Atlanta Days 1 and 2

Hey everyone! Thanks for coming to this blog to check out what God is doing on the #EncounterATL trip! He is already working in a big way and we cannot wait to see what He has in store for us next. Every day for the rest of this trip, we’ll have a student or students share about the day from their perspective. Today, you’ll be hearing from Deborah! Thanks for your prayers – we appreciate them!

Billy Starkey, Grace Students Director


Hey y’all!

Wow, it has been a busy and eventful two days!! Yesterday morning the whole team went to orientation at Encompass to be introduced to the ministry that we are helping out with. Our group headed to Buford Highway Farmers Market after learning about situations we might encounter and how to respect people we meet that are from other cultures. Buford Highway Farmers Market is a world farmers market that focuses on different ethnic and cultural foods. After we explored in the market for a while, we parked ourselves in the cafeteria for lunch that is provided there. Just a few of the crazy food items that we purchased and taste tested were raw octopus, camel’s milk, raw eel, bubble tea, rambutan, and chiquita mini bananas! After lunch, we headed back to the Encompass office and debriefed what we had seen at the market. We then headed to Best Friend Park and started to put together activities and skits for the kids camps that we would be holding at three different locations. Our teams headed to their locations at about 5:00 to set up the camps. We went around and made ourselves familiar with the locations and then began to introduce ourselves to the children. That night, two children from one of the locations actually accepted Jesus! We got off to a great start!! After the camps we ended the night with team time, dinner, and watched a disappointing NBA Finals game. All in all, day one was successful!


This morning the team headed to Encompass again to be educated on the Hindu religion. After, everyone loaded up the vans and we headed to a mandir, one of the largest Hindu temples in the United States, and began a tour. We witnessed some Hindus performing their prayer rituals and got the chance to ask questions about their beliefs and religion. We went from the mandir to the Global Mall to have lunch. We got the chance to try food from an Indian buffet and expand our cultural taste buds! Post lunch, we had a chance to explore the mall and then we went back to the hotel to regroup before camps. We then headed to Best Friend Park to work on skits and crafts for the second day of our kids camps. We, once again, had a successful evening at every single location! At debriefing there were many stories shared and compliments to others paid. We ended the night with team time and two wonderful, powerful songs. Praise the Lord for a successful first two days! We are praying for the rest of the week to be just as good and we are thankful for your prayers as well!!

-Deborah 🙂

#GraceStudentsLive Unanswered Big Q – Week 2

Every week at #GraceStudentsLive we choose two questions that we call the “Big Qs”, then we let you pick which one of those two we answer at the end of the night. But we’d hate for the question that doesn’t get picked to go unanswered, so we’ll be doing that on this blog weekly. Here’s the […]

Every week at #GraceStudentsLive we choose two questions that we call the “Big Qs”, then we let you pick which one of those two we answer at the end of the night. But we’d hate for the question that doesn’t get picked to go unanswered, so we’ll be doing that on this blog weekly. Here’s the unanswered “Big Q” from Week 2:

“How do you get over a bad breakup?”

Your boyfriend dumped you. Your girlfriend decided she wanted to be with someone else more. You’re hurt. It feels like your world is falling apart.

No one starts a relationship hoping that it ends horribly, but it’s happened to many of us. How do you get over that and move on? Here are a few (hopefully) helpful thoughts.

1. Spend time with God

No matter what you’re going through, God will never leave you. You can trust that He is with you and you can talk to Him about anything. Psalm 34:8 says,

“The Lord is close to the brokenheartedand saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

Instead of asking God to change your circumstances, ask Him to change your heart and teach you through this circumstance. He’s always listening.

2. Spend time with friends

A bad break-up can make you feel alone, but don’t believe that lie. Tell some trusted friends what you’re going through. If you’re in a Grace Group, let your Group and Group Leader know how they can support and pray for you. That’s what they are there for!

Encouragement is key when you’re struggling with a breakup, and that’s one of the key things God calls Christians to provide for one another. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 says,

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”

Focus on those friends and ask God to help you to grow deeper with great friends.

See you tonight for week 3 of Grace Students Live! Service starts at 6, doors open at 5:30


#GraceStudentsLive Unanswered Big Q – Week 1

Every week at #GraceStudentsLive we choose two questions that we call the “Big Qs”, then we let you pick which one of those two we answer at the end of the night. But we’d hate for the question that doesn’t get picked to go unanswered, so we’ll be doing that on this blog weekly. Here’s the unanswered “Big Q” from Week 1:

“Is it bad if you don’t go to church every Sunday?”

I think the answer to this question really boils down to your understanding of grace. Some people believe that you have to work really hard, read your Bible every day, pray constantly, and never miss a day of church to be a Christian and go to Heaven someday. That’s not what we believe. We believe that the only way someone can ever get to Heaven or become a Christian (aka a Christ-follower, or follower of Jesus) is by Grace. Ephesians 2:8 says,

“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.”

This verse makes it clear that the way we get saved is through faith in Jesus. That’s it. It’s not about us marking off things on our spiritual check-list, it’s about God extended His grace to use through His son Jesus Christ.

When you get this, it’s incredibly freeing. What it means is that you don’t have to work to earn God’s love, forgiveness, or friendship. It’s just a gift He freely offers you!

What’s all this have to do with going to Church every Sunday? Truth is, going to church every single week isn’t a prerequisite to earn God’s love. But, if you love God, and you’ve experienced that grace in your life, the right response for you is to extend love to God! How do you do that? By praying, reading the Bible, obeying Him, listening to Him, and yes, going to Church.

It’s not something you have to do, but if you love Jesus, why wouldn’t you want to come spend time with Him, hear from His Word (the Bible), and spend time with His people. Plus, if you get in a Grace Group and make some great friends there, you won’t want to miss a single Sunday night at Grace Students!

See you tonight for week 2 of Grace Students Live! Service starts at 6, doors open at 5:30


Philly Days 1-3

I can confidently say that being uncomfortable isn’t one of our favorite feelings. Whether it’s an encounter with someone new or old, or just an awkward situation, no one likes to be uncomfortable. Being in a new place with different people isn’t easy, especially when you are trying to share the gospel with strangers. But the 37 students in Southern Philadelphia this week have gone above and beyond, stepping out of their comfort zones, to change the lives of kids and adults in the Kensington area. Every day has been a new adventure as no two days in Philly are the same. This past week, our students have been leaders at Kingdom Kids Day Camp as well as servants in the city of Philadelphia. Starting early in the morning, our students are serving intentionally in the community as hundreds of kids come to Urban Hope to have fun playing games, memorizing scripture and learning about the hope of Jesus. With two day camps per day, Grace students are on the move almost constantly as they interact with kids and share the gospel with them on their level. Students are creating an energy-filled environment as screaming the verses is the norm and getting kids involved is a common goal. During the evenings, students have had the opportunity to serve in the streets and interact with the homeless which was an awesome experience with countless stories shared by students. By giving out care packages and pizza to those in need, students got to pray and start up spiritual conversations with many people. We are also having a lot of fun because missions trips are fun! We got to really immerse ourselves in the Philly lifestyle as we ate Philly cheese steaks and spent an evening at a Phillies baseball game. There are also the prank-battles between the boys and girls which account to our lack of sleep, sorry mom!

There are so many opportunities for students to share the hope of Jesus to the kids and many have taken this awesome opportunity and led kids to Christ this week. Praise God! The week isn’t over yet and there is still so much that God is going to do in the lives of our students and through them. From a students leader’s perspective, it has been so awesome to simply watch students younger than I live and push through adversity towards the goal of reaching kids in the name of Christ. Every single student on this trip has gone out of their comfort zone which is HUGE! Each student is unique and every comfort zone is going to be different and that’s okay because God meets students where they are at and uses them for His glory. We firmly believe that God moves when we move out of our comfort zones and stepping out in faith isn’t easy. But our students are doing a phenomenal job.  Lives have been changed this week in Philadelphia and we cannot wait to see what is in store for us in the next few days. Thank you so much for your prayers and encouragement! Keep praying for life change in us and through us:)

McKenna Fox

Atlanta Day 3

Today was amazing in Atlanta for me, Kristian Kirsch. The first time I went to my group’s location, I was a bit intimidated but I absolutely bonded with one of many kids, Addison. We were doing gospel bracelets for the kids there and I helped him make his, explaining the significance of the bracelet. I did a repeat-after-me prayer with him, helping him understand what it meant to follow Christ and how He loved us. I’m not entirely sure if he thought much of it, but it definitely planted a seed for the community there and I’m so excited for the future for these kids and I hope our purpose radiated into these kids in some way.


Today in Atlanta was such an inspiring experience for me, Felicia Mercer. Everyday coming into my group’s location it is always filled with lots of happiness, love, and many hugs. The happiness from the kids spreads throughout the group everyday. Today we made gospel bracelets, and while explaining what each bead had meant some kids began to connect. It was so heart warming to see some children begin to understand that God does love them and is always here with them. I am so thankful for this opportunity to see these children grow with God.


My name is Will Arthur and this is my second year in Atlanta at the Haitian Church. Today on the skit team we shared the story of Jude being healed by Jesus. His friends cooperated to bring him to Jesus and helped make an amazing miracle happen! Chloe then shared the Gospel. We sang songs and then split into three groups to do craft (Gospel bracelets), rec (lil games), and chalk/bubbles with verse memorization. Overall today went very smooth as we got to share Jesus’ love with the kids.

Atlanta Day 2

Our team went to BAPS, Atlanta’s biggest Hindu temple. It was a unique experience for all of us as we learned about their beliefs and rituals. After we left the temple, our students shared stories of their experiences there. One thing that stood out to one of our team members was how the Hindu religion is centered around deeds and practices. However, as followers of Jesus we know that we don’t have to work for our salvation, it has already been paid for by Christ. After the temple visit, our team traveled over to Atlanta’s Global Mall and refueled at an authentic Indian restaurant, which gave us a bigger TASTE of their culture.

At Reach the Nations Church, the team fell in love with the kids at first sight, they were all playing, singing, dancing, and pursuing relationships with them. As we reviewed the lesson from yesterday, we found out that


At the Hispanic apartments, we found out they loved to play soccer and they just longed for the attention of others. Almost instantly relationships were made between the kids and our team.


At the Haitian location the team was more than blown away by the number of kids that came, which almost doubled the amount from Monday. The kids arrived with a crazy amount of energy and excitement to be there. It is so cool to see the relationships being formed with the members of the team with these kids, and we are super pumped to see what the rest of this week brings.

Atlanta – Day 1

Our travel day yesterday went incredibly well, making good enough time to be able to attend North Point Church and hear Andy Stanley preach about recent current events and how we as Christians need to respond. This opened our hearts to prime our team for the coming week encountering different cultures.

This morning we met up with the team from Encompass for an orientation to their ministry and the city of Atlanta. They taught us about the many unreached people groups in our world and that God has a heart for the nations. Lunch was a fun experience at an international farmer’s market/grocery where we each picked snacks to buy and share with everyone, trying all sorts of new things. We are here to be learners and in the afternoon, we were able to split into three groups and run a kids camp in each locations. Three students explained each of their experiences:

Today we went to the Haitian Location, which was located right by the church we were working with, in a strip mall and got to work with about 15 kids. These kids were very relational based and so most of our time was spent letting them braid the girls’ hair and giving them piggy back rides. We also had the opportunity to perform a skit, create a craft, and play games, which were all based on our theme for the week: cooperation.


Our location was a little different than we expected it to be, but I loved it! I got the amazing opportunity to go to Reach the Nations church, which is located within the most racially diverse square mile within the United States. All the kids seemed to cling to us leaders, and really enjoy the games we played to get them engaged, which included Simon says, dancing squares, and ninja. I can’t even express in words how much these kids crave attention it was so cool to get to connect with them on that level. I loved being able to watch the people in my group including the leaders, truly love on the kids and give of themselves to serve, especially the skit team. Day 1 went great and I can’t wait to see how God will work the rest of this week!!!

Oh man what an amazing day!!!  Today my location team went to Shallowford Garden Apartments in one of the culturally diverse neighborhoods. The people there were Hispanic and we got to  perform a skit and play soccer with them. They were very receptive for meeting us for the first time.

Continue to pray for us tomorrow as we move on to Day 2 of our kids camp and learn about Hinduism as we visit a temple.