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    Youth/Children
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    Director, Children's Ministry
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How has God used Southwood to impact you?: Perspectives on 30 Years


Jim Hess

When presented the question, “How has God used Southwood to impact you?” my mind went immediately to 2009 – a year of great difficulty and sorrow, and yet a time when my family and I experienced God’s amazing grace and love through the Southwood family. It was for us a season of “severe mercy” culminating in Caroline’s sudden and unexpected passing in November of that year. My children (by then young adults) and I were shattered; but Southwood stepped in and loved us, with hands and feet, in a way that was just overwhelming. I still marvel all these years later; we would not have gotten through it without you all. I’m sure I never properly thanked all who helped, probably don’t know who you all are. So, let me say now – thank you, Southwood, for loving us well.

John & Carol Dunkel

Southwood = Family … Not the distant kind you only see every third Christmas in Des Moines but family ... like your sister who lives in the bed next to you and sometimes wears your favorite sweater. Southwood has taught us what it means to be committed to a family with all the diversity of characters we find in our own families ... real families who’ve struggled and rejoiced and watched God work through both. People we’ve loved with sweat and tears and prayers and who have loved us back with all that and more. God made us a family, and we are bound together to love Him and each other in this place.

David Clark

“The Lord your God is with you. He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you…“I heard Jean give the benediction every Sunday. I didn’t believe it. The ministry of the Gospel to me and my family year after year ... I started to believe it when I expressed my doubts, concerns, sins and failure to a pastor who didn’t overlook the sin, but pointed me to a loving savior who loves people like me. I started to believe it when I shared with a friend sin that had overwhelmed me, and was met with love, with a powerful sense of the weight of my sin and the even more extensive love of my Father because of His Son. I started to believe when an elder and friend listened to my rants and my back of the napkin charts and pictures, and he reminded me that the Lord is made strong in weakness. I started to believe when I hear a friend share similar struggles and we wrestle together with what the Gospel means to people just like us. God isn’t surprised by us. He knew us and knew what it would take to be with us ... and did just that.

“... He will quiet you with His love. And he will rejoice over you with singing.” I still wrestle. I still fail. I still often feel overwhelmed and lethargic, but I still come, and hear the love of the Father for someone like me preached and taught and hugged into me ... and I start to believe. Thank you, Southwood Family!

Phillip & Catherine Barrett

During a recent conversation, Catherine summed it up well when she said she actually looks forward to going to church. That hasn’t always been the case for us. Southwood is our home and our family. We know the truth will be taught unapologetically. The desperate need we all still have for Jesus is always kept central in Southwood’s teaching and preaching. This has made all the difference in our marriage, parenting, and our friendships as we have found greater freedom in Christ’s finished work. We are so thankful for the love of God that we constantly see and feel through our family at Southwood.

Mary Mitchell

As part of Southwood’s nursery staff, I am HAPPY to take this as an opportunity to say a huge THANK YOU to all the wonderful folks of Southwood ... the dear folks from the early years, and the dear folks of today! I have often said that it is indeed JOY for me to care for the little ones in the nursery! Each one is God’s precious gift, and I truly cherish all the sweet memories I hold in my heart! One of my very special memories: A darling little blond fellow (2) was delivered to the nursery, and he right away began calling me “Jesus.” I smiled broadly of course, and said ... My name is Mary. He immediately asked me, “Well, where is Jesus?!” (Mommy and Daddy told him he was going to Jesus’ house.)

Many little ones are frightened of a new nursery experience. It can be scary at first, but usually with several visits, children adjust and have FUN. This delights me—every single time! I understand too, the anxiety parents can feel when their little one is upset; I want to give parents soothing comfort and assurance that it will get better … it usually does!

Now after many years at Southwood, I cannot believe how fast this time has flown ... really fast! I am truly thankful for my opportunity to be here. Indeed, I am blessed to be part of this wonderful Church family!

Todd Gandy

Southwood gave Amy and I a place to worship God together. As a young married couple, we struggled to find a church, and Southwood was answer to our (and Amy’s mom’s) prayers. On the very first Sunday we visited, Amy and I were impacted by the love and kindness of the people we met. I had questions about the PCA, and one of the members took me to lunch to explain the PCA’s doctrine and how it changed his life. Secondly, Southwood gave us an opportunity to serve and trust God to work through us. Amy and I had the privilege of helping start Southwood’s youth ministry with Brock and Jana Warner and a host of other volunteers. Even though we had no training and no experience, we got to witness God work through us as we trusted Jesus to impact the lives of high school students, and grow a small seed into a thriving ministry. Not only were we blessed by the ministry and the people in it, so were our children. They learned to love the unlovely and share with the less fortunate. Southwood has also impacted us through its members. We have always been surrounded by people who were willing to challenge us, laugh with us, cry with us, struggle through hard times with us, and be a beautiful representation of Jesus to us for the 28 years we have attended.

Phillip Wright

Through my being at Southwood, God’s love has given me friends. Even though I have been in the darkness of not feeling loved by others, through God’s love l have felt loved sometimes at Southwood. Through being at Southwood I have gained strength with conviction the way I believe to stand up for who I am in Christ.

Because of going to Southwood with knowing the gospel, I’m so passionate about going by what the Bible says, not interpreting Scripture a different way than what the Bible says. Sometimes I’m in the darkness of people not wanting to talk to me at Southwood, but then there are times at Southwood when I feel the light of the gospel helping people want to talk to me. All these are ways God has used Southwood to impact me positively and ways God can use Southwood to impact me so much more with the people to want to reach down into me to pull out things from my life.

Carlotta Howard

At the time I started going to Southwood, I was engaged to Zack, and we later got married in the Lodge. Mike Honeycutt was the pastor at the time, and he did our wedding. I thank God for Southwood because through everything the people from Southwood have been very, very supportive and helpful to our family, especially in our many times of grief and when the Spinks and others came to pray for God’s blessing on our house.

Kim Delchamps

23 years ago I was in college and babysitting for Donna Watson’s children. She was Barney Heyward’s assistant. One day she called and said, “Would you be interested in a receptionist job?” I think back on that day and I’m so happy Barney hired me! Most people my age have had many jobs and are shocked when I say how long I have worked in the same church office. I’m thankful for the opportunity to have worked alongside many staff that have now also become dear friends.

Two personal notes: My dad passed away 10 years ago and leading up to that, he was sick and I was given time off when needed. Many prayers, cards and emails were received and I was grateful to my Southwood family. Recently, I had an unexpected expense and didn’t tell many people. Right before the bill was due, Will came in my office and said a few families had paid the bill. So thankful and surprised. Later I thought more about it and I wasn’t too surprised because the people of Southwood are very loving and generous ... but I was (and still am!) extremely thankful!!

Ethan G. Atkins

One of the many blessings in my life was to have been born into Southwood’s congregation (in 1990). A real treasure was getting to experience the young church grow from a small gathering in a strip mall to seeing the cornerstone of the church building itself being built. Once the building was complete, myself and my five siblings explored every nook and cranny of the place, causing my parents great distress as it took quite a while to track us all down. Southwood was a second home to me, where I could find brothers and sisters my own age to get to know and experience life with. God has blessed us all through the companionship found here. God has provided a solitude where the picture of Heaven can be seen. I am blessed to have that picture throughout my entire life.

Sandy Newby

Thomas and I came to Southwood when it was meeting at the gym. We immediately felt the sweet fellowship and unity. We loved Barney and his preaching touched our lives. We met JoAnn and Bill Sneed, and that friendship has remained until the present. On January 23, 2000, Mike preached his first sermon. It was the next day we found out Thomas had cancer and for the next six months before he died, Mike and Judy were a stronghold for us. The next years were difficult ones but when the time came to leave or stay I prayed earnestly for what God wanted me to do. Most of my close friends left. God’s answer never came to go. I finally realized that he was giving me the opportunity to forgive and not run away from a difficult situation. I have learned there are no perfect churches but that we do have a perfect Lord.

God has used every blessing and trial at Southwood to shape my life, and it was with great joy when the call came for Will and Christy to be our shepherds. It will be a little bit of heaven to see many friends return for this celebration. May Southwood continue to be a light in this city.

Nancy McCreight

God used the Body of Christ at Southwood in great ways to grow me in my faith and teach me about the grace of God. Through the people at Southwood, I learned to experience the grace of God. There were several times I passed through dark days ... trials of my own making due to sinful responses to my life circumstances. I dealt with fear, anxiety and experienced sleepless nights. I do not know what I would have done without dear friends who prayed with me, listened to me, cared for me and showed me great grace without judgement or condemning attitudes. I will be forever grateful for those loving, accepting friends.  I also learned about God’s grace to needy sinners through excellent Bible teaching. Truths taught to us by Barney, Ralph, Mike, Judy, Will, Jean, Scott and Ardi Naden as well as others still ring true in my mind.

Lastly, there are so many who were patient with me in Children’s Ministry, serving alongside me in my weakness and struggles. Ken, Karan Stuart and Nina along with a host of other volunteers helped me learn to love and nurture the children. There were many learning curves for me … and you all were SO patient! I loved my years there! I am so grateful to Jesus for HIS Body at Southwood!!

Justin Huston

I have grown up with Southwood. I began attending services as a child in the early nineties, and as I have grown, I have always loved hearing the words every parent affirms during the baptism of their children that they will endeavor to raise them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. He has given us his body the blessing of community and as our Heavenly Father, exemplifies that charge raising us up with both nurture and admonishment. It was while at Southwood as a young child I first came to know Christ as Lord and Savior. I turned to my pastor for guidance as I sought discernment on God’s calling in my life and moved from university to seminary. It was that body of believers who came around me and helped propel me to the mission field in South Sudan, who nurtured deep wounds with love when I returned, and who enabled me to return to a new mission field with my wife. God by his grace has gifted us not only himself but each other bound together in his love. What a blessing it has been on my life to grow in a place that would nurture and admonish me in the Lord. A place I can be loved and can love in return.

Grace (Toles) Crawford

Throughout the seasons of my life, God has used Southwood to shape me in various ways. As a child and youth, I was most impacted by gospel teaching from loving leaders who poured into me and provided a safe and enjoyable space to genuinely explore my faith. As a young adult, I was taught about spiritual gifts and was encouraged to answer the call I felt to pursue the gifts he had bestowed upon me in a career to advance His kingdom.

This resulted in God enabling me to become a Christian Counselor, which gives me the daily opportunity to express grace to those who are hurting. In my current season of life, God continues to grow me in a better understanding of His will for His Kingdom. I am extremely thankful to have called Southwood my church home for over 20 years and look forward to how God will continue to use my home here to shape my life, the life of my family, and the community at large for His Kingdom.

Blake Stuart

God has used Southwood and its members in my life in many ways over the last 10 years.  It has been a safe haven for me. Its members have been comforting arms in times of struggle. God has blessed me with wonderful friends from Southwood who can laugh and cry with me. God has given me joy through service while leading worship and engaging in singles group and the men’s ministry. Most of all, although I am often prone to wander, Southwood and its members always point me back to Christ.

Nanette Respess

Home. Southwood has always been a safe haven for me from the moment I stepped into the Sunday night Bible study. From the first worship service in Don’s Gym, Sunday school classes in the dry cleaners, celebrations of land, buildings, and the welcoming of new pastors, Southwood is home.

The preached Word, worship, welcoming families and laughter have been part of this body from her beginning. We have grown, moved, built, changed, changed some more, experienced four senior pastors and multiple staff transitions; yet, her commitment to the preached Word, speaking the truth, experiencing grace, and learning to love one another in new ways remain cornerstones. Through births, marriages, health crises, death, and our own painful acknowledgment of sin, Jesus is King and still sits on the throne. He is home.