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
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:27
God is sovereign. God is gracious. His mercies endure forever. He is faithful.
These are all beautiful truths about God, and if we are Christ followers, we have all heard and experienced these truths in life.
Even still, I don’t know that I have ever gone through so many emotions and experienced all of those truths in one week. I’m talking about motion sickness from a five-hour bus ride through mountains to exhaustion from traveling 11 hours in one day….to crying then laughing then laughing while I’m crying….to feeling stripped of all the familiar to being so happy and feeling so blessed to being nervous for the first day of projects….to being homesick then head-cold-sick then feeling at home….to being humbled to being in love with the city of Chichi to feeling heartbroken to leave it.
The October Guatemala team served the people of Chichicastenango as the “Manos de Jesus” for one week. (Manos de Jesus is the name used in Guatemala for Pray America, the organization Port City Community Church partners within Guatemala.) For one week, my team experienced God’s sovereignty, His grace, His enduring mercies, His faithfulness. This is our story.
Going into this mission, our team met monthly for several months to get to know one another better and to prep for the mission as a whole. It was crushing to see how the enemy was trying to weasel his way into each of our lives and make us doubt the great plans God had for us. From terminal sickness in families to financial troubles to personal health concerns, the devil truly was trying his best to attack and stop any one of us he could. But praise God — He is stronger and more capable than the enemy!
A few of us had concerns about being able to raise enough money to be fully funded. I remember sitting in my coworker’s office, telling her I need to raise all my money in three months and even she was nervous for me. I started posting to social media and little by little, money started coming in, but nowhere near what I needed to feel comfortable. Still, He is sovereign. I prayed through it. Fast forward to two days before we left and I got an email with my up-to-date funding statement: I was fully funded! In fact, I was $200 over what I needed. I remembered someone else on the team was having a hard time raising money, and I wanted the $200 to go to her. He is faithful. She needed exactly $200 at that time to be fully funded! And I could not stop thanking Jesus.
I’ll be the first to admit, I was terrified to fly. I prayed leading up to the day that God would just take the fear because I knew how irrational I was being. And I thank God that He came through with mercy in placing me next to the best plane buddy, Alex, who is also on our team. She is the sweetest person and I’m so grateful for her hand because I was holding it during every takeoff and landing.
But being in the clouds, as the sun was rising that Saturday morning, I felt compelled to take out my journal and write what I was feeling:
“I’m sitting by the window and looking out just made me feel a wave of wonder. Like, how can one not be in awe of God? Seriously. Especially being up in the clouds like this…God is just so freakin’ AMAZING! And how could we not feel like we owe it all to Him to go out and spread His love when he has equipped us with the means to do so?! I mean, a plane — a big machine that man engineered — to take us across oceans and lands. And a healthy body that is perfectly able to do a mission. When God asks us to do, the only option I truly believe we, as Christians, have is to DO. He will provide all the rest because His faithfulness is true! His love is all-consuming. His grace is so sufficient. His promises are real.”
Two flights, a bus ride, and 11 hours later, we arrived at Pray America’s campus tired, emotional, and excited for the week ahead. Our team quickly turned into a family unit. We were there to support each other. We were there to take care of each other. We were there to work and serve together. We had our first of six family dinners and our first of seven debriefs. Family dinners were a great way to end the day. We all came back together and were able to talk and laugh about the day we had over a meal prepared by a team of wonderful Guatemalan women employed by Pray America. Debriefs were so essential to processing everything we saw God doing throughout the day. But that first night truly was an emotional evening. God was making His presence known and by Monday — our first day of building projects — just about everyone had acclimated to the altitude change and we were SO ready to get out and start loving on the people of Chichi.
On Monday, we split into two groups of seven and each group built four stoves for four different families. That’s a total of eight stoves for eight families! Tuesday we divided up again and each group helped build two bathrooms for a total of four different families! Wednesday we split again, and this day was without a doubt the most special day for me. Wednesday was the build day for houses. Each team built one house for a widow. My team had the honor of building Maria’s home. Maria reminded me so much of my grandma. My grandma passed away on August 24 of this year and it was a very difficult time for me, especially with this mission trip coming up.
During my prayers for this mission trip, God clearly spoke to me and reassured me that my Maw (what we called her) would be with me on this mission trip. But I was so not expecting to see her in a little 74-year old Guatemalan lady who lived with her family on the actual side of a mountain. We learned that Maria has pain in her feet, so with her permission, we laid hands on them and prayed for healing. I cried on that Wednesday. I laughed. I joked. I remembered. On Thursday, I had the honor of returning to the home we built for Maria and washing her feet by Jesus’ example in John 13:1-17. It was one of the most humbling moments of my life, next to putting lotion on my Maw’s feet during her stays in the hospital.
All in all, this mission trip came full circle. Initial fears we had were blown away by the breath of God, and, through the end of the week, God’s sovereignty prevailed. We are all so grateful for having experienced this adventure with Jesus. It was truly so much more than I can put into words for others to read. But I pray this summary provides its readers enough insight to feel even a touch of what the team and I felt during our week in Chichicastenango, Guatemala. The grace of God is real. His sovereignty is unmatchable. His mercy is forever enduring, and He is the most faithful being I have ever encountered, never leaving nor forsaking.
Story Written By Sarah Leitner
Learn more about PC3’s short-term mission opportunities, as well as places to serve locally, by visiting portcitychurch.org/missions.
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.
What I remember most upon first meeting Julia Linton was her smile. This young woman radiates with joy and can light up the room with a simple hello. I’m not the only one who believes this to be true. Julia’s senior class voted her as “Most Likely to Brighten Your Day.” I’ve had the privilege of getting to know Julia over the past few years and admire her in every way.
Julia was born in Kazakhstan and spent the first six and half years of her life in an orphanage. In 2004 she was adopted by a wonderful, loving family whom Julia says, “…taught me about God’s love for me.” Julia and her family moved here from Michigan in 2010 and joined Port City Community Church, where Julia became active in the student ministry. Later that same year, she attended Fuse, a camp for our student ministry, and decided to give her life to Christ. Julia states, “The experience changed my life.” A couple of weeks later, she was baptized.
There is more to Julia than her beautiful smile. She has a huge heart and a desire to serve others. Before her big move to start college, Julia volunteered as a Small Group Leader in Treasure Island. When I ask her what she loved most about serving in Treasure Island, she responds, “I loved working with the kids and teaching them about Jesus.”
Over the summer, Julia worked as a camp leader at Wilmington Christian Academy where, as a parent of a child attending, I got to witness her interaction with the children. She’d often peek into classrooms just to say hello, and as she made her way through the halls, little children would come running, arms open wide, waiting for a warm hug. Julia clearly loved her job, but even more, she loved those children.
In sharing the love of Christ, Julia’s devotion goes beyond her own community. In August of this year, her faith took her all the way to Guatemala working with Manos de Jesus/Pray America. Upon her return, she shares, “I’m so thankful that I went to Guatemala […] to serve widows and their children.”
Julia and the Port City Community Church Missions team visited different families each day to help make home improvements like building bathrooms or installing stoves. As they built homes, they were also building relationships. Julia found herself relating to those who shared stories of being orphaned and then finding a home through adoption. As she shared her own story, an unbreakable bond had formed.
Julia closes sharing about her time in Guatemala with a verse from James 1:27: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” She says the verse has impacted her life in a major way. “This verse stuck with me during this trip because it says that God looks after orphans and widows. It reminds me that God was looking after me when I was an orphan, and now He has a different plan for me.”
Julia not only inspires me, but challenges the way I want to live my life. She chooses not to view her past as an obstacle to overcome, but rather a significant part of her story that God is using for His grander purposes. Thank you, Julia, for being a bright light in our community and to the world.
Story Written By: Mandy Hughes
Last year I met Davy Nance through the college ministry, Overflow as he served on the Host team. Davy could always be caught with a smile stretching from ear to ear while welcoming students. He is currently finishing up his Masters in Divinity through Liberty University and is concentrating in pastoral ministries. Even though many unknowns lie ahead of his journey, I have enjoyed seeing him actively following Jesus through his day-to-day work.
Over this year, I’ve witnessed the perspective he has gained while volunteering on the cafe and greeter teams at the PC3 Wilmington campus, serving as a Cafe Captain for Overflow, and learning as an intern under Don Brown at the PC3 Leland campus. Davy shared that these different opportunities, “…open up doors for me to create relationships, serve others, and possibly be the first bit of joy and encouragement they have.”
During his internship with Don Brown, Davy has been able to learn about what it looks like to lead a church campus as well as help other staff members with their work. Davy mentions, “God has been showing me that ministry comes in so many different ways. My initial call to ministry made me have tunnel vision to what being a pastor is. Over the years, and especially diving into this year with Don has allowed my tunnel vision to be destroyed in a great way.”
God continued to open up Davy’s vision as he was hired at the Brigade Boy’s and Girl’s Club where there are more than 2,200 youth being served. As the Preventive Program Instructor, Davy helps teach engaging programs that will proactively prepare the children for challenges they will face in the world. The programs focus on healthy lifestyles including body care, handling peer pressure, and preventive measures against drugs, gangs, and harmful activity.
Davy shares, “In my role at Brigade, God has been showing me how important it is to mirror His patience. The kids are great at doing things that get them into trouble. They get so caught up in what they are feeling, or what they are doing, that they do not consider that what they are doing is wrong.”
What I am inspired most from Davy’s experiences is the heart-centered focus towards the youth. He continues, “They get so caught up in what they are doing, and before they know it they have messed up. I am working towards recognizing that while punishment is effective in teaching the kids I oversee, them seeing I care is going to be the most effective form of teaching and correcting.”
Davy explained that caring for them involves having one-on-one conversations that allows him to enter into the depths of their hearts and discover the root of what’s really causing their behavior. By having conversations with the children in his care, Davy is able to develop a level of trust as they see his efforts to pursue the good in them.
Thank you Davy for sharing your experiences and leaving this encouragement, “God has challenged me throughout the years by helping me recognize that there is no such thing as an insignificant role in God’s Kingdom. From the world’s view, we are good at putting certain roles on scales that tend to make some seem more significant and others insignificant. But the reality of God’s Kingdom is that every role is important and necessary.”
What I learned from learning about Davy’s story is that no matter what role of our job is, the people we are surrounded by, or the hardships we encounter, we can always find joy in knowing that it can all serve to mold ourselves and advance the gospel. (Philippians 1:12)
Story Written By: Casey Pham
Over 300 middle and high school students, along with their small group leaders, spread across the city on March 25th to make a difference during IMPACT 2017 Weekend. Rather than heading to Mayfaire, watching a movie or relaxing on the beach, these students sacrificed their weekend to give back to their community by working with local non-profit organizations.
Students partnered with Meals on Wheels, The Salvation Army, A Bike for Every Child, The Food Bank of Eastern North Carolina, Wilmington Area Rebuilding Ministry, The Miracle League, two nursing homes and two individual home projects. Through serving, the power of God’s love spread to the community and students had the opportunity to make an impact on the lives of others.
On top of serving in the community on Saturday, there were sessions held at Port City over the weekend that helped frame the importance of being part of something bigger than yourself. Friday night, Chris Sasser, PC3’s Pastor of Family Ministries, spoke on the importance of allowing God to write your story.
Saturday evening, students, leaders and parents gathered together to worship and hear a message from Pastor Mike Ashcraft. The heart behind his message was carrying an attitude of service into your family and daily life.
Volunteering in the community paired with these sessions helped create a spark for meaningful conversations to take place. Students explored the importance of impact and how they have the power to influence and serve others. This idea has always been a topic of discussion in student ministries, but was made applicable through Impact 2017 Weekend.
While impacting others in the community, serving also had an impact on the students. 6th grader Maxwell Lewis said, “Serving affected how I see the world and how lucky I am to be able to serve.” For many students, it was their first time giving back to their community. Adam Carr, a 6th grader working at the food bank, said, “We were giving food to others and I had never done anything like that before.”
Maggie Flores and Katie Geschickter visited the Pender Memorial Hospital Nursing Home. Although a small and simple task, they saw a huge impact. Both worked with people and directly saw the effect of the impact they were making. Maggie said, “One lady told us we were such a blessing to her by helping her be happy and it was so awesome! I connected with others through connecting in our small group and with the community.”
By going to the nursing home, Maggie and Katie showed the patients how young students were willing to serve. Katie says, “They don’t get to see that impact very often. We got to see an impact as well by being able to witness how happy people were while serving.”
Lucy Ridd, a 7th grader serving at the food bank said “I really like that we are going out into the community and making a difference. It’s a really cool opportunity for us middle schoolers to do on a weekend.” At the end of the weekend, 30,000 pounds of food was sorted for the food bank.
By serving, students were not only able to make an impact, but were also able to be impacted by the change they were creating in their community.
Story Written By: Maggie Brown
Every year PC3’s student ministry hosts an event called New, a lock-in for high school girls. This lock-in provides girls in 8th to 12th grade the fresh reminder that they are loved fully by God. The peaceful and girly environment creates space to foster high-quality friendships with girls and leaders alike. Each part of the evening is intentionally designed for connection, conversation and bonding for the all-female assembly in attendance.
The main speaker, Marcy Bolick, used humor to provide awareness about how a really difficult life event doesn’t have to define our walk with God; rather it’s more important to focus on the state of our heart and the reasons why we make mistakes in the first place. Marcy’s message engaged the girls toward realizing that they are beautifully created in God’s image. She taught us to remove the sunglasses of insecurity, which we often forget to take off, that prevent us from knowing what a wonderful creation God intended us to be.
In the early night hours the girls rotated by age group through stations; a boutique of hand-me-down clothing, a craft and a speaker. Girls shopped in the boutique of donated items and each girl brought an item to give and went home with a different one. It’s fun for the girls to try on clothing, shoes and accessories that were loved by someone else.
Next, girls spent time making a prayer board with magnets in their own style. We spent time hammering and gluing the pieces together into a masterpiece. For the final station Laura Bullock, an Urban Missionary with Vigilant Hope, shared how their ministry is impacting the less fortunate in Wilmington. She taught the girls the appropriate way to interact with the homeless, how to get involved in the ministry and the realty of homelessness in our own city.
After taking time for relaxing and quiet time, girls gathered in worship once again. Our voices were lifted to God and we had a newly refreshed vision. It was a very powerful environment. The passion in the room was electric. Each girl wrote on a tile what feelings and insecurities she was leaving behind to become a new creation in Christ. Then all the tiles were mosaicked together to make a beautiful masterpiece.
New is always centered on the verse, Psalm 139:14: I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well.
The capstone of the evening is always the dance party around 2AM for everyone to just be silly before settling in for a movie.
Pat Connolley, a student ministry staff member, pours her heart into this event which has been taking place for seven years. The sleepover leaves all the girls exhausted, but spiritually fed and reinvigorated to carry out God’s mission in their schools and lives.
Story Written By: Megan Crowe
PC3 has a special heart for students. With the Wilmington campus located right around the corner from UNCW, a lot of students have become regular attenders. I first began attending PC3 my freshman year of college at UNCW and now here I am, on staff at the church that took me in and made me a part of the family during the course of my college years.
In Grow Zone Wilmington, PC3’s birth through Pre-K ministry, you will find plenty of students serving each Sunday. What a cool opportunity to get plugged into the local church while in college – by pouring into His littlest ones as they take their first steps in learning the basic truths about God’s character. There are four volunteers in GZ who have such a cool story that I want to share. Emily Bailey, Tyler Dangerfield, Madison Lindsey and Becca Workman first became a part of the Grow Zone family the fall of their sophomore years at UNCW. These four girls are college roommates and Overflow attenders who truly love Jesus.
They started out serving with the Overflow crew at Fuse Camp a few summers ago to take the next step of plugging into the community of PC3. Becca said, “I love my roommates so much. We all love the Lord and wanted to get involved. It started with helping at FUSE, the youth camp, two years ago and we just knew we wanted to get involved more. I have a deeper relationship with these three girls because of the passion we all have to serve.”
These girls understand the concept of authentic relationships and pursue intentional friendships with one another based on the picture of unconditional love that Jesus shows us. Tyler said, “After going to PC3 for about a year, us four girls decided we wanted to serve and give back to the church that has been so great to us. We all love kids. With three of us being nursing students, and the other going into pediatric recreational therapy, we thought what better place to serve than Grow Zone!” So they took their next steps to get involved serving more frequently.
The people that Madison met at PC3 had such an impact on her that she wanted to be able to have that impact on someone else. “After being apart of a church that is so invested in volunteering and helping people, I felt the calling to be more involved in the church and went to What’s Next. When shadowing for Grow Zone, it felt like a small family that wanted to get to know me,” Madison said.
College is such an interesting season of life; living away from home for the first time, becoming independent, discovering what you truly believe about God, yourself and your future. The community you surround yourself with in college will have a lasting effect on who you are as a person. For these four roommates, they knew that they wanted to serve Jesus by volunteering at PC3. They decided to jump into serving weekly together in Grow Zone and have served every Sunday ever since. Tyler said, “We love doing things together and are already together 95% of our time, so why not make it another hour together, while serving!”
The girls have taken it a step further and are no longer just involved in one volunteer role. Becca is on the Worship Team in Treasure Island at the Wilmington Campus and is going on the Overflow mission trip to Guatemala in a few weeks; Tyler works one-on-one with a child with special needs through Grow Zone’s Buddy Program; Madison and Emily are involved with Overflow; all four of the girls spend much of their free time investing in PC3 families by babysitting for them and teaching the kids that Jesus loves them!
Since getting involved at PC3, Emily has “learned to invest in the lives of others as that is what builds true fellowship with other believers. Being intentional has been such a conviction and I love being able to see how the Lord works in everyone’s life.” Watching the way Emily interacts with not only her roommates but also the families she invests in through Grow Zone has been such a cool experience and example of how to love others well.
These four students started attending PC3 at the beginning of college because someone invited them. Becca’s sister attended PC3 while she was in school at UNCW and told her about it; Emily’s older friends from high school were already attending PC3 when she moved to Wilmington so they brought her; Becca and Emily invited Tyler and Madison to go to PC3 with them. Now here they are, in their third year at UNCW and their third year attending PC3; the impact of their commitment and service has touched more lives than they probably understand in just three short years.
Tyler said that, “PC3 is one of the biggest reasons my faith has grown so much. From friends, to the services, there is always so much encouragement and knowledge around me.” The story I know of these girls all started with ONE–someone invited these girls to PC3. Now their impact has multiplied greatly. It just takes one person to Be One and make a difference in someone else’s life. These girls are choosing to use their time in college to make an impact for God’s Kingdom through PC3. I am blessed to witness their story.
Nestled uncomfortably in her hardback wooden chair on the second floor of Front Street Brewery, Diana Boso eats her lunch with slow delight. At nearly 36 weeks pregnant, she knows what it’s like to be hungry, tired, and worn out.
Like the women she serves, Boso’s exhaustion comes from a deep place within, but it’s also the same place she finds healing, happiness, contentment, and a source of hope.
There is a huge smile on her face. She knows there is a reason for every ache and pain. She knows she’s been called to be this baby’s mother, and she delights in the knowing of that, pregnant with hope.
She’s the picture of embracing grace.
Boso, who has the support of her husband and children, herself has an unlikely job: to share that vision with others by managing a ministry that supports single, pregnant women in unstable situations. Her ministry is called “Embrace Grace.”
The ministry is new to Wilmington and new to Boso, who finds herself surprised by the amount of work that went into getting off the ground.
“There was so much that went into it,” she says, laughing. “Had I known in the beginning I would have just said no.”
The program, which provides a safe, loving environment for pregnant, single women and enables them to find support and assistance within the church, has helped turn around the lives of the women who went through the first run.
Every week, the women gathered together as a small group to do a study based on a national curriculum designed by Embrace Grace. The study was created to get them thinking about the deeper questions and embrace their unique situation and the grace extended within it.
The group’s first run was a practice one, with nobody showing up. “It was hard. We weren’t sure what God was doing,” says Diana.
She laughs when remembering how the leaders got together, watched the DVD lessons, and prayed, deciding to try again in September.
“At that time we had a pregnant woman moving down to Wilmington who was looking for community. We weren’t sure what God was doing, but we knew she was supposed to be here.”
After she contacted their group, they decided to launch a study. Soon, other girls followed. “We develop relationships with them and just try to be there,” says Diana. Some of the women were choosing to parent. Others intend to give up the baby for adoption.
Throughout the program, participants were provided a meal train, and learned passages of scripture to help them get through their difficult moments. They had advocates to talk to, and a sense of community. Most importantly, they were made aware of the beauty of what they were participating in by being open to life.
The group put together two special events during the semester.
“The baby shower was a huge success,” says Diana with a wide smile. The girls, called “blooms,” made a list on amazon, which local small groups would adopt and pray over. People from all over the country donated to make the baby shower possible.
“Sometimes the baby shower was what got them in the door, but the girls later discovered that they were interested in having a deeper relationship with the Lord,” says Diana.
The second event, Princess Day, was designed to bless the mothers themselves.The event was a surprise. Blooms were told to arrive in street clothes and bring something nice to change into.
They were given a tiara, had their hair and makeup done, and leaders spoke words of encouragement over them. Leaders and blooms enjoyed a special dinner and the blooms went home with goodie bags filled with gifts to pamper themselves with.
“If we’re going to be pro-life, we need to be there for people after the decision to keep the baby is made. It’s hard, within the church, to find a place where there is no judgement. We wanted to be that place,” says Diana.
It’s clear looking at Diana’s animated expression that her first semester leading Embrace Grace has changed her life.
“I have more empathy for someone in that situation,” she says. “The choice to abort comes out of fear. The bottom line is that Jesus loves them no matter what.”
For many blooms, this was the first time really hearing the Gospel.
“It really takes the pressure off if all we have to do is plant mustard seeds,” Diana laughs. “We can do that.”
Story Written By: Barbie O’Dowd // Photos Courtesy of Katie Mathews Photography
Embrace Grace’s next semester is scheduled to begin in March. To learn more about Embrace Grace and how you can get involved, check out their Facebook page, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the hashtag #PROLOVE on social media.