“This church is like a Christmas miracle!” is a quote that’s pretty well known around Access Church. It all started during a Community Group meeting, when Justin Smith was asked why he and his wife, Jasmine, are committed to Access. Here’s the story that led Justin to compare Access to “a Christmas miracle.”
Justin and Jasmine met and married in the Atlanta area. Soon after their wedding, they moved to Tampa and prepared to welcome their first child. Justin and Jasmine’s marriage had a rough start. “We got married after knowing each other less than a year,” Justin said. “There was a lot to learn, and we had conflicts over silly things.”
Then the couple was devastated by the loss of their baby, Queenie. Grieving, with their faith reeling, they questioned everything. “It took a toll on our marriage,” Jasmine said. “My dream for my life had turned into a nightmare.”
Looking for a fresh start, Justin took a job in Jacksonville. Before they married, Justin and Jasmine had attended Buckhead Church, a North Point campus in Atlanta. So before they even arrived in Jacksonville, they found Access Church and signed up for the GroupLink event to join a Community Group. “We were starting over in our faith, and we knew we needed some help,” Jasmine said.
At Access, the Smiths found a warm welcome. “We returned to a North Point church because we liked the messages and we knew we needed to join a group,” Justin said. “The churches we grew up attending did not emphasize groups, and I looked forward to experiencing a Community Group with Jasmine.”
Jasmine said, “We thought the best way to tune up our marriage was to be around other married couples.” When their group formed and learned the Smiths’ story, Jasmine said, “They didn’t pity us. They welcomed with open arms.”
Justin and Jasmine soon came to appreciate the diversity of their group, as it made the group a rich source of help and encouragement. “Luckily our group included couples from all stages of life,” Justin said. “There were times when Jasmine and I did not agree on things, and our Community Group helped understand the other’s perspective. Over time, our marriage showed signs of improvement.”
The authenticity of the group invited Justin and Jasmine’s own openness. “Since I had never been in community with other believers, I never considered people at church as ‘real people,'” Justin said. “But eventually we knew and loved everyone in our group. The relationships kept us coming back every week. We didn’t have many friends outside the group, so the group acted as a source of friendship for us.”
When Justin and Jasmine discovered they were pregnant with Isla Mae, their group members were the first people they told. The community surrounded them with support and showered them with everything from clothes and toys to a washing machine when theirs stopped working.
The Smiths’ experience came down to this: “We learned what it is like to ‘one another one another.’” This is a phrase from one of Andy Stanley’s messages that references all the “one another” passages in the New Testament such as “love one another,” “serve one another,” and “forgive one another.” Andy points out that these phrases are anchored to the fact that God did all of this for us. We are to extend grace to others as a response to God’s offer of grace to us.
Their Community Group put skin on God’s love and grace for Justin and Jasmine. Experiencing this love and grace through real people committed to God and to each other transcended the Smiths’ brokenness and heartbreak. Healing was becoming possible. Their relationship was becoming healthy. Their marriage was thriving. Their faith was becoming stronger and was even becoming a source of help to others.
“Essentially everyone can experience the messages from North Point in pajamas on Sunday mornings in bed,” Justin said. “But at Access we have more than that. We are committed to one another, and that makes every Sunday a Christmas miracle.”
Justin and Jasmine are two of the “real people” who make Access Church what it is — a community of people experiencing the miracle of grace in the middle of the challenges of life and choosing to extend it to others. God put skin on, in Jesus — the first Christmas miracle, so that we can truly “one another one another” and see miracles happen in lives every day.
Hear more of Jasmine’s story by watching her baptism video below. And if you’re interested in joining a Community Group, be sure to attend our GroupLink event January 29, 2017. You can learn more and register on our Adults page.Posted December 8, 2016