November 11, 2022
Between the years of 2007 and 2011, Marilyn Mays lost both her parents and her husband. As each loved one passed away, her grief became overpowering and her life spiraled …
Between the years of 2007 and 2011, Marilyn Mays lost both her parents and her husband. As each loved one passed away, her grief became overpowering and her life spiraled to a very dark place. Her drinking habits went from unhealthy to full-blown addiction. And then the substance abuse began. The following months and years were a downward path—addiction, jail, mental hospitals. In one of her darkest moments, Marilyn realized that in order to break this cycle, she needed help. And in February of 2018, she began her journey of recovery at Miracle Hill’s Renewal Center. There, she faced her past and learned how God could rescue her from herself.
At first I tried to run, but they talked me into staying. I was so angry at God, but one night, I finally let out every emotion I had held in for all those years. I gave up. I surrendered all of it to God, and I felt his power in that moment.
When she graduated from the Renewal program, Marilyn began visiting Grace Church Taylors. The campus had just been launched, and she was drawn to the smaller setting. Learning about God and the Bible was still very new to her, and she knew that she needed to be taught. However, it wasn’t always easy. Because her background was so different from most people at Grace, she often felt uncomfortable. But Marilyn knew the enemy would try and use her discomfort to keep her away, so she kept attending and went through re:generation.
Things had been going well, but in 2020, Marilyn had a one-night relapse that ended with a wreck, a DUI, and losing her job. It was devastating. She knew that she couldn’t recover alone, so she reached out to her friend and mentor, Cindy Chibarro. Through Cindy’s encouragement, Marilyn met with several staff members, came under the umbrella of Grace Housing, and began working through a plan to move forward.
They came together and helped me come up with a plan. They prayed, they gave me friendship, set up meetings to check on me, gave me rides to church. They would listen. I knew God was trying to show me something.
In the following months, God stretched and strengthened Marilyn in new ways. When she was asked to co-lead a closed re:gen group, she initially resisted. And even though she eventually agreed to do it, she struggled with feeling different from the other ladies in her group. But every time she wanted to quit, Marilyn’s mentor would encourage her to keep going. Towards the end of the program, one of the ladies in her group said this to Marilyn: “I know the Bible from front to back, but I’ve never seen someone experience God the way that you have. It blesses me.” In that moment, Marilyn saw clearly how God was working both in her and through her to encourage others.
I got to watch those ladies transform as they worked through their issues and struggles. And even though we were different, we were all the same by seeking God in our trouble—looking for that relationship with him.
Now, when Marilyn looks back, she is so thankful for God’s power to rescue her from her path of self destruction. She still faces many challenges, but she has learned to pray for guidance, strength, and wisdom to live in a way that honors God. And she knows that God will continue to use her to encourage others along their journeys as well.
November 8, 2022
There are moments when you are forced to step back and see the Lord working in someone else’s life, and you can see how he’s working in yours.
There are moments when you are forced to step back and see the Lord working in someone else’s life, and you can see how he’s working in yours.
When Hugo and Tracy Chavez moved to the Upstate from Tennessee in 2012, they had no idea how much their lives would change. Hugo made the initial move in order to find a house and get settled, and while playing soccer with some friends on the weekend, he was invited to Grace Church. Immediately after the service, he called Tracy and said, “we found our church.”
While they had attended church at their previous home, they had merely been consumers—not serving and not in community. As they attended Grace, sat under biblical teaching, and went through the membership process, God opened their eyes to what it meant to be part of a local body of believers. So they committed fully to what was then the Golden Strip campus, working alongside staff and other members as they made the move to Harrison Bridge. The more they got involved, their hearts were captured by the idea of not only being in community, but serving others.
Instead of protecting our time and space, we began to think about what we could do for others and how we could help. We began to say yes.
Serving became an integral part of living out their faith. They’ve both served in various capacities over the years—with students, on the events team, audio visual—and each of them has found a space where God is using their unique gifts. Tracy found her niche in Mosaic. She shared, “I remember the first Mosaic individual I shadowed. She was nonverbal, and I had no idea if I was doing anything right. But then out of nowhere, she began singing Jesus Loves Me. It was a compelling moment for me to see God’s power at work.” Hugo currently serves in Fusion, but because he’s a problem solver and good with technology, he’s also everyone’s go-to guy for any tech-related needs.
Both Hugo and Tracy have also been through re:gen as participants as well as leaders. This was a formative experience for both of them. Not only did they grow in self awareness and do the work of recovery, they then got to see others be changed by the gospel.
That’s the gospel—it has all the power. We simply made space for God to work, and then we stood back and watched the turnaround in people’s lives.
There are aspects of serving that have proved challenging. Both Hugo and Tracy work, and they homeschool three of their four children—ages 17, 10, 8, and 5. They have also decided to live in a trailer on their property while they are building their home. But even amid all the busyness of life, serving has become an opportunity for family discipleship in addition to their personal growth. They’ve seen their oldest son grow in his ability to see others’ needs and be willing to step in and help. It’s also been compelling for their children to simply be in proximity to those who are serving. They see what their parents are doing and how it’s affecting them.
When they reflect back on their lives, Hugo and Tracy can see God’s hand purposefully orchestrating every move, every connection, every choice they were faced with. He has brought them this far, and they trust he will continue to grow their faith as they serve his Church.
We’re still early in our journey, and even though we’ve seen tremendous growth, there’s a long way to go. We are thankful that we get to carry the gospel with us through all these stages of life.
November 7, 2022
Fer and Ana arrived a year and a half ago from Mexico for work. After only two years of marriage and a baby on the way, they were encouraged to …
Fer and Ana arrived a year and a half ago from Mexico for work. After only two years of marriage and a baby on the way, they were encouraged to begin a new journey. A week before traveling, they experienced the painful loss of their baby. This was the second time they had to deal with such painful news as a family. But, so as not to add further sadness to their families, they did not share the news and decided to walk through the grief alone.
The first month in the United States was the most difficult. Living in a hotel room, they dealt with grief, while also adjusting to a completely different culture. After a few weeks, they began attending Grace Church’s Pelham campus, where they were invited to our Español campus. Ana says that coming to Grace en Español and just hearing a "hello" made a huge difference in their cultural adaptation process and would later have a significant impact on their walk with Christ on a personal and marital level. They quickly became involved as volunteers and began attending re:generation. By being part of this family in faith and being available to Christ, they have been able to see God healing wounds in their marriage, developing love and patience in their hearts, and have been able to recognize that in Jesus, there is hope even in the midst of trials.
God granted them a third pregnancy, which they joyfully celebrated with their families and friends. At their second appointment, they found silence as they tried to listen to the baby's heartbeat. The unexpected news was accompanied by a surprising answer: peace. Ana and Fer were not the same parents they were a year ago. They had prayed for one more pregnancy and for God to use the baby's life for his glory, and he did. The church came together in care and love to minister to them in the midst of their grief. And now, after holding a memorial service for their three children, Fer and Ana are preparing to enter the world of reproductive medicine, trusting that God is in control and that, no matter what happens, they will always find joy in him.
October 27, 2022
Seven years ago, if you had told Chad and Elisha Conrad that their lives would someday revolve around church, serving, and biblical community, they would have laughed.
Seven years ago, if you had told Chad and Elisha Conrad that their lives would someday revolve around church, serving, and biblical community, they would have laughed. Even though they grew up in the Catholic church, they had no personal relationship with God, nor did they truly understand the gospel. After getting married and moving to Greenville in 2007, they both pursued their careers as top priorities and only attended church on holidays or when they felt guilty about their absence.
During this time, they connected with a couple who attended Grace and became friends. This couple embraced Chad and Elisha, answered their questions about the Bible, and invited them to church. However, although Chad and Elisha were interested in learning more about Christianity, they weren’t ready to give up their lifestyle. Chad especially was invested in climbing the corporate ladder, and they both preferred to spend their weekends at the lake with family.
Over the next few years, they had two children, and their lives got more complicated. They began to have more and more conflict in their marriage, Chad was in heavy pursuit of his career, and their self-centered lifestyle began to feel empty. Although they had been sporadically attending a Catholic church, they didn’t feel connected there. And when Chad and Elisha hit rock bottom in their marriage, they called their friends from Grace, who had since moved away from Greenville, but they got on a plane and flew back to help the Conrads in their crisis.
Resolving their marital issues was a long and hard journey, but this crucible moment acted as a turning point for Chad and Elisha. They realized that their lives were empty—living for themselves had consequences, and they wanted more for their children. It was a humbling experience, but they leaned into their friendship, sought counseling, and began attending Grace.
The first sermon we heard at Grace was from the book of James, and it was about judgment. We sat in the back and cried. We knew we deserved judgment, but now, we were hearing about a way out—a hope for something better through Christ.
Chad and Elisha immediately knew God wanted them at Grace, and they quickly got plugged into a community group and began serving on the connect team. As they learned from teaching and community, they knew they needed to turn from their old lifestyle and trust Jesus. So they fully engaged the process of healing, repenting, and learning what it meant to be a believer, and God used people around them in extraordinary ways to disciple them. Friends in the workplace, neighbors, mentors at church—God used believers in different areas of their lives to encourage and challenge them as they grew in their faith.
We were like sponges—soaking everything up and trying to absorb it. We were amazed at how many people were seeking to connect with us and know us. We had highly underestimated the power of community.
Over the next few years, Chad and Elisha grew by leaps and bounds. God was working in their lives, and they wanted to tell everyone they knew. As their lives began to revolve around church instead of themselves, their family noticed the change. They didn’t understand why Chad and Elisha preferred to attend church over spending time at the lake on weekends. As they navigated these conversations with their family, they realized that even though they had both been baptized as infants, they needed to take that step of obedience and publicly demonstrate their commitment to Jesus through baptism. They also wanted to set an example for their children about what it means to be a follower of Jesus.
We knew baptism was a step of obedience. We wanted to show our family that church wasn’t just a weekend hobby for us, and we wanted to show our children our commitment to Christ.
Looking back now, Chad and Elisha can see how far God has brought them. Now their children are connected to the church, participating in small groups, and being challenged to follow Jesus in just the same ways that they were. They are overwhelmed with thankfulness at how God is working in so many ways they never anticipated. They recently saw their story come full circle when their daughter Kinsley got baptized. It was an emotional moment, full of gratitude that God would use his people to rescue them and their family from the path of self-destruction they had been on.
It was a downward spiral of sin, and we didn’t know where it would have ended. But God used it for our good, and we got to see the promises of Scripture play out. It could easily have gone the other way. There would have been no hope for our kids—because we would have been pursuing the world. But the Christ-centered life gave all of us hope.
October 19, 2022
Louie and Johnna Gaunch had lived in West Virginia their entire lives. However, when they became empty nesters, God moved in their hearts to explore the Upstate of South Carolina …
I know I can confidently expect the Lord to be who he is even when I can’t confidently expect much else in life.
When Louie and Johnna Gaunch were in their early thirties with three young children, Louie suffered a heart attack, underwent quadruple bypass surgery, and learned that he would deal with severe heart disease for the remainder of his life. It was a major turning point for their family. Louie and Johnna had been struggling in their marriage, and God used this event to reorient them to what was important. They renewed their vows, reexamined their lives, and were blessed with many more years together—raising their children and seeing them move into adulthood.
Louie and Johnna had lived in West Virginia their entire lives. However, when they became empty nesters, they decided it was time to move since their children were all living out of state. God moved in their hearts to explore the Upstate of South Carolina where their oldest daughter was living. She and her husband attended Grace and were expecting their first child at the time. When Louie and Johnna visited, they fell in love with the Anderson area. They visited Grace’s Anderson campus, made some connections with staff, and began their plans to move.
Everything fell into place—they found a lot to build on, Louie was interviewing for jobs, and they were in the process of packing their belongings. In the midst of all these moving parts, on September 27, 2021, Louie had a major heart attack and died almost immediately. The following days and weeks were a blur for Johnna as she grieved and tried to process what was happening. However, she was very quickly faced with a decision. And in her heart, Johnna knew that God was calling her to do the hard thing, leave behind all that was familiar, and move to Anderson by herself.
I had to lean on God for everything. It was beyond me. I’m not courageous, I’m not talkative, I’m not a solo sort of person—and I had to be all that. My husband’s favorite passage was Joshua 1:5-7, and God has taught me so much about what it means to be courageous. It’s been our family’s anthem through all of this.
Even though God was clearly working through Johnna’s move, it was still a difficult transition. She moved into an apartment while her house was being built, and because she worked from home, she was often alone for long periods of time. However, she found support and community at church.
I sat in the back corner of the worship center week after week, month after month, and cried through the service. But I never sat there alone. I’ve been embraced by the members of the Anderson campus. Some Sundays I couldn’t talk, but they didn’t care. They created a hedge of protection around me, and I knew people were praying for me even though I didn’t ask them to.
Over time, those connections have grown into friendships, mentoring relationships, and true community. Johnna went through an Ezer study and was embraced by the women in her group. Although they were in different seasons of life and dealing with different struggles, they were all trying to find their identity. This was a major part of Johnna’s growth as she had to relearn who she was without her husband. She also joined a community group, even though it was difficult to attend alone, and found people who were willing to be known and who wanted to know her.
It’s been a little over a year since Louie’s death, and Johnna is still processing, grieving, and walking with her children through their own grief. Even though the rest of her life won’t look like she planned, she knows God is calling her to keep loving her family and serving others. More than anything, she is thankful to know God and experience his presence so clearly through her suffering.
We’ve cried and we’ve laughed, it’s been great and it’s been terrible, and I knew those things could coexist, but it’s another thing to experience it. And when I was in the midst of grief, I experienced God. It wasn’t words on a page. It wasn’t theology. I experienced his presence more than anything else.
October 4, 2022
When Paul and Drew Talbert moved to the Upstate early in 2020, they were able to attend Grace’s Powdersville campus once before the pandemic set in and shut down in-person …
When Paul and Drew Talbert moved to Greenville early in 2020, they were able to attend Grace’s Powdersville campus once before the pandemic set in and shut down in-person services. But even through those months when church looked a lot different, they knew God had brought them to the area for his purposes, and part of that was serving in the context of the local church. After joining in the fall, they immediately jumped into serving with Senior Honor—specifically because it was a ministry where they could involve their two boys, Anderson (9) and Whit (7).
Both Paul and Drew grew up in the context of a small church where everyone was expected to serve, so the idea of being involved through serving was ingrained in both of their hearts. They also have specific memories of serving alongside their parents—learning the importance of putting the needs of others before their own. So with a vision of discipling their own boys through firsthand experience, they took on the role of Senior Honor Champion with their campus partner facility, Oakview Park. In addition, Paul serves as a shadow for Mosaic, they all serve through Mosaic Respite Nights, and Paul and Drew both serve by leading worship monthly in re:generation.
Serving as a family has its challenges. Naturally, the boys often prefer pursuing their own interests. But this has provided great opportunities for Paul and Drew to talk with each other and their boys about why they serve.
It’s a rare Sunday that we’re all excited to serve. But rarely is serving meant to be a beautiful, happy experience for everyone. It’s meant to be hard. We struggle with the same feelings of not wanting to go sometimes, so we’re honest with them and talk about why we serve.
Even through the challenges, it’s been a blessing to see their boys grow a heart for others and understand that even as children, they have something valuable to offer. Paul and Drew have also experienced spiritual growth through serving. Paul shares that serving has taught him about the concept of “imago dei”—everyone is made in God’s image. Because of that, all are valuable and worthy of love; the world does not revolve around him.
Serving is a great way to think less about yourself. We have the example of Christ, and he laid down his life to serve others. As you serve, you can’t help but think—this is what my Savior did for me. I’m not thinking about paying him back; I just know this is the best way to grow.
Drew has learned the value of serving in obscurity. Because she grew up in a small church, her family’s role was much more visible. At Grace, she had to examine the “why” of her involvement. Did she serve because it was simply expected of her? Or because she truly wanted to serve God’s people?
I learned that I was there to serve God, not to be seen by others. He has called me to serve by faith, following Jesus’ example in Scripture, and there’s no automatic payoff for serving. It’s part of cultivating a heart for him.
In the two years the Talberts have been at Grace, serving has been the heartbeat of their spiritual growth and provided a valuable structure for discipling their children. While they know it is important to feed their own souls through teaching, worship, and personal study, Paul and Drew view serving as an integral part of their connection to the church. When asked what they would say to someone considering serving, Paul and Drew shared:
Be prayerfully dependent, but don’t wait for the magical moment to feel called or led. Just get involved—think about the season that you're in and commit. We’re called to serve. If you want to see growth in your life, it’s one of the main things you need to implement in order to flourish.
August 22, 2022
May 4 began like any other day for Seth and Hannah Williams—until Hannah received a call from her sister-in-law. A mother with newborn twins was looking for an adoptive couple, …
May 4 began like any other day for Seth and Hannah Williams, members at our Greer campus. They both went about their days as usual until Hannah received a call from her sister-in-law. A mother with newborn twins was looking for an adoptive couple, and through a series of unlikely connections, the Williams’ name and contact information was shared with her. Hannah was stopped in her tracks. While she and Seth had been struggling to conceive for over a year, they had not considered adoption to be in their immediate future. They were beginning to pursue fertility treatments, and had decided that they would think about adoption down the road.
However, as soon as Hannah called Seth, they both immediately knew God wanted them to say yes to this possibility. So within a matter of hours, they left work, packed a few things, and drove to Gastonia, North Carolina to meet this mother and her twin boys. Their family scrambled to find carseats, clothing, diapers, and other necessities to send with them. As they drove, they simply prayed, wept, and gave the matter to the Lord. They knew that they might come home with the twins, and they might not. But they were certain God had called them to make this trip and meet this woman.
When they arrived, they had an instant connection with the woman who had called them. Hannah especially was able to comfort her as she swung between emotions of joy in finding a family she trusted with her boys and intense grief, knowing that the best decision she could make for them was to give them up for adoption. It was a day filled with tension, joy, and sadness as they navigated caring for this sweet woman and preparing their hearts to bring the boys home.
“It was so emotional, but it was humbling to know that God put us there to see her deep hurt and love her through it.”
Meanwhile, as Seth and Hannah wrapped their minds around becoming parents in such a short window of time, their church family was working to get things ready for their return. One of Hannah’s friends from Grace created a spreadsheet outlining anything and everything they could possibly need and shared it with their church community. And more than anything, Seth and Hannah could feel the supportive prayers of their church family as they dealt with the emotions and all the practical details they had to work through in order to bring the boys home.
After a whirlwind 24 hours, on May 5, Seth and Hannah arrived at their home with Myles Samuel and James Brian, who were just three days old. A nursery had been set up, and church members were bringing meals regularly. In those early days, all they had to deal with was loving their boys and figuring out what it looked like for them to be parents.
As they adjusted to their new family and looked back over the past few years, Seth and Hannah realized how God had prepared them for this huge life change. After selling their home, they had moved in with Hannah’s parents for a season. It was a very difficult time for them when a lot of things didn’t make sense, but God was teaching them that his way is best.
“We were in limbo for nine months. Those trials prepared us for getting the boys. We had to learn that everything around us can shake and move and feels unsteady, but we can lean on the Lord. We had to understand that reality before we could properly take care of and serve these boys. We started re|engage in our parents' basement in despair, and we ended with a home and with two children. All this happened in 16 weeks.”
Through this season, both Seth and Hannah had struggled with giving control over to God. But over time, they learned that his way is best and they can trust him even when they don’t understand. And now, as they embark on the journey of parenting two sweet, red-headed boys, they carry these truths with them—God is good, and he is in control.
April 19, 2022
Celebrating baptism at Easter has long been a special time for our Grace family. As we rejoice in the resurrection of Jesus and the hope we have in him, we …
Celebrating baptism at Easter has long been a special time for our Grace family. As we rejoice in the resurrection of Jesus and the hope we have in him, we also celebrate those who identify with him in baptism. This year, 79 individuals across all campuses owned their faith by obeying Jesus’ call to follow him in baptism. As Christ was buried and raised to life, baptism represents that you have died to your old life (burial) and have been given a new life (resurrection). We hope you’ll take a moment to watch this video below and rejoice with each one of these men, women, teens, and children who identified with Christ through baptism. To learn more about baptism at Grace, click below.
April 11, 2022
Throughout the month of March, students from Fusion (5th-6th grade), 24Seven (7th-8th grade), and Forge (high school) got to experience retreats at Carolina Point. Over the course of four weekends, …
Throughout the month of March, students from Fusion (5th-6th grade), 24Seven (7th-8th grade), and Forge (high school) got to experience retreats at Carolina Point. Over the course of four weekends, over 1,000 students and 600 leaders, staff, and volunteers participated. Along with the usual camp fun and activities, students got to hear biblical teaching and spend time discussing God’s Word in their small groups. Our Fusion students focused on the gospel through their Pivotal teaching series, and 24Seven students learned about Blueprint—God’s design for our energy, dating, and sex. Untethered was the topic for 9th and 10th graders, and they dove into what our lives look like if we are cut off from God’s family. And our 11th and 12th graders heard teaching on Secrets—Jesus’ parables about the Kingdom of Heaven.
If you know a student who attended a retreat, be sure to ask them how God worked in their life through that focused time away. We are so thankful for God’s hand on our students and their leaders, and we hope you will join us in praying for continued life change. To catch a glimpse of what retreats were like, click the video below. To hear teaching from the retreats, click below to access the Grace Resource Library.