"Hi, my name is Keni. I did not grow up with a Christian background. It wasn't frowned upon, it just wasn't a teaching in my immediate family. Some of my relatives have Christian backgrounds, but I didn't live near them.
I have struggled with depression for many years. My husband passed away in 1998 and my mom in 2003, each leaving a huge void in my life. I later lost my job and home due to the declining economy. My depression continued to deepen. I thought my children would fill that void in my life, but asking them for help caused huge hardships. I became bitter, angry, jealous, and very negative. I began to alienate my family and had no one to talk to. My heart was shattered. I sought out professional help, but hit a lot of brick walls.
I was talking with a friend, Carol, one day and explained to her I was hitting rock bottom and did not like being this person I had become. She asked me how I felt spiritually. I told her that I thought someone was up there, but really didn't know or believe. We had a good talk. I went home and prayed to God. I prayed and talked to Him for hours. I asked Jesus to forgive all my sins and asked Him to guide me on a path of faith and help me not to be the person I had become. I didn't expect anything and knew my mental state was not going to be an overnight fix, but I just kept praying and asking for guidance.
"I woke up one morning and it was like a heavy burden was lifted off my shoulders. A feeling that is so unexplainable. I had a huge smile on my face. The Lord has answered my prayers and I no longer have that bitterness, anger, jealousy, or negative attitude. It was then I realized there was only one Person who could fill that void—Jesus. I know in my heart that God has lead me on a good path and I have wholeheartedly accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as my Savior, and will continue to have faith in Him as He has faith in me. My heart is whole again. I know I am not alone!!
Carol introduced me to Bible studies at Morning Star that I have been attending. Easter 2016 was the first time I had ever been to church. I’ve been attending Sunday services ever since. I walked into Morning Star with an overwhelming welcoming. Everyone was so nice and caring and positive—something I have not had in my life for a long time. I was baptized on May 1 and felt so cleansed of my past . . . I have a new life; everything felt right and so positive!!! I can't praise God or worship Him enough for all that He has done for me.
I also attend Celebrate Recovery, where I am now the Kitchen Director. I prepare the meals for our group on Tuesdays evenings and love being able to serve as the Lord has always wanted me to. I am also taking my first Step Study course and have learned so much about myself—things that I would have never given a second thought about before. I have already decided that I am going to take this Step Study again because I see now that I have a lot to cover and let go of. I want to be one with the Lord.
"I read my Bible regularly; Scripture and devotions daily. I’ve realized that by praying and taking the time to talk to the Lord that He will give me the answers I am searching for. I just have to be patient and listen, 'breathe' when things are bothering me, and ask Him for help when I need it. He is there. He is always there. I just have to have faith and believe that our loving God will never let me down. I praise Him, thank Him even if I don't have anything bothering me. Sometimes my heart is overflowing with so much joy that I raise my arms and shout, 'Thank You, Lord, thank You!! Thank You for all that You have done for me and for guiding me onto the path that I am on today.'
He is so full of grace and love for us all . . . and life doesn't get any better than that. God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good. In Jesus’ name I pray, AMEN!"
(pictured at her baptism with Pastors David Thaten and Larry Courtain)
SERVING WITH OUR GIFTS
WE COUNT PEOPLE BECAUSE PEOPLE COUNT!
"We’re a military family and were transferred to Salem from Texas in early May. Within three weeks of our move, we found out that we were going to be expecting our third child. We tried several churches in the area and toward the end of June we found our way to Morning Star. Three weeks later, in mid-July, we learned that I was miscarrying. After an ultrasound to confirm the loss on a Sunday afternoon, we went to the Sunday evening service. Completely devastated and heartbroken, we went forward for prayer and that is where we met Mike and Lee Ann Zanon. The Zanons prayed for us and truly loved on our family. They brought us dinner, kept in touch, and gave us comfort and encouragement. With no family or friends here, God knew we needed that.
"Lee Ann also gave my name to Jen Tompkins and invited me to the monthly gathering for the Mama Tribe, which happened to be at a park near our house that week. So I made myself be brave and I went. I saw them across the park with all of their precious babies and a few pregnant bellies and it made the loss of my child even harder. I seriously considered going home, as I didn’t think I could make myself go over to them. But then they saw me, and I was warmly welcomed into the group. When I left the park that day, in the midst of my heartache, I felt full of hope. We soon joined a Community Group and I also started going to a women’s Bible study. There I met other women who had also suffered the loss of a child and who completely understood my pain.
"When we left Texas, I prayed that God would prepare a place for us here and that He would surround us with others who love Jesus and want to follow Him. I feel so encouraged and hopeful in what we have found here at Morning Star. The Lord put us just where we needed to be at just the right time. Morning Star is a real answer to my prayers. I am so grateful!"
COMMUNITY AT MORNING STAR
"When I came out my coma and realized what had happened to me, I thought a lot about what I needed to come to grips with before I got out of the hospital. The small physical injuries I sustained when I was hit by the car were healed. The downside to the accident was a traumatic brain injury which was and is the cause of the physical problems I still have: numbness, a significant loss in motor function of my right side, clarity of speech, double vision, short-term memory loss, and an assortment of many other challenges. I remember immediately forgiving the guy who hit me, and thanking God for the good that would come from this near-death experience.
During my recovery, I relocated to Salem. My uncle and his family go to Morning Star and I knew that the church had been praying for me. I began to go to church when I could and then with my cousin Emily to a Young Adult Community Group as my work schedule allowed. They’ve helped me in many ways to recover, as my speech and social skills need significant rebuilding! They also help me to keep going after Jesus.
I always think of what would have happened if I didn't get hit. But I never think badly about this accident in that it has ruined my life! I absolutely know and see God’s love in my slow healing! No matter how down I have felt at times, I can't run away from His incredible love and the joy that this accident has brought me through Him." Luke Daily
AT MORNING STAR, WE HAVE SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE!
3 days. 2 nights. 204 women. #mstarpurejoy
"Wow, how powerful it is to be surrounded by so many women who are Jesus-loving truth speakers. Joy is a choice founded in God's Word."
"I have enjoyed deepening friendships and building new ones."
"It's been inspiring and refreshing! I am making a renewed commitment to "access joy", knowing it is a fruit of the Spirit, available at all times and in all circumstance."
"Women's Retreat showed me that God sees me and cares about me; He has not forgotten me."
We believe there's nothing better than seeing people get connected into the church body and grow in their walk with Jesus! In 2016, many more people are making real and lasting connections than in the previous year.
Over and over again, we've heard more people say that they feel that they've come home as they've been welcomed and loved by the Morning Star family. A big shout out to our volunteers who faithfully serve in our parking, greeting, ushering, Guest Connect, and guest follow-up ministries. You all are making a HUGE difference!
If you've never been part of a Connect event, we encourage everyone to come! Whether you are brand new or been around since the Nelsons' living room, we would love to have you join us!
As they have for the last 11 years, our high- and middle-school students staged a garage sale to raise money for their Spring Break missions trips. If you donated, volunteered, or shopped at the garage sale, you didn't just make a difference for the 73 students on our 2016 trips; you made it possible for them to bring the love of Jesus to countless others!
"The [Spring Break] missions trip made me realize how important it was to serve, not just go to church and do all that. It made me more willing and after the missions trip it made me more active in church." Matt Leirissa