Unseen Potential

Fixer Upper

One of the most amazing things to me on TV these days are shows that remodel houses. I don’t watch them often, but when I do, I am awestruck by the designers ability to see something incredibly beautiful in the shell of the ugliest houses. I know they probably take the plans of the house and figure out what would work and what wouldn’t beforehand, but their ability to create and envision is astounding. The designers have an amazing ability to see the unseen potential of a house.

I’ve Struggled with Unseen Potential

I’ve been in ministry for about 15 years. Most of those years have been at the church in which I am currently on staff, Foundations Church. At FC, I oversee the Children’s Ministry and have the privilege of hanging out with the FC College students. I love what I do because I get to influence and love on whole families. 

Our church started at a high school 10 years ago. Back then, we had to set up and tear down every Sunday. We had few volunteers and even less kids. Sometimes it was hard to see the need for me to be there when we had a week or two without elementary kids. Despite my inept leadership skills and ability to communicate with kids, our church began to grow. After, three and a half years at the high school we bought a building.

A local church contacted our office and asked us if we would be interested in buying their building. The congregation of that church had dwindled to the point of not being able to afford to keep the lights on. They were looking to sell to another church and one of the members just so happened to live in the neighborhood across from the school in which we were currently meeting. The member saw our sign as he passed by everyday and thought we might be interested. So, as a staff, we went to check out this building.

From the moment we walked into the building, Justin Graves, our lead pastor; Shannon Dalrymple; and Greg Fisher were excited. They all said we could make this work. They had visions of what could become of the building and how we could make it our own. I, on the other hand, saw an old church building. I know that is not very visionary-like. When you have your mind set on being more in a warehouse type building and then you are taken to an old church with pipe organ, wooden ceilings, cement altars, red carpet, and a 70’s style kitchen, you may not get as excited as most would expect.

Thankfully, I wasn’t the only one who didn’t see it the other guys saw it. Jonathan Samuels, our Student Ministries Director at the time, had his reservations too. He and I were in unison when Justin asked us what we thought. “I don’t see it. I don’t see what you guys see. It just looks like an old church to me.”

Justin, Shannon, and Fish all agreed that we would change our minds once we saw what we could do with the building. I wasn’t completely convinced, but I’ve learned that sometimes you have to lean into the unknown to see God do something spectacular. Like the designers that remodel houses on TV, Justin bought the property and continued to believe it could become something more. And it became exactly what Foundations Church needed, a home.

We did the demolition work together as a church. Nothing brings men closer together than destroying a building together. We knocked down just about every interior wall. There are some that remained, but for the most part after months of demo, we were left with the shell of a building. The thing about remodeling is you have to tear down the old to build up the new.

The remodel took months. Looking over design plans, coming up with idea after idea on how we could make this building function and fit our church family, and believing that God was going to us the building to reach more people. We hired professionals to finish the remodel. A few ladies in the church that were steady-handed, came in after the construction and painted the walls. They put on the designs and animals throughout the kids area. The entire operation was a process. But, after approximately nine months from buying the building, our new home was ready for our first service.

Since that day, our church has grown steadily. In the last six years we’ve made some necessary updates and the building has changed with us as we grow. God has faithfully used Foundations Church to love on the community and the world as a whole. We have done so many incredible events with the building that we wouldn’t have been able to do at the school. Thankfully, there were some guys who saw potential in an old church building. I saw the building for what it was, but they saw it for what it could become.

What I’ve come to realize is this is who God is. He sees the potential. Where everyone else sees people for who they are and have been, God sees them as who they can become. We may see a person who has thrown their entire life away on drugs, alcohol, sex or even fame, but God sees someone that has the potential to rescue others from the life they were living.

I’m glad God sees potential and not what we have been. If He didn’t, maybe no one would ever change. The hard part with changing to be more like the person God can see us become is the demolition that has to take place. God has to tear down the old us in order to build us back into the person we were meant to be. The demolition process is painful at times. The walls we’ve built have to come down and all the things that we thought were holding us up have to be removed. It’s hard to trust the Designer.

The transformation in our lives is a process. It doesn’t happen overnight. God can change someone in an instant, but generally it is over time. He is careful to knock down only the walls we don’t need. He doesn’t force change on us, but He invites us to a better life. God has a beautiful vision of what we can become, we just have to trust Him every step of the way. We may get discouraged, resist some of the changes, but we have to trust that God’s vision is awe-inspiring and astounding.

We will never reach a point of perfection and then God walks away from us. God stick with us through every phase of our lives and helps us grow and change along the way. He helps us make the necessary updates in our lives to become even more of who He envisions us becoming. Thankfully, God sees potential in us even at our ugliest state. When everyone else sees who we are, He sees who we can become.

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This is My Story

Sammy and Ray at home

I come from a broken home.

We had a pretty normal life. I am from a lower-middle class family. We moved often all around the West Tulsa and Sand Springs area. My parents did everything they could to make ends meet.

Looking back, in those moments, life the way we were living it, seemed normal. Nothing out of the ordinary for sure. My dad would take me fishing on occasion or let me help with whatever project he was working on around the house.

I attended, from time to time, a Baptist church in Sand Springs with my aunt. I specifically remember learning about Jesus on a flannel board and then being bored to tears sitting in “big church”. Playing cars and coloring down on the floor beneath the pew was the only way to pass the time. When I finally got to go home, I’d plead with one of my parents to not make me go back.

I occasionally went to Vacation Bible School with my cousin and even got baptized once or twice. Even still, I never fully understood what Christianity was all about.

I was a good kid, excelled in school, and loved life.

Then, something unbelievable happened that turned my world upside down. My dad went to jail.

As an early adolescent, I had a tough time understanding how something like this could happen to our family.

I remember placing blame, not fully understanding the weight of my words on those around me and just being hurt. Words can’t describe the roller coaster of emotions I went through.

In those following months and years, I was pushed into a role that was never meant for a child. There are so many insecurities and identity issues to contend with when you grow up without a father. I left so many opportunities to have amazing experiences on the table because I was too afraid to take the risk. It felt like my responsibility, duty even, was to help raise my brothers and help them navigate life, and to protect them from outside forces.

I looked for acceptance and influence in any relationships with guys that were older, to be a part of what seemed to be a family. I spent about a year hanging out with a couple of teenagers that were a part of a gang on the north side of Tulsa. The acceptance I felt made me want to be a part of this gang. Fortunately, my friends never let me join. Maybe because I was a white boy amidst 20 hispanic boys or they truly knew I didn’t know what I was getting into. All I saw was a family of guys of which I could belong to.

Eventually, mom remarried and we moved nearly an hour away. Most of my teenage years I had a really hard time connecting with my step-dad and step-brothers. Once you become the alpha male of the house, it is very hard to relinquish those reigns. Especially, when you feel you are more fit to lead your siblings than the next guy. I never looked to my step-dad as an actual father figure, but more of a person with whom to coexist.

A teenage life in a blended family. I struggled to figure out how to become a man and find my identity and to fit in this new family. Constantly, I wrestled with protecting and leading my brothers and helping them to become something I had no clue how to become myself, a man.

My parents started going to church because they wanted to “raise us boys right.” I commend them both. It would be hard to handle six boys and raise them to be good men without a community to influence them.

When my parents started going to church, I was 15 yrs old and well capable of taking care of myself and my little brothers. My sister had moved, so I was the oldest of my siblings and step-siblings in the house. I came up with every excuse you can think of to not go to church. I remembered church as this place I’d waste most of my day at for something I didn’t really understand. “Coming down with something” was a regular occurrence…until my parents forced me to go.

I went to this new church my parents had found. I gave my heart to Jesus. It wasn’t an unusual day for the church, just a normal Sunday. For me, however, it was a day that forever change the trajectory of my life. I finally found acceptance. I finally found the love of a father, of which I had never known. Since that day, my life has been on a course to align my hopes and dreams with that of God’s for my life.

The Holy Spirit has helped me break down a lot of the barriers that have kept me from letting people in and has enabled me to become a better version of me everyday. I don’t claim to be perfect or think I will ever reach perfection, but I know that God loves me just the way I am.

Knowing Jesus, fully, has given my life meaning, given me a purpose. I don’t know how I would ever live without Jesus in my life. I am so thankful for the blessings God has given me and the way He always sees me through the difficult times. It’s why I still believe today.

When all seems lost, Jesus is more real to me in those moments then any other.

God has placed some pretty incredible men in my life at just the right time to help me with every aspect of becoming a man, husband, and father. Here is a thank you to Scott Price, Aaron Malusky, Tim Beitzel, Justin Graves, Scott Heckeroth and countless other men whom have and are living their lives as an example for so many young men to emulate. I wouldn’t be who I am without each of you.

Lastly, I am thankful for my Heavenly Father, for showing me a father’s love. Learning that I have to continually lay down my life for my kids has shown me what it means to fully love them.

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