Cycles of #loneliness and #depression left Austin adrift and without #hope, until God led him to a vibrant #community at Grace College that has walked with him and helped him realize that #God is with him in the midst of depression.
Unsure of where to find community at the beginning of college, Meghan came to Grace. As she continued to grow, she was challenged to step out of her comfort zone and go for it on a Summer Project.
Exhausted after a hard year and weeks of travel to visit family, Carol preciously wanted a break during her flight home; instead, God placed a young lady, in more desperate need of His good news, alongside Carol. In response to God’s clear calling, Carol leaned in: she only had to be brave for a moment.
Veronica has desired baptism for several years now, but always felt she wasn’t “good enough.” But baptism isn’t about being a perfect Christian, but rather believing what the Lord has done sharing that with the world.
Veronica Evans was raised Catholic and has been a believer for as long as she remembers. She was baptized as a baby and attended Catholic school, and knew from an early age that Jesus died and resurrected on her behalf so that she could receive eternal life. In college, however, attendance at Mass began to wane.
“While I never stopped believing in the Lord, I didn’t make much room for Him in my life, and I did little to develop a personal relationship with Him.”
Later on, she married and had two children, Holly and Max. At three months old, Max was diagnosed with a chronic muscle disorder called Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Veronica’s family soon learned that it would make Max’s life increasingly difficult as he aged, and he would most likely only live into his teens.
“When Max was three, I had an overwhelming urge to understand how a loving God could allow the suffering in this world.”
Veronica sought greater understanding through books but couldn’t seem to shake the desire for a better answer. After hearing of Grace Bible Church from a friend, she attended a service for herself in search of a better book.
“I was moved to tears during the worship portion of the service, and I stood there silently sobbing and asking God to forgive me for leaving Him out of my life for so long.”
After the service, in tears, she approached the teaching pastor and told him about her story, asking for a book that might help her. Instead of offering a book title, Blake Jennings connected Veronica with Carolyn Jones, the Grace Women’s Ministry Minister.
Veronica began attending Grace regularly and saw the same gospel she had grown up knowing in a new, different way. Her upbringing had instilled in her a focus on good works and avoidance of sin to get into heaven, so the idea of grace as a free gift to those who believed was refreshing and new. She prayed fervently, thanking God for the incredible gift of grace and the suffering Christ endured for her so that she and all believers could receive eternal life.
“I was learning so much and excitedly sharing what I learned with my family. What I didn’t realize was God was preparing my family for tragedy.”
On December 2nd , 2011, her son Max passed away unexpectedly in her arms. Because of the desire for understanding that God placed in Veronica that led to her family’s time at Grace, the Evans family had a spiritual foundation in the midst of devastation. She found hope in her assurance that Max was in heaven and that they would meet again one day, and she often wonders what they would have done without their church family and the support they received for Max’s funeral services. “I participated in Grief Share at Grace, which played a huge role in my healing,” Veronica said.
Since Max’s passing, her spiritual life has fluctuated. She is incredibly grateful for the healing God has allowed her to experience and for the gift of Max and her other children, but also describes herself with the well-known hymn, “prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.” She continues to fall short but still desires to learn more from scripture and seek God in everything, continually thanking Him for His love, despite shortcomings, and His grace. Belief in God’s grace pushed her to action.
“I have wanted to be baptized for several years now, but always felt I wasn’t ‘good enough’. My friend pointed out to me that being baptized isn’t about being a perfect Christian, but believing what the Lord has done for me, and showing that belief to the world.”
Coming to college, Micah did not believe in God. His sense of self-worth was found in fleeting things, and it was all stripped away in his freshman year of college. Walking into Grace College at Southwood, he found a vibrant community filled with a deep joy he couldn’t understand.
Leaving home for College, Tony drifted away from his Christian upbringing. Chasing after what the world values, he eventually became disgusted with the man that he had become. Attending Grace College, he rediscovered where life is found.
When Tony Rodger left home to attend college he drifted away from the bondage of his Christian upbringing for the freedom of the world’s values.
Growing up in a small town in northwest Iowa, population 4,000, Tony’s family attended church regularly. He stayed involved in Sunday school and youth group throughout his high school years. But something was missing...
“If you were to have asked me at that time I would have adamantly claimed I was a Christian but I did not have a relationship with Christ and I was definitely not living according to God’s word.”
Once he left home to attend college in South Dakota he no longer felt compelled to attend church.
“I was chasing life where the world tells you that life is found…in temporary moments of pleasure, in seeking my own interests, in setting myself up for a successful career.”
That went on for four years.
“Very near the end of my last semester, I woke up one morning disgusted with the man I was looking at in the mirror, and filled with regret and shame.”
Tony had applied for graduate school at several institutions. When he received a Graduate Merit Fellowship at Texas A&M, he realized he had been handed an opportunity for a new start.
“I would feel these nudges, almost whispers in my heart to go back to church to start over.”
So he made up his mind that the first thing he would do when he arrived in College Station would be to find a church.
“I think I just Googled ‘churches in College Station’ and I found Grace Bible Church toward the top of the list.”
The first Sunday he was in town he attended the family service because he was too shy to ask about the college service. On his second Sunday he stumbled across two girls who were also looking for the college group. Together they discovered that the college students met across the street. On his third Sunday he sat in the service alone until a stranger asked Tony to join him and his friends. He hung out with them during the week and enjoyed the company until they invited him to join a summer Bible study.
“I had done the ‘church thing’ growing up and honestly I thought I was too cool to do a college Bible study.”
Nevertheless, Tony reluctantly agreed.
“I sat there quiet, mostly feeling like a fraud that didn’t belong.”
The same group of guys encouraged Tony to continue with them into a fall semester Bible study. Tony joined a class, “Essentials of the Christian Faith.” At the same time an undergraduate technician who worked with Tony invited him to Breakaway.
“That night [at Breakaway] Ben Stuart said something…that felt like God shot an arrow through my heart. [Ben said] ‘I think God will give to you or take from you whatever is needed for you to find Him’.”
A thousand miles away from the home, Tony left all his family and friends behind and these long distance relationships strained with distance.
“I remember lying in bed the first two nights in College Station until the early, early hours of the morning feeling incredibly alone, lost, and wondering why the heck I chose to move so far away and leave myself with nothing.”
In hindsight, Tony learned why.
“God knew the only way He could get through to me was by stripping away everything else in my life and leaving me to wrestle with Him.”
And wrestle he did.
“I remember hanging out with some fellow graduate students where the conversation turned to mocking those who believe in God…and I felt torn to my very core. The world was trying to convince me that I could not be both a man of faith and a graduate student in a scientific field.”
Tony felt he had to resolve this conflict.
“I read as many books [on Christian apologetics]…that I could get my hands on. I found debates [online] between secular and Christian scientists…all in an effort to lay out every question, every doubt, every perceived inconsistency I thought existed…which I hoped would lead to a fatal flaw that would allow me to just leave the notion of Christianity behind and be free to return to my past life guilt free.”
That was the real struggle. To live the life he wanted free of guilt.
“The opposite happened. I found I could no longer deny the historicity of the person of Jesus, nor His death and resurrection for the forgiveness of my sins.”
And Tony discovered he could be both a man of faith and embrace a career in a scientific field.
“I found my journey through these difficult questions was incredibly rewarding and I wanted to share that experience with others.”
Today, Tony is a Fisheries Biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife. He uses material developed by Grace Bible Church to lead a young adult Bible study and a study for high school students. He also volunteers for Life Launch, an organization whose purpose is to mentor youth about to age-out of the foster care system.
“After I became a Christian my focus began shifting from myself to others.”
Tony is no longer ridden with regret and shame.
“Christ…changed the things that entertain my heart. He changed the movies I watch, the music I listen to, the jokes I find funny. Christ changed how I navigate relationships as well.”
As a result of his journey and what God taught him along the way, Tony has some sage advice for incoming college freshmen.
“Your parents’ faith is not going to take you through college. It’s okay to ask questions. God is truth, so He is not afraid of you looking for truth. A lot of you will be looking for ‘freedom’ from parents, from church, from rules. You don’t want to spend four years collecting hurts and regrets from following the advice of the world to find out all along the only freedom to be found is that which is in Christ Jesus.”
Tony has advice for graduating college seniors as well.
“Find a local church and get plugged in! Then find a way to serve your church. Find a community group/small group of believers to do life with. Church is not meant to be spent entirely in rows, so much growth happens in circles.”
Though Tony has no children of his own he cautiously offers some advice for parents of college-bound teens.
“There are incredibly intelligent people that view faith as a crutch for the weak. [Your kids’] faith will be challenged. Disciple your kids in the ways of the Lord, raise them in church, yes, but also…show by example what it means to be a Christian. Focus on their relationship with Christ, not just a list of things that they do to check the ‘church’ box. A faith that has been challenged and withstood that test will be unshakeable.”
Then Tony touches on perhaps the hardest thing for any loving Christian parent to do.
“After you’ve done all that you can do you have to turn them over to God. It’s hard to fathom but God loves them even more than you do.”
Tony Rodger’s story is evidence of that.
Mark and Teresa Benden established a very successful standing desk company. After selling his business at the start of Every Knee, they have used the profit to establish a charitable trust and are committed to the many ministries of Grace Bible Church through the Every Knee Initiative.
Growing up in an abusive home, Neal Lee's story is one of heartbreak, betrayal, and loss. But, it is also a story about God’s redemptive hand in the midst of chaos.
Julia started walking with the Lord at the end of her college experience. Partaking in one of Grace’s summer mission trips to East Asia after she graduated, her faith grew immensely! Now, she is a full-fledged disciple-maker living and working in the Dallas area.
Alayna and Kelly began meeting for discipleship. Through their time together, both have grown immensely and are making disciples in the course of daily life.
After Hurricane Harvey, churches and leaders of the Brazos Valley united in response to the devastation. In partnership with Habitat for Humanity, countless volunteers helped one family return home after a year of turmoil. We sat down with the Griffith family to hear their story of God's grace.
“The water was rising and we were in the living room on our knees praying, ‘God, preserve our home — but let your will be done.’”
The Griffiths have lived nothing short of a remarkable life. Beket worked in full-time prison ministry before he felt the call to establish and pastor a home-based church, the Family of Faith Community Church. His wife, Joanne, is passionate about good food and healthy eating. Breaking bread with her community sparked a dream of opening a restaurant. Several years ago, Beket and Joanne opened Season’s Harvest: an organic, farm-to-table restaurant that later housed Beket’s church. “It’s about feeding the body and the soul,” says Beket. Season’s Harvest resides in what used to be an old home for good reason: it is a place where people are welcomed into the family’s lives, showing Christ through servanthood, hospitality, kindness, and intentional conversation around the table.
“When you see everything that was in your home scattered on the street, thrown into a trash truck…I don't know. I just don't know what to say…all I can do is breathe deep, cry, and pray.”
Beket Griffith and his family were rescued by boat from their home in Cypress on August 28th, 2017, after a long, ceaseless rain. For the last fourteen months, Beket, his wife Joanne, and their five children have lived behind Season’s Harvest in a trailer while their home was under reconstruction. “When you see everything that was in your home scattered on the street, thrown into a trash truck…I don't know. I just don't know what to say…all I can do is breathe deep, cry, and pray.” Although their home and belongings were destroyed, Beket and Joanne were drawn to their knees again, this time in awe of God’s immediate provision in the midst of tragic loss and heartache. Months before Harvey, one of Beket’s friends was preparing to move away. He approached Beket and said, “We were going to sell our trailer, but then I felt God telling me to gift it to you.” At the time, Beket didn’t know what he would use it for but he accepted the gift. Imagine the knee-weakening moment upon realizing that God had already provided a temporary home before anyone could even imagine Hurricane Harvey. “God has been orchestrating the details, meeting our needs with beautiful precision every step of the way,” said Beket.
“God has been orchestrating the details, meeting our needs with beautiful precision every step of the way”
At Season’s Harvest, floodwaters increased uncontrollably, growing closer and closer to the entry’s threshold. When the rain finally ceased, the cozy restaurant remained mostly untouched by hurricane waters — but not entirely. Floodwaters devoured the air conditioning unit, which needed to be replaced urgently in order to maintain the Griffith's only source of income. “[Season’s Harvest] is such a place of peace, and it’s a refuge to us and to a lot of other people,” said Joanne. It seemed problems were multiplying faster than they could handle, but the Griffiths continued to trust that God had a plan. Beket and Joanne prayed. Within a few days they received an anonymous check for the exact amount needed to replace the air conditioning unit, lifting a weight off their heavy hearts!
“[Season’s Harvest] is such a place of peace, and it’s a refuge to us and to a lot of other people”
“We have been so blessed. I feel like people have just fallen from heaven coming here to help us recuperate and almost like they are putting their arms around us and letting us know that we are going to get through this.”
With obstacles weighing on the family, their sense of normal was stripped away. Seven people living in such close quarters is not the easiest or the most fun, although it brought the family closer together. They have been investing much time, hard work, sweat, and tears into Season’s Harvest to get back on their feet. Little by little, they had been restoring their home as much as they could afford. Just as the Griffiths began to feel like they could finally catch their breath, they received news that would further delay the restoration process of their house and multiply the weight on their hearts: in April, Joanne was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer. This added new stress to their lives, all without the comfort of a home. In God’s perfect timing, Bryan/College Station Habitat for Humanity offered to oversee the repair of the Griffith's house in partnership with several churches who provided the funding and volunteers to help the Griffith family safely back into their home. Countless volunteers have traveled and gathered from all over to help this family back into their home; it will be move-in ready by end of November. “We have been so blessed. I feel like people have just fallen from heaven coming here to help us recuperate and almost like they are putting their arms around us and letting us know that we are going to get through this.”
Although the loss, illness, and heartache is devastating, Beket’s family has become stronger through this season. They depend on God for their daily bread like never before and express immense gratitude for His blessings in the midst of turmoil. The family’s house is almost restored but there are still unknowns related to Joanne’s cancer. Regardless, Beket and Joanne remain firmly rooted like an anchor in deep, rich soil that cannot be swayed, no matter how big the storm. They trust deeply in God’s perfect plan and provision. Beket proclaims, “It’s another thing that we believe God is going to use in our lives. As we walk through this with our community and with the Lord…there are going to be ways that we will be able to use it to speak and encourage other people.” And Joanne declares, “My hope rests in the One that can make all things new, the One that can rebuild what is torn down, the One that restores what is broken. Thank you, Father, for doing that in my life, my marriage, my family, and now in our home. You are faithful. You are good.”
After a lifetime of ministry divorced from community, Enoc joined likeminded believers at Junction — a place where he feels welcome, wanted and known. Now, he lives a countercultural life with the purpose of making disciples to reach the world for Christ.
Anybody who knows God and is walking with God is capable to disciple because of who He is….They have the Holy Spirit within them and that makes them fully capable to disciple.
Ally Fraustro came to Texas A&M University to get an education. She came away as a committed disciple-maker.
Ally had lived a number of years in Mexico when she and her family moved to Houston, Texas. She grew up in a faith-based home and attended church every Sunday. Looking back she realizes there was a big disconnect between her and the God she knew about. She had an intellectual understanding of God but no personal relationship, nothing heart-felt.
“Coming to college I was in a place where I believed God, I prayed to God but there was no personal aspect.”
While a student at Texas A&M University a friend invited her to Grace Bible Church. During the worship service Ally noticed the people around her, their physical posture.
“Man, …..I want to worship a God like that,” Ally recalls. “Why does this God seem so much more alive here?"
Then the pastor asked everyone to open their Bibles.
“This was the first time anybody had ever invited me to open up my Bible with them.”
Ally owned a Bible but hadn’t opened it in 18 years, she never felt she needed to. As she left the service that day she knew what to do. Ally bought a Bible and read the whole New Testament on her own.
“I learned that He is a lot more than I grew up believing.”
She joined a bible study offered by her sorority. That led to a discipling relationship with a local woman which led to a most unexpected discovery. At McAlister's Deli in College Station the woman explained the Gospel to Ally.
“For the first time I was able to have a light bulb moment,” Ally recalls. “I knew the historical facts (of the Bible) but nobody had ever explained to me how that applies to my life personally.”
Ally began leading her own bible study and discipling others. As a Fellow at Grace Bible Church she took classes that delve deeper into the scriptures which led her to discover a crucial truth about discipleship.
“It isn’t just a conversation over coffee talking about life. That’s part of it, accountability is part of it, caring for one another is part of it but looking at God’s word is the most crucial part of it.”
For anyone who feels intimidated or inadequate to disciple someone Ally has some comforting advice.
“Anybody who knows God and is walking with God is capable to disciple because of who He is….They have the Holy Spirit within them and that makes them fully capable to disciple.”
There’s one more thing Ally discovered.
“If they are eager to be a disciple-maker they have to be willing to be a disciple first….with somebody older and wiser. As long as there is a person on both sides I think that you are more than ready to ….. be a disciple-maker.”
Attending a worship service at Grace Collegethat she has intrinsic worth. Slyvia wants more people to know, Sylvia Titus came to know Jesus. He met her in her brokenness and He told her the love of Jesus Christ and is committed to giving herself to the cause of Christ.
Mike and Carolyn Gentry have faithfully served at Grace for almost forty years. Serving at Grace has taught them that the Church hasn't been created for their own comfort but for the purpose of multiplying disciples of Jesus Christ throughout the world. They can't wait to see the impact that Every Knee will make.
Growing up in an unbelieving home, Kelsey Gibbs visited a church for the first time with a friend's family. After hearing another girl share her testimony, Kelsey found herself saying, "I want to experience that love that she has experienced by God". Now, Kelsey wants to share the Lord's love for her with others.
As a mentor to his Youth kids, Ian Weber has seen the joy of not just consuming from the church but pouring out for the church. To Ian, “the Church is the place where life is found.” #EveryKnee
Originally attending Grace as college students, Steve and Shelly Blomstedt have raised their family in this church and have watched Grace grow from one campus to three. Having helped launch Creekside, they are thrilled to be apart of a congregation committed to reaching our neighbors with the Gospel.
Grace missionaries, Kyle and Chamila Cox, serve overseas in Greece. They have experienced both the joy of giving generously to Jesus and the joy of receiving the Lord’s provision through His people.
Maybe it’s something in the water here, but people in College Station and especially at Grace are a different breed than people anywhere I’ve ever lived. I feel a sense of belonging I haven't felt in twelve and a half years.
"And I can even remember a time praying and saying, ‘Lord, I will give you all the glory—if you give me a baby.’ And that’s where the problem was: my willingness to honor God was conditional on Him giving me what I wanted, and what I thought was best for us." — Betsy Pickett
Instead of blaming God, I found myself saying 'No, that's just the brokenness of this word.' And I was tired of fighting the wrong person. If I was going to gear up for this, I at least wanted to be fighting the right person in this fight.
Jane Battle began her summer’s day like any other day on July 13, 1970. A young, carefree college student at Duke University who liked playing piano, reading, and riding horses. Jane had been on her way for an afternoon of riding when her life was set on a path of immense pain and even more incredible forgiveness.
After three weeks in a coma, Jane was told she had been viciously attacked and left for dead in the field in which she had been preparing to ride.
“It’s a miracle I survived. I had no measurable heartbeat, blood pressure, or respiration when the EMT crew arrived. When I regained consciousness, the only muscles in my body that I could control were my eyelids. I was like a 20 year old baby.”
Jane faced a long and arduous physical rehabilitation during which she realized her even greater need for what she now calls a "spiritual rehabilitation".
“Before my head injury, I had been a ‘Christmas and Easter Christian,’ believing in God but not having a personal relationship with Him.” After waking from her coma, God whispered one word in her ear: Forgive.
Jane certainly had a lot to forgive.
“The attack left some permanent physical problems with my eyes and hands. I can no longer pick up a book and read it. I have a hard time recognizing faces. I can no longer drive, sew, play the piano, or do anything well that needs fine motor skills.”
Remembering what Jesus modeled in the Lord’s prayer, to ask the Father to forgive us, even as we forgive our trespassers, Jane began taking steps toward the call to forgive that God had whispered in her ear on her hospital bed.
“Now, I had to decide what forgiveness meant to me. I found that it is like an onion, with many layers. I had only started to scratch the surface with the Lord’s prayer.”
For many years, Jane prayed for the ability to forgive her attacker. As she began going to church regularly and studying the Bible, she found herself challenged by the Word and those teaching it to her.
“A Sunday school teacher told us to practice the command [in Matthew 5:43-4,4 to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you]. I tried to ask God to protect my attacker. But I couldn’t.”
Realizing that there was still a measure of unforgiveness in her heart, Jane continued to ask God to bring healing and strength so that she would be able to pray for her attacker.
Fast forward sixteen years, as Jane found herself in a Bible study at Grace Bible Church, a chance remark from a friend confronted Jane once again.
“She asked me if I had considered the fact that if my attacker had repented of his sins and accepted Jesus as his Savior, that I’d see him in heaven one day.
A nagging doubt assailed me - I wasn’t sure I wanted him to go to heaven.”
As Jane continued to reflect on this idea and her feelings about her attacker’s salvation, God brought to mind a verse from Romans.
Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. Romans 12:19
“I had taken this verse to mean that God would punish the person, who was not punished for his crime on earth, by condemning him to hell.
I asked God to help me understand the ‘why’ of that verse and the Holy Spirit revealed to me meaning of the verse. In my case, namely, that God takes on our desire for vengeance and all of our other negative emotions on His shoulders. Ours shoulders are not wide enough to handle it without becoming bitter, and resentful, and un-Christlike.”
Jane would daily remind herself:
“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Matthew 5:44
Jane’s story of forgiveness has not been one of immediate ease, but a struggle in which she has had to continuously lean on God and His Word.
“Forgiving this person has been a journey for me, a spiritual reawakening, a drawing closer to God, Who has been with me every step of the way helping, comforting, teaching.”
“So, I knew what I had to do. I had to pray that this man would repent, turn to Jesus, and gain everlasting life. It was not easy at first, but God helped me.
“It is easier now.”
Jane faithfully serves teaching 1st grade Sunday school at our Southwood Campus.
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