The Nivens’ Family
- a group of individuals living under one roof and usually under one head
- a group of persons of common ancestry
- a group of people united by certain convictions or a common affiliation
Family is a concept we are all familiar with. And although the concept of family is probably similar for each of us, the people we call family changes over the course of our lives. I would like to share with you a little about our family. We are the Nivens’.
Anna and I met in Allendale, SC in 1989. We were both first year teachers in that school district – she was at the middle school and I was at the high school. We started dating about a year later and were married in June of 1992. One of the reasons we moved from Allendale was family. In anticipation of our own future family, we decided to seek somewhere new to live and to serve. With much prayer and a willingness to follow where God was leading, we began to fill out many job applications – asking God to open doors as to where He desired our family to be. So in 1994 God opened the door for us to move to Greenwood.
Before moving I knew nothing about Greenwood, except that the high school usually produced really good football teams. Anna, on the other hand, as a Lander graduate was very familiar with the city and was excited to get back. In addition, Anna’s family lives in Newberry, so being 45 miles away from them allowed us to help them out more often since Allendale was about a two and a half hour drive from Newberry.
Upon hearing that we were moving, the pastor of the church we were members of told us “I went to school with a guy named Ron Davis – he’s like family to me. He is the pastor of North Side Baptist in Greenwood. You two should check them out.” And so we did. The first service we attended was on a Sunday evening in late summer. During our time of visiting churches in Greenwood, we always made our first visit on a Sunday night. Growing up in a Baptist church, I was aware that most of them looked very similar on Sunday mornings, but a Sunday evening service usually revealed the personality of the church family.
Since the youth had just returned from a mission trip the service that evening was a recap of their trip. Two things we remember from that service: one was a young, lanky kid playing a guitar and singing songs. (That kid’s name was Travis Agnew.) The second memory was being greeted by Stuart and Laurie Pettit immediately after the service. The conversation wasn’t very long, but it was long enough for the four of us to find some common interests, and it was also long enough for them to make us feel like family. We visited some more churches over the next few weeks, but we were pretty sure that evening that we would join North Side, which we did in January of 1995.
After six years of marriage and in God’s perfect timing our son, Bryce, was born on January 8, 1998. The day we found out Anna was pregnant held mixed emotions for us. She was elated, I was terrified. I knew Anna was going to be a fantastic mom, but I had serious doubts about my potential daddy skills. My peace came in knowing that Anna was going to be my partner in this whole parenting deal. Again, after much prayer, we decided that Anna becoming a full time mom would be the best investment we could make in Bryce’s formative years. Anna quit her job at Brewer Middle School and remained at home until Bryce entered K-5, at which time she resumed her teaching career at All God’s Children preschool at North Side.
Anna was also a wonderful servant during the time my mother lived in Greenwood. My dad died in December of 2001, and mom moved here from Columbia in April of 2002. She was a vibrant and outgoing woman, until November of 2005. She became sick with what was eventually diagnosed as pancreatic cancer. For most of the next four months, until she was moved to the Hospice House, she lived with us. Bryce was eight years old at the time, and the way Anna was able to juggle her job, her child, and a sick mother-in-law was amazing. She never complained -she just did whatever was necessary to take care of her family.
When Anna was growing up, many of her grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins lived within a few miles of each other – some of them even lived on the same street. She loves to tell stories about their family camping trips or Sunday night meals together. The family closeness she felt as a child has grown even stronger in her adult years. She made it known to me even before we were married that her family was very important to her. Throughout our marriage we have helped out her parent’s by doing everything from yard work, painting their house, and rotating shifts at the hospital after her dad’s strokes.
In addition to helping out Anna’s parents whenever we can, we also have the privilege of ministering to other close family members. In the last few years, both of our sisters have gone through the trials associated with divorce. After her separation, my sister Gina moved from Columbia to Greenwood. This has given us a great opportunity to be part of her support system.
We believe that God wants all Christians to be active and growing members of His family. Over the years, we have realized that North Side also puts a great emphasis on the concept of family. I Corinthians 12:12 states that “the body (family) is a unit, though it is made up of many parts”. The staff at North Side wants our body to be effective in making disciples. In order to be effective, each person must know what they can best contribute to the body. The PLACE profile is a great tool that our church uses to help people find their strengths. But knowing our strengths are not enough for effective ministry. We must be surrounded by people who encourage and enable us to use our talents effectively. C-groups are a great way to be part of a family within the North Side family.
Anna and I have been involved in C-groups since they were first introduced at North Side. We are currently members of Bill and Janet Horvath’s group, and they are indeed a family to us. They ministered to us when we had a miscarriage, and throughout the days of my mother’s sickness and death. They have encouraged us when we had rough weeks at work. They have given us Godly counsel about raising a teenager. We have laughed together. We have cried together. But much of the “community” in our “community group” doesn’t take place on Sunday evenings from 6:00 – 7:30, but throughout the week via phone calls, emails, texts, and even trips to football games or the golf course.
Bryce has also been involved in a C-group family for the last few years. His group of teen-aged boys meets Sunday mornings at 9:30. Anna and I are thankful for Godly men like Ken Montjoy and Fred Hubbard who have sacrificed their time to work with Bryce and his friends. As parents we know that we won’t always be where Bryce is (a reality which hit us again this summer as he got his driver’s license), and we also know that he is at the point in his life where his peers will have a greater influence on his behavior than we will. It is for this reason that we are glad North Side offers our son the chance to be part of a family of guys that will encourage him and keep him accountable as he progresses through his teen-age years.
Anna, Bryce, and I have all found some individual places to contribute to the North Side family. Anna has been a member of the choir, has worked with the Peak ministry on Wednesday evenings, and also serves on the rotation as a regular nursery worker. Bryce plays guitar in the Peak band, as well as working with Emerge camps each summer. I have found my niche as part of the Sunday morning Worship team. But I am even more thankful for the opportunities that we have to serve as a family. Anna and I served as VBS directors for several years shortly after we joined North Side. Now, one Saturday each month, the three of us help with Project Love – Anna and I work as the tech team and Bryce leads the worship music. For Love Indeed Sunday this spring, we all went as part of the choir to Wesley Commons. Bryce and I have served together as counselors for Shake-N-Shine camp each of the last three years.
Close family ties is a recurring theme for the Nivens’…family matters. God understands the whole family dynamic. He created it. Scripture is full of examples of families who follow Him. The investments we make in our families are priceless. This is true for our biological family and our church family. It is my hope that the things we do as the Nivens’ family will make a significant difference for the North Side family, and an eternal significance for God’s family.