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Beauty from Ashes

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me… [3] [to] provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the L ORD for the display of his splendor.

Isaiah 61:1a and 3, New International Version

Teresa Tuten grew up in the confusion of a broken household of different faiths. With an absentee mother and a workaholic father, she relied on the love and security of her grandmother. Unfortunately, her religious upbringing painted a picture of an angry God in her little heart and fed a cycle of despair that eventually turned her life into a pile of ashes.

“After my parents divorced, I lived with my father and grandmother in Savannah, Georgia,” Teresa shared during a recent interview. “When I was in sixth grade, my dad called a family meeting and told my grandmother and me that he was getting remarried. Neither of us knew he was even dating, but within a week, I had a new family.”

Life changed dramatically for Teresa after that. “My grandmother felt like an outsider with this new family and, within a few months, was asked to leave.” Soon after, two of Teresa’s stepbrothers moved into the bedroom next door and began molesting Teresa. “I was very naive. My stepbrother began complimenting me and then adding touch to his compliments. And every time, he went a little further. I didn’t know what to do. My father was so busy working and trying to please his new family; I didn’t think he would listen to me. My grandmother was gone, and I hadn’t seen my mother in years. I blamed myself for what was happening.”

Church where Teresa gave her testimonyFinally, Teresa mustered up the courage to leave. “I went to live with my mother, but by that time, I was a teenager. Since we didn’t have a relationship, we fought a lot. Her favorite response was, ‘I’m going to put you in a juvenile home.’ After I ran away for the second time, she did.”

Little more than a baby herself, Teresa discovered she was pregnant and was disowned by both of her parents. With nowhere to go and no one to help her, she married her boyfriend. “I didn’t realize it, but he was both physically and emotionally abusive. But by now, I was good at hiding my feelings, and no one ever knew.” Ten years later, Teresa signed divorce papers. “When the divorce was finalized, I felt a tiny flicker of hope for the first time in my life. My daughter and I got an apartment. I found a good job and took some time to breathe. When my ex-husband began stalking us, I knew God had to hate me for my inadequacies and failures.”

Then one day, Teresa came across a television program called the Gospel Truth. Although she didn’t care for Andrew Wommack’s style and often changed the channel, Teresa began to catch enough of the Gospel to whet her appetite for more. “I remember hearing Andrew and thinking, This guy is real, and what he says makes sense. Before long, I became interested in Charis Bible College, but I was too scared to leave everything and go to Colorado. So, I compromised and went to Texas.”

Teresa was discontent in Texas, but she continued listening to Andrew. One day, what he said stopped her dead in her tracks. “‘God’s not mad at you,’ he said. I couldn’t believe it! All my life, I lived under that assumption. Really? I thought. God’s not mad at me? With a burning desire to know more, Teresa applied to Charis the next day.

As part of her training at Charis, Teresa went on a missions trip to Belize, where 80 percent of women are raped or molested. While there, she shared her story for the first time and watched in awe as women swarmed the altar for prayer. “I needed a lot of healing, and Charis helped me. The teaching I received there gave me the foundation I needed to rebuild my life in Christ. I’ve grown so much in the last couple of years. I hardly recognize myself! Charis changed my life—and God created beauty from my ashes.”


Charis's 20th Birthday Celebration

Wendell Parr (left) and Andrew Wommack recount stories from the past as new students listen on in amazement (Click to enlarge) Anticipation and excitement filled every seat as 1,300 students, teachers—former and current, and visitors gathered in The Barn for the 20th anniversary celebration of Charis Bible College. Wow, what a great time of remembrance! The excitement in the room was contagious as we came together in a building that was once only seen through faith. I usually have to tell people when I’m excited, but I was very excited to be standing in a room full of so many world changers. The fruit that we’ve seen from this school is incredible, and I am overjoyed that the Lord has used Charis to transform the lives of so many through His love and grace.

It was such an honor to have some of the original instructors—including Linus and Kay LeFever, Don Krow, Wendell Parr, and Leon Matheney—share stories and recount the journey that has made possible all we are accomplishing today. It was wonderful to have old friends be able to come to our new facility and witness for themselves what God has done. Linus and Kay LeFever stand together as they relate their journey with CBC to the massive crowd before them
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The looks on their faces as they surveyed a campus that accommodates over 600 students, was absolutely priceless. They were really blessed, knowing that they were the ones who helped make this possible. They saw the school in its humble beginnings, and their trailblazing has paid off. The reach of Charis, with its correspondence program, online courses, and over forty international and stateside extension schools is ever growing!

Throughout the celebration, roars of laughter were met by moments of awe-inspired silence as the former instructors went up and shared how this had impacted them. New students listened intently to stories of the faithful men and women who made it possible for them to be sitting in the room that day.

Kay LeFever related how she struggled to leave their dream home after being on the mission field in Russia for many years and coming to start a fledgling school with no guarantee of success. Their first grandbaby was on the way, and they left it all. Her husband, Linus, rehearsed memories of those early days and some of the challenges we faced preparing our first world changers. It gave a perspective of Charis that our current students would not have gotten without these eye-witness accounts.

Don Krow telling the hilarious tales of their fearless leader, Andrew Wommack (Click to enlarge)Wendell Parr, who started the journey with me, shared about how his family left a secure and growing church to be a part of this mission. He continues with me today as one of our venerable instructors. Don Krow, a former instructor, took a different approach, amusing the crowd with stories of me falling off the stage in one of our previous facilities. They’ll probably be laughing about that for weeks.

However, no one captured the hearts of everyone there like Leon Matheney. As he spoke, every eye and every ear tuned in as this seasoned minister of over eighty years old opened up his heart with words of love and encouragement. Trying to hold back tears and remembering the days when he spoke in front of a class of thirty, Leon imparted powerful and memorable words to what was now a sea of students. You can view the whole morning's events online here and here.

Several of our international directors Leon Matheney addressing the largest student body he's ever seen before at Charis (Click to enlarge)came to the celebration with their own news of growth and expansion from all over the world. One was Carrie Pickett, the director of our school in St. Petersburg, Russia: “I graduated with the fourth class in 1999,” she remarks, “so seeing how much it’s grown and the fruit that’s happening is truly an inspiration. It’s been so exciting to see all of my old teachers and the people they’ve ministered to, now ministering to other people. The excitement in the room is overwhelming, and I feel encouraged to go back to Russia and let what’s happening here in Colorado be the inspiration for what we do overseas.”

I am confident that this celebration was more than just a special event. People’s lives were being touched as we took time to remember the things God has done. But the best is still yet to come! If the celebration taught us anything, it’s that the future of Charis is so bright, you have to squint to look at it.

New students capture the moments as they listen to the stories of CBC, most for the first time
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The first twenty years have been amazing, to say the least, but the job of Charis is far from over. We are just getting started on our God-given mandate to make disciples of all nations. If the Lord is speaking to you about Bible college, I encourage you to request an information packet today by emailing Or, to apply, simply visit You won’t regret it!


Chris Bratton's Journey to More

CBC-Colorado graduate and street minister, Chris Bratton.
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One year before Chris Bratton became a student at Charis Bible College, he was employed as a heavy equipment operator near Dalton, Georgia. At the time, Chris led several small groups for youth and young adults at the church he attended, but the prayer in his heart revealed his desire for more. His prayers were those of a thankful man; he was thankful for his job and the ministries the Lord had opened to him. He also prayed with a servant's heart, "If You want me somewhere else, I will go wherever You want me. If there is something else, if there is more...I want more." Today Chris is far from Georgia, living his new life of more, ministering the love of God to the people of Colorado Springs.

Chris has believed in Jesus since he was a young boy, but it wasn't until spending time in jail that he truly received Jesus as his Savior. After being arrested four times in six months, on alcohol and drug related charges, Chris lost his driving privileges for five years and spent a Chris, in 2010, on his way to Colorado to soak in the Word. (Click to enlarge) month-and-a-half in jail. While incarcerated, he turned to Jesus and asked Him to help him overcome his struggles with substance abuse. "Every day since opening my heart and surrendering my life, I know His presence has never left me. He has been with me every moment since that day," said Chris.

After his release from jail, Chris began visiting a local church; there he connected with a young adult small group. His involvement with the group helped him find his place in the Body of Christ and further established his walk with the Lord. Three years later, as Chris' true identity in Christ was revealed to him, his leadership skills began to emerge and he started leading Chris found out who God created him to be by spending time in the Word. (Click to enlarge)the group. Chris' style equipped those within the gathering to step forward and engage their faith; he encouraged them to have a voice and participate in the discipleship process. In addition, he began taking small numbers of people out into the streets of the local area to minister to anyone they encountered.

Through his church Chris also found a mentor, a man well acquainted with Andrew's ministry. This friendship introduced Chris to more of God's true nature. While Chris had been born again and baptized in the Holy Spirit before coming in contact with Andrew's teaching, it was Andrew's message on the Baptism of the Holy Spirit that helped him understand what God was doing in, and through him.

With his new revelation, he realized that the desire for something more that had risen in his heart was from God. Chris praying with two boys in a park in Simla, Colorado. (Click to enlarge)He spent significant time praying his prayer, "...if there's more...I want more..." and things began to change. "Things started shifting, and doors that were open, started closing. It was a beautiful thing. I got laid off and pulled out of the ministry I was involved in. I never questioned what the Lord was doing—I knew in my spirit greater things were coming," recalled Chris.

Chris' mentor mentioned CBC, and suggested Chris check out the school's website. The first time he visited the site, he sensed the Lord leading him to attend. Every time he went to the site, the Holy Spirit seemed to flood his body, and he began to consider moving to Colorado. While still contemplating Chris and a friend ministering to a young man in downtown Colorado Springs. (Click to enlarge)the move, Chris and some friends attended Andrew's 2010 Gospel Truth Seminar in Atlanta. At the GTS, one of Chris' friends paid for his registration to attend CBC.

Two years at Charis further solidified Chris' relationship with the Lord and fueled his growing passion for street ministry. "The Word that was planted during my first year amplified the way I was able to communicate with people," said Chris. The Lord used Isaiah 61:1 to quicken Chris' spirit and call him into ministry. "This verse has come alive in me and given me a heart for people. I was a drug addict for ten years, Visible joy. Chris had just finished ministering to the young man in the Heat jersey. (See photo above).
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and I have been released. Now I can release others through lots of love. I get to demonstrate God's love to the world, just like Jesus," he said excitedly.

Since his graduation from CBC, Chris has taken his revelation of God's unconditional love for him, and has begun to minister to any and all who will listen. For the past several years Chris has been ministering late at night, on the weekends, in downtown Colorado Springs. Though he said he usually has a handful of Charis students with him when he heads out at 12:30 am, he will also hit the streets by himself if the Lord leads him to do so. Whether he goes with a team or without, Chris Chris also serves as the Small Group and Outreach Pastor at Pulse. This photo was taken at a Pulse Children's Festival, held in the fall of 2012.
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normally ministers for several hours before calling it a night—or morning. Chris said he and his teams are usually well received by the late-night crowd, and that they see many hearts and bodies healed through their ministry. As he meets people on the street, he is aware that they are not encountering Chris' own intellect, knowledge or opinion, but rather Christ operating in and through him. "They are encountering Jesus, face-to-face, and that's what captures the human heart—it is the love of God that leads them to repentance and relationship."

Chris has also hooked up with a growing body of believers in Colorado Springs called, Pulse, a ministry founded by fellow CBC graduate Justin Knapp. Today, Chris serves as the Chris performing a wedding ceremony. (Click to enlarge)Small Groups and Outreach Pastor for the predominantly twenty-something's gathering. His groups, shaped by his call to street ministry, are preparing to operate as evangelism outreach teams. Chris' vision includes multiple teams serving the community throughout the week, in addition to the late-night out reach currently happening on the weekends.

Chris said, "I used to make money for a living and do ministry on the side. Now my primary focus is meeting with people and sharing the love of Christ. I sow into people, people sow into me and God brings the increase. Thank you CBC for putting God first and for equipping the saints for the ministry the Father has for each of His children."