Freedom in Christ

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.
-Galatians 5:1

ELSIE

elsie

Elsie had her first encounter with God at a very young age. She had an unspeakably traumatic experience, but she felt God’s presence so tangibly.

At 3 years old she was abused by people who were supposed to be babysitting her. She felt God lifting her outside of her body and telling her that this horrible thing wasn’t really happening to her.

“I remember the bright light in my room and I remember realizing at that very moment that my parents weren’t God and that there is a God who is going to take care of me,” she said.

She knew this God in her heart, but she could never put a name to Him. She would go to church services, but sermons filled with intolerance and judgment left her feeling confused.

“I just can’t believe that the God who saves me, who loves me, who loves everybody would be saying crazy things like that,” she said.

Eventually she came to Key to Faith and she was finally able to put a name to the God she knew cared for her. It all made sense when Pastor Dana Termini told her that God writes His Word on people’s hearts and that He has always been chasing her.

She worked in banks for her whole adult life, but she never felt like it was the right fit for her. She knew that she had greater abilities and greater dreams to help people who struggle with alcohol and drug addiction.

Last year on Mother’s Day, she heard Pastor Carl Lenz from Hillsong New York City preach a message about going bold with God. That message inspired her to finally let go of her federal banking licenses and quit her job at Wells Fargo.

She had no job and no direction, but remained calm because she knew that God would take care of her. People would ask her what she was going to do and she would tell them that God was working on it.

“God is going to take care of me if I’m pursuing the faith lane that I should be in,” she said. “I felt like I had a greater purpose to help people get to recovery and to help them get sober.”

At the end of the month she heard another encouraging message from Pastor Brian Houston from Hillsong about dreams and destiny. He said that God places a destiny in every human and that their dreams will match their destiny if they stay the path of God.

A couple of weeks later, Elsie was having trouble finding a job. She had many business plans and made a bunch of calls, but she found out that none of them would make her any money.

However, a few days later she met a woman through a friend who is a clinical outreach coordinator. She places people in treatment for drug and alcohol addiction, which is something that Elsie was doing for many years for free.

Shortly after, she met another person through a friend who hired her as a clinical outreach coordinator a few months later.

“The whole thing was that I wasn’t afraid. I go bold with God. The freedom I feel is like jumping off the side of a mountain,” she said. “Christians should go bold. I can go anywhere and I don’t have to live this protected life from people or from places or from financial fear. God freed me from that.”

She’s been in her position for 7 months and she’s already seen many amazing things happen. Last week, they received a grant for $1.75 million from New York State and the same day she had lunch with one of the biggest names in her industry.

“The people I’m meeting and the circles I’m in are the biggest circles in my industry,” she said. “It’s all God, it’s not me.”

ADAM

adam

A few years ago, Adam was a year into being sober from heroin and went through a devastating breakup. He had an idea of God, but he thought of Him as an impersonal word to keep him sober.

One Sunday his friends took him to Hillsong NYC and there was a guest speaker who spoke about hearing the word of God. He quoted John 10:27 (My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me), and it was in then that Adam heard the voice of his shepherd.

“That moment I remember so vividly because I felt the freedom that I never felt before and I felt the love that didn’t feel before,” he said.

The next morning he made the decision to give his life to Christ and he continued to attend Hillsong and serve there. Eventually he met Elsie through a friend and she invited him to Key to Faith, which is now his home church.

“[Part of the freedom is] knowing that I did not need to deserve it and that I was saved by grace,” he said. “Freedom in Christ means that I can love other people without saying, ‘I did this and that’s why I’m here and you should do it too.’

A Portrait of Four Men and Their Families On Fathers Day

The righteous man walks in integrity. Blessed are his children after him.
-Proverbs 20:7

photo of family

2016

Mark

Mark may be a young father, but he’s mature in wisdom. Every Sunday, he brings his two-year-old son to church because he knows it’s the best thing he can do for him.

“I missed out on a lot of years of being in the church – I started very late in life – so I’m trying to give him a head start,” Mark said with hope in his voice. “He doesn’t understand yet what’s going on, but I’m building a foundation for him.”

Before dinner, Mark teaches his son to pray before he eats and when he tucks him in at bedtime, they pray again. He puts his little hands together, looks up at his father as he prays and then they both say, “Amen.”

Mark and his wife, Lauren, have another child on the way. You can tell by his beaming smile that he’s very grateful for the blessing of his strong and growing family.

photo of family

1995

Erasmus

Erasmus has been a faithful member of Key to Faith for about 30 years. He and his wife, Gerri, have raised their three children in the church, and their eldest, Ofi, is now an integral part of the worship team.

“I’ve lived in the world before, so when I came to God I saw a difference,” he said. “I had to lead my children through the same thing. Let them not learn by themselves to come to Him, but to come to Him now. What I learned, I transferred [to them].”

photo of family

1997

Pascal

Pascal and his wife, Cathy, have raised all four of their children at Key to Faith. When asked why, Pascal replied, “It’s the best way you can do it.”

His youngest son, James, is now a drummer at the Hillsong church in France and his oldest daughter, Emilie, is one of the worship leaders here at Key to Faith.

At night, Pascal would play French songs to Emilie on his guitar until she fell asleep. Those sweet melodies remain in her heart to this day.

“We’re all different and we all have different views of raising children, but it’s not to say one way is better,” said Pascal. “Love your kids and do your best. We’re the first example that they’ll see.”

photo of family

1994

Paul

On Sunday mornings, Paul and one of his 13 grandchildren, Christian, are always at the church doors, greeting people with warm smiles. Paul believes it’s important for Christian to serve because it will build himself up for his future.

“He has a servant’s heart naturally, but I think it’s good for him to know that his servant’s heart comes from the greatest Servant of all,” he said. “It’s important that he knows responsibility and commitment to a church.”

Two Moms and Two Seasons

Nicki and KevinNicole and her husband, Kevin, found out about five months ago that they had a baby on the way. It was something that they prayed about for a while and it was exciting for them to see that they’re prayers were answered.

But it wasn’t all smooth sailing. “Early on, we got some news from the doctor that the baby had cysts on its brain,” said Nicole.

Even though that was probably the worst news they could have received, Nicole and Kevin made the decision not to worry and to instead leave everything in God’s hands.

“We just went to our 20 week sonogram and there were no cysts,” Nicole said with tears in her eyes. “It was a lot of praying and understanding that there’s no need to worry.”

Carole

Carol is at a very different stage in life; her children are grown and moving away and starting families of their own. Her son, Billy, is going to be moving to Los Angeles soon and it’s been very hard on her.

“It’s a stage in your life where you have to let go and you have to really trust God,” she said. “With Billy moving to L.A., I’m happy for him, but I’m sad that he’s gone. I have to trust God to take care of him.”

One of her friends at church, Suzanne, has children who are the same age, so she’s able to relate to her struggles and encourage her when she needs it the most.

“I think God definitely put me [at Key to Faith] for that reason specifically,” said Carol. “You need the support of other parents or other people who are going through the same thing or else you think it’s all on you.”

Suzanne has been encouraging her to seek God’s word and know that everything is in His hands. Carol realizes now that her job of raising them has come to an end, and that now she has to pray that they make the right decisions and lean on God.

“To me the most important thing that I always try to remember is that God loves them more than I love them, so I have to trust,” she said.

Emilie

Photo of Emilie“When you had a really rough week, praise and worship changes the atmosphere around you. When you decide to press in and enter into His presence, everything changes. The words to the song aren’t just words anymore, they’re alive and they are living in you.”

Emilie got her first taste of music at a very young age. Late at night, her father would pull up a chair in her room and play French songs on his guitar until she fell asleep.

That same passion for music that lived in him, was also in her.

When she got older, she taught herself how to play Anyone Else But You by The Moldy Peaches from the movie, Juno.

“When I finally learned how to play that song, it was just like the doors of learning guitar finally opened.”

She then taught herself how to harmonize by singing along with the choir at church on Sundays.

One Saturday night, she finally mustered up enough courage to sing at a youth event. When Gladys, one of the singers in music ministry, heard Emilie’s voice, she immediately brought her on board.

“It made me feel like it was supposed to happen, because God knows I’m not the type of person to just go out there and do something. I almost feel like if I want to do it, God will put it in my hands.”

Over the course of five years, the leader of the music ministry, Pete, started drawing her out of her comfort zone. She started off as a nervous, inexperienced girl, but quickly blossomed into a confident woman who’s now on her way to being a leader herself.

When you walk through the doors of Key to Faith on a Sunday morning, it’s now Emilie’s voice that fills your ears. But it’s not her or any of the other members of the music ministry who she wants you to notice.

“What I’ve learned from the beginning to now is that anything that is up there is not in my power. That stage belongs to Jesus and there is nothing I or anyone up there can do to change that.”

Even though she’s usually all smiles, she has her share of rough days. As a leader, a lot of responsibilities fall on her shoulders and sometimes it can feel like too much.

“I literally just had to put my hands down and say, ‘Jesus, you need to do something here because I can’t do anything, this is impossible.’ But it’s so funny when you say that and then God is like, ‘Don’t worry, I’ve had control this whole time.'”

One of the verses that has been encouraging her lately is Ephesians 6:7, “Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people.”

“If Jesus can live His life completely and fully devoted to God the Father, then so can I. If He can do it then with Him in me, I can do it.”