a fresh start
by Marney McNall
Sometimes you just need someone to give you a little push. If the leader of Will and Meredith Huggin's married small group hadn’t encouraged the group to do a service project before starting a new book study, they might have missed out on a great opportunity not only to be of service, but to see things from a different perspective.
Once the idea started turning in their minds, Will and Meredith’s small group of several married couples decided they wanted a challenging service project—and it wasn’t hard to pinpoint the perfect one. They chose a project with the Christian organization, FreshStart Visions that helped ex-offenders transition from prison, and reenter society by finding them jobs, housing, and support from mentors.
Every Wednesday morning, Will saw a few guys from the FreshStart program at his men’s Bible study and various church events.
The founder of FreshStart, Tim Terry, encouraged his members to attend church services in their local communities, believing that teaching biblical principles to prisoners lowered the rate of them returning to prison (recidivism).
FreshStart begins the process up to three years before inmates’ release. They look for those who show good behavior and are committed to starting over.
In learning that FreshStart had purchased a cluster of houses in North Charleston, Will and Meredith’s Married small group volunteered to help with renovations early one Saturday morning. They worked alongside members of the program to put the finishing touches on one of the homes. They painted rooms, installed light fixtures and fans, and cleared the backyard strewn with trash (previously used as a walking thoroughfare to the Quick Mart). Afterward, the guys in the program cooked a meal for the volunteer team, and shared some of their stories and testimonies.
We all have struggles.
“It opened my eyes,” Will said. “On the way over to North Charleston that morning, I’d been complaining about this and that going on in my life. After listening to those guys, it made me see things differently—not take things for granted, and recognize God’s blessing in my life. While their circumstances may have been different than mine, I also saw that they struggle with a lot of the same things such as pride, anger, fear.”
Will knows what it’s like to have a deep-seated struggle. “I got sober in 2013 in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA),” he said. “When I started going, I wasn’t even a believer. Although raised Catholic, I had gradually shifted to agnostic, and then atheist. But at AA, I realized I couldn’t overcome all this on my own. They talked of a higher power, and slowly I experienced a spiritual awakening. God was obviously working on me…and my wife. Meredith had grown up as a Christian, but hadn’t been plugged into a church in a while. But she’d also begun to feel a pull to return to a church community. We were both nervous to talk to each other about going to church.”
Will and Meredith have attended Seacoast since March 2014, and this past spring, Will celebrated four years of sobriety. “I know firsthand how important it is,” he said, “ to have a supportive community to help you heal from your past.
We all need to be reminded that God loves us.”
Why bother with a small group?
“Since we’ve become part of a small group at Seacoast,” Meredith said, “we’ve been surrounded by other believers who encourage us, pray for us, and challenge us to grow in our walk with God. And we try to provide the same for them. The ‘do life together’ phrase can sound cliché, but when you’re truly plugged in with a small group, it’s what happens.”
Our small group walks with us in the good times and tough times. I mean one couple from our small group housed us for four months while construction on our house was being completed! We really do life together.
At Seacoast, there are all kinds of small groups available. Small groups meet regularly in informal settings to study the Bible, pray for one another, and build lasting relationships. Whether you meet in a café, on surfboards, a ball field, or in someone’s home, whatever your interests or age, there’s one for you.
For more information about joining a married small group visit our Small Groups page.