By Tiffany Ravedutti

When my husband and I relocated from Illinois to Texas in 2013, everything about our move supported what I felt deep in my heart: my life was changing.

Around that time, my husband and I started our own martial arts academy and transitioned from employees to employers. We welcomed our first daughter into the world and transitioned from newlyweds to new parents. We left the comfort of living near our support system, and ventured away from everything we knew. We even traded iced-over roads for streets lined with palm trees.

Nothing felt the same. And as the feelings of familiarity vanished, so did the sense of safety.

Spiritually, I could feel the tides turning, too.

Immediately upon arrival, we started the church-hunting process. I found myself desperately searching for a church just like the one I left in my hometown. My husband immediately felt drawn to Clear Creek Community Church, but I kept asking to visit, “just one more” to see if I could find the Texas equivalent of my hometown church.

Week after week, we tried church after church and found nothing that felt like home. When we missed a service or hadn’t made plans to check out a new church, we’d go to Clear Creek’s Egret Bay campus.

At one point, we attended a morning service at a nearby church and we both left feeling uneasy. After the service, as we walked to our car, I looked at my husband and asked, “So…do you think we still have time to make it to Creek?”

“I was hoping you’d be up for that!” he replied with relief.

It was during that visit to Egret Bay that I began to entertain the idea that my husband’s discernment was right all along: this was where we belonged.

At the end of the service, when prompted to pray, I felt a strong conviction that I had been approaching this whole church thing the wrong way. Rather than searching for a church that perfectly fit my long list of criteria and could serve me well, I should have been searching for the place where God wanted to use the gifts he had already given me to serve his church.

I looked around at the crowded auditorium and found it hard to believe that there was any gift inside of me that couldn’t already be found in a group that size. Nonetheless, I tucked the conviction in my heart and promised God that I’d explore it further.

Over the next few months, my husband and I joined a small group. Suddenly, the intimidating size of Egret Bay shrunk to people we knew, faces we recognized, and lives that intersected our own.

A few more months later, I decided to follow through with that conviction I felt, and started serving in Student Ministry. As our team huddled, and relationships began to form, the church seemed to shrink even more. Soon enough, there wasn’t a week I walked in that I didn’t know someone.

I loved everything about serving in Student Ministry, but I still had a tugging feeling that I had something more to offer.

Inspired by my experiences serving others at our business and our church family, I began to write posts on social media about the ways in which I could identify God working in the world around me. Every time I wrote something, it was as if this hidden talent (that I never even knew was there) ignited a passion in my heart and grew until it became something I craved.

After writing a post, women I’d known from different times and places in my life would send messages encouraging me to keep writing because I seemed to write their own thoughts. It was when a friend asked me to get a coffee with her that I realized there may be something for me to pursue in writing when she reached across the table, grabbed my hand, and said with tears streaming down her face, “You wrote the words of my heart and reminded me that Jesus sees me. Thank you.”

Somehow, writing seemed to marry my creativity with compassion, and I could no longer ignore the overwhelming desire I had to point people to the grace found in Christ through the written word.

In one Student Ministry huddle, our leader, Aaron Lutz asked the question to the group, “What’s something you see in the world that God is breaking your heart about right now? What’s he asking you to do about it?”

I knew my answer immediately, but I hadn’t spoken it out loud before. When it was my turn to answer, I almost choked on the air I was using to speak.

“I…uh… well, I’ve actually been thinking about this a lot lately, and I think God’s been leading me to write,” I said, staring at the ground.

Startled by my own words, I immediately started dismissing them.

“But, I don’t even know what this is. All I’ve ever known is martial arts and it’s really all I know to do. I don’t know anything about writing…I just…I don’t know.”

Feeling flustered, I looked to Aaron with a hurried half-smile that said, “Okay, next person, please!”

His eyebrows raised in interest and said, “Hey! That’s awesome! Don’t leave today without me introducing you to my friend, Jon.”

After service, Aaron introduced me to Jon Coffey, the director of Story Team.

After a conversation about the power of storytelling, the vision for Story Team, and cultivating a culture of story at Clear Creek, I was hooked!

He explained the process that we’d follow: I’d meet members of the church for coffee and they’d share the story of how God has worked in their lives. I’d write their testimony and it would be shared on the church’s blog to encourage others.

I remember thinking, “So, I get to talk to people about Jesus while drinking coffee? Is this real life?”

What a perfect way to serve my church.

It only took a few minutes into my first interview for me to understand exactly why I felt convicted to shift my church-hunting perspective all those months ago.

To date, there hasn’t been a single, Story Team testimony I’ve had the pleasure of hearing that I haven’t silently swept tears off my cheeks as I’ve listened to the redemption and restoration and goodness of God. There hasn’t been a single story I’ve gotten to share, that I haven’t walked away in awe that God would be gracious enough to give me a front row seat for the work he’s doing in the world.

There hasn’t been a single story I’ve written that my own faith hasn’t been strengthened from hearing.

And along this incredible journey of discovering and using my God-given gifts to serve the church, there hasn’t been a single cup of coffee that I’ve regretted drinking either.

This is Ginger


Meet Ginger.

It was three years ago that God pressed a very particular mission on the heart of Ginger Sprouse.  Having recently opened up her own cooking school in Nassau Bay, Texas, she passed one particular intersection on her way to and from Art of the Meal multiple times a day.  And every day, she would see the same African American man standing at the corner of El Camino Real and Nasa Road 1.  He was always in the same spot, pacing or dancing, waving to those passing by, or sometimes just staring.  Presumably homeless, she couldn’t help but wonder: What was his story?  Who was he?  Why was he always standing at the same location?  But for Ginger, this tug of compassion had not always been a familiar feeling.

Hearing about God’s love was routine for Ginger, having grown up in church, but witnessing His love in action was much more foreign.  Her judgmental family upbringing critically impacted her outlook on both life and Christianity.  She spent most of her life pointing her finger at everyone else and never at herself, and she carried this self-righteous disposition into adulthood.  Nevertheless, Ginger succeeded in creating her own beautiful family.  She and her husband lived a peaceful farm life where she spent her time gardening and homeschooling her two children.  Until the day she threw it all away.

Ginger embraced a sinful lifestyle, left her family, and threw God away as a byproduct.  It was at this time that she was told, “You are the least compassionate person I’ve ever met.  You don’t have a shred of compassion in you that you can throw your family and life away.”  It was time to face the ugly truth about herself—she lacked the very compassion of Christ that she had learned about all those years growing up.

“You know, my prayer for a long time was, ‘Lord make me want to want you because I don’t have that,” Ginger admitted.  Having divorced her husband and strained her relationships with her children, she eventually came to a place in life when she determined to “grow up,” spiritually, and her focus began to shift from herself to Christ and Christ alone.  It was around this time that she discovered Clear Creek Community Church and eventually met her now husband, Dean, who also attended Creek.

Her prayer ever since the Lord brought her back became, “You have to show me how to be compassionate like Christ because I don’t have it in me; it’s not natural to me.”

The funny thing about asking is… you typically shall receive.

Although she was certainly feeling compelled to stop and talk to the man on the corner, she initially resisted the strength of the pull.  Instead, in Jonah-esque fashion, Ginger drove out of her way to work for an entire month so she wouldn’t have to pass by and reconcile the insistent feeling in her gut that she was supposed to stop.

“I didn’t want to stop.  But finally one day, I was driving by and I saw him again, and I called out loud to the Lord, ‘Fine! But you’re going to have to do something because I got nothing!’ and so I pulled over, and that was the first time I ever talked to him.”

Meet Victor.

“I remember it like yesterday,” the thirty-two-year-old autistic street resident recalls about the first time he met Ginger.  He has nothing but positive things to say about the woman who befriended him at his corner.

Ginger recollects a mentally ill man who was in a pretty bad state: unmedicated, unbathed, and not very lucid.  “It was kind of scary… but I looked in his face and there was such pain there; it was like he was trapped.”  And he was—it has been told that Victor Hubbard’s mother dropped him off on the corner years ago and told him to wait there for her to come back.

Victor was still waiting.

“How could I walk away?” Ginger reconciled.  “It was then that I realized: this was compassion. And I started praying for the Lord to heal him and give him enough lucidity that I could have a conversation with him.”

Thus began her regular visits with a man she now describes as sweet, gentle, and eternally optimistic.  “I would take my coffee and we would sometimes just sit there and sometimes chat and sometimes just watch the cars drive by.”

“I would always wait for Ginger to come around the corner,” Victor reminisced, “so we could go do something together and forget about everything else. ”

And then, suddenly, Victor disappeared for two weeks.  While Ginger’s husband, Dean, encouraged her that she was doing everything that she could do—hanging out with him, bringing him sandwiches, bringing him clothes—she struggled with the idea of just leaving him on the corner.  Ginger felt compelled to do more.

“I said you know what? He has 15 sandwiches; he’s got tons of coats; people are bringing him sleeping bags; he has all this stuff, which is good.  But this stuff is not going to get him out of this situation.” And that’s really what the Lord put on Ginger’s heart—what could she do to help transform his circumstances?

“I kept saying, ‘Lord, you have to break my heart for what breaks your heart.’  And the Lord has such a heart for the people who are helpless, and I just said, ‘Okay I have got to get out of my bubble and not be so consumed with myself that I don’t have time.’”  She spent many sleepless nights worrying about him until, finally, her husband agreed she could bring him to their home.

When the weather got cold in December, Ginger began asking Victor how he would feel about coming to her house to get out of the cold.  It was a day neither of them will likely ever forget, and not because of the ice-cold December rain.  As Ginger pulled up to the corner and got out of her car, she voiced six life-changing words: “Do you want to go home?”

To which Victor replied, ‘Yea, I want to go home.’”

Ginger, Dean, and their two teenage children welcomed Victor into their home to bathe, put on clean clothes, eat their food, and sleep—which he did for twelve hours straight that first night.  But Victor wasn’t just invited into their house, he was invited into their family.

Meet the community.

Ginger began making phone calls to rally the community to come together and find Victor the mental health help he needed.  Eventually, she create the Facebook page, This is Victor, as a way to advocate for resources and create a community of people to care for him.  Ginger believed in faith that at least 200 people in the community would recognize Victor as the man from our community, who they also drove past, and rise up to help.

The response from the community was overwhelming.

Today, the Facebook page boasts over 8,000 followers and Victor has received medical attention, meal gift cards, clothing, bicycle transportation, and nearly $15,000 in a gofundme account to go towards finding him a more permanent living situation.  He has become quite the public figure in the community over the past few months, and more recently, has even garnered national attention. After being featured on TV via KHOU, both CBS News and Fox News have also run his story as well as other major news avenues.

However, Ginger says the most popular response to the Facebook page has been people sharing how they have been praying for Victor for years every time they drive by the corner.  “Many people have seen Victor over the years, but not known what else they could do to help except to pray.  And that is what I love about God, that so many people were praying, and all the while the Lord was equipping me to stop.  I feel like I didn’t do much but just show people what they can do.”
Anyone who gets the chance to talk to Victor will tell you that he is an eloquent speaker who so effortlessly paints pictures with his words.  In fact, he is a writer and a musician, and now that he is officially off the streets and temporarily staying in a local hotel, he has his own space to write again.  When asked how he feels about how his life has changed, Victor says he feels like an eagle, “because they symbolize justice, equality, and freedom, and that’s how I feel; I feel like a bird that has been freed.”

And this eagle doesn’t stay inside all day, in fact, he sometimes goes back to visit the corner.  “I go back to the corner just to remind myself where I came from… I was in a war zone and I’ve been through the worst, but I never let it destroy me.  I let my friendships take over, instead,” he says. “You overcome something so it won’t overcome you. You stand over something so it won’t stand over you. I always remember that things can change, and I remember that they did change, so I can still look at the corner like he is my friend.”

Victor isn’t the only one who looks to his past to make sense of his life moving forward.  “It still breaks my heart when I consider the pain and disruption that I caused everyone else in my life,” Ginger admits without a single flippant note in her confession. “But he could never have transformed me if I was still sitting in the middle of my judgmental happy little self.  I feel so sad that I was so hardened that the only way God could transform me was that other people had to be hurt in the process, but I also know that he can use that hurt in their lives to bring them to himself as well.  So I’ve asked the Lord to never let me forget it.”

Ginger has recently given Victor a job at Art of the Meal and admits that they are, “going to be in each other’s lives forever.”  She hopes that one day she and Victor will see someone who needs help and then, together, they can bring someone else into their “circle of overcoming.”

Victor claims he isn’t going anywhere either, “Nobody has a friendship like we have and it’s a long lasting thing because once you become a friend you’re always a friend.” And with a big toothy smile on his face, Victor added, “Other people are already invited to the party, they just gotta come get their invitation.”  To which Ginger laughs, acknowledging she was invited all along.  She just had to show up.