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From motel to ministry
New church pastors to the downtrodden
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On Jan. 28 of this year, a new church was born in Covington. Pastors David and Sonya Burnett of the Living Stones Christian Fellowship, a non-denominational church, held their first Sunday services at 4 p.m. at the Super 8 Hotel on Alcovy Road with standing room only.

When the meeting room was not available for a morning service, LSCF and handful of supporters moved next door to the Fountain Banquet Hall when attendance began to drop off because the meeting room was not available for a morning service. With the new service times, at 9 a.m. Sundays, the fledgling church is averaging 18-24 in attendance.

Both pastors are enthusiastic greeters with genuine smiles and hearty hugs. Together, their lives are an open book - they are authentic. Their son, 19-year-old David Justin II, is the sound technician and 11-year-old daughter, Arielle Faith, is an usher and sings with the praise and worship on youth Sunday.

David, a native of Due West, S.C., and a 1980 graduate of South Carolina State University, attended a traditional Baptist church where his late great aunt, Daisy Cunningham, prophesied to him at age 10 that he would be a preacher one day. Baptized at 11, he admits in retrospect that he never really had a personal relationship with Christ until he was 35 years old.
He moved to Lithonia in 1980 and married his wife in 1987. David describes the years that followed as carefree, going through the motions in church with no personal relationship with God, although he sang in the choir and served as usher. Fifteen years ago, he had a reality check when he realized his marriage was headed for divorce.

"I had come to a cross road in my life when I did not know what I would do if I was separated from my family," he remembers. "I went to church one Sunday and when my pastor, Dr. Sherry Gaither, gave the call for salvation, I knew I was lost."

David proudly claims March 5, 1995, at 1:30 p.m. as his second birth. For the next 13 years, he allowed God to mold and shape him for service as a pastor. A U.S. postal service letter carrier for 23 years, David served at Stronghold Christian Church as a deacon, was licensed as a minister and ordained as an elder before being released in January to begin LSCF.

A native of Atlanta, Sonya, who worked in customer service until she resigned to care for her mother. She came from an abusive background. Her family moved to New Jersey when she was 5. For the five years that followed, Sonya would endure daily sexual abuse from her mother's boyfriend. Tragically, her mother knew and did nothing.

"God has brought a lot of young women into my path who want to give up or commit suicide," said Sonya as she reiterates that if it were not for God's protection, she would not be here or be in a sane frame of mind. "I tell them, look at me. If God brought me through it, he will see you through it. God has truly been my mother and my father."

Sonya has a clear understanding of why God preserved her through those painful years. Her purpose is to encourage others to hold on and seek their purpose in life. A 1983 graduate of LaGrange High School, she attended West Georgia College with aspirations of becoming a pediatrician and helping abused children.

"I want to build a shelter, a safe haven for abused children," she said. "I believe one day God will allow me to do that through this ministry."

The couple has aggressively worked to build the church by distributing bookmarks, sending e-mails, and placing newspaper ads. With the goal to move into a permanent location at 693 Kirkland Road by January, they are planning prayer walks and mailings to the Salem, Kirkland, and Brown Bridge neighborhoods. They have asked God to supply the finances and those who can volunteer contractor services to renovate the building.

LSCF encourages people to understand their purpose, power and possession - to understand their abilities and to know their purpose is to glorify God, to acknowledge the power of the Holy Spirit in order to fulfill their purpose and to take possession by gaining and regaining everything that God pre-ordained for them to have.

"Ours in a ministry of hope for those who are rejected, hurt or downtrodden," said Sonya. "There is a purpose for you being here. We want to see you walk in that purpose and to feel the love of Jesus."

During these hard economic times, both pastors want the community to see LSCF as a place of hope for those who have lost their jobs and to know there is always hope with God.

"Hardly a sermon goes by that I don't talk about how I used to smoke marijuana and get high all the time, and how God delivered me," said David as he reaches out to those with addictions. "We're just two regular folks who want people to come out and share the love of God with us, and experience true and genuine worship and liberty."
The Rev. David and the Rev. Sonya Burnett appreciate the support of those who stepped out to help in their humble beginnings .

For more information, call (678) 531-0436 or E-mail