by Michele Sinacori and Jerry Lamm, Grace OPC, Columbus, Ohio (July 2015)
June 24-29, 2015, Mrs. Michele Sinacori and Mr. Jerry Lamm of Grace OPC in Columbus, Ohio, led a group of 5 teens from their Youth Group on a trip to Key West to receive evangelism training and experience from OP Pastor Bill Welzien of Keys Presbyterian Church (OPC) and Keys Evangelistic Ministries (KEM).
- The teens’ testimonials about their experience on this trip can be found here!
- This opportunity is open to all in the OPC year-round! Learn more here!
Team Leader Michele Sinacori, wrote to us:
“I think we’d like to make this an annual trip. It really is QUITE an AMAZING OPPORTUNITY – not to be missed, especially for youth groups.
“If any coordinators/youth group leaders are thinking about a future trip and would like help designing an itinerary, and/or if they have questions, I would be happy to help. Our itinerary worked out quite well, and included a lot of watersport activities. Keeping teens busy with a good balance of instruction, service, and fun activities is very important.
“Jerry and I would recommend this trip for OLDER teens and college age students (15+), not younger teens. Of course, Bill Welzien always welcomes folks of any age, but that is just our suggestion.”
To get in touch with Michele Sinocori, please contact us at OPCShortTermMissions@opc.org.
Michele Sinacori’s Report:
My name is Michele Sinacori and I’ve been blessed to be a part of Grace Presbyterian Church in Columbus, Ohio, for over 20 years. My husband’s name is Tom and we have been married for 3 years.
I am the parent of two teens, Nick (17) and Sarah (15) Rosato, and I have been trying to put together some activities for our church youth group over the past year or so. In the process of my search for a short-term mission trip within the U.S., I contacted Pastor Steve Igo from Hudsonville, Michigan. He connected me with the OPC Short Term Missions website and that is where I learned that Keys Evangelical Ministries (KEM) invites youth groups to come and stay and experience the “mission field” ministry at Mallory Square in Key West. Little did I know what a treat we would be in for!
After several conversations with Pastor Bill (“Bible Bill”), we drew up a basic daily schedule which I sent on to the five kids going on the trip and their families. We wanted to make the trip rich in learning and time spent in the Word, yet relaxed enough to enjoy some down time with each other, having fun and enjoying some of the many water sports offered by Key West.
After thinking things through, we determined the purpose of our trip would be fourfold:
1. To learn about evangelism and how to evangelize (from a reformed perspective).
2. To learn how to assist Pastor Bill Welzien in sharing the gospel at the Sunset Celebration in Mallory Square (put into practice what we had learned).
3. To minister to Keys Presbyterian Church by helping with any projects that needed to be done in and around the building.
4. To have fun – getting to know each other better, participating in fun water sports together, and fellowshiping with those we would meet in God’s good providence.
This was the first youth group trip I’ve ever chaperoned, and from a personal perspective, this trip exceeded every one of my expectations and was hands down the best trip I’ve ever been on with my kids! We were greeted by two warm, friendly gentlemen (Elder Tim and Pastor Bill of Keys Presbyterian Church), and their kindness and generosity toward us only increased throughout the entire trip!
We learned about evangelism. The teaching was incredible! Pastor Bill clearly put a lot of effort into preparing what he was going to teach us. The presentation was clear, concise, and very much right on target with the understanding level of the group. We audio taped each session and I personally took 13 (single spaced) pages of notes . . . there was so much rich content that I didn’t want to forget anything I learned.
Day 1 began with the Scripture reading of Acts 17:10-11. Paul and Silas were going to Berea. The Bereans were eager recipients of the Word and were examining the Scriptures daily to find out whether what they were hearing was true. This launched us into a discussion on the Bible as the final authority on life and the answer to the question, “What is truth?” Many Scriptures were referenced, including I Corinthians 15:1-4, I Corinthians 3, Isaiah 53, 2 Timothy 2:8-10, 2:22-26, and Romans 8:28. We then went to Mallory Square that evening to minister with Pastor Bill.
Day 2 began with Pastor Bill asking us the question, “What was your impression of your experience at Mallory Square last evening?” The consensus was that we felt uncomfortable and afraid, and that we were impressed with how bold Pastor Bill is in the square when he shares the gospel message. Pastor Bill shared Acts 22:7-10 and talked about stepping out in faith – putting one foot in front of another in whatever we do and having faith that God will meet our needs as we live to please him in whatever is required of us. We also discussed how to communicate/talk to people and were taught to seek out each individual’s particular need. Pastor Bill told us it is always very important to keep the discussion as narrow as possible in order to minister clearly and concisely within the very short time frame available. We went to Mallory Square again that evening to minister.
Day 3 started by Pastor Bill asking us “Did you have any interesting conversations last night at Mallory?”
- We all discussed talking and praying with the family of “Randy,” who had been seriously injured in North Carolina that morning after a tree fell on his head while he was working in his tree business. His sister and extended family were in Mallory Square that evening and they were clearly distraught. They seemed to be Christians. We prayed with them right there on the spot.
- We also talked about a young man who was listening to the presentation very intently. He was going to be attending Moody Bible Institute for his undergraduate and graduate degree this fall.
- We ministered to a family of 5 who were part of the charismatic movement. We had a long discussion with them and they came to Mallory Square twice while we were there. Pastor Bill gave them some books about reformed theology. It’s my understanding that the dad especially seemed to be very interested in searching for true doctrine.
- We ministered to a Hindu family in passing. They listened very carefully and respectfully but did not seem interested.
- Some of the folks ministered to a children’s illustrator and his wife as well.
The important thing to remember throughout every discussion is that we never know how the Lord will use the seeds that were planted and that our efforts are never in vain. We may never see the fruit of what has been shared, but God knows. He knows how he is working out His perfect will, and we are being used by Him however he pleases. I am sure there were many other discussions that took place that I was not part of.
As part of our training session we also talked about the U.S. Supreme Court decision made on “Black Friday,” and launched into a discussion on the Christian perspective vs. the secular perspective on marriage and how our nation‘s definition is not God’s definition of marriage. Pastor Bill discussed how we are living in a neo-pagan society that is POLITically correct but not BIBLically correct. We talked about autonomy vs. biblical authority and how it affects our world view. The session was very rich in content. Pastor Bill referenced our friend “Randy,” whose situation we’d learned of through meeting his family in Mallory Square the night before, and how it relates to how we live our lives. He also referenced Hebrews 5:6, 12:5 and 1 John 1:9.
We learned how to share the gospel in Mallory Square. Hands down, this is a lot harder than it seems! Even though I’ve been a Christian for 26 years, I very quickly learned just how difficult it is for me to proclaim the gospel in the public square. On a personal level, speaking one on one with someone I know isn’t as difficult; but to take the initiative to talk to folks I don’t know is difficult for me. It was easier for some in our group than for others. After watching Pastor Bill, I could not believe how bold he was in his presentation of the gospel yet how warm and friendly and loving he was when he spoke with those individuals or families who showed interest in talking further with him and/or praying with him. I really had to follow his lead as we met with families, as this does not come naturally to me. Our friend Jerry (the other chaperone) is much more gifted in this area than I am!
We helped with some projects at Keys Presbyterian Church, although we would like to come back and help with a lot more than we were able to accomplish during this trip! It was mostly the guys who helped with some outside gutter work and trench making. I helped a little with some domestic tasks within our living quarters, but not nearly as much as I would have liked to. We look forward to the opportunity of coming again and setting aside some whole days to help Keys Presbyterian.
Oh my – we had fun! Pastor Welzien connected us with his friend at Fury Water Adventures and we were able to go snorkeling out to the reef one day. Another day we went kayaking at Pastor Bill’s house (Pastor Bill regularly swims around the entire island of Key West, so he owns kayaks so that family members can follow along for safety). We also went paddle boarding, went to the beach, went shopping, and took the kids parasailing. We had rich fellowship, grew closer to one another, and had a lot of fun together.
Jerry Lamm’s Report:
To Pastor Bill Welzein:
Thank you so much for hosting our first Grace OPC youth group trip to Key West. I was a late addition to the group, but an eager and willing participant. Having visited Keys OPC in 2005, worked on the flooring and witnessed the Mallory Square presentation twice, I knew I was in for a treat.
Our group was small ( 7 ), and for the many travel adventures / mishaps, that was a real blessing. Each of us had a wonderful time, learned so much about talking with others, and grew closer as a group. We had time to fellowship that is often missing in our hectic lives.
We are very thankful that you took the time each day to talk in depth with us as a group. Your explanation of why we witness and evangelize was refreshing. You showed us how to use God’s authority for reaching people with truth and love. Thank you also for taking extra time to talk with individual members of the group and to answer so many questions. Many of the questions led to more questions, even off topic, and you never tired of answering and leading our young people to search for the truth.
Thank you also for sharing your wonderful facility. It is such a blessing to be able to travel to such a tourist location and have a place to stay. You have been blessed with the facility and the very little work we did while there was our privilege. Hopefully we will be able to make a bigger impact next year. It is so very hard to maintain a church, anything we can do to make your mission easier would be honoring to the Lord and we would be happy to help.
The Keys are such a beautiful place in God’s creation. Our group was able to enjoy the water, parasailing, snorkeling, paddle boarding, kayaking, and the beaches. However in talking with the individual members of our group, the thing we enjoyed the most was talking with people at Mallory Square. Each person had individual stories to tell, people they talked with from all over the U.S. and from various other countries. Some believers and other people who were certainly not believers. Some people hostile, others willing to listen and talk. Putting what we learned into practice each day was a valuable experience and will serve each of us in our daily lives and in our walk with the Lord.
Lastly, I was really impressed with the way your diligence and faithfulness in presenting the gospel, 3 times each week, in such a public setting, has impacted others around you. “Bible Bill” is known and admired by others. You are kind to other locals, and you have become part of their lives. It was very obvious they look up to you and admire the work you have accomplished in the many years your ministry has been in the Key West.
Thank you for your tireless work and may God continue to bless your ministry!