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Summer Snapshot: Jake Adler and Life Community Church

Posted in Students  |  By Shades Staff  |  Posted on Tue Jul 25, 2017

Summer Snapshot: Jake Adler and Life Community Church

Editor's Note: This summer we will hear from various UMIN students about how they are using their summer for the Kingdom and how God is at work in their lives. Next up we’ll hear from Jake Adler who is an upcoming senior at Samford University.

Hello people of Birmingham! It's good to be writing to you from Life Community Church in Nolensville, Tennessee. For the past two months, I've been interning here with Jay Watson and Kevin Johnson. Jay and Kevin used to be pastors at Shades that have devoted themselves to serving the people of Nolensville. It’s been a fun ride the entire summer.        

We started off with a bang at our student camp in the woods of Tennessee. During this week the students were able learn about Jesus and how he loves them. For many of them, this is a new concept, and they were hearing it for the first time. I was given the opportunity to lead worship for the students which proved to be a difficult task, because for some of them it was their first time to sing worship songs. The students learned quickly and loved getting involved. We also played tons of games like flag football, glow in the dark kickball (which was chaotic), and water balloon fights. It was a fun start to the internship, and it gave me a good picture of how engaging the summer was going to be.

One of the families from the church volunteered to house me for the summer. They are some of the kindest, most generous people I have ever met. Their three young children are full of energy and the youngest boy, Declan, is my number one fan.  They have served me so well this entire summer, and I've come to see them as my Tennessee family. 

Kevin has been an excellent boss for the past two months.  Jay, the lead pastor of Life Community, has been on sabbatical for the summer.  Thus, Kevin, the associate pastor, has stepped up to lead us interns. 

He put us in charge of leading the Wednesday night events for the student ministry. So we come up with games to play, what Bible lesson to teach, and what crazy snack food the students will be eating. My favorite Wednesday night so far has to be the glow-in-the-dark mini-golf night. We rented several portable glow in the dark mini golf stations and set them up in the worship center, then turned up the LED lights and made the room look like a laser tag arena. It was crazy. CRAZY!

I have also had the opportunity to lead worship on Sundays.  Ethan Asters, a Samford graduate and the worship leader at Life Community, made it his goal to mentor me this entire summer and give me many opportunities to lead worship.  He has allowed me to assist him in planning the worship sets, modeling each Sunday to the needs of the congregation and to theme of the sermon that morning. This has given me a glimpse into what it would be like to be a worship pastor full-time at a church. I'm really thankful for Ethan's leadership over me this summer.

Kevin also put me in charge of leading a small Bible study with three of male students. This has been the most rewarding of all my tasks this summer. These three middle school guys have been so eager to read the Word and fellowship with God. I’ve been able to teach them the importance of reading their Bibles, the power of prayer, and the beauty of Jesus’ grace in their lives. I'm hoping that these concepts will carry on in these guys' lives for years. They have the passion to do so. I'll keep praying for them as they enter high school and begin that new stage in life.

So anyway, those are some of the awesome things I've been able to do in this internship. It has given me a good glimpse into what full-time ministry would be like. It has also strengthened my desire to be in full-time ministry. The people of Life Community are growing in faith thanks to the hard work of many faithful leaders and thanks to the faithfulness of our God.  

It's been an amazing summer.

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Summer Snapshot: Luke Thompson and Life Romania

Posted in Students  |  By Shades Staff  |  Posted on Thu Jul 20, 2017

Summer Snapshot: Luke Thompson and Life Romania

Editor's Note: This summer we will hear from various UMIN students about how they are using their summer for the Kingdom and how God is at work in their lives. Next up we’ll hear from Luke Thompson who is an upcoming senior at Samford University. 

This summer I chose to serve with Life Romania, a ministry that organizes camps and shares the Gospel with kids ages 6-19 all over the country. For the past three years, I have been working with middle school and high school students but never in a camp setting. I didn’t really know what to expect. I only vaguely knew what I would be doing. I knew I would be in charge of the finances and sports/recreation activities for one of the camp locations along with preaching occasionally. 

Prior to arriving, I wasn’t given a lot of detail about how those jobs have been done in the past or the expectations for my roles at camp. Even after arriving in Romania, meeting the team and officially going over details, I have had to learn as I go. That can be even more difficult when not everyone speaks the same language. But as with any mission trip you go on, it requires a flexible attitude. Things aren’t always going to go according to plan or instructions might not be clearly communicated. That can be discouraging at first, but if you don’t allow yourself to let go of the control and let God use you then you’ll miss out on what all He has in store for you.

Forsaking My Own Strength

I like to think of myself as a laid-back, easygoing guy, and yet week after week I have been challenged by the flow of the camp. I have been here for three weeks, and two of those weeks we’ve had camp and they could not have been more polar opposite. I remember after the first day of camp sitting down and being so discouraged. I thought, “How am I going to get through four more weeks of this?” I was angry and frustrated for being here, annoyed at how chaotic things were. But throughout this experience, God continues to teach me two main things. The first is to rely on Him every single day. He showed me that before I got here, I wasn’t relying on his strength and power, but that my tendency was to do things on my own. I had to rely on His power. There is no way I would have made it this far on my own strength. I would be bitter and angry if I tried to fulfill all of my responsibilities on my own.

In Mark 10:13-16 people are bringing children to see Jesus and be blessed by him, but the Disciples get angry at the people for bringing them to Jesus. They think that children are unimportant and not worth Jesus’ time. When Jesus sees this happening he gets angry at them, and in verse 15, Jesus says that those who don’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it. Jesus is saying is that those who don’t rely on me like a child don’t truly know what it is to follow me. As humans we have the tendency to shoulder all the responsibility, yet Jesus calls us to rely on him. It’s an insult to Him and His sacrifice on the cross when we try to go through life on our own. It’s easier at camp or in tough times to rely on God’s strength to get us through, but as followers of Jesus, we are called to rely on Him in all circumstances, both the good and the bad. When things are going good we think we have everything under control. Yet slowly but surely as we rely on ourselves we distance ourselves from God.

Finding True Satisfaction

The second major lesson God has been teaching me is that He is so much greater than anything in this world. True Joy is found in Him and not in this world because God is the only one that can sustain us. The big question is, “Am I living for the heavenly kingdom or for this earthly world?” And too many times I choose the things of this world over the Kingdom of Heaven. It can be so tempting to choose this world and all it offers, but in the end it leaves us empty and unsatisfied. Every day we have the option to pursue our own desires or to surrender to God and allow Him to use us and be satisfied in Him. And that is all God asks us to do, surrender to Him every day to be used by Him and show His love to others.

I have seen God use broken sinful, exhausted people to pour into the lives of kids that have never heard of Jesus only because they surrendered and allowed God to use them. I have seen counselors pour out the love of Christ to some of the most frustrating campers, and in the end are crying when they leave because they’ve never seen love like this before. I have seen God use something as simple as a ping-pong game to open the door for a conversation about how God’s love never runs out and that it’s never too late to follow Him. Allow yourself to be used by God every day, rely on His strength, and live for the Kingdom. Because God is most glorified when we are most satisfied in Him. And when we allow Him to use us, we experience what God has designed for us. What God has in store for each person is much greater than anything we could ever come up with on our own.

Integrating What I’ve Learned Next Semester

Even though camp is still chaotic and challenging, I know this is where I need to be and I wouldn’t trade this experience and what God is teaching me for anything. My challenge to myself is that I will surrender to God every day and be found completely in Him, choosing the Kingdom of Heaven over anything the world has to offer. And there will be struggles and temptations, but we serve the God of the Universe, Creator of Heaven and Earth. There is nothing to big or too small for our God. 

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Phasing out the Shades app

Posted in Uncategorized  |  By Jordan Cox  |  Posted on Tue Jul 18, 2017

Following careful consideration, we are phasing out our mobile app effective July 18, 2017.

During the last five years, we’ve invested in emerging technologies as tools to help us tell the story of the Gospel – the greatest story ever told – in a culture that communicates in increasingly fractured ways. Film, social, and digital platforms are just a few mediums in which we’ve invested both in resources and staff personnel. Some of these means have proven more effective than others.

We always strive to communicate the Gospel, and the story of Shades, to people already connected to our community and potential guests. Though the app is going away, we are migrating all of its existing features to our website. Media content, events, and now the Bible Reading Plan are all available at

We consistently look at how to increase the usability of our website, but it was built mobile-friendly. You can visit us from your mobile web browser, and though we’re phasing out the app, you can click here to watch or listen to sermons. Click here to read our blog. Click here to get more information on all of the latest events. And the Bible Reading Plan is a feature we’ll continue to build out during the coming months, but click here for an ESV plan that we highly recommend.

Follow us on social media, and subscribe to our YouTube channel and iTunes podcast for everything that happens at Shades.

Thank you to those who used and provided feedback for our app. We are expectant about this next chapter in the life of our church!

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Summer Snapshot: Josie Pelham and Kids Kamp

Posted in Students  |  By Shades Staff  |  Posted on Wed Jun 28, 2017

Summer Snapshot: Josie Pelham and Kids Kamp

Editor's Note: This summer we will hear from various UMIN students about how they are using their summer for the Kingdom and how God is at work in their lives. First up – Josie Pelham!

Hi friends! My name is Josie, and I am about to enter my senior year at UAB as a Secondary Education major concentrating in Social Studies. This summer is my first time to stay in Birmingham and also my first time to work full-time.

During the school year, I work at After the Bell at Shades which is an after school program for kids who go to Vestavia elementary schools. Because I work there, I was given the opportunity to work at Kids Kamp, which is a summer program both for the kids at After The Bell and other students around the area. A day in the life of Kids Kamp could basically be described like this: play games with your kids, try to make sure no one gets hurt, and most importantly love on them in a way that teaches them who God is and what a relationship with Him looks like.

So here I am, four weeks into Kids Kamp where I spend 10 hours a day with a bunch of crazy nine- and ten-year-olds (I am a counselor for third grade), and there are honestly no words to describe how much God has changed my life through this awesome ministry. 

I hear people who work with kids in a ministry setting say something along the lines of “I’m learning more from them than they could ever learn from me.” I’ve never really understood how this could be possible until Kamp started. Through these kids, God is teaching me how to love others in a way that I can’t even begin to describe. He has shown me that if I am to love others the way that Christ loves us, I must rely on His strength and His love because believe me, nine-year-old boys and girls are HARD to love sometimes. Like I mentioned, Kids Kamp is 10 hours every day and is absolutely exhausting. I get tired, the kids get tired, and everyone gets a little difficult to be around sometimes. However, our God is good and He has taught me that on my own, I can’t love these kids without resting in His grace.

I don’t know what the next six weeks of Kamp will look like, nor do I know how God is going to continue working in these kids’ lives and continue teaching me. 

But I do know that when we allow ourselves to be available to work for His kingdom and open our hearts to what He is trying to teach us, we will be changed and we will grow in a way that only God can accomplish. 

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VBS 2017

Posted in Children  |  By Stephanie Hartsell  |  Posted on Thu Jun 1, 2017

VBS 2017

I LOVE VBS! It is my favorite week of the summer! Why? Because...

  • It generates excitement in our church family and staff.
  • Seeing children worshipping Jesus at 9 a.m. five days in a row is AMAZING!
  • Watching high school and college students alongside parents and senior adults teaching children truths from the Bible is what every generation together looks like.
  • Children will hear the good news of Jesus Christ and have the opportunity to come to know Him personally.

Vacation Bible School is a wonderful week for your child to come and make new friends as well as strengthen existing friendships as they play and learn together. It creates shared memories for children. The memories will include Biblical truths, Bible verses, and fun had at church with friends.

This year our VBS is set at the International Spy Academy where recruits will come and learn to spy out truths in God Word’s and learn how to apply them to their lives. We will be:

  • uncovering counterfeit gods
  • finding fingerprints of God in our lives
  • collecting clues that lead us the truth of the Gospel
  • hot on the trail of Jesus as we learn to follow Him
  • cracking the code to find our mission in God’s big story

To register your child for this amazing week, click here.

VBS is our biggest outreach to children here at Shades. We will have over 1000 children here between bed babies and 6th graders and need over 400 volunteers to make it happen!

Serving at VBS is one way for you to live our mission here at Shades by influencing the children who come for Christ. This can be done by playing games in small group, listening to a child tell you what they think about a Bible story or just by giving a child a smile and an encouraging word.

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Moving Forward

Posted in Adults  |  By Meghan Roper  |  Posted on Wed May 3, 2017

Moving Forward

Editor's Note: Through the loss of her daughter, Ellanie Beth, God has faithfully mended Maegan Roper's broken heart to encourage other families dealing with loss as well. Maegan facilitates infant loss retreats to help women find healing in Christ. In addition to her book, 30 Days of Hope for Restoration in Infant Loss, she's also written for digital and print publications such as Pregnancy After Loss Magazine, Engaging Motherhood, MinistryMatters, The Better Mom, Missions Mosaic and more. She resides in McCalla, AL with her husband, Jeremy and children Emmalyn and Harrison.

When moving forward seems impossible…

“I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; Wait on the Lord.” Psalm 27:13-14 (NASB)

Infant loss is unique. It has many faces and forms, and while each of them are different, no one can prepare you for how to handle the sorrow. You can rejoice in the relief of knowing that you are fully understood by the Lord. Others will not understand what you’re going through. They’ll try to answer the unanswerable. And while they mean well, most of what they say will probably frustrate you.

And that’s okay. God gets your struggles. Your feelings of inadequacy. Your hurt. And your hesitancy to move forward with a “normal” life.

I vividly remember having a come apart in my parent’s living room one week after we lost our daughter to a rare birth defect called anencephaly. We did not find out until I was 20 weeks pregnant with her. She was born and went to heaven all in the same breath. It was the month of December, and it just didn’t feel like Christmas time. We hadn’t participated in any of the usual traditions and festivities, and I hadn’t bought a single gift. Not one. It suddenly seemed to all come crashing down on me, and I found myself loathing “normal.”

I didn’t want to get out and go shopping. I didn’t want to attend Christmas parties or send out Christmas cards. What is usually so exciting and anticipated seemed unnecessary and daunting. And it wasn’t, really. It was just my perspective at the time. And instead of approaching this grieving process one day at a time as it slowly merged with my once normal life, I felt that I was supposed to shut off what had just happened and dive back into normal life.

That’s not what God expects of you at all. The reality is that you’ll have a new normal from here on out. It’s almost as if your life becomes divided -- before loss and after loss. And after loss, you do your best to get back to what you were doing before loss, but it just isn’t the same and that’s okay.

He has promised that we will see His goodness in the land of the living and give us courage to approach our new normal if we wait on Him. I think for the longest time I feared for taking any steps into a new normal because I felt I was leaving my baby girl behind. But sometimes sorrow and hope must mingle in the present, as we take one step at a time.

Those steps forward do not mean you love less. They do not mean you stop grieving or missing. They do not mean you forget. They do not mean letting go. Moving forward is about learning, growing, and trusting. You just learn to live in a world that keeps turning, even though yours stopped for a bit.

When others would say “It’ll be okay; you’ll move on...” it didn’t feel right. I know our natural human reaction is to leave a bad situation in the past, but part of me wanted to keep it in front of me AS I moved forward, a reminder of God’s grace in my pain and the promise of future glory.

There is no rulebook for the pace at which you should move. Don’t rush, but don’t be afraid either. Moving forward means turning toward hope and believing God is greater than it all.

In my journey toward restoration, the Lord led me to write a 30 day devotional, encouraging others through infant loss. It is called 30 Days of Hope for Restoration in Infant Loss. I am truly humbled by how the Lord has chosen to use our daughter’s story to bring healing hope to others.

There are other resources that have helped me understand God’s purpose and have pointed me to Scripture that I would recommend. I pray that you find them helpful as well:

-    Safe in the Arms of God by John MacArthur

-    Mended by Angie Smith

-    Your Pain is Changing You by David Crosby

If you’re walking through infant loss right now and would like to be a part of a community encouraging one another, then please check out Engaging Motherhood. As co-editor of the infant loss section, we are offering an email series to parents who need encouraging in this area. You may sign up to receive the emails here

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Pray, Go, Give

Posted in From the Pastor  |  By Danny Wood  |  Posted on Thu Mar 16, 2017

Pray, Go, Give

The Global Impact Celebration is now three weeks behind us and we are still getting great feedback from the missionaries and church planters! We are lining up short term mission trips for our people to be boots on the ground resources to assist them in their work. For a listing and description of mission projects, go to

Praying and going are important and so is giving. It is your giving to Make Jesus Known that provides the financial support for these ministries that helps them continue to do their work of advancing the Kingdom of God. If you have not completed a pledge card, I encourage you to do that sometime these next couple of Sundays. We are attempting the largest goal ever ($1.2 million) for MJK and it will take all of us to make this a reality. Pray about it and make a commitment knowing that you have nine months to complete it. Thousands of missionaries and church planters are depending on us.

On the topic of giving, a number of our members support The Big Oak Ranch and its founder, John Croyle, and now his son, Brody. We have had John come and speak numerous times to Sunday School classes and most recently to Man Church. The Dave Belcher Scholarship Fund at Big Oak Ranch was established several months ago by his friends in the Businessmen’s Bible Class at SMBC.  The Fund will provide a $2,500.00 (initially) scholarship each year to a young man or woman to be selected by Big Oak from their class of graduating high school seniors. Dave cared deeply for the young people at Big Oak, and this annual scholarship will be a continuing tribute to him. If you are a regular contributor to this ministry or want to begin, I encourage you to support this scholarship fund.

This week through April 15, Scott Heath, our Executive Pastor, will be taking a well-deserved four-week sabbatical. Our Employee Handbook provides for ministerial staff to receive sabbaticals at 5-year intervals once an employee reaches ten years of service. Scott celebrated his 15th year of service with Shades back in November. I know many of you are shocked that Scott has been here 15 years because he does not look to be over 30 years of age but I can assure you that we did not hire him when he was 14 years old!

This Sunday I will begin a new sermon series Transformed and continue it until April 23. Our mission statement is “Sending transformed people to influence their world for Christ.” We have focused a great deal on “sending” and now I want us to look at what it means to be “transformed.” Bottom line is transformation is an ‘outward reality of an inner work.’ This is a great time to invite your friends, neighbors and coworkers to join you at church as we lead up to Easter Sunday. Over the next few weeks we will be sharing a number of tools to assist you in making the invitations.

I believe Sunday will be a glorious day as we kick-off the new sermon series and learn more about the transforming power of a relationship with Jesus Christ!

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How Serving Together Changes Families

Posted in Children  |  By Stephanie Hartsell  |  Posted on Mon Mar 6, 2017

How Serving Together Changes Families

In an “all about me” world, we long to teach our kids what it means to put others first, to have a servant’s heart, and to be selfless. Serving together as a family can be a catalyst for a kid’s growing faith and character, producing these things.

Before you tune me out and think, “We can’t add one more thing to our busy schedules!” I’m not saying you have to plan a three-hour yard cleaning for the widow down the street. Instead, make service a part of your family’s DNA by keeping an eye out for things that need to be done and the people around you who are in need. It may be that the widow’s yard does need to be cleaned. But it may also be that Jimmy, the kid next door, broke his arm and just needs a batch of chocolate chip cookies,& which your children can help you make (or help you pick out the Walmart iced sugar cookies and put them on a plate with a card your kids make and deliver … whichever one you have time for).

Serving together as a family can become a way of life when we change how we look at our sphere of influence. Listen and be aware. Find a need, great or small, and work as a family to meet it. Talk it over, pray about it, involve your children in thinking of ways to meet a need and then do it. 

Once you have completed the act of service, take a few moments to talk about the experience and how everyone felt about it. Take time to pray for the people you helped or your community and ask God to help your family to have eyes to see the needs around you. 

Serving together grows our kids’ faith and produces character because it:

  • requires them to look outside themselves
  • helps them to feel empathy for others
  • helps them to learn about gifts and talents God has given them
  • helps them understand that they can accomplish significant things TOGETHER

Doing service together as a family is an experience you and your children can have and can make wonderful memories for your family.  

How can your family be “LIVE SENT” by serving someone this week?

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Beyond the Horizon

Posted in From the Pastor  |  By Danny Wood  |  Posted on Tue Jan 24, 2017

Last Sunday I was able to share “Our Next Chapter” vision ... a focus and direction for Shades for the next five to 10 years. It was multi-faceted in its approach and God-sized in its challenge. It was formed over a year and a half of studying, praying, and receiving input from our congregation and from outside sources. We are excited about all the opportunities that are before us and what our church family will look like as we “live sent” each day of our lives. These are amazing days as we move forward and become effective laborers in the harvest in our community, our city, our country, and our world!

Also if you missed the service, you can go to this link and watch the sermon. I encourage you to watch the service and pray to God and ask Him to direct you to the area(s) in which He desires to use you to advance His Kingdom. Take up the challenge of the “Live Sent” life and see what a difference God will make and how He will use you in ways you never imagined!

This Sunday I will begin a four-week sermon series entitled “Here/After." We will be looking at eternity, heaven, and hell. This Sunday the focus will be on “Eternity: What Happens When I Die?” On February 5, I will be preaching on “Hell” and then the next two weeks on “Heaven”. Everyone has questions about eternity and the Bible has some very clear answers. So take the opportunity and invite a friend to join you for this practical and life-changing sermon series.

I am as excited today as I have ever been about the potential for Shades to engage our community and impact our nation and our world with the Gospel. I am praying for you that you will “live sent” and be so in tune with God that you are ready whenever He calls and wherever He sends.

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Shades Life

Posted in From the Pastor  |  By Danny Wood  |  Posted on Mon Jan 9, 2017

Shades Life

This has been quite an interesting couple of weeks. On Christmas Eve our worship center was filled with the largest attendance ever and we had a wonderful evening of worship. The next morning on Christmas day we had about 1000 in worship which blew me away! With the next Sunday being New Year’s Day, I had pretty low expectations but again we had about 1000 in worship and another great day of worship.

And then there was last Sunday, January 8. With high hopes and lots of preparation, I was excited anticipating a large crowd of eager worshippers anxious to hear about the State of the Church and to join in the Celebration of the conclusion of Chapters. And then came the ice. As most of Birmingham was stirring around and getting out of the house, Shades sat atop an ice filled mountain surrounded by icy streets and we had to cancel all Sunday activities. However, in the midst of that disappointment, I was reminded that Shades Mountain Baptist Church is not the physical structure on 2017 Columbiana Road…it is the people, the body of Christ.

So in an effort to gather the body of Christ and hear a word from God’s Word, four of us put together a worship service to livestream to our church body. I preached; Ryan Maynard handled the sound; Ethan Milner the video; and Chad Cossiboom sat in the worship center about half way back in my eyesight and played the part of a soul in need of restoration (and he played the part very well…in the words of the old Buck Owens Song and later performed by the Beatles “and all I gotta do is act naturally”!).

I preached a different sermon than planned and visually to a lot smaller audience than anticipated. But when the service was over our tracking showed that 1001 I.P. addresses from 21 states and 2 countries outside the US had huddled around their computer screens, cell phones or iPads and listened to the Word of God and had a worship experience. Realizing that each I.P. address could have 2 or more people, we might have reached more people than I had originally anticipated! God is good and His Word will not return void!

The weather for this Sunday will be lots different…in the 70s! This Sunday I will preach on the “State of the Church” and we will celebrate Chapters and some of the amazing victories the Lord accomplished through your faithfulness in giving and going.

Then on January 22, I will be sharing a vision for the next chapter in the life of Shades. Make every effort to be here and join in the blessings of being together, sharing life, and worshipping our Lord in music and message.


P.S. – With our budget needs and missions commitments we need 52 weeks of Sunday giving to meet those challenges. We missed last Sunday so please make sure you get caught up! Click here to give online. Thanks!

Also, go to this link to catch up on all the news of major happenings at Shades.

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