“The Ocean City Beach Project changed me,” says Rebecca Stevenson. “The CCO’s ministry through the Beach Project invited me to take Jesus Christ seriously. It is sad but true to say that I found no teaching in my home church—which I loved—or at college that called me to live differently, that demonstrated to me that following Christ meant a radical shift in the way we look at our culture and our place in it. Before the Beach Project, I was a Christian who hoped to live the American dream; after the Beach Project, I understood that the American dream was a shallow and specious idea of what life might be, but that it was ultimately self-absorbed and empty.”
Rebecca first connected to the CCO’s ministry at Grove City College when she was invited to join a Bible study, and she participated in the CCO-sponsored Ocean City Beach Project the summer after her sophomore year.
“That summer opened my eyes irrevocably to the reality of God and the sacrificial death of Christ—and I had been a serious Christ-seeker and follower before this,” Rebecca says. “But the Beach Project helped me understand in new and life-changing ways what it meant to pursue justice, to live first as a citizen of God’s kingdom, to study scripture in meaningful ways, to think about my obedience to God in caring for His world and in loving others. Living in community changed my attitude about myself in fundamental ways: somehow doing this deliberately and not with family forced me to think outside myself. It was fundamental and amazing and so good.”
Today, Rebecca lives with her husband, Bill, and their three children in Durham, North Carolina. She is a wife, a mother, a high school humanities teacher, and a writer. The Stevensons are active members of Chapel Hill Bible Church, where Rebecca teaches in the children’s ministry and helps to lead worship.
“I teach at, and our children attend, a very excellent Christian school where lots of well-to-do Christians attend,” Rebecca says. “In true CCO style, I struggled with whether or not the school should even exist—and then, in true God style, I ended up teaching there. I do know that this is what I should be doing now, but I continue to struggle with it. The love of Jesus is a challenging thing to live out even in that context. I am so grateful for His insistent work in me, changing me and growing me up in Him.”
Bill was also involved in the CCO’s ministry at Grove City, and participated in an earlier Beach Project. That shared experience has built a foundation for the way Rebecca and Bill share their lives with each other and the community around them. “Bill and I have been extraordinarily blessed in our marriage, our children, our community, our education, our extended family,” Rebecca says. “You name it, we’ve got it. But we’ve also had about a decade-long struggle with employment—the economy hasn’t been gentle with Bill—and we’ve had to really believe in and rely completely on this God in whom we’ve put all our stock.
“In 2005, when Bill had been without a full-time job for four years, he put on the first Carolina HopeFest, a music festival to raise money for Beacon of Hope, a Kenyan-run organization that serves and educates and equips women with HIV/AIDS in a slum of Nairobi. We lost $10,000 of our own money in one evening—music festivals are difficult to start—and went on to hold four more HopeFests each year after that. Subsequently, we have sent over $30,000 to Beacon of Hope.
“Bill is willing to take risks like that, and I with him, because we really believe in God and what we are called to as His children. I believe that this understanding stems absolutely from our involvement with CCO and especially the Beach Project. The CCO’s ministry prepared me to recognize that blessing doesn’t always look like happiness; that blessing, in fact, can be devastatingly difficult.”