Stories of Others Living Deeply
At Cedar Springs, we see you – and we’re with you. We know what it’s like to be overwhelmed with the hurriedness of life. We also understand the feeling deep inside you for something deeper than you’re settling for now. In fact, we believe God created us for those deeper things, and we want to help you discover them.
Below are a series of stories from people right here at Cedar Springs. Some come from great experiences while others were walking through hard times. The unifying thread through all of them is a life living deeply in pursuit of Jesus.
I’m Jennifer, a CSPC member, and this is how I’m living deeply.
I realized pretty soon after we got married that he was tracking my phone and text messages in real time. One time, when he was out of town, I left work here in Knoxville 30 minutes early and went to McKay’s. He called and asked, ‘Where are you?’ I was like, ‘Well, I just left work 30 minutes early to go to the bookstore.’ And he’s like, ‘Well, I just had this feeling you weren’t at work anymore.’ Eventually I realized I was in an abusive relationship, and most of the abuse came from his controlling manner. When we left Knoxville to move to a new city, we only had one vehicle, and I would have to ask him before I could even go to the grocery store. He made me take video anytime I left the house –‘You have to video call when you leave the house, video call when you get back’- and it got to the point where he said, ‘You can only go on walks for 10 minutes a day.’ It was suffocating. He controlled the finances, controlled who I could talk to, and isolated me. We got married in 2018 and had our daughter, Gracey, the next year. I was working from home at that point, so Gracey and I didn’t get out much. My husband was in ministry, and the church he was working at had a BSF (Bible Study Fellowship) group, so my daughter and I went one morning. Later that evening we were on our way as a family to a church family night and he says, ‘One of the males on staff said he saw you at the Bible study in the lobby.’ And I said, ‘Oh, yes. I was at BSF, but he and I didn’t even have a conversation.’ He just blows up and says, ‘If you don’t learn how to present yourself in front of men, I’m going to keep you from that Bible study, too!’ So unreasonable. He had a lot of paranoia. There was never peace at home, but to keep peace, I was trying to do everything. It was exhausting and confusing. I left a few times, but always came back, hoping our marriage could work and God might bring change....
In Germany, preschool is mandatory. Parents must send their children. You cannot choose not to- otherwise they can fire you from your job and you could lose everything. Every city or community has to provide a preschool for every single child aged 3 to 6. The problem is that they don’t have enough space to make room for all the children. The Frankfurt region is very international with a very high birth rate. The population is growing more than the facilities. In one suburb, hundreds of families were waiting for spots for their kids. They were entitled to sue the city if it didn’t do anything. The missional group I lead saw this as an opportunity to serve the community and share the Gospel. We realize the people in our context won’t just come to church simply because we invite them. In a multicultural area like this, people already have their religions. So we have to reach out to find them where they are, asking: Where do they spend their time? Where is the need? Starting a preschool wasn’t a strategy- we just realized that was the need in a particular neighborhood. We educated ourselves on what it would take to open one. Then I engaged the city, told them we had a plan, and began negotiating. (Basically, the city couldn’t say no. If they were to turn down an opportunity to provide preschool space, they would’ve found themselves in a complicated legal situation.) We worked out a 10-year contract in which the city granted us all the funding we needed to run the preschool. The building we use is in the center of town, just in front of the city hall. The preschool has been a success, reaching 40 families. The best part is that we can also use the building to house our church. We just pay for the number of hours we’re there holding our service. It’s only about $50 per Sunday, which makes church planting sustainable....
I’m Guna Raman, CEO of the church planting network City to City Asia Pacific, a CSPC missions partner. This is how I’m living deeply.
It takes detailed work here to get church planting right. There are 4.8 billion people in Asia, which includes everywhere from China to the Middle East; 48 countries. It’s very diverse culturally, historically, and politically, which makes it very challenging. The gospel is common to everyone, but it has to be contextualized. You cannot repeat what you do in one place in another. Culturally or linguistically, it just wouldn’t work. We have now worked in 153 cities all across the Asia Pacific region. In each, we have people we’ve trained who are committed to the work of bringing the gospel to their own communities, and God is moving in some exciting ways. One example: Before we started translating our training modules & teaching materials into local languages, about four years ago, they were only in English. Then we started our first translation into Taiwanese & Chinese, then into Japanese, then into the Indonesian language, and now into Thai and Russian for Central Asia. (And more are in the pipeline, including Urdu for Pakistan and Bengali for Bangladesh.) Whenever we get these materials translated, it’s a huge milestone- we can suddenly offer the training program in the local languages. That’s dramatically scaled the number of church planters we train- from about 25 or 30 a year, to 70. Obviously the more we train, the more leaders are equipped to plant churches. That’s really exciting because Asian cities are just booming and growing so fast that we do need a lot more church plants. The only way to do it is through translation. When people hear the gospel, when these church plants hear the gospel in their own heart language, it makes a lot of difference to them. They learn how to contextualize it better and make it more relevant to their community. We’ve even launched a contextualized training for those in more dangerous areas. Church planting there is a completely different thing than planting in those non-persecution contexts. I’m more encouraged in the Lord daily as all this takes shape....
I’m CSPC member Jenny Bushkell, and this is how I’m living deeply.
Talk about timing! I’d just become President of the Nativity Pageant of Knoxville, and it happened to be the year the pipes burst under the Coliseum. Everybody in the media wanted to know if the pageant was going to happen. I know it sounds sort of like a nightmare, but it was great- we couldn’t have bought that kind of publicity! Of course, I was doing a lot of media interviews. One of them was on WRJZ Joy 620, where they asked if I’d ever thought about working in radio. I hadn’t, but it stuck in the back of my mind. About a year later, I called to get someone else interviewed on the station. The producer who answered said, ‘We’ve been waiting on you.’ And that was the beginning of what’s now been a 17-year radio and podcasting career (quite a change for this UT Logistics and Transportation major!). This whole transition was tough. I was the top sales rep in the country for a logistics firm, but I really felt the Lord telling me to stop what I was doing. So I resigned, which was very upsetting to a lot of people. I had no idea exactly where the Lord was leading me, and He didn’t reveal it to me immediately. But what I’ve been doing for the better part of two decades now is, appropriately enough, pure joy. I co-host Bob Bell’s radio show on Monday mornings. And for about 15 years, I’ve been doing my own interview show (Crossroads with Jenny Bushkell, also available as a podcast) on Friday afternoons. Plus I write minute-long vignettes called Moments of Joy. I just find those as I go through life- anybody could do anything, and it’ll become a moment of joy. The goal is to encourage and give people hope. But it always makes my friends nervous when they say something and I go, ‘That’s really good. I’m going to write about that and record!’ Other times it may be something I read in Scripture or heard in church. My whole pathway demonstrates the importance of following what God’s calling you to do, especially when it’s most unexpected....
I’m CSPC Deacon Steve Jessen, and this is how I’m living deeply.
In 1980, I became a single dad. In 1981, I became a single dad with full custody of my children. My initial feelings of elation quickly turned to anxiety. I was young and overwhelmed. What did I know about caring for a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old full-time, on my own? Sensing the need for help in any way available, I asked my boss’s wife, ‘Do you know of a church with a good children’s program?’ Her answer: CSPC. Not long after that, I began taking my kids to the nursery. Kelly, my 4-year-old daughter, plugged in quickly. Chris, my 2-year-old son, was a different story. He’d been a preemie who needed lifesaving surgery when he was just 7 days old, and he was still dealing with effects from that. Chris was seemingly sick all the time, and he was very delayed developmentally. But God provided just what Chris (and I) needed: Helen and Reese, an older couple who served weekly in the 2-year-old room. They took a real interest in Chris and became almost like grandparents to him. They liked him so much, they asked to let him stay in their room until he turned 6 and entered kindergarten! The benefits of having my kids at CSPC were obvious, but it would be a while before I realized my own need to be there, too. At first, I would drop the kids off and have two free hours to go get groceries or whatever. Then one day a couple said, ‘How about you come to Sunday school with us?’ From that point on, I started going to Sunday school (a class Dr. Matt Prince led for years and years) and attending worship. I wasn’t quite a Christian yet. I’d always believed in God- I just didn’t want to surrender or submit. Finally, thanks to much seed planted at CSPC, I got saved in the mid-1980s when I took my then-first grade daughter to the Billy Graham movie, ‘The Prodigal.’ The film really spoke to me- I knew it was time for me to come home. And the way the Lord led me there started with taking my kids to the children’s program at CSPC....
We’re T and J (names intentionally withheld), CSPC missions partners who help catalyze church planting & discipleship among an unreached ethnic group in a difficult part of the world. This is how we’ve been living deeply.
J: “It’s the last thing you want to hear a missionary pray: ‘Lord, I’m really disappointed because things don’t look the way I’d hoped.’ But that was honestly how we felt. When we started out, we felt like, ‘In 15 years, X, Y and Z will happen. There will be this explosion of churches.’ But now that we’d been on the field for 17 years, we looked back and were more like, ‘Wow, this has been hard. It’s been a long road.’ There have been joy and breakthroughs along the way, of course. But God chose to grow different areas than we expected and I think we were having trouble seeing the beauty in all of those other places.”...
I’m CSPC Director of Special Needs Ministry Mary Kendall Akers, and this is how I’ve been living deeply.
The day Andrew Keasling emailed me, I’d been feeling a tug for a couple months. I’d been a stay-at- home mom for four years. But the eight years before that (ever since I graduated from college), I’d served as director of Young Life Capernaum here in Knoxville. Capernaum is Young Life’s ministry directed specifically toward people with special needs. It was a great fit for me because I’ve been around people with special needs my whole life. My sister Molly, who has Down Syndrome, is 19 months younger than me- I don’t remember life without her. My family did a great job of getting her out in the world even back then, when there wasn’t a ton of inclusion happening in our culture. My own desire to serve probably started through watching my sister’s Young Life leader, Suzanne Williams. She really pursued her. It wasn’t like, ‘Come along with us, Molly.’ It was, “Come hang out with me. I want to spend time with YOU.’ I got to watch her teach Molly how to have a relationship with Jesus. I knew my sister, and I knew her capabilities, but I had never really thought about her having a personal relationship with God. It would look different than mine, but it would also not look that different. So I remember seeing that and thinking, ‘I have to do this. I have to be a part of this.’ I was just so attracted to what Suzanne had to offer, and not just to Molly. Our whole family was deeply impacted by our relationship with her. Being on Young Life Capernaum staff for eight years right out of college felt like what I was born to do. But then I left and was home for four years, where I felt very isolated. I’d always wanted to be a stay-at-home mom; thought it was my dream job. I now have a six-year-old and twin four-year-olds, and I love them all as much as any mother could. Yet as soon as my twins were born, I was like, ‘Oh, this is a lot harder than I thought it was going to be- staying at home with three really little kids born within two years of each other.’ I started to sense the Lord moving in my spirit....
I’m CSPC Director of Adult Ministries John Barber, and I’ll be preaching Sunday. Here’s how God’s enabling me to live deeply.
It’s a little jarring to go from executive pastor of a 70-person multicultural, multiethnic congregation -meeting in the gym of an elementary school- to CSPC. I just started this position in March, and it’s quite a change for our family. My wife grew up a small-town preacher’s kid in Arkansas, so this is by far the biggest church she’s ever attended. I grew up in a huge church, First Baptist Orlando, so it’s not that unusual for me. But still, it’s a big change, and I’m spending a lot of time just learning CSPC’s people, personalities, rhythms, and routines. God has us here for a reason, and the way He called us assures me of that. In addition to serving the people of Bridge Church, I was the area director for Joni & Friends for two and a half years. Joni & Friends, of course, does disability ministry and is a great missions partner of CSPC. Last October, when I was still in both of those positions, Andrew Keasling invited me to come lead CSPC’s staff chapel. So I did- I spoke to the staff, spent some time with them, prayed with them and started learning about what they do. After that chapel, I was telling some of my friends who happen to be on staff at CSPC, ‘This is a great group! I’m not looking for anything different, but I just really appreciate being here and I really like these folks.’ The very next day I got a call asking, ‘Hey, would you consider this role as director of adult ministries?’ So it wasn’t a situation where I was looking to leave. I love Joni & Friends dearly. I have an adult son with autism, so that ministry is very close to our hearts. And I wasn’t looking to leave Bridge Church, which we’d helped start as a church plant five years earlier. We still love and are close to those folks. But we also felt Bridge was in such a great place with leadership, staff, and volunteers, it would be okay for me to leave. That’s just the way God orchestrated it. Over the next few months we spoke to James, Andrew, and the elders. Slowly and surely, we ended up deciding to say ‘yes’ to what God had in store....
I’m Pastor Jin Eun Jung of Sarang Church in Knoxville, and I’ll be guest preaching at CSPC Sunday. This is how God’s been enabling me to live deeply.
Change is difficult for human beings- I realize that by looking at myself. A few weeks ago, when I was meditating on the Word of God, I had to confess, ‘Lord, I’m still struggling with this sinful desire. Every day I pray to you, but I’m still struggling.’ Here’s what I wrestle with: When I lead a church Bible study, so many times, I want to show MY righteousness instead of Christ’s righteousness. That’s easy to do when you’re a pastor- you job is to speak! So I find myself pointing out this answer and that answer, making such and such a point. Don’t get me wrong- I genuinely want to teach & help my congregation, but this can also become a subtle way of flaunting my knowledge or education or spirituality. Once I come back home after finishing a small group meeting or Bible study, I often feel, ‘I shouldn’t have talked like that.’ I’m tired of having this regret, but I keep on doing the same thing. Why am I still struggling? After all, I’m a pastor! For me, my struggle is I’m praying, but my heart’s not in it; not sincerely. So I need to be praying more sincerely, not just out of habit. God was very kind to reveal that to me in my meditation, and now I’m trying to follow Him in making that change to my prayer life. The good news? I’m seeing some change- it’s been going a little better lately....
“Serving in the refugee ministry has not always been easy. I don’t speak Arabic, Swahili, or even Spanish but when I don’t know what to say or how to say it He does. His words are always there and sometimes what needs to be said can be said with no words at all.”
“So much of the isolation and depression that was nagging me was lack of community so being able to be a part of a group like that and study God’s word together and laugh and talk about your week was so helpful.”
“There are different seasons in life and at some point there comes a time as a couple when your children fly from the nest. In our case when that happened we prayed for God to show us what to do with the next season of our lives.”
“Each time we travel it becomes deeper and richer from the relationships that we have now in the UK and our heart for the cities.”
“The most important thing for us was getting connected in smaller groups. Rather than just showing up on Sunday mornings, it was getting involved. The church just came alive!”
“Cedar Springs really laid the foundation for my life. I grew up hearing truth. I grew up seeing how it was lived out in the home.”