2018: A Year In Review
Blessing people in our community
In the year after being released from prison for the last time, Penny Willoughby lost her job and was struggling from day-to-day. Soon after, she began attending Celebrate Recovery.
“When I began attending, I was learning how to navigate life sober, without doing anything illegal and trying to follow God. I felt like I was drowning and didn’t know if I would be able to make it one more day with all the pressure and fear I was experiencing. MRCC was my calm in the storm. They welcomed me with open arms and my precocious little boy and his father,” Penny said.
Penny has been sober for seven years and now dedicates her time to working to bring a message of accountability and hope to those in prison. She also brings six incarcerated women to CR on Friday nights, where she has experienced an outpouring of love and generosity toward her and those she brings.
“I thank God for MRCC and the many people who support this program,” Penny said. “I see so many other lives changed each month. It is very encouraging to me, and it just seems that the months just keep passing and I have no desire for the old things I used to chase. This community keeps me grounded and loved.”
Photo: Penny, with her family surrounding her.
“When I started going to church and I started going to Capitol Hill, I started seeing how good God was and how he started restoring my faith, starting restoring the joy that I had, I started loving me again.”
This year, a group of 60 Memorial Road members embarked on a journey to plant a new church in north Edmond, the Heritage Church of Christ. They officially launched in early September 2018 and began meeting regularly in the Heritage Elementary School building, close to their property where they plan to eventually have a building of their own.
Jake & Kristen Thurman
This year, the Serve Midtown Church: a church of Christ celebrated their one year anniversary of being a congregation. Many of the church’s members, including Jake & Kristen Thurman, have been there since day one, working to launch a successful church in downtown OKC.
“The urban core of OKC has become the center of our daily lives and is our community. One aspect that was missing though was church, so we were very excited at the opportunity to bring that into our community. We were ready to push ourselves further spiritually. This is our first time to be a part of a church plant, and we knew we would be much more involved than before,” Jake and Kristen said.
Throughout this year, Serve Midtown has worked to form relationships within the Midtown community and work with those around them. They’ve begun working with Positive Tomorrows, the Capitol Hill Church of Christ, and one of their closest neighbors – St. Anthony Hospital. The congregation also worked with Catholic Charities to help refugees coming into the United States. Jake and Kristen helped spearhead the efforts with the family Serve Midtown was matched with.
“We began working with refugees in the summer. We furnished their apartments before their arrival, and met them at the airport to welcome them. We’ve helped with purchasing groceries. And, we’ve provided transportation when necessary. This is a tremendous opportunity to serve a demographic that often gets forgotten. We believe we’ll continue to help brand new arrivals integrate into OKC, and hopefully we can continue the relationships that have been built already.”
The congregation continues to thrive and grow as they reach new milestones and work in the community around them.
“Being a part of the Serve Midtown congregation has put a new perspective on living in our community. We view the ordinary, regular daily activities a little differently now. We see things in terms of what it means for our church, in regard to existing relationships and the potential of new ones. There’s more purpose now in everything,” Jake and Kristen said.
Photo: Jake & Kristen Thurman.
Reaching out to people around the world
Cheryl Bode believed she could provide medical missions in Africa. She began by considering what she could sell to raise the funds to get to where the need was greatest. Six years ago, she joined an existing mission in Chimala, Tanzania, where she put her nursing skills to work. She found a clinic that needed major improvements in hygiene, training, administration, clean water and consistent electricity.
Today, all are greatly improved with the result that patients come to the hospital to receive care – rather than showing up to die. Cheryl placed a focus on creating Bible studies and village outreach efforts with women to strengthen both their spiritual and physical lives. Now, her commitment to Chimala successfully mission fulfilled, souls and lives saved, Cheryl has returned to Memorial Road with her heart focused on the next challenge.
Photo: Cheryl with locals from Chimala, Tanzania.
Masoud & Mahboubeh
This year has been a year full of growth and blessings for the Donau Gemeinde Christi in Vienna, Austria. Through their work in the city, especially focusing on the many refugees seeking asylum in Austria, the church nearly doubled its membership in just a few short months.
The team in Vienna, including Jake & Amanda Haskew and Will & Holly Kooi, had been attempting to reach out to and work with refugees in Vienna for nearly two years, when a couple named Masoud & Mahboubeh walked into their small apartment church.
“We were so happy,” Will said of the refugee couple coming to them, “to have some just walk in our door, already interested in the Bible … it’s really just like God sent them to us.”
Masoud & Mahboubeh fled their home in Iran after the police discovered the house church where they worshiped and studied the Bible. “The police came to the house and arrested all the people. We didn’t even get to go back home. We ran away,” Masoud said. The couple paid for passage to Europe with the help of friends from Iran, and spent three days straight in the back of a transport truck until they made it to Germany. Due to refugee laws in the European Union, Masoud & Mahboubeh eventually ended up seeking asylum in Vienna, where they discovered the house church formed by missionaries from Memorial Road in 2007.
Not long after their arrival, they were baptized and began bringing others seeking asylum to the church with them, including a Farsi translator. Now, because God brought Masoud & Mahboubeh to the Danube Church of Christ, visitors to the congregation will hear hymns and verses in both German and Farsi, and their numbers continue to grow.
Photo: Mahboubeh and her husband Masoud after their baptisms.
Helping people connect with God
Lies Satan Tells
“This past summer, we hosted a WOW worship night called, “Lies Satan Tells.” It was one of the most impactful times of worship we’ve had in recent memory. Satan is a master deceiver. He wants nothing more than for us to believe the lies he tells us every day. I hope you’ll take 3 minutes to watch this video filled with lies Satan is telling some of our family members here at MRCC. And, as you watch, remember Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. And, the truth is, God loves you and wants a relationship with you. You are unique. You are His. He loves you. He is on your side. He is coming after you. He is relentless. Don’t believe Satan’s lies.”
What We Learned in 2018
Caring for our church family
After a tumultuous immigration to the United States, due to dangerous circumstances in her home country, Sofia ended up in Oklahoma City with her two young children.
“There were days and weeks of confusion, hopelessness, and worry,” Jenny Jones, director of our Care & Counseling ministry, said.
While working at a local restaurant, Sofia met many of the Memorial Road staff who had come in for lunch. With Pancho and Lera Hobbes translating, a relationship of hope and love was built, and Sofia’s family began to grow connections with other Memorial Road families.
Through these connections, as well as counseling and other local resources, Sofia’s family has been able to thrive at Memorial Road. Her children have plugged into our children’s Bible classes; and, in June, Sofia was baptized here. Her story continues to grow as she takes hope and refuge in Christ.
Photo: Sofia and her children, Zoe and Henry.
In 2018, we began working toward one of our ministry dreams: the Foster & Adopt Ministry, to support families in our congregation who foster or adopt children into their families.
Teaching all ages the truth of God’s Word
The Children’s Ministry at Memorial Road has the unique ability to bring together people of all ages. From the youngest members of class to the oldest volunteer, every generation is represented. Our volunteers span from high school all the way to senior citizens, and we are grateful for their willingness to share their insights and wisdom with the youngest in our congregation.
“I grew up in Journey Land, and it’s a neat experience to go back and see kids grow in the knowledge and faith. It’s encouraging to see these kids excited about being at church.” -Grayson Boker, college student
“We first started in Journey Land because we wanted to be involved, but we didn’t have kids of our own yet. The first group we had as 2nd graders we followed all the way through middle school. They are now juniors and even though we don’t always see them or aren’t as involved with those kids as we would like, those are our kids and we feel that way about a lot of the kids we’ve been blessed to spend time with through the children’s ministry. This ministry has blessed us, and we are grateful for the Journey Land ministers and support staff and for all they do for our children.” -Bryan & Katy Roybal, young family
“We enjoy working in Journey Land because it gives us an opportunity to connect with the younger members of our congregation, and allows us to meet people we wouldn’t have the opportunity to otherwise.” -Dan & Jeannie Sikes, empty nesters
“My favorite part has been to learn the names of all of the students in each one of the classes. I’ve been doing that for many years and generally when I come into the classroom, they have their name tags on, and when I start class, I can call them by their names. It has been a great joy working with the children. It’s an amazing program because I think the students are learning some basic scripture that they can use all their lives.” -Ralph Burcham, senior
Photo, left to right: Grayson Boker, Ralph Burcham, Dan Sikes, Jeannie Sikes, Katy Roybal, Bryan Roybal.
Raising up teens and college students to follow God
Making an Impact
Our Campus Ministry aims to help college students feel comfortable and loved during a time when many are living away from home for the first time. Though the ministry supports and welcomes hundreds of students throughout the year, one student who has been significantly impacted was Brooke Scates. Jay Mack, one of our Campus Ministers, was recently encouraged when by a conversation he had when he ran into Brooke’s mother, Kerrie Scates. Though she was visiting from out of town and had never met Jay, she stopped him to tell him, “I just want to thank you for all that you and Hudson are doing at Memorial Road. We come from a small church in Virginia. Brooke visited Memorial Road along with a few of the smaller congregations in town to start the school year. And she told me, ‘Mom, those other congregations just weren’t as welcoming as the people at Memorial Road.’ Brooke feels at home at Memorial Road and I just want you to know how much that means to a mamma who lives so far away.”
Photos: Left – Brooke and her mother, Kerrie. Right – Brooke and campus Minister Jay Mack.
Equipping and encouraging our church family
Though many take their first years of retirement as a time to relax, Christy Holloway went the opposite route and dove into the Memorial Road Women’s Ministry in order to better herself and those around her. Christy said, “I am hungry to make connections and have relationships with my Christian sisters. I didn’t get to do these activities as much as I’d like when I was teaching and working so now that I am retired, I’m making up for lost time.”
Since her retirement from teaching, Christy has begun leading a monthly dinner out group and attending a monthly lunch group in order to get to know new people. She also partakes in CWBS, as well as other weekly Bible studies, attends RefresHER and other Women’s Ministry fellowship events, and has taken on mentoring an OC student as a part of the mentor/mentee program.
Photo: Christy Holloway and her Oklahoma Christian student mentee, Molly Burke.
Earlier this year, Phil led the church through a series he called “Breaking Busy,” encouraging the congregation to slow down and take a break from our busy lives. One way he demonstrated our “go, go, go” attitudes was through a blood pressure drive. Alyx Siemer, a nurse active in our young adult Launch class, took this project under her wing and helped it flourish.
“I think so many times we forget how connected our spiritual health and physical health are. I thought it would be a great time to put a physical measure, blood pressure, on our spiritual practice,” Alyx said.
Alyx gathered a large group of nursing students from Oklahoma Christian, and contacted other health professionals in the church, organizing them all and leading the drive so it ran as smoothly as possible.
“This was a pretty ambitious project behind the scenes, considering the amount of blood pressure cuffs and medical professionals needed to pull it off, as well as how to arrange the stations on site so as not to impede traffic flow. Alyx was simply remarkable in putting it all together. She used both her organizational and people skills to make the experience go above and beyond expectation,” Phil said.
Photo: Alyx Siemer.
Providing a foundation for our ministries to thrive
More Than Point A to Point B
It would be easy to think of the Transportation Ministry as just a people mover. It’s more than getting our members from point A to point B – it’s all that happens in between. Transportation is about bringing people together and making connections. Whether groups travel hundreds of miles to a mission trip in Memphis, or spend 15 minutes going across Edmond, the extra time brings people closer in a way only sharing a ride can.
Blair Horst, our Transportation Director, noted, “Our church vehicles get the most use by transporting our young people to events. Destinations where our youth worship, learn, demonstrate their talents, serve others, and have some fun made even better because they get to travel with their friends along the way.”
Photo: Blair Horst, Transportation Director.