What a beautiful fall! The trees are bare already (and the leaves are all over the yard!). We have had our first two snowfalls. The outdoor wood stoves are puffing smoke and heating the houses. It is a beautiful time of year up here in the “Cool North Woods.” It has also been a great fall of ministry here at Victory.
We have four students you can pray for: Josh, Stephen, Michael, and Austin. We also have a few families that we are in-process with for enrollment. Please pray for God’s work in the boys and for wisdom for our staff to minister the Gospel effectively. We so want to see God grow these young men into the godly men He wants them to be.
One “tool” that God has graciously given us this year is our mountain biking program. It is part of our work and activity program (WORCS-Work Outdoor Recreation Career Skills). The trails and bike maintenance programs have taken a leap this year with a lot of “man-hours” invested inn them. We now have over two miles of great single track for the mountain bikes. (Let me give a push for our #GivingTuesday promotion. We are raising funds for a snow groomer for our trails so we can use them on our winter months with our fat tire bikes.) The boys are already riding the trails and learning bike maintenance and look forward to riding the snow-bike trails this winter.
We want to encourage our supporters and churches to come up and visit. We have a beautiful facility with a lot of great things to do and we would love for you to see the ministry in action and visit with our staff. Plan a visit this year!
May God continue to bless the Gospel work here and in you as you serve the Great God right where He has you.
It is a joy to be in God’s work here at Victory Family Ministries. Thanks to each who gives, prays, and serves along with us to pursue spiritual fruit in the lives of a few students and the families that we work with each year. The numbers are small, but we are able to see biblical truth deeply affect heart change. We are thankful to be used of God in those personal conversations that encourage and equip individuals to take steps of change and growth.
Life, even life up in the remote Northwoods of Wisconsin can squeeze the ministry opportunities. One of the burdens that I carry is that each of the staff takes every opportunity daily to spiritually impact the students and families that we work with. That may sound easy, but we face the same pressures and potential distractions of life that everyone else faces. We have program to run, just like every family. We have vehicles and buildings to work on. We have to get groceries and work up recreational activities. We take phone calls and work our way through texts and emails. We work through communication problems with each other. We face many of the same pressures that you face. Those pressures are either opportunities to minister the love and compassion of God, or they can become distractions that can rob us of the joy of ministering. Just like many, we can become discouraged and frustrated as we deal with the details of life.
I’m always encouraged when I read the Apostle Paul’s words of exhortation to be full of zeal and pursue ministering to each other. He was constantly talking of the friends and opportunities of ministry and how he organized and orchestrated his life around the opportunities to meet people and serve them with the Gospel. Paul’s focus was laboring hard in spiritual things. In 2 Th. 2:16-17, Paul exhorts, “ Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.”
May we all stay focused on seeing and seizing every opportunity for spiritual labor.
Okay! What? Wait. Adjust. Wait.
Ministry has taken some turns this spring and fall. Most churches are figuring out new ways to gather and be salt and light; ministries on every continent are deeply impacted. While we were headed into a strong summer of ministry opportunities with campers and churches, we found ourselves with unplanned and unexpected opportunities.
We rejoice with what God is doing here at Victory as we prepare to minster deeper, bigger, and better. Our staff families have built stronger relationships and commitments to each other and to the ministry of the Word of God and the Hope of Christ. We just came back from a perfect 3-day backpacking trip overlooking Lake Superior with our staff families. Take a look at our pictures on our FB page!
Our facilities are getting a few key projects to refresh some of the “well-worn” areas. Our lodge fireplace room has new paint and updated trim to give it a rustic barnwood look. The kitchen had a few cabinets taken out yesterday and will have a dozen upgrades before July ends…I am so thankful for Andy Morrison’s skill and resourcefulness.
Though we live in uncertainty every day now, we are moving forward in our preparations to open with eight new students on Labor Day weekend. We are currently interviewing for openings for a teacher and a house staff man. I appreciate your prayers as we take our planned step of hiring two more people as we grow new capacity and opportunities for the ministry. If you or someone you know has a passion for ministering the Gospel to teen guys, give me a call.
As you can imagine, like most, our income has been impacted by all the adjustments this year and we so appreciate all who are giving and praying for us as we serve the Great God and His children.
Director's Report 2019
It always amazes me when I look at how much is invested and how much is accomplished in this ministry. We are in the midst of our 36th year of ministering to families in crisis with their kids. I recently went to the permanent file storage cabinet and perused the names...wow, three drawers packed with student records of three hundred or so kids (representing the many families — moms, dads, and siblings). It brought back a lot of memories of students and parents I personally worked with in my years here. All but a handful of these students are all grown up now (that makes me feel so old). Over the last couple of years I have had my first “grandparent” calls, where a former student calls asking for help with his children...(that makes me feel really old). Some are continuing to live spiritually dead, though we get calls from them because they fondly remember us and how we taught them about God and His answers for life. But some of them are trying to be good husbands and dads; some of those are working at living life and faithfully serving God somewhere.
We can look at this past year and rejoice that God again gave us students and families to which to minister. We had eight students in Victory Academy and ten WildHeart campers. We also had the opportunity to pour biblical counsel into another fourteen families amidst the many phone calls we get from families who are going through crises with their kids. We traveled to several churches and had the opportunity to speak Truth and encourage people to love God. One of our highlights was serving and being served at Brookside Baptist Church in their missions conference earlier this year. In another area of ministry, we had six single guys serve parts of the year with us. We invest in these young men with spiritual and practical training in Biblical Counseling and ministry leadership. This next year, we are further developing our Ministry Apprenticeship Program with the young men that serve with us. It is our goal to help prepare and give experience to a crew of guys so they can then head out into a long, productive ministry life of bringing the hope of Christ to broken people in our broken world.
Victory has been entrusted with many resources: money, volunteers, and staff. We are grateful for all that has been and is being poured into the ministry. It is blatant that rescue work is expensive and Victory is a rescue ministry. We take our stewardship seriously and we rejoice to see the many and varied fruits of the ministry over the years that God has graciously given. We look forward to the years of ministry that are ahead for Victory, and we look back and anticipate the future and what He will do in planting, watering, and harvesting spiritual fruit in the lives of students, campers, parents, volunteers, and staff.
We are excited and sad at the same time. We are sad to see God moving Aaron and Johanna Brewster (and Micah and Ivy) on to another place and opportunities of ministry. It is much like having a brother move out of the house, we are excited to see him move on and to another place of ministry, but we are sad to not have him (them) “around the house.”
Over the last two years God has been growing Aaron’s passion for a blogging and speaking ministry to families. He has developed his “Truth, Love, Parent” website and has had open doors to minister Truth to families and he is pushing forward in developing that ministry. Aaron has enjoyed his time with us at Victory and has been stretched and grown by God personally, in his marriage, and in his parenting. Aaron’s investment in developing resources and programming has carried Victory forward in ministering to families in crisis. We are grateful for Aaron’s and his family’s investment in the ministry and our ministry team over these last five and a half years. We look forward to future partnerships in our ministries. We also anticipate God using Aaron in the Great War for God’s Truth in the lives of families as he heads out to God’s next great adventure for them.
We were already in the process of moving Andy and Gina Morrison into the Residence Manager/house parent position, so our program will run on like we planned with students arriving on January 4th .
Please pray for us as we continue to plan and work through the multitude of details of this transition. We are also asking for God’s wisdom and leading as we seek out our next team member.
After many snowfalls, we have three feet of snow (more in the drifts) on the ground! This amount of snow on the roofs can cause significant damage to our buildings. Some of our neighbors in the community have already lost roofs to outbuildings. The Massey and Morrison families spent this past Saturday shoveling off roofs that posed problems and salted the over-sized icicles that hung off the roofs. We are so thankful for our donors, whose sacrificial gifts have supplied us with the tools necessary to handle the extra snow that God has given to us this winter!
Our skid-steer is a great tool to move snowbanks further back, giving the plow more areas to move snow. Although not pictured, our brand new plow truck has been a great blessing. Maintaining the property is an essential element of our gospel work! Thank you for partnering with us to share the precious news of the Gospel with these teens.
It causes a lot of work, but we are thankful for the snow. Much like the rainbow that gives us a reminder of God's promise not to flood the earth again, the snow on the ground gives us a constant reminder of three elements of the Gospel message that we have been called to share with our students.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
1. The blemished are in need of snow-white cleansing.
2. The blood of Christ is the agent of snow-white cleansing.
3. The brilliancy of God’s glory is reflected in our snow-white cleansing.
Every time we may be tempted to complain about shoveling the mountains of snow, let us remind ourselves of the biblical picture of thorough cleansing that is offered through the blood of Jesus Christ on our behalf. It is this snow-white cleansing that David sought and the same cleansing that each of us need so desperately. Please pray for us as we strive to teach the cleansing power of Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice on the cross to our students!
The past few weeks have included a lot of miles and events. Lynne and I ended January at the Refresh Conference at Faith Baptist Bible College in Ankeny, Iowa. It was a great time of spiritual refreshing as we heard preaching from some of our heroes like Les Ollila, Marty Herron, and Douglas Maclaughlin. Lynne and I connected and reconnected with friends that we went to school with and others in ministries that have been a part of our “circle” for the last 25 years or so. I also had a chance to meet up with a few students and recruit a bit.
After a few days at home we headed out on a 10-day trip to the Carolinas and Georgia. The anchor for the trip was attending the CORE counseling conference and the Bible Conference at Bob Jones University in Greenville, SC. Lynne and I were challenged with the ministry of Harvest USA as they address and invest in the issues the church faces regarding sexuality and gender confusion. The Bible conference theme was “Prayer.” What a fantastic time of challenge and prayer! We also had a display table at the conferences and had many opportunities to inform people about God’s work up here at Victory and recruit staff. These conferences are great times to connect, network, and build relationships with people. We have good friends around BJU, and it is encouraging and edifying to keep up the connections.
While out east, we also stopped in and visited the Ballards, a former student and his parents. John and Beth are great parents and pour their lives into their sons. I think they were as encouraging to us as we were to them. Lynne and I were also able to spend a day with Lynne’s brother and sister-in-law a couple of hours drive away in Georgia.
Ministry is about redemptively connecting with people. Everywhere we go we meet hurting and struggling people. My conclusion is that in some ways we are all hurting and in need of encouragement and exhortation to trust God and dig into His Word. Life can be hard. Our Hope is Jesus. We rejoice that God uses us wherever we go.
Please pray for us as we have major trips planned to Michigan, Ohio, and Minnesota over the next couple of months to visit supporting churches and promote the ministry. Pray specifically for God’s provision for our staffing needs of a Residence Manager and several single Resident Assistants.
The Apostle John records in his gospel, chapter 17, the closing hours of Jesus’ life on earth where we find Him praying to the Father in one last time of prayer with his disciples. When He is done with this prayer He walks to the garden where He is betrayed, then taken to a mock trial, beating, and crucifixion. In these final hours of His pre-resurrection life He prays the details of our relationship with Him and God the Father.
Though there is much to study in this prayer, in laying before us His relationship with the Father and the work He accomplished with and for us, He puts on the table a crystal clear statement about “eternal life.” This “eternal life” is the culmination of His work and obedience to His Father. For us it clarifies what our salvation is really all about.
Often people pray the salvation prayer because they are recognizing their guilt and they don’t want to spend an eternity in Hell. Heaven has a nice ring to it and the deal is quite awesome. We are guilty and deserving of Hell and praying a sincere prayer of trusting Jesus’ work on the cross gets us freed from that guilt and a promised entry into heaven for eternity. While all of that is true, when that is the extent of our understanding of salvation we will conclude that it is a static achievement that, once secured, we can move on and “do” life with little or no concern or motivation for spiritual life. We must dive deeper in our understanding of the eternal life that Christ brought us.
Note in Jesus’ prayer that revolves around eternal life, that there is no direct mention of heaven or hell. The focus of the prayer is laid bare in verse 3, “and this is eternal life, that they know you (emphasis mine) the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” The remainder of the prayer is about what knowing God and Jesus looks like and the resulting fruit of glorifying God. While this entire prayer is a great study that could take hours and pages, summarized, we need to understand that our daily lives need to be lived to know God and reflect on His greatness and the greatness of Christ and His work on the cross (verses 3 and 4). As we live to know God, our actions will change.
Jesus reveals how this works out in our lives. He first mentions in verse 6 that He glorified the Father by giving us His Word. Later, in verse 17 Jesus prays that God the Father would set us apart (sanctify) us through the Word (truth). Jesus is asking the Father to do His sanctifying work in us through the power of the Word. Back in verse 6-8 Jesus states that He did what the Father wanted Him to do, He manifested the Father’s name in a way that we “came to know the truth” that Jesus came from God the Father. This knowledge of God came through the words that Jesus gave and had recorded for us in the Holy Scriptures. Sometimes this is the point that we veer away from what Jesus is teaching in this prayer. We can look at the Word and see the commands and the lists of do’s and don’ts and miss that it was written to reveal God to us! The point of Jesus’ revelation to us (both OT and NT) is that we might know God the Father and Jesus His Son. We need to have a clear, compelling vision of salvation as a dynamic, endless, fathomless pursuit of a relationship with God.
When we put our focus on our sanctification instead of the God of our salvation, we can find that the “cart is before the horse,” and not far down the road, we find ourselves trying to push the cart all on our own. As Jesus stated, our sanctification results from God showing us himself in the Word (verses 6 and 17). As we gain knowledge of the facts of God, we have the opportunity to experience Him. Several times (verses 6-8, 22-23, 25-26) Jesus speaks of this closeness and oneness with God that He came to give to us.
This “Eternal Life” that Jesus came to give us is a precious gift, paid for by His ultimate sacrifice. What a glorious intersession Jesus gave for us and recorded here in John 17. What does this mean for us? We should be compelled to study and know the Word, so we get beyond the words themselves and experience a relationship with God Himself. Think about it, what difference has your knowledge of and thus experience with God made in your daily purposes, habits, and pursuits of life? How has knowing God impacted the relationships around you? Have those around you been compelled to know your God the way you know your God (verses 20 and 21)? A secular proverb rings true, “it’s not what you know, but who you know.” But far deeper than any secular proverb can take us, Jesus says in verse 26, “I made known to them your name and I will continue to make it known that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
Our biggest promotion and training opportunity of the year was in Dallas this year. We (the Brewsters and the Masseys) had the opportunity to participate in the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors Annual Conference in Dallas this month.
We had many opportunities to network and connect with friends and professionals in the biblical counseling movement. Our display table drew in people for great conversations of hope amidst terribly difficult situations. Our time there was a great encouragement for us, that our ministry is an important resource for the pastors and counselors who are working with hurting families.
The theme for the conference was ministering to the abused. We had sessions designed to help us minister Truth and the hope of Christ to those who were abused and to the abusers. We heard many stories of the freedom through Christ of many hurting, abused people. Scripture was opened and the biblical accounts of abuse and being abused gave light to the dark situations of abuse that many deal with on a daily basis. We were also challenged with the overwhelming lack of response by the church.
Looking at the life of Joseph was a highlight as Heath Lambert walked us through the physical, emotional, and sexual abuse that he endured and flourished in. Putting Second Samuel 11-13 in modern terms of abuse opened my thinking of other passages and the pressures and terrible injustices that people in the Scriptures went through. In many cases we can see God’s plan and sovereignty at work in using the hard, sinful actions of people to reveal His glory and grace. We see such things in the lives of David, Bathsheba, Hagar, and Jesus. Though we can’t comprehend all the reasons why all the bad things happen, we can confirm that, whatever the situation or issues at hand, God is doing His work of redemption in the midst of it all.
“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” –Romans 8:38-39–