It was November 16, 2016 a Wednesday afternoon at approx. 2pm when it settled in. Pete and I are moving to Florida. We had said goodbye to our friends and family members(multiple times) without a hint of tears, yet here we were sitting across from our pastor saying goodbye and I was fighting back tears. Although it may seem like we don’t like our friends and family that much… my tears weren’t about missing everyone as much as they were about the amount of gratitude I had for our Church.
My tears symbolized my gratitude for each and every member of the church and how they molded mine and Pete’s relationship with Christ. From life changing life groups, to tear jerking worship services, Searchlight knew how to listen to Christ and tap into the souls of those who were willing to follow their lead. One of the topics that came up during the coffee date with our pastor was the idea finding a new church in Florida. As he explained to us the importance and significance of finding a new church, he mentioned a few key traits that a church should embody. I’ve never put our love for Searchlight church in Long Branch into words before now but once Pastor Chris shared these points with us, I knew it was the exact reason why I call Long Branch and Searchlight “Home”. For that reason, I feel everyone should be blessed with a church that has blessed Pete and me as much as Searchlight has so here are the 3 points.
1: Know the DNA of the church
Pete and I began to plant roots in Long Branch 2 months before we were married and we knew it was time to find a local church that we would be able to call home. We googled churches, judged them based on their websites, and created a list of churches that we would begin to visit.The following Sunday Pete had the opportunity to visit Searchlight while I was visiting my parents and that day our list of potential churches was thrown in the garbage.
Now we joke that we went back to Searchlight because of the $5 welcome gift card they sent us in the mail, but the real reason we went back was because of who they were. They were and still are the church in the Seashore day school that has the most genuinely friendly people. The moment Pete got out of church he called me and described the amazing experience he had, the compelling word that was delivered, and the moving worship that was sung. We chose Searchlight because every last detail about the church matched the DNA that they have described on their website, that meant they stood in complete integrity with who God wanted them to be, even if that meant being a little different than a traditional church.
2: Join a church that is on a mission
Within the first month of our time at Searchlight we signed up to participate in their annual Trunk of Treat event. This event is put on by the Church for the community. Everything is completely free for the community and meant to give neighbors a safe place to have fun on Halloween. This church was on mission in their community. This church was not only preaching amazing ideas on how to reach and teach people about Jesus, but they were actually reaching and teaching people about Jesus through service!
At that first event, the staff/volunteers treated us as if we had been going to the church for years! They thanked us for helping, and showed love to us even though they didn’t know us. Here is the real blessing, this year at Trunk or Treat I had the honor of assisting the pastoral staff in organizing and running the event. As I walked around to the different trunks and thanked them for coming, I recalled the warm welcome and endless gratitude that the pastors showed Pete and I a year ago and wanted so badly to impact all of the new volunteers in the same way! The pastoral staff had set an example of how to truly love people like Jesus and I was duplicating it. To me… that is the definition of being a Christian and ministering to others.
3: Stand in Integrity With Their Core Values
I mentioned it in my first point, but it is important enough to mention again. Integrity is defined as the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness. Searchlight Church stands in Integrity with their core values.
1) IT’S OKAY TO NOT BE OKAY… We all mess up and fail and that’s okay. Jesus didn’t hang out with the perfect people and neither do we.
IT’S NOT OKAY TO STAY THAT WAY… No matter where we come from, when we encounter Jesus, we cannot stay the same.
2) GROWING PEOPLE CHANGE… Forward motion is our only option. God will always give each of us a next step and we will not miss the opportunity to take it.
3) YOU CAN’T DO LIFE ALONE… We’re committed to being a community where everyone maters. The best life is a shared life.
4) FOUND PEOPLE FIND PEOPLE… If you’re part of the church, you’re part of the SEARCH.
5) SAVED PEOPLE SERVE PEOPLE…We are never more like Jesus than when we are serving others. We refuse to sit on the sidelines.
6) YOU CAN’T OUTGIVE GOD…We believe in generosity at any cost. We choose to live with an open hand.
Each and every core value was displayed multiple times throughout our time at Searchlight church. This church taught me that it is okay to not be okay, but taught me how to become stronger in Christ and create a new identity in him. Searchlight had me realize my potential to change others lives through simple acts of kindness and the fulfilling feeling you receive from breathing life into others. Each and every member reminded me that I couldn’t do life alone on Sunday mornings (Sandy Bova’s hugs were the only thing getting me through my husband’s 6-month training). The stories shared on prayer nights, and the new faces that were brought in over the past year was a testimony to “Found people find people”(shout out to our top recruiter Paula <3). Searchlight showed me that there are still churches that are so focused on the mission of reaching others that they would rather give up basic amenities such as a church building and the luxury of not having to set up church every week so they can utilize those funds to serve the community. Finally, they taught me how to live a life with an open hand by displaying grace and generosity in everything they do!
These are just a few of the reasons why Pete and I chose to be baptized at Searchlight Church and will continue to call Searchlight our forever church home.
Alyssa Heitz xoxo
Real People, Real Life, Real Love.
Pastor Tim & Erica, Thank you both for being a source of companionship and laughter! Pete and I knew from the first time we had you both over that you would become forever friends and with every passing week it is confirmed.
Pastor Chris & Cheryl, Thank you for putting EVERYTHING on the line for this church and trusting God with your church. What you have done has not only impacted your members, but it has impacted every person that your members have encountered.
Pastor Jim & Sandy, Thank you for being you. Pastor Jim your prayers make me feel so much peace and hope in our Lord and Sandy your hugs do the SAME thing!
Pastor Matt & Rebecca, Thank you for being one of our first friends at Searchlight and blessing this church in SO many ways. You both work beautifully as a team, and your faith is inspiring dozens of teens in the community.
Our Friends, you guys know who you are! The ones who called to go on walking/coffee/catching up dates on the boardwalk. Hanging out on the beach talking about everything and anything. Eating chinese food at our apartment! Crying with one another when the trials of life seemed too hard to handle. Most importantly loving and supporting each other throughout the past year. I heard a quote that said, “friendship isn’t about how long you’ve somebody. It’s about someone walking into your life and saying “I’m here for you” then proving it.”. Searchlight friends ❤ you are true friends ❤