Bianca Olthoff led honest and passionate worship, shared encouragement from the Bible and inspired a diverse group of women at PC3 Women’s Fall Event. Through the use of humor and authenticity, Bianca shared a raw account of her own faith story that involved overcoming legalism and the crippling pursuit of perfection. Bianca has a way of sharing stories that had us all laughing while at the same time tugging at our heartstrings. It was very easy to connect with the rawness of her struggles. The pressure to perform and keep up with appearances was where many found themselves currently living. Her story was similar to their own.
A time of renewal, refueling, and recommitment took place during these two days. Even though she touched upon familiar passages of Scripture, Bianca taught in a such a way that helped us see God’s truth with fresh eyes. Freedom was experienced when women realized they didn’t have to strive to be perfect because they were already seen by Christ as God’s chosen and beautiful daughters. She challenged the crowd to trust in their identity as well as step into the abundant life God promised them.
Bianca challenged us to reflect on how God was moving in our life and displaying His faithfulness in our own story. A big part of Bianca’s story involved her relationship with her mother Millie, who joined her on stage on Friday evening where they led a session together. In an amazing story of faith, Bianca described her childhood in East Los Angeles and how important faith was as they struggled in poverty. She also spoke about her faith being tested when her mother was diagnosed with cancer while she was in college. As she lay on the rug of her college dorm sobbing, she began to question her childhood faith as well as God’s goodness.
It was through these trials that Bianca encountered God like never before. Looking back now, both Millie and Bianca realize that this was a refining experience. He had to take them through the fire, and trials of life, for them to see God was working the entire time. Bianca led a powerful prayer session which had many in heartfelt tears. In worship, we were led to the cross to lay our burden down for Christ’s help and healing.
Unifying around this message happened not only in thought but also in some very practical ways. When the first session started Polly Clawson (Women’s Small Group Coordinator for the PC3 Wilmington Campus) introduced Rebeca Carpenter, who was serving as a Spanish translator. Polly explained there were earphones available for those who wanted to hear the message in Spanish. This purposeful inclusion of all was so powerful. In our very broken and troubled world Bianca advised us the most impactful thing that we can all do toward healing is to sit across the table from someone different than us. She encouraged each one of us to be part of the revival that our nation needs. Including different churches, different denominations, and various ages, bilingual accommodations- all demonstrated how to be a neighbor to all and make everyone feel valued.
Bianca stressed that as believers, women of the church we are to share a word of wisdom or a word of knowledge that God gives us with who it was intended for. She reinvigorated so many, including me. I left feeling hopeful for my own future, and in sharing the word, Bianca left me ready to answer her call for action in the church.Story Written By: Megan Crowe
In 2009, when her youngest daughter Sarah invited her to PC3, Mary resisted and protested. Not only was it drastically different in style compared to her Catholic upbringing, she was clinging to a deep seeded anger towards God. Her marriage of twenty-six years had ended in divorce. As she looked back at her life, Mary saw betrayal, emotional pain and physical pain. All of this hurt made her question God’s goodness.
But, Sarah’s excitement lead Mary to accept the invitation to attend. From the moment she walked in the doors of PC3, Mary experienced something different than she expected – warmth and love.
“I felt something I hadn’t in a very long time during that first service. It felt like coming home, a rush of warmth came over me and I slowly let my guard down,” Mary says.
Mary continued to attend PC3 and over the years participated in Starting Point and home group environments. She even jumped in to serving on the Host Team and Guest Services on alternate Sundays. For Mary, these steps helped her feel connected and supported.
“Even though PC3 has grown over the years, it’s always felt like where I belong. Yes, it’s huge and it’s easy to feel like just a face in the crowd, but if you are willing to connect, it can feel like home,” Mary says.
The sense of support, especially coming from her home group and some deeply caring PC3 staff members, has enabled Mary to process her faith in a safe and loving environment. Each year she’s picked a word to focus her attention and heart on. With a smile, she lets me know that patience has made the list twice. As she recounts her history of words (patience, release, patience, balance, focus, seek, encourage, wisdom), Mary is able to explain the purpose behind each one and how God used it to shape and form her.
“One year when my small group was picking our words, I wasn’t in a good place and a lot of jealousy, envy and bitterness still had its hold on me. My small group leader pointed out very graciously that my heart was out of balance. This stuck with me and lead me to pick balance,” Mary says. “My faith journey and growth is often two steps forward and one step back. I get distracted very easily and I look back to the past way more than I should. I often have to learn things the hard way.”
When Mary picked the word humility for 2017, she had no clue that once again she was going to have to learn things the hard way. She found out that her job was being phased out after eighteen years as a technology employee in the New Hanover County school system.
Even though Mary transferred to another position, a teaching assistant at Blair Elementary, adjusting to life inside the classroom has been a humbling experience. But, it wasn’t until late August when her mother broke her back and was diagnosed with dementia just after moving from Wilmington to a senior community in Raleigh that Mary felt truly humbled and stretched way too thin.
After a trip to visit her mom, Mary read Bianca Olthoff’s book, Play With Fire. She deeply connected with Bianca’s experiences and struggles. What caught Mary completely off-guard were the painful memories that began to resurface and the tears that started to flow.
“I wasn’t expecting it to open wounds I thought I had reconciled and put away a long time ago. The reality that I’ve spent a good portion of my life trying to do everything all by myself hit me square in face,” Mary says. “Yet, in a weird way, this book was a blessing. It opened my eyes to how I put the world on my shoulders while God waits patiently for me to hand it over to Him. It’s a humbling lesson to learn, but it’s an important one,”
These realizations have helped reframe the way Mary approaches the circumstances she faces. Not only is she extending more grace to her mom and those caring for her, Mary is extending grace to herself. It’s not always easy or perfect, but momentum and progress comes even in those times when she moves two steps forward and one step back.
Mary’s story speaks to the freedom that comes when we give our burdens over to God. We invite you to join Mary and hundreds of other ladies on Friday, October 27th (7pm – 8:30pm) and Saturday, October 28th (9am – 12:15pm) at our Wilmington campus for PC3’s Fall Women’s Conference with Bianca Olthoff. To register or get more information, please visit portcitychurch.org/women.
My parents divorced when I was two-years-old, and this created a deep hole of insecurity, which I attempted to fill with unhealthy behaviors throughout middle school, high school and college. Although I grew up in church and was baptized when I was fourteen, it wasn’t until I got to college that I started pursuing Jesus in a more relational way.
After going through a bad break-up, I was invited to join a Christian organization on campus and started attending student-led worship. Even though I knew Jesus, I was still trying to please Him from the outside in. I would cycle from trying to have a relationship with Jesus to having feelings of deep guilt and inadequacy when I did not live up to the standard I had created in my head – all because I was trying to serve Jesus out of my own strength. During college, I traveled abroad on mission trips to Senegal and Peru. Ironically, although I was going on mission trips to share the peace and love of Jesus with others, I found that both experiences taught me much more than I was able to give.
After college, I found myself once again in a relationship that was very toxic. I struggled desperately with trying to save it, but meanwhile, I was the one needing to be rescued. This relationship brought me to Wilmington and introduced me to a counseling ministry. It was there, on July 13, 2005, that I had an encounter with Jesus that started the process of healing my deep wounds. I began allowing the Holy Spirit to transform my mind and heart, changing me from the inside out, and I felt peace and trust for the first time in my life.
Since then, I have been walking closely with Jesus, needing Him daily and learning how to use the power of the Holy Spirit to walk through life. These years, however, have not always been easy. I was single for eleven years, and Jesus taught me to lean on and trust in Him during that time. In 2011-2012, I was faced with three experiences that led me deeper into my dependence on Jesus. First, I was diagnosed with Acute Stress Disorder following an encounter with tornadoes while driving; then, I contracted Dengue Fever on a mission trip; and finally, I had to have major abdominal surgery due to a large tumor. Through all of those experiences I had to lean on the truths found in Romans 8:28 that “God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
Although these experiences may appear to be negative, looking back, I am so grateful for them. Not only did they create in me a deeper dependence on Jesus, but they also created in me a deeper humility – and this humility is what led to the restoration of previously lost relationships. The Bible talks about restoring, and although I had forgiven past offences many years ago, these events led to complete reconciliations. Through the years, I have learned that the more experiences you have that cause you to trust in Jesus, the more you are willing to surrender and submit.
The Lord has led me all over the world, from Vietnam to Europe to serving on mission trips to the Philippines. After many years of being single – and after finally accepting the fact that I was single – the Lord gave me the wonderful gift of marriage to an awesome, spirit-filled, healthy man. While the first year of marriage was fulfilling in many respects, we struggled with having a baby. Having children was something that I had desired my whole life, and when it didn’t happen easily, I struggled emotionally. I constantly had to remind myself to stay focused on Jesus and not on the circumstances.
Being that I was older, we had access to testing earlier, and when we learned that there were some infertility issues, we were referred to an infertility specialist. While in the early stages of working with the specialist, we found out that we were pregnant with triplets. During this pregnancy, I have been reminded how the Lord has walked with me every step of the way, not only now, but throughout the years leading up to it. True to His character, every detail is falling into place.
All of these encounters with Jesus have created such a deep sense of love and gratitude and grounding that have led me to have a deep passion to help women find freedom in Jesus, the only one who can satisfy all of our longings and desires.
Kelly’s story speaks to the God’s faithfulness and how He never leaves our side no matter what circumstance we might face. We invite you to join Kelly and hundreds of other ladies on Friday, October 27th (7pm – 8:30pm) and Saturday, October 28th (9am – 12:15pm) at our Wilmington campus for PC3’s Fall Women’s Conference with Bianca Olthoff. To register or get more information, please visit portcitychurch.org/women.
Growing up I had a pretty easy go of things. I was born in Atlanta into a family with 2 wonderful parents who loved each other deeply, and I eventually became the middle child of 2 sisters. Soon after my little sister was born, we moved to Charlotte. My dad’s parents invited us to go to church with them and within less than a year we attended, joined, and were baptized at my grandparent’s church. From then on that church became very much like our second home. My mom started working as a preschool teacher there, my dad was on the Board of Trustees, and my sisters and I were heavily involved in the children’s ministries. As much as I can remember, going to church was a large portion of our daily lives.
Many years later though, around the age of 7, my dad realized his need for help in dealing with a serious alcohol addiction. He spent the month of August 2000 in treatment and ever since has been sober. Even though I don’t remember much around this time, this event by in large completely changed the trajectory of the lives of every member of my family. A few years after my dad got sober, he answered the Lord’s call on his life to go into full-time ministry as an elder in the United Methodist Church. I very vividly remember sitting at the breakfast table talking with my dad before school about how he was going to be changing jobs. Little did I know how much this would end up impacting my life.
In the years to follow I quite literally could say I lived at the church. My mom had started as the Preschool and Afterschool Director at the church, my dad soon after came on staff as an Associate Pastor, and while I was heavily involved in the youth ministries I was also volunteering in many other areas of the church.
Between my middle school and high school years, if I wasn’t at school or playing sports, I was at the church. While I know many people would say this was a good thing, living life as the preacher’s kid or “PK” can have its negative impacts as well. The older I got the more I resented how much my parents and family, every staff member, every church member, literally everyone was involved in the personal parts of my life.
Unfortunately, this resentment led me down a destructive path. By my sophomore year of high school, I was cheerleading for our varsity squad at school, and desperately wanted to be accepted as someone other than the “preachers kid.” In October of that year, I started to get involved with a guy who was friends with a lot of the cool people at my school because I desperately wanted to be liked and accepted.
Through my growing relationship with this guy, he eventually took advantage of and raped me. While the event itself was terrifyingly awful, the worst part of it came afterward. Everyone finding out, shaming me, calling me names, and practically disowning or disassociating with me. That was the worst. As a 15-year-old girl, I was so afraid of what would happen if I told people the truth about what really happened that day, that I just decided it was best to keep it to myself.
Bottling up and holding onto something this painful sadly had many negative side effects. Over the next few years, I continued hanging out with the wrong crowd, drinking heavily, and was ruled by sins of sexual impurities. My college years only got worse as I was set free to be an adult. I continued making many poor decisions that filled my life with darkness.
My junior year of college I was invited to Port City Community Church. I attended for many weeks on my own, started coming to Overflow alone, but was slowly starting to see how good this church could be for me. Then through a series of events so clearly planned by the Lord, I met my best friend Regan. She was leading an Overflow Community group with another one of my good friends on Tuesday nights.
The day I attended that group was the day that changed my life. I was immediately surrounded by a community of people that deeply loved God, deeply loved students, and deeply loved me regardless of my past. I experienced God’s presence so greatly that summer as I learned more and more about His character, His Word, and just how much He wanted to be in a relationship with me. I began serving in Treasure Island, joined the Overflow Host Team, joined a small group, and took The Leadership Journey class. Over the past 2 years I have continued seeking and growing as I dive deeper and deeper into finding out who God is and what he has in-store for me and for my life.
Now I have to be honest, the past few years have not been all rainbows and butterflies. It has truly been a struggle to get to where I am. But as I look behind me at everything I have experienced, I am able to see how God has taken my brokenness, and piece by piece put me back together in a way that lets His light shine through so much brighter. I still have struggles; I still have hard days. But I now know that I have a Father to comfort me and give me strength, a community of friends to keep me accountable and push me to grow, and a story to share to help others grow in their walk with God.
Denise’s story speaks to what the enemy intended for harm the Lord can use for His good and His glory. We invite you to join Denise and hundreds of other ladies on Saturday, October 29th (9am – 12:30pm) at our Wilmington campus for PC3’s Fall Women’s Conference with. To register or get more information, please visit portcitychurch.org/women.
Throughout the New Testament, we are urged to consider how we engage with others inside of community. Love, compassion, patience and forgiveness should define our relationships. Jesus, as well as authors like the Apostle Paul, gave numerous commands on how we should treat one another. These verses are often referred to as the ONE ANOTHER passages of the Bible. ONE ANOTHER instructions are used 100 times in 94 different New Testament verses.
Some of them might be very familiar to you:
A new command I give you: Love ONE ANOTHER. As I have loved you, so you must love ONE ANOTHER. John 13:34
Be devoted to ONE ANOTHER in love. Honor ONE ANOTHER above yourselves. Romans 12:10
Bear ONE ANOTHER’S burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2
Therefore encourage ONE ANOTHER and build ONE ANOTHER up, just as in fact you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11
Today we want to share Kendall Newton’s story and how living out these ONE ANOTHER commands have shaped her encounter with God as well as her experience in small groups.
Before finding Port City Community Church, I had deep scars from past friendships where trust had been broken. Hurtful things had happened to me. I was lost and kind of wandering, trying to fill the void that I felt, but nothing worked.
I was newly recovering from anorexia, which had been my idol for so long that it felt like I was relearning how to live without it as my constant guide. Even as my mind and my body grew healthy again, I still struggled with feeling insignificant and empty a lot of the time. I was led by my emotions and often driven by the lies in my head.
Through my encounter with PC3, I discovered a relationship with Jesus, which radically changed my life from that point forward. I remember getting baptized and just sobbing uncontrollably because I truly felt so washed clean and made anew. It changed me from the inside out and filled that craving in my heart to connect with our Creator.
The gift of small group filled the part of me that needed a tangible connection here on earth, of the Lord and His blessings of encouragement, love and compassion for me. Living life in the midst of a small group commnunity brings daily moments of building one another up and spurring one another on.
Over the past 14 years I’ve been in, and led several women’s and couple’s groups. They all have been good and different in their own way. We were all there to learn more about the Bible and grow in our relationship with the Lord.
Yet, the greatest byproduct of being in community is not just learning, it’s doing.
It’s putting the love of Jesus into action and walking with someone through life. It’s digging in and having the difficult conversations that make things super awkward at times, but end up better on the other end. It’s laughing together over goofy things and crying together when life is hard. It’s praying together and calling out to God when the words won’t come. It’s pointing each other back to the Lord when we are angry, hurt or just distracted. Being known inside of community is life changing and so incredibly life-giving.
“One anothering” is pretty much the heart of small group. It’s the heart of a friendship where Jesus is at the center. It’s doing life together – every day in the little and the big moments. It’s praying together, encouraging, taking the time to listen, to share, to be authentic, to grow and to pour into another person with time, compassion and care.
In a broad sense my whole life is “one anothering” and being “one anothered.”
Kendall’s story speaks to how your life can be transformed if you are willing to engage in the process of being known inside of community. Jesus longs for us to engage with Him and others. We invite you to join Kendall and hundreds of other ladies on Saturday, October 29th (9am – 12:30pm) at our Wilmington campus for PC3’s Fall Women’s Conference with. To register or get more information, please visit portcitychurch.org/women.