Ministry Team 2019: What a Week at the Boardwalk Chapel Looks Like

by Katie Beth Groover, Shiloh OPC, Raleigh, NC (June 2019)

Katie Beth Groover was a member of the Ministry Team from Shiloh OPC (Raleigh, NC) that served during Week #1 at the Boardwalk Chapel in Wildwood, NJ, this summer. She sent entertaining, informative daily reports to her church family and cc'd OPC Short-Term Missions. Anyone who wants to know more about what a Ministry Week at the Boardwalk Chapel looks like will get a very good idea from her "blog."

Katie Beth Groover, center, with two of her sisters, at the Boardwalk Chapel

 

Week 1 Ministry Team on stage at the Boardwalk Chapel 

DAY 1

Our first day at the Boardwalk Chapel in Wildwood, NJ, has come to a close, for which we are all thankful. Before bed I heard Abigail say, with a sigh, “There were like a thousand days today,” and I think she speaks for everyone. Today was good, but long, and we’re all tired.

We began the day by electing to bring my car in addition to the van. Thirteen people + luggage + food = no space in a 15-passenger van, and shockingly, some of us overpacked (hint: I’m one). Clara and Maggie and I billed this as a service but were secretly relieved because seriously, no space. And we didn’t have to share our snacks. (Matt, sorry your office is full of stuff. Mom and Dad, the black sleeping bag is yours.)

We stopped and ate lunch together at Chick-fil-A in Dumfries, VA, as every good missions group does. We must collect extra portions of manna before the Sabbath, after all.

We all arrived alive and well at the Chapel after a 10-hour trip, a fact that’s particularly surprising when you consider that Caleb ate nine Twinkies and Patience was full because she had “so many cheese puffs.” This should be impossible due to the nature of cheese puffs so you can understand my concern.

As an aside, THANK YOU to everyone who sent food with us. Dinner was excellent and we’re well stocked!

Anastasia and Mark, from the Chapel, and Tom, the addition to our team from a local church, met us when we arrived and helped us get settled. After dinner and unpacking we explored for a bit, and then attended the concert at the Chapel. The group, “Frank Rocks Jesus,” is an energetic rock band that sings straight Scripture. It was unexpected for those of us from our little OPC congregation, but it was nice to hear Scripture sung in rock and roll, but once we got used to it it was pretty great. It seems like a good fit for the Boardwalk audience, too. Sadly, Frank, Frank, and Jim won’t be joining us for the rest of the week.

Seth, the music coordinator for the summer, gave an excellent short message on Hosea and God’s loving sacrifice for us in the face of our deliberate sin. During the concert Boardwalk staff were outside on the Boardwalk talking to people passing by, and giving away free Bibles.

After the concert, we gathered with the Boardwalk staff for brownies, introductions, hymns, guidelines, and prayer. There are close to 30 of us in all, primarily highschoolers with some college students thrown in, from all over the country. Our team is already excited about the friendships they’re forming after this evening.

In the morning we’ll be attending Calvary Church, pastored by Reverend James Zozzaro, who also runs the Chapel. Most of the staff will go there as well. We’ll have an evening service at the Chapel tomorrow and every night this week.

Please be praying for us as we begin this week in Wildwood.

  • That God’s name would be praised and unbelievers would come to know Him through the work done here this week and all summer
  • That we would all be encouraged and strengthened in our walk, and would be bold in the Gospel of Christ
  • For stamina for our team. We’ve been instructed to be ready for late nights, and while we don’t have to start practicing for the evening until late morning, there are a few of us who won’t be able to sleep in, notably Charlotte and Millie, and by extension Evan and Karoline.

DAY 2

Sabbath in New Jersey! We had an unusually calm and leisurely morning before church, a foreign concept to most of us who are used to getting up early and driving quite a ways to church.

Pastor Zozzaro preached on Matthew 28:16-20, otherwise known as the Great Commission passage. Calvary was finishing their years-long series on Matthew, so I can’t say for sure whether they intentionally ended it this week, but it was perfect for the start of the summer Boardwalk Chapel season. We were reminded that “go and make disciples” does not mean “build a church and expect them to come.” It also doesn’t mean you have to cross an ocean to tell the world about Christ, although that’s equally valid. Pastor Zozzaro emphasized looking at where we go already, and seeing that as our mission field. He also emphasized the necessity of teaching and ministering those who are brought into the church, rather than getting them to conversion and then leaving them to figure it out.

As I mentioned yesterday, most of the staff attends Calvary during the summer as well, so we got to see them again before this evening’s service. Millie made friends with two affectionate children whose names she doesn’t remember. I’m waiting for the right time to tell her that this still happens in adulthood.

After lunch (which was excellent once again, thank you all so much) several of us went down to the beach. It was nice to just sit/swim together between services, and the water was not as bone-chillingly cold as I expected. Men’s fashion was discussed at length but no solutions were reached.

The Chapel staff and some Calvary attendees arrived later in the evening, after dinner, and the Rev. Dr. K from Chattanooga, whose full name I can neither spell nor pronounce, preached on 1 Peter 1:3-9. Like this morning’s sermon, tonight’s was applicable as we head into a week of unknowns, always with at least a small possibility of opposition from the people we meet. We who by God’s power are guarded through faith for salvation can rejoice in trials to the glory of Jesus Christ.

We finished the evening with a walk along the Boardwalk (did you know it’s called the Boardwalk of Fame and Happiness? We do, now) and a game of Trivial Pursuit for the girls, where we learned a little bit about history but mainly that we know absolutely nothing about world events.

On a more sober note, and to backtrack a little, shortly after the evening service began, a woman passed by on the Boardwalk shouting for emergency medical help. Evan and I left the service and went two doors down, where one of the men working the game stall had collapsed. He wasn’t breathing, and I was eventually able to get into the stall with the people already helping and begin giving rescue breaths. I’m under no illusions about whether or not I helped - I wasn’t thinking clearly and could have handled the situation much better. Thankfully, EMS arrived right after I started and took over. Evan and I stood off to the side and Evan prayed for the Steve (we learned his name later) before we went back into service. We checked back later and there was no news, but I was able to go back before we went inside for the night and talk briefly to Stephen (the coworker). Steve is alive but in critical condition. I plan to keep checking on his status while we’re here this week.

Prayer requests today:

  • Please pray for Steve. Obviously for physical healing, but more importantly for spiritual healing. Stephen told me that Steve is a drinker, and that Steve just got here from TX and started working at the stall.
  • Pray for Stephen, that this situation would open a door for him to seek God and find Him, and for opportunities to speak with him to that end.
  • Pray for me, that I can let go of what I should have done in the situation, regardless of the fact that there wasn’t time to do much other than what I did. The whole thing doesn’t even really seem real, but if those cyclical thoughts are going to pop up, it will be right when I’m trying to go to sleep.
  • Pray for the team as we begin to prepare for the weekly services tomorrow. Pray that we would not be anxious, and that the Lord would be glorified and work to bring people to himself.

DAY 3

Today was our first normal Chapel day. Even on normal days we don’t start evangelism training until noon, so we had another leisurely morning and breakfast. During breakfast Evan read from John 1 and 1 John 1, and we prayed together for the day ahead.

After grocery shopping and car maintenance (Pastor Zozzaro recommended a mechanic to get my oil changed, and the mechanic found a large nail in my tire. Praise God I didn’t try to drive home on that), the Chapel staff arrived and we started evangelism training. We’re using the pamphlet, “The Way to God: From Three Deadly Problems to Three Saving Solutions,” by Dr. Krabbendam (the pastor whose name I couldn’t spell last night!). It does a good job of providing a roadmap for talking about sinful hearts and Christ’s cleansing blood. We also talked about Chapel security, the main point being, “Wildwood is scary at night.” Don’t worry, parents, we stay in groups!

After we practiced our songs for tonight’s program we were free to go for a few hours, so we took a few staff members with us and walked the Boardwalk again, this time in search of snacks. Obviously. People are sunburned, no one’s surprised, moving on.

Tonight’s program featured music from the Chapel team and our group (their music team is so good!), and two short preaching segments. Tom spoke on man as a sinner, and Marcus (a missionary recently back from Uruguay, whose name I also can’t spell - maybe we’ll use his tract tomorrow and keep the trend going) preached on Psalm 110. He reminded us that this Psalm is a prophecy about Jesus from about 1,000 years before His birth. 

After the program was over we split into groups - prayer groups to stay behind in the Chapel and evangelism groups to go out onto the Boardwalk. Evan and I were assigned to Cullen, a college student from VCU who’s on staff this year. Cullen’s approach is to open the conversation by referencing a survey from a few years ago about spiritual states over time and go from there. One group of of people wouldn’t talk to us, but we were able to talk to a group of five kids, most of whom were Catholic and very willing to talk to Cullen. We prayed for the people we met after each conversation.

Before we went inside we went back to the Chapel and prayed as a group. Evangelism is certainly intimidating and far out of my comfort zone, and praying without ceasing takes on a new meaning when you’ve just been out telling unbelievers about Christ. Our group was fortunate to talk to receptive people, but some of the other groups had a harder time.

Staying out this late walking around also makes you hungry, so we’ve quickly established a snack habit. I should have warned Karoline when she asked me to write these that snacks would be mentioned a lot. Anyway, we ate our snacks and did first aid on some minor injuries (the bystanders yelled more than the patient) and Clara told us all what animals we are. I am a mountain lion, in case anyone wondered.

Prayer requests for today:

  • That God would prepare and soften the hearts of the people He would have us speak to
  • For hearts for God and for the lost as we share the Gospel, and for clarity as we speak
  • Stamina as we share the Gospel and go to bed late every night. Both can be draining.

Thank you all for your continued prayers!

DAY 4

We felt more in the swing of things today with our first full Chapel day under our belt. We’ve found the grocery stores, and Evan, Noah, Patience and I did a pre-breakfast workout in the park across the street, so basically we live here now.

This afternoon was more heavy evangelism training from Mike, one of the evangelism coordinators. Mike is young, early twenties, but his grasp of these topics and his love for the Lord is amazing to watch.

Today’s training focused evangelism role-playing and on how to ask four types of questions: discerning, leading, teaching, and challenge leading to application. We paired up and studied examples of Jesus asking questions and analyzed them for their intent and goal. It was new to all of us, and even some of the staff, and was a great exercise.

We also did a little bit of training on the Heaven and Hell Machine. Before you worry, the machine cannot actually send you to either. It has a series of questions and True/False switches, and even one wrong answer will cause the “Hell” area to light up. You can then focus on the questions and have a conversation with the person about what they believe. It’s interactive and catches the attention, and I’ve seen a lot of people trying it this week.

The afternoon was free as usual and that’s when order really started to break down (but, you know, in an orderly fashion. We are OPC after all). The lack of sleep is starting to get to all of us, and couple that with how much we’re enjoying each other’s company and you end up with some suspicious pranks in the boys room (a stuffed bunny was the only casualty. He now wears a toilet paper vest, with style), indiscriminate snacking, and a lot of giggling. And surprisingly, a lot of singing. Bathing has become optional. Patience definitely worked out in Maggie’s dirty shirt.

In all seriousness, Shiloh parents, thank you for sending your kids this week. Each and every one of them has been nothing but a delight and I for one am thoroughly enjoying spending time with them, some of whom I’ve known all their lives. They ask how they can help, they work without complaint, and they sing together while they do it. Most importantly, they ask questions, think critically, throw themselves into the work of the Chapel, happily go out to evangelize, or stay back to pray, even on stage in front of the whole group in some cases.

After a delicious authentic Italian dinner (thanks Tom and Evan!) and tonight’s program, we broke into teams as usual. Abigail, Landri and I were on prayer team with Daniel, a staff member. We spent an hour praying for the Boardwalk teams until they got back. The girls and I have never prayed consistently for that long before. It was amazing to experience. When the teams got back there were many answers to prayer already - theirs and ours.

It’s hard to believe that we have three more days of this before we come home. The days have gone fast but we feel like we’ve been here for so long already. And yet, I don’t think anyone is ready to go home yet. I think that by the end of the week we’ll be just getting used to the things we’re learning and hungry for more.

Prayer requests:

  • Continued prayer for the work here. For soft hearts and the ability to speak the truth in love.
  • Pray for all of us as we consistently lose sleep. I routinely send these updates between 1:30 and 2:00am.
  • Pray for Evan as he prepares to speak during tomorrow night’s program.
  • Pray for our team as we continue preparing songs and/or skits for the day’s program.

Thank you all for your prayers!

DAY 5

Our workweek is officially over halfway through. Lack of sleep continues and crazed expressions are starting to appear from time to time. Tonight we had a pudding party. So Karoline and Evan, if you want a 2am snack... there’s pudding.

After our morning workout (I told you, we live here now) and breakfast, Evan read 1 John 3 and we all prayed for the day. As Evan pointed out, it’s suspiciously like John is repeating his theme over and over again... even though the passage actually laid out logically. The case for the command to love one another is based on the love we already have in Christ. That love is what we want to spread to the people on the Boardwalk this week. The connection reminded me of something I heard from an atheist, which is summarized, “If the God of the Bible is true, and you have forgiveness of sins and eternal life, how much do you have to hate someone to not tell them about that God?” I thought about it off and on all morning until it tied right into our evangelism training.

I know by now you’re all expecting detailed descriptions of every meal, so I’ll just tell you that Clara made some excellent mac and cheese for lunch. Very popular and snack mac and cheese may have happened later.

We did a training segment on the FACTS prayer model: Fellowship, Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Prayer. Most of us knew about the ACTS model and some of us already use it, but the Fellowship component was new to us. Basically, we don’t pray in a vacuum. When we pray we are in fellowship with God and other believers. Mike, the evangelism coordinator, gave us some time to go off alone and practice this before we came back for evangelism introductions practice. Mike finished the day with an excellent and needed exhortation to examine our hearts. Whether or not we are successful on the Boardwalk, our most important personal consideration first is whether our hearts are right with God. I think the lecture was supposed to be yesterday, but in God’s providence it was moved to today, and I think it was received more soberly after two days of active evangelism than it would have been otherwise.

Skit and music practice improves every day. We’ve done 2-3 songs every night, but tomorrow the staff is off and it’s us and the band coming in to do a concert. It’s intimidating at times, but we’ve grown more confident in our songs after singing them for three days in a row.

We went to the beach again today, like we do every day, to make sure it was still there. Turns out sand is still sandy and salt is still sandy and pretty much everything is still sandy.

It’s also surprisingly hot here. Karoline made an excellent crockpot chicken dish and we were too hot to eat much. And yet when we go out at night we’re cold in our sweatshirts.

One side effect of our tiredness, settling in syndrome, and enjoying goofing off together is that we’ve started losing track of time and finishing our last bites moments before racing over to the Chapel for music practice. We haven’t ALL been late yet, but... I’m sure it’s coming.

Tonight’s program was excellent again, with the regular music and one sermon segment from Daniel and Mike each. Daniel, who I believe is only 19, was thrown into this evening’s program and had very little time to prepare, and still did a wonderful job. He is so clear in his treatment of the Gospel, and when he prays it’s like listening to a conversation. It’s amazing to see these young people who are so familiar with their Savior.

Evangelism tonight was a little more discouraging than last night. I’m told that NJ is approximately 40% Catholic, so we speak to a lot of people who say they’re already saved and they’re fine, who turn out to be Catholic. It can be a difficult conversation. These people know about sin, and they believe that they sin, but they just don’t care. At least one team faced ridicule during a couple conversations tonight. It’s comforting to know that the Lord changes the heart, not us.

Evan and Emily and I spoke to one man from Russia, and when I say “spoke” I mean we spoke and he spoke but we left utterly confused about what on earth he could have said. He made a machine gun motion and said, “You know, they kill people” as an explanation for why he left Russia. So, please, if anyone has any idea what’s happening in Russia, hit me up.

Since we were too hot to really enjoy dinner to the fullest (ok, maybe just me and Karoline, but I like to think someone else shares our pain), some of us had a full blown second dinner and, as previously mentioned, the pudding party. Our nighttime conversations now are an interesting mix of reflection on what we saw today and shrieking giggles.

Enjoy today’s pictures! They feature the impromptu music practice naps, Abigail in the fantastic sheep hat that Clara made, and a group photo, finally. Tom only asked for one three days ago.

Prayer requests for today:

  • Pray for the people on the Boardwalk. It’s a dark place.\
  • Continue to pray for rest, and for patience with one another as we become more and more tired. The Lord has been very gracious in that department.
  • Continue to pray for increasing faith in God and boldness to tell people about Him.
  • Pray for Steve. I plan to make a call tomorrow and see if I can get an update on his condition. I meant to do it today and forgot.

Thank you, as always, for your prayers! They are a powerful weapon.

DAY 6

It’s getting hotter, somehow. I’m not sure I’ve ever sweated for this long at a time. But it hasn’t stopped us from getting our workouts and walking to the grocery store for important things, like pudding. We have our priorities.

We’ve been tired this week, but today seemed to be the first day that it really hit us hard (I’m sure last night’s pudding party had nothing to do with it. Just in case, we postponed tonight’s pudding party). Between the heat, the late nights, and a different schedule, I think several of us struggled today. Everyone had a great attitude, though, and Tom made bacon for breakfast.

Thursday is the staff’s day off, so instead of our regular evangelism training Pastor Zozzaro came in and gave us three hours of condensed apologetics training. His information was excellent, with real-life examples. It was interesting having it late in the week after we’ve already had three days of going out to evangelize, instead of right when we got here. I think it gave us the opportunity to fill in some gaps and evaluate some conversations that we’ve had this week.

Caleb and Dean have bonded over Twinkies and are now BFFs. Before Noah and Lydia and I went to the store, Evan pulled me aside and secretly requested that we buy Twinkies. “It just seems like it needs to happen.” I admit that Caleb’s transports of joy upon receiving said Twinkies were gratifying. He planned to share them with Dean, but when Dean came over to hang out for a bit and say goodbye (he has to be gone for a couple days), he brought Twinkies for Caleb. As you can imagine, their bond has been cemented, and I’m told there’s a group chat.

We ordered pizza for dinner because we’ve washed several hundred dishes and we wanted to see how the other half lives. I don’t know who they are, but they’re not washing dishes.

Since there was no staff today, Paul and Mary Good came from PA to do a concert in lieu of the regular program. In total we did four songs and a skit, and Evan spoke on how badly we need a relationship with God.

We didn’t have evangelism tonight after the program since there was no staff, so we got ice cream on the Boardwalk instead. We’ve walked so much this week. My Fitbit is very happy about evangelism.

Our poor neighbor at the pizza place next door, who fortunately is a friend of the Chapel, decided to duck down and scare us through the window while we were talking in the kitchen. He’s had to endure hearing the laughter for hours on end every night, and he thoroughly enjoyed the reaction he got.

Tomorrow is our last full day here! We’re already talking about how we can make this work to come back next year. Thank you, Shiloh, for sending us!

Prayer requests for today:

  • Rest. You knew this was coming.
  • Enthusiasm and boldness for one more night of evangelizing before we leave. It can be a little emotionally draining to do this night after night.
  • For the staff who are doing this, night after night, all summer long

Day 7:

The Greatly Anticipated Pudding Party is in progress as we speak (I won’t tell you what time it is). Caleb is happily stirring the pudding with the possibly antique hand mixer we found. It’s taking years but he’s very excited.

Today was our last day, and collectively we’re a mix of sadness over leaving and glorious anticipation over experiencing air conditioning again. It was a sticky day.

We didn’t have Chapel duties until 1pm today, so we slept in, had a late workout and breakfast, and headed to the beach. One thing that we’re not used to here are the horseshoe crabs... they’re everywhere and they’re big! Maybe this is a normal thing but I’ve certainly never seen them on our NC beaches!

We had a cool experience during our Q&A session in the Chapel. It was an open forum for us to ask any questions about anything at all. Since the Chapel is open to the Boardwalk, anyone can come in while the door is open, and about halfway through a family came in and sat down to listen. The wife raised her hand and told us that she’s a new believer, and they were in Wildwood for the day. She got some bad news and was in the car crying when she said God spoke to her and told her it would get better. They came onto the Boardwalk and saw the Chapel and came in and she was so excited and encouraged. She wanted her husband to be excited about Christianity with her but he’d told her he’d learn when he was ready. A while later, her husband raised his hand and said that he was from Philly and has been in and out of jail. He told us how he’d been able to master different parts of his personality, like the things that sent him to jail, but he continues to fail in many areas and is worried about losing his wife because of it. Pastor Zozzaro presented the Gospel to him and encouraged him to run to Jesus and trust Him to change His children. It was amazing to be able to be there and see all of it and hear the Gospel presented so clearly and lovingly.

After the Q&A we scattered and went for walks down the Boardwalk. Clara and I made the nutritious decision to share a funnel cake, until we dropped it, which was probably for the best.

During dinner it was revealed that Lydia’s dad is an elder at Shiloh, and so is Abigail’s, which is how Tom learned that they’re sisters. It has been a week full of surprising revelations.

We had another regular program tonight. Friday nights are “best of” nights, where everyone plays their favorites from earlier in the week. Everyone was in a goofy mood and Seth, our longsuffering music director, wasn’t sure what to do when our girls burst forth into the second verse of Be Thou My Vision, in deep bass voices. We made it through about three words before we lost it. The rest of the practice proceeded without incident.

I’m told evangelism went fairly well tonight, but with some hostility, too. The Heaven and Hell Machine got a lot of traffic and some good conversations happened there. Karoline and Tom and I sat out to meet with Pastor Zozzaro to review the week. If you can’t tell, we’re thrilled with how the week has gone, and we’ll have quite a presentation for all of you when we get back.

We ended the night with a couple hymns and prayer with the staff, and then we were allowed to cry. As far as I know none of us did, but it was polite of them to give us the option. We were sad to say goodbye, though. It’s hard spending a week with people who truly are family, and not knowing when or if we’ll see them again. Of course, we’re all hoping for next year.

Just kidding about ending the night. Obviously we went back to the kitchen and ate another whole dinner. Like every night, we always end up recapping our evenings to each other and discussing what we saw and learned. It’s always a lot and we’re grateful. 

And now I have to go... the pudding is ready.

Prayer requests:

  • Safe travels tomorrow as we drive back. We’re dropping Caleb off with his family in New Jersey, so pray for safe travels for them as well.
  • For the Boardwalk Chapel, the work they’re doing, and the staff here this summer. They’re unusually understaffed this year.
  • The unbelievers on the Boardwalk, that God would soften hearts and bring people to Himself.

 

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