The Oasis Story
By Peter Castellani
On January 26, 2009, my manager set up a meeting with me for the next day. Thinking it was strange to meet for miscellaneous discussion, I sent an electronic instant message, asking her if she wanted to go over the status of my projects. She replied that I didn’t need to prepare anything. This was odd.
The next morning’s meeting proceeded with a few pleasantries, but then she told me I was part of the latest “IBM resource action.” My last day at IBM would be February 26th. I was in total shock—I didn’t see this coming at all. I said, “After 30 years with IBM, you are going to lay me off?” She explained that IBM had to reduce their workforce in the United States in order to become more competitive in the emerging and growth markets. She said it was nothing personal but they had decided to eliminate my position and the person in my position had to leave the company; I couldn’t take someone else’s place.
How could IBM do this to me? I knew IBM was going to have a “resource action,” but I never expected that it would be me. It was a total surprise! After I regained my composure, I got up the nerve to call my wife, Ellen, and I explained the situation as best I could. She was equally shocked, but supportive as always.
I sent a note to my family and friends to let them know what was happening. At this point I didn’t want my coworkers to know, as I hadn’t processed it yet. Everyone was extremely supportive and said “God has something better planned for you.” After a day or so, the initial shock wore off, and I was already planning to move on. My wife was not quite ready to move on so quickly, but I figured what else could I do? I updated my resume and sent it to certain people to review. I contacted Right Management immediately to start working with their transition services.
In addition, I’ve wanted to go into full time Christian Ministry and had been planning to do so for the last several years once I could retire and be financially independent. I didn’t think I could retire at this point in my own minds eye as my 401(K) was cut in half and our investment properties weren’t doing very well either. God obviously, however, had other ideas. He decided to pull the rug out from under me—it is time. At this point I didn’t realize what was happening.
I have been working with Pregnancy Care Centers for the last 10 years. Ellen and I first started getting involved when we still lived in Poughkeepsie , NY . We were the church liaisons and participated in the Walk for Life and other events. There was also an incident with my family many years ago with an abortion. Since this incident is too personal I will not share all the details, just let me say that it had a dramatic impact on my close family and still does to this day. That incident has burned a mark into my heart which is the driving force behind my stand for the Right to Life.
When we moved to Florida in 1999, we immediately got involved with A Woman’s Place Ministries and were actively involved in supporting them and their events. After a short while, I felt God call me to be more involved with the center. I didn’t know what, but I knew it was what he wanted me to do. At a special brunch, I let the Director know I was willing to do anything for the center including cleaning the floors. I was just ready to help. She asked me a strange question, “Have you been on any boards?” I said no that I just wanted to help. She said they were looking for someone with my background (Certified Management Accountant) to be on the board and asked me to consider that. Long story short, I accepted and served on the board as the treasurer for about 5 years.
Then in 1995, my father-in-law had a quadruple by-pass and wasn’t doing very well. Consequently, we spent every weekend in Zephyrhills for about a year. Since we were up there anyway, we started going to church there and one Sunday, the Director of the Pregnancy Care Center of Zephyrhills spoke. Of course, I was drawn to speak to her after the service. Over a long period, we started working with that center as well and eventually I felt God calling me to serve with this smaller center. I figured God had trained me at a large center in Tampa so I could help this smaller center in Zephyrhills. Subsequently, I resigned from the board at A Woman’s Place and started working just with the center in Zephyrhills.
In late 2007, they asked me to become a board member and in February 2008, they elected me as President of the Board where I still serve at the time of this writing. Ellen and I have served in many other ministries at Grace Family church including leading a Divorce Care Group for over five years.
Since Pregnancy Centers are my passion, I started asking around about Director’s jobs in the local area. I was told that they were looking for Directors in both New Port Richey and Lakeland. I started looking into those possibilities along with looking for secular work.
As an Accountant and Financial Planner, I always like having a budget. So that Friday, three days after getting the shocking news, I decided to redo our budget and see how bad it really was. My wife to this day still thinks I’m crazy and wonders why anyone would do that. Anyway, I did it and to my amazement, somehow, we were in the black. Between my retirement and the severance package, we could make ends meet for about a year. God was providing, and I hadn’t even received the call yet.
And then it happened—January 31, 3:30 in the morning—God woke me up and gave me what I believe was my first full vision from him. Here is the vision he gave me that night:
Oasis – a Pregnancy Care Center Vision January 31, 2009, 3:30 am
I believe God has given me a vision to open a Pregnancy Care Center ( PCC ) in Land O’Lakes, Fl near the high school. I believe if it is God’s will he will give me confirmation; first from my wife who will have peace about the situation, and second, from Pastor Elbert Nasworthy [Myrtle Lake Baptist Church] who will come beside me; Myrtle Lake Baptist will become the base for the ministry.
I believe God will provide prayer warriors, a godly board to oversee the ministry, volunteers to staff the ministry especially counselors, an administrative assistant, and provision to run the center. The center’s name will have “Oasis” in it.
Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead! Phil. 3:13-14
After receiving the vision, I not only knew it was from God but I had peace with the situation. Tears also just started streaming down the sides of my face. After lying there a few more minutes, I got up to read the Bible, pray and look for confirmation in God’s Word. One of the many scriptures God led me to was Isaiah 43:18-21:
18 “Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
19 See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.
20 The wild animals honor me,
the jackals and the owls,
because I provide water in the desert and streams in the wasteland,
to give drink to my people, my chosen,
21 the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.
In my vision, God had laid on my heart to contact Pastor Elbert Nasworthy of Myrtle Lake Baptist Church whom I only met a few weeks prior.
So let’s go back a few weeks and see another way God was working out his vision before he even gave it to me. It was January 18, Sanctity of Life Sunday and we (my wife, my mom who was down from NY and I) were getting ready to go to church. While we were getting ready my wife became ill and decided she couldn’t make it to church, so I asked my mom if she would like to go to Myrtle Lake since they have a more traditional service. She said that she would like that so we headed off to Myrtle Lake Baptist.
We arrived at the 10:45 service and the entire service was dedicated to the Sanctity of Life from the songs to the Bible reading to the message. Through the entire service I prayed that God would give me an opportunity to speak about the Pregnancy Care Center of Zephyrhills as I could tell this church strongly supported this cause. At the end of the service, God gave me the opportunity. As Pastor Elbert gave the invitation, he said, “There are many practical ways we can support this cause, we can pray for this situation in the United States and we can support a local Pregnancy Center .” Thank you Lord—that was my cue. As soon as the invitation started, I was out of my seat and headed for the front. I didn’t say a word to my mom and later she said, “I thought you were already saved and wondered why you were going up.”
Pastor Elbert met me in the front and I said to him, “My name is Peter Castellani, and I’m the President of the Pregnancy Center in Zephyrhills. I believe God has me here for a reason this morning and if it’s okay with you, I’d like to say a few words to your congregation about a local center.” He graciously agreed and asked me to sit in the front. He said he would introduce me at the end of the service.
After the service was over, he introduced me and I was able to speak about the center for about 5 minutes. As the service ended, he said Pete will be out in the foyer to answer any questions you may have. Of course, I was totally unprepared as I wasn’t expecting to be there that day. I had no brochures and only about 5 business cards. The response was wonderful and many people stopped by after the service to greet me and show their interest in a local pregnancy center. As I was leaving, Pastor Elbert said, please get on my calendar so we can talk more about how their church could support this ministry. It was definitely a God thing.
About a week later on January 26, the day before I was told I was being laid off, Pastor Elbert and I were discussing how his church could support a local pregnancy center. We had a great meeting and God was working in advance again.
So now you can see why the Lord put Pastor Elbert on my mind when God gave me the Oasis vision. Going back to January 31, I called Pastor Elbert (but not at 3:30 in the morning, he was glad about that). I called the church around 9:00 and left him a message and very briefly shared the vision.
He called me back on Monday morning while I was on a fishing trip with my friends from New York. Hmmm, Jesus was a fisher of men. Anyway, I could barely hear him over the sounds of the engines, and I did my best to explain the vision over the phone. He said this sounded exciting and he wanted to pursue the opportunity. Of course, he said he had to discuss it with his church leaders, staff and deacons and he would get back to me. I said that was understandable and to take as much time as he needed.
The following Saturday, Pastor Elbert called me back and said the church at Myrtle Lake Baptist Church was ‘over the top’ excited about this opportunity; we must set up time to discuss the plan in more detail. Of course, being a planner, I had already laid out several steps and was almost ready to meet with him and others that may be interested in starting Oasis. I now had the first part of my confirmation.
The second part wasn’t as easy. My wife had to have peace about the situation. As you know one of the most important things for women is security and here I am after losing my job telling her that God was calling me into the ministry where there was no income immediately. Oh, let me tell you, that’s not how you make your wife feel secure. On top of that, she felt betrayed by IBM. How could they lay off her husband who had given his whole adult life to working for this company? Not to mention the thousands of hours overtime every year. It wasn’t like IBM was losing money, they made more money than they ever did in their history.
Over time, Ellen started to get a little peace with the situation. First, when the budget had a slight surplus, that obviously helped. The real peace, however, came slowly over time as we watched God continue to open doors and with the support of family and friends and the prayers of our Christian brothers and sisters. This was the second confirmation.
Now that I had received my two confirmations, the Oasis ministry was conceived. I use the word conceived because Oasis is in its development stage and hasn’t been born yet. Like any pregnancy, it will take several months before the baby is born or before the doors of Oasis are open to help hundreds of people and babies in the Land O’Lakes area.
Yes, we are pregnant and God is fearfully and wonderfully making Oasis.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. [Psalm 139:14]
God has been pouring out his blessings and opening doors left and right. The support from the community has been tremendous and there is a “buzz” forming in the Land O’ Lakes area and beyond. Myrtle Lake Baptist Church has wrapped their arms around Oasis and have become the firm foundation built on the Rock to support the ministry. Many other churches have shown their interest in Oasis as well; they are starting to build new stories on top of the existing foundation.
We have developed a solid board that will provide Godly counsel for the ministry and we also have the support of the North American Mission Board (NAMB) who will provide guidance on opening a pregnancy center. In addition, we have received support and consultation from most of the other centers in the area including Sandy Epperson who will be my mentor from the NAMB; she is the Director of the First Life Center for pregnancy in Orlando .
We already have over 30 volunteers who are willing to help the center. We first established a Prayer Warrior team because we understand this is a spiritual battle. Speaking of prayer, we have some specific prayer requests as follows:
God’s wisdom for the Director and Board
A facility where we can operate Oasis free for 1st year
God’s provision for finances & volunteers to run the center
We also have people that are willing to be counselors, help with physical needs, and facility maintenance along with many other roles required to open up Oasis.
God has truly been blessing the ministry in many different ways, but of course, we have faced some obstacles as well. That is to be expected and if we weren’t facing any, we’d have to consider whether or not we were really doing God’s will. We have received some opposition including some from within our own ranks which has caused a couple of people to step down. For the most part, however, we have mainly received blessings; we are pressing on.
The blessings we have received are almost too many to count so let me just mention a few of them. We have already starting receiving financial and prayer support from all over the United States . We are having our first fund raising event on May 2 by the Women of Light called “Just between us Girls,” and all the proceeds will go to support Oasis.
We have many people who are donating baby items to the center. In particular, one of our neighbors has been going around and collecting baby clothes and furniture, and her entire back bedroom is almost full. So much so that we had to get an air conditioned storage unit.
One of the items, I didn’t mention in my introduction was “The Mustard Seed.” The Mustard Seed is a small Pregnancy Center which runs out of the Willow Bend Community Church . The center is only open on Fridays and will now become part of Oasis once we open our doors. The Director of the center (who is now on our board) put it this way. “A seed has to die before it can grow. The Mustard Seed was holding a place for Oasis and now will grow into something larger.” The resources and baby items will also be donated to Oasis. We are thankful for them holding a place for us.
Another story deals with my sister-in-law from Walton NY . She caught the Oasis vision while she was down in Florida visiting. She owns a quilt shop and God gave her the idea to make 100 baby quilts for Oasis. She decided to go around to the local churches in that area and they agreed to provide the labor to make the quilts. Also, she asked individuals to pay for the batting which she referred to as sheep. Every time someone donated for one of the sets of batting, she would say, “God just delivered another sheep.” Her quilt shop is generously donating the material as well.
As you can see, God is at work with Oasis and we are praying that the center will open in the fall of 2009. We still have a lot of work to do and we are still relying on God’s provision, but we can see him at work through every step of the process.
If you would like to see more information about Oasis – a Pregnancy Care Center or our services, please visit our website: http://OasisPregnancyCenter.org/
If you would like to get involved or support the Oasis ministry, please contact Peter Castellani, Executive Director at Peter@OasisPregnancyCenter.org
We offer the following services free of charge: Pregnancy tests, Options counseling, Post abortion counseling, Pregnancy care information, Parenting classes, Training on relationship building, Bible study/support groups Abstinence education (iWait)