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Katherine O'Brien: Focused on God

21-year-old Charis Bible College graduate and missionary to the nations, Katherine O'Brien, loves Jesus, and travels the world sharing the Gospel.
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Katherine made the decision to follow Jesus when she was eleven years old. She understood that being a part of a "nice" southern family meant that she would be expected to attend and participate in the social aspects of church, to which she conceded. Beyond those obligations, Katherine was aware that Jesus had died for her, and she made a conscious effort to pray each night, but that was the extent of her relationship with Him.

While Katherine was a senior in high school, her dad attended Charis Bible College in Atlanta. Although she was aware that her dad was going to school, she didn’t know, nor did she care to know, anything more about it. The O'Brien family (L-R) Elizabeth, Tommy, Leslie and Katherine.
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In fact, she knew that her dad had had a powerful encounter with God that radically changed him, but she thought he was overreacting.

During high school, Katherine enjoyed attending parties. For several years she purposely avoided the alcohol and drugs, but during her junior year, she began to compromise. The lure of the uninhibited party scene, the seemingly carefree fun, became irresistible. Katherine began to drink, and she drank increasingly more to avoid coming to terms with the pull she felt on her heart to fully turn her life to the things of God. Katherine and friends at CBC-Colorado during her second year.
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Katherine knew God's love would change her—it was fear of that change that kept her drinking. “I knew I was on the fence. I would get wasted on Saturday night and then go to church hung over the next morning,” recalled Katherine.

Although she had a knowing that turning to God would change her life for the better, she kept making excuses. “I pictured fully surrendering to God like jumping off a cliff or a high dive; you really want to jump, but you are scared, and once you do jump, there is no looking back,” Katherine said.

During a Bible study meeting, which Katherine’s parents hosted and insisted she attend, the leader asked participants to write out Katherine in Mozambique, Africa for missions training at the Iris Harvest Shool of Missions. (Click to enlarge)prayer requests. She wrote, “I just want to be happy.” Months later, when she found the piece of paper on which she had written her prayer, she realized how empty and unfulfilled she had truly been. “I was so blind, being enticed by the things of the world that look so alluring and fun, but in the end just leave you empty,” Katherine explained.

It was during a New Year’s Eve party, ringing in 2008, that Katherine's dad became aware that she was drinking. “When my dad found out that I was drunk he got pretty upset and kicked everyone out. That night, after my dad calmed down, he fell on his knees sobbing, and I had a powerful encounter with the love of God. It was like a light came on and I could see and think clearly,” Katherine said.Katherine praying for a woman while on a mission trip to Nepal. (Click to enlarge)

The battle in Katherine's mind raged. She knew that if she made the decision to focus on God, all of her desires would change. She thought, “Do I even want to be a person who doesn’t want to party?” In that moment, Truth prevailed and Katherine made the decision to lay down her life for Jesus. “I just said, ‘forget it, I’m focusing on God and whatever happens, happens,’” she said.

Katherine immediately stopped drinking and partying. She deleted all of her secular rap music, and even decided to skip her senior prom, choosing to go to a Christian conference in Georgia instead. Katherine and her team in Thailand shortly before heading to Japan with Iris Relief. (Click to enlarge)Katherine's friends were baffled, and it was extremely painful for her to witness their lack of understanding. Although Katherine didn't fully understand God's love for her, she knew, in a tangible way that He loved each of them as well.

Katherine had planned to go to a big university in Tennessee and join a sorority, but her desires had changed. As she was driving one day, she prayed for direction, and she heard the Lord say, "Go to Charis Bible College in Colorado." "It wasn’t an audible voice, but it was so loud in my spirit. I burst into tears and had to pull over. I honestly don’t know if I was aware that there was a school in Colorado, Katherine's Iris Relief team began ministering in shelters in Sendai, Japan a short time after the first earthquake and tsunamis devastated the region. (Click to enlarge)but I knew, that I knew, I was supposed to go. I was so excited that I had gotten direction," said Katherine.

In the summer of 2008, Katherine, and her family moved to Colorado Springs to attend Charis Bible College (CBC). Her time at CBC provided her with a solid foundation in the Word and strengthened her relationship with Jesus. It was while serving with a CBC mission team in Mexico that Katherine realized she had a desire to minister to the nations. As her second year at CBC drew to a close, she prayed about her next steps. Katherine wanted to be a good steward with everything she had learned at CBC, and to share with people all over the world, the truths Ministry and relief look different in different situations–in some instances it can look like a circus. (Click to enlarge)that had brought her freedom.

After graduation, the Lord led Katherine to Iris' Harvest School of Missions in Mozambique, Africa, where she went to train for life on the mission field. Today she is serving in Japan on the administrative team for Iris Relief, which sends relief aid and international mission teams to hard hit disaster areas. When the teams arrive, administrative work becomes secondary and the focus becomes ministering relief aid and the Gospel to the suffering people.

Katherine praying for people in Japan. (Click to enlarge)When asked what she hopes to accomplish on the mission field, Katherine had this to say: “Every place looks different, but the need for Jesus is the same. You get to a place and you figure out what love looks like there. In Africa love looks like flip-flops because they are barefoot, and rice because they are hungry; in Japan it looks like wearing a gorilla suit because they need joy; in Thailand it looks like giving roses to a "working lady" and telling her that she is valuable. My desire is to love well. My desire is to stop for the one. I never want to limit God. I want to see nations transformed. I want to see orphans belonging to a family, drug addicts and hardened mafia guys melt in God’s love, un-reached people groups hearing the Good News, schools built, churches planted and people discipled and released into their destinies. How will that all happen? I have no idea. I'm really just a girl that loves Jesus and obeys God one step at a time, whatever that looks like and whoever it's with.”


CBC Students Evangelize Berlin

CBC students ministered to individuals on the streets of Berlin, Germany. (Click to enlarge)In early April 2011, Charis Bible College-Colorado (CBC) sent an eighteen person team on a mission trip to Germany. The team, led by CBC Night School Coordinator, Carol Odenwald and third-year Interns, Arnold Oney and Lynae Minoletti, worked with representatives from several Germany-based ministries including the team's hosts, European Initiative, to evangelize the streets of Berlin.

According to Jeff and Barbara Serio, founders of European Initiative, less than one percent of Berlin's 3.4 million people claim to be Christian. With this statistic in mind, the team went to the heart of Germany's capital city to share the story and love of Jesus through street evangelism. Street evangelism began with praise and worship music. (Click to enlarge)The CBC students performed skits and played music to attract the people caught in the hustle and bustle of city life. When the students finished presentations, they took the opportunity to witness to the crowds that had gathered. As one student explained the skit to the onlookers, the other team members would take every opportunity to minister the Gospel to, and pray with, interested individuals in the audience.

"During the skits, team members would place themselves in the crowd and strike up conversations about the dramas. People seemed to enjoy the dramas and would talk to us fairly readily, but few people would accept Jesus," Part of the CBC team performing a skit. (Click to enlarge)said Carol.

The team was able to plant seeds in the minds of those with whom they spoke, and also led eight people to Lord. "Most of the people we met and talked with on the streets didn’t know who Jesus was, and did not see any reason to have Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior," said Arnold. It was Arnold's observation that the people with whom he had contact were more interested in their material possessions than in hearing about Jesus.

The team prayer walking the streets of Berlin. (Click to enlarge)When asked to surmise the perceivably cold reception to the Gospel, Carol had this to say, "As far as the hardness of their hearts, for the young adults, it was a totally new concept as most of them are atheist and have never heard the “good news”. The older people remember the Holocaust and are totally freaked out by any form of propaganda (i.e. tracts or verbal). For all of them, I believe there is a sense of shame about the Holocaust. I believe that shame acts as a veil. "

Regardless of the seeming lack of receptiveness, the CBC students moved about the city, mostly on foot, walking an average of three to five miles per day to share the Gospel. One particular morning, the students joined with a missionary couple, who operate a café; the group simply walked the streets together singing and praying for the population of Berlin. The team also ministered in several local churches, where the student's testimonies and messages of relational evangelism were well received.


Barry Bennett: Our Steps Are Ordered

Charis Bible College Ministry Training Program Coordinator, Barry Bennett. (Click to enlarge)Barry Bennett is the Coordinator of the third year Ministry Training Program at Charis Bible College in Colorado Springs. This new program has effectively expanded CBC's curriculum to include a third year specifically geared for those desiring to enter full-time ministry. The third year is designed to implement Andrew's vision for a more intense time of training for those called to pastoral or para-church ministry.

Prior to stepping into his role as Coordinator, Barry had served the Lord in a variety of capacities in North, Central and South America. He was born again in the early 1970's, and is a graduate of Christ for the Nations Institute. While attending CFN, Barry discovered he had a heart for missionary work; Barry, Betty Kay and their three young children David, Daniel and Leah on the mission field in Guatemala in 1989. (Click to enlarge)he also found he had a heart for fellow student, Betty Kay. As it turned out Betty Kay shared the same heart, both for reaching the nations with the gospel—and for Barry. The two were married while still attending CFN, and shortly after graduation hurried out to the mission field in Guadalajara, Mexico. It didn't take long for the Bennetts to realize they had made an error. "We thought that we would be missionaries to Mexico for an extended period of time; however, with no support, no home church, and no experience, we quickly realized that we had jumped the gun," said Barry.

After four months in Mexico, the Bennetts returned to Texas and became involved with a local church. Eleven years later, after working bi-vocationally in ministry and in the secular workplace, their home church sent Barry, Betty Kay and their three children to Guatemala for language learning. Barry playing guitar with the a worship team in Concepción, Chile.
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From there the Bennetts were invited to work as missionaries in Chile.

For more than a decade the couple ministered in Chile, first in Concepción and then in Santiago. Their endeavors were wide ranging and fruitful, and Barry gained experience teaching, preaching and counseling in the local Spanish-speaking community. In 1992, the Bennetts were invited to Santiago to bring leadership to a thirty member home church group. Eventually the Bennetts were asked to pastor the group. Under their oversight and guidance for the next eight years, the group transitioned into a fully functioning church and the membership grew to almost three hundred.

In 2000, the Bennetts began to sense that their time in Chile was drawing to a close and they prepared to return to the States. The family returned to Texas in 2001, Santiago, Chile where Barry pastored, Vida en Cristo in the early ninteen nineties. (Click to enlarge)and became part of a large Spanish congregation where their pastor allowed Barry to launch a Bible institute. The school, which was taught in the Spanish language, met several times per week and over a period of five years graduated more than 200 students.

During their season in Dallas, Barry came across Andrew's Gospel Truth program on the radio. As he listened to Andrew's teachings, Barry gained confidence in his own understanding. "I was amazed to hear someone teaching what I had been teaching, but with even more revelation," said Barry. With confirmation that his own revelation and teachings were on track, he found he had a desire to be more connected to a ministry that was so like-minded.

Barry and Betty Kay standing with a graduating class from the Spanish-speaking Instituto Avance, a Bible school they pioneered in Dallas,Texas. (Click to enlarge)A short time later the Bennett's oldest children, sons David and Daniel, both decided they wanted to attend CBC. Supportive of the decision, Barry and Betty Kay visited the Colorado campus to see where the young men would be attending school; while they were there the Lord spoke to Barry. "On a tour of the college, while passing by the auditorium, the Lord spoke to my heart and told me that someday I would teach in CBC. I was simultaneously shocked and excited," said Barry.

As the Bennetts left to head back to Dallas, they grabbed AWM job applications, filled them out and mailed them back to the ministry. In a very short time, Betty Kay was notified of a job opening at the ministry. This opening coupled with the word Barry had heard in his heart while touring the campus, Andrew and CBC Director, Gary Luecke, pray over Barry and Betty Kay (left) during an ordination ceremony.
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were enough for Barry to make arrangements to move to Colorado Springs.

Both Betty Kay and Barry were hired within two weeks of their arrival in Colorado. Initially, Barry was brought into the Phone Center as a prayer minister, but after four months, he was asked to take over a vacancy in the ministry's Encouragement Department. In this position he answered doctrinal questions asked of the ministry via correspondence. "I remained in the Encouragement Department for two-and-a-half years and responded to some 20,000 emails and letters during that time," Barry said.

While working in the Encouragement Department, Barry submitted his ministry résumé to the Director of Charis Bible College, Gary Luecke, and expressed his interest in teaching if ever the need for a substitute arose. Months later, as Barry was driving to work, he received a call inquiring whether he could speak during that morning's 8 a.m. chapel. "It was then 7:45 a.m. I felt that this was my 'divine appointment.' I said, 'yes,' rushed into my office, grabbed some notes, which were in Spanish—I hadn’t ministered in English in 18 years, and it seemed to go well," said Barry.

Barry teaching in the CBC auditorium—just as the Lord had spoken to him. (Click to enlarge)Barry was able to teach a number of times during the 2008-2009 academic year, and he went on to teach nine courses the following year, while continuing to work full-time in the Encouragement Department. Toward the end of the 2009-2010 school year, Gary asked Barry to consider moving to CBC on a full-time basis. This year, after making the move to CBC, Barry has become the third year Coordinator and is enjoying teaching a total of fifteen courses.

Reflecting on his first full year as Coordinator, Barry said, "This year has been a great success. Almost forty students have completed the program and have been exposed to many facets of ministry."

Under Barry's leadership, the third year Ministry Training Program will continue to expand. Next year, Barry will be joined by Daniel Amstutz, Director of CBC's School of Worship, Stephen Bransford, Director of CBC's School of Media, and Pastor Greg Mohr, Director of CBC's new School of Business Administration to train and equip third year students in these specialized areas of ministry.

The steps of a good man are indeed ordered by the Lord (Psalm 37:23).