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Devoted: Share Jesus

By Ashley Chapman

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The word “evangelism” used to conjure images of television pastors with boring suits and their wives with even worse hair. Pink walls with lace curtains in the background and a vase of fake flowers on the table to really pull the whole room together. Top it all off with a thick southern accent and that was my perception of spreading God’s word. The other image was rooted in my hometown of Richlands, NC, where I witnessed a few good old-fashioned Southern Baptist revivals.

Neither of those two instances are intrinsically bad. As a matter of fact, I think both practices bring many people to God and have massive positive impact on human lives. They were just not the kind of evangelism that would have appealed to me in my pre-Jesus days. It took a different approach; a new kind of evangelism to set my heart straight.  

The story of how I came to God is a veritable “trail of tears.” I want to relate the parts of the story leading to the first experience Ren and I had with actual, everyday evangelism. The effortless kind where all parts of the conversation lead back to God. Where it is utterly obvious that Jesus has permeated the life of the one sharing His Gospel. It is this lived truth that speaks volumes to a person who might not pick up a Bible; the evidence of God in someone else’s life and the outpouring of Christian generosity that follows. Ren and I planned a free-diving course in Long Island, Bahamas. That’s when things got a little weird.

Only two people signed up for this course, which in itself is a little unusual. The two people were Joe Penovich and his daughter, Allie. I remember Joe making a few comments about God to Father Doug, the local priest Ren and I had befriended despite our lackluster faith. Because of this friendship we were hosting the course in an old Bahamian church. I passed Joe’s comments off as him trying to appeal to Father Doug. I thought he was feeding Father Doug what he wanted to hear. My skepticism in the face of Joe’s truthfulness would later become a source of shame. At lunch that day Joe asked if we minded him saying a blessing. Of course we all said no. (Does anyone ever really say “yes” to that?) but his question served another purpose. It opened the door for me to bring up my fledgling faith experiment. So I mentioned to Joe that the next dive day was a Sunday. Would he mind if we delayed the dive until after church? He didn’t mind, neither did Allie. Then I went out on a limb: I asked if they wanted to join me ( trust me, this was a bold proposition for me at the time). They agreed.

We met up for church the next day and ended up in Joe and Allie’s room after service. The entire way over to their room Joe drilled me with questions about my faith, church, prayer, etc. Questions I did not have clear answers to. I confessed that this was new to me and that by praying at lunch he gave me the courage to speak up about church. We held hands and prayed. Joe is a spontaneous prayer. He does it all the time, with or without company, in front of anyone (and everyone) and over everything. He could walk into a room of Bill Mahers and make friends. Maybe even convert a few. You can’t help but be drawn into his light. He is the kind of Christian I knew I wanted to be and am still trying to be. He encompasses what it really means to be Christian, to evangelize without thinking about it because it has become who you are.

Finally he asked the hard question, “What about Ren? What does he think of all this?” I started to cry (again). He told me he had a feeling that was the case. The next thing I knew we were being flown over to Joe’s house on El Salvador for a long weekend. (His treat, of course. His acts of generosity were not lost on us). Joe, Allie, Ren and I fished, dove, ate and shared our stories. There were many more tears, mostly by Joe and thankfully, Ren. It was the glimpse into faith that we both needed.  

For many of us, the idea of evangelism has been distorted over time. My faulty world view had me believe evangelism had to do with the method by which the word of God is delivered. Big hair, pink walls, etc. I didn’t know at the time that evangelism is, at its root, the message itself. Anything outside the message of the Good News is unimportant. Evangelism and the generosity that follows aren’t something we should fit on our weekly checklist. The gospel should pour out of us all the time. If not on a street corner, at our supper tables when we invite non-believers to eat. In line at the grocery store when step up to show generosity by buying someone’s basket of food. We should be listening constantly to discern others’ interest, values and world-views in order to imbue the conversation with the Good News when the chance arises. Having been evangelized in this way I can honestly say that generosity and vulnerability in the process turn distasteful practices of “pressure evangelism” into something people can swallow. Something people actually want.  

The Bible is very clear that the responsibility to evangelize is not an option but a command. Amazingly, the Bible also tells us, through the life and parables of Jesus, exactly what this should look like.


Vision Weekend

By Abbey Nobles

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“The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.” - Romans 8:3-4

It started in December: the non-stop hustle to get everything accomplished, make everyone feel loved and special, and try to squeeze some time in for connection and purpose with my husband, Brian. In the midst of the Christmas chaos, Brian and I looked at each other and realized that in trying to be so intentional with family, friends, and our students, we had successfully neglected each other. From there, vision weekend was born. We did not set out with the immediate goal of filling out a chart and making big future moves. In the beginning, our mission was simple: plan a weekend where we could “get away,” reflect on both the great and painful things of 2018, and talk about the coming year.

Inspired by Brian Few’s vision sermon this year and reading through a Christmas-New Year’s devotional, we were able to come up with a manageable goal setting and reflective chart that we both could be excited about. (Link to that chart is included here, it is slightly different than the one we passed out at Church) We set our tentative plan of where we would go out to eat, what we would do for fun, when we would talk, etc. and truly let the Spirit inspire what we would talk about. Because we both have a constant myriad of ideas teeming in our brains, and indecision is not too foreign for both of us, we sat down and planned out a schedule so there would be no questions of “where are we going out to eat?” or “what should we do now?” (tentative, but something to fall back on). The week prior we were in prayer and sought prayer from close friends for this weekend. We had some big items to discuss and none of our conversations were stressful or caused any anxiety. We were able to easily knock out about 75% of the chart.

“Do not quench the Holy Spirit.” - 1 Thessalonians 5:19

Advice I would give to anyone wanting to try this weekend are as follows: Be in prayer and ask for prayer from your close community, do not get bummed out if you do not reach all of the discussion goals/topics, trust in the ability to be organic and genuinely inspired; let this guide your conversation. I think we often forget that when we are plugged into the Lord, the Spirit divinely inspires us. We musn’t flee from that and we must be aware of that. Allow time for the Lord to connect you to himself, to inspire and move you deeply. Brian and I started the first morning of our weekend not talking about vision at all, just coexisting in our house, drenched and warmed by the sunrays, drinking coffee on the couch, reading and journaling leisurely and independently, playing music together, and making breakfast. This normality and relaxation was okay because it created the connective space and calm for us to be productive in the following hours.

“Letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace… If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.” - Romans 8:6, 11

Let's be a Church that doesn’t make excuses; that is divinely inspired by the Spirit and notices it; that encourages one another to be reflective and set goals for our future. No weekend will be the right weekend, you will never get the most perfect babysitting situation, taking off work is never going to be easy, you will not have the right amount of money saved, or ever enough time. We must stop listening to the lies the Devil uses to replace our ability to commit with excuses. God wants to show you all that he is doing in your life. Let us be a Church body that allows time, space, and energy to be divinely inspired and led by the Spirit. Let us hold each other accountable to this call and let us celebrate with one another when we faithfully walk into a time of seeking vision for our lives.








The Interview Series | Sam Marsh

By Natalyn Bachek

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You’ve seen her on stage either wailing away on the drums, playing guitar or singing her heart out leading the praise band. She’s got a powerful musical gift and a heart for ministry, but what is behind that shining, welcoming face?

I had the pleasure of recently having lunch with Samantha “Sam” Marsh, surrounded by the Thanksgiving hustle and bustle of Whole Foods. We scarfed down our ultra-spicy brussel sprouts, of which neither of us could leave a crumb behind, and I got to really take a peek into Sam’s life and see how the Lord has shaped her path and led her right to Live Oak.

Sam was born in England, moved to New Jersey at the age of two then swiftly moved to Charlotte, North Carolina. Sam grew up riding horses, working at a horse barn and ultimately falling in love with music by learning to play the trombone at an early age. 

Sam got accepted to Appalachian State University in Boone, NC, and continued her love of music by being a music major until, in Sam’s own words, “God decided to close a door.” She ended up finding out that a sharp pain in her jaw was not just a quick fix, but after a winding road of doctor’s evaluations and inevitably a surgery, the diagnosis was a broken jaw. This may have stopped many in their tracks, leaving them wondering what to do next, but with Sam, the Lord allowed this instance to mold and shape her. This is where her relationship with the Lord really started to grow and was ultimately the beginning of her relationship with Him.  

From there on out, she switched her major to religion studies and was introduced to an amazing campus ministry at App State called Campus Christian Fellowship. It was there that she began an internship with CCF. After graduation, she accepted an internship with CCF and moved to Missouri to work on the campus of Missouri University of Science and Technology. There Sam led three hundred students (wow!) and a thirty-member worship band regularly, but she missed her “home state,” and moved back to Charlotte to enroll at Gordon Conwell University for Seminary. 

It wasn’t until she was settled in Charlotte that she was offered a full-time position as the Women’s Minister for CCF at a little-known school called UNCW in Wilmington, NC. Although this was a full-time gig, Sam accepted and was able to still remotely complete her seminary schooling on the side (She is still powering through her seminary classes with graduation in the future!). Although a much smaller ministry than the one she previously ran in Missouri, Sam says that this is more her pace, as she leads fifteen UNCW students weekly. This allows for her to individually engage in each of their lives. Most of these students are international students and one of the perks is that Sam is involved with taking them shopping every Friday in the big CCF van. They all load up and head to our local Walmart to get necessities and form relationships off campus.

All in all, CCF and UNCW brought Sam to us at Live Oak through an invitation from her roommate one random Sunday. (THANK YOU FOR BEING THAT VESSEL ROOMMATE!) We are so very thankful the Lord led Sam our way and that her God-given talents can be used to engage more people each week. She is part of a much bigger picture that we only can see a hint of, but we know that God has it all planned out for his glory.

Fun facts about Sam:

- All of her extended family still lives in England

- Loves to skate & longboard

- Self-taught drummer!

How we can pray for Sam:

- Several months ago, Sam tragically lost her mom. Please be praying for healing and peace for her and her family. That she would lean on God daily for strength during this grief process.

- CCF Ministry at UNCW and all the students Sam encounters 

The Interview Series | The Heberts

By Ashley Chapman

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At the lowest point in my life “Jesus Freak” had a negative connotation. I’m grateful to know better now because it’s the thought that popped into my head when I first saw Dana Hebert during Live Oak’s praise and worship. Yeah, I know we’re supposed to be focused upward, allowing the music to open our hearts to the word of God. But how was I supposed to do that when Dana was over in the corner, arms raised, not moving to the music exactly like the rest of us were trying to do, but hovering somewhere above it? His eyes raised to God, oblivious of the mini-concert going on in front of him completely raptured in the presence of God. It was unusual for me, especially at the time, to see such unashamed oblivious reverence to the Lord. The whole scene reminiscent of 2 Sam. 6:20-22. Yes, this servant girl thought that Jesus Freak looked quite distinguished, if not completely crazy, among the sea of more tempered worshipers.

That first impression stuck with me. Unknowingly, Dana is one of the first people I look for when we return from our annual pilgrimage. He’s evidence that the Spirit is still there, right where I left it. When Laurel told me I was responsible for the interview of one of our church members my choice came pouring out without thought. Maybe God knew I needed to meet the Heberts. Slightly uncomfortable, I meandered through the crowd of Live Oak parishioners to look for the rain dancer. Dana smiled and accepted my request to sit down with his family. His willingness should have been an indicator that he had plenty to share.  

Sitting down at the dining table of their temporary apartment, their house all but destroyed during Florence, I fed my son Cape bits of chicken, trying to keep food scraps from embedding themselves in the carpet while waiting for the Heberts to settle in. I noticed Jer. 29:11 on the wall, “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” I would refer to the wall hanging often throughout our talk as I imagine Dana and Tami must also daily having been displaced by the storm and after what I was about to hear.  

I opened up the conversation with the usual questions to get things moving. “Where are you from?” “How long have you been married?” Blah, blah, blah. Turns out Dana and Tami needed little priming before the flood gates opened, divulging their story to me. Their story, like any good tale of love, loss and redemption, is one of sadness and hope. It’s a testimony mostly of encouragement, teaching us how to lean into God when it feels like he’s stepping away from us. Ultimately of turning the “pain of trusting into the joy of trusting,” as Tami most eloquently imparted to me when talking about the difference between her and her husband’s approach to God’s most difficult challenges.

Our church is no stranger to pain. Each person has their own story of unbelievable heartache and disappointment. The Heberts are no different. Dana comes from Vermont, as evidenced by the tattoo on his arm. A daily reminder of his northern roots and the high priced living he left behind in exchange for a more equitable future. He grew up with a faith-filled mother who was also his best friend. She was charismatic in her worship which is where he, no doubt, acquired his flair. Dana’s learning disability required his mother to coach him through his formative years creating a strong bond between them. Because of the disability he was estranged from the Bible. The Good News muddled in his brain unable to make the same impression on him that worship music made. Another reason he gets up to dance.


During his teenage years, Dana’s mother took him to a revival in Toronto. It was there that his life was irrevocably changed. Having never felt that much power under one roof, he became intimately aware of God’s presence. It was at this revival that he would see miracles performed. Worshipping for days alongside people from all over the world he was imprinted with a drive for mission work that he would later use in Haiti and even later, introduce to his young family.


Tami is a home girl. She grew up here in Wilmington in Covenant Church, where she now teaches preschool. This is also where a lot of Live Oak families send their children for pre-school, including us. Tami is one of four children, all of whom grew up in the word. Her young adult life culminated in a degree from a Christian college and two mission trips to Belize. After this service she met Dana, fell in love and set off into the sunset to forge a life. Hopeful for the future, the Heberts were not prepared for the hardships they would soon face.


I grew up just outside of Richlands, NC in a place called Back Swamp. My parents’ property backs up to an agricultural field that is separated from the Albert J. Ellis Airport by a thin line of trees. I remember the sound of a plane approaching, nothing unusual living so close to the runway. But this plane kept getting closer and lower. The engine grew louder until the cacophony was replaced with the sound of metal crunching. The kind of sound you don’t forget. The kind where you understand everything before you know anything. The plane had crashed behind my parents’ house. It turns out that this plane was the same one that would claim the life of Dana’s sister. She died on impact; so did his mother’s faith in God.  


The year following the death of his sister was riddled with hard questions and no answers. The mother that had molded Dana into the man of God he had become abandoned her own faith, leaving him and Tami orphaned in their own shaken belief system. In their search for answers, the Heberts’ friends, Joseph and Brittany, hit them with some much needed truth: “God owes you nothing.” Armed with this hard, cold reality the couple set out to rebuild their faith, just in time for the second, very literal, blow. Playing softball for Life Community Church, a stray ball hit Dana in the head. The ball fractured Dana’s skull. The brain bleed he suffered affected his speech and memory. He forgot how to read. Out of work for six months, Tami took care of everything. She was his primary caregiver alongside working, taking care of their farm and family. The ill-fated softball struck just one year almost to the very day of his sister’s death.


The Lord grew them through the process. Tami, through the Job-like tragedies maintained her Job-like faithfulness to God. “Using the pain of the past to pave the way for the future,” she allowed prayer, not to change their circumstances but to change them. The above almost a direct quote. Tami has a gift with her words. Now when faced with hardships, the Heberts have a different perspective. When questioning whether or not to leave Live Oak Church during some tough times they respond not by running away but by digging in deeper. Immersing themselves further into the fold through service in the children’s ministry, feeding the homeless and plotting their own family mission trip to Haiti (including their two girls, Lux and Braelee). Although the Heberts are no stranger to suffering they still exude the kind of Christian confidence and light that piques my interest and makes me ask, “Can I stop by and talk to y’all for a while?” I hope their work in our church is just beginning. “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”


Notes
1. Dana and Tami are receiving help from insurance for their losses during Florence, but it never hurts to stop by and ask if they need help with anything. She’s the one working in the kids’ ministry and he’s the Jesus freak in the back of the church.

2. Dana mentioned a book that made a big impact on his relationship with the church. He credits Ashley Einwaechter with introducing him to Reaching Out by Henri Nouwen.

3. The Heberts also mentioned the Christian song “Different,” by Micah Tyler, as being instrumental (pun intended).


The Interview Series | The Herrings

By Laurel Senick

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Aubrey, how did you and Jonathan meet?

Jonathan and I were introduced by friends through Overflow at Port City Church. He was in the band, and I was very hesitant because I wanted to be single forever. He talked me into it, and here we are.

How did you know Jonathan was the one?

I knew Jonathan was the one because I knew if I got married it would be to someone named Samuel. He told me after dinner on our first date that his name was actually Samuel, and that was pretty much that.

Is there a place you’ve always wanted to travel?

We both have a desire to visit New Zealand next I think. Aubrey has traveled to Germany and England, which were high on her list, and she would love to go back, but it’s always nice to go somewhere together that neither of you have seen before.

In what unexpected ways has Harrison your fourteen-month-old son changed your life?

Aubrey: I’m a completely different parent than I thought I would be. I’m learning a lot about discipline and responding to Harrison by looking at the way God corrects us and comforts us. He’s gentle and responsive, and that’s the sort of mom I want to be. God doesn’t necessarily punish us for our mistakes. He shows us what’s right and redirects us.

Jonathan: As cliché as this sounds, I have a new understanding of unconditional love. You always hear people say that when they have their own kid, but it’s really true.

Was there a dramatic beginning in your life with Christ?

We were both raised in the church, and while we have had our ups and downs, Jesus has always been there as a constant.

Your small group recently did a spiritual gift study. Can you share a little about your Holy Spirit gifts?

Aubrey: My spiritual gift was giving. It made sense when the bible study explained this gift brings the ability to see through money schemes, and that someone with this gift is good with budgeting. I also have the desire to help others financially, whether it be through a gift or through teaching.

Jonathan: My spiritual gifts were prophecy and teaching. I enjoy learning the ins and outs of things on a theological and philosophical level and sharing that information with others. Also, any practical skills or hobbies that I find entertaining, I also love to share that with people (If they are willing to listen).

You’ve brought Financial Peace to Live Oak. In what ways do you see this program helping people and glorifying God?

Living in debt is stressful and not the way God intended it. This program can help us all move away from being slaves to our money and teach us to live with financial freedom. Having a plan seems like it will hold you back, but it has been the thing that has always made us feel more secure in actually spending our money, because we know we have planned for every expense, so it won’t throw something else off.  

What do you believe about tithing and how has it impacted your lives?

We strongly believe that tithing is an exercise for us to remember God gives us what we need and cares that we are taken care of. He tells us to remember the lilies of the field and that they are clothed better than Solomon in his temple. We are saying, “I know this isn’t mine and I don’t need it.” Knowing that gives you the ultimate sense of freedom from anxiety with finances.

How can Live Oak family pray for your family?

Please pray for our future. We each have new jobs which are relocating us to Raleigh.

- We will miss this sweet family that is moving to Raleigh. Please hug and kiss them good bye when you see them. Laurel Senick