Neal Freeman: Never a Stranger


Laura and I looked up Bethany Community Church after hearing about it while we were stationed in Pyongtaek, Korea, of all places.  What Laura and I loved immediately about Bethany was the intentionality of worship and discipleship.  You could not be a stranger at Bethany, because the staff and lay leadership made it a priority to connect with people.  That is so on-target with what Christ wants us to be about.  As we became a part of this fellowship of believers, we were strengthened and encouraged in our faith.

I want to relate some of my favorite moments at Bethany.  In no particular order, they are:

  •  Baptizing our son Adam in the makeshift baptismal.
  • The annual discipleship celebration, where we showed the connections on who discipled who.
  • Army beating Navy  (it has been a while).
  • Watching Laura’s involvement with our deaf brothers/sisters.
  • The friendships our boys made and those we made.
  • One on one discipleship with Bob Fraser.

When did you attend Bethany Community?: 1995-1997
Where do you live now?: Anderson, IN
Where was Bethany meeting when you attended?: Rt. 1 Building

Joy Hoffman: B(cc) – Harmony


Girl meets boy.  Girl thrives in boy’s mom’s Sunday school class.  (Who wouldn’t want to pick a prize from Mrs. Hoffman’s treasure box?)  Girl develops epic crush on boy, spanning through Children’s Church, Youth Group drama, and High School Bible Study…Girl and boy are each discipled by wise leaders, Becky and Mark Lenart…Boy catches a clue. 

Fast forward 6 years.  Boy and girl are married at Bethany, the place where they grew up and grew to love the Lord, surrounded by those who supported them all those years…Now, I’m Mrs. Hoffman, too! Matthew and I are so blessed.  We couldn’t begin to name everyone who has been a part of our story. 



Judith Thomas: Outreach of Kindness

We especially love the stories of how God brought our Bethany family together.  This story from Judith Thomas shares about her unlikely introduction to our church:

I was introduced to Bethany Church because of the yard sale.  I registered to sell items at the yard sale. While I was here preparing my table, the organizer offered to help me set up and moved my table closer to the church.  I don’t remember her name but she invited me to attend service on Sunday.  She was nice, pleasant and very friendly.  Her spirit was warm and I have been coming to Bethany on a regular basis ever since.  Thank you, in Jesus name.

Bart Blair: Part of My Heart and My Story

In 1996 I moved to Laurel after having been a migrant theatre worker for several years. Between ’91 and ’96 I had traveled throughout the U.S. and Canada working in professional theatre as a singer, actor and director. My move to Maryland seemed like something of a “whim” at the time, as I needed a place to recover from years on the road and slow my pace of life.

Upon arrival in Laurel, I made the decision that I wanted to meet some new people – make some friends – and I thought church would be a good place to do that. Good people go to church, right? And after having been in the liberal artistic community for so many years, I was anxious to build relationships with people who were more stable in their lives; less rebellious and attention-seeking.

I had grown up in a conservative, legalistic church in Texas where, at a young age, I had professed my belief in Jesus and was baptised. But my faith journey pretty much ended there. As a young adult I ditched church and all the criticism and scrutiny that came with it. I honestly didn’t have much of an interest in God, but was earnestly seeking some authentic relationships.

For several months, I made the Yellow Pages church tour of central Maryland. Interestingly, the first church I checked out – and the one closest to my home – was Bethany.

I will never forget that first Sunday, walking in, wearing a tie and totally looking like THE NEW GUY! The details of the service are fuzzy, but I remember how different the church experience was compared to so many others I’d had in the past. The music was engaging. The teaching was relevant. And the people were REAL!

To make a long story short, I ended up in a discipling relationship with Greg Ressler and engaged as a part of the worship team with Bethany’s Pastor of Worship. For two and a half years those men poured into my life and helped me discover a real passion for loving Jesus and living for Him.

In 1999, I left Laurel for Mississauga, Ontario in a job transfer. I can’t say it was the smartest move of my life. In fact, both Gary and Greg counselled me against it because of some marital issues I was having at the time. Not long after leaving Laurel (and Bethany) that marriage fell apart. And although I felt helpless, so far from my church family and friends, as I went through the darkest time in my life, I was solidly rooted in my love for Jesus and was able to pull through without losing hope.

Ironically, Trevor Peterson, an intern at Bethany during the time I was there, connected me with a friend he knew in Mississauga, Ontario. His friend, Philip Bryant, was part of a team that had planted a church only 3 months before my arrival in Canada.

I connected with that church, Grace Community, and began (or rather continued) in my faith development. Two and a half years later I joined the staff of that church as the Worship Pastor. I served there for almost 9 years and now, part of the same church planting team, I am the Associate Pastor/Church Planter for a new church in Medicine Hat, Alberta (having launched on Sept. 11, 2011).

My dream today is to plant churches across southern Alberta and western Canada, helping people discover Jesus and the amazing relationship he offers.

I can honestly say that the little church in Laurel, planted 25 years ago, has played a huge part in my growth as a Jesus-follower and my life-mission of planting more and more churches to see more and more people find eternal hope.

I love you guys! You are a part of my heart and part of my story. I pray for many, many more years of life-changing ministry for Bethany!

When did you attend Bethany Community?: 1996-1999
Where was Bethany meeting when you attended?: Rt. 1 Building
Where do you live now?: Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada
Tell us a little bit about yourself: My name is Bart Blair. I am married, the father of 3 children. I am the Associate Pastor/Church Planter for Grasslands Church in Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada.
Do you have a story to share?  A memory or significant moment where God met you at Bethany?  We’d love to hear about it.  Click “Share Your Story”!

Jean Dean: The Power of Discipleship

I’m one of those Christians who came to faith by a tract that was given to me very similar to one used here at Bethany called, “Would you like to Know God Personally”.  I prayed the “sinner’s prayer” at the end of the booklet one night when life was at it lowest.  That was in 1977.  I attended several churches during my early faith years, but Bethany became my home in 1986.  I volunteered in the church office and in January of 1988, left my career to come work at Bethany.

Many of you have heard of the discipleship ministry here at Bethany.  I remember sitting at a small table in the McGhee’s apartment home in Laurel, being discipled by Ann McGhee.  Among all my experiences as a Christian, I think this one was the most life-changing.  I don’t think I ever had anyone who invested their time one-on-one in my life that cared for me as Ann.  I have been so privileged to be a part of the lives of the staff here at Bethany and have loved being a part of the lives of those that I discipled.  From each of the women, I learned.  I learned to quilt with my first disciple.  Everything we shared (and we shared everything) became a part of us. Our lives became so intertwined because of our love of Christ and our families, and because of our triumphs and struggles.  Though many have moved away to other states, we are still in touch frequently, sharing what God is faithfully doing in our lives, and what we are still praying for Him to do. There is a song that has a line “Thank You for giving to the Lord, I’m a life that’s been changed”.  So thank you, Kevin and Ann, for giving to me.

Did being discipled by another Bethany Community member have an impact on your life?  We’d love to hear about it.  Click “Share Your Story” at the top of the page.

Tracey Spitler: A Path Called Hope

These stories are about our life’s journey – where we’ve been, where we are now, and where we’re heading. On my journey, my name has changed three times. I was born Tracey Paquin, became Tracey Reed, went back to Tracey Paquin and now I am Tracey Spitler. Let me tell you about it.

As Tracey Paquin, I grew up in sunny San Jose, California in a middle-class, Catholic home. I was a normal kid that grew up with 2 loving parents and 2 not-so-loving siblings. I attended church every Sunday at St. Lucy’s Catholic Church, attended catechism and had my first communion. Eventually, though, I was bold enough say “I’m not going to church anymore.”

In 1984, Tracey Paquin became Tracey Reed. My newlywed dreams quickly shattered as I got more and more involved in using and selling illegal drugs and abusing alcohol. My life’s journey was a on a one-way road to nowhere. Three years later, I came to Maryland with my husband. And soon after that, I became Tracey Paquin again when my marriage ended in divorce. I was living in Maryland, 3000 miles away from my family and partying like there was no tomorrow to dull the empty ache in my heart.

But there was a tomorrow for me!  In September of 1989, I met a great guy named Keven. Keven and I dated for about 3 years and we decided to marry. We wanted a church wedding and I knew in my heart I wanted God to be a part of this new marriage. We weren’t sure if this was possible because we were both divorced, we didn’t share the same religion, and we were living together.

We went to several churches in the area seeking a pastor that would marry us. They all turned us away. In May 1992, our journey took us to Bethany Community Church. It wasn’t to go to church; it was to see if the pastor would marry us. The first thing the Pastor told us was, “I don’t do weddings.  I do Christian marriages.”  I thought to myself, “Oh no, here we go again.” But instead of turning us away like the others, this person loved me enough to explain what it meant to have a Christian marriage and to have a personal relationship with Jesus. That day, in our pastor’s office, my journey took a whole new direction.  From the road to nowhere, I was gently placed on a path called hope.  I made a choice to become a follower of Jesus. Everything that I had done wrong in my life was forgiven by God, wiped clean and never to be brought up again. We were both carrying some pretty heavy baggage, but our relationship with Jesus has enabled us to leave it behind. In June 1992, I became Mrs. Keven Spitler when my Christian marriage began.

I’ve told you these things because some of you may have a story like mine.  Your journey has taken you to some really hard places and you may think you have done some things so awful that God could never forgive you, or you may just feel lonely and without hope. Well, I am walking proof that God cares about you and wants to walk with you on your journey.  

My life has continually changed since 1992. I’ve seen friends and family members join me in following Christ. At Bethany, I’ve learned so many things. I am still not the person I long to be, but my church has helped me travel a long way from the person I used to be. I don’t know exactly where God is leading me in the future, but I do know for sure that the day I die, I will be spending eternity with Jesus in Heaven.  That’s where my journey will end.

At Bethany Community Church, our pastor tells us all the time that our purpose is to help people begin and grow in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I am living proof that it works.

If you would like to share your story of how God has changed you while at Bethany Community Church, please click the “Share Your Story” button at the top of the page.

Kelly Ferber: Like Family

 I never knew and understood what unconditional love was until I came to Bethany Community Church.   I am so grateful for the relationships that God has blessed me with since coming to Bethany.  Laura Mastroianni and Shari Wheeler, who to me are known as the “Wise Ones”, have encouraged and helped me to grow into the person that God wants me to be.  They have seen me at my best, at my worst and through it all loved me unconditionally and taught me what it is like to be part of a family.  Even when I walked away from God, they still loved me, prayed for me and were ready to welcome me back with open arms when I was ready to come back to church.  I came back cannot imagine leaving ever again.

Kevin, Ann, Holly, and many others have been an encouragement to me as well through the years at Bethany.  I have learned that I can count on my Bethany family for anything.

Last year, having to make the most difficult decision I have ever had to make, I was amazed at God’s timing and plan for this one moment.  I had called Rocky Gorge Animal Hospital to talk with someone about the decision of putting Gizmo, my much loved dog, to sleep.  This sweet girl named Sarah answered the phone.  She listened, helped me process the decision through a lot of tears as I described all of Gizmo’s symptoms.  I remember her saying, “Gizmo’s telling you that it’s time and that Gizmo had had a long good life with you”.  I said that I wanted to think about it a little while longer, make sure Shari was able to go with me at the times that were available and that I would call back.  When I called back and asked for Sarah, the person that answered the phone said, “Sarah Kelly”?  I said I think so… and thought is this the Sarah Kelly I know from Bethany?  When Sarah answered the phone, I asked if she went to Bethany Community Church and she said yes.  God’s timing and plan was so perfect, that at the time I didn’t know it but that I had discussed a hard decision with a Bethany friend.

When did you attend Bethany Community?: 1991ish
Where was Bethany meeting when you attended?: Rt. 1 Building
Where do you live now?: Laurel, MD
Tell us a little bit about yourself: I am a reality tv, Pittsburgh Steelers, Brusters ice cream, music and scrapbook lovin’ person.  I have 3 cute critters…. 2 cats and 1 hedgehog, who are the best little blessings!  I am very grateful for all the blessings God has provided and continues to do so.  He is a very loving God!

Has God been faithful to you while attending Bethany Community Church?  Have you also found a family there?  We’d love to hear about it.  Just click on “Share Your Story” at the top of the page.