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." 


Intern Story: Rachel Jones

Rachel Jones: Communications Intern


What did your life use to look like that would relate most to the non-Christian? 
I went through a rough patch spiritually, not being super close with God. I took having Him for granted in a way. I worried a lot about life, what people thought, and what the future held.

What did you rely on the most before accepting Christ? Where did your security and happiness come from?  
Love from others and other people's approval. 

When was the first time you heard the gospel and was exposed to dynamic Christianity? What were your initial reactions? 
I can't remember the first time, but I basically grew up with it. I thought it was cool, "thanks Jesus", but didn't really take it to heart.  

When did you feel the Lord reveal Himself to you and begin to turn your attitude around? 
There were two times: the first was when I went to youth camp senior year. I learned to live my life more for Him and less for myself. The other time was in college, about ¾ through the semester, I had the "taking God for granted" mindset and was doubting God. I was worried about the world and life in general, but talking about it with people, as well as going to a beach retreat with a campus ministry, and attending my church in Auburn combined rekindled that flame and truly understood more about the realness of God.  

What are some specific changes that Christ has made in your life? 
I now really just want to show His love to others. I want to build communities with other Christians and show what God is to non believers 

Is there a Bible verse that you hold near to your heart that encourages you of Christ’s impact in your life? 

"He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end." Ecclesiastes 3:11 – I like it because it's a good reminder that God has a plan, even though we don't always know what it could be. 

In what parts of your life do you pray for the Lord to continue to work in? 
Not worrying about things, showing kindness to others, and not being bothered if someone is unkind to me. 

If you could go back and talk to your former self before accepting Christ, what would you tell yourself? 
God is so great. The devil is going to make you doubt Him and make you think the world is more important than eternity, but always remember God is greater. 

How do you go about approaching non-Christians and telling them about the Lord? 
Build a relationship with them... give it time. Show them kindness. And then start talking, invite them to church. From there, God's light will shine through.  

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 because they show God's unconditional love. They always show me forgiveness. Also, my boyfriend because he supported me throughout my doubt and worries and he was a good reminder that God is there. 

Since accepting Christ, how have you been an influence on others around you? 
I'd like to think that I'm welcoming to people and good at bringing people together. I try to show everyone respect and love because everyone is important. I also try to not let anyone say anything bad about anyone else.  

What initially called you to serve at Cottonwood Creek? 
It felt right. All the other options were closed doors and this one opened. I knew I'd be helping Jesus and still doing what I love. It's a good time investment to help the church.  

What called you to serve in the specific ministry that you're currently in? 
I'm studying marketing, so this internship pertains to my major. God was definitely directing me this way.  

What have you learned so far from this internship? What do you hope to gain out of it? 
How much thought goes into everything in a church, a lot of prayer and time that goes into everything they do. I hope to gain a stronger relationship with God and also a good community, and get to know the people that work here.  

How have you been able to express your spiritual gifts during this internship? 
I would say I've been able to express my creativity and encouragement. I enjoy doing the social media work and being around others! 


Atheist Encounter: Session One

Noted author and apologetics speaker, Sean McDowell, kicked off our recent Truth Talks Conference in which he donned a pair of “atheist glasses,” and invited questions from the audience. Now, you may be thinking: “Why is this Christian acting like an atheist?” or “What good is a pair of atheist glasses?” Those are good questions, and I will get to both of those—and others—before the end of this post.  But first, I want to address a few basics on atheism. 


What Is An Atheist And Atheism?   

The word atheist comes from the combination of two Greek words “a” (without) and “theos” (God).  So, literally speaking, an atheist is someone who is “without God.” The modern day definition is “a person who does not believe in the existence of a god or any god.1 Atheism is a system of belief or “worldview” that rejects God. 


Who Is An Atheist?   

No one knows for sure, but two recent studies tell us some interesting facts worth considering.  The Pew Research Center noted in a 2014 study that there were approximately 1.7 million atheists in America,  but this figure was double the 2007 figure.2 A 2015 Barna study noted similar demographics:  atheists tend to be younger males (30’s), highly educated (43% with college degrees),  and white (although gender and racial representation is increasing).3  


What Do Atheists Believe?   

As Sean noted in his talk, atheists tend to believe along a spectrum ranging from those who reject “all gods and anything supernatural” to those who only reject the “Christian God of the Bible or some aspect of Christianity.  Indeed, the Pew study found that 8% of atheists say they believe in “god” or a “universal spirit.”  Sixty-five percent of atheists say they never discuss their “religious views” with “religious people.” This range of belief is why Barna has essentially grouped atheists in with “skeptics.”  Skeptics are those who either reject God entirely (atheist) or are not sure about God’s existence, the Bible, etc., yet they are open to discussion and possibilities (agnostic).  Six out of ten skeptics own a Bible!  Both Barna and Pew find that skeptics make up roughly 25% of the population, and they are the fastest growing of the “unchurched” or religiously “unaffiliated.”   


A few other characteristics of skeptics is useful to know: (1) they reject the Bible as being supernatural in any way; (2) they do not trust the local church; (3) they are widely exposed to cultural reinforcement of a secular humanism worldview; and (4) they tend to look to “science” to answer questions of right and wrong.  


So What?   

Let me answer that by summarizing a story Sean told onstage.  He was at a large Christian conference conducting a similar address and role playing as an atheist.  The predominantly Christian crowd amusingly took him to task, jeered him, and declared debate victory. After the conference, a young lady came to him and thanked him for doing his best to “defend atheism.” Sean was puzzled until he found out that this young lady was also an atheist, and she struggled with her beliefs.   


She had grown up in a Christian home, read her Bible, went to church, and was now a youth leader at her church.  But, she had never gotten satisfactory answers to her questions, so she stopped asking them, and essentially became an atheist  


She did not want to endure the treatment Sean received by self-identifying as an atheist. Now, it’s probable that this young lady was not a hardened atheist, rather, she just needed someone to provide thoughtful answers and engaging dialogue regarding her questions. The point of this story is that the chances of you running into a skeptic (atheist or agnostic) in either your community or your church are likely, and how you respond can have far reaching and long lasting effects.   


Now What?  

At the start of this post, I asked: “Why was a good Christian like Sean acting like an atheist?”  and “What good is a pair of atheist glasses?” Sean had a two-fold point to make.  

First, he wanted to familiarize the audience with how an atheist might respond to Christian questions. True to form, Sean (role playing as an atheist) responded to audience questions with educated answers, big words, changes of subject, sentence parsing, scholarly references, and academic and scientific language.  First point:  Could Christians effectively engage an atheist? That depends.  Is your goal to win an argument or present Christlikeness and the Gospel?   

Secondly, the “glasses” were not only used to represent the atheist’s worldview, they were also for Christians to see the world from the atheist’s perspective. You might call them “mirrored atheist glasses.”  On one hand, the audience sensed the frustration in trying to communicate and handle objections in order to make a coherent point during debate.  Additionally, we sensed the emotion welling up as discussions progressed with someone who—although we vehemently disagreed with themwas educated, reasonably informed, well-spoken and confident.  When Sean stepped out of role-playing and asked how we would “assess” our reception to our atheist “guest,” audience responses were telling: “hostile,” “antagonistic,” “ineffective,” “snarky,” “defensive,” and “trying to trap.” Second point:  How are you communicating?  That depends.  Are you genuinely concerned with the spiritual well-being and eternal destination of the skeptic?   


The Apostle Paul was no stranger to opposition, and he spent some serious discipleship time with young Timothy teaching him how to engage.  In 2 Timothy 2:24-26, Paul provides some timely instruction that is as true today as it was then: 


The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, 25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will. 


Paul’s words are the essence of apologetics, and he practiced what he preached. Just as Paul did at Mars Hill (Acts 17), modern believers are called to do the same. Our goal is not to win arguments.  Our goal is to provide answers for our hope that point to Jesus Christ and to pray that God would draw unbelievers to Himself.  Our most heartfelt prayer for you as you engage these Truth Talks is the same as the one Sean gave to close this session: “May you grow in your own faith, understand others, and guide them to answers.”  

Visit here for the audio from Session One.











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