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In the Midst of the Storm

Shannon Murphy's Story About Trusting God Throughout Life's Trials

 

Most testimonies are a full story. They have a beginning, a middle, and an end. A storm arises in a person's life, that person has to decide whether or not to stand firm through the storm, then finally the storm clears and life goes on, leaving the person changed and having their eyes opened to something new. But what about the people whose stories are not finished yet? The ones who are still standing in the middle of the storm? Cottonwood Creek's very own teacher of the New Hope Life Group, Shannon Murphy, has been all too familiar with what it is like to go through trials in life. However, seeing how strong his faith is in God is proof that no matter what the outcome of his storm is, he will still make it out stronger than ever before.   

 

Growing up as the son of a pastor, Shannon was surrounded by a Christian family and community. However, he lived by going through the motions of a true believer. He had the mindset that since he grew up in a Christian family, had a pastor for a father, and went to church, he was saved. It wasn't until he was seven years old at a tent revival that he truly made his faith his own and began a genuine and personal relationship with God.   

 

Since then, that genuine faith in the Lord has guided Shannon in overcoming trials in life. “It’s easy to become sure of things," Shannon said. "When you have the mindset that everything is permanent in this world, you stand on shaky ground.” After twenty-four years of marriage, Shannon experienced a very painful divorce. “My divorce shook me," Shannon said. "Not only with the thought of how could this happen but also the perception that I was the only one going through it. My parents, my grandparents, their marriages had lasted. It was an embarrassment, but also an eye opener for me." His divorce showed him that he had not been the spiritual leader of the household that his family had been needing. During his marriage, his focus was not on his relationship with God, but after the divorce, all his focus was on his relationship with God. 

 

After the initial shock of his impending divorce, Shannon called the Minister of Care, Robert Bennett, who referred him to Pastor John Mark's men's Bible study. The night before the Bible study, Shannon's best friend growing up got in touch with him and asked how he was. Shannon replied with letting him know that many things were on the line, including his marriage. The following morning at the men's Bible study, Pastor John Mark called him out, which led Shannon to pouring everything out to the other men about struggling with his divorce. That same morning, at the exact same time in College Station, his friend and the rest of his very own Bible study class prayed over Shannon's text message towards Shannon.   

 

After visiting the men's Bible study, Shannon began attending Divorce Care at Cottonwood. It was there where he was blessed with new, supportive friendships. From there, it was how the idea of the New Hope Life Group was created.  

 

Shannon and many other people in Divorce Care felt like they needed to create their own Life Group at Cottonwood, one that wasn't labeled as either a singles or couples class. They decided to go forward and create a Life Group that was open to anyone and everyone who needed encouragement and hope in times of trials and struggles. During this time, Pastor Justin Frazier approached Shannon and asked him if he would like to teach the New Hope Life Group. Shannon said he did not feel like the right person for the job. Pastor Frazier's reply? "You were made for such a time as this." Who better to lead a Life Group full of people who were struggling than someone who had his fair share of it as well? It was at that moment that Shannon decided to let God lead him through this new chapter of being the New Hope Life Group teacher.  

 

Throughout teaching the New Hope Life Group, Shannon made many close friendships, most prominently with a woman named Amy Thomas. They became close friends and eventually started dating. However, things changed drastically for both of them when Amy was diagnosed with stage four brain cancer in early 2017. This revelation caused Shannon to have many serious moments of doubt. How could God take something that gave him so much joy away from him after all that he had been through with healing from his divorce? It was in one of those moments of doubt that his friend came to him and said, "Maybe she's not supposed to be here for you. Maybe you're supposed to be here for her." Throughout this season, Shannon said, "I think God is teaching me to lean on Him and to not have any total faith or hope in anything of this world other than Him."   

 

Without the Lordit would be extremely difficult for one to keep moving forward throughout these trials in lifeButShannon knows that the only way to keep moving forward is with the Lord alongside Himfollowing Himand putting his trust in Him. "I will eventually see God’s goodness," Shannon said. "Circumstances don’t determine how big of a God we haveWhether it’s on this side or the other sideHe will bring you out of itI know this will make me strongerIt’s easy to coast in your spiritual life and marriage… but always strive to keep growing.” Shannon holds onto the fact that in the painthere is still promised joy. He said so many people have the mindset of “I serve God as long as 'fill in the blank.'” Whether that be getting a much needed jobletting a marriage work outetcButShannon believes God wants us to turn the things we love the most over to Him. “When everything is stripped away and all you have is you and Godit’s like a child calling out to his daddy,” Shannon said. God's Word has also spoken to Shannon's heart in times of doubtOne specific passage he always turns to is Matthew 16:13-15:  

 

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippihe asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still othersJeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”  

 

Shannon feels the Lord ask him time and time again who He isIs He the Healer? Protector? Provider? Shannon knows that God asks him this question to remind him that He is all powerful and loving through all circumstancesShannon also feels blessed with the people that God has put in his life to support himAmy ThomasPastor Justin FrazierMinister of Care Robert Bennetthis fatherand those in the New Hope Life Group. “If you find that you don’t fit inyou fit right in with the New Hope class," Shannon said. "We are not the class of tragedyThere is lots of laughterlots of hopeOur class is growing and we will always grow. This class is the triage on the frontlines of the battleThis Life Group is what cleans and bandages people upthen sends them onto the 'hospitali.e. the church. The church is a hospital for sinners.”   

 

Shannon knows that this story will eventually end, even though he does not know the specific outcome. All he can do is trust that God will provide and carry him through it. He knows there are so many other people in the middle of their own storm. He encourages them to hold onto God's promises. “We have a loving and caring Father," Shannon said. "The joy we seek can be found anywhere with Him. So many of us are in a ‘fix it ourselves’ mindset, yet what we need to do is rest and wait on God.”  

 

For more information on the New Hope Life Group, visit here.
  

 

Final Blog From Kenya

Dear Friends and Family,

One of my favorite items to do on each trip is to Blog and share about our experiences. If you have been following us in Kenya, you might be wondering why you have not heard from me since Saturday night. Well, God threw us a curve ball and I spent 3 days in the Kijabe Hospital with one of our team members, Jeremy Callaway. He had Kidney Stones and man did he suffer. So, with no Internet from the hospital and not good way of communication, I could not write you. Jeremy is back to his old self and doing great. Thanks for those who prayed for us!

So, I will quickly catch you up...

Sunday - worship at Naomis Village with all the children!  Afternoon of rest, then Keith and Jeremy went to ER. We have some stories to tell you about being admitted to a third world hospital. We got the best care in the country - truly!!!  Amazing doctors and care. God was looking out for us!!

Monday - Safe House in the morning where McKinley lead worship and Dana taught the lesson. These courageous kids had so much fun playing games and playing with crafts. Afterwards we divided into 3 teams to go into 3 homes of children from Cornerstone. It was called Cornerstone Outreach. Cottonwood Creek raised money for this ministry opportunity where you purchased beds, mattress, bench, table and solar lighting to students. It was one of the most impactful times we experienced. Thank you Cottonwood for making this happen. Lives are changed forecer.

Tuesday - Safe House the morning again where we shared the Gospel in our teaching time and mark kids prayed to receive Jesus. It was heartbreaking to leave them and continue to know God is in control of their lives. We thank God for this opportunity to be at Safe House!  Afternoon was spent shopping in Kijabe and final "see you later" events as we packed for the trip home.

Wednesday - woke up early to get to airport, but stopped off at the Giraffe Sanctuary on the way!  So much fun. Look at pictures!!!  Got on plane and now in Dubai waiting to catch out 15 hour flight to see all of you.

His trip has been unforgettable. Thanks for all the prayer and support. We love you and cannot wait to see you at 9:50am in the morning!

Bless you!  So good!!!

On mission team.

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Naomi's Village Day 5

HUGE day filled with laughter, tears, joy and exhaustion.

 

Our team spent the first part of the morning talking about the cultural difference between the Kenyan and American way of living life, then reflected on Paul’s writings that tell us to win some (to Christ) we must become like them.  If we are ever going to relate to the culture and people in Kenya, we must learn from them, be like them and relate to them, then God can open up opportunities for the Gospel.  We practiced this all day long.  Thank you Lord for your faithfulness to your people today.

 

Morning games, crafts and soccer with the little ones!  3 hours of it!  We could not get enough of the laughter and smiles we got to experience during this time.  Face painting was the big hit, along with duck, duck, goose!  Loved the time of investing in their lives today.

 

Delicious lunch then we hiked 6 miles up 2000ft elevation to Kijabe – yes – it was a hike to remember!  Not only was it a difficult stretch for the team, but the sights were amazing!  We ended up at Mark and Liz Sisler home and they made us all kettle corn!  So good, then Bob Mendonsa got a birthday wish my getting drenched by water for a Naoimi’s Village tradition then sung to by the kids.  It was hilarious!

 

Bonfire was a fun dance party, filled with smores and worship, ending with the guys and girls dividing up for hang out time.  It was a long and amazing day to be with these kids. 

 

Worship in the morning then an afternoon of rest and preparing for the rest of the week.  We miss you family and thanks for the prayers!

 

 

OnMission Team

Naomi's Village Day 4

Our team woke at 5am this morning to prepare for a 2 hour trip to Lake Navaisha National Forest – our Safari trip for the week.  WOW!  Beautiful, majestic, breath-taking, awe-inspiring day experiencing God’s creation.  We were able to see just about everything that could be seen – 2 male lions, zebras, flamingos, wilda beast, water buffalo, rhinos, beautiful birds, impalas, more and more and more.  It was just beautiful!  So thankful we got to go.

 

We returned to Naomi’s Village to a room filled with joy – children playing and so happy to see us.  I think the most precious event of the day is praying over each child before they go to bed.  I mean, it is truly God’s presence in that dorm.  Bob and Julie Mendonsa are raising up young girls and boys to be future leaders of this great area called the Rift Valley!  I am so honored to be here.

 

 

Thanks for reading – please pray for Joel tonight, one of the children, who had surgery this week on his eye.  Thanks.  Talk to you tomorrow.

 

On Mission Team at Cottonwood Creek

Naomi's Village Day 3

A day to remember...

Our team began the day off by reading Ephesians 2:8-10 together, understanding that today was not about us or the good works we do, but all about the handiwork of the Lord THROUGH us for His glory.  And man, did our team experience this in a significant way today.

Safe House in Naivasha with 23 kids honestly just broke our hearts.  Yet in this place of tragedy and heartbreak, a joy rises up.  Laura lead our VBS teaching today, sharing with all of the kids how fearfully and wonderfully made we are, and wow, she did such a great job.  We sang fun songs about the joy of the Lord and played games - I think the jump rope was the greatest hit.  It was all a great morning.  By the time we left, lasting relationships were build.  We get to go back Monday and Tuesday, so we are thrilled to have more time with our friends at Safe House.

After lunch at Ubuntu, where Boniface put on a comedy show for the team, we headed to Mwi' Hanguri to see the village we have invested with over the past 3 years as Cottonwood Creek.  One of the lead families that lives in the village, Grace and David, shared with our team the history behind the 24 families that live there.  By the end of our time, everyone was broken with the devastation and tragedy this community has faced since 2007; overcoming many obstacles and hardships, trusting in GOd the entire time.  They prayed God would give them a home one day, and today we sat in one of the 24 homes build with the help of Naomi's Village to celebrate the victory of the Lord and the HOPE this community has in the Lord going forward.

God has placed our team here for a purpose, and today we experience the true HOPE of Christ and how Naomi's Village involvement with these two communities are changing a generation forever!  It is a joy to be here and I am so grateful for the opportunity to serve today.

Tomorrow - SAFARI!  Lake Nakuru!

Your OnMission Team!

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