Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Stepping into a Stone Chapel

Shove Chapel on Colorado College Campus

In many ways I was a fairly normal child with a fairly normal childhood.

I went to school, rode bikes with friends, had a dog, and loved my family. I also played with dolls. This is where I may have been a little bit different. While most little girls play house or school with their dolls, I played Sunday School. I lined my dolls up in rows and passed around an offering plate. Actually, I think it was a plastic replica of a church building with a slot in the top for change.

One year when my mom took my brother and I on a trip to Omaha, we visited the Grace Bible College (now Grace University) bookstore. My mom told me I could pick out anything I wanted. I picked a flannelgraph set with a story about a boy who stole a scarecrow. I took the set home, taped a flannel blanket on my wall with masking tape, and taught my dolls the Bible story.

I cannot remember a time when I didn’t love God with everything in me. I cannot remember a time in my childhood when I didn’t want to go to church.

Life happened, as it does for most of us, and I found myself disillusioned with the local church the year after my first daughter was born. I still wanted to go. I just wasn’t sure of my place in the larger body of believers anymore.

When Kyla was a year old, we moved to my hometown. Due to various reasons, I did not want to return to the church of my childhood. Jeff and I searched all over. Sometimes we stayed for an entire service. Sometimes we barely made it to the sermon before leaving and going out for breakfast.

Where did we fit? More importantly, where was God the focus over entertainment or relevancy? That was all we could find, it seemed.

One day, after a particular frustrating church event we attended, we got into our blue Ford Explorer, and I said, “I think we need to try something completely different. Let’s try something liturgical.” I think that, had his door still been open, Jeff would have fallen out of the car. He looked at me like someone had replaced his wife, and then agreed.

Turns out, one of Jeff’s professors was an Anglican priest. We started attending the church he was pastoring, and when he got transferred to a larger, Episcopal congregation, we went over there too.

As we attended the Episcopal church, we loved the language of the prayers. We started learning more about church history and came to appreciate the beauty of participating in worship, rather than being a spectator.

On the way to the Episcopal church each Sunday, we passed a sign next to Shove Chapel for a church called International Anglican Church. My brother was an interim worship pastor there for a bit and mentioned to Jeff that they wanted to hire a youth pastor. Jeff had done this kind of ministry previously and was looking for something part-time as he finished his Masters in Counseling. He planned to start a private practice after graduating.

Jeff met with the pastor, Ken, and agreed to visit the service the following Sunday. I, unfortunately, had to go out of town because my grandpa had heart surgery. Jeff called me that Sunday afternoon and told me that he wept during the service, and we would need to make the decision together but something was special about this church.

I went the following week, and I wept too. There was, indeed, something unique about this place and the people there. It felt like home.

We continued to attend. We found healing for our hearts, a healing we didn’t even know we needed. We found true community and people who loved Jesus to the core of their being. Now, this doesn’t just happen. But neither is there a magic formula. It was the Holy Spirit.

There was room for Him there, and He showed up every week. As we turned to face the cross in the middle of the platform and as we heard the good news preached week in and week out about who God is and what He has done for us, we couldn’t help but respond. Tying this all together was the love of a leadership from thousands of miles away—from Rwanda of all places.

The people of Rwanda considered us their kin. And us the same. Their story, as you may know, is marked with tragedy due to the genocide in 1994. But out of that tragedy came redemption and forgiveness. We cannot fathom all that they endured as country after country, turned their back on providing them aid, and they watched family members die in front of their eyes.

As Rwanda began to heal, they saw the need for missionaries to be sent to America. American churches pleaded with the Rwandan leadership to help establish and support churches that upheld right orthodoxy and right teaching. How could the Rwandans turn us away? They knew what it was like to have that done to them.

Jeff and I stepped into a chapel unaware of this group of believers half a world away. Yet, the relationships in our local church in Colorado Springs and the Anglican church of Rwanda have made all the difference in our lives, in our path, and in our calling.

We have much to learn. As Jeff nears the end of seminary, we find ourselves humbled at all there is to discover about the people of God across the world. (Yes, we are that crazy that he pursued a second master’s degree in Divinity!) We are the children, and the people of Rwanda are our parents. They know Christ and His love in a way we don’t quite understand here in the United States.

I am grateful for each step in my life that has revolved around the local church. The church of my childhood laid an important foundation, and later, through IAC, I learned that God is so much bigger than I imagined when I first entered that stone chapel. Now, I find myself in a new place, here in Kansas City. I can’t speculate all that will happen in this place and all that God will do with us in the future either.

I wish I knew all the details, but I don’t. That is for Him to work out, in His timing and in His way. For now, I wait, clinging to His promises and the spark of passion exhibited by a little girl playing with her dolls.

By the way, that bookstore at Grace University? I met my husband on the floor just above it several years later. We both majored in Christian Education at that college. God must smile at those things. I know I do.


Unknown said...

You are so talented!!! And, sweet! And, Pretty!

Becca said...

Thanks for helping me test my comments section, honey!

Heather said...

I love how you search for God. You've taught me much, my friend.

Mutterguse said...

Wonderful! Thank you!

Sarah Wightman said...

Thanks for sharing your journey. I am amazed at how faithful our God is to guide our steps, if we will just surrender and seek Him. Prayers for you and Jeff as you serve Him in Kansas.