Humans of North Harbor #7: Laurie Howell

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

Humbly Seeking The Reality Of God

Laurie grew up in a Baptist home and church.  She felt very loved in her upbringing and supported in her church.  She went to a Christian camp, Camp Fair Haven, growing up and it was very instrumental in her faith upbringing.  Her brother went to camp there before her and was saved at camp. He came home and led Laurie through the sinner’s prayer to become a Christian when she was five.  Later, she went to the camp herself as a camper and then worked there as a teen. While she was working there, in the difficulty of serving in the kitchen and being available to kids all day long, she realized that she really did want to follow Christ no matter what.  That is when she really began to own her own faith.

Laurie went to a Presbyterian college.  Although beliefs between Baptists and Presbyterian were similar, there were some differences too.  She had been brought up to believe that anyone who didn’t believe what her church believed either didn’t really love God or were stupid and naive.  But in college she met many people who were intelligent and loved God and had differences of opinion on certain theological issues. This really made her question her belief system and who God was.  She kept wrestling through different ideas and beliefs with God, and changed her views on certain things, such as predestination.  She feels it has all allowed her to gain a better understanding of who God really is.

Laurie studied abroad while in college in Costa Rica.  When she got home, she felt nothing made sense anymore in her world view including God.  She struggled to see the poverty there and had so many questions. What does it mean to be a white North American woman of privilege and how do you use that and live responsibly and not forget and why does God let it work this way and what is He up to and what is her part in it?  Her world view had changed. She hasn’t necessarily resolved these questions either, but is bravely holding them and living when she can with these injustices in mind while holding faith in a God that she can’t completely understand.

This past summer Laurie was in a dark place and feeling drained being a busy mom of two littles.  One day, she found a rare moment to read her Bible and read one of the Psalms. She felt she couldn’t relate with the psalmist who was talking about enemies who were literally trying to kill him as she did not have that same threat on her life.  But she felt God tell her that yes she can relate, because yes she does have an enemy, Satan, and no matter how she is experiencing attack it is no less real than those Psalms. She felt reassured that God was with her. Later that evening, when her husband, John, came home from work they were talking about their days and it turned out he had read the same psalm that day and heard the same thing.  She felt God fighting their enemy as He pulled them closer together in their marriage and closer to Him as well.

Laurie is a big North Harbor fan.  Because of her theological background, Laurie really appreciates North Harbor and the fact that there are many different theological views represented among us.  She feels The Harbor is a safe place to agree to disagree or admit to struggles. She feels it allows her to invite non-Christian friends to church into a place where it is ok to say you’re not sure what you think about God. She appreciates the focus on spiritual disciplines which she didn’t experience growing up.  She has experienced God in new ways by experiencing different types of prayer, meditation and silence. She continues to push into experiences that she may not prefer, such as silence, but is willing to do what it takes to learn who God is. She is encouraged when she finds a part of God that isn’t how she would choose.  It only shows her that God is God and is real and not just made by her preferences. She loves the music at North Harbor. She likes that there are a lot of young families to relate to. She appreciates the intentionality about everything that gets put in place. Christian community is very important in Laurie’s life. A lot of her closest friends are from her church community.  She knows that any struggle she has, she has people to go to that have similar world views and will pray for her and point her to Jesus.

Watch Laurie's full story below:

Laurie lives in Brunswick with her husband, John, and their two boys.  She is the Elementary (and preschool) Specialist for the Kids’ Cove Ministry at North Harbor Community Church.

I I willing to admit to and/or sit with parts of God that I may not like?
I wonder... where does my faith have space for differences in theology?  Where does it not?
I wonder...what does our current world situation have to do with how I view God?  How does my faith in God impact how I view or act towards our current world situation?
I do I contribute to making North Harbor a safe place for Christians and non-Christians alike to explore issues of faith?

Humans of North Harbor #6: Paul Elisha

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

The Blessing In The Curse

Paul grew up in the United Church of Christ with both parents as pastors of separate churches. At twelve he started questioning what he really believed and he decided he was atheist. Between twelve and seventeen wavered between atheist and agnostic, but didn’t talk about it much and kept going to church for the sake of his parents.  At seventeen a romantic relationship ended and he was heartbroken. At the same time he had a friend who was continuously sharing the gospel with him. One night as he listened to his friend, Jesus opened his heart and filled him with His spirit and that night he accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior.

His most encouraging encounter with God was in 2007 during a particularly hard time.  He was physically attacked by a person who was close to him. He survived it, but it was very traumatic.  From that point on he carried PTSD, depression, anger, and fear. He became very paranoid, believing everyone wanted to kill him, that there was something wrong with him, and that even God hated him.  One night he had a dream where he was in a desert in a shack by himself and in the dream he felt like “this is where I belong”. Then all of the sudden John the Baptist appeared and then came Jesus, and he fell on his knees.  In that moment in his dream he became so aware of his brokenness and shame and sins. Then he felt a river of God’s love and grace and mercy flush all of the darkness out of him. It was an everlasting pouring of His love for Paul.  When he woke up he didn’t think much of the dream and assumed he would forget about it. But that dream has come back to him at times when he needs it to remind him of how much God loves him. At the time he was easily giving into his dark thoughts, but God would bring this dream up and take away those feelings.  Paul now knows that, “He is a God of love, a God of reaching out and a God of looking for his lost sheep until he finds it…. Before, I felt like everyone hated me and wanted me dead, and I put that on God, but he kept pursuing me with that dream saying ‘that’s not me’.”

In 2012, Paul developed a very rare condition called hyperacusis.  His hearing became very sensitive and normal sounds became very loud and caused a lot of pain.  It took about two years to get a diagnosis because it was so rare. During that time it was really hard, he felt like he was going crazy and they were questioning his mental health.  Normal things were really hard and he couldn’t do so many of the things he had done before including playing music, leading worship, going to church, hanging out with friends, spending time with his nieces and nephews, going on dates with his wife, Elsbeth.  Going to work was a challenge. It was depressing, and hard and he was asking why God would allow this to happen. During this time he ended up with a lot of free time because there were so many things he could no longer do. During that free time he pursued an interest he had always had in science, and while taking classes became interested in genetics.  A science professor asked him, “What do you want to do with a genetics degree? What are you passionate about?” All he could think was, “I’m passionate about Jesus.” He didn’t find a science niche, but wanted to share Jesus with people. He felt God pulling him away from his science interest, and saying, ‘why don’t you use this free time to seek me’. He dropped out of his courses, and started spending time pursuing God in prayer, in rest and in creation.  “I felt all the same feelings I felt when I was saved on my friend’s porch. I kept thinking about the verse in Revelation about abandoning your first love, and I felt like God was showing me, ‘I was your first love’.... I felt God saying, ‘Everything has been stripped out of your life, but I’m still here. I’ve always been here.’ It has caused me to praise Him for my hyperacusis, because through it He has brought my stubborn heart to this place where I have been able to let go of my life, let go of my agenda, let go of my plans, let go of what I want and instead only want Him.  It’s been really good.” His hyperacusis often feels like a curse, but he can now see God’s blessing in it too.

His condition makes being around people difficult.  It makes being in community a challenge. Over the past couple of years he’s been trying to venture out and share with people about his hyperacusis.  What he likes about community is being with brothers and sisters in Christ where he can confess his sins and process with one another. When he can get with one or two people quietly and share where he’s at and they can pray together and encourage each other he find so much support in that.  He finds that when he shares his sin with others it become so much less powerful.

Paul goes to North Harbor, but you may not see him on Sunday morning.  When he began getting hyperacusis he stopped going to his previous church because it was too painful and he became very depressed.  His wife Elsbeth started attending North Harbor and it seemed to be a place he would like, but he just couldn’t stand the pain. Pastor Dan tried to find ways for Paul to be a part of the church.  He tried to attend a Bible study, but even that was too loud. Finally they realized there was a sound booth at the back of the Orion, and he has been able to listen to the service from within there without pain.  He has joined the prayer team who sit in the back of the auditorium, and you can find him praying us through our service from the sound booth many Sundays. He’s been making gradual relationships at North Harbor. He feels he has a community where he can expose himself and let the light of Christ from others shine on him.  He may not be in the middle of our community gatherings, but he welcomes community with anyone who wants to come whisper with him in the sound booth. He would love to pray with and for you!

Watch Paul's full story below:

Paul lives in Topsham with his wife Elsbeth.  He works at the Merrymeeting Adult Education Center as an Academic Counselor.  You can read more of his story on his blog:

I wonder...what curse has God turned into a blessing for me?
I what ways has God led me to focus more on just Him and let go of other things?
I do I engage in community with others in less traditional ways?  How could thinking about community differently help myself and others be more fully connected?

Written by Elaine DeFreitas

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

  • CLICK HERE to read our first story. 
  • Contact Elaine [elainedefreitas3 {at}] 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 #5: Ruth and Logan Perry

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

Awashed in Grace

Ruth grew up in a conservative evangelical family.  Her dad was a pastor, a missionary, and she was home-schooled.  Her whole life revolved around the church. Logan grew up Pentecostal.  Spirituality was tightly intertwined with life on the farm that he grew up on.  He says he carries a determination to have a heart ready for God that he learned from this faith background.

Ruth had an experience with God where she felt Him calling her to co-pastor a church with her husband, Logan.  That was over seven years ago. She learned over years of waiting that just because God gives you a vision it doesn’t mean it’s going to happen tomorrow.  She learned to pursue the training that she would need for this calling, and persevere through times when she didn’t see this vision clearly happening or hear from God.  Through this time of waiting and preparing God was readying her for their current place as they recently left North Harbor for Logan to pastor a church in Virginia.  Ruth finishes her course work to become a pastor this spring.

She also has learned about grace and what it is like to experience God’s grace.  She has had to re-learn from her childhood that there are not strings attached to her faith, and she does not have to act a certain way for God to love her.  “I always knew that God is love and I loved God and that was the center of my Christian faith all along, but I was 32 years old before I felt awashed in God’s grace and love and re-centered my identity as a child of God who is beloved by God.”

Ruth appreciates Christian community because it meets our human need to belong.  "We have a tribe and don’t have to pretend, but can be accepted wherever we are." Logan enjoys the balance at North Harbor of sound truth but also open and honest hearts.  He likes that we agree on essential issues, but are open to dialogue on the nonessentials and can discuss them lovingly.

We miss seeing these faces every week!  Watch them and their story below.

Ruth and Logan Perry lived in Boothbay and attended North Harbor with their three kids.   Last fall they moved to Virginia to pastor a church. We continue to pray for their transition and ministry there.

I wonder...what are the truths that have been brought forward into my adult faith from my upbringing?  What things were unhelpful in my faith background that I have had to re-learn as an adult?
I wonder...have I experienced being awashed in God’s grace and love?  What is it like?
I I feel that I am fully accepted in my Christian community at North Harbor?  If yes, how can I help others feel belonging in our community? If not, what would need to change and/or what can I do to help this change?

Written by Elaine DeFreitas

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

  • CLICK HERE to read our first story. 
  • Contact Elaine [elainedefreitas3 {at}] 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 #4: Tai Choo

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

In The Hands Of God

Tai grew up in a confusing spiritual space.  His parents were both addicts and separated when he was two.  He spent a lot of time with grandparents and split between the two sides of his family.  His mom’s dad, his grandfather, never talked about God. His mom’s mom, his grandmother, was pentecostal and he went to church with her when he was there.  His grandparents on his dad’s side were Christian and in that home he experienced prayer and talk of God and Jesus. His dad was with a woman for a while who was Jehovah’s Witness, and he attended her church for some time.

In 1990, his mom joined Alcoholics Annonymous and became sober.  He spent a summer with his mom that year and witnessed her pray and meditate.  She found spirituality in AA, but never attended church. Shortly after this his dad also became sober for a time.  When he was twelve years old, he spent a weekend with both parents while they were sober and clean and happy for the first time in his life.  During that weekend, they went to an airshow. His mom decided to go hang gliding and was involved in an accident and died instantly. During this very difficult time he pushed away from God wondering why He would allow this.  At 12 years old he began using drugs, drinking, sex and pushing God out anyway he could.

A year into his mom’s sobriety she had told him that she was going to leave him soon, but it would be ok.  He would be alright. At the time he didn’t understand what she was talking about. After she died, it took him a long time to see that this was true.  His dad remarried the woman who brought them to Jehovah’s Witness. Through that relationship his dad began drinking again, there was sexual abuse, and sexual scandal.  Things were very difficult for a long time. But today, he can see that he is taken care of. God’s grace is abundant.

On October 9, 2013 Jess was pregnant with their first son.  Tai had been drinking all day and was in a rage. It was the day of the appointment when they could find out the sex of the baby.  Jess wanted him to come, but he refused and didn’t care about the baby or her or anything other than getting his next drink. While she was gone at the appointment, he went out on the deck and said, “God, please help me!”  His obsession to drink was gone that day. He didn’t drink the rest of the day. He detoxed the next day. Then, went back to Alcoholics Annonymous (this was not the first time he had tried to get sober). He is still sober to this day.  Nothing brilliant happened in that moment, but the obsession was just gone. God had answered him.

"He was in a dark shell of shame, and when he let in a crack of light it just became brighter and brighter."

He says he was in a dark shell of shame, and when he let in a crack of light it just became brighter and brighter.  It was such a beautiful experience for him. His senses became alive. He could taste and hear and smell things like never before.  He had tried to stop drinking before, but always failed. He knows that God is the one that allowed him to break the addiction. His hope grew the longer he stayed sober.  He met people at AA, neighbors he never knew, and realized he wasn’t alone. God gave him power to stop drinking, but also surrounded him with people who could support him. His sponsor in AA told him, “Tai, I understand what you’re going through.  I know where you’ve been and where you’re about to go. My job is not to tell you who to date or what meeting to go to. My job is one thing and one thing only. My job is to get you to God. And I’m going to get you there because that is who is going to help you recover.  I’m going to put your hand in the hand of God and then step aside.” Tai credits this amazing man for saving his life. Four and a half years later, his relationship with God continues to grow.

Tai sees alcoholism as a mind, body, and spirit experience and a lot of the problem is a spiritual malady.  He described himself as spiritually bankrupt and trying to fill it and getting to a point where there was nowhere else to go but to God.  There is still something inside of him that wants to turn away from God. He tends to want to isolate himself from church and Christian community, but He knows the truth that “God is everything or He is nothing.”

"God is everything or he is nothing."

Even in sobriety, he admits to making some really bad choices.  There was a time when he had pushed God away again. He was doing all the things he should be doing in AA, but wasn’t attending church or in community.  He was participating in some sinful behavior and was trying to push God out, but God wouldn’t let him. He had to face the things that he knew were not of God. The act confessing both to another person and to God, allowed him to get back on the path toward God instead of going further back down the road of self-destruction.  Through the healing process his relationships became stronger, a new career path opened up, and God created something beautiful.

Tai describes Christian community as a set of principles that he wants to live by.  He feels like a little kid learning about God, and he wants to learn more. He wants to raise his kids in this community.  As much as he fights community sometimes, deep down he wants Christian community to be their family’s focus. He loves that he can come to North Harbor and look around and see diversity and different people all trying to get to one place; closer to God.  He is learning to trust people and enter into community. Being a part of this project is a step of trust in letting us know who he is.

We appreciate his trust in us!  See Tai’s full story in the video below:

Tai lives in Brunswick with his fiance, Jess, and their two children.  They are getting married this summer. He owns a popular food truck in town.

I wonder...whose hand has helped put my hand in the hand of God? Have I participated in helping to put someone else’s hand in the hand of God?

I wonder...when and how have I experienced the healing power of confession?

I wonder...what are the patterns I experience and/or voices I hear that I know are not from God?  What is the truth God says about that particular struggle?

I wonder...what keeps me from entering more fully into Christian community?  What steps can I take to overcome those barriers?

Written by Elaine DeFreitas

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

  • CLICK HERE to read our first story. 
  • Contact Elaine [elainedefreitas3 {at}] 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! 

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 #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!