A Bittersweet Story from “Re-entry” Disciple Making
You might recall reading Melissa C’s testimony in our August e-letter. She spent fifteen years in federal prison and was very candid about her former life as a drug dealer.
Melissa was being discipled by Tracy Patterson and Karen Stroud. She also attended “Genesis Fellowship” and a small group sponsored by the North Boulevard church. After several weeks of study and fellowship, Melissa was baptized and excited about her new journey with the Lord.
To our great sadness, Melissa passed away in late October as the result of a heart attack. Her sudden death came in the midst of positive strides she had been making. She was working a new job, saving for a car, and making preparations to find an apartment. She was finding contentment and peace in the Holy Spirit.
It was so encouraging to see Melissa accept Christ, witness her progress, and then heartbreaking to lose her so suddenly. We’re still feeling the whiplash. Through it all, however, we know Melissa passed from this life in a relationship with Jesus.
“Lighthouses” – A New Story
You’ve heard us say it over and over: relational disciple making works! Years investing in all kinds of people from different backgrounds and circumstances bear this out.
Now, think about this: Relational hospitality in our homes might be the easiest way to make the leap from inactivity to fruitfulness in disciple making. That’s the aim and goal of a new training initiative we launched late last summer.
As of this month, ten individuals and families in Bedford and Rutherford counties have participated in a seven week training series to make their homes “Lighthouses” for the Kingdom. Our goal is to see at least five homes practicing hospitable disciple making by January 2022. We also hope to start new training groups at regular intervals throughout the year, making the Lighthouse initiative an ongoing component of our work.
Whatever your housing arrangments, your home is a ready-made opportunity for connecting with people through hospitable outreach. Please contact me if you’re interested in participating. See phone and email at the bottom.
Guilt. Shame. Feelings of isolation and fear of rejection.
“I don’t feel comfortable in church.” “I’m not sure they will accept me.” “Christians are judgmental.”
The feelings and opinions mentioned above are common among those in addiction recovery or re-entry after incarceration. It’s a real dilemma and an obstacle to forming discipling relationships.
Genesis Fellowship was born in February 2020 as an attempt to bridge the felt gap described above. The goal is to build Christian community in a non-threatening environment that combines a light breakfast on Sunday mornings with good fellowship and teaching from 8:00 – 9:30. Although Covid had a toll on what had been a great start two years ago, involvement is again gaining steam and new disciple making opportunities are emerging. As mentioned earlier, Melissa C. had been attending these meetings.
Discipleship for Christians
Each man on the right was baptized long before we met them. They have been regular church attenders for years. One graduated from a Christian college. None of them had been involved in a personal discipling relationship or disciple making before connecting in one of our discipling circles. It’s an ongoing goal to disciple men and women in this category and equip them to disciple others.
One of the men above, Bryan H, writes, “Participating in this process has been a paradigm shift: From going it alone to community with other believers. To discovering God/Jesus on a more personal,intimate level. To understanding how pervasive God wants to be in my life. Understanding better how much God loves me and the implications that has on my life.” We’ve heard similar testimonies from many others for sixteen years.
These and other stories of life-on-life disciple making are components that defined our work over the past twelve months. Thanks a ton for continuing to pray for us, send financial support, and otherwise show interest in relational disciple making!