Is it Enough?

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“I was chasing after what I thought I wanted in a marriage relationship. It wasn’t until my wife and kids left without me on our ‘family’ vacation, that I realized I was wrong and not where I was supposed to be.” What if it seemed like you had it all:  a career both stable and fulfilling, a home built by your own hands, cars that make a statement of success and strength, a wife by your side, and two bright energetic children.  Then one day a ‘friend’ suggested that you could have, and should have, more.

Several years ago Tom Seifert listened to the lie.  “My life looked picture perfect,” he said, “but things weren’t right.  I was in law enforcement for fifteen years as a police officer.  Working in the police force was often like living in the men’s locker room.  In that kind of environment, men will talk.”

The slippery slope began with a doubt.  In his eyes the other men looked like they had it so much better than he did.   Why not him?  The path led him into misconceptions about marriage, of what he expected out of it.  He began to question, ‘is it enough?’  He followed a trail of extra-marital affairs seeking out what he felt he deserved in marriage.

The first discovered affair was kept quiet and private between he and his wife.  They didn’t talk about it with anyone.  “Looking back I regret that now,” he said.  “We never really dealt with it.”

When his wife discovered a second affair, Tom ran away from his family and moved in with the other woman.  “I was chasing after what I thought I wanted in a marriage relationship. It wasn’t until my wife and kids left without me on our ‘family’ vacation, that I realized I was wrong and not where I was supposed to be.”

During their separation, his wife visited Apex with a friend.  Days later she spoke with Tom about the church.  They agreed that Tom would move out on his own and they would try “dating” again and attend Apex together.  They participated in FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember, which Tom claims regenerated their marriage so much they met together with elders from Apex and joined a house church.

Today, Tom sits across the table from me with his hands folded in his lap and eyes downcast.  A long pause, a deep sigh.  “All that was great,” he says, “but to be honest it was really hard to give up everything, to not be in control.  For 15 years I showed up in places where there was chaos and turmoil and my job was to take control.  After awhile it is not what you do anymore, it is who you are and those are the things I brought into my marriage.  Instead of a leader I was a dictator, ‘cause I said so,’ was a common mantra.  I didn’t know how not to do that.  Control in my world meant survival and that’s how I came home at night.”

Over time their house church disbanded.  Apex attendance began to wane and their marriage slowly drifted apart.  Although in January of 2010 Tom turned his life and heart over to Christ, his personal and professional troubles were far from over.  One evening he was on a call with his Sergeant and another officer when a subject resisted.  The officers were forced to take him down to the ground and use pepper spray.  After the incident, Tom was brought up on allegations he physically assaulted the defenseless man and suspended from work.  Although video footage of the situation cleared Tom of all charges, the damage to his career had taken its toll.

Tom was at a turning point in his career and chose to walk away from the police department.  Even though his wife supported him during that time, Tom still relied on his own strength.  “God was clearly trying to get my attention, but I chose not to hear him.”

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For eighteen months he was out of work and spiraled into financial difficulty and depression.  The marriage bond was strained to the breaking point. The day his wife asked him for a divorce he yelled and slammed his fist on the table.  She called his old police department and filed for a protection order against him.  Shortly thereafter he lost the dream house he had built and was totally alone.

A buddy helped him out with an apartment where he admits he went wild.  The “I’m going to get mine” attitude turned his eye towards pornography.  “It was a time I most regret.  I knew porn wasn’t real but I wanted that lie.”

“It was such a dark time and I was depressed, but I knew I didn’t want to be the person I was anymore.  Power, authority, my career, my house, my cars, and wife and kids were what I cherished and considered way more important than my relationship with God.  I hated losing them; though I am convinced He removed them from my life so I could find out what I really needed.”

In 2013 he returned to Apex.  He was baptized with the encouragement and support of his daughter.  He was offered a new job at a local hospital.  He found a supportive and edifying new house church where he is studying and growing in his faith and trust in God.  He relates to the Apostle Paul’s words in Romans 7 when Paul confesses of his own struggles and inner conflict.  Tom likewise understands he still has a lot of work to do, with a lot of things he still does that he knows he needs not to do.

Tom’s life up to now is a testimony of the pain and deception of believing a lie.  His story and his message cry out as a warning to anyone considering a path without God.  Today he is actively seeking God’s healing power in his own life while he eagerly prays for a chance of reconciliation with his wife.  He is an example of a transformed man to his children, Halie and Jordan, who actively participated together in the Operation Christmas Child project.  He served as a point person during the recent Christmas Eve service and volunteers in the community as a tutor and coach.

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“I know I am where I am today because God needs me to be a better person.  I don’t know where I’ve heard it before, but I believe it to be true in my life:  I’m not the man I need to be, but praise the Lord, I’m not the man I used to be.”

 

 

Author: Carrie Kempisty

Photographer: Hilary Tebo

Gospel Identity

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The Gospel is the only safe place for identity.

Emma Grace had an, “all American childhood.” You could almost smell apple pie as she rattled off all her childhood activities: Girl Scouts, cheerleading, cross country, violin lessons, church with her parents, and time with friends. She was spick and span, on the outside. She entered middle school a confident young girl. This is where her story starts.

I was angsty," Emma Grace said. She reflected on middle school, that bastion of awkward body changes, smells, and friends, with sarcasm and sincerity. She had the garden variety dilemmas of any middle schooler, but began dealing with more than playground drama. The façade of Americana faded into deep confusion. Serious doubts about who she was, why she was alive, and why it mattered enveloped her. As she entered high school, her doubts became chaotic as her identity unhinged from anything stable. She became utterly insecure. Friends became obstacles; food was an enemy; any hobby or sport was a way to fail. When all of life is a problem, who do you blame?

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I got really mad at God.”  Questions became pointed accusations at her Maker. Emma Grace believed if she had made herself, she would have done a better job. So she gave it a shot.

She began to try on different beliefs. A self-proclaimed agnostic, the only thing she was sure about was being unsure. Emma Grace dealt with her deistic dilemma the only way she knew how: keep-it-together. On the outside, she embodied a Normal Rockwell painting. Internally, she was a Jackson Pollock. “I was crawling in my skin.”  She didn’t feel at home anywhere, even in her own body.  In the midst of this, a moment of potential stability emerged in the form of a two week apologetics intensive called, Summit. Her youth pastor recommended it.  It was the last place she wanted to be.  She found out later her angst-riddled application was exactly the kind they wanted. She returned home knowing a god was there, still unsure about Jesus, but glad Summit was forever behind her.

It wasn’t long before instability ensued- again. Despite the “big guy up there," her senior year became the year of “forget it.” She was done. She was tired and started living for her flesh. Despite finally living how she felt, there was no safe place for her identity. Perhaps college would allow her a fresh start.

She started at Miami University (Oxford) with one more attempt to keep it together. After only one month, her freshman year became, “the worst year of my life.” Parties, unhealthy relationships, and a continued battle with food were the norm. All of it: unstable. The only thing consistent in her life was work.

The campus print center wasn’t exciting, but the “ho hum” environment was a welcomed semblance of calm. Emma Grace helped a client, Julie, with some flyers. She learned Julie was with Campus Crusade (now ‘Cru’). Emma Grace knew what it was, but didn’t want much to do with it. But something intrigued her about Julie. So, she did what anyone does when you’re curious about a person: Facebook stalk them. Emma Grace messaged Julie.

The message turned into coffee, which became a regular get together. Julie was sociable, listened well, and spoke truth sweetly. She was exactly what Emma Grace needed. She began to revisit the things of God. Emma Grace could taste security. She knew if she was going to find more, it wasn’t where she was. She’d find it in the last place she’d expect.

Emma Grace applied to serve at Summit that summer. “I knew I needed a safe place …I would be surrounded by truth, even though I didn’t have any business being there.”  Confident she’d be overlooked, Summit responded. This time, she wanted it. Surrounded by people who cared, space to wrestle with questions, and a regular diet of truth- and food- Emma Grace saw her heart change. “I finally realized why I was created. I realized Jesus and His cross had everything to do with who I was, and why I’m here.”  The stability Summit provided became the catalyst Jesus used to call Emma Grace. What began as a journey of the chaotic and confused became a story of grace, assurance and change.

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Following Summit, Emma Grace transferred colleges, devoted a year to intentional singleness, joined Gospel community, and began to invest in other ladies’ lives. Don’t be mistaken: it was a process. It required hard decisions, but these changes weren’t to try and be someone she wasn’t. Now, she could look at who she was- in Christ- and was safe, stable, loved, and cherished.

You have to get to a point where you realize God is good and sovereign,” said Emma Grace, her voice free and confident. Today, Emma Grace loves to share her story and speak into others about how the Gospel is the only safe place for identity. “Grace…means being who you’re meant to be."

 

Author: Ben Riggs

Photographer: Molly Bellanco

 

Apex Anthologies Turns One!

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Happy Birthday, Apex Anthologies!

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We love celebrating the big and the small things God does! This week, Apex Anthologies turns one and we are so excited!! To us, this is BIG because of so many amazing stories we have gotten to share in just one LITTLE year. To help celebrate our first year of sharing stories, we wanted to share the top five posts that we've found YOU loved! Check out these stories and videos that captured the eye of so many of our readers. Thank you for reading and be sure to check out the blog and see if there are any stories you've missed!

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What happens when the depths of sin and self meet the Jesus of grace and sacrifice?
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 "House church takes work and intentionality. Weekly meetings and dinners don’t just come together on their own – they need people’s time and investment – but they’re worth it."
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When God calls us, we're called to be an active character in His mission, His Story.
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 "We were refugees. We didn’t know anybody here, and we had never even heard of Dayton. But we were happy and knew that God, who protected us when we were in Iraq, would never leave us and He had a plan for us."

apex anthologies "What I respect most about Andy is that he talks about the Lord’s work in his life far more than he talks about himself. His answers demonstrate how we decrease as He increases…He did not speak of his problem, because to him, it isn’t." Don't miss this..

 

We encourage you to take some time to find stories that stuck out to you! Share it with a friend. Put a link on your Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Let us proclaim the big things God is doing within the lives of Apexers!

 
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It's been an amazing year! We're excited to see what the Lord has in store for our next year! Thank you for being part of the story!

From Disconnect to Redirect

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I don’t need another CD and coffee mug. I need community.

We’ve all done it at one time or another. That faint smile we flash at a passerby, blind to their neediness or story because we’re trying to manage our own. Sometimes it’s because we’re preoccupied. Other times, we’re secretly falling apart on the inside. We long for a place to connect; to be real; to let down the pretense and be accepted for who we truly are. But our pride fights the idea of being vulnerable, and past scars are angry prison bars, discouraging our desire to connect or trust again. So, we drift. We show up, force a smile, and kid ourselves that we have no need to be in community.

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apex anthologies

If you’ve never experienced this you lead a rare life. For David & Lindsy Fisher, traveling on the dead end street of disconnect led to a place of healing and passion – and a new redirect.

Lindsy smiled as she shared her background with me. “My parents began going to a Christian church when I was around 10 years old, and I accepted the Lord shortly afterwards at a VBS program.  All throughout Middle school and High school I was a pretty "good kid.” I was very involved in church and youth group, but often struggled with people-pleasing and feeling good enough about myself.  I knew in my head God loved me, but had a hard time feeling it in my heart.”

Lindsy continued, telling of her struggles even while a student at Cedarville. “I struggled with my faith, going through times of depression and anxiety and wondering why God would allow it.  At times I got "Bible answers" from people that were discouraging to me because I was hurting.  I knew in my head, but didn't always feel it.  As I have grown closer to the Lord, He has healed a lot of this and shown me His unconditional love is not affected by how I perform.”

David shared, “I grew up in a Christian home and was saved at a very young age of 5 with my Mother. I attended a Christian school and found that my faith during my teenage years was more given to me than it was my own.

Attending Cedarville, I met Lindsy and we were married in 2004. Through the huge responsibilities of marriage, God began to strengthen my faith in my early adult years, showing me that I needed to depend on Him as a husband. However, I still struggled for control and the desire to have a handle on all the details of my life."

That’s the back-story; the hidden stuff nobody outwardly sees; the type of struggles each of us assumes we alone experience. And with these burdens we show up on a given Sunday morning, hoping and praying for real answers; for the load to be less weighty; or for meaningful exchanges with others.

And we leave empty handed.

Not because we didn’t desire to connect, but because we were trapped in our own prisons, and needed help finding a way out.

If I were trite, I would insert the fact that we have a “Help Desk,” and tightly wrap up this article. But that’s not where this is going. Both David and Lindsy revealed how they had grown up in a “masked” Christianity where people avoided saying the hard things. It seemed unauthentic to them, or moderately authentic at best.

In their searching, David & Lindsy found themselves drifting in and out of Apex for about two years before finally being able to connect. Lindsy had a heart for community, but David had still been shaking off the shackles, and wasn’t on the same page as his wife. He smiled and revealed, “I was guilty of complacency.”

Lindsy shared how God had to free her own heart from past wounds of loneliness. “I had a sense of idolatry in relationships and didn’t realize it,” she offered.

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apex anthologies

Desiring to find a place to serve together, David and Lindsy joined Frontline. But they soon found they wanted more “eyeball” time with people than just uttering a brief greeting or handing out a program, and soon found themselves serving at the Help Desk. Little did they know it would draw, unite, and grow them even more as a couple. David, who is good with details, can readily find answers to the question at hand, while Lindsy is good at seeing emotion.

“We’re both first borns,” David shared candidly, “and although we have the desire to control and fix things, we realize we’re just here to serve as God’s tool. It’s like God tells me ‘Your job is to just trust Me for an hour and a half, and love people’.” David paused, and Lindsy picked up to further his thought. “One week I was feeling beat up and wondering what kind of help I could be to anyone that day. If I didn’t know an answer, it hit an insecurity in me, which was pride. God used that to show me it’s not about me.”

David paused, searching for the right words. “A lot of people come from churchy backgrounds where they don’t have authenticity. If they’ve been to other churches, often the help desk is just an information desk. I don’t need another CD and coffee mug. I need community. Three times out of four, people stop by because they want connection.” He took a brief look around, “Perhaps this should be called ‘The Connection Desk’ rather than the ‘Help Desk.’

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apex anthologies

On a given Sunday you may see David & Lindsy at what they lovingly call the “Connection Desk,” willing and ready to love and serve others who are yearning to step out of their own prisons of disconnect in order to redirect.

Author: Jackie Perseghetti

Photographer: Hilary Tebo

A Path to Surrender

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“God uses chaos to assure me of Himself.  I am trying to desperately love the one true God, even though I am so wired to run after other things and seek security apart from Him.  I needed to lose everything to build a life on Him.”

Tricia Klay realizes statistically her life should have turned out very differently. “I believe the Lord laid it down for me.  He said you are going to pursue me, and surrender, or you are going to die.  I checked myself into a clinic in Toledo for six months.  It was a time of healing and clarity.  A time to address the trauma and hurt.”

“My mom is a drug addict, my dad as well. They were divorced.  I grew up with my mom most of the time.  She was abused growing up, with no money and living in inner city Dayton.  My youngest memories are of my mom disappearing and not coming back."  In fact it was a pattern.  Her mother would get high for a week smoking crack, sometimes disappearing for days at a time. “When she came off of it she'd get really mean, verbally and at times, physically abusive, but the remaining two to three weeks of the month she would be fine.”

They lived with one of her mother’s boyfriends.  When Tricia was eight years old she woke up and caught her mother trying to commit suicide.  The relationship with the boyfriend soon fell apart, and mother and daughter were kicked out of the house.  They were homeless for six months bouncing from one friend’s house to another.  “Often we didn't have any food, or money. She didn't work. We moved around so much I was hardly going to school.”  All the while her dad was in California in and out of jail.

They settled at another ex-boyfriend’s house about the time her dad moved back to Ohio.  He set them up in an apartment in Centerville, which finally added a little stability to their lives, though he was scarcely there.  “I know I am grateful to be alive. I often found myself in a car with my mom on a drug run, she was stoned and driving around.”

"At 13, my little sister Julie was born to my mom and her ex-boyfriend.  From that point on it was just my mom, baby Julie, and I in the apartment.  I remember my mom, high on drugs, would put Julie in her car seat.  I would hold tightly to the door and beg her not to leave.  I felt my whole world drive away.  I was left alone in the house and scared and just prayed that God would do something.  I was terrified she would die and I would be left alone, convinced she was not going to come back.”

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In high school Tricia was invited to church with friends and found a welcome place in the youth group. She never told anyone what was going on at home.  She had perfect grades, presented well, and became very good at looking like she had it all together.  “My mom always threatened what terrible things would happen to me in foster care if I told anyone.”  Luckily Tricia could get away from it at school all day, but she couldn’t shake the knowledge that Julie, her defenseless little sister at two or three years old, was at home with her intoxicated mother.

“I remember one day I got off the school bus and went into the house. I couldn't wake mom up.  She had overdosed again.  I woke up her boyfriend, the medics came, and she was gone for a few days.  Julie was only three years old.”

The Lord would not let her mouth be silent any longer. Tricia finally decided her mother endangering Julie wasn't okay and told someone at church.  “I think Child Protective Services was called.  Julie and I didn't go back with my mother.  We moved in with a family at church.”

In the subsequent court battle, her mom lost custody of both Tricia and Julie, but Julie was forced to live with her own father.  “My mom was not allowed to be alone with my sister, but somehow they got around it by moving in with my mother.”  Tricia looks down and sighs.  She shakes her head. “I don’t understand it.”

“Looking back I made security and having a new and real family my identity and an idol.  Everything in me was given to those things, almost a worship of it. It didn't help the situation that from the age of 12, I developed an eating disorder.  Eating became my sense of security, my control amidst the chaos, something to focus on, a distraction.  I even thought if I was smaller I might be more loveable.”

Her eating disorder eventually tore apart her new family relationships.  She described it as a very dark place and not a healthy environment for anyone involved.  She left them and found herself alone again.

She contacted the clinic in Toledo.  Her months of healing helped her understand her value as a child of God, how to value herself, and her God-given talents.  She applied and was accepted at Cedarville University.  Tricia graduated with excellent grades and met her husband Caleb.

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Tricia calls herself her own little kingdom builder.  Thinking she was running toward God, she had pursued her own definition of security.  To her it meant a place where no one could touch her, a place she could not be hurt.  She had built walls of safety around her because she says she’s never really felt secure.  Tricia’s fort of protection was built with bricks made of good grades, peer acceptance, a hope of financial security, and a physical façade of having it all together.  "I put myself on the throne in the midst of my fortress, convincing myself that I was running toward God.  When if fact I was intentionally walling him out.”

Only now does she understand that God wants more for us.  “We can't live in authentic community with other people, or with the Lord, if we can't be vulnerable.  My goal of being untouchable is not a good idea.”

Her mom is still living the same pattern of addiction to this day, and Julie, now age 11, is with her.  Caleb and Tricia bring Julie into their home every month when this is going on. They are ready to actively pursue legal rights to obtain custody of Julie.

Tricia’s dad died over a year ago from complications due to drugs. He was not a Christian.  She sees her dad’s death as an opportunity to wrestle with God and seek answers to her tough questions.  “God uses chaos to assure me of Himself.  I am trying to desperately love the one true God, even though I am so wired to run after other things and seek security apart from Him.  I needed to lose everything to build a life on Him.”

“Psalm 16 verse 8: I keep my eyes always on the Lord.  With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.  At this point in my life He is taking a hammer and helping me cut out all the bricks.  He reminds me to follow Him, to surrender to what He is doing.  He is everything I need.”

 

Author: Carrie Kempisty

Small Smooth Stones

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It seemed absurd, but one precisely thrown stone altered the lives of God’s people. In the same way, micro-finance puts small amounts of money, basic financial skills, and opportunities into people’s hands to slowly overcome poverty’s grip.

Philistines filled the landscape, but Goliath commanded attention.  He possessed strength and tenacity no Israelite could match.  “For forty days the Philistine came forward and took his stand, morning and evening.” (1 Sam 17:16). Goliath was unmovable. What could be done?

Thousands of years later, Casey Steckling looked over Zambia’s landscape. A giant commanded his attention. It wasn’t an eight foot gold-plated warrior, but the overwhelming presence of poverty. Its influence clamped down on everything, mocking God’s desire for people to thrive.

“We sat in a one room “shelter” in Kitwe, Zambia. It had no windows or frames, and only a single corrugated metal roof.”  Outside, malnourished children wandered on dirt paths alongside streams of sewage. Questions filled Casey’s mind as flies filled the room. “Why did God show me this?” He was unprepared for the stranglehold of poverty. It appeared unmovable. Its presence too large and resolve too fierce. As with Goliath, the battle seemed over before it started. Casey returned conflicted and discontent. He wanted more for these people. Poverty is complex. It’s a big problem, but God loves stories when the problem seems too big.

apex anthologies As Goliath mocked Israel’s God, an unarmed shepherd took the field. David, with no sword, carried five smooth stones. What could small stones do to Goliath’s unmovable presence?

Casey asked similar questions about Zambia.  What could he offer? An answer came from a different country. In November 2011, Casey flew to India to spend time with a ministry called TENT. TENT equips indigenous believers in micro business, micro finance, and evangelism. He wanted to learn how they were teaching the Dalit people group micro-finance strategies. How could something with the prefix “micro” do anything about the massive problem of poverty? It begins with micro savings. A group contributes small amounts to a fund. As the amount grows, one or more of the members take a small loan, with minimal interest. This is a micro-loan or, “micro-lending”. The money is used for groceries, bills, or educational needs.  The crux of this model is when a loan is used to start a small micro-enterprise: a small garden, car detailing, haircuts, or buying and selling relevant goods. These small entrepreneurial advances are more than mere job creation. It’s momentum toward sustainability.

The Dalit people embodied this narrative. “I was witness to the glory of God displayed as uneducated people managed finances, learned how to read and write, as well as give their families the chance to go to school to have real opportunities for the first time in their lives,” said Casey. He and others took this back to Zambia to put these small stones in the hands of the people. One of them was Pastor Victor, who serves in Kitwe, Zambia with those shunned because they live with HIV. Pastor Victor received this strategy and ran with it. Now, these vulnerable people are beginning to flourish as they start businesses, feed their children better meals, and attend school. Poverty’s mockery has grown quieter.

After reaching for a small stone, David hurled it at Goliath and the giant disappeared from view.  He had been conquered. It seemed absurd, but one precisely thrown stone altered the lives of God’s people. In the same way, micro-finance puts small amounts of money, basic financial skills, and opportunities into people’s hands to slowly overcome poverty’s grip.

apex anthologies Here in Dayton, Casey’s house church uses micro-finance to minister to their community.  They’ve developed relationships with those in poverty, including mental health agencies in Dayton who have a vast network of clients who can benefit. House churches can easily take part. Contribute a small amount weekly, roughly $5, into a fund. Use those funds to meet the needs within the group first, and then pray to be led to those within the neighborhood in need. It won’t come without relationship. These relationships become natural venues for the gospel, “the greatest and most powerful empowerment vehicle ever been offered to the world.” Micro-finance creates opportunities to engage your community with relief, relationship, and the gospel. All this comes from a few small stones.

A few stones don’t seem like much against a giant, but like David, we know God is sovereign over our small smooth stones.

Author: Ben Riggs 

 

What Matters Most

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What I had understood as the Christian life completely fell apart for me. I thought the Christian life was all based on my behaviors. Inwardly I was a mess because I had betrayed everything that I had thought the Christian faith was all about.

Wing Fam pic 1 My name is Jason Wing and this is the story of God’s grace in my life.

I’m a church kid. I grew up in the church my whole life. I have great Christian parents, who are Godly and respectable. When I was nine years old, I attended a church camp. I remember this guy, Walkeen Dumuss, preached a message on God the Holy Spirit and how the Holy Spirit would live in the hearts of those who were saved and would help them live for God. I wanted that. It meant something to me that Jesus would temporarily die in my place on the cross for my sin, so that I wouldn’t have to eternally die in hell for my sin. As Pastor Dumuss finished his sermon, he asked if anyone wanted to accept Jesus as their Savior. I went and told him about my desire. It was at that point that I really trusted Jesus as my Savior. Yeah, I was just a kid, but in a childlike way, I knew I needed Jesus.

Time went by and my whole life was really isolated within the church and within Christian environments. Outwardly I was doing a lot of the right “Christian-y” things, even though inwardly, to be honest, I was really a mess. Secret sexual sin took deep roots in me starting at age 16. Not many people knew it… but I did… and God did.

I graduated from my Christian high school and did the Christian thing by going to a Christian college. My junior and senior year of college was horrible - sexual sin continued; alcohol became a major problem; a love for money was driving me to theft and other illegal behavior.  What I had understood as the Christian life completely fell apart for me. I thought the Christian life was all based on my behaviors. Inwardly I was a mess because I had betrayed everything that I had thought the Christian faith was all about.

But God is so gracious to sinners like me. During my senior year in college, my brother, Phil, had come down to my college as a freshman. He got really involved in a local church with a small college and singles ministry called Apex. He kept trying to get me to come. I kept pushing him away. At that point in my life, I wanted nothing to do with God. I was bitter toward the church - too many hypocrites…too judgmental… too old-fashioned. One day, as my brother was getting involved with the youth group at this church, he didn’t have anybody to drive the vans for their youth ministry program. I, however, was old enough to rent and drive a van. So Phil called me and asked me if I would be a chaperone for a paintball event for the youth group. Since I love my brother, I said “yes”. Interestingly, that’s when God started opening my eyes. That was my frist step back into the church - through a paintball event with a bunch of rowdy middle schoolers.

Through a series of other events right after I graduated college, God got my attention.

One of my college roommates I had lived with and done life with for the past 4 or 5 years ended up in a severe car accident. I will never forget getting that phone call saying, “Hey, Jeff is in the hospital.” They had to put him in an induced coma so that the swelling on his brain could go down. It was really hard to see my friend that way in the hospital. They said he would be in that coma for a month, maybe more. I had a backpacking trip scheduled to go to Europe. I decided to go and hope when I returned he would be out of his coma. Just a few days into that trip I got a voicemail telling me Jeff had passed away. I got an emergency plane ticket and flew home for his funeral. That was the first time that I had come face to face with death for somebody I really knew and loved and was my age. At that funeral, God broke me down. I’m not really an emotional guy or a teary guy, but at that funeral I remember crying my eyes out and just thinking, “God, some day I’m going to be the one in the grave. Some day it’s gonna be me in that hole in the ground. What will my life have mattered? Will it have mattered at all? Is this where all this party lifestyle will lead me?”

After his funeral I flew back to Europe. I’ll never forget sitting on this mountaintop in Edinburgh, Scotland, looking over the whole city. I remember looking over the edge and thinking, “I could jump. All this pain and heartache and emptiness could be over.” But it was in that moment God really spoke to me. Not in an audible voice, but in the depths of my heart, I sensed him saying, “Jason, if you will surrender your life to me I will use it. I will use it for my glory.” I remember thinking, “God, how could you use a guy like me - with a life full sexual impurity, a life of thievery, a life of crime?” Yet at the same time, God just said, “Jason, if you give me your life I will use it for my glory.” After that, I made a decision on that mountaintop in Edinburgh, Scotland to live the rest of my days for Jesus Christ. It was the day that this prodigal son decided to come home.

I started getting really involved in the local church with my brother, Phil. It was amazing to see the way that God started to work. I grew up believing that God was not really a God of mercy, but that He was only a God of justice. But God delights to show us mercy. I didn’t delight to show mercy to anyone, but God delighted to show mercy to me. All that junk that I had been apart of, all the sin that I had been doing - God delighted to show me His mercy. I remember singing the song, “The Wonderful Cross” at an event soon after and really understanding that cross where Jesus died, taking all of our sin on Himself, that that was His place where He delighted to show us mercy. Ever since then, I have been so appreciative of the cross. I haven’t been sinless or perfect, but I’ve desired to live my life in any way that God would put on my heart to live.

By His grace, He’s opened many doors for me. God allowed me to serve in ministry to teenagers for more than 7 years. He blessed me to be in a Christian band that got to play at some of the biggest Christian music festivals in the country. Therefore, I got to share the gospel with thousands of people. During that time God brought my wife, Rachel, into my life - she is such who a godly, trustworthy, gentle, and nurturing woman. Now He’s blessed my wife and I with four kids - Reagan, Gideon, Jonny, and Liberty.  I’ve been in ministry at Apex for over 12 years now. And it is really unbelievable considering where I was 15 years ago. I’m just so thankful for what God has done. I’m not yet who I want to be… and I’m not yet who I will be… but praise God I am not who I once was.

The Scripture says that if ANY man is in Christ, he is a new creation. No matter how messed up your life is, if you’re broken because of how shamefully sinful you are, or if you’re broken because of how religiously self-righteous you are, know this - God makes all things new!

My life verse now is Philippians 2:16, which just has a little phrase that says, “That I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing.” I don’t want to waste my life. I want to stand before God and say, “I made many failures in my life, but, by your grace, I didn’t waste it.” I want to live in every way that I can for Jesus. I believe the same Holy Spirit who came into my life at age 9 is the same Spirit that didn’t let me go when I rebelled in my 20’s. And is the same Spirit that will change me and keep me until the day I see Jesus face to face.

 

Author: Jason Wing

Climbing into the Unknown

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“My word for this year is ‘Journey.’ I know there’s a lot of doors to be closed, which are hard--and doors to be opened, which are fun. My journey is waiting to figure out what each step is supposed to be.

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Expectations. We all have them. Either they make our pulse beat faster in anticipation, or they suck the life out of us. Some come with delight; others come with dread. In most cases, they both come with temptation – temptation to act upon them in our own wisdom.

I sat across from Brittany, a soon-to-be university grad. Her bright blue eyes danced as she relayed what God was doing in her life and the journey she was on. They not only danced with life, but they also held a deep and quiet wisdom.

Most grads would expect the world at their doorstep. Diploma? Check. Career path opportunities? Check. Brittany had all that going for her and more. But there was one box she was not willing to check for herself: what her own plans were for her future.

Looking at the intelligent, gifted, and competitive young woman before me, I became curious. I settled back to hear her story.

Before she was born, her parents gave birth to her sister Ashley who was born prematurely and died. This tragedy occurred just days after her mom’s nephew was born prematurely with birth defects and who also died. Since Brittany’s dad grew up in a church where he was screamed at, he viewed their loss as God’s hatred of him, and turned his back on God. Her mom, on the other hand, came from a good church experience growing up, but became rebellious. Going to church wasn’t a priority for her parents. Once Brittany and her brother were born, however, they began attending church—but only at Christmas and Easter.

“As a kid I grew up knowing there was a God, and we had our night-time prayer, you know, ‘Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. Blah, blah, blah.’ My relationship to God was kinda like, ‘Oh, He’s in Heaven where my sister is,’” she admitted.

It wasn’t until later, in her sophomore year of high school, that God became real. “I was invited to Young Life by a friend and went to Fall Weekend where I was hit by the message. I decided to commit my life to Christ right then and there. When I came back, I lost all my friends.” Brittany’s eyes misted up and her voice cracked as she spoke, not because of what she had just shared, but because of what she would share next.

By mid November 2009, her brother became so rebellious her parents gave him an ultimatum: either straighten up or move out. Although they would still support him, he could no longer live at home. “My brother called us on New Year’s Day, crying and depressed after a New Year’s Eve Party incident. My dad said, ‘Just come on home.’ As a result of a big ice storm, we had a power outage for a few days, so we all stayed inside and just played board games. We went to church that Sunday and my brother came…”

Brittany’s voice cracked, betraying deep emotion. After composing herself, she whispered an apology – “I’m sorry; I get more emotional about my brother than about myself.” She and her parents had been attending Apex because some Young Life friends came here and invited her. “The message that day was on the prodigal son,” she shared, “and my brother was very struck by it. We were all in the balcony standing there, and then I saw him just walk down the stairs. Of course we all followed him. He committed his life to the Lord on January 4, 2009.”

Two months later, on March 15th, Brittany and her brother both got baptized. Her Dad counts that day as when he truly came into a relationship with God himself, experiencing an unexplainable and overwhelming joy in his heart. From that point on, their family began growing together in the Lord.

Through her experiences in Young life, Brittany learned how to live her faith and show Christ to others around her. “One thing I was taught in Young Life was, ‘Missions is wherever you are.’ I was on the cheerleading squad at Fairmont, and really made a point to be a good influence to my squad and to those around me in my classes.”

Upon graduating high school, Brittany became a Zeta Tau Alpha (ZTA) sorority member at WSU and continued to be salt and light to those around her. “Over the last four years, I’ve had some good conversations and I’ve had some bad conversations,” she laughed. “But hopefully I’ve helped people and shown them that just because you’re a Christian it doesn’t mean you have to be boring. I feel that’s what a lot of them think – that you can only have fun if you drink.  It becomes a problem when people think they have to have an alcoholic drink in their hand in order for them to smile.”

Brittany graduates in May with a degree in marketing, and because of a co-op while at WSU, she has a job offer to help her pay her bills with the understanding that she should keep challenging herself and find something that better fits her many strengths and passions. When asked about her dream job, she replied it would be the Event Community Coordinator for the Indianapolis Colts – working with the community and getting them involved.

“I really enjoy working with people, that’s why I chose marketing over accounting—and I like being challenged.” And she loves competition – bettering herself, others, and organizations around her. Sprinkled in with all of that is her passion for Orphan Care. “Over the past four years, I’ve gone on missions trips with Back2Back ministry – one in which I was an intern for two months,” she shared, and showed me a picture of little 9 year old Leti, an orphan girl in Mexico she has been sponsoring for the last three years.

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When asked where she is in her journey with what God would have her do post-college, she replied, “I’m still finding my way,” and equated it to rock climbing (one of her many sports).

“Although I see where I eventually want to go, I’m only able to see what’s exactly in front of me. I can only go one handhold or one step at a time, really. And possibly half way through I’ll get up there and find I need to go to the right and not to the left like I originally planned. Or there may be bugs, like a nest full of bees that I may have to go around.

I can only go one step at a time on this journey. I see that internship with the Colts and I took the step to apply--but is that step one I should take if the job is offered to me? I can’t know five steps ahead of me; I can only do with what’s in front of my rock right now,” she explained. And then she added, “I have one rule in rock climbing to challenge myself (usually while climbing on boulders): You can’t go down the way you came up. That’s because you already know one way’s safe – you can’t go back that way; that’s no fun.” She then talked about how she would find an alternate method, such as grabbing onto a limb and climbing down a tree instead.

Brittany paused, collecting her thoughts. “My word for this year is ‘Journey.’ I know there’s a lot of doors to be closed, which are hard--and doors to be opened, which are fun. My journey is waiting to figure out what each step is supposed to be. Just like when rock climbing you think, I’ll grab onto this handhold, but you have to test it. You don’t just grab on and keep going. You test it out. Will this actually hold me? Is this solid? Is it going to crumble before me? And sometimes it crumbles and you have to find another way. Sometimes it’s solid and you go that way. Sometimes you have to go back down and try a different way. And that’s my journey. Those handholds that crumble are not where God wants me necessarily.” Brittany smiled and her eyes danced once again.  “You can only climb on the Solid Rock.”

And with that, Brittany continues her journey with God as she climbs into the unknown.

 

Author: Jackie Perseghetti

Abiding as a Family

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House church takes work and intentionality. Weekly meetings and dinners don’t just come together on their own – they need people’s time and investment – but they’re worth it.

House churches are at the heart of Apex Community. We don’t simply gather on Saturday nights or Sunday mornings, but we create families all over the area to meet weekly and live life together. One such house church, in northern Cincinnati, was hesitant to have a story written about them for the Anthologies blog. Jonathan was hesitant to agree to a story being written about his house church because he couldn’t think of a reason why one should be written.

“Comically,” Jonathan confessed, “My initial reaction was one that wondered what crisis in the house church had occurred without my knowing.”

But it was his decline for the story to be written that caught the editors' attention at Anthologies. House church is rarely glamour-­filled, but is often a physical representation and picture of what it looks like to abide. It was within those spaces that the house church needed to be written about.

Jonathan planted the North Cinci House Church in his small, one-­bedroom apartment in 2009. In the history of this house church, through change in location and size of the group, the median age has remained in the late twenties.

This house church has taken their general age and willingness to travel and put it to use in the city of Cincinnati to share the Lord with its residents. For several years, Jonathan's house church purchased, prepared, and served a dinner once a month to more than 100 homeless people in Cincinnati’s City Gospel Mission.

“We were able to build relationships with some of Cincinnati’s neatest people through that effort,” Jonathan explained.

Their house church has also been able to put on fundraising efforts for the missionaries being sent out by Apex over the years.

As their house church has shifted locations and “grown up,” flexibility in schedules changed the pace of the house church’s capabilities for outreach. In times past, Jonathan has wrestled with thinking that this is a failure, but has come to see it as a mark of God’s faithfulness in growing them up.

“Priorities among house church members have shifted,” Jonathan said.

He explained that they have grown from independent singles, to married couples and now some families. Since they planted in 2009, Jonathan could think of at least seven marriages that have occurred within their house church. “We now have two wonderful kids in the house church, both age one. We love them. How quickly they have changed the dynamic of the group--and for the better. It's so neat seeing people's hearts turn toward loving children; not just parents, but non-parents as well,” he said.

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Melissa, Jonathan’s wife, has seen large amounts of growth within their house church over the years.

“God has placed a desire specifically in the hearts of the men to pursue Him,” she said. “Consequently, I have seen it shape the couples and families in our group, because we are led by husbands and dads who love Jesus and His Word.”

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She can feel the Lord sanctifying the whole group, but her own heart, specifically.

“I have seen God point out some of the rough edges of my heart. I still remember when I started attending house church, I didn’t get along blissfully with everyone. I had moved away from my family (who lives in New Hampshire) and I left behind a lot of friends, too. I prayed that God would help me to love the people in my group, and He answered that prayer in a very real way. I had truly seen God change the desires of my heart,” Melissa said.

“I think that’s a continual process for Christians in community – to see one another the way Christ sees us and to humble ourselves to realize we aren’t always so lovely ourselves," she said.

Jonathan and Melissa have been able to see this group of people grow into a living, breathing, working family. Their family has been through multiple births and multiple marriages together; they have prayed over surgeries, delivered meals to each other, helped out with rides and errands. They live and experience life together.

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The two shared how house church takes work and intentionality. Weekly meetings and dinners don’t just come together on their own – they need people’s time and investment – but they’re worth it. They have seen God’s hand through all of it – He places the desires to work together as a family on all of our hearts and through that they have become a family that celebrates together, mourns together, and lives life together.

House Churches don’t come together and stay together by chance; they require intentional conversations, flexibility with schedules, sacrifice, and being an open vessel for the Lord to pour into. Jonathan initially declined to do an interview because he felt his house church was “too boring” to be written about. But the Lord sees “boring” as abiding and He grows within that space room for family to be born outside of bloodlines and family trees.

Author: Stephani Duff

Photographer: Hilary Tebo

The Rhythm of Worship

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“If you would’ve asked Adam in the Garden, ‘when do you worship?’ Adam should’ve answered, ‘When aren’t we?’”

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“If you would’ve asked Adam in the Garden, ‘when do you worship?’ Adam should’ve answered, ‘When aren’t we?’”

Jordan Atwell laid this quote by Mike Cosper down in the middle of our interview for this Anthologies article and mentally I felt myself brushing my hands together and thinking, “That’s a wrap.” What else could possibly be said for being a worship leader for Apex, for being a worship leader for a House Church, for being a specimen of worship, period, than that statement?

“Worship isn’t this Christian thing – every second of our lives we are worshipping something; we are pouring ourselves out for something,” states Jordan.

Before becoming a believer at 22, it was the American Dream for Jordan; he wanted the money, the status, the wealth. So he spent his life’s seconds giving himself up to achieving those very goals.

Then Jesus got in the way.

Flash forward to Jordan realizing he was spending the majority of his time advancing his own kingdom and then eventually becoming the Worship Leader at Apex Xenia. He and his wife, Jamie, are now members of a house church, and Jordan helps lead worship in that smaller, more intimate setting, too.

“There is something about knowing the people you are singing with and knowing what they are walking through that changes worship within the house church. The words we are singing cease being intangible; you get to witness people begin to believe the words they are singing. Christ is the goal,” says Jordan.

His approach to choosing songs for House Church follows suit with how the Apex bands choose songs for the Gatherings – the liturgy for the fluency of the songs is a reflection of A Holy God (who God is), a sinful, broken people in need of redemption, God’s plan of redemption through Jesus, and our response in worship and mission.

“The Liturgy used is the carriage of the Gospel,” explains Jordan. “The best moments are when I feel I’ve been walked through the Gospel through worshipping – we are being confronted with Jesus and the Gospel.”

He believes worship in the church is happening in two parts – gathered and scattered.

“And the big question is, how are we worshiping scattered and what does that look like?” asks Jordan. “As we are sent from the Gathering into our house churches, we then see that a healthy rhythm of worship looks a like more like mission rather than just singing,” he says.

Jordan says that leading worship at the Gatherings and leading worship within house church are different altogether.

“I’m not distracted by the lights – worship with your house church is in its most pure and simple form; it is a bunch of people – we are not in pitch, not on tempo, seldom is it musically great, but those are some of the most God honoring moments I’ve experienced,” he confesses.

Jordan is passionate about Jesus, about his call from God, and you don’t have to know him long, or well, to be aware of this truth. You can recognize his zeal for worshiping the Lord easily and quickly.

“This is a war we are fighting and we are fighting together. Worship is a reminder that we’re fighting together. It’s a reminder of the real war and, more importantly, who the real Victor of that war is. Will we bow on knee to other gods or will we bow on knee to the God of the universe?”

Worship should ceaselessly answer this question clearly, every time.

Jordan plays with his wedding ring while he quietly admits, “There is something to be said about singing with people you know and love; I know their garbage and they know mine. There is no pedestal – because it’s not about me. It’s about the Lord.”

He humbly acknowledges it is not his responsibility to lead people to the Throne.

“I am not interceding for anyone, I am merely a voice saying, ‘Look at this Man.’ Who is the real High Priest? I cannot change people’s hearts because the Gospel has to be at the center of our worship. No melody or hook or lyric will change a heart, they are all simply a vessel for the Gospel.”

If you were like me, you might have expected an interview about house church worship with a worship leader to be a lot about music and lyrics and what leading looks like. If you are like me, you are incredibly humbled, pleasantly surprised and quite thankful for leaders within the body of Apex that are quick to remind that it all started with Christ and it all has to point back to Him, too. That is what worship has to be about.

 

Author: Stephani Duff

Up from the Valley, through Christ Alone

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They long-struggled with the notion that as long as someone else was acting on their sin more or “sinning bigger” they felt that they could just carry on. Though they were Christians, they had trusted the things of this world for so long, that their every day walk with the Lord was marred.

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Mike and Lena Ferdelman have been married nearly 30 years. And, in that time, the Lord took their best-laid plans, which included hopes of traveling to China with a missionary organization, and sent them to the darkest and deepest valley of their lives instead. Their peers once knew Mike and Lena as a dynamic Christian duo. They were even labeled by some as “the perfect Christian couple.” On the outside, they appeared to have it all together. However, for decades of their marriage, the Ferdelmans existed in a deep dark valley filled with incredible challenges, spiritual bondage and bruising. A valley populated by  feelings of resentment, shame and remorse. It was only from the depths of that unknown valley, though, that they could learn to see Christ on high. Thus changing their hearts forever and sending them on a new and unforeseen journey.

Though believers for many years, both Mike and Lena were lost in the depths of their sin never willing to acknowledge their heart issues at more than just the surface level and often comparing their sin to others. They long-struggled with the notion that as long as someone else was acting on their sin more or “sinning bigger” they felt that they could just carry on. Though they were Christians, they had trusted the things of this world for so long, that their every day walk with the Lord was marred. They found themselves trusting in their own ideals, instead of Christ’s. They found themselves in a vicious pit of lies and deceit. Lustful behavior, control issues and self-servitude played a huge role in their marriage and ruled their hearts for many years as well. All of these things took precedence over the everlasting Grace of Jesus in their lives; living in this deep pit of long-term unrepentant sin made them wonder if they would be living in the trenches forever and wondering if this was just “it” for them.

As Mike and Lena struggled to sort out their issues, they suffered. Their five children suffered. Their finances suffered. Their jobs suffered. Their relationships with other believers suffered. Their marriage suffered, even resulting in separation on a couple occasions. Of utmost significance, though, their walk with the Lord greatly suffered. Finding themselves on the brink of divorce and absolutely at the end of themselves, the Ferdelmans decided to go full steam ahead with an expensive marital counseling program that did little else besides introduce more ways of the world to their marriage, and totally empty their bank account in the process. Just when they tried to rescue the very union that once seemed so ideal…they were even further into the depths of the valley.

Some time later, the Ferdelmans found Dr. Harry Schaumberg’s downloadable course that coincided with his book, Undefiled. The course cost them just $30 and instead of focusing on changing behavior alone it sent the Ferdelmans into the Lord’s Word, together. From the deep dark valley they’d existed in for so many years, they began reading and praying; ultimately, their hearts were changed and their marriage was restored. They were able to finally trust and see Christ as high Lord and Ruler of their lives.

Now that the Ferdelmans have fully submitted their lives unto the Lord, they are once again where they started. They now feel, without hesitation, that they are equipped and ready to serve the Lord through missions. The Ferdelmans hope to soon relocate to the city of Dayton. Together, they’ve felt the Lord calling for them to leave the comfort of their suburban home and reach out to the Sudanese refugees settling in the heart of Dayton. It will be another unforeseen journey, but this time they do it linked-arms in the name of Jesus, instead of for their own merit. They have begun reaching out to these people; working with them, sharing with them, interacting with them and showing them the TRUE love of Jesus. It’s a love that the Ferdelmans can freely share, a love that grew within them, as they were proverbial refugees from the Kingdom of God, wallowing in the valleys. Praise the Lord that He can be seen, even from those valleys and from uncharted territory.

Psalm 66: 16-20 sums it all up well:

“Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what He has done for my soul. I cried to Him with my mouth, and high praise was on my tongue. If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. But truly God has listened; He has attended to the voice of my prayer. Blessed be God, because He has not rejected my prayer or removed His steadfast love from me!”

 

Author: Tess Augustine

A Stranger in a Foreign Land

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“It’s about loving people, right? And loving them not the way we in our American ways want to love them, but in the way that they need to be loved.”

Mollie Fitzpatrick didn’t quite know what to expect when she packed up her bags to take a teaching job in China for two years. She knew it’d open her eyes and help her grow. What she wasn’t expecting was the lesson of what it felt like to be a foreigner.

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“I knew it would be hard. I didn’t know it would be so hard. Until you’ve been in that situation, you can’t fathom it,” Mollie said.

Mollie is in her late twenties and has lived in Ohio her entire life. The Lord slowly began working on her heart many years ago to have a passion for the people of China. After graduating from college and teaching in elementary schools, she decided God was calling her to apply to teach in China. She lived there for two years. Mollie and I sat for coffee at the end of last year, a few months after her return, reflecting on all the things God had taught her.

“Like today. I went to the post office, I dropped off the package. I left on my merry way. In China, it would be an hour long ordeal. The postal guy would hide when he’d see me. We’d both be so frustrated,” she laughed.

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Mollie said it’s so easy to have a sense of entitlement here in America since everything is so easy for us. She explained that she had to erase the word “should” from her vocabulary when she went to China. She should be able to order a pizza or find a bottle of shampoo in the store. We should be able to understand everyone around us. It’s easy to get that “the world revolves around us” mentality. For instance, when you talk to an international telemarketer or customer service person with a thick accent, how easy is it to get impatient and annoyed at the person for being difficult to understand?

“You don’t know their situation or who they’re supporting or how hard they worked to accomplish this level of English,” she said. “For me, being in China, that was the first thing that struck me. How often have I been impatient with people. Yet here I am in this country where I know how to count to ten and say yellow. That was it.”

Yet the Chinese were incredibly gracious to Mollie. This surprised her. They would compliment her when she was able to say something in Chinese. Even if it was something simple like, “Your baby is beautiful.” It was incredibly humbling for Mollie. Instead of shunning her for not being like them or being able to communicate easier, they went above and beyond. Even to the point of being hospitable and opening their homes to her.

“How often do we open our homes to people? Especially to people we can’t really talk to easily. It’s awkward. Yet they were just very kind.” Mollie said.

Mollie said the verse she keeps going back to is in Leviticus 19:33: “‘When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself…”

She clarified that although she wasn’t in exile, it certainly did feel like it at times. Yet people loved on her despite her being a foreigner in China. When she returned to Dayton, Mollie said she immediately started viewing people differently that weren’t from here.

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“I know more practically about how to love people that are either new to the states or maybe don’t know English or have a vehicle,” she said.

Now, Mollie knows asking a simple like, “Can I drive you to the grocery store?” is an easy and practical way to reach out to someone. She remembers how hard it was in China to go to the store and only be able to buy as much as she could carry on her bike. Little situations like these have opened her eyes to ways to help those around her now.

“It didn’t ever occur to me before. I wanted to help them, but I didn’t have any frame of reference,” she said.

Sometimes it’s just a simple act of asking someone how they’re doing or where they’re from that helps opens door, too. When Mollie was homesick in China, people asking her about her home were some of the best conversations she had. It allowed her to open up and share.

She added, “It’s about loving people, right? And loving them not the way we in our American ways want to love them, but in the way that they need to be loved.”

Mollie said it isn’t like these situation will just show up on your doorstep. You have to work at finding these opportunities. For Mollie, she signed up to help ESL kids at a nearby school when she moved back. She also mentioned the African refugees in Dayton. Or the large Turkish community in Old North Dayton that could probably use a friendly smile and acceptance. There are more people around us than we sometimes realize that may be feeling a bit like a stranger in Dayton.

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“You have to be intentional or you could go your whole life and never know anyone’s story. I think everyone wants that. Everyone wants to be heard - especially when you’re away from home.”

 

Author: Jennifer Osterday

It Stands to Reason

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We’ve all seen it, or have been affected by it one way or another: Faith becoming shipwrecked on the shores of academia thought. Perhaps it’s been in the form of our inability to give a sound defense for our beliefs in the midst of an agnostic culture. Or perhaps it’s simply our own secret nagging doubts, “Is what I believe really real?”

We’ve all seen it, or have been affected by it one way or another: Faith becoming shipwrecked on the shores of academia thought. Perhaps it’s been in the form of our inability to give a sound defense for our beliefs in the midst of an agnostic culture. Or perhaps it’s simply our own secret nagging doubts, “Is what I believe really real?”

These were questions Andrew Wailes wrestled with in spite of being raised in a strong Christian home. Once he went off to college, he found himself in a whole new plateau of thinking—and questioning. His breaking point came while a student at a Christian University.

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“I always felt people weren’t telling me the whole story,” Andrew shared, and those feelings led to doubts. He hoped that at a Christian University he’d find the answers he was searching for, but even there he found disappointment. When Andrew had intellectual questions, he felt they were answered with sterile and unsatisfying responses to just pray or have more faith. But none of those worked for him, and in his Sophomore year, Andrew checked out.

Before I tell you what happened to Andrew, let me introduce you to an organization that seeks to help those who may be in a similar place. Enter, Ratio Christi, a global movement that is not afraid to marry faith and reason. Ratio Christi is Latin for “the reason of Christ” and embodies chapters globally, as well as a local one that meets weekly at Wright State University.

This group takes their cue from 1 Peter 3:15-16 (NASB), and seeks to equip students to have an informed mind, an attractive manner, and an artful method for communicating the truth and relevancy of Christ to others:

“But sanctify Christ as **Lord** in your hearts, _[righteousness]_ always being ready to make a **defense** _[rational]_ for the hope that is in you, yet with **gentleness and reverence** _[relational];_ and keep a **good conscience** _[righteousness]_ so that in the thing in which you were slandered, those who revile **your good behavior in Christ** _[righteousness]_ will be put to shame."

One could say Ratio Christi unapologetically trains students in Apologetics (I apologize for the play on words).

This past fall, Ratio Christi brought in Frank Turek, author of I Don’t Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist. Two hundred people were in attendance for the two night event. They also hosted a Q&A time after taking students to see “God’s Not Dead” movie that released in theaters. The result? People connecting and re-connecting with their faith and the reason for the hope within them. God was moving in hearts and lives.

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Ratio Christi meets weekly on campus at WSU and is open to the community. Last semester they addressed such topics as “Who is the real Jesus?” and “Is the Bible Reliable?” A typical meeting could involve pizza and discussion – and always food for thought. Although a student-focused ministry, Andrew shared it is not uncommon to even have empty nesters join in the meetings--all are welcome.

But wait, where does Andrew come into this picture? He is the current Director of the WSU chapter of Ratio Christi.

And now, the back story: While in his Sophomore year at the Christian University he was attending, Andrew walked away from his faith. “I came back to the Lord my Junior year, but not deeply.” It was then he joined an accountability group to help him wrestle through his doubts and was introduced to Greg Koukl’s book, “Tactics” and an organization called Stand to Reason ([www.str.org](http://www.str.org)). A whole new world of apologetics opened before Andrew and resonated deeply within his heart. “After reading Koukl’s book, a few weeks later I was playing an online game that didn’t need my full attention, and decided to listen to one of his podcasts. He was debating an atheist, and I was fascinated by what he was saying. He seemed to have answers; real answers,” Andrew recounted. It was like water to his thirsty soul.

Through a house church connection, Andrew was then introduced to Dave Nedostup, the director of the WSU chapter of Ratio Christi. He began attending the group, and was later invited to help teach a few lessons. When Dave had life changes that resulted in his need to step down a little over a year ago, Andrew then stepped into his shoes as director over the WSU chapter.

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“My greatest delight is to see that what we’ve done has made a difference in someone’s life,” Andrew shared with me.

Having pursued a Master’s degree in Apologetics through Biola, Andrew’s desire is to provide for others what his own soul had been longing for: a faith that could stand to reason.

 

Author: Jackie Perseghetti