On Ramps Turns 4 Years Old!
On Ramps Covenant Church 4th birthday celebration
at Dickey Park on Saturday, August 22, 2015
After over four years of work and weeks of party planning, On Ramps’ 4th birthday celebration started with worship songs, lifting voices to God, singing:
Our God is Greater
Let it Rise
One Thing Remains
I Love You, Lord / We Exalt Thee
As part of the worship, a list of On Ramps’ accomplishments over the last four years was read:
51 have been baptized
61 have made Jesus their Savior
47 have recommitted their lives to Jesus
19+ children have been dedicated to the Lord by their parents and families
7 have been commissioned to overseas missionary work
26+ leaders developed
4770+ fed and clothed
6 ministers received Bi-Vocational Ministry Licenses
2 social enterprises started - Say Hello and Valley Edible Landscapes
Vision 22 launched
During a break in worship, Jesse Paz shared just a little of his story and gratitude to the On Ramps’ community. Years earlier, Jesse said he was doing a lot of drugs and his brother kept bothering him about church. He didn’t want anything to do with church, but he agreed to help rebuild the baseball diamond at Dickey’s Park with a bunch of people from On Ramps. Not long after that, he was locked up and only got out a few months before this day.
“Now I’m here!” he said. “I’m involved, living among community. It’s my turn to give back.”
He realized how others had done so much for his neighborhood. He’s realized that we all have a story. He wants to follow Jesus into every hood - “They all have a story, too.”
The celebration continued with the song, “Let it Rise.” Dancers and flag wavers joined the worship team and led the crowd to move and sing and give it ll up to God.
As the song closed, Rici Skei told everybody about how a group of prayer warriors found some coins and a pearl on the basketball court the morning of the celebration.
“There is value here!” she shouted. “This is no longer the Devil’s Triangle!”
People continued to fill the canopy set up to protect people from the Valley sun. About 60 people were gathered beneath it and around it at 6:20 during worship. By 7:00 pm, over 150 people had filled the park with singing, dancing and shouting.
Following worship, Phil Skei began to preach to the growing crowd. He lead with a reading of John 1:14 from The Message translation.
The Word became flesh and blood,
and moved into the neighborhood.
We saw the glory with our own eyes,
the one-of-a-kind glory,
like Father, like Son,
Generous inside and out,
true from start to finish.
God moved into our neighborhood. The world is tearing itself apart. Each of us contribute with our own personal destruction, which is part of the world’s destruction.
“We know we’re broken,” he preached. “There are no unbroken people.”
Phil quickly recalled Jesus’ words, “Apart from me, you can do nothing!”
Jesus is our lifeline. God fills us up and we overflow. But for that to happen, we must remain connected to the true vine, Jesus Christ. On Ramps has grown because they allow God to fill them up and they allow that to overflow into the Lowell Neighborhood in all kinds of ways.
Phil shared a story about a song that Rici and their girls made up one day. One of the girls noticed how broken crayons still color, but the dried up markers don’t. So, why not write a song about it!? That’s exactly what they did and Phil did his best to try to sing it.
The lyrics go like this:
Broken crayons still color,
Dried up markers don’t work…
Again, he reiterated, “We are all broken! Hard pressed, but not crushed! If we stay connected, we still color.”
The beauty of On Ramps has been that all of our broken colors (White, Hispanic, Black, Mixed race) are coloring all over Fresno and leaving a great mark. People are noticing. They are paying attention.
It’s a mustard seed movement, starting small and spreading. It has already spread to 7 impoverished neighborhoods in Fresno out of the 22 neighborhoods that are included in Vision 22. These are the most impoverished communities in Fresno.
Phil led people to gather in small circles and pray for each other. The 150+ separated then gathered together in prayer circles. There were tears and shouts of praise. And there were four people who gave their lives to Jesus. So, that makes 65 in four years.
After wrapping up the prayer circles and praying all together, helium balloons were passed around. Everyone was invited to write further hopes and dreams for the Lowell Community on those balloons. The balloons were then released to the winds.
To close the celebration, people lined up to grab food and spread out to spend more time together. While people ate the worship team sang several high-energy, gospel-oriented songs. Then, the dance party broke out. A good-sized crowd joined in some group dancing before individual dance battles and a whole lot of laughs continued through sunset.
It was a colorful close, and the On Ramps community took to social media to share photos, videos and memes from the event. Just as the previous four years of work has spread, the sights and sounds and movements and memorable moments were shared with the broader community of Fresno and beyond.