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Takeaways from Express Grace


Many of you were able to join us last month for our Express Grace Conference with Ray Cortese, and in particular for our Saturday night fellowship dinner and dessert with Southwood’s local mission partners. I was so encouraged by the fellowship that occurred over dinner, the gospel teaching from Ray Cortese, and the many conversations I witnessed around our mission partner tables. I asked Southwood members Christen Shaffer and Roy Longino to share a few thoughts from their time at the conference, and I asked Kenny Cole to share specifically from his perspective as one of our local mission partners.

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Thoughts from Our Members

How was the Express Grace weekend helpful to you as you consider God’s call to share the grace you’ve received with others in our community?

“The biggest realization and reminder for me throughout the weekend was the selfishness and comfort in which I absorb myself. I have this gift God has given me yet I choose to hoard it for myself or for people I like. Hospitality means I share the gift of Christ not only in my home, but in my workplace, the grocery store, church, the ministry I serve in, etc. When you’re surrounded by a culture that is wealthy and selfish, living in a way that is selfless is difficult, unnatural and weird. I hope to allow others into my life despite my discomfort, not because I feel guilty about it, but because God gives me the desire and urge to express His great love.”
– Christen Shaffer

“On Saturday night I stopped by the Jobs for Life booth and got the scoop from Sarah Niemitz on this ministry.  I was excited to learn that we participate in ministry that helps unemployed folks ‘get back in the game’ by coaching, mentoring, encouraging, networking, and most of all, holding them accountable every step of the way.  We have the chance to help those who are motivated to help themselves and share God’s grace and love with them along the way. I really appreciated that there are concrete opportunities for engagement offered through this ministry.”
– Roy Longino

How might you encourage someone to take advantage of what was offered even if they were unable to attend the conference?

“I would encourage anyone interested to talk with a leader in the church who can connect you with someone involved in a ministry. You can get a run-down and decide if it’s a place or ministry with which would you would like to serve. If your schedule is tight, maybe commit to praying for a certain organization or choose to give financially. Also Southwood has an awesome website with lots of information, so you can always start by looking there for information.”
– Christen Shaffer

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Thoughts from a Local Mission Partner

What was particularly encouraging to you and your ministry about the Express Grace Weekend at Southwood?

“Experiencing and expressing grace are concepts that go hand in hand. The conference really drove this point home for me and verified that needing God is not weakness in our lives but, rather, an opportunity for God to enter into our lives in a very personal way.

Five years ago, I was volunteering at one of Huntsville’s inner city middle schools, and I saw children terribly scarred by the ills endemic to our broken world. The Lord put a burden on my heart that grew over time. Jeremiah 29:11 tells us that He knows the plans He has for each of us—even plans for children growing up in poverty.  ... Over the last five years God has shaped that burden into 29:11 Inc, a private school system that works to prepare children’s minds through college preparatory education, provides a safe environment that communicates the love of Christ, and builds relationships across neighborhood boundaries.

But before it could open the first school, 29:11, Inc. was in need. It needed a building, rooms, and supplies. It needed staff, money, and volunteers. It needed food, uniforms, computers, and other things. Enter churches, individual donors, board members, even a 12 year old girl’s cupcake fundraiser… God revealed Himself as the faithful provider for our needs even in the midst of a financial recession.

Then at the conference Ray Cortese said, “All we need is need.”  Ray is right. ... God continued to meet our needs even at the conference. Our school needs a playground. It turns out that the young man next to me at the dinner table was an engineer who used to design and build playgrounds. I am not making this up. 

‘For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord…’  When we have needs, God wants to be there. When He meets those needs, He is glorified. Every time God meets our needs at 29:11 Inc, we experience His grace. And on the other side of our experiences, there is another person expressing His grace to us. Funny how that works. And it is summed up by Ray in such a simple way: “All we need is need.” 
– Kenny Cole