Live the Life: The Action Team in Portland By Ann Davis

Six young men, accompanied by team leader Nick Holovaty and Mike Wacker, arrived July 4 and settled in for a stay at the brotherhood house in Portland. They came to attend a study program organized by Joel Kibler, Head of the Brotherhood, and also to do reconnaissance and Action-based service.

Nick transferred to Notre Dame his junior year, became involved in the campus fellowship of the South Bend branch, and came underway in February, 2002. He graduated last May and is now working for the community’s Christian Life Movement program office. Mike grew up in Servant Branch and came underway there. He also graduated from Notre Dame in May and is teaching at Trinity school at River Ridge.

The Action team members came from various location. Mike Coney grew up in the New Orleans Branch and is now a senior at Jesuit High School. He laughed and said that he came on the team “because my dad wanted me to,” but he admitted that he himself wanted to as well. He served on the Action team that went to Allendale last summer. This year Brian Couch is a high-school senior transferring to Trinity School at Greenlawn from his high school in Tulsa, OK. His parents, members of the South Bend Branch, had been living on assignment there. He sought a place on the Action team at the urging of Sean Conolly, and also because he “wanted to do something good fro the kingdom of God.” “Everybody here” is looking to do something for somebody else.”

Mike Grill went to Grenada in 2002 with the Action team. He came underay last February and is now a high school senior. He joked a lot and, when asked how he came to be on the team , he quipped, “They picked the best men for the job!” (I do believe they did.)

Abe Olson graduated in June from Trinity School at River Ridge and is now attending the University of Portland. He said he was “drawn to the Action team by the fact that it seeks to build the kingdom of God.”

Ed Preuss is a senior at Trinity School at Greenlawn. He was on the Action team in Jamaica last year. He reports three reasons for being part of the team this year: He wanted to be part of the study program, he wanted to be in the company of great guys, and he wanted to straighten out Mike Wacker (who, he said, is coming along nicely!)

James Zwernemen is now a freshman at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD, and is underway in the South Bend branch. He was on the team that went to Grenada last year, and had especially wanted to return to that country because his family had lived there for six years. He was eight years old when they moved back to the United States. He told of people coming to Grenada to do ministry, but noted there was little long-lasting effect. Only when they lived among the Grenadians and shared life with them (as his own family had done) were there long-term effects.

Some of the team went on reconnaissance outings in various parts of Portland while others worked alongside men in the early stages of recovery from drug and alcohol addiction at Blanchet Farm outside Portland, a program run by community member Bill Muir. Team members were able to strike up good conversations about God with these men in recovery, and they seemed encouraged by their ability to witness and encourage others.

When asked about the purpose of the Action teams visit, Nick explained, “We’re here for two main goals, reconnaissance and study, even though we are also working at the farm. We aren’t trying to create a service project, but rather to live our life with those who are in need.” Mike added “we’re deliberately trying to avoid typical service project work.”

The young men all talked with animation and intensity about “living the life and bringing others into the kingdom of God.” Mike noted that what is needed to tell others about the kingdom of God are “captivating stories that preach the gospel” in new ways that others can hear.

They agreed that the study program had moved them toward a new awareness of the kingdom of God. Abe reported numerous good discussions about what is going on with respect to God, the kingdom of God, and a persons willingness to do anything on behalf of the Lord. Brian appreciated the opportunities to talk about the People of Praise, and all the young men said they had questions about the community that were being answered.

in addition to reconnaissance and the study program, the team went on numerous hikes and outings and spent a day at the Oregon coast. Fred and Jeannie Dang, John and Joan Milano, Mike and Kathy Freeman and my husband Tom and I hosted them for several dinners and Lord’s day openings. The mission branch members used these dinners as opportunities to talk about the local area and what they saw as the needs of the area residents, what is happening that is good and what is happening that is bad. The goal was to talk about how the life of the People of Praise could be made more available to those in need in our area.

They attended a picnic with our mission branch on July 20, a few days before their stay ended and they flew out of Portland to return to their various homes. These are young men with vision, determination, and faith, intent on doing the will of God. The Northwest will benefit form their reconnaissance work in ways we cannot now imagine.

  • Ann Davis “Live the Life: The Action Team in Portland” People of Praise Vine and Branches, used with permission.