During our “You Are Here” series, we examined common beliefs and phrases in our culture, and compared them with truths presented in the Bible. The series concluded this week with the saying, “You only live once.” This common phrase is often used to encourage reckless, self-gratifying behaviors or to encourage people to live in the moment. As well, it taps deeper into the truth that we were not made to sleepwalk our way through life.
In Ephesians 5:8-17, the Bible affirms the idea that we need to wake up and actively live our lives but rejects the idea that our pleasure is the purpose of life. The ultimate motivation for us is setting our minds on Jesus - both His sacrificial, selfless life, and the eternal life promised in Him to all who follow Him. Following Jesus comes at a cost, and living a life with eternity and God’s kingdom in mind looks very strange to our culture.
In this member spotlight, we are highlighting a few of the many people in our church family who are leveraging their lives for the gospel in beautiful ways! The work of Jesus in their hearts is clearly seen in how they live life sacrificially and in light of eternity.
In the Classroom
Caroline is in her third year of teaching at a low-income middle school here in Columbia. Though not originally from Columbia, Caroline enjoyed her time at USC and with Midtown while she was in college. She decided she wanted to stay and work in Columbia after listening to parents in our church family who were concerned about the public education for their children but still desired to live and be involved in their downtown neighborhoods. God showed Caroline how her school is her mission field, not only to serve her students, but to serve her students’ families and the community. It made sense to her to be a part of the solution and help parents see that there shouldn’t be a conflict between giving their children a good education and loving their neighbors well.
Exciting as it may be, Caroline has definitely faced many push-backs. There are times when she interacts with frustrated and exhausted coworkers who are not always eager to hear about the hope she has. There are times when it’s difficult to build relationships with students and relate with their parents. During these moments, doubts and lies creep in, and it’s hard for Caroline to justify working where God has her when she has co-workers telling her she’s limiting her professional and career growth by staying here. However, Caroline has seen God fueling her hope and passion to teach and serve her students as best as she can.
If you want to join in on the work God is doing in our schools, pray for Caroline and other teachers in our church family who are loving and serving the students in our city.
Dave and Karen Brower
On the Mission Field
Dave and Karen are going to Africa to support missionaries currently working there in the field. In addition to local outreach, As a nurse, Karen will help missionaries in the area navigate the healthcare systems, find appropriate aid for themselves, and ensure they stay healthy. Dave will be connecting and working with a team reaching the lost there and doing some part time IT work remotely for CIU. After going on a medical mission trip to Africa, Karen realized how little she knew about health and went back to school to get her nursing degree with the desire that God would one day call her to go and serve in this field. Dave and Karen have thought about doing missions over the years, but timing and the Lord’s will only made it happen now, in their 50s.
Uprooting their lives at an age when others are looking into retirement has brought its share of difficulties, but God has used those to shine all the more brightly. The Browers were most worried about selling their house that they invested time and money in, but they didn’t even put their house on the market before someone expressed interest, viewed it, and wanted to buy it right away. It is painful for Dave and Karen to think about the memories they won’t be able to make with their six grandchildren, and giving and selling their belongings has not been easy, but they are all the more aware of the cost of following Jesus and aware of how little they need the things of this world.
To support Dave and Karen, pray for them as they prepare for missions and transition into moving overseas.
Kent and Ana Bateman
The Batemans, along with other members from our church, set out to plant a church in Knoxville, Tennessee in the summer of 2016. Starting a church from the ground-up is no small task. Much of the Bateman’s time and energy goes towards building relationships with their core team and new locals from Knoxville who are coming around their church. Kent, one of the pastors at City Church, says that ever since he met Jesus and began living life alongside other followers of Jesus, he wanted to create that same type of community so more people could experience that. Ana, who never thought that she would be a church planter’s wife, always wanted to be a part of a church plant and make Biblical family available to clients, coworkers, and anyone else she came across.
It’s been challenging for Kent and Ana to adjust to having a smaller church family and circle of support, when they were so accustomed to having an extensive church family back in Columbia. Despite the challenges, God has been working by bringing in young adults and couples from all walks of life: people who’ve been searching for a Jesus-centered church, people who have been suffering and in need of community, and even people who want nothing to do with church. These people have all been welcomed in the church with their passion, hurt, or questions, and God has been actively redeeming the lost and bringing more people into His family.
If you’d like to support City Church and the work that Kent and Ana are doing in Knoxville through prayer or financially, please check out City Church’s website.
During her graduate studies at USC, Dalisha found a disconnect between the research addressing opportunity gaps within underserved low-income African American communities and the action done to see change happen. Dalisha has since taken these concepts and theories and has been applying them within her specifically designed Residency role with Midtown. She wrote a plan of action to aid in increased literacy rates at Carver-Lyon Elementary, the closest school to Midtown Two Notch and a school with historically low reading scores. Through reading culturally relevant literature to engage students in reading, she hopes that the students’ reading ability and test scores will increase. The Serve the City partnership, known as Hearts4Schools, was formed, with Dalisha leading up the charge in building relationships with students in a time where they are most vulnerable and in affirming that they are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27).
While Dalisha would like to see action and results sooner, she has also realized the importance of pausing and praying for the staff and administrators she’s in contact with at Carver-Lyon. She has recognized the need for patience and care with them, as they are vital to seeing change happen in the school, and ultimately, with the students. She is excited for the partnership with Carver-Lyon and praying that the students get educational literacy, but she is also praying that they come to know Jesus and form relationships at Midtown Two Notch. Ultimately, Dalisha’s desire with the program is that the gospel is both portrayed and proclaimed to the students and staff at Carver-Lyon Elementary.
To support Dalisha and the Hearts4Schools partnership, pray for the volunteers who will be reading and building with the students at Carver-Lyon Elementary.
What makes it worth it?
Lastly, here are what each of these members answered when asked, “what makes your work and decisions worth it?”
“I know that I may never see the fruits from my students' lives as they grow and mature, but what makes it worth it is knowing that I have been deeply loved by Jesus and that He gives me the strength to follow through with His plan to save Columbia.”
Dave and Karen:
“We just want to follow Him on this adventure. We feel His peace and presence in our lives. After all, isn't that what's it all about, Him?”
Kent and Ana:
“If you factor in the good news of Jesus–that Jesus sacrificed everything to make us his own–moving to another city makes tons of sense. Actually, in light of that, why wouldn't we?”
“Education helps provide human dignity. That makes it worth it. We are affirming the imago dei of individuals and helping them walk in God's design for them. ”