Tag Archives: church

#ThingsOnlyChristianWomenHear trended on Twitter this week

This Tuesday night, Sarah Bessey, author of Jesus Feminist, started the hashtag #ThingsOnlyChristianWomenHear and it took off.  Here are my favorites:

This is a drop in the bucket on contributions to this thread.  Definitely checkout the hashtag and scroll through the sobering collection.

Then Christians began redeeming the conversation with the hashtag #ThingsChristianWomenShouldHear:

This is my prayer too:

Amen.


Thanks for visiting The Beautiful Kingdom Warriors.  We are a community of Christians who believe that men and women are equal in the Kingdom and indispensable partners in Kingdom building and restoration.  Follow us hear and on Facebook!

The Transformative Power of Good Leadership

ben-zander
There is a Ted Talk that I have watched several times over the past few years, and again this weekend.  While Benjamin Zander shares the transformative power of classical music, I am thinking of the transformative power of good leadership in Christian ministry.  Zander, a conductor, teacher and speaker on The Art of Possibility, is an inspirational example of true leadership – one who draws out the potential of others.  He shares this on his website:

“The best review I ever got was not from a music critic, but from my father. He was 94 years old at the time and completely blind. He attended a Master Class I gave in London and sat there in his wheelchair for about three hours. When it was over, I went to speak with him. He lifted up his finger in his characteristic way and said, “I see that you are actually a member of the healing profession.” It seemed to me the highest accolade.”

These 20 minutes may change your life:

 

d371f4e1531201afc673ceb8744e8040What moves me to tears when watching this is Zander’s belief in the beautiful potential in each person.  I cannot agree more.  We all are made in God’s image and have the capacity to rule over Creation, in His good design.  We were made to have dominion, to be powerful.  Jesus said that His followers would do greater things than He Himself (John 14:12).  There is so much possibility in each of God’s image bearers.

This vision of empowering others in ministry is not always present in our churches.  Our  leaders can be blind to the potential of others sometimes.  They see their own calling and gifts and understand leadership in terms of authority and corporate paradigms.  In our Western world, this may be the only model of leadership that we have ever been exposed to, limiting our ability to imagine a better way.  But the New Testament shows us an early church model of mutuality and inclusion. Paul, James, and the other NT authors teach us to consider others greater than ourselves, to lay down our lives in servant leadership, to each bring a contribution to corporate worship as the priesthood of all believers.

img_8124May more leaders emerge who view their communities not as followers but as fellow image bearers with their own callings, gifts, and the powerful indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  May we not doubt the potential each believer has to spread God’s light and love in ministry.


The Beautiful Kingdom Warriors believes that you have a unique calling from God.  He has prepared good works for you to do.  Your voice is powerful and every voice matters.

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Naghmeh Abedini’s New Year’s Exhortation to the Church

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“I have come that they may have life and that they may have it more abundantly.” – Jesus

On New Year’s Eve, Naghmeh Abedini (who we posted about here and here) shared this exhortation on her facebook page:

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The full message says,

Happy New Year! May this be the year that the daughters of the Most High and the church rise up in one accord and say “Enough is Enough.”

May this be the year that we discover who we truly are in Jesus and that the knowledge of His Great Love for us sets us free and brings much healing to us and to the body of Christ.

I implore you church leaders to stand up for the abused and oppressed and say that it is not acceptable for daughters of the King to be used and abused in such a way . I implore you church leaders to stand up and keep leaders and heads of families accountable and say in one accord that it is not acceptable for those who call themselves Christians to be in such bondage to pornography, adultery, control and abuse. I implore you church leaders to bring back the discussion and the importance of repentance. I implore you church leaders to call the church to repentance and that we would turn from our wicked ways, and turn to God.

May this be the year that as the church of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ we show the world what a true model of marriage looks like and that many would see the light and beauty of Jesus in our transparency and brokenness and that many would be saved.

Love you all! We serve a mighty King and He is in control.

 

Amen!  May it be so!!

Naghmeh links to an article by Gary Thomas, “Enough is Enough,” in which he denounces the abuse many women face in Christian marriages.  For instance, he says,

Another woman told me about putting up with her husband’s appalling behavior for over forty years. I was invited to look in her face, see the struggle, see the heroic perseverance, but also be reminded that counsel has consequences. So when I talk to a young woman in her third year of marriage and it’s clear she’s married to a monster, and someone wants to “save” the marriage, I want them to realize they are likely sentencing her to four decades of abuse, perhaps because of a choice she made as a teenager. When these men aren’t confronted, and aren’t repentant, they don’t change.

Jesus said what he said about divorce to protect women, not to imprison them. Divorce was a weapon foisted against women in the first century, not one they could use, and it almost always left them destitute if their family of origin couldn’t or wouldn’t step up.

How does it honor the concept of “Christian marriage” to enforce the continuance of an abusive, destructive relationship that is slowly squeezing all life and joy out of a woman’s soul? Our focus has to be on urging men to love their wives like Christ loves the church, not on telling women to put up with husbands mistreating their wives like Satan mistreats us. We should confront and stop the work of Satan, not enable it.

Physical, emotional, sexual, psychological and financial abuse are a silent epidemic in our country and around the world.  In the comments under Naghmeh’s post, she elaborates to say she believes that 70% of Christian wives are living with one form of abuse or another in their marriages.

10653672_540932686036868_4005151008959911077_nUnfortunately, most pastors are unequipped to respond appropriately to abuse.  My husband and I went through seminary and hardly heard a word about domestic violence in our classes.  Because women suffer in silence, trying trying trying to pacify their controlling husbands with submissive and meek obedience, pastors may never hear anything from a woman until she is reaching hopelessness and desperation.  And he will likely encourage her to do more, be more, suffer more for the sake of saving her marriage.  He will not understand the psychological impact of living in an abusive relationship for years.  He may bring both in for couple’s counseling, without personal expertise in abuse, and further damage the woman through treating this as a marriage issue rather than as the husband’s sin.

In conservative churches, where headship and submission are taught, women can be subjected to abusive relationships with no hope of relief.  Men have full reign to lord authority over their wives, controlling them rather than living as one with them.  The stigma of divorce leads to shunning of women who leave abusive marriages, and traditional gender roles leave women financially dependent on their spouse, unable to leave without a way to make a living.  The teaching that headship and submission image the relationship of Christ and the Church leads husbands and wives to strive harder to achieve cultural constructs of gender roles rather than becoming more the individuals that God created them to be.

In Rachel Held Evan’s post, “Is patriarchy really God’s dream for the world?”, she says,

If scripture is not enough to convince you that patriarchy is a result of sin, you need only look at the world to observe its effects.

  • Worldwide, women ages fifteen to forty-four are more likely to be maimed or die from male violence than from cancer, malaria, traffic accidents, and war combined.
  • Every 9 seconds, a woman  in the US is assaulted or beaten. Around the world, at least one in every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused during her lifetime. I wish I could say that all complementarians categorically condemn female submission to male violence, but John Piper has said that, in order to model godly submission, a woman may need to quietly “endure verbal abuse for a season” or “getting smacked one night” before “seeking help from the church.” (He says nothing about contacting authorities). Similarly, in Created to Be His Help Meet, Debi Pearl advises a woman whose husband pulled a knife on her to “stop complaining” and focus instead on not “provoking” her husband’s anger. This is destructive advice and reveals something of an assumption that the preservation of male hierarchy is more important than preservation of a woman’s dignity.
  •  At least 3 million women and girls are enslaved in the sex trade.
  • Study after study shows that societies characterized by the subjugation of women are more violent, more impoverished, and more unjust than societies that empower women.  In their excellent book Half the Sky, Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn argue that “in this century the paramount moral challenge will be the struggle for gender equality in the developing world.”  Empowering women increases economic productivity, reduces infant mortality, contributes to overall improved health and nutrition, and increases the chances of education for the next generation. Several studies from UNICEF suggest that when women are given control over the family spending, more of the money gets devoted to education, medical care, and small business endeavors than when men control the purse strings. Similarly, when women vote and hold political office, public spending on health increases and child mortality rate declines. Many counterterrorist strategists see women’s empowerment as key to quelling violence and oppression in the Middle East, and women entering the workforce in East Asia generated economic booms in Malaysia, Thailand, and China. (You can find all of these studies cited and analyzed in Half the Sky, which I highly recommend.)

Interestingly, John Piper discussed the unhappy dynamic of much of his marriage in October.  Piper is one of the most influential proponents of complementarian theology (the belief that God designed strict gender roles for men and women), co-founding The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood and The Gospel Coalition, a massive coalition of churches which holds complementarian ideology as a core aspect of their beliefs.  In my experience and observation, couples that treat each other as equals (whether they are complementarian or egalitarian) are far happier than couples that function as a hierarchy with the husband at the top.

unsafe relationshipI truly believe that mutual submission between husbands and wives is the correct Biblical teaching.  Giving husbands authority over households rather than all living under the authority of Christ as equals leads to unhealthy and ungodly dynamics and often, abuse.

If your marriage is emotionally destructive and you need to establish boundaries as you work toward healing, here are some resources:

Immediate Help:
National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233.  Crisis help or to develop a safety plan.
Family Renewal Shelter: 1-253-475-9010 (24-hour crisis line) or 1-888-550-3915 (toll free).  A Christian resource for crisis help and assistance developing a safety plan.
American Association of Christian Counselors

Support Resources:
Document the Abuse: Assists women who fear for their safety in developing an Evidentiary Abuse Affidavit.
Women’s Law: Provides state-specific legal information and resources.
VINE (Victim Information and Notification Everyday): Allows crime victims to obtain timely and reliable information about criminal cases and the custody status of offenders.
Lighthouse Network: 1-877-562-2565.  Assists individuals and their loved ones in finding effective treatment for drug, alcohol, psychological or emotional struggles, 24/7.

Books:
The Emotionally Destructive Marriage: How to Find Your Voice and Reclaim Your Hope – Leslie Vernick
Why Does He Do That?  Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men – Lundy Bancroft

Other:
The Emotionally Destructive Marriage:  Free resource page
Self Centered Spouse:  Series of blogs by Brad Hambrick
A Cry for Justice: A blog addressing the needs of the evangelical church to recognize and validate the reality of abuse in the Christian home.
Myths about Domestic Violence


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Guest Post: The Way Through the Waves

It is an honor and a pleasure to share this sermon from Zoë Faith Reyes, our sister in Christ and in community at North Harbor Community Church in midcoast Maine.  In the weeks leading up to Easter Sunday, the teaching team at North Harbor did a series called A Peace of Suffering.  If you are interested in listening to the entire series, you can do so here.  It was profoundly helpful to look closely at the topic of suffering as a church family.  And in the spirit of The Beautiful Kingdom Warriors’s mission to empower women and girls to pursue their callings and develop their spiritual gifts for the building of God’s Kingdom, we wanted to offer Zoë as an example of a woman using her gift of teaching to greatly bless her church family.  Enjoy her sermon!


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Zoe’s San Fransisco Team on top of a windy hill

The Way through the Waves
A Peace of Suffering – Part 6

I recently read an article about one of my favorite topics, Resilience, the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. Almost as an aside, the article mentioned that research has shown that people who are members of faith communities regularly demonstrate stronger resilience. At the same time, I was feeling heavy with the weight of trials and sufferings that I felt that the members of my own faith community [including myself] were undergoing. “How?!” I wondered. “What is it about people in faith communities that enables them to be more resilient? How can I tap into that capacity? How can I offer that power to my brothers and sisters of faith??” With these burning questions weighing on my mind, I entered into a dark and beautiful journey into the world of pain.

For one, I have to admit, “I hurt.” I can’t begin to preach at my community as if I have it all together, am above this fray, I have to admit the hurt in my body, mind, heart and soul. Any outsider might assess my “suffering” differently, but Pain is Pain. If I worry about those external assessments, I might belittle or glorify my pain, but both approaches only help me avoid actually dealing with it. And as attractive as avoiding pain seems, I can not forget the worst pain I ever experienced. When I went into labor with my second child and attempted a VBAC, his heart rate indicated he was in distress. Due to my history and his present condition, I was whisked away for an emergency C-section, which required an emergency administration of general anesthetic. They struck a needle into the back of my hand and it felt like a freight train had tunneled into my hand and up my arm instead. The feeling that effectively took all pain and other feeling away was easily the most excruciating physical pain I have ever known. So I neither can, nor am I sure I want to remove all pain from my life.

For two, I know YOU hurt, and I hurt for you. I hate that in my helplessness, I can not shoo away your chronic pain; make the world treat you with the love and respect you deserve; erase the trauma from you past; bring back the people you have loved and lost; I may not even be able to get through the walls you’ve erected to keep anyone from knowing you are in pain and in need of help in the first place. And there’s despair in that. Despair is when you feel like tomorrow will be no different from today, or in other words, despair is the absence of hope. I have known despair all too well, far too many times. AND, so many times when I have faced my despair, I have found hope. Hope is a learned skill, learned in the context of relationship. I am learning to hope as I experience life in community.

I want to get vulnerable and share with you out of my own darkness and despair to share a picture of where despair can lead to hope, how I have time and again found peace in my suffering.

When I was in college, I co-lead a mission team to San Francisco where we fed the homeless, worked with AIDS victims; painted a mission outpost; and played with and shared love with inner city kids. Both the prep work in the year leading up to the trip and the week itself were sleepless and exhausting, but miraculously I had strength to get through each day with gusto. Until the last day, that is. On the last day, in the climax of my leadership success, one of our team members informed me that he was taking off to hang out with a friend in the city. I told him he could not, we were there on a TEAM trip. He scoffed at me and left anyway.

In a recent sermon at our church, Will Truesdell talked about our self-talk when we’re in the midst of suffering. My self-talk went something like this: “How dare he show such disregard for our team unity! I can not be held responsible for the danger he is going to get himself into in the city – he is so going to get lost on the subway!! How dare he show such disrespect for this trip’s purpose! How dare he show such disrespect for me! Why is he just abandoning me like this?!” I was feeling intense fury and disdain. Depression is sometimes defined as “anger turned inwards,” and that was exactly what I started experiencing. My anger at this guy quickly turned into, “I am a failure! I am failing my team. I am failing at ministry. I am failing myself. I am failing God.”

I prayed for help. And things got . . . worse. I felt profoundly powerless. I had no strength left. And that feeling was even scarier than my familiar feelings of depression. I could not stop crying. I could not move my body. I could not get low enough to the ground. I could not respond when I heard people asking where I was. I could not respond when people found me and asked what was wrong. I could not move when they had no time left to be patient because we had to go. I felt trapped inside a body I was too small and meager to maneuver. Friends eventually found me and carried me into a car, which carried me across the Bay to our destination. As we drove, I continued to be inconsolable. I felt as abandoned by God as by the guy who had ditched us. I felt a sense of exclusion from their concern.

Psalms 69:1-3 says: “Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters and the flood sweeps over me. I am weary with my crying; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God.”

I resonated strongly with that Psalm. I think the disciples also would have resonated with the Psalm the night they were in the boat on the stormy sea, just after Jesus had fed 5,000 people with a small portion of loaves and fishes. Take a minute to read Matthew 14:22-33.

They were in the middle of their ministry, in the middle of the night, in the middle of the sea, in the middle of a great storm, and Jesus was NOT there. He’s sent them on ahead of himself. Scripture says they were, “far from land, and the wind was against them.” I think they must have felt they were far from HOPE.

In the 4th [last] watch of the night [3-6am], “they had begun to despair of deliverance.” And just as their hope is nearly completely gone, they look out into the waves and think they see a ghost. They cry out in fear. Like my night in San Francisco, a bad night just got way worse.

But it’s not a ghost. It is Jesus. And Jesus replies to their cries with words of comfort. Literally translated, His words would come out something like, “Have courage, I AM; don’t be scared away.” Our biological responses to fear are: fight, flight, or freeze. But Jesus asks the disciples to choose another way. He asks them to instead Face their fear. He invites them to be present, even in this dark and scary moment.

In a sense, Peter does obey. He is not scared away. Instead, he stays. And he gets curious. He says, “if it’s really you, ask me to come to you on the water.” Jesus replies, “come.” And Peter steps out into the darkness, into the water, into the storm.

What if we got curious about our suffering and
stepped into it instead of running or fighting it away?

And so, Peter walks on water, just like Jesus, until the wind picked up and delivered a full sensory assault to Peter. Hebrews 12:2 says to “fix our eyes on Jesus,” but in this moment, Peter. Just. Can’t. He experiences a failure of faith and courage, which threatens his life and his ego, and he begins to drown.

So here’s the PIVOTAL moment:
Will Peter deny or embrace his inability to endure this suffering??

When I was in San Francisco, I thought the success of our trip was on my own shoulders. BUT, I could not bring the trip to a successful end. I could not hold the team together. In that moment, I couldn’t even speak.

In Peter’s moment, he cries out, “Lord, save me.” Peter embraces his suffering. In other words, Peter incorporates his pain, his death, his insufficiency into himself. HE OWNS IT.

Here, when Peter says, “Lord,” he’s using a word that means, “he to whom a person or thing belongs.” He is confessing a submissive belonging. He is expressing that he belongs to Jesus; not to himself, not to the fear, not to the waves.

The word “save” here is “sozo” in the original text. That word means “to keep safe, to protect, to restore, to make whole, to make complete.” In other words, Peter is saying, “I alone am not sufficient, I am not enough. Complete my courage. Complete my faith. Complete my strength. Make us ONE. Weave us together. Pursue our peace.”

Etty Hillsum, a Jew who ultimately died in a Nazi concentration camp came to realize that
to exclude death [and I would add “failure” or “pain”] from life is to sacrifice a complete life.”

Shalom, Peace, is:
The webbing together of God and man with all creation
to create universal flourishing and wholeness.
~Cornelius Plantinga

In other words, Shalom is Completeness, made whole-ness.
It is integration instead of exclusion.
It is integration of death into life;
you into me;
peace into suffering.

When Peter cries out, “Lord, save me,” he is owning his suffering and crying out for PEACE.

Jesus replies, “Oh you of little faith, why did you doubt?” In the church, we can use the “little faith” phrase to imply that good Christians shouldn’t be so bogged down by suffering or grief, if they had more faith, “this” wouldn’t be such a problem. But I wonder . . . what was Peter doubting? Maybe Peter doubted that Jesus made him able to walk on the water in the first place, that Jesus would see it through until they reached each other, that Jesus, with his presence, would help him suffer the storm.

Maybe Peter doubted that the whole point of any of this mess was not that Peter get to walk on water, but to join with Christ and together endure their suffering. Maybe Peter doubted that the whole point of all of this crazy life with Christ was LOVE.

I hadn’t been doing the good work in San Francisco the whole time. As we had prepared, chose the team, did the work in the city . . . I had thought that serving Jesus through meeting Him in the people we served was the goal. But I was too blind to see that He was also the archer. He was powering the work. His love was making it possible for us to show love to people in San Francisco.

**His love made a way for us, for me, to enter into his love. **

I humbly suggest that maybe I have some guesses about what Jesus thinks Peter was doubting, and what that tells us. But I don’t think it is inconsistent with what is said elsewhere. In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus says:

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

And in 2 Corinthians 12: 9-10, Paul conveys God’s message to him:

“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.

Jesus doesn’t calm the storm in this instance, nor does he necessarily exert power over the elements that cause suffering. He comes under the storm and weathers it with the disciples. He is Emmanuel, God with us.

Jesus gets Peter back into the boat. Eventually, the storm dies down. And the disciples declare, “Truly you are the Son of God.” In Mark’s version of this account (Mark 6:45-52), he points out, “They were completely astounded because they had not understood about the loaves. Instead, their hearts were hardened “ ~Mark 6:51-52. A hardened heart is one covered with thick skin, callused, made dull, having lost the power of understanding. People who have calluses aren’t born that way. They are people who have grown tough skin because of a wound or significant friction, they’ve had to toughen up to just get through, to survive. And that thick skin is hard to cut through to do the true wound-healing. “Just surviving” impairs understanding. When Jesus fed the 5,000, as Dan preached about in the last sermon series, He was filling a gap in the disciples capacity and in their faith. Here, he is doing the same thing again in a much more visceral way [point by Manny Reyes.]

“True omnipotence may not be found in a distant and separate power over something or someone, but rather in the intimate experience of being wounded for and with.”
~Gerald May, Dark Night of the Soul, p. 197

As Dan has pointed out in previous sermons in this series, to Suffer, from the latin, means “to bear from below.” Instead of exerting power over here, Jesus suffers with and for his disciples.

“True omnipotence may not be found in a distant and separate power over something or someone, but rather in the intimate experience of being wounded for and with.”

Back to me in San Francisco, trapped in my powerlessness . . . the car I was in arrived at our destination, and I was pulled out, not ready to enter the house with the group, but stood outside alone with Manny on the edge of an hilltop, in the night, in the middle of a rushing wind. And in the middle of that full sensory assault of wind and darkness, I experienced God’s quiet, gentle words to me, “Be still. I AM.” With those words, I could feel His comfort and have the courage to listen on to what else He had to say to me. He didn’t speak to the situation. He didn’t make that guy suddenly appear and apologize. But He did assure me that I was not alone. I was not “fired” from serving Him. Manny would be my partner in service – as he was already demonstrating as he held me in that moment that he would be able to hold me in the ministry God had laid out for us in the future.  But most importantly, He showed me Emmanuel, God WITH us, was there to stay with me for the journey. And that truth diminished my other fears and concerns, of which that dude would be one of the least.

This story out on the water looks to me like a microcosm of the greater story of the gospels: God on high saw the people He loved suffering, so He entered into their lowliness in order to be with them, to endow strength into them so that they might endure. This story and my story are both miniature incarnations, Christ manifesting His presence to save. When Jesus entered into their suffering, spoke into their fear, and saved Peter. He is softening hard hearts.

I think an exoskeleton, like the shell on a turtle, the skeleton on the outside, is a good picture for a hardened heart. When Jesus suffers with and for the disciples and for us, He cuts through thick callused skin dulling our senses, healing the leprosy of the heart and making us vulnerable. He completes our incomplete courage with His own strength. In our unification, He builds a new skeleton within us. We are transformed into a creature with an endoskeleton, flexible and durable, not safe, but saved, completed.

Transformed,
we are better equipped to weather the rest of the storm, and most importantly,
we are not alone.

I originally shared this message on Palm Sunday, the day when the church remembers Jesus, who knew that His betrayal, denial, and death were coming, entering into Jerusalem in a coronation parade. Knowing all that He knew, he allowed the people to sing Hosana over Him, as the King of the Jews. I wouldn’t have. I, who do what I can to exclude death and failure and pain and betrayal from my life, would have been infuriated with those people with palm branches waving their praises, knowing they would turn on me in a matter of days. But he integrates his death into his life, the betrayal into the praise, because he IS life enlarged. AND he does it all for the sake of LOVE, so that we could join him – through our pain – and also integrate death into our life for full, durable, thriving life – which is to say life with him.

PS 77: 19 Your way was through the sea, / Your path, through the mighty waters.

No fear can hinder now the love that has made a way into his love.

Hosanna to the Prince of Peace.


zoe reyes

Zoë Faith Reyes was born and raised in the church in Houston, Texas. She has B.A.’s in Philosophy and English from Westmont College and a Masters in Social Work from California State University East Bay. Zoe has done mission work in Tecate and Reynosa, Mexico; Sewanee, Tennessee; Houston and Galveston, Texas; Kingston, Jamaica; San Francisco, California; and Kandy, Sri Lanka. She has worked for seven nonprofits, including Project Peace which she co-founded and for which she was a founding board member and CEO. She is currently serving as mother for Sofia (5) and Daniel (2); wife for Manuel Reyes; steward for a small bit of earth in Brunswick, Maine; Community Development Director for North Harbor Community Church; and photographer for Zoe Reyes Photography. If she has done anything of worth in this life, it is a result of the power of Christ in her, and to the glory of God.