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Rock Hero: Tara Paul - February 2010
By Rock Church

There is a running joke in Tara Paul’s family. When she and her husband, Mike, became a couple she told him, “I don’t do trash.”

Now every Sunday you’ll find Tara, founder of the Rock Church’s D.U.H. recycling ministry, in bright orange coveralls, saving children’s lives by collecting trash and turning it into treasure.

Tara got the idea for D.U.H. Recycling Ministry in the fall of 2007. Together with her husband, Mike, their three children, and a group of dedicated volunteers, she launched D.U.H. in early 2008.

Desperate, Underprivileged
and Hungry Kids

As of this January, the ministry has processed 160,000 pounds of cans, bottles and other recyclable material. That has translated into $80,000 – which D.U.H. has used to support 100 desperate, underprivileged and hungry children through World Vision’s program in Africa.

Read "Even God Recycles," a letter from Tara below!

Tara didn’t always serve God. Born in the Denver area, Tara grew up in a dysfunctional family. At 16 she had an abortion. She felt God could not forgive her for that.

“I thought that if there was a heaven, the doors were now shut forever. I was ruined, broken, unforgivable,” she said. “Instead of being pregnant with a child, I was pregnant with guilt and condemnation.”

Nothing God Can’t Forgive

She joined the Navy at 19. She and Mike hooked up and followed an immoral lifestyle, knowing in their hearts it was wrong. Daughter Shelby came along; then twin sons, Shawn and Brett.

“Through the pain I experienced, God gave me purpose.” -- Tara Paul

One day a navy chaplain visited Tara and Mike. “He shared the simple truth that there is nothing God can’t forgive. Nothing,” she said. The entire family was baptized together at a Rock baptism.

Tara and Mike heard Pastor Miles teach about how God wants us to be willing to do something. But weighing more than 300 pounds, unable to even tie her own shoes, Tara was very self-conscious. Still, she wanted to do more, and went down the list of Rock Church ministries, eliminating them all because she would have to be in the public.

God had other plans. He intervened, arranging for surgery to help. In a year Tara lost 120 pounds. She was eager to do something.

Out of Pain, Purpose

Then she received a letter from Victoria, the child her family sponsored through World Vision. Victoria wrote of the very basic items she had purchased with their donations, and it moved Tara to realize how desperate Victoria’s life was – and the lives of millions of children like her.

At the same time, Shelby got the idea of recycling to feed the homeless, and the Pauls’ tenant, Eric David, came home from the Rock’s 1825 ministry where he had watched a documentary about Africa that moved him deeply.

A light bulb went off in Tara’s heart. Duh! Desperate, underprivileged and hungry children. Aided by our trash. Of course.

“Through the pain I experienced, God gave me purpose,” said Tara. “How ironic that he gives me a ministry to lead that exists to save the lives of desperate, underprivileged and hungry children in Africa, that are as helpless as that child I carried in my womb. Their very lives depend on the choices we make--to help them or not.”

The Launch Pad

The 2010 goal for D.U.H. are to double in size, and to raise $100,000 to sponsor more than 150 children.

The 2010 goal for D.U.H. are to double in size, and to raise $100,000 to sponsor more than 150 children.

The whole operation has been so successful that World Vision used it as a model for its handbook on “How to Start a Recycling Ministry.” (View it here).

There’s also the “softer” side: the child advocates/letter writing program, which shows love to sponsored children through prayer and letter-writing, sending packages filled with small gifts and goodies.

And recently, the recycling ministry has started a third division. The group has grown to the point where people started to bring by donations other than cans and bottles—items like computers or furniture or clothing. So Tara and her ministry leaders started a separate program they call The Launch Pad. The Launch Pad works closely with the church’s other ministries. The old printer goes to the electronics-repair ministry. Those used toys go to the pregnancy/adoption program. That sweatshirt might go to a homeless person.

Recycling lives. What God did for Tara. What Tara is doing for God.

Congratulations, Tara Paul, Rock Hero for February 2010!

-- -- -- -- --

This is a letter Tara wrote for us to read the day she was named the February Rock Hero.

Even God Recycles

March 7, 2010

Dear Rock,

You can’t believe how exciting it’s been to be chosen for this honor! I couldn’t wait to come up here and share with you all what we do as a ministry and get you all excited about recycling your bottles and cans with us in order to save the lives of desperate, underprivileged and hungry children! WOO-HOO!

Two words… BUT GOD… He had another message for me to share with you. Satan doesn’t want you to hear what I have to say, so don’t blink!

As you know, we have been going thru the DO SOMETHING series and God has been revealing to me how he translated my pain into my purpose. I’ve heard it said that God never wastes a wound… and how true that is! It’s hard to admit your darkest secrets in front of a close friend let alone thousands of people. But here we go…

We all come from somewhere right? We all have a past right? As you heard, when I was 16 years old I made a choice to end my pregnancy in order to hide my sin and shame from my family and friends. Shame is a powerful thing.

That day, 20 years ago, I walked out of the hospital knowing what I had just done was … wrong. I wasn’t a Christian, I didn’t know anything about God, but in my heart I still knew it was really… really wrong.

The Bible says the penalty of sin is death… something …always… dies. That day, more then a child died. My hope died. I thought that if there was a heaven, the doors were now shut forever. I was ruined… broken… unforgivable. Instead of being pregnant with a child, I was pregnant with guilt and condemnation. That one sin started me on a downhill snowball course for the next 15 years... That is what happens when you have no hope. One sin becomes two… which becomes …well… Too many to count.

God put this on my heart today to share because there is someone here… right now listening to this that feels that they to have no hope because they have done something… or many things that are shameful and unspeakable. You feel that you… are unforgivable. If that is you… I have two words… BUT GOD…

Seven years ago a Navy pastor was willing to come to my home to share the ‘gospel’ with me. He shared the simple truth that there is NOTHING God can’t forgive. NOTHING… even the unmentionable, unspeakable, and horrific… even me… even you. You may say… But you don’t know what I have done… or how bad I have been. Your right I don’t know, but God does and he already took the penalty for your sin so you can receive forgiveness - if you choose to accept it.

Through the pain I have experienced, God has gave me purpose… How Ironic that he gives me the privilege to lead a ministry that exists to save the lives of desperate, underprivileged and hungry children in Africa. Children that are as helpless as that child I carried in my womb, their very lives / existence depending on the choices I make today to help them… or not to help them.

God can use your shame and humiliation, your pain and your mess-ups. He can make you wear orange coveralls, and sort through trash… But as Miles said before, anything short of death and Hell is a REALLY GOOD DEAL. I stand here forgiven by God. Changed forever.

So, I will take your trash and turn it into treasure, which is what God did with me. Today I stand here being given the honor of being a Rock Hero, but… there is no hero here. The real Hero… is the one that gave me hope, the one that took my sin and shame and gave me forgiveness and a recycled life. My God, My Lord… My Jesus – MY HERO!