What’s your focus?

By Anthony Banks

Whether you are bi-vocational or in ministry full-time, you are in for a ride. As a pastor, minister, or church planter, a lot of times people don’t really understand what you are going through balancing family, work, and church. Nothing is easy, and sometimes you will struggle to find the motivation to continue.

That’s why it is so important that your motivation comes from constantly staying in prayer!

I know I’m not telling you anything new when I say you need focus. You know good and well that you can’t let anything slip. “Slipping” happens when you forget to do things at home because of the ministry, or when you struggle to find time at church because of your work.

There is no way, decent or above decent, to love my family, take care of the ministry, or maintain my job if I am not focused on the Lord! 

First, there is my family. My wife needs me, and my kids need me. They need my love and my care and my affection and my time. Scripture says my family is my priority, because if I can’t lead and care for my family well, then how can I take care of the church? (1 Timothy 3:1-5)

{ There is no way, decent or above decent, to love my family, take care of the ministry, or maintain my job if I am not focused on the Lord! }


Then there is Second Baptist Turrell, where the people need a teacher and a listener and a counselor. I don’t want to neglect one of them because they’re all important. I’m not a hired hand but a servant, one who serves by giving of himself and leading his sheep, and I am responsible to God for how I lead.

And last, but not least, is work. Of course I must do the job I have been hired to do. Unlike in the ministry where I want to be like Christ going after one sheep gone astray, at work I am more like a shepherd looking for all the other sheep! My drive and focus at work tends to be different from the ministry. 

I pray and talk with Him about these things—what all these people want from me—and then pray for myself! You and I must have His help if we are to do all these things as He would have us to do.

But I’m just warning you: stepping out in this feels like quicksand. You’re going to have to trust. Because when thoughts and distractions come flooding in, that’s when you have to continue to keep your eyes on Him.

Remember how Peter was walking on the water toward Jesus? I am like Peter sometimes because when He wants me to come out on the water, I go, but then I get distracted by the wind and the waves. I would say to a pastor or church planter, “Don’t take your eyes off Him!”

Distractions are a form of worrying. I would say that if you’re going to pray, then why worry? You have to do one or the other. Worrying can’t add anything to your life but stress. Worrying doesn’t add time or days to your life.

If you are worrying, then you are not trusting Him because worry won’t allow you to trust. Worrying is like saying that someone is standing behind you and strong enough to catch you, but you’re still worried about them catching you when you fall. You aren’t trusting them.

{ …when thoughts and distractions come flooding in, that’s when you have to continue to keep your eyes on Him. }


Maybe at the church you’re worried about an increase in visitors, salvations, or baptisms. Are you worrying why there aren’t more? Are you worrying about what you’re doing or not doing? Scripture says, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God gave the increase…” (1 Corinthians 3:6-8)

You just plant! Water if you have to, but God will send the increase. That is what the Word says: to trust Him! If we’re focusing on other things like Peter, then we’ll start sinking. We must continue to focus on Him.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Come to your family with complete trust in Him. Come to your ministry with complete trust in Him. Come to your job with complete trust in Him. If you’re not focused on God, why are you doing any of it? God should be the focus first, always.

Without Him, there is no us. That’s the reason we have to get up in the morning and say, “You have given me this morning, and You are the reason I woke up this morning.”

A lot of times we “lose it” because we lose focus. At the end of a long day we are tired and lose focus, but in the morning we wake up with a fresh look! We don’t wake up because we’re good; we wake up because He is good!

He has given us this day. That’s focus.

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A chat with the bloggers of “A Day in the Life of a Church Planter”

Have questions for the bloggers as you read? Connect with them by sending us a message!

How do you respond when people ask, “What is church planting?” 

Izah: I respond that church planting is a group of faith-believing Christians who have the intention of growing the Kingdom.

Anthony: I haven’t been asked that question, but I would probably say that it’s the church that begins as a small, core group of believers having a Bible study that will grow in number as they become stronger in Christ.

Andrew: Church planting is the continuing model of missions found in the book of Acts, where healthy existing churches train, equip and send-out healthy leaders to declare and demonstrate the Gospel. Too often church planting is seen as a divisive event in the life of a church that results in splits and fractions among its people. However, when churches plant churches, they participate in the Great Commission by reaching unchurched people who would never enter into their own churches because of location, demographics, or contextualization.

izah

Izah Broadus, New Faith Baptist Church West Helena 

 

What is the people group or culture you are reaching? 

Izah: We would love to reach all people, but most importantly “the lost” (those who don’t know Christ).

Anthony: It is an African American group; many are unemployed or on fixed income. In our community there is a lack of resources, no local schools, and many are deprived of an education.

Andrew: The Hill Church is located in Fayetteville, Ark., which means we have an eclectic mission field in whom we are called to serve. The majority of our members are college students and young professionals who are joining a church for the first time. In fact, only 5 percent of our congregation was a member of a church before joining The Hill.  However, the people we serve and build relationships with around our physical church location are in poverty and are primarily single parent homes.

Anthony

Anthony Banks, Second Baptist Church Turrell

 

What is the biggest obstacle you/your church face in reaching people? 

Izah: Our biggest obstacle is lacking the funds to do a lot of things that we would love to do.

Anthony: The biggest I would say is encountering people with depression and low self-esteem.

Andrew: Our church is intentionally located in a lower-income area so that we can build relationships and love them as people made in the image of God, but—to put it bluntly—we are white and the majority of them are black.  People in lower income areas have been burned by what they call “white saviors,” people who come in, give them some food or resources, and then leave.

I’m not saying these outreaches were bad, but what that has developed in these people of poverty is they think we see them as a project and not a person. It was difficult for us to break that wall of suspension which could only be brought down by a consistent proximity.

Andrew

Andrew Munneke, The Hill Church Fayetteville

 

When in your ministry have you seen the direct impact of prayer? 

Izah: In the ministry, the direct impact I have seen was when the young men in the church came to the alter crying out to God in prayer.

Anthony: There was a family whose lights were turned off, and they were about to be evicted from their home.  We prayed and God answered prayers. To God be the glory!

Andrew: Finances are difficult in any church plant, but what we faced as our church grew was that we couldn’t grow as an organization [with the financial challenge]. So last year we said, “How much internal giving can we receive, realistically, if we pushed really hard and effectively communicated our need?”

So we wrote down that number and said, “Ok, let’s double that and start getting on our knees and asking God to provide that amount.” We knew the budget that we prayed for couldn’t come based on our own sales pitch or charts, but only by the Lord providing. By His grace, we received even more than we prayed for!

How can people pray for you? Your church? Your community? 

Izah: Pray that God provide for us so we are be able to do the things we need in order to reach more lost people. Pray that we can give our church a makeover and bring it up-to-date. Pray that the community will join together to seek more of God and truly know who God is.

AnthonyI would say pray for my strength and a steadfast, unmovable love for God and for God’s people. For my church, pray God’s grace and mercy over them. For my community, pray God will send help in the schooling and employment area, and that the leaders in the community would come together.

Andrew: Some specific prayers for us and our community are:
1.    Only 18 percent of Fayetteville is churched. Please continue to pray for the Spirit of God to penetrate hard hearts and dark places.
2.    We are sending our first short-term missions team to South Asia during spring break. Pray for their protection and Gospel ministry over there.
3.    For clarity and wisdom on some important big decisions our elders are making in the next few weeks.

A handful of kids, a church, and Crazy8

By Izah Broadus 

We are just getting a youth after-school program going that is connected with New Faith. It’s been on my heart for over a year, and these kids really do need it. The kids are just running around after school because there is nothing for them to do.  

I just felt the need to reach out because there is no program where our church is. My heart is yes, for the education—they’re going to need it. My hope, too, is to touch the hearts of the kids and that they will want to be a part of the church, and they’ll touch their parents’ hearts to want to be a part of it.

Tuesday, February 21, was our first day. Eight kids showed up; four were kids of members at New Faith, but then other parents found out that we had 30 slots available. Right now there are 13 kids in the program. I knew many of the parents who called to ask about their kid being in the program, but before this I hadn’t had a real connection with them. We have mostly advertised the program on Facebook and during Sunday morning services, so this was the first time really talking to them.

The after school program is open on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. We are using the upstairs facility of the church where the computer rooms are, but we are praying about a new life center and gymnasium.

When the kids first walk in the door, they sign-in and we give them a snack (another organization provides the snacks). We open the program with a prayer and the Bible, and each day I give them an overview of the Bible for about 10 minutes.

After this they divide into classes by their ages, and we help them with their homework. Later we do this program called Crazy8. It’s for reading, English, math, and science. For the last 30 minutes of the day we go to a game room for learning games, but we like to give the kids a chance to play basketball, video games, and table hockey.

{ My hope, too, is to touch the hearts of the kids and that they will want to be a part of the church, and they’ll touch their parents’ hearts to want to be a part of it. }

We are planning to take them on an outing at least one Saturday each month. We are not just taking them somewhere for the sake of taking them out to have fun but doing it so they can learn.

We want the youth to move a step up by being in this program. We’re even going to send a letter back to school for their teachers and ask about what they’re struggling in. The smaller kids will probably tell us the truth, but the older kids will probably beat around the bush.

A deacon and our church secretary are running New Faith’s program, and some of our high school seniors have been trained to teach using Crazy8. Another lady is one of New Faith’s ushers, and she helps in the computer room and with the snacks.

Right now parents are dropping off kids at the church, but our goal is for us to pick them up from school and then their parents pick them up from the program. This is something we are planning to work out with the school system.

The program is working out and I think it will truly make an impact on the community, as well. Please pray that we might know how to really grow this program!

And really, there are so many awesome things that are going on at New Faith. Just this past Sunday in worship service we had more men in service than ever before. I couldn’t past up the opportunity to ask you to pray for all the men there! It was truly an awesome experience. It is something that I’ve been praying for at New Faith: for more men who truly com seeking God.

If my church shut down, would the community wonder where we went?

By Andrew Munneke

Three people—me, my wife, and a friend from seminary—moved from Dallas to Fayetteville in 2013 with the purpose of planting a church. I didn’t know Fayetteville very well. I had never lived there, nor did I know a lot of people in the city, but we sold possessions and packed up what we had and moved to Arkansas.

Why? Because there were lost people there and the Gospel compelled us to go.

Most people don’t know this, but 18 percent of Fayetteville’s population are church-goers, which means 82 percent are unchurched. This also means 1) there is an obvious disconnect between believers engaging with the unchurched, and 2) there are large pockets of people here who don’t have a relationship with a Christian. That was something I couldn’t ignore.

Fayetteville is also a very global area with Walmart Corp. and the University of Arkansas. People and students come from all over the world, stay here for a short season, and then go back home. the-hill-church-logo

Let the missional opportunity of that sink in. We can impact the nations in our own backyard!

Another major reason we were drawn to Fayetteville is the projected growth of the area. By 2040, Northwest Arkansas is supposed to grow by 58.3 percent, meaning the population of Northwest Arkansas and Little Rock will be the same. Who will win? I don’t know, but that’s the projection. It’s an interesting reality.

Here’s the thing. You can always run stats until the cows come home because, yeah, we can find out percentages about the unchurched. But what’s more important is what is keeping the other 82 percent of people from setting their foot in the church.

{ What are people’s emotional, spiritual, etc. reasons for not setting foot in the church? Those questions can only be answered through conversations. }

What is their reason? Sure, why are the churches there not reaching them, but what are these people’s emotional, spiritual, etc. reasons? Those questions can only be answered through conversations. That was big for us.

So our initial model for a church was building around this question: What would our church look like if we understood that we are sent missionaries to the lost people of our city?

The Vision of Presence

We knew going in that making an impact in Fayetteville was something only God could do. It wouldn’t be my fancy vision, not my zeal for this or that, not my gifts or talents, but only the Spirit of God working.

Step one in reaching Fayetteville was prayer. My wife and I, our friend, and another couple all gathered in my living room to pray just the five of us. This prayer gathering was us literally saying that we believed this church was going to make Kingdom impact, and to do it we needed His Spirit. (And that wasn’t just a one-time prayer; we continue to have these prayer meetings on the first Wednesday of every month.)

The next step was casting a compelling vision for why Fayetteville needed our church. Not that established churches weren’t doing their jobs, but we considered the bandwidths where we could meet needs that other churches’ bandwidths didn’t.

One way we did this was by asking, “What is the brokenness in the city? What are some of the areas that need the Gospel and need Gospel work done?”

{ Step one in reaching Fayetteville was prayer… us literally saying that we believed this church was going to make Kingdom impact, and to do it we needed His Spirit. }

We saw certain areas of Fayetteville that were poor and impoverished and didn’t have a church presence. Churches were going in, serving these people, and coming out, but they were not an incarnational presence. These churches were doing a good job making a needs-transaction, but we wanted to meet a self-worth need. We thought having an incarnational presence could really be a big factor in reaching these people.

From the beginning, our church has had the desire to be incarnational. In our early gatherings, we met in our house. Later, in our first location, we met in a shopping center, but we felt this angst. We were in a very visible spot, but here’s the reality: it was hard to build intentional relationships with people who needed us. This need outweighed our desire to be seen, so we sacrificed visibility to live incarnationally and moved to an old church building in a neighborhood.

So all of that to say, we started what we call Gospel-Communities. We did this first because the Gospel community gathers people and then sends people out. We started in June 2013, and by January 2014 our first Gospel-Community multiplied into three Gospel-Communities and we were ready to launch our services. 

service-launch-january-2014
Our shopping center location at the time of the launch. 

A City on a Hill

This month we are celebrating three years at The Hill Church! We have changed things that we wrote on the whiteboard three years ago, and we might change things in the future. But we know our city, our neighborhood, and who we are called to serve better.

Church planting isn’t what I thought it was—pastors who know more about what they are against than what they are for, or youth pastors who couldn’t be promoted any higher in their church. There is a necessity for it, and the book of Acts explains that clearly.

andrew-preaching-2

Church plants are 60 to 80 percent more likely to reach the unchurched. In other words, church planting is the best way to reach unreached people. Knowing that church planting is the best tool we have to reach the unchurched is a pretty strong conviction for me.

The number one purpose of a church plant should be to reach the lost.

Something we have said since the beginning is this: If our church shut down, who would knock on our doors wondering where we went? That is the city on the hill that vanishes, like a light that goes out in a dark place. This truth has led us to not only build relationships with people across the street but also at the community center next door to us.

I don’t think we shine as bright as a huge light, but the neighborhood feels our presence. I hope that we are being enough of a light for the people around us so that if we were to shut down, the lack of a Gospel presence would be felt.

Why church planting?

By Lee Kemp

When I’m talking to people and sharing Forefront Church’s story, I have often been asked “Why did you go into church planting after being involved in an established church ministry for more than a decade?” I think it’s a great question.

Back in the day, Sarah and I made this little magazine when Forefront was becoming a reality. There was a “Why Church Planting?” page, and it had a few simple points. I’ll use them as a starting point to answering this question.  

1. God has called me to do it.

That’s reason enough to be involved in church planting, but it is a hard answer to give sometimes. I’ve always tried to be careful saying, “God called me to do this.”  Maybe it was my creative brain and not God?

Even though I know God called me—to church planting and to do other things—the one thing that would limit me is feeling ill-equipped. Well, if God is sending people to do it, he must be equipping people to do it! I know whenever God calls us he equips us.

I feel he equipped me by giving me an entrepreneurial spirit for Kingdom advancement. He also gave me a pioneering spirit, and by that I mean a willingness to cut a trail, to settle a vision into a reality. The grass was bent in Fort Smith and there was a trail, and I felt like God was leading me to take a road over there. 

2. Church plants are fulfilling the great commission, sometimes faster than established churches.

Church plants are effective, and they reach new people. There is plenty of research on this. Church plants, also known as church starts, in many cases have been observed to grow from 0 to 200 people quicker than established churches.

Church plants also have a passion for evangelism, and they have a tendency for a disciple-centered culture. It’s a part of the demand that they make disciples because there is nothing else for them to hang their hat on.

A lot of church plants have evangelism so ingrained in their ministry DNA that they “plant pregnant.” In other words, they are starting new churches as they are becoming a new church. There is a lot of statistical data to back up that church planting is one way of fulfilling the Great Commission at a faster pace.

3. There is a need for church planting.

When you listen to someone talk about a business, people often ask, “Is there a viable reason for this?” I’ve talked a lot in previous blogs about being a missional church, but there really was a need for a missional church plant in Fort Smith. (If you haven’t already, be sure to read “We Are Forefront” and “My Apartment Is My Mission Field.”)

We have seen God fulfill his vision through us. Sometimes it was in “small” ways, and sometimes it was in big ways. (Check out “Sowing Seeds with People of Peace,” “From Homeless to Homemaker,” and “God is Still on the Move.”)  

Continuing to grow

I have done a lot of growing over the years in both the ministries of established churches and church planting. The first sermon I ever preached  was awful and doctrinally wrong. In a church plant, if someone preaches like that, visitors might go to a completely different church! If someone had never given me that opportunity, I wouldn’t be where I am today. 

One thing I really don’t dispute is God calling me to church planting, but what I struggle with is if I am doing it in the way he would have me do it. Sometimes I think I’m doing ok, and other days I feel like I should be blocking off my whole day for prayer.

I have learned that even though I am a pastor, I am still obligated to lead with the fruit of the Spirit. In church planting, the success of the church plant can hinge on whether this new thing rolls or doesn’t roll. If something’s not working, then why? How will I know if it is worth continuing?  When I shepherd, I have to lead with the fruit of the Spirit.

Signing off

This is my last official blog post for “A Day in the Life of a Church Planter.” I am passing the baton to several great guys who will share their lives, tell their stories, and give you a glimpse into what God is doing through their church plants. Continue following Forefront Church’s journey at http://www.forefront.church/, or add me on Facebook.

I would ask that you continue to pray for Forefront Church and for our family. Here are a few specific ways you can pray:

  • That Sarah and I will continue to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit, and that we would seek to minister being filled with the Spirit.
  • We ask for wisdom and discernment about how to position our people where they can fulfill their calling in ministry and ultimately advance the Gospel.
  • That we would continually walk in faith. We want to see God provide for us in a way where only he is seen as our source of provision. We don’t ever want to be in a spot where we “finally make budget.” If we make budget, it’s our desire to constantly have a posture of faith as a church. We don’t want to ever be in a spot where we financially settle. Pray that we don’t become complacent.
  • Please pray for my children. I don’t want to reach the whole world and lose my own kids. I don’t want to minister in such a way that my kids hate the ministry. I pray that they would continue in—and maybe even be called to—ministry, and that they would continue the race that Sarah and I have started.

Heart transformations in Fort Smith

By Lee Kemp

This past weekend 1,800 people came to partner with many local churches in Fort Smith for the Acts 1:8 One Day Mission Trip.  We saw 67 people pray to receive Christ on Saturday! I wanted to take a moment and just share four quick highlights of what I saw God do in the hearts of those from Fort Smith who served that day. 

1. Realized the need to minister outside the walls of a church

One of things I heard at a luncheon with Fort Smith pastors after the event was that “we have people ready and wanting to continue serving our city like we did this past weekend.”  Most pastors have a desire to serve outside of the church, but when people tell their pastors that they want to do more for their city, that is on another level!

2. Reminded to serve alongside each other as the body of Christ

The church culture in Fort Smith is sadly one of a “competitive nature.”  It is rare that churches come together to serve as co-laborers in the Gospel.  Last weekend, we saw many churches work alongside each other and have a great time doing it, too.  Hopefully God will continue to work in our hearts to focus on impacting lost-ness in our city!

3. Challenged to share the Gospel for the first time in their locale

I heard one pastor share about how a lady in his church was so excited because she shared the Gospel for the first time.  It is always exciting when we see someone overcome their fear of sharing how Christ has impacted their life!   

4. Accepted Christ as Savior

We had two ladies visit Forefront Church this past week because they came to the block party at Stephen’s Boys and Girls Club.  The coolest part was that one of them prayed to receive Christ Sunday morning!  I am praying more and more stories will trickle-in the next few weeks about how people are going to church for the first time and finding hope in Christ. (I know we have several families coming to visit Forefront this coming Sunday!)

_____    ______    _____

Please be in prayer for the churches in the Fort Smith area as they continue to follow-up and connect with the 1,200 families who have expressed interest in a local church.  Even more, be in prayer for the 67 people (and growing) who are coming to know Christ, and that they will get connected with and be disciple by a local church. 

God is already there

By Nicole Hutcheson 

I spent this summer on the other side of the world in Southeast Asia. Though I can’t say which country I served in, I can say it is against the law to “Christianize” the people who live there. The good news is that God is already there, even in the hardest and most closed places.

It’s illegal to share the Gospel. It’s hard. But we have to go!

My team and I had to use a lot of discernment as we talked to people, but our priority was not the number one concern—the people we met were. Someone told us during training that we were on a rescue mission, so we kept that mindset the entire summer. 

We would really want to share with someone, but the opportunity did not come up naturally in the conversation. Silently, we would ask the Lord to please open a door. So many times I was praying that specific prayer, and the door would open right in that instant.

Relying on God

We had a neighbor in one of the cities where our team was staying. For several weeks we visited with her, but the opportunity to share the Gospel never came up.

On our last night in the city, we were having dinner with this woman. I was sitting on the edge of my seat asking God for his help because we still had not shared the Gospel.

Then my teammate sneezed. The woman turned to her and said the traditional “May Jesus bless you,” but in her language. When I heard her say his name I asked, “Would you tell me what you just said?” She said it again, so I asked, “Do you mean Jesus Christ?” In that moment we shared the entire Gospel with her.

{ Later, our team talked about how God just used a sneeze to share the Gospel! }

Also about the midpoint of our trip our team was struggling because we hadn’t seen a lot of fruit from our work. We knew that the Lord was faithful—that we might just be planting seeds—but we were praying and hoping we would see someone come to know him.

We had the day off from work, so we were spending the day at the beach just paddle boarding, relaxing, and having a good time with our team coordinator and his family. One of my teammates went down the beach to buy coconuts for us, and he realized the guy he was buying from had a Bible verse on his shirt.

He asked the man if he knew what the shirt said and meant, and when he answered “no,’’ my teammate shared the Gospel with him. The man accepted the Lord on the beach right there! The guys went back later and talked with him, studied the Word, gave him a Bible, and really solidified that faith.

It was just the coolest thing to see that, but this moment spoke to more than that. We were trying so hard to be faithful and wanting things to go the way we thought they should, and when we least expected it God moved into that man’s heart and changed his life.

God is definitely moving in this nation! (For a similar God story, be sure to checkout Lee’s post “God is still on the move” about a divine encounter with a member of the Arapaho Tribe.) 

Sharing the Gospel is more than telling

Last September, I was reading in the New Testament and God told me I should checkout church plants in our area. I thought, “That would be cool. Ok.” A few days later, my Baptist Collegiate Ministry (BCM) campus minister, Lee Woodmansee, told me that a local church planter would be speaking at one of our events.

It was Lee Kemp. After he spoke, I introduced myself and told him, “I’m coming to your church on Sunday.” I’ve been going to Forefront Church ever since.

After I got back from Southeast Asia, I was sitting at Forefront and very distinctly God told me, “This is what you’re going to do. Go out and make disciples.” In order to go and make disciples, we have to have to create a place to come together.

standing-on-mound
Nicole (left) with members of her team.

We can’t ignore that fact as believers. We can’t just go and tell people about Jesus. We have to see it through! We need people to grow with new believers, to come beside them, and walk with them through life. You get that that discipleship and community through church.

To me, it’s not about becoming a “church planter.” It’s just part of my call.

Attending Forefront, I’ve kind of seen how church planting works. I’m pretty sure that will be my future in international missions: planting a church with local believers and knowing the church and their outreach will continue even after I leave.

I don’t know how I will get to that point, but I think it’s a biblical truth. That’s what we should do. One of the things they say in East Asia’s underground church is this: “Every member of a church is a church planter, and every church planter plants churches.” 

College, missions, or both? 

I’m not on the field right now, and that’s hard! I’m now a senior at the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith. I know I’m supposed to finish school, but I also need to play an active role in missions work.

We had one lesson this summer that was about different aspects of missions, like praying for and mobilizing missionaries. What that looks like for me as a college student is telling people about my experience, encouraging them to do international missions, and explore those options with them.

At the same time, I just completed the first step in a long application to become an IMB Journeyman. I had kind of written it off as too big of a commitment (two years), but after a summer of serving with Nehemiah Teams I am convinced this is what God is telling me to do. So I’m praying he will see me through again!

Want to learn more about Nehemiah Teams? Be sure to checkout the “Team Work” CP Share story!   

Nicole’s video diary