Milistary Ministry at the Wagner's

Milistary Ministry at the Wagner's
Thanksgiving Day 2016

Sunday, January 15, 2017

2017 Azalea Garden Church Missions Conference

Once a year missionaries from around the world gather for our missions conference at Azalea Garden Church. It's an awesome experience talking and sharing stories. Every year our church foyer turns into an international convention hall display center with missionaries showing pictures of ministry projects and people with whom they minister.

Yvonne and I put up our display board as missionaries to the military right here in the Norfolk/Virginia Beach area.

The missionaries we support become almost like family members! In all of my years as a pastor I have never known so many missionaries personally. And every year Yvonne and I are privileged to host one of the missionary families in our home for the week they are here.

This year it was Carol and Rodney Friend who are on their way to be the directors of a Bible School in Kenya, Africa. What a good time we had with them! Thursday afternoon we took them sightseeing. We showed them the ships at Norfolk Naval Station, then to Fort Monroe to see the Casemate Museum where Jefferson Davis was imprisoned following the Civil War. And finally we drove across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and watched the sun set over the water as we drove.


Then Saturday night it was on to dinner at the Maye's house. That is a highlight of every missions conference!

Three of the ladies of our church with two of the missionaries. Tammy, Yvonne, Kelly, Suzie, and Gladys
This morning I had one of the missionary couples speak to us in my Sunday school class.

Then every year, the highlight of the week is our international missions banquet. Yvonne fixed a light lunch for the servicemen that came to the house today, knowing we were going to have a BIG dinner at the church.

Andrew, Tia, and Bethany (Yvonne's cousin) joined us at the banquet this year! It was a real blessing to share this time with them.

The food was GREAT! as usual. Yvonne made her German specialty: Saurbraten and Spetzle with Saurkraut, and home made rye bread!

This annual event is my favorite event of the whole church year!

Monday, January 9, 2017

New Year's Eve 2016 at John and Yvonne's

Well, another year has come and gone; and it's new year's eve. Wow! Where has the time gone?

We were surprised by a call from Jessica asking if she could come by and join us Saturday evening. What a blessing! She had also been on deployment, and then was transferred to Florida. It was really nice to see her again. Josh, Liam, and Eric were here, as well as Crystal and Kezia.

After meeting the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower on Friday, it was nice to have Austin back in our home! His mom and brother drove here from Texas to meet the ship, and joined us Saturday night for our activities. Austin is the one in the middle!

Yvonne fixed chicken wings, meat balls, a veggie tray, and potato chips for dinner. And then it was chocolate fondue fruit for dessert. Everyone loved the chocolate fondue!

The young lady on the right giving me the "Don't you dare take that picture look is K, a really good friend of Yvonne's. She was in town visiting her father and stayed with us.

 After dinner, our game for the evening was "Catch Phrase!" Sorry, I didn't get any pictures while we were playing the game. But this is what it looks like.

James and Bethany Lokey joined us after dinner. Bethany is Yvonne's cousin, who just a few weeks ago married a man from back home in Oklahoma, who joined the Navy and ended up getting stationed here! Yea!

And this is what it looks like while you're playing it - these next three pics are of Josh's family playing with us when they were here. But, you get the idea. Lots of fun, lots of laughs and giggles!

After the game we lit the candles on the Christmas tree one last time. While we watched the candles I talked about the Christmas story - how the shepherds saw the angels, and went to the manger in Bethlehem to see the baby. And how the wise men saw the star and followed it until they came to the house where the little child was in Nazareth. The shepherds didn't follow the star, and the wise men didn't go to the manger.

I shared the symbolism of the Christmas tree and how it represents eternal life that Jesus came to bring, and how the candles represent Jesus Christ as the light of the world. The point being that God the Father loved the world so much that He sent His Son, Jesus, into the world to bring salvation, and forgiveness of sin to us.

Then we got to talking about our eternal destiny according to the book of Revelation, being the New Jerusalem and not just 'heaven', which sparked an interesting discussion! We talked about the dimensions of the city, and what we would be doing there: ruling and reigning with Christ over the people living on the outside of the city, and bringing the love of Christ out to them, encouraging them to believe and come into the city.

When the candles burned down to a nub we finally extinguished them. Several people decided to call it a night, except Crystal, Josh, and Eric. Eric began playing the guitar and we sang some hymns while we waited for the ball to drop!

At midnight we all wished each other a Happy New Year and made a beeline for bed. It was a really great New Years Eve!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Welcoming Home The USS Dwight D. Eisenhower

Friday morning began way early! Normally my day off, the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower was coming home from deployment. Austin, Jonathan, and Stuart are three of the sailors we know that are stationed on the Ike.  We found out Thursday night that the ship was going to be pierside at 0830!

That meant getting up early enough to get ready, plan for heavy traffic getting to the base, parking, walking to the pier from the parking lot, and being at the pier by 0730 just in case the ship arrived early. But we made it! Glad this wasn't our first rodeo!

Yvonne stayed up later than I did putting the finishing touches on her sign. After all, when you're in a crowd of 10,000 to 20,000 people, you have to have a sign so the guys can see you!

Oh, and did I tell you that we knew we had to bundle up really well because it was only going to be in the upper 30s on the pier? However, nobody said it was going to be really windy to boot!

We got there just in time! As we walked up to the pier we could see the ship comin' round the bend.

There were literally thousands of people on the pier, and more pouring in all the time! And did I say it was windy and cold? Uh huh! Everyone kept saying they didn't want to get too close to the edge lest they get blown over!

This is the parking spot for the ship. Now ya'll know how hard it is to parallel park a car on a busy downtown street, Well, just imagine parallel parking a giant aircraft carrier along a pier. I can't imagine how hard it must be for the four little tugboats that are maneuvering that behemoth into that little space! There was already a ship parked on the other side of the pier.

But, as you can see, the tugs have now turned the ship from being perpendicular to us to coming straight at us. Well, almost.

Then it drew nearer...and nearer...

Then we had a patrol boat come through the area making sure everything was clear for the ship as it came up to the pier.

And all the while the tugboats are doing their parallel parking magic! Topside the sailors manning the rails unfurled their state flags.

And suddenly, lo and behold...what to my wondering eyes should appear? But a jolly little man in a red suit! My goodness! The ship gave Santa a ride to Virginia!

And moms began waving...wives began cheering...and the kids began calling for Santa Claus!

After the ship got tied up, the ladder was added by the crane on the pier, and the crew started pouring off the ship!

Then Yvonne and I walked to our car and promptly got ourselves locked into a gridlock situation. It took us a whole hour to start moving after we got out of our parking space! It was worse getting out of the parking lot than it was to get to the base in the morning. But, with a few frazzled nerves, and crabby moments, we made it back home.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Christmas Day at John and Yvonne's

And then it was Christmas Day! Wow, where has the time gone?? In the morning Yvonne and I went to church for a candlelight communion service, then it was home to prepare dinner for our young military guests.

We had two sailors at the house that afternoon: Kezia Young and Madison Cronin. And what an awesome day we had together! Kezia has been here once and Madison was new. but she sure fit in quickly!

We tried getting hold of Madison for several months, but discovered that somehow two of the numbers we had for her phone number had been switched, so none of our texts inviting her to the house had been getting to her. But finally, here she was for Christmas. Yvonne and I are so glad that her mother never quit trying to hook us up!

After Yvonne put the finishing touches on dinner we all sat down to eat. Of course we HAD to take pictures first! I'm glad Madison is good at taking selfies! That way we all got in the picture.

First course? Butternut Squash Soup served in a brand new soup tureen that Lynn Hayes from church gave us for Christmas.

Then it was on to the main course: Ham (served on the new platter that came with the soup tureen), green beans, scalloped potatoes, home made cranberry relish, and homemade crescent rolls.

The reason the lid is closed is to show off the beautiful color and ornate design on the lid of the Tureen. If you want to know what the soup looks like, look in the bowls in front of Madison and me.

Then both of the girls got up and helped Yvonne do the dishes! Now how sweet was that!?

While they washed I took pictures of them. I also took some pictures of the manger scene on our kitchen counter.

When the girls got done with the dishes and saw me taking pictures of the manger I asked them if they noticed anything missing from it. After looking for a while they noticed there were no "wise men". Of course they asked "Why?" So I explained that the shepherds came to the manger. The wise men came to the house where the little child was. That was in Nazareth, two years later.

They were interested, so I suggested, "How 'bout we have a little mini Bible study and I'll show you what the Scriptures say about the whole thing. They were interested so we went into the living room and read the story of the birth of Jesus from Luke 2 and Matthew chapter 2.

I highlighted the fact that Joseph and Mary went from Nazareth to Bethlehem (about 60 - 90 miles) to register for a census. While there Jesus was born. Angels came and told the shepherds around Bethlehem that the Christ had been born and that they would find him in a manger. They were so overwhelmed by the angels that they went to see what was going on. Eight days (Luke 2:21- 22) later Mary and Joseph took the baby to Jerusalem (about 6 miles away from Bethlehem) to present him in the temple to the Lord, according to the Law of Moses. When they completed everything they were required by the law to do in the temple, according to Luke 2:39-40 they took the child and went back home to Nazareth (again 60-90 miles) where the child grew.

In Matthew Chapter 2 the story is recorded that the Magi or "Wise Men", came to Jerusalem and asked where the one who was born king of the Jews was to be born. They had seen His star in the east and followed it. When Herod and the wise men inquired of the teachers of the Law they were told in Bethlehem. The Magi left Herod and continued following the star until it stopped over the place where the "child" was. Remember now, the child was not in Bethlehem, it was in Nazareth. That is why Matthew says they came to the house where the child and his mother were. It does not say they came to where the baby was. By the time the wise men had arrived at the house they had most likely been traveling for two years. So Jesus was probably two years old when the magi got to him.

Wanting to kill Jesus, Herod calculated the length of time the magi traveled from the east at two years. That is why he killed all of the boys in Bethlehem and the vicinity that were two years old and under.

But it was the magi and not the shepherds that saw the star. The shepherds saw the baby, while the magi saw the child. The magi went to Nazareth where the child was, while the shepherds came to the manger in Bethlehem. All of that is why we don't have wise men at our nativity scene.

After our little impromptu Bible study we had a birthday cake for Jesus. After all, it is HIS birthday!

And while we ate the cake we lit the candles on the Christmas tree and listened to Evie Turnquist sing Christmas carols.

And of course, we had to take some more pictures!


At dinner we had talked about different things including movies we like. Madison said she liked old classic movies, including black and white ones. So I asked if they were up for a movie. Both Kezia and Madison said "Yes." So we watched "It's A Wonderful Life" with Jimmy Stewart.

By the time the movie ended it was seven thirty. I thought the girls might be hungry so I asked them if they wanted something to eat. Madison said, "We still need to do the ugly sweater cookies!" She had brought a box of cookies her mom sent her with the decorations to make ugly sweater cookies.

The cookies were already made, so all we had to do was decorate them!

Talk about some heavy duty concentration - huh??


After our decorating it was time to show off our creations!

 And after you decorate cookies, you all now what comes next  right?? EATING THEM!! What a fun day!!