What it Means to Church

When God dragged me kicking and screaming back to Charlotte, I began a new season of my life. The sun of that season, which warmed the ground and made things grow, was The Gathering–a nondenominational church meeting in an elementary school gym.

Until The Gathering, I had always attended church. It was as necessary as attending school. The Gathering, however, spurred me on to something more. It wasn’t just a corporate worship event. It was a community of friendly smiles that made me feel like Sunday morning was home–like I had friends even though I was new. They taught me that being a part of the church was so much more rewarding than being a member of a¬†congregation.¬†For the first time in my life, I didn’t want to miss a Sunday because I didn’t want to miss the love and support of that relationship.

I can’t lie. I joined their children’s ministry because I thought it’d help me get a job. You know they say connections are key and volunteer work is what builds them. But all that changed in an instant when I showed up the first Sunday to work with kids. Before the service began, Pastor Derwin came back to pray with us. The head of the children’s ministry grabbed me and said, “Derwin! This is the one we have been praying for!” I knew then, that I wasn’t there for me. I can’t describe that feeling–to be needed that much, to be an answer to prayer. It was such a boost in confidence that it stirred a powerful sense of humility in me.

I was a part of the Gathering for eight years, working in the children’s ministry as much as I could. It was the longest I had ever attended a single church. And it was the first time I was really a part of a church.

Through them, I learned of One7 Ministries, which became my passion and the start of my teaching career. I gained invaluable friendships that have lasted through thick and thin. I found loving accountability and genuine connections. Through them, I found what it really meant to church.

The Gathering closed their doors this summer. It was the end of a season for all of us, and God is ushering us on to the next. He has sent us out to bear witness, and all the things we’ve gained from that community will be shared.

So we will “go out with joy and be lead forth with peace (Is 55:12).” …There’s not too many mountains around here, and far more buildings than trees, but… I think the sentiment is still there.

Thank you, Gathering, for your part in my life!

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God Colors in Charlotte, NC

Before I went to Brazil, I was working with an inner city ministry in Charlotte called One7. The ministry is a vital outreach to refugee and immigrant families in the area. Their work is limitless. They do everything from after school tutoring to delivering food to replacing bedbug infested mattresses. Any need that is brought to their door becomes a part of their ministry. They began a school in 2009 to help the students who were being ignored in the public system. I’ve helped them teach, tutor, serve food, buy food, deliver food, build relationships with parents, find medical care for refugees, and more. But that is just a piece of what they do in East Charlotte.

This is the story of One7. They love people unconditionally. It doesn’t matter who they are, where they came from, how they got there, or what they’re doing. The president and his wife, David and MC Garrett, pour their hearts and lives into people from all treks of life. Anyone who shows up at their doorstep is welcome.

This local article gives a glimpse into the lives that are transformed at One7 Ministries. The story of Jenry may make your jaw drop, but for an untold population living in the margins of Charlotte, it’s not so strange:

Garinger High Revives Soccer Program to Motivate ESL Students

I’m honored to have been a part of what God is doing through One7 Ministries. I’ve seen God do things through them that I haven’t seen anywhere else.

If you would like to learn more about One7 Ministries, visit their website at one7.org

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