Where There Is No Path

Story - S. Courtney, Courtney Christian School as told by Holly Poole

“Do not follow where the path may lead! Go, instead, where there’s no path and leave a trail.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson 

My dream was to have a Christian school that was built on character building and restoring American Christian heritage to our children. I think that God wanted me to prepare these children to be world-changers in a society that has lost it’s moral compass and to create an atmosphere of honor and respect. Courtney Christian School has become the reality of that dream. 

This school was always the dream. There were so many times that the path was deviated. As with Moses and the Israelites, the Promised Land was always the goal even when the path was deviated, even when people and circumstances got in the way. However, it was in the deviated times, that God was able to change my heart out of brokenness and humble me. It was years in the making to get where we are now, but that process was preparation for me. For 12 years, my dream stayed in my spirit without action. It took 12 years for God to ready my spirit before the dream could come to pass. 

When God gives us a dream, there’s a refiners fire that you go through- and that produces brokenness, character building, and humility. Your character has to be able to sustain the dream. God will not send you into the dream unprepared, that is why He tests you. 

The dream began becoming reality when a few Pastors came to me in 2014 and asked “would you ever start a school again?” and I thought, maybe in a few years. In March 2015, they came back and said that the window of opportunity was open and it was time to take action. I needed to know that God was calling me to do this because I was leaving everything for the unknown. We secured a building on June 25, 2015, I signed a lease but I had no money. God knew that I needed a tangible sign, and I soon got the news that the contractor would cover all of the renovations on the building which would have been half a million. By July 30, we had been preparing for school to start, we ordered the curriculum, and began enrolling students - and we still didn’t have any money. Again, God shows his provision when a man came to the school and asked me about my vision, he then goes to truck and writes out a check for a quarter of a million dollars and gives us enough money to start school. 

"God never gives you a dream that matches your budget. He’s not checking your bank account, He’s checking your faith."

Oftentimes, when you have a dream, you don’t have the finances. That’s when you have to take a leap of faith, because God’s dreams require action. You take a step and God puts the bridge under your feet. 

We opened our doors to 121 students in August, 2015. We still didn’t have a library. Again, God’s hand shown through the generosity of a retired librarian I had never met in Alabama that sent us 2,000 books. A known artist in New Orleans had volunteered to do our mural here at the school.  A friend from school had send us $2,000 dollars for an art program, and another friend sent enough money to start a basketball team. Last year we had two sports and this year we now have 6 sports and cheerleading in just the second year. 

When it is God’s timing, everything falls into place. When He is leading you through His dream, he gives you benchmarks along the way. He shows you that His hand is on your dream to give you the momentum to move forward. 

A Visual On The Audio/Visual Ministry

This week, I talked to Ryan Mercier - Media Team Member & A/V Manager at The Harbor Church - about the always growing and expanding Media and A/V Department here at The Harbor Church. There is so much time and effort put into the media that you see here on Sunday mornings. Ryan is the person behind (and in front) of the lens. Today, we talked about the progression of the Media and A/V team & how he uses his creativity to serve the Church. 


How has the Media A/V team grown throughout the years? 

The Harbor has always had a remedial level of media. We have always had a camera and things like that. But, it all blew up (in a good way, obviously) when we moved into the Hoover building. Pastor Poole wanted to expand the department, add lights and better sound equipment, etc,. and he asked me to run it. We began investing in all new sound and lighting equipment. From there, it was building a team, which you’ll notice is primarily made up of young people that are interested in that sort of thing. 

 
 

How have you been able to take your interest/talent in Media & A/V and turn that into a way to serve the Church?

In the past year and a half I’ve had to learn a lot, and really any talent that I have in A/V just has to do with a desire to learn more.

One thing that I’ve noticed is that the Sound Booth is the most disconnected place to serve in the Church. Sometimes, young people like to serve in this capacity because it’s a way to disconnect from the service. I was able to notice this and change the culture. I think it’s a great platform for some students that come into it maybe wanting to be disconnected, but instead find themselves even more engaged and able to grow in an even greater capacity. 

 

As far as the Creative Department goes, I have never thought that I would be doing anything with video. I went to school for biology and picked up a camera maybe 3 or 4 times in the span of 3 years. It was once this A/V thing blew up, that the opportunity came up to do video announcements, and bumper videos and all of those fun things that we do now. The reason that I do video is because I believe that the Holy Spirit is the only thing that will change someone'S life, BUT emotion is the thing that softens the heart. With video, I have the opportunity to trigger the emotions of people so that their heart is open to the Holy Spirit to make changes in their lives. 


Throwback Thursday? Click here to watch the very first video announcement video! 

Check out some of the great work the team has done - watch the Together series bumper here. 

Faith Like A Mustard Seed

Story: Hannah N. - as told to Holly Poole.

Last year, I interviewed Hannah about her experience at Bethel's WorshipU Conference in Redding, California. This year, Hannah has actually moved to Redding and is now studying worship at Bethel College! I asked her to update us on her new season of life - one of great changes, learning experiences, and a lot of fun (I mean, moving to Cali for Bethel's Supernatural School of Ministry!? Uhh, take me with you!!!). 

"I think a lot of times while Christians read the Bible and have personal relationships with Jesus, there's still always some hint of 'yeah God CAN do that, but WILL He do that for ME?'"

Hannah: "So, honestly it's only been 3 1/2 weeks into school and already a lot of transformation has happened. Mostly because they dive straight in, not wasting anytime. Prior to school starting, [the] Holy Spirit has been stretching my faith in literally every way possible - financially, jobs, housing, friendships/community. It's crazy but all in a good way. I can honestly say that at this point, I do not doubt God's ability for anything, and that's something that I wasn't sure I would ever be able to say. I think a lot of times while Christians read the Bible and have personal relationships with Jesus, there's still always some hint of "yeah God CAN do that, but WILL He do that for ME?" And, just a testimony of faith in His ability to provide. I lived here for a month without a job or any sort of financial income, which was absolutely terrifying at first. But, I was like, "Okay God. You brought me here and You're not going to abandon me because that's not who You are. Your literal nature is to provide abundantly because You love me." Long story short: after I told God that, my friend messaged me about selling her Faith Like a Mustard Seed necklaces and giving all the profit to me for tuition or expenses. I made a video explaining it to everyone; posted it on my Facebook page, and took a shower. Within the time it took for me to get a shower, I already had emails from one place asking me to schedule my orientation to start ASAP. Then while filling out the application, I got a phone call from another place to interview that night. I left the interview with a job. The next morning I woke up and was called in for another job. I went to that interview, left and called my mom super overwhelmed with God's faithfulness. I had to hang up with her because someone else was calling to ask me to come in for yet another job interview. Within 24 hours, I had four job offers, and was put in the position of choosing the ones I wanted. God hears every word we speak, and cherishes them. We are His absolute delight. When He provides for us, we are put in a position where we know without a shadow of a doubt who our dad is."

"That was just a nice prelude to what school was actually going to hold. I have never fully walked in confidence of my identity as a daughter of the King of all creation. Because of the realization of His overwhelming love and how much He cherishes us as sons and daughters, I have been able to see change in the way I carry myself and the way I communicate with others. It's crazy. And while total transformation has yet to occur, and there's still "ick" we are working on, I know that if I were to return home at this point, I still would be totally not the same."

"As far as worship goes, when there's a complete understanding of our identity, then there's sooooooo much freedom in worship."

"Also! As far as worship goes, when there's a complete understanding of our identity, then there's sooooooo much freedom in worship. You can't help but get lost in worship for hours at a time because you aren't striving to reach some goal. Worship is no longer mapped and planned out to the minuscule details, but it's this beautiful interaction because a God who delights in every word you speak and in turn you delight in every word He speaks." 

 

To read the last year's interview with Hannah on worship + Bethel's WorshipU Conference, read below! 

If you would like to keep up with Hannah and her journey, check out her blog: click here


I met with Hannah, a college student at Southeastern Louisiana University studying music theory, about her experience in Redding, California at Bethel Church learning about and encountering worship in new and incredible ways through a two-week worship program, WorshipU. What she experienced at Bethel Church was far greater than a good church program. Hannah experienced an encounter with God that transformed her heart and her worship. 

Hannah begins by telling me about her personal approach to worship before her week at Bethel Church. As a musician and Music minor, her approach was technical. She was looking at other musicians and listening for technique and style, unintentionally trying to perfect worship. She thought, this music is going to God, it has to be perfect. She found herself being hindered in her worship by this perfectionism. She states: its not that I wasnt worshiping; its just that I was constricted in my worship.

During her stay at WorshipU, God began to show Hannah how worship was never supposed to be about music. Instead, it was designed to be an intimate time between the Creator and the created. Hannah explains worship this way: at first, I want to push God away as I worship, because I hear Him say the words, I love you; youre beautiful. And that doesn't feel right, because that's not how I've seen myself. But I dont have to perform for Him. He already loves me. I can play the same bad chords, and He still loves me. Its not about the music. Worship is not about playing an instrument or painting or dancing; it's all about the heart. He doesn't want a relationship with a flag or a guitar, he wants one with you. Everything we do is worship is not a Christian cliche. God really does see your heart at all times. Worshiping continually is what it means to live in the Holy Spirit, to leave your peace wherever you go - to leave some of your Holy Spirit that is living in you wherever you are.

At WorshipU, God directed Hannah to a class called Breaking Off the Fear of Creativity. She believed that she was going to a music-oriented class that fit into her comfort zone, but instead it was an art class. Hannah explained that she had piano-hands, not painting-hands. She asked God if she should leave, but He told her that He had her there for a reason. The instructor asked the students to take out the blank piece of paper and paint what God allowed their hands to paint. She was uncomfortable with painting and began praying to God, explaining to Him about how much she was not an artist. He said to her, I paint the skies everyday; I can paint your small piece of paper.

God was saying, "I dont need your talents and abilities to create something. Ive got it." Thats worship.

Decisions, Decisions

Story - Heather Poole - as told to Holly Poole. 

Decisions, Decisions… 

There is a time after high school and before you enter ‘the real world’ where things get a little confusing, sometimes messy, and most likely quite stressful. I sat down with Heather Poole to talk about making hard decisions and planning for the future. 

Enjoy your season... 

Because this stage of your life is about learning and growing yourself, don’t try to rush the process. You’re only cheating yourself out of growing your own character.

Heather: The most important thing to remember while you're in school is to not get so caught up in your future plans that you lose sight of right now. You will lose sight of the life-giving lessons that you can learn in the classroom and in this stage of life. Because this stage of your life is about learning and growing yourself, don’t try to rush the process. You’re only cheating yourself out of growing your own character. When you rush the processes of life, you're taking away from the quality of your character.

In regards to making plans… 

Heather: God created us with our own talents, creativity, and desires. He created us with our own ability to make decisions about what we do with those things. God’s plan for us may not be as specific as you think. The problem is, when we think of God’s will, we think of one specific path of decisions He has called us to and we have to find it. There is a certain college, a certain major, a certain job, a certain spouse, and a certain way to make every single decision in our life that is in the will of God. The will of God is this, (this is quoted from a sermon by Eric Johnson) 1) to be saved John 3:7, 2) to be filled with the spirit Romans 8:9, 3) to be sanctified 1 Thessalonians 4:3-7, 4) to submit yourself and do good 1 Peter 2:13-15, 5) to suffer for the sake of Jesus 2 Timothy 3:12. Where we go to school, where we chose to work, where we put our time and effort, those are the blanks that we fill in. Of course, when we are in God’s will, the Holy Spirit assists us in making those decisions, but you will never be able to make those decisions if you are waiting on a direct word from God about His complete will for you life.  

Psalms 37:4

John 15:15 

Proverbs 16:9

Click here to listen to Eric Johnson's sermon 'God On Mute.'


As a young adult and student, you have to start making a lot of important decisions (maybe even for the first time). It is essential that you rely on God for direction. You can’t do it alone. However, don’t be ‘stuck in the waiting.’ Here are some ways to avoid that: 

1. Take action. 

If you have an idea for the thing that you want to do in the future but haven't had any confirmation from God, go try it out. The confirmation that you're looking for may be discovering through experience whether something is or is not a good fit for you. Take an internship or a job learning about the field that you are interested in. Go visit colleges, take opportunities as they are given, seek out the things that you want to do, even if you aren't qualified. 

2. Ask for advice/assistance. 

Go talk to your spiritual authority about your situation and ask them to pray with you. If there is a financial or some other kind of obstacle, seek out people that are able to help. Always, always, always, use your resources. 

3. Pray. 

Be aware that there are so many other people speaking into your life, but the most important voice is His.

The best way to hear from God and not be stuck waiting is to have constant communication with Him. When He speaks, you will hear because you have been speaking to Him, you know His voice - you are in communion with Him. Be aware that there are so many other people speaking into your life, but the most important voice is His. Keep your focus on His voice. The closer you are to God, the closer your desires and His become the same. 

Only The Ship Will Sink

Story by Holly Poole

On August 8, 2016 I bought a journal. 

I was choosing this specific journal before a missions trip to New York where I knew I would be filling the pages quickly. Peyton, my fiancé, was with me and holding up different ones and urging me to make a choice because we were in a hurry. I picked out a burlap journal with a gold anchor on it. At the time, there was something about anchors that I had a certain affinity for. I remember explaining my choice to Peyton saying, “I don't know what they mean, yet. But, I know it’s important to me right now.”

It was so frustrating to listen to their problems and not have a solution. 

A few days later, many parts of Louisiana went under water in a historical, catastrophic flood. At the time, I was in upstate New York with about 50 kids from Jersey City, NJ that were underwater in another way. There, I understood the anchor that is my God and the waters that are powerless in comparison to Him. As I listened to these children’s stories of poverty, abuse, and neglect, I saw that their flood had been slow and steady waters. There had been no rescue teams. They had their God and the limited resources of their local church to which they were reluctant to lend their trust. It was so frustrating to listen to their problems and not have a solution. 

The hardest thing to do is look at someone in the eye that is neck-deep in their own flood and tell them that God is in the midst of the storm. Still, you say it and then you wince because you know that it sounds ridiculous. But, it’s true! I believe with full confidence that He is in the storm, so how do you explain that? How do you tell someone that feels underwater that God is with them in midst of it? 

Sometimes, the ship sinks. 

I am reminded of a story in Acts 27. Paul was a prisoner of the Romans and was sent with many other prisoners to Italy in a ship. During their voyage, Paul declared that there would be trouble if the ship went on, but they went on anyway. The storm came and everyone feared for their lives because they could not control the ship. Paul tells them to take courage, they will not lose their lives. Though they may lose their cargo and they will be shipwrecked—still, only the ship will sink. 

This phrase, “only the ship will sink” has gone over and over in my head. The reason became clear to me while I watched the flood waters rise in Louisiana all the while trying to asses the high-waters in New York/New Jersey. I needed to know that I can't save every ship from sinking. I couldn’t fix everything—or maybe, anything at all. I couldn't save every little girl from abuse and neglect. I couldn't prevent anyone of these children from going forward into troubled waters ahead. At the same time, I couldn't save anyone from the flood waters in Louisiana, especially from 1,300 miles away. Sometimes, the ship sinks. 

I had to say—“I don’t have the answers, I can’t save you from this.”

So, then, I had to look into the eyes of two young girls, both living in a mess that someone else created, and I had to say—“I don’t have the answers, I can’t save you from this.” It was painful to say, but God was speaking to me in this moment. He was asking me, “if you believe that I am your rescuer, provider, strength and peace throughout trials—why are you looking for a practical solution to your needs and the needs of others?” 

I was trying to calm a storm and I realized then how crazy that is. Of course I don't have a solution, because I am not God. If I had the solution, there would be no need for Him. I re-directed my thinking and began simply celebrated the attributes of God, reassuring the girls of His goodness—and they understood. Here, in this moment, I learned to love the storm because in the end, He is the only one that can calm it. He is the only peace in this world. In the end, all of the glory belongs to Him.

Yes, the ship may sink, I will never belittle that loss, but, so much greater is the knowledge that God is our provider and strength. 

5 Exercises to strengthen Your core

Story - Michelle Braud - as told to Holly Poole

Michelle: Recently, I had heard a lot of sermons about core values, mostly from Bethel. One day, I was sick and had some time to think. During that time, God just spoke to me about writing down my core values and it just evolved from there. I wrote down things like, “I am un-offendable. I radiate love and bring The Kingdom everywhere I go. I am presence-driven. I am a mother who is training world changers…” and I implemented those things in my life. 

Of course, the first core value “I am un-offendable,” came up immediately. On Sunday morning, which is obviously a chaotic event in my household of four children, I had plenty of opportunities to be offended. I definitely could have lost it, but I remembered my first core-value “I am un-offendable.” Later, during service, Pastor had looked over at me and said, “do whatever you feel.” If I had held onto my offenses that morning, I would not have had anything to say. Instead, I had remembered who I was and I was able to operate as a vessel for the Holy Spirit. There was a second occasion when this same core-value came up. I was in car line with my kids and someone had come around my car and cut in front of us, I reacted immediately with, “what the heck!” My first thought was that I wanted to get out and tell her something. However, prompted by my children’s concerns, I remember my core-values and I realized again how important it was to align with those for the sake of my children. 

Feelings are a bad master - that's one of the main reasons that I needed these core values. When emotions are high, you need those core values in order to react to situations without the messy, and often irrational, emotional reactions. 

"When you declare your core values over your life, that’s what your life becomes. You’re telling yourself who you are and you’re telling the spirit realm who you are."

Establishing & Strengthening Your Core Values: 5 Simple Exercises    

  1. Spend time in prayer and worship asking God - “Who am I?, What am I called to be?” 
  2. Look to the scriptures - Who does God say I am in His Word? Click here to find references. 
  3. Based on these exercises, determine your core values. 
  4. Write them down - Habakkuk 2:2-3
  5. Test them through daily decision making.  

Hands & Feet

Story - Heather Allen, Highpoint Church Orlando - as told to Holly Poole

Last weekend, The Harbor Church had the honor of hosting Highpoint Church Orlando's team of 46 volunteers that passionately gave their time and energy to assist the storm relief efforts going on here in Louisiana. I was blessed to witness their team, along with a team from Tuscaloosa, AL and many others from The Harbor Church, as we went out to serve, give, and pray in our community. 

He wants you to know that at the end of the day, it's fully God that provides, that He is your provider and no one else. That is why He assembled this team of people to be His hands and feet so that you know it was Him, so that you know only God is your provider.  

Kim Sandras, Tuscaloosa, AL team leader shared her personal testimony with the victims about losing all that she had in Hurricane Katrina while still knowing that God is good and He always provides. She often stated that there is a reason that God put people from Orlando or Tuscaloosa in their lives to help rather than receiving it from a friend or family member. He wants you to know that at the end of the day, it's fully God that provides, that He is your provider and no one else. That is why He assembled this team of people to be His hands and feet so that you know it was Him, so that you know only God is your provider.  

We want to honors those that have served with their time, money, prayers, and resources. You have blessed this community in more ways than you know. Above all else, we want to give all of the glory to God. In everything we do, it is only to further His Kingdom with the love of Jesus Christ. Let us be assured, that the works of men are only the evidence of God's provision. 


How did Highpoint Church end up here in Hammond, LA? 

Heather: Our lead Pastor Keith Tower had seen some media footage on the flooding. As a church that believes in going out and being the hands and feet of Jesus, it was natural to respond. We do a lot of mission trips. We had done similar disaster relief in Ringwald, Georgia. There had not been a lot of media coverage in Georgia about the flood, but we were fortunate enough to learn about it. We made a connection with Jason Granger here in Hammond, LA where we would set up base for our missions trip. We had expected maybe 12 or so people to sign up to go, instead, we had 46 team members. It was really cool to have such a diverse group of people made up of all different demographics, with different backgrounds and levels of experience with serving. We had young children, parents, students, grandparents—it was a group of people that only God could assemble. We also received a great response from our members at Highpoint Church that were not able to join the team in the form of monetary support. Because of their giving, we were able to give away $2,000 in gift cards and $1,500 in drywall during our trip. 

What were your expectations going into this mission’s trip? 

The sights, sounds, and voices of the people give life to the situation in ways that photos and news reporters never could. 

Heather: We didn’t know what to expect going into this mission field. We knew it was a disaster zone, but there is nothing like seeing it in real life. The devastation is so much more real when you see it in person. Walking down the street, we saw people’s possessions—essentially what made up their lives—sitting out on the side of the road. Until you see it in person, you can’t fully realize the impact that these disasters make. The sights, sounds, and voices of the people give life to the situation in ways that photos and news reporters never could. 

Heather Allan, Highpoint Church Team Leader praying with Kim Sandras (Tuscaloosa, Al team leader) for a family affected by the flood. 

Heather Allan, Highpoint Church Team Leader praying with Kim Sandras (Tuscaloosa, Al team leader) for a family affected by the flood. 

 

What did you do while you were here? 

Heather: While we were there, we were able to completely clean out 3 different homes: tearing out floors and walls, clearing out the debris and taking belongings to the street. We were able to bless people with gift-cards, encouragement and most importantly, prayer. It was such a blessing to be able to pay for the drywall to be put into the home of a single mother affected by the flood. We also had a team at The Healing Place distribution center in Denham Springs, LA where people were giving out blankets, food, and toiletries. 

Tell me about moment that impacted you most while you were here—

Heather: While we were in Denham Springs on Monday, our team was going out and giving away gift cards. Literally, every house there was destroyed. A lot of people weren't home and it was just this eerie feeling of “where is everyone?” There was one lady sitting outside of her house standing over this plastic bin. I already knew that this was going to be a serious moment, I could just tell that something was about to happen. We walked up to her and asked if she was okay. She was weeping in front of this plastic bin. I looked down and realized it was a bin of her photos. I have heard of this happening, but seeing it—there is nothing like it. She began telling me her story, not only with the flood but everything that she had been going through even before she lost all of her belongings and now she is presently dealing with it all. As she was telling me her story, I was able to relate to her in many different way. I was able to minister to her out of that place of ‘I’ve been here,’ and that was powerful for me.

Tell me more about unity and the power of the Church—

We live in a self-serving, self-seeking world, but I saw Christians that were the opposite of those things.

Heather: It’s a really powerful thing when people that aren’t directly affected by a disaster, people that aren’t even near it or know much about it, will come and serve those that are affected. Most people on our team had never been on a missions trip before and it was the first time for them to see, ‘I was the hands and feet of Jesus here.’ We had several people that we talked to that said “I am going to give to the Churches now instead of organizations” because they saw that those were the people out there helping. We live in a self-serving, self-seeking world, but I saw Christians that were the opposite of those things. Our church weren’t the only ones that came from a different state, I know that there are people that have come from all over. Only God could assemble this group of people that come from all over with all different backgrounds. It’s amazing that such a diverse group of people can come together and not argue, not be concerned about their differences, but just be the Church and serve others. 

It was a successful trip not only because we were able to accomplish many different things and help many people. This missions trip was also extremely successful in allowing our team members to understand what it means to really be ‘the hands and feet of Jesus’; it was an essential experience for many people to grow in their Christianity.

This Is The Church

Story - Flood Relief Volunteers & April F. - as told by Holly Poole & April Foster

Compassion naturally flows from passion. When we are passionate about our God, compassion, which is the action of passion, is manifest through our lives. The outpouring of love is being directed by hearts connected passionately to their God.

- Rachel Fendley, on serving our community


Amidst the loss and the chaos of the Louisiana floods, our community has joined together, most often independently from a church or organization, to aid the victims of this flood. In all of my life, I have never seen a community more united, more kind-hearted and selfless as this. The piles of damaged belongings on our streets may be reminders of the loss, but among the debris, I have seen yet another symbol, one that represents what has been gained. I have seen crowds of men and women in red SERVE Team shirts (from all different churches) that have willingly given up their time, efforts, and finances to restore our community. Many of whom have not been commissioned by a church, but have simply stepped up to fulfill their role as Christians—unguided and unpersuaded—these are people that are motivated by their love for God and His people. The Harbor Church commends every man and woman that have given selfless love and service to God’s people.

We love to hear the stories of those that have been blessed by these Serve Teams/individuals providing flood relief to our community, as well as, the stories of Serve Teams/individuals that have been blessed by their experiences in serving others! Please share your testimony with us on Facebook in the comments section here so that we may highlight all the good things that God is doing at this time. 


This is the testimony of the Foster family—April, her husband, and two children were among those who geared up in their red SERVE Team shirts, being called upon only by the tug on their hearts to love God’s people: 

It wasn't organized; it was God.

April Foster: “I was praying for days right after the flooding for God to lead me to who to help. There were so many needs of people at our church and through our homeschool group that I didn't know who needed it the most. At first I began offering to wash people's clothes and received 3 families clothes to wash. I wanted to be in the houses cleaning out the mess but I felt there were other ways people needed help. I offered to watch small children at my house so the parents could clean. I continued to receive updates on our SERVE Team Facebook page of the needs.

John called me to ask if we could help Debbie Dunn's parents, and I was thrilled to jump at the opportunity. As soon as we said yes, a very good friend of ours who doesn't belong to a church asked us if he could help us in any way with helping flooded people. Emery's best friend from a different church volunteered to help too. Before we knew it, we had created a clean up team at the Lee's house. When we showed up, Karen Hilton was there! It wasn't organized, it was God. We returned the next day and our beautifully divine team am continued to help clean. Erin March delivered food to the house on Saturday and to several of the neighbors. What a blessing!

Currently, I have a team organized to continue the clean up this Saturday. I VERY easily recruited many of the same people to help. It's like we have all become a family committed to helping out this house be put back together. This is the 2nd time Debbie's parent's have flooded. I am so thankful that God put this family on my radar. I am forever blessed to be a part of their rebuilding.” 

God Is Constant

Story - Breanna B. as told by Holly Poole

This March, Breanna’s house was flooded. After renovations and recovery from the last flood, the house was flooded again this August. This time, the water was 3 feet higher. 

“When the house flooded again, I felt like there was no point in even fixing the house again. I had to think about how much I loved it when I first got it. I had to be hopeful and think that this house was what I wanted and we can’t just throw everything away. I had to think of it in a brighter perspective and see it as an opportunity to re-do it the way that I would like even more."

"Thankfully, there weren’t any belongings in the house. I feel blessed that it could have been much worse, but it wasn’t.” 

Breanna had recently began reading the book Jesus Calling and came across this scripture:  

Psalms 102: 25-27 - Long ago you laid the foundation of the earth and made the heavens with your hands. They will perish, but you remain forever; they will wear out like old clothing. You will change them like a garment and discard them. But you are always the same; you will live forever.

“In the end, the things that we lose are temporary. I’ve had to learn that things change and you lose things. I have been going through my parents divorce and moving and now this flood and I just had to have that revelation that things change and pass away but God is constant.” 

God’s goodness has shown in unexpended ways—like old friends coming to help out with the house that she hadn’t spoke to in a while. The Harbor Church was also very helpful to the Bankston family and supportive during this time. Last time it flooded, her family worked alone. This time they were done clearing out the house in a day because of all the people that came to help. 

“Through this whole experience, I have just been learning to rely on God and live for Now and not the past.”

A Bright New Season

At the beginning of the year, we highlighted Courtney's story as she navigated the process of becoming a nurse, with the rigorous demands of nursing school on top of the numerous obstacles she faced while achieving her dream. Through her personal story, she helped us to understand failure, the pitfalls of attempting complete control, and other lies we may believe in light of God's plan for our life. Considering Pastor Marvin's message this past Sunday on the importance of our dreams and a few life-changing events in Courtney's own life, we decided to revisit her story.

Over the course of the past 8 months, Courtney has found a new job as a full-time OB nurse. She is undoubtably fulfilled through this opportunity to be with people during some of the most monumental moments in their life - whether good or bad - and love on them when they need to experience God's love most. Plus, she gets to see brand new babies every day!

In addition to having the job she loves, Courtney has found love through her relationship with Luke. They are currently engaged and are set to tie the knot in October. Much like her experience throughout nursing school, this part of her life was unplanned and has not necessarily happened the way she would have envisioned. However, she attributes the success of her relationship with Luke to the fact that it was very organic - unplanned and not forced.

While she finds herself very happy during this season considering the turmoil she encountered during nursing school, she cannot help but stress the fact that her motives throughout this season have not been to make herself happy. Instead, they have been to please God and to love others. Concerning marriage and the importance of our motives, Courtney says, "I think that going into a marriage with the heart of humility is more important than ever. I'm about to join my life with another person. I have to understand that our relationship is not about me; instead, my heart has to be set on God and on my spouse. I think that if I were to approach marriage without humility, I would be setting Luke and myself up for failure. Selfishness does that. Humility is something I have to remind myself of everyday, and it's something I learn very easily from Luke - who is one of the most selfless people I've ever met."

During this bright season of her life, Courtney says that she is constantly being reminded of just how much God loves us and has called us to love others. A favorite scripture of hers has become 1 Corinthians 13:1-8, with its beautiful display of what love is and is not.

Love does not demand its own way.

- 1 Corinthians 13:5

To revisit Courtney's story from earlier this year, continue reading below.


Story - Courtney P. - as told to Tori Penton.

Courtney always had a desire to help people, how she would channel that in her future however, remained a question. After much prayer Courtney decided to apply for nursing school. She had always enjoyed taking care of people, this choice seemed like the most natural fit for her nurturing personality. Courtney progressed through college fairly easily until it was time to apply for the nursing school of her choice. She waited with anticipation as her application was reviewed and finally the letter came; her application had been denied.

“She told Him if He wanted her to become a nurse she would do her part, but He would have to do the impossible.”

Courtney was devastated. She knew she had heard from God and she had felt His leading when praying about being a nurse. How could she have been rejected from the program that was supposed to lead to this future? She didn’t have the money to stay in college and waste another semester taking pointless classes in hopes of eventually getting into this program; her only other option was to apply to a different school. This was not what she wanted to do because she knew she would not only have to move away from her friends and family but her tuition would increase dramatically. She also didn’t have the GPA required to get into this school.  She continued to pray and gave the situation up to God’s control. She told Him if He wanted her to become a nurse she would do her part, but He would have to do the impossible.

Weeks later Courtney got the news: she got into the program - the one that she technically didn’t qualify for. God had moved and it was pretty obvious what her next step would be. She describes the following years as being the most difficult of her life. Shortly after starting the nursing program, Courtney became depressed. She was always tired, always studying, and she had decided she needed to go through counseling for her issues that she had not dealt with from her past. She sought God more and more but often she was too emotionally and physically drained to feel much of anything. She felt very alone during this time period of her life, not to mention she had to move away from her family, friends, and support system.

“Courtney decided to pray; she told God that she did not want to see this woman die on her first day of clinical.”

On her very first day of her clinical experience God, set Courtney up to see a miracle. She was assigned to shadow a nurse who happened to be on the hospital’s code team. As she and nurse were working, a code was called- the nurse looked at Courtney and said “We have to go!” They ran up the stairs to another unit to a patient’s room whose heart had stopped. Courtney stood in the doorway as the code team swarmed around the woman and attempted to revive her. After a couple of minutes and no response from the woman things looked grim. Courtney remembers feeling frustrated as it looked like this woman was certainly dead. Courtney decided to pray; she told God that she did not want to see this woman die on her first day of clinical, and that He had made this woman’s body so He could fix whatever was wrong with it. That was it. As soon as the words came out of her mouth the woman’s heart started beating again. This moment is transfixed in Courtney’s memory as the day she knew with absolute certainty that this was where she was supposed to be.

Courtney threw herself into her schooling after this experience. She studied more than she ever had and prayed that God would sustain her through the exhaustion. She also began to notice the relationships God had placed around her in school. She became very close with some of her classmates as they spent countless hours together at the hospital and at school. As she grew in these friendships, she often felt impressed to pray for these people. Some of these friends began asking her for guidance in their own spiritual lives; they wanted to know her opinion on their personal matters and how she talked to God about these things. Her own faith began to blossom as she encouraged others and led them to closer to Christ.

While her friendships deepened and her faith grew, she began to struggle with school. It seemed no matter how much she studied, she could not gain any ground with her grades. She was supposed to graduate the following semester and she already had plans for after graduation. Her financial aid was about to run out so she didn’t have any more money to invest; not to mention, she was mentally and emotionally exhausted. She just didn’t understand why she was struggling so much. The old doubts began to rise again, “Why was God allowing this to happen?” and “What does He expect me to do if I can’t pay for it?” Finally after weeks of struggling the final grade came. She had failed the class and after an appeal with the Dean, the final grade stood. She would not be graduating the next semester.

“She decided to talk to God about feeling like a failure.”

Courtney fought depression for the next several weeks. She felt disappointed and embarrassed. Her best friend that had walked with her through this process was moving on and everything she fought for the previous semester felt like a total waste. She had done her part but it seemed God had not. Why was he letting this happen to her? It was at this point that Courtney realized she had left a door open in her heart for the enemy to come discourage her and attempt to disqualify her. She realized she had accepted the lies that she was a failure and that she wasn’t good enough to follow through with God’s plan for her life. She decided to talk to God about feeling like a failure. In a moment God began to speak to her about the call and purpose on her life. Courtney says she felt God saying, “This is life, and life happens; get back up and try again. This is not the end of you.”

Some weeks later when she began classes again, she realized that many of the people she had grown close with and prayed for had failed the same class, they were all repeating the same semester together. This time she sailed through the class, what she had struggled with before seemed easier than ever.  Courtney began to sense God’s hand on her life again. She also continued to point her classmates to Christ through her relationships with them. Courtney began to watch some of her friends change. Instead of her being the constant encouragement to them, they began to lift her up as well. Courtney says if she would have a bad day, she would get a phone call from one of them encouraging her that God loved her. Courtney says that one of the greatest privileges has been to see her friends build a relationship with Christ through her influence.  God hadn’t caused this difficult event in her life, but He did use it to bring about something good.   

“When you try to control your life is the moment when things become difficult.”

Courtney recently graduated nursing school and has accepted a full-time RN position. She says that if there’s one thing she learned on her journey that she could share it would be this: “Don’t try to put God in a box with your plans. You have to trust that when He tells you something He will do it, even though it probably won’t look like what you expected it to look like. When you try to control your life is the moment when things become difficult. Your life is supposed to be about God, not about you. Ask God to keep you humble and to help you check your heart’s motivations.”

“For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.”

- Matthew 6:25

Contentment In The Waiting

Story - Tony & Debbie Dunn - as told to Holly Poole

This week, I sat down with Tony and Debbie Dunn and asked them to share their story about waiting on the promises of God and the contentment in the waiting. They both share a similar message: put your life in His hands and He will fulfill the desires of your heart. 

Tony & Debbie experienced two different journeys with the same desire to have a family. Once their hearts were both aligned with the heart of God, He led them to one another. Together, they are walking together, glorifying God with their lives because of His faithfulness. The Dunn's are now expecting their second child. 


Tony: I was desired to have a family, but never really made the choices conducive of that. The year that I met Debbie, I had some major transitions spiritually. I came into obedience with God and began sharing with other men. In June, I had an encounter with God and I felt the Holy Spirit tell me that my sons name will be Zachariah. I said, “God, I don’t even have a wife.” I looked up the meaning and it was “God remembered.” He remembered me and marked my son. Two weeks after that I met my wife.

Debbie: I had been dating this guy and I knew it wasn’t right. I guess I always knew that I’d have a family. I never really worried about getting married, but I did question God sometimes because I was getting old. I even came to the place of being okay with never being married and adopting my kids. June 19, (Tony remembers the time - 6:05) Tim and Michelle Braud had set them up and they met at their house. It was two months after we met that we were engaged. Even now, it feels like we’ve been married for 10 or 12 years because it was just right. 

"The key is having intimacy with God and the right person will fall right in your lap. When God set me free and I put my trust in Him, I immediately found my promise."

Tony: We wanted to have kids right away and were discouraged at first when it wasn’t happening immediately. We had to just really trust God. Even for our second child, it was about trusting God and knowing that He has what is best for us. God keeps His promises and we will have our second child around the same time that Zachariah was born. It’s not the most glorious story, but it’s a story of God’s faithfulness. When I just rested in His peace and surrendered myself to God that’s when His promises came to pass. The key is having intimacy with God and the right person will fall right in your lap. When God set me free and I put my trust in Him, I immediately found my promise. I had a hard time submitting to God for so long—but now I know that I have to let Him take control, He knows better. He knows what is perfect for us. He knows who the best person is that will make us the best person. We are two completely different people, but God knew what He was doing. 

My son has shown me how much my Heavenly Father loves me. It has shown me how much He loves us through the way I love my son. 

"If I think back at 25, I would say just enjoy the season that you are in. Don’t get caught up in wanting what other people have."

What would you tell your 25 year old self? 

Debbie: You’re still young. God has a plan and timing is everything. You just have to rest in His peace and be content where you are at. If I think back at 25, I would say just enjoy the season that you are in. Don’t get caught up in wanting what other people have. I think I’ve always lived my life like that. I was content with wherever I was in life because I knew that God was a good God. I knew that I wanted a family. I knew God would provide that. 

Tony: If I would've gotten married at 25, I wouldn't have been ready. It was God’s perfect timing that I got married when I did. The key is just contentment with where you are. 

Celebrating The Journey & The Victory

Last Christmas season, Julie Wondergem shared her story with us about saying yes to the hard things and trusting in the promises of God. After struggling for many years to have children, the Wondergem family waited on God and He fulfilled His promises 7 times over. Last year, God added two sons to John and Julie's family. They are now expecting their 7th child in October. Today, we celebrate both their journey and their victory. 


Story - Julie W. - as told by Tori Penton 

Fourteen years ago Julie began a journey on a path that she never saw coming. At first glance, Julie is unassuming, seemingly quiet and even timid. However upon further observation, one realizes that she is a force to be reckoned with, an anchor for her family and those around her; she is the epitome of the virtuous and capable woman spoken of in Proverbs 31.

“It was at that moment that Julie and John finally accepted that it wasn’t going to be easy to do what God had called them to do with their lives.”

Julie begins her story fourteen years ago as a newly married woman. With her husband, John, the journey of being foster parents began with a little girl who lived with them for nearly two years. ears. During this time, John and Julie were asked to take a newborn for two nights. Two nights quickly turned into four months while this baby girl depended on Julie for everything. Giving back the baby that she had mothered for four months was one of the most gut wrenchingly painful things she had ever done. This kind of pain would make anyone doubt whether they were supposed to continue on this path. Why would God bring this child into her life only to take her away? Why would He take this baby away when He wouldn't allow her to have her own? What had she done wrong? For a year, these were the questions that swirled around in her mind while she remained angry with God.

That year proved to be invaluable as Julie had to answer some deeply rooted questions about her motives for being a foster parent. She was faced with the question of whether she was called to be a foster parent or if she was simply trying to fill a void within her own heart. This was simply too hard a task to take on if only doing it for selfish motivations. John and Julie had to make a decision- would they quit fostering because it was too painful or would they continue on the path God had laid before them? They were in the middle of this process when they met their next two foster sons. These boys were brothers and they were at risk for nearly every major behavioral and emotional problem there is. Julie and John questioned if this was God's plan. These boys were teenagers and they knew it would take everything they had to pour into these brothers' lives. They had come up with many reasons why they shouldn't take the boys but when their foster daughter moved out they knew they were out of excuses. Julie realized the only excuse left was that taking these boys in would be hard. It was at that moment that Julie and John finally accepted that it wasn't going to be easy to do what God had called them to do with their lives.

“Still, every time she thought about giving up, one question stayed with her, “If not me, then who else is going to do it?””

They picked the boys up from a summer camp in Michigan soon after they made the decision. The doubts kept coming as Julie feared she had no idea how to take care of these boys. She was inexperienced with the high needs they had and she often doubted her effectiveness as a parent. She felt inadequate and ill-equipped to parent these kids.  Still, every time she thought about giving up, one question stayed with her, "If not me, then who else is going to do it?" 

The boys ended up living with them for over three years. However, due to a mistake with the foster care agency, the rights of the parents of these children were never terminated. The agency refused to grant the Wondergems guardianship rights due to this mistake. It was at this point that the family decided to move back to Louisiana. The brothers had a decision to make. One opted to stay in foster care in Chicago, the other moved with the Wondergems. Nearly a year into living in Louisiana the Wondergems received a call that their foster son’s oldest sister had been granted custody and the child had a life altering decision to make. Ultimately the child decided that he needed to be with his biological family and said his final goodbyes at his thirteenth birthday party. Julie was devastated. All of the why's came rushing back to haunt her. “Why,” she cried out to God, “do you keep taking my kids?” 

“No decision we have ever made since being married has ever made sense to anybody,” Julie laughs as she reflects back on the beginning of their journey. She remembers being in Chicago when they first decided to try in vitro fertilization before moving back to Louisiana. Julie had been through six months of IVF treatments when her doctor told her the she would never get pregnant without the use of IVF, according to them it simply was not possible. They were faced with yet another difficult situation- while living in Illinois her treatments were covered by insurance, but if they moved to Louisiana they would have to pay out of pocket. 

“Each time she made that drive, one word would echo through her mind: “Ishmael.””

As she prayed over her decision she became more of aware of God speaking to her through certain memories and thoughts. Julie says one day she remembered a class discussion she had in her freshmen year of college. The discussion that day had been about the story of Sarah and Abraham. Sarah had not been content to wait on God so she took matters into her own hands. Abraham and Sarah’s short-cut cost everyone involved dearly, and as a result Ishmael was born. Many people, including Sarah, suffered deeply due to her lack of patience and trust in God’s timing. 

“The adoption agency responded by waiving nearly $10,000 in fees. ”

For months Julie drove up the five story parking garage on her way to get her treatments. Each time she made that drive, one word would echo through her mind: “Ishmael.”  At first, she did not want to admit that she was hearing this warning, but eventually she couldn’t shake the feeling that something was not right. It seemed to defy logic to quit the fertility treatments process but she could not stop thinking that this was not the right time for this child. It was another crossroads moment for the couple; should they do what everyone else advised them to do or should they do what they felt God telling them to do? Ultimately they decided to forego further treatments and move back to Louisiana. They knew what God was calling them to do; they were going to adopt a child.

Julie woke up the morning of her thirtieth birthday in Louisiana, and she was not happy. She had been married for eight years, and on this landmark birthday, she still did not have a child. Once again, she cried out to God and He answered by telling her to pray for her child and her child’s birth-mom instead of focusing on herself. She prayed all the way to work that morning and even went so far as to call her husband to say she thought they would eventually have a little girl. When she got home from work that evening, she realized she had received an email from the adoption agency. They had a baby girl up for adoption and wanted to know if the couple was available to adopt her. They told the adoption agency they wanted to take her but they had not yet been able to raise the funds for the adoption fees. The adoption agency responded by waiving nearly $10,000 in fees. 

“Eventually, she realized that this was God’s plan all along.”

Five children and fourteen years later the Wondergem house was full. Their house was full of constant activity, laughing, screeching, crying, everything that goes along with having a house full of children.  Julie had settled in her heart that she would not have biological children. She knew God had sent her children through other birth-mothers, and she was at peace with God’s plan. You can only imagine her surprise when she found out that after all this time, she was pregnant. 

“She says she had to be freed from thinking that God was angry at her because life was hard. In fact, she learned, God is good especially when life is hard.”

The pregnancy was a trust-walk all its own. She had been down this road before and new all too well that she could lose this child. Her anxiety grew with each passing week- she knew all the landmarks that she and her child were supposed to make and each time they reached one she breathed a sigh of relief. Eventually, she realized that this was God’s plan all along and she was able to relax and have peace in her pregnancy knowing God had been with them and He would not leave now. They decided to name their baby Isaac, because like Sarah’s promised child this one was arriving in God’s perfect timing. 

Julie is a wealth of wisdom, having gleaned hard-earned lessons from the journey that she has been on. Looking back, she realizes that if she had a child like they initially planned she would not have her other five children. She also says that she has come to know and trust God in an intimate and deep way because in her most desperate times, He was her anchor. She says she had to be freed from thinking that God was angry at her because life was hard. In fact, she learned, God is good especially when life is hard. Having a difficult path does not mean God is mad at us. It is in these moments of hardship and desperation where we grasp who God really is. He is kind, He is good, and He believes in us despite what life throws our way. Sometimes we have to do what we know God is telling us to do even when it doesn’t make sense.

Like Julie, if we will say yes to God and work with Him in doing the hard things, we will come to know a freedom in Him that we cannot find anywhere else - because Jesus believes in doing the hard things. 

Family On Fire

Story - Angela Murray - as told to Holly Poole

The purpose of Family VBS is to bring the family together in worship and learning about the Word of God. The Christian culture has separated the family during worship by having kids and adults separated during service. If you look at the book of Acts, the model of Church includes the entire family. Everything that we do during Family VBS engages parents and children together. There were times when the parents prophesied to their children and other times when the children prophesied to the parents. 

What I didn’t expect was that Family VBS was more for the parents than for the kids, and that was different for me. My focus has always been on the kids. With parents, there is less of the response that I usually see in children and so it was difficult to see that they were actually receiving what was being taught. God told me later, “you were obedient and because of that, perceptions were shifted and eyes were opened.” It was nothing like expected, but God had His purpose. 

Moments like these are reminders that sometimes adults also need to hear the Word of God presented in a simple, childlike way. 

One of the nights I talked about the goodness of God. One of the parents was blown away by the simple analogy of the sun shining no matter what and, like the sun, God is good no matter what. The sun shines no matter if we are looking at it or turning away. God is good even when our focus is not on Him. This simple analogy spoke to children AND their parents. Moments like these are reminders that sometimes adults also need to hear the Word of God presented in a simple, childlike way. I know that I personally have gotten revelation from these lessons. 

There was also an analogy that I used about a gum-ball machine. All you have to do is put in a coin, turn the switch, and you get a gum-ball. But, in the case of the things we ask God for, the price has already been paid. Jesus has already paid the cost at the cross. I used a coin with Jesus’ name written on it and demonstrated that anything that we need or desire has already been payed for - we just have to ask for it. During that time, I was praying for things and waiting on answers. At that time, God reminded me that my needs are already paid for and I just need to declare it. 

I know that the parents were greatly impacted from this experience. Parents that had never seen their children minister to others were watching as they prayed and prophesied. Parents that may not have ever prayed and prophesied over their children were doing so. I love to hear that people left Family VBS feeling like they are apart of a ‘family’ - because that’s exactly what we want here at The Harbor. There is no better result than to know that we were able to provide a family environment and to have inspired these parents to bring that back into their homes. 

 

Unshakeable

Story - Katie G. - as told by Holly Poole

I didn’t want to go to camp. I was expecting a tiresome week that would end in complete exhaustion. I had just gotten back from RFK and felt like two camps in a row was too much. Thankfully, my expectation was definitely not met. Now Camp was an incredible experience. 

The thing that spoke to me the most was definitely the messages. The first message, it was called “Shaken Not Stirred,” talked about the donkey that carried Jesus. It talked about how he was once locked up wondering what it’s purpose of living was, but he didn't know that one day he would carry the Son of God. He talked about how we, as young people, are like that donkey: feeling locked up but meant to carry a great move of God. This was a revelation to me because sometimes I feel this way. Because I’m a youth leader, this empowered me to think about the people that I am leading differently. It put a sense of importance on what young people have to offer. 

I saw the youth kids prove this when we got on the bus and Katie Wagner stands up and asks everyone to pray about the situations going on in our nation right now. Everyone began praying in such a powerful way, crying over our nation. While we were praying in the bus, we crossed over the bridge in Baton Rouge. Later, we found out that the same bridge that we had crossed was previously threatened to be bombed. But, it still stands. That is the power of prayer. 

"Because we serve a God that is unshakable, we can be assured that in a changing and chaotic world, we have a God that is constant and will sustain us." 

Another message that stuck out to me was a message that talked about God as the “I Am.” I didn’t understand what that meant at first, it didn’t make sense to me, even grammatically! I prayed for God to help me understand. It was revealed to me that He told Moses to tell Pharaoh that the “I Am” sent him because “I Am” is in present-tense. God spoke to me that He is our present help in times of chaos. 

I know that it was God's timing that this camp was called “Unshakable.” It was God’s timing that we were encouraged in our identities and in knowing God as present and unshakable. Because we serve a God that is unshakable, we can be assured that in a changing and chaotic world, we have a God that is constant and will sustain us. 

Psalms 62:2 - “He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will never be shaken.” 

Let's Get Serious About Fun

Story - Marvin Poole and John Welch as told by Holly Poole

With only a few weeks left in the summer, I sat down with dads, Pastor Marvin Poole and John Welch, to talk about the importance of spending intentional time with family and the spiritual aspect of fun. 

God created us to have fun—Marvin Poole

God created us to have fun. Joy is not determined by circumstances, joy comes from the Lord. God said that through everything that we are going through, we should have joy. Fun doesn't produce joy, but joy produces fun. 

Ecclesiastes 2:24 - “So I decided there is nothing better than to enjoy food and drink and to find satisfaction in work. Then I realized that these pleasures are from the hand of God.” 

Why have we created the ideology that fun has to be something that feeds our flesh? As to say, that doing secular activities are the only way to have fun. Why is it not fun to do things that feed our spirit? For me, it’s a joy to go fishing. But, the preparation to go fishing is a lot of work. I have to fill the boat up with fuel, keep-up with maintenance on the boat, etc,. We are willing to put in all the effort towards fishing but when it comes to fishing for men, planning to do ministry with our family, we don’t want to put in that effort. If I wanted to take my family to the nursing home for ministry, that would take preparation. The question is, will we be willing to put as much effort into those things as we would into things like fishing trips? There are times when we need to go fishing with our kids, that’s a spiritual thing, too! Quality time is spiritual (all of the love-languages are). Both spending time with our family and doing ministry with our family are spiritual activities. It’s about making BOTH activities a priority. 

Pastor Poole shares that he has learned throughout his life as a parent that adventure is an important part of building the life of a child, and when they are not given the experiences and fun that they desire, there is a lost connection between the parent and the child and a lost connection between the child and their own identity. Because we were created to have fun, that desire needs to be cultivated.  

The atmosphere that boredom creates— John Welch

Children (people) grow from experiences. They thrive from the experiences that make up their life. When there is an absence of experience, it seeks to be filled. How will that absence be filled? Boredom has a direct correlation with bad choices. I have noticed that children whose family unit is important to them are less likely to make irrational, destructive decisions. The children whose interests were cultivated by their parents, strived and matured in a healthy way. 

Even as an adult, this is important. It is important to continue cultivating these things. All people desire to be physically, intellectually, and spiritually stimulated. Stimulating your mind and spirit will build the momentum that carries you through life. Allowing children to have fun and healthy experiences that grow them and cultivate their interests, will jump-start them in life. It is a vital part in building their identity. 

This is not only for your children. Also, remember, that your husband/wife has the same desire to experience the world around them, to learn and grow and be supported in their talents. Do you know the desires of your family’s hearts? 

At the Harbor Church, we believe in having intentional time with our families. Click here to check out our suggested summer activities list.

Throwing Rocks And Other Ways To Love

Story by Holly Poole

Royal Family Kids Camp may look like the camps we all remember from our childhood. Our days are filled with bug-spray clouds, camp-food tummy aches, trying to decide if we really needed sunscreen, realizing later that we did need sunscreen, jumping off everything (seriously, everything), yelling team chants, singing songs, playing games, sleeping on bunkbeds that create earthquakes when you move in your sleep. It all looks pretty normal, but it’s so far from that—what is happening here is extraordinarily special. Royal Family Kids Camp is so much more than camp, but an opportunity for hurting children to enter into an atmosphere of love, safety, and encouragement. It is a chance for them to be treated as children, in all of the innocence and pureness that they were meant to possess. 

If you are unaware of what Royal Family Kids camp is, the short description is that it is a camp for children in the foster care system. If you are a member of The Harbor Church, you’ve no doubt heard about RFK and know what it is, but may not know the gravity of all of it. When telling people that I was going to be a counselor at this camp, most often I got this response: “wow, that’s so cool.” Yes, it is “cool,” but what is happening here is so much bigger than “cool”—it’s critical to these kids. I believe there is an urgent call for the church to be protectors and advocates of God’s children. This begins with the awareness that the situations surrounding these children in the foster care system are severe and their needs are urgent. Here are some statistics from the Royal Family Kids organization webpage about foster children:

 
 

But let’s look beyond statistics. I’m going to try to paint a picture of the experiences I had at Royal Family Kids Camp, the goodness of God, how He loves through us, and restoration of innocence. 

On day 1, we were set to leave for camp and I was overwhelmed by chaos. I had a crazy week, I felt unprepared for camp in both physical and mental capacities, and overall, I felt incapable of accomplishing the mission that I was set out to do. During the RFK commissioning service, I felt God speak to me strongly that this week had nothing to do with me or my abilities. Instead, it was simply about being available and allowing Him to love through me. It is an honor and a blessing to be used in this way. 

As soon as we arrived at camp, all of my fears and concerns were replaced with such great anticipation as we prepared the campground for these campers. I received the names of my campers and became overwhelmed by the goodness of God to see that one of the girls whose name I had prayed over and connected to would be one of my campers. I saw that His hand was on my life and on the lives of these children and it filled me with so much joy. On the day that the campers were set to arrive, the counselors and staff waited all morning in nervous anticipation, eager to meet our campers. In my lifetime, I had never looked forward to anything more than seeing the children connected to the names that I had been praying for. As soon as I met both of my girls, I loved them both dearly.

In that moment, my love for them was very emotional. As the week progressed, I began to see a lot of different ways that love can be practical. 

One of the things that the kids loved to do is hangout by the pond before or after mealtimes and throw gravel into the pond. Why? Because children like to do things like throw rocks into ponds, and these children aren’t accustomed to being allowed to be children. Love is so simple. Love is allowing children to be children and throw gravel into a pond. 

Being with some of the youngest of the girls at camp (six and seven-years-old), there were some really cool things that I got to see. One of the most exciting things for me was watching my campers as they ventured from being scared of swimming in the lake to fearlessly jumping into the water from great heights. Their courage truly inspired me. I loved having the opportunity to (unwillingly) jump off a 20 foot platform with my little six-year-old camper and not only tell her to be brave—but stand with her. It was a powerful moment for both of us. She later showed me a bracelet that she received at camp that said “be brave” and asked if it would make her braver. I was able to tell her how God makes us brave. For the rest of the week I was able to teach her about prayer and a God that is always there to support us. 

The entire week was all about fun and hope. We never focused on their troubles but rather averted their thoughts towards enjoying the present. On the last night, however, I saw a glimpse into the hurt inside the lives of these children. I am guilty of expecting that these children were too young to understand what John was saying when he talked about the hurts in their lives and a God that could heal them. I often told them to pay attention and stop playing during the service. I did not expect that I would look over and see my two little campers with tears streaming down their faces as they related to the words that he spoke. I am guilty of thinking that these girls are so young that they do not understand what is going on in their lives, but they do. What they don’t fully understand, they still know how it makes them feel. They only know how to say how they feel in ways such as “bad,” or “not good.” My two girls held my hands and began telling me in childlike words about their grown-up situations. They may not fully understand it all but what they feel is the same pain that anyone else would feel in those situations—they just don’t know how to say it like we do. It’s difficult to describe what it feels like to see a six and seven-year-old holding such deep hurt and shame that was brought on them by big people that have blemished their innocence and tainted their perception of love.

The innocence of a child is such a beautiful thing, to see such beautiful children live a life deprived of this innocence is heart-breaking. At this time, I was able to teach tell these children about a God that fills our hearts with things that are "good." I was able to tell them that there is no guarantee that things won't be bad sometimes, but God is always there for us and He loves us with a pure love. I prayed with them individually as they asked God to be with them and make them brave. These are the moments that make this camp more than just a “cool” thing—this is when you realize that the needs of these children require urgent care by something more powerful than counseling or any medication. These children need the love of God and they need us to be the example of that love.

To learn more about Royal Family Kids camp and the work that they are doing in the lives of foster children click here.

To read a story from last year’s camp click here. 

 

 

Don't Let Us Stand Alone

Story - Harbor Kids - as told by Holly Poole

On Sunday mornings, we have a schedule. That schedule is planned each week in a staff meeting where it is written down, typed up, sent in an email, printed out, swallowed and digested for more assured understanding. However, it is understood and encouraged within the leadership of The Harbor that the most important thing is that the Holy Spirit has the ability to move. When we sat around the table at staff meeting the Monday before the Sunday service on June 12th, we did not anticipate how much that agenda would change. The allotted time for the Harbor Kids to give their testimonies from Kids Ramp was about 10 minutes of service time. We expected that we’d have to guide the kids in speaking, there would probably be some tears and laughter, it may go a few minutes over, but that would be okay. It is fair to say that we greatly underestimated how powerful and important this segment of the service would be. We didn’t anticipate that 10 minutes of testimonies would lead to ten-year-old, Hannah Poole, giving a full length sermon, making declarations over our church body, and commissioning 27 kids to pray for boldness and deliverance over all ages. We are so thankful that God’s agenda takes over because it is always something far greater than we could ever plan. 

Psalms 8:1-2 - “LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens. Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.”

Here are some notes from the sermon/declarations Hannah Poole made on Sunday, June 12th: 

1. God is big: It is so simple and children understand this. The power that we have to control and handle our lives is like a flickering light bulb in comparison to a God that formed all light and is brighter than ten thousand suns (Ecclesiastes 23:19). As children are reliant on their parents, Hannah tells us that we are also unable to handle life on our own. We cannot handle depression, illness, habits and addictions on our own. We must be as children, reliant and trusting on God to take us out of a bad place. He is a Father that protects us and wants us to live in the purity that only His love and righteousness provides.

2. Let Nothing Be Hidden: Hannah Poole made the declaration, “Secrets will be gone, exposed to You, God” over the church body. She makes the point that when we have hidden sins, they are holding us back from standing in boldness and declaring the love of God over His people. She says that those sins that are a weighty burden on us are as light as a feather in the eyes of God and they will fall off of us when we call to Him. She declares freedom over the church body as hidden sins are surrendered to God and childlike innocence is restored. The scripture says, “And he said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven’(Matthew 18:3).” God calls us to come to Him in childlike innocence, without shame, and holding nothing back. 

3. Don’t Let Us Stand Alone: “We can do it on our own, but we don’t have to (Hannah Poole)” Certainly, these kids have the power of the Holy Spirit and the boldness to impact their world for Christ. However, Hannah makes the point that they don’t have the freedom that adults have. As Hannah said, “kids don’t have cars” and therefore they don’t have the mobility that adults have. She says, “there is only so much we can do.” These kids want to be led by example. They want to see their parents, siblings, grandparents, and church leaders pursuing after God at the level that they are pursuing Him. She challenges the adults not to sit back and watch while the kids are praying for healing and deliverance over people. She challenges the church body to stop feeling sorry for people and start standing up in boldness and declaring freedom and deliverance over people. She makes it clear that we have no excuses. If the children can be this radical for the Kingdom of God, how much more should you be challenging yourself as the person that they look up to? 

This experience was eye-opening for myself personally, and for so many others that were able to be in the presence of such a powerful move of the Holy Spirit. Above are some of the testimonies from people that were impacted by this experience. I encourage anyone who has not shared their experiences to do so on Facebook, as so many people have been blessed by these testimonies. 

To watch the testimonies from Kids Ramp click here.

 

To watch Hannah’s declarations click here. 

 

What To Expect When You're Least Expecting It

Story - Jason G. - as told to Holly Poole

In anticipation of Father’s Day, I asked Jason Granger to share his experiences as a new father to his son Jack. Parenthood is a learning experience. You can read hundreds of thousands of books on the right and wrong ways to raise children. There are, of course, all of those “mommy-blogs” yelling in ALL CAPS that gluten will kill your children. But, at the end of the day, the most valuable lessons are the ones that come in the personal and intimate moments between you and your child. God designed it that way for a reason. In the same way an earthly father connects to his child, God has designed those intimate connections with Him that are far greater than anything we can learn from a book or sermon. Jason shows us how the experience of being a father has revealed aspects of his heavenly Father—a Father that longs for connection with His children. 

Jason, tell me about life as a new father and how you have grown spiritually from this experience: 

"With only 4 months under my belt as a father, I can’t say that I’ll have any deep insight for more experienced dads. God has taught me quite a few things, though. Usually, God speaks to me, gives me a gentle nudge of knowledge while something unpredictable is happening with Jack. Even on a schedule, there are a few of these moments. I’m sure many seasoned parents can attest to the same. Now, while I do receive encouragement and strength as a parent during my quiet moments of devotion and prayer, the wisdom that blows my mind usually comes during these explosive moments in life." 

"The first thing I’ve learned, is that a teachable heart will get me through anything. It seems that once we graduate from school, the overwhelming sense of not knowing everything there is to know suddenly hits us. For me, the same has been true about parenting. Sure, we took classes during the pregnancy, and Sarah has read books, but for both of us, a teachable heart has kept us sane and hopeful. The perfect compliment to a teachable heart, though, must be the humility to accept the fact that we won’t face every situation perfectly. I’ll get a couple things wrong, but I’m here to learn and do my best according to God’s Word."


"I’m going to be frank for a moment. This is a bit more embarrassing for Jack than myself, I’m sure - unless I’ve reached that point of fatherhood in which I don’t embarrass as easily as I probably should. God has spoken to me quite a few times while I’m changing a screaming baby’s diaper. (Yep, that sounds crazy.) As I’m going through the process of calming Jack down during such an occasion, I find myself mildly reassuring him that I know what’s going on. I know what I’m doing. And I know this has to be done before I can hold him a little closer to reassure him or console him. On a few occasions, I’ve felt God reassuring me of the same truth concerning my own relationship with Him. He knows what He’s doing. He’s got me; He cares for me and loves me. But there’s always a process to life – even concerning spiritual matters."

"Last thing: and this one might be a little far-fetched, but I certainly connect to it. Jack hasn’t learned to speak yet. He doesn’t know language. He certainly knows the voice of his dad and mother, but words just aren’t his focus right now. And so, as I communicate with Jack – whether during moments in which I’m trying to console him or the silly moments of trying to make him smile – I’m mindful that he really doesn’t understand what I’m saying. He doesn’t know my words. All he knows is that his dad is paying attention to him. He feels rest assured in the fact that I’m here with him.

I don’t understand everything either. I feel as though there are words and concepts and wisdom concerning my life that I don’t even understand. Sometimes, God lets me in on these wonderful truths, especially when I give Him the time. However, the trick about this – the gift of His presence, His attention – is not to get caught up in trying to understand it all. If Jack were to get so frustrated with my words, my wisdom, my language and the fact that it’s all just a little above him, he wouldn’t get to experience the simple joy of my presence. As much as fathers are given the responsibility to discipline and teach, I connect to the fact that ultimately, I want Jack to enjoy me. I'd like to think God is the same."


As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;
— Psalms 103:13

This Father’s Day, we are celebrating not only our earthly fathers, but also our Father in heaven. As Fathers, remember that the relationship you have between you and your children is their first glimpse into what it looks like to have a relationship with their Father in heaven. As sons and daughters, this is an opportunity to show our love and gratitude towards our father on earth and the Father that he emulates. They both deserve more than a tie. 

A Message To Graduates

Story - Hailey O. - as told to Holly Poole. 

Hailey is a new high school graduate and now a student of ministry. I asked Hailey about making hard decisions, transitioning into the world after high school, and choosing to pursue full time ministry at a young age: 

When the time came for Hailey to make decisions about her life after high school she struggled as most high school students do. She didn’t feel at peace about her original plans to go to college to be an elementary education major. After praying for about 2 months, it was clear to her that she was going to pursue full-time ministry and attend bible college. Making life decisions is a hard thing, especially for 19 year olds that are suddenly thrown into a world in which they are forced to find their place without being prepared for how to manage it and make those hard decisions.

Of course, ministry doesn’t require a degree: ministry begins with an act of the art.

Without prayer, this transition would have been  basically impossible. Hailey has seen how so many others her age struggle with what to do next, how to make their desires a reality, and how to navigate the world on their own. She knows that she can’t do it alone, and thankfully, she has a strong support system that encourages and guides her in this journey. Pastor Marvin and the staff here at The Harbor Church have taken her under their wing to teach her and expose her to the reality of life in ministry. “There are so many things,” Hailey says, “that school will never teach me. Ministry is a hands-on experience and that’s what I’m doing this summer: putting my hands to work wherever I’m needed and maintaining a teachable attitude.” 

Ecclesiastes 9:10—Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.

Of course, ministry doesn't require a degree: ministry begins with an act of the art. Hailey has been a youth leader for the past year and continues to live a life of ministry every day. She has a heart for young girls and has been called to influence, nurture, and counsel the fatherless and broken. When Hailey was in junior high school, she found herself looking for her own worth in other people. Growing up without a father, she found herself lost in the feeling of being wanted and loved. As I interview her, Hailey speaks with compassion and desperation for the hearts of young girls that have lived similar experiences to her own: “I learned quickly that looking to be accepted and loved did not give me the attention that I really wanted. It was only when I gave my heart and identity over to God. Every time I am around young girls, God puts it on my heart to love them and show them who He says they are, not what people say they are, because you cannot find acceptance anywhere else except in Him. It brings me to tears to see what girls in this generation will do to find their worth. If there is anything that I can do to guide their perception of who they are, to point them toward God’s mirror and not their own - I want to be that for them.” 


What would you say to other young people that have graduated this year/are graduating soon as they are making decisions about the next steps? 

“To those that are still in high school: stay true to yourself and what God calls you to be. Doing certain things to fit in or gain popularity is not going to matter once you graduate. Allow God to influence your life decisions, not just your friends, parents, or counselors. If you are called to ministry but do not pursue it, God will give that opportunity to someone else, but you should realize that you are missing out on the thing that you were created for and you’re missing out on the blessings that God has for your life. I want to challenge you to be an influencer in your school while you are there because once you leave, you don’t get that time back.”

“To those that have graduated this year: start doing something! If ministry is your calling, pursue it now rather than wait until you're older or when you have a position. Ministry is not a job title, it’s a lifestyle choice. You have to pursue it. God isn’t going to throw it in your lap. He puts it on your heart, and the rest is up to you.” 

If full-time ministry is not what you are called to, that doesn’t mean that you aren’t called to take part in building the Kingdom of God. Whether you are a doctor, waitress, or teacher, your journey as a student as well as the job you land are mission fields. And above all else, God calls us to excellence—that means excellence in our education and our work. Excellence is an active form of worship to God. When you do all things with a heart of excellence, you are making the best decision that you can make towards the advancement of your future. Daniel 6:3 says, “Then Daniel became distinguished above all the other presidents and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him. And the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom.” 

Be like Daniel and make the best career move that you will ever make: pursue a heart of excellence. God made you great, but He is greater: glorify Him with your life.

 

 

One Man's Obedience

Story - Matt P. - as told to Holly Poole.

The following is a story about one man's obedience - but it isn't Matt's.

On Thursday May 19th, Matt was doing a pressure washing job in Denham Springs. After the job, he drove around looking for another job that he could do that day. As he passed through a neighborhood, he saw an older man attempting to pressure wash his own driveway. Matt stopped, got out the car and asked the guy if he needed help. The man agreed, and they came to an agreement for payment.

Afterwards, the man began adding jobs for Matt to do, even giving specific details on how Matt should do the jobs. The man was beginning to aggravate Matt. After the job, He told Matt that he was thankful that he had stopped by because he was having back issues - which made yard work difficult. Despite his hesitations, Matt then asked if he could pray him. The man said matter-of-factly that he knew how all Christians were because he had seen them in his own family, and he saw how prayer didn’t work before. Matt felt a lot of faith for the man, even though the man was really aggravating him. Matt told him that he had nothing to lose. He agreed and Matt proceeded to pray for quite a while with the man. Afterward, they stopped to check if his back was healed— which it was!

The man then revealed to Matt that he wanted to give his life to God. Together they prayed the prayer of salvation there in the man's driveway. The man was obviously emotional after this experience but wasn't crying. Matt could tell that he was touched.

About a week and a half later, on the 27th, Matt called to check on the man. Surprisingly, he found out that the man had passed away on the 25th - just 6 days after his encounter with Matt. Unknown to Matt, the man was battling with terminal lung cancer. The man (his name was Dennis) gave his life to Christ just days before his death.

As I sit with Matt now, discussing the whole experience, Matt explains that as he left the man’s house on the 19th, he felt that he shouldn't call him right away. However, when he found out that the man had died, he felt torn about what happened - the fact that he didn't follow-up with Mr. Dennis, because people aren’t meant to be sick and he knew that if had called him, he would have prayed for complete healing. However, Matt knows that God had a reason for why he didn’t call him sooner.

This past Sunday morning, Matt taught in Harbor Kid’s Church. He was able to contribute his story to their lessons of obedience which they've been covering for the past 12 weeks. The children are learning about hearing the voice of God—which voices are God’s and which aren’t. They've been talking about words of knowledge, dreams, and obeying God to share what they hear. This Sunday, Matt gave his story to the kids and tagged along a message of the power of obedience: how our obedience increases the faith of others through healing and opens doors to discuss salvation.

He explains to me, “When we obey and put ourselves in a vulnerable situation, God shows up and our faith is also increased. And it’s awesome that our kids are actually getting that—they’re understanding it.” Matt said that he has been on a journey of obedience for the past 2 years and this was just the next chapter for that.

It’s important to note that our obedience is fully about God and furthering His kingdom. It’s because of Matt's obedience that Mr. Dennis had this specific encounter, but his salvation ultimately came from God. If there is anything that Matt has stressed most in this interview, it is that his story - and anyone else's testimony - should ultimately highlight the goodness of God rather than our own works.

Jesus gives us this beautiful example in John as He hung on the cross:

 I brought glory to you here on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.
John 17:4

And in Romans, Paul explains:

For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by one man's obedience the many will be made righteous.
Romans 5:19

That's it: our obedience glorifies God and introduces others to Christ.