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Destined for Joy - Testimony Blog

Chris Rothgeb's Testimony

DFJ Updates

When Randy Watts asked us to write down a number on our three by five card way back at the start of our destined for joy campaign, I plucked a number out of what seemed like thin air that felt pretty outrageous at the time. It was a big number for me, but as I prayed about it, I felt the Lord confirming that this was the amount I was to give. I also sensed the Lord leading me to an amount for my first fruits offering and I have to admit, I wasn’t too keen on it at first. My car is almost 20 years old with 240,000 miles on it so I’ve been putting some money away each month to save up for a newer model once my trusty Subaru finally decides to bite the dust. I felt the Lord leading me to give this portion of my savings toward the campaign as my first fruits offering. This actually amounted to over a third of my overall savings but I decided to be obedient and trust that God would provide me with a new car in his timing and keep my current one running until then.

When the time came to give my offering, I gave the amount that God had asked me to give. I have to say that the feeling of sacrifice was very real for me after checking my bank balance. But then, just a few hours later, the mail came. In the mail I received several checks for several unrelated free-lance jobs I had done a while back that amounted to several hundred dollars. When I went to deposit these checks, I noticed that my paycheck had come through and it was larger than normal because of some extra work I had done. All told, the Lord gave me back almost half of what I had given in less than 24 hours! He made it abundantly clear to me that he was in this right there with me and that just because he was asking me to make a sacrifice, it didn’t mean that I would go un-provided for. If I had any doubt that God would sustain me through this time of sacrifice, it was completely obliterated by such an obvious sign of His unshakable faithfulness. I could feel my heart leap with excitement and anticipation as I began to understand more fully the strength of my God to provide for my every need.

Louise Rosenbaum's Testimony

DFJ Updates

I believe that many of you know that money has been tight for me over time, although considerably better now, but far from 'rich' as money goes. I share this because for a number of years I was poor, and although I kept my car, I wasn't able to keep up with repairs that my car could survive without. Well, one thing has existed in my car for 10-plus years! My "check engine" light stayed on, making passage of the emissions test required every 2 years quite a challenge. I would have to find a mechanic who could do something to make the light disappear until the test was conducted.

This year, whatever the mechanic was doing wasn't working -- the light stayed on. So I had to get fixed whatever was causing it to go on in the first place. I pray every night, and now I was praying that I could find someone to fix it, and not charge more than I could set aside.

I tried a different, well-respected mechanic. That mechanic shop found the problem and hoped that they had repaired it, charging me nothing! Then they asked me if I would like them to do my state inspection again, to replace the expired "rejection" sticker from March. I told them to go ahead, not knowing that their inspection was very different from any inspection I'd ever had. When finished, I was presented with a long list of what they had found. When I asked them to price it, it equaled $1872.70. $1872.70!!?

I had no idea where I would find that kind of money! I went back to prayer, and I also told a few people about my challenging situation. The friend who had referred me to this mechanic suggested I go to my credit union and get a small line of credit, which sounded good to me.

When I mentioned this solution to my friend in New York, she was very against the idea. She told me she could help me! I was speechless! She went on to tell me that the Lord had been talking to her for the last three days about my situation! I told her that I had already talked to the Compassion Committee, and now, with her help, it looked possible to put enough money together to fix my car.

I kept thanking my friend! I couldn't find other words! She told me to thank the Lord, not her.

"I'm very obedient, Louise!" she said. "So thank the Lord. That's where it belongs."

Faith McDonnell's Testimony

DFJ Updates

“So Christ Himself gave the apostles” to equip His people. . . . And Christ Himself gave Church of the Apostles, Anglican – to equip His people. . . .I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Christ gave Church of the Apostles to equip me!

I was not saved at this church. When I first came to Apostles, Easter Sunday, 1980, as a grad student at Maryland, I was already a Christian. But my experience of the reality and presence of Jesus in my life was only mine. I was used to going to church services in which we talked about Jesus, and sang about Jesus, but we never really shared our awareness of His presence there with us together. The worship service that Easter at Apostles was radically different from those. And awesome, ancient liturgy besides!

From that point on, Church of the Apostles, Episcopal, and eventually Anglican, was my church. One Sunday evening in the late fall of 1980, after we had moved into the Meeting Place on Pickett Road, I was baptized – along with about 70 other people! Luckily, I had grown up in The Salvation Army, which does not baptize at all, so I could experience my one and only baptism at Church of the Apostles (even though no one remembered to heat the baptismal pool and so when we passed through the waters of baptism, they were pretty cold!).

God brought me to Apostles and He has continued over the years through the regular blessing of good preaching, fellowship, and worship, and through special times of blessings through the ministry of Brennan Manning, Leanne Payne, and others, to build us Apostles up “in the knowledge of the Son of God” as the scripture passage says. Short term missions to Northern Ireland and Russia, and our identity as an Anglican Church helped to solidify my own calling to emphasize that we are one family with the worldwide Body of Christ.

I met my late husband, Francis, at Apostles. Although he was on the run from the Hound of Heaven, Francis knew where he was loved. He knew that there were people in the warehouse on Pickett Road, who, as the scripture passage says, were “humble and gentle, patient, and bearing with one another in love.” He knew in his heart that if he would ever stop running from the Hound of Heaven, he could have a home at Apostles, as I had done, with so many wonderful people who love Jesus and love me.

Our daughter Fiona has grown up here, been nurtured here. You forget how blessed we are, and how special Apostles is…until you go visit family and go to church with them. Fiona and I would think, “No wonder they only have service for an hour…it is so boring…not like you’re in communion with the God of the Universe!”

Apostles has never been boring! We’ve always believed in what this scripture passage says – that there is a diversity of gifts from the Holy Spirit: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. We have shared those gifts and helped build up Christ’s Body near and far. And we have done so with extraordinary generosity.

One transforming moment for me was many years ago when the Ugandan pastor Kefa Sempangi came to Apostles. He described a church – persecuted, devastated, all but destroyed by the evil reign of Idi Amin. The suffering of fellow Christians so touched the people of Apostles, that when a collection was taken, Sempangi had over $100,000 to take back to Uganda. I later found out that one family gave the money they had intended for a kitchen remodeling; another decided they didn’t need to take a cruise.

Although I had little money to give, that day helped me see two truths as never before: the joy of giving to God’s work, and our oneness with those in Christ’s Body who are persecuted.

Today for me, Apostles’ Destined for Joy vision is connected to those truths. Our vision is community-centered, bringing the lost to Christ and making them disciples. And then, in the economy of God, (and because He knows the desired of my heart!) among the Apostles’ community of new disciples to whom grace will be given “as Christ has apportioned it,” some will be apostles – sent out to Fairfax, to DC, to Baltimore, to Nairobi, to Lahore, to Istanbul, to Damascus, to Baghdad, to Khartoum, to Isiolo; some will be prophets – speaking words of truth in the power of the Spirit; some will be evangelists – in their schools, on Grate Patrol, and in the shops; some will be pastors – of home groups, and of church plants and missions; and some will be teachers – teaching other believers about the joy of giving to God’s work, and about our oneness with Christ’s Body around the world.

I rejoice at being able to give as much as I am able, and beyond, to the capital campaign. It is a privilege to bless Church of the Apostles, which has blessed my family so much.

Gary French's Testimony

DFJ Updates

Most of you know that I am perfectly willing to give up my time and whatever talents I have to whatever God is calling me. But what you don’t know, when it comes to money, not so much. Giving money has always been difficult for me because of money issues when I was growing up.

Neither of my parents finished high school, and my dad was self-employed. In my Dad’s case, self-employed often meant unemployed, and, so, we were always short of money. Also, my father was quite a character with some very good, but also some very bad personality traits.

You’ve heard the term manic-depressive. Well my Dad was manic-manic. Both his good and bad moods were extreme and volatile. When he was upset about anything he turned into a rage-aholic, yelling and screaming with profanity at my mother, my brothers and me, and anyone else within earshot. Most of what he raged about had to do with money problems, which he usually blamed on others.

As a little boy, my father’s money problems and his raging about them terrified me. My earliest money-related memory was when I was three and I watched some strangers throwing all our possessions down the stairs outside our house. I didn’t understand it then, but they were evicting us for not paying our rent. Watching those men scared me half to death.

Many times I heard my father talking on the phone to the landlord, or utility company, or others about an overdue bill. I knew sometimes my father lied. Worse still, sometimes my Dad made me answer the phone or the front door and tell bill collectors that he wasn’t home or was out of town, when he wasn’t. I hated doing these things, and often I went to bed after an evening of my father’s rage full of fear and anxiety. What would we do if there weren’t enough money to pay the rent or buy food? And, in fact, when I was in first grade, there wasn’t enough money, and so we spent that year in public housing.

Because of these childhood experiences, I didn’t believe I could rely on my father or anyone else to provide for me, except myself. Because of what he always yelled about, I thought I was a burden and part of the problem. I knew I could count only on myself and thought I should contribute to the family’s finances. So, starting with a paper route when I was eight and ending with selling women’s shoes all during high school and college, I always worked after school, on weekends and during the summer. I became very self-reliant at a very young age, and working part-time when I wasn’t in school lessened my fears about money. When I earned my own money I was in control and I didn’t have to depend on anyone else.

I vowed that things would be different when I grew up. So I went to college for ten years and got three degrees, so that I could get a good paying job. I married Terry while I was in graduate school and our first child was born soon after I left college. Like many young couples, we were house-rich with a big mortgage, but cash-poor. Not a problem though, because I could always use one of my credit cards if cash was tight. Or so I thought. Using credit became a way of life, and soon I found myself with a mountain of debt.

My poor money management, which ironically I learned from my father, caused conflict between Terry and me. Credit cards had become a security blanket for me, but eventually Terry convinced me that we should take a pair of scissors to all our credit cards, which we did despite my fear and trembling. Because I was agnostic at the time, I didn’t know that faith and reliance on God provided much more peace and security than credit cards or any other alternative.

After we came to Apostles in 2001, I would regularly put checks into the offering basket, but not for very much, ‘cause I never knew how much I would need. Before long Terry started saying we should tithe, but I thought she was crazy - I couldn’t imagine giving that much. What if some unexpected need or emergency arose and we needed that money? I didn’t trust God for what we needed, and I was still afraid we would not have enough money – feeling just like I did when I was a scared little boy.

My solution was to offer God conditional tithing. So, at the end of each month, I’d see how much money was left over and then I’d give it, so long as it wasn’t more than 10 percent, of course.  So most months, we gave less than ten percent, but at least I wasn’t afraid. I was still putting my need for my own security above obedience to God. I really didn’t get the whole tithing thing. Over time I started making enough money so that it was easy to give God 10 percent and yet, even though there was no sacrifice, I started to experience God’s blessing and peace that released me from my fear about giving.

But I was still in control – not God – and I found that out with the coming of the Destined for Joy campaign. That old pit in my stomach I felt as a child came back. Now God is also asking me to give up my retirement money on top of what we already give. That makes me worry that we will become paupers. How can I obey Him in this?

But Terry and I have prayed about it a LOT. She told me that she thought God was telling her an amount He wanted us to give, but she wouldn’t tell me how much. She said that if that is the amount we are to give that I would hear it too … even if I didn’t want to … and sure enough, I later heard the exact same amount from God that she had heard. This amount terrifies me, but I do believe in Him and I know He is in charge of everything. The unity and peace that Terry and I feel in this decision are a testimony to that. I do finally trust Him.

Sam Stalcup's Testimony

DFJ Updates

I became a Christian in 1977 soon after I joined staff with campus Crusade for Christ. I had to raise my own support. Having faith for provision was a new realm for me. It was a wonderful experience for me as I stepped out in faith and saw God move and reward that act of faith. I first visited Apostles in 1978 and experienced liturgy with life. Since then this has been my church. God baptized me in the Holy Ghost as a result of a Life in the Spirit Seminar at Apostles.

Through the years, God has brought Betsy and me to new realms in the area of trusting him, sometimes in tight places. When Betsy left the US geological survey, we went from two decent incomes to one. We thought for sure we would need to sell our house at some point and move into a smaller one. But at the same time we felt that it was important for her to be home with the kids. It is sometimes hard but joyful to follow God.

It was tough at times but through the years we have done our best to be faithful tithers (though not always successfully) but that’s where our hearts are. God is faithful though, and about a year ago we were able to pay off our house. I'm not sure how God did it but I know He's faithful!

Why do we give?

We can give out of obligation, we can give because we see needs, and these are good motivations. But I have become convinced that the better way is give out of honor, and best of all is to give out of joy. I haven’t always believed, but now I am convinced that giving is the best expression of our aliveness and that honor is the currency of heaven.

A couple of weeks ago, we attended the Voice of the Prophets Conference in Lancaster PA. It was a powerful experience as these mighty saints of God were hearing from Him and speaking to us. It was most encouraging. At a certain point, while we were there, I felt like the Lord was telling me to give $100 to a staff worker there whom we are aquatinted with. I struggled with it and talked to God but finally submitted and found a Wells Fargo ATM. I then struggled as to whether I was doing this to please man or to please God. As I was talking to God and wondering about my motivation,  I realized that I had to obey and give the money. I prayed, “Lord, be with me in this.” I then went to the registration desk where the staff person worked and asked if they knew where he was. They said he had a death in the family and he had to leave but they could get a message to him so I gave them the money. I believe God was saying He had provided a way for my left hand not to know what my right hand was doing! But more importantly I believe I was joining God in what He was doing. It infused joy into the whole thing, for me that’s giving with joy.

The next night I was having a hard time sleeping. "Why?" I begged the Lord, "Lord speak to me." And the Lord spoke to me and He said, “I Am speaking.” I said, "Wonderful, now what are You saying?" and He said again, “I Am speaking.” He showed me that just like He is constantly sustaining our lives He's constantly speaking to us all.

Five days later we were teaching a class and doing Lectio Divina. We listen as we read the word of God and let some phrase or word capture our attention. We then allow it to fill our imagination and ask God to reveal whatever he wants us to see in regard to the phrase. This was the scripture we read.

Romans12:9-11

9 Be sincere in your love for others. Hate everything that is evil and hold tight to everything that is good. 10 Love each other as brothers and sisters and honor others more than you do yourself. 11 Never give up. Eagerly follow the Holy Spirit and serve the Lord.

Not only is He constantly speaking, He is constantly leading. God loves a joyful giver. Why? I believe at least partly that when we hear from God and do what He says, it instills into us the joy that He is feeling.

I believe God has spoken to Betsy and I about what we are to give and it will take faith. I drive a 2005 Prius with 111,000 miles on it. It makes noises, but it's been faithful. We decided about a year ago that it was time to replace it and we have been saving to do that. We also feel that God has spoken to us about how much to give to this campaign, which in our case it means that we will have to pray this old Prius through another year, but it is way worth it. God is instilling joy. We are giving for joy. (It takes more faith to drive an old car anyway!)

We are also giving for honor. As Terry Fullum wrote in a Gods Warehouse, a "biography" that marked Apostles' first 25 years in 1993:

"Does the word biography seem strange to you in this context? Webster says that a biography has to do with the history of a life and life processes."

That book was not about an institution called the church; it was about a people called together by the Holy Spirit and infused with His life. That book was about life processes such as birth, infancy, nurturing, learning, increasing identity, calling, equipping, obeying, and emerging mission in life—all this in the brief span of 25 years! (Now almost 47 years.)

The founding members, a few of whom are still here, had a small list of principles to which they were committed which gave shape to the congregation right from the start. They wanted a church where apostolic teaching, experience, and mission were evident. All of this was to be grounded in a worship that put relationship with God and one another ahead of religious exercise. Like life, it is a story that has many victories and some defeats, great faith and a little folly, much laughter and some tears.

As I read it, I was filled with wonder, awe, thanksgiving, and praise for a people and their God who have walked so far together in so short a time. I want to honor Alice Buck. I want to honor George and Gretchen Kiett, Ken MacGowan and all of the others watching: Pete Buck, Pricilla Osman, Hellen Parker and many others. Their experience will serve to instruct, challenge, and bless all who read this book with eyes of faith, a heart of love, and a will submitted to fulfilling the purpose of God. After reading it you may feel, as I do, that this story has just begun.

Bill Collins' Testimony

DFJ Updates

I began working for the federal government as an attorney in 1983. The Lord gave me that job. I just walked in off the street without any notice and without knowing anyone and asked for a job as an attorney. I still remember the laughter that went up around the room. I was told that all job offers had been extended and accepted and that no one has ever withdrawn once accepted. There was no job. Just as those words were spoken the phone rang where I was standing. The person at the desk said you are not going to believe this but someone just refused the job. I got the job. I learned then that the Lord provides for us. About a year later, Cheryl and I and our two children started attending Church of the Apostles. At the time, I wasn’t making a lot of money working in the government. We were giving a small amount in the offering most weeks. I intended to tithe but we weren’t setting aside money at the beginning of the month to tithe. Instead we were giving what we had leftover after the bills were paid. As a result, we found it very difficult to give generously because we had very little left over. I knew we weren’t giving 10 percent of our income but I really wasn’t keeping track. I was just placing money in the plate when we had it.

At that time we were meeting in Fairfax High School. Rather than mailing end-of-the-year contribution statements, the statements were handed out in the foyer of the high school. We all lined up at the head of the school to receive our donation statements. I remember vividly opening the envelope and peering at the statement and realizing that I hadn’t given an amount anywhere close to what I thought I had contributed. I had given less than 2 percent of my income to the church. The moment I saw the meager, little figure, I was mortified. I was humiliated. I was ashamed. I quickly put the envelope in my pocket and walked out. I thought every eye in the school was looking at me. Surely everyone must know that I had cheated and stolen from God and from His church. And this after God had supplied my income. I asked for forgiveness and resolved then and there to tithe.

Cheryl and I started budgeting our money. But it didn’t really help much. We weren’t spending money unnecessarily. Our giving did increase but we still weren’t giving 10 percent of our income. Frankly, it wasn’t until two or three years later when our income increased that we began to tithe. We continued tithing. Some years we even gave a little above 10 percent. While we were happy to be tithing, we were also satisfied and complacent in our giving and we were not exactly overjoyed when called upon to give even more. I didn’t know it but God wanted to change my heart. God wanted the dams in my life to be broken and rivers of living water to flow out.

The years went by. Then came January 10, 2012. On that day Judge Bellows ruled that we had to give to the Episcopal Church our property and any money we had as of the date we left the Episcopal Church. We lost our property. We lost our savings. And we had to pay very large legal bills. It was at that time that I must confess to you I committed a great sin. Knowing fully that we had a desperate need for money, I traveled to New York City that January. There I spent a small fortune to purchase early American furniture at two auction houses. I spent all the money I had in the bank and all the money I had in money market funds. I had no ready cash to help with the large debt that we faced together.

I sought God’s forgiveness and cleansing once again. As I went before the Lord, Jesus began doing a work in me. I was drawn closer to the Lord. I felt a much greater love for this church. I found that I was weeping before I went to sleep at night, and then again when I woke up. I can’t explain why. This went on for two or three weeks—every night and every day. My pillow was getting kind of wet. The Lord began placing on my heart to make a gift to Apostles to help cover the debt we now owed to the Episcopal Church.

I told Cheryl the amount I felt to give. She asked how we would be able to pay such an amount. I said we could rearrange our finances in a sacrificial way and make this work. No more words were spoken. A day or two later, driving home after the Sunday afternoon church service, Cheryl asked “Would you really give that sum of money to the Episcopal Church?” I said, “Yes.” She then said, “Alright, so be it.” When I handed that check over the floodgates in my spirit broke wide open and the pent up rivers of life began flowing out. I began experiencing a great love for all of you and the joy of the Lord filled my life. I got a taste of the glorious liberty of the children of God.

I believe that experience was preparing me for what the Lord wants to do now. Cheryl and I have been praying about the commitment what we should make during the Destined For Joy Campaign. All God is looking for is a willing heart. I don’t care about the building on Fairfax Boulevard that the Lord has placed before us. I care about you and the vision that God has given to us to establish His kingdom, His healing, His Joy and His Love in the Fairfax community. We want to bring a spiritual awakening to Fairfax though the creative arts. We want to turn lives upside down and let this community experience the glory of our God. To do this we need a base of operations in Fairfax.

The Lord is calling us to a sacrificial commitment to bring this to pass. Cheryl and I are going to rearrange our finances. Each of us should seek the Lord as to what He would have us do. I have investments in two mutual funds that have done well in recent years, which I intend to give. I am postponing my retirement for three years. Finally, and this is truly a work of God, I am willing to donate several pieces of early American furniture during the campaign. Beloved, the Bible tells us that the whole creation is groaning and travailing, waiting in eager anticipation for the manifestation of Christ’s life. I believe the fullness of time is upon us. Will you join me with willing hearts and great faith to make straight the crooked paths and prepare the way of the Lord in Fairfax?

-Bill Collins Destined for Joy Campaign Director