bash!!! They went outside of addresses we were given and literally invited everybody! I’m talking about any house with kids toys or bicycles, asking people in community where kids live, being on the lookout for kids at all times and embracing each stranger on the street. It was amazing to see all the seeds planted in the effort to spread the word about Saturday’s event and even more amazing to watch as students were obedient to where God was guiding them, even going to houses with no sign of kids anywhere and then out of nowhere doors opening to houses with tons of kids, people with grandkids, and people who knew kids that would they would invite. And on top of all that, students didn’t hold up at just giving out the flyer and telling people about the event, they were persistent to ask people they came in contact with, “how can I pray for you today?” Then laying hands on those people and lifting them up by calling out to God. People who spoke of how much they seriously needed prayer, were able to get the prayer they needed because of the students stepping out to be faithful in obedience. Some students also were rejected when asking to pray for others, some rejected multiple times but this did NOTHING to stop them from continuing to attack this mission God has placed them on!!! Geez, it’s awesome, crazy and just wild how God has been working in the lives of these students this week.

Teamwork and surrender were two lessons being displayed big time by the students, and a level of sacrifice that was inspiring to see. Through the really hot Florida heat and being exhausted from walking house to house, they continued to push through for what God had called them to do. And as they pushed, God continued to open up doors to serve and love on people who were in desperate need of it.

Southeastern Tour

Every year Pastor Matt and his wife Sarah spend time to take the students on a look at how everything got started for the two of them. Both were attending college at Southeastern university, which is a small Christian school in Lakeland, Florida and just so happened to run into each other and meet. Matt had spent a lot of his free time while here at Southeastern serving at the Dream Center as a volunteer and it just so happened after an invite to come and serve, Sarah began volunteering as well. The two served alongside each other as friends for a year or so and then as the stars aligned, they eventually became more than friends!!! It was an awesome experience to see where it all started for these two great leaders. I would love to give you more of their love story but I don’t want to mess up any of the awesome things God has done between the two of them. It was cool to see how what God is doing now and how this started there on the campus of Southeastern.

We got to go on a tour of the campus and see all the school had to offer which was actually a lot of really unique things. We got to see each part of the university as Matt and Sarah had the chance to catch up with old friends, the students had their eyes opened to see what the next step of their lives looked like. As middle and high school students this was a great opportunity for them to begin seeing what “college” looked like and thinking about what it takes to get there along with what God is calling them to do when they’re there. One student in particular was sharing how he was very interested in Southeastern’s “missions” department. After all the things God was doing in his heart on this trip, he wanted to know if missions could be a major at school and it just so happens that Southeastern has a program designed specifically for that called “intercultural studies.” Really really cool to see how God has been planting seeds of callings in the students hearts this week and hearing the questions they have about the next steps of their lives.


Upon returning back to the Dream Center after the tour, and the students having that “fun” time their enjoying seeing what college life looked life. It was really encouraging to see how quickly they were willing to jump back in and serve more at the Dream Center. Steve, the man in charge at the moment right now while Pastor Mike is away, had plenty for the team to do and as he told us what needed to be done, the team immediately embraced the chance to serve. There was one more neighborhood that needed to have flyers passed up for the kids club event on Saturday except this wasn’t just any neighborhood. It happened to be one of the roughest neighborhoods in town and although it carried a lot of non-appealing qualities to it, these kids there still needed to be served. Thankfully God held back the rain just long enough and with a lot of the men going for specific reasons, we attacked serving and loving on that neighborhood together. It was wild because after seeing the conditions of each house and apartment, it was obvious how much need was there. What was even wilder is despite hearing and seeing some fears from the students about walking into this somewhat dangerous territory, they continued to push past their fears, laying down themselves to attack this mission God had called them to. Just another big time example for students and the leaders that it doesn’t matter who the people are or what they are going through, even the “least of these” need to be served with the love of Christ. Honestly even more so when you see it through how Jesus laid an example of this in his earthly ministry. Huge lesson and huge step out of our comfort zones with the result being Gods love and goodness shown, His light brought into a very dark place.

Community Store/ Hot Dogs

After getting back from canvassing, a lot of the other students were already serving at the community store where they were helping the Dream Center staff give out bags of free food to people that live in the community who are in great need of this provision. Also, during this time we set up a table to give out free hot dogs, chips and drinks to those who came by. What looked like it would be just another time of serving by action quickly turned into much more than that. Myself and another leader Travis had the chance to spend a lot time talking to a gentlemen who was sharing his heart with us along with his love for God. Getting to listen to this man, share our hearts and all praise how good the God we serve is, it was moments we’ve never felt the Holy Spirit working so powerfully. We had the chance to pray for this man, while he also prayed for us and most of all encourage him to continue growing and walking in obedience to God. To be a pillar in this community for the gospel of Jesus Christ. About that time, we looked around and instead of seeing students standing around or playing, each student was taking ownership of each opportunity that walked up to be served. Students were stepping out of their comfort zones completely to do more than just hand out food to people in need but offer them the food that fills us up even greater than physical food. The Bread of Life, which is Jesus Christ. It’s safe to say that people were getting FED!!!! Students were seeking out each opportunity to talk to people, listen to their stories and get to know them. Then after building relationships with them asking to pray for them and sharing the Gospel with them through their testimonies. It was truly amazing watching God work through these students lives as every time we turned around we were faced with a view of a student laying hands on someone praying over them or sharing the truth of the Gospel. It has been evident from the first day here, as each day passes how these students, like every single one of them continues to be more and more transformed by the loves of Jesus in their lives. Each day we have gotten to watch students take new steps into the life and mission God has called them to. Watching the students embracing people in such a powerful way at the community store, I want to say I’m surprised but honestly at this point in the week after watching the way God has worked, I am getting used to being surprised by the way God is seriously changing and transforming these young lives. I just remember running back and forth to Pastor Matt, with more exciting news of student reaching out with Gods love to another person. I’ve never been so overwhelmed and truly inspired in my 24 years of living on this earth. I’ve never had so many cold chills and goosebumps as I’ve had this week, and not from me but the chance to watch how the Holy Spirit is capturing each student in this glorious mission and above all just how stinkin good God is.I got to throw in here that before dinner we had a run in with what I see as one of Satan’s beasts. As we were pulling out the grill to cook up our dinner, a decently sized rat was underneath the grill cover looking right at us. As we all stepped back the rat just took off as fast he could to get away from us. After a short chase the rat got away and I think some of us are still trying to get our hearts to come back up after having them drop so low. Well, maybe that’s just me because I have a major fear of rats so thank God we made it out alive.

I want to mention too during this time, we had the chance to minister to one of our students on something he had been struggling with. God opened up a door to tell him of the complete Freedom that he had through Jesus Christ. As many students struggle so much with shame and guilt from their sin and not being mature enough in their faith to not know they don’t have to sit in it but they are free from all condemnation. We got to share this verse with one of our students as a couple of more came into the area and we all got to pray over this situation together.

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.”

‭‭Romans‬ ‭8:1-2‬ ‭

Watching God come through this time where a student felt a situation that was impossible and unbreakable then seeing through God’s eyes, in His magnificent power, and see how God not just can break those chains but through the pain of surrender and tears, that God WILL break the chains off of whatever keeps you in bondage. Powerful moments this week of more than just students serving but learning more about their relationship with God and opening up about their struggles and pain to deal with them through God, and alongside others.

Twisty Treat

After such a long day of service, we decided the kids earned a trip to Lakeland’s pride and joy when it came to ice cream. We each got our favorite treats and enjoyed every bite of the creamy, sugary goodness provided by the people at the Twisty treat!

Then we decided instead of our regular worship and reflection at the Dream Center we would take that time to the streets and expand our worship by praising God in mission. We went down by a lake in Lakeland’s downtown area where it was crisp and cool, beautiful night. We all found some steps to sit on as Matt Howard, our awesome worship leader began playing some worship songs. And then we went into a time of worship, praying and praising God for who He is in our lives. There were a few people around that we hoped would want to join in with us but they quickly decided to call it a night and leave. Even though that was discouraging, it didn’t stop what God was doing in the lives of these students. We’ve all been learning all week what true freedom in worship is, for some that’s lifting their hands in surrender to God, for others it’s getting on our knees in prayer, and then some may feel the need to be still and take in each moment with Gods presence. A great lesson from Sarah as spending time in church for so many years, you can see a lot of people worshiping a lot for show more than actually worshiping from a pure heart with God praising motives. To guard our students from just worshiping how everyone else is and actually worshipping freely in how God is leading them, she said something that has stuck with us all, “when you have a thought of I need to lift my hand, hit my knees or whatever it is during worship, you know it’s not the devil telling you to do that so just be obedient to the Holy Spirit, put aside everyone else around you with all the religious pretexts, and just worship God freely however you feel, but most of all let it be between just you and God.” After speaking on this a couple of nights ago and the power of worship in our lives, we watched last night as we were literally in Gods presence and His beautiful creation, freedom came forth through the students and a couple of the leaders for the first time. It wasn’t anything but just being in the moment with God and for praising God, hands were lifted, kids were actually singing and singing loudly when they usually never do, hitting their knees in full surrender to God. It was such a powerful moment as we all came together to worship the God that has been changing our lives more and more in each day of this week.

After this awesome and real worship experience, as the kids and leaders had been so on fire to share God’s love with the people around them throughout the Lakeland community, it was honestly like the Holy Spirit poured kerosene on the fires God was already lighting up inside of them. Students literally took off running after people that went by to simply share Jesus with them and pray over them. They were living on mission, in the purest sense of what Jesus meant when he called us to this mission. I looked at Pastor Matt and we were jaw dropped and just like, “what is going on?” After a celebratory chest bump, we just sat there and watched as students were going left and right to each person they saw on mission to tell them of the greatest love there ever was.

I can’t say enough about how much God is working this week in all of our lives, I pray this has helped you see why the title has been changed from mission trip to “life-changing trip.” It’s truly amazing and so awesome to watch and just in case I forgot to mention, I want to put a small list of some ways the students have stepped out of their comfort zones today. I pray that you won’t just read this and be like “oh that’s great for them.” But I pray this will be an encouragement for you to see what God is doing through middle and high school students, He can and will do the same through you. The biggest lesson I’ve learned this week is not how “mission trips” changes lives, but how just being obedient in the mission God has already placed in front of us, spending time to listen to the Holy Spirits guidance and moving in where God is calling you. That’s living everyday on a mission trip wherever you are and whatever you’re doing!!!!

  • Students praying out loud in front of other students for first time
  • Students praying for strangers for first time, and continuing to pray for more and more
  • Students reading God’s Word personally, sharing it with students, referencing back to Gods truths, and sharing His Word with strangers for the first time
  • Students realizing the importance of growth with God personally and how that growth results in them going to spread His love that Hes given them with others

The list goes on and on and on but I just ask you continue praying for these students as they continue growing and learning, pray for the Dream center and all the people that work in this ministry, pray for the people in Lakeland and this community that God would continue to break down barriers of evil with His love and send laborers into this harvest to keep planting seeds in the lives of people in need. Also, pray for each person reading this that they would walk away not just enlightened but closer to God than ever before and challenged to really MOVE in this mission God has given us!!! Wow GOD IS GOOD!!!

Dream Center: Day #3

God Gold of the Day

Hey just wanted to tell you once again how thankful I am to be sharing such real, life-changing God Gold with you. It’s been such a wild week following around the stories and catching all the highlights of this mission trip. It truly is incredible the learning that’s taking place for myself and each student as we step into the unknown of missions work. Like I’ve told you, it’s really difficult to put all the God is doing into words but by His grace, I hope I can give you a message that touches and teaches your heart along with makes you feel like you were literally here with us.

So, here we are, DAY #3!!! The day started like any other, breakfast and devotion time. What was neat to see during devotion time was how before a leader was even in the room, without being told, the students were in their Bibles and journals getting started. The students have been learning and recognizing the power of this quiet time to start their day and it’s awesome to see them living in this new habit. It also blows my mind how seemingly everyday, the Word discussed in devotion time is SOOO fitting for the day and the perfect type and amount of fuel needed for our hearts to serve. Day #3 was the same, the devotion fit to our day like a glove, the main verses being discussed were;

“Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭10:39‬ ‭

And on top of that Gold, some verses about how Jesus tells us we should “take up our cross daily.” Its this idea of sacrificing and letting go of yourself, sacrificing our comfort for others around us, to serve them and share the love of God with them. It’s a powerful truth from God’s Word and as you’ll see throughout the day, this application was the theme for all of the students. And Pastor Matt was able to continue challenging the students in the question; “what does taking up cross and serving like this look like back home?”

That’s has been the overall challenge for the students since day one, how can we take the lessons and experiences gained here and bring an eternal impact to our community? It’s going to be fun to see how this question is played out as we return home but for now, let’s see what else happened in day 3.

After devotion time, a group of guys went out to mow grass, weed eat, and pick up trash. This group was able to work together and get a lot of grass mowed that the Dream Center leader, Steve, had been needling to do. They got to mow one house in the community and then right beside that one, one of the leaders noticed how the house beside it needed their grass cut too. So as he was prompted to serve them, him and one other guy went over there and began helping these two older people out with their grass. It was wild how random and divine this moment was. The guys had no idea how much their obedience to serve, and follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit, even if it was out of the guidelines, just how much that helped this older couple. After finishing their yard, just as the students had been doing all week, we asked if their was anything they needed prayer for, the woman looked at us and immediately said oh yes!! Please!!!! It turns out the old man sitting there was in really bad health and his keeper had been diagnosed with a tumor in her heart, she had been in the hospital for quite a minute so the older lady was having to take care of him. It was definitely a situation that needed prayer and amazing how God sent the guys there in front of people who truly needed the power of prayer and Jesus in their life. Stinkin amazing!

While the guys had been mowing another group of students were going through and organizing school supplies for the Kid’s club give-away coming up this Saturday. They were hard at work and learning what true “team work” looks like as they helped each other sort and organize, packing the supplies into little boxes to be big time blessings for kids in the area.

On with the day, the guys finished up mowing and the school supplies were packed up, we headed to lunch. After lunch was over another group of guys were sent out to mow another houses grass and a group was sent to organize and clean up the tool shed. The shed work didn’t take overly long but it did require a high amount of team work as kids learned to lean on each other and work together. I think they are really starting to grasp how truly untouchable and powerful they are when they are together. They got the shed looking a shined up and went back inside to wait on the next task.

The team that had went mowing, well their job was a little wilder than the shed clean up. I saw a couple of the guys get back just drenched with sweat, with that “I’m about to die” look on their face. Come to find out the yard they worked on today had not been mowed in quite some time so they had their work cut out for them. They had to mow knee high grass with push mowers so I’m sure you could imagine. But once again the team continued to sacrifice theirselves for the benefit of others.

What was awesome to hear about too, after challenging the students to ask God for opportunities to serve, one of the girls prayed about sharing the Gospel. And gosh it’s crazy how God never seems to let ya down! While at that house mowing grass she was there picking up trash and had the chance to play and talk with this group of kids. She began playing with them for awhile and building relationships with them and when the opportunity came, she jumped on it. She opened up and shared the “3 Circles” which is the Gospel with them and with them being younger she was able to see how to bring it to their level and really connect with them. Many of the kids in the groups were were heavily connecting with it and asking really good questions, she even challenged them to share this with their friends and there they went!!! They were off, running to their friends to show them. Truly amazing how God is working in the lives of our students and teaching them how to live on mission for Christ!!!!

After all the team got back together, we split up into two groups again and went out canvassing for the Kid’s Club ministry, handing out flyers and spreading the word about the big “back-to-school bash coming up this Saturday! It was another great experience for our students to be pushed out of their comfort zones, in some pretty rough parts of town, going door to door, sharing this news with strangers and praying for people. I don’t care how old you are, there is a lot of uncomfortable in that, but the students were handling it like champions. What was starting to take shape though which was easy to read on all their faces, after being outside in the HOT Florida heat all day, the heat even hotter now than it had been, the students were getting tired and hot. But although you could see how worn out they were, the devotion continued fueling truth into their lives, “pick up your cross,” the students were literally picking up their crosses and pushing through the pain and heat. As we went house to house it was so cool to see how much of a presence the Kid’s Club ministry has built in the community! There was a couple of kids that wanted to walk with us that are long time kids club followers, we got to hang out with them and they pointed us out to every kids house in the neighborhood. We had been given a list of possible kids houses that had been to kids club before but it was so awesome to get what kids club and the Dream Center is doing to even more families and kids.

The neighborhoods that we were walking through were definitely on the rougher end. It was obvious to see some of the hurt and need in that area which raised up the magnitude of why we’re doing what we’re doing even more. There was a few houses that completely rocked some of us, walking up to one door and randomly knocking on the door without knowing if it was on the list or not. We knocked and when realizing it wasn’t on the list, the door opened, a mother standing there with her 4 kids. What a God ordained moment that led us to that house when we could have so easily went by the list and passed by it. Now these kids have access to the resources of kids club and the Dream Center where they will be completely surrounded by Jesus! The next house we went to after that huge blessing took place was one of the kids addresses on the list but there was a master lock on the door. Signs that they have been evicted. It was a huge perspective changer for all of us and thankfully we had the chance to pray right there in front of the house for that family!

Also, on the canvassing, it was wild watching some of our more quieter students stepping up to the plate and embracing the opportunity to share about kids club with the community! Instead of being forced to go knock on doors and talk to people, these kids were embracing it, one in particular that these tasks go WAY out of his comfort zone. The dude was going door to door, not slowing down or thinking twice but just getting after it and getting it done. I had walked up to one door with him and was preparing to help speak when he says, “I’ve got this, it’s way out of my comfort zone but I’ve gotten pretty good at this.”

Daggum, stinkin incredible!!! I can’t tell you how much we’ve seen stories like this taking place over the last few days in kids lives.

Later, last night we had the chance to join the youth at Victory church to worship and hear some good Word. It was a cool experience for the students to experience youth group in a different atmosphere and meet new people their age. The time there was very special and welcoming from everyone at Victory. The main point of the message was “trust issues”, referencing to Matthew 14:22-30 where Jesus walks on water and Peter does the same. It was a message that really hit home with a lot of our group, learning what trusting in Jesus can bring to our lives.

After church, the team headed back to the Dream Center where we had pizza, ice cream and got involved in some WILD games of hide and seek!

To end the night we finished up in reflection as usual, like always it was the highlight of the day. Getting to hear from students hearts on how God is moving in their lives. To share just a few of the many highlights and lessons learned here we go: the biggest challenge of the day was the heat and everyone being tired and in this time of reflection it was obvious how the students continued to push through all day despite how they felt for the sake of others they were serving. It was amazing watching students surrender themselves and attack the mission Christ has given us to spread His goodness into the world around us.Another lesson learned was how powerful worship can be in pursuing God. With students being young in their faith, there was a chance to challenge some of them in their worship. The students were able to really get a better grasp of how powerful worship can be in their relationship with God.

Once again, we touched on and heard from students how they specifically prayed for things with God such as, “boldness to serve”, “sharing the Gospel” and so much more. Then last night we got to hear how God has brought those opportunities into their lives and empowered by the Holy Spirit, the students were able to recognize just how limitless and powerful they can be when backed by the power of God in their lives.

One last thing is just how in only 3-4 days, students lives are literally being transformed before our eyes. It’s one of the wildest things I’ve ever seen but it’s a product of what happens when we are pushed out of our comfort zone to serve and live in mission, then having no choice but to lean on God, it opens up the door to know and experience God at work in our lives in even bigger ways. Students and leaders too, their lives are being broken down and completely changed right now and it’s so awesome to watch. But I want to challenge you in this, to step out of the comfort zone, whatever that looks like for you just faithfully step out and do something for the Lord that is way out of your “usual.” It doesn’t matter if you are at the grocery store, working a job, or at school, if you step out in obedience, that’s when God is going to open you up to the fullness of life with Him, trust that God has you and watch Him change your life too.

Seriously I’m calling to you today to step out, you don’t have to be on a mission trip to step out, you just have to be obedient!