Everyone’s story is important, and here at Hill City we want to celebrate people, where they’ve come from, and what they’ve been through. As a church, we challenge our team to share their stories because it helps us relate to and empower others. Our stories represent how a life with Jesus has changed our own passion, purpose, and hope.
These are the stories of our staff.
Chara is the Next Generation Pastor here at Hill City. She leads our kids, youth and family ministry. Born in Omaha, Nebraska, she dreamed of growing up to be a female wrestler. She even got Hulk Hogan’s autograph. Chara attended Baylor University “Sic ‘Em, Bears!” and after starting out as a theater major, she received her degree in Elementary Education with a reading specialty. She met her husband, Robby -the voice of the VCU Rams- when she was 26 while playing flag football at Seacoast Church in South Carolina. Robby and Chara moved to Virginia in the fall of 2008, and have a son, Riley (9), and a daughter, Lucy (6).
Chara hate’s to cook, but loves her Weimaraner dog, Sampson. You’ve probably seen her welcoming parents on a Sunday, most likely wearing her favorite color, orange.
Q: In terms of your faith, where did it all begin?
A: My mom. I remember this really cool book of Bible stories she’d read to me every night. I remember asking her “Am I a Christian?” She would say, “Well, God loves you no matter what. But you’re a Christian when you believe that Jesus is here to give you a better life. You can follow Him and that’s how you have a relationship with God.”
The conversation with her never stopped, she did a great job of making faith this organic thing.
Towards the end of high school and early college, I started to question everything, including if my faith was really mine. That time gave me a lot of anxiety and guilt. When I left for school I was leaving my single mom, and we were very close. I was worried about her and not being there, I felt like she needed me. I also had stayed in the same school system and home my whole life, and I was heading to a place where I was the only person I knew.
On top of that, I would hear these stories of people having these huge moments with God where their whole life changed, and that wasn’t how it was for me. I started asking myself, “If I didn’t grow up in a Christian home, would I want to follow Jesus? Would I feel like I was missing something?” I went through 3-4 years of doubting and questioning my faith, I was trying to figure out if it was really mine and if I was really His, even with doubts.
I continued to talk out my faith with people I trusted- friends, my mom, my aunt, my sister and brother in-law, pastors. I realized it was something everyone dealt with and there was nothing really wrong with me. I hadn’t realized that everyone questioned, and I started accepting that I didn’t have to have control; it was ok for things to go wrong.
Q: Has there been another season of growing in your faith that had a big impact?
A: My faith grew the most when I was teaching in inner city Charleston. It was really hard. No matter what happened, my goal became to make my classroom a safe, fun place for kids to want to come.
Looking back, it’s what started a passion and vision for kids. I realized that learning what they were suppose to learn was the least of their issues. For a lot of them, the stuff I was going to teach them was not going to matter. It was more “How am I going to make this matter to you, when you’ve got all this stuff you’re walking home to?” It really caused me to take on people over policy. My first year teaching, kids would come in tardy and without their homework. I was very “Get to school on time, save your sob story for someone else.” I didn’t get why they couldn’t deal.
One day one of my co-workers explained that some of my kids were responsible for getting their little brothers and sisters ready for school; there was no one at home waking them up or helping. That was just a huge lesson in, “Why don’t you learn about the people that you’re feeding into first, before you try to hold them accountable to something.” There were some kids who I would buy an alarm clock for. I’d clarify it wasn’t meant as a punishment, but was meant to help their family. I remember walking one of the girls home, her Dad would always meet me and then walk me out of the neighborhood. I thought I knew enough about different races and people different from me, but I learned so much through that experience.
Q: So, now you work at Hill City as the Next Generation Pastor. What does that entail?
A: Overseeing the quality of the church experience for kids and families, from infants to high school age, as well as investing in our Kids Ministry leaders.
Q: What about your job makes you tick?
A: I love seeing kids excited about coming to church. Having fun and realizing that God wants them to be excited to learn about Him and have a relationship with him… that’s a big deal. Whenever I hear that kids are waking up their parents on Sunday, begging them to go to church, that’s my favorite.
Q: Did you personally have a good experience in kids ministry growing up?
A: Yes. It was different than this, more of an old school Sunday school style. I went to a big church with my parents and ate copious amounts of mints… The part that made it so great though, was that I had consistent leaders, especially through upper elementary, that made a big impact on my life during a tough family time. Just knowing that God was using them to model relationships and marriage and parenting… they were examples that I didn’t even know I would need at the time. They treated me like I was a part of their family and were genuinely interested in my life. Their consistency gave me such a good experience. A lot of them came to my wedding.
Q: What was stepping onto a start up church staff like for your family?
A: There were many seasons of prayer that Robby and I had been praying and walking through. We wanted to know how God wanted to use us, especially with church. We were close with the Waglers before Hill City was even real, so as we started seeing the progression and their dream being spoken into reality… it was just a no brainer. Of course. It fit with what we were looking for, the time of life we were in, the phase of growing spiritually. We felt like that was Gods answer, and it just felt like a *sigh*… “Thank you”.
Once I was working, it changed our family dynamic a little bit because I went from being more of a stay at home mom and serving with kids part time, to a full time role. Robby is super supportive, he is great at helping me put healthy boundaries around our family and encouraging me. We’re really honest with each other about our strengths and weaknesses as well, and we rely on each other through parenting and life.
It’s neat to be able to build something together even though we serve in different ways. We both have a lot invested in something common, and he’s found his own niche at Hill City as well.
With our kids, it’s super exciting showing that church and faith are not a category or compartment of your life. Its interwoven in what we do and how we treat people and how we live. It’s just really neat to see them love Hill City so much, and be proud to be a part of it. That is more affirmation and encouragement for me, and I never want them to resent something that takes a lot of my time.