Tag: waco

Rescued to Live

Three weeks before I walked through the doors of Grace House was the last time I tried to take my life.

I remember waking up the next morning with my head pounding, lying on a dirty mattress splattered with old blood and vomit, and thinking to myself, “God is not letting me die.” Somewhere deep inside I found the faith to utter this desperate prayer, “God if you won’t let me die, you have to show me how to live.” Though I had received short-term treatment in the past, I hadn’t been ready to deal with the fear and pain that filled my heart. After a decade of using alcohol and other substances to numb the pain and quiet my fears, I was on death’s doorstep and really ready for a change. I was ready for a chance to live.

For me, abusing substances wasn’t just a way to have a good time, it was a way to survive. My parents got divorced when I was about three years old, leaving my Dad with three kids under the age of four. A few years later, my siblings and I moved in with my mom and our new step-Dad. With a large family to support, my mom started working nights, leaving my step-Dad as the primary parent most days. My step-Dad became verbally abusive, which soon evolved into physical and sexual abuse that lasted, off and on, for about 10 years.

By the time I was 10 years old, deep depression drove me to search for anything that could ease my pain. I started physically harming myself after getting the idea from a TV show. When the cuts and scars on my body weren’t enough, I started looking to pills and alcohol. I remember the complete relief I felt the first time I got drunk when my whole body, mind and emotions went numb. I thought that was how I was going to make it, and over the next 10 years, my life spiraled into a blur of addiction and escape.

Then I came to Grace House.

In John 10:10 Jesus says “The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

It wasn’t until I witnessed genuine love expressed through the staff and volunteers of Grace House that I realized what having “full life” really was. Although it was challenging and scary at first, I was willing to change and as I let go of worldly independence, it felt like parts of me were dying day by day.

The more I said yes to God and to the staff in the house, the more I experienced true love and freedom.

During my time in Grace House, love looked like women believing in me before I was able to believe in myself and relentlessly pursuing me, even on my worst days. There were days I would shut down and sit in silence for long periods of time, lie about my feelings, walk away from authority, and say one thing, then do the opposite. The pain inside just made me want to run; run far from love, from truth, from hope.

But when I finally began to let others in, I discovered that there really was a place of belonging for me. In the midst of my pain, sadness and loneliness, I had been rescued and settled in a safe place with a new family and with a Father that knew my name. Grace House paved the way for freedom and real healing for me by sticking with me, asking genuine questions and accepting me despite my past. In His mercy, He placed me in this home filled with compassion and love. I now know that I am worth so much that Jesus died in order for me to live, that He has a plan and a purpose for me and that I will never be alone.

This is the testimony of Mary Burt, a former Grace House resident. Since graduating from Grace House, Mary has gone through Antioch Discipleship School and is now on the maintenance, serves as a house manager for one of Antioch’s missionary guest homes and volunteers with Grace House.

A Night With Grace House

On August 13th, 2015, Grace House is hosting A Night With Grace House to raise funds in order to re-open the home for more women. If you were stirred by this story, please consider giving and attending the event. To purchase tickets and for more information, please visit gracehousewaco.com.

Grace House is a faith-based recovery home for women in addiction. It is currently Waco’s only long-term recovery home for women. With a family style approach, the home is able to provide care for up to six women free of charge. The desire of Grace House is to see women holistically healed from chronic addiction and restored through relationship with Jesus Christ.

Serving Out of Their Need

When I think about raising support, my first thought is always “I don’t want to ask people for money.” Confronting the task of raising my own funding for the trip the Antioch Discipleship School takes every year is no different.

As part of the curriculum, students in the Antioch Discipleship School finish the program with an international outreach trip. This year, with a departure date set for May 8th, our team is set to head to Dubai UAE—contingent on our fundraising $45,000, of course.

As we brainstormed as a team about how to raise such an intimidating amount of support, we recalled a lesson from the school about the importance of the body working together to bring glory to God here on earth. The idea of a service project emerged and we decided to run with it. If we are going to ask others to edify the body by offering their financial support, then we could participate by offering our time and service to someone in need.

We decided to plan a day serving a member of Antioch and to ask people to sponsor us, similar to sponsoring a runner in a 5k. Reaching out, we connected with Megan, a recently widowed mother of two young boys. Being an incredible mother and faithful servant, she was a perfect fit.

On Sunday, April 19th, our team of sponsored volunteers arrived at Megan’s home. Over the course of four hours, we were able to not only landscape her yard and flowerbed but also build and paint a fort for her two boys, Elijah and James. Local businesses and anonymous donors graciously donated the supplies and fort.

As a team, we felt accomplished in having served someone in the process of asking others to serve us.  Even if we hadn’t raised a dime for our trip, we knew we’d participated in the workings of the body of Christ and contributed to the Kingdom. In Ephesians 4:12, Paul says the Lord gifted the body with different types of people “to equip His people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.” Some people can ask for support, some people can give to a cause, some can serve a widow and some can do it all to go to Dubai.

If you want to hear more about this project, email Christen Batson.

Light Up the Dark 5k

We had a blast at UnBound’s Light Up the Dark 5k last weekend! More than 650 people from the community participated in the race. Thanks to all who came out – your investment makes a difference to help end and bring awareness to human trafficking in our city! Let’s continue to pray for the captives to be set free and for human trafficking to come to an end in our lifetime. For more ways to pray, and information on how to volunteer with UnBound, visit unboundnow.org.

Natalie Garnett, one of the coordinators for the event, gives volunteers directions before the race.

Pre-race warm up.

Getting glow in the dark gear ready for the race.

One of the best things about the night was getting to hang out and have fun before the race started!

We had the best volunteers!

Lined up and getting ready to run.

Sun goes down and we lite up the dark!

Leading Yourself in Worship

“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God.” Psalm 42:11

Sometimes I lead myself in worship. A lot of times, actually.

My soul seems to have chronic amnesia. It doesn’t take much for it to forget how incredible God is. Sure, my mind knows how great God is. But caught up in the circumstances of life, I find my perception of God shrinking down to the size of my own fleeting existence. Pretty soon, I don’t even want to worship.

But God is much greater than what I see or feel. He is eternal, incomprehensible, majestic and omnipotent. He is gracious, forgiving, faithful and true. He is worthy of much greater worship than I know how to give.

So why can’t my soul seem to remember who God really is?

I should be able to easily worship Him any time, any day – much less during a worship service! Why is it difficult sometimes?

Apparently, David has the same problem I do. In the Psalms, he repeatedly cries out, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God.” David talks to himself, reminding his soul of God’s goodness. David leads himself in worship.

If David, whom the Bible labels “a man after God’s own heart,” had to lead himself in worship, we probably do too.

We have to consistently, intentionally remind ourselves of God’s character.

Sometimes, I simply worship – even when I don’t want to. Declaring Biblical truths out loud and singing them is a great way to wake my soul out of its forgetful sleep.

Sometimes I preach the Gospel to myself. Remembering the cross, remembering the empty grave, and remembering who I was before Jesus changed my life motivates my soul to worship God.

Sometimes I just think about God’s goodness. God has never failed anyone. Ever. In all of human history, He has been perfectly good. The bible is full of stories of His goodness trumping the odds. And He is “the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). He’s never failed anyone, and He won’t start now.

This is just the beginning. Regardless of how we do it, we must consistently motivate ourselves to worship God in spirit and truth whether we feel like it or not. He is always worthy; we simply forget.

In Response

What is one way you have had a hard time worshiping God recently? Ask God to reveal a truth about His character you need to remember, and then respond by leading yourself in worship.

By Thomas J. Wilson

Dreaming Dreams

About four years ago, driving down a familiar street around the corner from Antioch, an old, vacant house caught my attention.

I was able to get the owner’s phone number. I called, met with him and toured the house. The interior was just as captivating as the outside. Already I was making plans how I would renovate it and make it my own.  The hope was that I could buy it right then and there, fix it up and move in immediately. But despite my excitement, I knew it would take much more than zeal to make it happen. I had no idea where to start. I had just graduated college and I was still making plans for what I was going to do that next year. Really, I was in no place to take on a project quite like this and the owner was not quite ready to sell either.

I snapped a few shots of its charming features but put the dream on the shelf for what would be the next couple of years.  Those two years were spent in the Antioch Discipleship School. The first year, I was a student in the School and the second was on staff.  These years felt long. It was a pulling out of all my doubts, my fears, my misunderstandings. But through it, He restored me in hope. I came alive in being stripped of all my devices.  The sum of it all:

Surely goodness and mercy would follow me all the days of my life (Psalm 23:6).

I met Him and was more convinced than ever, He is good.

Toward the end of those two years, I was running an errand to Magnolia Homes. They are a home remodeling business with a big emphasis on design. I graduated from Baylor with a degree in Interior Design so this was right up my alley. I arrived just in time to interrupt an office meeting. Chip Gaines, the owner, invited me to sit in and wait for his wife, Joanna. He began talking about things going on in their company; ideas, solutions and goals. All the while I am thinking, “I know what he is talking about. This is what I went to school for!” My mind was racing. The very next day aninterior design friend from school, who had worked for Magnolia let me know Magnolia was looking to hire. I felt like God was up to something. I contacted the Gaines about the possibility of working for them. I got the job and quickly learned how to be a project manager of home renovations.

With my new job, the dream of restoring a home came back on the scene. I got in contact with the owner again, and like before he wasn’t ready to sell. There would be more waiting.

Although it felt like the dream was dying once die once again, I felt peace and grace to lay things down knowing it was best to leave it in His care. God was telling me to “take time”.  I would have to take more time for this word to be fulfilled. So I continued to wait.

…but the longer we wait, the larger we become and the more joyful our expectancy (Romans 8:25).

In the waiting I continued to work and learn the process of home renovations. My day-to-day was going to lumber stores, ordering materials and asking for things I did not even know what it was for exactly. Electricians became my friends as well as plumbers, framers and the paint guy, Van at Sherwin Williams, became a personal favorite. A girl at Lowes had seen me in the store so much that she gave me an official, yet unofficial “Customer of the Month” award. Slowly, I was learning and loving every minute. God was working into my hands, the ability to carry out the dream. When I first saw the house and began dreaming of making it mine, I had no idea what to do with it; but now here it was, my training.

I called the owner once a month to check in and see if there was any progress. I was waiting, but persistent in asking. Nothing changed, but God was working; I knew it. I was standing on His word and allowing Him to lead. In previous times, I would have been anxious, full of questions, unbelief and impatience. But God had already secured my foundation and my lot. This time, I wasn’t so concerned with trying to figure things out or controlling an outcome. I was content to be led and at rest in His sovereignty. I took a trip up to Bethel, a church in Redding, California with my friend. After a worship service, we spent some time with a family we had met and prayed with them. Each member of the family prayed for me and gave me a word. The mom of the family went last. She started crying before she spoke and said, “I see an old house, it’s been restored and it’s just… beautiful.”

Though it tarry, wait for it.

For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding “Yes!” And through Christ, our “Amen” (which means “Yes”) ascends to God for his glory. It is God who enables us, along with you, to stand firm for Christ. He has commissioned us, and he has identified us as his own by placing the Holy Spirit in our hearts as the first installment that guarantees everything he has promised us.

2 Corinthians 1:20-22

The waiting was full.

What I did not know at the time was that in August the house was green tagged by the city. This basically means that the home is unfit for occupancy and is given an extensive list of repairs. It’s a form of the city pushing for the owners to do something about it, whether it is to fix it themselves or if they don’t have the intention or means, to sell. The times I called to check in and ask, the owner never mentioned being green tagged. God was at work in loosening this house up.

In January 2014, there was a shift. God was speaking;

 “It’s time”.

The owner was finally ready to sell! I toured the house again and measured it out to start planning. My parents were excited and ready to be investors in this dream of mine. It was a beautiful work of doing this closely with them. Not only did God have it in His heart for me to have the dream of seeing this house restored, but seeing my family restored.

This was the moment I saw God had fulfilled a promise. A little dream I had years previous, God saw it, longed to see it fulfilled and orchestrated the steps leading me to be able to carry it out. I spent about seven months in renovations. It was more challenging than I anticipated, but also more thrilling than I could have expected. I moved in in September of 2014 and it’s daily that I realize I am living inside a promise of God. He did above and beyond what I could have asked or imagined.

I think that may be the whole point of dreaming. It’s a dream, seemingly impossible, but God fulfills them and even more.

By Laura Stafford

Check out more of Laura’s Journey with the Lady Earle Estate.

Building Update

We are thrilled to announce God provided more than $264,000 towards our building in the last few weeks! Praise God! To date, we are $655,000 from our goal to be able to begin the interior of our building. Continue to pray with us for God’s abundant provision… It’s been a journey believing God together as He builds His house, and we look forward to growing in our faith and trust in Him as we see this to completion. We are so thankful for your commitment to what God is doing through Antioch Community Church!


A Champion in Their Corner: Interview with Cheryl Pooler

Waco Independent School District classifies 10 percent of its student population as homeless.

That’s one reason why people like Cheryl Pooler are so important. Cheryl Pooler champions for many teens across Waco, and as the homeless and foster care liaison for Waco ISD, she has seen it all- from teen pregnancy to families living in tents on a campsite. But Cheryl has also witnessed a flood of restoration in the four years she has worked in this position. We sat down with her to talk about her passion for homeless youth and how God is moving in our city.

So what exactly do you do?

I’m the homeless and foster care liaison for Waco ISD, which is a federally required position for every school district in the United States.  I’m in charge of maintaining records and assisting students who are identified as homeless or in foster care. I also run the Parent Education Program for teens who have become parents way too early, and we provide an array of services for them. But by far the biggest part of my job is the homeless liaison because our district has a really large amount of students who are homeless.  It’s my job to make sure they are getting everything they need.

Who is classified as homeless?

There are different criteria that can classify someone as homeless.  A student can be identified as homeless if they are clearly living in a shelter or a motel, if their family is living in tents on a campsite, if they’ve been living in a car or if they are unaccompanied and living with other friends or family members who are not a legal guardian- I call these the couch surfing students. It also includes families who are living doubled up due to economic hardship, which is about 90 percent of the cases we see. A lot of our families are living with two or three other families under one roof because they can’t afford to live separately. I’ve seen 17 people living in a two-bedroom apartment – kids were sleeping on the floor.

In situations like this, the kids aren’t rested, there’s no privacy, no place to have a desk and there’s a lot of insecurity that goes along with this. You feel like a guest in someone else’s home and you’re one fight away from being kicked to curb and then you’re stuck looking for another place to live.

These kids are exposed to issues such as substance abuse, prostitution and human trafficking. It’s not uncommon for these kids to fall behind academically because they don’t arrive to school in the best shape to learn. They need to be rested, fed and nurtured.

What services do you provide these kids?

If a student is identified as homeless, federal law says to enroll the student regardless. The student has a right to an education. There are some key provisions with McKinney-Vento, the homeless assistance act, such as free breakfast and lunch every day. We help them with uniforms, school supplies and transportation if they need it. Since I started working here four years ago we’ve been able to really expand what we can provide for these students. We have a uniform recycling program with a local church and anytime I need a uniform for a student I fill out a form and fax it over to the church. Then one of the volunteers goes and pulls it out of their uniform store room, bags it up and it’s waiting for me at my door so I can take it to the student. We’ve provided uniforms to more than 700 kids in the last two years.

How do you see the gifts God’s given you being displayed through your job?

I think with this job you have to be comfortable with letting people be who they are. Not everybody was raised how I was raised and not everybody believes what I believe, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t get help. You may be over there and I may be over here, but we can sit beside each other and I will love you and be patient, regardless of what your choices are right now. I think that’s a gift that has served me well in the job I do.

Why has this issue become a passion of yours?

What I encounter each day is not pretty and it’s not easy walking into these kinds of situations with a family who is struggling with all the issues that have led to their homelessness and economic insecurity, but I absolutely know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it’s what Jesus would do. Saying, “What would Jesus do?” is way more than just a bracelet, and that’s why I do what I do.

How can the church be part of what you do with Waco ISD or with what’s happening in Waco?

This is a big question, but I’ll respond from the perspective of Homeless outreach.  There is a desperate need for a Teen Nurturing Center in our community.  Other communities are offering this type of service all over the US and I truly believe Waco can make it happen.  A Teen Nurturing Center would provide a safe place for students who are in high school and coded as homeless and unaccompanied to go after school.  They would receive services such as laundry, hot meals, showers, counseling, medical care, haircuts, tutoring, mentoring, and other life skills needed to break the cycle of poverty.  In addition to the Nurturing Center, we need host families who are willing to take a student into their home until the student can graduate from high school.

How do you see God moving in Waco?

I am so grateful to the church community in Waco for answering the call to meet the needs of the poor and disenfranchised in Waco.  I see God moving in many ways and I’m proud Antioch Community Church is a shining example of how the church can impact a community.  I was honored to serve our community on the City of Waco Poverty Solutions Steering Committee, now called “Prosper Waco.”  This initiative includes a diverse group of people, business owners, church leaders, health care professionals, education alliance and community leaders who are committed to decreasing poverty in Waco.  I see large groups of people and churches from all over our community working together for the greater good of all Waco citizens.

These children need a champion in their corner; they need someone in the community to stand in the gap for whatever was missing from that student’s upbringing.

How Great You Are: Song Story with Johanna Six

People often ask what the process is like for writing a song. I wish that I could tell them inspiration hits and voilà, you have a song. In my experience though, the initial inspiration hits, and then – the song sits there. It sits in my heart incubating, and I’m constantly mulling over it, willing it to grow into something bigger, hoping it finishes itself. But, songwriting requires good ol’ fashioned work. Now, I know this, but it’s another thing to put this into practice.

Writing How Great You Are was that kind of experience. I remember the main melody coming to me, basically all in one moment, while I was laid up sick in bed. I was pretty excited about it, and once I was able to get to a piano, the music kind of just flowed out. Looking back, somewhere inside, I thought the lyrics would just magically flow out as well. It was going to be this awesome song about how we are healed and made whole in the presence of God and how we find our rest in Him – except everything I wrote wasn’t quite working. There were too many ideas and it didn’t feel cohesive. I kept asking myself (in the context of writing the song), “How do I get to that theme of being in God’s presence? How is it that we get to be in His presence?”

Ding, ding, ding. This was going to be a song about how Jesus made a way for us to be in the presence of God. It was going to be a song about the Gospel.

It was around the time of receiving that epiphany that I showed the song to some friends, including James Mark. They confirmed that the song worked much better with the Gospel being central. Strange how that works, huh?

Now, I knew where the song was supposed to go, and together with James Mark, we finished it. It was not easy. We watched scenes from The Passion of the Christ and The Bible series. I read the crucifixion story multiple times a day, in different translations, in all four gospels. I was immersed in the story of how God came to earth as a man, willingly took upon Himself our transgressions even as we betrayed Him to hang on the cross, and then rose victorious over sin and death. As I read that story over and over and pictured myself standing with the multitudes crying, “Crucify Him” – I was undone by His love for me. I was undone and I wanted to scream, scream out my sorrow for placing Him there, and then shout out in thankfulness because it was His joy to do it.

This is the journey we want to take everyone on as we sing this song. We want to be able to meditate over what it cost Jesus for us to be able to be near to God. Once we recognize that, then we want to make space in our hearts for songs of thankfulness to rise up, for our souls to sing of our Savior’s love and how great He is.

Join us Friday, May 9th as AntiochLIVE records their next worship album. It will be an incredible night of worshiping Jesus together. The event is at First Baptist Church Waco and the cost is $5 per person at the door. Tickets go on sale at 6 p.m., doors open at 7 p.m. and the recording begins at 7:30 p.m. We anticipate a full house, so seating will be on a first come, first served basis. Please note, while we welcome families to the event, we ask parents to use discernment in bringing their children.  Since it is a live recording we must keep excess noise to a minimum and will limit entrance and exit from the auditorium once recording beginsHead here for more info and we can’t wait to see you there.

Countdown in Wacotown

February marks seven months until kickoff in Baylor’s new stadium on the Brazos.

In the year leading up to the event, the Wacotown civic arts movement has given Waco citizens an exciting reminder of the months remaining: a countdown mural on the corner of 4th Street and Franklin. We sat down with “Month Seven” designers, Antioch’s own Kyle Rogers and Mark Rockwell, to talk about the project and the revival that’s sweeping the city of Waco.

How did the process for the Wacotown Countdown Mural begin for you guys?

Kyle: Mark took me to lunch with a guy named Mike Trozzo a few months ago, and Mike’s the guy that’s heading up the “Wacotown” movement. He asked if Mark and I would want to collaborate on a number that corresponds with months of the year, counting down to the opening of the Baylor football stadium. We thought it sounded like fun so we decided to do it. In February it’ll be seven months until it opens… we got lucky number seven!

Antioch: Holy number seven…

Both laugh

Mark: Redeemed.


What is the brainstorming process like for a project like this?

Mark: So far there hasn’t been a collaboration yet on any of the countdown designs, so Kyle and I were trying to figure out what would be to work together on this. We decided to divide it up, so Kyle designed the number and I designed the supporting elements around the number.  We really wanted to try and maximize our space.

Kyle: We met up a couple times when we first got the project to create a rough draft. Mark’s a great character drawer and sketcher, and I think that I enjoy more hard lines and geometric stuff. We got together, made a plan, scratched the plan, and came up with something new.


How do you see God moving in Waco?

Mark: I feel like in the past two or three years people have really started to take ownership of our city. Even if not everyone can see God, I think feeling contentment and pride in our city has brought a sense of peace over Waco.

Jimmy talks about the local church as being the hope of the world and the cornerstone of community. How do you see that being lived out through creative arts and through this project?

Kyle: God’s going to work through His people. I think there’s been an influx of people who love Jesus, doing what they’re gifted in and wanting to be a part of seeing Waco thrive, rather than being secluded and detached from the city. I’ve got a lot of friends who are really good business men and women, or really creative people and people with great skills who want to be a part of what’s going on in the city. The thing that goes on top of that is that they love Jesus and want others to feel valued and loved. There’s a wall coming down in Waco, we’re seeing the church really use the things that God has gifted each of us with wherever we go to impact the city.

Make sure you head over to 4th and Franklin this month to check out the mural designed by Kyle and Mark in person!

What Are You Doing For Lunch?

For years I believed mentoring meant you basically had to adopt a kid, take him on vacation and pay for his college tuition one day.

But I found out this past year that being a mentor through STARS Book Clubs was almost too easy.

I could be a mentor and make a legitimate impact on the life of a kid (actually three kids) in a mere 30 minutes a week. All I had to do was go to their school during lunch, meet the kids in the library, ask them how their week was, read a book together and tell them they were awesome. That’s it. 30 minutes, once a week.

And the boys I was mentoring have actually shown some remarkable improvement in their reading ability. After only a few months of being a part of the Book Club, they had improved an average of over one grade level. Imagine the impact of hundreds of kids having book club leaders spend 30 minutes a week with them. The results would be incredible.

We already have 80 mentors meeting with more than 200 students -but we need more mentors! The qualifications for being a mentor come down to this: “Can you read?” and “Do you have 30 minutes a week?”

Be a part of an incredible thing happening in our church and at Provident Heights Elementary School during lunch times. Sign up to be a STARS mentor today!

By Josh Lawson, Director of Community Engagement