A Servant's Heart

Erich McCollom's Story of Serving and Sharing the Gospel at Fun with the Son 


Fun with the Son is Cottonwood Creek’s annual family mission event in east McKinney that provides eye and dental screenings, haircuts, face painting, balloon animals, train rides, and every school-aged child in attendance receives school supplies. Most importantly, children get to hear the gospel. This year marked the 20th anniversary of the event and it was undoubtedly a success. Erich McCollom of Cottonwood Creek was one of the many people who served that day. His experience this year was different than previous years that he had served because of all the unexpected ways God used him. 

Erich accepted Christ at a young age. "I was working to convince my parents that I knew who Jesus was and wanted Him to be my Savior," Erich said. "Their comeback was always 'You're too young', though." Erich remembers finally riding his bike up to his church and going to the pastor's office and telling him they needed to talk. "We talked, prayed, and soon after, I got baptized at First Baptist in Princeton." 

Years later, Erich and his family moved to Allen and were looking for a church closer to home. Erich heard of Cottonwood Creek through a few other guys he knew through other organizations. He and his wife then toured Cottonwood Creek's Life Groups a couple of times until they found one that was right for them. It was at Cottonwood Creek where Erich was introduced to Fun with the Son. 

This year's Fun with the Son in particular was a different experience for Erich than previous years. "This was my third year," Erich said. "The first two years, I viewed it more as us going out to do some good work and share and give to the community. This year was different for me because it felt like a continuation of the Dominican Republic mission trip I went on this summer." Erich felt God working on his heart during his time in the Dominican Republic and he soon came to realize that not only could he serve on a mission trip in a foreign country, but he could serve right at home in his community. "I knew this because God gives you that 'aha' moment and epiphany," Erich said. "I had a good attitude and enjoyed serving in the Dominican and now I had the opportunity to do it at Fun with the Son. We had a place and a time right here." 

Erich had many favorite parts of serving throughout the morning. This year was his first year he volunteered to help set up. "It was fun for me to see us take the blank park and see it all come from the ground up and be built up," Erich said. "It was great to see how many people started showing up as the morning went on and just see the park come alive and have the whole Cottonwood family work together." It also warmed Erich's heart to see a young boy smiling while riding his son's old bike that they had donated. "It just goes to show that whatever you're willing to give or do, it affects people," Erich said. "God will use you."  

One specific way that God used Erich that morning was during an encounter with a homeless man named Frank. As Erich and his team were setting up and unloading things for the day, he noticed a man under the covered area where school supplies were being passed out. "I could tell he had been there all night," Erich said. "Before I had chance to go talk to him, there was a lady who had introduced herself to him. Frank then came over and helped us unload water and started helping." Erich and Frank struck up a conversation and Erich asked him what his story was. Frank replied that it was a long one, but Erich said he had all morning. "As we worked together, he told me how he was in and out of foster care as a kid," Erich said. "He's estranged from his dad and grandfather. He just lived off and on in different houses and unfortunately was finding different places to sleep." 

As the day went on, Erich kept hoping for a chance to share the gospel with Frank. "My time of serving was done, so I went to go see him at his bench," Erich said. "I told him that we didn't get to finish his story." Once again, Frank reminded him that it was a long story, but Erich's reply was that he had all morning. "Frank shared that he has cerebral palsy on his right side," Erich said. "However, he said he doesn't let that get him down because God is watching over him." That was when Erich asked Frank if he knew who God was and had a relationship with Him. Frank said that he knew God was there and he had been baptized.  

"I told Frank that a relationship with Christ goes deeper than that," Erich said. "Baptism is great but what's it supposed to do? I showed him my wedding ring and drew a comparison to it."  

Erich showed Frank how baptism was an outward display of what's going on inside the heart of someone who has given their life to Christ. "We had a chance for me to tell him what a relationship with Christ looks like," Erich said. "I then had the chance to pray with him. For him to be in these circumstances and that he was still so willing to spring into action to serve with us earlier that morning, it spoke big to me." Along with praying for Frank, he also encouraged him and shared the gospel. "It was special because he had such a good attitude even in the circumstances he was in," Erich said. "It was very encouraging." Erich left knowing that Frank had a better understanding of what the gospel meant.  

Erich truly has a servant's heart and always serves to bring glory to the name of God. He always turns to Luke 2:52 to remind himself and others why serving is so important: 

And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man. 

"That's what I aspire to be and instill in my kids," Erich said. "We're going to grow and build and it's important that we're growing in wisdom, as well as the fear of God and in favor with God. When we are in favor with Him, and we are serving, it brings glory to God."

Spiritual Hunger

Kelly Kitch's Story of Seeing Lives Change Through Children's Hunger Fund in the Rio Grande Valley 

It is always inspiring and exciting to see who and what God will use to bring people over to Him. This May, Cottonwood Creek's Mission of the Month was to pack Food Paks for Children's Hunger Fund to deliver and distribute to families in the Rio Grande Valley. A month later, 28 people from Cottonwood Creek ventured to the south Texas region. Kelly Kitch is just one of the many people who had the opportunity to visit the Rio Grande Valley and she was amazed at how many lives she saw be changed.  

Kelly was initially prompted to join the Rio Grande Valley mission trip by an internship requirement for Dallas Theological Seminary. She could have chosen any other trip to go on but she decided to go to the Rio Grande Valley specifically because it had a family focus. 

On a typical day, the construction team and sports team would leave for their duties. After lunch, everyone served in different areas. Early in the week, they organized the food in the warehouse. The following days, they worked at the market, where the food they organized on Monday was displayed. In the evening after dinner, the team would leave for Vacation Bible School at Heritage Baptist Church until it was time to return for the night.  

One of the things that excited Kelly the most was seeing the process of the Food Paks from beginning to end. Life Groups packed the boxes and dropped them off at Cottonwood Creek. The Paks were then shipped to the Rio Grande Valley. The churches involved used the Paks for their ministry by taking them to families in need and ministering to them. "For seven weeks, out of one little neighborhood, families met in a single wide trailer," Kelly said. "During that one day a week for seven weeks, sixteen families met. There, they did a Bible story or lesson, and then afterwards, they would leave with their box of food." 

At the end of the seven weeks, the families were then invited to church. From there, 40 families came to faith, alive for the Lord, as well as started consistently coming to church. "One family lived around the corner from Melody Lane," Kelly said. "It was very eye opening for my kids to see how close they were to people who lived in that kind of situation." Despite the tough conditions, the mother of the family took her family to church after the first week. "Her fifteen year old daughter was severely depressed," Kelly said. "After seven weeks, she was healed from it. Despite their home and situation, the mother was glowing." The mother then  went on to deliver food from the Food Paks to her neighbors, declaring the gospel to them. 

Another couple of single ladies who came from Mexico had a prayer session every morning. "They were very faithful to it," Kelly said. "They were new believers. Most people there come from a Catholic background, but they were very devoted to their prayer sessions." 

Not only are the families touched by the Children's Hunger Fund, but the ministers in the area are as well. "One minister only spoke Spanish," Kelly said. "She thanked me and our church over and over. They have nothing there and she said she was praying for blessing on our people because food boxes provide her to share the gospel. The ministers are deeply grateful. These boxes are their tickets into the families' lives to come together and learn about Christ. She kept saying how glad she was that we had given her a ministry. She said she could not do this without the food boxes." 

Kelly and the rest of her team felt overwhelmed by seeing the work of God. "It is a moving, thriving ministry," Kelly said. "These people are in these horrible situations and they just kept saying 'bless your people' and thanking us for our ministry. On both sides, you have people praising the provision of this food. To pack it, see it at the market, and see it make its round was very cool." 

Kelly hopes that Cottonwood Creek will continue to partner with Children's Hunger Fund in the future to impact the lives of so many families. "It's not just a box of food," Kelly said. "It is a direct path for the gospel to be shared to people in very desperate situations. We think we see poor here but there is no comparison."  

Kelly feels especially grateful that her young daughters were able to see the work of the Lord firsthand in the Rio Grande Valley. "My girls didn't understand it until they saw it with their own eyes," Kelly said. "The people there are extremely gracious and thankful for a box of food. Over all, the trip is a great opportunity and very impactful."

Intern Story: Sloan Stephenson

Sloan Stephenson: Youth Ministry Intern


What did your life use to look like that would relate most to the non-Christian?  
just kind of based my life in being a good person. I was saved at 5. I was just making sure that I obeyed Mom and Dad and was a good boy.  


What did you rely on the most before accepting Christ? Where did your security and happiness come from?   
Security and happiness came from the approval of family members and people who were over me, as well as Sunday school teachers.  

When was the first time you heard the gospel and was exposed to dynamic Christianity? What were your initial reactions?  
At a VBS in the church I grew up in. My initial reaction was "I've heard that one before." Just a response that I had already heard it before at home, it wasn't something new.  

When did you feel the Lord reveal Himself to you and begin to turn your attitude around?  
I first felt it in the church I grew up in. I went to a very small Baptist church, so we didn't have children care other than infants. The pastor was going through a study on Revelation. I would be illustrating out on the back sheet of the announcement paper. I would doodle out whatever we listened to during the sermon and that morning I was doodling the book of Revelation and realized, "Hmm, this is not good." That is when all the pieces came into place. This is what is coming and here is what I know is offering salvation. It was on a Sunday morning in April that I walked down the aisle and talked to my pastor and he led me to the Lord. I was baptized just a couple weeks after that.  

What are some specific changes that Christ has made in your life?  
I gained an understanding of why my family did what they did and why they were calling me to act in the way of obedience they were asking me to. It made sense to treat others with love and respect because it was what God was asking of me. And I understood why I needed to sit quietly and listen in church because it's God's Word.  

Is there a Bible verse that you hold near to your heart that encourages you of Christ’s impact in your life?  
"The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:14. For me, it captivates what the Gospel is. That God would be willing to come down fully man but fully God and allow us to experience Him in His fullness. How he allows us to experience his presence as he reveals himself to us 


In what parts of your life do you pray for the Lord to continue to work in?  
Definitely patience. But it just so happens, every time I ask for it, traffic gets worse. I've always been one who would like to see things happen sooner rather than later. God has been sanctifying my heart that waiting is a good thing. That, and how I view people. God doesn't save bad people, He saves dead people. No matter how good I was as a kid, I was still a sinner. And no matter who other people I engage with in life are, they can be just as dead as I was when God found me. So not setting a kind of system and just to keep engaging people with the Gospel as I was engaged with it as a kid. 

If you could go back and talk to your former self before accepting Christ, what would you tell yourself?  
I would tell younger me that despite what people will tell you, life is not about getting easier but about relying on the Lord more.  

How do you go about approaching non-Christians and telling them about the Lord?  
I approach them with gentleness and love. In the same way where Jesus met people where they are, I strive to connect with people and allow God to let dialogue occur and let spiritual conversations occur.  

Who are three people connected with your testimony? Why have they been such an influence in your life connecting to your testimony?  
My mom and dad. My parents both led our home in a very godly way. While most kids listened to fairytales, I listened to David & Goliath and parables of Jesus out of the Storybook Bible that my parents read  to me at night. They would walk through the Christmas story before opening gifts. Along with that, I was at a camp when I was 16 and the service was led by a pastor in Tennessee named Gary Morgan. I had some conversations with him and God really used him to guide me during the week of camp. That was when the Lord called me to ministry at 16. And that's obviously been a big life turn moment.  

Since accepting Christ, how have you been an influence on others around you?  
After the Lord called me to ministry, I began serving on the student ministry worship team. I was able to preach at my home church and other local churches in the area. I was privileged to get to lead a Christian organization at my public school. I met 60 students every week, helped get them connected in a church, and many were saved. 

What initially called you to serve at Cottonwood Creek?  
A friend of mine who is on staff with our student ministry. We've been friends for about 3 years, probably closer to 4. We met through mutual connections in ministry. She called me in January and asked if I would be interested here at Cottonwood.  

What called you to serve in the specific ministry that you're currently in?  
Students specifically are in that stage of life where they are like a sponge and want to learn and do as much as possible that is modeled in front of them. see God bless them with abundant amount of potential and just leading them in that way is what love to do. I love seeing God move in their lives.  

What have you learned so far from this internship? What do you hope to gain out of it?  
I've learned the value of planning well and at the same time, praying for the Lord to move. No matter how much we plan, it's all for nothing if we don't rely on God and plead with Him to move in our students and to bless what we've planned. I'm not from the DFW areaso I hope to sponge some wisdom and knowledge and ideas that the Lord has blessed here at Cottonwood and prayerfully see that the Lord does the same where I'm from in northeast Arkansas. 

How have you been able to express your spiritual gifts during this internship?  
I've been able to teach some of the theology classes and lead our worshipI also have a seat at the table when it comes to planning and preparation.  


Kenya's Grateful Hearts

Patti Locklear's Story of Meeting the Grateful Hearts of Kenya 


It's never too late to go on a mission trip. For Patti Locklear, this year's 2017 summer mission trip to Kenya was her very first mission trip. "I have always had a special place in my heart for kids," Patti said. "Every time I saw the Kenya trip, it tugged at my heart. So, my husband put down the deposit as my Christmas present!" From there, Patti's heart for children and especially the children of Kenya only continued to grow.  

A typical day on the Kenya mission trip was a very busy one. After breakfast, the team would leave the facility and have a morning time of ministry. They then did Vacation Bible School with the kids. "We had crafts, sang songs, and played with them on the playground," Patti said. "After that, we would go do ministry in the community, such as community outreach to the kids of Cornerstone Academy.In the evening, the team would go to the orphanage area and play in the courtyard with the children"After the children went to bed, we would have prayer with them," Patti said. "One of the little girls kept saying, 'Auntie, are you crying?!' It was just so touching and moving to pray over them." 

Patti was and still continues to be blown away by the impact that God continues to leave on the people of Kenya. However, she thinks that God has truly impacted her more. "I would say that their hearts are so grateful to the Lord," Patti said. "American's truly don't know what 'need' really is. I saw their daily lives and they were just so grateful all the time. 

This being her very first mission trip, Patti went with the expectation that God was going to do amazing work. However, she soon realized that when they arrived in Kenya, God was already at work there. "There were several salvations," Patti said. "I was not specifically involved in those, but I did show the gospel a lot."  

The place that impacted Patti the most was a refuge for abused and neglected children. Many children there would come from extremely abusive situations and there, Patti saw the great need the children have.   

"I remember one specific instance when I was sitting with a thirteen-year-old girl doing the bead bracelets with the salvation message," Patti said. "She asked me if she could sing in a song in Swahili to me." Patti could only make one word out of the song: Yahweh. "After she finished singing, I asked the girl what the song meant," Patti said. "She said, 'God hide me from my enemies'. I then started crying because I just thought to myself and wondered how many times has she had to sing that out to the Lord?"  

Patti prays for the children in Kenya constantly. She keeps Jeremiah 29:11 in her mind and prays it over the children. "God has a plan for their lives," Patti said. "It really does change your heart." Patti feels like there should be no hesitation when it comes to joining a mission trip. "Don't be afraid, just go!" Patti said. "A lot of people worried about our accommodations but don't be afraid. After being in Kenya, I really left a part of myself there. The people are so grateful towards us and also to God." Patti learned a lot about the Kenyans' dependence on the Lord. "In America, we really aren't always dependent on God," Patti said. "However, we absolutely should be." 


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