Bill & Darla Bernath moved to the area in the fall of 2021, but the move was no coincidence. Two years earlier, while Bill and Darla were still living in North Carolina, Bill’s brother Ron moved to Palm Coast to live with a friend and get back on his feet after some life and health challenges. That is when Ron discovered Salty Church.
“I knew God was working in Ron’s life as he shared with me about the “preacher” who taught at Salty. Ron said this guy made a lot more sense than anything he had heard in the past,” Bill said. “It was good to hear this from him, as we had been discussing the Lord for some time.”
About two weeks after Ron relocated to Florida, he had a major heart attack and passed away. When it came to organizing the memorial service, Ron’s friend recommended Derrick Shirley with Salty to deliver an impactful message.
“It was a challenging time for our family, but after Ron passed and I was sorting through his belongings, I found some notes he had written where he was making peace with Jesus. He had been asking for forgiveness and had given his heart to God,” Bill said. “This was such an answer to many prayers for him! This brought me so much comfort to know I would surely see him again.”
Following Ron’s passing and throughout the next couple of years, Bill and Darla traveled to Palm Coast and visited Salty a few times. Darla felt that she had heard God say this was the church where he wanted their family to be. But Bill wasn’t aware of that thought and had no plans to ever move to Florida. They were happy living in North Carolina and were well-established there for 26 years with lifelong friendships, their children and grandson living there.
But in time, God changed Bill’s heart and opened doors for the Bernaths to move to Bunnell in October 2021. Following their move, Bill and Darla were greeted by an abundance of kindness and acceptance from their new neighbors and new church family at Salty. That, plus the style of teaching offered by Salty, made Bill and Darla feel like this transition was a breath of fresh air.
Bill and Darla decided to “sit and soak.” They attended Discover Salty and Making Sense of Your Worth classes. They also got plugged into a small group that met over breakfast in between services on Sunday mornings.
“All along in our church journey, we have learned that small groups are the foundation of a solid church. They allow people to gather and be real with one another, support each other, and build each other up in the faith. This has been our experience with Deb and Len in this beautiful group,” said Bill. “God gave us an enjoyable year of respite. He gave us a year of calm before the storms that were going to hit the following year.”
In June 2022, some of the most difficult trials of Bill and Darla’s lives hit them hard. Darla’s mother suffered a paralyzing stroke, and her sister received several stage 4 cancer diagnoses only a few days after they moved their daughter down to live with them. On top of caring for Darla’s mother and sister, Darla’s brother John died after battling a 15-year sickness. They also took in Darla’s sister’s puppy to care for and housetrain. And in the middle of caring for her mother and sister, Darla’s cousin passed away from cancer on New Year's Day. Then, Bill’s father passed away in March 2023.
But despite it all, the Lord remained a beacon of hope for Bill and Darla. Throughout every trial, Bill and Darla were committed to sharing the love they felt at Salty with others, including Darla’s sister, Christine, who, after years of church hurt, found redemption and a newfound love for the Lord before her passing in August 2023.
“We had experienced several major crises, lost family members, and taken on a whole lot of additional responsibilities and financial weights,” Bill said. “But God knew what we needed during and after these great losses and transfers of new responsibilities. He brought us closer to himself and into a closer community relationship with the Salty family. This gave us the love and support we needed at this time.”
Bill and Darla are thankful that they were actively involved in a supportive church throughout it all. They currently serve on our worship and production teams – Darla at our Sunrise service and Bill at the Ormond campus.
Because of their faithfulness to serve, Bill and Darla play a role in impacting the lives of each person who walks through the doors of Salty every weekend. And if you serve at Salty, too, we want to thank you for your commitment to the mission to Rescue and Empower disciples for Jesus. If you currently serve or are looking for a way to get plugged into serving here at Salty, Easter Sunday is a great opportunity to jump right in!
Easter is a highly attended service across all our campuses, including our Sunrise services, and we need your help to make the experience memorable for all our guests. If you’d like to learn more about how you can get involved in serving, let us know here!