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SUMMER 2014 | FR A ZER UNITED METHODIS T CHURCH

FOLLOWING

JESUS
T

H E M

A G

I N E

ANNE LOUISE PASS

Hiding
Place
PAGE 14

MY FATHERS IMAGE
HANNAH VANDER HEY 8

FORMING OF A PASTOR
LEVI GARDNER 20

MIK E A ND L I S A C O NN

A FAMILY
TEAM
PAG E 4 0

PLUS TRANSFORMATIONS IN PROGRESS MISSIONS UPDATES MORE

PLEASE
TAKE
ONE.

more
together
We are more when we are together.
More alive. More open. More powerful.

This fall, take the More Together

But what if we could make our times

Challenge. Reach out to another couple,

together more meaningful? What if we


could be intentional about bringing our
walk with Christ and our circle of friends
together?

or two or three friendspeople you


already connect with. Ask them to take
a 6-week Spiritual journey with you.
Well work with you on all the resources
and training youll need to have a lifechanging experience with your group.

CONTACT SMALLGROUPS@FRAZERUMC.ORG TO GET STARTED.

What God will do when we become more together?

FOLLOWING
JESUS
VOL. 2 NO. 1
SUMMER 2014
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
Judy Payne
Candace Rutherford
Ken Roach
Photographers
Lori Mercer
Lee Werling
Mac MacLellan
cover image:

Mark Stuart,
Gabriel Stevens and Patrick
Quinn look at land in Haiti.
Photo contributed.
2014 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 KEN ROACH,
KEN@
FRAZERUMC.ORG
334.272.8622

Amazing Grace
IF YOU KNOW MY STORY, you know I didnt come to Frazer for its
great worship, world changing missions, powerful preaching or deep
theology; no, I came because of a girl! I was
dating Emily (now my wife), and she went to
Frazer, so I went to Frazer.
Having been raised in another denomination, I
knew very little about the Methodist church. But
I loved what I foundnot only the girlbut also
the spirit of the Frazer family, the Bible based
Christ centered message, and the emphasis on service and missions.
As I began my studies this summer at Asbury Theological Seminary,
however, I began to develop an even greater appreciation for the
Methodist tradition: particularly, the unmatched emphasis that John
Wesley and his successors in the Methodist movement have put on
the incredible power of Gods grace.
Grace is Gods power at work within to transform us from the inside
out. Mercy is God loving us even when we were sinners, but grace is
God loving us enough not to leave us sinners. Grace is God patiently,
persistently, powerfully perfecting the work He began in us by His
Holy Spirit, until we are filled from top to bottom with lovelove for
God and love for people. Grace really is amazing.
In this issue of Following Jesus, grace abounds. Its there in the story
of two daughters, one facing the challenge of growing up without her
dad (p. 8), and one seeking to find self-acceptance (p. 14). Its there in
the calling of a young man to leave his plans to be a medical doctor
and enter the ministry (p. 20). Its there in a couple who both came
from broken homes, and have made it their mission to teach Gods plan
for marriage to others (p. 40). Its there in an artist struggling through
depression, and in a young man who was thrown into teaching Sunday
School before he was ready, and ended up teaching Sunday Schools
around the world (p. 30). Its certainly there in the stories of women
who have gone from being homeless, to hope-filled (p. 35).
Grace is changing us. Its changing the world. If you let it, grace will
change you, too.

Ken Roach, Content Director


Frazer United Methodist Church

FOLLOWING JESUS

|3

SHARE CHRIST

Socially
Like. Follow. Comment. Share. Join the conversation.
When you think about Social Media like Facebook and Twitter, do you think of it as a mission field? Followers
of Jesus at Frazer are already connected to over 88,000 people in the Montgomery area through social
media. Imagine the potential for sharing the message of Christ if we all became intentional about living out
our faith in our online neighborhoods. Sign up, find Frazer at the accounts listed below, and start sharing the
story of Gods love with others in your social network.

Facebook f Logo

CMYK / .eps

frazerumc

Facebook f Logo

@frazerumc

CMYK / .eps

frazermethodist

@frazerumc

Questions about how to get involved? Email Ken Roach ken@frazerumc.org

frazerumc.org
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| FOLLOWING JESUS

TABLE OF CONTENTS
Amazing Grace
Grace is fundamental to
following Jesus. We can no
more follow Jesus without
grace, than we could follow
a fish without gills, or follow
a bird without wings. Grace
begins with the free gift of
salvation in Christ, but it
extends far beyond that. Grace
is the transforming work of
the Holy Spirit in our hearts
that fills us with love for God
an for our neighbor. Be on the
lookout in this months stories
for evidence of grace at work!

26

In My Fathers
Image: Hannah
Vander Hey

Jim and Diann


Holston

14

30

Hiding Place:
Anne Louise
Pass

The Artist and the


Teacher: Jim and
Ann Salminen

20

40

The Forming of
a Pastor: Levi
Gardner

24 Missions Updates

A Family Team for


Christ: Mike and
Lisa Conn

35 Transformations in Progress
FOLLOWING JESUS

|5

SHORTS
Frazer Reaches Out to
Persecuted Believers

ABOVE: Pastor Patrick Quinn and Childrens Director Theresa Reiter


each receive a pie in the face from their children, as a celebration of VBS
participants reaching their goal to fully fund Frazers backpack ministry to
feed underprivileged students.

Children, Student Ministries Wrap Up a Great


Summer of Spiritual Growth and Fun
Summer may be down time for
some, but its busy season in the
Frazer Childrens Ministry and
Crave Student Ministry.
A few highlights for the Childrens
Ministry included another wonderful
year at Camp Sonshine and Camp
Chandler in June, when Pastor
Patrick Quinn taught the iPhone,
iPad, iPod generation that all we
really need is iGod. Then in July
more than 1,000 children from
throughout the community enrolled
in VBS. Through the Workshop of
Wonders they discovered that God
creates each of us uniquely and
invites us to join our creativity with
His.
As just one example of the personal
impact VBS can have, Childrens
Ministry Director Theresa Reiter
shared this incident: A fifth

| FOLLOWING JESUS

grade girl was staying with her


grandparents for the week. She
wanted to accept Christ. I met her
Thursday after VBS and she was so
excited she wanted me to baptize
her right then. I told her she would
need to go back and discuss it with
her parents. I gave her a new Bible
and she was so happy.
Student ministry leaders Bryan
Levangie and Brittany Finch led
our 6th-12th graders in special
prayer breakfasts throughout the
summer to pray for the needs in
our community and our world. Of
course, there were also events just
for fun, from Paint Ball to Six Flags
to White Water Rafting.
Both ministry areas are looking
forward to a dynamic fall season
now that school is back and regular
ministry programs are underway.

With the recent atrocities in Northern


Syria and Iraq, as Christians are
being persecuted, many of you have
asked, What can we do? Frazers
pastors called the church to a special
time of prayer for these groups
this summer, and the church also
reached out with a donation to three
organizations with people in the
region in a position to offer aid and
assistance. Donors can designate a
gifts above and beyond their tithe to
the Disaster Relief Fund. Previously,
the fund has been used to aid victims
of the tornado in Tuscaloosa, and
the tsunami in Japan, among other
tragedies.

Welcome Mary
Causey
Frazer is excited to announce the
addition of Mary Causey to our
staff as
Connections
Coordinator.
Mary will
take on
responsibilities
for
coordinating
the staff and volunteer efforts
to reach out to our community,
welcome visitors, and help new
members, connect to the life of our
church. Mary and her husband,
Adam have a 2-year-old daughter,
Abby James. They have been
members of Frazer since 2007. Look
for more of Marys story in a future
edition of Following Jesus.

Pastors offer innovative video Bible study


You dont have to wait until you die
for heaven. God wants you to start
your next life now!

will open your eyes to Gods power

This innovative Bible study led by


pastors Tim Thompson and Patrick
Quinn will be broadcast live on
WFRZ TV and frazerumc.org/live so
you can tune in at home or on your
mobile device and even interact with
questions or comments.

Downloadable study guides will

Offered for six Sunday nights, 7:308p.m. starting Sept. 7, this study

WFRZ and archived for viewing 24/7

to transform your life through Jesus


Christ right here on earth.

help you dig even deeper into the


scripture in your personal study time
or with a small group.

Followership 2015 is
your opportunity
to plan how you will
follow Jesus
in giving, service,
and mission in
the year ahead.

Followership
Churchwide
Dinner/Rally
SUN . OCT. 19
5- 7PM WESL EY H A L L
Enjoy food and fellowship
as we celebrate together

Cant watch live? Videos will be

what God has done in and

rebroadcast during the week on

through Frazer in 2014,

on frazerumc.org.

and share dreams for what


2015 has in store. RSVP
for food and childcare to

Fall sermon series focuses on unity


in both Sanctuary and Wesley
Hall worship as we continue
our study through the Gospel of
John throughout the months of
September and October.

One team. One way. One command.


One love. One is the heart of God
for his people. One describes who
we are and who we want to become
as a church family.
Join pastors Tim Thompson and
Patrick Quinn on Sunday mornings

The One teaching series will


prepare our hearts to recommit
to following Jesus in 2015
through our annual Followership
campaign. Save the date now
for the Followership churchwide
dinner and rally on Sunday, Oct.
19, and our Commitment Sunday
celebration and consecration on
Sunday, Oct. 26.

followership@frazerumc.org.

Followership
Commitment
Sunday
OCT. 26
For those who have not
already completed their card
online or at the Dinner/Rally,
we encourage every member
to turn in their Personal
Response Card during
worship this Sunday morning.

FOLLOWING JESUS

|7

FAMILY

IN MY

Fathers
Image
Karen and Hannah Vander Hey Learn to
Follow Jesus through Tragedy

| FOLLOWING JESUS

BY KEN ROACH | They say she is the spitting


image of her father. From her baby pictures on,
Hannah Vander Hey stands out from her sisters in
this regard. The similarities are not just physical.
Her mother, Karen insists Hannah has many of Elmers personality traits, even speaking like him at
times. Elmer was a mathematician; Hannah, who
just graduated from high school, plans to major in
math at Troy University and become a teacher.
But her father has been gone since she was in
sixth grade.
In October of 2007 Elmer Vander Hey passed
away after a battle with melanoma. The skin cancer that at one time he thought he had fought into
remission came back with a vengeance, rapidly
spreading and taking his life in a matter of weeks.
Through it all, Elmer stayed strong in his faith
in Jesus Christ. He was a free spirit; even while
dying, he didnt act like he had cancer, remembers
Hannah. He never turned his back on God. He
never got mad at God; we did, but he didnt. He
stayed positive, says Karen.

A Legacy of Faith
Elmer grew up in church, accepted Christ in
middle school, and although his faith was back and
forth in college according to Karen, he got serious
about following Jesus when he married. He told
me he had been wild in college, but he would pray
in his dorm room for God to send a godly woman
to help him get back on track, says Karen. He went
on to become a solid follower of Jesus. He left a
legacy of faith, courage and strength, says Karen.
The couple visited Frazer together, and although
they initially thought the church was too big for
them, their older daughter, Heather, kept asking,
When are we going back? Eventually they joined,
and got involved as volunteers, purposing to be
part of whatever ministries their children were participating in. After their youngest daughter, Hollon
Jane, was born, Karen came on staff part time in
Frazers nursery.

During Elmers illness, Karen remembers praying and asking God, why arent You healing him?
Eventually she realized she was praying wrong
seeking her own will, rather than Gods will. After
submitting her heart to the Lord, she was able to
see His hand in everything as they sought to make
the most of those last days, and she was able to
give Elmer permission to leave. He was tired of
fighting, she says. I was able to tell him, were
going to be okay; God has never let us down, and
He never will.
Karen had to be strong through the midst of her
grief for the sake of her girls. I made a promise to
Elmer that I would stay faithful for them, she says.
I was all they had. If I cave in and turn away from
God, whats that showing them? Yes, this is horrible,
its not what we had planned, but God has a plan.
Her church family provided Karen with love and
support. While she says it is too hard to come to
church on Fathers Day, every other Sunday they
are here in worship, and she has continued to be
actively involved as a volunteer in the student ministry with her daughters.

Admitting Need
For Hannah, the story was a little different. She
had accepted Christ at Camp Chandler with Frazers

PREVIOUS PAGE: Hannah and Elmer Vander Hey. ABOVE: Karen Vander Hey and Elmer. P HOTOS CONTRIBUTED.

FOLLOWING JESUS

|9

ABOVE: The Vander Hey family on vacation: Elmer, Hannah, Heather, Hollan and Karen. P HOTO CONTRIBUTED.

Childrens Ministry in second grade, but her relationship with God was about to be severely tested with
her fathers death. I didnt care, she says, I didnt
want to believe. I didnt want to trust anyone who
would take my dad away.
Hannah says she did not really cry until three
years later, in the 9th grade. It took that long to
process her grief enough to let out her emotions. I
had to learn that you need people. Im not one to
show emotions, but you cant do it by yourself. It
doesnt get easier if you push people away. I had
to push my stubbornness and hard-headedness to
the side and be willing to let others know how I
was feeling.
Each year of high school, Frazers DNOW
weekend for students was a milestone in Hannahs faith life. Her 10th grade year was when she
considers herself to have become a fully devoted
follower of Jesus, truly owning for herself the
decision she had made as a child. This year, as
a senior, she once again rededicated herself. It

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| FOLLOWING JESUS

was hard as an upperclassman, someone who is


looked at as a leader, to stand up at DNOW and
say, I dont have it all together, I need You now,
Jesus, but thats what she did, says Karen, and
I think that was a great example to the younger
students, because thats how God workswhen
we admit we need Him.

Influences
Along the way, Hannahs faith was formed in a
variety of ways. Attending public school at Brewbaker Technology Magnet, her teachers were not
able to give her faith-based advice or Bible teaching,
but she says she benefitted from those who genuinely cared about her and pushed her to the top,
especially her math teacher, inspiring her to want
to be an educator herself. Youth leaders like Brian
Word invested in her, and she says she saw Jesus
in the way Brian treated everyone like they were
his own sons and daughters.

Perhaps most importantly after her parents


influence, Hannah found her way to a Life Group.
That created a context to stay in Gods Word with
daily devotionals and Bible based discussion. But it
also provided accountability and an opportunity to
do life with a group of girls who were going through
the same stage of life she was.
When we first met, the walls were up, Hannah
recalls, but now we are very open. We have times
of deep discussion. The walls come down and the
tears come out. We call each other out when we
need to. The group, which Karen helps to lead,
is emphatic about trust and accountability. They
started together in 7th grade, and over the years
have only lost one member, gaining two new ones
along the way. All of them are now heading to Troy
University except for one who will attend UAB.
No one in Hannahs school classes went to
Frazer. Most of them dont have faith as part of
their lives except on Sunday. They dont judge me

(for being a believer), we just didnt have a lot of


common ground, she says. Her Life Group at church
was vital to have a place to talk through things,
and to keep her in check from wandering away
from Christsomething she hopes to replicate at
Troy so she will continue to stay on the right path
through college.

Impact
Like her parents, Hannah got involved in service. Twice she went on mission to the Dominican
Republic, as well as participating in numerous local
mission projects at Trenholm Court, Adullum House,
neighborhood block parties and nursing homes.
Through Youth Worship Arts she sang, went on
tour, and developed a reputation as the white girl
rapper. Her love of hip hop often enabled her to
make a connection with boys and girls at the youth
clubs and missions her group would minister to.

BELOW: Whether at a local outreach in Montgomery or on mission overseas in the Dominican Republic, Hannah

shares the love of God wherever she goes. P HOTOS CONTRIBUTED.

FOLLOWING JESUS

| 11

Hannah also demonstrates leadership traits.


Karen recalls one incident when Hannah became
convinced that YWA should perform a particular skit
in contemporary worship at Frazer. She emailed
(teaching pastor) Patrick Quinn because she wanted other young people to hear this message, says
Karen. I cant imagine doing that myself when I
was her age.
In 9th grade, Hannah set a goal to become
valedictorian of her class. She worked hard at it,
but also gave it to God, Karen says. This year, she
accomplished that goal. Along the way she took
the ACT test 10 times in order to get the score she
needed for the maximum scholarships, so that her
tuition costs would not be a burden to her singleparent mom.
Through that gift of leadership, Hannah is

turning her hurts into opportunities for ministry.


I learned when my dad died not to say to people,
I know what youre feeling, because no one fully
knows, she says. But I am able to honestly come
alongside people who are hurting and say, Ive been
there, too. She has reached out to a friend who lost
her grandfather, and another who lost her mother
with the same message God has taught her: you
dont have to go through pain alone. God is there for
you, and people are there for you if youll reach out.
I ask Hannah how her life experiences have
shaped her image of God. I didnt really know God
as a Father even until this year, Hannah admits.
But I do now. He is my Father is in heaven.
In both the earthly and the heavenly sense, it
turns out, Hannah is growing right into her fathers
image.

BELOW: Hannahs Student Ministry Life Group has been a critical source of spiritual strength and growth throughout

her high school years. From left, Sofi Gelabert, Katie Heacock, Victoria Conner, Cayla Hamilton, Logan McKissick, and
Hannah. RIGHT: Hannah (right), her mother Karen and sister Hollan Jayne show their joy in Christ after participating
in a color run. P HOTOS CONTRIBUTED.

FOLLOWING JESUS

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| FOLLOWING JESUS

Hiding
Place
Anne Louise Pass is learning that grace is for everyone
BY KEN ROACH | If you heard her singing a solo
in the Sanctuary at Frazer, or sharing a testimony
on stage in Wesley Hall, or saw her playing a role
in the church Christmas
drama or a school play,
you wouldnt imagine
that Anne Louise Pass
was the sort of person
to hide from people. But
when her family first
came to Frazer when
she was in the 6th grade,
Anne Louise skipped
Sunday School and hid to
avoid being around the
rest of the youth group. I
knew every hiding place
in the church, she says.
What has changed over
the years is not simply a
story of a young woman
who has matured in selfconfidence; it is the story of a follower of Jesus who
has learned what it means to trust in his grace.
Anne Louises parents have been in ministry
in one form or another since before she was born.

Frank, her father, spent 17 years as a youth minister


and now serves as a Frazer-supported missionary
with the international ministry of Visiting Orphans.
Her mother, Robin, is an
interpreter for the deaf
and is involved in the
church as a volunteer
in many ways, including
the drama ministry, OneFamily ministry and Deaf
Ministry. My dad has
dedicated his entire life
to following Gods calling, says Anne Louise,
and my mom is also following a calling, even if
its not in the ministry.
Anne Louise says
her grandparents were
also formative influences
on her faith. For example,
she remembers her grandmother Lee Lee Pass (also a long-time Frazer member) taking her regularly to visit nursing homes, modeling early morning devotions to her, and conducting
weekly Bible study times with her granddaughter.

OPPOSITE: Anne Louise Pass at her graduation with her father Frank Pass. PHOTO BY BILLY POPE.
ABOVE: Anne Louise being baptized at Frazer in 2008 by former teaching pastor Rev. John Schmidt. P HOTO CONTRIBUTED.

FOLLOWING JESUS

| 15

LEFT: Anne Louise with her mother, Robin. PHOTO COURTESY OF NIKKI P. PHOTOGRAPHY AND POTENTIAL MAGAZINE.
RIGHT: Playing with a child at a special needs orphanage on a mission trip to China. P HOTO CONTRIBUTED.

Through their legacy and witness, Anne Louise


accepted Christ at a very early age and was baptized. However, she remembers her confirmation
classes in 6th grade as a turning point when she
fully understood the meaning of salvation and began
to take ownership of her faith.
Over the years she developed a hunger for Gods
Word that has helped to continue to grow. She starts
her day with a Bible reading app, as well as an app
that gives her a daily devotional thought from her
favorite Christian apologetics author, C.S. Lewis. Her
parents gave her a Bible with wide margins where
she takes plenty of notes, and then copies those
thoughts over into her journal to meditate further
on what God is speaking to her.
Prayer is also an important part of Anne Louises
daily walk. Beside prayer on her own, her family
has recently started praying together every morning before they set off on their separate ways, a
practice she says has been very helpful. She also
draws close to God through music and Christian
books, such as Lewiss Chronicles of Narnia or William Youngs The Shack.

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Where the private side of her walk with Christ


has been strong, the social siderelating to other
peoplehas been a challenge. Shy by nature, she
says she has always struggled with feelings of insecurity and lack of self-acceptance.
At school, I was the nerdy kid, she says. I
was different. I was teased. I tucked my shirt in
just because the dress code said to, and I used big
vocabulary words, and that made me different. That
feeling of not being accepted at school was symptomatic of a root need to connect to her identity in
Christ. I didnt really know my identitywho I was,
or Whose I was, says Anne Louise.
That began to change for her through participation in Frazers Youth Worship Arts (YWA). The
first day of YWA I tried to find an excuse not to
go, but my mom forced me to, she recalls. When
she got there, the girls in her section made her
feel welcome, as did director Debbie Peavy. Matty
Drollette is one girl she remembers particularly who
reached out and talked to her, and became a friend.
Through YWA, Anne Louise found an outlet where
she could use her gifts and talents. I come from a

musical family, she says, and I love to perform. For


her, singing in the church is a way to find herself,
to do what she loves, and at the same time serve
a higher purpose than simply singing in her school
chorus group affords.
The acceptance she found at YWA encouraged
her spiritually, their acceptance helping her to feel
Gods acceptance. Choir became not just hangout,
but also a support group. I hang out with my
church friends much more than my school friends,
even though in many ways were nothing alike, but
we build on the good in each other and hold each
other accountable for the bad. Through her church
community, she says she is able to trust the way
God has made her instead of worrying about how
others may perceive her.
At least, thats true some of the time. Anne
Louise admits that overcoming insecurity through
faith in Christ is more of an ongoing daily war than
a one-time battle. For example, after joining YWA

she invited other girls to join the group as well,


including her best friend, Olivia Wilson. However,
when Olivia started to become popular in the group
and gather a lot of attention, Anne Louise felt jealous. I acted like a jerk to her on our first choir tour
together and nearly messed up our friendship, she
admits. Once again, she had to learn to look to God
and not others for acceptance, she says.
Anne Louise and Olivia certainly seem to have
made up any differences they might have had in the
past, behaving more like sisters today. At the time
I interviewed Anne Louise, she had just come from
spending the night at Olivias house. She credits
Olivia with sharpening her intellectually and spiritually. Shes an intellectual person who challenges
ideas, and wants to know why she believes what
she believes, Anne Louise says. She has strengthened me by being a force to both encourage me, if
I claim to believe something, then I need to actually do it.

BELOW: Anne Louise and Robin perform in Frazers 2012 Christmas musical drama. P HOTO BY CHRIS THORNTON.

FOLLOWING JESUS

| 17

In addition to learning about Gods acceptance


through her friends and church community, Anne
Louise has been influenced by her siblings. Her
sister Katy models for her what it means to feel
deeply for others. She demonstrates real empathy
for others, Anne Louise says. Her younger sister,
Ella Grace, and brother Gabriel, were both adopted.
When mom and dad brought home Ella Grace from
China, that changed the way I see the world, Anne
Louise says. More recently, she learned more about
the power of prayer and relying on God along with
her family through Gabriels medical conditions. Before he was even adopted, they waited and cried
together outside an ICU ward, uncertain if their
infant future brother would even survive.
However, Anne Louise is quick to point out
that, for the Pass family, adoption isnt some kind of
Christian service. People may tell her that her parents are good people for adopting, but she knows
they didnt do it out of charitythey just did it
because thats their kid. They love them exactly the
same as their biological children.
Instead, adoption for Anne Louise is a reminder
of the relationship all Christians have with our Heavenly Father. Were all adopted into Gods family,
she says. As a result, she has learned to be more
sensitive to all kinds of people. My sister is Asian,
my brother is Hispanic, my mom works with the
deaf, my brother is blind, my dad works with people
in Africa and South America, and Im blonde; who

am I going to make fun of? she jokes. But in all seriousness, she sees the hand of God at work through
combination of her family experiences and her own
personal struggles to prepare her to be sensitive and
caring towards the needs of others.
That dual lesson of finding ones acceptance in
God, and through Him learning to accept others,
has doubled back to some of the same class mates
who teased her for being a nerd when she was
younger. She refers to middle school as her dark
years. I was angry at school, mean to people, and
bitter, because I felt excluded by them. But when I
got to know them better in high school, I realized,
they werent judging me, I was judging them. I
became friends with some people I never thought
I would, and Im grateful.
The love and acceptance she has found in Christ
overflows for Anne Louise in service and mission.
Whether it was visiting retirement homes with her
grandmother, going on choir tours with YWA, or
traveling on short term mission trips to work with
the deaf in Haiti or visit orphans in China, she sees
service as simply the outflow of loving God and loving people. She stresses that serving God is seen
just as much in being there for a friend, or cleaning your room when your parents tell you to, as in
traveling across oceans to share the gospel. (And
yes, Frank and Robin, she admits that she needs to
do a better job of cleaning her room!)
As Anne Louis prepares to head off to college at

LEFT: Matty Drollette was instrumental in welcoming Anne Louise into Frazers Youth Worship Arts.
RIGHT: Olivia Wilson and Anne Louise during the 2014 YWA Choir Mission Tour to Chicago. P HOTOS CONTRIBUTED.

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Auburn University, she feels prepared academically


by the gift of a challenging school and excellent
teachers. She feels prepared spiritually and intellectually by youth leaders and church friends like Olivia
who have held her accountable and challenged her
to grow. She feels prepared emotionally by the love
of her family, knowing that even as she moves away
from home, family will still come first.
However, her greatest preparation for life has
been learning that she doesnt have to be perfect.
Were all just humans, trying to make our way in
the world, she says. She knows she will make mistakes, and will probably still struggle with shyness,
self-consciousness, and insecurity, along with the

pride and arrogance that can so often be ways in


which we overcompensate for our fears. But Anne
Louise knows those very weaknesses are the things
that cause us to turn to God, to rely more on His
strength, and to draw closer to Him for our sense
of worth and acceptance.
The best thing my dad has ever told me is that
grace is for everybody, she says.
Amen, Frank.
As her journey continues, Anne Louise may yet
have more days when she feels like skipping Sunday School to go find a place to hide. But she has
found the best hiding place of all: in the arms of
her Heavenly Father.

SIBLINGS: Katy, Anne Louse, Gabriel and

Ella Grace Pass. P HOTO CONTRIBUTED.

FOLLOWING JESUS

| 19

THE FORMING OF A

Pastor

Levi Gardner completes seminary while on Frazer staff


BY KEN ROACH | Frazer has often played host to
special services and ceremonies as part of the Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference of the United
Methodist Church. But this year, the Commissioning
Service had a particular interest for our congregation, as we had the opportunity to see our own
minister of outreach and evangelism, Levi Gardner,
ordained as a provisional elder in the church. The
young man, who graduated from Candler School
of Divinity at Emory University earlier this spring,
was appointed by the bishop to serve as associate
pastor at Perdido Bay UMC down on the Gulf Coast
starting this summer. As Levis time on staff here at
Frazer was drawing to a close, I had the opportunity
to sit down with him and reflect on his journey into
ministry, as well as his season of service here in
Montgomery.

DISCOVERING A CALLING
Levi was baptized in the Episcopal church in the
Gulf Coast region of Alabama. He remembers serving as an acolyte in worship and attending Sunday
School, but he also remembers when he reached
fifth grade and his mother allowed him to choose
for himself, sometimes he would just lay in bed
and skip church on Sunday mornings. Nevertheless,
over time the Holy Spirit continued to draw him
toward devotion to Christ, and in his sophomore
year of high school he made a conscious decision
to fully follow Jesus through the youth ministry
of Gulf Shores United Methodist Church. His faith

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| FOLLOWING JESUS

became his own through engagement in missions,


Bible study, regular spiritual disciplines and group
leadership through that ministry.
One powerful missions experience that impacted him was in Savannah, Georgia, the summer after
his senior year of high school. After graduating, he
intended to go to medical school and become a doctor, a profession that had gripped his imagination
for years. However, during this mission trip he had
a powerful encounter with God in worship, combined with a growing awareness of the needs in the
world. For the first time he had the opportunity to
verbally share his faith with someone else, a boy he
recalls was named Lorenzo. During that experience
he joked with a friend, if I dont end up becoming
a doctor, maybe Ill be a pastor.
Nevertheless, when the time came he enrolled
in the University of South Alabama and started to
work towards a major in biomedical science. The
first day of classes, his youth pastor called him up.
She explained that they were starting a ministry to
5th and 6th graders, and his name kept coming up
as the person to lead it. After some prayer, Levi felt
led to give back to the ministry that had invested
so much in him, so he began driving back and forth
from school every Wednesday night to lead the
ministry. Over time he realized he was getting far
more life and joy from his time spent studying the
Bible to develop his lesson plans, than he was from
his basic science classes in college.
By that November, Levi sensed a calling to full

ABOVE: Rev. Levi Gardner and his wife, Caroline. PHOTO BY STEGALL SEMINARY SCHOLARSHIP FOUNDATION.

time ministry. He found the courage to talk to his


parents about the decision, and they were 100%
supportive. In one sense, it was a struggle to let
go of the aspiration to be a doctor, but in another
sense, he found that he was fulfilling his desire to
serve human needshe would just be working to
heal the soul rather than the body!
Looking back on the people who most influenced his walk with Christ, Levi thinks of his youth
pastor, Julianna Cooper. She modeled Christ in everything, he recalls. She was encouraging, prayerful, a gifted teacher who connected scripture to life,
and relational with all types of kids.
He also thinks of Bill Camp, an older mentor who
took the unusual step as a 60+-year-old of playing
golf with a young teenager every week. Somehow
they found common groundboth were lefties. The
two would carry on conversations while they played

about life and faith. Levi saw Bill, who passed away
a few years ago, as a servant leader, who used every
interaction in his position in business to honor Christ.

GROWING MINISTRY
OPPORTUNITIES IN COLLEGE
Levi traveled the summer following his call in
Quito, Ecuador, helping to build a Christian daycare.
For the first time, he was able to see that our God
is not just God of the Southeast part of the United
States in North AmericaHe is truly God of the
whole world. Seeing children with joy on their faces,
serving alongside them and developing relationships
with them despite barriers of culture and language,
reinforced that Christianity is not limited to a particular worldly lifestyle or earthly community.
Later he spent three months on mission in Costa
Rica. As he worshipped and served in their native

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| 21

BELOW: Bishop Paul Leeland commissions Levi as a provisional elder in the United Methodist Church during the

2014 Alabama West Florida Annual Conference hosted by Frazer. PHOTO BY LUKE LUCAS (AWFUMC).
church and got to know their families, he could see
that human needs were not so different around the
world.
His junior year of college, Levi transferred to
Auburn University, where he had the opportunity
to serve as an intern under Pastor Tim Thompson,
who was serving at that time at Opelika First Methodist. He went on to intern at the Auburn Wesley
Foundation, helping to build its vibrant ministry to
students during his senior year.
After graduation, Tim once again hired Levi,
now in his new appointment at Frazer. Arrangements were made for Levi to serve as director of
outreach and evangelism while traveling back and
forth to attend seminary in Atlanta. For the next
three years, Levi would greet visitors, lead new
member classes, and help the church extend welcome to the community, all the while keeping up
the class load for his theological education at Emory.
What stands out about Frazer is the opportunity Ive had to learn from Tim, Patrick (Quinn), the
whole contemporary worship planning team, and
all of the talented staff here, says Levi. Ive loved
leading the new member classes, getting to know
people, their names and their stories, as they make
that first vital connection into growing and thriving
church members. It was phenomenal to get to preach
my first sermon in a church this large, he continues.
The church really placed a lot of trust in me, which
in turn gave me tremendous opportunities to grow.

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| FOLLOWING JESUS

ON MARRIAGE AS DISCIPLESHIP
On June 16, 2012 Levi married Caroline Van
Pelt, whom he had known in high school and got
to know again while at Auburn. He sees marriage
as the latest aspect of how he is learning to follow
Jesus. Spiritual disciplines like reading scripture and
prayer take on a new dimension as you learn to do
them together, he explains. The every day frictions
that come along for every couple as you learn to
live together are also a school for discipleship. I
have a new understanding of Luke 9:23, take up
your cross daily and follow me, Levi notes. Thats
what marriage is about, no longer living for your
own agenda, always thinking of the other person.
Thats even more important in ministry, he says. It
would be easy to fall into the trap of thinking, my
job is more important to God than yours; the reality is that God wants me to help nurture Carolines
calling just as much as my own.

THE NEXT SEASON


July 1, 2014 began Levis appointment as associate pastor at Perdido Bay, UMC, not far from
where he and Caroline grew up. When we talked,
Levi said he looked forward to continuing to expand his ministry in this new opportunity while
continuing to deepen his walk with Christ, always
carrying with him those who have invested so
much in him, including the people of the Frazer
family.

ARE YOU BEING CALLED INTO MINISTRY?

hile Frazer has recently celebrated a number of members who have decided to pursue ordination in the church later in life, relatively
few young people of Levis age are choosing to
enter ordained ministry (Frazers college ministry
director, Patrick Craig, who will head to Duke
Divinity School this fall, is a notable exception).
In fact, there is a worldwide shortage in trained
pastors, making the development of a new generation of Christian leaders one of the United
Methodist Churchs four areas of focus.
I asked Levi during our interview
what he would say to students who
feel like God might be calling them
into ministry, and to their parents.
Students: Be open. You may
think you want to be a _____ (fill in
the blank), and that may be a great
and noble thing, but God may call you
full time ministry, and that is a great blessing,
too. You get to be with people at the greatest
moments in their livesbirths, baptisms, weddingsand at their moments of greatest need, in
hospitals, at funerals, in times of tragedy. There
are many roles in ministryleading the church,
preaching Gods word, counselingso many ways
to engage in mission and live out your gifts.
Parents: Let your children know you will
support them however God may call them. The
greatest thing to me was my parents affirmation. Have the share their call story, and back
them up.
Here are some further steps you can take to
explore your calling:
1. Serve where you are. Remember, every
Christian is called to ministry. At Frazer,
our core value is everyone matters, everyone ministers. The real purpose of the
ordained clergy is not to do the work of
the ministry, but to equip the church so
that they can do the work of the ministry. With over 200 volunteer positions at

Frazer, theres somewhere that you can


begin serving Christ today. Often it is in
the process of volunteer service that God
gives you greater clarity about your longterm calling.
2. Participate in a mission trip. Cross-cultural
missions can opens you up to the presence
and power of God in new ways. This doesnt
mean you will end up moving to Africa or
some third world country; remember there is
tremendous need right here at home. However, going outside your comfort zone
opens your eyes to the breadth of
Gods mission, showing you how God
is at work around the world.
3. Talk to your pastor or youth pastor, as
well as your parents and friends, about your
calling. As you tell your story to others, it
will often become more clear.
4. Find out more about the various types
of ministry. Often when we think of pastors,
we think of preaching, but there are many
other roles for ordained clergy as well: music,
children and youth ministries, hospital and
military chaplains, counselors, Christian educators, and many more. Your pastor can also
help you understand more about the various
paths into ministry that are available, and
the types of schooling that each requires.
You can also learn more at explorecalling.
org.
5. Keep following Jesus. Remember, you are
called first to be a child of God, and only
then a servant of God. To put it another way,
you are responsible to deepen the message,
God is responsible to broaden the ministry.
Your most important asset as a minister is
a warm heart, the love the overflows out of
nurturing your own personal walk with God.
Gifts, skills, experience and education are
important, but none of it matters without
the love of God living inside of you.

FOLLOWING JESUS

| 23

ANOTHER SIDE OF

Haiti

Frazer moves forward with a new project aimed at


rescuing child slaves in this poor but beautiful nation
BY KEN ROACH | At Hands and Feet orphan villages, children are given food, shelter, education, medical care and most importantly, the love of Christ.
But what happens when they become adults and
cant find jobs in this poorest nation in the Western
Hemisphere? Will the cycle of poverty continue, that
so often results with restaveks, children who serve
as household laborers in harsh, slave-like conditions?
These are the questions that haunted HAFs
founder and director, Mark Stuart. But God has begun to point the way toward a solution. Foreign
aid alone cannot provide the answer. Billions have
been spent with little long-term effect, often making
things worse by replacing the dignity of work with
various forms of begging. However, one thing the
thousands of aid workers cant help but notice is the
natural beauty of the island. If someone could take
the lead, there is every possibility of Haiti developing a sustainable tourism industry, fed in part by
Christian missionaries who want to share the love
of Jesus with Haitians and at the same time can
enjoy the beauty of Gods creation. That is the concept behind HAFs Mission Guest Villages, resort
quality properties that combine the relaxation of a

Caribbean getaway with authentic opportunities to


build relationships with the orphans God has called
us to minister to in Haiti.
In March of this year Frazers Board of Stewards
approved an agreement for our church to be the first
of a handful of major partners, funding a third of the
$2.4 million village project over a three-year period,
and working alongside HAF to guide the vision.
Now in August, a small team traveled down to
scope out potential properties to build on. While
there, they were able to worship with the Deaf
Community at Leveque, Frazers previous mission
project in Haiti, which has gone so well it now
largely sustainable without Frazers help. They also
visited with Frank and Jan Stevens, new Frazer supported full time missionaries who left their home
in Montgomery to serve as coordinators for one of
the HAF orphan villages. The team also connected
with other partners in the region through a major
Christian music concert, Song for Freedom.
Seeing visions like this, which can literally
transform a nation, begin to come to lifethats what
following Jesus is all about, says pastor Patrick.
Its the adventure of a lifetime.

TOP: Haitis beautiful Caribbean beaches could point the way out of Haitis dependence on foreign aid and toward
a future of dignity through tourism. PHOTO BY JAN STEVENS. BOTTOM LEFT: Mark Stuart, director of the Hands and Feet

Project (HAF), and Frazer pastor Patrick Quinn, at Haiti Made, a new manufacturing initiative that provides jobs for
older children and adults served by the HAF orphan villages. BOTTOM RIGHT: Frank and Gabe Stevens. The Stevens
family are Frazer members who were commissioned by the church earlier this year to follow Gods call as full-time
orphan village directors through HAF in Haiti.

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| FOLLOWING JESUS

MISSIONS

FOLLOWING JESUS

| 25

BELOW: Jim and Diann Holston have been

married for over 50 years. PHOTO CONTRIBUTED.

MAKING

History

Jim and Diann witness to Gods love through history,


Biblical prophecy, and investing in children

26

| FOLLOWING JESUS

BY JUDY PAYNE | Have you ever been drawn


to someone because they just seem to have it?
Jim and Diann Holston are two such people that
others are just drawn to, likely because their love
for Jesus shines through to everyone they meet. A
life long member of Frazer, Jim was raised in the
church, attending even before Frazer moved to its
current Atlanta Highway campus back in 1968. Not
long after they married 50 years ago, Diann transferred her membership from another local Methodist church, and ever since, they have been a strong
equally yoked team of two.
As a young couple, Jim and Diann experienced
many of the same struggles that young couples still
experience today. In the midst of finding their place
together, they juggled finishing school, wanting children, money, and finding that special commitment
to each other. For several years after marriage they
tried to have a child. However, this was not in
Gods plan for them. Unknown to them at the time,
thoughand before God could give them a biological
childHe had selected a child for them that needed
the warmth, grace and love that only they could
give. When they welcomed Lee into their lives, they
never dreamed that God would also grant them the
desires of their heart, too. With Lee barely a year
old, Scott soon arrived into their family, followed by
Meghan 13 years later. Add a few loving pets and
God made this family complete.
Diann has worn and continues to wear many
titles including that of daughter, wife, mother, friend,
grandmother, and teacher. Having received Jesus
in her heart at the early age of 6, she remembers
well when she invited Him into her heart. She was
attending church as a child and walking to Sunday
school with her neighborhood friend. Diann now has
a very tender heart for children. She has spent many
years at Frazer working in the childrens ministry
teaching 4-year-olds, and has also volunteered her
time on Wednesday nights in the nursery.
Until recently, Diann could be found spending
much loved time with the precious children in our
church. Unfortunately, adversity in the form of cancer delivered itself and she was forced to rely on
her faith and love of Christ even more than ever.
Her battle has been tough, but her strength and

FOLLOWING JESUS

| 27

outlook is magnificent. Her pace may have slowed


down because of time spent receiving treatments,
but she is gaining her strength and praising God
each day for her health. Her future is bright and
being blessed with grandchildren, she looks forward
to spending as much time as possible with them.
Jim, like Diann, has also faced trials in life with
his health. Several years ago, Jim found himself
facing heart problems and had to have stints put
in place. For Jim and Diann both, John 3:16 is a
favorite Bible verse: For God so loved the world
that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever
believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
For Jim, however, one favorite verse is not enough
and he says that his favorite verse changes periodically. Revelation 1:18 is another: IamHe who lives,
and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore.
Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.
(NKJV) Until we are washed in the blood, we are
dead and only live forever after receiving Christ as
our Savior, Jim explains. When asked how they
have dealt with trials of health, they both claim
Hebrews 13:5, I will never leave you nor forsake
you, as the glue that helps to hold them together
Jim holds many titles, too, including son, father,
grandfather, teacher, brother, friend, and leader. He
says though I am a creation of God I was not a child
of God until I received Jesus in my heart. At the
young age of 12 years old, he joined the church and
his life took on a different direction. With eyes on
college, he attended Huntingdon where he received
his degree in Biology, but his eyes were gazing
on a career in Pharmacology. Diann, however, had
other ideas and got an application for him with the
State of Alabama. He completed the application
and submitted it, but never dreamed he would be
hired on the spot and spend the next 25 years with
the Department of Health. At retirement, he was
Director of the State Labs.
Over the years, Jim has enjoyed an interest in
history. He often found himself buying and collecting
many first edition books on the Civil War. Through
the years of working and planning for retirement, he
was hungry for the time he would spend enjoying
his hobby and retirement at his leisure. As plans
go, he soon learned that his idea of enjoying history

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| FOLLOWING JESUS

and Gods plan would soon intertwine. In lieu of


reading history on the Civil War, his prime interest
grew in Bible history.
I first became interested in prophecy while
attending a Seder dinner at Frazer, he said (a traditional Jewish Passover meal explained from a
Christian point of view). Listening to the speaker
talk about the Jewish people praising the God who
was delivering them to their promised land got
Jims attention and his love for history turned to
the pages of the Bible.
Though his plans were diverted, he said he
realized that God always has plans that we do not
know about.
After listening to the guest speaker, Jim began to study prophecy, and discovered a truth in
Jeremiah that opened his eyes. Loving history and
knowing that history repeats itself, he read what
the Bible says and saw what is actually happening
in todays world. In Jeremiah, the Lord says He
will gather His people and bring them back to the
place from which they were carried into exile. Israel
became a nation again in 1948 and since that time,
thousands of Jews have and continue to return to
their homeland. With the words from prophets like
Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel, one can easily see how the teachings, warnings and calls for
repentance can spring forth from the Bible when
you see their words coming to life in todays world,
he explained.
With a growing interest in what was happening
in todays world as written in prophecy, Jim began
teaching a very interested group of students in Bible
class on Wednesday nights, based on the study
of Daniel and Ezekiel. Using books by Dr. Jimmy
DeYoung, John Hagee and Dr. David Jeremiah, just
to name a few, he kept the study going with information that you do not hear in everyday news.
A few interesting facts Jim shared involve the
priests robes. Exodus 28:4-8 describes how beautiful and ornate the priests robes were, and details
what the robes were to be made of and the colors
to be used. For nearly 2,000 years, the dye needed
to make the robes was extinct.
The red scarlet dye had been made from the
Crimson Worm which was found in the trees.

After the Romans came and cut the trees down,


making the land barren and desolate, the worms
disappeared. Also, liquid from the small glandof a
mollusk, which gradually changed to a blue or violet
color when exposed to light, was used for the blue
color in the robes. For hundreds of years, no one
could locate the worm nor the shellfish needed to
make the scarlet and blue colors. However, they
have now mysteriously reappeared and the priests
garments have been made as described in the Old
Testament, awaiting the return of Christ, Jim says.
With each passing day, learning what the Bible
foretells by the prophets and what is happening in
todays world makes one feel that definitely our Lord
is getting closer to returning to us, according to Jim.

With growing interest from his class, the idea


to bring Dr. Jimmy DeYoung (Prophecy Today) to
Frazer for the Faith Radio Rally was born. Faith Radio listeners may be familiar with Dr. DeYoung after
hearing him talk with Bob Crittenden many times
on-air. In March, Dr. DeYoung came to Frazer as they
key speaker for a three-day Prophecy Conference.
Diann says her prime interest these days are
their grandchildren and trying to keep up with Jim.
When not spending time with grandchildren and
studying todays world events, Jim enjoys his Civil
War books and helping the auctioneer at JM Wood
Auctioneering. Both enjoy sharing their many talents and interests with others as they exemplify
what it means to live as a Child of God.

BELOW: Diann Holston with her granddaughter. PHOTO CONTRIBUTED.

FOLLOWING JESUS

| 29

The Artist
AND THE

Teacher
Jim and Ann Salminen Share a Journey With Christ Together
30

| FOLLOWING JESUS

BY SARA PRINCE | Jim and Ann Salminen compliment one another in many ways, including their
ways of following Jesus. One is a teacher; the other
an artist. For both, their walk with the Lord began
to take root when they were in high school. But it
would be many years before they each personally
gave their lives to the Lord and felt confident about
calling themselves Christian. As Ann puts it, We
thought we were Christiansuntil we became one.

The Teacher
Jim Salminen grew up in a church-going family in a small village of 350 people on Long Island,
New York. His father was a deacon in the American
Baptist Church (later called the Community Church),
the only one in the village. His mother was an
elementary school teacher and the Sunday school
superintendent. At just 15 years old, he took on the
role of a Sunday school teacher.
It happened this way: Jims mother had six boys
as studentsJims two brothers among themwhom
the other Sunday school teachers could not handle.
She decided to set up a class especially for these
boys and asked Jim if he would teach it for her. Jim
reminded her that he had never done that, but she
assured him that she would walk him through it.
So I started, Jim says, and, you know, those
kids behaved. They listened. I couldnt believe it. I
knew them all, and they knew me, and I guess the
fact that we were on an even playing fieldit just
worked. Thats how I got started.
Now mind you, Jim continues, I was not yet
a Christian. I knew about Christ, I knew about the
Bible, to cite from it, that sort of thing, but I did
not become a Christian until Ann and I had been
married for 11 years.
Ann became a Christian first, and I saw her miraculous changeshe was being treated at the time
for depressionactual, chronic depressionby psychiatrists and psychologists. And when she became
a Christian, God healed her. I saw a tremendous
change in her, so I became a seekervery quickly.
Jim had an unexpected day off and decided to
go fishing, but he found himself bored and restless.
So I started looking around in the Volkswagen

ABOVE: Jim Salminen preparing to go on a combat


mission in Vietnam, 1968. PHOTO CONTRIBUTED.

camper I was driving, Jim says, and I found a


little New Testament that had been given to me at
my Confirmation class in the little church where I
grew up, by Dr. Stacey, our pastor. There was also a
book that Ann had gotten someplace from a friend,
called The Holy Spirit and You, by Dennis and Rita
Bennett. I started reading that book, and it led me
to the scriptures. Before lunchtime, I had tears running down my face, and I got out and knelt down
on the ground, all by myself, and gave my life to the
Lord. And so, thats when I started following Jesus.

The Artist
When Ann was in the ninth grade, she joined
the First Christian Church, in her home town of
Selma, Alabama. I hate to say it, Ann admits, but
all I got was wet when I got baptized then, and
I did not grow into maturity as a Christian then.
I remember we were supposed to pick a verse,
she says, it would be our life verse that we could
use. I must admit that in the ninth grade, I didnt
have a lot of intense purpose looking for the right
scripture. But I took the Bible and it fell open to
Psalm 46. I read the first verse and it said, God
is my refuge and strength, a very present help in
trouble. And I said, Hmm, I think that sounds good;
Im going to adopt that one.

FOLLOWING JESUS

| 31

Yet despite her casual attitude at the time, Ann


says the verse has ended up holding great meaning
for her. God brought it to my mind over the years
many times, and it has been a comfort to me all
these years, even now, she says.
Fast forward to 1975, when the couple found
themselves stationed with the Air Force in Newport
News, Virginia. Ann had started watching the Christian television show The 700 Club during the day,
and found the testimonies of the various speakers
inspiring, learning a great deal from the books she
ordered authored by guests on the show.
I actually called the 700 Club once, Ann says.
One day I decided, I think I need to make a decision for Christ. I knew it was at that time that I
really experienced being born again. I wasnt aware
that anything was happening that would show on
the outside, but thats when Jim said that he began noticing changes in me. I had had no direction

by myself, but suddenly I had direction. The story


began there.
Anns doctor recommended a class called Im
Okay, Youre Okay for her depression, as well as
medication. They wanted me to be in the class and
I joined it, she says, but I didnt want to take any
medicine for my depression; I wanted to be in touch
with it. The Lord was really sharing the journey
with me. But the doctor didnt believe that I would
change. I began sharing with him about Jesusthat
I was on a rock. He thought I was hiding behind a
rock. He didnt understand that I was standing on
the rock of Christ.
Ann eventually decided to take herself out of
the class, finding more encouragement through the
testimonies of people based on the Bible. She reiterates, The Lord was really sharing the journey with
me. He blessed me with insight into His Word. I
learned the value of Gods Word from the get-go.

BELOW: Jim and Ann Salminen with daughter Krista and son Scott in 1990. PHOTO CONTRIBUTED.

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| FOLLOWING JESUS

Jim agrees: Ann has had a thirst for reading the


Bible. Shes a much better Bible scholar than I am.
As she immersed herself in scripture, God began to speak to Ann in other ways as well. Im an
artist, she said. God has shown me a lot of things
through pictures, in my mind. In one of them, I saw
this river. I was sitting on the bank watching the
people swimming in the river, and they were all going in the same direction, and they all looked happy.
And Im wondering, hmm, whats that all about? I
want to be in there; I want to be real happy. Later
on the picture changed, and I saw that I wasnt on
the bank any more. I was in the river swimming
with those other people. As I was sifting through
what the image meant, I thought, Oh, yes. Its the
River of Life. I was in the River with those other
people and I knew I was very valued.
On another occasion, while praying, Ann says
she was suddenly aware of being showered by
something beyond water. It was like a shower of
Gods love, and I was feeling it pour over me.
These experiences of Gods love, undergirded
by His Word, are what began to transform Anns
struggle with depression. During that time I used
to spend a lot of time in the rocking chair in the
den and thinking and not really feeling very well
about myself, she says. I had very little self-esteem. I remember I used to say, If only I had more
self-esteem, self-confidence. And one day the Lord
spoke to meit was that clear, I turned my head to
see who spokeHe said to me, Youve been looking for confidence in yourself; but what you need
is confidence in me.
Ann says that through that experience she
learned to say no to some of the demands and
expectations of people, and focus instead on Gods
approval.

Serving Side by Side


No longer Christians in name only, it became natural for Jim and Ann to want to share their born again
experience by teaching Gods Word to others. As Jims
career in the Air Force progressed, around the U.S. and
on two tours in England, they had many opportunities
to be involved in the military chapels and to teach.

Ann and I became Sunday school teachers almost every place we wentlittle kids, adults, high
schoolers, didnt make any difference, we did some
of each of that from that time on, Jim recalls. I
can remember our daughter Krista saying, Mom
and Dad, when will I get to go to Sunday school
and youre not going to be my teachers?
While stationed in England the Salminens led
a study for high school students and young airmen,
and some British friends as well. It was a family
affair. On a Friday night it wouldnt be unusual for
us to have 50 or 60 young people in our home, Jim
says. They filled up the living room, spilled over into
the dining room, sat up on the stairway. And our
daughter, who was in the sixth grade then, would
make two cakes every Thursday night for us to have
after the Bible study was over.
Jims wove his talent as a musician into his service to Christ as well. Having learned to play ukulele
and then guitar as a teenager, music had long been
a part of his life. Together with other musicians
and singers in that Friday night study in England,
Jim and Ann helped produce and performed in a
published Christian Musical called Come Together.

I Am Doing a New Thing


After England it was back to the States for Jim
to go to War College at Maxwell. After some time at
Cannon AFB in New Mexico, they returned in 1984,
this time with Jim on the faculty of the War College.
Before that final move back to Montgomery,
Jim had another encounter with God. When I was
leaving Cannon, the Lord gave me a verse, he says.
It was Isaiah 43:18-19Forget the former things,
do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new
thing! When we were in Sunday school the next
Sunday, a prayer partner wanted to share a verse
with meand it was the same one.
It was a good transition, Jim says. Our daughter was starting college at Auburn, so it was a good
time to come back. We joined Frazer in 1988 and got
involved in the Sowers class; Mike Hudson was the
teacher. Mike sponsored me on a Walk to Emmaus.
There, at a worship service on a Saturday evening, I
got off by myself and said, Lord, here I am. Id just

FOLLOWING JESUS

| 33

like to spend some time with you right here. Lord,


Im coming up on retirement soon, and I need you
to give me some direction in what Im supposed to
do in retirement.
The Lord spoke to me, Jim continues, and He
said, Jim, I asked you once before to be a minister
to my people. Im going to ask you once again; will
you drop what youre doing and be a minister to
my people?
I said, Yes, I will, Lordbut Lord, when did
you speak to me before?
I spoke to you before, the Lord said, when
you finished your Confirmation class.
Jim then remembered the pastor at his first
church, who given him the New Testament he read
the day he was born again, had asked Jim to stay
after class that day. He said, Jim, what are you
going to do when you grow up?
I told him I was going to be a math teacher,
Jim recalls. My aunts and uncles were all teachers, and my mom was a teacher. My pastor said, I
see something in you that tells me you are going
to be a pastor one day. I thanked him for that, but

I couldnt believe that it would ever happen; that


didnt cross my mind. But the Lord took me back
to that conversation.
After coming home and telling Ann, Jim
went to John Ed Mathison, Frazers long time
senior pastor, and he agreed to help Jim pursue
ordained ministry. He went through the Methodist Course of Study, a substitute for regular
seminary designed for second career ministers,
for the next five years. He came on staff at Frazer
in May of 1990 and was ordained as a deacon
in June of 1995.
Jim has retired twice since his appointment
to Frazer in 1990, but he still loves to teach Gods
word. He leads a weekly Bible study for a group of
15 men, and presents a weekly devotional for two
local businesses on Tuesday mornings.
Jim says that, with Ann as his partner, he has
had two wonderful careers; serving his country and
serving the Lord. The artist and the teacher each
came to know the love of God in their own personal
way, and together they have spread Gods Word
around the world.

BELOW: Jim serves communion to a Frazer member Ryan Colburn at a special worship service in 2006.

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| FOLLOWING JESUS

Transformations
in Progress
Transformation Montgomery expands and deepens
through Getting Ahead program
BY CANDACE RUTHERFORD | To transform
means to change in form, appearance, nature or
character. It implies an ongoing process. Thus Transformation Montgomery, Frazers faith-based community development ministry, is aptly named as
it continues to transform the lives for participants,
volunteers and our city. Three years in the making,
many lives have been positively affected; houses
have been renovated in a previously depressed part
of the city; and the ministry keeps moving on inspiring others in its wake and making a big impact.
From the beginning, however, the vision behind
Transformation Montgomery was about more than
houses. Affordable home ownership is simply one

piece in the puzzle of giving people a pathway out


of poverty and into a fully flourishing life in Christ.

WHAT IS POVERTY?
Approximately 21.6% of people in Montgomery
live below the poverty level, according to recent
census information. If you ask most people to define poverty, they will describe in terms of a lack
of material things. But if you ask a person who is
experiencing true poverty, they are more likely to describe their condition in psychological terms such as
a feeling of shame, frustration or helplessness. According to the authors of When Helping Hurts, you
cant cure poverty by giving things to people. Their

FOLLOWING JESUS

| 35

the workshops. Being involved in the program


has been very inspiring and at the same time
eye-opening. They all have exhibited a true determination, perseverance and deep faith that drive
them to succeed. After graduation, these women
continued their relationship through Bible study.
While we studied Gods word together, we were
able to share our hearts. I developed a real appreciation for the obstacles that these amazing ladies have
overcome and continue to battle to be successful.

A GROWING IMPACT

mindset has to be
changed.
To address these issues, Frazer has created the
Getting Ahead workshop, under the leadership of
Peggy Spaeth. A unique program that offers support and friendship to people who want to create
a path out of poverty, the Getting Ahead Workshop
is free and open to everyone in the community. Getting Aheadis required for individuals entering the
Steps to Home Ownership, but it can be beneficial
to anyone whether or not you are interested in home
ownership at this time.
Getting Aheadis not about getting information,
it is about changing your thinking, says Peggy.
Poverty has a way of focusing our thinking on the
presentjust getting by from day to day. Faith starts
when we think about the futurehow we can get
ahead, not just get by.

FINDING ALLIES
Participants in Getting Ahead are paired with
volunteers called Allies for 16 weeks of meetings.
Allies arent there to tell people how to live their
lives, but to help them to identify and achieve goals
using support networks and various church resources. These goals can be financial, educational, job
related, strengthening of family and relationships,
and spiritual.
Jane Allen has been an ally to three women in

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| FOLLOWING JESUS

The workshop is a big commitment, both for the


volunteers and for the students. Peggy said The
program has sure come a long way in three years.
We just graduated our third class and have over 21
graduates overall. A class started in August with
another planned for January, 2015. Right now there
are three graduates on the waiting list to move into
houses.
A recent addition to the program has been a
component for children, led by volunteer Debbie
Peavy. Getting Ahead for Children has seen wonderful growth and deepening. Debbie Peavy has
been outstanding with the children, commented
Rusty.
For more information, including volunteer opportunities, visit the website at www.transformationmontgomery.com
The following are three stories shared by participants in the Getting Ahead Program.

Sophias Story
BY KEN ROACH | For Sophia and her 16-year-old
son, the worst part of finding themselves homeless
was that it was the second time around. Sophia had
worked her way out of poverty as a nurse in the
past, but lost her license due to poor life choices.
Without that income she found herself back in poverty. She remembers when she first told her son they
would have to leave their home, he climbed into a
bathtub and did not want to come out; although
only a boy, he blamed himself for not taking care
of his mother.
However, Sophia found a place to live at the

Friendship Mission, and there she learned about


the Getting Ahead program. Her first impression
was that this group offered an open forum for all
types of personalities, backgrounds and thoughts.
Through Getting Ahead, Sophia learned that
poverty comes in many areasrelational and social,
for example, not only financial. She also learned
the hidden rules that keep people in poverty, like
the predatory practices of high-interest lenders who
sound good as a short term solution, but turn into
a trap in the long term.
Sophia also learned about herself: how she
handled adversity, how she could grow through
it, how she could gain composure and self assurance by pushing through difficulty and staying
focused. She learned that although she needed
the realism to recognize that homelessness was
always just a paycheck away, she did not have to
stay in poverty; she could network, build relationships, make intelligent choices, and put herself in
a place to succeed.
Calling herself a reformed addict who celebrated
seven years clean in July, Sophia draws inspiration
from the story of Jesuss temptation. It would be so
easy to turn to the thing that would take away the
pain, she says, but in reality the pain would still
be there. Instead, like Jesus she wants to say no
to temptation and hold on to the promises of God.
Currently, Sophia is working towards a Masters
degree in professional counseling at South University and working at an internship for the Center
for Child and Adolescent Development. This second time
around she is seeking to
be patient, and wait on
Gods timing for a lasting
recovery. I believe that what
the devil took God will give
back, if I obey and do what He
expects of His child, she says.
The bottom line for Sophia: Im living. Im no longer dying. Im not in a deep
dark hole any more. She credits that transformation to discovering the God of mercy, grace,
and favor.

Valerys Story
In January of 2014, Valery was living in her car
with two young children. Six months later when we
sat down, she had a job, an apartment, and hope for
the future. What brought about her transformation
is a remarkable God story.
Valerie grew up in a dysfunctional family: a
mother with mental health challenges, a father who
liked crazy women, and grandparents who were
uninvolved. By the time she reached the 12th grade,
she had failed math twice. When she turned 18, she
dropped out of school. She married, and soon had
two children.
She was happy staying home, and focusing on
being a mother. Her husband Chris worked, but they
stayed close to poverty. Then a dishonest landlord
took advantage of them, taking money for a house
that turned out to be unlivable due to substandard
electrical wiring. They found themselves homeless,
having lost what little savings they had.
During that time, however, Chris had become a
believer through the ministry of Faith Rescue Mission.
He started reading the Bible to her in the evenings.
Because of the change she began to see in him,
Valery also turned to God. At first, I didnt feel
any different, she admits. However, she
soon became, as she puts it, addicted
to my Bible. She read it night and
day, especially Psalms and Proverbs,
color coding it with highlighters.

FOLLOWING JESUS

| 37

Her newfound faith would be tested, however,


when Chris was arrested for drug possession and
sent to prison. He had begun a journey with God,
but not everything in his life changed overnight,
and in this case the consequences for the family
were severe. Valery had no home, no job and no
high school diploma.
Browsing the internet looking for a shelter for
her family, Valery came across an announcement
about the Getting Ahead program on Frazers website, and decided to join. Through the program she
learned about the concept of bridginggaining
strength by being willing to reach out to others as
they reach out to you. She learned to understand
more about her own personality strengths and gaps,
and how to create a structured life plan to address
those gaps.
As a result of various bridges she built, Valery
was able to get an apartment,
get her car in good working condition, and start
a part-time job with a
supportive Christian
employer. She has
been working on
her GED, and
with
Frazer
member Tom
Harrell serving as her
math tutor,
she should
complete it
this
summer. Chris
has
been
able to visit with his
family now
at a

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| FOLLOWING JESUS

halfway house on weekends, and they can go to


church together.
A huge part of Valerys progress has been the
relationship built with her Getting Ahead Ally,
Edna Stein. Shes a go-getter, but shes sweet,
says Valery. Im not scared to ask her things, and
shes not scared to tell me things I need to hear.
She says what has made her relationship with Edna
successful is her openness and ability to connect
with her.
Allies in the program are encouraged to form
genuine friendships based on mutual respect, explains coordinator Peggy Spaeth. The relationship
is not client-patron or teacher-student, but simply
peer to peer.
On one occasion, Valery mentioned that she
would like some nicer clothes for her children to
wear to church. Edna not only helped her find some,
she also gave Valery some dresses. I realized later
that these were expensive dresses, nicer than I had
ever had. I dont even like dresses, but this meant
so much, just the thought that someone would want
to give these to me.
For the future, Valerys goals include completing her education, and seeking a full time job with
health insurance, as well as rebuilding their family
life when Chris is released later this year. In the
mean time, she says she is learning to be patient.
For me, faith means not giving up, she says.
In Valerys beloved book of the Bible, the
Psalms, the message we see over and over is, God
hears your cry. Valery says this spoke to her at a
time she was wondering if God could hear her. I
was looking for a safe place. This was His answer.

Sheilas Story
Unlike other participants in the Getting Ahead
program, Sheila was not homeless or unemployed
when she came into the class. She had a small apartment, a good job, and a church that she loved. Some
might not have considered her to be in poverty.
But one of the themes of Getting Ahead is that
there are many kinds of poverty, and for Sheila, as
she sat in her small apartment feeling that the walls
were getting smaller and her spirit was shrinking,

she heard God tell her to get up and join this class.
It was a moment of faith for her to believe, God
wants me to go further.
Sheila has already accomplished a lot, having
raised four boys mostly on her own. However, the
pain of a divorce left her depressed for many years.
Both of her parents have passed away, and her
children live across the country on the West coast,
leaving her isolated. She has found a new family
in Frazer, attending the Women in Christ class on
Sundays as well as two worship services.
Through Getting Ahead, she began to recognize invisible forces keeping her from reaching
her potential, including predatory lenders and a
lack of healthy boundaries in her relationships with
relatives. After graduating from Getting Ahead she
moved on to Transformed, by Rick Warren, offered
by Frazer as a follow up study that delves more
into the spiritual aspect of getting out of poverty.

Through it, she is learning how to better read Gods


word and hear His direction through the Bible.
Sheilas immediate goal is to own her own
home. She is in the process of applying to be part
of Frazers Transformation Montgomery project in
Garden Square that makes renovated housing available at zero percent interest.
Ultimately, Sheila wants to help others in the
same way that she has been helped. She was
homeless in the past, and she wants to reach out
with the love of Christ to other homeless people. I
want to do something like Ladonna has done, she
says, referring to the Reality and Truth ministry to
the homeless started by Frazer member Ladonna
Brendle.
From shrinking walls that go nowhere, to a new
home and a new mission to offer hope to others,
God is in the process of expanding Sheilas horizons
through His grace and power.

FOLLOWING JESUS

| 39

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| FOLLOWING JESUS

MARRIAGE

A FAMILY TEAM

for Christ
Mike and Lisa Conn Thrive on
Sharing Gods Plan for the Family
BY KEN ROACH | When the Air Force moved Mike worship, but he was persistent. After six weeks,
and Lisa Conn to Montgomery, Alabama as a young they agreed to come. The first Sunday at Frazer,
couple in the late 1980s, nothing in their past had Mike describes feeling a tingle down my spine,
prepared them to have a strong marriage or a strong and he and Lisa said to each other, were home.
family. Lisas parents divorced when she was 16,
Lisa had been raised in the church, although
back in a time when that was still considered un- she does not recall her parents sharing much about
usual. Mikes father, who died of alcoholism many their faith with her. She accepted Christ at a church
years later, left home when Mike was just 5 years camp around age 12, but did not truly begin followold. Mike calls himself his fathers twin and be- ing Jesus at that time. He was my savior, but not
lieves he would have followed much the same path my Lord, she explains.
that his dad did had he been left to his own devices.
Mike likewise went to church with his mothWith shaky models to build on, and the pressures er and older brother every Sunday whether we
of military life, the first few years of marriage had wanted to or not, and was baptized at age 10, but
been difficult for the young couple. With both of it was not a meaningful experience for him. All I
our parents divorced, we vowed not to make divorce remember is seeing the chest waders the pastor
part of our vocabulary, Lisa says, but those were wore, and realizing that was how he didnt get wet.
hard times. We were not equipped.
God was distant for him.
All of that was about to change when a young
At Frazer, the preaching of pastor John Ed
captain invited the Conns to come and worship Mathison opened up a new appreciation for the
with him and his family at Frazer United Methodist relevance of the Bible. Mike remembers thinking,
Church. They turned him down, thinking they had this was written thousands of years ago, but it
already found a comfortable church home to attend actually applies to us today.

OPPOSITE: Lisa and Mike Conn. P HOTO BY LORI MERCER.

FOLLOWING JESUS

| 41

Even more importantly, the Conns found a small


group where they could be discipled: the Explorers
Sunday School class, led by Rev. Rudy Heintzelman.
Rudy first opened up for the Conns Gods biblical
plan for marriage and family, but he didnt do it simply through lecture. The class utilized discussion, application, and accountability. Members shared with
one another what they were learning, and how they
were putting into practice what God was teaching
them. No matter what
we faced as a couple,
says Lisa, there was
someone else who
was going through the
same thing, or who
had been there before
who could encourage
us.
Both Mike and
Lisa mark that time
in the Explorers class
as when they began
personally following
Jesus, and credit the
experience as the
reason their marriage
and family have stayed
strong. In fact, it made
such an impression
on them that when
Mikes Dad died from
alcoholism, he and
Lisa went to talk to
Frazers congregational care pastor, Earl Andrews,
ready to resign his Air Force commission so they
could go to work full time in Family Ministry. Earl
convinced him to stay in the military, and instead
find ways to serve God where he was at.
That time came when the Conns were relocated
to a base in California, but not in the way they
expected. After searching in vain for weeks to find
a church like Frazer, they were discouraged and
disheartened. They were still grieving for their
home church. Gradually they realized that God was
calling them to be the ones to create what they
were seeking. Working with other young couples

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| FOLLOWING JESUS

through the military chapel, they started their own


small group, Explorers West, and replicated the
discipleship techniques that Rudy had modeled for
them. Rudy even sent them copies of his class curriculum on building biblical marriage and family.
After three years out west, Mike turned down
an opportunity at the Pentagon, opting instead
for an assignment teaching at Maxwell AFB that
would move their family back to Montgomery. At
32 I finally knew what
I wanted to do in life,
Mike recalls. I was a
flier by profession, but
a teacher by passion.
His role as a designer
of instructional courses for the Air Force
was preparing him to
effectively teach even
more important content.
Back at Frazer, the
Conns became the lay
leaders of a fledgling
family ministry. John
Ed always taught the
philosophy of Every
Member in Ministry,
says Mike, and they
lived it with us. We
saw it in Rudy, who
didnt just teach us,
he taught us how to
teach ourselves and how to teach others. We also
saw it in how the church entrusted us as lay people
with a $6,000 budget for family ministry.
That money was put to good use as a nationwide movement back to biblical family foundations
was beginning to get underway: Promise Keepers.
Mike and Lisa organized seven busses of men to
attend a Promise Keepers rally in Indianapolis the
first year, challenging men to keep their promises as
husbands, dads, and followers of Christ. Altogether,
321 men from 52 different churches made the lifechanging trip to Indianapolis where they joined
70,000 other men worshiping Christ. The next year

OPPOSITE: Mike and Lisa at their wedding. Both

acknowledge they were unprepared for marriage, a


driving factor behind their passion for equipping young
couples. PHOTO CONTRIBUTED.
ABOVE: Mike and Lisa lead the unique Family Teams for
Christ class on Sunday mornings at Frazer (pictured here
from 2011). PHOTO BY LORI MERCER.
RIGHT: Military families are a big part of the Conns
ministry, like this gathering of military moms and their
children at a local restaurant. PHOTO CONTRIBUTED.
they expanded to 42 busses and over 1600 men from
hundreds of churches all across Central Alabama,
travelling to the rally in Atlanta in a caravan that
stretched over 6 miles. Each bus had a unique
name like the buses of Luke, John, Matthew, etc.
On each bus were men from at least four different
churches who were not only building a stronger
relationship with Christ, but who were also building
Christian relationships that crossed denominational
and racial lines. The man whose dad left at 5 years
old was literally leading the parade of men promising to stand by their family in Jesus name.
Even the difficulties of those days were inspiring for Mike. On one trip, the Bus of Job, named
after the biblical character who endured so much
suffering broke down in the parking lot at the Georgia Dome. The men were stranded and had to pack
into other buses in order to get home. Mike saw
that suffering together can actually be a great way

to learn. Those men were more bonded together


as brothers by that shared experience than any of
the groups whose busses didnt have problems,
Mike remembers.
In 1997, Mike retired from the Air Force, and
was finally able to put his desires for full time ministry into action, forming a non-profit the next day
that he and Lisa called Covenant Family Ministries.
They raised support so they could focus their attention on teaching couples Gods plan for marriage,
and teaching godly character even in public schools
through another branch of their ministry. Financially,
the decision was not easy, but God always provided.
Mike and Lisa believe they were blessed in part because of their commitment to remain faithful tithers
despite a steep decline in income.
One aspect of their ministry has been the Family Teams for Christ class here at Frazer, a 10-month
course meeting on Sunday Mornings with college

FOLLOWING JESUS

| 43

level practical instruction in following Jesus, covenant marriage, and character-based parenting. However, the military has continued to be a key part of
their lives. Many of the couples who attend Family
Teams for Christ are officers and their spouses. Because of their non-denominational status, Covenant
Family Ministries is also able to provide marriage
and family training through the Maxwell base chapel. The result is that, as these couples move on
to other assignments around the world, the Conns
influence is literally being felt around the world. One
colonel assigned to Korea requested that Mike send
him curriculum so he could train others. Just as the
Conns created an Explorers West, now there will
be a Family Teams for Christ East!
The Conns have also been able to follow Jesus in reaching out to the nations through couples
mission trips to Brazil, Haiti and Cuba. Going on a
mission trip together can be an effective way for a
husband and wife to bond more closely with God
and with one another. Mike has also found mature
believers in the indigenous churches who are able
to take the biblical teaching he has developed and
put it to work to share Gods plan for families in
their own nation.

The Conns still have days of discouragement


in their ministry. No matter how much you try
to teach them, some couples still choose to get
divorced, Lisa admits, and those days are always
tough. On the other hand are the miraculous moments when God shines through by transforming a
marriage. For example, the Conns have organized
groups to participate in Family Lifes Weekend to
Remember marriage conferences over 20 times, and
it has not been uncommon for one of the returning couples to say, we already had divorce papers
drawn up, but now we have hope and a plan.
For the Conns, the foundation of following Jesus
is the daily discipline of listening to God through
the Bible, and talking to Him through prayer. They
especially cherish their devotional time together. A
favorite resource is Dennis and Barbara Raineys Moments With You. Accountability and support from
other believers is also critical. Lisa participates in
a womens group led by Charlotte Robertson, and
Mike has gotten up early each week for six years
to meet with a group of men at a local business.
Mike and Lisa have seen evidence of the faithfulness of God in sickness and in health. During the first ten years of their marriage, Lisa had

BELOW: Mike and Lisa with a Frazer mission team and local church members in Cuba. The Conns have discovered

that taking couples on a mission trip is not only a way to share the gospel around the world, it is also an excellent
way to build marriage oneness. PHOTO CONTRIBUTED.

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| FOLLOWING JESUS

numerous health issues. In the last five years, the


tables have turned, and Mike has gone through a
bone disease, a broken hip, colon cancer, and a
sinus surgery that led to near-fatal meningitis. At
the time I interviewed them, they were facing a
major health challenge with their youngest daughter, Aimee (see sidebar). But through it all, Gods
grace has sustained them and kept them strong.
Following Jesus is freeing, says Mike. We have

total peace. He is always with you, he never leaves


you or forsakes you.
Marriage and family are ultimately designed
to be living pictures for us of the self-sacrificing
love of Christ for His Bride, the Church, and the
promise-keeping love of the Heavenly Father for
his children. Mike and Lisa discovered a new life
when they discovered that plan, and theyve never
stopped sharing the good news with others.

SUFFERING IN HOPE: AIMEES STORY


When I sat down in the Conns living room to to God answering an un-uttered prayer.
interview them, they were joined by 15-year-old
Fast forward to today and Aimee is forming
Aimee, the youngest of their three daughters. In into a godly young woman with a heart to follow
many ways, Aimee represents the next chapter in Jesus. She takes an active role in her parents ministhe Conns story. Whereas
try, helping with everything
Mike and Lisa grew up in
from preparing mail outs to
dysfunctional homes, what
providing childcare during
will it look like for a child
events. Perhaps the most
who has grown up with parformative experiences for
ents who teach others how
her have been seeing Gods
to parent according to Gods
power at work on mission
plan? (No pressure, right?)
trips to places like Cuba
Aimee joined the Conn
and Haiti. When you grow
family through a miracle
up surrounded by stories
of sorts. Lisa was 42 years
of the Bible, sometimes it
old, and with daughters
takes moving out into the
Ashley and Ali already 15
wider world to fully see the
and 13, she was already exreality of what you have
periencing sadness about
been taught.
the coming day when they
Sometimes, young
would leave home, a sorrow
people whose parents are
that was deepened when
highly involved in ministry
she went through a miscarcan have unrealistic expecriage. For weeks she would
tations put on them by the
cry as people who had not
church, or by themselves.
yet heard the news would
Aimee admits that she is
SHARING LOVE: Mike and Lisa youngest daughter,
congratulate her on her
a micromanaging perfecAimee, gets a hug on a mission trip with her family.
pregnancy. When she betionist used to making
PHOTO CONTRIBUTED.
came pregnant again later
straight As in school.
that year, she initially asIn order to teach her to
sumed she was going through menopause. The sur- depend on His grace, not her own perfectionism,
prise of having another daughter instead turned God had to literally hit Aimee over the head. OK, not
her tears into unexpected joy, which she attributes exactly, but heres what happened. In September of

FOLLOWING JESUS

| 45

last year (2013) Aimee was preparing to go with her homework or finishing reading assignments, her
parents on a mission trip to Cuba. Not long before goal was just to pass the 9th grade. For all of the
they were to depart, Lisas father became ill. She family, the experience has pushed them to draw
was able to see him one last time before he died closer to God, to spend more time in prayer, crying
on September 11. A week later, Aimee had an ac- out to Him, and learning how to quietly trust in Him.
cident during a self-defense class that knocked her It forces you to your knees, says Lisa.
unconscious. She was rushed to the ER, but seven
Just as her parents turned the pain of dysscans revealed no serious problems. They thought functional families into a passion to minister to
things would be fine.
families, Aimees chronic pain is making her more
However, over the days that followed she de- sensitive to the hurts and needs of others. Her
veloped horrible headaches that caused her to miss struggles in school are a constant reminder that
two months of school. Those days forced Mike and we make the grade with God because of His
Lisa to their knees. These past months have been grace in Christ Jesus, not because of our own
the hardest in my life, says Lisa. Theres nothing efforts. In the midst of the trial, God has given
harder for a parent than seeing your child suffer their family these verses from Romans 5:3-5: we
and having no control over it and no way to make also boast in our sufferings, knowing that sufferit better. Doctors now speculate that Aimee expe- ing produces endurance, and endurance produces
rienced a minor traumatic brain injury that would character, and character produces hope, and hope
not have shown up on scans.
does not disappoint us, because Gods love has
Meanwhile, the straight-A student has had to been poured into our hearts through the Holy
adapt her expectations. With difficulty focusing on Spirit that has been given to us.
A FAMILY TEAM: Lisa, Aimee, and Mike Conn. PHOTO CONTRIBUTED.

46

| FOLLOWING JESUS

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 Naturea deeply ingrained
inner tendency to go our own way instead of following Gods way.2 When we follow our sin
nature, we violate our conscience and break Gods 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

FOLLOWING JESUS

| 47

New city?
New church!
Whether you are a military
family, job transfer, or just
new to the community, we
know change can be hard.
Finding a place of worship
can help. At Frazer we
welcome new faces. We
invite you to explore our
faith family, discover our
ministries for children,
students and adults, and
learn more about how
you can get connected at
frazerumc.org.

Frazer Church: find hope, Follow Jesus Sunday worship 8, 9:30 & 11AM
6000 atlanta Hwy. Montgomery frazerumc.org 334.272.8622