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Faces in The Pews

Meet Sonia Wilson

Meet Sonia Wilson. Born in 1937, Sis. Sonia Wilson was raised and educated through 8th grade in Roselle, NJ.  She continued her education and graduated from Rahway High School.  While there she became the first African American twirler/majorette in the marching band.

After graduation Sonia began her working career by becoming the first African American to work at the retailer Woolworth’s in Elizabeth, NJ. Although the path was arduous, for the next 60 years she worked at different jobs including being trained as a senior nurse aide, working for 17 years at all Elizabeth area hospitals and Muhlenberg Hospital, working as a part-time legal secretary for 10 years, and for 5 years she worked as a part-time tax preparer. As time passed, she met and married James Wilson in 1956. They had five children, Bradley, Rwanda (deceased), Tarik, James, and Joule (recently deceased).

During her early years, Sonia attended Guiding Star Church in Roselle, First Baptist Church in Linden, and Shiloh Baptist Church in Elizabeth. She has travelled extensively around the country and has visited Alaska three times, Panama, Aruba, and Antigua. She would travel solo or with a group, visiting museums and seeing plays at theaters, and has been to several NY Giants games.

While working as a Senior Counselor at Stephen Sampson Center in Elizabeth, it was God’s plan that a speaker would be needed for an event.  After searching, she called Lady Bernetta and requested Pastor Evans to be the guest speaker.   She was so moved by Pastor Evans’ speech that on the following Sunday she visited Morning Star. Sonia joined the church the following Sunday and received the Right Hand of Fellowship on February 5, 2005. Sonia says she enjoys worshipping and serving the Lord. She said worship at Morning Star is vibrant, inspiring, motivating, and uplifting.

Asked to share what is it she likes about Morning Star, in less than an instant she said, “the openness and love of the people. Morning Star shows that the power of prayer is a great privilege.  God showed me the way to Morning Star in an everyday work experience as we live by the call to salvation; the call to sanctification; the call to service; and the call to accountability…this is Morning Star’s life.”

Sonia was chairperson of the Seasoned Saints Ministry (now Seasoned Adult Life Ministry) for five years and served with the Public Relations Ministry for three years.  She currently serves as a public relations liaison with the local AARP chapter since 2011. She tours various cities with the local AARP chapter and makes sure her neighbors are fully informed about the various social services available to them.

Sonia prides herself in being a Scrabble fanatic. She says she enjoys playing the game as she understands the mental benefits of pushing herself to master the game and words, in general. She enjoys Jazz music; Miles Davis and Ella Fitzgerald.

Sonia has recently overcome a stroke that had her incapacitated for several months. Today she still enjoys independent living and quiet time at home, watching the television gameshows Family Feud and Jeopardy.

Sonia Wilson – mother, grandmother of 10 and great-grandmother of 5, continues to savor life. Her favorite scripture is Jeremiah 29:11-13.

Meet the Raphael Family

Meet the Raphael Family. Dr Muriel Celestin-Raphael is one of the chairs of the Health and Wellness Ministry and a member of the Public Relations Ministry. Fredeau (Fred) Raphael is a Vice President at one of the leading financial institutions in the country and serves as treasurer of the Public Relations ministry.

Both have been able to use their backgrounds in medicine and banking for God’s plan. Fred has been attending services at the Star since 2003. He was baptized in 2007 and received the right hand of fellowship shortly thereafter. Dr. Muriel followed suit and joined Morning Star in 2009.

The family attends the 11am services every Sunday with their two sons, Thierry and Olivier. The Raphaels say that some of their closest friends and family are also members at the Star.

In their spare time, Fred can be found at First Republic Restaurant, a restaurant that he co-owns with 3 friends who are also members at Morning Star, and Muriel enjoys helping people look and feel good with her art as a stylist and makeup artist with Celestial Style and Beauty.

Both shared that their lives have been transformed through the teachings that they receive weekly from Pastor, which they have been able to apply in their personal and professional lives. “The people at Morning Star really do get it. Church is not some place we GO. The church is what we ARE, and that understanding makes all the difference. It’s a privilege to be members of “the best church on earth”!

Meet Richard Medley

Meet Richard Medley. In 2007, Richard, along with his two children, walked through the doors of Morning Star. He was saved at a young age, and despite his conviction, Richard said he walked his own path for over 20 years, but it was God’s amazing grace that kept him. In 2009, the Lord answered a special prayer for Richard and after rededicating his life to the Lord, he married his partner Ruthie. It was at that time that Richard said he became on fire for serving the Lord and joined various ministries:

Youth, Sunday School, Operation Warmheart and Transportation. Richard says he enjoys everything outdoors and spending time with his grandchildren, but a recent injury and surgery has him out of work and not able to serve in ministry. His free time is now spent watching football and basketball. He raves about his teams, the Dallas Cowboys and the Boston Celtics.

Richard speaks about the power of prayer, and what he appreciates and enjoys the most about attending Morning Star is being under the Word of God through a pastor with a humble heart. It’s this, Richard says, that has helped him through some tough family times and trials. He says his renewed faith and learning about forgiveness all came from his regular attendance to Thursday evening Bible Study and Sunday morning 8am Worship. He says, “The clearer understanding of the Bible has changed my life in so many ways…If God can allow me to walk through the valley, and He lifted me on the other side, He must have a path in mind for me; I try every day to commit myself to Him.” Richard is looking forward to volunteering at Operation Warmheart again. His favorite scripture is Matthew 11:28, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.”

Meet the Maranos! Rick, Angela, Andrew

Meet the Maranos! Rick, Angela, Andrew.
21 years ago, a friendly smile and a handshake welcomed Angela and her 4yr old son Andrew to Morning Star. It was a co-worker who knew she was looking for a church home and extended an invitation to “just come and see.”

Later she met and married her Ricky in 1999. Rick gave his life to Christ and joined Morning Star in 2000. Since becoming members, Rick and Angela participate in all Couples Ministry events, and Angela now serves as a co-chair of the Board of Trustees. She has served on several ministries including Newsletter, New Members, Scholarship and Dance Ministry. Rick has served as CFO and Andrew spent his early years as part of the Youth Ministry and says that he is thankful to have parents who know and desire to serve the Lord. “Because of them, I know about the love that God has for me,” Andrew says.

The Maranos say that God continues to intervene in their lives at various crossroads. “The work, that God’s hands have had on our lives since we joined Morning Star have been awe inspiring!!”

In their spare time, Rick can be found on the golf course and the family continues to check out new sites abroad and locally. Rick says, “I am a much better person now because of Morning Star. Life seems crazy sometimes but it’s a place I can go to be reminded of the love God has for me.”

Meet Lauren Walker

Meet Lauren Walker. Lauren Walker has been a member of Morning Star since early 2013 as a result of the 2012 Watch Night service. She began “dating” Morning Star when she was invited by a friend in 2008. Within that time, she began attending more frequently, and decided Morning Star was the place for her because she needed a change, and more importantly, she needed to grow!

Lauren is 28 years old and is a 5th grade teacher. She has been teaching for 6 years and is currently pursuing her Masters in Educational Leadership to become a principal. She is poised to graduate this May!

Lauren comes from a very close-knit family. She enjoys spending time with family and friends. She loves to travel and listen to live music. She also enjoys reading when she can, but has been mostly focused on her textbooks because of her continuing education. She is currently a member of the Community Relations Ministry and hopes to join other ministries in the near future.

If someone was to ask Lauren about whether they should follow Jesus, she would tell them to stop thinking about it and just do it. “There were times in my life that I couldn’t see how I was going to get through, but I know that it was nobody but God who was able to get me through. Have faith and never doubt him. If he can do it for me, he can surely do it for everyone else.”

Meet Tafari & Bonnetta Brown

Meet Tafari & Bonnet Brown. Tafari & Bonnetta met in college, and have been blessed to experience 16 years of marriage. Moving from St. Petersburg, FL to Westfield, NJ in 2013, Bonnetta was introduced to Morning Star by a co-worker who told her Morning Star was ‘The Best Church on Earth.’ After visiting and experiencing praise and worship with their daughter Briana (15), and son Elijah (8), they agreed with the statement, and the family of four joined Morning Star.

Tafari, a proud Jamaican-American, is a United States Air Force Veteran. He is currently working on his Master’s degree in Human Resources Management, transitioning from his current role as a NJ Transit technician. During his free time he can be found in the gym, or listening to music. He also loves to cook, and has a passion for prayer.

Bonnetta, a Litigation Paralegal, is currently working on obtaining a M.S.J. in Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Law and Compliance. She lifts spirits with laughter and relaxes with a good book or movie. Spending time baking with her children also brings her enjoyment.

This couple knows from whom their blessings come, as Bonnetta’s favorite scripture says, “I am the vine you are the branches. He who abides in me and I in him, He it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” – John 15:5 (KJV). Both Tafari and Bonnetta are currently serving on Morning Star’s social media team.

Meet Morris & Ida Williams

Meet Morris & Ida Williams After months of “church hopping” Morris and Ida were searching through the phone book under the Pentecostal section and stumbled upon a listing for Morning Star Community Tabernacle Church. Morris was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness and Ida as a Presbyterian. Both said they found the style of worship at Morning Star quite “different” and “interesting.” They knew there was more to life and church and were determined to find the answers. Morris and Ida said they felt loved and welcomed as soon as they entered the building.

With 4 children and 5 grandchildren (2 more on the way), Morris and Ida have a strong bond with their families and are enjoying a now successful marriage that became grounded since joining Morning Star. Morris is the eldest with 5 sisters. He is one of our Deacons and the Chairperson of the Transportation Ministry. Ida is the youngest of 3 sisters and serves with the ACTS, Food Pantry, Transportation, Health & Wellness and Youth Ministries.

When they are not working, the Williams are biking, roller-skating, swimming, and traveling. They have a love for the Arts and Culture and are avid collectors of both African and Native American art and sculptures. Ida says that when she finds any down time, she loves to read various autobiographies and do crossword and number puzzles.

Morris and Ida say their lives have been transformed since becoming members of Morning Star in 2009. They say they love the remarkable way that Pastor breaks down the Bible so that anyone can understand it. He quotes: “If you’re not as close to God as you use to be, guess who moved?” “God can do anything but fail,” says Ida. Morris and Ida say the love, grace, and mercy of God never ceases to amaze them. They are grateful for the Morning Star family.

Meet the Tarasevitsch Family

Meet the Tarasevitsch Family Makkeda was born into the church in 1986 to Sister Angela and Brother Sidney Loyal. The late Bishop Irvin Evans, Sr. and his daughter Portia became her god-parents. Throughout her childhood, she was involved in various church activities. The fashion show events were her favorite as a pre-teen.

Makkeda later met her high school sweetheart Micheal. Micheal started attending Morning Star in the summer of 2006, and received the Right Hand of Fellowship in 2007. Within that year, he also joined the U.S. Navy. The long distance relationship became their test of faith. Keeping busy, Makkeda attended Kean University and graduated in 2009 with a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts, during the time Micheal was deployed overseas. Every day, he prayed for strength, courage, and most of all safety, as the imminent threat of danger was all around him. After months out at sea, in July 2010, the carrier arrived safely back in Norfolk, Virginia port. Within a short time after arriving home, Micheal and Makkeda were wed by Pastor Therman Evans, and Makkeda relocated to Virginia until Micheal’s enlistment was up. The family continued to receive the Word by way of CD’s of sermon lessons.

In May of 2012, Micheal and Makkeda welcomed son Zander. Zander’s favorite thing about church is the choir, especially hearing and watching his aunt, grandmother, and great-grandmother.

The family is back in New Jersey and says that “through ups and downs, in sickness and in health, enduring the test of the Navy, Morning Star has been their rock.” They have found strength in the scripture, 1 Peter 1:6-7 “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come to prove the genuineness of your faith.”

Meet Tamika Jenkins

Meet Tamika Jenkins.  Tamika Jenkins, born and raised in Bronx, NY, joined Morning Star in 2009, then recommitted in June 2014 when her mother, Vergena Ward, and sister, Madelyn Ward became members. She was raised in a closely-knit family and was taught to follow God and always love, appreciate, and be there for one another.

Tamika moved to New Jersey to attend Bloomfield College. She now works as a real estate paralegal and enjoys reading, traveling, mentoring youth, politics, and cooking.

Tamika has been active in the church since childhood and has always felt at peace while in church. At Morning Star, she initially served on the Youth & Singles ministries and is currently active in the Usher Ministry. She likes Morning Star because of the doctrine, the community outreach, the focus on spiritual growth of our youth, and most importantly, because “we simply can be ourselves, whether conservative or crazy, in our Sunday best or ‘not so’ Sunday best and everyone is okay with that because it’s all about our walk with God.” Her favorite scripture is Proverbs 3:5, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” Tamika’s advice to someone who is thinking about following Jesus and/or joining Morning Star is: Trust in Him and listen to your heart. He is speaking to you, just answer and say YES Lord and the blessings and happiness you will receive will be bountiful. Remember, “Sometimes God doesn’t change your situation because He is trying to change your heart.”

Meet Alesia Gass

Meet Alesia Gass. After many months of seeking for the “right church” an invitation from Donna Hall brought Alesia Gass to Morning Star in 2004. Alesia was looking for a church that had evidence of order, would equip her to grow, encourages worship, and where God would want her to serve. She says the top notch teaching of Pastor Evans is a pleasure to enjoy. He didn’t come off as pretentious and delivered the Word that would immediately convict her toward a changed life. Alesia said that Morning Star was perfect for her and was excited to complete the membership process in 2005.

Born in High Point, North Carolina, Alesia moved to New Jersey in 1962 and has been married to her “teenage crush” Robert, for almost 45 years. The couple has a son, a daughter, and two grandsons. In 2006 Alesia retired from PSE&G after a career of more than 35 years. This did not mean Alesia was retiring from life and needed to find a way to redefine her time. After hearing Pastor Evans encourage members to serve, through the Servolution initiative, Alesia, along with the Seasoned Saints Ministry (now Seasoned Adult Life Ministry – “SALM”) decided on volunteering at Trinitas Regional Medical Center. Her volunteer efforts started in the Pathology Dept. and soon thereafter she was offered a permanent, part-time position in the Purchasing Dept.

Morning Star is important to Alesia, especially because of the community she has found here. She loves being involved in ministry and feels completely blessed to be working with some wonderful people. “I am so grateful,” Alesia says. What keeps her planted at Morning Star is the Sunday morning and Bible Study teachings, topped off with the down to earth welcoming presence of the people, our Pastor and Lady B.

Alesia says that life as a retiree is great! It allows her time to do the things she enjoy; cruising, spending time with her grandsons and cooking for friends and family. Finding the time to watch the Food Network and trying out different recipes is only the icing on the cake. She currently serves as the secretary/treasurer of the Ushers Ministry, a member of SALM, and participates on Wednesdays with the Food Bank Ministry.

She starts each day walking and couples that with meditation and prayer. She recites Psalm 23 daily because “the Lord is my Shepherd and He gets me through my day, grants me traveling mercies and the ability to deal with all people and attitudes.” One of Alesia’s favorite quotes is “If God Is Willing!” We have to have faith that what we ask of God, in Jesus’ name, believe it will happen.

Meet the Grants

Meet the Grants.  Deacon Rayfield and Associate Pastor Gwenda are originally from North Carolina and moved to Carteret, New Jersey in 1970. Married for 49 years, the couple has two sons, eight grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren that they love and adore.

Deacon Rayfield is the owner and operator of Grant’s Barber Shop, which has been in business since 1998. The shop is located on Drake Avenue in Roselle, NJ. During his off time, he can be found manning the barbecue grill where he enjoys cooking for his family. Deacon Grant has been a member of Morning Star for over 18 years, receiving the right hand of fellowship when Pastor Therman was installed as pastor!

With a long career in healthcare, Pastor Gwenda is a registered nurse and is currently working as the Senior Transitional Care Manager for Bayada Home Healthcare. She loves to travel and experience different cultures. She also enjoys spending time with their extended family in North Carolina. In fact, both are committed to taking annual vacations and have lived up to that commitment over the years. Some highlights of their year always include attending their annual family gathering in North Carolina during the summer and meeting family in Florida during the Christmas holiday. Pastor Grant has been a member of Morning Star since 2006. She is the stark opposite of Eutychus, the young man who sank into a deep sleep and fell off the window to his death during Paul’s sermon in Acts 20. In fact, you are sure to see and hear Pastor Grant on any given Sunday morning in high praise!

The Grants are thrilled to be at Morning Star and have a wonderful testimony of love, respect, romance, and spiritual oneness that came from Pastor Evans’ message “Family First,” that helped to mend a crisis within their marriage. Their belief, feelings, and attitude “for better or worse” have enabled them to see each other in a new light and are consistent with their actions.

Morning Star has become a very important part of the Grants’ life. They want to see it flourish and are constantly sharing with the community about Pastor Evans and the church. Pastor Grant notes the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit and the song that keeps her encouraged is “I Won’t Complain” composed by Elder James Lenox. One of Deacon Grant’s tools of encouragement is John 3:16: “For this is how God loved the world: He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” The couple has a single focus, a single goal, and that is Christ! Their message to anyone considering Morning Star is “come as you are and have a life-changing experience. This is where you need to be.”

Meet Imani Carter

Meet Imani Carter.  Imani Carter has been a member of Morning Star since birth. She was born into the church, as her mother and extended family were attending for some time before she was born.

A 2015 graduate of Montclair State University, Imani earned her BFA in Dance Performance. Her extensive study in Fine Arts has allowed her to perform works by some of the industry’s best: Hope Boykin of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, Rennie Harris, and Sidra Bell. She has also trained and performed under the teachings of Jay Skeete-Lee, Earl Mosley, and Christian Von Howard. Their instruction has assisted in molding Imani into a better artist.

Anyone who knows Imani knows that dance is her passion. Her focus is first and foremost to lift up the name of Jesus and give Him glory. Her love for dance has presented her with the opportunity to chair four dance groups at Morning Star and work with various ministries in New Jersey. She has served as the primary choreographer and artistic director of Wells Cathedral C.O.G.I.C.’s Dance Ministry. Under Imani’s instruction, they were the 2014 National Champions in the category of Praise Dance at the Arts in Ministry Conference in Baltimore, MD. However, Imani is most dedicated to the dance ministry at Morning Star. While in college, she traveled to and from school and church to rehearse and minister. She aspires to travel all over the world, enhancing and revitalizing dance ministries. In addition to serving on the dance ministry, Imani is also a youth leader. Her gentle wisdom, and unwavering commitment as a youth leader have played a significant role in the growth of the Youth Ministry.

Outside of her church-related activities, Imani spends time taking dance classes and auditioning in New York City. She loves attending dance shows and is truly inspired by the arts. She is often reminded of the parable of the talents: the servants who invested were rewarded. She also has an incredible support system of family and friends, and is particularly motivated by her mother’s consistent mantra, “You are a star.”

Imani speaks of her family as a treasure. She appreciates their close-knit relationships and the foundation of God, love, and selfless giving that her grandparents, Mother Rosa Lee Porter and the late Deacon-Emeritus Frank Porter, Sr. have established for them. She is grateful that her family can worship altogether at Morning Star.

Imani enjoys the love and support of Pastor and Lady B. 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 is Imani’s favorite scripture: “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.”

Aside from her interest in the arts and dance, Imani spends time enjoying her friends, working, and doing hair. She is often trying out new looks. She has even admitted that she loves taking risks and has gone as far as dying her hair blue. Currently, Imani works in the Content Department at the National Basketball Association (NBA).

Imani is personable, intelligent, and delightful. Her realness is definitely refreshing and relatable!

Meet Ketura Jerome

Meet Ketura Jerome.  Born in New Jersey, Ketura is the oldest of three siblings. Her parents were the first generation to migrate from Haiti to the United States. Ketura grew up with strong family values and a strong spiritual background. Her father is the pastor of the First Haitian Church of God in Roselle. Growing up, she remembers she had to memorize scriptures in Creole, the main language spoken in the home. She recalls Psalm 23 as the first scripture she memorized.

Ketura is a graduate of Rutgers University with degrees in Biology and Psychology. She currently works as Chief Operations Officer for a medical sales company. She is also the very busy entrepreneur of Belle Soiree, which specializes in wedding coordination and special events.

With a well-developed palate, Ketura loves the aroma and evolution of various foods and flavors. As much as she loves to eat, Ketura knows how to take care of herself and understands the importance of a healthy balance between junk food and healthy food.

FUN FACT: What people don’t know about Ketura is that she enjoys everything fun. She’s always talking, always laughing and loves riding motorcycles!

Ketura first learned about Morning Star as a teen through youth choir fellowships, and she attended the wedding of two of her aunts. She said she joined Morning Star because she was seeking intellectual stimulation, personal growth, and a church that accepts differences and acts with integrity. Morning Star is important to Ketura, especially because of the soulful community she has found. She says Sundays remind her of the traditional, Pentecostal background she grew up in as a child, but the progressive, theological teachings are what she celebrates.

As a member of the Music and Arts Ministry you will find her ministering with the Praise Team and Mass Choir. She is also a member of the Drama Ministry. She speaks of her love for Pastor Therman and Lady B and says, “We don’t exist on our own. Our church is a welcoming family, and the nourishing sermons and worship will grow you. It is indeed the best church on earth.”

Ketura’s much loved scripture is 1 Timothy 4:12: “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.”

Meet Athen “James” Jordan, Jr

Meet Athen “James” Jordan, Jr.  Athen, known by most as James, was born in Newark, New Jersey but spent most of his early years living in Virginia. After graduating from John Yates High School in Suffolk, Virginia, James, along with his mother and two siblings moved back to New Jersey.

Being detailed-oriented and having a love for working with his hands, James developed a passion for learning about how things work. This passion pushed him to attend trade school where he earned his Journeyman Certificate, later becoming a skilled and licensed electrician. Voltage, watts, and wires are James’ domain. In fact, James says that at times when he is out at an event and detects a mishap in the sound it takes much restraint, and he has to remind himself that he is not in “work” mode and must therefore resist the urge to try to “fix” the problem.

As a licensed electrician, James has been involved in countless construction projects that have afforded him the opportunity to travel around the country. He considers himself a “jack of all trades” as he has also worked as a carpenter and plumber and is quickly becoming master of all of them as he thoroughly enjoys what he does. James is also no stranger to mixing boards and audio equipment. In the 80’s and 90’s he was an up-and-coming DJ where he was dubbed “DJ Justice Born.” Groomed by DJ producer and master mixer Tony Humphries and the late legendary DJ Dave Camacho, James quickly became known for going “the whole nine yards” for the music — spinning the latest and greatest house music in clubs all over Newark. Today he still has crates of classic and vintage albums stored away.

James says he always thought of himself as a God-fearing man, but felt something was missing. He sought spiritual insight from multiple faiths before coming into the knowledge of Christ. It was on this journey that he realized the truth about God, Jesus Christ and His true church. Living in Linden, James says he drove pass Morning Star on his daily commute to work and every time he drove by he felt curious about what it was like on the inside. It was the constant prodding from his friend Tania Reaves that made him visit. After a few visits James says he realized that he could finally become part of a church family that made him feel at home. He joined and received the Right Hand of Fellowship in early 2014 and is active in ministry.

As a member of the Media Ministry he is often found in the crawlspaces routing and re-routing audio cables to monitors and cameras for Sunday worship’s Live Streams. When he is not working or traversing the highways to visit family in Virginia, he spends time watching sporting events and re-watches videos of his prized NFL Kansas City Chiefs. He believes this is their year!

James stated that he admires the love and understanding at Morning Star. He truly believes that Pastor Evans has a deep love for the congregation, evident in the way he serves the community. His favorite book of the Bible is the Book of James, of course! He believes that giving back is the true evidence of our appreciation for Christ’s sacrifice for us.

Meet The Spears

Meet The Spears.  What may have been socially unacceptable for most, Samuel and Latoya Spears met in 2008 for their first date at Morning Star Sunday worship. Sam, already a member at the Star, knew that by inviting Latoya to “his” church, he would know if a Christian lifestyle was important to her as it was to him. Church was a great filter for them. It sparked a conversation on where God and church fit into their life, in which became the focus of the date.

Latoya says she was impressed by Sam’s invitation to meet at church, as that says a lot about how important his beliefs are. After dating for a few years, Latoya said she found, not only Sam appealing, but enjoyed visiting Morning Star. She joined the church in 2010. Their faith in God became the foundation of their blossoming relationship; their lives and families, becoming one in 2012 when Pastor Evans performed their marriage ceremony.

Life as a blended family provides Sam and Latoya many opportunities for joyful interactions with their five children. They have developed a list of values that have enabled them to not only teach, but model responsibility and honesty. What’s comforting to them is that their blended family is a family ‘first and foremost.’

As a busy wife and mother, Latoya works as a part-time Pediatric Homecare Nurse and part-time with the State of New Jersey, empowering seniors with services and programs to maximize their life. If that wasn’t enough, Latoya is currently enrolled at Berkley College, pursuing a BSN – Baccalaureate Science of Nursing.

Sam is a distinguished employee of New Jersey Transit System with the title of Chief Trainmaster of Penn Station, New York. As a 15-year veteran railroader, his career starting as a train conductor, Sam says anybody can run an engine, but it takes skills and experience to run the train operations in a major city. He does not view rail tracks, blow whistles, and horn signals lightly as he supports the millions of riders that pass through the historic New York Penn Station where he is based. Sam says everyday he strives to provide safe, on time, and on-plan movement of commuter trains. His work does not come to the knowledge of the riders until something occurs that disrupts the commute. The events of September 11, 2001 became the catalyst for Sam in his career with New Jersey Transit. He benefited from specific formal training that allows him to detect suspicious and unattended packages and movement to protect life and property. Already in a leadership role, through God’s favor, Sam is on his way to yet another promotion, the third in less than four years!

The Spears enjoy spending quality time with each other and filling their passports with the stamps of different countries. Sam also enjoys fishing and is about to flex muscles with his recent purchase of golf clubs. Both Sam and Latoya had an early interest in law enforcement and although their careers took different paths they say they are crime solvers, enthusiasts, and enjoy watching mystery and crime TV shows and movies. They speak of a heightened sense of their surroundings and recently made it a priority to teach their children how to stay vigilant.

Sam and Latoya say there are several reasons why they love Morning Star but point out Pastor and First Lady’s teachings, the living example they exhibit, and the presence of the Holy Spirit. 1 John 4:4 and Philippians 4:13 are favorite scriptures for the Spears.

Meet 16-year old Garrison “LG”

Meet 16-year old Garrison “LG”.   He’s an 11th grader at Alexander Hamilton Preparatory Academy in Elizabeth, NJ. He stands 6-2½ feet tall and can hoop! Garrison is known on his high school basketball team as an elite, power forward player with the skillset to potentially reach the National Basketball Association. He has a brilliant floor game, blocks shots and says he can even throw down between the legs and dunk with ease!

A member of Morning Star since birth, Garrison is the son of Gary and Patricia. He is a junior usher and is very active with the Youth Ministry. He’s very focused on his future and academics with sights on becoming a sports broadcaster/commentator. The list of schools that Garrison is considering after graduating high school is impressive. While universities in New Jersey are in the mix, Garrison says he is chasing his dream to attend Syracuse University. He went further to say that there are a lot of things he needs to improve to get there and will keep trying his best and playing his hardest. Today, his favorite subject is Biology and he enjoys attending New York Knicks Summer Basketball Camps where he learns about teamwork and personal development.

Ironically, it’s Garrison’s inquisitive nature and willingness to challenge himself in ways few other teenagers would that drew him into developing a love for play-by-play of sporting events. He is a young man who isn’t afraid to be different and that’s exactly what his coaches have been saying to him since day one. “I just want to be a different kid, I don’t like being a follower,” Garrison said. He speaks of his appreciation of being a youth at Morning Star; the caring youth leaders, the friends he has and the lessons he’s already learned from listening to Pastor Evans’ teachings.

If Garrison was to eventually choose Syracuse University, his plan is to pursue a degree in communications. When asked what it would mean for their son to one day bring home a Syracuse University degree and put it on the wall in their home, his parents said they believe that there is nothing Garrison won’t be able to do. “And that’s all we want.”

In his spare time Garrison watches ESPN, NFL, and NBA-TV game films, plays PS4 and hangs out with his extended family. He says his parents are his biggest cheerleaders who constantly encourage him to work hard. They tell him “everything you want will come to you. Just trust God, work hard and stay strong.” His entire family is dreaming big for Garrison.

It’s hard to remember sometimes that Garrison is only 16 years old. He says the first time he spread his hands around a basketball was when he was around six years old. He says he really likes the game of basketball and once he started playing, he just wanted to get better at it. It should come as no surprise that one of the video games that Garrison plays is NBA-2K17 for PlayStation!

We can’t wait to see how Garrison progresses after high school. Remember his name, as you will hear his name soon!

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Philippians 4:13

I can do everything through him who gives me strength.