Last night, we thanked our volunteers for riding along with us on this journey with a Route 66-themed celebration! We even included a classic car-show, Moonpies and a stunning production by our very own staff members.
On October 6, 2019, Christ Community Church entered into a new season of growth as the church body gathered together to break ground on The Cowart Equipping Center. The unity displayed on Sunday was symbolic of God’s people laboring together to acknowledge God’s work among His people.
As Psalm 127 reads “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city the guards stand watch in vain. In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat— for He grants sleep to those he loves.”
You can learn more about The Cowart Equipping Center here.
Christina Lessman serves faithfully in Iquitos, Peru as a full-time missionary. Read below to see how God radically transformed her vision for her life into His, calling her to the jungles of South America.
Tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Christina Lessman. I am 35 years old and am currently living in Iquitos, Peru. I was born in South Carolina, and I lived there until I was 12 years old when we moved to Ohio. I completed High School and my Music Education degree at the University of Akron before moving to Georgia in 2007 to begin teaching Elementary Music in the Muscogee County School District. I taught elementary music for 7 years before moving to Iquitos, Peru. I have now been living and working in Iquitos for 4 years.
How were you involved at CCC before going to Peru?
I first got connected with CCC because my aunt and uncle were attending at the time but stayed mainly because of the young adult ministry that was led by Mason and Meghan Stewart at the time. For the 2 years that I attended CCC before moving to Peru, I was very involved with Arise. I led a bible study at my house, and I also sang on the worship team for their Friday night gatherings.
When did you first visit Peru? What motivated you to go?
My connection with Peru started before my time at CCC while I was still at Morningside Baptist working with their youth. It was actually through a trip in 2012 with their youth to Iquitos, Peru that I became connected with Peru. As for what motivated me to go, the only answer I can give to that is God.
What made you decide to stay in Peru?
In the years leading up to my first trip, I remember hearing about the teams that the church sent down and clearly thinking that I never wanted to go. They didn’t even stay in hotels! They went out into the jungle and camped out in villages for a week. I wanted nothing to do with the heat, bugs, and lack of civilization that would be involved in a trip like that. I started working with the youth group at the beginning of 2012 and remember them starting to plan their summer trip to Peru. I still wanted absolutely nothing to do with it. One of the other leaders kept asking me to go because they needed another female chaperone. I remember praying one day and saying to God that if He really wanted me to go, I was going to need His help financially. A week later, my trip was fully paid for by unexpected blessings. I was going to Peru. Even now, I find it difficult in some ways to describe my feelings about my first experiences in Peru. The peace I felt about being out in the jungle with those people and their culture is something I couldn’t really understand at the time. I never thought at that time that it would be anything permanent, as I had my life planned out -- I had a good job, a car, a house, a good community of believers, practically everything I had ever been led to believe was needed in life.
The following year, I returned to Peru with the youth, and God miraculously provided the money for me to go. But this trip was different. We went to a youth service in Iquitos at the beginning of the trip (we had gone the year before, but it was at the end and not very well remembered in my mind after the events of the week). There I met the wife of the youth pastor. She is an American missionary who married a Peruvian and has been living and working in Iquitos for around 18 years now. We also took 2 young men from their pastors’ school with us on this trip. On the boat ride out to the villages, one of our translators asked me if I had ever considered being a full time missionary. I said that I had not. The thought had never occurred to me, and I didn’t really want to think about that.
The first village we stayed in was not a pleasant stay this time. We only stayed there one night because it was such a difficult time for all of us. Personally, I somehow managed to get over 300 (I stopped counting after 250 really) bites all over my body that were extremely itchy that first night. We moved to the slightly larger city the next night that had a hotel. I ended up with my own room, and I very clearly remember praying that night as I lay in bed waiting for the Benadryl to kick in so I could sleep. I knew there was so much left that we needed to do; we were at the beginning of our trip! I was in charge of the back-yard bible clubs and was so sure that my bites would make me so miserable that I wouldn’t be able to do what I needed to do. While I was praying, I said to the Lord that, if He would help me through that week, I would do whatever He asked me to do. I didn’t care if He healed me outright, or if He simply made it possible for me to get through the week. All I knew was that He had made it possible for me to be there to spread His Word, and I knew I needed His help to be able to do it.
For the rest of the week, my bites only itched when I was alone in my room. The entire rest of the time, it was as if I hadn’t gotten any. Throughout the week, three more people, including one of the pastors’ school students, asked me if I had ever considered being a full-time missionary. As far as I was concerned, God’s request of me couldn’t have been made any clearer. At the end of the week, I didn’t want to get on the boat back to the city. Even more, I really didn’t want to get back on the plane to the US. Once I got back, I knew in my heart what God was asking of me, but I had absolutely no idea how to do it.
At this point, the wife of the youth pastor comes back into the story. I friended her on Facebook and saw that their family was making the trip to the US to do their fundraising circuit. She had written a book about her experiences as a missionary in the Peruvian jungle. I bought it right away. The day it arrived, I read the whole thing that afternoon. I immediately wrote to her on Facebook explaining what I felt God was calling me to do and asking if she had any advice about how to go about it. She suggested staying for a period of a couple of months first to see if that was really what I felt God was calling me to do before I just left everything. So, after a bit more conversation, the plan was made, and I went to Iquitos in 2014 to stay two months with the Arimborgos. I knew within 4 days of arriving that it was where I was supposed to be, and God only continued to confirm that throughout the 2 months that I stayed with them. As I had already signed my contract for the following school year, I went back to the US and finished out that year while making all of the other necessary arrangements to make the move to Peru. At the end of June 2015, I moved in with the Arimborgos in Iquitos and have pretty much been here since.
What types of mission work are you currently doing there?
The majority of what I have been doing since I arrived in 2015 is help out in different ways at a school. It is a preschool through secondary private Christian school. In the 4 years I have been here, I have taught English to all the grade levels, been the coordinator for the Elementary and High School levels, worked as secretary, and helped out in general in the office. I have also taught some basic English off and on to the pastors’ school students. And I've helped Jennifer Arimborgo with bookkeeping and other aspects of her ministry Arimborgo Ministries.
How can people here get involved?
Interestingly enough, at the moment I am entering a point of transition with what I have been doing. I am planning on spending the majority of my time in the US next year with only a few months’ time spent here in Peru. Up to this point, I have been serving here in Peru basically without any support. I couldn’t express all that God has done through this time here in any sort of concise wording, but I will simply say that I know the time I have spent here so far was absolutely necessary for what will be done in the long term here. In the time I have been here so far; I have learned to speak Spanish, learned an intimate and personal experience of the culture and educational needs of the people here, and gone through a very deep and needed time of personal growth in the Lord. A major part of what I will be doing in the US next year will be starting a nonprofit to support the work I feel called to do here in the Jungle Region of Peru. What I do know about the nonprofit at this point is that it will be aimed mostly at the educational needs here in Peru, but not exactly limited to that. More than anything at the moment, I ask for prayer.
Prayer on how exactly this nonprofit is to be set up to meet the needs that God has shown me... prayer that everything will fall into alignment with what He has laid on my heart, and that the people He has already been speaking to about supporting this work will be ready and able to partner with the amazing things God is doing here in the Jungles of Peru. And I ask for prayer that the practical needs will also be miraculously met as I am moving through this process that He has been showing me. This includes, but is not limited to; getting all of the paperwork and foundational setup of the nonprofit done, selling my house, paying off debts, setting up partnerships with people, businesses, and churches for support of the nonprofit, and traveling at the end of next year to support that nonprofit that is being started.
Brandon Branigan, a familiar face at CCC, has been a church member here since 2013. Brandon has led Arise Young Adult Ministries since 2017 and is now moving in a new direction—church planting. Brandon lovingly shares his newfound calling, vision and mission with us.
1. Introduce yourself and your family.
My name is Brandon Branigan, and I have been a member at CCC since early 2013 and on staff as the Young Adult Ministries Director (and now church planting resident) since March 2017. I was born and partially raised in Würzburg Germany and moved to Columbus, Georgia (Buena Vista Road area) in 2007 at the age of 17. I met my beautiful bride Cassandra (Sandy) Branigan in college at CSU, and over the course of the last 7 years, we spent some brief time in the Army, have been blessed with our three children (Immanuel, 6; Isabel, 5 and Hezekiah, 2 and one on the way!) and have been involved in life-giving ministry. God has blessed me richly with this amazing family!
2. Where did the vision of church-planting originate?
Almost three years ago, the theme for the year at CCC was Awaken, learning to truly awaken to the extraordinary life to which we are called. It was during this season that I started to sense God calling me to trust Him on a deeper level and walk in step with the Holy Spirit for wherever He might lead us. It was during one of my weekly discipleship meetings with two other brothers in Christ when I felt God clearly ask me this question: “Would you let me take you and your family to a dangerous place?” I had no clear idea what this meant, but in the moment, I could not respond with “yes.” I did not say “no,” but I wrestled with the fact that I could not say “yes.”
At the same time, I was beginning to have a burning passion out of my studies in seminary about expanding the kingdom of God through the local church and reaching the unchurched. While I was processing all of this, my wife had her own encounter with a word from God. During a prayer week at church, she felt that God said to her: “3 years.” She started to process and pray about what it meant. She felt strongly that we would be leaving CCC to do something else within three years. In response to all of this, we decided to do the only thing we knew, which was to pray and seek the input of our leaders on this matter.
While praying, I had a dream one night in which I first prepared to lead our young adults as I usually did, the only issue with this was…. what I brought no longer fit. This was followed with a dream in which I was in a church with a group of people from various life backgrounds, and God was moving! After these events, I started finding myself in conversations about how someone should move to the East and / or Southside of Columbus to make an impact for Jesus. It was almost as if I couldn’t let this go. One day, a brother of mine who once lived in that area of town said, “Why not you and your family?” As he continued to talk, it seemed clear to me that God was calling us to go. It was then and there that I remembered God’s question: “Would you let me take you and your family to a dangerous place?”
Following these events, Sandy and I went through another season of prayer and consulting with our leaders. One day I prayed and said, “God, if this is truly of you, would you confirm the call?” Soon thereafter, 3 staff members (that I had not talked to about any of this) asked me if I had ever thought about planting a church… note taken. Since then, God has confirmed this call, given us an excitement for it, and shown me that the question wasn’t, “Would you let me take you to a dangerous place?” But rather, “Would you let me take you to trusting me fully and walking in what I have for you?”
3. Where will the church be located?
The church will be located on the East/South side of Columbus. My wife and I just purchased a home in the area, and our team will meet there in the early stages. We realize that the church consists of God’s people, and His people who are called to be part of this will start meeting in our home. I think there’s some history with that when it comes to CCC as well...
4. What is the mission and vision of Hope Springs?
God has made it clear that the mission of Hope Springs Community Church is to transform people’s lives with the hope of Jesus. People may face a plethora of challenges, hang-ups, and issues in life, but there is a name, hope and power that is Jesus and he will change things in the present and the future for people.
Our vision is to become the epicenter of hope within the community. We believe that God is calling us to not just be a church in the community, but a church of the community. To be part of where He has placed us.
5. How can others get involved?
We are beyond excited to witness the church God is growing with Hope Springs. We hope that you will consider being part of this journey. You may be called to physically be part of this church as a member (we would love to have you!) or God may call you to remain at CCC but give financially towards the church plant. God may also all you to become a prayer partner with us. All of these are equally important and I want to invite you to our interest meeting Sunday, September 29th, 1:00 p.m. in the Midtown Room at Christ Community Church. We will have childcare and light refreshments for this.
Hope Springs Community Church will launch in 2020. More details to come!
As Muscogee County headed back to school last week, Christ Community Church joined hand-in-hand with students, teachers, parents and our church body to throw a back to school celebration! With the idea that we are a village of support for our students, volunteers from Christ Community came together with one purpose in mind: to serve and love students, teachers and parents deeply!
Volunteers led the charge to be the hands of feet of Jesus and served in every capacity imaginable, and more volunteers than ever before attended and served diligently (even in the oppressive heat!) to love on those in our neighborhood.
Check out the images below to see the picture of community that was in our backyard last night!
Interested in volunteered for future events at CCC? Checkout our VOMO page here: https://app.vomo.org/org/christ-community-church
Learning to Let Go
Lauren Arthur, a college junior at Columbus State University, has found a deeper calling on her life through the Christ Community Church Summer Internship Program. After serving in her hometown church as the Service Producer, Lauren was saddened when her time there came to an end and her college career was on the horizon. “I remember standing in the green room at my old church on a Wednesday night. It was my last Wednesday night as Service Producer, and I was in tears,” says Lauren. “As I filled out the application for the CCC Summer Internship, those memories crept back into my mind. I knew God had placed this desire and passion for His kingdom in my heart, and it looked like diving headfirst into ministry.” Fear had always held Lauren back from fully embracing the challenge of ministry to which she felt she was called. “I had thoughts like ‘oh, I’m not good enough to do ministry,’ or ‘God could never use me like he uses them.’ These inner thoughts led me to not be true to who God wanted me to be.”
Through her time at the internship, Lauren realized that this summer experience would soon change her life and lead her to admit something to herself that terrified her: she wanted to pursue full-time ministry. “That one sentence a few months ago would lead to anxiety and fear,” says Lauren. “But now, those inner throughs have changed from fear to ‘God, use me, send me’ or ‘God, I trust in your will for my life.’ That anxiety and fear has turned into joy and excitement!”
Lauren credits the summer internship for allowing her to see and embrace the plan that God has for her life. She says one of the most impactful moments came at the beginning of her internship on a beach retreat with the other interns. “We had sessions during the trip where we learned more about ourselves and others, utilizing tools such as Myers-Briggs, Strength-Finders, learning conflict resolution styles, etc. During my quiet time after one of our sessions, God spoke to me by giving me this thought: ‘My need for control doesn’t allow me to truly allow God to come in and use me. I try to use God, I want His will in My plan. Realizing I cannot do that, I need to be silent, calm and allow God to be the planner and provider.’” Lauren says that this statement is one that she keeps coming back to her throughout her time in the program. “This is ministry. This is Gods Kingdom,” she says. “How dare I try to be the focus, be the one who decides what is good and not good. I am the servant, the vessel for God to use. My mindset should be ‘God, thank you for allowing me to be a part of this.’ I truly believe this realization has allowed me to not be afraid of ministry because I am not the focus.”
Lauren said that another moment on the beach trip taught her that God is never far and that she should not fear the path ahead. “Each intern was tasked to present a devotion to the others, and being completely honest, I was terrified. Again, I was focusing on myself, and as we left the church, I prayed over my notes for the devotion and said, ‘God this is yours, please use me, please humble me.’” When the time came, Lauren says that she was the first one to go. “I had not looked at it since I had prayed that prayer earlier that day. I opened up my Bible and began to allow God to lead the way. I don’t know if I can put into words the emotion I felt as I read. My devotion was over Psalm 20 and my theme was ‘we are NOT alone.’” Lauren says that through the battle of ministry, she knows that she is not alone and will have The Lord’s deliverance. She quotes Psalm 20:5: “Let us shout for joy at your victory and lift the banner in the name of our God. May the LORD fulfill all your requests.” She now knows that God has given her the calling and strength to stand firm. “I know who I am, I know who God has called me to be, and I know that He has lead me to ministry,” she boldly proclaims.
Through the internship program, Lauren says that she can now look confidently upon her future instead of fearfully. As she finishes up her bachelor’s degree in computer science from Columbus State University, Lauren is finding herself seeking God’s will and the next steps for her life. “Through this internship in finding and accepting who God has called me to be, I have prayed and decided to go to seminary.” With questions still lingering on an exact timing and a professional ministerial role, Lauren realizes that ultimately God’s will is what’s next for her. “I want to do and go where ever God is calling me, but for me that looks like giving up control. I don’t want to fall in the same trap of using God to do my plan, I want God to use me in His plan.”
From ministering to shopkeepers to hearing Paul’s brave and dangerous journey to share the gospel, Christ Community Church’s Vacation Bible School had an immense impact on the children and leaders alike. While VBS does exist to provide a fun and wholesome experience for children, the greater purpose is to ignite a genuine love and desire for Jesus in the hearts of all who participate.
Check out a few points of impact from this summer’s VBS:
“This was such an incredible VBS to be a part of. I loved how engaged the group leaders were, pastoring kids so well. … My favorite part was how so many of the kids are really getting the Gospel message and aren’t afraid to share it!
Even more so—I saw kids living out the gospel as they were helping one another and being kind to each other.”
– Anja Staten
“I’m amazed and blessed to say that I am a part of this VBS group. One of the children in my group told me that ‘
This is the best VBS ever. My favorite part is getting to meet Paul and see what new things he’ll tell us about each day.’”
– Valerie Faircloth
“Being onstage gave me the wonderful chance to hear the kiddos sing. All of their voices came together, and it is so awesome hearing them sing and pray.” – Anna Webb
“A beautiful moment that was captured was when one of my children while petting the animals outside got to teach the farm keeper how to pray.” – Gabe Feder
“One night I actually had a young girl walk me through the ‘sinner’s prayer.’ She was about 6 or 7-years-old, and she told me how easy it was to ask Jesus into my heart.” – Christal Gavin
“The kids in my group shared so openly and passionately with each other! A memorable moment was at the closing Oikos time when we were holding hands to end our time with prayer and one of the kids volunteered to pray!”
– Kristin Roberts
“There was a little girl in my group who was significantly younger than most of the others. The older kids really made sure that they looked out for the little ones, and it was amazing to see how they showed each other how to care for others as God cares for us. The little girl was mesmerized by worship one night. I asked her if she needed to stand on a chair to see, and she looked up with big, glossy eyes, amazed by the Holy Spirit moving during worship. When her dad came to pick her up, he asked her what her favorite part was, and she said that she was so excited about the music and dancing.” – Gabe Feder
“The kids in our group were absolutely amazing. They loved to share about God and what He has done for them. I am so blessed to be a part of their lives!” – Marie Wright
“The kids in my group were absolutely incredible, and they actively shared the Gospel and reference scripture. They remembered that ‘God is slow to anger,’ and they told a shopkeeper (who was pretending to worship Zeus) that she should worship Jesus. I can tell that the Gospel is really making sense to these kids, and now they’re sharing their faith with others!” – Meghan Gross
Share your VBS experience with us in the comments, and check out some fun photos from VBS week here!
Missionary Spotlight: Dan and Jeanie Phillips
The Phillips family, longtime members at Christ Community Church, are heading to a new mission field in Washington state at Trinity Aviation Academy.
The academy exists to“to help mold students in their God-given giftedness and talents through prayer, knowledge of God’s word, training, guidance, and encouragement to become missionaries as God's instruments serving as pilots and mechanics."
Our journey to Washington began last summer when we went to visit our son, Samuel, at Trinity Aviation Academy. We fell in love with the school, its purpose, and the people there. It was odd, but we felt at home. At first, we did not understand that feeling. As we talked with the director and his wife, we learned that he was doing the jobs of several people and was overwhelmed. Near the end of our visit, he asked me (Dan) if I would consider taking over as the administrator of the school so that he could focus on his job as mechanic instructor. I wanted to say “yes,” but I knew that I needed to take time to listen to God to be sure it was His will. After fasting and prayer, I talked to Jeanie and the kids. We were all in. We decided to sell everything and go!
In what ways will you obtain funding for your outreach?
All of the positions at Trinity are non-paying. We will rely on my retirement pay as well as gifts and/or monthly support from others.
Describe your work with Trinity Aviation School in Eatonville, Washington.
We will be in charge of all the administrative aspects of the school. Our responsibilities will include supervising the students and staff, maintaining FAA records and submitting reports, bookkeeping, grounds and general maintenance. We’ll also maintain the school website, social media outlets, and be responsible for all correspondence.
What is currently your biggest challenge?
Selling our property and our petting farm business is our biggest challenge.
How do you see God at work through the aviation school?
God is raising up Godly men and women who will not only take the Gospel to the ends of the earth, but also provide much needed humanitarian aid as well. The students will not only be trained to fly, but also equipped to repair their planes since finding aviation mechanics in many places is almost impossible.
What is a fun fact about your work in Washington?
We get to live at the airport! Our house faces the hangar and runway. How cool is that?!
How can we specifically pray for you?
- We ask for wisdom to lead the school according to God’s purpose.
- We would ask for God’s favor in acclimating to a new culture and climate.
The CCC Blog is a collection of writings and images from staff members and guest contributors, all pointing to the extraordinary life made possible by a relationship with Jesus.
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