Advent | A Week of Joy

“When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.  And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.”  (Matthew 2:10-11)

“Joy to the world, the Lord has come”. What do you think… is it the best known Christmas song out there (Silent Night and Angels We Have Heard on High would be right up there)? The strange thing is this—we sing about joy to the world, and yet most folks struggle to even define what joy is.

We know it isn’t the same as “happy”, because happy usually depends on our circumstances. If the weather is awful, if I am sick, if my kids are going bonkers, etc…….. I’m not usually happy. Turn it around: if it is a beautiful day, if my team won a game, if someone in my small group took a huge step of faith…..that stuff makes me “happy”. But joy is different, it is deeper. James says we can “count it all joy when we encounter trials of many kinds” (1:2). But let’s be honest, it is really hard to say “be happy” in the midst of life-crushing trials.

So what is “joy”? It seems to be the flip side of the coin with hope. If hope means we are certain of how the future is going to work out, then joy is that deep seated (somewhere in the soul/heart) response to hope. John Piper says it well, 

            Christian joy is a good feeling in the soul, produced by the Holy Spirit, as he causes us to see the beauty of Christ in the word and in the world.

When the Magi saw the star in the sky, they had great joy, because they knew that the star was pointing to the King of the World and His arrival. The beauty of Christ and His gospel had come, and that was a reason for great joy. No matter what the circumstances may be, the reality that Jesus has come, and we are secure in Him, should bring a great smile (joy) to our souls.

So this Advent season, “ponder anew what the Almighty can do”, and let that put a very deep seated JOY in your soul.

SCRIPTURES ABOUT JOY

Psalm 119:1-3; 2 Corinthians 4:1-18; Hebrews 12:1-2

 

Take the season of Advent with you by listening to our Advent playlist on Spotify.

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Advent | A Week of Love

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant,  being made in human likeness.”   (Phil. 2:5-7)

In Fiddler on the Roof, there comes that great scene where Tevye asks his wife of many years, “Golde, do you love me?” The question sparks quite a dialogue. Golde, starts to recount all the many things that she has done for Tevye over the years they were married, and then sums it up with the question, “if that’s not love, what is?”.

In answering that question, we actually come face to face with Christmas. Because Christmas shows us the true character of God’s love: not just a warm feeling, but an incredible action. How often do we look at the circumstances of the day, and in all earnestness ask God, “do you love me?” Because often life hurts, and things come our way that are painful. And we know there is a God in heaven who is sovereign over the earth….. so why, if He loves me, does He allow these kinds of things to happen to me?

The answers to the specific trauma of the moment may not be easy to discover, but there is one thing that God wants all of us to be sure of…. that Christmas should once and for all settle the question of whether or not He loves us. Think about that passage above in Philippians. Jesus left a throne of glory to become a human, and He did it in the most humbling of ways. He journeyed from a throne to a manger to a cross. And He did this all for you. The goal of it all was to bring you into a family that is eternal. It was an incredible sacrifice, but He willingly did it for you.

So let’s join Golda and say about our Savior,  “if that’s not love, what is?”

 

SCRIPTURES ABOUT LOVE

Psalm 136; John 15:9-17; 1 John 4:9-11; Ephesians 2:4-5

 

Take the season of Advent with you by listening to our Advent playlist on Spotify.

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Advent | A Week of Hope

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead”  1 Pet. 1:3

It is kind of like the movie Groundhog Day. Every day we get up, read/watch the news, and then declare with a certain amount of sadness, “this world is hopeless”. North Korea is going nuts, the sexual improprieties of our nation are on full display, politics has divided our country in the meanest of ways, and the list goes on and on. To be honest, without Jesus, the conclusion that our world is hopeless is spot on.

But as we celebrate that time of year when we focus on the birth of our Lord Jesus, one thing is for sure—Christians are a people full of hope (no matter what is happening in the world around us). Let’s make sure though, that we are speaking the same language. Hope is not the same as wish. “Wish” is a word we use when we would like something to happen that would bless us…..be we don’t really know if it will happen or not (such as, “I wish I could win the lottery”). “Hope” is something totally different. It is having a certainty about something which has yet to occur. That is why in the Bible, our great hope is in Jesus, who arrived in a manger and broke free of the grave. The hope of our future resurrection from the dead is the greatest gift that began on a Christmas years ago. We don’t “wish” for this, we are certain of it—that’s hope.

So during this first week of Advent, take some time, slow down, and let your soul meditate on the hope that you have in Jesus. Hope of ultimate healing. Hope of eternity with the Father. Hope of a heavenly city. Hope of a life free from tears, pain, and death. These are not wishes, they are certain. And that is why Jesus’ return is called “our blessed hope” (Titus 2:13).

 

Scriptures about hope

Luke 2:1-20; Luke 7:36-50; Luke 5:17-26; Jeremiah 17:7-18

 

Take the season of Advent with you by listening to our Advent playlist on Spotify.

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DEC Kids' Church

The DEC Kids program is undergoing some exciting changes this Fall!

The staff and elders have been prayerfully considering how to best minister to young families and their children. As we examined what scripture has to say about ministering to families/children, we noticed a few things:

  1. The Bible gives us freedom in how we minister to families

  2. Discipling children is not optional – there are clear references to teaching the next generation (Deut 6:1-9 and Psalm 78:1-8)

  3. Parents have authority and the primary responsibility to disciple their children (Eph 6:1-4).

With that in mind, we decided to make a change. Instead of going straight to Sunday School when they arrive, children will worship with their families for the first part of the service, and then be dismissed to Kids’ Church.

Why the change? Was there something wrong with our Sunday School program? Well, no…the team has an amazing heart for the Lord and for children, and kids were getting to know God, scripture and each other. But having the kids separated from adults all the time left little opportunity for children to be around parents or other adults who model prayer and worship. We’ve all seen times, for better or worse, when kids learn more through what we do (modeling) than what we say. Remember that time Johnny commented on someone’s driving, because he’s heard you do it? Or the time Susie said, “I need some alone time!” to her sister, because you’ve said the same thing to her? When our girls were younger, they would sometimes sit down next to me during my quiet time in the morning, and imitate me reading the Bible/journaling. I never taught them to – it’s just how kids naturally learn.

You may be wondering why we don’t just dismiss the kids to Sunday school…why change to Kids’ Church? What is Kids’ Church, anyway? Kids’ Church is a mixture of whole group teaching and small group activities. Kids in grades 1-5 will hear the same message (similar to how adults hear the same sermon). Before the message, they gather in small groups of 8-10 kids to do some introductory activities. Then they join together to hear the Bible story and learn a key passage or memory verse. Following the large group time, they go back to their small groups for more activities that reinforce what they learned in the large group. (Click HERE to learn more about the curriculum we’re currently using – The Gospel Project for Kids).

This model isn’t necessarily better than the Sunday school model – they both have their pros and cons. But here are some of the reasons we decided to make the change:

  • a common lesson & experience for grades 1-5 can foster a greater sense of community;

  • families with kids in multiple grades can more easily follow-up at home, with all kids focusing on the same topic;

  • one topic for grades 1-5 makes prep and volunteer support easier;

  • and there will be more opportunity for kids' team to work together, share the load, and support each other

 

Parents may drop off their Nursery, PreK and Kindergarten children before service begins in the same rooms as before:

  • Nursery – Upstairs near main entrance

  • PreK – Rm 8, downstairs

  • Kindergarten – Rm 9, downstairs

 

Kids’ Church will be held in the Function Hall and adjacent classrooms. We hope to begin by September 24th.That start date will be dependent upon volunteers.

If you have any questions, or would like to get involved, please contact katie.brouse@durhame.org / 868-1027 x203. We’re looking forward to a great year with you and your kids!

Hurricane Harvey Relief Update

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Donations can be brought to the Outdoor Service and dropped off at DEC. Donations will be accepted on Monday, September 11th as well at DEC. They are especially low on underwear and socks for children.

New towels/washcloths

New underwear

New socks

New t-shirts

Toiletries - bar soap, shampoo, toothbrush and paste, deodorant

Feminine products

First aid items - band aids, peroxide, Neosporin

Non-perishable food

Water

Hand sanitizer

Diapers/baby wipes

Baby food

Baby formula

Pet food - cat food, dog food

Bleach

Gloves - latex, non-latex, work

Masks

Rubber boots

Brooms and mops

Tarps

Sheetrock knives

Empty spray bottles

Garbage bags

Gas blowers

Wet vacuums

Box fans

Generators

Hammers

Extension Cords

 

On August 25, Hurricane Harvey made landfall directly over Rockport Texas. At that time it was a category 4 hurricane. Moreover, it has continued to rain for the last five days. The devastation is overwhelming. Relief and support will surely be needed over the coming months.

At this point in the disaster all work is considered rescue. The second phase will be recovery.  Third phase is assessment. The fourth phase will be rebuilding. Many of these stages will overlap to some degree, however each stage brings a level of stabilization. We want to stress this will be a long duration relief effort. To that end, DEC want to share with you where we are in the relief planning as a partner in sharing this burden.

First, we have been in touch with a number of people we know, and live, in the affected areas.  They will be helping us to partner with communities of faith in Texas. This is vital. These folks know the history, needs, and layout of resources for recovery and rebuilding. 

Second, we are reaching out to our sister churches on the Seacoast of NH. In order to build an adequate sustained effort, we need to work together. Skills and resources differ from church to church so, again, this is vital to a successful recovery and rebuild.

Third, we are reaching to bigger organizations in hopes of sharing our resources as well as their resources being shared with us. Complementing, not competing, is essential in restoring what has been lost. Humility is key. In the end, how we do what we do, will be just as important as what we do.

On Sunday Sept. 3, we will be having an informational meeting about relief efforts. The meeting will be from 6-7:30 pm. If you think you might be interested in helping, this meeting is for you.  Even if you don’t go to Texas, your service to the people of Texas can be done here. We will continue to keep you informed of developments and opportunities as they arise.

“This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.”  2 Cor. 9:12

HIS STORY: JEAN-PAUL

Jean-Paul Gauthier grew up in the Catholic church. He attended with his parents, went through confirmation, and lived a fairly normal child’s life. “I was an altar boy. I was in boy scouts, but I was a confused kid. I went through some normal kid crap. I was introduced to pornography at a fairly young age. It wasn’t like there was this fascination or addiction, it just became a part of regular daily life for me. It certainly became a factor later in my life.”

As he grew up he continued attending the Catholic church, but wasn’t really living the Christian life. He knew of God, but had not come to the understanding of how God could truly change his life. “It was like, ‘Okay. Who’s the next girl I can sleep with? Where’s the next party I can go to? I thought that was perfectly okay.’”

A few years after graduating college he got married. “I met a girl whose parents were married, mine were divorced. That was pretty attractive; she had parents that were married, they had a lake house, she was an only child and it seemed like this really great package.” During this time Jean-Paul continued to go to church. “I was a good Catholic boy,  walk down the center aisle, make sure everyone knows that I’m there. And then when I had kids, that was even better because now it was, ‘Oh look. Isn’t that wonderful! He’s bringing his kids to church.’”

An opportunity came for Jean-Paul to teach a confirmation class at his church. After being a part of the Catholic church from a young age, he knew that many of the kids in that class were likely coming to the class because their parents wanted them to go. So, on his first day he told the class that if they were there because their parents made them come, they could leave. Every kid got up and left. After getting all of them to return, he said “OK, I get it. You’re here because your parents made you.” He also told them that if they did not want to affirm their faith for themselves by the end of the class, he would support that decision. This caused a bit of an uproar in the church, which began a journey into Jean-Paul questioning the theology of the Catholic church.

Later on, Jean-Paul’s marriage began to fall apart. Since he was going through a divorce, he realized he could no longer teach confirmation because it was contradictory to what the church teaches. “I go to the head of the program and I say, I’m going to have to step down.’ And she goes ‘Wait. Why?’ and I said ‘Well, my wife and I are about to go through a divorce.’ And she said ‘Well…umm….well…maybe…’ and I started thinking ‘What? What do you mean maybe? This is what the church teaches and I’m about to go through this and you’re saying I can still teach?’” Once again he was left questioning the integrity of the church he was attending.

Jean-Paul continued through his divorce and his life continued to spiral. He was divorced, lost custody of his kids, stopped attending church, and he was losing all hope. “I made the mess. That’s really important to remember.” One Sunday morning, when he was working as a DJ for a local radio station, he got a call from a friend who asked what was going on, “You sound terrible.” Jean-Paul denied that anything was really wrong, but his friend asked him over for lunch anyway. Jean-Paul explained that he had to pick up a car, was planning to walk and just wanted to go home. His friend told him that his wife was on her way to church with the kids and she could pick him up and drive him. Jean-Paul told his friend several times he wasn’t interested and ended the conversation. Once he had finished his shift at the radio station, he walked outside and his friend’s wife was waiting to give him a ride. He reluctantly got in the car.

While driving home, he remembers God tugging at his heart to go to church. “I’m having an argument with God. He’s like, ‘I want you to go to church.’ And I’m like, ‘No.’ ‘Go to church.’ ‘No.’ ‘Go to church.’ ‘No.’” This argument continued until he found himself parked right in front of the church. “I thought to myself ‘OK God, you better have something to say!’ Can you imagine? Me telling God what to do.” He snuck in the back, side door, went up three rows and sat down. “Here’s where the freakiness starts to begin for me. I sit down in a pew and it’s dedicated to a Mr and Mrs Jean-Paul… the last name doesn’t matter, it’s my name looking back at me. I’m sitting there and I’m getting really weirded out by this. And then the sermon is about lost sheep coming back to the flock. Now I’m a mess. I’m bawling.” That began a chain of events leading Jean-Paul to give his life to Christ during an altar call at a Christian convention. “But my life didn’t change. I’m still sleeping with my girlfriend. I’m still looking at every skirt that walks by me.” Although he accepted the call, there wasn’t change in the way he was living his life.

A few years went by, Jean-Paul found himself at another church, teaching another class to kids. A situation came up causing issues in his heart with their theology which didn’t seem to line up with what he knew of God and he ended up leaving. Around this time, he was not attending church and he had a friend that was into sound just like Jean-Paul was. His friend suggested that they go check out DEC, because he was told they had a cool sound system. Jean-Paul drove by DEC many times on his route to work and was familiar with the church. Once he began attending he fell in love with the worship team and he decided to join as a sound tech. “It was there that my relationship with Christ began. The first hour of rehearsal each week was a devotional – studying scripture.” Jean-Paul realized that although he knew the Bible from his Catholic upbringing, he was not reading the Word. He began reading the book of John and that was when his faith started to change his life.

Now Jean-Paul, and his wife, Loretta, teach the Financial Peace University course at DEC. “FPU is a big part of our testimony now and why we’re so passionate about getting people financially healthy. Because it removes all of those barriers to your relationship with Jesus Christ.” Out of his passion for helping people become financially healthy, and his own personal success in applying the principles learned in FPU, he is also a financial coach and mentor. “The coaching aspect of it is that desire to be able to sit across a table with people…watching someone working their butt off after 9 weeks and come back to me at the end with tears and [they say] ‘We did it.’”

HIS STORY: PJ

At the age of 13, Paul “PJ” Donahue started attending DEC with his mom and stepfather. Around that same time he also began drinking, which led to years of alcohol abuse. “When I was really young I would go to the soda machine. I was already fantasizing and romanticizing about drinking. I remember watching the Superbowl and there were constant beer commercials. I remember drinking soda, and Pepsi was a Bud. I was already off and running before I even started.”

During high school PJ spent much of his time playing music and partying with his friends. His passion for music later turned into a career as a drummer for several bands and a drum teacher for many students in the area. He remembers music and drinking being very separate at first. Most of his week was spent practicing, but he would be looking forward to the weekend when he could get drunk with his friends. “As I grew older, and had more freedom, I was able to make that more a part of my life. Music, partying, and alcohol, they go hand in hand. By the time it was my career, when I could go to work and I was expected to be a part of it [the party scene], it fit too perfectly.”

Years of partying and social drinking had gone by when PJ noticed a change in his behavior. “Somewhere along the way things started to change. I would drink on a Friday night and I would wake up Saturday and the first thing I wanted to do was drink more. Then that became the reality. It got to the point where I would come to Bible Study on a Thursday morning and I would be in the bar by 11AM. Drink all day. Drink all night. Be right back in the bar Friday.” Drinking with friends was no longer just a social call. Drinking was all he could think about.

PJ, along with his wife Jenn and daughter Molly, continued to attend DEC. “Usually Saturday night I would have a gig. I would come to DEC and put on the “Church PJ”. Always looked sharp. Nice button down shirt. Totally shaved. After shave. Mints. Hair perfect. On the outside looking like everything was together. You would never know. I would just sit there and think, ‘I just got to get through this hour then I can go to the gig and drink.’ I would not really listen to the sermon, but I would always watch the worship team. I envied them so much. I was super proud of them.” He was proud of the younger members of the worship team for the way they were serving and the heart they had for the Lord. He was so glad they were “sold out” for God, because he remembered what he was doing on a Sunday morning at that age. “When I was 24 or 25, I would wake up hung-over. Maybe in the bed. Maybe next to the bed. Maybe on the kitchen floor. Who knows? Maybe on someone else’s kitchen floor.” Although he was so intrigued by the members of the worship team, he wanted nothing to do with them. He did not want to deal with his addiction and he knew that if he joined he would not be able to hide it anymore.

After years of alcohol abuse, PJ had a gig that made him realize just how much his addiction had a hold on him. He had some drum students cancel a few hours before a gig in Concord, and he was left in the city just waiting to drink with friends before his gig. “I had a gig in Concord on a Thursday night. It was from 9PM-1AM or something. I had some students up in Concord and then I had a little break, actually too long of a break. I remember thinking to myself, ‘You can’t go in there and get a beer yet, because you know that once you start you will not stop.’ So I sat in the parking lot across the street just waiting out time because I knew once I started it was on.” It wasn’t long after that he decided to go into the restaurant and start drinking.

By the time he made it to his gig he was already drunk. “I remember going up to the bartender and she said, ‘You can drink all you want. It’s all free, but we have a New Hampshire law that you can’t drink on stage.’ And I was like, ‘Thank God! That will force me stop for like an hour. I just need an hour.’” By the time the gig was over he had been drinking for several hours and had to drive back home. His blood alcohol content was far over the legal driving limit. He stopped a couple of times along the way because he was having trouble seeing correctly and was afraid he might get pulled over. After a couple of hours he made it home. As soon as he got in the door he went into the basement and began drinking again.

A couple of weeks after that night he decided to go back to Alcoholics Anonymous and get some help. He had tried sobriety once before but was only able to stay sober for about 3 months. Around the same time, he also decided to join the worship team at DEC because they were in need of a drummer. He first contacted Danielle thinking that being a part of the worship team might help him in his sobriety, but he hoped he wouldn’t have to commit to too much because he had brunch gigs on most Sunday mornings. Shortly after contacting her he was put on the schedule to play once a month! This forced him to have a sense of responsibility, because he knew he couldn’t show up to rehearsal on a Thursday night or a service on a Sunday morning drunk.

Soon after joining the worship team he also began attending a Community Group. They were going through the book “Experiencing God”, which really helped him see what experiencing God was like for the first time. It helped him in his prayer life and taught him how to develop a relationship with God. “Prayer isn’t just a routine. It isn’t just something that you say. Church isn’t just something that you do and just go to get through and then you’re good. You have to start to seek God and ask God to reveal himself to you.”

After 2 months of being sober Danielle asked PJ to play a drum duet for the Mission’s Sunday at DEC, having no idea the internal struggle that was going on. “That’s a weird point in sobriety. When I first stopped drinking…that’s almost easier because you are so close to that turmoil and it is so fresh in your mind. When you get farther in sobriety you kind of forget how bad it was.” He was struggling with sobriety because it was so new and different, but he knew he could not go back because that would be even worse. He felt stuck and vulnerable, but he did not realize just how vulnerable he really was.

PJ came to practice with the rest of the worship team for Mission’s Sunday, and shortly after Danielle noticed something was off about rehearsal. In that moment she stopped rehearsal and prayed. She was feeling spiritual warfare and asked God to help them in their practice. “We had had so many problems, like technical problems. It was really weird. Everything was fine until I sat down to watch the worship team practice the other tunes. At the time I didn’t know what it was. I was just having these thoughts of, ‘Why are you here? They don’t even want you here. You don’t belong here. You need to pack up your stuff and leave and drink. You shouldn’t even be alive.’ I must have gone back on stage. That’s when Danielle prayed the first time. I remember Danielle prayed twice. The first time Satan used it to make it worse on me. Then he was like, ‘Now look! Now you’re not supposed to be here so much that you are ruining it for them.’” As the practice continued, PJ’s feelings were not going away.

PJ put on a brave face like nothing was wrong and continued to play the drums. Danielle had no idea what was going on in his mind, but she knew that the team was under a spiritual attack. So, she prayed again for the demonic spirit to leave practice. “Then Danielle prayed a second time. That’s when I knew that she felt it too.”

That night PJ went home and talked to his wife, Jenn, about what happened. She did some research to find out what spiritual warfare was and that was when PJ realized he had been under attack. “That was really cool that Danielle felt that. It made me look into it more. It made me think, ‘Maybe I’m not ruining it for everyone. Maybe Satan is threatened by what good can come out of it.’”

It has now been several months since that night at worship team rehearsal. Through help in AA, and support from the worship team and his community group, PJ has been sober for over a year. He has continued to serve on the worship team and has been a huge encouragement. Through it all, God has done an amazing transformation from a life of addiction to a life of freedom. “I believed in God. I always believed that we were created and the world was created. I can just see that by looking around. But as far as Jesus, I was a little more like, ‘Maybe? But, how do you know?’ I think often that when Jesus died the veil was torn and I’ve spent a lot of my life just trying to sew it back up. Once I humbled myself and just said, ‘You take it. I can’t do it anymore.’ That’s when things started happening…[when I was] driving home from Concord one night and hearing, ‘Jesus is your friend. You can talk to Jesus.’ And I just casually said, ‘Jesus, I love you.’ And I looked down and the license plate said, ‘Love you more.’ And when they did the baptisms and there was one after the other and I was on the team. I just felt like God was revealing to me another character of him. No matter how dark it gets, or how much stuff happens in the world and how lost everybody gets, and how out of control everything seems to get with shootings and everything, don’t forget for one second that He hasn’t got it right in his hand and He can win at any time, at will. He’s got it.”

HIS STORY: BARRY & CLAIRE

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Barry began attending Durham Evangelical Church while he was a student at UNH. During that time DEC was located at McConnell hall at UNH, a small church with many needs. Almost as soon as he began attending, he began serving. “My first service at the church was, actually, in the nursery. Which I was reintroduced to the concept of babies. It had been a while. It was probably the first time I had to actually change a diaper.”

After his 4th year at UNH, Barry married his high school sweetheart, Claire. She also began attending DEC and soon after they were married they began serving on the worship team. “That was funny, because we were really bad.” Claire said with laughter. “There may be a heart there, but there may have not been the appropriate gifts…” Barry added. The church was small at the time and there were not many people available to help out in the different areas of needs throughout the church. So, Barry and Claire decided they would help where they saw needs.

Serving at a church means being a part of a community. Barry and Claire said this had a big impact on their serving over the years. They could recall several times where being a part of that community helped them through the difficult times. “If you have a community that is willing to serve, you are much more likely to stay with it. The Christian life is a marathon. It’s a walk that you need to have partners in. You need to have people that are walking with you.”

During their service to DEC, Barry says that the hardest part of serving is the relationships. “The most difficult thing I think people have to face in ministry is not the task they have to do, but the relationships in there. We are a community that needs to live together when we serve. So, I think the most difficult things in service are always when you are having those struggles to serve together. DEC has really got leadership that are very sensitive to that. If you think about serving, you know, I think one of the key things is your hearts position. There also has to be this ability to be flexible. Don’t take yourself so seriously. You may have this real passion for how God is going to do things and how you see stuff, but the reality is so do other people. “ He believes that there is joy in serving when you can prioritize what matters. “When you can take the focus off of yourself and see what God is doing, that’s when you can really enjoy things.”

Over their 30 years of service to DEC, Barry and Claire have served in the nursery, worship team, college ministry, children’s ministry, youth group, men’s & women’s ministry, marriage mentoring, and MOPS. They have also led community groups, and Barry has been a member of the elder board. During these years of service Barry says that there have been joys and heartaches, but they still serve to see people grow in their faith. “At the real end of it, it’s when you see people grow and you see them make steps of obedience. You see a disciple grow. You see somebody who now makes choices and follows Christ on their own volition. You know that God is doing something in their lives. When you see people growing in the faith, in ways that are not just words, but in ways that are really making decisions for Christ, I think that’s what really makes it worth it.”

HIS STORY: CHAD

On November 29th Chad Prusia was baptized, along with 11 others that day. 

After being with his high school sweetheart for 16 years, and having two children, Chad came home one night to find that his marriage had become completely disillusioned and his wife was leaving. Chad felt completely blindsided by the news. Not long after they were divorced, Chad had to find his identity apart from his wife. “Unfortunately, I could barely make ends meet. I lived in different apartments, and about a year after my divorce things were so tight that I moved back home for a little while.”

After a short time living with his parents, Chad was able to get back on his feet and began his own carpentry business. “I started my own business mainly for my kids. At the time when we first got divorced, which was like the death of me as it was. It was like my whole world had got turned upside down. I went from seeing my kids every day to only seeing them twice a week.” Even after starting his own business and having shared custody with his kids, he still struggled to be the man he thought he was before.

About 4 years after Chad’s divorce, a friend who attended DEC was also going through a divorce. So, Chad and his friend decided to move in together to make it financially easier on both of them. “We were kind of joking about moving in together, but then we started talking about it more seriously.” During that time there were many conversations between the two guys about faith and having a relationship with Jesus. “My mom always said, ‘God didn’t make the churches and you can pray from anywhere.’” 

After several months Chad’s friend began challenging Chad about his faith. “I remember having a conversation with him and he said, ‘Well, I know you believe in God. I don’t know how much of a relationship you have with Jesus. You don’t really read the Bible or talk with Jesus unless something bad happens. You don’t pray unless you need something. What if you had a really good friend, but you never talked with them a whole lot? But, whenever you needed something, let’s say, money, you would call that particular person. You would only call them when you really needed something.’ Then I said, ‘Well, that would be kind of rude.’ And he said, ‘That’s exactly what you’re doing with Jesus. You need to talk with him. You need to have a relationship with him.’” 

Shortly after having that conversation, Chad began attending DEC. The first time Chad came to church he felt like he belonged. “Every time I came in it was like Terry was always talking about a problem I had in my life. It was really coincidental and really exciting all at the same time. You know, I hate singing, but I found myself belting out all the songs! I didn’t care! It was really different for me.” 

A few weeks ago a sermon was preached about baptism and it challenged those who have not been baptized to consider the reasons they may be avoiding baptism. It challenged all of us to be obedient to Christ’s call on believers to be baptized, and to live lives that exemplified Christ’s work in us. That morning the Holy Spirit was moving among the people of DEC and 12 people were baptized. People from the congregation were bringing up shirts they were wearing and clothes from their car so people who wanted to be baptized could do so. It was during that service that Chad was baptized. 

Chad had attended baptism classes at DEC and had talked with a pastor and his mentor about baptism. He kept waiting for “a sign” that he should be baptized. One day during Community Group, his mentor told him that there would be a chance for him to be baptized at church and said that he should be baptized. So, Chad agreed and when the call was given for people to be baptized he was the first one in the water. “Looking back at how I’ve handled everything in life, I’ve screwed a lot of things up. That same week at Bible study we were talking about it and everyone was crying again and they were all saying, ‘It was such an emotional day’. I had been out back getting dried off and stuff so I kind of missed that emotional part that everybody was in, but then hearing that and looking back, nothing else matters. I was a part of that. That changed my whole realm of thinking.”

“It’s definitely changed my life and how I look at things. There are all these things I handle differently now than I would have even three years ago.” Since becoming a Christian, before being baptized, Chad told his wife that he forgave her for what happened in their marriage. “I blamed it all on her, when in all actuality, I wasn’t the greatest guy in the world either. We were verbally abusive to each other. I asked for her forgiveness in that and I said that I forgave her for what she did. There’s no way I could have done that without God’s help. No way.”

“I think back where my life was headed. We get so caught up on money and things, and we don’t look at the important things. Now I see things that make me happy. He found me and brought the right people in my life that brought me to him.”

 

HIS STORY: JOAN

Over 2 years ago Joan Valliere went to have her annual mammogram before she left for vacation with her family. A few days later she would get a call from her doctor that changed the course of her life.

Joan grew up in Newmarket, NH with her mom, stepdad and 4 siblings. Her stepdad, an immigrant from Poland during World War II, was a loving but stern father and mom was the type of mother that would do anything for her kids. “Mom was a very strong Christian and dad was a very strong catholic. Mom made sure that we would go to church. I grew up knowing who God was, but was I following him? I thought I was.”

When Joan entered her teenage years she started a rebellious time of partying in her life. “In my mind I kept on saying, ‘I’ll have time for Jesus later’. Thankfully God said, ‘I’ll give you time.’ There were times that I probably shouldn’t be here, ya know, drinking, being with people that were drinking and driving.” In her later teen years she grew out of that rebellious stage and soon began dating her future husband, Mark.

After 7 years of dating, Joan and Mark were married and had two children. “He was a catholic. Not a strong catholic, but a catholic.” Joan’s mom continually professed her faith to both Joan and Mark in a gentle and loving way, but was persistent because she wanted them to know the truth. “She would always be praying for us. She would talk to Mark about God and who Jesus Christ is.”

Two years after their eldest was born, Mark’s mom was in a car accident that left her in a vegetative state. A week after the accident his mom passed. “That was a difficult time. When you lose somebody you start to think about your own destiny. It left Mark wondering about his faith and where he may end up someday.” This began a faith journey for both Mark and Joan that would lead them to attend Durham Evangelical Church some years later.

About two years after Mark’s mom passed, Joan’s mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. “That was so devastating to me and my family because she had always been the rock in our family. She was the kind of person that had such a strong faith I thought I would be saved too! I thought ‘I had such a great mother. God wouldn’t turn me away!’” Joan’s mom fought breast cancer for two years before she passed, but a year after her passing Mark became a Christian. “Both of us really started to grow closer to God during the time she was sick. I would be sitting by her bedside and read her Scripture. I truly wasn’t following Jesus like I should have. He wasn’t my life. I was reading Scripture verses to her, thinking that I’m comforting her, but it was speaking to me.” God gave Joan an incredible peace, when her mom passed, knowing that her mom was in Heaven. This time in Joan’s life made her realize her need for a Savior and she soon became a Christian.

Over 20 years later, Joan was diagnosed with breast cancer. Joan received a phone call from her doctor while on vacation with her husband and two children telling her that she had a malignant, invasive form of breast cancer. “I got off the phone and I dropped to my bed and I just started sobbing. It was like that sobbing when you lose somebody.” Joan was reminded of her mom, whom she had lost to breast cancer, and wondered if she would have the same fate.

As she laid on her bed, her two children came into her room. “They came in and hugged me and said, ‘Mom, it’s going to be okay. You’re going to be okay. Don’t worry.’ I think what was happening was that the Spirit was within me. The Spirit was saying, ‘Remember; God is with you.’ I had claimed all these years that Jesus Christ was my Lord and Savior and that I will not fear. I just remember God saying, ‘I am with you always. I will never leave you or forsake you.’ I just held onto that promise.” She assured her kids that it was going to be okay and realized she had to show her kids she believed what she said she believed.

After vacation, Joan found out she had two cancerous lumps. This led to Joan needing surgery to remove the cancer. She went on to have a successful surgery, but once the surgery was over she had to decide what the treatment would be to prevent the cancer from returning. She did not want to do chemotherapy, but she realized that going through the treatments would save her life. Joan went through four treatments every six weeks. “That was a real test of my faith, just knowing what I would have to go through because of what I saw my mom go through.” Through the chemo Joan did not have severe side effects, but there were many dark days where Joan had to rely on God’s strength. “Through it all God sent so many people into my life, and this is what I’m really thankful for. I knew that I was not alone in this. I had my family, my church family, all my friends and most of all I had Jesus Christ in my life. I got through this through their encouragement and through their prayers. It was so humbling that people were doing this for me. I’m not used to that. To have to sit and be still, because I couldn’t do a lot, I remember thinking I wish everyone could feel this love.”

While Joan is thankful for her faith and the support of her church family, her biggest supporter was her husband, Mark. “He truly showed me what love meant and what love was. He was the best nurse! He walked beside me the entire way just loving me. He told me I was beautiful when I was going bald from chemo, and that was the LAST thing I felt. We’ve grown a lot. Our marriage has gone through the fire and it’s survived. Because of that I feel like we can do anything and because God’s with us.”

Joan is now two years recovered from her breast cancer and has retired along with her husband, Mark. Since her retirement she has been able to use her gifts to help those in need in the church and in the community. “I’m thankful that I got through it the way that I did. I’m thankful that my faith grew so strongly. I’m thankful for a lot of things, but mostly I’m just thankful for God being in my life, because without that I’d have nothing to be thankful for.”