Terri Webster spent 19 years as a single parent and learned to cope with life's challenges by trusting God to answer prayer. She was recently named coordinator of the Single Parent Ministry at Eastridge Community Church. Under the supervision of missions director, Linda Miller, she and team members, Denise Barrett, Scott and Sue Brannon and Sharon Waters, are actively seeking resources to build a support system for single parents.
"Affordable quality childcare is a single parent's biggest need," said Webster. "We are asking business owners, churches, local technical colleges and private individuals to offer affordable car care maintenance, safe housing options, help with budgeting and money management, education, job training and career options, affordable quality professional services and medical care, transitional housing, mentoring food and clothing resources and spiritual and emotional support."
Webster's father was a forest ranger and the family moved every four years. Her mother was an accomplished piano teacher. Born in LaFayette, Webster lived in Alabama, Arkansas and Louisiana. The family moved to Lilburn when she was 14 years old.
Uprooted again at age 19, Webster married and moved to Germany where her husband was stationed. They returned to the states in 1982 and she accepted Christ the following February through a pamphlet that a co-worker had given her.
"As I read 1 Peter 5:7 - 'Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you,' I told God that if he was who he said he was, to come into my heart," she confessed. "Three days later, I listened to a song about God's love and I knew something radical had taken place in my life."
Following the divorce in 1989, Webster realized she was without a support system to cope with the difficulties of raising her fifteen month old daughter Bridgett and 6 year old son Brian. Not allowing her situation to defeat her spirit, she immediately began building a career and a healthy environment for her children.
"I knew I had to keep myself in church and hold on through God's word," she said.
Webster used journaling as an outlet to express her emotions and to see in retrospect how God brought her through difficult times.
"God used a nine-month Bible study to speak to me and give me a vision for a single parent ministry," said Webster. "I hope to start a magazine for single parents with articles and resources and to complete my devotional book, 'Markers for Single Moms.'"
Webster learned about the Sheraton House in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., that offers resources and housing to single parents and families.
"A friend who also shares my vision gave me a single parent ministry training manual written by Brenda Armstrong who traveled across the United States identifying resources," said Webster. "I made contact and visited at the Sheraton House with hopes to model that facility locally."
Webster attended a three-week workshop in 1991 called "It's Your Turn," a program for single parents and displaced homemakers offered through DeKalb Technical College. She accepted a part-time position with the college in the dean's office and later worked with "It's Your Turn Program".
Webster attended a small group meeting at her church with missionary speakers. Although, she never had interest in missions until that night, she remembers feeling overwhelmed.
"I felt God calling me into missions and into a deeper dependency on him," she recalled, not knowing what to do with the compassion and mercy she felt for people.
God opened a door for her and her children to go to a three-month mission training in Kona, Hawaii, but at the time, she had no idea where the money would come from to fund the trip. To add further deliberation, Webster's supervisor offered her a long awaited full-time position with benefits. The next morning she asked if he could hold the position to allow her to go to the mission training. She gives credit to God for supplying the funds and guarding the position until she returned.
"One day as I was filing papers at work, I read about earned income credit and realized that I qualified," she said. "I contacted my tax person, and he filed an addendum on my return for three years."
Webster remembers thinking about what she could purchase for her family with the tax refund when God reminded her about her commitment to go to the mission's training.
"When the money came, we had immediate needs - half went for school supplies, clothes, groceries and necessities," she said. "After purchasing the plane ticket, I still needed $1,000 to cover the deposit on the room at the mission's campus."
Driving home from work, Webster prayed that God would supply the thousand dollars. She knew the deposit was due that day and was prepared to call the mission's office and explain why they couldn't come. As she went through the mail that evening, she opened a check from the IRS for $1,063.
"I called Hawaii and told the man my story," she said. "I sent the $1,000 deposit and bought groceries with the rest. That was the best three months of my life."
Over the years, Webster has served faithfully in the church and has taught Sunday school for toddlers, middle school and youth; led worship; played the piano; supervised three 10-day youth mission trips to Mexico in 1998, 2001 and 2002 where she presented the love of God through Spanish clown skits and made balloon animals for the children; worked on a 14-day construction trip to Honduras in 1999 following Hurricane Mitch; and most recently facilitated a 13-week session of Divorce Care for two years at Eastridge where she serves on the music ministry team.
Webster is employed as the Secretary to Academic Dean Julian Wade at DeKalb Technical College. Last year, she married Donnie Webster, her ministry partner who has walked the road as a single parent and found the joy of living a Christ-centered life. She has one granddaughter, Abby.
Webster encourages those who will make monetary donations, or partner to offer resources for the Single Parent Ministry to contact Eastridge Community Church at (770) 786-2048.
"Looking back, I see that God's timing is perfect, said Webster. "He took the darkest times in my life and turned them into something good."