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iconnect: Live Like You Were Dying Small Groups

Remember when we talked about the small group piece to our LLYWD series?   Steve and Laura Urenda were among over 100 people to say, “I’ll do it!”   They are hosting a small group for the LLYWD series.   They used this series to test-drive a small group and the response within the group has been very, very positive.  

LLYWD Urenda Small Group

LLYWD Urenda Small Group

Connecting to God and Friends:  backrow: Mary Gutowsky, Laura Urenda, Steve Urenda, Rick Ramsden middle row: Eric Turczyn, Teri Johnson, Michele Dalton, David Dalton, front row:  Dan Marler, Ginny Marler, Steve Johnson and Allen Lilly.

Side Note:  You’ll be hard pressed to find a group of more committed people to attending Sunday Service, then this bunch.   They take over sit in the first two rows, middle section each Sunday morning during the 11:15am service.   You can almost set your watch to them.    You can see the love of Jesus in their smiles and eyes.  Each at a different place on their journey but all headed the same way.  THANK YOU TO LAURA URENDA for sending in this pic.

(iconnect: Laura Urenda)


29 Responses

  1. Well thank you Tami for such a wonderful post! It is a privelege and a blessing to be leading such a wonderful group of people who inspire me in so many ways! Every one of them have hearts that seek after God and God has been a very busy bee in our lil group. I was just sharing with a dear friend how much I love it when God puts such great people in our lives to “do life” with especially in these crazy times we live in! Our group is definately like a family and we let it all hang out. When running a small group, you always hope to reach a point where everyone is comfortable to be real. Well from the very first night, this group showed up raw and transparent which allows God to get in there and do His thang!! Steve and I are both pleased as punch to be with these folks and we look forward continuing on at the close of this series…And what an awesome series it is!!!

  2. I’m privledged to be a part of this group. Not only are we good friends but we are family! I can’t think of any other place I’d rather be on our Saturday night.

    Thank you everyone!

  3. Tami thanks for posting our groups photo op! Oh and by the way…What a group! What a special group of friends to be part of. We could not have had better team leaders than Laura and Steve! They are the most real and down to earth people I have met in such a long time and feel that part of their journey is to be right where they are now, here, in Teri and mine’s life.

    To Live Like You Were Dying is an easy thing to say but a very difficult thing to do. It’s a great song that maybe we should all have as an Anthem in our lives. To actually get a chance to bring that to the forfront of ones daily life is a blessing in itself.

    As a member of this group I have had to come face to face with some pretty frightening emotions and memories. To come face to face with things possibly repressed and maybe should have been left in those closed doors in my mind. But why would I? God puts us where we are at, in that moment, for a specific reason. He knows what is best for us and you have to trust in his judgement. For all I know, maybe it’s not really just about me…maybe it’s just being there with my friends rolling up our sleeves and dealing with what life has thrown us. One of the best things to have come out of our group for me is…..not matter what I have been through in my life, no matter how sad or bad,…I would not trade my shoes for any one of my freinds in our group. I will take my shoes because they “were special made” just for me. This is a group of amazing people, with amazing strength and courage, dealing with things that make mine very trivial.

    Tami when you think of God works…and working….our group will be ready for another Photo Op!

    God Bless and Thank you again!

  4. I can’t wait to hear more of what God is doing in your group and through your group…ya’ll made me cry!! 🙂

  5. Steve…Dang dude…That was deep!

  6. Yes, thank you Tammy for posting the nice words. And Steve that was very well said…..God Bless!

  7. Only 2 things to say !!!!
    1- Thank you Tami for the post
    2- I LOVE YOU GUY’S………!!!!!!!!!!!

  8. Thought it was time for a lil update…
    Well I know this series has come to a close, but fortunately our group has not! It’s probably gonna sound like I need a lesson on humility when I tell you all the things our group is doing, but it’s just that I’m so proud of all the effort each person is putting into applying what they’re learning, as well as being excited by all that God is doing!!

    Well first I wanna give a long overdue shout out to Dr.Bob for pasting our dear friend Allen into the pic as he was out of town when our group photo was taken. Dr.Bob is a computer genious and didn’t hesitate to come to our need! I hope you’ll pop in and visit the group sometime Bob…I bet you’d dig it!

    Also a special THANK YOU to Rick for allowing us to meet in your home. You and Dan and Ginny always make everyone feel so comfortable and welcome!!
    Love you my babies!!

    Next I wanna talk about the effort that has gone into bible memory and just reading the bible in general. Ya gotta appreciate where our group is coming from as we all share a history of sex, drugs, and rock n roll so it’s way cool that everyone is learning to pursure their relationships with God so proactively now. So I had little prizes (a Jesus sticker on your forehead…Just kidding but almost did that.) for anyone who memorized any of the scriptures related to the series as well as any other scripure in the bible and every now and then someone would bust out with a scripture AND it’s reference (which is more than I do I must confess – lol). Plus, one gal has already read her bible in its entirity, and another is already half way thru! Man I know seasoned Christians whom have never done that. I’m just so proud (lip quiver). Also we have people who are experimenting with leaving their comfort zones to pray aloud for others. Lt.Dan just took me in the prayer room last Sunday and prayed the most beautiful prayer I ever heard…So make no mistake about it…We got us a prayer warrior in the makin people!!!

    The whole LIVIN LIKE YOU WERE DYING series provided opporities of a variety for our lil group. Our group would tell you themselves that they are struggling with issues of a variety, but God is teaching them how to kick addictions, heal broken and wounded relationships, and how to invite God into all areas of their lives like parenting, music, health issues, successes, failures, etc. So not only has the individual application rocked, but the group application as well. For example, this Sat we’ll be working at a spagetti fund raiser for the family of a 14 y/o boy recently killed (I’ll include details in a following post for those who might like to attend) and we stumbled upon a homeless man living in the woods whom is gonna get a surprise soon as we are preparing a pretty cool care pkg. for him. And we’ve got some other ideas for how we’ll put God’s love into action that we’re excited about too!

    Thru this group, friendships have developed and deepend, and we take turns giving each other spiritual, emotional, and even financial support as we are all feeling the crunch of our economy! These are hard times we’re livin in for sure, but the burdens are SOO much lighter when shared with others. And I gotta say, for a bunch of broke down mo-fo’s, we sure do eat good at our meetings!! There’s been some mighty fine dishes there…Mighty fine!! Our lil group is a “colorful” group as everyone is very free to be themselves as we allow God to mold us and change us. But the biggest thing I think we all have in common is that we desperately want that…We want God’s best for us, and we all so look forward to meeting. We laugh together and cry together and we definately do hog up some rows at church! Ah but what a precious church we have!!

    I could go on and on but alas I shant. So ends my novel (for now)…Think I’ll go crash someone elses blog. HA

    God bless you my bruthas and sistas!!

  9. Spagetti Fund Raiser info:

    HILBERT Middle School between Inkster and Beech Daly starting at 4pm this Saturday Oct. 25th.
    26440 PURITAN, REDFORD MI. 48240

  10. And one more shout out I almost forgot…
    A special THANK YOU to Matthew and Garret for taking group pics for us!! You both got some GREAT shots!!

  11. I was wondering, can we still get the material needed for small groups?

  12. Hi Manabu,
    I’ll bet you can…Roy Thomas would be the guy you need. This particular series consisted of a dvd and one workbook that I made copies from to distribute. Also, the lil key chain tags w/scriptures are part of it, and if they’re out of those then there is a page in the workbook containing the 4 scriptures that can also be copied and distributed and used as flashcards. Hope that helps!

  13. Thank you Laura!

  14. Anytime! 😉

  15. “Are we dead yet?”

    You know when the idea first popped up in church to create (albeit temporary) small groups to discuss and explore the whole process of living like you were dying….I had mixed emotions.

    Seriously, I did.

    Seems like the older I get the more fleeting time becomes, and therefore the more I try to horde “my time” or better yet – “ME time” cause hey, I’m a busy guy.

    Almost every week I’m on a plane flying to some other state, living out of a suitcase, moving in and out of time zones, and on top of it I’m constantly trying to get the other things done (like music) in my life that are likewise important and bring balance and meaning into my daily activities.

    So when the idea of a small group popped up – I had to wrestle with it a bit, because I knew the deal, I knew what could happen. I had to ask myself “Do I REALLY want to give up more of my precious ME time to facillitate a small group – especially since I know this group of misfits here in the front three rows would hunger for more?”

    Cause I know how these front row people are.
    They love God.
    They love each other.
    They love the journey.
    They love truth and the freedom that it creates.
    They love knowing that they are a part of the BIG PICTURE.
    They love talking about what they are learning, and what we – we as a group are learning togethor.
    They love to let go and let their light shine where it may and now the first three rows of church are threatening to become row number 4 because they just keep talkin and talkin and they wont shut up and now we may just one day take over the WHOLE joint because these people actually “get it” and it’s spilling over and getting all over all kinds of things….

    Freaks. See how it starts?

    You know a few years ago Laura and I were just gonna stop by this church called Tri City and check it out a bit and then go have some lunch, maybe mexican, maybe some pasta….now this????

    I have to admit that my worst fears rapidly came true.

    We were having a good time. We were having awesome dialogue. Laura and I were working as a team. There were nights when I told her “I’m too tired to contribute – you just handle it babe” and the next thing you know (as she was handeling it AWESOMELY) stuff was poppin out of my mouth and we were both feeding off each other and comparing scriptures and laughing and praying and sharing and dangit if that wasent a good time for us as a facillitating couple on top of the good time that we were all having togethor as a temporary small group.

    But zero hour came.

    At the end of “Live like you were dying” we asked if they wanted to stay togethor and be a small group.

    And they went and said yes. Not one of them peep’s said no. Not a one. And there went my perfect little plan of “me, my, mine” Bye bye best laid plans. Hello great unknown.

    And as tired as I get sometimes I have to tell ya, I’d never trade it in or change it. This group has a transparant spirit to it, where everyone is committed fully.

    I think a tragic mistake is often made when people try to trust the quantity of what they know versus the quality. Truth is truth. Love is love. Faith is faith. Hope is hope. Fear and spiritual stagnation is rarely as multi faceted as the overwhelming weapons at our disposal to fight against them if we will simply encourage one another to do the best we can with what we’ve got and to keep asking The Lord to give us more and show us more so that we can glorify him.

    this week as a small group, we got our first opportunity to address an issue that will quite probably become a growing epidemic in our nation: The man in the woods.

    out in the woods a park in our nearby area, sits an abandoned park – closed down apparently because it was built on a dumpsite that began to leak lead. The park is fenced off to the public.

    a few weeks back as Laura and I were hiking thru there (that’s a whole other Oprah – why we were hiking thru a closed, fenced off park) we found a man made enclosure in the middle of the woods. It was made out of old tarps and junk. I could see that a tent had been erected inside the enclosure, and I could see smoke from a fire that had been put out a few hours earlier. Somebody was living in those woods.

    As a small group, we discussed it and prayed over it and decided to try to “do something”.

    We didint know who lived there.
    We didint know the mental helath status of that person or persons.
    We didint know anything about them, as to why they had ended up in the woods.

    here’s what we did know:

    Winter was coming.
    and every single one of us in our group, had a roof over their heads, not a tent.
    And nobody should ever be reduced to living int he woods here in America in 2008.

    Now we are not rich peoplez. Everybody in our small group is struggling financially. But man you should have seen the stuff we came up with once everybody committed to getting involved. Old stuff got dug out of attics. Trips to the 99 cent store were made. Old closets got dug into. Pantries got opened up. There was food – lots of it, things that could easily be reheated or cooked up. There were cooking pans and kitchen utensils. There were winter gloves and blankets and a sleeping bag and thermal underwear and wool hats and socks and pillows. There was a fire pit, a great swiss army knife (I love those) can openers, fire starters, toilet paper, baby wipes, a first aid kit, cough medicine and cold medicine and aspirine, toothpaste and toothebrushes and general hygeine sundries, and there was some cash, and there was a bible with some sweet words of encouragement written in the cover from someone in our group.

    Everything got loaded up into my truck once it was gathered. We wanted to get in and out quickly so that the police did not notice us and kick this person out in the cold. We were also hoping that we would be able talk to this person a bit.

    Alan and I decided to make the treck back into the woods to drop off the stuff and to see if we could make contact. It took us two trips of reloading the army duffle bags. Do you know how much stuff you can put in an army duiffle bag? ALOT. We had two bags and still needed two trips.

    When we got there, we used some degree of caution, which is appropriate. This was not our living space. This was not our struggle. After speaking outside the enclosure to make our intentions (non threatening) known, we ventured in.

    I should tell you that this living setup almost looked military. Whoever was there – knew what they were doing. the living space was an enclosure almost 15 feet wide, in a half circle, made up of tree limbs that had been locket togethor to provide structure that could bear up under heavy snow or wind. A series of tarps made up the skin, with just a small opening at the top to let smoke out and an entry flap in front that could be sealed up. The structure itself was very strong.

    Inside, were two single man tents, set up on opposite sides of the enclosure. The ground inside the enclosure was lined with astro turf….no doubt taken from the high school nearby, that has an astro turf football field. It weas warm inside the enclosure. In the middle of the enclosure was a crude firepit – with a fabric and wire chute that vented the smoke upward and out of the enclosure. Between ther tents, were a few outdoor chairs and a crude table, as well as some fruit and bread and various living accoutraments. I even saw a small battery powered TV and some reading materials.

    Outside the enclosure, was a rough saw stuck in a tree, used to gather firewood. Also attatched at opposite areas of the camp – were two flashlights on a line so that they could not get lost. In the rear of the camp – was an obvious dumpsite where the “camper” would bring in garbage bags and go thru the contents in the dark. An old coffepot had been transformed into a large hot mug, it was stored on a nearby limb.

    We also knew, that whomever was living there was using a bicycle to get around. When Laura and I first found the camp – we also found an old BMX styled bike (appropriate for the woods) that had been crudely painted over with a flat green color to blend in. The bike was stashed behind some logs. We could see where the person rode in and out of the woods via a trail to the edge.

    Another thing I should note is that the enclosure was different this time, from the first time that Laura and I had discovered it. When we first saw it – it was because the bright blue tarps stood out in the middle of the green woods. This time – the enclosure was camoflauged with brush and tree limbs and fallen leaves so that it was much harder to spot – especially from a passing plane or helicopter overhead now that the trees had dropped their leaves. We also noted that there was one trail the lead to another direction that had been “flagged” with small peices of plastic bag a few inches long – tied to tree limbs. Thats just enough reflectance to find your way out with a small flashlight. Again further evidence that whoever lived there not only had been there for some time, but they knew what they were doing.

    Before Alan and I left the camp I wrote a short note to the person or persons living there:

    “Hi. My name is Steve. Nobody knows your here, I have not told anyone so your place is safe. I found you on accident a few weeks back. We brought you some food, utensils, fire tools, blankets, etc. Nobody wants anything from you but we know winter is coming and we wanted to make sure you had things. I will be coming back some time later in the week to check up on you. Stay warm and God bless:”

    I also added my phone number.

    He called last night, from his mothers house.

    His name is Robert – he is 45 years old.
    He was laid off from a factory job and has not been able to recover. He gets his unemployment check at his mothers house. He’s been living there for 6 months.

    There is another person living there – actually the camp is “his” camp. His name is James. He has been there for 5 years. He is 21 years old. His mother is an addict. Instead of going into the system, he went into the woods. He’s been there all those years but may now be moving into a heated garage where he thinks he found a job.

    It was Robert who called me. I talked to a man who was thankful for finding the stuff (he told me it was like christmas) but was also very much trying to hold onto some simple dignity. I had to ask him how he ended up in the woods, but I hated doing it, that was how I got the baasic information on him and James.

    Robert asked me if I was “the guy from two weeks ago”.

    I wasent. Apparently someone had stopped by the camp on their way to church, and had talked to James for some time. Robert told me that both he and James go several times a week to a local church in the area of town we call “shacktown”, to get fed and sometimes get clothing, and that they listen to the sermons. He has not heard back from the “other guy” that stopped by their camp. He has been tryign to get a job at Burger king since he lost his factory job, but has not been successful. In Robert’s own words he said that “I’m not very good at most things, at the factory all I did was pack things in boxes, but now that’s gone”.

    I’m going to end this long blog abruptly there because I simply dont know what’s next.

    I’m going back out to the woods later this week at night, when I know I will find them there so that I can get some one on one time with them. Yes our group will stay committed to periodically gathering supplies and delivering them – especially during the winter. But to help people its best if possible to be able to look in their eyes when you speak to them so that they can feel you. I am (WE are) burdoned with the mental state of both of these men. I am especially burdoned with James. He has lived in those woods since he was 15. He’s 21 now and society would look at him and expect him to go out and produce…..what types of social skillsets does James possess? What are his scars? Where is his level of trust? What sorts of behaviours have been modelled for him? But I am also burdoned by Robert – who sums himself up weakly, in that he’s not very good at things. Who taught him that? When did he accept that mindset and how heavy does it weigh on him daily?

    And truth be told people, any one of us could end up in those same woods. We dont talk about it on a large scale, but this is happening all over. Hines park was recently cleared out of at least 30 people living in the woods. Cleared out does not mean helped out.

    As a small group – we share the priveledge of an appropriate sense of burdon for this person, and we share the priveledge of a group address. I dont want us to ever be so comfy in our relationships and environment that we lose track of the fact that we need to be growing constantly so that we can become consistent agents of change in a world caught up in constant glitterdrone. And in so doing we need to occasionnaly ask each other “are we dead yet?” because if we’re not – then we need to be out there making a beautiful mess of the enemy’s best laid plans. We need that sense of expectation out of one another, we need a higher standard that has nothing to do with personal comfort levels.

    We’re living in post modern age now where everything seems designed to simply extinguish our flame with the constant static of everyday worry and fear. And it makes me angry that we can at times be such easy prey where we nullify our own God given authority willingly for some false sense of security. I dont know how much help our group can provide for these two but we will keep on it. What I do know – is that these two throwaway people have actually become a gift of focus for our small group – a point of return for us to share so that we never lose sight of the fact that the vision God wants to bestow upon his people really needs to be pro actively reached for, because vision requires commitment, which in turn requires risk.

    May none of us ever find ourselves standing at the throne of God and discover that we left our sword at home in our golf bag or out in the garage. I just couldent take that.

    Steve Urenda

    • i am simply amazed at this story, and would like to know more, my heart cries out for people in the same situation. I myself have been forced to live like that at different times of my life; albeit at the fault of my own bad choices, non the less , i have sincere empithy for anyone thats stuck in this situation, and therefore want to reach out in hopes of helping someone “Save there life” …..Well to help “Jesus” save them…..if you know what i meam!!!! I think i would like to take this one step further and really get people like this the help they need. My name is Roger Pierce, and my email is Roge142@aol.com , # 734-695-1870.
      Please contact me if your willing, thank you and May Jesus bless your Every step. In Christs love, Roger.

  16. Steve,

    Thank you for the info, I feel the same as you! Very nicely put! You Rock!

    Love, Big E

  17. I wanted to say that I’m so proud of our Group, which as Steve put it a bunch of misfits, we truly love and cherish each other and can’t wait till the next meeting!
    We attend church and do take up the first 3 rows, which it so awesome! It’s getting bigger all the time…I’m proud to be a part of that and a part of that change we so desperately seek and that we are working towards….We often kid with one another that every time Rocky, Dave, or James says just take a few minutes and go and greet and say good morning to someone, we all look at each other and go…..Oh Here We go again…..LOL and then we scatter……..I’m sure it looks amazing from up on stage…….LOL :o)

    I feel so blessed to be a part of this group and Connection Church! I think our Group is making a difference and it shows on each and everyone of us and we can only do that by taking one step at a time.

    We are driven by the divine and to become one with and God like. I pray everyday for all of us to know God better, to work with and through God. I pray for strength and compassion, I pray for honesty and for encouragement. I pray for forgiveness and for peace, I pray for everyone for their needs to be met and for them to be caring and giving souls to want to make a difference and to never stop believing in what they know is real and true. I pray for guidence, and patients, I pray for understanding……..I know this group and love them with my whole heart and they know it! I’m so glad that Steve and Laura decided to stick with it…..and they are so encouraging and giving of themselves to help the rest of us seek his (God’s)Grace..for that I am truly Thankful…….

    As for our friends in the woods, I’m beside myself to learn that one of our dudes has been there since he was 15 or 16 years old, and now is 21….This breaks my heart to think that he’s been out there for all this time, but he is a survivor (God must have some special plans for this young man)…….I think what our group did for these two guys was totally going out of their comfort zone…..we had no idea who they were and we thought maybe just one guy, but found out that there were two…….plus I just found out tonight that they have kind of adopted a kitten that they found out there…well it’s a good thing that three of us do own cats, and can supply that furry little thing with some food too…. I’m such a sucker for animals…..they are God’s creatures too….The point I’m trying to make is we are all God’s creatures and we all have a purpose.
    We all have to experience life lessons, that’s God’s plan for us, he’s in control, people need to trust in God and like James said at service on Sunday TRUST IN GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART. PERIOD!

    I love you all and God Bless,
    Michelly~ XOXO

  18. […] Posts iconnect: Live Like You Were Dying Small GroupsECL: Experience Connection Lunchiconnect: Small Groups @ Connection ChurchLive Like You Were Dying: […]

  19. wow! all I can say!

  20. Hi George! Is this guitar player George?? Well thanx for stoppin by and please pop in anytime! It’s fun hearing from folks outside the group.

    Great post Michelly. I think we have all been impacted by this the same way. Teri was just telling me on the phone how much her warm bed and hot meals mean to her…How blessed we really are, and I’ve been feeling the same way. And I know you have a mothers heart for that boy who’s been out there for so long as I could feel your heart breaking for him right thru the phone. I cant wait to find out his story! But ya know, God is so good!! I believe he hand picked our lil group and that its no accident that we stumbled upon these guys and I believe God is directing us in some ways that I’m just stoked to be a part of. I’m excited about our lesson plan…We’re gonna dig into some great topics at group. And I’m excited to hear how everyone is getting passionate about reaching out to others in their own circles in an effort to plant seeds and advance the kingdom! Thats what its all about baybee!! And I just thank God so much for CONNECTION CHURCH. In fact, there’s another blog thats been started about how we ended up there so I’m gonna jam on over to that blog and run my mouth (or fingers as it were) there for a while!
    Love you guys!!

  21. Oh and one thing I wanna be clear about…
    I think our whole group understands that what we’re trying to do for our guys in the woods is kinda small potatoes compared to what Steve Darr is doing on a much grander scale. Me and Mary had the pleasure of seeing what an organized, precious ministry Steve’s got going there in an effort to meet the never ending needs of people in general especially during these times thru the OPEN DOOR ministry! We appreciate that Dan and Ginny are commited to that ministry every Thursday, and hopefully our group will be able to rotate thru there as well. I thought that people just show up, get food and split. But no! They receive individual attention, prayer, and council and job lists are available and upon completing that part of the process, they pull up to the warehouse door where food is loaded for them, etc. Me and Mary worked on a mongo mound of lettuce (well actually we decided it was either swiss chard or kale…We may never know.) But it was great to meet new people and folks were smokin and jokin and working hard! Pretty cool man. Not everyone working was from the church. I dunno, I just found the whole thing pretty interesting. So God bless Steve Darr…What a labor of love!

    • Sorry to interfere in the discussion. I need to contact Carla Darr about her 25K time at Birch Bay. Can anyone help me contact either Carla or Steve?

  22. yes Laura its me George the guitar player. Also the Jr. High director…..you guys really really get what Christ is all about! Your group is amazing and I love hearing God working in all of you I am absolutely blown away!..and I will keep you guys in my prayer…if there is anything I can do please let me know!

  23. Can you all feel the Love on this blog. I think we should get a Connection Church Group Hug going!

    Big Love, E

  24. HEY GEORGE…. You can do something
    JOIN US !!!!!!!!!!! Thanks for the love…..Dan

  25. I would love to hangout with you all ,you guys are so neat!

  26. Right on George…Thanx for the props!…And for the sincere offer of support. It means a lot!! We appreciate you too ya know…The passionate worship and workin with those kids! All the different gifts in the body working together….We’ll be talking about that in our group soon in fact! lol
    Thanx again George!!

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