POUR OVER: The Next Step

POUR OVER: The Next Step

What would each of our staff members share if we had the chance to sit down with you one-on-one over a cup of coffee? What is God doing in our lives, and how are we personally experiencing transformation and awakening? Pour Over is a blog series by our Watershed staff members answering those very questions. Today we'll hear from Becky Santoro, Watershed's Children's Pastor.


I guess it’s always been there. Always in the background, though. I’d pass a poster with a sign on it or I’d have student in my class who would identify as it. I’d talk about it, try to imagine it, and try to dismiss it. But a few summers ago, the voice got louder and my heart kept saying, “if not you, who?”

So I brought it up over dinner on our tenth wedding anniversary. 

Becoming foster care parents. 

We had just started a full-time business, we had a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old, and I had recently transitioned to a full-time position at Watershed. Our house is tiny… 1,000 square feet. We are still paying off student loans, our family lives thousands of miles away. I could list literally 50 more reasons at least about why this just wasn’t the “right time” for us on paper. But he agreed and a few weeks later we decided to take just one step forward. Just one. And we set a rule for ourselves: if at any point we decided “not now” or “no”, we’d give ourselves a ton of grace and turn back. 

Just one step at a time. That’s it.

So we went to an informational class. And we didn’t talk the whole time. And then we sat in the car and we were still silent.

“Well?” I finally said.

“It’s time to take another step, don’t you think?” he said.

“Yep.”

And that’s how the next 10 months went. 

One step.

Then the next one.

It was the classes, the paperwork, the conversations, the inviting of our closest friends to bear witness to the process and give their perspectives, the background checks, and the home inspections.

In all of it, we didn’t move away from that “next step thinking”. Each time we tried to live just in that step… not overthinking or forward planning too much. It allowed us to just be where we were and to stay mentally present. When a new decision needed to be made, we wouldn’t think beyond that one decision.

It was really freeing in a way. Our “next step thinking” took the pressure off knowing all the answers and we found that it allowed us to stay grounded and rooted into what we both felt was best with the knowledge we had at the time. It took six months until we found ourselves fully licensed foster care parents.

Maybe there’s something inside your heart or gut that keeps coming up. It might not make any sense to you on paper and you can easily sweep it under the rug, but in the quiet spaces of your mind, it lives. 

There is so much power that exists in taking just one step… especially when you can figure it out as you go, allowing yourself to take your time and live within each new step fully. Maybe today is the day you finally take that step. Don’t overthink it. Just one step, friends.

Or maybe you’ve taken a step… several, even… but that next step would mean you’d have to let go of something. Perhaps to the known, secure, comfortable way of life, or even a past belief. You’re not sure if you’re ready for that quite yet. Grace upon grace, friends.

On July 21st, 2016, our next step was the final home inspection. Less than a hour later we received the call (side note: If you ever wondered if there was a need for foster care parents here in Charlotte, I believe you just found your answer).

“Baby girl, one year old. Local to Charlotte. Will you take her?”

Our next step was saying yes. 

Literally overnight we became a family of five. Now we’ve been saying yes for 258 days and counting. It has been redemptive, exhausting, transformational, frustrating, beautiful, disruptive, fulfilling, complicated, joyful, and messy all at the same time. But it has also shifted. We no longer have the power to take a “next step.” We’re on the same step with no clear timeline or outcome in sight.

We are waiting.

It’s hard to stay in the “next step thinking” when you don’t have control over it, right? 

Maybe there is something that has you in a holding pattern… you’ve been there for awhile and you feel frozen. It’s out of your control with no “next step” in sight. There may never be if you’re honest.

Or maybe you are faced with taking the next step knowing there is a real possibility that it won’t breathe the outcome you hope for, and you’re wondering if it’s worth the risk.

Or maybe the next step was decided for you.

I’m there too.

We aren’t sure if or when she will leave us. We’re not sure if a day in the future will include us packing her bags for uniting/reuniting with members of her family, or if it will include joining our family permanently. Either way, it will be a celebration. Either way, there will be bittersweet tears. But right now, there is no next step. It’s just the waiting. 

And so I wait on this step and I am trying to learn how to become more self-aware in this season when my mind and soul are weary for answers and outcomes. I try to visualize myself physically planting my feet down and dwelling within this step, JUST within today, in this moment, in this tiny house as a temporary or permanent family of 5.

So… What is God doing in my life, and how am I personally experiencing transformation and awakening? 

He’s teaching me that He’s in the “one steps” with me.

He’s in the waiting and we’re co-creating this story together. 

He's showing me what real living looks like… it’s not in the huge shifts but in the everyday, right-now life.

It’s simple, it’s holy, and it’s hard work to stay put in a moment of time. So I dwell there, with Him. 

These days I’m taking notice of my breath, my habits, and my triggers, trying to become more aware of myself and His presence when I want to jump off of the step or rush ahead to find out how this story will end. And I’m reaching out to my people, the ones standing there with me, reminding me that this story is all of ours, too.

Today, may you take a step forward into your life and discover more of your true self in the process. May it include walking into someone elses brokenness and finding that this was meant for the redemption of your own brokenness as well. May you have people around you who can root for you and remind you that they’re standing on the step with you. 

And may you feel His presence and Spirit in the waiting like you’ve never felt before.

 

P.S. If we actually did sit down for coffee there are five things I could promise you:

  1. There will be smashed goldfish crackers in my coat pocket. 
  2. I’ll have a random sock in my purse.
  3. This will be my 4th cup of coffee.
  4. There'll be snot on my pants… exactly at the height of a 3-year-old.
  5. I won’t do small talk very long. Let’s get right into the heart. 

Now that we've got that out of the way, welcome. Let’s chat.

In case our journey to foster care spurred some questions about the process, maybe your first step is to just click HERE and learn more about it: http://charmeck.org/mecklenburg/county/dss/adopt/howto/Pages/FosterHomeLicensing.aspx 

What is Justice? III | Injustice More or Less

What is Justice? III | Injustice More or Less

From inception Watershed has sought to put justice at the forefront of our mission. Whether embedded into the themes of pop culture artifacts or real life events in our city, nation, and world, justice has become a hot topic. Over the course of the next few weeks Pastor of Justice Cedric Lundy is going to conduct a blog series aimed at unpacking our understanding of justice and why it’s fundamental to our community. 


So often when discussing Genesis 3 it is easy to get sidetracked asking questions about the tree and the fruit, why God put it there, and why the punishment for eating from the wrong tree so severe. A very literal reading of Genesis 3 raises all kinds of questions that are difficult to answer. On the other hand, reading Genesis 3 as a story which explains the realities of the way things are may supply us with more epiphanies of understanding about what happened, is happening, and will continue to happen if we repeat their course of action when faced with similar dilemmas.

Eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil may actually have little to do with good and evil as we’ve come to understand. It may have nothing to do with mankind being exposed to something outside of their person and a battle between good and evil, the light and the dark. Is fruit really about good versus evil? Clearly in the first two chapters God didn’t set up a world of opposing planes of positive and negative. This is best illustrated by the fact that God makes the sun to mark the day and the moon to mark the night. Nowhere in the creation narrative is there an inference that the night is intrinsically bad or the day better than the night. The day and the night are two halves of a whole, a day, and together they are good.

Maybe a better name for the tree of the knowledge of good and evil would be "the tree of what’s enough”.

In the story of the fall Adam and Eve aren’t tempted to eat from that which they’ve been instructed until they are deceived into thinking that the tree is offering more. They are led to believe by eating the fruit that they can be more. Prior to being deceived into thinking they were missing out and that there was more, they were happy with what they had. They were satisfied with who they are, their relationship with God, one another and with the rest of creation. They didn’t feel as though they were missing out on something by not eating from that tree because, at the end of the day, it’s just one tree amongst a multitude of trees.

It is the first time in their lives that they are faced with the question of whether or not they had enough. It is the first time in their lives they consider that they aren’t enough. They took the bait, and, as a result, good and evil entered the world in the constant conundrum of more or less. At the heart of ‘what’s enough’ is the moral dilemma of more or less.

Shalom is not simply the absence of evil because everything is good and everything is good because God didn’t create anything intrinsically evil. Shalom is the idea that there is harmony between the creator and his creation and the creation with itself because the creator has given and supplied all of his creation with enough. The Fall, or disordering of Shalom, began as soon as Adam and Eve acted on the belief that they were no longer enough and desired more by taking and eating. In that moment they had to choose between taking more, believing they weren’t enough, or choosing less believing they were enough. The irony being that they opted for more and in return they had less. Immediately upon eating the fruit they felt like less, ashamed of their nakedness. Feeling like less led them to take more. The clothes served the purpose of covering what they were now ashamed of, their bodies. Not that making clothes is an inherently bad thing, however how much more has our feeling like less cost creation?

It’s worth noting there is no indication of them being ashamed of what they did. They were ashamed of what they were. Who they were was no longer enough. They felt less about themselves and in response they took something because their shame required more. Ultimately the common thread of the curses God pronounces to Adam and Eve is a lack of trust that has resulted from them believing they didn’t have enough and taking more. Mankind doesn’t trust God, mankind doesn’t trust one another, and the rest of creation doesn’t trust mankind. There’s enmity between the man and the woman, the plants grow thorns, and with great pain and anguish we multiply and provide for ourselves.

Unfortunately the struggle with what’s enough and for more or less continued immediately. In the following narratives of scripture Cain kills Abel, angry that it seems what he offers to the divine is not enough (ironically, in an agricultural civilization, God’s favor was perceived through the lens of receiving more or less of what ever was offered). In the days of Noah prior to the flood men are described as taking “as their wives any they chose.” The tower of babel just builds up on top of itself instead of expanding outward away from it self to include the world beyond its walls. 

How many injustices can we observe in our world today and in the annals of history that were sparked by the question, “what is enough?” How much blood has been spilled and stomachs stayed hollow due to the endless cycle of some having more, some having less, but neither one having enough? Some have more but feel like they can never have enough and so they take more. Others have less. They literally don’t have enough food, clothing, education, resources, etc. Countless wars have been started simply because someone wanted more, and countless revolutions were sparked because others were tired of less.

How many injustices can we observe in our world persist because of the cycle of shame and blame? We feel ashamed of who we are and we blame or scapegoat others for the things we feel ashamed of instead of dealing with the real problem which is resolving the question of what is enough.  

So whether or not we read Genesis 3 as an actual historical event or a metaphor, I’m sure we can all agree that it happened and is happening. We consider what’s enough, and we more or less decide it’s not.

What Is Justice? II  |  "In the Beginning"

What Is Justice? II | "In the Beginning"

From inception Watershed has sought to put justice at the forefront of our mission. Whether embedded into the themes of pop culture artifacts or real life events in our city, nation, and world, justice has become a hot topic. Over the course of the next few weeks Pastor of Justice Cedric Lundy is going to conduct a blog series aimed at unpacking our understanding of justice and why it’s fundamental to our community. 


“This social justice agenda is an add on to the gospel by liberals and progressive Christians, but it has no biblical basis.” I simply replied, “Well as a Pastor of Justice, I’m just going to have to disagree with you. I can assure you there is tons of biblical basis for justice, social or otherwise.”

I don’t think my friend meant offense by what he said. He wasn’t trying to get my goat. He was simply just sharing an opinion on the current cultural and political landscape of our country. It didn’t surprise me to hear a comment like that. In all honesty I wouldn’t be surprised to discover that a lot of Christians believe there is no biblical basis for social justice. I’ve heard other pastors refer to “social gospels” as though it were some well meaning, but ultimately neutering of the “real” gospel. That somehow a “social” gospel is a gospel with an agenda that wasn’t Christ’s agenda and relies on non-biblical sources to make its case. Martin Luther King Jr. was often criticized by the Christian community for being a socialist.

The truth is that taking out the portions of scripture where justice is explicit or even implicit would be like removing the advertisements out of Cosmopolitan magazine. You’d be left with little more than the binding and a few seemingly random pages. The fact that we’d need to emphasize the gospel being “social” is evidence that our default gospel telling is set to “self-center”. It should be no surprise that the biblical basis for social justice starts at the beginning; the very beginning of the biblical narrative in the book of Genesis.

What makes for a just space? Judaism has a one word for that which dates back to ancient times. Shalom. In English shalom translates to peace, which unfortunately does not begin to capture the robustness of what Judaism was trying to communicate. Our usage of peace typically means the absence of conflict. The picture the writers of Genesis paints of the beginning is absent of conflict, but it is also absent of any signs of life. The earth is described as being “without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep.”

What happens next and its significance is often lost on those who want to debate on whether or not it should be taken literally. We are witnesses to the fact that the earth is not formless and devoid of light and life. We know that the earth is teeming with life and light and beauty of seemingly infinite form. Far from being empty, it is full.

Genesis gives its own poetic account of the divine speaking creating and declaring good things on the earth. The divine creates entire social system of plant life, wildlife and human beings all “blessed” with the ability to continue the creation process or as the writer simply puts multiply! At the end of their work the divine looks at the earth and declares it all very good.

But what is good about it?

This is where the Jewish understanding of peace or shalom is tantamount. It is good because there is complete and undeterred individual and corporate harmony between and amongst every inch of the earth and its creatures. If Genesis 1 had a theme song, Radiohead’s “Everything In Its Right Place” seems the obvious choice. Shalom is the idea that everything is as it ought to be.

Justice depends on the idea that our world, and everything in it, was good and is good. Justice is the belief that whatever has gone wrong with our world can be made right. Justice is the ethic that our goodness as mankind is tied together with the goodness of this world we inhabit. Creation didn’t end after the sixth day. Most everything that fills the earth was bestowed a blessing to continue the creation process by being fruitful and multiplying. In the Genesis 2 account mankind is explicitly invited into the vocation of creating more when God tells them to work the ground and keep it. Eden had no boundaries no fence no limits. It was always meant to go forth and expand. The world is the showcase for our creative endeavors that multiply and expand goodness and thicken shalom.

Last but certainly not least shalom is also the idea that everyone and everything has enough. Some have more and some have less but everyone has enough. Everyone and everything have enough to contribute to the increase and expanse of good in our world. Everyone and everything have enough to keep inadequacy, or shame, and guilt or blame out of the equation.

Justice recognizes when this isn’t the case and springs into action to make things right. To pursue, at times what seems impossible, shalom. For things to no longer simply be the way they are, nor the way they could be, but to be how it ought to be.

At Watershed we are energized by seeing people in our community who see the absence of shalom and respond by using their resources, ingenuity, and creativity in unison with others, to bring about shalom. That’s how we know people really truly understand what justice is, why it’s needed, and that it is inherently social. 

Volunteer Friday #11

Volunteer Friday #11

WELCOME TO VOLUNTEER FRIDAY!

Every other Friday we take a moment to introduce you to someone in our community who serves in one or more of Watershed's many volunteer areas: GreenHouse/Shed StudentsSunday TeamsCatapultBloc Leading, etc. The featured volunteer will then select someone he/she would like to see highlighted next.

This week, meet Derek!

IMG_20150107_094309_429.jpg

DEREK WHITMIRE

Volunteer Area(s): Set-up Team, Catapult at Byers
 

Why did you choose to volunteer in each of your areas?

Set-up team started several years ago after some very endearing arm twisting from Matt O'Neil. Then I got to know some of the great guys who are there at 7:30 a.m. every Sunday and it feels cool to be a part of the unsung heroes behind the scenes.

I started tutoring at Byers in 2012 shortly after returning from a Watershed trip to Guatemala. That trip forever changed how I viewed generosity and investing in people to glorify God. Catapult is one of the single greatest things we do as a community and I'm so grateful to have met the most amazing family in the process who I now consider to be a part of my family.

What has been one of your favorite moments as a volunteer? 

Last summer my wife and I we're able to purchase a used mini van for the mother of our Byers kids. The generous donations from so many of you at Watershed left me in awe of our community and what God is capable of after a big leap of faith. Taking a 42-year-old mother of seven children to pick up the first vehicle she's ever owned and watching her sign the title with tears in her eyes was easily the best moment yet. 

If you could use only one word to describe our Watershed community, what would it be

Enduring.

Describe your perfect day in Charlotte:

18 holes in the morning, all Charlotte sports teams win, then a friends gathering at Cantina with never ending queso.

 

I'D LOVE TO SEE ONE OF OUR BEARDED ALL STARS, JEREMY EDWARDS FEATURED NEXT. HE IS MR. RELIABLE AT ORCHESTRATING THE SET-UP EACH SUNDAY MORNING AND HAS NEVER ONCE YELLED AT ME FOR BEING LATE, SLOW, OR HALF ASLEEP.

What Is Justice?

What Is Justice?

From inception Watershed has sought to put justice at the forefront of our mission. Whether embedded into the themes of pop culture artifacts or real life events in our city, nation, and world, justice has become a hot topic. Over the course of the next few weeks Pastor of Justice Cedric Lundy is going to conduct a blog series aimed at unpacking our understanding of justice and why it’s fundamental to our community. 


The dictionary definition of justice is as follows…

“The maintenance or administration of what is just, especially by the impartial adjustment of conflicting claims or the assignment of merited rewards or punishments. The principle or ideal of just dealing or right action.”

Undoubtedly pop culture has shaped our understanding of justice. We have a plethora of television shows movies and comic book heroes who administer justice by pursuing evildoers and holding them accountable for their misdeeds. However, they most often present an incomplete picture of justice. The collateral damage in the form of property damage created during the heroine’s pursuit is usually glossed over. There are some exceptions.

Pixar’s The Incredibles builds a story where the collateral damage develops a major plot point. It leads to a flood of lawsuits that eventually leads to legislation forcing the supers to go into hiding. The movie Hancock starring Will Smith picks up a similar theme. Ever since watching those movies I find myself thinking about the millions dollars in property damage caused by the Avengers, Superman’s final battle with Zod in Man of Steel and not to be out done the Transformers franchise. Point being, we often have an incomplete understanding of what justice truly is evidenced by the popular stories we tell and consume.

On the other hand the Christian scriptures present a complete picture of justice one often easily missed. Many are familiar with Christian traditions where the climactic point in the story is when God banishes evildoers and the unrighteous to eternal punishment and suffering for their crimes.

However it has often left a huge unresolved issue, “What about Earth and all of creation?”

Many of the same Christian traditions would reply by indicating that Earth is destroyed after the saints are relocated to heaven, which only causes people to balk even further. Imagine a story where the heroines only save the inhabitants of Earth and not Earth itself?

You needn’t think too hard if you’ve seen the movie Interstellar. I absolutely love that movie, but I can’t help but wonder if I’d feel slightly different about it if the lasting image or scene from that movie was a dead and desolate Earth with no signs of life instead of a father who has literally crossed space and time to be reunited with his daughter. We get so lost in the image of Cooper boarding a ship to go find Brand all alone on her planet that we’ve all but forgotten that while the remaining humans have managed to escape there is no justice for planet Earth (as I’m writing this it's suddenly occurred to me that it appears they left all the animals there to die as well).

On the contrary, that depiction of the biblical narrative is an incomplete one. The story doesn’t end with Earth destroyed. It ends, or, better put, re-begins, with Earth being renewed. The saints don’t go up to heaven, heaven comes down to Earth. The original vision of heavens and Earth joined together without separation is recast.

In the same way something is missing when super heroes can ride off into the sunset satisfied that they’ve brought the villain to account while the city crumbles literally and financially, there is something missing when we paint the Divine as only concerned with saving souls... and matter does not matter. Assuming we all agree that all matter matters, Christians who promote this incomplete story need to be reminded that the Earth Matters (too!).

The end of the Bible in Revelation is not the only place where we see this picture of Earth being restored and renewed. It is mentioned in the similar language in the prophesies of Isaiah.

“For behold, I create new heaven and a new Earth…”

“They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat.”

“The wolf and the lamb shall graze together; the lion shall ear straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent’s food. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain,’ says the Lord.”

All that being said, a complete yet simple definition of justice is “putting the wrongs to rights”. In the super hero movies it would look like the Avengers working to help restore and rebuild the cities that were laid waste in their epic battles to defeat their adversaries. In Harry Potter it would be Harry using the Elder Wand quickly to rebuild and restore Hogwarts before snapping it half and tossing it into the Black Lake (that always bothers me when I watch it). 

With the exception of Potter, where it’s as simple as a waving of his wand and everything magically coming back together like new, a scene where we see the process of justice come to completion isn’t a climatic high point. Justice, the real substantial justice that we long for, is long and slow. It doesn’t happen over night. The pains and wrongs of this world didn’t happen over night, so it only makes sense for the real work of justice to be long and slow as well.

When we talk about justice at Watershed, it is with this understanding of justice.

When we look at the Christian scriptures we can’t help but be drawn to this over-arching theme of the Divine creating an entire world worth saving, not just its inhabitants. We see a God who is deeply invested in putting the world to rights. We see a God who is about long, and sometimes painfully slow, justice as He communes with mankind and equips us, the vulnerable ones in this equation, to be a part of bringing justice to His good creation.

Sure, Harry Potter could have used the Elder Wand to repair and restore Hogwarts in an instant, but I have to admit that there is something beautifully communal and healing for all who considered Hogwarts home to pocket their wands and get their hands dirty. There is a new level of ownership they’d all have by forgoing the quick, easy, sanitary way of rebuilding.

In the process, maybe they’d find some semblance of healing themselves as well.

 

11 Things You May Not Know About ArtPop

11 Things You May Not Know About ArtPop

September marked Watershed's eleventh year as a community! To celebrate, each month until next September we’re bringing you a list of ELEVEN things someone in our community is passionate about. In addition to picking up some interesting new knowledge, we hope this series will help you get to know a handful of the incredible people who call Watershed home!


February’s ELEVEN list comes from Watershedder Wendy Hickey, the Executive Director and Founder of ArtPop! ArtPop's mission is to promote local artists' work and make art accessible to communities through available media space. 

Wendy says, "ArtPop is my heart and soul and I hope to make ArtPop my full time job one day soon. Helping artists jumpstart their careers and leading successful lives as professional artists is a dream come true."

While helping launch the careers of local artists is ArtPop's priority, a by-product of the mission is that communities are being exposed to art without having to seek it out. ArtPop brings art to the masses. They understand the need for galleries and museums, but believe that art has no boundaries and desire to bring art to you!

Wendy believes Art is powerful, art is healing, and art has the ability to transform and bring together divided communities. She also believes we need art in our lives now more than ever.  

Without further ado...

11 Things You May Not Know About ArtPop

1) Art + Public Outdoor Project = ArtPop

2) Our mission is to promote local artists’ work and make art accessible to communities through available media space.

3) ArtPop is a 501c3 and headquartered right here in Plaza Midwood. 

4) ArtPop has 8 members on the Board of Directors, all located here in Charlotte!  We are all volunteers.

5) We are seeking fundraisers, sponsors and grant writers to help our cause, know anyone? Send them our way

6) Since our inception in Charlotte in 2014 we have featured the work of 80 different local #CLT area artists in our program. 

7) We are on the streets of 11 cities today, with 163 artists in the program so far!  

8) We are opening 3 brand new cities this year to include Charleston, SC, Nashville, TN, and Columbus, OH. 

9) In addition to the artists work on billboards, the artists can also be seen on Uptown CLT news racks and on a digital billboard at Ballantyne Village... more to come!  

10) We are changing the lives and careers of local artists.

11) We hope to bring the program all over the world one day, see where we are so far at ArtPopStreetGallery.com click on the ART tab and then click on the thumbnails! 

Thanks for educating us about ArtPop, Wendy! We love how you use your passions and talents to help others and work to make Charlotte a more interesting, beautiful place! To learn more about Wendy and ArtPop, listen Co-Pastor Matt O'Neil interview her from stage during our 2017 Stogies & Stilettos series. 

Do you have an interesting 11 list you'd like us to consider? We'd love to hear your idea! Tell us about it here.

Volunteer Friday #10

Volunteer Friday #10

WELCOME TO VOLUNTEER FRIDAY!

Every other Friday we take a moment to introduce you to someone in our community who serves in one or more of Watershed's many volunteer areas: GreenHouse/Shed StudentsSunday TeamsCatapultBloc Leading, etc. The featured volunteer will then select someone he/she would like to see highlighted next.

This week, meet Evan!

Evan ERWIN

Volunteer Area(s): Greeting Team, Catapult at Byers

Why did you choose to volunteer in each of your areas?

I enjoy helping greet people who visit Watershed and assist in answering any questions or alleviating any concerns. My wife and I live close to Byers and it has been a great opportunity to get involved in our neighborhood in addition to investing in the life of an amazing young student.

What has been one of your favorite moments as a volunteer? 

It has been really fun working with Caleb and watching his ability and confidence grow as we work on his reading and life skills.

If you could use only one word to describe our Watershed community, what would it be

Loving.

Describe your perfect day in Charlotte:

Any activity with my wife and friends... 

 

NEXT I'D LIKE WATERSHED TO FEATURE derek WHITmire... HE is an amazing, selfless volunteer who pours into our church and the charlotte community!

Volunteer Friday #9

Volunteer Friday #9

WELCOME TO VOLUNTEER FRIDAY!

Every other Friday we take a moment to introduce you to someone in our community who serves in one or more of Watershed's many volunteer areas: GreenHouse/Shed StudentsSunday TeamsCatapultBloc Leading, etc. The featured volunteer will then select someone he/she would like to see highlighted next.

This week, meet Kayla!

KAYLA ERWIN

Volunteer Area(s): Info Table

Why did you choose to volunteer in each of your areas?

I volunteer as a greeter because welcoming others is something I love to do. I think a person's first interaction with a church is so vital to how the rest of their experience is received, especially if that person is new! Giving a smile and a "good morning" isn't much, but if it can help someone feel seen and valued, then the reality is we're on the front lines of demonstrating what kind of community Watershed has to offer!

What has been one of your favorite moments as a volunteer? 

My favorite moments volunteering are when I connect with someone I didn't know before. Another favorite moment of mine come from my husband, Evan. You might know Evan as the man who holds the door while delivering a variety of boisterous greetings. Some of my favorite moments from the info booth have occurred during the lull of welcoming people. During those times I can usually expect some sort of entertainment (usually dancing) from my husband.

If you could use only one word to describe our Watershed community, what would it be

Authentic

Describe your perfect day in Charlotte:

My perfect day in Charlotte involves exploring the city with my husband, Evan, and our fur-child Trotter.

 

NEXT I'D LIKE WATERSHED TO FEATURE EVAN ERWIN... HE'D LOVE TO TELL YOU ALL ABOUT HIMSELF, AND ALSO WHO WOULDN'T WANT BACK-TO-BACK ERWIN PROFILES TAKING OVER THE WATERSHED BLOG?

Volunteer Friday #8

Volunteer Friday #8

WELCOME TO VOLUNTEER FRIDAY!

Every other Friday we take a moment to introduce you to someone in our community who serves in one or more of Watershed's many volunteer areas: GreenHouse/Shed StudentsSunday TeamsCatapultBloc Leading, etc. The featured volunteer will then select someone he/she would like to see highlighted next.

This week, meet Amanda!

AMANDA SIMMONDS 

Volunteer Area(s): Cafe/Info Table

Why did you choose to volunteer in each of your areas?

I chose to volunteer as a greeter at the info table so I could connect with every person walking into church. It's a great way to see friends, meet new people, and welcome newcomers to Watershed. The info table was a great tool when we first started at Watershed and we wanted to pass that along to others!

What has been one of your favorite moments as a volunteer? 

Favorite moment was volunteering on Christmas Eve and watching all the GreenHouse children practice their Christmas carols. They stood in the hallway and belted out tunes. It was adorable and really helped get us in the celebrating mood!

If you could use only one word to describe our Watershed community, what would it be

Comfortable

Describe your perfect day in Charlotte:

My perfect day in Charlotte is enjoying a beautiful day outside with my fiance Ryan and our pups! We love to go disc golfing and then have a big breakfast at Zada Janes. 

 

NEXT I'D LIKE WATERSHED TO FEATURE KAYLA ERWIN... BECAUSE SHE IS SUCH A JOY TO BE AROUND AND LIGHTS UP EVERY ROOM SHE IS IN!

Martin Luther King Jr. Day Reflections

Martin Luther King Jr. Day Reflections

By Cedric Lundy, Pastor of Justice 

How does one celebrate a day like Martin Luther King Jr. Day? It’s the same question some of us ask in regards to other days similar to it: Presidents Day, Memorial Day, Veterans Day. When it comes to these federal holidays, how each day is observed, if at all, seems to be disconnected from the significance of the person or people being remembered. In the case of MLK Day, a lot of people, myself included, have taken to posting their favorite quote of King’s on social media. Yet, in large part, MLK Day serves to remind me that, while we may think of King fondly, we are still largely confounded by how to break free from the societal systems that keep us segregated.

As a junior in high school I attended an all-boy Catholic School in suburban metro Detroit. Out of the approximately 980 students at the school, 21 of us were Black Americans. It being my first year there, I was informed that school was in session on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, but, since I was black, I could take an excused absence. The white students were not given the same exemption.

A few years ago I took a group of middle school students into uptown Charlotte early on a Saturday morning to pass out bag lunches and care packages to the homeless. I had a bad habit of scheduling these service opportunities on road race Saturdays, which can make getting from South Charlotte to uptown like navigating a labyrinth. On this particular day there wasn’t a race to contend with but, instead, a parade. I didn’t even know Charlotte did a MLK Day parade, but given how many black people there were in uptown that early on a Saturday morning, it wasn’t hard to figure out what was going on. It wouldn’t be far from the truth to say that my twelve or so students, all of whom were white, were the only white people to be seen on Tryon Street that morning along the parade route.  

The year the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Arts and Culture opened, my wife Emma and I, along with two friends of ours, went on MLK Day. The place was absolutely mobbed, however Emma and our two friends were the only white people there on a day when all of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools had the day off.

Despite his honored legacy of fighting against racial injustice and inequality (and, less mentioned, his brief foray into fighting against economic injustice and poverty), the fifty years that have passed since King’s death have proven at least one thing: the systems at the foundation of our culture and society and their penchant for keeping us divided from one another based on race and class have not been eradicated, but have merely adapted to the times. While the way we think about people of different races may have changed and become more inclusive, our society and culture have remained steadfast in keeping us excluded from one another and have allowed us to feel more familiar with race-based caricatures than actual people of different racial and cultural backgrounds. 

Our schools are still largely segregated. Our neighborhoods are still largely segregated. Our religious gathering places are largely segregated. Our work places are still largely segregated. While countless hearts have been affected by Dr. King, our societal systems have managed to persist in keeping us largely separated. 

Those of us African Americans who have managed to assimilate into the larger, dominant white society appear to be exceptions to the rule, and our assimilation often comes at a cost. We are often viewed as pariahs by those who consider us sellouts, for in their minds we have taken on the caricatures of white people in order to be accepted. And yet we are keenly aware of moments and places where we are still judged based upon the color of our skin regardless of the content of our character. Likewise, talk to white people who have either been born into a minority community or have made attempts to bridge racial divides by going into minority communities, and many will describesimilar experiences of never truly being accepted as the minority and of being viewed as misguided by their white peers.

I think if he were here today, Dr. King would be encouraged by the softening of our hearts to embrace the other, but discouraged by the resilience of our social systems to keep us separated while allowing just enough exceptions to the rule to make us feel like we are getting somewhere. I think he would challenge us to tap further into our imagination and creativity for how we can overcome together. I think he would continue to make all of us uncomfortable with our contentment with the way things are, calling us instead to press up against the system to finally realize what could be.

The Ripple Effect

The Ripple Effect

Here at Watershed we often encourage our volunteers to think big picture when it comes to serving in the community. Transformation (whether it be in an individual or in an entire system) rarely occurs overnight, so, in addition to celebrating little victories, we also ask people to consider the potential “ripple effect” of their efforts over the long haul.

Trusting the ripple effect can be challenging at times. We don’t always get to see the impact of our actions, and it takes real faith to believe that our efforts are meaningful even when we don’t have the immediate, tangible evidence to prove it. However, every now and then we do get to catch glimpses.

Natalie’s story begins as the result of a ripple.

“I had some wonderful volunteer tutors when I was a student in CMS,” Natalie remembers. “So I was thankful that I was going to have a chance to pay that forward!”

Two years ago Natalie Smith began volunteering at Walter G. Byers School through Watershed’s Catapult Initiative. She started off at Byers the same way most Catapult volunteers do: she tutored an elementary school student for 30-45 minutes each week. As she continued to show up to the school every Wednesday, she started to get to know a few of the staff members. One of those staff members was the school librarian.

“By the end of the school year I found myself helping out with the first book fair that the school had been able to put on in a number of years,” Natalie recalled. “During that week I was able to meet a number of teachers, and when End-of-Grade Tests (EOGs) came around, they asked if I would help proctor.”

Natalie had no idea when she signed up to help proctor EOGs that she would be paired with a teacher she had so much in common with.

“I was paired with the art teacher, Mrs. Barnes, to administer EOGs,” she said. “Through conversation we realized she actually used to work at the fabric store that my family now owns! We bonded over our shared interest in creativity.”

The chance pairing of the two during testing seemed more like more than just a mere coincidence. The conversations Natalie and Mrs. Barnes had during EOG week stuck with the art teacher, and ripples continued to spread when she approached Natalie with a request. 

“Mrs. Barnes actually approached me with the idea of selling the kids’ art work at our store. She had previously sold a few pieces at another store to earn some extra money for supplies for her classroom, but [that store] was closing and she was hoping we could sell a few pieces here and there.” 

The proposition seemed fantastic to Natalie, but she thought she could take it a step further.

“When she brought me all of the artwork she had, I knew I could do more than just sell a few pieces,” Natalie said.

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Natalie turned 26 on November 19th, and about a month before her birthday she began inviting her circle of family and friends to celebrate with her… by purchasing artwork from her favorite elementary school students. Soon her Facebook and Instagram pages were filled with pictures of hand-drawn elephants, owls, cherry trees, and monsters. Her goal was to sell 26 pieces and give all of the proceeds back to the art department at the school. 

“My weekly involvement at Byers has been a beautiful silver lining [in a difficult 2016],” Natalie said. “The greatest birthday present I could think of was convincing the people who love me to give back to the teachers and students who have filled my heart with joy every single week.”

Natalie’s special fondness for Byers probably would have been motivation enough for her to dedicate her birthday to supporting the school, but, on top of her love for the community, she also just so happens to know a little more than the average person about how important artistic and creative opportunities can be for a child.

“I spent years studying the emotional benefits of creative outlets for children and strongly believe that creativity is necessary for any child, but even more so for children who are in high stress situations outside of school,” Natalie explained. “Some low-income schools in CMS have lost their art programs completely due to budget cuts, while the rest are left with extremely limited resources. I want to make sure that the students at Byers are given opportunities to lean into their creative strengths and become producers and admirers of beautiful work.”

When the ripple effects of so many passions and experiences collide at once, there’s no denying that something special is in store. 

“Weaving together my love for students, creativity, and lending a hand to our local schools was such a gift for my heart,” said Natalie.

Not surprisingly, Natalie reached her goal of selling 26 pieces of art, raising $775 for the art department at Byers in the process. All of the money went towards purchasing new art supplies so students can embrace their creative passions and talents more fully.

More than a decade ago Natalie was a CMS student who appreciated the time volunteers spent with her at school. Today she is a 26-year-old woman with a passion for paying it forward to some of her youngest neighbors in Charlotte.

As the ripples continue to spread, it’s anyone’s guess how the students impacted by Natalie’s generosity will grow and go on to touch the lives of others.

Even though her birthday campaign has ended, Natalie still has artwork for sale! All pieces are $15 and proceeds go directly to Byers School. Email natalie.dixon19@gmail.com if you're interested in purchasing any of the pieces below. For more information about how you can get involved with Catapult, Watershed's school partnership initiative, email cedric@watershedcharlotte.com.

 

Volunteer Friday #7

Volunteer Friday #7

WELCOME TO VOLUNTEER FRIDAY!

Every other Friday we take a moment to introduce you to someone in our community who serves in one or more of Watershed's many volunteer areas: GreenHouse/Shed StudentsSunday TeamsCatapultBloc Leading, etc. The featured volunteer will then select someone he/she would like to see highlighted next.

This week, meet Matt!

MATT FRUSTI

Volunteer Area: Production Team, Bloc Leader, GreenHouse (in the past)

Why did you choose to volunteer in your area? 

For Production Team, I enjoy helping create an environment where others can get a meaningful experience. I remember when I first started coming to Watershed a number of years ago and how much I enjoyed the services. It's what I initially looked for each week. I hope I can do just a little bit behind the scenes to create a similar environment so that others can find traction with God. As for co-leading a Bloc, that sort of just happened with the encouragement from the leader of a Bloc I was already in. I didn't necessarily feel ready but this person had faith that I could do it. I have benefitted greatly from the Blocs I've been in and so, like Production Team, if I can help facilitate (I don't like the word lead) a Bloc for the benefit of others as well, I'm in. 

What has been one of your favorite moments as a volunteer? 

Not a specific moment, but there are mornings when the team is scrambling to get set up due to unforeseen technical/facility issues, and we finish everything just in the nick of time and everyone comes in to worship and is none the wiser. It's nice to sit back, take a breath, and enjoy the service after what was likely a long morning. 

If you could use only one word to describe our Watershed community, what would it be? 

Warmth. 

Describe your perfect day in Charlotte.

Doesn't matter what I'm doing, just as long as I'm outside enjoying one of those perfect 70-degree, without-a-cloud-in-the sky days with my wife.

 

NEXT TIME I’D LIKE WATERSHED TO FEATURE AMANDA SIMMONDS... BECAUSE I SEE HER VOLUNTEERING ON A LOT OF THE SAME SUNDAYS I AM. 

Adventure Awaits!

Adventure Awaits!

WATERSHED SUMMER CAMPS AT CAMP TEKOA

Watershed is excited to announce our first SUMMER CAMP experiences for children and students ages 7-17!  Your child is invited to spend a week (or half week depending on age) with us at Camp Tekoa, a beautiful camp nestled in the mountains of Hendersonville, NC. This camp is a beloved summer camp of some of our Watershed GreenHouse/Shed Student leaders not only because they attended the same camp as children, but because they have been sending their own kids there as well for the past few years. We have tested the waters and we know you will love this place!

This Watershed summer camp experience is sure to be unforgettable for your child. Children will get to experience God in the context of nature and enjoy community with their fellow GreenHouse and/or Shed Student friends. Plus they are going to have a ton of fun given all the amenities and activities at Camp Tekoa. From arts and crafts to ziplines, swimming and campfires, adventure awaits your child!

Are you new to the whole camp thing? Never fear! Camp Tekoa offers ways to send your little campers email during their time away and they even have secured photos posted throughout the week so you can follow along with your child's journey!

Although registration will be done directly through Camp Tekoa, we ask that you first respond to Watershed Camp Coordinator Tracy Strickland before registering so we can inform you of which other Watershed families are also taking part in camp on the same dates and help resource you with possible carpooling/transportation and child roommate request opportunities. Tracy is an experienced Camp Tekoa and GreenHouse parent and is happy to answer your questions! Fill out this form by February 1st to express interest and get in touch with her!


WATERSHED CAMP TEKOA WEEKS FOR ALL AGES

  1. WEEK 1: June 25-July 1
  2. WEEK 2: July 30-August 5

ELEMENTARY STUDENTS

AGES 7-9:  CHOICE OF WEEK 1 OR 2

MINI CAMP: There is an option for first time and young campers to spend just half a week at camp (either Sunday-Wednesday or Wednesday-Saturday). These shorter sessions give your new camper a taste of everything and might be more cost effective. 

Cost of mini camp is $270.

AGES 8-11: CHOICE OF WEEK 1 OR 2

FULL WEEK CAMP: Session runs Sunday-Saturday. This is the classic camp experience. From the thrill of the zipline to various lake activities and other adventures, your elementary student is sure to have an unforgettable experience! 

Cost of full week camp (called TKO for Tekoa Overnight Camp) $540.


MIDDLE SCHOOL STUDENTS

AGES 11-14: CHOICE OF WEEK 1 OR 2

This full week (Sunday-Saturday) camp experience will engage your middle school student and activities will include a slip-n-slide, canoeing, a waterfall trip, a mud pit and lots of adventure. Currently we have two students from MSB Bloc signed up for Week 1 in case your middle school student would like to join in with that group! 


HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS

AGES 14-17: CHOICE OF WEEK 1 OR 2

This is full week (Sunday-Saturday) camp experience will engage your high school student and activities will include ziplines, mudpits, canoeing, rafting, campfires, a service project and much more adventure. 


To learn more about Camp Tekoa, visit the Camp Tekoa website.

Volunteer Friday #6

Volunteer Friday #6

WELCOME TO VOLUNTEER FRIDAY!

Every other Friday we take a moment to introduce you to someone in our community who serves in one or more of Watershed's many volunteer areas: GreenHouse/Shed StudentsSunday TeamsCatapultBloc Leading, etc. The featured volunteer will then select someone he/she would like to see highlighted next.

This week, meet Brian!

BRIAN GUILD

Volunteer Area: Greenhouse (Sprouts)

Why did you choose to volunteer in your area? 

I am a big kid so it was an easy choice for me.

What has been one of your favorite moments as a volunteer?

When you dont serve every week, the kids dont always recognize you immediately. My favorite moments are when you can see the look of trust in the kid's eye because they remember you from a prior week... oh and snack time every week!

If you could use only one word to describe our Watershed community, what would it be?

Ever-changing.

Describe your perfect day in Charlotte.

Pretty much doing anything with my wife. Going to eat at our favorite restaurants, hitting up our favorite brewery or zoning out all day playing co-op video games.

 

NEXT TIME I’D LIKE WATERSHED TO FEATURE MATT FRUSTI. 

POUR OVER: Emmanuel + Two Pink Lines

POUR OVER: Emmanuel + Two Pink Lines

What would each of our staff members share if we had the chance to sit down with you one-on-one over a cup of coffee? What is God doing in our lives, and how are we personally experiencing transformation and awakening? Pour Over is a blog series by our Watershed staff members answering those very questions. Today we invite you to sit down with Austin Smith, Watershed's Pastor of Operations & Creativity. 


How do you get to the core of who you are and uncover the thing that wakes you up and gets you out of bed every morning? What kind of questions would it take to unearth the thing deep inside of you that is really steering the ship? 

Over the past few years I have started to try to ask these kinds of questions. Not because I am necessarily on a quest to find out who I am and what I was born to do, but because I am curious. You see, these past few years have been a sort of awakening for me. It’s almost as if I was asleep for a long long time and finally I stopped dreaming and opened my eyes to reality. The natural progression of waking up would be, then, to get out of bed and to start exploring. That place is where I find myself these days. 

As I’m writing this, we are almost halfway through December and deep into the Christmas season. I’m not too much of a Christmas music fan (especially before Thanksgiving) but there is one “Christmas phrase” that has become intensely meaningful to me: God with us.  

There’s this scene in the early part of the book of Matthew where the stage is being set for Jesus’ birth. Mary and Joseph are engaged and she finds out she’s pregnant. Two pink lines that undoubtedly meant divorce for them. Verse 19 even says that “Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.” Instead, Joseph has a life-altering dream in which an angel appears to him and tells him that Mary is going to give birth to the Divine. That his name will be Jesus and that he will be called Emmanuel, God with us. 

For a long time, that was a really nice, almost moving story. That changed when I had my son. That really nice story of God entering into humanity as a baby came to life when I saw the helplessness of my infant. I’m not aware of a more humble position to be than to exit a womb and come into this world naked and completely unable to care for yourself. And in a very real way, we have this picture of God doing that in Jesus. 

Here is where these two thoughts collide for me: in the Christmas narrative of “God with us”, I see and feel a motive from the Divine. 

The idea of somehow getting a glimpse into the nature and purpose of God is exhilarating. If somehow I got the chance to sit down with God and ask “What gets you out of bed in the morning?”, I think at least part of the answer would include this: "being with you."

For someone like me, this is comforting, but, if I can be honest, also a little terrifying. I am a doer. A task-driven person. I like to-do lists, goals, reviews, action plans and anything that moves me towards more productivity and efficiency. “God with me” isn’t exactly the action plan I’m looking for. Sounds a lot more like a passive statement than an active one. 

A few months ago I began to adopt a meditation practice. It started with an app called Headspace that focuses solely on breath work and sensation awareness. From there I started to use guided meditations with all different kinds of focuses. That’s when it clicked for me. Sitting on my couch at 5:30 in the morning, in the dark, with headphones on, I tasted what it was like just to BE. There is something other-worldly about the ability to just be. It seems to export me out of my current reality, culture and life style into a different place. 

As I spent more and more time in this passive "being" space, I noticed something interesting happening: I began to see the motivations and desires of my active life with greater clarity and definition. I began to understand what's really driving me.

Here’s a glimpse what gets me out of bed in the morning these days: 

I have a wife who is a little over half-way into the process of bringing another life into this world. And she needs me. She needs me to be strong and gentle. Caring and decisive. Aware of her needs as well as my own.

I have a second child coming into the world in a few months. And I’m not ready. I’m not the kind of person I want to be for him yet. I want to be a better dad. A better husband. A better provider. A better listener. A better man. I’m aware that there will always be more to do, but everything within me wants to have it all put together and in place before he gets here. 

I see projects on the horizon that scare me to life. Projects that are well beyond my perceived abilities, and definitely outside the realm of anything I’ve ever experienced before. The uncharted waters of the future give me life.

For the first time in a long time, all of my family (dad, mom, brother, sister and their families) are living in the same area. And there are massive opportunities to experience relationship with them unlike any other relationship I could have. The pursuit of relational worth with them gives me great amounts of drive.

So how can you pick away at the question of what drives you? How do you get to that place?

There aren’t too many things that give me life more than uncovering the deeper parts of others and of myself, and if you and I ever get to sit down over a real cup of coffee, I hope we can do just that. But for the sake of this post, let me suggest three things that might help: 

  1. Ask the question. Over and over and over again. What drives you? What wakes you up in the morning? You and I will continue to change, and the ability to change in light of who we are is imperative.
  2. Can you wrestle with the idea that God might want to just BE with you? Can you, before you try to tackle the endless list of how to live a Christian life or how to be a good person or how to understand right theology, just be with God?
  3. Can you sit alone with yourself? Can you listen and be aware of what is happening in you internally? And will you be brave enough to deal with what you find?

Merry Christmas, and may you experience "God with us" in a tangible, personal way this holiday season. 

11 Things I Love About Malawi

11 Things I Love About Malawi

September marked Watershed's eleventh year as a community! To celebrate, each month until next September we’re bringing you a list of ELEVEN things someone in our community is passionate about. In addition to picking up some interesting new knowledge, we hope this series will help you get to know a handful of the incredible people who call Watershed home!


December’s ELEVEN list comes from Steve Cook, long-time Watershedder and founder of Equitas, a non-profit which provides opportunity through education for vulnerable children in the developing world. 

In 2006, Steve was reading an email and saw something in the sidebar that caught his attention: there are 27 million slaves in the world today. He clicked on the link and read an article about human trafficking in the world, and how there are more slaves today than there were when slavery was legal. Steve was then faced with a decision. He could close the article, go about his normal everyday life, and pretend he didn’t know anything about this, or choose to act on this knowledge and do something about it. He chose the latter and has never been the same.

Equitas is one of Watershed's global justice partners, and we're so proud of what Steve and his supporters have been able to accomplish in the name of love. Today Steve gives us a taste of why he fell in love with Malawi, the country in Africa where Equitas recently built a school. Who knows, maybe after reading Steve's ELEVEN list you'll feel drawn to this special place too...

11 Things I Love About Malawi

1) The smiles. Malawi culture is one of the friendliest I’ve experienced in the world. It matters not where you are - on the street in a bustling city or in the most rural area of the country - if you greet a stranger with a wave and smile, you will consistently receive a wave and smile in return.

2) The singing. Music is an integral part of life in Malawi. From sunrise to sunset, women and children can be heard carrying beautiful melodies while cooking, fetching water from a well, or working around the home. And when the choir comes together, it’s a wonderful array of full harmonies sung by men with booming bass and tenor, and women rounding out the sound with higher voices. You’ll also hear the occasional high-pitched trill.

3) The dancing. When a group comes together for a performance, singing is always accompanied by dancing. One of the highlights of my visits to Gadi Village is when the church choir performs. I join the men and boys in the back rows and try my best to keep up with their fast footwork. The inevitably end up laughing very hard at my attempts.

4) The meals. In the villages, people sit on bamboo mats on the floors of huts when eating meals. Before and after the meal, a basin of hot water with a cup inside is passed around, and you pour water over the hands of the person next to you so they can wash up. Food is placed in the center and bowls are passed around. It is an intimate time that always sparks interesting conversation.

5) The climate. Temperatures range from lows in the 60’s during the winter to highs in the 90’s during the summer. Since the country is so close to the equator, it definitely feels warmer during the heat of the day. But it is generally mild and can be very pleasant when there is a breeze.

6) The community. Most homes in villages are small. Rooms serve multiple purposes for eating meals, sleeping, or gathering for family discussions. But the majority of life is shared with family and neighbors in the common areas outside the homes. The open space beneath the shade of a large tree is your “living room." Some of my most cherished times in the villages have been walking through the fields or sitting on the porch of a home with my friends there. I’ve passed hours of a day like this with very few words spoken as we just enjoyed being together.

7) The markets. Loud, fast-paced and colorful, markets (larger ones are often referred to as trading centers) can occupy all corners of a major intersection on a highway or city street. They can be an adventure for your senses as you experience the aroma of searing goat, dried fish, grilled chips, dust, and diesel exhaust all at once. You can find everything from ripe fruits and vegetables to clothes and shoes at these vibrant markets.

8) The stars. Rural Malawi has no electricity. Standing in a village several miles from the nearest city means there is no artificial light. And this means the sky comes alive with galaxies and trillions of stars you could never see otherwise. The U.S. is in the Northwestern Hemisphere, and Malawi is in the Southeastern Hemisphere, so you will see magnificent, unfamiliar star formations. 

9) The wildlife. Visits to a Malawi game reserve can reveal diverse species of animals. Elephant, leopard, rhinoceros, hippopotamus, crocodile, zebra, cape buffalo, a large variety of antelope from the smaller bushbuck to the massive sable, warthog, baboons, and numerous smaller animals such as mongoose or porcupine. They even introduced a pride of lions from South Africa to a reserve this year.

10) The energy. The children in a village never slow down. At all times of day they can be seen running, laughing, jumping rope, playing football (boys) or netball (girls), dancing, or simply smiling. It never ceases to amaze me how much joy can be gleaned from life despite abject poverty and the harshest of living conditions.

11) The sunsets. With no large buildings to block your view, sunsets in rural Malawi can overwhelm your soul. It is delightful to watch the immense sky morph through its magical hues of yellow, gold, orange, red, and maroon before settling into its midnight blue and finally, darkness. It makes your heart feel light.

Thanks for sharing your passion with us, Steve! We're so grateful for your heart and are inspired by what has transpired in your life since clicking that link 10 years ago. We love partnering with Equitas and we cherish the opportunity to connect with such a special place on the other side of the world!

Do you have an interesting 11 list you'd like us to consider? We'd love to hear your idea! Tell us about it here.

Resources We Love

Resources We Love

Here at Watershed one of our core values is TRANSFORMATION: creating space and giving permission for the pursuit of a renovated mind, heart, and life. Jesus was constantly challenging those around him to think and live differently, and one of the many ways we foster that kind of growth in our community is by encouraging people to wrestle with resources we find to be stretching, thought-provoking... and sometimes even a little disruptive! 

Over the years we've found that a thoughtfully written book or an engaging podcast can prove to be massively beneficial in lending language to spiritual experiences which are hard to define and giving someone a new sense of spiritual imagination when he or she is stuck in a rut. Even better, these types of resources can be engaged alone or in community, making them valuable for all types of settings.

When our Blocs are considering what to focus conversation on, we provide leaders with a list of resources we feel are conducive to transformative dialogue. We've recently reformatted this guide into a page on our website, and we'd like to make it available to everyone in our community to look through! If you're looking for some fresh content, take a look at what's currently trending in our community. Happy reading and listening!

Volunteer Friday #5

Volunteer Friday #5

WELCOME TO VOLUNTEER FRIDAY!

Every other Friday we take a moment to introduce you to someone in our community who serves in one or more of Watershed's many volunteer areas: GreenHouse/Shed StudentsSunday TeamsCatapultBloc Leading, etc. The featured volunteer will then select someone he/she would like to see highlighted next.

This week, meet Tony!

TONY SANTORO

Volunteer Area(s): Greenhouse (Evergreens & Redwoods)

Why did you choose to volunteer in your areas? 

One, the Watershed community has done so much to support us over the last decade. Sometimes I view my serving as paying it forward so to speak. Two, as much as I am selfish for my own time and my own Sunday mornings, I've never finished a service not filled with joy and gratitude for the experience that I had. Three, the director of the children's program is my wife

What has been one of your favorite moments as a volunteer? 

I really love the connection that you can make with individual kids. Sometimes I will see those same kids outside of the Sunday morning GreenHouse class and there is a relationship there. It's more than just babysitting over a class, but these kids really look up to you and value that care and love from an adult other than their parents. For my job I was visiting an elementary school in the city and one of the students in the class was one of the students that I teach on Sunday mornings. It was a really special experience for both of us to see each other outside of Sunday morning.  

If you could use only one word to describe our Watershed community, what would it be?

Caring. 

Describe your perfect day in Charlotte.

Late October, coffee, friends, disc golf, playing with the kids outside (perhaps Reedy Creek Park or McDowell Nature Preserve), capping the night off with Survivor when the kids go down. 

 

NEXT TIME I’D LIKE WATERSHED TO FEATURE BRIAN GUILD BECAUSE… HE SEEMS LIKE A NICE GUY BUT I DON'T KNOW HIM THAT WELL. PLUS HE LIVES ON THE WEST SIDE SO HE MUST BE COOL.

POUR OVER: On Boys' Clubs & Brokenheartedness

POUR OVER: On Boys' Clubs & Brokenheartedness

What would each of our staff members share if we had the chance to sit down with you one-on-one over a cup of coffee? What is God doing in our lives, and how are we personally experiencing transformation and awakening? Pour Over is a blog series by our Watershed staff members answering those questions. First up we'll hear from Taryn Hofert, Watershed Co-Founder and Co-Director of Music & Creativity. 


In our current series, The Fourfold Pilgrimage, we are unearthing the connection and theme of the first four books of the New Testament, known as the Gospels. In Matthew we see the theme of CHANGE, in Mark we see SUFFERING, in John (which actually flows better out of order) we see the theme of JOY and in the book of Mark we see MATURITY. 

As I look at this flow I can’t help but be intrigued by how the author who dealt with how we mature and develop and grow was also the same author who displayed the prominence of women in his accounts of Jesus’ life. How very interesting. 

As Jesus had shared what is referred to as the Beatitudes or The Sermon On The Mount (“blessed are the poor”, etc.) with a large crowd who had gathered to hear Him and be healed, the passage in Luke 6 says that Jesus looked right at his disciples when He spoke these beautiful words. Despite a large crowd assembled it was if he was speaking directly to his group of followers letting them know, “THIS IS WHAT I’M ALL ABOUT, watch me, now.” 

After teaching and healing people, Luke’s account goes on to show us: 

Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.” Then he went up and touched the bier they were carrying him on, and the bearers stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!”. The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother. They were all filled with awe and praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people.” This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country.

Luke 7:11-16

In all the exhaustion and activity and buzz of the day, Jesus sees a single mom of an only child, who is a widow, mourning the death of her one and only and the text says, “his heart went out to her”. So he resurrects her son and the people who saw were filled with awe. The scene ends with THIS NEWS ABOUT JESUS SPREADING. 

So what was the news? That Jesus can bring people back to life at their funerals? Maybe. But so much more…

Next Jesus is having dinner at a Pharisee’s house and a woman considered “sinful” by her city hears that Jesus is there and shows up in the middle of the meal with a jar of her best and most expensive perfume. She proceeds to wash his feet at the dinner table with her tears mingled with a jar of her most precious perfume and kisses his feet and dries them with her hair. 

She’s touching him, and crying on Him and covering him in a womanly scent and when the host objects, again Jesus reminds those at the table that none of them have showed him this kind of uninhibited, beautiful, humble love and he sees her and loves her. I can only imagine some gasps were heard around that dinner table. 

I can’t help but be moved by how Jesus then continues on in his travels, most likely reeking like a jar full of women’s perfume. And now that the news of this Jesus has spread, his wingmen have a bit of a new look

The Twelve (His disciples) were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others.

Luke 8:1-3

IT WAS NO LONGER A BOYS' CLUB.

Jesus had a woman posse now and they were on making stops at villages and towns and cities near you and the news was spreading like wildfire. And not just any women: formerly possessed women, important women, formerly sick women, women named Susanna, everyday women… all kinds of women were now part of the traveling Good News. 

Like an ancient Middle Eastern Ghostbusters Gal Team meets Golden Girls kind of posse. 

Make some room, Simon Peter... Joanna IN THE HOUSE. 

I bet that news BEGAN. TO. SPREAD.

The passage says a man named Jairus who knew about this good news begged Jesus to come to his house and bring that good news of healing to his daughter who was on her deathbed, but the crowds were so large they almost crushed Jesus on the way. 

Yet, Jesus stops in the middle of it and notices that someone had touched Him (I’m sure lots of people had touched him in the crushing crowd). But this touch was the kind that Jesus said caused power to go out from Him. And who had done it?

A woman. 

Crawling on the ground because she had been sick so many years that she couldn’t walk.
Someone who had been bleeding for 12 years, yet no one had been able to help her. 
TWELVE YEARS OF NOT BEING HELPED. 
TWELVE, as in twelve disciples who were the men noted for helping Jesus carry the good news... but they weren’t the only ones. 

She couldn’t just stand and ask for Jesus’ help like the man Jairus had done so she writhed and wriggled her way to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment because SHE had heard of this good news.
The word was on the street. 
The news about about the single mom losing her only child. 
The sinful perfumed foot washer.
The formerly possessed and diseased and rag-tag female Jesus posse tribe. 

SHE knew if she could just get close, close enough to the good news that God in human form CARES ABOUT WOMEN AND HOW THEY SUFFER, then maybe healing could be hers as well.
Maybe she was important enough to be a stop on Jesus’ tour.
Maybe this news was for her too. 

And when Jesus sees that she is trembling on the ground, not only does He heal her, he calls her “DAUGHTER.” 
Then, yes, he headed onto Jairus’ house and was too late, but it didn’t matter, He brought that daughter back to life. 

MAKING WOMEN WHOLE AGAIN WAS HIS KIND OF THING.

So my friends, my lady comrades, let me tell you something that the church might have failed to let you know: God isn’t into boys’ clubs

The GOOD NEWS is much more than heaven and hell talk, which sadly might be what you were told.

THE GOOD NEWS isn’t a black, red, white, blue, green and yellow bead bracelet like you made in Sunday School. They forgot the pink beads (and a lot of other colors, might I add). 

THE GOOD NEWS isn’t just Jesus on a cross or Jesus rising on a cloud and pearly gates for days…

THE GOOD NEWS is Jesus doused in perfume, hitting the road with a rag tag group of lady folk and turning things upside down in the best possible way.

THE GOOD NEWS, in case you missed it or no one told you, is that the very eyes of God see you in your mourning or your singleness or loss or brokenness or situation and the very heart of God is WITH AND FOR YOU. 

YOU, GIRL. 

Stretchmarks and cellulite, single and married, old and young. 
WITH AND FOR YOU. 

You have a seat at that table no matter how many people gasp. 
You are heard, you are known, you are valued and you are as much a part of His posse as your male counterparts. 
Made equally in the image of God. 
Perhaps even adored in a more tender, compassionate way. 
That’s the GOOD NEWS.

So, as a middle-aged girl who has been a bit worn down by my many years in church leadership, I want to remind you that Watershed is the first church community in my life where I felt this GOOD NEWS reverberate. 
Where my close friend Rachael has been part of our leadership (aka deacon) team since day one.
Where women speak and teach and preach with regularity on our stage. 
Where single moms are abundant and where the child-bearing, adoptive, childless and everyone in between are continually reminded that YOU MATTER HERE. 

My husband did the wedding of a beloved Watershed couple, Jesse and Brian, a few years ago here in Charlotte. I remember watching Jesse being walked down the aisle by her single mom who raised her so beautifully and just feeling God all over it. God has been WITH AND FOR THEM all along. I saw really good and gorgeous news walking that aisle. 

So I leave you with a blessing that I wrote for the women of our community a few weeks ago. I’m thankful for a church where we can take time out on a Sunday morning to even do something like this. I invite you to say it over your daughters and your sisters and your mothers and grandmothers and aunts and friends. In the wake of all the news/drama of our election and in all the ways that we as the Church have missed opportunities to represent the real GOOD NEWS, maybe this rest on your estrogen-fueled souls. I often need this reminder too, girlfriends. 

AND THE NEXT TIME YOU PUMP A FEW SPRAYS OF PERFUME, BE REMINDED THAT JESUS SMELLS LIKE YOU AND HE WEARS IT PROUDLY. 

A DAUGHTERS’ BLESSING

You are not:

Forgotten
Second class citizens
Property
Less than
Valued for just your appearance
Unworthy
Too much
Too dramatic
Too loud
Too feminine or unfeminine
Better seen than heard
Here to be in the kitchen
Born followers
Unfit for leadership
Limited to specific roles

You are beautiful and loved
You are daughters made in the image of your Father God

Read more from Taryn on her blog: www.the8ths.com

Volunteer Friday #4

Volunteer Friday #4

WELCOME TO VOLUNTEER FRIDAY!

Every other Friday we take a moment to introduce you to someone in our community who serves in one or more of Watershed's many volunteer areas: GreenHouse/Shed StudentsSunday TeamsCatapultBloc Leading, etc. The featured volunteer will then select someone he/she would like to see highlighted next.

This week, meet Adam!

ADAM DESAUTELS

Volunteer Area(s): Greenhouse: currently in Redwoods, but I have served in every area except Sprouts. Former Rove leader and Bloc leader, but having kids and going to grad school, I have had to step back from those areas for a time!

Why did you choose to volunteer in your areas? 

I believe that there are many expressions of faith in our community and providing opportunities to meet God in unexpected places has driven me to go where I am called.  

In Rove, people new to Watershed have often sought to experience nature and have a communal experience that isn't as focused on the core doctrine of a church. There are opportunities to see who we are in action without being super committed to a weekly Bloc full of people you've never met.

In leading a Bloc for men, I found a calling to come around some brothers and study our faith and challenge each other to grow. I think it is important for people to experience a relational Bloc or two before really getting into the nuts and bolts of how you personally can strive to be a better steward for Jesus.

Finally, Greenhouse is something I have done since before I had kids. It provides me with joy to see our kids having a faith experience that is truly special and different from what I knew as a kid. We have a lot of great people who want these kids to know they are loved by God and their community. I typically want to go where I am needed most, now that I have kids I actually want them to experience what our volunteers offer without it coming from mom or dad. I feel like this reinforces the good news that they are so loved!

What has been one of your favorite moments as a volunteer? 

I can only pick one?! I would have to say I have been floored by many of our kids as they find their voices and let us into their worlds. Just last week, there was a brother and sister who helped demonstrate Jesus' servitude by washing his disciples feet. They did this despite other kids calling it gross! It gives me such hope to see that kind of character in our kids.

If you could use only one word to describe our Watershed community, what would it be?

Nomadic. Seriously, we move more than someone in the military (if you can't tell by now I am a jokester!). Fruitful. The kids keep piling into GreenHouse and they ain't comin' from storks!

That's two words, Adam! But we love you, so we'll let it go! ;)

Describe your perfect day in Charlotte.

Sundays are family days for my family. We try to do things together with intention. I am always down for Watershed (of course), chores, hanging out with friends, the next honey-do project, or some crazy parental activity like Carowinds. Sometimes, I get to go out Saturday night and catch a band and hit up the diamond for a burger. I'd say that's probably the perfect lead into a Sunday because good music can recharge your soul.

 

NEXT TIME I’D LIKE WATERSHED TO FEATURE TONY SANTORO BECAUSE… HE'S ALWAYS BEHIND THE SCENES VOLUNTEERING 40 WEEKS IN A ROW SO YOUR KIDS GET LOVED ON. I ADMIRED HIM STEPPING UP THIS SUMMER TO GIVE SOME VOLUNTEERS A BREAK AND I BET WE'LL LEARN SOMETHING WE DIDN'T KNOW ABOUT HIM...