Good morning, almost afternoon! My name is Forest Versele, and it's great to have the whole PCC family together today from the east, west, south, and north.

Thank you for coming here at Kiwanis Park. It's awesome to envision the church full of faithful generations of people. You know, parents with their daughters, sons-in-law, and grandchildren; that's three generations. I picture the church being more like this as time goes on.

Today is a family reunion of sorts. We're bringing back an age-old tradition in the Phoenix church called Chicken Sunday. Are you guys excited about Chicken Sunday? Jesus loves chickens, but He loves you more, and He's going to feed you a whole lot of chicken today. You'll get some instructions about that later. We want to spend a little time in God's word talking about family, and then we'll take communion.

Today is a celebration when we come together like this. I hope you can feel that in various ways. Speaking of celebration, two of our recent ASU campus ministry graduates, Sikali and Madison, are getting married tomorrow. God bless them. We had the rehearsal lunch yesterday, and it's great to have their family and friends here with us. The wedding's tomorrow.

We've served in ministry for about 23 years, in Ohio, Virginia, Australia, the UK, and now in Phoenix. What I love about the PCC, this part of the church family, is your generosity.

We set an ambitious goal of $300,000 to support churches, and you exceeded it with over $6,000. Thank you for your generosity and financial sacrifice.

I witnessed the blessings of your generosity, like the vibrant sister Church in Flagstaff and our sister Church in Mexicali, Mexico. Thank you, family, for your generosity.

We'll have a few testimonies, take communion, and feast on chicken together. Turn in your Bibles to Ephesians chapter 2.

Look around; there's incredible diversity here—age, background, the way we dress, even dogs. We all have a God-sized hole in our hearts, a longing for something transcendent. We're all either lost or saved Sons and Daughters of God. God wants us all to be saved.

If you feel at home here as a saved son or daughter of God, know that God is proud of you. If you've moved out spiritually, it's great to have you back visiting. And if you feel nervous or uncomfortable, we're glad you're here. Families have their issues, and as a church family, we're open to conversations. Whether it's "I'm sorry" or "please forgive me," let's start that conversation.

Maybe you don't know God's family; you can study the Bible with us after today. God wants all His sons and daughters in His house, which is the church.

We live in a great and free country. It was Veterans Day last Friday, and many have paid the ultimate price to give us this freedom. Any veterans here, please stand up; we want to honor you today.

Thank you for your service, veterans. We appreciate the freedom we have in this country, which allows us to gather here today as a church.

Our country is currently divided and facing challenges, and it doesn't always feel like we're one big family under the red, white, and blue.

In recent years, religious affiliation in the United States has been declining. From around 70%, it has dropped to 47%, and among Millennials, only 36% claim a religious affiliation. The pandemic has accelerated this trend, leading many to look for answers outside the church.

Politics has attempted to fill this void by combining with religion, but some believe it lacks the transcendent element that endures in religious practice. The division in our society is evident, and the search for hope and meaning continues.

So, what do you turn to fill that god-shaped hole in your heart? Jesus came to offer hope in God and in the church, which is what we want to focus on today as we close our time and prepare for communion.

In Jesus's time, the division was between Jew and Gentile, but Jesus demolished those divisions. Ephesians chapter 2 emphasizes that Jesus is our peace, and through His work on the cross, He unites divided groups, near and far, giving them access to the same Spirit and God.

True Christianity can take a diverse group like us and make us one, something we shouldn't take for granted. If the church doesn't live this unity, who will? We must appreciate and value God's family, the church.

However, God's family is filled with sinners, which can be challenging. Today, we have Jamaica Dillard and Jeff Kolb to share their experiences with the power of Jesus in our lives.


Jamaica Dillard:

Good morning, everyone. I'm Jamaica Dillard, a member of the midpoint yopro group. While I've been around the church for a year, I've only been a Christian for a month. I'd like to share my experience as a new member of God's family.

I never really explored religion when I was young, except for an occasional Easter service. I've always searched for a place to belong and feel safe, which was difficult for a naturally shy person like me.

During my senior year of high school and my first college semester, I faced severe depression and suicidal thoughts. I felt invisible and believed no one would care if I disappeared. I was at my lowest point and decided to isolate myself socially.

My outlook became a matter of minding my business, keeping my head down, staying quiet, and only interacting with people when necessary. This system worked for a while until I started my current job. For those who don't know, I'm an epidemiologist at the State Health Department, but I'm sure many of you already know someone else in the church who works there.

Within the first few days of starting my job, a colleague named Guillermo, out of kindness and friendliness, decided to introduce himself to me. Little did I know that this would be the beginning of a new chapter. Despite not knowing each other initially and my deer-in-the-headlights first impression, he continued to include me in lunch gatherings, birthday celebrations, outings, and movie nights.

During this time, I realized it wasn't just Guillermo but an entire community of people who went out of their way to welcome others, take a genuine interest in them, and make them feel included. Eventually, I started exploring my faith. Still, I was determined to do it on my own, reading the Bible and even trying a different church but quickly feeling overwhelmed and stopping.

It wasn't until I found myself struggling emotionally again last summer that I accepted I couldn't do everything alone. I needed a more reliable foundation, God. I reached out to Jordan and asked if I could join her at church sometime, and she agreed happily. I began studying the Bible with an incredible group of women who provided wisdom, encouragement, and support.

Over a year later, after many ups and downs, it finally clicked during a conversation with a high school friend. I felt overwhelmed with gratitude for everything God had done for me, consistently showing up in times of weakness and doubt. During a sermon about the Spirit, I decided to get baptized on October 11th, making Jesus the Lord of my life.

My baptism is a moment I'll always cherish, not just because of my new relationship with God but also because both my biological and spiritual families came together to support me. When I think about being part of God's family and the church, I think of moments like these, where I stopped feeling invisible and alone.


Jeff Kolb:

My name is Jeff Kolb, and I want to share a bit about my journey with God. I became a Christian at the age of 16, even though I didn't grow up in a religious family. My mom saw the path I and my siblings were on and urged me to attend a youth service. My journey with God began.

I didn't initially grasp the concept of God having expectations for us, and I thought God was doing His "Godly stuff" while we did our "people stuff." But as I started studying the Bible, I fell in love with God and was committed.

Fast forward to my college years, and I attended a conference with nearly 10,000 disciples. In one of the classes, the instructor mentioned that one out of every seven would fall away. I never thought it would be me.

However, as time went on, certain decisions were made that I didn't necessarily agree with, and I eventually stepped down from the ministry, leading to a divorce. I moved back to Phoenix, and over the course of 16 years as a Christian, I drifted away from God.

I thought God would surely punish me, but my life seemed blessed. I believed that punishment would come, but it didn't happen overnight. Years went by, and I continued to struggle with unresolved issues, ultimately leading me to walk away from my faith.

When is He going to punish me? I walked around in fear because of the decisions I'd made, knowing better, yet my life seemed blessed. Maybe Satan had a hand in keeping me comfortable. In the interim, my mom had become a Christian before she moved to Tucson. She often asked me when I would come to church again, but I kept it in the back of my mind, thinking I wasn't ready yet.

Another 17 years passed, and my mom developed dementia. It was a challenging time when your own mother doesn't remember her own children. I had promised her I would find my way back to church, but it was also on my heart. I started reflecting on my family, scrolling through Facebook and Instagram, missing and loving the people I saw.

I realized that if I wanted to deal with my life, I needed to start reading the Bible and rebuilding my faith. It became evident, looking back on my life and the time apart from God, how ashamed and disgusted I was with my behavior and decisions. I wanted to make it right with God, so I increased my time with Him. I didn't immediately return to church, focusing on getting my heart right.

As I did this, I faced distractions and challenges, but I remained determined. At some point, I questioned whether God even wanted me back due to my past decisions and behavior. It was a struggle, but I overcame it, doing everything on my own and visiting different churches.

One day, while working in real estate, I knocked on a neighbor's door to move their car. To my surprise, I heard a voice saying, "Jeff Kolb." It was John, the guy I had studied the Bible with in Tucson. We talked for an hour, and he informed me that they were meeting at Kanana Park. I came, saw familiar faces, and reconnected.

I love the family, the memories, and the relationships, both good and challenging, because that's what family is. We support each other through thick and thin, and I'm excited and happy to be here today. Love you all.


I appreciate Jamaica reminding us that people go through dark times and need hope. Jeff's story is a great reminder that no matter where we are in life, we can renew our hope, and the Spirit can move us to be a part of God's family again.

We'll conclude by taking communion. Please turn to Hebrews chapter 2, and we'll read Hebrews 2:10-11. It tells us that we are sons and daughters of glory, and it was fitting for God to make Jesus the pioneer of our salvation. Both the one who makes us holy and those who are made holy belong to the same family. Jesus is not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters.

I love this passage because it shows that the church is God's family, and if you're in the church, you have a big brother named Jesus. He brings us into the spiritual family.

My big brother was kind of larger than life. I really looked up to him because he was such a great football player. As the older brother, he protected us, and I always felt safer in high school when he was around. As we got older, he kept us together as brothers. He would remind us of Mom's birthday and other important things. He was a great unifier.

Sadly, we lost my older brother, Sky, in 2017. Since then, our brotherhood and our family haven't been the same. Something that brought us together and stabilized us was lost when he died. Today, we need our big brother, Jesus. He died not to take something away from us but to bring us together. His death is meant to help us and heal us as a family.

Jesus died so we could be a family, no matter what. Hebrews 2:11 says that Jesus, as our big brother, is not ashamed of us. He wants to speak to you today about your relationship with God's family, the church. Whether it's working out a relationship, forgiving someone, or giving your heart more, Jesus wants to talk to you.

Communion is a remembrance of Jesus' body and blood, which He sacrificed for us. Let Jesus' sacrifice heal, help, and bring hope to each of us in this earthly family, the church. Let's pray for our communion time and remember Jesus' sacrifice for us.


We thank you for Jesus and the family He has created through His sacrifice on the cross. Help us to be the family we need to be. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.