Fellowship of the Parks
A Family for Everyone
Monday, December 24
at 2:00pm, 3:15pm, 4:30pm, 5:45pm
Traducción al Español Domingo @ 5:45pm
• Create a Christmas memories ornament!
• Roast S’mores!
• Play in the snow!
• Petting Zoo Fun!
(Children must be accompanied by an adult.)
9900 N. Beach St. Fort Worth, TX 76244
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Fall Semester: Starts September 9. Sign-ups begin August 12
I was born in California, one of six kids. Being raised Catholic, our life was built around going to church. Putting family first was deeply ingrained in us. Ella, my wife, was the baby of her family. They went to church on an occasional basis.
Ella and I met out in California, dated for a year, were engaged for a year, and then got married. We both knew that we wanted to start a family, and soon.
When our kids were young, we spent a lot of time together. Living in California, we went to the beach, to Disneyland and we made a lot of great memories. Akayla, our oldest, took her siblings Lauren and Connor under her wing. I built a dressing room and put a hole inside the wall, where Akayla and Lauren spent hours talking and playing together. They were inseparable. Things got tougher when we moved to Minnesota. While Akayla was getting older and growing closer to her mom, our relationship became somewhat strained. Tension began to grow in my relationship with Ella also. We weren’t a very connected family. We did things together, but at times it felt like an obligation.
We found ourselves just kind of stuck, thinking things weren’t very good at home. When we moved to Texas, we tried several Catholic churches. We needed to try something. Despite our attempts, though, nothing seemed to work.
One day I said to my family, “Hey, let’s try that church down the street.” It was Fellowship of the Parks. We all went together the first time, and loved it. Spending every Sunday together really started to help heal our family relationships. I can’t imagine life without FOTP today! It has done so much for us as a couple and as a family. My son, Connor, thinks it’s amazing! We wake up – we’re excited – we go to service at 9:30, and then serve at Kids Inc. at 11:00. We’re bonding. We get to do it all together.
When I reflect on our family today, and think about how God has saved me – saved us as a family – and brought us into a church home, I don’t think we’d be together without all that He’s done.
I grew up Catholic, and I don’t know if I just got tired or burned out on church, or if it just didn’t mean that much anymore. I was going through the motions of confession one Saturday night when the Father said something like, “You know, you don’t really sound like you want to be here.” I replied, “Well, I really don’t.” He said, “Well, you don’t have to be. You don’t want to go to church, you don’t want to go to confession—then just don’t do it.” So I went home and told my mother, and unbelievably (to me), she didn’t say anything. So that was pretty much the end of church.
As I got older and had a wife, a family, and a job, I don’t know, it seemed like that was good enough. I didn’t want there to be a God. I got to the point where I thought I would be better off without Him, so I wouldn’t have to worry about heaven and hell. I was looking for any evidence I could find to prove that God didn’t exist. I went quite a while being “free” from Him. Unfortunately, reality set in. I got older, my wife got older, and she started having health issues. I found that every time another health problem surfaced, I’d start praying. I began to realize that I was alone, and I needed something or someone beyond other people to help me cope. I was praying, and starting to think more about God.
Quite a few years earlier, I had gone to a Universalist Church in Grapevine. So I thought, well, I’ll go back there and check it out again. I drove over to The Vineyards where I remembered it was, and saw what later turned out to be Fellowship of the Parks. As soon as Pastor Charles came out and started preaching, I realized it wasn’t the Universalist Church, but that was okay. I liked what he was saying, and really liked the way he was saying it. He got to me.
When I went to church on Sundays, I didn’t worry about getting there on time. One Sunday, I came in typically late. I shook hands with the handshakin’ guy and said, “You know, I’m sorry I’m always late.” This other guy was standing there, Nick Engels; he put his arms around me and his head right up next to mine, and he held me. He said, “You know, you’re not late, you’re on God’s time.” I swear to goodness it felt like God had me in his arms, and it felt good. It felt very good. Over time, I went on to give my heart to God, and He saved me.
I was raised in a large family and actively involved in the Catholic Church. Although I developed great respect and appreciation for the church during my early years, by the time I had reached high school and college, I strayed away from religion.
I got married and my husband and I didn’t attend church. When I was 31 years old, my brother died from cancer. The trauma of losing my brother brought us back to church, but my husband soon lost interest. I continued to attend by myself, but never felt like I fit in; the men and women there seemed wary of a lone female. Although I joined the choir and helped with child care, I never made any close friends. After five years, I decided to quit going.
We relocated from California to Arizona and soon after that, we decided to start a family. I was intent on finding a church and joined a Presbyterian church nearby. Their programs for children were sparse and uninspiring. After attending there for two years, I set out to find another church that suited our family’s needs better. I attended a wide range of churches; Methodist, Christian, Christian Rock, and Fundamental Bible Study, but none of them seemed like a good fit for our family.
We moved to Texas, and I continued my search for a church home. A friend suggested that we attend Fellowship of the Parks in Grapevine. Pastor Charles’ messages “hit the mark” as if they were meant just for me. The children and I attended regularly, but their father didn’t come along with us.
We’d been living in Texas for two years when my husband unexpectedly passed away. I was alone in a place far away from other family to help back me up and had only a few newly acquired friends. The job I held at a school was suddenly terminated. I felt extremely vulnerable and my life was totally out of control. Without anyone to be there for me, the reality of my life situation hit me and about two months later, I began to suffer panic attacks throughout the day. Unable to eat or sleep, my heart raced like a runaway horse. I felt as though I might have a heart attack.
My problems seemed insurmountable, and I couldn’t imagine how, at age 52, I would be able to start my life over on my own. I sought help from Pastor Charles at FOTP, and we prayed together. I joined a Life Group and a friend said to me, “When you feel as terrified as you do, you’ve got to give it all up to God.”
That’s what I did. I managed to work temporary jobs and prayed for God’s help. I became involved with my kids’ activities, found a good job and then an even better job. God stood with me during all my turmoil and was faithful to answer my prayers. Today, my kids are doing terrific! They are involved in school and sports activities, and love the Lord.
By hitting rock bottom, I gave up and let God take control. My life began to fall into place like the pieces of a puzzle that form a beautiful picture. He gave me strength, confidence, and led me to FOTP, a church of love, hope and fellowship. At FOTP, I will be able to give back what they gave to me. Through God’s grace and faithfulness, I learned the most important thing of all – God always has your back.
I was raised in a Christian home, and grew up going to church. My parents have been Christians since they were kids, and are still together. Once I was old enough, I left home and joined the Air Force, where I met and married my first wife and had a daughter. My wife ended up leaving me, putting me in a horrible, downward spiral of depression.
I went home to Oregon to be close to family, but continued to spiral out of control. I struggled with substance abuse and just wasn’t living God’s way. But things changed when I went on a camping trip with my family. I decided to hike up to Ice Lake, and as I overtook a crest and approached it, I felt a calm around me. I saw a breeze blow across the water, and in that moment God touched me. He was like, “What are you doing with your life? You’re better than this. I created you for more.” I renewed my walk with Christ there. When I came down, I just felt changed.
After that, I committed to pause dating and find out what it really took to be a good husband, as I knew God would choose my next wife. About a year and a half later I met Kate, and felt drawn to her. I had made a list of the top 30 things I wanted in my future wife, and checked them all off within a week of meeting her. We saw each other every day, and eventually married.
We had partial custody of my daughter, who we talked with daily. She flew regularly from Texas to see us, but it just became too
expensive. I kept asking God, “Can I move down there now?”
He kept asking me to wait. It wasn’t until 2014 that He gave me the “Go.” The move happened fast, in a couple of months, which was a struggle, but God provided. After four days of staying at the La Quinta by Six Flags, we ended up finding a really nice apartment, in a nice neighborhood in Grand Prairie.
Finding a good church was important to us. I wanted to find one like our home church, which had really shaped me – one where the pastor used his Bible and spoke from God’s Word. We probably visited 30 churches in the DFW area and just couldn’t find a good fit. None of them felt right for Kate and me.
Then we came to Fellowship of the Parks. We met Roger Gibson on his first Sunday as the Marriage and Family Pastor, and I was
excited to learn about and help out with the Marriage Ministry. I felt like clay in God’s hands. Around FOTP we use the word “changed,” but I also like to use “changing,” because I’ve never arrived – I’m never going to arrive. I’ll never get to the point where it’s like, “I’m good. This is it.” There’s a constant struggle to become more like Christ, but it’s worth every step.
When we moved to Texas more than 16 years ago, we definitely didn’t know what God had in store for us. We wanted to grow our family and have children, but I wasn’t getting pregnant. We started to search for doctors, but still couldn’t conceive. At the time, I had the chance to join a Small Group. God’s timing was perfect, as it was a life and fertility group where other ladies were struggling with the same issues. I knew that God had done this for us, and it strengthened my faith. I kept praying and praying.
Originally, we thought everything was going to happen naturally. Adoption wasn’t in our plans at all; we’d never even talked about adoption. Over time, we felt it was impossible for us to conceive. We thought, “Let’s just stop… there’s nothing we can do. If God doesn’t want us to have a baby, it’s not our fault – it’s just something that happened.”
One day, we learned about an adoption Small Group at Pastor Doug’s house. We attended and began getting information about adoption. We started thinking, “Hmmm, it would be kind of nice to adopt….” so, we talked to an agency and went through a 10-month approval process. We even got to the very last step: the home visit. We were just waiting to get certified. Then, we got a phone call from the agency, saying, “Unfortunately, we cannot certify you. You can only become foster parents. You’ll have to wait at least two years before trying again.
This wasn’t in our plans. I was pretty mad at God. I had moments when I just cried out and said, “God, just show me what you want. You know my heart – you know our desires. I want to become a mom – I want to experience that!”
Right after the two year wait, FOTP had a workshop that gave us an opportunity to do foster to adopt. We were excited again, and thankful to God – He was answering our prayers! Our caseworker scheduled a home visit for two girls on October 20, 2015.
Pastor Chuck and some other friends from church came to the airport for our encounter with the girls. It was amazing! Being able to hug them – those are images that I’ll never forget. We had the house ready, but our caseworker said they could still leave after the visit. That didn’t happen, though. The agency decided they would permanently stay with us!
To hear those girls laughing and running through our house – it makes me say, “Yes! God has his hand in this. He has changed four lives!”
These girls came into our family, and we gave them our name. When I talk to God, I tell him, “You keep teaching me things everyday.” They’ve changed our lives so much. He’s given us the opportunity to give them all the love they missed in the past, and provide them with all that they need, not just now, but in the future, and that’s a great feeling!
Most of my life wasn’t spent praying, reading devotionals, spending time in the Word, or going to church. I had parents who fought a lot, and my younger childhood years were spent screaming for them to stop. I felt very alone, craved attention, and wanted someone that would listen to me. By age 15, I ended up pregnant. My son’s father ran away, and never had anything to do with him. I didn’t raise my son in church and wasn’t able to give him the foundation I now wish I had. At the time, I was looking for something I would never find in a man, a club, a drink, or a drug.
I ended up marrying twice, but both marriages failed, ending in abuse. Through my ex-husband, my son was introduced to drugs and became addicted at a very young age. I was not emotionally available enough to know that this was going on in my home. Eventually, he began to get arrested for drug charges, and a trend started from there. He was in and out of jail and ended up going to prison. Next to losing a child, I am not sure there is anything worse a parent can experience than watching your child kill themselves day by day, unable to help them.
Twenty years after I had my son, I found out that I was pregnant with a baby girl. After suffering three miscarriages in the past, she truly was a miracle. I knew something had to give with my son, and I had no choice but to put him out of my house. It was a very hard decision as a parent, but I could not enable his drug use to happen around my daughter. He chose drugs, so I had to choose her.
Through many conversations, I shared my story with Pastor Chuck. He introduced me to Manny, who was the leader of Celebrate Recovery, Haslet at that time. Through Celebrate Recovery, I began to dig deeper into my own faith. I was later baptized at FOTP Haslet. I no longer wanted to be that same girl, making the same old mistakes. I wanted to be changed from the inside out. Through God’s forgiveness and grace, the old me was washed away, and I came up out of the water breathing in new life. I was done with my old ways, and I finally found hope.
When my son was in prison, he finally hit his knees and realized that through God, he could find change. All of my family has attended Celebrate Recovery with me. Everyone has some type of hurt in their lives, and God can provide healing and freedom from those hurts the same as He has done for me. I have been attending Celebrate Recovery for nearly three years and through God’s handiwork, I currently lead Haslet Celebrate Recovery. I am still a work in progress, but God has worked miracles in my life and He saved me.
I grew up in Puerto Rico, in a loving, Catholic family. But when I was about eight years old, I was sexually abused. The perpetrators told me that if I said anything, I would get in trouble. So I grew up without telling anyone, or getting any help. Going through school was difficult for me too; it didn’t matter how hard I tried. At one point a teacher told me that I wasn’t going to achieve anything in life. And for a long time, I believed her.
During my teen years, a friend invited me to church. At the time, I could feel the love of God calling me toward him. My motivation to change was short-lived, though. I kept frequenting the same circle of friends, who mocked my faith. I walked away from my newfound interest in God, and eventually ended up drinking and using drugs. This lifestyle led me to a disastrous early marriage, lasting only one month. After it ended, I joined the U.S. Army and tried to change my life, but I became even more dependent on drugs and alcohol.
Several years later, I moved back to Puerto Rico and married my wife, Glorimar. I worked in the airline industry for 23 years, and eventually moved to Texas. My real income, though, came through my “side business” as a loan shark. I was lending high amounts of money, and doing lots of wrong things.
This continued until the day I had a serious, life-changing car accident. Up until the moment I became unconscious, it was like watching a movie of my life. Nothing was good in it except my wife and my kids. I prayed to God for a second chance, and committed to turn my life around.
After a long and painful rehabilitation, I started frequenting church. One day, a girl named Madeline invited my daughter to Fellowship of the Parks, Haslet. We all tried it, and have been coming ever since. Through the teaching there, I began to connect the dots in my life and get the help I needed. God is now using me to help others: I’m simultaneously translating sermons from English to Spanish during Sunday services. I’m not the man I should be yet, but thanks to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, I’m not who I was. At this moment in my life, I’m very happy to be serving at Fellowship of the Parks, and the best is yet to come!
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I learned the Bible stories and was taught about Jesus at an early age. When I was 13, I chose to be baptized after recognizing that I truly believed in God and what I had been taught in church. I expected something supernatural to happen once I was baptized, but it never did. Despite my disappointment, I continued to believe that being a Christian was about the same things—going to church and being good.
I experienced my first breakup with a girlfriend at the beginning of my sophomore year of college. It was the most emotional pain I had experienced in my life up to that point. I was already drinking alcohol but it became excessive and my means of escape. Over the next couple of years I got more into the party scene and before I knew it I was not the person I wanted to be.
Eventually, I came to take a hard look at my faith. If I wasn’t being good and going to church, I didn’t feel any reason to call myself a Christian. I felt if I were to die, I would probably not get into heaven. Although I was having a great time on the outside, I was falling apart on the inside.
I moved into an apartment complex my junior year simply because it was going to be a great party scene, and it was. To my surprise God used that place to bring me back to Himself.
I met a girl I liked, and when she started going to a Bible study group that met inside the apartment complex, I went as well. After going a couple of times, the group leader invited me to meet with him one-on-one in the mornings to study the book of Ephesians. I agreed to meet with him. As I read and we discussed what the Scripture meant, I began to realize that my faith was built on some misconceptions.
The verses that pierced me the most were Ephesians 2:8 and 9, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”
I discovered there was no amount of “being good” that could earn my salvation. I realized I was a sinner, no matter what I did, and because of this I was separated from God eternally. I understood God had sent Christ to live the sinless life I could not live, and to be the perfect sacrifice I needed to atone for my sins. I knew there was indeed a great work that had to be done to earn salvation, but Christ had already done it. Trusting in what He had accomplished on the cross was the only thing I needed to do. It was at this point in my life I became assured of my salvation, and being a Christian became more of a mission to follow Christ than to be religious.
Since trusting in Christ alone, I live with the security that my eternal state is safe with Him. I fall short every day, but I trust in God’s grace to finish the work He started in me. Through Fellowship of the Parks and friends we met in a LIFEGroup, my wife and I have been encouraged in our walk with Christ. We’ve learned so much about how God uses His people to demonstrate His love.
Before knowing God and having a relationship with Him, I struggled with depression. Honestly, I don’t remember ever not battling with depression. I was severely picked on all through grade school because of my weight. I never felt like I could amount to anything.
I thought I was useless, ugly and pathetic. I got to the point of wanting to commit suicide to end all the hurt I had inside. When I finally started to seek out and rebuild my relationship with God, tragedy struck. At one of my daycare jobs, I learned that a child in my class passed away. I resented God which led to hatred toward Him. Before this, I had never thought of turning my back on Him but I did after the sudden death of this child.
My boyfriend at the time, who is now my husband, finally got me out of the rut by telling me how worried he was about my faith and kept reinforcing to me that God is loving. As I wrestled with this, I finally got the courage to go back to church. I struggled, however, to connect with God or anyone at church.
Soon after getting back to church, my parents were in a motorcycle accident that killed my father. I was always a daddy’s girl, so when this accident happened, it really took a toll on me mentally and I felt myself slipping back into the dark.
As I passed Fellowship of the Parks on my way to work one day, I felt as if God was telling me this was going to be my church home. That weekend, my husband I visited and right away, we knew it was true. Everyone was so friendly and inviting. The preaching was very relatable and it just seemed real to us.
Within a week, we had a chance to go to the Starting Point class and become members of FOTP. After this, I finally had the courage to fill out a Connection Card and admit my struggle with my daddy’s death. That is when I was first told about the GriefShare group. Going through GriefShare helped me realize that my daddy’s death happened for a reason that I may never know, but God always has a plan for everything. I strongly believe that my walk with God became stronger as a result of the tragedy.
When we joined GriefShare, the leaders told us about the importance of LIFEGroups, and so we joined David and Tiffany Bates’ Couples group. Being part of their group helped us meet new people and it give us the courage to volunteer in the areas God had already made us passionate about. We now serve on Wednesday nights with the students—my husband with the band while I teach the 7th grade girls. I never thought I would enjoy it so much. I am so grateful to have found such an amazing church where I can open up and connect with people about who God is. I get to help young girls who struggle in a similar way to how I did.
My battle with depression is ongoing but it helps me so much to know that I have a connection with a God who loves me for who I am. God has used this church to bring us closer to Him than ever before, and I know that I can conquer anything with Him in my corner.