Seeds for a Place of Grace

Marian McManus passed away this week.  Most of you did not know her. 

When I came to Alice Drive twenty years ago, Keith McManus, Marian’s husband, was serving as Minister of Education and Senior Adults.  Keith was over 60; I was 34.  It didn’t take a genius to realize his twelve years of service at the church, plus his age and experience, helped the church trust him more than they trusted me.

People trusted Keith and Marian because they cared.  They were there for births, deaths, weddings, and illnesses.  I always heard people say “We love Keith and Marian.”  Never just Keith; never just Marian; always both.

Marian had a passion for preschoolers.  Even though we didn’t have many preschoolers when I first came, she made sure teachers were trained and families were loved.

Keith and Marian started “Singles Again” for people who were widowed and divorced.  It was the first ministry of its kind in Sumter.  For years, it was the primary way Alice Drive reached people.  They also started the first Special Needs Sunday School class (LIFE Group now).  No other church in Sumter had a group for people who might struggle to fit in until Keith saw their need.

Keith and Marian would go one to serve Alice Drive for another year after I arrived.  Declining health forced his retirement.  He briefly serve a couple of churches on a part time basis, but soon that became too much.    Cancer took him too soon.   Marian stayed in Sumter for a few more years, until her declining health caused her to move to North Carolina to be close to her son and his family. 

Why do you need to know the story of this woman most of you don’t know?  Because Keith and Marian planted seeds that helped this church grow to be a place of grace.  They had a heart for overlooked people – children, singles, special needs folks.  When I came, those seeds were already growing.  My job was to water, fertilize, and pull some weeds.  God kept them growing.

The Apostle Paul said, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.”[i]

When we remember those who came before, we are delivered from self-righteous pride.  We are reminded God does the growing.  We claim our unique role, whether we plant, or water, or pull weeds.

When you read this, would you pause to give God thanks for Keith and Marian McManus?  They planted seeds to make Alice Drive a place of grace.

And would you remember someone is coming behind us?  Put some seeds in the ground for the next harvest.




[i] 1 Corinthians 3:6

Tuesday Celebrations

Tuesday Celebrations

Good Morning Good People of Alice Drive!

Big Questions from Sunday/Monday:  Do I make God sad?  Do I have bitters, rage, grudges, brawling, and slander I need to get rid of?

Sunday after 11:00 service, a woman shared with me that her mother watches our service online each Sunday.  The kicker – her mother lives in Switzerland.  God uses us around the world.

Our Haiti Mission Team helped save the life of 7 day old baby by helping get the right medicine.  Our NYC Mission Team loved children who need to know there is a loving God.  Pray for our Miami Team on the ground now.


For all the teachers who are savoring their last week before return to school:


You Might be in Education If

  • You believe the staff room should have a valium salt lick.
  • You find humor in other people’s stupidity.
  • You want to slap the next person who says, “Must be nice to have all your holidays and summers free.”
  • You can tell it’s a full moon without ever looking outside.
  • You believe “shallow gene pool” should have it’s own box on the report card.
  • You believe that unspeakable evil will befall you if anyone says, “Boy, the kids are sure mellow today.”
  • When out in public, you feel the urge to talk to strange children and correct their behavior.
  • You believe in aerial spraying of Prozac.
  • You’ve ever had your profession slammed by someone who would NEVER DREAM of doing your job.
  • You can’t have children of your own, because there is NO name you could give a child that wouldn’t bring on high blood pressure the moment you heard it.
  • Meeting a child’s parents INSTANTLY answers the question, “Why is this kid like this?”



Directions – Great VBS Stories

We had a great week at VBS!  I wanted to share with you some of the amazing things we saw God do:

A 1,000 pairs of shoes…

A few months ago a woman was moved by a story of a group collecting shoes to help people in Third World countries create businesses. It was a double mission project because Operation Christmas Child would receive a donation in return.  Even though she attended a very small church, every time she thought of this project she envisioned a 1,000 pairs.  She began to pray to be able to collect 1,000 pairs of shoes.  In telling some of her sewing friends at Alice Drive, about her mission to collect a 1,000 pairs of shoes, connections were made to our VBS program.  This became one of their mission projects and the children of VBS collected well over her stretch prayer of 1,000 with over 1,500 pairs of shoes in one week.  

Crying for Jesus …

Little Elayna cried several times throughout the nights of VBS and when comforted she said, with the biggest smile, “Every time I think about Jesus, I cry.”

A Servant’s Heart…

Last year Chris and Michelle Cernagalio were living in Sumter and served as fantastic light and sound technicians for VBS.   They have since moved to Italy but happened to be back stateside during VBS.   They chose to come to Sumter to volunteer again this year.  They said they could either spend a week at the beach or be here serving God – for them it was an easy choice.   A local family put them up for the week because there literally were no rooms at the inn.   Now a new bond has been formed and both families have been blessed beyond measure.  Chris and Michelle truly have a servant’s heart and wanted to give back to a church that has meant so much to them.   

Behind the scenes…

Everyone knows that it takes months of preparation and volunteer hours to get VBS up and running.  One unsung hero of VBS this year is Kristy Archibald.  She has worked tirelessly to get VBS prepped, organized and ready to lead children to Christ–not only for here in Sumter but also for the two mission teams headed to NYC and Miami.   Those teams picked up boxes she had prepared that were ready to use for each day.    She made it easy for these teams to focus on the mission field rather than the prep work and she did it precisely. 

Two Children Sponsored …

Piggy banks, coin stashes and spare change drawers were all scoured by kids attending VBS last week to donate to Compassionate International.   Through all those nickels and dimes, two children will be sponsored for two years by the Children’s Ministry.   They will also receive birthday, Christmas gifts and notes throughout the year from our children.    Children learning to share with children leads to adults learning to share with adults.

Seeds planted …

While attending VBS last week, one young girl spoke to her parents and teachers at her home church and will be baptized there next week.    It’s not about Alice Drive; it’s all about helping as many people as possible take their next step toward Jesus – wherever they do it!



Thanks to Nancy Lee Zimpleman for collecting these stories for me!

Tuesday Celebrations 7/22/2014

Good Morning Good People of Alice Drive!
Big Thought from Sunday/Monday: Making a different choice in your life starts with Jesus.
What a great week at VBS! Mandy Easton and her team did a great job. Averaged about 840 each night on campus. Lots of seeds sown and praying for folks to think about their next step and for them to come to Jesus.
This is also the season of mission trips! We have teams in Haiti and NYC and will send a team to Miami at the end of the week. Pray for God’s protection and empowerment!
Don’t trust atoms; they make up everything.

Directions – Hannah’s Couch

My daughter Hannah is taking all kinds of grown up steps. She has her first job. She moved into her first “adult” apartment. And she bought her first piece of furniture, a very nice white couch.
This past week Gina, Abram, and I loaded up the truck with some odds and ends from our house (translation: junk we no longer want) and headed to Durham. Once we unloaded, the next job was to go to the store and pick up the couch (thus saving the $100 delivery fee).
The man at the store was great. He wheeled the couch right out on a dolly and it slide in nicely. Hannah and Gina went to look for other apartment vitals while Abram and I went back to the new apartment with the new couch.
The problems started when we arrived back at Hannah’s new apartment. Did I mention her apartment was on the third floor? And did I mention there was no elevator? We pulled the couch out and realized its true weight for the first time. It weighed somewhere between a baby elephant and full grown cow. Straining we came to the first set of stairs.
Some of you know that lugging a couch up the stairs offers terrible choices. The guy in the front has to walk backwards, but doesn’t carry as much weight. The guy on the bottom walks forward, but he has most of the weight. Since I am a little larger than my son (okay, a lot larger), I got the bottom. Somehow we made up the first flight of stairs, rested, and then made up the second flight. That’s when the trouble began.
To enter the apartment from the stairs, you make a sharp turn to the left, and then another sharp turn to face the door. Once the door was open, the foyer was three feet deep. We couldn’t make the corner with the couch.
We stood the couch up; it wouldn’t fit through the door. We angled it; it got jammed in the door. We put three feet of the couch’s length over the balcony and tried to go straight in. Not enough room to turn.
We set the couch down to think. I lifted one end, while Abram scooted the other. We got the couch jammed again. We begin to toy with the idea of cutting the couch in half, but we didn’t have a saw. It’s 95 degrees, and we are pouring sweat. We start to debate if changing the flat tire on the boat was harder or easier than this.
We tried again. We got the couch within three inches of going through. We decided to switch ends – I’m not sure why. One end of the couch was sticking up and the other was low. I’m still not sure what happened, but I lifted my end and Abram twisted his end and mysteriously the couch began to move. I lifted a little higher, pushed a little harder, Abram twisted a little more, and the couch was through the door! We still don’t know exactly what we did to get it through the door!
You might think the lesson from this is if it’s that hard to fit something into your life, you don’t need it. But here’s the better lesson. To get the right things in the right place will take effort. But effort alone isn’t enough. There’s a moment of mysterious grace, when what was impossible becomes possible. But you never find that moment if you don’t bring the couch to the door, if you don’t try.
Whatever is needed in your life, do your part and then trust our great and mysterious God to give you grace and strength.
And to all the women who say men have no idea what childbirth is like, you are right. However, God has given us furniture to move so we can get the general idea.

Tuesday Celebrations – 7/15/2014

Tuesday Celebrations
Good Morning Good People of Alice Drive!
Great week at ADBC – VBS! So far 787 here on Sunday and 869 here on Monday! Praying for a great week.

Big thought from Sunday/Monday: A new you starts with Jesus.
This Sunday – Open Baptism. If you need to take this next step, this is your opportunity. You will have opportunity to respond and be baptized Sunday morning in the service you attend.

Pray for our mission teams in Haiti and NYC!

If tomatoes are a fruit, isn’t ketchup technically a smoothie?

Flat on the Fourth

We decided to take the boat to Charleston for the 4th of July. Five miles down Panola Road, we heard “BOOM!,” followed by an awful scrapping noise. The boat trailer had blown a tire. Not a problem, we have a spare, and I had my son Abram with me to do the work.
We started to search for the jack on the truck. Having bought the truck used, I had never looked for the jack before, but I assumed it was there somewhere. We looked in all the usual jack hiding spaces. No jack. No lug wrench. With two bars of cell service, we looked up a YouTube video about where jacks where located on Ford F-150’s (download speed – 5 minutes). We looked in all the suggested places; still no jack.
We unhooked and headed for Summerton, where I knew there was a NAPA store (run by Todd Fleming’s father-in –law). Gina Googled the store hours to see if it was open. Google said it was. Google lied. Next stop: Walmart in Manning, eight more miles up the road. They did indeed have a jack for sale and a lug wrench. I could have bought the cheap jack, but I decided if I was going to buy one, it might as well be a good one (I always wanted a rolling 2 ton hydraulic jack).
New jack and lug wrench in hand, we started back to Panola Road. By this time, the South Carolina temperature and humidity had come to an agreement to create a condition known as “step out of the truck and be drenched with sweat.”
We loosened the lug nuts – and it was handy having Abram there to do the straining. Gina even took a few turns. I was just getting it jacked up when a Clarendon County Deputy Sheriff pulled up. He got out, adjusted his gun belt and walked toward us.
“Having any trouble folks?,” he asked. For a brief moment, I wanted to give him a Bill Engvall answer, “Nope, it was such a nice day we decided to stop here and rotate the tires. Here’s your sign!” I decided, however, that I did not want to visit the Clarendon County Jail, so I assured him all was well.
The tire got changed, and we were on our way, an hour and half later than we planned. The delay was the kind of moment when you could grouse about bad luck, grumble about missing out on fun, or grip about boats and trailers.
But not this day. We knew about the accident that happened the night before on the lake. We knew the young woman who lost her life in a tragic accident. We knew a family was grieving. Having a flat on the 4th was a minor problem.
To live with perspective is to see your life with a wider lens. This doesn’t mean give thanks tragedy hasn’t happened to you. It means you keep your problems right sized. On the 4th of July, I had a truck that ran, a cell phone that worked, a store that was open, and money in the bank to buy what I needed. I even had a courteous Clarendon County Deputy check on me.
When you face the moments that inconvenience you, it’s good time to ask Jesus to show you the true size of the problem. It’s probably smaller than you think.


Tuesday Celebrationsn 7/8/14

Good Morning Good People of Alice Drive!
Lots of great questions during Ask the Pastor! If your question didn’t get answered, feel free to email it to me:
Two big things start next Sunday: VBS begins Sunday night @ 6 PM. Plus we will start a new message series: @myself #newme on Sunday and Monday. Yes, we will have Monday worship even during VBS! It will be a great opportunity for you to bring children and stay for worship with a friend you invite!
Top Ten Rejected VBS Themes:
1. Highway to Holiness
Playing in the Road For Jesus
2. Balam’s Wild & Crazy Donkey Ride
It’s a Flying, Talking Donkey. Well, Talking Anyway.
3. Jacked Up
Living the Caffeine Filled Life
4. Fleein’ Sodom & Gomorrah
Don’t Look Back & Get Salty
5. Bears, Baldness & Bouncing
Come Jump Around With Elisha’s Friends
6. Jammin’ With the Judges
It’s Crazy Times in Ancient Israel
7. Driving Early
Get on the Road to Adventure Without a License
8. Snarknado
Enough Said
9. Crusin’ The Megiddo Valley
Where the Blood Runs High
10. Snake Island
Shaking Off Danger With Paul

-Aaron Earls.

The Loudest Cheers in Heaven

Kay Warren tells this story:
Coming home to California … a friend and I passed through the Dallas–Fort Worth airport. On the way to the connecting gate, we heard loud patriotic music playing and saw a group, mostly women, wearing colorful hats, cheering, and waving American flags. The troops were coming home, and here was their welcoming committee.
Two women encouraged us to grab flags and join in. We were early for our next flight, so we took places in the makeshift greeting line. At first, a few soldiers just dribbled by. We whooped and waved our flags furiously. Then the pace picked up as dozens of men and women in uniform came barreling through. We kept repeating: “Welcome home! We’re glad you’re back! We appreciate you!” Some soldiers wiped away tears, while others displayed huge, self-conscious smiles. …
After 45 minutes, it was time to catch our flight. We hugged the organizers and thanked the vets who had come to honor this generation of soldiers. As we sank into our seats for the flight, we felt humbled by participating in this sweet moment of coming home. It was impossible not to draw the obvious spiritual parallels. These men and women had taken oaths of faithfulness and service. They had fought courageously, lived with deprivation, danger, and disease, and took unbelievable risks, all for the good of our nation.
But as great as America is, it is a temporary place. No nation lives forever. As believers in Christ, we are all soldiers in the Lord’s army. We, too, take oaths of fidelity, sacrifice, and service. Our oaths of allegiance are to a kingdom that shall never end—a country where there is never a mistake in leadership, where justice flows down like a river, where poverty, disease, terror, hunger, and greed hold no power.
Scripture teaches us about the welcome and rewards we will receive when our battle on earth is over. Artists, writers, and theologians have all taken stabs at imagining what those moments of heavenly welcome will look like. … That afternoon … we were visualizing the very moment when we would step into eternity.
What I’m really wondering about is this: Will we be surprised at who gets the biggest welcome? I’m not coveting more high-fives, but I am dimly aware of something so profound and holy that I can barely put it into words.
All of us fight unseen battles every day, each believer a secret soldier locked in battle with forces no one else can see. The bravest among us are not necessarily those who fight with guns or tanks. The bravest person you know might be your husband or wife or neighbor or coworker who goes on living one more day when every bone in his or her body says it’s no use. …
How much could we lighten the load for another just by telling him how brave we think he is? Oh, to be so merciful with fellow soldiers fighting their personal, hidden wars.
Best of all, how much better when we bring undisclosed struggles into community, where victories can be celebrated together, great losses mourned together, and where whoops of encouragement can provide even the most weary soldier the courage it takes to keep on keeping on, one more day.*

*Kay Warren, “The Loudest Cheers in Heaven,” (5-28-09)

Tuesday Celebrations 7/2/2014

Good Morning Good People of Alice Drive!

Big Thoughts from Sunday/Monday:  Follow Jesus First; Be a Citizen second.  Give Him your best energy and time; trust His values; Join in His work!

Don’t forget “Ask the Pastor”  on July 6/7.  Send in your questions on the website

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had a few very stressful weeks.  Stress is a time when I get tempted.  So if you are in that stressful time too, let’s pause together, take a deep breath, and remember God is in charge of the world, not us.  That’s what’s so amazing about grace!


The teacher looked over her third grade class and happened to notice her two students, Eddie and Dan giggling and talking during her lesson. “Well, since you two are obviously listening so well, let’s see if you can answer this one!” The teacher said with a smirk on her face, almost knowing that the two children would not know the answer to the question. “What is the proper name to use when referring to a cow that has just given birth?” There was a moment of silence, then a little hand was raised. “Dan? You know the answer?” asked the puzzled teacher. “Umm… yeah!” He replied with a not-too-sure look on his face. “Well, let’s hear it.” “You would call her de-calfenated!”