Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Jesus in My Place

As we loaded up the minivan this weekend to head to the beach, I’m not sure any of us could have imagined what the Lord had planned for the COTA Women’s Retreat. Sure, we may get to stare out at the ocean from our hotel room on a dreary February day. Yes, we would hopefully meet some new women from Apostles. We would probably enjoy our speaker, Kathy. And we had heard there might be a pretty fun dance party one night.

But the Lord had abundantly more for us. We didn't just stare out at the beach, we walked in the sand on a sunny, 75° February day. We did not just meet new women, we heard real stories, we bonded over shared life experiences, we forged new friendships. Kathy did not just speak good words; she dug deep in scripture and in her own heart and shared the powerful, raw story of redemption—in her life and ours. And oh, we would definitely forego a restful night of sleep to dance all night with a whole bunch of women.

Raleigh Fellows at the 2017 Women's Retreat

And our God worked. The Spirit moved. Jesus redeemed. There are stories of healing—from deep down in our toes to deep down in our souls. There are stories of experiencing God through new gifts. There are stories of Jesus showing up, even in the midst of pain.

My story (in a very abbreviated version) is when Jesus took my place at the table. In a very powerful moment of prayer, I was asked to go back to a moment in my life where I felt pain and rejection. I went back to that moment, and struggled to find Jesus there at first. But, after some conversation and questions, I was able to confess some unforgiveness, admit my deep need for Jesus, and then it happened. I went back to that painful memory, and I looked for Jesus. And there I saw him. He was sitting at the table, in my place. The hurtful words and insults still came, but Jesus took them all. As I sat cowering behind the chair I was previously sitting in, I no longer heard the insults because they went through Jesus first. I watched him take my pain and my hurt. I watched him pick up my burdens. Yes, Jesus took my place. The chains began to loosen, I finally tasted the ice cream, and it was delicious. I felt free.


So, thank you, Apostles women, for choosing to love. When a confused, hurting 23-year-old girl admitted that confusion and hurt, you did not run. You prayed. You asked questions. You spoke truth from the Lord into the deepest places in my soul. You pleaded with Jesus on my behalf. You did not even know my name, but yet you called me sister, you called me daughter, you called me friend. Thank you. 

Carryl Tinsley
2016-17 Raleigh Fellow

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Baptism Story ~ Stephen Sumrall, Raleigh Fellow

I sat completely alone in the church pew. All ninety pounds and five-and-a-half-ish feet of my skinny frame hunched over trying to be even smaller than I already was. Eyes closed and head resting on my forearms. Forearms firmly crossed over my knees. I desperately wanted to disappear. 

You wouldn’t think someone would dread celebrating their sins being washed away by the blood of the lamb. But I dreaded communion Sunday like the plague. Growing up I loathed the fourth Sunday of every month because communion wasn’t for me. I hadn’t been baptized into the church and so I was rightly told that I couldn’t partake of communion. Instead, I sat in that church pew all alone feeling as though the eyes of the congregation were boring through my soul. 

I felt like it would rock my little world of Christian friends if they found out that I didn’t believe the gospel. I couldn’t take and eat of his body broken for me. I couldn’t live my life for Christ. In some ways I never shook that feeling that I couldn’t believe, that a life wholly given to Christ wasn’t for me. 


I never shook that feeling until Sunday January 29th, 2017. On that day I was blessed to be baptized before Church of The Apostles. The ceremony was performed by my dear friend and mentor Eric Bolash in front of many people I’ve come to know and love. I finally felt that the Lord’s table was for me. That he was pierced for my transgressions too, he was crushed for my iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds I too was healed.

Though I did feel those things, I can’t say that the heavens opened up and I suddenly knew how to live my life in new commitment to Christ. That day was a blessing and a turning point, but it was just a beginning. I want to wake and live every day for Christ because he died for me. I want to feel Jesus’ love in the depths of my soul. I want him to be the most real thing in my life. But, even after being baptized, I can’t do any of those things. Only he can in me. I hope and pray for the day that he does.

Stephen Sumrall
2016-17 Raleigh Fellow