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Bob a nd M a rci a Wood
Lives Change in Living Rooms pag e 7
Pastor’s wife shares her journey out of the trap of low self-esteem
The men’s group that started in 1976—and is still going strong
Plus College Ministry • Village Green • Haiti • Montgomery • More Following Jesus
A H P L A
alpha is a place to explore the meaning of life, discover the basics of what Christians believe and why and ask questions in a non-threatening, non-judgmental environment. The course will be available at two locations. Find out more by visiting us online at alphamontgomery.com.
F i n d o u T m o r e aT d i n n e r , August 26 or 27 6 p.m.
C o u r s e s Ta r T s
September 9 or 10 AT 6 p.m.
Following Jesus Vol. 1 no. 3 SUMMER 2013 Published by Frazer Memorial United Methodist Church 6000 Atlanta Hwy. Montgomery, AL 36117 Printed in USA by Publications Press
Editor & Layout Ken Roach
Editorial Coordinator Amy Presley
Writers Mac McLellan Amy Presley Mike Presley Ken Roach Candace Rutherford Photographers Mac McLellan Lori Mercer Lee Werling cover image: Bob and Marcia Wood. Photo by Mac McLellan.
©2013 Frazer Memorial United Methodist Church. Limited permission is granted to reproduce articles in their entirety for the purpose of spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ without commercial gain.
Apply to be a Volunteer Writer or Photographer. Contact Amy Presley, amyp@ frazerumc.org 334.495.6436
Small is the New Big I started my journey in ministry right out of high schoool as an intern for my Student Pastor at a medium-sized Baptist church in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. We had a large, active and growing youth group, but my Student Minister (we called him Brother Stephen) was perplexed that, for a significant university town, we weren’t reaching very many college students. For some time, I had a little sticky note posted on the side of my Mac Classic where I was learning to produce sermon notes and camp brochures. The note said: “if our church were Jesus, and this university campus were the world, how would we reach it?” From time to time Brother Stephen and I would discuss big events, or new outreach strategies that might appeal to today’s young people. Then one day it hit me; next to the question on the sticky note, I pencilled in this simple answer: “Jesus would pick 12 guys and spend every day with them for years…and then send them out to do the same with others.” That’s how he reached the world then, and that’s how he plans for us to reach the world now. Over the years since then, I’ve seen ample confirmation that, while big events and attractive programs have their place, small groups are the key to making followers of Jesus. A few years after high school, I got away from following the Lord for several years. It was a small group here at Frazer (along with my wife) that got me back on track. I knew the right things to do—but I didn’t actually do them until I was surrounded by a group of like-minded believers. Since then, the greatest growth periods in my spiritual walk have come through groups, and I have observed the same in others. In the pages of this third issue of our magazine, you’ll read stories of many different kinds of people, but all of them have been touched in some way by getting involved in a small group of Jesus followers. My prayer is that you will be inspired by their stories to take the risk (and there is always a risk when it comes to sharing your life with others) and find a small group. Not because I want lots of big numbers in Frazer’s small groups ministry—but because I know from experience that a small group can be what God uses to change your life. In fact, most of the time, it’s the only thing that will.
Ken Roach, Communication Director Frazer United Methodist Church
Seminars & conferences The Art of Marriage One-Day Seminar for Couples One Day Video Seminar – An outstanding opportunity for ANYONE to improve their marriage. Cost $40 per couple for materials and snacks. Lunch on your own. Contact Doug for more info and to register at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check out the Art of Marriage 6-week discussion group, details page 7. SAT | JUNE 29 I 8:30AM – 5PM I ROOM 8114 | JACQUE AND DOUG LUNSFORD, FACILITATORS
Pause A Day of Prayer As a complement to our pastors’ summer preaching series “PrayList” from the book of Psalms, make plans to set aside a day to “pause” and be still in the presence of God through prayer. saturday Aug. 17 8:30am–3pm | $5
Recreate Women’s Conference Birmingham, AL, October 4-5 Frazer women’s ministry is inviting you to join us for this weekend of teaching and inspiration as we draw near to God and connect with other women. Christy Nockels is the worship leader. Conference speakers are Priscilla Shirer, Lisa Bevere and Charlotte Gambill. We know from experience that when women gather to seek the Lord, to worship Him, and to build relationships with other women, lives will change. The cost is $125 and includes conference ticket, hotel accommodation, continental breakfast, and lunch. You provide your own transportation. We purchased a limited number of tickets so register early. For more information contact Women’s ministry assistant, Sandy Boswell, 495-6391 or email email@example.com. Childcare available for birth through 5th grade with pre-registration.
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The Main Event Lifeway Men’s Conference Nashville, TN, July 26-27. (Early registration through June 15) Frazer does not have a group travelling to the conference together but we recommend this conference for men who can attend. This year’s theme of “Fight4It” focuses on equipping and inspiring men to stand for Christ in our generation and fight for your faith, your family, and your freedom. Guest speakers include Willie Robertson (Duck Dynasty), Bobby Bowden, Tommy Bowden, John Croyle, Tony Evans, Alex and Stephen Kendrick (Fireproof, Courageous) and many more, with music by For King & Country. Sessions will start 6:30 p.m. Friday and end 1 p.m. Saturday. Cost is $49. For more information and to register visit lifeway.com and click Events.
The Leadership Summit Willow Creek Global Simulcast The two-day Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit exists to transform Christian leaders around the world with an injection of vision, skill development, and inspiration for the sake of the local church. Originating from Willow Creek Church in the suburbs of Chicago, led by pastor Bill Hybels, Frazer will partner with St. James UMC to present the Summit locally in Montgomery. Attendees will benefit not only in their roles as lay leaders in the church, but also as leaders in business, politics, non-profit organizations—wherever God has called you to lead. Summit speakers for 2013 include Gen. Colin Powell, TV Producer Mark Burnett, business consultant and author Patrick Lencioni, psychologist and author Dr. Henry Cloud, pastors Andy Stanley, Bill Hybels, and others. Sessions run from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Thursday and Friday at St. James UMC on the corner of Vaughn and Ryan Road. A limited number of spots are available through Frazer for $99 per person ($129 thereafter). More information and videos are at willowcreek.com. Thursday–friday august 8-9 | St. james UMC to register contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Table of Contents From Classroom to Coffee Shop In this issue, Following Jesus focuses on discipleship as it takes place in community— small groups of followers who band together to share their faith journey. Sometimes this takes place in the classrooms of the church, but often it happens best outside the walls of the church—in homes, neighborhood centers, and coffee shops—because the call to follow Jesus is the call to follow Him everywhere we go.
Lives Change in Living Rooms: The Wood’s Group
Oikos: Patrick Craig & College Ministry Groups
Living Free: Virginia Thompson’s Women’s Group
The Dog Ate It: Jacob Mainor’s Story
The ‘76ers: Andy Harris’ Men’s Group
22 Photo Update: Haiti
Like a Good Neighbor: Village Green Ministry
33 Photo Update: Montgomery Following Jesus
Daring to Live On Purpose! An Evening for Women with Author Rochelle Frazier Rochelle’s story of audacious faith, her infectious love of the Word of God, and her southern storytelling charm will breathe new life into your spiritual journey. A mom of three (including twin boys), blogger, author of He Gave Me Pearls and the children’s book series, “The Sweeteas,” Rochelle has allowed her personal story of brokenness and desperation to be transformed into a source of inspiration and hope through Christ. Hailing from Mississippi, Rochelle has been used by God across the country to unveil for women their calling to seek God passionately, love him deeply and follow him fearlessly.
MORE | Wednesday, July 24th 6PM – Room 7207/09 Tickets $15
For tickets contact Shanna: 334-657-3976 or email Shanna at email@example.com or Sandy at firstname.lastname@example.org
More summer events for women frazerumc. org
Lives Change in
Wood’s Small Group Brings Young Couples Together» Following Jesus
The members of Bob and Marcia Wood’s small group say they were brought together by God. Here are their stories. By Mac McLellan | So many of us today, espe- in joining a similar group of young married couples cially young adults, yearn to get beyond the anonym- with no children who lived in a specific area. She ity of contemporary society to a place where we can came up with the names of about 12-13 couples. experience authentic relationships. For Christians, “I began to pray over those names, asking that God would move in their hearts that this was what this is more than just a social need: it is a way of welcoming other believers to be used by God in the they wanted to do, and that He would also raise lifelong process of being recreated in the image of up a leader because I knew without someone who Jesus Christ. would love them and nurture them and be that Susan Fisher, Frazer’s Director of Discipleship godly role model for them, the group wouldn’t work & Women’s Ministry, has been helping to hand- either,” Susan said. “I prayed and prayed and conpick individuals to be in small groups, and about tinued to interact with this young lady throughout two years ago she began seeking individuals who the course of that year.” would ultimately The selecbecome members tion of the leadof a small group ers for this small led by Bob and group came as Marcia Wood. an inspiration as Susan shared Susan was walkthat she talked ing down a hall with a young at Frazer, and ran woman whose sisinto Bob Wood, ter had been part Frazer’s Congreof a small group gational Care and a few years ago. Worship Support The group was a Coordinator. “I Life Group, part of Above: The group prior to a recent Miracle League Baseball Game. just stopped him an initiative start- Photo contributed and asked him if ed by former Dishe and his wife cipleship Director Shane Segars. The young woman’s Marcia would just pray about hosting a small group sister had been in a group with Susan’s daughter in their home. Bob replied, ‘I’ll talk to Marcia and and she shared what a difference it made in the we’ll pray about it and see,” Susan recalled. lives of the group members. Bob remembers that moment well. “Susan first “She came to me and said ‘My husband and I approached us in late September or early October are newly married and we want to be members of of 2012 and gave us some information to aid us in a group like that,’” Susan said. getting our group started. When she told us that At the time, there was not a group leader or her group was meeting every week, and had been others interested in participating in such a group meeting for a couple of years, actually we were a so Susan ran some queries in Frazer’s database, little scared. This was going to be a big commitusing the woman’s age group and demographic to ment, but it hasn’t seemed like that.” locate other young couples who may be interested The next step was to contact the couples. Susan
Previous page: Bob and Marcia Wood’s Small Group on the Great Day of Service. Couples in the group volunteer together on mission in addition to meeting to study scripture and share life. Photo contributed.
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Above: Bob’s role in Frazer’s Congregational Care ministry includes worship support. Pictured: Bob and Marcia both assist with the annual Good Friday service of darkness. Photos by Mac McLellan.
said, “In about an hour from sending out that first email to the young couples I got my first response. It was so encouraging. It was the husband who said we would really be interested in hearing more about that! Then I got another response from another couple a couple of days later. Some didn’t have email so I was praying ‘God, stir their hearts and shape this group the way You want it to be. I believe in your Grace and I believe in Marcia and Bob and I believe in who will manage this kind of thing.’ I had calls a couple of nights later from other couples saying ‘we’re really not sure’, but I told them to just come to dinner and get to know the leadership and that they didn’t have to make a commitment that night.” The couples were invited to a dinner in a private home, “not at the church, because that is where I believe they (small groups) are supposed to be,” Susan said. Four couples came to the dinner, in addition to Bob and Marcia, Adult Education Minister Charles Wise and his wife Elizabeth, and Susan and her husband Sam. “It was just an informal dinner sharing the vision that community, growth and accountability start better in a small group,” Susan explained. “I don’t think that one of them hesitated at the end of that evening to tell us that this was what they had been looking for.” “Once we started meeting everyone in the group told us that they were really enjoying learning and serving together,” Bob said. “As a group we decided to do something different. We took a vote
as to what we wanted to learn about so the whole group wanted to talk about prayer.” Prayer Ministry Director Jan Niel provided the group with a book about prayer and the group decided to also work through the book of Proverbs in addition to the prayer book each week. Then the group moved on to a study of The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, Bob said. “This took us through Thanksgiving and Christmas and we had Thanksgiving and Christmas meals together. After Christmas we decided it was time to reach out and find a service project and all of us signed up to do Miracle League Baseball,” Bob said. “We also had a Great Day of Service project where we worked together to clean up a lady’s yard in April. That is where we are. It has taken us a while to build relationships with each other but now I feel that we are all really comfortable with each other.”
James and Erin: Moving Beyond Sunday James and Erin Stone are members of the Wood’s group. “We tried several Sunday School classes and we really couldn’t seem to find the right one for us. We found out about small groups when we went to the meeting about them, fully intending not to commit ourselves to anything,” James said. We really didn’t know what to expect.” The couple found a place where they felt comfortable participating in discussion, and had time to get to know the
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Sharing life: Chris and Lee Ann Lambert, Erin and James Sloan, and Marcia Wood discuss the Bible and how it applies to their lives together in the Woodâ€™s living room. Photo by Mac Mclellan.
other group members and build friendships with other young married couples. “We have common problems; we haven’t been married very long, our lives are essentially the same and we have so much in common. If you have a problem you don’t want the whole world to know about this is the place to talk about it and get help working through it,” James said. “The accountability within the group appealed to us. We hold ourselves to higher standards, to God’s standards.” Erin, who grew up attending Frazer with her parents as a child, explained that at some point during her junior high school years she stopped coming for many years until some friends encouraged her to come back to Frazer. “Ever since I came back, I just got more involved with the church and I began to get more involved with my walk with the Lord. Throughout the years I really didn’t put much in to going to church. I guess
I couldn’t have considered myself a Christian until probably six or seven years ago when some of my friends kind of brought me back to church,” she said. Erin is excited about what this small group has brought into their lives. “We all talk during the week. It’s not just a Tuesday night thing or a Sunday morning thing,” she said. “We would encourage anyone our age, which is 25-31, to get into a small group. It really makes a difference in your life and it helps your walk with the Lord. If you put something into it you’re going to get something out of it.”
Chad & Brooke: Starting Strong in Marriage
Chad Butts actually grew up going to Frazer. He has been going to church here since he was 2 years old, so that’s about 30 years now. “My wife Brooke and I were not in a below: Erin Sloan and Lee Anne Lambert encourage a young Miracle League Sunday School class at this Player. Volunteering at the baseball program for children with disabilities is a time” Chad said. “We were group mission project. P hoto contributed. just recently married. We’ve been going to Frazer together since we met two years ago. We haven’t really found the niche we were looking for in a Sunday School Class. When Susan called and told us about this group that was forming it was like an answered prayer. We go to the 9:30 Contemporary service every Sunday. We really feel that our small group gives us another measure of accountability. It is so wonderful to have such a close relationship with others”. Brooke added, “What really appealed to us is that we were looking for other Christian couples at our same stage in in life. We were really looking for friends who share our Christian values.”
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Chris & Lee Ann: Learning from Others’ Example Chris and Lee Anne Lambert are the catalyst that actually kicked off this successful small group. Chris’ sister Aimee and her husband Adam Mills were part of one of the original Life Groups, which they joined when they became engaged, about four years ago. “It was a form of pre-marital counseling for them,” Lee Anne said. “When Chris and I were dating, once we got engaged, I told him I wanted to get in a small group. We have our friends here from growing up, and a lot of them were some of the first ones to get married, so we were kind of in a different aspect of our lives. We wanted to meet some new friends who were married and were involved in church. So I just kept bugging him about it. It took a long time for us to get involved, but it was worth the wait. “ The couple visited the Mills’ Life Group a few times to see how it worked. The difference is that
the Mills’ group did not have a mentor couple, however; “a couple who have been there and done that much more than we have had time to do. They have so much more experience and wisdom than we have had time to acquire. Bob and Marcia have been so helpful in our Bible studies because of their knowledge,” Lee Anne said. Lee Anne shared that she attended Frazer during her middle school years, but also spent time at St. James United Methodist as a teenager, too. When she and Chris began dating, they came back to Frazer, and once they were married, they decided to continue coming to Frazer because “we wanted to know if that was where we belonged,” she said. “We didn’t just want to go there because we felt comfortable and our families were there. We also visited some other churches but (Teaching Pastor) Patrick Quinn is just amazing and we had already talked to Susan Fisher and we knew it was the right time to make our choice. We felt that a small group was a great way to start.” Lee Anne said she and Chris find the home
Below: James Sloan, Tony Painter, Bob Wood, Chad Butts and Chris Lambert load up a truck after completing work
during the Great Day of Service. The group grows by serving as well as studying together. P hoto contributed.
setting of the small group more comfortable. “We are getting to know each other and forming bonds. We really love our small group and we look forward to it every week. Bob and Marcia are so down to earth and we can talk to them about anything,” she said.“After the first few meetings, Bob would ask one of us to give the closing prayer and we decided to start our studies about prayer so we could learn more about how to pray. Actually we’re all learning together and it is a wonderful experience. Chris and I have been married the longest of the couples in the group so our current study of The 5 Love Languages is especially meaningful. We will have been married two years in July. This study has led to a lot of thought provoking conversations at our meetings. We also read a chapter in the Bible every week and this week we are studying First Corinthians We’re studying real life application of the scriptures.” Chris added, “You know when you’re joining the church as a couple you really don’t know what to do. A church the size of Frazer can be overwhelming and I think small groups will be a part of the process, a small step in the right direction that can open you up and make you more comfortable with yourself before you can branch out to other things. I think the small groups are really where it’s at and I think Patrick and Tim are leading the church in the right direction.
Tony & Sarah Beth: Prayer and Persistence Tony and Sarah Beth Painter are the fourth couple in this small group. The driving force in Sarah Beth’s walk with Christ is her grandparents. ‘Basically they taught me everything I know about Jesus” said Sara Beth. “Andy and Kay Harris are prayer warriors. I’ve been going to Frazer since I was zero!” “The biggest influence in my life on my walk with Christ would be Sarah Beth’s grandparents, as well,” echoed Tony. “When we began dating Sarah Beth really started me going to church at Frazer. That is when my walk really picked up pace and I became more serious in my relationship
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with Christ. In my early life I would mostly go to church with friends. We lived up in Millbrook and I would sometimes go to Coosada Baptist, but it wasn’t that regular. When I started dating Sarah Beth my priorities changed. We’ve been married for a year now and we’re expecting our first child and she is due in July.” Sarah Beth continued. “Susan Fisher contacted Tony and asked him if we were interested in a small group. We had visited a couple of Sunday School classes up to that time but we didn’t really seem to fit in. It seemed like some of them were too young or too old. To me personally it’s made me feel more comfortable going to church. I really feel more connected. Our advice to other couples is not to give up searching for the right group. Be persistent! Your small group helps you keep accountable and share your love of Christ!” Tony recalled that while he was on active duty in Afghanistan, “Several of us got together in a small group for Bible study when I was stationed in a remote location and while we were studying the word together, we actually led several guys to accept Christ, which was really amazing.” Sarah Beth and Tony both agree that “Bob and Marcia are great. They are really down to earth. They get down to our level and help us structure our lives. Their fellowshipping with people our age is such a wonderful experience. As far as what we can do in the future we want to go on a mission trip maybe to Haiti or some other place where we are needed, who knows? Our advice to other couples is not to give up searching for the right group. Be persistent! Your small group helps you keep accountable and share your love of Christ!”
Bob & Marcia: When God Speaks “All the couples want to continue our small group and encourage others to join a small group because this experience has meant so much to them,” Bob said. “In addition to that I think we’ll continue to do some service projects and we’ll find more projects that we’re interested in that the whole group wants to do and on a regular basis We will
continue with the Miracle League and we’ll find other projects as well.” “I also think that we will stick together,” Marcia added. “Our members will raise their children together and go to church together. We’re also hoping that we will continue to meet on Tuesday night for the foreseeable future and our members will start their own groups on other nights.” Bob agrees. “The relationship we have developed has become like a family relationship and we want to see babies and grandbabies grow in Christ and learn more and more about the Bible,” he said. “We will always be there to provide a fallback position to provide advice. It is just a wonderful experience for all of us.” For others who are interested in becoming a mentor to a small group, Marcia shared that the best advice she could give would be to focus on building relationships. “Let them know that you love them and care for them,” she said.
Bob added that allowing the group members to decide what topics and Scripture they wanted to study and learn more about has also been a key part of the success of the group because they are invested in the material. “We asked our small group what they were interested in and want to know more about. We didn’t make an assignment for the next six weeks. The first thing they wanted to know was about prayer, and that was what we studied. We found resources to study and studied prayer for six weeks. Then we talked about marriage for the next six weeks because that’s what they wanted to study. It doesn’t have to be a study for six weeks; they make the decisions about what to study and for how long.” Marcia summed it up with the message, “When God speaks to you, you don’t say no!” Thinking about forming or joining a small group? Please contact Susan Fisher, Frazer’s Director of Discipleship, 334-495-6464 or email@example.com.
We’ve got a BIG vision for SMALL groups, but we need your help! Y
the Bible, pray for one another, and work together in mission.
Small Groups bring 6-12 adults (singles or couples) together in someone’s living room for an hour or so each week to discuss
Which is where you come in. We’re asking God to lead 50 or more new volunteers (singles and married couples) to step up this summer to host a group in your home in the fall. Small Group Leaders don’t have to be Bible scholars or skilled teachers; training and curriculum will be provided, and sessions are discussiondriven rather than lecture-based.
ou’ve heard a lot this year from Frazer’s pastors about Small Groups, and you’ll be hearing even more coming in September 2013. That’s because we’re looking to launch 100 new adult small groups all across our city to transform our city for Christ.
You only need to have a love for people, a desire to grow spiritually, and a willingness to open your home and be used by God. The initial commitment is only for one semester (September through early December). To volunteer or explore more information, contact Sandy in the Discipleship office at 495.6391 or sandy@frazerumc. org. Host Training Dates: 6 p.m. June 26 or 6 p.m. Aug. 14.
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free Virginia Thompson leads young women along the freeing path of following Jesus By Ken Roach | When Pastor Tim and Virginia Thompson’s oldest daughter, Dorothy, got involved in a Tuesday night small group through the Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Virginia realized Dorothy was growing spiritually “by leaps and bounds.” Over a two year time frame, Virginia was impressed by the sense of community in the group, the highlytrained group leader, and the life-change it was producing. That observation drove Virginia into action. “I wanted what Dorothy had for my other two daughters,” she explains, “but they all live in different cities. I decided if I couldn’t do it for them, maybe I could do it for other people’s daughters here in Montgomery, and trust that the Lord would raise up someone to minister to my own daughters where they are.” Virginia approached Susan Fisher, Frazer’s Director of Discipleship, about helping her form a small group for young professional women around her daughters’ ages. Together, they put together a list, contacted the “girls” (as she calls them), and set up an introductory meeting in October of last year. “The plan was to try it out for a couple of weeks, but eight months later, we haven’t missed a Tuesday
night together,” Virginia says. “It’s amazing how in such a short time they’ve grown to love each other, built community and intimacy, sharing their thoughts and their hearts.” She is especially impressed with their level of trust and vulnerability: “You don’t share your secrets with just anyone; they might think horrible thoughts about you!” Keri Ward, a member of the group, relates how much it means to her to share life with Virginia and the other young women. “We laugh together and we pray, deeply and specifically. There is security knowing that we all really do care for one another.” The group meets in the Thompson’s home. “We kick Tim out; he has to stay upstairs in the ‘mancave,’” Virginia explains. She credits the smaller, informal environment for the group cohesiveness. The group decided on a study guide and everyone is responsible for coming prepared. “I don’t really ‘teach’; they do the homework, and we wrestle through it together,” Virginia says. The discussion format allows them to delve deeper into God’s Word; currently they are going through the book of Romans, one of the more weighty books of the Bible
Above: Virginia with daughters Louisa, Laura, and Dorothy, at Dorothy’s wedding this summer. A desire to see all of her daughters benefit from Small Groups the way Dorothy has motivated Virginia to start a Small Group for young women here at Frazer. Photo contributed.
theologically that many larger groups might avoid. Afterward, they go around the room, share requests and struggles, and spend time praying together. The group keeps a prayer journal so they can record what God is doing in their lives together. As a result, Keri says the group has come to know each other quite well in their relatively short time together. “Our group knows each other,” she says, “like, really knows each other. If someone has had a rough day, we can tell when they walk in the room as we gather, and each of us knows that that member in the group needs to be loved on and needs listening ears.”
“Me and Jesus” Virginia sees Small Groups as one piece of the solution to a broader problem of individualism and isolation in the Christian church
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across America. She calls it the “Me and Jesus” model: people who see their faith solely in terms of personal salvation and a personal walk with God, without understanding that Christianity was always designed to be practiced in community with other believers, the Body of Christ. “People are intensely lonely, even Christians— huddled up, never opening up to others and never sharing life,” she explains. “It’s like living in a monastery in their own mind. The New Testament biblical model is that we are messy mortals who love Jesus, doing life together, bumping into each other, forgiving each other, building each other up, caring for and serving each other. We are called to love with a startling, Christ-like love. If the world can see us living with that kind of love, Jesus said it would be like a billboard drawing the world to Him.”
A good Pharisee Virginia’s concern for helping Christians genuinely connect with one another is not just abstract theology, nor is it simply “part of the job” of being the preacher’s wife. Her passion flows out of years of inner pain and emotional torment she experienced in her own attempts to walk with God. “I grew up in a great church family at First Methodist [Montgomery],” Virginia recalls. “At age 14, at a church camp, I accepted that Jesus died for me.” Over the years that followed her initial commitment to Christ, she was active in the church youth and college groups. “I even married a preacher!” she exclaims. Nevertheless, she describes herself as having become “a really good Pharisee.” “I was trying to be good enough for God,” she says. “I was 45 years old; I was in church every Sunday; I looked right, acted right, and said the right things, but in my heart I was far from having Christ as Lord. I was intensely lonely, without close friends and too ashamed to let anyone see the real me.”
“Snakes in my head” Outwardly, Virginia was a smiling, extroverted, high-achieving woman. She led a successful career as marketing director for a major medical center
and was on the boards of high profile community organizations, and actively involved as a teacher in the various churches Tim served. Yet inwardly, Virginia was facing an overwhelming struggle with low self-esteem. She could not believe that God loved her. “I would go on these long walks alone, and I kept asking God: why don’t you love me? Why do you love others and not me? I really thought I had committed the unforgivable sin. I didn’t understand the free gift of grace. I didn’t believe I was saved.” Convinced there was a sin blocking God from forgiving her, she wrote apology notes to every person she could ever remember even possibly offending in some way. Then one day, in the midst of praying to God she remembers saying, “God, You prepared a beautiful life for me, but I’ve messed it up; I’m so sorry God. I am so sorry.” She explains, “I realized that I had apologized to the whole world, but not to God, and I finally apologized to Him.” After that confession, “for 15 minutes I felt peace. I tasted God’s peace, and it was amazing. For someone who had lived most of my adult life with snakes in my head—thoughts of insecurity, thinking I didn’t measure up, never being accepted— 15 minutes of God’s love was incredible.” That day started a journey for Virginia. Over the next two years—a process she calls her “cocoon”—the Holy Spirit taught her what it means to be God’s child and how to believe what He has said about His unconditional love for her. “God taught me Who He was and He taught me that I was His loved child,” she says.
the Almighty Creator God.” Once she did that, her mind began to be transformed by the Holy Spirit as she read, memorized and meditated on scripture. She learned who God really is—“not a ‘big-badwolf-god waiting to zap you, not a god waiting for me to mess up, but a Father who loved me,” she says. She began to see that the relationship was everything: Jesus loving me and me loving Jesus. And she learned what Paul taught the early church, “The amazing secret of Christianity is it’s not about you—it’s Christ in you,” she says, paraphrasing Colossians 1:27. Below: Virginia and Keri Ward, one of the members of
her small group. In addition to regular meetings in their home, it is not uncommon for them to get together for lunch just to talk. P hoto contributed.
Believing the Word Virginia says that the first key to Christ’s healing of her heart was accepting the authority of God’s Word. “I had spent years trying to make God fit into my logical brain. Now, I accept what God says. You simply hold your hands out to him and yield your intellect, your heart; all of you. God’s mind is bigger than our’s. He’s doing things you and I can’t logically understand with our coke-can sized brains. He’s not going to teach us if we think we are as smart as God. I had to get over my pride, and accept him as
Shedding the Mask After her two years of soaking up the scriptures, basking in her new relationship with her Heavenly Father, Virginia remembers the day when God told her to go out and meet the world without a mask. “I had lived all my life wearing a mask, being what others wanted me to be. Brokenness manifests itself in many different kinds of masks. Some people with low self-esteem become quiet and shy, others drive themselves to achieve, and others become the ‘life of the party,’ but it is all acting. I could have won an Oscar I was such a good actress.” “When God said it was time to go out ‘naked and unashamed’ to show the real Virginia to the world, I didn’t even know who she was; Jesus had to show me,” she says. She took to heart a quote from C.S. Lewis: “ the more you become like Christ, the more you take on the personality God created you to be.” The next eight years were a “see-saw” of ups and downs, a constant spiritual warfare to maintain her new identity in Christ on a consistent daily basis. “I’ve read books that talk about learning who you are in Christ, but they don’t ever explain how long the process can be,” she says. “There is so much fear; I was like a bird in a cage—the door was Below: Virginia teaches the Basic Bible class for adults
at Frazer on Sunday mornings, with the goal of giving Christians a better foundational understanding of who God is on the basis of His Word. P hoto by Lee Werling.
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open, but I was so afraid to fly. Satan uses powerful tactics to attempt to counter what God gives us. The spiritual struggle was more intense than I ever expected.” She recalls her fragile faith and says that just seeing certain “trigger people” or being in “trigger places” could send her back into a destructive selfimage. She had to learn to “be the donkey,” she explains, referring to the donkey that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. “I didn’t have to deal with those people, Jesus does. I just had to be the one to carry Jesus. Then I can disappear, and Jesus can love those people through me.”
Freeing Others Virginia feels called now to share with others the path to freedom that Christ has shown her. She explains that people struggle with low self-esteem for many reasons. Some are victims of abuse or hurtful relationships, who then pile self-inflicted abuse on top of their brokenness; but for others, there may be no apparent reason. She stresses that her own childhood family was loving and her relationships with Tim and her daughters was wonderful; indeed, part of her struggle was keeping the secret, living a lie. “I had everything the world said I needed to be happy, but I was miserable inside myself. I just didn’t say a word to anyone.” Whatever the cause for a person’s brokenness, she sees it as a vital role of the church to help people find freedom. “When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead,” Virginia says, “Jesus told the people around him to loose him and set him free from his grave clothes. That’s how it is with us; Jesus saves us, but he wants Christians to help each other experience that freedom. We have a responsibility to help others live free in Christ. Yet, too often, we’re the ones binding them up—piling on a list of do’s and don’t, rules and regulations, putting each other back in bondage.” She speculates that, had she been in a trusting small group environment, her healing process might have happened more quickly. “I was too embarrassed to open my heart; I could have grown faster if I wasn’t ashamed of my brokenness. I needed Christian friends. I needed someone to tell me
Above: Members of the group include (back) Davita Duvall and Virginia Thompson; (front) Keri Ward, Morgan Berney and Cathy Payne. P hoto contributed.
that God loved me. I didn’t have any idea that it was Satan—the Accuser—keeping me stewed up and stirred up. I had no idea that Satan was doing a happy dance on my life for all those years. I wish someone had told me.” Which brings us full circle to her Tuesday night Small Group. Virginia is helping this circle of young women to share life together honestly, and look to God’s Word as the ultimate source of their identity.
“These girls are so beautiful. They have opened their hearts to Christ and to each other. Each one of them is committed to growing in Christ, praying and soaking up God’s Word.” “I can’t erase the past, but I can only think that my struggle to find freedom in Christ would have been shortened if I had been surrounded by other Christians in an intimate, small group. I would desire that every Frazer member—every Christian— could join such a group. We all need each other. You can’t be a “Lone Ranger Christian”—the body of Christ doesn’t function like that. Every page of the New Testament confirms that we need each other to do this life well.” That is certainly what Keri Ward has found in the group. “One of the things I love best about our group is that I get to see what is going on in their lives and it challenges and keeps me from becoming so inwardly focused. The personalities, strengths and weaknesses God brought together to encourage and love one another amazes me. I thank God for this special small group, for He has answered my prayers for such close community, genuine friendships and the ability to freely discuss the work of Christ in our lives.”
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Out of the Pit A Photo Update on Frazer’s Work with the Deaf in Haiti
Opposite: In our last issue we reported that Sainteloi
Below: (L to R) The “Church of Hope” on the hill
William, pastor to the deaf community, had gotten married. Just a few months later, a baby was miraculously rescued after being discarded alive in a latrine pit. Members of the Leveque community heard the boy crying and went to work rescuing him. After taking him to the Mission of Hope medical clinic, MOH leaders expected him to be placed in the orphanage they operate; instead, Pastor William and his new bride Berthide announced their intentions to adopt the infant as their own. God continues to show us amazing pictures of his rescuing grace in the deaf community of Haiti!
overlooking the Leveque community is now officially open (although the deaf and hearing believers who live there had already taken to worshipping in the facility long before it was completed). The church, which was funded entirely by the Frazer family in a single night on Christmas Eve 2011, is specially designed to bring deaf and hearing together, and will be the centerpiece of the whole community. Frazer mission teams will visit June 7-14 to conduct VBS and August 2-9 to lead Sports Camps. Contact Butch McPherson to be a part of an upcoming mission trip. P hotos from Mission of Hope.
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ride. All Aboard: Children enjoy a ride on the “banana boat” at Frazer’s 2013 summer camp. Hundreds of children gathered at Camp Chandler to grow in their faith, build friendships, and enjoy the great outdoors. This photo also illustrates three key principles about Small Groups: 1.) sometimes it’s better to lead from the back; 2.) we’re all in the same boat; and 3.) life is more fun when we share it together!
Photo by Lori Mercer.
â€œFor where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.â€? Matthew 18:20 NLT 26
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Men grow through Saturday morning discipleship group since 1976.
By Amy Presley | Before many people even roll eventually had to meet at the Montgomery Civic out of bed on Saturday morning, one group of Frazer Center, the men were encouraged to form their own men are already up, bright and early, and diving into small discipleship groups. God’s Word before most have even had their first cup Paul Sims, along with former Frazer member of coffee. For more than 30 years, Andy Harris has Frank Wright, were inspired by the community hosted a Men’s Bible study group at the home he study, and approached Andy one day about forming shares with his wife Kay. Rain or shine, this group a small group of their own. Paul said that he and has made every effort to be present for this time of Frank both were new Christians at that time, and study, prayer and fellowship because of the impact were excited about the opportunity to dig deeper it has made and continues to make in the lives of its into God’s word in a small group setting. They members. As Frazer prepares to launch a large-scale agreed to meet once a week, at 7 a.m. on Saturdays, initiative to help every person in our congregation at Andy’s home for a time of prayer, Bible study find a small group to engage in, members of one of and fellowship. the church’s original “small groups” share what their That was some 35 years ago and, “there haven’t experience has meant to them. been too many Saturdays when we haven’t met,” The group started in 1976, and was born out Andy said. “We usually have around 10 [members] of inspiration from a men’s community-wide Bible come on any given Saturday.” study led by motivational speaker John ‘Rat’ Riley. Over the years, the group has added memThe speaker was a huge advocate of small groups, bers and said goodbye to others but the core of and as the Bible study had grown so large that it the group has stayed mostly intact. On several
Opposite: Andy Harris, who hosts the group, serves as teacher of the Harbor Light Sunday School class, as well as
being a member of the Frazer Staff-Parish Relations Committee and other leadership positions. Photo by Lori Mercer. Following Jesus
Above: Several members of the group. (Left to Right) John Rogers, John Kline, Paul Sims, Mike Hutson, Andy Harris, Jim Reinhardt, Lee Patton, Bill Allison, Mike Dietvorst, and Charles Hill. Photo by Mac Mclellan.
occasions, Air Force personnel would join the group for the duration of their stay in Montgomery. They have also had members who were not part of Frazer join their fellowship. Andy shared that each man who has participated, no matter how long or short their stay, has made a significant contribution to the group, and many life-long friendships have developed over the years, as well. In addition to Andy and Paul, current and former group members include Mike Hutson, Frank Wright, Charles Hill and two of his sons Randy and Jimmy, Lee Patton, Bill Allison, Corky Hawthorne, Gill Duenas, Jim Walter, Tim Thaggard, Jim Reinhardt, Jerry Kemp, Bill Baldwin, Paul Johnson, Ray Zambiasi, Rudy Heintzelman, Mike Dietvorst, John Kline, Bill McGehee, Tom Wolf, Ronald Gardner, D.G. Markwell, Dan Markland, Jim Brown, Keith Waldrop, John Rogers and Shawn Peterson. Group members come from a many different backgrounds and are plugged into a variety of ministries and other groups within the church, but God has called them all to share in this fellowship experience.
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“God is interested in building relationships, with him and with each other. So to do that and grow old together has been really neat,” Andy said. “These are friends you share everything with—we’ve grown to know each other intimately through our discussions and prayer time.”
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Acts 2:42 NIV Each Saturday session starts with prayer time and everyone has a chance to share their needs, their praises and their prayer requests. The studies are generally based on specific books of the Bible and the discussion focuses on how that book is impacting each member’s life at the moment. Bill Allison, who joined the group about five years ago, said Andy is always so well-prepared for
each meeting, using his TV to show Power Point sometimes we didn’t know how we were going to slides of the lesson, which is often a test-run of make ends meet. The group prayed for us—so many the lesson Andy will teach on Sunday morning in prayers—and helped us any way they could,” Paul his Harbor Light Sunday School class. Bill said that said. “The group supported us, prayed over me and gives Andy the opportunity to work through his we trusted the Lord. He always met our needs.” All thoughts with the group as a sounding board. of those prayers were answered, though maybe in “Being in a small group, you have the oppor- an unexpected way, when God led Paul into fulltunity to verbalize and strengthen your faith,” Bill time ministry at Frazer with Congregational Care, said. “You really have to think about what you a role he faithfully served for more than 17 years believe in.” before retiring in 2011. Oftentimes, the fellowship and discussion conPaul also recalled the impact being part of a tinues on after the Bible study wraps up for the day. small group made in growing his Christian faith by Bill said that many Saturdays, several in the group learning from others’ life experiences and where head over to Chappy’s Deli for breakfast afterwards, they were in their own walks. He explained that he where they can carry on their conversation and fur- “never had a big church life at all,” until he became ther strengthen their bonds. Andy, an avid runner for a Christian in the mid-1970s, and credits his wife many years, shared that he and Mike Hutson used to Dian for encouraging him to come to church. His hit the pavement after each group meeting and the experience in a small group helped him dig deeper two would run 10 miles while discussing what God and strengthen his faith as he was able to learn had shown them during that morning’s study. The from other believers. friendships that have flourished over the years aren’t “When I got saved, it was real. I couldn’t put put on hold when the group dismisses each week. the Bible down,” he explained. “Being part of this
“And though one might prevail against another, two will withstand one. A threefold cord is not quickly broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:12 NRSV
Above: Andy Harris and Mike Hutson, avid runners then and now, led tour groups in the Holy Land together in the 1970s. Photo contributed.
Prayer is a critical component of the closeness of the group because by becoming vulnerable and sharing the needs of yourself and your family, you get to know one another even more deeply. “Through prayer, we’ve gotten to know each other’s families and how God is working in their lives. We’ve shared in their victories as well as their problems,” Andy said. Group members have been prayed over through serious illnesses, job losses and many other challenging situations. Paul recalled a particularly trying time in his life where he and his family were able to lean on the group for support and encouragement. After working 25 years in the electrical construction field, he suddenly found himself unemployed. “I was out of work for almost two years and
“I have hidden your word in group gave me insight. We are such a loving, carmy heart that I might not sin ing group. We’re just people, we’ve all been there. It’s so important to accept people where they are against you.” Psalm 119:11 and love them.” Joining a small group can be intimidating beThough raised in a Methodist church in Birmingcause to really get the most out of it, you have ham, Andy shared that he did not truly experience to make yourself vulnerable and be honest about what it means to follow Christ until he became an where you are in your walk with Christ. But the adult. He attended church throughout his childhood rewards that come with the discomfort of putting and teenage years but he described himself as a yourself out there are priceless. Christ can use “very materialistic person” who was set on making your shortcomings to help strengthen someone his own plans. else who is struggling in a similar area, and bring “I remember sitting in church as a senior in high clarity to situations in your own life through con- school and listening to the preacher while thinking, versations with another who has overcome the ‘I don’t need this anymore’,” he said. “I was as lost same challenges. as a ball in high weeds! A lot of people go to church Andy said. “Our reason for life is to know Jesus their whole lives but they still don’t know Jesus.” as our Lord and Savior, to conform to His image and He began dating Kay, who would become his to glorify Him in all we do. Everybody wants two wife of now 50 years, while they were in college, things: security and significance, but those things and while she lived out her Christian faith daily, can be found only in Jesus.” Andy said he was still going through the motions. It Below: Paul Sims, a charter member of the group, went on to serve in Frazer’s Congregatinal Care ministry for 17
years. Here, Pastor Tim Thompson recognizes Paul at his retirement. P hoto by Lee Werling.
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Above: Although not a member of the men’s group, Andy’s wife Kay has been a key part of their success— both by hosting the group in their home, and by the influence she had bringing Andy to a closer relationship with Christ. Photo contributed.
was in dental school that Andy began to notice God knocking at the door. Even though he was heavily involved in his scientific studies, including the evolution movement, God was working in Andy’s heart. It was at a revival service Andy and Kay attended at a local church that God knocked even louder. A missionary to India, E. Stanley Jones, was sharing his testimony and about his work in the mission field. While listening to him speak, Andy said he realized this man had three things that Andy desperately needed in his life at the time. “He knew where he came from, why he was here and where he was going,” Andy recalled. “He knew those things, and I didn’t.” That was a major turning point in Andy’s walk with Christ. He said that once his eyes were fully opened, God filled him with a burning desire to teach God’s Word to others, a gift that only could have been given to him by God. He began to internalize God’s Word by memorizing key chapters of the Bible during his daily 14-15 mile runs, he said. Bill said, “Andy is a man who has molded his
thought around his faith. He has internalized the Bible and his depth of knowledge of the Bible continues to grow.” Andy gives his wife Kay the credit for having the most influence on his life and decision to follow Christ wholly and completely, because she modeled her faith by living it out daily. “Her life was the example,” he said. And individually and as a couple, the two have made sure that spending time in prayer and in God’s Word daily is a priority. Andy has served as the Chief of Dental Service at the Veteran’s Affairs Hospital in Montgomery since 1972. He served for 30 years with the Air National Guard and retired as a colonel in 1995. Over the years, Andy has served in many roles at Frazer- teaching Singles, College and Couples Sunday School classes. “I followed my kids up through the years,” he explained. Andy and Kay have also served on various mission trips to places such as China and Haiti and their current Sunday School class, Harbor Light, is involved with the Transformation Montgomery project. The men from the Harbor Light Class also meet on Wednesday evenings to go deeper into the Word after their lessons on Sunday morning. Andy also serves as chairman of the Staff Parish Relations Committee and on the In Christ’s Way board at Frazer.
“Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” 1 Corinthians 12:27 Being part of a large congregation has the potential to make it difficult for one to truly see how they are part of the Body of Christ. But once you start realizing that the larger body is made up of many, many smaller groups and find the place that you belong, you begin to realize that every single person plays an important role in the function of the Body. Though Bill Allison is one of the “newer” members of the group, having joined within the last few years, he shared how grateful he is for the friendships that have developed over the years, particularly with his dear friend Jerry Kemp, who passed away in 2012.
“You just don’t know what impact you may have on someone. Jerry insisted that I join this group, and our relationship grew out of that,” Bill said. Through building and strengthening the friendships among group members, the men have been able to hold each other accountable for their roles in the larger Body, as well. Bill said that one area that has been constantly emphasized is the responsibility that they each have to be good husbands and seek how best to serve their families. “Your Christian faith has to guide everything you do,” he said. The group has also engaged in prayer for the church and specific needs and situations at Frazer over the years. “When church has gone through difficult times, we [as a group] have been able to sit down and discuss what’s going on and pray together. It helps us understand our responsibilities as church members, so we don’t lose focus that we are a small group in support of the mission of Frazer,” Bill explained. “It’s also refreshing to know that there are small groups praying for the church as a whole, and committed to seeing the church continue its mission,” he said. “Small groups are part of the body of Christ, and also part of the body of Frazer.” Bill said he can’t recall a time he was not a Christian, but his faith has certainly been put to the test over the years. He grew up in Columbus, Ga., just across the state line from Phenix City, Ala., where his wife Martha John was raised. The two met in high school. Bill shared that Martha John and her mother were both major influences in his life and his faith. He retired as a colonel after 25 years of service with the Army, and shared that during his time in Vietnam, he had to rely completely on God and his faith to get him and his fellow soldiers through the nightmares of war. Bill has been involved in various ministries at Frazer, including serving as a former visiting pastor for Congregational Care, which he said had an impact on him because, “you get very involved in people’s lives.” Bill is also heavily involved with Frazer’s Older Adult Ministry and ministry at Wesley Gardens, alongside Martha John, who is the director of the Older Adult Ministry at Frazer.
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Above: The late Jerry Kemp with wife Judy. Jerry was a long time member of the group in addition to being a Sunday School teacher himself and pioneer of the Frazer TV Ministry. Photo by Lee Werling.
He is also the co-chair of the Advisory Board of the Salvation Army, and currently coordinates the bell ringer campaign held each Christmas season.
“Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations.” Matthew 28:19 “Small groups are a wonderful place to develop relationships with people and that will really make a difference in your life,” Andy said. As Frazer ramps up its efforts to encourage and help each and every member to find a small group to plug into, Andy agrees that the experience of sharing life with others and learning how to follow Jesus together can make a profound impact on lives. In Breaking the Discipleship Code: Becoming a Missional Follower of Jesus by David Putman, the author breaks down discipleship into three key ideas: “Living like Jesus lived, loving like Jesus loved and leaving what Jesus left behind.” For this group of disciples, that’s what being a Follower of Christ is all about.
Getting Ahead Frazer Graduates first class in new initiative to redefine how we think about poverty in our community Below: Although most of the photos we have
published of our Transformation Montgomery project have involved construction and renovation on houses in the Garden Square neighborhood, that is only one aspect of our new initiative to transform our city. Another key element is the Getting Ahead class. Led by Peggy Spaeth (third from right below), this 16week process encourages participants to identify their resources and create a plan for moving from “just getting by” to “getting ahead.” The Getting Ahead
course is a prerequisite for those seeking to become homeowners through the Transformation Montgomery project, but it is open to anyone in the community who wishes to explore creating a pathway out of poverty, for themselves and for our shared communities. Shown here are the first graduates of the course, who will now have the opportunity to form Transformation Teams with friends and allies who can come alongside to help them achieve the goals they have identified for themselves. P hoto by Mac Mclellan.
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Patrick Craig leverages his growing-up experiences in Small Groups to lead young adults into grace-filled community connections. By Ken Roach| Visit the blog site of Frazer’s talent she shares with her son. He says his parents “Kingdom Culture” ministry to college-age young were role models of following Jesus who gave him adults and you’ll find frequent references to some- the freedom to talk about his faith and made family thing called oikos. No, it’s not a sound that pig prayer a regular event. In addition to his parents, makes or some kind of bizarre new computer oper- Patrick recalls the “typical felt board Sunday School ating system; it’s the word used in New Testament lessons” in the Frazer Children’s Ministry that were Greek, oikos, translated “household.” The oikos “sometimes cheesy,” but gave him a foundational represents the home and family unit as we think knowledge of the story of the Bible. He can rememof it, but also much more: business, education, and ber a time in his parents home when he accepted medical care all took place within the household, Christ into his heart for the first time, although if you making it the true center ask him today when he of the community. So it became a Christian, his was no mistake when the preferred answer will be authors of the New Testa“this morning”—referring ment began referring to to Jesus’ command to the church—God’s new “take up your cross daily community of Jesus foland follow me.” lowers—as a “household Upon entering his of faith.” teen years, small groups Frazer’s college minand small group leaders ister, the young and dapbegan to have the most per Patrick Craig, wants formative influence on Above: Members of Frazer’s Kingdom Culture college and to make the concept of his faith journey. “At evyoung adult ministry on the Coosa. P hoto contributed. oikos central to how the ery critical juncture in church reaches and disciples young adults, by en- my life, there was a man in addition to my family gaging them in small groups that build intentional who invested in my life and helped to form me and authentic community in the everyday environ- spiritually,” Patrick notes. ments of homes or coffee shops. Several groups In junior high school, that man was Frazer’s meet weekly—sometimes guys and girls separately, former student minister, Billy Russell. “He used to sometimes together—to share their life journey, dis- pick me up from school and take me to Starbucks cuss the scriptures, and pray together. Together, for one-on-one discipleship.” He also participated they become a household of faith, strengthening in a Covenant Group, a version of small groups for and encouraging one another as they grow in Christ students, with leader Gary Weaver. In high school, and serve others. his small group leader was Anthony Leigh. “These Patrick is building on his own experiences grow- were groups of just five or six guys, where we ing up as a follower of Jesus. His family moved to could form close bonds;” Patrick recalls, “I still have Montgomery when he was 4, and Frazer was an relationships with them.” integral part of his upbringing. Parents Liz and Pat Those groups modeled for Patrick what grace Craig were active members; Liz can often be seen was about. “We have a hard time with the discipline singing solo and in the Sanctuary Choir, a musical of confessing our sins and struggles to one another,”
Above: Patrick sings with his mother, Liz Craig, at Frazer’s spring musical, Awestruck. His parents example and involvement in the church provided a foundation for his faith. Photo by Lee Werling.
he explains. “We think, if people knew about my weaknesses, they would think differently about me. After all, that’s how the world works. However, it’s not supposed to be how the church works; this is supposed to be the place where you can be open and authentic, and find acceptance and forgiveness. It takes time and effort to develop that kind of trust.” A turning point for Patrick came when he began to apply that understanding of grace to his view of God as his heavenly Father. “For men, emotion can be hard to express. Sometimes we restrict ourselves to words like ‘I’m proud of you.’ But that’s not God. He comes right out and says ‘I love you.’ Grace is not just a one-time encounter, it’s something we rest in, trusting in His love versus constantly trying to make him proud. I had always known about grace, but my life changed when I truly felt it.”
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When it came time for college, Patrick chose to go away to school at Wofford, a small liberal arts college in Spartanburg, South Carolina. He credits the fact that he stayed strong in his faith—at a time when as many as 70 percent of young people raised in church now abandon during their college years— with the community of faith he connected with at school. “I already had an established relationship with a minister there,” Patrick says, “and during my first semester several friends pulled me into community with them. At Wofford he also developed a love for reading and challenging his intellect. “Part of the greatest commandment that Jesus gave is to love the Lord your God with all your mind,” he notes. The writings of theologians like Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Stanley Hauerwas have challenged Patrick, who majored in Religion, to not only know information about God, but to truly know God, translating truth from the mind to the heart. Patrick first began to step into servant-leadership roles through music. His mother played tapes of Bach to him when he was going to sleep as a child, and his older brother was a worship leader in the youth group who took time to teach Patrick to play guitar. Patrick followed his example, leading worship in high school and beyond. More recently, Patrick filled in for worship leader Jerrod Dorminey in Frazer’s Contemporary Worship service while Jerrod recovered from neck surgery earlier this year. “Worship is vital to me,” Patrick says; “the Lord inhabits the praises of His people. Sometimes when I’m home I just shut the door and worship by myself.” Mission experiences have also been a key part of how Patrick follows Jesus. He recalls his first international trip to the Dominican Republic as a senior in high school. “I was nervous—I like to talk, but I didn’t know Spanish—but I learned how to show love in actions. Whether it was giving a hug or a piggyback ride to a child, I learned how we must literally touch people with God’s love.” Missions to Patrick means more than going on trips out of the country, though; he argues that serving others should become “just what you do,” an unconscious habit formed by training in discipleship so that a follower of Jesus has a “muscle memory” of
putting others first just as a guitar player learns to form the notes without having to consciously think about the chords. Patrick sees coming on the church staff as College Minister as a new season in his life, one that is challenging him even further in his walk with Christ. “In this kind of ministry you have to get ‘down and dirty’ in people’s lives, sharing their ups and downs with them; you’re not separated from them by the stage.” He admits, “it’s exhausting at times, I feel unqualified, I often don’t know what to say; my well runs dry, and I would probably give up if I didn’t balance the work of ministry with abiding in the presence of Christ and getting away for time with Him to recharge. There has to be a give and take of pouring out and filling up.” Now, Patrick is integrating the life lessons he has received into his approach to college ministry. “Kingdom Culture has fun activities and mission opportunities and worship gatherings, but the oikos groups are our number one priority, because our model is Jesus. He didn’t just transfer information to his disciples, he invited them into his life. Discipleship is apprenticeship to Jesus, the prototype of a new way to be fully alive and fully human; everything he had and everything he was, he made accessible. He called his followers his ‘mother and brother and sister’ and made the central experience of our faith the sharing of a common meal together. That’s the kind of relationships we want to foster.” Within the church, “college students sometimes get a bad rap,” Patrick notes. “They are not anti-church, but they are inquisitive, and full of questions.” Instead of scolding students who get away from the church, he says, “we need to do what Jesus did and take the church to them.” In one conversation that Patrick says is typical, a student told him he was “spiritual, but not religious”—but later he “crashed into the fact that I can’t do [the Christian life] on my own.” Having an accepting place of community is the key to reaching this generation and building them up as followers of
Jesus. That household of faith makes tangible the unconditional love and grace of our heavenly Father. That’s a lesson the whole church could learn from our young adults. Below: Small groups were formative for Patrick in High
School (top) and college (middle). Now he is investing in the lives of others by building community among Frazer’s college students (bottom). P hotos contributed.
The Dog Ate It 38
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Jacob Mainor discovers that God can use a dog to change a life. By Mike Presley | Actor Jim Caviezel’s portrayal of Jesus in “The Passion of the Christ” has touched the lives of millions of people. But God used an autograph the actor signed during a visit to Frazer in 2009 as a turning-point for lifelong Frazer member Jacob Mainor. Today, the 23-year-old serves as an example of a new generation of Christians, one who is dedicated to being the hands and feet of Christ by serving and witnessing to others where they are.
A Family of Faith Jacob attended his first worship service at Frazer when he was only one week old. His mother Tammy Mainor Mitchell and grandparents Wayne and Linda Mainor were longtime members. Jacob grew up at the church during the ‘90s and early ‘00s, participating in Sunday school classes, children’s choirs and many other youth activities. “He’s always been a real spiritual child and had a sense of God’s presence everywhere,” Tammy said. His family also has strongly influenced Jacob’s life and faith. “Faith has always been something that has never been compromised in my family,” Jacob said. “It is always something that’s been very important and very real, especially with my mom.” Jacob and his mom lived with his grandparents for the first four years of his life, until Tammy married Mark Mitchell, who Jacob now calls his dad. During that time he grew very close to his uncle David Mainor, his grandmother and especially his grandfather Wayne, with whom he shares a love of baseball. “He is and probably always will be the most influential person in my life,” Jacob said. “He’s always had such a big heart for people. I don’t think I’ve met anyone who serves others as much as my grandfather does still to this day.” “He’s like my son,” Wayne said. “I love him to death.”
Growing up, Jacob loved playing sports including golf and baseball. He also picked up a love for music and performing from his favorite musician, Garth Brooks. Tammy said Jacob made his debut at a Frazer Wednesday night church event where he dressed just like the popular country entertainer. In high school, he went on his first mission trip, rebuilding houses in Alaska. After graduating high school, he headed to Auburn University.
Above: Jacob played the Prodigal Son in a video for Frazer worship, a role he says described his life.
Prodigal Son Jacob said his late high school years and time at Auburn were his “prodigal son period”, referring to Jesus’ parable in Luke 15 where a son leaves his father’s estate and squanders everything he has with worldly living. Once the son realizes what he’s lost, he comes to his senses and returns to the open arms of his father. “That period of my life was not really dark, but I didn’t have that close relationship with Christ that I have today,” Jacob said. “My faith just got weak and watered down. I got sidetracked with temporary things that the world has to offer.” After a year in Auburn, he returned to Montgomery to straighten his life out.
opposite: Jacob Mainor with his mother, Tammy Mainor Mitchell.Photo contributed.
Above: Jacob plays the guitar as part of the Frazer Contemporary worship praise band. Photo by Chris Thornton.
In October 2009, Jim Caveziel was scheduled to visit Frazer and speak at the Sunday morning worship services. Jacob’s stepdad Mark, who is a police officer, was designated to work security for Jim’s visit and arranged to have Jacob assist him. “It was a cool day. I got to hang out and eat breakfast and lunch with the guy who played Jesus in the most influential Christian film of all time,” Jacob said. “I had a book that my grandmother got me about the making of “The Passion of Christ” that I had him sign.” Jacob was pumped about the day, but his grandfather had some chores for him when he returned home. Jacob put the book on his bed and went to cut the grass. He returned to a surprise. “My bloodhound Darlin usually comes to greet me,” Jacob said. “She didn’t come, so I knew something was up. She was on the bed with her paws
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on the book going to town. She chewed that thing into a hundred pieces. “I was so mad.” Then Jacob’s grandfather Wayne realized an opportunity and got to work. Through Frazer Missions and Events Director Butch McPherson, Wayne was able to get Caveziel to sign new copy of the book and send it in time for Wayne Mainor Christmas. “I wrote Jacob a long letter saying that our lives can be like the book that the dog destroyed,” Wayne said. Wayne gave the letter and book to Jacob at Christmas. “He brings out this note that talks about how sin eats away and eats away at our lives like Darlin ate that book,” Jacob recalled. “Before we know it, we try to keep a clean cover but after a while sin will break you down so your cover can’t even stay clean anymore. When we go back to the cross and go back to Jesus, He makes all things new.” After Jacob read the note, Wayne surprised him with the brand new book complete with a new personalized autograph from Caveziel that said something like, “To Jacob: Keep this away from Darlin, bad doggy.” “That broke me,” Jacob said. “God doesn’t have to use big events to change hearts. To change my heart, he used a floppy-eared hound dog.” “He’s told me since that it was one of those God things,” Wayne said.
Transformed, and Transforming Others After that, Jacob who was attending Faulkner University, got plugged into serving at Frazer in the Crave Student Ministry. Jacob also had the strong desire to serve others, which he said was developed through a friendship with Jeff Hand, who helped start Friday Night Church and Inner City Evangelism, an organization that spreads Gospel by serving, teaching the Bible and developing relationships with residents of Mont-
gomery’s housing projects. “Jeff discipled me, and I learned a lot about theology and about service to others,” Jacob said. “Before, I would have never been out to the (housing) projects but he made me realize that everyone is a person, and after you break that barrier, that really doesn’t matter.” Around the same time, Jacob joined a Frazer Life Group for young single men. Led by Frazer’s Video Director Will Adams, the weekly small group provided Jacob with additional support and accountability in his walk with Christ. Jacob also began leading worship music at Crave events and at Friday Night Church. In 2011, he began playing acoustic guitar in the Frazer praise band on Sunday mornings in Wesley Hall. “For my heart, one of the closest ways I connect with God is through worship,” Jacob said. “It’s an honor to be able to stand in front of his people on Sunday and led them to His presence through music.” Frazer Assistant Director of Music and Worship Jerrod Dorminey said Jacob has become a good friend, encourager and songwriting partner. “Jacob is a spiritual rock for our team,” Jerrod said. “His knowledge and understanding of scripture is well beyond his years. He has a strong desire to see transformation take place within the hearts of all people. He desires for people to know Christ, know His Word, and stand up boldly for their beliefs.” Jacob, who began working at Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Associates, used his musical gifts on a two-week mission trip to Rwanda trip in 2012. The trip included visits to three orphanages, proclaiming the gospel through worship music. “Music truly is a universal language,” Jacob said. “It was incredible. I found out what true worship was in Rwanda.” Jacob’s experience in Rwanda along his Uncle David’s friendship with a pastor in Kenya named Fred led them to start a nonprofit organization to financially support ministries run locally in Kenya and Rwanda. “My Uncle David met Fred who was taking in kids in his house in Kenya and struggling to keep his head above water,” Jacob said. “And when I went to Rwanda and saw some of the orphanages, I saw
what real poverty is. In America we don’t have that but you go over there and see what true poverty is and he said we’ve just got to do something. We have to help these people.” Fred’s Kids was born in 2012. While the ministry is still growing, Jacob said they are encouraged by the work God is doing through Fred in Kenya and the Best Family, a Rwandan ministry founded by Jean Claude Rwagasore that assists children and orphans. “They both just have a heart that’s so big that they go without so these kids can go with,” Jacob said. Since the ministry started supporting Fred’s work, Jacob said the Kenyan has planted three churches and has seen more than 100 people come to Christ during the past few months. Now the ministry is focused on helping Fred obtain the equipment for a proper kitchen to prepare food for the orphans. Jacob is getting ready to enter a new phase of life. He recently became engaged to Elizabeth Beaird, a Frazer member who is very active and involved with the church’s Deaf Ministry and even served as an interpreter for summer at the deaf community in Haiti as part of Frazer’s Transform Haiti mission. For more information about Fred’s Kids, go to www.facebook.com/pages/Freds-Kids/
Below: Jacob with fiancée Elizabeth Beaird, an active
member of Frazer who is heavily involved with Frazer’s ministry to the deaf. Photo contributed
Like a good
Neighbor Josh and Rachel Phillips reach out by moving in.
By Candace Rutherford | “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Most of us are very familiar with this command. The word “neighbor” is referenced in the Bible more than 150 times, at some counts! One Frazer family is doing just that and living out God’s word to love and serve their neighbors and Frazer’s neighbors. Since 2011, Josh and Rachel Phillips and their family have taken up residence at the Village Green Apartment complex located behind Frazer, and by building relationships with the other residents there, the Phillips are learning what it truly means to love your neighbor as yourself. The Phillips had attended Frazer for a while but felt like they were just “sitting in the pews” until 2010, when “God began to move and speak to us in a mighty way,” Rachel explained. “ Josh and I both felt the same stirring in our hearts that there was more, that we were not living out our faith; because ‘faith without works is dead.’” The couple realized that God was challenging them to step out of their
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comfort zones and start serving both within and outside of the church. They started working with Inner City Evangelism at the Saturday Outreach programs and also with a weekly Bible study at Trenholm Court, Rachel said. “We began actively sharing our faith with others—door to door in neighborhoods, with the homeless, with the people we worked with… Little did we know that God was preparing us for much more,” she said. This was in 2010. The answer unfolded to them as part of their Sunday School class. A new family who lived behind Frazer in the Village Green Apartments had joined. We are all encouraged as a church to “make connections.” As the Phillips’ got to know this family better, they were shocked to hear about the many needs, struggles and suffering going on in Frazer’s own backyard. “My heart ached for something to be done,” Rachel said. The two families developed a relationship and
Neighbors: 1. Josh and 2. Rachel Phillips with 3. daughter
Mercy and 4. son Jordan, other Frazer volunteers and the children of Village Green. P hoto by Judi Mallory.
after hearing more about the many needs in the Village Green community, the Phillips’ were called to take it to the next level by starting a ministry to help. And what better way of becoming close to a ministry then to literally take residence in the middle of it. In March 2011, the Phillips family moved into a Village Green apartment along with their son, Jordan, who was 3 at the time. They decided their mission would be “to love our neighbors as ourselves by sharing the Gospel in words, deeds and by example,” said Rachel. What started as a heartfelt desire to help one’s neighbor has since developed into a full blown program that continues to grow in participation and outreach. Butch McPherson, Frazer’s Director of Missions and Events, said, “As in all ministries, it is about developing relationships. Josh and Rachel have done just that as they genuinely care and are a part of the community. Since they are living there, the residents are more open to the message.”
Bible Studies The ministry has grown to cover many areas of activity including Bible study groups, tutoring, prayer walks and outreach programs. One of these programs is the Village Green Kids Bible study that meets Fridays from 5:30-7 p.m. What started as a gathering of a handful of children has grown to upwards of 30 children in attendance some weeks. Village Green resident Latasha Thomas, a 31-yearold single mom of three, shared how this program has made an impact on her three sons Jamarcus, 12, and Jamaal and Jarel, both 11, and their family as a whole. “We met the Phillips family after we moved to Village Green. They are wonderful mentors. My boys are so excited when it’s time for them to go to the activities. ” The Thomas children attend the Bible study regularly and oftentimes share their lessons with
their mother. “They come every Friday after Bible study and share the lesson with me. I love the bible study program because we understand more about the Bible,” Latasha said. With this in mind, the ministry hopes to further expand their Bible Study program by offering one for adults. As Butch said, “The Ministry is reaching the adults by how they have worked with the children. Hopefully there will be a Bible class for the adults developed soon. It is a God story through and through.”
Tutoring Another way the ministry reaches out to the children in the complex is through tutoring. Village Green tutoring provides one on one tutoring to students in the Village Green Community. Approximately 15 children attend each Wednesday evening from 6-7 p.m. Volunteers help students with assignments and also to help disciple and mentor students. Helpers also pray for the student and a short Bible devotion is also done at the end of the session. The students are rewarded for their hard work by taking field trips and other incentives. “We went to a Biscuits Baseball Game on May 26 as an End of the Year treat,” Josh said. The program has had real results. “My boys are doing much better in school,” confirmed Latasha.
“Jamaal made A/B honor roll for the first time in fifth grade. I was so happy that I couldn’t wait to tell the Phillips.” As well as doing better in school her boys are becoming more responsible, well-behaved and hard working in all areas of life. “My boys told me how the program has motivated them to make good grades and be nice gentlemen. They like the way the individuals talk to them and teach them. They tell me how tutoring helps them improve the skills they are struggling with in school. They said it will prepare them for the next grade,” Latasha said. Tutoring is a year round program. For example, this summer they will be showing the History Channel’s “The Bible” miniseries. Come fall, they will need supplies such as pencils, notebook paper, folders, copy paper, pens and other items. Both the Kids Bible study and tutoring programs require many volunteers to help run smoothly.
Prayer Walks Village Green Prayer Walks are a new part of the Village Green Ministry. Eleven people attended the first prayer walk which was April 21. Jan Niel, Director of Prayer Ministry, gave a brief “Prayer Walk Training” beforehand. Prayer Walks will be held once month and will typically fall on the third Saturday or Sunday of the month. “The prayer walk
Below: (Far Left) Frazer volunteers and Village Green residents worked side by side to renovate the playground.
(Center Left) The Phillip’s son Jordan participates with other children in tutoring and Bible studies. (Center Right) Easter Cookout. (Far Right) Josh took a group to Chuck E. Cheese to celebrate good grades. P hotos contributed.
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went well. We split into small groups and The Lord moved us all to pray about many things as we walked around the community on such a beautiful day. We trust that He is moving in the Village Green community,” said Rachel.
Quarterly Outreaches Village Green Outreaches are held quarterly, typically in February, May, August, and November. The dates tentatively set for the remainder of this year are August 17 and November 16. Outreaches provide an opportunity to come together and a great way for Frazer volunteers to get involved. For example, cookouts are popular. The first cookout in 2011 had approximately 40 residents in attendance, and the most recent one had a turnout of over 200 people! During these cookouts and events, volunteers are needed to donate and serve food, spend time with and pray for the neighbors, and to actively share their faith by being Christ’s hands and feet.
Next Steps Along with these four areas of emphasis, the ministry is also looking for faithful volunteers to become part of a Village Green Ministry Leadership Team. “We hope to be able to establish this group in the next few months,” said Josh. They are also looking to establish GED tutoring and more Bible study classes. “For over two years now we have purposed, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to love our
neighbors as ourselves by sharing the Gospel in words, deeds and by example, while giving all Glory to God,” they said. The Phillips’ continue to lead this ministry even as their own family grows with the addition of their baby girl, Mercy. “We have to be very prayerful and intentional about maintaining balance, establishing boundaries and respecting the priorities that God has laid out for us,” Rachel said. Butch added, “Even through Rachel’s pregnancy she was still actively following her calling. She kept working. It is indicative of their commitment to this ministry.” The ministry is making a real difference. Latasha said, “We are a happy family. I feel that the activities keep us a stronger family. I really appreciate all the time and hard work that the Phillips family provides for us.” And in doing so, Josh and Rachel continue to make disciples as God commanded. Rachel said it best: “After all, as Frazer Members, the residents of the Village Green Community are truly our neighbors. It’s impossible to enter Frazer’s parking lot without a glimpse of Village Green, and if we, as the Frazer Family, choose to just drive on by, we are much like the Priest and the Levite in the story of the Good Samaritan. However, if we choose to get involved by helping our neighbors, serving our neighbors and reaching out in love no matter how uncomfortable or unfamiliar it may be, our faith will grow and Christ will be glorified.” To get involved, contact the Phillips’ at (334) 2948802, firstname.lastname@example.org, or search the Village Green Ministry Facebook page.
A day of prayer. Coming August 17.
How to Become a
Follower of Jesus 1. Repent | To repent means to turn around, to change your thinking and your direction and go the other way.1 The Bible teaches that every person has a Sin Nature—a deeply ingrained inner tendency to go our own way instead of following God’s way.2 When we follow our sin nature, we violate our conscience and break God’s commands by not loving Him and not loving our neighbor as ourself.3 The results are broken relationships, lack of peace, loss of purpose, anger, worry, fear, frustration, and hopelessness. The ultimate consequence of sin is death.4 you can pray a prayer of repentance like this:
“God, I admit that I am a sinner and I deserve to die. I
have broken your commands. I have not loved you as I ought to, and not loved my neighbor as myself. I repent of my sins. I turn from going my own way to go your way and obey you as Lord.” 2. Believe | The “gospel” (good news) of Jesus Christ is that we do not have to earn a relationship with God and pay for our sins by doing good deeds or religious rituals.5 Instead, God Himself took the initiative to come to us, being born as a man, suffering on the cross and dying in our place on the cross. He won the victory over sin and death by rising from the grave.6 God promises a new spiritual birth to those who believe in Jesus, trusting Him by faith.7 This new birth makes the believer a child of God, and begins a process of inner transformation8 that fills us with His joy, peace, and love, and the hope of eternal life.9 you can pray a prayer of belief like this:
“God, I thank you that Your Son Jesus died and rose again the
third day. I trust in him alone to save me from my sins and give me your abundant, new, spirit-filled life to transform me now, and to give me the hope of resurrection and eternal life.” 3. Commit | The decision to follow Jesus begins with repentance and belief, but it is lived out by a daily commitment to live according to the pattern of life and teaching Jesus showed us.10 Some of the ways you can follow Jesus daily include: •
become a member of a local church.
The church is the Body of Christ,11 the living expression of
Jesus on earth. Joining a church means more than signing up for a human institution. It means you are committed to building authentic relationships with other believers for worship, growth, fellowship, and service together. •
read and prayerfully reflect on the bible.
God has revealed himself to us through the scriptures.12
The Holy Spirit uses the words of the Bible to give us understanding of who Jesus is and how we can live like Him as we study it on our own and in community with other believers.13 •
serve others in humility.
We enter into the experience of Jesus’ death and resurrection by “dying”
to ourselves and our selfish desires so we can discover the joy of giving and living for others.14
1 Mark 1:15 2 Rom. 3:23 3 Mark 12:29-31 4 Rom. 6:23 5 Tit. 3:4-7 6 I Cor. 15:3-6 7 John 1:12-13 8 2 Cor. 5:17 9 John 3:16 10 Luke 9:23 11 Eph. 5:29-30 12 Heb. 4:12 13 John 14:25-26 14 Mark 10:43-45
I NVES TING I N E TE RN I T Y
LEAVE A LASTING LEGACY
YOUR WILL. You can know the joy of helping others become followers of Jesus Christ by making a designation in your will. Call us today at (334) 495-6305 or e-mail email@example.com to request a copy of our free brochure, “A Legacy of Giving.”
THE FRAZER MEMORIAL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
Charitable Trust Fund Keeping the Cross always lifted high.
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Sharing the stories of people seeking to follow Jesus at Frazer United Methodist Church in Montgomery, AL. The Summer 2013 edition focuses o...