The year 2019 was an amazing year of ministry for churches in the Charis Fellowship. We thought it would be nice to remember a few stories of how God moved in the lives of people within the fellowship. Below are a few summaries of stories from the last year. If you click on the title of each story, you can read the full post. We at GraceConnect are looking forward to sharing stories from Charis Fellowships in the new year!
“God put everything on earth that we needed to not only survive but thrive,” says Carolyn Johansen, of Community Grace Brethren Church in Goldendale, Wash., Greg Howell, senior pastor).
Carolyn became interested in natural health when she developed food allergies. Seeking out medical attention led her to a chiropractor who was able to aid in reversing her allergies and she began to move forward in her exploration of natural health.
Taking a step of faith, she obtained a certificate in nutritional counseling and a doctorate in naturopathy. Carolyn and her husband, Jan (the worship director at Goldendale Grace), moved to Goldendale, Wash. It was at this time that she felt the Lord leading her to start writing her book, Eating God’s Way.
The book is an approach to eating the way God intended humans to eat since Creation. The book compares and contrasts the types of food we have today versus bible times. Each chapter begins with a bible verse to encourage people to move toward a God-inspired diet.
“I feel like God gave me a message,” says Carolyn, “and I put it in a book.”
[Connect:] Send Carolyn an encouraging note here. You can purchase a copy of Eating God’s Way here.
“We’ve embraced the fact that we’ve had these experiences instead of compartmentalizing them and moving on with life. This is a part of who we are now and what God has taken us through,” says Ashley Murray. Ashley and her husband, Jim, live in South Carolina where Jim serves as a Charis Fellowship Chaplain in the U.S. Army.
In September of 2018, They were confronted with the news that the twins Ashley was carrying were in stage 3 of TTTS (Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome). At 24 weeks gestation, Ashley underwent an emergency c-section and delivered two boys, Ethan and Benjamin. Benjamin was given CPR immediately after birth but struggled in the NICU and died shortly after he was born. Ethan survived and spent 120 days in the NICU before coming home to be with his mom, dad, and three older siblings.
In the months following Ethan’s return home, Jim and Ashley’s son, Drew, began to experience seizures, which led to the diagnosis of a brain tumor. Drew was two and a half.
In June of this year, three-year-old Drew was able to undergo surgery to remove the benign tumor.
In 2018, Save the Storks, an organization the Murrays support financially, held a contest to name one of their mobile care units. After posting their story on social media, the Murrays were given the opportunity to name one of the buses after their late son, Benjamin.
The bus was completed in 2019 and toured the country. Its final stop was at a pregnancy resource center in Georgia. The Murrays were invited to attend the unveiling.
“God has been faithful through all of these experiences and he is using different portions to help us minister to others,” says Ashley.
[Connect:] Send the Murrays an encouraging note here.
“It takes a conscious effort to put people and their needs before programs,” says Bud Olszewski, pastor of Rittman Grace Brethren Church, a Charis Fellowship congregation in Rittman, Ohio. Bud has been pastoring his congregation for 36 years and values the impact of long-term ministry in the local church.
Since Rittman Grace planted its roots in 1913, the congregation has been led by 12 different pastors, Bud Olszewski being the pastor with the longest ministry term to date. Early in his ministry, Bud committed to keeping people the priority. A reliable tool he uses is a spreadsheet on his computer that keeps track of the needs of the people in the congregation and a visiting log.
“One of the best things you can do is be available,” says Bud.
While the benefits of long-term ministry outweigh the hardships, Bud admits that pastoring a congregation for an extended amount of time can bring heartache.
“I’ve dealt with things over the years that they didn’t cover in seminary,” says Bud, “However, facing difficult things gives an opportunity for ministry.”
As culture seems to be changing every day, the congregation of Rittman Grace continues to be a trustworthy staple in Rittman, Ohio. They are hard at work to disciple the next generation, sending more than 40 people into full-time ministry over the last 106 years with more in the wings to be released to help build the Kingdom.
“Our impact on the community will always be greater than the numbers,” says Bud, “and we have a good situation to build on.”
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