‘Thin Places’

Thin Places | reGENERATION Report

Friday, February 12th, 2016


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Discipleship, Engagement, Disorientation and Connection.

“When I was a kid, I used to enjoy art and would spend a great deal of my time drawing….Then I started playing video games and stopped drawing. I have come to learn while at reGENERATION that I can worship through art, and I would like to start drawing again and stop playing so many video games.” — As paraphrased by an EFC-MAYM male student in the worship lab at reGENERATION 2015.

Bloom where you are planted” — Referenced by Grady Miller in regards to our life of discipleship, something he heard many years back.


I believe all of these terms: discipleship, engagement, disorientation and connection, have a relationship to each other as it relates to our vision and purpose for reGENERATION 2015. A group of 85 persons in EFC-MAYM: 45 students and 36 adults (a ratio of 1.25 students per adult which is our best ever to my knowledge for this particular event), gathered together on December 28 – 31 in the “Tristate area” near Tulsa at Post Oak lodge.

The following portion is taken directly from our website as it relates to our “disciple makers gathering” known as reGENERATION:

DISCIPLESHIP: We are excited about this disciple making gathering as we work together in EFC-MAYM to create an opportunity to equip disciple makers. We will be using EFC-MAYM persons only to lead worship and to facilitate interactive and experiential learning labs. The teenagers and adults who participate in this gathering will feel equipped and commissioned to make disciples who will make disciples.

_MG_9561ENGAGEMENT: During this gathering we are raising the bar as we equip disciple makers. An important piece of raising the bar, is asking everyone to lay down their life and their cell phone in order to fully engage in the experience at reGENERATION. We are asking everyone to be PRESENT and FULLY ENGAGED with God and others in a very practical way – no cell phone communication. As we do this together, we are excited about the ways that God will speak into our lives as we pay COMPLETE attention to Him and others.

DISORIENTATION: In a world where the predominant message is “IT’S ALL ABOUT ME,” Jesus speaks a message to us that says: “IT’S ALL ABOUT GOD.” As we live in a world of DISTRACTION, as disciples we need to FOCUS in order to HEAR God and OBEY. In light of these realities, we invite you to help bridge this GAP and come be a part of this DISCIPLE MAKING gathering as youth and adults experience DISCIPLESHIP together in the context of dying to self – IT’S ALL ABOUT ME – and taking up your cross – IT’S ALL ABOUT GOD – as we alleviate as much DISTRACTION as we can in order to FOCUS, HEAR and OBEY Jesus’ call to follow him – Matthew 4:19._MG_9548

CONNECTION: Not only do I believe we fulfilled our purpose as we gathered together, eternity will be the true test to the ever slow work and process of discipleship. I am proud to share that I believe we exceeded our mark! Due to the aforementioned realities that were experienced at reGENERATION 2015, I believe our face-to-face relational encounters, conversations and experiences with God and with one another at reGENERATION 2015 will have kingdom impact and lasting fruit. Not only did we create, lead and implement all of our labs and worship experiences with EFC-MAYM persons, we also were able to feed our group three suppers! Thanks to Ramona Friends, Chandler Friends and Bolton Friends along with a connection from Pratt Friends that led us to a Baptist church in Tulsa, who helped feed our group supper each evening.


May God’s kingdom come and may his will be done as we all follow our Master and Lord into places new and old as we continue to “bloom where God has planted us” here on earth as it is in heaven. May we too find times to “lay down our life and take up our cross” on a daily basis as we follow Jesus wherever he may lead us…even when that place may be from our distracted selves, to a place of discipleship, engagement and connection with God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ through the power and reGENERATION of the Holy Spirit. May it be so.

– Jesse Penna, Associate Superintendent of Student Ministries


Thin Places | chili dogs & holding chains

Monday, October 12th, 2015

thinplaces_2On September 19 – 21, I traveled to a few places in the Tristate area in order to visit some individuals and churches. Following is a brief report of how I experienced God while making that visit:

When I first started working full time in EFC-MAYM in 2013, my first visit was with John Penrose at Independence Friends, followed by a visit with Grady Miller at Bolton Friends and then Eric Linville at Ramona Friends. At the end of that day, I stopped in Chandler for a Bible quiz. In March of that same year, I went back to the Tristate area to finish my visit, with time spent at Miami and Wyandotte. Since then, I have been eager to return.

Since the 2013 visit, several things have changed as it relates to student ministries; Joey and Lanie Spiegle have started serving at Miami, and Josh Leemasters, Kete Evans and Chevy Wilkinson have started working with the young people at Wyandotte. It was a blessing to see the Spiegles settling in at Miami now that they are married and serving together. Both Joey and Lanie are bi-vocational, working in the community as well as the church. God is doing great things in their midst. It was a privilege to hear firsthand about their life and ministry and to take a walk with their highly intelligent and highly energetic dog Mikah!

After finishing my time with the Spiegles, I headed down the road to Wyandotte. When I called Josh, he told me to head to the church because they were feeding the football coaches and others before the games that day. When I arrived, I witnessed life and ministry in the form of chili dogs and conversation. It was a blessing to experience this outreach to the community – one that is new, but one that will likely grow as they continue to offer this meal to the coaches and teams during home games. After lunch, Chevy and Josh took me “around” to see the area, which included a visit to Quivering Arrow Camp and Council House Friends Church. After praying in Council House for God to do a new work, we went and ran the chains at the football games from 3:30 – 7:30. Stephen Johnson, pastor at Wyandotte, came and “rescued me” around 7:30, otherwise I would have enjoyed holding chains into the night with Josh, Chevy and Kete. I left inspired, even after having been rescued by Stephen….

After spending the night with Stephen and Sharon, I attended church at Wyandotte, followed by a celebration of baptism. We concluded with a trip around the area to help Josh drop off all of the kids that he had picked up for church earlier that morning. One note of observation about Sunday church attendance at Wyandotte: there seemed to be more children under the age of 10 in the sanctuary on Sunday morning than there were adults.

That evening I attended Ramona Friends Church and had a chance to get to know the “faithful” there in that place. It was a blessing to spend time there. Since it was late in the night, my wife insisted I stay with Grady and Carol Miller and not make the drive home. I consented and stopped in for a nights visit and some morning coffee at the Miller’s home.

THIN PLACES: observing God’s steadfast love through Stephen and Sharon’s “long obedience in the same direction” of serving faithfully for many, many years at Wyandotte as the youth pastors and now lead pastors. Some of the fruit – including former “kids” serving now as leaders at Wyandotte, Josh, Kete and Chevy – has manifested itself in tangible expressions of God’s kingdom: chili dogs and holding chains.

– Jesse Penna, Associate Superintendent of Student Ministries

Thin Places

Monday, March 9th, 2015

Since the fall of 2011, I have had the privilege of gathering each semester with a small cohort of graduate students and instructors from across North America at a remote location along the Front Range of the Colorado Rockies. We are an unusually diverse group, representing a broad spectrum of ages, genders, temperaments and ethnicities. On the surface, we would appear to be a bunch of ordinary men and women who are simply doing our best to fulfill an academic obligation on behalf of the Barclay College School of Graduate Studies. But somewhere along the way, each of us began to realize that “face2face@QuakerRidge” was going to be much more than a mere intellectual exercise. We had, intentionally or unintentionally, embarked on a truly transformational journey with Jesus. We had stumbled into a thin place.

No, I am not referring to the set of “The Biggest Loser.” The term “thin place” is an ancient Christian expression that has its origins in the Celtic Church of Ireland and Scotland, the fruit of fifth century missionary endeavors led by men like St. Patrick, whose birthday we celebrate again this month on March 17th. Within the context of Celtic Christianity, a thin place is a space where we encounter God’s presence in such a way that the boundary between heaven and earth seems unusually thin.

I believe it is safe to say that we can all think of certain thin places in our lives where we have encountered God with a heightened sense of immediacy and intimacy. For some, it could be an oceanfront beach, a desert canyon, a raging river, a lush valley or a mountaintop summit. For others, it could be a wedding chapel, a birthing room, a soccer field or a symphony hall. As our Celtic brethren would remind us, “the earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it” (Ps 24:1).

There are a multitude of thin places mentioned in the Bible, of course. Adam and Eve walked with God in the garden (Gen 3:8). God appeared to Moses in a burning bush (Ex 3:3). God visited Elijah while he was sleeping under a broom tree (1 Ki 19:5). Jonah encountered God in the belly of a whale (Jon 1:17). Paul met God on the road to Damascus (Ac 9:3). God revealed himself to John on the island of Patmos (Rev 1:9).

The ultimate thin place, however, is perfectly embodied in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ. Through the incarnation, God actually “became flesh and lived among us” (Jn 1:14). Practically speaking, this means that if you were casually milling around as part of a typical Palestinian crowd in the early first century and happened to bump into Jesus along the way, you literally bumped into Almighty God.

So when and where do we “bump into Jesus” today? Before he ascended, our Lord promised that he would send his life-giving Spirit to permanently dwell in each and every one of his faithful followers (Jn 14:16-17). This promise was initially fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost (Ac 2:1-4), and continues to be fulfilled in the lives of all those who embrace Jesus as their Lord and Savior today. As John reminds us, “no one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us” (1 Jn 4:12). In other words, just as Jesus was the very incarnation of God, the body of Christ is now the very incarnation of Jesus. The miraculous and mysterious conclusion is obvious. When we bump into one another, we are bumping into Christ. You and I have been chosen to serve as God’s primary thin place in the world today.

This begs a nagging question, however: If God is with us at all times and in all places, why is it that some places seem to be unusually “thin” and others do not? Maybe it is because we are just too “thick” to recognize it. The truth is that any ordinary space can be transformed into a thin place when we are attentive to the presence and power of God’s Spirit in our midst.

Dave WilliamsWith this in mind, we recently launched a new series of blog posts on the EFC-MAYM website entitled “Thin Places.” As you read these brief, firsthand field reports from our EFC-MAYM leadership team, I pray that you will receive fresh inspiration for your own journey with Jesus. And I pray that our good and gracious God will grant each and every one of us an increasing awareness of his tangible presence in each of our local churches and communities as we, too, seek to find him in the thin places.

– Dave Williams, General Superintendent of EFC-MAYM

Thin Places | A Visit to South Texas Area

Monday, March 2nd, 2015

thinplaces_3On February 20 – 23, my family and I traveled to South Texas.  My wife Abby and daughter Evelyn (who made her first flight and was awarded an official “first flight” certificate from Southwest Airlines that was signed by the captain of the plane and all the stewardesses), were able to spend some time visiting our friends in south Texas.  The primary reason for our trip was to spend some substantial time with the folks at Northshore Friends Church – in particular Cory Burditt and Robyn Burns – Marko.  Cory is sensing a call to youth ministry, and has joined us in several youth gatherings this past year.  We are praying for him as he and his wife Brittany seek God’s direction for their future, which may include a trip to Kansas for some schooling!

As many of you know, Robyn lost her husband, Brett, this past December.  One of the vivid “thin places” came this weekend as I was sharing with the Northshore congregation about our love and prayers for them as they mourn together the untimely loss of Brett.  I mentioned to them that “friends” from all over the U.S. were praying for them.  Literally everywhere I have been and almost every conversation I have had since summit, has included the names Robyn and Brett.  I wanted them to know that we are all thinking of them and praying for them.  As I shared this reality, I experienced a warmth of God’s presence which resulted in some shedding of tears.  Please continue to pray with me for Robyn and her family, the Northshore Friends Church, and especially Brett’s children – Sarah, Maddie and Cade.

Along with spending most of the day with the Northshore family, I had the chance to spend part of the day on Saturday with David and Claudia Jaimes, Don and Char Owens, and Cory Burditt.  We shared a meal together as people who love and desire to serve young people.  The only youth pastor missing from the south Texas area was Chase Davenport, who was unable to join us due to a prior commitment.  We hope to see Chase next time around!  Over lunch I enjoyed watching this relatively “new group” of south Texas youth pastors continue the process of deepening their relationships with one another.  We heard about how Don and Char had just that day launched a new “tent ministry,” which included quite a story of God’s provision and leading.  You will have to ask them to share their story some time about this new ministry!  Their first tent revival will be the last weekend of March.  We also learned that Claudia just got a new job, David is continuing to settle in as the new youth pastor at Friendswood, and Cory is planning to bring a group to summer camp at Quaker Haven.

Another highlight of the trip was we were able to introduce our daughter Evelyn to Carter and Graham Kirkpatrick (who now want a sister) and spend some time with one of Abby’s friends from college, Britany Steele (who has roots at Haviland Friends Church).  Britani and her family are now serving in Houston with the Center for Student Mission (CSM).  Throw in an all church birthday party for a gal named Debbie from Northshore, some sushi, a cancelled flight due to some snow in Dallas, and several “TexMex” meals and you have yourself a wonderful visit to south Texas!

As a small end note, Evelyn turns four months old this weekend. She has already visited six different friends churches (Northridge, University, Booker, Hutchinson, Crossroads, and Northshore) and has already been to Texas twice!  Needless to say, she is becoming a road warrior and is well on her way to visiting all sixty-two EFC-MAYM churches before she turns five!  Praise be!!

– Jesse Penna, Associate Superintendent of Student Ministries

Thin Places | Valentine’s Day Weekend in Tri-State Area

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015

Thin Places. This is a term used by Celtic Christians to describe those places where we encounter God’s presence in such a way that the distance between heaven and earth seems to be unusually “thin.”

On Valentine’s Day weekend, I had the chance to visit three EFC-MAYM churches: Miami Friends, Bolton Friends, and Independence Friends. The weekend was lovely and epic.

Let me explain: Lovely, because I was able to watch Jr. Highers play a Valentine’s Day game of “guarding hearts” at Miami during the bible quiz (ask Christina Tower from Bethel Friends about that one…), shared a Valentine’s Day evening meal at a steak house in Independence with Grady and Carol Miller along with a couple from Bolton Friends Church, and I participated in a Valentine’s Day Weekend banquet at Independence Friends that included grade school girls serving, wonderful food, and harmonious singing by John and Betty Penrose; the only non-lovely thing was that my wife wasn’t able to be with me this weekend for all of the romantic eating and experiences!

The weekend was epic because it was our first EFC-MAYM Bible Quiz at Miami in my memory (anyone remember any different?), Grady Miller allowed me to preach at Bolton even though he has been doing it there for 40+ years, and the chicken cordon blue that I experienced in the basement of Independence Friends Church coupled with John and Betty Jean’s serenading and service to their congregation was more than epic…it was downright inspiring!

Throw into the weekend stories listened to about these local churches and their history, relationships built and some established for the first time – I met someone named Evelyn at Bolton who is 85 years old and shares the name of my four month old daughter – along with how God is working in their midst and leading them into the future was so much more than lovely and epic: it is the work that God has called me to at this time and I will continue to follow him where he leads me. May God continue to lead us all in EFC-MAYM in this lovely and epic journey of following Jesus…

– Jesse Penna, Associate Superintendent of Student Ministries