"I started attending VESSEL bible studies in June of 2022. Before I began attending, I was a struggling Christian. Since I began attending, although I am still slightly struggling, I have started becoming more comfortable talking about my beliefs as a Christian." (2023)
— Sarah C.
"Before I was saved, I dipped in and out of Christianity. What I mean is that I "paid attention" and "read" here and there. Scripture mostly interested me because of the history and how it delved into ancient culture, unlike how much I could read elsewhere, and it was all somehow tied into what everyone strives to have and be saved by.
I never knew what being saved was until years later when I was invited to Bible study by my friends, Miguel and Damian. To be honest, I fell asleep a few times. However, Bible study started to influence me more and more until I knew salvation was what I needed.
A few weeks in, Doug walked me to the Lord in the parking lot at The Ridge Community Church. After that, I realized how much Christ had done for me. Even through every hardship I had faced, it was to help me see my need for Jesus.
After a few more months I came to the conclusion that I needed to also be baptized. How could I only be saved and never baptized? It made no sense so I planned for it. On my birthday I would be baptized. Doug and my family, along with some bible study members, came to witness me get cold feet, literally. The water was so cold it hurt them, but after Doug urged me I waded out with him. Still I begged to do the sprinkle water baptism, but we eventually did it the way it was intended. Maybe the cold water was a test of my faith. Maybe my loyalty given by God, even through the harshest times, meant I'd follow God. I'd like to think that anyway.
Still I continue my walk with God, as easy or rocky as it might get, trusting that eventually I'll end up where I belong. Hopefully, along the way, I can bring some people with me, that they might grow in faith too." (2023)
"It was nearing the end of the summer, COVID was taking the world by storm, and I was getting ready for my last year of college. While things in my life seemed alright on the surface, I was severely neglecting my relationship with God. I was emotionally drained and lacked a basic passion for anything because of where I found myself spiritually. There were things in my life I needed to make right, so I began listening to the Lord and letting Him direct my steps. This led to me quitting my job of three years and pursuing the Lord’s plan for myself.
The Lord knew exactly what I needed in my time of weakness. Two weeks after I quit my job and after praying adamantly for a Christian community to be apart of, God was quick to answer my prayer. I was introduced to Vessel by a close friend and was relieved to find myself around other authentic believers my age who were legitimately wanting a real relationship with the Lord. Before Vessel, throughout my life, I experienced and witnessed people burnt by churches and believers, which hardened my heart towards fellowshipping with others and attending church. Now, after being apart of Vessel, I can finally be myself around other believers without fear of being taken advantage of or persecution.
Thanks to Vessel and those in the ministry, I have found a place where I can grow in my walk with the Lord, build strong Christian bonds, and serve those in need around the tri-state area. Vessel has reignited my passion for the word and has given me a place to be myself. I am incredibly grateful to Doug and Sarah for their genuine care for others and look forward to the future of the ministry." (2020)
"Soon after I got saved in September 2018, I knew that I needed a group of Christian's who could help me on my journey, and that's what I prayed for. Sure enough, God provided, and after running into an old friend, who is a part of the ministry, he invited me to come to a group Bible study, and that's what I did. Everyone in the ministry welcomed me with open arms and showed great hospitality towards me. It was clear this was a genuine, knowledgeable, and unique group of God-loving people. Although I love the fun we have bonding as a group, whether it's having a movie night, playing volleyball, eating, or just joking around with each other, my favorite part of the ministry is the discussions we have during Bible Study and the one-on-one talks I get to have with the group leaders who are always happy to help individuals with any spiritual challenges they are facing.
This is truly a special group of people with diverse personalities, and I am proud to call them my brothers and sisters in Christ. It is clear that God has used Vessel Ministry to grow me up in my faith and to help others whether it's doing work in the community or helping each other further understand God and His Word. I am truly blessed to be a part of Vessel.
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near." (2018)
“When I moved up to this area, it was so refreshing to seek the Lord alongside people who were in a similar state in life as I was--not young, but not old either. I was “free” from the scheduled school day, but not yet committed to lifelong responsibilities & relationships. I know this type of group can be hard to find because it’s a stage of life that can lend itself to much searching and potential instability in career, beliefs, friendships, home, pursuits, etc.
The fact that such a group is hard to find made the opportunity all the sweeter. We are starving for deep, face-to-face community in our country. To walk, talk, think, pray, and celebrate alongside solid souls committed to pursuing Christ Jesus and His Word...what a long-awaited gift and what a great way to stand against Satan’s weapon of isolation. Though a husband and two children are the faces I now see most often, I am thankful for the season I had with this group to pursue the truth of God’s Word.” (2015)
“I remember when Doug Serra came in late one day and then needed food IMMEDIATELY and I asked if you were diabetic hahaha. Then there is the vivid memory of within three minutes someone spilling coffee, someone else breaking a glass and then someone coming out of the bathroom and telling me the toilet was now broken and they asked if I could fix it. I just remember laughing so hard!
But on a serious note, it was amazing to see a group longing to come together, desiring to learn about God so much that even though they didn't have a place to meet they would meet in a park. Hannah made fun of me because right when i met her she told me about the bible study and even though i didn't have a home yet I said " You can use my home!" God then proceeded to provide me with a home. I didn't have a place to live when I moved to Blue Ridge. I thought I would just get an apartment... I didn't realize how small the town I was moving to was. There were no apartments I could just rent so I pulled out a newspaper and started looking at ads. I found a home I loved and it was expensive but it was great even if the homes around it weren't really nice. I thought it was going to work out and then it just fell through and my mom told me "Jessica, many times God allows things to fall through because there is something better out there." Within a few moments I found a better place at half the price and literally on the better side of the tracks. She had 3 other people who wanted it, but she liked me so she allowed me to rent an adorable, two bedroom home right next to downtown Blue Ridge for $450 a month. I was thrilled to have a place, but most of that joy was because now I could immediately have somewhere that the bible study could meet!
One of my favorite memories in that apartment was when we started singing as a group before we had bible study and my neighbors, instead of complaining, told me how much they enjoyed the singing. It was so neat through the years to see God bring different people from all walks of life, in a small town together to worship him. It is also remarkable the things they have gone and done. It’s amazing where a lot of those people are now! For me, I left to help start a church that is now running over 1,200 people. I’ve also now had the privilege of helping with a brand new church plant that is running 210 attendees and I have a new group of 16 people that meets in my home every week. Praise God for His faithfulness!” (2015)
“When I moved back to Georgia after college, I was still figuring out so much of my calling and where that fit among my peers. I started attending a group which is now the ministry of Vessel. I never felt like in my life I had young adults identify with my pursuit in Christ or that I had others to lean on until I came to this group. The feeling of knowing I wasn’t alone and could always count on someone to have my back with encouragement and God’s Word was and is so powerful!
They never judged or tried to force me in any way, but instead edified me like iron sharpens iron. I can truly say this shaped the first few years of my adult life to build a foundation to stand on for the future. This is what the North Georgia Mountains need right now; a generation and a movement coming together in one pursuit of Him.” (2015)
“When I moved to the area over 5 years ago, I was really looking for a young adult community of like minded believers for fellowship and discipleship. It was hard to find one that wasn't for either younger kids, or older folks more situated in life, and I was worried about being able to meet other believers in the community in my life stage. I stumbled upon Vessel which was a small but quickly growing Bible study at the time that Doug and a few others lead diligently, providing that much needed connection to other 20-somethings in the area. It was awesome to see that there was no particular church denomination's hierarchy overarching our gatherings to read God's Word together, while earnestly seeking answers for and discussing our life challenges, needs, desires, and prayers in complete unity.
Vessel was a support for me as a newcomer to the community, and many others as newcomers to Christ, showing so much support beyond our gatherings for each other. It's so awesome to have that group of friends who are believers that you can get together with outside of church. There is so much needed in that in-between phase of life where it’s easy to get dragged into other unfruitful activities that can kill your spiritual life, especially for new believers. Vessel is more than a meeting, a Bible study, or some sort of service you’d find in a church setting; it's a community of friendships who truly support you in your walk with God as you navigate the transitions of this stage of life!” (2015)