Friday, September 14, 2012

Finding a New Home and Family at Church by Brett & Alana Charlton

Fulfilling Freedom Witness Moment (March 2012)

It is amazing how time flies...

It is hard to believe that only 4 years ago, we made a leap of faith to uproot our 
family. We left Raleigh, NC to move to Rock Hill, SC; a place that neither of us had
ever visited, and I had never heard of.  

Things were good in Raleigh.  Both Alana & I had good, secure jobs. We had lots of 
really good friends from college living nearby. We had our little piece of land with more 
house than we really needed, a yellow dog named Daisy, and had just welcomed our sweet little girl, Lily, into this world.  Everything was going really well except I had started to get a bit antsy. I was reaching that point in my career where I needed to make a change and as a new mom, Alana wanted to spend more time at home with Lily.

Amazingly, before I even started looking, I got a phone call.  It was a recruiter for 
3D Systems, located in Rock Hill, SC.  They had heard about me and wondered if I would be interested in an open position in their engineering department.  My first thought was, "Where the heck is Rock Hill, SC?”  I had heard of 3D Systems, but had to get out a map to find exactly where in SC we might be moving.  After much thought, discussion, and prayer; we made a leap of faith and left all the comforts we felt we had surrounded ourselves with in Raleigh to move here; a place where we had never visited, and knew nothing about. We did not know a sole upon arriving.  

It was a struggle that first year.  We lived in a one bedroom apartment with our dog and
our baby girl while we waited for our home to sell.  Lily learned to crawl in that apartment and enjoyed looking out the second floor apartment window for Daddy to come home from work.  You will all recall how things fell apart for the economy in 2008.  Houses that had been selling in a day or a week were now taking months at best.  We had originally planned on a max of 2 months before ours took 6 months.  And looking back, six months was actually pretty good for the times, but those six months felt like an eternity while we waited for someone to make an offer on our old home.  You can imagine the extra stress we were under during those the extra months of multiple bills and paying both a home mortgage and rent on an apartment.  But how fortunate we were when our old home sold when it did because the day we got the offer on our house was exactly one day after we had made a tentative offer on our current home here in Rock Hill.  

We started our church search in the summer of 2008.  Our first stop was St. John's United Methodist Church.  Why?  Well, the first reason was we both grew up attending United Methodist churches so that was the natural place to start.  The other was the location being in downtown Rock Hill.  We had our eyes set on a few other locations as well, but we really did not have any insight about any of the local United Methodist Churches.  

That first day, we parked in the gravel lot next to the St. Johns Children's Center and were pleasantly surprised when we entered.  So bright, so open, so friendly.  The nursery was clean and safe and perfect for young kids.  We signed Lily into the nursery using a computer touchscreen and were provided with a pager just in case we were needed during the service.  We felt really safe leaving Lily as we went off searching for the sanctuary.  Let me tell you, finding the sanctuary was no simple task! Thank goodness for the friendly guidance of some of the members or I don't know if we ever would have found the sanctuary.  After service, several different couples specifically sought us out because they did not recognize us. They all said hello, welcomed us, and encouraged us to return on another Sunday.  We were pleasantly surprised with how our visit to St. John's had gone, and we made a decision on our ride home that day that we were done with our church search.  The atmosphere was so welcoming and friendly and Alana had fallen head over heels for the Children's Center.  After all, your child's safety is the most important thing.

We took St. John's 101 and joined St. John's in the Fall of 2008. It just so happened that not too long afterwards we were surprised to find out that we were expecting again.  We welcomed baby boy Jack into this world in August 2009.  Jack was born early on a Sunday morning so I placed a call to let one of my friends at the church know Jack had been born and hoped he would share the news with our Sunday School class that morning.  Later that day, sitting in our hospital room, we tuned the TV to Comporium Channel 2 where the 11am service would be showing.  To our surprise, the birth of Johnny Allan Charlton (Jack), was announced to the church that very morning!  Later that week when we returned home from the hospital, a wooden blue stork telling the 
world that the newest "St. John's United Methodist Church" member had just been born was sitting in our front yard!  We had never heard of a Stork Ministry, but what a wonderful ministry that is.  And then our Sunday School class, the Pathfinders, supplied us with over two weeks of meals as we got adjusted to our expanded household.  Needless to say, St. John's was there when we needed them most.  

As time passed we have become more and more involved and utilized more and more of what St. John's has to offer.  From utilizing the nursery and both of our kids attending the preschool, to being involved with different ministries such as Hunger Outreach, Softball,Sunday School, Band of Brothers, Children's Council, Communications, Stewardship, and the Fulfilling Freedom Debt Reduction Campaign, we have come to love St. John's.  We don't just love this church, we are this church.

It is ironic to me that the debt reduction campaign is focused on paying for the Children’s Center since this was the biggest thing that brought us to this church.  That's the reason St. John's as a church built the Children's Center in the first place.  To bring young families that would help this church grow now in the community and to continue to grow in the future.  I promise that St. John's leap of faith in the decision to build the Children's Center will continue to pay huge dividends in the future of the church.

Speaking of a Debt Reduction Campaign, Alana & I have almost completed our own debt reduction campaign so we feel that we know what it means to sacrifice this for that in terms of money.  We've always wanted to give more, but when trying to figure out how to pay your own debts, its hard to justify increasing tithes each year.  When this debt campaign was announced, we both got to thinking & praying about what we could give.  We kind of avoided the subject altogether for a while we wrapped our minds around what we should do.  We were asked to serve on one of the committees, and yet we still had not made a commitment on what we should contribute.  Finally, me being an engineer, I broke out my trusty calculator and started figuring on what we currently give and how we can go up and beyond.  What could we give up so that we could give more?  We never really talked about where each of us were in the decision until I finally told Alana a number that had been floating in my head.  I did not know where it was going to come from, but I felt we could pull if off if we tied some strings and tightened our belts a bit.  Naturally, Alana thought I was nuts at first, but I was surprised how fast she agreed.  Since that decision, things have begun to happen that we never anticipated.  Without getting into specifics, money we had not anticipated being available all of a sudden appeared on the horizon.  This money made us feel like our commitment was going to be much easier to achieve than we initially thought.

Bottom line, we love this church and even though we were not here when you as a church made your own leap of faith to build the Children's Center, we are proud that we will get to help pay off the debt that brought us to this wonderful church.

Brett & Alana Charlton


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