August 2019

Jill Erazo

to talk some more, so of course, we did just that.

I’m not going to lie, I was a little nervous about going to serve right next to The Cleveland Arms Apartments because you hear nothing but bad things about them, riots right on the basketball court, murders, and drugs. Lets just say, Jesus took that fear away faster than I could blink, because those people right here in our backyard in The Cleveland Arms apartments need to be reached too, they need to be loved on, those kids need to know that they are fearfully and wonderfully made, those people need to know about Jesus.

You know what this day cost me?? Absolutely, nothing! I am counting down the days until I get to go back next Saturday to love on these people. What are you doing with your free time Saturday mornings?

spgJill Erazo
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Lindsay McPherson

Sponsored by GRACE is a movement of God. I believe Ron, Tyler, and all the others who have put together and made this opportunity spark is incredible. The few times I have been able to go and talk with the people a part of this makes my heart smile. The fact I get to be a tiny part of it is great. I think God placing this on the hearts of people is breathtaking, being able to go and be the hands and feet of Jesus is an opportunity no one should take for granted. I believe Sponsored by Grace is going to bring miracles to this city, I pray that it will start a wild fire for this city and cover all over, that these people will seek the Lord not because we came and “saved them” but they experience the Lord, by us coming and showing they are important and that the Lord made and knitted them in their mother’s womb, that it doesn’t matter their past or current situation that we ALL are in need of a savior and it is not by our actions. But, by our actions that we have the opportunity to show them that we ALL are brothers and sisters in Christ, when God looks at us He sees the perfection of His Son, Jesus, and that is how we should see people. I am beyond excited to be a part of this and bring that news to all these people, adult and kids and everyone in between.

spgLindsay McPherson
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Anna Shepherd

Anna grew up in a family that went to a traditional church and did all of the religious things, but she never really understood that God has invited us into a relationship with Him. In her head, God was far away and He did His thing while we did ours. When Ana was 9, her parents got divorced and they stopped going to church for the most part. She found herself questioning God and asking Him why all of this had to happen. A little while later, they went to a funeral at Beach United Methodist Church for McKenzie Wilson and started attending there on Sundays. Hearing the Gospel for the first time, Anna was so interested in this grace that everyone talked about. Anna ended up surrendering her life to Jesus when she was in sixth grade! Her faith really matured though when she went into high school. The Lord has been molding her ever since, and she is now able to look back at everything that happened in her family and see how God used all of that so that the majority of her family and Anna could surrender to Jesus!! Recently, she has felt the Lord calling her to missions, and He affirmed that in Uganda this year. As Anna was wondering and asking God what this looks like, He gave her this opportunity! Anna is so excited to serve with Sponsored By GRACE and to be a broken vessel for the Holy Spirit to reach people in Jacksonville!

spgAnna Shepherd
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Tyler Vincent

Born and raised in Orange Park and a UNF graduate. For the past ten years, I have been gifted with the opportunity for Starbucks Coffee Company and currently manage the location in Jax beach.  I attend The Church of Eleven22 and serve as a coleader for 8th grade student worship. I point all of these blessings back to the cross; for it’s nothing that I do, but everything that Jesus did on the cross.

As a kid, my brother, Cody and I spent many summers in St. Augustine and during this time I found a deep love for the ocean and surfing.  My childhood was characterized by periods of great joy as well as great chaos. My father owned a bar and from an early age I witnessed selfish ambition as well as substance abuse.  I praise God every day for my mom. Life would not be the same without her encouragement and support. All of my life, she has shown us unconditional love, forgiveness, and grace. I look back on my childhood years and see God’s presence in the people he placed around me.  There we numerous mentors who encouraged and spoke life into me. These men had a huge impact in my life and have been a driving motivator in why I have such a passion for the younger generation. I’m so grateful that I get to reflect the love that was so graciously shown to me.

During my teen years, in an attempt to fit in, I began experimenting with drugs.  I was looking for something outside of me to make me feel good about me. I needed Jesus, but unfortunately wasn’t exposed to the truth.  This journey down the road of substance abuse was a trip through the gates of hell. It got to the point where I couldn’t get out of bed in the morning without first using something. I was broken and hopeless. A user, manipulator and liar.

BUT GOD…Thank you Jesus…And by His grace, I was given the gift of desperation on August 28th, 2013.  I checked in to Stepping Stone Center for Recovery located here in Jacksonville.  Once I quit running from God I could see Him everywhere in my life. Looking back, His providence was always constant.  A couple years ago I was invited back to church and immediately felt at home. I will be forever grateful for this moment in time and always refer to it as a life changing season.  Not long after my first service at Eleven22, I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. I’m in complete awe of our sovereign, gracious, merciful, and loving God. His ability to turn fear to faith, brokenness to wholeness, a mess to a message is something only He can do.

spgTyler Vincent
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Ron Armstrong

At the age of 14, I became heavily involved in the drug world. Whether it was through using, transporting, or selling, it was a choice of pure destruction for over 10 years of my life.

I traveled the states for over 7 years until I was brought to Jacksonville, FL in 2010 working for a company on the United States Naval Base. At this point in my life I was still lost and had no idea which way to look. My mother who who was in recovery and had surrendered to Jesus, became my best friend and encouraged me to never give up because God had a plan for my life.

In 2011 I was invited to my first church service by my crane operator Patrick Harrison at Beach United Methodist in Jacksonville Beach and found Jesus. I surrendered my life to following Him and was baptized in 2012.  Not long after that, God placed my amazing, beautiful wife right in front of me while serving at the church. Next thing I know we were on a mission trip to Codo, Brazil together and that’s where I told her I was going to marry her! Within 7 1/2 months, we were engaged and married, chasing after Jesus together. We now have two amazing joy filled boys. Ezekiel and Remington Armstrong.

I humbly thank God for putting me in a position to serve our city but more importantly to make an impact on the next generation through Sponsored by GRACE. After visiting with a brother in Christ by the name of Tony in 2018 and hearing his heart on wishing there was a way to be able to one day see and interact with his international sponsorship children, I knew at that moment we would at least try to make a dream become a reality for local sponsorship come to life.

spgRon Armstrong
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Christine Benenati

Two weeks after Hurricane Matthew, Christine found herself in Haiti, standing on the shore of a devastated beach community.  She still cannot adequately describe what God revealed to her during that mission trip. She knows it will be quite some time before she could serve abroad again.  She thought a lot about this and how great it would be to get involved in a local program.

While trying to process her mission trip, childhood memories began to surface.  She remembered NYC during racial tension, social class division and the riots of the early 70s.  She remembers her friendship with someone in kindergarten and how they both had to pretend to hate each other in front of other people.

Grief came at a young age, as Christine experienced consecutive loss of several family members and the heavy burden of grief dragged her down and away from her faith.  It was a long road to her baptism in 2016. Her testimony is not as much about what brought her back to Jesus Christ but rather what He is presently doing through her.

Christine feels that her calling as a registered nurse has prompted her to go back to school and explore ways to care for people beyond the role of traditional bedside care.

She is excited about the groundwork being laid out for Sponsored By GRACE and looks forward to serving and loving on the community of Cleveland Arms.  Christine is a mom of two amazing young adults and in her spare time you will find her relaxing on the beach, collecting sea shells.

spgChristine Benenati
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Sponsored by giving: A look at what giving Tuesday means to us by Lianna Norman

Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday; but what about Giving Tuesday? For those who may be unaware, Giving Tuesday takes place on the first Tuesday of December every year and is a day geared toward re-concentrating some of the money flowing so abundantly into the commercial world around this time of year. This redirection of consumer attention works to focus on those less fortunate during the Christmas season. Giving Tuesday was started in 2012 and has rocketed into partnerships with the likes of Paypal and Facebook.

But what does Giving Tuesday mean to us?

“Giving Tuesday, in our eyes, was something that we never even knew about to be honest. Until now,” Ron Armstrong, [Executive Director] of Sponsored by Grace explained what the holiday has done for us. “It started by a conversation that led to execution.”

But we aren’t talking about missions that are a plane ride away. This national holiday has helped Sponsored by GRACE give kids in Jacksonville a place to sleep other than their floor this Christmas. This Giving Tuesday, Sponsored by GRACE was overwhelmed with support. We were able to provide six bunk beds for kids in the Vista Landing neighborhood.

“The biggest thing we want to continue to bring to people’s attention right here in our city is how hard it is for families and children not even twenty miles away from our own home,” Ron said. “A simple twenty-dollar donation made a life difference for children going from sleeping on the floor, to a child now sleeping on a bed.”

So, Sponsored by GRACE spent Monday, Dec. 2, promoting the local kids of Vista Landing. The next day, the love of our community came pouring in. Some people even donated the evening before. By the time Tuesday came to a close, just over fifteen hundred dollars was raised in one day.

Why were we able to do this? Because of you. “It took the community of Jacksonville to believe in what we’re doing,” Ron explained. “Awareness is our biggest thing we are trying to bring to people in our city to show that you don’t just need to travel across the world to go on mission.”We aren’t trying to fix anything here, we’re just trying to use the tools that God has given us to show love to our neighbors. We are our community, and we are called to look out for each other. Because of our community doing just this, twelve kids moved from floors to beds.

That is community, that is the glue that is the love of our God.

“And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:14

spgSponsored by giving: A look at what giving Tuesday means to us by Lianna Norman
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