ISSUE 13 Feb/Mar 2010
few weeks ago I found myself in a downtown nightclub. It was filled with twenty-somethings, loud music, and unrestrained passion - not the normal hangout for a mild-mannered Orange County Pastor and father of four. But as
FEB /MAR 2010
part of my January vision break, I had dropped in on the new home of “The
Garden” in Long Beach – the baby church we helped bring into the world just months ago. Now several hundred strong, their Sunday night gatherings display a contagious resolve to live out the life of Jesus for their city to see. Watching the worship of this young community I was struck by the wildness of the Kingdom. In Matthew 13, Jesus describes the Kingdom as a mustard seed – the tiniest seed used by farmers of that day. When planted in the right soil, these unlikely seeds become sprawling bushes that cover vast fields and reach ten feet tall. In many ways they become like the boysenberry bushes that grew in my backyard as a kid – hard to control but bearing fruit to be picked and savored all summer long. “The Garden” was just one of many expressions of Kingdom growth I was able explore throughout January. My travels also took me to the frozen tundra of Michigan, where I met with leaders of a church raising up communities of thousands in the midst of a depressed region leveled by the economic downfall. I visited two dynamic yet distinct church movements in Portland. Both are sowing seeds into a creative yet cynical culture that desperately needs to be awakened to truth and love. And I joined a gathering at a Costa Mesa church less than 5 miles down the road from ours that is thriving, growing, and reaching God-seekers that are markedly different than our typical ROCKHARBOR crew. Far from “one size fits all”, I saw firsthand the beautiful wildness of the Kingdom as it continues to take root and bear fruit in the soil of different contexts and culture. As a new friend of mine puts it: “all kinds of churches for all kinds of people”. And the good news is, that’s how the Kingdom has always grown – and will keep growing. When it comes to church, it seems good news from the frontlines and headlines is often lacking. As we hear the sobering statistics of decline, or far too frequent tales of excesses and failings, it would be easy to miss the other side of the story. The Church is still God’s plan, Christ’s Bride, and the only global movement that brings true peace and freedom. Having just caught a few glimpses of how the Kingdom is advancing in other places, I return more excited than ever about the unique part we at ROCKHARBOR get to play. As we embrace the call of living out the Gospel together, I believe there will be many more “Gardens” to come.
MOTION | FEB-MAR | 2010
hen we stepped off the plane at LAX on September 26, 2008, Amy and I had no clear idea what we would be doing here in Orange County. We knew Todd Proctor – I had met him about 7 years previously in England – but we didn’t
know much else, much less the church we had joined. All Todd had said were things like ‘there’s a lot on the table at the moment’ and ‘we don’t have it all dialed in.’ We took these statements as indications that times were changing and that we would be able to play a small part in the movement of things. We haven’t been disappointed. Amy and I both came from an Anglican Church in London called St. Mary’s. The group of churches we had grown up in had been influenced pretty heavily by a Californian named John Wimber. Our understanding of who God is and what His Church is was shaped in this fire, with a strong emphasis on dependence on the movement of God’s Spirit. But for Amy and I, we wondered, was this the way this church did its business? Churches in the UK are small in comparison to those over here. In fact, that goes for most things, including people. We were instantly surprised not just by the size and quantity of local churches, but by the quantity of things going on within these churches. Was this an amusement park for Christians or a place for people to be trained in order to be effective in the world that God had placed them? We had also been in the business world for a couple of years each since leaving our respective universities. We had developed a passion for seeing the church move into the center of the world so that it could shape the world, not simply provide an enclave for those too weak to make it in the heat of the battle. How was it that we were working in a (semi) mega-church when we feel called to bring the gospel by taking up a small space within the world? Our time here has involved a lot of searching for answers to the above questions. We have seen things done in a totally new way to what we’re used to. It has been humbling and instructive on every level. But we have seen God answer positively through ROCKHARBOR. I still don’t know how to capitalize the name properly, but I know that ROCKHARBOR is a place where God is given space to be God in ever increasing measure. This is a church that wants Him to be leading. People are being trained to be God’s advocates in the world, that His Kingdom might come, and this is a mega-church intent on creating spaces where people can be known intimately. We know God has used this huge transition in our lives with all the isolation and frustration that has come with it to show us that our lives are not about us, but about Him. Coming to ROCKHARBOR has taught us that God has placed wonderful people, people who love and obey him, all over His globe. His Spirit is not confined by time, space, or even church tradition. God does not choose to move on the basis of what we do correctly but, I believe, based upon the orientation of our hearts towards Him in openness and humility. Yes, this church is different to those we are used to…but it is filled with people who love Jesus and are open to His Spirit. And that makes this church part of the Church, God’s Church, which we can tell you firsthand is alive and active in different expressions all across the globe.
Jonny Hughes ROCKHARBOR STAFF
by emily brummel
recently had the opportunity to meet up with the lead team from ROCKHARBORâ€™s South County campus to find out what God has been up to just a few miles away. ROCKHARBOR began reaching out to this community last summer through the South County project and officially launched the campus in September at Laguna Hills High School. South County was the first of two campuses planned as ROCKHARBOR seeks to continue to raise communities of believers to be more effective in their own neighborhoods.
South County Lead Team: Jason and Kimi Finley, Tim and Wendy McMahan, Chad and Jenn Halliburton, Nate and Jayme Jack, Jake and Amber Holden, Blake Goodfellow, Mercedes McBride-Walker, Jay Heron, Greg Savage, Arika Cazale and Erica Abdelatif.
The lead team consists of the Spiritual Oversight Team and Weekend Team Leaders. Their authenticity and passion for what God is doing was evident as they shared how God called them to serve in South County. It was clear throughout our conversation that the lead team desires for this campus to be a community where people are known, non-believers are reached, and Christians live a life that demands explanation.
MOTION | FEB-MAR | 2010
Community re-defined: Knowing people and being known . What is it like to be part of a church community that is just starting out? A good worship band and a good speaker is what tied me to ROCKHARBOR for a little while. We get that at South County but as my wife and I went to Lake Hills this summer, I realized that community and knowing people was much more important than who was speaking or who was leading worship. We found ourselves wanting to be there more because we knew people and because they knew us.
I think one of the coolest things has been to see deeper relationships being built among the kids and to see how they have grown because of the one-on-one experiences with leaders.
Just this morning at breakfast our son was telling us how Sunday is now his favorite day. We expected it was because we have family movie night, and he said, “Well, I like family movie night, but I love going to church now because I see the same kids every week and so they are all my friends.” The sense of feeling special in children’s ministry has really impacted them.
There is a huge beautiful park next to the parking lot so on Sundays after church we all kind of help tear down and then hang for about two hours at the park. It just allows us an opportunity to get to know each other and the kids to bond. It’s created a really special “after church” time that we now have the space and time to enjoy.
We have met people who practically live in our neighborhood and that has never happened before.
Hopeful anticipation: Playing a part in where God is leading How have you seen God working in your church community?
It’s really exciting and couldn’t be going any better, but I think some of us are just reaching for that next place. There are people serving who weren’t serving before, people leading who weren’t leading before, and people leading at a level they weren’t leading before.
One of the things that is interesting for me is stepping out beyond my seat at ROCKHARBOR and being a part of this church campus where the whole focus is: how can we be a church to our community? How can we take the gospel to our community? It has even caused me to look at my own neighborhood, my own apartment complex, and ask the question, how can I take the gospel to them?
I feel like God is reorienting our idea around what church is supposed to look like. It is more about giving what you have instead of feeling like, “I’m here to receive and get an hour and a half worth of information and take off.” I think we are all hoping for our church community to grow into something much larger than just a Sunday experience but a life experience, a holistic opportunity to really live the way God has called us to live.
What really excites me is to see the way God is moving through the people who get to volunteer. It seems like they are really taking ownership of the things they are doing.
plan for South County Are there specific things you have learned about
yourself or about God through being a part of the South County community?
Our DNA is exactly ROCKHARBOR...we’re just smaller and more intimate. It hasn’t felt any different to me from anything at the central campus as far as spiritual life or growth since we started.
At the very beginning, I would try and schedule volunteers for every age group and I would stress out all week if the schedule was not full. On Sunday morning it all just panned out. God has provided every single week so far.
God is teaching me dependence. That’s a really weird feeling when we’re trying to lead something. We just don’t have an answer other than the Holy Spirit doing what he does and we don’t know how to make him do that.
I think there is an expectation that we’re not really to the good stuff yet. People are thinking, “OK, we’re meeting on Sundays, great! But when are we going to start serving outside?” It’s really refreshing to know that Sundays don’t seem to be an end.
I think one thing I’m most excited about is just to see how God leads week to week. I’m really excited to look back in six months, a year, and say, “That was totally God. God did that.”
What would you like the central campus to know about the South County campus?
Growing the Kingdom of God What are you most excited about at the South
Building the ROCKHARBOR Depending on God: Trusting in his family
It seems like there is this expectation that we have as a group. It is a really holy expectation, like we’re not quite sure where we’re going, we’re not quite sure what this is going to look like, but we’re willing to take risks. That is just where God wants us and it’s a cool place to be. I’ve seen a lot of people who are either looking for ways to take part in ministries when they’ve never volunteered before or who have never been in a Life Group but they’ve decided this is the time to do it and this is the place to plug in.
My hope is that Orange County would really see something other than a mediocre, weak, disjointed Christian community. That it would be a powerful, joyful, loving, caring, hopeful-in-a-hopeless-world community that would shine brighter than anything anyone has ever seen.
My neighbor eventually showing up.
I think that nobody really gravitates towards change and so I think a lot of people would prefer to wait and see before joining a campus because it’s so new. If you wait to join the new campus, then you miss out on the beginning of something. I want to encourage those who might feel a tug towards the Fullerton campus to go for it and be part of it.
For me, I would hope that the central campus doesn’t look at us as a “they,” but continues to remember that we are a “we.”
I would want the central campus to know that this thing we’re trying as a church so far is working. Right now, it seems like God is saying, “I want you guys to keep heading in this direction. Keep going.”
I am excited to see my kids grow alongside the other kids at South County and I’m excited to see us get out into our neighborhoods and do whatever it takes to live out the gospel in our own community.
Something that I’ve been noticing is that the central campus is still packed and our place is getting packed. Realizing that the kingdom of God is growing is really exciting.
Keep up with the ROCKHARBOR community in South County at rhsouthcounty.org.
by: jeff gideon
MOTION | FEB-MAR | 2010
itting in her seat at the Plummer Auditorium in downtown Fullerton last January, Ashli listened to teaching pastor Mike Erre as he called hundreds of college somethings out of hiding. It was the end of the second night at ‘Sex, Love, God,’ a 2-day event for the next generation to explore God’s view of sexuality. The journey of both evenings – the worship, the teaching, the Q&A panel, the times of prayer, the community that organically happened – all led to this moment. God was now asking His people to respond to Him. And He was asking Ashli to respond to Him. Mike invited people to come down and stand under chuppahs, Jewish symbols of God’s promise to dwell among and to protect His people. Ashli-Danielle Thompson, 23, sat in her seat and listened as though Jesus was speaking to her directly. “There are people here that I believe Jesus wants to set free tonight,” Mike would say. “People struggling from body image issues. Abuse. Sexual addiction.” “Hearing those actual words was very convicting,” Ashli recalls. “I remember sitting in my seat thinking that I wanted to wipe all of those very things from my map. I wanted to make a public statement that I am done with the past and I am living under God’s protection now.” So that’s what she did. She got up, she walked down to the chuppahs, and she made herself available for God to do whatever He wanted to do. Ashli can still remember in great detail the first time she was presented with the idea of sex. “I was sitting in the living room with my parents watching the news and the word sex appeared. It was spelled out on the television in front of a black and white image of two people wrestling around in white bed sheets. It was probably the quickest five seconds of my life…and then my mom put her hand over my eyes.” Quick as they may have been, those five seconds represented Ashli’s interaction with the concept of sex for much of her adolescent life. “Nobody really talked to me about it when I was younger,” Ashli says. “All I really wanted to know was, ‘What is this?’ and ‘Why can’t I watch it?’ But the only thing I was ever told was, ‘You’re not allowed to have sex before you get married.’” Coincided with a curiosity toward sexuality was her natural longing for approval from her father. She believed her father loved her, but she couldn’t reconcile being questioned as to why the A-minus she pulled wasn’t an A-plus. “I grew up thinking that nothing I did was good enough or acceptable unless my dad approved,” Ashli says. That notion of craving acceptance quickly translated into other areas of life. “In junior high, I tried to do anything that would put me in a social scenario…dance, choir, acting…anything artistic that would draw attention to myself and gain approval. But it was never satisfying enough. I found I needed the approval more and more,” Ashli says. “I soon discovered makeup and that I could get attention from older guys. I remember thinking if I could just get them to think I was hot or to check me out from across campus, then I had won something. But none of it worked,” Ashli says, “so I was constantly searching for a way in.” At 18, Ashli began dating for the first time, a 24-year-old. “I was insecure enough and new enough at the whole boyfriend thing that I just let him brainwash me. Everything he told me, I just ate up.
After that relationship ended, Ashli moved to Los Angeles to begin attending Cal State Northridge where the pursuit of approval not only continued, it intensified. Sexual encounters and drug experimentation offered the quick high, the moments of fulfillment where, however brief, Ashli wouldn’t have to listen to all the parts of her that told her she wasn’t good enough, or accepted, or loved. The mercy of hitting rock bottom soon would come. A mild overdose and an anxiety attack brought Ashli to a place of desperation. From there, she says, Jesus began to offer His grace to Ashli in very new and practical ways. “He started by simply opening my eyes to what I was doing to myself,” Ashli says. “He showed me that nothing I ever tried worked. And He gave me this sense that He would show me a way out of the abyss I kept throwing myself into.” Days later, Ashli called some extended family living in Costa Mesa and asked if she could move in with them. They agreed and within weeks Ashli soon found herself praying before meals and listening to her aunt talk about what it means to love and follow Jesus. Reluctantly, she even accepted an invitation from her aunt to attend the Harvest Crusade. “It was at the Harvest Crusade where I experienced this gravitational pull of Jesus,” Ashli says. “I realized that everyone has insecurities and this deep longing to be accepted… and God asks us not to fill them with negative holes because He wants to fill them with something so much better. At that point, I knew the only thing I needed was Him. And as I began to confess that, this huge weight lifted and I felt lighter than I ever had before.” Out of the Harvest Crusade, Ashli began to give up the parts of her life that she used to fill her voids and make room for Jesus to show her He truly was enough. Drug and alcohol were the easy things to walk away from. But when it came to sexual encounters, it was a bit more difficult. “Knowing the power of sex, it made it a hard thing to just turn away from,” she says. And for the next couple of years, using sex to feel loved was still a part of Ashli’s story. In the days leading up to Sex, Love, God, Ashli felt something inside of her that said she would come out of hiding in Fullerton. “I had this feeling something would be stirring and I felt compelled that I would share my story coming out of it,” she says. When she arrived at the event, Ashli sat by herself in the second row as a statement to Jesus that she was present and she was ready. As Mike began discussing the chuppahs, it hit home. “When he was calling out issues that we could be freed from, I started thinking it might be ok to admit my stuff. And before I even got out of my seat, I was crying. I was thinking about all the things I had given up. But God was bringing up this last issue, craving male attention to feel accepted, approved, and loved…and He was asking me to give it to Him.” Ashli says something changed under the chuppahs. As if a switched turned off, she no longer felt a part of her that needs someone to tell her who she is or that she’s valuable or that she’s complete. In fact, she’s now the one doing the talking. “Standing up there in front of all those people, even if they were looking at me, I felt so free. And I feel so free still. And I want to tell everybody.”
“Right before I lost my virginity to him, I remember thinking, ‘God, I know I’m not supposed to do this before I’m married but I can’t wait anymore. I need this, I want to finally feel accepted.’ “I felt like it would be this self esteem booster that would put me on this all-time high and I would be untouchable from then on,” Ashli says. “But the truth is, the high was only a couple of days. After three or four days, I was right back to where I was before, looking for that same acceptance.”
For more stories from Sex, Love, God and to join the conversations on issues facing the college-something generation, visit collegesomethings.rockharbor.org
by: holly pinkham
MOTION | FEB-MAR | 2010
eople from around the globe flock to Hollywood to pursue dreams of acting, singing, fortune and fame. This culture may influence the rest of the world but it is also known as the city of shattered dreams. Around the corner from the money-filled movie studios and Walk of Stars are dark streets filled with rejects and outcasts, drugs, violence, prostitution, gangs, and homelessness. If there was ever a city that needed to hear the gospel it was Hollywood, but like many celebrities who have been accidentally discovered, timing is everything. Basileia, a church ROCKHARBOR is helping plant in Hollywood, has been a work in progress for nearly seven years. Though that may seem like a long time to wait, it appears God wouldn’t have it any other way. Church planter and musician, David Ruis, and his wife, Anita, had felt God calling them to move to Los Angeles from Canada. Unsure of exactly what was in store, they left their home and inner-city church they’d started and began to wait. “We felt like we should become part of the city,” Ruis said. “We didn’t know it was going to take as long as it did.” Four years into their journey of living and working in L.A., Ruis attempted to start Basileia. “The timing just wasn’t there,” Ruis said. “The approach to vision and services were nearly the same, and the church was attracting people and piquing interest with other churches, but it wasn’t developing a core group who could carry the vision together.” Ruis felt that the team wasn’t coming together as he had hoped and he didn’t want to build a church without a strong foundation. Concluding it wasn’t God’s timing, they made the decision to end the attempt at a new church and go back to waiting. During the past three years, relationships and connections developed that Ruis now recognizes as essential to what God had planned for Basileia. One of those key relationships was Ruis’ friendship with Don Williams, a Hollywood resident and church planter. Williams introduced Ruis to ROCKHARBOR staff.
“ROCKHARBOR having this sense of wanting to church plant more and feeling that something was stirring up in L.A. and Hollywood was just another piece of the timing,” Ruis said. Still in its early stages, the Hollywood church plant is forming and seeking vision for the kind of church God wants it to be. They do know that relationships and sharing every aspect of life are crucial elements that will be incorporated in this New Testament church. “We’re really intrigued by this concept of ‘what does it mean to share? Share life, share our resources,’” Ruis said.“We’re trying to explore what that looks like and how it’s doable in a crazy urban setting like L.A.” The team is still figuring out how a church makes sure that the conviction is really lived out and not just a great idea on paper. Their first step was selecting a name that demonstrates that they are not just about doing church but being the church. “Basileia is Greek for ‘kingdom’ and our conviction is ‘seek first the kingdom’ and then everything else is added,” Ruis said. “The idea is for us to do kingdom works and we’ll become the church.” Basileia’s goal is to partner with organizations like Broken Hearts Ministry, InvisiblePeople.tv and others who have already established ministries and relationships among the poor and needy in Hollywood. On weeks that Basileia isn’t meeting for services, they host Broken Hearts prayer nights and plan to become more involved in their street ministry. The hope is that one day Basileia will have pockets of communities throughout Hollywood, including transitional living homes in low-income areas of the city. ”When we first tried to launch Basileia, it seemed really hard for people to get that vision. Not that everyone has to invite homeless people into their apartment, but we wanted to break down the fear and the assumption that this can’t be community together,” Ruis said. “We wanted to fight for that long term vision and needed more time for that to develop.” “Basileia Beginnings” are currently being held every other Thursday night in L.A. An eclectic group gathers amidst techno music, food and art. The fact that these gatherings resemble an urban gallery opening more than a church, speaks volumes.
“We’ve become part of the fabric of the culture and the city,” Ruis said. “For the kind of church we want to build, that’s been a huge piece of it.” The intimate gatherings offer an informal setting for the team to pray for one another and seek God’s vision for the church. The majority of those currently attending are working in the entertainment industry or visiting from Orange County. Their desire is to be a community that serves the poor and marginalized and invites all to participate. Basileia is still experimenting with date, time and location of services that are out of the cookiecutter church model. Options they are exploring include having the church office and services in a residential home, loft or warehouse that could be open 24 hours a day. They’re also considering meeting just twice per month in order to provide more time for discipleship, mentoring and other types of community to form.
We don’t want to get stuck in the grind of trying to pull off these meetings every single weekend. Where meetings will fit – we’ll sort that out,” Ruis said. “The main goal is not to run church services. It’s to engage with the community
have everything else serve
that.” The Vineyard, St. Mary’s in London and New Hope (who is currently lending the use of their campus in L.A. to Basileia) are also now all a part of the church plant. “It just feels like some of the missing pieces that weren’t there a couple of years ago have fallen into place,” Ruis said. “What we hear from God and what other people are hearing is that it’s time to step out.” Come explore what God is up to at Basileia: Thursday, February 25, 7:30pm 1700 W. Olympic Blvd., L.A rockharbor.org. basileiacommunity.com
MOTION | FEB-MAR | 2010
by: allison ritto
MOTION | FEB-MAR | 2010
t is a crisp winter evening in Fullerton and dozens of people have gathered, bundled in coats and scarves. They meet and exchange names, then break off in small circles to pray. At the corner of a busy intersection, cars honk and buses rattle by in front of the Wilshire Auditorium. Clasping hands, they pray over the city of Fullerton and over the community growing up in it. They pray that God will help guide the way for the newest ROCKHARBOR campus.
There is more to a church than a building, and more to being a church than holding a Sunday service. This is evident in the way ROCKHARBOR and Pastor Steve Carter are building the foundation of the new Fullerton campus. When doors open in late February for the first service, the preparation will be much more than setting up parking signs and turning on the lights. Opening a new campus is a process of building connections with the community that Steve has been in for months. The decision to place the North Orange County campus in Fullerton started with Steve on a journey from town to town, asking God where He wanted a campus. “As I began to go from city to city, something stuck out when I was on a corner in downtown Fullerton, watching people walking by. High school students with iPods on, college age students, people of different ethnicities, just walking. I had been asking God and myself about the location, but then I realized I should be looking for the people.” There was no game plan, no strategy based on maps or statistics, and no mandates from the church elders on where to place this new campus. The high population of college students in Fullerton struck a chord with Steve: “There was something about this under 29-year-old age group that felt like home, that I felt a connection to, and a couple things started to happen, and I realized, ‘I think it’s here.’” Weekly meetings with Fullerton locals, shop owners, and city officials helped the vision of the Fullerton campus come alive. Steve studied the town and its history to figure out what the campus will need to look like and who it will serve. “I’m trying to build connections because relationships are everything. There are 60,000 plus college students in a seven-mile radius, and Biola University, Azusa Pacific University, and Chapman University are nearby. It’s a fascinating world of how many students are in and near North County.” Much like the South County Campus in Laguna Hills, RH Fullerton will look and feel somewhat similar to the services in Costa Mesa. The pastors and worship teams will rotate between central campus, Fullerton, and Laguna Hills. But beyond that, there will be room for experimentation due to the unique location of the campus. The RH Fullerton vision is unique and the Wilshire Auditorium location downtown allows for more freedom and flexibility.
“During a service I could say, ‘All right, go walk through Fullerton and experience it tangibly, then come back in 30 minutes and let’s just worship.’ There’s going to be some of those activities, and that’s the kind of thing that excites me.” As God leads ROCKHARBOR in Fullerton, the hope is that this community will continue to grow and evolve. “We’re going to seek the people who God has given a heart for North County, for Fullerton, and begin to see where that goes. It’s amazing to see how doors open up and doors close; things you think are going to be a no-brainer, God has something else working,” Steve says. Showing sensitivity to the needs of the city and being flexible to meet changing demands will give RH Fullerton integrity in the community. “Fullerton has its unique DNA that’s different from Costa Mesa and South County; there are some similarities but it’s different. The downtown, the rich history, there are certain things I’m learning about. There are good, beautiful parts of it where God’s Spirit is moving, and we’ll have the freedom to enter in to that and begin to serve in the needed areas.” Beyond the Sunday service, the campus will launch its own life groups, REFUGE ministry, and service opportunities to meet the needs of Fullerton. Steve is focusing on reaching out to young people and helping them answer key questions about their own reality. “There are three big self questions everybody asks: ‘Who am I?’ ‘What is my place?’ and ‘Why am I here?’ These three questions are so big and so ambiguous that it’s almost paralyzing, but it’s great to have a place where you can gather and have great conversations about who God is.” Once people begin to attend ROCKHARBOR Fullerton, Steve prays that the community will become a secure and safe place for everyone who has questions about God. “Starting an environment where we can wrestle those types of questions has been a huge prayer. I want people to live in a reality in which they belong, they have a mission, and their identity doesn’t have to be wrapped up in these other things, but it can be wrapped up in the resurrected Jesus Christ.”
Fullerton Launch Date, February 28, 7pm Wilshire Auditorium @ Fullerton College Corner of Chapman and Lemon
by: harmony apel
shley Gevas had a gut feeling not to call her mother, but sitting in her cramped apartment just a few minutes from the projects in Watts, the desire for maternal nurturing was too great to ignore. She dialed the phone and described a scene to her mom that, until a couple of hours prior, she had only seen in the movies: While taking kids home from church, she watched a man get out of his car, pull out an AK-47, and shoot off six rounds down an alley right in front of her. In the three months Ashley had been living near Watts, it was the first time she felt genuine fear. For Ashley’s mom, it was a clear sign that living in south L.A. was not the path God wanted for her daughter. But for Ashley, it confirmed that amid all of Watts’ brokenness, she had found her place. “I was not born to live on auto pilot, no one was,” Ashley responded to her mother. “The kingdom of God is near and right here and I refuse to live a life where I am not experiencing the kingdom of God.” Watts is not a place a person goes in search of opportunity, but rather a reminder for many of the hopelessness that spans back generations. Drug dealers do business in broad daylight, graffiti signifies who runs the block you’re on, windows are barred and warehouses are boarded up. Brokenness and pain live out in the open, unshielded in the projects — men with brown-bagged forties watch you from their porches and women stare out kitchen windows as you walk by. People in Watts are always on guard, and nobody really wants to live there — no one except the bright-eyed, jovial blonde from Napa Valley, Ashley Gevas. Ashley always had a core desire to live radically, but never foresaw a future living on next to nothing, taking care of a woman with physical and mental handicaps, and volunteering more than 50 hours of her time to the local church. Though never one to shy away from adventure, her picture of serving God looked more like building schools in Africa or fostering orphans in Cambodia- not living in a 10x12 foot cramped apartment in south L.A. “Like a lot of Christians, I was trying to design my own life. I was saying it was for God, but it was really for me, to make my name known, to give myself value,” Ashley said. Even amid her involvement in ministry, Ashley felt her heart still wasn’t prepared to love others. While in Spain, she prayed for God to lead her while underneath it all she still yearned for the control herself. “I was looking for a way to live the adventure I wanted and tag God’s name at the end,” Ashley said. “But even if you’re trying to do something good in life, if you’re not willing to give it all up for Christ’s sake, then it’s worth nothing.” Ashley asked God to reveal her life’s purpose, all the while deciding for herself what that should look like. After returning from Spain, she continued ministry work while pursuing a variety of other jobs, including wilderness guide, ice cream scooper, TV salesperson, social worker, and even personal assistant to motivational speaker Tony Robbins.
MOTION | FEB-MAR | 2010
“I thrive off adventure and challenge, and no job I had done made me feel I was living my call,” Ashley said.
position and moved from her suburban neighborhood in Orange County to the graffiti-stained streets of Watts.
Still searching for the value she felt was missing in her life, Ashley sought purpose through marriage to a man 20 years her senior. The relationship quickly turned bad and ended after seven years, she said. Having grown up in a self-described picturesque Christian home, Ashley was unfamiliar with the new level of brokenness that divorce introduced to her life.
Ashley’s new job afforded her more time to volunteer at Watts Powerhouse Church, which she learned had a desperate need for women-to-women ministry. From the moment she arrived, Ashley felt God confirming her decision to move to L.A. Many of the skills needed most at Powerhouse were ones she had been groomed to do at previous jobs, and her history with divorce and brokenness that she once was so ashamed of became the very thing God used to connect her with the women of Watts.
“I was supposed to know better. It wasn’t like I was deceived about what marriage is, about what God can do and what He can’t,” she said. After her divorce, Ashley struggled to know who she was and what life held for her next. She was angry that her pursuit of happiness had resulted in a failed marriage, and that her dream of living a great adventure for God continued to elude her. At 26 years old and with no tangible answers in her own mind, Ashley found herself wondering why God would ever reveal His purpose to her now that she was divorced, broken, and shamed. Desperate and angry, she cried out to God, “What am I? What do you have for me? Am I going to wake up when I’m 50 and realize that I missed it, that my great adventure passed me by?” She felt God’s lift her chin up to His face and say, “You’re looking at everything around you. You need to be looking at Me. Don’t you know My character enough to know that I’m not going to let you miss it?” For Ashley, that was the moment of clarity she was searching for. Her entire life she desired to be God’s servant, all the while secretly needing to be somebody noteworthy. She hadn’t been doing it for God, but instead for her own glory. “A lot of times we want to define ourselves by something bigger than Him,” Ashley said. “But He wants to strip us of everything that defines us, until all that’s left is being His beloved.” Ashley had become defined by the great adventure she was seeking, but when she surrendered it, God gave her something bigger and more exotic than she ever could have thought to dream of:- God gave her Watts. Ashley’s work in Watts first began as part of the GO campaign at Rock Harbor after a recent move to Orange County. For a year, she sporadically volunteered at Watts Powerhouse Church, helping with Sunday school and whatever else they needed. She found herself drawn to the people in that community. Ashley craved the authenticity and lack of pretension she saw in the people of Watts, and after losing her day job, began to search for opportunities to work closer to Powerhouse Church on a more regular basis. “I would have taken a job cleaning toilets if it meant I could be in Watts,” she said. In her job search, Ashley knocked on every door she could imagine looking for work but only one opened. Ashley found an opening as a live-in caretaker minutes away from Watts Powerhouse Church. Within one week of applying, she got the
“All the things they need, I have, and all the things I need, they have,” Ashley said. “God knew exactly what He was doing.” In Watts, Ashley learns something new every day and has even begun to teach Sunday school at Powerhouse and develop meaningful relationships with the community’s youth. Ashley said for the first time that she is experiencing complete and utter fulfillment. “I’m completely ill-equipped to do anything for these kids, but I think it’s that precise inadequacy that makes me utterly dependent on God.” Ashley’s time in Watts isn’t without its struggles. Even while certain God has given her a purpose in the community, she is still often reminded that she is an outsider. “I’m super talkative and I hug everybody and that’s just not something you do here,” she said. Despite that, Ashley said the differences help confirm her dependence on God and remind her that she is none of the titles she once tried to label herself with in the past, but instead, she is God’s beloved. Ashley has seen more of God’s reality in Watts than in all of her previous adventures, she said. For Thanksgiving, Ashley returned home to Napa Valley. Her mom hoped she’d realize how much she was missing living in Watts and come back for good. Instead, Ashley missed her new community and it missed her. The entire weekend, she received texts from girls back in Watts who were struggling with various issues and wanted to talk to Ashley. She left the quiet and calm of her parents’ home a day early to return to her girls in Watts. “It’s shocking to me how joyous I am, how excited I am to be back here,” Ashley said. Watts is no Napa Valley and is a far cry from the adventures Ashley spent chasing down the first half of her life. But despite the crime-ridden environment and culture shock of Watts, Ashley said she finally feels complete and total peace where she is. “I figure, the safest place you can be is in God’s will.”
Last summer, I had the opportunity to visit England and witness God’s movement across the pond. Alongside a few fellow Orange Countyians, we attended Soul Survivor’s Momentum conference, joined by nearly 5,000 college students and twentysomethings from our motherland. It was nothing like I had ever seen before. I should have suspected something was up when I agreed to it. Spending 5 days in the English countryside [more than 150 miles outside of London…or civilization for that matter], sleeping in a converted cowshed, trudging through the rain and mud, while thousands of these twentysomethings not only willingly made the trek but were chomping at the bit. And not only that, but this conference was the fourth of four straight weeks the Soul Survivor team spent out in the boonies; three weeks with high school students and now this last week with the college generation. Again, I’m not sure why I was surprised about meeting with God. The format of the conference was pretty typical; main gatherings each morning and evening with specific breakout sessions and community activities filling the afternoons. I walked into the first gathering expecting things to look and feel and, most importantly, fit into my comfortable paradigm. Before things even started, the room was filled with a marked sense of anticipation and excitement. Some groups around the room broke into spontaneous cheers and chants while others helped count down the waning moments leading up to the week’s starting line. Worship began and I instantly took notice to the ways this generation went after God. Their outward worship was, as mentioned, nothing like I had ever seen before. Hands outstretched, voices in unison, constant dancing in the aisles, somehow a collection of 5,000 managed to feel like only one voice. EDITOR IN CHIEF jeff gideon firstname.lastname@example.org
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Out of the message, the teacher led everyone through a time of responding to God. Sensing God wanted to do something unique, he invited a very specific piece of the group of 5,000 to come to the front to be prayed for and ministered to. “I sense that there are many here who need to let go of past hurts, to offer forgiveness, and to be freed from what’s been done to you.” I remember feeling somewhat blindsided by his call. It didn’t really relate to the message. It felt like he was calling an audible from someone else’s playbook. But as he made room for God to show up, He did just that. First a couple people came forward. Then dozens. Before I knew it, I turned around and there were no longer aisles in front of or next to the stage. They were packed with people…so much so that the teacher had to make a couple public calls for extra prayer help. It was definitely one of those “if you love Jesus and have a pulse, welcome to our prayer team” moments. The ways that ministry happened were much different than what I encounter at ROCKHARBOR or have encountered through much of my life. So much so that I was uncomfortable. It took all of 15 seconds for God to call that out in me. Why would I feel uncomfortable? It’s different but why did I automatically assume that makes it less genuine? In preparing this issue of MOTION, I was reminded of what God taught me over those five days in the English countryside. Encountering God and belonging to His Church is not determined by liturgy or ritual or anyone’s comfort level. The unifying characteristics are instead people that are after God’s own heart, sensitive to His Spirit, and responsive to His leading. As we’ve seen over the course of these pages, the result looks different in many different contexts. But as we’ve also seen, the Church is alive and active…it just happens to have several different expressions.
JEFF GIDEON ROCKHARBOR STAFF
Published on Mar 7, 2010