Wednesday 23rd April 2014,
HeartSupport

About the Team

What is heartsupport?

Heart Support is a non-profit organization built on a foundation of faith; one that desires to strengthen the youth and adults of today. An online community built to encourage, inspire and bring a message of hope. A place for anyone to talk about struggles and difficult issues and to find healing and strength in this community.

Our ultimate vision is to have a team men and women equipped in counseling today’s youth and young adults to be used as a tool in prevention and mentoring others.

Meet our team members

Jake Luhrs Bio PicJacob Luhrs

Founder/Head of HeartSupport

 Email: jake@heartsupport.com

I was raised in a non-Christian family, and this is my story of how God found me. My parents divorced when I was at a very young age. My father moved to Virginia where his parents lived, and my mother, sister and I staying in South Carolina. We moved from our beautiful home in Greenville, SC to the government aid housing in the same area. We lived there for a year and a half, then settled in Columbia, SC where I grew up most of my life. Transitioning from government aid housing into a location with great schooling and a different lifestyle all around was difficult for me. Because I didn’t have many friends and was struggling to find a place, I held onto my sister for dear life to have someone to connect with. Both of my parents at this time remarried and I lived with my mother, sister, and now my step father. Having step parents is a very difficult thing to understand and deal with at such a young age. Now however I understand much more and love both of them dearly.

Moving from the “ghetto” to a neighborhood in Columbia caused me to grew through the ghetto lifestyle and into the punk rock scene. By going to shows at the age of 16 I had my first encounter with what I believe to be my first true “desire.” To be in a band, and play music, to express my pain, angst, and love through music alone. I started my first band with some friends called “Smash Adams.” Practicing in my mothers house above the garage and playing small shows around town, VFW halls, and at our high school. I then moved onto a band called “Last To Know”, playing with them brought more experience, but the band that really set me in my ways and pursuit was “She Walks In Beauty.” At this time I was about 18 or 19 years old. It was your typical metalcore band yet reaching heights in our local scene and playing shows outside of my state made me believe it was just the beginning, or so I thought. I would work two jobs during the summers so that I could afford merch to sell at my sell at our shows. My Popa gave me a check to record our first demo. I was truly seeing my dream come true. I was making a name for myself and doing what I always wanted. Unfortunately, I also dove head first into drinking, partying, lustful acts and experimenting with certain drugs. I ended up moving out of my mothers house and into a house with 4 dogs and 3 roommates. My room was the size of a closet! I went to a technical college but dropped out using the excuse that “it took up too much of my time.” I sold my Nissan Maxima for a cargo van so I could actually have a “touring” vehicle for out of state shows.

I decided later on to take two classes at the technical college, one being Introduction into Audio Engineering and the other in Music Business. During that time, my band fell apart at the seams. Some of my guys wouldn’t even show up for practice; one quit and the other one would always show up drunk. I saw my dreams and passions falling apart, thus making me extremely depressed. I started going to the practice sheds on a nightly basis, watching other bands practice while I drowned my sorrows in any bottle of alcohol I could get my hands on. At this time I was living with my friends and working for a handyman, waking up between 4-5 a.m. to work until 5 p.m. four days a week. I’d come home to more drinking and partying. I hit a dead end in my life. I was sleeping around with girls and dipping my hands in drugs occasionally. I also had a close family member who struggled with heroin at the time, and that alone was a huge trial and brought me much pain. I have personally never dealt with heroin or cocaine, but seeing it first hand and how it was affecting my family member was a huge issue in my life. By the age of 19, I was struggling with so many things. Not being loved by my family, lost in drugs, alcohol and girls. I had no where to go and no one to reach out to. I started to feel worthless and hollow. I began to think of committing suicide. I thought of leaving all of this crap behind. At the time, I figured where ever I was going to go had to be better than the place I was in! I remember sitting in my seat in class with my head down crying in despair, and asking God WHY!

Then the day came that completely changed my life. I was working on a house with my boss one morning and decided to go outside for a cigarette. I talked to the Lord and told him “God, if you are real, if your son Jesus Christ is truly real, then show me! I don’t want my life, and if you want it you can have it, but if not then I’m going to kill myself…” I instantly felt an enormous flow of love in my soul. I couldn’t stop smiling! I was still in the same place, with the same struggles, working at LOVED! I was no longer ALONE! I felt someone cared! That someone was God! I then took on a whole new life that God had given me. He was there to help me, to show me the way, to bring understanding to this mess I had called life. I was the happiest man on earth that day. I truly didn’t have to kill myself or live like this any longer. God was there to show me the way out and to live a filled life! That night I started to pray to him and think of ways I could work on who I was and where I was. I started reading the bible and looking at myself in a whole new light.

A few months later I got the opportunity to be a member of an amazing metal band called August Burns Red, which I have been a member of for more than 4 and 1/2 years! I tour the world and consistently build my life with Christ as my cornerstone. Recently God has put on my heart to reach out to other people and to tell them of God’s love for us! It is an honor for me to do so, thus I decided to start YourLife Ministries. I appreciate your time and reading my testimony. There are some things I did not explain through great detail but if you’d like to know more about particular things in my life, feel free to contact me on the “Ask Us” link. Their are too many stories of my life, and if I were to try and type them all out, I think i’d be able to write a book or two! Thanks again and God Bless!

“so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ”. ~ Ephesians 3:17-18

Sincerely,
Jacob Luhrs

 

Ben Sledge

Director at HeartSupport
Email: ben@heartsupport.com

Watch Ben’s testimony below:

The question you may be asking yourself, because the video leaves you hanging, is “What happened!?  How are you here now!?”

Upon returning home to Houston I packed up everything within a few days and moved to Austin, TX where one of my best friends, and staunch atheist, offered his couch as a place for me to get my life together.  I lived on his couch as a shell of a man, crying at night when he was sleeping, and drinking the pain away.  My friend came up, however, with a solution to cure my depression.  CHURCH!  He would take me to church to “find a nice Christian girl to rebound from the divorce”.  So an atheist and a drunk walk into a church…….no…really.

We ended up at a church called Gateway that was the only church my friend could stomach and actually enjoyed.  He had told me he had heard it was “fun” to which I responded, “I don’t know about this…….church isn’t supposed to be fun”.  For the first time in my life I heard the Gospel, and NOT religion, but the good news of Jesus Christ – that the maker of heaven and earth wanted to enter into your pain with you, died on a cross for it, so that you were no longer a slave to a pattern of destruction, and loves you more right now that he does on your best day.  From there I met three men (one of which was our lead pastor) who took an uncanny interest in me and began to show me  and live out this reckless, untamed, grace-filled Jesus I had never heard of.  I fell in love with the Jesus these men told me about and began to serve at the church.

Crazy things happened.  I started changing.  Things I didn’t even want to change began disappearing.  I remember one day when I realized I hadn’t looked at pornography in 3 months and thought something was wrong with my libido.  The more I fell in love with Jesus the more he began to whisper “see this area here in your life that’s destructive…..I want that too.”  Sometimes I resisted.  Christ would win out.  And I never did it begrudgingly.  I discovered more joy and ultimately found I was most content in my life by glorifying and enjoying God.  I even wrestled with and asked God whether I was to remain single for the rest of my life because of the divorce.  That struggle became moot when I met a woman that understood grace and Jesus’ heart better than I had, especially when I discovered I was the only man she had ever dated or kissed and didn’t care about my past.  We were married in August of 2011 and are college pastors at our church.

Christ has a redemptive story for us all.  He will take the least of us and transform us for his glory and put men and women in our lives to be his emissaries.  My prayer is that I can partner with you in that and help guide you, answer questions, and be an incarnational version of Jesus to you.  I want to get messy in YOUR life.

“And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.”

Jeremiah 3:15

 

Nate-HilpertNate Hilpert

Email: nate@heartsupport.com

I was 10 when I first watched porn. And since then I was hooked. I entered high school when I was 12 and ran from fear, rejection, and hurt into porn and video games. I’d wake up at 6AM and play till 2AM during the summer and would watch porn to forget that I was wasting my life away. Every night, when I left my computer, I spun around in my chair and wondered what the point of my life was. But I never stopped long enough on that question because I just buried the answer deeper and deeper under headshots and naked women.

Three years later, when I was playing on stage at my church pretending to be Christian to hook up with girls, the answer to that question came to me. My youth pastor walked in and started worshipping, and something changed. God chose me. Even as I was lying and pretending to get with girls I only wanted to use. Even as I was six years deep into my addiction to pornography. Even as I was using every waking moment to live in a virtual world that wasn’t as hard as the one I was really in. Even still, He gave me two things that day that have never left me: hope and purpose. Hope that He’s real and that He loves me just as I am. And purpose for my life that never ends even when I give up on it sometimes.

But not everything changed. I was still drowning in addiction and chasing my value in women. And one year later, a friend of mine asked me to help get them to rehab for an addiction to drugs. As I found her answers, God led me to the man who would eventually be my sponsor through the Twelve Steps. In the two years since, God has healed me in so many ways. He’s done unimaginable things through me. And He’s been with me unfailingly as He promised. And even though sometimes I still fail, I have a God who walks with me every step, every stumble, and every fall. To pick me up, dust me off, and cheer me on. I don’t have to be perfect because I have a Savior who was. And He gave that to me when He was killed for me and came back to life. Just because He wants me.

So now I’m trying to spend my life loving others that same way: stupid. The irrational, confusing, you-shouldn’t-still-love me kind of way. In hopes that they’d see through me the Savior who does the same for me each and every day. Because I have a hope that it’s real. And I have a purpose to live and love like it is too.

 

AmandaAmanda Casanova

Email: amanda@heartsupport.com

I’m a skeptic. In all things.

When I first started asking questions about Jesus as a teenager, I wasn’t looking for him. I was looking for proof.

I’m good at that after all. I’ve spent most of my 25 years of life asking questions and telling stories and working to get the truth. It wasn’t a surprise then when in college and post-graduation, my work was primarily in journalism where I worked as a reporter writing about divided city governments, torrential storms, car accidents and holiday festivals.

I came to know Christ through a firestorm of skeptical queries. I asked a lot of questions and read a lot of books in high school about God until he stopped me and asked me his own question: Will you follow me?

I wish I could tell you everything changed after that. I wish I could tell you I became kinder and a better person suddenly. I wish I could tell you I stopped asking questions, but that didn’t happen.

See, I’m also a worrier. See, I need Jesus every day. God has to step in to remind me of his greatness every day. He has shown me in my fear that he is meant to be glorified through my weakness.

I’ve walked away bruised from broken friendships, and I’ve fallen in love with the wrong men before. I’ve said horrible things to those closest to me and I’ve taken too long to apologize, but Christ gives me hope and grace, and I want to follow that.

One of my favorite stories in the bible is of the prophet Isaiah. He was preaching in Judah when seraphs appear around him singing, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” Then God asks him “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”

Isaiah answers, “Here am I. Send me.”

I want to answer that way. It might be scary and it might not be easy, but I want to go do hard things for Christ. And for me that meant telling stories about fear and failure about Christ and faith. So after getting married in 2012, I pulled away from the newspaper business and starting looking for ways to combine my love of the written word with my faith.

I don’t have a biblical degree and I’m not an expert. I say sarcastic things, and sometimes my soul is downcast. Some days I’m lost. Some days I don’t understand.

But in all my questioning, in all my worries, God has shown up to trump my uncertainty and his love outdoes me.

Every time. Without a doubt. Without a question.

 

Evonna-800Evonna Surrette

Email: evonna@heartsupport.com

At the age of 9 I began purging. I quickly learned that if I made myself sick that I was able to leave school and go home where I felt safe. I had just moved from private Christian school to public school this was a tough but I was also trying to cope from being sexually assaulted. As the years went on I began restricting my food intake and continued to purge. I spent a lot of time growing up going to the doctors for being “sick”. I tried many different things to cope with my abuse, I used my eating disorder, cutting, I even attempted to end my life by overdosing. I struggled with depression and my identity for almost two decades before I reached out for help. It wasn’t until I was 19 years old that I finally shared with my youth pastors wife who was also a mentor of mine that I had been struggling with an Eating Disorder. I began seeking therapy in which I was given the diagnosis of Anorexia Nervosa with purging. I continued to struggle throughout my undergraduate years with insecurities about my weight, self-image, depression, cutting, and self-esteem.

Once my secret was out I was able to start the healing process. I continued to see my therapist and my senior year of college decided I wanted to be a registered dietitian. I wanted to help others with their struggle with food as others had helped me. Doors began to close but I kept searching for possibilities to help others. I moved into a drug and alcohol rehabilitation ministry as a house manager. I lived with ladies who wanted to better their lives and stop their addictions, they were seeking healing and this center for some was their last hope of recovery. It was during my time as a house manager that God began to shift my heart and my desires towards counseling. One of the ladies who lived in the house was a drug addict, alcoholic who also struggled with mental illness. I became intrigued with and begin researching and trying to understand bipolar and schizophrenia.

Through a course of events I started applying to graduate schools. I knew that I wanted to attend a Christian based program so I googled many schools and sent in over a dozen applications to schools across the states. I was accepted to a university in Colorado but doors again kept shutting. Two weeks before classes started I was accepted to Grace University in Omaha Nebraska. So I set out on adventure, moved over 500 miles away from everything and everyone I knew to attend, Graduate School. I love seeing people change and recover. Through my own struggles as well as watching others struggle with addiction I can tell you there is hope. As I walk in recovery each day I think of those who are out there and are still struggling. My goal in life is to spread love to others and to help them see their true beauty inside and out. I still have down days that are harder than others, I could stand in front of a mirror for hours and pick apart the things I hate about myself but when I read the verse below I’m reminded that I am created in His image. In the tough days I read this life verse:

Song of Solomon 4:7
You are altogether beautiful, my darling; there is no flaw in you.

Throughout my recovery God has continued to lavish His love on me and it’s only through His grace that I am able to share my story.

In May of 2013 I graduated with my Masters of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. I am a provisionally licensed therapist in which I am able to see clients under supervision. I am currently working to become a Licensed Professional Counselor.

 

Jordan-Zehr

Jordan Zehr

Brother/Sister program

Email: jordan@heartsupport.com

I grew up in a loving home with two parents who sacrificed everything for me, whether it was for sports or for school, my family was always there. We went to church on Sundays, grew up in a small community that was closely intertwined and everybody was close and also knew everybody’s business. I never really trusted God because I never really knew who he was even though I knew of him my entire life.

I was 18 when I first accepted Jesus, but it wasn’t until a few years later I actually started following God.

I dealt with alcoholism and pornography as a means to fill voids in my life until I was about 22 and had a radical change of grace enter my life through some of my neighbors in college. Not just a “hey we’re Christians and we love you” but a “Hey, we love Jesus, let us show you who he is and live life with you.”

Because of those guys in my life, I was forever changed and it has led me down a path I never thought I would be going down. I’m now serving at my church in Austin, TX as a pastoral intern and learning how to reach people that are around me.

One thing I have learned on this journey is that I am me, that is never going to change and because of Christ in me, I have a foundation that will never ever falter and because of this I can always trust Him to be there.

 

 

lancespencebioLance Spence

Video Editor

Email: lance.spence@gmail.com

Raised in one of the most conservative families in my hometown of Perkins, Oklahoma I was basically born in a church pew. Being raised that way unfortunately had the opposite affect on me as it does with many other people. Being a Christian isn’t something you can be born into. You need to experience it for yourself. I took the long road to a true relationship with God. More than just the going to church and putting on a happy face.

As a young man I struggled with all the things men usually struggle with: sexual temptation, fear, anger and insecurities. One day I thought “There has to be more than just going to church on Sundays. Why are my parents so crazy about God when I haven’t seen anything myself.” So I stopped drinking (a little bit) and started going back to church and watching sermons on the Internet. I heard a pastor say during one of the messages that “God doesn’t always choose the person that knows every word in the bible. Sometimes he goes to someone and says will you follow me yes or no?”

In reaction to the message, I dropped everything went to a 2 year internship with a ministry called Acquire the Fire. For one of those years I was the lead actor in their traveling production doing shows for 8,000-15,000 students per show across the U.S. and Canada. I was shown first hand that “God doesn’t always choose the person that knows every word in the bible. Sometimes he goes to someone and says will you follow me yes or no?” Weird right?

While on tour, I learned how to edit video and have been doing that ever since. I found a love for media and am currently getting my degree in Multimedia Journalism/Production at Oklahoma State University. I am now the video editor for HeartSupport and do nearly every video we put on the HeartSupport site.

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