The Summit Church has always been a multi-generational church. When Laura and I first came to the church in January 2000—it was Homestead Heights Baptist Church back then— we were immediately welcomed by the families there. I remember being impressed by the grandparents, parents, and grandchildren gathering together in vibrant worship, with a vision to reach the world with the gospel. They took the Great Commission seriously to go to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the world and claimed Durham as their Jerusalem, the Triangle as Judea, and the U.S. as their Samaria. They understood their calling to the unreached to the ends of the world.
Laura and I were married at Homestead Heights in June 2001 and then started serving there as a married couple. We remember the energy and excitement of knowing that God was about to do great things with this group of people who were willing to do whatever it took to reach Durham and the world.
When J.D. was called to be pastor, we saw the small group of young couples in our Sunday School class explode in number, even as God continued to add people of all generations to the church. As the church grew, faithful pillars of the church opened their arms to welcome new generations.
Laura and I moved to Central Asia in November 2002. We were not the first to go: Kurt and Janna Kay Holiday and Rob and Pam Riley had been sent out from the church the previous year. Yet momentum increased, and the Lord began to send out the families and youth of the church to go plant churches overseas. Along with the many others sent out through the years, we routinely got emails from our Summit family asking about our well-being, our work, and our growing family. It was such a comfort to know that although we were on the other side of the world, people had not forgotten about us. It truly felt as if they were holding the ropes as we dangled over the edge of a cliff.
We returned four years later, in December 2006, to spend a year in the U.S., now as a family of four, as our two children were born while we lived overseas. When we arrived at the Summit this second time, André’s parents, Lloyd and Wilma Mann, retired from their life overseas and moved to Durham. They joined the Summit because they had heard from us what a loving, missional community it was. They hit the ground running, immediately starting a Spanish-language Bible study. They have been an integral part of the Summit en Español campus since its inception.
On our first Sunday back in 2006, we were overwhelmed. The Summit had moved from a church building to Riverside High School and had seen its attendance jump from 400 to 1,000. We wondered if we’d know anybody in such a big crowd and if we’d be able to navigate the childcare (this was, after all, the first time our kids had ever been in a church nursery!). But the core group of Homestead Heights people—those faithful few who had taken on the mission to reach their neighbors in a new way—was also the same group of people that manned the First Impressions area and the nursery.
And, to our joy, the vision of reaching the diverse communities of the Triangle was being fulfilled. We could see the racial, ethnic, age, and socioeconomic diversity of our city reflected in the worshipers on Sunday morning. It was a beautiful sight to see—just a foreshadow of heaven. And there were the long-time Homestead Heights families serving faithfully; it was so comforting to walk into the huge crowd and greet old friends that we hadn’t seen in four years! Our kids enjoyed the nursery so much that they cried when we picked them up. They didn’t want to go home. They wanted to stay at church!
We returned to Central Asia in January 2008, in an increasingly tumultuous time. André and Pastor J.D. would talk regularly on the phone so that we could keep the church leadership updated on our situation. One time, when J.D. answered a call from André, he said, “Are you OK?” André replied, “Yes, I just called to chat.” J.D. said, “Can I call you back later? I’m preaching right now.”
Just a few months after our return, one of our colleagues was kidnapped, and our team’s security was compromised. Of course, we prayed immediately, but one of the first things we did was call Pastor J.D. As soon as he heard what was happening, J.D. asked, “What can we do? What do you need?” We answered that we were evacuating to Thailand that night and that due to the shock and grief we were all experiencing, a counseling team would be appreciated. Just five days later, an entire team of Summit members met us in Thailand. We don’t know how they got the tickets and time off work that quickly, but they did it. They brought specific people who connected personally with each of our team members as well as a childcare staff to do VBS (with crafts and everything!) for our children. It still brings us to tears to know that at the drop of a hat, our church family was ready to do whatever they could to encourage us and help us through the trauma of what we had just experienced.
Our time overseas came to a close in 2011, and there was no doubt that we were moving back to the Raleigh-Durham area. Even though neither of us are originally from here, The Summit Church is our family and our home. Our kids were able to participate in Summit Kids and Middle School Elevate.
One of the greatest joys for us is that our children accepted Jesus as their Savior. Silas was baptized at Summit en Español in 2011 and Gabriel on Easter Sunday 2015. Another highlight for us is that our children are now serving at church as well, each on his own initiative. Gabriel serves on the production team, and Silas volunteers in preschool at Summit Kids. We are so proud to be part of a church that not only allows youth to serve but gives them real responsibilities and has the foresight to train them up as future leaders in the church.
It has been a joy to see our church transition from Homestead Heights at one campus to The Summit Church at many campuses. From a mostly homogenous (yet welcoming) group of people with a vision to reach their city and the world for Christ, the church has become a diverse, passionate congregation sending out our best near and far to plant churches. We still delight to see familiar faces from that original core group and yet rejoice that thousands of new faces from all kinds of backgrounds now surround us each Sunday—all thanks to the faithfulness of a group of families who, 15 years ago, said, “We’re ready to do whatever it takes to take the gospel to the nations.”
by André and Laura Mann