Good Stories

Team photo 5aug17

Good Neighbors: Making a House a Home

On Saturday, Aug 5, 2017, volunteers from the Willowdale community joined forces with the Good Neighbors project management team make a ramp for a new shed. They also added a stairway to the home’s front entrance, retaining walls on either side of a new sidewalk, and concrete steps.

Earlier in the summer, the Good Neighbors crew re-roofed another local house. The family was in a financial bind and living under a roof that was old and leaking. God provided the nice conditions and the perfect balance of workers­—skilled and somewhat skilled. The team stripped off the old roofing material and installed new weather seal and shingles on half of the house. At the end of the day, volunteers were able to ensure that the home was weather tight, and those who didn’t climb onto the roof did a great job of cleaning up the stripped shingles.

“Although many of us came away with a few more aches and pains, it was worth it for a great day of showing the homeowners our love and care,” says project coordinator Lou Phillips. “Many of us didn’t know each other, and by the end of the day, we’d made new friends working all day beside each other. Doing God’s work binds us together as God’s people.”

One of Willowdale’s local outreach partners, Good Neighbors makes homes warmer, safer, drier and healthier for qualified homeowners as an expression of faith in Jesus Christ. Their vision is to eliminate substandard housing in southern Chester County and New Castle County, Del.

To learn more about Good Neighbors, visit



IJM Global Prayer Gathering 2017: May God Arise

On March 3 and 4, 2017, the International Justice Mission­—a Willowdale Global Outreach Partner—held its annual Global Prayer Gathering in Washington, D.C. It was a chance for IJM staff, supporters and volunteers to gather and pray for the freedom of every child, woman and man being abused, trafficked and enslaved around the world. This year’s theme, “May God Arise,” comes from Psalm 68, which begins:

May God arise, may his enemies be scattered; may his foes flee before him.
May you blow them away like smoke—as wax melts before the fire, may the wicked perish before God.
But may the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; may they be happy and joyful.

During the event, Willowdale’s Dave Cucci, Greg and RuthAnn Deveney, Paily and Jennifer Eapen, Paul and Christine Elsen, Greg Lafferty, Dan and Steph McClure, and Luke, Jessica and Kayleigh Zubrod—prayed for specific requests from global field offices, and heard directly from staff and survivors of violence. One powerful story came from a young woman who endured four years of cybersex trafficking in the Philippines and who shared her story of restoration in aftercare. She doesn’t see herself as a victim. Instead, she sees herself as “victorious.” She called on the thousands of people in the room to stand up, raise their fists, and shout together, “I fight human trafficking! I fight! I fight!”

Willowdale partners directly with an IJM field office in India, as its staff works to secure justice for victims of human trafficking, sexual exploitation, and other forms of violent oppression. Willowdale members also had a chance to meet with the field office director. Please pray for him, his wife and two daughters, as they are in the middle of a move—finding a home, settling the girls in school and overcoming language barriers. Also pray for the field office staff as they work toward systemic change to impact the country as a whole.

The Global Prayer Gathering is a great opportunity to learn more about the multifaceted work of IJM and take an active role by doing what CEO and founder Gary Haugen calls “the hard work of prayer.” First-time attendee Steph McClure came away from her GPG experience with feelings of heartbreak and hope. “What was so powerful were the ways that they are literally changing the governmental landscape to combat these injustices on a national scale,” says McClure. “It made their motto—’Until all are free’—a somewhat realistic mantra for me to consider. I walked away from the experience with a deeper understanding of the pain in the world, but also with the yearning to do my part in providing hope and healing.”

To connect with Willowdale’s IJM partnership, contact Luke Zubrod, our IJM partner liaison, at If you have questions for the Global Outreach team, contact

To learn more about IJM, visit



Global Outreach Update: Chiang Mai, Thailand

Dear family and friends,

You may recall us mentioning Payap University a few times over the years. We realize, though, that we never took the time to fully explain what Payap is and what our involvement is like there. Payap University is located in Chiang Mai, Thailand, about 13 hours by car from where we live and work. Payap was established in 1974 as both a seminary and nursing college. Today, it offers majors in most of the usual subjects. The university is a Christian institution, but the majority of the students are Buddhist.

Our organization has an ongoing partnership with Payap, which hosts many of our foreign workers as part of a Linguistics Institute on campus. Vital work includes software development, linguistic research and literacy training. We also work closely with the university’s linguistics department. A lot of the translators from various teams in our region were trained at Payap, which is really the heart behind our involvement—to provide a place of higher education for students from minority groups who want to work in translation or language development for their own people.

For our family and many others, Payap provides the visa we need to live in Thailand. We’ve had several local colleagues receive short-term or certificate training at Payap, and we hope to see more of the same.

Thank you for partnering in this work with us! ­

Ryan and Melanie

To learn more about Willowdale’s Global Outreach programs, click HERE.



Night to Shine 2017: A Rousing Success

For the second straight year, Willowdale Chapel hosted an unforgettable Night to Shine. It took over 400 volunteers to make the evening come together. From the traffic, registration and salon teams, to the food servers, limo drivers and paparazzi, to the activity and karaoke teams, everyone pitched in to make Feb. 10 a truly special evening for the more than 200 prom guests. Here’s what some this year’s participants had to say:

“I am so grateful to you and your church and all the numerous volunteers—and, of course, Tim Tebow—who made Night to Shine such a wonderful event for my daughter. When I saw a picture of her singing karaoke with such a smile on her face, it brought tears to my eyes. Priceless! OK … now I’m crying again.” —Susan Hancock

“Night to Shine brought such a mixed diversity of humans together for a night of love and caring. Everyone was treated with utmost respect and love. It truly was a magical night.” —Sue Temple

“Wow, what a night! We didn’t think our son was going to make it— he wasn’t having a very good week. But, all of a sudden, he wanted to put on his new suit, and off he went. He had a blast. I haven’t seen a smile like that on his face in a very long time.” —Bob Wiederwax

“I just wanted to thank you and all the other volunteers for the fantastic event you and your church put on for a great group of young and old adults in our community and the surrounding area. It’s very hard to put into words how much this meant to many of them—and to the parents, siblings and caretakers of these kids. Please know that your efforts were appreciated more than you will ever know. God bless.” —Denise Waters

To learn more about Night to Shine, visit



A Better Christmas for Young Moms

Young mothers from throughout the region gathered for the YoungMoms Christmas Shopping event at Willowdale’s Kennett Square campus on Dec. 2. Choosing from a wide selection of donated items, the 45 women used the YoungMom Bucks they’d accumulated throughout year by reaching goals and attending meetings and activities to purchase gifts for their families. “We love this event because it allows the girls the dignity to use the Bucks they’ve earned to provide a special Christmas for their children,” says YoungMoms Director Linda Mercner.

Women can also donate Bucks to other young moms. “One of the most lovely moments was when one of our older young moms donated Bucks to a very new young mom whom she’d only met that evening. She then helped her select gifts,” Mercner says. “Many thanks to our Willowdale family for their generosity in making this event possible—and to the over 30 volunteers who helped make this evening so successful.”

To learn more about Young Moms, visit



A Universal Language

Community Engagement Pastor Gustavo Castaneda says you don’t have to speak Spanish to get a lot out of Willowdale Chapel’s new Spanglish gatherings. And if the success of the first two installments is any indication, the language barrier can be easily overcome with an open mind and faith in God’s love.

Gustavo describes the outreach effort as an opportunity for Willowdale to “communicate the kind of church we are—loving God, loving others and loving the world.” Held Fridays at Willowdale’s Kennett Square campus from 7 to 8:30 p.m., Spanglish meetings feature a potluck meal, worship, and teaching in Spanish and English. “Everyone can join us,” says Gustavo. “It’s a family-friendly environment. We have Tex Mex, Puerto Rican, Venezuelan and Colombian food. After 30 minutes, we sing a few songs in Spanish and English. It’s really nice to sing to the Lord in different languages—He understands.”

The singing is followed by a teaching in Spanish and English, and then a closing prayer. “We look to tear down the walls that separate and come together as familia,” says Pastor Jim Conkle, WC Director of Local Outreach. “At the end of the day, I suppose you could say it’s about understanding the other, all while realizing that, in the kingdom of God, there really is no such thing as ‘the other.’”

For updated information on upcoming Spanglish events, visit Willowdale’s Facebook page:



African-American History 101

On November 12, 2016, members of Willowdale Chapel joined WC community engagement coordinator Larry Redmond, senior pastor Greg Lafferty and other church leaders to learn more about the history of African Americans in our area. “It was a safe environment to listen, talk and ask questions about things that they may not have been aware of,” says Redmond.

Stops on the tour included Lincoln University, the first degree-granting historically black university in our nation; Kennett Square’s Bethel A.M.E. Church, where the Kennett Underground Railroad Association’s Michele Sullivan offered some historical insight; and Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church in Philadelphia, one of America’s first African-American congregations. The group ended its day on a delicious culinary note, with soul food at Warmdaddy’s Restaurant in Center City. “It opened my eyes to important parts of our community that I’ve overlooked for years,” says Kerry Lankenau, one of more than 30 WC members who participated. “It’s pretty convicting when we have a college—rich in history—in our own backyards, and the students there feel alone and isolated from the rest of us.”

“There were many intense faces and some serious conversation,” Redmond adds. “We definitely want to do it again—strike while the iron’s hot.”


Willowdale Chapel Run for Recovery

Run for Recovery 5K: A Reason to Celebrate

The inaugural Run for Recovery 5K was held November 6, 2016, at Willowdale Chapel’s Kennett Square campus. And by all accounts, it was an unqualified success. A beautiful fall afternoon provided the perfect backdrop as more than 10 recovery-movement partners and some 20 sponsors came together to support over 300 participants. “We had stickers where participants could write in the people they shared the day with, acknowledging those who’ve lost their battles or those who are still fighting hard for sobriety,” says Kim Holt, a race organizer.

A large chalkboard echoed the event’s tagline: Step by Step Together. It was a place for people to answer the question, “What’s your next step?” The varied responses included “Practice gratitude” and “Keep showing up.”

“Running is a tremendous metaphor for recovery,” says Marc Lucenius, WC pastor and the coordinator of its Celebrate Recovery group. “Both require forming supportive relationships and making the right lifestyle choices.”

This past February, in response to the WC Local Outreach Grant Project, a group of Celebrate Recovery members established a nonprofit organization to host the Run for Recovery 5K. “It was a day full of meaning and connection and victory,” says Holt. “We’re looking forward to making it an annual event.”



Washing Cars to End Slavery

Next Generation Pastor Johnny Johnston issued a call, and enterprising teens responded in impressive fashion.

At an October 2016 Fusion event dubbed Freedom Sunday, Johnny challenged students to think of ways they could further the cause of one of our global partners, International Justice Mission, to end slavery around the world. A small group conceived an elaborate fundraiser involving music, a lemonade stand and a car wash. With God steering them, they powered forward to bring the idea to life.

Led by two of our seniors, Emily Sauer and Lydia Pebly, the initiative was held at both campuses on October 23. “There were 50-plus students and several adults, as well,” says Lydia. “The best part of the day was getting lost in the act of service. I wasn’t stressed about how the success of the car wash would reflect on me. I was thanking and worshiping God instead.”

In the end, more than 100 cars drove off with clean windows and tires, and event organizers came away with over $4,000 in donations for IJM to continue its Christ-centered calling to protect the poor from violence in the developing world.

To learn more about IJM, visit