New Life News: Sarah Williams

Sarah was born in Pawhuska, Oklahoma and lived there until moving away for college. Her parents split up when she was 15 years old, and although her dad had no interest in “organized religion,” her mom made sure she was in church every time the doors were open. They bounced around to a few different churches during Sarah’s childhood, and she remembers praying the sinner’s prayer every summer when attending church camp as a kid. Pawhuska was actually where she met Zakk, and as many of you know, they dated throughout college until he eventually proposed during a service at New Life where they were both attending. When enrolling in college, Sarah had many interests such as journalism and photography, so she decided to pursue art school at OU. She graduated in 2005 with a Bachelor’s in Fine Arts, and it was during this season of her life that she was confronted with finding what her identity was truly rooted in. She had to make the daily choice to put Christ first above her art work and innate desire to be approved by people. These years were when she began to confidently trust in knowing “Christ is everything to me and I know that is where my identity is found.” When she graduated, she stepped into a graphic design job for the Oklahoman where she faithfully served for 5 years. Following that job, God opened up doors for her to work at New Life in a position that would allow her to assist the mission of the church and the pastors as well as grow in her creative abilities. She felt peace knowing this was exactly what the Lord had for her at a time when she was growing her family with Zakk and stepping into deeper fellowship with Jesus. Over the past few years since stepping back from a full-time position on staff here at New Life, this introverted, artistic wife and mom has been pouring into her business through photography, videography, and painting. The support of her family has been an anchor as she steps out in faith to build a business that allows her to use the gifts God has uniquely given her.

God has been fostering a deeper sense of trust in Sarah’s life during this season, and it’s incredibly evident in the way she lives openhandedly and welcomes people into her home to share the love of Jesus with them. Her and Zakk describe the provision God gives them each day as their “daily bread” and it encourages them to be reminded that God always promises to provide. She is a proud mom to Hazel and Harvey and a faithful servant at New Life.

New Life News: Erica Winters

Erica was born in Lawton, Oklahoma to a young 15-year old girl who did not know the first thing about being a mom. Prior to her birth, her grandfather had actually tried to convince Erica’s mother to have an abortion because her pregnancy had been such a scandal. She fortunately kept the baby and although her mom ended up marrying her dad after they found out about the pregnancy, their marriage only survived a few years before ending in divorce. To this day, Erica has never had a great relationship with her birth father. When she was 5, her mom remarried a man that consistently abused both the kids and her mother. Their home eventually became a place that was void of hope, and feeling like she had no other choice, Erica’s mother took her own life when Erica was only 15 years old. The year following, she was shuffled between 9 different homes and moved out on her own with her boyfriend when she was 17. Soon after, she found out she was expecting a baby prior to beginning her senior year of high school. It was when she had Malachi at the age of 18 that she turned to God for the first time and chose Him to be the Lord of her life. Despite the many battles Erica walked through during her younger years, she did not let them define her. She put herself through college and ended up going on to get her master’s degree in Elementary Education. Her marriage started to unravel a few years after having Nevaeh, her second child, and upon getting a divorce, she had no one but the Lord to lean into. Erica’s faith only continued to grow, and God began to use her in bigger ways within her family and friendships. She started attending a small church where she befriended the pastor’s wife who began to intimately disciple her. She prayed consistently for her family, many of whom do not believe in God, and developed deeper relationships with her aunt and uncle, who both share her faith and have embraced her as if she was their own. As Erica reflects on the hardships she has endured and the early years of her relationship with Jesus, she says, “It was when I was completely broken that Christ showed me who He really was and how he was apart of every situation I had ever been through.” During the years of singleness that followed her divorce, she chose to trust in God’s sovereign plan even when it was uncomfortable. After years of remaining hopeful in prayer, she met Aaron at First Baptist Church in Weatherford, and they married in April of 2020. Now, her family of 3 has become a family of 6, and she spends her days loving on them and partnering with her husband to create a home that is devoted to Jesus and caring for people.

God continues to teach her that “No matter where you have come from in life, He’ll use all things for His glory and our good. We learned to truly appreciate Him and know who He is through the brokenness.”

New Life News: Kenny & Kelley Adams

While growing up, Kenny and his family moved around quite a bit but finally landed in Norman when Kenny was in the 10th grade. Kelley was born and raised in Duncan, Oklahoma and moved to Norman to finish her last few years of college. Kenny took Kelley out on their first date to a show at the local theater, and the rest is history. They got married and began their life together in Norman. It wasn’t until an ad for an Easter service at New Life caught their eye in 1992 that they decided to try out the whole “church thing.” Kenny had grown up in the church, yet he was never fully invested in a relationship with Jesus as a young adult. Even after a near-death experience at the age of 18, he didn’t decide to get serious about his faith until he and Kelley had been married for 5 years. Kelley had grown up with parents that were both moral and kind yet did not have any sort of belief in God. She went to a revival when she was 9, which scared her to death, and after that, she never went back to church. From then on, she had a negative view of what church was and didn’t want to have anything to do with it. When they visited New Life for the first time, they immediately knew something was different. They were greeted at the door and felt welcomed from the moment they entered the building. Kelley describes her experience at New Life as a turning point in the way she viewed church. The relationships formed here, both with Jesus and other believers, became foundational in their lives and served to strengthen them through all seasons, especially when they lost their second child 2 weeks before her due date. Losing Willow was the worst day of their lives and yet, given the circumstances, they said it could not have gone better than it did. Both Kenny and Kelley felt a peace throughout the entire day that was indescribable. The doctors were incredibly caring and their church family was so supportive. By the grace of God, they were able to walk through one of the hardest things any parents could ever imagine and come out on the other side still praising Him.

Now, 16 years later, they still have a strong marriage in which they selflessly love each other and always put God first. They rejoice that God has given them a daughter and anxiously await the day they will be reunited with their other child at the gates of Heaven. Kenny’s marriage advice is to admit when you’re wrong and aim to be happy instead of being right. Kelley has learned through 33 years of marriage that you have to focus on serving God first and each other second.

New Life News: Tim & Pamela Smyth

Pamela was born into a military family and spent many years traveling and moving all over the world to follow her dad’s job before her parents divorced when she was 12. She accepted Jesus in middle school when a friend invited her to Falls Creek, a church camp near Turner Falls. At the young age of 17, Pamela moved away from her mom and brother to start a life of her own in New York but only lived there for about a year. Tim, on the other hand, grew up in the church and was raised in Philadelphia with his 4 older siblings. His dad led Youth for Christ and his mother was active in their church choir. When he was 12, his parents sold their catering business and moved to Orlando, Florida. As young adults, both Pamela and Tim found themselves working for a restaurant called the Pitman House in Dallas, Texas. They dated on and off for a few years before finally marrying and moving back to Orlando to care for Tim’s mother after his dad passed away. Over the years, they have moved all over Oklahoma and worked a variety of different jobs to make ends meet. Yet, what has continued to keep them going is their love for the Lord and for each other. When asked about his faith, Tim responds by saying, “I don’t worry about how things will work out because God opens up the door always. He always provides.” The Smyths experienced God’s faithfulness in a very practical way when Tim finished Radiology Technician School and a job miraculously opened up in Norman. Though this particular job was short lived, their move led him to his position of 12 years in Bethany as a Tech for the Children’s Center. Their bold transition to Norman 15 years ago served to grow their faith and plug them into the community at New Life. Even during Tim’s diagnosis with Stage 4 throat cancer last year, this couple continued to have a belief that was unshaken because of the foundation of Jesus Christ they had chosen to set their lives on. Pam’s positive outlook helped encourage her husband, even when he was at his weakest. “It took the illness to realize how blessed we really are,” she once said when looking back at this trying time in their lives. They had been invested at New Life ever since moving to Norman for Tim’s job, and the people they met through this church stepped up to help with physical, spiritual, and emotional needs during Tim’s treatments. Whether it was a phone call, homemade meal, prayers, or financial assistance, they felt so loved and cared for by the body of Christ choosing to love as Jesus would.

Now, Tim is in remission (praise God!) and you can find both Pamela and Tim faithfully serving as greeters here each Sunday morning. They have one son that lives in Norman and two beautiful granddaughters.

New Life News: ReRe Lunsford

ReRe was raised in Norman, OK and has been faithful to this town for many years. From a young age, her parents played important roles in her spiritual development. Even after they divorced when she was 3 years old, she describes them as being great co-parents and people that both feared and loved the Lord so much. She remembers Sunday mornings being filled with gospel music and teaching about the importance of believing in a sovereign God. Her mom helped her understand that we were never promised an easy life but one in which God will always provide and take care of us. She didn’t have the best experience with church growing up, but when she began to attend New Life during her teenage years, she realized why people actually love going to church and how beautiful God’s bride can be. In her early 20’s, she gave her life to the Lord and was baptized. During this time, ReRe met her husband, James, at New Life and they were married after she graduated from OU with a degree in Journalism. In 2006, ReRe’s world was completely turned upside down when her mother passed away. The person who had been one of her closest friends and role models was taken from her, and she remembers telling her husband that she’ll miss being happy because she didn’t think she’d ever truly be happy again. Grief came in waves, often times leaving her with deep feelings of despair as she longed for her mother’s presence. Looking back on the few years after her mom passed away, she gives all the glory to God for providing her the strength to continue to move forward. She and her husband began to build their family with the addition of their two sons, and God consistently showed up to provide joy in the midst of seemingly hopeless and desperate circumstances. Life continued day by day, and even 14 years later, she still misses her mom and wishes things had turned out differently. Yet, God used this huge trial in her life to strengthen her faith and draw her closer to Himself. This valley has allowed her to be someone that possesses deep empathy for those around her and has served to increase her dependence in a good God. She’ll never forget the lessons her mother left her with about how there is something so much greater that is promised to us when we give our lives over to God and allow Him to be King. Now as a mother, she seeks to teach the same things about God and his faithfulness even when life isn’t perfect to her two boys. After a few years of stepping out of the church, she and her husband’s transition back to New Life has been one of the biggest blessings for their family, and now they faithfully serve out of a love for God and His people.

ReRe is currently an adjunct professor at OU, and you can find her during the weeknights loving on her two boys and their 16 snakes. 

New Life News: Shayne Lester

Shayne was raised in Shawnee, Oklahoma where he attended the Liberty Christian Academy from 5th-12th grade. Although he professed to his pastor at the age of 7 that he wanted to accept Jesus into his heart, he would say that he truly gave his life to the Lord at the age of 12 after discussing the true meaning of the gospel message with his aunt and uncle. Through his parents divorce when he was 10, he remained faithfully involved in the church during middle school and high school, and upon graduation, his pastor encouraged him to attend Oklahoma Baptist University to study Pastoral Ministry. In his early 20’s, Shayne met and later married Roxy, his wife of 32 years. This began the process of merging lives with both Roxy and her son while learning how to lead a family and love his wife. During their early years of marriage, Shayne was also navigating his new position at Liberty church as their book keeper. While he was on staff at Liberty, his family struggled with the burdens of life in full-time vocational ministry, and after 10 years of faithfully serving, Shayne felt called to step down from his position and become a Certified Financial Planner. It was in this season that Shayne and his family took a step back from church. Shayne recalls that, “While I was out of the church, I didn’t feel like my faith wavered, yet I didn’t feel completely fulfilled either. I knew something was missing.” He was reminded that without being surrounded by God’s people and chasing Jesus together, it’s difficult to feel complete. After 15 years of serving in a financial advising position, he was abruptly let go from his role and forced to look elsewhere for employment. This unexpected release was actually what brought him back to the church and led him to New Life. He immediately fell in love with the church and began attending regularly with his family. While he was in the process of starting his own financial advising business, he came alongside the current staff at New Life to help them with their finances and lead the renovation of the current building. Shayne soon realized how important the church is and decided to fully commit to this body of believers and make New Life his home. When asked who some of the most spiritually influential people in his life have been, he quickly talks about the pastor at Liberty who helped him become a man of God and learn how to serve God’s people. He also talks very highly of his wife Roxy and how she’s been an anchor over the years as she consistently points him back to the Lord through both the good and the bad.

New Life News: Jodi Shumway

Jodi was born in New Mexico, yet spent most of her childhood growing up in Enid, Oklahoma. Her father was in the Air Force, and she, along with her younger sister, was raised in a very legalistic church where she learned more about the “don’ts” of the Christian life rather than the freedom the gospel gives to all who believe in it. Jodi “walked the aisle” in the fourth grade to accept Christ, yet she realizes looking back that she did this more out of obligation rather than actual acknowledgment of her sin and Jesus as her one and only Savior. She married her husband Kerry at 20 years old, and due to his career in the Air Force, they have moved 19 times in their 37 years of marriage. One of these moves led them to Stillwater, OK, and at the age of 25 while attending church there, she realized she hadn’t ever really asked Jesus to come into her heart and transform her from the inside out. It was then that she made the decision to go all in with her faith and begin pursuing the Lord. This was when it finally clicked for her that Jesus was more than the man in the sky keeping record of her wrongs but was a loving, gracious Savior that came to die and be raised again for a relationship with her. Through their time moving around, Jodi realized how important being a part of community really is. Their family was forced to jump into church quickly and develop friendships with other believers in each new city they found themselves in. Jodi had to reinvent herself each time they moved, and when they finally landed in Norman 5 years ago, it began the journey of her getting involved with the Eden Clinic and ultimately accepting a position as Development Manager. She fully believes all that God has allowed her to walk through up until now has prepared her for the opportunities that He has gifted her with and the people she’s been able to meet and work with. Through the Eden Clinic, Jodi has been able to be intimately invested in the community and with people she may not have normally met. In this season of life, God has been teaching Jodi a lot about Himself through some incredibly difficult circumstances. He has helped her have extraordinary patience when the Eden Clinic needed a new building and it seemed like all hope was lost for finding one. He’s shown her how to be kind to everyone, even when it isn’t easy. After talking with Jodi, it is evident she is a woman that lives a life for the things Jesus loves and has been dramatically freed from slavery to sin. She plans on spending the rest of her days making God’s name known and caring for His people!