Freedom Fellowships: 2022 in Review
2022 was an eventful year for Freedom Fellowships. Let’s take time to praise God for the wonderful blessings and answered prayers! Here are some of the amazing things people in our fellowships have been able to experience with God’s power:
FST: Playground: During the Fiscal Support Team (FST) Retreat in February, Neil Brooks asked for donations to construct a playground at the Study Center. Many generous donors made it possible for Freedom Fellowships to purchase a commercial-grade playground, which was installed by late summer. Many people in the church volunteered to help assemble the playground, and Burl Covan poured concrete to prepare the playground site. Thank you to everyone who donated to this effort! The children, community and ministries at Freedom Fellowships have been overjoyed playing on the new playground. New Hire: Also at the FST, the leadership team announced its decision to hire Adam Esterle to work full time as an Associate Pastor. Adam has been a productive member of Freedom Fellowships’ staff since coming on full time in the spring. He has been helpful managing tech-specific needs for the church, teaching Central Teaching (CT), teaching classes as well as taking on some roles left as Keith McCallum battled cancer.
RESPITE/SAGE: This year, Respite saw tremendous growth, with many more families and individuals served. Respite events provide parents or caregivers a temporary relief from the responsibilities of caring for individuals with disabilities. Parents and caregivers drop off kids and come back to pick up their kids rested and full of joy and excitement. The kids who attend ask, “When can we go back?” Jamie Bell, a Respite coordinator, recalls a moment where a mom was unsure of leaving her kids at the event. Upon their arrival to the event the next month, her kids grabbed their buddies’ hands and walked away to play without saying bye. The ministry provides respite to an overlooked community. Volunteers enjoy it, too! In December 2021, two families attended Freedom Fellowships’ Respite. As of this fall, Respite has served 17 families, with a total of 25 individuals! About 50 volunteers from Freedom Fellowships help with Respite. Volunteers serve on three teams–hospitality, buddy and activity teams. Sage, a ministry for adults with disabilities, has combined with Respite this year, which allowed for more people to get involved in Respite. Reach out to Jamie or Mike Hudock for more information on how to get involved in Respite.
BAPTISMS: In September, 15 people from Freedom Fellowships decided to be baptized and share publicly their decision to commit their lives to Jesus! Baptism is one of only two rituals we do here (communion being the other ritual). It’s always an uplifting event to hear God’s powerful, personal hand at work in people’s lives. Ian McCullough kicked off baptisms with a teaching, reminding us that God can reach you wherever you’re at and that the Holy Spirit is guiding us to reach the lost. Are you ready to get baptized? Keep a lookout for 2023’s baptism celebration announcements at CT!
BURDEN: This year, Freedom Fellowships launched “Burden”—a Christ-centered addiction recovery group with the aim of rooting people firmly in their relationship with Christ and discovering the addiction-free lifestyle Jesus has planned for them. Ted Howell and Rich Hunter lead the group as they share a vision of bringing Jesus’ grace into these personal struggles. This group is for all types of addictions—not just alcohol, substance abuse or porn—but anything that can have a stronghold in our lives. Freedom from addictions enables freedom to give. Members are experiencing this freedom through community and God’s Word. Burden meets the first Thursday of the month at 6 p.m. at Freedom Fellowships. It is an open meeting (meaning free to invite anyone) consisting of a 20-minute talk, testimony, then small group break-out time. Reach out to Ted for more information on Burden.
JAF: Joni & Friends is a ministry our church has partnered with for several years now, serving people with disabilities. One of the foremost ways we partner with Joni & Friends is by sending people to Family Retreats that happen in the summer. Family Retreats allow people affected by disability to be fully accepted and loved while their family also is given support and help during the retreat. Joni & Friends hosts two Family Retreats in Ohio each year. This past year, 61 people from Freedom Fellowships served during those two retreat weeks, and 10 served on the Joni & Friends Family Retreats leadership team. Mike Hudock was also asked to join the Joni & Friends Ohio board of directors. Many praises can be shouted about Family Retreat: the Gospel was given to many families, a pastor was convicted by our fellowship to start a small group style church with a focus on discipleship, members of our fellowship were softened as they learned to sacrificially love their campers and a door was opened for Kyle McCallum to serve as pastor for the first week of Joni & Friends in Ohio next summer! Reach out to Mike if you are interested in serving Joni & Friends through Family Retreats (registration to volunteer opens Jan. 10, 2023) or help loading wheelchairs when needed for the organization’s Wheels for the World ministry.
CT CHANGES: Adult/family sphere has their own CT! This change has proved energizing by uniting older fellowship groups with post-college/young family groups. Although our Oasis rooms are exploding with kids, there is much community happening with kids making valuable relationships. Seasoned parents are helping to encourage and instruct younger parents and adults. This CT meets Saturday at 5 p.m. at the Freedom Fellowships Study Center in Kent. Identity Project (IP) college sphere now hosts CT on the Kent State University campus! This change makes CT more accessible for college students living on and attending Kent State. So far, the college sphere CT has been fruitful. The meeting time moved from Saturday nights to Tuesday nights at 8:30 p.m. in Bowman Hall 137, with fellowship groups Tamarack and Nitro meeting on Thursdays. Tuesdays allow students who go home or work on the weekend to attend this meeting. For more information on when/where college fellowship groups meet, contact Adam Esterle. Although times have changed for CT, the CT teachers are remaining the same. Whoever is scheduled to teach the adult sphere on Saturday will teach the IP CT the following Tuesday.
LEADERSHIP CHANGES: Freedom Fellowships’ team of elders is the same (Greg Morscher, Neil Brooks and Kyle McCallum, now that Keith McCallum has passed away), but changes have been set into motion to help not only the elders, but the two full-time ministry staff address the needs of our fellowship. Now, Freedom Fellowships has a Sphere Leaders Meeting (SLUM). Over this year’s DMT retreat, the elders shared a vision of a more sphere-centered fellowship, with spheres of fellowship groups coming together to have unity and fellowship instead of just sticking within our fellowship groups. Retreats, events, CT and even teaching rotations (teachers from other groups floating to help where needed within the sphere) will all be impacted by this shift. This also means a shift in leadership to help bear the load, so matters don’t all fall on the three elders. If you are interested in who is on SLUM, please refer to the chart in this article. There are specific support people to reach out to for various ministries and work. So far, this change has been fruitful and helpful to the leadership needs of the church. Keith McCallum initiated SLUM and sphere changes prior to passing away to ensure growth and success within our fellowship. The leaders feel blessed by his foresight and dedication to helping our church family continue to grow with the Lord, even after his passing.
NEW SPHERE: Say hello to our newest sphere of fellowship groups: post-college! Identity Project (college ministries) had been getting a little too “post-college” with many members maturing up! Several fellowship groups have been splitting with the intent of sending the young adults out of college ministry and into a more natural environment to do ministry that suited their new lifestyles. Thus, Forge, Smash, Ham and Summit have shifted to become a new post-college sphere consisting of young adults, DINKS (dual-income, no kids) and young parents. The unity in this sphere has been fast growing, with very fun events always seeming to involve delicious Nashville hot chicken. If this is your speed and you want more information on when and where these fellowship groups meet, reach out to Greg Morscher or Ian McCullough.
FAREWELL TO KEITH: We say farewell to Keith McCallum, beloved senior pastor of Freedom Fellowships. On Nov. 27, Keith passed away after a three-year battle with pancreatic cancer. On Dec. 3, family and friends came together for a memorial service celebrating his life of service to the Lord. He is now without suffering at home with his most beloved Jesus. Please keep his family—Dar, Sean, Kyle and Caitlin, Connor—in your prayers as they grieve this loss. Although we rejoice Keith is in heaven, his presence will be surely missed. He spent his years with us teaching us eternally valuable truths from God’s Word. His gifts were many and he used his energies to always preach grace and care for the lost, especially the youth. We’ll miss his insightful, truthful approach to walking with the Lord, his friendship, adventures and legendary outfits.