HNH Shorts

Introducing, Humans of North Harbor [HNH] Shorts! For those who don't have 30 or 45 minutes to devote to watching full length interviews, we're breaking down our stories into more bite sized chunks. Here's the first Short, a clip about why Elaine had to re-do her interview, and how God is already at work through this project!!

Humans of North Harbor #3: Zoë Reyes

Zoe grew up a proud Texan surrounded by a large extended family of Christians.  She was part of a well-known family within her church and was often defined by this role.  In eighth grade she had some hard situations within her extended family that challenged her idea of faith and what it means to be Christian.  Her immediate family struggled through that experience together and at the same time had challenges within their church that required questioning the purpose and role of the church.  Her family ultimately decided to leave the church she had grown up in.  She describes this as a journey that led her to “pathological church leaving” that continued until she started attending North Harbor about 7 years ago.

Zoe bravely admits to currently encountering a challenge with God.  She recently heard a podcast that gave her some academic information that did not align with her understanding of scripture.  This was not the first time this had happened, but she felt as though this particular information was very central to her understanding of scripture and it really rattled her.  Her whole life was shaped around her faith in God and understanding of scripture and she felt as if it was being pulled out from under her.  Although she had conversations with her discipleship group, North Harbor staff and her husband, she still did not feel resolution over this matter and it was impacting her whole life view.  In a dark solitary moment, as she struggled with this issue she felt she heard God tell her, “Zoe are you going to let a little bit of news change all that we’ve gone through together? Change who we have been to each other?”  It reminded her that she has an academic understanding of who God is and what the Bible says, but then she also has a relationship with a living God that has been present since she was young.  For a while she was angry that the Bible might be wrong or a lie.  As she started focusing on her relationship with God and allowing Him to reveal His perspective she learned to separate His voice from what she has been taught as “Christian” or “Biblical”.  Regardless of anything else she knows,  “My relationship with God is real and I can’t deny that.”  She continues to struggle with the information that she is learning and how to reconcile that with her understanding of the Bible.  She is also learning about how God’s word is alive and active through scripture and outside of scripture.  It is a living active dynamic presence in all of the world, in nature and people and scripture.  His word has given her transformational comfort throughout her life and information can’t change that.  This challenge has revealed to her that she had to give up even something as good as the Bible to hold onto just God.

As she holds onto God, her understanding of her relationship with Him continues to grow.  In a recent therapy session, Zoe told her therapist that she felt God’s presence supporting her through this tough time and how God was strong when she was weak and that this was really comforting to her.  Her therapist challenged her on this because she felt Zoe needed to be strong herself to do the work ahead of them.  At first Zoe was offended thinking that “when she is weak, God is strong” and that her weakness was a good thing.  But as she reflected on it she sensed that God agreed with her therapist.  Although Zoe didn’t feel strong, she realized that God brought her to this place and this time because she is ready to do this hard work.  He had been strengthening her through relationships, through life circumstances, through where she is at within.  He had been equipping her for this moment and He had made her strong.  Instead of just stepping in and fixing things in his wealth of goodness, He had been and continues to step into her poverty and work through process.  Process that requires relationship.  God loves her enough to walk with her through this process and this mess and strengthen her.  He has put her in North Harbor where she can find Christian community that can tolerate mess for this process.  As she realized that God wanted to be in relationship with her and in her mess with her, she realized just how strong she really is with Him.

Zoe hasn’t always been a fan of Christian community.  She had been very critical of Christians and struggled with how messy the relationships can be.  She tried to live without the community of other Christians for quite a while, but God convicted her of needing to love His church in order to love Him.  She has been learning over the past decade how to live within Christian community and is now the community development director at North Harbor.  Although challenging for her, she finds great gains from being in community.  Christian community keeps her from being stagnant in her faith.  To see God at work in Christian community grows her view of God and keeps her aware that faith is not about her but about God.  Community keeps her growing, humble, out of complacency and spurs her on towards God through encouragement and challenge.

As mentioned earlier, Zoe has been a “pathological church leaver” most of her adult life always ready to move onto the next thing.  She struggles with wanting to embrace the diversity of the church and interact with people she might disagree with or otherwise not choose to do life with.  But she as she learns to embrace Christian community, she is also learning how to stay in one place and be strengthened by those whose faith may look different than hers.  She appreciates the intention that it takes to sign a partnership agreement every year at North Harbor and commit to this place and these people.  She describes North Harbor as a humble place where there is a culture of honesty in questioning and being messy.  It’s ok with be broken and unsure here.  She appreciates that she can say, “I am not perfect, I do not have it all together, I do not know it all.  I am tripping along the way, but I continue to journey.”  We continue to journey together as we mutually support each other along this path of faith.

Watch her video to hear her full story.

Zoe Reyes lives in Brunswick with her husband, Manny, and two children.  She is the Community Development Director at North Harbor.

I wonder...what role does Christian community play in my relationship with God?

I wonder...what role does scripture play in my relationship with God?

I wonder...what is the significance of God wanting a relationship with me?

I I appreciate or can I see times when God has worked through process instead of just giving me what I want or think I need?

I wonder...where do I recognize patterns that were instilled early in my faith (i.e. pathological church leaving, denouncing Christian community) that I can now see God’s redeeming work in?

Humans of North Harbor #2: Elaine DeFreitas

[For an introduction to Humans of North Harbor, click here]

Walking with God

Elaine grew up in a Christian home in Vermont.  She was a part of a large Christian and Missionary Alliance Church which was unusual in New England.  However, at school, in her community and even among her friends there was a clear message that did not support Christianity.  Education and intelligence were highly valued, and the assumption was that if you were smart you would be smart enough to know that God doesn’t exist or at least wasn’t necessary when you had science.  This dichotomous message of faith in God at home and in church, but then also being educated and science oriented and close with many people who weren’t Christians, forced her to own her faith and find a way to reconcile the two.

Her faith in God and her interest in science followed her into graduate school where she explains meeting Jesus for the first time.  She had very high expectations of herself, a self-described perfectionist, and projected those feelings onto God.  Even though she knew Jesus loves us no matter what, she felt as if God expected perfection from her and was disappointed by anything less.  This led to a cycle of fear and anxiety over failure, then shame for feeling anxious (operating on an assumption that Christians are always peaceful and joyful), then more anxiety of having feelings that she thought were disappointing to God.  

She eventually sought the help of a counselor who helped her anxiety by starting with her view of God.  She expanded her view of God by introducing her to a wider scope of Christian thinking, authors like Rob Bell and Anne Lamont.  Then, her therapist helped her separate true guilt over sin from self-imposed shame.  When the fear and anxiety seemed too much, she was encouraged to take it to Jesus, and let him handle it.  This was a terrifying thought at first.  

She knew Jesus loved her and was all-powerful, but didn’t truly believe he would want to be in her mess with her.  

But one evening she sat down in her apartment and cried out to Jesus with all of her fears, anxiety, pain, and shame.  And He showed up.  He was nothing like she expected. He was non-judgemental and protective and loving.  That day, she says, her anxieties lost their power over her because she now knew He was more powerful.  He was not at all disappointed in her, but loved her and wanted her to come to him with her mess; not rely on herself to be fixed up in order to be in His presence.  Her confidence is now in Jesus and not in her own ability to attain perfection.

A few years later she got engaged, graduated with her doctorate, moved to Maine, got her professional licence, started a job, got a dog, bought a house, and got married all within a year.  The next year they had their first child.  It was all she ever wanted, but a lot of stressful life changes all at once were also very difficult.  She struggled with feeling unhappy, and shameful for feeling unhappy with so many good things, and as if her happiness didn’t really matter in God’s grand plan anyway.  She spent a lot of time talking to God and to other people and felt a sense that she was supposed to walk with God through it with honesty about how she was feeling.  She wanted to stay home with her baby, but financially this was not possible.  At the same time, her husband was gaining passion in construction and alternative and energy efficient building, which he could not pursue in their current situation.  They also wanted to be able to give and be more generous with their money.  

All of this led them to decide to sell their house.  She describes having difficulty letting go of her well-laid life plans, of feeling as if changing paths was somehow a failure, but trusting God and walking with Him through this choice.  They ended up moving into a smaller house which allowed her to be home with her kids, allowed more generosity in how they spent their money and gave them room to pursue interests and passions.  God taught her a lot through this move about letting go of the pride and self-worth she put in her career and her ability to be self-reliant.  She learned about having faith enough in God to listen to her own heart and about His ability to provide and care for her.  Years later, she is continuing to learn lessons from this experience about how it’s not about the decisions she makes, but about her heart turning more toward God through them.

Elaine has been coming to North Harbor since she moved to Maine in 2010.  North Harbor has been instrumental in the formation of their family from Dan giving them premarital counseling, her husband becoming a Christian at North Harbor, and now raising a family in this community.   She loves that she is constantly challenged in this community to expand her view of God.

Watch the video below to hear her full story.


Elaine lives in Bowdoinham with her husband, Paul, and their two children.  She is a mostly-at-home mom and a part-time pediatric physical therapist.  She is a member of our Board of Directors at North Harbor.

I I allow myself to be honest and vulnerable with God?  What do I believe His reaction is or would be when I am?
I wonder...who in my life am I able to be honest about struggles with?  What benefit does this provide?  What role does God play in these relationships?  What role do these relationships play in my view of God?
I I believe that how I feel or what I want matters to God?  How does this impact my relationship with God?
I does Elaine’s story confirm/change/add to my view and feelings towards God?


Do you love learning more about your sisters and brothers at North Harbor?

  • CLICK HERE to read our first story. 
  • Contact Elaine or Zoë [zoefaithreyes {at}] if you would like to share your story with with our community so they can be blessed as you just have! 

Humans of North Harbor: Story #1

Humans of North Harbor - Julie Plummer

[For an introduction the Humans of North Harbor Project, please start with this post HERE. Thanks!]


I Surrender

Julie was raised in North Harbor.  She was one of the first kids to grow up in our young church and go through the Kids’ Cove program.  She has such gratitude towards those in our church who taught her and showed her what it looked like to know and love God, not the least of which her own devoted mother, Kim Plummer, who was instrumental in the formation of her faith.  She became a Christian at a young age and never doubted her faith.  She describes her child faith as believing a story, but her faith has become so much more real to her after experiencing struggles in her life.

In high school she was very involved in sports, made good grades and had good friends.  But then, her sophomore year she sustained a serious concussion.  Healing through that was really hard, and she felt like her life had been taken away from her.  She pushed to get her life back, then she sustained another concussion the next year.  It was devastating.  As she lay in the dark of her house trying to heal her body, God was in the process of healing her whole self.  She felt like everything she had had been taken away from her.  Her sports, her friends, her academics all felt lost in the pain and the darkness.  She finally cried out to God as she gave up, feeling like she just couldn’t do it all anymore.  And she heard what God needed the quiet to say to her, “Julie, don’t you get it, you don’t need to be strong enough.  I am made strong where you are weak.”  In the hard, dark, quiet place she learned that she is not giving up when she surrenders, she is surrendering to the God who made her weak because he is strong.  She feels that there was purpose in these concussions and that “Everything was taken away to show me that He is the only thing I need.”  In her surrender to God, she found her strength in Him.  

She slowly healed from her concussions and regained her life with her friends and academics and sports, but with her worth no longer found in those things and in God instead.  She finds that these things of her life now hold a greater purpose when she is no longer defined by them, but doing them for God.  Where she would once have described herself as quiet and shy, she has now found a confidence rooted in God’s view of her and is able to speak up about her faith and be love to those around her.  She is able to form deeper, more meaningful relationships.  During her senior year of high school she was a small group leader to our fourth and fifth grade girls in Kids’ Cove and passed on her love and experiences with God just as had been done for her.  She is now in her freshman year of college and has participated in mission trips through Intervarsity Christian Fellowship.  She has had very exciting experiences helping to lead friends to Christ.  She doesn’t believe any of this would have been possible if she had not had learned to surrender herself to God and found her worth in him.  North Harbor will always be a special place to Julie as it is where so much of her spiritual journey was formed.  She hopes that North Harbor can celebrate her journey with God along with so many others, and encourages us all to show God’s love and mercy to others.

Julie grew up in Richmond and has an older sister Jamie.  She is a freshman at The University of New England studying neuroscience. 

Here is her story: 

I wonder … what is the difference between giving up and surrendering to God?

I wonder … where is my worth and confidence found right now?  Does it allow for expression of my faith to others?

I wonder … how am I helping to lead and grow the youth in our church?

I wonder … how does Julie’s story confirm/change/add to my view and feelings towards God?

Written by: Elaine DeFreitas



Introducing: Humans of North Harbor

North Harbor Community Church is made up of amazing, broken, beautiful, and unique individuals.  Each of us has a compelling story to share.  The stories behind each person of this church make us who we are as the body of Christ.  The purpose of this project is to allow us to truly see the individuals who make up our church and hear about the life-changing work God is up to among us.  Our stories have been woven together in this church and each story allows us, together, to claim and celebrate the redeeming work of Christ.  When we know who it is that we worship and serve with we can celebrate our differences, commune on common ground, and be inspired by God’s love displayed to His people.  We are the Church.  We are North Harbor.

We are interviewing people in North Harbor to find out their stories, to give faces to who North Harbor really is.  The idea of this project came about last year when Dan was getting ready to go on his sabbatical and the leaders of the church were stressing how Dan is not the church and we can all use our gifts during his time away to make this church what it is.  We started thinking about if we are the church, then who are these people who make us who we are?  So that is where this project began, as a “get to know you” community building project, but as we’ve been interviewing people we’ve been experiencing so much more than we could have imagined because there is so much honesty in these stories and so much beauty and mess among us and so much restoration happening in and through it.  

If you’ve been to North Harbor long you know we talk a lot about Genesis, and this project is unintentionally going to follow that same path.  The fall was not just a separation of self and God, but of relationship with God, other people, self, and creation.  And Jesus is redeeming all aspects of relationship.  And I am learning that having the courage to be vulnerable with each other and to share stories is joining in God’s redemptive work of restoration through relationship.  

Because your story helps others experience restoration with God.  It allows us to see God differently than we might on our own.  Our collective stories show over and over and over again the power of a living God and inspires worship.  


Your story brings restoration to our person to person relationship because it makes us feel less alone in experiences that we have in common.  It allows us to see differences and celebrate them instead of allowing ignorance to divide us.  It helps us release shame around messy things in our lives that we might be tempted to keep hidden.  It deepens community which God created us for.  


Sharing our story brings restoration to our relationship with ourselves.  It helps us process our own experiences differently and changes our personal experience when we say it out loud to another person.


Through these stories we are also seeing restoration in our connection with the Earth.  People are experiencing their world differently once having an experience with God.  There are stories of senses being heightened, of environmentalism being awoken, of being able to interact with creation more deeply.


Sharing our stories is proclaiming God’s redemptive work.  And the story that was once my story or your story is now our story as it is God’s big story of redemption.


Our hope for this project is that you not just read the stories as they are posted on the blog, but that you interact with them and with God through them.  We have added some questions along with the stories to help you start to wonder what God might be sharing through this particular story.  We invite you to sit with God and the story.  How does this story make you feel?  Does it give you a different impression of God?  Does it allow you to say “me to”?  Or does it allow you to feel more compassion towards someone?  Listen to God as you hear these stories, and then pray, meditate on them, worship God through the story.  And then act on it.  Don’t be afraid to talk to the person who shared.  They just laid you some pretty intimate details of their lives in some cases, and they haven’t done it to get your praise, but a “thank you”, or a “me too”, or a “tell me more”, might go a long way.  And then consider sharing back.  Be courageous.  Whether it be with the person whose story it was that inspired you, or talk to someone else in your life about who you really are, or be a part of our project.  We would love to see all of North Harbor involved.  These stories are a celebration of God’s work, His messy unfinished work, and it’s not always easy to be the one sharing, but I have already been blessed by the courage of those who have shared, and I hope you will be as well as we role these out.  If you want to be involved or have any questions you can talk to Elaine DeFreitas or Zoe Reyes, and be on the lookout on the website and facebook.

Update: The first story is live! Check it out at the blog post HERE!

To watch Elaine introduce the project and share the trailer, check out THIS VIDEO.

Courage is a heart word. The root of the word courage is cor - the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant ‘To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.’ Over time, this definition has changed, and today, we typically associate courage with heroic and brave deeds. But in my opinion, this definition fails to recognize the inner strength and level of commitment required for us to actually speak honestly and openly about who we are and about our experiences — good and bad. Speaking from our hearts is what I think of as ‘ordinary courage.’
— Brene Brown