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October-November 2021

Celebrating 100 Issues of ONE Magazine


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My Journey

By Ellie Mae Dillard


My journey began December 4, 2015, in Charlotte, North Carolina. I awoke to a cold, misty morning with a lump in my throat. I knew today was the day. I quickly changed into travel clothes and padded down the stairs to see my family gathered in the small living room. I put on a brave face for my little sister, even though I wanted to join the rest of our family’s tears. Today was the day our journey began. The journey to California. The journey into church planting.

Saying goodbye was bittersweet. We knew leaving our family would be hard because everyone lived so close together. But on the sweet side, we knew this was the right decision. I am a details girl. I enjoy having plans, but in this instance, there were no details. I had no idea what Irvine was like. I could barely spell “Irvine.” As I walked onto the plane, clutching my sister’s hand, half of me was filled with fear; the other half of me was filled with excitement.

As soon as I arrived, I noticed people from all over the world—different ethnicities, different colors, and different languages. It wasn’t long before I had friends from all over the world, too: Philippines, China, Romania, Korea, Japan, and Taiwan. I thought my PB&Js were fancy until I saw their lunches!

During this time, I also saw a miracle happen. I got the joy of experiencing a church start from nothing. Over time, our baby church grew, and grew, and grew! But then the global pandemic happened. It affected our church life. We went virtual and had to cancel all our events. It felt like nothing would ever be the same again. But I learned the church is not a building: it’s the people. I saw Grace City celebrate its fourth birthday with a lot of people who had learned the same thing. We were not in a building. (Actually, we were in a field.) But none of that could stop God!


God was not finished. Last fall, our family announced we were launching out of Grace City to start a new work in the San Diego area. I was especially excited because I had matured spiritually since our journey started. I was now a disciple of Jesus, so I had a new perspective on the work being done. Now, I see how we can help others have strength to move across the country to start churches, just like we did. We can open our doors to people far from God and far from home.

Back in September, the new church in Chula Vista felt like a dream. But now, it is a reality. We are here. We are excited! If I could tell you one thing it is this: never say no out of fear. Instead, say yes and trust God will work out the details for your journey.

About the Author: Ellie Mae Dillard and her family (parents Amos and Melissa and siblings Addison and Aiden) are church planters in Chula Vista, California, where they are starting City Lights Church. Learn more:


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