Aaron Freeman / March 29th 2015

Hi everyone! My name is Aaron Freeman. I am a student at USF St Petersburg, and I am involved in the student organization called COMission, which was started through your prayers of how to reach the campus and resulted in sending Ryan Carver on mission there. I’ve been attending Gulf Coast since September of 2013, which was shortly after I started being a part of COMission.

The reason I am here today is to share a story. This story involves me, all of you, my fellow students on campus, and even some who come from other campuses or workplaces. Most of all, this story involves God. It’s a story of redemption and redirection. It’s a story I want to share with all of you because if it wasn’t for Gulf Coast Community Church, who knows where I’d be today. I want to share with you because through Gulf Coast Community Church, lives are being changed both on and off campus. I am just one example of how God is using his people here to reach St. Petersburg and beyond.

So, rather than going into much detail, and because I’m limited on time, I’ll summarize my life in bullet points before being affected by Gulf Coast.

1. I was raised in a Christian home.
2. I accepted Christ at a young age.
3. I entered a stage of rebellion beginning around middle school.
4. I followed my own desires until I was 23.
5. God caused a series of devastating events in my life in an attempt to bring me to such a low point, that He would be the only answer.
6. I finally understood that God demands the whole of us, our full attention and effort.

After coming to the realization of needing to turn my life over to Christ, I made a promise to God. I promised him that I would go back to college and seek a Christian group of people.

So, the first week of class comes around. I’m walking down the path to my class, passing all of the tables with various student organizations. It’s almost as if I was trying to avoid keeping the promise I made. I passed the gauntlet with my head down, but there was one last table separated from the rest in its own awkward spot. Someone caught my eye, and he caught me looking at him. Ryan Carver, with his surfer speak and chill attitude, instantly capitalized on said eye contact and there was no way I was walking past him without getting into a conversation.

Turns out he’s representing COMission, and continues to tell me what they stand for. At that moment, I knew I had found the group I was supposed to be a part of. It’s as if God drew me to that last table, despite my efforts to avoid contact with anyone.

I barely made it to the first meeting. I remember standing at the exit of my apartment complex, coming up with every excuse I could so I could rationalize why I shouldn’t go. After literally pacing back and forth from the exit to the elevators back up to my apartment, I went.

Have you ever been in a social setting where you don’t know anyone at all and you have this feeling of being an outsider and won’t be able to fit in? That’s what I felt, but that feeling was shortly dissipated as people came over to welcome me so warmly and friendly. I was blown away by the genuineness of everyone.

It wasn’t until the second week when Daryn Kinney spoke a message that just tore me apart. Although it wasn’t the main focus of the message, he spoke about specific sin that I myself was wrestling with at the time. That night was the beginning of my realization of the gravity of my sin and its consequences. It also marked the beginning of an incredible heart change that is still being transformed to this day.

Being involved in COMission led me to Ryan Carver’s community group, which led me to Gulf Coast, which led me to a conference for cross-culture missions, which led me to a mission trip to Costa Rica. My point is, this church is making disciples who make disciples.

On a side note, I do want to mention that in our current community group, we have a mixture of students and non-students. The diversity of our group allows us to have a greater reach to the city around us. It allows non-students to come alongside us and participate in events on campus, and it allows discipleship amongst ourselves to prepare and train us for sharing the Gospel on campus and at our workplaces.

It has been a truly amazing experience with this church. I have never encountered such a loving, nurturing, God-honoring, healthy church in my life. It amazes me that the change in my life started with your prayers. It overwhelms me that I was being prayed for in the darkest times of my life.

I want to thank all of you for the love that you have for God, so that God could show His love to me through you.