Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Acquire the Fire

This past weekend I was asked to drive the church van to Greensboro for the youth group event, Acquire the Fire.

Who would have thought I'd have more fun than the teenagers?

I had such an amazing trip and got to bond with most, if not all, of the teens that went.  I went with the mindset that we would have at least one or more "Melissas" there....yes, I mean me....the teenager that only thought about myself and what I wanted - the teenager that you had to watch every second because I was constantly trying to get into something that I wasn't suppose to - the teenager that pretended to be one thing to the youth pastor, but completely different to my friends.

But I did not encounter that at all.  I went with the most respectful, well-mannered and mature group. 

Yes, they had fun.  Yes, they were goofy and silly at times.  Yes, they rocked out to the bands that caused me to have a migraine.  But they also prayed fervently, worshiped wholeheartedly, and listened intently.

I was also able to have a few great, meaningful conversations with my buddy Jared about being "in this world but not of this world" and what it really means to follow Jesus and not just put on the label of His name.

I'm excited to see how God is going to work in their lives in the future, and I'm anticipating ministering to them (and with them) in the near future.

Loving Radically Through Christ,


1 Timothy 4:12 (NLT) - Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.

Mardi Gras Mission Trip - Part Two - GUEST POST**

The following is a guest post from one of our mission trip team members, Jeff Sobieralski.  I believe this was my second time meeting him, but my first time really getting to know him and minister with him.  He was such a wonderful man of God and had this great intellectual side, not to mention he had a hidden talent for making up rap songs of Bible stories while we were stuck in traffic in the van for 2 hours.

We sent all the atheists and scientifics to him :)


March 19, 2014 at 9:25pm

People often ask about my eyes because of the recent complications with them. Through these trials God taught me an important lesson. I had always imagined that blindness is darkness, but I learned that when a person loses sight, he doesn’t just see darkness, he does not even perceive what is missing. For example, ask someone to hold up some fingers behind your head. Then tell them how many fingers you see. You can’t; not because you are seeing their hand as darkness, but because there isn’t any signal outside of your vision range to send from your eyes to your brain. And that is what happened when I lost part of my peripheral vision. I no longer see things that are next to me. I don’t perceive darkness; I can’t even discern what I’m missing.

“Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God.” 2 Corinthians 4:4 (NLT)

In a way, spiritual blindness or “spiritual darkness” is like this; those who are spiritually blind cannot even perceive what they are missing. The light of the Good News is completely blocked from an unbeliever’s brain, unless the person is humble (seeks) and God removes the veil of darkness from him (so he can find).

The spiritual blindness was much more apparent at Mardi Gras this year than I had noticed in the past. There was incredible wickedness, and yet so many people could not perceive the Light missing there.  Most believed that Christians are “anti-science” and having faith in God is “unreasonable.” However, those I spoke with not only received reasonable answers for the hope that we have, but they also learned they were misinformed. They found they were the ones blindly following beliefs without examining the facts to make informed decisions. The great news I can report, is that when someone was humble enough to receive the Gospel, it was shared!
This year I joined a team of twelve passionate, humble people.  We lived in community, and spent the days worshipping God and praying: for the city, for divine appointments, for wisdom and for softened hearts (versus the hardened “I’m a good person,” or “I’ll repent on Wednesday”); and the nights out ministering.  My personal continual prayer is that the false sense of peace that unbelievers/hypocrites have concerning the direction of their lives would be removed. That the light of the One, who is eternal life, would be revealed and glorified! And that I may be an instrument used to help return the lost sheep home.

Although I had many encounters, there were three individuals who stood out to me: Tom, the Bio-med student, who thought he knew more about life at 20 than all the “unscientific Christians” in the world. Stuart from Great Britain, a wealthy, promiscuous, world traveler, who loves the party scene. And finally, Elton, the father of two, who was an ex-minister, homeless, and a drug addict.

Saturday night, as I stood on the corner of St. Ann and Bourbon Streets, my friend Pastor Lance, brought a young man over to me whom he introduced as Tom, a Biomed student from Duke University.  Tom had some deep scientific questions he wanted answered before he was willing to consider Christianity. Tom recited standard arguments used to try to show Christianity is wrong, and when I recognized that he was just enjoying challenging me and didn’t really care what the answers were, I shifted the questioning over to him by asking him to give me real evidence for molecules-to-man evolution. Since Tom didn’t have an answer, he changed the subject by asking about “The Shroud of Turin.” I politely explained that though I believe that the “Shroud of Turin” is a cloth, and likely nothing more; however, I haven’t done any research on it because the truth of my convictions doesn’t stand on whether it is really the cloth that Jesus had on Him in the tomb.  I added that I wasn’t here to try and stump him, but that I wanted to help him get information he might not have yet and think it through. It was at this point Tom became open to hearing and having a great conversation. Lance took over and spoke with him for more than an hour and was able to pray with Tom before Tom left. To God be the glory!

Also on Saturday night I met Stu, from Great Britain. He challenged Christianity contrasting what the majority believes, quoting what he heard from the Bill Nye vs. Ken Ham debate. Although Stu could repeat what he’d heard, he hadn’t thought about the facts themselves, and was surprised to hear some of the many assumptions that go into secular science Ken Ham hadn’t had time to share during the debate. However, when Stu continued to disparage the intellect of Christians, I informed him that if we were not going to continue a cordial exchange of information the conversation was over. The Spirit must have been drawing him because Stu stopped the attacks and asked to hear more of my evidence and convictions. I explained the authenticity of the Scriptures through the manuscripts, archaeological finds (over 24,000), fulfilled prophecy, and the continuity of the Scriptures over thousands of years and their agreement throughout. I am continuing an exchange with Stu via email.  Pray he will submit to Jesus.

Finally, on Sunday, as we were finished for the night (or should I say morning), we were heading back to the van when I heard a voice whisper across the parking lot asking if I had a bottle of water to share. The man introduced himself as Elton, and as I handed him a bottle of water, I smiled and mentioned that I had Living Water to share with him too. Pastor Lance came over, and Elton shared that he used to be in the ministry, but heroin and crack were his current gods and he could not seem to get away from them. He had a Bible in his backpack and still prayed that he could be freed. However, Elton also admitted that he wasn’t really ready to go into a program anywhere. Unfortunately, this addiction has cost him contact with his two children, who he seemed to care about dearly. We prayed for Elton and let him know about a local ministry that could help him when he is ready to give up on the drugs and start anew in Christ. The ache for the pain and sadness in Elton’s eyes still show up in my thoughts daily.

Although there were many, many more encounters I would love to share, I would have to write a book. J  So, I end this letter with a very special thanks to the prayer warriors, for the monetary support, and for the thoughtful encouragement many of you gave me leading up to the trip.

“I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 They are headed for destruction. Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth.” – Philippians 3:18-19 (NLT)

With warm regards in Christ,

Jeff Sobieralski

"I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ."  - Philemon 1:6 (NIV)

Monday, March 24, 2014

Discipleship is Beautiful


1. Religion :
  • one of the 12 personal followers of Christ.
  • one of the 70 followers sent forth by Christ. Luke 10:1.
  • any other professed follower of Christ in His lifetime.
2. any follower of Christ.
3. (initial capital letter) a member of the Disciples of Christ.
4. a person who is a pupil or an adherent of the doctrines of another; follower.

There is almost nothing more that I love than being able to disciple someone in the Word or in their new walk with the Lord.  Sometimes it may just be an encouraging word or a prayer, but other times it's an ongoing conversation or relationship that digs deep.

Within our ministry, we may not be able to break through to everyone we come into contact with, but the people that we are able to get to know, build a relationship with and disciple, make it all worth it.

It is so exciting to watch someone grow deeper in their faith - for them to see a new Truth of God's Word and to understand it and apply it to their life.  And it's even more exciting to get to be the one that God has entrusted with teaching this person.

But it's a hard job.  There are ups and downs, tears and smiles, mountains and valleys....more valleys, quite frankly.  Sometimes we try so hard to get through to someone, and we give them the tools, we pray for them, we fret over them, and in the end we feel like they've left our life no different.  But we've been entrusted with this job.  It isn't some haphazard thing we just decide to take on one day.  When we 'sign up with Jesus', we sign up for discipleship.

I'm sure everyone is familiar with The Great Commission.

Matthew 28:18-20 - Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Jesus is telling US that we are to GO and MAKE DISCIPLES....and then to teach these new disciples to obey all the commands He has given.

It is not our responsibility to go and get people saved.  (We can't do that anyway.)  

But we can share Truth.  We can plant seeds.  We can pray for the Holy Spirit to move.  We can do the works of Jesus....greater works even by the power of the Holy Spirit within us (John 14:12).  

And we can teach people, just as Jesus has instructed.  That's all discipleship is anyway....teaching people with the knowledge and experiences He's given us.

Would you please take a moment to pray for us and the people that are in our paths right now?  Would you please say a prayer that we are able to be strong in the Word but sensitive to the Spirit, to know what to say and when to say it?  Would you also pray that God will draw people to us...not because of us...but because of Him living in us?

Thank you for your support,

Loving Radically Through Christ,


(Keep on the lookout for more Mardi Gras Mission Trip information and for more upcoming event information.  Right now we would love to have you join us at:

  • Converting Hearts graduation ceremony - Thursday, March 27 - 7pm
  • Weekly Bible study/fellowship group - Friday, March 28 - 6:30pm
  • Bull City Outreach Ministries Open House - Saturday, March 29 - 2pm to 6pm
  • Testimony Sharing for a friend in Roxboro - Sunday, March 30 - 6pm
  • Ladies Bible study/fellowship group - Monday, March 31 - 12:30pm
  • Weekly Bible study/fellowship group - Friday, April 4 - 6:30pm

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Mardi Gras Mission Trip - Part One

So I decided that the best way to get this Mardi Gras post accomplished would be to break it into smaller sections.  It seems like an overwhelming task trying to condense this all into one blog post.  I realize people are more likely to read multiple, smaller posts instead of one, long post.

I think the easiest thing to start out with is the schedule and logistics of the trip.  We left Durham on February 25th at 5pm.  We parked our cars at our church, Bethel Christian Center, and loaded up on the Bull City Outreach Ministries JESUS van.

From left to right:  Jamie Locklear, Dean Padgett, Felisha Sandifer, Melissa Padgett, Courtney Glenn, Chris Ferrer, Kristen Ferrer, Terry Shuff and Angie Shuff.

Ralph Thompson (Emergency Chaplains) came to pray for the group and see us off.

We began the trek to Atlanta, where we were able to stop and sleep in wonderful hotel rooms provided by Kelly Gordon!  It was well after midnight when we arrived, and we were exhausted.  The girls shared a room and the guys shared a room.  Angie even got to share a bed with Courtney, which I'm sure she heavily appreciated since Courtney sprawled out and took up 89.9% of the bed.  We got up and had a seriously wonderful continental breakfast and hit the road at 7:45 to drive the rest of the way to New Orleans.

The ride was great:  Courtney took up 89.9% of the bench seat that her and I shared (I see a pattern here).  Chris Ferrer was awesome enough to play most of the New Testament outloud from his ipad.  We I looked like headbangers as Terry blasted us with Jesus Freak by DC Talk to get us pumped. We got to stop and try Krystal burgers and chicken sandwiches at 10:30 am (time zone change that none of our stomachs knew about).  We also got to talk and bond and mentally prepare ourselves for the upcoming week.

We arrived in New Orleans and immediately stopped at the RAVEN camp to see Pastor Troy Bohn and his fellow week-long missionary group.  We also picked up two more team members, Christian and Claudia Stancil, who had flown in earlier that day.

Our next stop was our home for the week....the YWAM (Youth With A Mission) compound.  We shared a huge house - girls bunked in two rooms, guys bunked in three.  The house had everything we could possibly need.  We even had access to the community house which had a larger kitchen and an open room area that we used as a fellowship meal/meeting area.  We unloaded our luggage and prepped ourself for dinner and our first night out on the streets.  No time wasting for us!  We were ready to get out there and start sharing the Gospel.

The second day in New Orleans we had three other team members join us.....Jennifer Robinson (from Texas), Jeff Sobieralski and Lance Prathaftakis (both from Indiana).

The ladies also ventured to Sams Club this day to buy our food for the week.  I volunteered to head up the "meal planning department", but it proved to be a more difficult task than I expected.  Estimating food for that many people for a week, and trying to figure out things that everyone could/would eat, was a little stressful.  But you live and learn and you gain wisdom for the next time.

The rest of the week included spending time at the YWAM house when we needed a rest, and spending time out on the streets of New Orleans sharing the Word.

I've included a few pictures from the house showing our fellowship/bonding time and also some times around our dinner/meeting table.

More on our Mardi Gras mission trip on the next post.............................