More than a building an unforgettable year at morning star

"I remember the day well, even though it feels like a decade ago. January 12, 2020, the day we relaunched Morning Star Community Church. I can see the balloons, the t-shirts, the buzz of anticipation! After months of praying and planning, meticulously pouring over every word and concept behind our new mission and vision statements, we unveiled to you all a new and bold direction that God had laid on the hearts of our elder and leadership teams. It was a glorious day, followed by three wonderful weeks of unpacking the vision as we shared our plans of how we were going to 'run toward people who need the love and grace of Jesus, so that in the next five years 20,000 people will hear the gospel'!

There was so much excitement and momentum, and then . . . and then everything changed. You know the story of 2020 and what went on, but what you might not know is how God used the events of 2020 to catapult us toward our vision in ways we never could have imagined back in January. Jesus’ church is growing and He has used 2020 to truly show us how to lead people to pursue a Jesus-first life."

- John Jaskilka, Executive Pastor


"It’s always weirded me out when I’ve heard people say 'church isn’t a building.' Then what do we mean when we say 'we’re going to church Sunday', or 'come with me to my church', or 'what church do you go to?'

For so many of us, church IS a place, it’s a home, a shelter, a refuge. We call them sanctuaries for a reason. But this year I was strongly reminded that church isn’t JUST a building. It is indeed a place, but it’s MUCH MORE than that. It’s more than a building. We’ve been planning for years what it would take to video our services well. Then the next step would be to start streaming. So thankfully, COVID didn’t change our goals or our direction—it most certainly changed the timeline.

Our very first online service on March 15, 2020

We started streaming on week one, and boy howdy, have there been lessons learned. Our church family has been overwhelmingly kind and gracious with our learning curve, and each week we get a little better. We’ve seen many come to know Jesus for the first time during our online services. Each time it highlights for me the key idea that we’re not just doing this because of the craziness that is 2020, but we’re doing this because we believe in meeting people where they are. And people are online!

I had a really cool experience with a young man during our online service. Life was in a rough spot, and he happened to see our sign as he drove by, even when everything was shut down for in-person services. But attending online didn’t feel so overwhelming. He came and silently watched for a week or two, then reached out using the 'Live Prayer' button. I got the chance to get to know him a little bit and pray over some rough things he was going through. On a prompting from the Spirit, I made the leap and invited him to meet me in the physical world for lunch. To my shock and joy, he said yes! We met for lunch and he was brave enough to share his story. I got to pray with him again in person, and then the next week he reached out to join one of our Young Adult Community Groups! From never having been in our building, to looking at joining a group of fellow believers who will encourage and walk with himthat’s the dream! It’s a stark reminder that when we talk about views and clicks onlineit’s not just a metric; each one is a real person, walking the journey of faith, and we get the opportunity to encourage them! PRAISE GOD!

Jesus cares about those in retirement homes who can’t make it here, those with at-risk families just trying to protect their loved ones, those without transportation, or with jobs that keep them from being a part of the Sunday morning time slot.

Jesus cares about each of themand so do we. So regardless of if you’ve been back in person since the moment it was allowed, or if you’ve been a part of a great community building up online—welcome home!"

- Jim Smith, Online Campus Director

From our very first online service, we’ve seen so much consistency AND growth in our church body. While it may look like a dip in numbers, our online service only counts devices streaming the service, not individuals. That means so many more are tuning in, whether with family, neighbors, or Community Groups.

Since our online campus began, we've had 45 people indicate that they wanted to trust Jesus for the very first time!

Redefining Community

"In our Community Group, which is made up of 'experienced' members, some with limited technology skills have made the necessary transitions and adjustments to participate in church services online. That for many is a big step and goes outside our comfort zones. I’m sure we all know people who at first were not excited about virtual church services, but have since converted over and now understand and embrace the importance of using this opportunity.

In our group, our host, who is also our most 'experienced' member, had never used an iPad before, but turned into a regular virtual attendee using his new technology device. So we are all be blessed in that we’ve had, and still do have, such an opportunity. As we know, this is something people in years past did not have. We owe a great deal of gratitude to Morning Star and other church leaders and staff for making this happen as we await God’s plan to unfold regarding the pandemic."

- Chuck Hayes


Everything we do in Student Ministries happens because of our committed volunteer leaders. These rockstars have always risen above the call of duty, but during this COVID season, they took it to a whole new level. In March, things across every facet of our lives were cancelled, but as we know, Church, the gathering of God’s people, is never cancelled. The Student Ministries team began creating weekly content in the form of YouTube videos that premiered on Wednesday and Thursday nights. Our volunteers would rally their students to watch them together, and then have small group time over video calls after.

When we couldn't meet in person, this really maintained the connection that students need. When small, in-person gatherings were made possible, our leaders opened up their homes to their students for those small group meetings. That willingness to do whatever it takes to see students grow in their faith made this season a success, rather than a disappointment. On top of all of this, they came together to make Great Camp happen and have been back in person, every week we are able, introducing young people to Jesus and discipling them into maturity in Him.

Highlife's "Meet the Leader Mondays"

Perhaps one of the most encouraging parts of all of this, is that even in this season, we had two stellar volunteers start as leaders during the pandemic. Bretta came to check out serving at Highlife in March—the last week before in-person gatherings were cancelled—and then was able to come to Great Camp in August as a leader.

Bretta and the 7th grade girls at Highlife on Halloween

“I wasn't around before camp to see the difference between before and after camp, but to my knowledge it has increased the amount of girls regularly showing up for small group, and Great Camp has created a space in which they are more likely to open up. During camp, it was hard for them to talk about their walk with Christ beyond the superficial aspects, but now they are listening to the messages and reflecting them into their lives and experiences. I feel incredibly blessed to know these girls and be in a position to lead them towards Christ!”

- Bretta Little, 7th Grade Girls' Leader


Our Morning Star Kids' team works tirelessly to create great, interactive lessons and weekly content to stay connected with parents and kids when we can't all be together. From online to outdoor services to meeting in the building, our team has created fun, safe ways for kids to learn and grow with Jesus!

"A new family (a mom and two girls) came during the outdoor service. They looked a little lost and unsure the first week, but it was just what they needed, and the girls had a blast! I made sure to be intentional about giving them attention and making them feel welcomed. It must've worked because they came back the next week! The mom seemed so grateful to have a safe and fun place to bring her girls!"

– Savanna Yuzko, Morning Star Kids Team


RECOVERY DOESn't take breaks

Did you know that Celebrate Recovery never cancels? A huge part of the recovery process is consistency, so the team that runs CR is there every Tuesday. Rain or shine, Christmas Eve and Thanksgiving, every year. For this ministry, cancelling is just not an option.

Our amazing team was able to begin the first Recovery-centered Community Group, starting as an online meeting space, now in-person, for anyone struggling with hurts, habits, or hang-ups to support each other and move forward into healing and freedom.

Celebrate Recovery has had 33 people fill out new-person cards since the shutdown began in March.

That's 33 people getting connected and starting their journey toward hope and healing, in the midst of a pandemic!


We got a call in August from our great friends at Hope Station. They had pallets of food to give away and wondered if we would be interested in handing it out at church. We went to pick up FIVE pallets of food (that’s a few thousand pounds!) and when we got back to the church, we had a line of cars waiting!

As we loaded up cars with grapes, blueberries, milk, butter, eggs, broccoli, chips, and more, we got to talk to the people and hear a little of their stories. One family was picking up for others they knew needed it more that they did. Another family picked up food for two families in their neighborhood. A few families were ashamed to ask for food, but they really needed it; we prayed with them and encouraged them. Others were looking for ways to bless their neighbors unexpectedly. One guy had nine kids to feed and was so grateful for everything.

We got to pray with people and share where this abundance—and where our hope—comes from.

When it seemed like the world was on fire, the biggest question we heard from our church family was, "How can I help?"

During the wildfires, so many of you contacted us to offer your homes, clothing, food, and money to help those who were displaced. We had overwhelmingly more help offered than was asked for. We were blown away by the amount of people ready to help at a moment's notice. Some of the ways we were able to help were:

  • Paying for a hotel room for people who had been displaced
  • Raising over $7000 during a gift card drive to have gift cards on hand to give to those in need
  • Using our parking lot to house several displaced families in their RVs

It's still a long road for many who live in the Santiam Canyon, but with the generosity of this church, we're ready to help in the long run.


COVID brought an opportunity to serve our first responders who serve our community on a regular basis. We partnered with 3R’s to disinfect their vehicles and we were able to give them a care package with practical things they would use: energy drinks, protein bars, gum, and Advil, as well as encouragement notes from many of you in our church!

The most important thing we gave them may have been a few minutes rest and a person to talk to. We heard their stories and got to tell them how much we appreciate what they do, the hard situations and the things no one sees or understands. There were firefighters, ambulances, police, medical transports, doctors, and nurses who came to our church to receive this tangible help!

"During the COVID shutdown, we were invited to make lunches for different departments at Salem Hospital for the eight weeks of May to June. The timing of the request and offer of payment to do so was such a blessing for us and our business. And even better, we were thrilled to be able to give back to these frontline warriors and our community during this unprecedented time.

God has provided for us so incredibly generously through all of this, and it was amazing to give back. From the notes we received, it seems the staff at Salem Hospital that we served were blessed as well. Many thanks to Pastor Jared and Morning Star for selecting us to participate in this program. It was a huge blessing all the way around. Praise to God for all His blessings!"

- Natalie & Barry, Owners of Idle Hour Bar


"I would like to share how Women's Bible Study has been an example of mentorship, discipleship, and true evangelism, just at one table over the past ten years. As a table facilitator, it has been a blessing to watch women (including myself) grow in the Lord, which then overflowed into our own spheres of influence. Here are just a few examples:

I will start with my own beautiful daughter who has been 'churched' most of her life, but after a painful divorce, becoming a single mom of three young girls, and with her own lack of self-confidence, found church wasn't where she felt good about herself. I invited her to Bible study group, where she found a support group of others who also were not perfect. Getting into the Word brought her a new and better understanding of who she truly is in Christ Jesus.

Fast forward: She invited a young mom with a new baby who was not going to church anywhere, and felt alone and overwhelmed by motherhood. That mom then brought her husband to church and then started an evening Bible study in her own home with family members and friends using our weekly study. That young mom then invited another young mom from her work to our table. Now that mom, her husband, and two little ones come to our church.

Sheryl and some of the ladies from her table at our Fall 2020 Study

Through sitting at our table, my daughter and her husband (she remarried) were befriended and invited to a Community Group. Through that Community Group, her new husband began to grow in the Lord and now as a couple, they host a community in their own home. She has invited ladies from her Community Group who were new to the church to Bible study and they now have also invited others. One mom who doesn't come to church because her husband works on weekends, decided to come to Bible study, and after moving out of town, she still drives an hour to Bible study every Thursday morning. We have all seen God restoring her marriage and she is growing in her faith.

Here is another example. Over the years I have also had ladies in their 70s and 80s at the table. These ladies are usually facing widowhood and many different health issues. Many of them have expressed to me how much Bible study has helped them, not only with their own fears of being old and forgotten, but they have found a new sense of being needed, loved, and valued as those who have insight from their own life experiences to share with the younger women. I have seen them now reaching out to serve others (older and younger women) with meals, kindness, encouragement, and prayers. They now feel connected to a community of ladies who also support them during various health crises that face the elderly.

I also have found the opportunity to share my Bible study with those who aren't physically able to come. My neighbor has brain cancer and doesn't have the health to join the table. However, we meet once a week and I share the link with her to watch the videos. She now has a Bible study in her home on Thursday nights for some of her family and friends.

From left to right: Sheryl, her daughter Tami, her granddaughters Anna, Sara, and Julia

Fast forward more: Now my daughter has her two daughters (21 and 18) coming to Women's Bible Study. They told me they were both feeling unconnected since all the changes in the church, and now are excited again to be in a group study and growing.

Over the years I have seen many lovely ladies who, even though being in church, were still babies in Christ Jesus, which usually became evident when the storms of life hit, such as loss of income, sick children, aging parents, marriage issues, wayward children, etc. Walking through those tough times with the Word of God, prayers of our table, and a deeper sense of the comfort of truly coming to know who they are in Him, brought growing faith, trust and hope into their lives, which in turn brought a spiritual maturity and a true testimony to share with others.

Truly growing in the Word gives all of us not only the armor to live in this world, but the maturity and confidence to share with our neighbors, lost family members, and co-workers. It gives us a true understanding that we all have a 'mission field'!

It is a blessing to be part of something that strengthens and brings growth to the kingdom of God; the true Kingdom, not just in the walls of our own church, but throughout the world. In the words of Jill Briscoe, 'The mission field is in between our own two feet.'"

- Sheryl Johnson


Usually our middle and high school students each get a week in the summer to get away, camp out, and have fun as they learn about Jesus. This year, we had to get a little creative about how to do that . . .

"To sum it up, Great Camp was, well, great! It truly was. In a time when people felt isolated and alone, we were able to bring the church together and experience something great together. Even with masks and social distancing guidelines in place, the energy was palpable. It kind of felt like a candle was ignited in the darkness. We had a ton of fun and we experienced Jesus together.

The theme of the week was Jesus is better. Jesus is better than my plans. Jesus is better than my fears. Jesus is better than blessings. Jesus is better than the struggle. Jesus is better than religion. Jesus is better than the ordinary life. Jesus is better. We processed and experienced these truths together while having a ton of fun. It was a beautiful, COVID-inspired collision of Great Xscape and Adventure Camp. And while summer camp looked different this year, it truly felt like camp. Take a look at the video and testimonies below to see a glimpse of what we’re talking about."

"Jumping into high school ministry mid-pandemic felt like a crazy thing to do . . . so naturally I did it, and I’m SO glad I did. I can’t believe I get to know and love these girls."

-Ariah Limed, High School Girls' Leader

"People shared deep hurts and sins, had revelations on how to better follow the Lord, and came to know Him just like at any other camp. He can reach our students at home in Salem the same way He can in Tygh Valley."

- Natalie Smith, High School Girls' Leader

At the start of this year, as part of our "2020 Vision", we wanted to adopt 20 foster families, walking alongside them as they fulfill the call on their lives to open their hearts and homes. Well, like many things this year, it's looked a little different than we anticipated, but we love that by partnering with Salem Angels, not only do we get to take care of even MORE families, but to start a true partnership that allows us to bring the hope of Jesus to many.

Over 500 kids are currently experiencing foster care in our community. Salem Angels is a non-profit committed to walk alongside children in the foster care system, as well as their caretakers, by offering consistent support through intentional giving, relationship building, and mentorship.

In 2019, there were nearly 1,000 children who spent time in foster care in Marion County alone. But there were only 232 certified foster homes to care for those children. Sadly, Marion County lost more foster homes than it gained last year. We know that not everyone may feel called to open their homes to foster, but we believe that everyone can make a difference in the life of a child experiencing foster care.

"You can help provide youth with community, hope, and support as they dream and plan for their futures. You can be one additional healthy adult in their life, who knows the colors of their eyes and the passions of their hearts, and makes them feel seen, heard, and valued. Please join Salem Angels in our dream of transforming the foster care system in Marion County!"

– Brooke Goldsby, President of Salem Chapter

Because of your generosity and faithfulness in giving,


The impact that this organization will have is almost impossible to predict. We are excited to be a part of the effort to practically take care of those in our community in need of a family, but we're not stopping there! Our upcoming Christmas event, The Lights at Morning Star, will be so much more than a free, family-friendly event to bless our community; it will support Salem Angels and bring awareness to their mission.

"When we began this year armed with what we believed was '2020 vision,' we never envisioned the twists and turns, uncertainties, and sometimes frustrating, terrifying, even disheartening circumstances in which we would find ourselves. We couldn’t even read the big letters at the top of the eye chart! One of the first messages I shared was the story of Jehoshaphat, found in 2 Chronicles 20:1-12. Under threat of utter destruction, confronted with the prospect of bitter defeat at the hands of powerful armies arrayed against them, God’s people were vulnerable and exposed with no immediate remedies or relief in sight. And how did the good king Jehoshaphat respond? He poured his heart out to God in prayer: 'We are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.'

We are approaching 2021 with so many unanswered questions swirling around us and threatening to undo us, or at the very least keep us in a constant state of anxiety. But fear not, Church! As you can see, God has been at work in powerful ways this past year. It is in these very times of uncertainty and discomfort that faith grows exponentially! Let’s end this year the way we started—with our eyes on the Lord. So much has changed for us, but He has not changed.

Moving forward with our eyes on Jesus, armed with nothing but this trust in Him, let’s lead many, many more people to pursue a Jesus-first life!"

- Scott Nelson, Senior Pastor