Together for Renewal
2023 Year in Review
A WORD FROM
Dear Church Family,
What a joy to lead and pastor this church! Together we are all watching the Spirit of God lead us into a new season of fruitfulness. Mark once said to me, “Every generation needs its own revival.” That has really stuck with me. Habakkuk 3:2 echoes this sentiment:
“O Lord, I have heard of your renown, and I stand in awe, O Lord, of your work. In our own time revive it; in our own time make it known…”
Every generation needs a witness to the greatness and truth of God. But how will each generation know unless someone tells them? That’s where you and I come in. We the Church live to be the salt and light of God’s kingdom on earth, both preserving and advancing the gospel of Jesus through our prayers, deeds, and words.
It’s my unique privilege as a pastor to see the breadth and depth of God’s goodness shining through you, the Church. I see God’s goodness when you invite others to church, act and give generously, gather in community, pray for one another, comfort the grieving, greet visitors to our campus, and support overseas partners in Uganda, India, Thailand, Chile and more.
Through you the Spirit of God is renewing broken relationships, broken bodies, and broken hearts. People are coming to faith and getting discipled on a regular basis! More and more people want to boldly declare their faith in Jesus – so many that we are hosting baptisms on campus to meet the need.
This is cause for celebration! Thank you for participating in how the Holy Spirit is stirring afresh among us. Thank you for joining what God is doing and bringing glory to Jesus. May it fill you with gratitude to be a part of this thriving community.
Still, the best is yet to come. God is building a holy momentum in us. I pray you will lean in.
With gratitude and joy,
Ryan and NCCC Staff
A Look at the Numbers
DECISIONS FOR CHRIST
LOCAL / GLOBAL PARTNERS
TOTAL INVESTMENT IN MISSIONS, OUTREACH & BENEVOLENCE
ECONOMIC IMPACT (TOTAL INVESTMENT IN MISSIONS, OUTREACH & BENEVOLENCE + VOLUNTEER HOURS AT MINIMUM WAGE)
Beloved church, thank you for your generosity!
Through your giving, we’ve seen thousands of people come to know Jesus locally and globally. We’ve been able to support and serve with our partners caring for hundreds of thousands of vulnerable and marginalized people by providing food, shelter, schooling, sports and play, discipleship, church planting, medical and emotional support, leadership training and more. Your generosity multiplies impact with partners reaching unreached and unengaged people groups all over the world. So, thank you from the bottom of my heart. Your compassionate giving makes a tangible difference in many lives with Kingdom Impact.
Kevin Hagen Testimony
Written by Wendy Hinman
I know right where I was on the 5 when I heard it.” Kevin Hagen said of hearing Jesus’ voice for the first time. “I heard a voice. It wasn’t my voice,” he said though he was alone in the car. The voice said, Kevin, you are trying to understand so you can believe. You have it backwards. You have to believe to understand. “I had to pull over. It felt like someone was pouring warm water into my heart.”
Kevin didn’t grow up with much of a spiritual foundation. His dad was an agnostic and his mother was a Christian Scientist. “She tried to mix it in,” he said, but not much stuck to he or his brother, Keith Hagen. Keith said that though they had a love for each others as brother do, “Kevin and I were buddies in sin.”
“I always thought innately there was a God,” Kevin said, “but I had no interest in the Jesus story. I thought it was a bunch of malarky.” For 60 years Kevin banked on his credibility of debunking that kind of stuff. But then he had a really tough year. “I had a series of events, back to back to back, that shook me to my core.”
Kevin was very close to his mom and she lived ten minutes away. “She would email me everyday, some bit of wisdom,” he said, “But on January 14th she didn’t email.” Kevin went to her house and found her much changed, confused. Bedridden after that, Kevin took care of her, watching his once “Crazy, red-headed, vibrant” mom waste away, “It took everything I had.” His mother passed in April.
“I was a corporate vice-president,” Kevin said of his next hit. His job was already stressful, but then his company was bought out and he lost his job. Then the next blow, “My best friend since I was a teenager took his own life. He used a gun. I found him. I had to make that phone call; I had to call his wife. It was overload at this point.”
Then Kevin went a few rounds with serious skin cancer. And then, “One Sunday afternoon, someone ran a red light and totaled my car. We both should’ve died, but we both walked away. That was when Kevin thought, “Someone, God, whoever controls the universe was trying to tell me something. Telling me to stop. To keep going. I didn’t know what, but something.”
Mark Foreman, trying to encourage us to get out of the locker room of the church and onto the playing field of the gospel, said a lot, “People don’t just wake up on a Sunday morning and think, I’m feeling church.” Well, Kevin kind of did. “I had big questions so I went to church,” he said, “North Coast was the only church I knew about. My ex-wife drug me there once for a Christmas mass.”
The day he went, “I felt like a fish out of water.” He sat in the back, “That day, out of all days, David Russo gets up and talks about Alpha.” Alpha is dinners and conversations around big questions about spirituality and faith. It is a safe place to explore with others the big matters of life. “I thought he was looking right at me.”
“Ok, game on,” Kevin thought to himself, “These Christians have no clue who’s going to walk in the door.” The first night of Alpha Kevin walked in ready to debate, “I walked in with guns blazing. But it was completely different than I thought it was going to be.” Kevin found real people, not just “Christians,” but people who listened to him. “They listened with empathy and they were vulnerable.”
“What’s going on?” Kevin thought. He came back. He came all nine weeks. “I came with difficult questions. Halfway through, I was seriously conflicted. I wanted to have what these people have. Peace. Joy. Assuredness.” Driving home after the fifth night of Alpha, Kevin heard a voice. “I had to pullover. I could show you right where it was on the 5 in Del Mar. It felt like I was turning a boat around from going upstream.” Kevin was in a new current.
Faith begets faith
Keith had become a Jesus follower 15 years before this. From the start he tried to talk to Kevin about Jesus. “He probably thought I was a person that was influenced easily,” Keith said, “And therefore had parted from reality. So in his eyes I was not very credible.” Keith and his wife moved from North County to Oregon some years ago. “Before we left San Diego,” Keith said, “I told my wife that I had to meet with my brother face to face and again talk to him about Jesus and how He has changed my life so wonderfully. So I set up a dinner it was just he and I alone. I had gone over everything I could to convince him. But Kevin finally said that he was glad for me that I have found a way to live that would give me such happiness.” And Kevin told Keith he was happy with his friends, his lifestyle.
A lot of people put experiences—see the Pyramids, skydive, surf the Mentawais—on a bucket list. Keith put Kevin’s salvation the top thing on his bucket list. His sharing Jesus with Kevin through the years is inspiring for his patience and faithfulness. When Kevin told Keith about his new found faith, as you can imagine, “My wife and I were jumping around the room,” Keith said, “Shouting praises of joy. And have been ever since.”
“Finding Jesus has changed my dad in many amazing ways.” Ryan Hagan, Kevin’s son, said. “The first being his love and gentleness when it comes to his family. Ever since he has found God he has had a light in him that continues to guide him to find more meaning in his faith. He has much more passion in his life and a peacefulness.” And questions beget questions as they explore following Jesus together. “I feel fortunate to have a father who I can ask those questions and be given answers to them.”
Sean Hagan, Kevin’s other son and Ryan’s brother said, “I don’t see that stress and anxiousness in him (his dad) anymore. I think it’s because he has given all his worries to God. My father is a very happy man. He cherishes his time with his family and friends. In my opinion, he’s become an even better man and father. I can’t express how happy I am that he is on this journey to create a deep meaningful relationship with Jesus.”
“Kevin has really changed right before our eyes,” Keith said, “He is happier than I can remember him being during is adult life. And he is charging forward in his faith and participation in the things of the Lord, attending multiple Bible studies, baptized this last Easter with his sons at Ponto beach, reading the Bible eagerly, other Bible based Christian books as well. Attending Alpha every time it’s at NCCC. Becoming friends with Pastor Ryan. We are just stunned and amazed at what the Holy Spirit is doing with him. All glory to Jesus!”
Found to Follow
Faith changes our future, but the eternal God also changes our past. “I made good decisions,” Kevin said of his old self, “And a lot of of bad ones. I thought I’d done irreparable damage.” He worried about his sons, especially his youngest, and saw himself as their barrier to following Jesus. “The good news is both my sons have come to Christ.”
Kevin has “charged forward,” as Keith has said, into church life at NCCC. “I can’t wait to go to church.” Alpha, Men’s Skills, a men’s Bible study. And the good news is, Kevin wants to share the good news. “I have an innate desire to find other guys who were like me. I can still talk to guys on the other side.
When we come to Christ, Jesus takes our old self and makes us new in Him. And He gives us a sense of self we can be at peace with. “I love my mornings,” Kevin said of his time alone, just he and God. “I love to pray. When I pray amazing things happen.” Kevin himself, in an incredible testimony to those amazing things that happen through prayer, gospel conversations and a God who speaks.
Oceanside High Wellness Center
Written by Wendy Hinman
Teachers often say to each other, “Maslow before Bloom.” (That being, the needs in Maslow’s hierarchy must come before Bloom’s taxonomy can be activated). Person-to-person care precedes academic wellness. But clocks and Covid, benchmarks and bureaucracy, too many things clog up how we know the system should work. “All is well” is not the first thought that generally comes to mind when you walk across an American high school. The stats on absenteeism are astonishing across the country. By high school, according to the US department of education, one in five students were chronically absent (missing 15 days or more) pre-covid. Post-Covid stats have worsened. The CDC reports that 42% of high school students felt persistently sad or hopeless. All is not well.
Unite North County chose absenteeism as the 2023 challenge they would focus on to hunt for solutions. Unite is a non-profit that brings together civic, business, education, and faith leaders to seek the flourishing of the North County community. After conversations around the problem and research into possibilities, Unite pulled together to create “Pirates’ Bay” a wellness center on the campus of Oceanside High School.
Illness, is the first thing we tend to think of when a kid is absent. That is a real factor. Bullying, caring for a family member, mental and emotional health, difficulties with housing, transportation and food insecurities contribute even more than illness oftentimes. And bad grades. It is easy to think absenteeism causes bad grades, and it can, but it is usually the other way around that causes chronic absenteeism. To fall behind maths’ progressive nature or become lost in language arts can make a student feel demoralized.
The wellness center gives students a judgment free space to get tangible needs met or simply to collect themselves emotionally. There is a food pantry and storeroom full of clothes (shout out to Brixton and O’Neil for donations). District social worker, Maria Al-Shamma, explained that just having someone to listen can help a student immensely. OUSD School Board Member, Eleanor Evans described the wellness center as, “A place for a student to feel safe.” Board President, Raquel Alvarez, said it’s a spot, “To take a moment before going back to school.” At the ribbon-cutting ceremony, OHS alum (class of ’74) and current Mayor of Oceanside, Esther Sanchez, said, “I grew up in the eastside with a mom who worked the night shift.” She said that knowing, “Kids need a safe space. Things are more challenging for students now.”
OHS Principal, Skyler Garrahy, said the center was named ‘Pirate’s Bay’ by the students and provides them with a place to stow away and destress, a place to belong. She also said beside the daily functions of the Bay, there would be special times for extra support like grief groups and Al-Anon.
One Unite member often says, “A little from a lot goes a long way.” And Unite’s networking proved the point. This project was estimated to cost over $100,000 but it came in under $30,000. Unite’s Carlos Architects Inc. designed the space pro bono, by Andrew Carlos AIA. And Trevor Gammelgard with Align Builders coordinating generous subcontractors. Howard’s Rug provided and put in the carpeting. New Wave Electric wired the Bay. Euroworks Inc. Installed the cabinetry.
But there were Pirates with skin in the game. Local artist Skye Walker designed and then collaborated with OHS art students in the painting of the mural inside Pirates’ Bay. And OHS ROTC students assembled the furniture. At the ribbon cutting, these students spoke with anticipation and enthusiasm about their new space. They looked forward to the food and friendship the wellness center offers, but especially the safety of the place, to be able to step out of the noisy storm that can be a high school campus at times, to just be.
Food: A Gateway for the Gospel
Written by Joseph Carlson
The red-clay road beneath us courses like an artery through the lush Ugandan countryside. Warm, sun-kissed air pours in through the bus windows, bringing with it the fragrant aroma of sweet grass and woodsmoke that wafts across the landscape as yet another small collection of circular, thatched- roof huts and hand cultivated fields slip slowly by. A young girl standing in the doorway of one of the huts flashes a bright smile and waves as we pass while her younger brother chases chickens across the packed dirt yard.
Gulu, recently elevated to the status of a city, is hours in the rearview mirror. Gone are the bustling streets and booming infrastructure projects. Gone too are the vibrant, outlying neighborhoods with their outdoor markets and produce stands. It’s out here, in the vast African bush, far from the modern world that a growing
community of South Sudanese refugees have been settled. Out of sight. Easy to be forgotten. Easy to be neglected. A place where the hope of Jesus and the tangible love of his followers is making a profound impact, feeding both body and soul.
Crossing a muddy brown river, one of our trip leaders alerts us that we have entered the Lamwo District, home of the Palabek refugee settlement. Established in 2017, Palabek is currently home to 68,000 refugees, almost exclusively South Sudanese fleeing the chaos and instability set in motion by the civil war that raged in their country for five years, killing an estimated 400,000 and displacing millions. 60% of the inhabitants of Palabek are women and children navigating not only the trauma of displacement, the loss of fathers and family members, but the challenge of food scarcity as well. Conditions conspire to keep the population there, to a large degree, dependent on international aid to simply keep people fed. The land the settlements are built upon is still owned by the local inhabitants and all too often when an industrious refugee family painstakingly clears and cultivates the land for agricultural production the local owners will then reposes the land or charge unsustainable rents, crippling the people’s ability to achieve food security and robbing them of both dignity and hope.
In contrast to the images that readily come to mind when thinking of refugee camps – fences and wall to wall UN relief tents or tin-shanties – Palabek is a rural settlement made of 7 different zones. A small shanty town, less than a dozen small blocks in area, has sprung up near the UN headquarters at the entrance to the settlements. Upon receiving permission to enter the settlements, we crawl over crude roads slowly winding their way into the raw countryside. Villages here are built by hand, baking the natural Ugandan red-clay into bricks that are then fashioned into circular huts. Pastor Moses, our in-country host and trusted member of the Kids Around The World team, himself a South Sudanese refugee raised in camps, tells us that it typically takes several months to construct a hut for a family. It’s a community affair, with neighbors aiding in the labor-intensive process. Within the more established villages there are small family gardens and pens for chickens, ducks, and pigs. Not enough to live on, but every little bit helps.
Food & Story: A Doorway To Healing Hearts
Our small bus, mud-spattered and stifling in the heat, pulls to a stop in a dirt yard in front of a 15ft x 30ft church building, one of a handful that has been established in the settlements to serve the community. Pastor Moses, barrel-chested and with a flashing grin, is first off and excitedly welcomes us to the grounds. Already, a gaggle of young children have gathered in the yard, curious and expectant. In the shadows of the church’s eves and through the open, unframed windows we see young men, flint-eyed and reserved, one on crutches missing part of his leg; a visceral reminder of the violence that drove them from their homes and country.
Within minutes the number of children had doubled as word of our arrival spread and the caution first felt between us had melted. Steve, one of the trip leaders, sprang into action, gathering all of the children into a giant circle with him at the center. We watched as he shed all adult pretense and launched into an animated telling of a scene from the gospels, his voice rising and falling, acting the drama out and inviting the children in call and response. We were witnessing Story Club, a crucial component of the Kids Around The World method for creating community in places of extreme poverty, disorientation, and need. KidsStory, their dynamic method of storytelling, invites children to become participants, rather than distant observers, in the life-giving story of God.
With energy running high, our team began unloading OneMeal boxes filled with nutritious meals to be distributed to the kids, who would in turn carry them home triumphantly to their mothers. Humanitarian aid such as this is crucial in Palabek, where UN support and local agricultural production still leaves at least a 30% gap in regular access to food, leading to chronic malnutrition among children.
As boxes were opened and food distributed the joy and hope were palpable. It was impossible to not marvel at the scene unfolding and the memories of a distant but similar joy, months earlier and halfway across the world, on the piazza of NCCC where whole families had gathered to pack these exact meals. In that moment, it was clear to realize that these simple meals meant far more than simply silencing the grumbles of hungry stomachs for a few days. In truth, they were a declaration of solidarity and a reminder that each displaced child and family have not yet been forgotten, and are worthy of dignity, care, and support. The ongoing commitment of churches like ours and organizations like Kids Around the World bears witness to the God of love, who cares not only for our eternal communion with him, but has a deep care and interest in the health and flourishing of our whole beings.
Over the next several days we witnessed this scene unfold several times. We heard stories of hardship, devastation, and loss. We also saw tangible evidence of how our partnership and involvement with communities in Uganda is about far, far more than simply a food program. We learned first-hand from indigenous community leaders how the tools of food, play, and story have empowered them to bring hope, build trusting relationships, and set them up to work towards holistic, sustainable solutions for people suffering the ravages of war and violence. Seeing this first hand, it is impossible to not have your heart enlarged, and your vision of the church expanded into a global family, rather than just a local gathering. It is equally impossible to not walk away humbled, recognizing how profound our spiritual poverty here can be, amidst the wealth and distractions our country affords us.
Flying back to California, reflecting on the privileged experience we just had, three visions of Jesus drifted into my heart, mingling together. The first, was of him chiding the disciples, then turning with joy flashing in his eyes as throngs of parents brought their children to be touched and blessed by him. “Let the little children come to me,” he says. Next, I see Jesus standing in front of a multitude of thousands drawn by a spiritual hunger for the power of his teaching, yet he doesn’t stop with teaching, he satisfies their physical hunger as well, showcasing the power of the God of abundance and generosity. “I am the bread of life”, he says. Finally, I see Jesus beckoning, standing amidst the throngs of lost, broken, and destitute in our own community and around the world. “Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me,” he says.
As the plane touches down and the visions fade, I catch one more whisper, “for the joy set before him, he endured the cross..” and I wonder: what joy have I missed out on because I was too preoccupied with my own fears, dreams, and needs to discover the true joy of giving myself away in love to others? How might I, we, discover anew the call to move out into the world with the message of truth in one hand and a fierce compassion in the other? Might this joy be the invitation within Jesus’ call to each of us: “Come, follow me?”