Meet Brent Adriano, he is 23 years old from Lakeland, Florida. Here are a few three random facts that Brent shared: “(1) Anytime I drive through a yellow light, I smack the ceiling of my car; (2) I have never broken a single bone in my body; and (3) the band, One Direction, is one of my favorite bands.”
Brent Adriano is a Children’s Ministry Associate here at Church at the Mall. Brent is a very energetic, free-spirited young man who loves to share the Gospel in creative ways and has served as an actor in the WinShape children’s camp. He makes it a priority to encourage others to reach their greatest potential and make people laugh. Brent shared his heart and love for people and how God is moving in his life.
One of the one biggest lessons that God has been showing him is the importance of understanding his identity as a fully devoted follower of Christ. He stressed that we need to accept that we are sinners before a Holy God and it’s important to accept the grace that has been given to us, once we surrender our lives to a loving Father. Also, because God has created us uniquely, we need to celebrate that as a Christ follower. He shared that God has blessed us all in many unique ways with gifts and talents.
Brent shared a very personal story of how as a child he struggled, wondering why he wasn’t like all the other kids. Why wasn’t he into sports? Why was he in choir, and not on the football team? Why was his skin color different? Why was his culture so different? These questions affected his choices and his relationships with people. Growing up with these questions it was easy to think of himself as different because of the way others looked at him. Brent would ask himself, “How could this ever be good for me if I’m so different? How could this ever be good for me in the future?”
It wasn’t until years later that Brent found that God was preparing him to impact a new generation of believers. Brent attended Southeastern University and many of his studies were geared towards being a youth pastor in Practical Theology, but God changed his direction. He later graduated with a Communications degree. With great enthusiasm, Brent expressed how God took all his differences that were so painful through his growing years, and used them for good. God gave him a desire to share the Gospel by using those areas of his life to love people.
Brent shared that the one story or character in the Bible he loved or could relate to was the story of Joseph. “Joseph was rejected and thrown in the bottom of a well, and being in the bottom of a well is hopeless. But then, by the end of the story, God took all that pain of rejection and tragedies and turned it for good. Joseph became a leader, the second in command. Joseph embraced who he was and kept his faith. God created something more beautiful than anything that he could have ever imagined.”
To learn more about Joseph in your Bible read Genesis 37.
Meet Scott Jones. He was raised in a solid Christian home and attended a fundamentally strong Christian church. Although he is thankful for this, it did present challenges while entering adulthood. He describes how, as a child, he believed what his parents told him about God, but didn’t feel like he grasped it for himself. When he entered into adulthood, he weighed and measured all things. He was seeking to make his faith in God his own, not just the ideas of others.
Scott knew all the right ways and had all the right answers, as well as knowing where to find them in the Bible. However, he still found himself searching. When Scott enrolled at Southeastern University, he had many questions. He says he didn’t know quite how to ask his questions, but a professor whom he greatly admired, challenged him in the classroom. This professor wanted Scott to think for himself, unpack the questions, and ask the right ones for daily living. Scott feels this strengthened his faith and introduced him to the idea that God is a deep well. Scott said, “It’s important to have a mindset that is developing for personal growth and to trust that God will provide answers in time.”
When asked what person in the Scriptures captures his heart and shares God’s character, Scott boldly replied, “The Story of Daniel. He was a cool guy who was taken out of his own homeland and placed in Babylon. Daniel lived in a place that was completely unfamiliar, yet he lived on mission with his extraordinary life. I’m pretty sure that Daniel didn’t feel equipped, but Daniel’s relationship and growth in God empowered him to trust God even more.”
Read: Daniel 1-12 ESV
This 15-year-old guy has a ton going on! As a junior in high school, he spends most of his day immersed in music. Ben aspires to one day be a music producer.
Nearly 5 months ago, he joined The Worship Creative team and has been serving with the Auburndale team as a drummer. He also helps with editing videos as part of the production team.
Ben says what he wants most is, “To be a Light, by incorporating God and what he believes God wants him to share with the world, through his gifts and talents.” Ben feels that there is not a person in his life who has inspired him and shown the example of pursuing his own dreams. He feels he should let God show him the dream that He has for him. To Ben, being a light means, “trusting in God, seeing Jesus Christ as his Savior, as well as living a life of holiness, kindness, and being available to be used creatively as a tool for God.”
Ben was asked, “What is it like to be a part of a worship team and see how it impacts the people around you?” He said, “Playing music is my way of worship. It’s about discipleship and preparing the heart for the Word, and helping those who need Jesus to see Jesus.”
Moses is Ben’s hero in the Bible. He said that Moses is an example of someone who spent 40 years sticking with a plan. Even though he was imperfect, God still provided what he needed.
Meet Arcy, a committed servant.
It was April of 1993 when Arcy had open heart surgery. Due to complications involving the main artery, he had three separate operations, and received 26 units of blood. During these surgeries, he suffered five cardiac arrests, and the doctors said that they could do no more for him. Arcy shared that, “God heard someone’s prayer that day for me to still be living.”
During his stay in the critical care unit, Arcy describes having an experience where he felt like he was in a tunnel and completely aware of his surroundings. During this time, he felt he was floating away, but only got 2/3 of the way to where he was going, and was pulled back. This happened a second time and he is pulled back yet again. At this time Arcy said to himself, “This is it! You’re gone!” However, he felt it was like God was saying, “This is your last chance.” After those events, Arcy said, “I couldn’t wait to accept Christ, surrender all to Him, and fulfill the promise I made to God to serve Him as long as I lived.”
Arcy says, “I don’t make commitments to people, I make commitments to God. People come and go in your life, but God doesn’t. I don’t want people to make commitments to me, I want people to make their commitments to God, and stick with it!”
After this near-death experience, Arcy accepted Christ at age 61. He and his wife Patsy then set out in search for a church that preached the Word. That led them to Church at the Mall. They have been growing in their walk with the Lord, and serving at Church at the Mall from that time on. Arcy shared how he loves Church at the Mall and loves the people. He enjoys worshiping, working, and reaching out to the community through the Compassion House. Arcy desires to see salvations. At Compassion House, they help to provide for immediate physical needs. The Gospel is shared with individuals, and their lives are changed for eternity.
Arcy has served as the volunteer Assistant Director at the Compassion House for many years. Some of his many daily duties and responsibilities include scheduling all the drivers for food pickup and deliveries from various locations. He also has the responsibility of organizing the food after it has been picked up and brought to the Compassion House.
On Sunday mornings, Arcy serves as the Usher Coordinator. Some of those responsibilities are scheduling the ushers for all three services and distributing the Connection Guides. Despite Arcy’s physical ailments at age 85, due to his heart and low functioning lungs, he is determined not to slow down. His commitment and his drive to keep his promise to the Lord is as strong as ever.
With tear-filled eyes, Arcy mentions the people who have loved and supported him as he walks this journey of service with God. First of all, he mentions his wife of 45 years, Patsy. He says, “Patsy never complains, and has been my daily support. She understands me and is always willing to help me keep my commitments. Words cannot express how I feel about her. Next, he says, “I love Church at the Mall! Pastor Jay preaches the Bible, not what somebody wants him to preach. He preaches the Gospel just like it is, and that’s the kind of preacher I like! It’s great Bible teaching and godly relationships that have helped me grow in my walk with the Lord.”
Arcy has four children, several grandchildren, and a number of great-grandchildren. All are located out-of-state. He loves God and His people, as well as serving alongside them. He loves the outdoors, and he was a hunter in his younger days. Before retirement, he worked for General Motors as a fork-lift truck driver, linemen, and a tool room machinist.
If there was one message Arcy would like to share it would be, “Make your commitment to God and stick with it. When you fall, get back up and keep going. Don’t stop.”
Currently Becky works in the Student Ministry area and has served there as a small group leader for several years.
A few random facts about Becky are: (1) she loves to swim, (2) she has “ironman” strength in her thumbs, and (3) the Hulk terrifies her.
Becky shared that there were times many years ago when she lived in fear for her safety and experienced extreme anxiety due to an abusive husband. In those desperate days as a young mother, she was forced to flee with her son, and God provided away out. This is something that Becky has never forgotten, and it has given her a sense of safety, knowing that God’s protection is always there.
She sadly recalls all the warnings that God had given her prior to marriage. Becky and her husband were high school sweethearts. She was a believer and he was not. Over time, he started to control who she could be friends with, and pretty soon there were no friends left. Although her family loved her and warned her that he was controlling too much of her life, Becky pushed her family away. Soon she was isolated from her family and felt alone. She was able to keep a job, but it was very limited to his stalking her on the job. Even though she had warnings in her mind, she reasoned that he cared, that he wanted her attention because he loved her, and that he was looking out for her best interest. All of these things proved to be untrue.
It was when she cried out to God for help and protection that she realized, “no man could do what only God could do.” She put her hope and trust in Jesus Christ, her Heavenly Father who parted the waters for the Israelites.
If there is one piece advice that she would give, it is, “Put God first! We think that idolatry is such an outdated word, but it’s really not. It’s anything that you put before God. If you put any relationship before God, you’re idolizing them.” “But to do this, you will need the strong belt of truth and the breastplate of God’s approval.”—Ephesians 6:14 The Living Bible
Kent is a college student at USF in Tampa, where he is studying to be a music major. Three random facts about Kent are, (1) he plays 10 different instruments, (2) he had perfect attendance in kindergarten, and (3) he can probably clap faster than anyone!
Every week he has made the commitment to come home and serve in the student ministry here at Church at the Mall. He does this not only to build relationships with the students and serve in this way, but to also have the accountability of the local church. Kent shared about the struggles of college life. Many times education goes completely against the grain of Christian principles—not only the college environment, but also in the textbooks. Kent says that in order to be a strong leader, you need to be held to higher standards, and be willing to be accountable as your disciple the younger generation. This comes back to who you are making friends with and who you spending the most time with.
Kent was asked what amazes him most about God. He replied, “God has a purpose for everyone’s life, even if you think it is small, God doesn’t.”
How has God helped Kent define relationships—whether they are healthy or unhealthy—with purpose? He replied, “God’s Word tells us what is right and wrong. Be observant to situations and listen to God. Make a commitment to know the Word and make your relationship with God more important than anything in this world. Be willing to love people enough to say, “No,” to sin. Also, take every opportunity to share your faith. It’s about choosing the pursuit of God by intentionally seeking to influence, and be influenced, by Godly relationships with people.”
Kent’s favorite verse is: “For since He Himself has now been through suffering and temptation, He knows what it is like when we suffer and are tempted, and He is wonderfully able to help us.”—Hebrews 2:18 The Living Bible
Trent Blake is 17 years old. He is homeschooled, strives for excellence, and desires to influence others by sharing the gospel with them.
Three random facts that not everyone knows about Trent are: (1) he loves to cook (but laughs and says he is not very good at cooking), (2) he has recently written a book, and (3) he periodically finds himself craving cheesecake.
Trent went on a mission trip to New York City with a team of adults from the Church at the Mall in July 2016. The purpose of this mission trip was to help out with VBS in an inner city church and to share the gospel. Trent was previously scheduled to go on a mission trip with his student youth group, but because he had attended several student trips in the past, he was bumped to the adult trip. Trent briefly described his disappointment in not being able to go with the students in the youth group, but he really believed God had a plan for this trip. Whether it was to share the gospel with one soul, or to be an encouragement to others, he prayed for a willing heart.
It was not until later that God made it clear to him that there was a kid named Raymond who seemed to find himself in trouble a lot. In Trent’s words, “Raymond could be a stinker.” However, Trent found himself drawn to help Raymond in those difficult moments. Trent would encourage Raymond and show him the love of God when others seemed to be frustrated with him. Trent refers to himself as, “one of many seed planters and friends for Raymond.” Trent says it was in those moments he found himself being stretched by God. Whether it was sharing the gospel on the subway, loving on a kid during VBS, or teaching his lesson during class time; he found himself being stretched, as he strived to remember all of God’s love and compassion for His people.
Trent’s lessons learned and takeaway from these experiences are, “Leadership is not recognition or being the boss; it’s serving and not competing to serve. It’s being willing to be ready for opportunities that present themselves, and not forcing yourself on anyone. Leadership comes from actions, and we are to wait for the opportunities to speak.”
The verse that impacts him is this season of life is, "Do not let anyone look down on you because you are young, but be an example for the believers in your speech, your conduct, your love, faith, and purity." - I Timothy 4:12 Good News Translation
Curtis is a young man who is passionate about sharing the Gospel and desires to one day be a youth pastor. He describes himself as a being a jovial, joyful person, who is always joking around, and open to encouraging others. Curtis loves to hear laughter. However, Curtis has also struggled with depression and a feeling low self-worth. At times, he has hidden behind a mask of humor to hide his insecurities.
Curtis describes his childhood family as, “never being that close.” Before he and his brother moved out of their family’s home, everyone constantly fought. Now that all the children in the family are grown, everyone is getting along better. Curtis says his relationship with his dad has grown a lot in the past few months. He says he has genuine forgiveness and true love for his dad now. Curtis said, “I never thought I would have a good relationship with my dad, or my family for that matter, but God has other plans. It’s amazing to see Him work that out.”
Curtis said, “My mom always believed that God was in control, although she did not necessarily live it out every day. However, she was faithful to show me that I did not have to be a product of this environment, and that it is Jesus Christ who changes a life.” Curtis recalls that his dad was negatively impacted by his father (Curtis’ grandfather). Even though his grandfather was a pastor at a church, he would regularly go home and beat his family after church. For that reason, Curtis’ dad did not see true faith lived out in his home as he was growing up.
Around the age of 15, Curtis’ sophomore year in high school, he attended a church and one night the youth pastor asked, “In this song, the verse says, ‘Break my heart for what breaks Yours.’ How many of you can sing those words and truly mean it?” It was at that moment when Curtis prayed for salvation and started seeking God. However, sometime later, that same youth pastor was caught in a sinful relationship. This made Curtis question whether or not his salvation was real. After praying about it, God showed Curtis that just because this youth pastor had committed this sin, it did not mean that the Word of God was not true. Curtis now knows, we have to put our faith in God and not man.
Curtis said, “My faith is rooted in a pure relationship with Jesus Christ.” One piece of advice he would give is, “Take your faith seriously, and when you hit troubled times, you will know where your hope is found.”
Emily Carl is a young woman in her 20’s who has the wind in her sail. Recently she was accepted into nursing school.
Emily has been raised in a Christian home and has been a part of the local church. God has always been a part of her life and He continues to keep pushing her to the next level of love and growth.
We asked Emily, “How have you made your relationship with God personal in your daily life?” She answered, “When you grow up in a Christian home, you always hear that Jesus loves you, but you never really grasp the full understanding of that until you experience your own relationships, both the beautiful and the ugly ones. You know that God’s love is always true, but you don’t always feel His love.” Emily has been examining her relationships with people and she sees that God loves people through her! She knows she can never love others as much as God loves them. However, knowing all this helps her see that God’s love is endless and its depth is incomprehensible. The true weight of it is both overwhelming and freeing.
Emily works at an assisted living center as an activities coordinator and primarily works with Alzheimer’s patients. She sees firsthand the tragedy of this disease and how difficult it is, not only for the patients to accept the disease, but also as equally devastating for their families. What keeps her going is the fact that God loves them more than she could ever love them. With tear-filled eyes Emily says, “The one thing that is needed to show love is presence. The young need our presence, the elderly need our presence, the poor and afflicted need our presence, and God loves our presence.”
Jesus replied, "Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them." -John 14:23 NIV
Brenda is a local Real Estate agent and has a second job. She also helps out in tech, and has been running cameras for over 20 years at Church at the Mall.
She says, “Everyone has obstacles we have to go through, and what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
Brenda’s parents divorced when she was in the 4th grade. The same year, right before Christmas break, the teacher asked if everyone had a Christmas tree. The students who didn’t have a Christmas tree were asked to pull a slip of paper out of a box. The teacher had placed an “x” on one of the slips of paper in the box. Brenda pulled the slip of paper with an “x” on it, which meant she was given a free Christmas tree to take home to her family. However, the tree was so big that her little frame couldn’t carry it home, so her big sister had to carry it for her.
Brenda said, “It’s the little things like that which have shown me that God provides, He cares about the little things, and He is always there.”
“If you love me, obey me; and I will ask the Father and He will give you another Comforter, and He will never leave you.”—John 14:15-16 The Living Bible