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What God Did: 2023

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2023



Harborside Christian Church 2023

“You will be enriched in every way so that

you can be generous on every occasion,

and through us your generosity will result in

thanksgiving to God.”

2 Corinthians 9:11

We humbly acknowledge that all the achievements in

2023 are solely attributable to the grace of God. This

document does not serve as a testament to Harborside

Church’s efforts but rather as an opportunity to

reflect and give thanks to God for His remarkable

accomplishments through our faithful obedience. May

you be uplifted by our cherished stories and embrace

gratitude for the blessings bestowed upon us by God

at Harborside this year.



Contents

A Message From Kurt Parker 1

5 Things Revealed This Year 2

Our Strategies 3

We Worship The Triune God 4

Digital Impact 6

Harborside Music 8

We Teach The Holy Scriptures 10

2023 Sermons 11

2023 Baptisms 14

We Connect People To People 16

“Hannah’s Journey: No Longer An Island” 17

Kids 18

Students 20

We Mentor 22

“God’s Plan Is The Best Plan” 23

“Invited Into Purpose” 24

“From Internship To Impact” 25

Harborside Chapel 26

We Empower Outreach 28

“Jesus In A Cup” 29

Harborside Cares 30

“Empowered By Love” 32

“Faith To Build A Home For Love” 34

We Value Generosity 36

“Hope Amidst The Storm” 37

We Are His Priests 38

“We Don’t Plant Churches, We Plant Pastors” 41

Looking Forward: 35 Acres 42



A Message From Kurt Parker

The Lord continues to show up and show off. As I scan

through the following pages, I am amazed by how

gracious God has been to us this year. We are undeserving

to partner with Him in Kingdom work. Yet, in His mercy,

we are given a purpose that bears fruit, fruit that lasts

throughout eternity. We have His favor. We will continue

to submit everything to the Lord. We lay our crowns at His

feet. We look to Him alone for vision, clarity, and direction.

All of this is for His glory.

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably

more than all we ask or imagine, according to his

power that is at work within us, to him be glory

in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all

generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

Ephesians 3:20

1


5 Things

Revealed This Year

We Raise Up The Next Generation.

In 2023, our passion for raising up the next

generation came to the forefront. However,

our aim goes beyond simply raising up the

next generation; it’s about empowering

them for ministry. In essence, we’re not

just engaged in ministry; we’re actively

equipping future ministers. Our goal is not

for the next generation to merely attend

church; we aspire for them to become

the church.

We Are An Outreach Organization.

In the past year, our outreach vision has

become more defined. Rather than treating

outreach as a separate entity, we see

that it is now our duty to be an outreach

organization. We view each ministry and

initiative as a vehicle to connect with

our community and the broader world.

Outreach has transcended mere financial

support to external organizations; we’re

now equipping our church ministries and

initiatives to take on kingdom work that was

once outsourced.

2

We Commission The Church.

For years now at Harborside, God has

emphasized our identity as ‘priests,’ echoing

the significance outlined in 1 Peter 2:9. This

year, our church wholeheartedly embraced

this identity, leading to a commissioning

that is narrowing the subconscious gap

between the clergy and congregation.

We Believe In Family.

2023 brought a powerful call to worship

as a family, a core value we share with

God, the creator of the first family. This

year, we witnessed remarkable growth and

community building within Harborside

Marriage. The Harborside Chapel extended

its reach to unchurched couples, sharing

the gospel and marital wisdom. It’s clear

that God blessed us with the mission of

empowering family ministry.

We Serve Him By Creating

Environments For Encounters.

Our mission is to love and lead people

into encounters with the fullness of God.

As a local church this year, our focus was

on creating environments where these

encounters were possible. We saw God

manifest His greatness and power, touching

and transforming lives forever.


We Worship The Triune God.

We Teach The Holy Scriptures.

We Connect People To People.

We Mentor.

We Empower Outreach.

We Value Generosity.

OUR

STRATEGIES

3


WE

WORSHIP

THE

TRIUNE

GOD

4


This is what the Harborside family

looked like on an average Sunday.

1213

437

adults in person

households online

249 kids

144 volunteers

5


Digital Impact

112,834

sermon and

media plays

26,351

people have the

Harborside App

2,931

app downloads

this year

6


22

countries

reached

44

states

reached

7


Music

This Year’s Data:

2,159,400

*Reimagined Vol. 1

music streams

369,062

*Secret Place Vol. 2

music video views

350,399

music listeners

Meeting Place Vol. 1

2

albums released

Lugar Secreto

8

* Released in 2023


All Time Data:

9,069,879

Secret Place Vol. 1

music streams

156

Won’t Wait Till Heaven

countries reached

A Sound For The World

Through a Spotify playlist, I somehow

stumbled upon the song “Temple.” As I

prepared to lead worship for our group in

North Africa, it became an anthem for me

specifically but also for our group as the

Father was taking me through a season

of really encountering His role as “Father”

and my invitation and position as “beloved

child.” Many people from our Muslim

community believed they needed to go

to a temple to meet with God, but as we

declared these songs over their lives, we

have seen and believe we will continue to

see God awaken them to the truth that they

are the temple.

On top of that, as I reached out to

Harborside Music to get the chords so I

could lead the song, we also connected

deeply for the passion to see worship go

out to the nations. Harborside Music is

committed to praying with us during the

month of Ramadan to cover our country

with 24/7 prayer. I immediately sensed

a kindred spirit with the heartbeat of

Harborside Music and the desire for worship

to passionately pour out from every tribe,

tongue, and nation.

Thank you, Harborside, for helping us to

pour out our worship, be encouraged as

we minister in a dark place, and give us a

renewed passion to be “Face to Face” with

our Savior. I look forward to going deeper

with Jesus with you all as you continue to

proclaim the coming Kingdom through

your music.

J, North Africa

9


WE

TEACH

THE

HOLY

SCRIPTURES

10


2023 Sermons

Kurt Parker

“Now, I know that because of American

consumerism, we have made worship

about us.

We say, “I liked the worship,” or “I liked the

songs.”

That’s really not the right comment. This is

not for you. This worship is for Him.

We come into this place together as a

body of believers, and we’re giving Him

glory and honor because He’s worthy. He

sent His Son on a cross to die for us, to

shed His blood so we could be forever free.

And so worship, it’s not for you. It’s not

about you. It is always for Him.”

“We have to get to the point where we

listen for an audience of One.

We’re listening to our Maker to give us

our acceptance. If you look for flesh and

blood to give you acceptance, you will

be so discouraged and so disappointed

in this life. But you have someone who

crafted you and made you, who loves you

and has accepted you. He received you

and is just crazy about you.”

11


Ethan Parker

“The songbird is such a great example for us. Scientists recently

were starting to discover how they learn to sing so beautifully. They

discovered that the songbird sits near the father bird, and they

echo what the father sings. Jesus, in John 12:49 states, “For I did not

speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to

say all that I have spoken.” The King of Kings recognized this truth.

We are not here to share our thoughts and opinions. We are here

to be an echo of the Father. This is our posture in life. To become a

child who lives to echo what we hear our heavenly Father saying.”

Paz Parker

“Our bodies were made to have rest. Can you imagine going days

without being able to lay your head on your pillow at night and

going on without a break? Your body will eventually say something

to you, “I need to rest!” And just like our physical body needs rest,

can you imagine how our souls also might need it? Our souls carry

offense, burdens, sadness, and maybe even depression. We’re

carrying that in our soul and it weighs on us. Could it be that there’s

also some sort of break, some sort of rest that our soul needs each

and every day?”

Amos Pierre

“In the midst of hard times in my life or in other people’s lives, I

have given this recommendation. I have preached it. “Pray that

God will show up in the middle of your hard times.” I say things like,

“I’m waiting for God to show up in my life. I need God to show up.”

That’s almost right. The full truth is God will not show up in your

hard times because he never left.”

Krystal Pierre

“Many times, we are very clear on “where” we need to go. We’re

clear on the “where” of the next step. We say, “I know I should

pursue that job.” “I should pursue that relationship.” “I should

pursue that endeavor.” “I should pivot in this area,” but we’re

just not exactly sure about the time. Furthermore, some of us

may even feel the pressure from the Lord or people around us

to get the timing right. But this is the kindness of God: He gave

us the advantage of the Holy Spirit to not just know where we

are supposed to be but also the perfect timing for when we’re

supposed to be there.”

12


Danita Parker

“Ephesians 6:10 says, “Put on the full armor of God…” So that you

can sit down? No! “...so that you can stand.” You have to stand.

There’s no passivity in this. You must stand against the devil’s

schemes. We stand against his strategies. We stand against his

words, his tricks, his schemes. We stand against this. What are you

hearing? What accusations are you hearing about yourself? Stand

up against the schemes and the attacks and the plans of

the enemy.”

Andrew Frazier

“Many of us have been to a wedding. Something we always look

forward to is seeing the groom’s face when the bride is walking

down the aisle. We see the doors open. We look at the bride, in

holiness, prepared in beauty, free from impurity, walking towards

the groom. And then we look at the groom. We often see tears,

intense emotion. Incredible love. I can’t help but think that the

heart of God is the exact same way when you submit to Him.”

Kaylyn Frazier

“Blessing is a spiritual practice of forgiveness. Blessing those who

hurt you is like a pumice stone that works away at the callus of our

hearts. Because of this, forgiveness is able to sink down into our

hearts and not just come out of our mouths.”

Matt Ternes

“What do you pray for in hard seasons of life - in moments of doubt

or confusion - when things aren’t going well? If you’re anything

like me you probably pray for protection, for deliverance, for ‘it’ to

end, or for a resolution to come about. And there’s nothing wrong

with that. God wants us to come to Him in prayer with those things.

But notice what the Apostles did. Before they prayed for a positive

outcome around them, they prayed for a faithful spirit within them.

They prayed for boldness.”

13


Baptisms

Alex Lewis

Out of Darkness Into Light

During Easter morning services at

Harborside Church in 2023, a remarkable

story unfolded as Alex Lewis took the

plunge into the waters of baptism. With

a smile on his face, Alex shared the

deeply personal journey that led him to

this momentous occasion.

“I had a lot of darkness in my life, a lot

of depression, and anxiety,” Alex shared.

“I felt so empty.” But in his darkest hour,

he found an unexpected messenger of

hope - his manager. Overwhelmed by

despair, he confided in his co-worker,

who, sensing the gravity of the situation,

led him to his manager.

In a pivotal moment, that manager

revealed how Jesus Christ had once

saved his own life. He shared his

personal testimony of redemption and

grace. Because of this, Alex decided to

give faith a chance. “I came to church

with my dad one time, and everything’s

changed since. All the darkness slowly

went away thanks to Jesus.”

Alex’s baptism, was a poignant

statement of newfound faith. His life,

once shrouded in darkness, now shines

brightly with the light of hope and

redemption, proving that sometimes,

the Gospel is shared by the most

unexpected sources.

14


252 people

baptized

Allen Cole

A Renewed Commitment

At a July beach baptism,

Honeymoon Island set the scene

for Allen Cole’s heartfelt revelation

as he stepped into the waves,

aiming to share his personal

reasons for choosing to be

baptized once again, in his

own words.

“I was baptized a long time ago,

around seven or eight. And that

was when I felt like I was being

forced to go to church,” Allen

reflected. Despite veering away

from regular churchgoing, he felt

a pull to return, driven by his son’s

unwavering faith. “I didn’t need

to understand everything,” he

mused. “I just needed to be there.

Hearing my son talking about

God and Jesus… it was completely

different.”

“If I’m going backward, how can

he go forward?” Allen said. His

baptism symbolized renewed

commitment to Christ: “I got to

put myself where I’m supposed to

be and let God take the wheel.”

15


WE

CONNECT

PEOPLE

TO

PEOPLE

16


Hannah’s Journey:

No Longer an Island

Faith, Friendship, and Transformation

244

people

attended

NEXT Class

1261

people were

in a group

In January 2023, Hannah, a member of

the Harborside community, embarked on

a transformative journey from isolation to

fellowship. Her story is a powerful testament

to Next Class’s impact on her life.

“In January 2023, we started the churchwide

fast. Pastor Kurt asked us to write

down our ‘mountains.’ My biggest mountain

was that I had no fellowship. I didn’t have

any Christian friends,” Hannah recounted,

reflecting on the realization that would set

her on this incredible path.

During our church-wide fast, Hannah

recognized this need for fellowship and

believed joining the Next Class could be her

path to a community. Her intuition proved

correct as she entered the next class, and

a group of wonderful women immediately

embraced her. “Week after week, I sat with

them. We went through our fast together,

and we supported each other,”

Hannah recalled.

On the last day of the class, one of these

newfound friends introduced Hannah to

Lynette, a staff member her age. Their

connection was instant, and they signed up

for a Connect Group together. She shared,

“Through that Connect Group, I have made

15 new best friends. I went from sitting

alone every Sunday morning to a row filled

with friends. These women are truly an

answered prayer.”

These friendships inspired Hannah

to embrace her identity as a “priest”:

something that we are all called to

according to scripture (1 Peter 2:9). “Through

Next Class, I was able to get involved in

serving, honestly, just through meeting

girls in my Connect Group,” she explained.

Learning about the High School ministry

through her friend Jacey, Hannah was drawn

to walk out her “priest” identity and decided

to get involved. “I just really was craving

more. I needed to be involved. I needed to

serve the Lord.”

Hannah’s story

illustrates the power

of faith, the beauty

of friendship, and

the fulfillment of

finding one’s place

at Harborside. She

realized that no

one needs to be an

island: that within

faith communities, we find companionship,

support, and God-given purpose.

17


Kids

2023 was incredible in Harborside Kids.

In the first half of the year, we studied

the Bible in our original curriculum, Truth

Tokens. Following adventurers through a

story-line, we discovered who God is and

who we are in Him. Many children decided

to accept Jesus as Savior, receive the Holy

Spirit, and get baptized.

Mid-summer, we hosted an on-site camp,

Kingdom Adventure Week. Our kids learned

about being priests in God’s Kingdom

through lessons, worship, games, and art. I

saw spiritual growth in just a few short days

as they opened the Bibles and had a true

“secret place” time.

18

In the fall, God deposited another original

curriculum, Kingdom Core Values. We

emphasized worship, the Word, God’s

presence, and His people. Our children

laid hands on one another in blessing,

worshiped with dancing and singing,

studied the Bible, and gave offerings. But

my favorite moment each week was seeing

a room full of children and committed

leaders on their knees praying.

We aren’t just a children’s ministry; we have

children who minister as priests. We are

leading our children to lead worship. We are

leading our children to know and teach the

Holy Scriptures. We are leading our children

to encounter God’s presence and hear His

voice in the secret place, then carry it into

the meeting place. We are leading our

children to bless one another as priests. We

are leading our children to bring their own

sacrificial offerings. And we are leading our

children to grow in wisdom, stature, and

favor with God and man.

Joy Ellcessor

Family Ministry Director


Not Just

A Kid’s

Ministry,

But Kids

Who

Minister

617

total kids

ministered

to this year

74

kids who

ministered

to us

33

children

dedicated

to the Lord

19


Students

Harborside Family, I’m honored to tell you

that God has been doing mighty things in

the youth ministry for our middle and high

school students. This year, we had around

25 students get baptized, a testimony

to how God has revealed Himself as real,

powerful, and life-changing to the next

generation. Personally, this year has been

transforming and humbling as their pastor

and leader. Not only has God done great

things in the lives of these students but also

in my own life alongside them. The Gospel

has become clearer and clearer, and His

voice has become louder in my life than

ever before. It is an honor to grow alongside

these students.

I want to share some brief stories of how

God is moving in this ministry. Since our

spring break trip with our high schoolers,

life and joy have been breathed back into

our students and their hunger for Jesus. I’m

seeing freshmen boys lift their hands and

worship Jesus and pour out their hearts to

Him, not prompted by anyone but simply

because they are grasping the truth of

the Gospel.

I got to meet with a single father who

has a 6th-grade daughter. He shared an

encouraging story with me. Our middle

schoolers started joining the adults in main

worship services on Sunday mornings

before heading upstairs to have fellowship

and teaching with each other. This father

told me, “Usually, I sit by myself during

worship, or I sit with a friend or two that I

know. But ever since the students started

joining in worship, I now get the opportunity

to worship with my daughter, even if it’s

just for 30 minutes. It’s humbling and gives

me great joy.” Our middle school students

are learning how to truly worship their God

by being together with the church body. It

is translating to our Monday night student

services, where we get to see them worship

independently, from their own love for God,

and not just because their parents do it.

Max DeOliveira

Student Director

20


40

students

beginning

2023

120

students

ending

2023

Anthony

Shahir

“God has been working through my life in so many different

ways. I used to hang around bad people and do bad

things, and I never felt at peace with myself with anything

I did. It was to the extent that I ignored what anybody

and everybody would say. Then I went on this trip called

Breakaway with Harborside Students, and it really opened

my eyes. I never really knew God and realized I had to fix

that. I never worshiped Him. I used to believe that worship

was very dull. I never thought anything about it. I would just

sit down, watch everybody close their eyes, and praise the

Lord. But I really just sat there. I didn’t realize until Breakaway

that my purpose is to praise and worship Him. Breakaway

was when I realized that Jesus was the only way I could fix

myself. So, whether it’s being a leader or learning to worship

Him, God has now been working through me in many

different ways.”

21


Summer Internship

20

interns

26

shadows

33

disciples

WE MENTOR

22


God’s Plan Is

The Best Plan

Josh Platt’s Journey Of

Surrender To The Lord

Josh’s musical journey began early, as he

received his first drum set at the age of

five. By the time he reached high school,

he was immersed in music, attending a

conservatory for the arts. He was driven

by a passion for music and a dream of

becoming a drummer in Los Angeles,

but his relationship with the Lord was

still in its early stages. In high school, his

love for drumming intensified, and upon

graduation, he received a scholarship to

the University of Miami to pursue a major in

studio music and jazz.

Josh’s dreams of making it as a professional

drummer were within his grasp, but then the

unexpected happened – COVID-19 struck.

As the world came to a standstill, Josh

found himself at a crossroads, questioning

the path he had chosen. In a conversation

with God, he said, “Lord, I don’t know what

I’m supposed to do now.” It was during

this time of uncertainty and reflection that

Josh’s faith took center stage.

Returning to Harborside for a

worship event, Josh had a profound

encounter with the Lord. “I was very

touched by the Lord. That was a very

beautiful and life-changing encounter.”

There, he felt a calling to ministry and a

desire to pursue a deeper relationship with

God. This experience marked a pivotal

moment in his life and set the stage for the

next chapter of his journey.

After graduating from college, Josh took

a leap of faith and joined the internship

at Harborside. He recounted, “I remember

thinking, if I don’t gain anything physically,

“… if I don’t gain anything …

at least I will gain wisdom

from the Lord. And to me,

that’s worth everything.”

- Josh Platt

monetarily, or communally, at least I will

gain wisdom from the Lord. And to me,

that’s worth everything.” The internship

deepened his understanding of the Bible,

grew his leadership skills, and supercharged

his walk with the Lord. “I just saw the Lord

in Harborside staff’s lives. And just simply

being around that changed my life. It wasn’t

necessarily anything that was said, done, or

given. It was just being in the presence of

people who were led by the Lord.”

Today, Josh Platt is on staff and is a

vital part of weekly Harborside worship

encounters as a music director. His story

reminds us that God’s plan is always the

best plan. “The internship program was a

time of stripping back everything that I had

known because up until that point, it was

all ‘my music.’ I was here for music, but I was

also here for the Lord. I was divided,” Josh

remembered. “So the Lord began rebuilding

me. He placed me in a healthy community

of people, encouraging me to pursue the

only thing that mattered: my relationship

with the Lord and the plan that He has for

my life.”

23


Invited Into

Purpose

Where Karinna Lunter Is Today

Karinna Lunter’s transformative journey

into the world of ministry began during her

Harborside internship in the summers of

2018, 2019, and 2020. Her first summer was

spent in the kids’ department, followed by

two years in youth ministry.

“I was also coming out of a season of my

life where I was recovering from just a lot

of poor decisions and a lot of bad friend

groups… I didn’t think I was worthy. And so

when Harborside staff saw me and said,

“Hey, we want you to be a part of this,” I was

like, “Do you know who I am? Do you know

the things I’ve done?” But they didn’t see

that. They said, “You need to be a part

of this.”

God used the internship to spark her

passion for ministry. Post high school and

internship, Karinna moved to Tampa to

attend USF. After months of prayer for

Christian community and purpose, she

found her place in Delight Ministries, a

student-led initiative. Delight Ministries

focuses on fostering vulnerability and

shared stories among women, promoting

strong community, accountability,

and discipleship.

Karinna helps lead Delight as the

Connections Director. Now, she is leveraging

her passion for ministry, “I was so passionate

about just being intentional with “the one”...

the girl that comes in for the first time.”

Karinna’s leadership skills, nurtured during

her Harborside internship, played a crucial

role in her ability to grow Delight Ministries

“I was encouraged to take

the reins and be a part of

something bigger than me.”

- Karinna Lunter

and help start a young adult ministry at

Creekside Church in Tampa, FL. She loves

helping newcomers feel welcomed and

valued, just as she once did. God has

blessed the Creekside young adult ministry

with rapid expansion, with attendance

growing from 9 to 75 in just a few weeks.

“I first found a true spark for ministry work

because of the internship. It specifically

happened when I was handed responsibility

for the first time, like true responsibility, in

the sense that I didn’t feel equipped. I was

encouraged to take the reins and be a part

of something bigger than me.”

24


From Internship

To Impact

Where Jocelyn Smith Is Today

In the summer of 2022, Jocelyn Smith

became an intern at Harborside, and her

experience turned out to be far more than

just a professional internship. Jocelyn,

who was studying psychology at Johnson

University in Knoxville, Tennessee, reflects

on her time at Harborside as nothing short

of amazing.

“It became less about my professional

studies and more about my spiritual growth

and relationship with God,” Jocelyn explains.

One of the things that struck her most

during her time at Harborside was the

genuine love for Jesus that the staff

embodied. “Their love for Jesus was evident

and real in everything they did,” she recalls.

During her time at Harborside, Jocelyn had

no idea what her post-graduation life would

look like, but she recalls, “God began to

show me that my future work would involve

working with those loved by Him whose

situations break His heart.” Little did she

know, her involvement at Garland Oaks

would become a fulfillment of those words

spoken over her during her time

at Harborside.

Jocelyn concludes with deep gratitude for

her internship experience, saying, “I am

forever grateful for the opportunity to do

my internship at Harborside and experience

all that God had for me… so much more

than I could’ve imagined!”

But Jocelyn’s journey didn’t end with her

internship; it was just the beginning. Fast

forward to today, and she has found her

calling in a Christ-focused non-profit

called Street Hope TN, working to eliminate

DMST (domestic minor sex trafficking) in

Tennessee and beyond. She serves as a

Resident Assistant at Garland Oaks, a safe

house dedicated to restoring the lives of

young survivors of DMST through the love

of Jesus.

Jocelyn’s journey from her internship to her

current role is a testament to God at work

within Harborside’s internship program. She

shares, “Through Harborside, God showed

me that a relationship with Him is most

important. He showed me what can happen

when you let Him break down your walls

and let Him reveal Himself to you.”

“Through Harborside,

God showed me that a

relationship with Him is

most important.”

- Jocelyn Smith

25


The Chapel

Changing The Trajectory Of Marriage Across The Nation

160

couples

mentored

90 marriage

mentors

23

states

reached

26


“Thank you both so much for making

our special day so beautiful. It was

so much better than we could have

imagined. Harborside Chapel will

always hold a special place in our

hearts! Thank you to both you and

all the team at Harborside! We will

always cherish our sessions with Jeff

and Deneen!”

- Megan & Brian

27


WE

EMPOWER

OUTREACH

28


Jesus In A Cup

Rhonda Montrose: Finding

Harborside Through HavenHouse

Rhonda’s story began with her move to

Safety Harbor from the east coast of Florida

in search of a new job and a fresh start.

Over time, some friends told her about the

HavenHouse Eatery and Coffee Bar. It was

the allure of a welcoming environment,

organic coffee, and the intriguing fact that

it wasn’t overtly religious that drew her in.

“I just liked the coffee because it was so

different. It was so organic. You know, really

natural tasting,” Rhonda recalls. Rhonda

notes that what sets HavenHouse apart is

that it doesn’t overtly preach about Jesus;

instead, it embodies the Gospel by its

actions and the welcoming atmosphere

it provides. She said, “HavenHouse is a

place that loves people where they’re at.”

HavenHouse became her safe place and

her sanctuary. It became a place where she

found solace and, in time, a second family.

Rhonda became a “regular” and formed

friendships with several HavenHouse

staff members.

Her desire for a spiritual community led her

to inquire with HavenHouse staff about local

churches. However, the road to finding her

spiritual home was not a direct one. Rhonda

had moved to Safety Harbor to escape the

hustle and bustle of larger cities, and she

was initially hesitant about attending a big

church like Harborside. She was searching

for a smaller, more intimate community

that she hoped would allow her to build

meaningful connections.

While searching, she unexpectedly

encountered Danita Parker at the beach

in what felt like a divinely ordained

connection. The two strangers separately

found themselves collecting seashells

on the same beach. Their interaction

spontaneously began because they both

found identical heart-shaped shells. From

this, a spiritual conversation ignited, and

in Rhonda’s words, “Her heart for Jesus… it

filled my soul.”

Their divine meeting eventually led Rhonda

to attend the Harborside Next Class, which

proved to be an eye-opening experience for

her. It wasn’t like any other church interest

class she had ever attended; it focused

on making disciples and was filled with

profound insights about the Bible. The Next

Class opened the door for Rhonda to dive

deeper into the Harborside community. She

began volunteering and felt an immediate

sense of belonging.

“Y’all are Jesus in a cup,” Rhonda remarks,

highlighting how the staff at HavenHouse

loved her and lived out their faith daily.

“Harborside is “being” the Gospel and not

just saying it with words, but like actually

inviting people into the mission.” The

community, love, and genuine connections

she found there helped her endure

challenging periods of her life. Rhonda

concludes, “I asked God for a church

community, a real church family. I don’t

want to just sit in a pew. And God answered

my prayers.”

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Harborside

Cares

We Have A Growing

Community Of Foster

Families In Our Church.

61

team members

26

responders

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Leading Counties Of

Children Entering The

Foster Care System

#1

#2

Hillsborough

Pinellas

In 2023, Harborside Church introduced “Harborside

Cares,” a foster care initiative designed to address

the heart of a pervasive issue – broken families. The

mission is to provide every child with the opportunity to

encounter Jesus within a healthy,

church-supported home.

In the state of Florida, Hillsborough and Pinellas counties

top the charts with the highest number of children

entering the foster care system.

In Tampa Bay alone, an astonishing 8 children find

themselves in foster care every single day.

The need for action was crystal clear, and this year, we

witnessed Harborsiders step up to make a difference.

Within “Harborside Cares,” there are three layers.

Volunteers known as “Responders” are those who

signed up to answer any general foster care need in our

local area. There are also “Care Communities,” which

are composed of team members dedicated to loving

and serving a specific Harborside foster family. Finally,

there are foster and adoptive families that are on the

front lines serving our local children. In the following

pages, you can read just a few of the many incredible

testimonials of what God did this year in foster and

adoptive care at Harborside.

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Empowered

By Love

David and Elizabeth’s Miraculous

Journey with Harborside Cares

We are the Konz family, and we have been

blessed by Harborside Cares. Elizabeth

and I (David) have attended Harborside for

seven years with our three kids: Braxton (10),

Dakota (8), and Makenna (7). We committed

to supporting vulnerable children as a family

ministry for Jesus, which has led us to serve

as a foster family for our community. Our

journey as a foster family is a testament

to the profound impact of Harborside

Cares group within our church and, most

importantly, God’s miraculous provision. I

would love to share a bit about our journey

and how your support helps families like ours.

A Journey of Compassion

Guided by the prompting of the Holy

Spirit, our family embarked on our foster

care journey two years ago. We wanted

to provide a stable and loving home for

children who needed it the most, and we

were “all in.” Over the years, we opened our

hearts and home to eight different foster

children, each bringing their own unique set

of challenges and needs. However, our lives

were forever changed when we welcomed

two brothers into our family. We’ll call the

boys Kyle (6) and Judah (4).

Facing the Storm

The first four months with Kyle and Judah

were a tumultuous whirlwind of emotions

and challenges. It was like 17 days in a

row of violent episodes. Kicking, biting,

spitting …extreme behaviors. These boys,

affected profoundly by their traumatic past,

exhibited big behaviors, a typical response

for many foster children facing change they

can’t control, uncertainty, and pain. These

behaviors became less frequent, but the

cumulative effect of the rollercoaster was

wearing on our biological family with loss of

appetite (Elizabeth), skin rashes from stress

(Dakota), and shutting off natural

empathy (Braxton).

A Beacon of Hope: Harborside Cares

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After four months of chaos and a family

pushed to our limit, a ray of hope emerged

in the form of Harborside Cares, a foster

care ministry rooted in our church

community. Harborside Cares came along

and helped us at a time when we needed

it most. The support we received from

volunteers and the church family was

nothing short of miraculous. From meals,

prayer, and emotional and physical support,

Harborside Cares became integral to the

success of our foster care journey by helping

us navigate the turbulent waters.


Thriving Against All Odds

The boys showed gains from a consistent

schedule with family meals around the

table and regular attendance at Harborside.

However, Elizabeth and I realized that our

home, though filled with love and healthy

relationships, was not enough to heal the

deep psychological wounds carried by Kyle

and Judah. We knew we couldn’t fix the

core trauma that was buried in there. In a

thoughtful decision by the system of care

team, the boys were moved to a therapeutic

home environment. The aim was specialized

care and a focused environment to help

stabilize them before the start of the next

school year. We saw God move in the

transition in many ways, affirming our

portion of the race had run its course.

An Emotional Farewell

The most heart-wrenching part of our

journey came when Elizabeth and I had to

say goodbye to Kyle and Judah. Our oldest

Braxton shared through his tears, “Foster

care is hard, Dad. We love them as much as

we can, then one day they’re gone.” I had

to tell these two boys, who we had been

pouring into for eight months straight, that

they were going to be moving out of our

home … That was the hardest conversation

I’ve ever had in my whole life. In the storm

came a glimpse of sunshine. When I told the

boys about the new foster parents, the first

two questions were:

1: ‘Memaw (the new foster mom), can she

cook?’

2: ‘Does Memaw go to Harborside?’”

When we met the new foster parents, it

was clear that this therapeutic home was

God’s plan. I explained to Kyle and Judah,

“Memaw basically lives at church. She goes

almost every day.” We saw that the Holy

Spirit would be the source of healing for the

boys and the Konz family. God was working!

It Takes a Village

After six months in the therapeutic home,

the boys are now matched with an adoptive

family and are set to move in on December

22nd, just before Christmas. Praise the Lord!

We hope and pray that the Konz family and

Harborside Cares have left an indelible mark

on the lives of Kyle and Judah. They still

have a long road on their path to healing—

but permanency and prayer are precisely

what they need.

Our family provided a thoughtful transition

with the support of Harborside Cares.

Anxiety and pressure were reduced each

day. This church community led songs

around the table at mealtime, played

catch in the backyard, and provided lastminute

supervision. After the boys left and

we had a few months of family recovery,

Elizabeth’s appetite returned, Braxton

engaged, and Dakota’s skin healed. As a

family, we have returned to fostering and

look forward to helping as many kids as we

can in the future. Our family provided the

base camp, but this church and Harborside

Cares helped us reach the summit. From the

bottom of our hearts, Thank you!

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Faith To Build A

Home For Love

The Remarkable Adoption Story Of

The Sandoz Family

Elizabeth, a single foster parent for many

years, had always been driven by the desire

to foster-to-adopt children. However, she

faced significant hurdles as the system

generally favored two-parent families

for adoption. The thought of repeatedly

bonding with children only to have her heart

broken when she couldn’t adopt them was

a painful reality. But God had something

incredible in store for her.

Later, Elizabeth married Gerry, and the

discussions about adoption began. “I

prayed about it for five years,” Elizabeth

reveals. During this period, she and Gerry

became mentors through the Big Brothers

Big Sisters program, forming a deep

connection with three children from a local

group home.

Their journey with these children, however,

was fraught with challenges. The COVID-19

pandemic and other hurdles disrupted their

mentorship, creating a painful separation.

“We got our hearts ripped out,” Elizabeth

says, but they didn’t give up. Jesus was their

anchor. Instead of despairing, they kept

their trust in the higher plan. They prayed

and continued searching for the right

children, confident they would find them.

Meanwhile, Gerry was designing a new

house in Dunedin, a retirement home

intended for the couple. However, his

perspective shifted after a conversation

with a friend. “This adoption thing. My wife,

I know how dear it is to her, but I’m 67. My

friend said, ‘What’s it matter? You’re going

to live to 124 anyway. Come on.’” I thought,

“Okay, so this is my Abraham story.”

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In faith, Gerry decided to redesign the

house without telling Elizabeth, expanding

it to make additional rooms for future


adopted children. When he finally revealed

this to Elizabeth, they both shared joyous

tears and excitement.

The faith decision to build their family

home in advance ultimately compelled

them to surrender to God’s divine plan

wholeheartedly. Though the journey was

arduous and marked by heartaches, the

couple unwaveringly placed their trust in

the hands of the Almighty.

Soon after, their prayers were answered.

The case manager introduced them to two

sibling girls, Sterling and Ayda. The bond

was instant. The adoption process moved

faster than expected, and before they knew

it, the girls were officially part of their family.

“There was a God movement in all of it,”

Elizabeth reflects, recognizing that faith and

patience had guided them to this moment.

Their adoption day was an emotional event

filled with tears of joy shared with family

and friends. The judge asked the girls if they

wanted to proceed with the adoption, and

they answered with a resounding “Yes!”

At one point, “A Harborside staff member

told the girls in that courtroom, “When you

were born, God knew this was the plan. This

home is where you were supposed to end

up,” Gerry recounted. “There wasn’t a dry

eye in the room.”

In hindsight, Elizabeth and Gerry see the

hand of God guiding their steps, closing

doors that weren’t meant for them, and

ultimately leading them to the children they

were meant to adopt. “Knowing now how

this unfolded, it was totally God in control.

God was waiting for us to be done trying on

our own,” Gerry said.

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We value generosity because God is

so generous with us. God modeled

generosity by giving His one and

only Son, Jesus Christ, to die in our

place (2 Corinthians 8:9). Generosity

is not something God wants from

us; instead, it’s something He wants

for us. We are called to a lifestyle of

generosity – not leftovers, but

radical generosity.

In 2023, we witnessed a community

of Christians who lived sacrificial lives

of generosity across many fronts.

Generosity takes many forms, and

of course, this includes sacrificial

giving — stewardship of finances.

Nevertheless, financial giving was not

the only kind of generosity poured

out at Harborside.

WE VALUE

GENEROSITY

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Hope Amidst

The Storm

Harborside Church’s Incredible

Generosity After Hurricane Ian

In October 2022, Hurricane Ian wreaked

havoc on Ft. Myers, leaving a trail of

destruction and despair in its wake.

Yet, amid the chaos and devastation,

remarkable generosity would change lives

and rekindle faith in Ft. Myers community.

Pastor Gary Cox, a pastor at First Christian

Church Ft. Myers, vividly recalls the moment

they realized the urgent need for cash.

He shared, “When the Hurricane Ian hit,

we realized that cash was not the only

immediate need, but it was one of the most

helpful things people could get. Just for

somebody to give them cash.”

The church’s response was swift and

resourceful. “I called our church bank

president and asked for $10,000 in cash

in 20 and 50 dollar bills,” Pastor Gary

recounted. “We instantly started standing in

lines at grocery stores, asking people their

stories and then handed them cash.”

We realized, “We don’t need a truckload

of clothes, we don’t need food, we don’t

really want workers because we have no

place to house or feed them because there’s

no power. But we do need money.” Then

support began pouring in from churches

nationwide, including the $100,000 raised

by Harborsiders. “More than $300,000

came in. Wow,” Pastor Gary exclaimed. To

streamline the process, they set up a simple

website form where people could

request assistance.

“We did everything from $500 up to

$3,000 based on the need,” Pastor Gary

noted. A small team, including Pastor

Gary, processed these requests diligently,

ensuring that help reached those who

needed it most. Stories of transformation

and gratitude were abundant.

One such heartwarming encounter took

place at Home Depot, where Pastor Gary

met Brenda, a checkout clerk who had

lost everything. He provided her with the

website’s information, and Brenda’s life was

profoundly touched. “You don’t know what

a difference that money made,” she tearfully

expressed during their next encounter.

Acts of kindness extended to unexpected

places, such as standing in line at a dollar

store, where Pastor Gary helped a woman

who was cooking for her community. “Here’s

$500, God bless your community,” he

quietly offered, resulting in tears

of gratitude.

The church’s support reached single

mothers, families in dire straits, and

countless others. “It wasn’t just about the

dollars, though. The big help was more than

the money. We kept hearing from people it

was just about the hope; that somebody’s

here. There is hope,” Pastor Gary reflected.

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We Are His

Priests

This year, we continued to walk in our

identity as “priests.” The priesthood was

God’s dream revealed throughout scripture.

One verse we embraced in 2023 is

1 Peter 2:9.

“But you are a chosen generation, a royal

priesthood, a holy nation, His own special

people, that you may proclaim the praises

of Him who called you out of darkness into

His marvelous light”

473

volunteers

churchwide

Being a part of the “priesthood” was not as

we usually would see it: the robe and collar.

Instead, we have embraced that being a

priest means that we do four things:

1. Steward meeting places: We take the

“hand” of Heaven and join it with the “hand”

of Earth. Everywhere we go, there is an

opportunity to lead others into encounters

with the fullness of God.

2. Carry the presence: As believers, we now

are carriers of the Holy Spirit. Wherever we

go, His presence goes with us.

3. Minister to God: Our first and foremost

ministry is to God. We spend time

worshiping Him in secret (what we call The

Secret Place). We give Him honor and praise.

4. Bless the people: We speak blessings

over those we encounter. These are not

merely nice encouragements. A blessing is

speaking God’s thoughts and not our own.

We find His thoughts about us in scripture.

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This year, 473 people in our church have

embraced this duty within the local church.

We have witnessed countless testimonies

of individuals who accomplished

“immeasurably more than all we could ask

or imagine, according to His power that is at

work within us.” Ephesians 3:20


9

local

organizations

we supported

Operation Christmas Child

Clothes To Kids

New Life Solutions

A Door Of Hope

Florida Dream Center

Mattie Williams

Intern Academy

Better Together

Man Up And Go

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We Don’t Plant Churches,

We Plant Pastors

Griffin Gilstrap Shares About His

Ministry In North Carolina

Griffin Gilstrap, a pastor nurtured by

Harborside Church for nine years, has truly

flourished in his senior pastor role at Poplar

Springs Christian Church in King, North

Carolina. As a testimony to the concept “we

don’t plant churches, we plant pastors,” here

is an update to how God has been working

in his ministry.

Griffin embarked on this journey with two

main prayers: “The first one was: God make

a way. Show us where you want us to go.

And then once we get there, God have your

way,” Griffin shared.

Moving to a smaller town in North Carolina,

he found himself leading a congregation

with a rich history spanning over a century.

Griffin’s initial approach was to immerse

himself in the local culture, getting to know

the people and the core members of the

church. The congregation’s commitment to

their church and their deep sense of family

were evident, with multiple generations

involved in the church’s life. Griffin

recognized the importance of building trust

as an outsider with a different background

and a different accent.

Griffin is now seeing God’s hand

orchestrating the staff and ministry in a

direction of health and growth. Families

have flocked to the church, particularly the

younger generations, drawn by a renewed

sense of worship and community. The

children’s ministry alone has experienced

substantial growth, with a surge from

averaging 30 children participating each

Sunday to 100.

The church has celebrated 40 baptisms in

a single year, ranging across various age

groups but with a significant presence of

younger parents. The ministry has become

very fruitful, ensuring that Poplar Springs

Christian Church remains vibrant and

impactful for another hundred years.

Amidst rapid growth, Griffin’s vision for

the church remains clear. He emphasizes

the church’s truth-centered culture, where

the Bible is revered. He also recognizes

the need to lead the congregation into a

deeper relationship with the Holy Spirit,

encouraging them to explore their faith on

a daily basis. “There is one thing that I’ve

really felt compelled by the Lord to do, and

it’s a product of where we are trying to help

people at Harborside over the years. I want

to invite them into a relationship with the

Holy Spirit and learning what that looks like

on a daily basis. A lot of the push forward

will be inviting people to foster relationship

with God outside of the church, and

throughout the week.”

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Looking Forward By

Looking Backward

It Started With One Acre…

In 2018, we embarked on a journey of

prayer, strategic planning, and action to

construct a new worship facility on the

1-acre grass field adjacent to our existing

church building. The Lord led us to invest

in the future and build a beautiful facility

that would reflect our devotion to Him. In

faith, many of us eagerly participated in

the capital campaign. Little did we realize

that, at the time, only a fraction of God’s

remarkable plan had unfolded before us.

…But God Revealed It Was

Supposed To Be All…

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This year, we received fresh revelation from the Lord for the

capital campaign. “It wasn’t just 1 acre, it is all 35.” Thirty-five

acres for encounters with God, rest and healing, our local

community to enjoy, ministry to happen, empowering church

initiatives, peace and quiet, greenery and nature, expanding

the future church, and more. Our 35 acres will be the epicenter

for all these things to happen. We will steward every inch

of what the Lord has given us to love and lead people into

encounters with the fullness of God. And you are invited to

dream with us. How could you love and lead people into

encounters with God on our 35 acres?

Learn More:


Stewarding Every Square Inch

Steward Our Land

The Tampa Bay area has become densely

populated and metropolitan in the last 20

years. Beautiful, open green spaces are

becoming increasingly sparse within the

Safety Harbor, Clearwater, and surrounding

areas. Our property is brimming with the

potential to become a local haven of rest

and healing for our community. We dream

of walking trails, prayer gardens, sporting

fields, and a beautiful playground for our

church and city to enjoy together. Our

heart is to use every inch of this land to love

and lead people into encounters with the

fullness of God.

Build A New Facility

A future facility is on the horizon. It will

be a space for future generations of

worshipers to encounter the fullness of

God; a house where “the glory of the

Lord will be revealed, and all people will

see it.” Isaiah 40:5. The upcoming facility

will be tailored specifically for hosting

weekly church worship services. By doing

so, we will now have space in our current

building to empower Connect Groups,

host ministry opportunities, and love our

local community. We dream of a space that

allows our global online audience to move

from spectators to active participants in

worship and teaching. We can’t wait to see

how every inch of the new building will love

and lead people into encounters with the

fullness of God.

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2200 Marshall St, Safety Harbor, FL 34695

harborsidechurch.org

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