Happy Birthday, Redeemer Church!

It wasn’t long after New Years Day in 1979.  After years of infertility, Benny and I had just celebrated 8-month-old Joshua’s first Christmas. What fun! When I started feeling sick I assumed it was a stomach bug.

But I discovered some news to share with Benny…I was pregnant! Pregnant? Again?My baby wasn’t even walking yet!  How could this be??? I presumed that Joshua would be our only child.  After the shock wore off and the nausea began to subside I became anxious. I found the courage to ask Mom, “How can I possibly love another baby as much as I love Joshua?” She assured me that God would make room in my heart for another baby.

The day Jaime was born I found out my mother was right.

The same month our second miracle baby came, another birth happened in our lives. Benny and a small team of mostly 20-somethings started Fairfax Community of Believers (later, Fairfax Covenant Church and now Sovereign Grace Church of Fairfax). The twenty years we spent with this wonderful church were full of joy, memories, friendships, challenges, and lots of love. This was our “firstborn” church.

Fast forward to the summer of 2010. Benny came home from his normal weekly pastor’s meeting with some news. A new life may be on the way; he was being given the opportunity to plant a church in South Orlando.  Church planting?  Again?  At our age?  After the shock and sicky feeling of leaving dear friends at Metro Life Church — our home for the past 11 years — began to subside, I became anxious. Could God make room in my heart for another new church?  In recent weeks the Lord has been assuring me that He would.

Yesterday morning I found out my Father was right.

Redeemer Church had our first Sunday morning meeting yesterday.  Snapshots are filling my mind as I type:  Walking up to the small building realizing history was being made.  A small lobby slowly filling with smiling people.  Hugs and greetings.  Donuts and coffee.  Sound equipment and toys being lugged in for set up.  Guitars being tuned…”testing 1, 2, 3.”  Snippets of comments:  “I could hardly sleep last night!”  “Wow, this room is really small.”  “Can you believe we’re here?”  “Are there any more donuts?”

I noticed Josh out of the corner of my eye.  Wait. The little toddler who use to leave early with Daddy to “help” set up at the elementary school on Sunday mornings has become a father of three who has been working hard for weeks (along with many others) to make yesterday morning possible. This time his help wasn’t just for fun…it’s been sacrificial and tireless.

The excitement in the room was tangible.  My Benny’s eyes were full of joy as I watched him mingle and thank people for coming. I pulled aside to watch him…just for a few moments. His hair is thinner and his laugh lines are deepening. But so much is the same as in 1979 — like the passion for church planting that captivated my heart and convinced me to follow him the first time around.

I thought I would cry a lot this morning. But only small tears formed once or twice. My heart was too full of a strange mixture of wonder and joy. I presumed the Fairfax church would be our only church planting adventure, yet there we were in a small room packed with instruments and excited people (mostly 20 and 30-somethings) and speakers on stands and cords on the floor covered with electrical tape…again.

The worship was well-led by musicians whose skill is only surpassed by their passion.  Benny and I were by far the oldest people in the room.  At one point I stopped to listen to them sing, then felt my 10-year-old granddaughter nuzzle up against me. Kayla’s hug warmed my heart.  Our first church plant was with our 2 small children.  This one will include all eleven of our grandchildren.

This post is longer than others will be.  But if you’ve made it this far, we would so appreciate your prayers.  This new, young church will only thrive with God’s help.  By God’s grace, over 30 years later the Fairfax church remains strong and is continuing to reach Northern Virginia with the gospel.  30 years from now Benny and I will likely be worshiping at our Savior’s feet…or enjoying great-great grandchildren while approaching 90.  Either way, we pray that Redeemer Church will still be preaching the gospel in Lake Nona, Florida.

Thank you so much for your prayers.

Amazed at His faithfulness,

Benny and Sheree

P.S.  Update on Monday: A friend told me tonight he was there and is a year older than Benny and me. Thanks, Marvin!

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15 thoughts on “Happy Birthday, Redeemer Church!

  1. Sheree,
    My eyes are full of joyful tears as I read this. I just finished reading about God fulfilling his promises to Abraham and Sarah…we’re never too old! Love you and all of your family, so much!
    By the way, there was a severe lack of “blondeness” on the left side of the church yesterday morning…. =)
    With so much appreciation!
    ~Roxanne

  2. I am overwhelmed at the faithfulness of God on display in this post. Thank you for being willing to share your journey with us. It eases the pain of letting you go.

  3. Very exciting. Can’t wait to see all that God will do through you. We love you so much. The left side of the church was a little lonely yesterday.

  4. This is wonderful!! Thanks for church planting again! I know how hard it is to plant a church and I’m so excited to see what the Lord does in the new life of this brand new baby church!!

  5. Bitter sweet? No. More like sweet and salty! Sweet because we are blessed by your friendship and know that you are still near enough to share life, hopes and dreams with. Salty because tears of joy are welling up for you as you walk out a new adventure to bring light and salt to the Lake Nona area. Miss you all already. Don’t be too surprised to see our faces once in a while on a Sunday morning.

  6. I was blessed by reading this. You expressed our feelings in becoming part of Redeemer Church and leaving Metro after near 15 years. So I guess you and Benny are like the parents at Redeemer- if so we
    love you mom and dad

  7. So exciting! Can’t wait to see what God does in and through you all!

    By the way, you forgot to add “Fairfax Christian Community” to the list of SGCF’s former names… 🙂

    Love you!

    • Carol, I did think of FCOB…and Benny showed everyone our first newsletter with smiling grapes as the logo. 🙂 People are already asking what Redeemer Church will be renamed to someday. Hopefully a name has been chosen that will stick. Love you guys!!!

  8. I love your writing, Sheree! Reminds me of your books … how relatable and filled with life lessons along with revealing God’s faithfulness and love. We will be praying for your precious family and church. We look forward to hearing from Liana of her times with you. So grateful for the Lord’s hand in directing us to you and Benny. And, at such a wonderful time of a new church. May the Lord strengthen you even today as you do His work! Linda

  9. Benny and Sheree, we are so happy for you and respect you so much. Our hearts echo the same passion which ties us (extra-locally) to you in your mission. Sounds like you have a wonderful start with a solid team (which is no doubt a result of your dependence on Him and His kindness). We will be praying for you and the church.

  10. As I read this I was caught between a smile and a tear. God is so good and His grace never ending. I loved reading how you and Benny are continuing to serve Him with all your hearts and to hear of the wonderful testimony of how all your kids and grandchildren are with you. I went back with you in time as you recounted early days at Fairfax and was freshly grateful for you and how God used you in our lives. What a delight it will be to hear testimonies of others who will be built up and come to know Jesus better through this local church! It will be a joy to pray for you!

  11. Sheree–such an encouragement to hear you recount what God has done over the years, and to see you so willingly and joyfully entering this new season with anticipation of much more! I loved walking down some of those roads with you in the past and look forward to sharing more “travels” with you even from afar. 🙂 Thank you for so eloquently expressing God’s goodness and glory. Love you much!

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