reflections of mine others might find useful



We stopped at Willow Creek Church on the way to Merge last Sunday. We loved the service.

We meet for worship and teaching each morning and evening.

Worshipping through art is a neat emphasis at Merge. We have a lot of youth group processing time!!

Each afternoon we have different creative worship or service experiences as a group.

Today we served at a nursing home.

We visited with our new friends and sang old time favorite songs (favorites of theirs! We learned a lot of them!)

They asked us to lead singing, which we were glad to do. They loved us coming!

I asked several of the team what MERGE has meant to them so far and here’s what they wrote…

Joel Mason: Being at MERGE for the last few days I’ve been worshipping and learning about God quite a bit. On my second day, Monday, I was touched by the spirit and for the first real time I accepted God into my heart. What an amazing feeling… I am a changed person from what I came as. I can feel God moving in me to do great things for him… I’ll see you all when I get home, I can’t wait. Praise God, Hallelujah, Amen.

Rachel Rifner: It has been a great experience, one that has spurred growth and reawakening for my soul. The group is a lot of fun and I am enjoying that time we have together. So far, I have learned a lot about myself and how God’s story is reflected in my own. Can’t wait to come back and evangelize to those I know well who are not believers. Our God is mighty and alive…worship Him with your life!

Hall Block: MERGE… it seems there has been a lot of that going on recently. People coming to Christ, or renewing their commitment, and it seems like Monday was the day to do it for more people than just me. On Monday, Ben Wohlers and Mark were talking about predestination and free-will and that got me thinking. Eventually (somehow), I ended up realizing that life without God would be worse than death, and that means that the only thing we need is to praise God in all we do and build a strong, close relationship with us. Well, just an update from over here. God bless you all.

Thad walters; hi mom hi dad this is thad. I am having fun I am probably the only person here that will actually go up to people and get to know them. I cant type good so ill just go now, buy.

Jordan Spooner: This year at Merge has bean a great experience for me. I met a lot of new people throughout this week and I am enjoying the time I have with our group also. I have learned a lot on this trip, not only about myself but how some of God’s stories relate in my life. Being here has gotten me to think of a lot of things and look forward to build a better relationship with God. The worship great and we have fun and dance to the songs everyday. Well that’s all I have to say.

Emily Forret: Hi Dad and Mom and Ariel and Sasha! I’m having fun. See you in a couple days.

Benjamin Wohlers: Hey everyone back home. Things are going quite well here in Wheaton. It has been an interesting few days here at Merge and the next few look the same. Be home in a few days.

Katelyn Peterson: Hey family and cat!! I am having an amazing time here at MERGE. I am really enjoying getting to know everyone a whole lot better. Remember how I was so upset that I couldn’t go on the Mexico trip? Well, I think God really planned this whole thing for a purpose. I am soooooo unbelievably glad that God worked the wedding out so that I could come to MERGE instead. I really am enjoying the small group that came. If I was on the Mexico trip, it would’ve been too big of a group to get to know anybody new. Once again, God planned everything out. In the morning, we are digging really deep into the Bible’s stories and learning new things about all of them. I am learning so much about God’s story. I am learning that the Bible isn’t all those “G” rated stories I learned in kindergarten. There is really so much more. A lot of the stories are more PG-13 than you’d ever imagine. Learning all about how I can relate to people in even the Old Testament is so amazing. On Monday I experienced an amazing worship time and God really touched me in a way he hasn’t since 6th grade. In the afternoons we go and experience what we talked about in the morning. Yesterday, we walked all around for about 45 minutes like the Israelites walked around for 40 years. I realized what they may have been going through. I was complaining after about 30 minutes about how hungry I was (because we hadn’t had lunch and it was 1:15) and we were arguing about things. In the evening we have sharing time and we went to a cemetery one day and I shared about how I wished all the people had gone to heaven and how we can work to change that. The day we went to the cemetery, a girl’s grandma had died just that morning and I’d say most of the people were moved by her story. Mom, it is Rachel Rifner that is my roommate. Yes, dad, I have been running while I’m here I know you’re surprised. Jennifer, I hope you’re having fun with the kitten! Joel, I miss you so much! See you soon!

Kelly McCright: Hey guys! This is trip has been so much fun! We have learned sooo much that my brain is on overload hehe  Today I learned how to really learn and apply the scripture to my life in soul time. Anyways see you all in a couple days!

Bryant Haldeman: Hey Parents . . . and Weston, if you’re reading this too, HELLO! I am having an AWESOME time at Merge. It is so fun and I’m learning a lot. One of the best parts was on Wednesday, when we went to a Tabernacle remake: there were so many things to do, both happy and sad. There was this one where we put our hands in red paint (blood), and tried to wash it off in a bowl of water. This was very difficult and took quite a while, especially me cause I only did it with one hand. . It was really neat, cause it reminded you of how Christ washes away your sins. There are a lot of other great things we are doing, today we went to a retirement home and talked to and sang for the elderly. It made me smile. I also REALLY love the Worship here, it is so great. I have been growing immensely in my spiritual walk, and making a lot of new friends. I hope your back is getting better Mom, I have been praying for you. Hugs. See ya soon.

JT Fenton: Hello my parents and possibly Damien…I am having a great time at Merge I really thank you for paying my way. I have really fallen in love with the worship that they have here. I really am seeing myself in Gods story more and more through out the experience. On a day to day basis we start out the morning with a nice jog around campus but not everyone goes but that’s ok. Then after that we go to eat breakfast I usually shower. Its so hot showering is a twice a day thing. Then after that we have our morning lesson and we also break into small groups. After lunch we have a far out excursion and by far out I mean wont be anywhere else. And everything together in all of this is so amazing I would love to come back next year. I am also leaving this experience with 13 new friends. Thanks.


I’m sorry I don’t have pictures to share yet, but I did want to give a written report from MERGE and will try to do so during the week. I don’t have ready computer access, so that’s my big problem.

It’s going just GREAT!!! The students are really bonding and are experiencing God in many ways. Many of these students didn’t know each other prior to the trip, so it’s been neat to see new friendships forming.

So far, we have been studying “God’s story” in great detail and learning how to share that with others who don’t know Christ. The new name “Merge” is about us merging His story with our story and with our lost friends story.

The worship is awesome as usual. One really cool thing is that the 500 0f us are arranged in a big square in rows that all face the center. It really helps put the focus on God and the community! Also, worshipping God through the arts is another neat addition. Some of our team are artistically wired, so it’s been perfect for them.

Thanks for your prayers. I’ll update you as I’m able.

Thanks, Mark


  1. Thank you for the updates!!!

  2. Kris Peterson

    July 21, 2006 at 1:27 am

    We are so thrilled to find out what is going on while you are on the trip as we are praying for the group. God is truly moving!! We’re excited to have you back home soon!

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