Sunday, November 13, 2016

Ten Years Ago, My Life Changed

This is a Personal Letter to my home church, Wake Forest Christian Church. As they celebrate their 11th Anniversary, I reflect on how ten years ago, I joined Wake Forest. As I reflect, I wanted to express a personal thank you to this church that had affected my life while also providing testimony that churches can provide a great place for people to grow and cause great change for anyone. Thus, I hope my testimony is an encouragement to current churches that YOU have the power to either create a space filled with love and welcome or a space filled with exclusion and hate. I hope for anyone in religious or church leadership reading this testimony, you choose the former.

Out of the many lessons that I am learning and will continue to learn throughout my life is that everything is subject to change.

Many changes have occurred throughout my life, both positive and negative. However, one of the biggest positive changes, that occurred Ten Years ago, was when I officially became a member of Wake Forest Christian Church, joined the Disciples of Christ Church, and was baptized as a Christian.

So many people today are surprised when I inform them that I was not raised within the Christian Church. In fact, I wasn’t raised in any religious setting growing up. The closest I came to organized religion was when I was under 5 years old and I would play in my Aunt’s Methodist Church basement.

But even then, I did not know anything about God or Jesus or what the church was all about. I do not regret my non-religious upbringing. I do not believe that one must have a religious upbringing to have a good and moral life. My mother and father raised me to be respectful to all people, not matter who they were or where they came from.

So I’m sure you must be wondering how come I started to attend church?

I have my Mom to thank for that.

In 2005, my Mom was searching for a new teaching position outside of the town we were living in PA. She looked in several different places, but one of those places was at an Elementary School in Wake Forest, North Carolina. I still remember the short visit we had down to North Carolina and how much I hoped we would not move down there. However, my Mom was hired and she accepted the position and by August of that same year, I was now a resident of North Carolina.

Several months had passed. I was still adjusting to the move. It was the Sunday after Easter. My Mom knocked on my door and announced, “We’re going to Church”. Barely awake, I replied, “What?” At the time, I did not understand what would cause my Mom to suddenly explain that we were not going to church.

However, hindsight always makes the picture much clearer. A few months before this announcement, my Aunt Sissy had passed away after a year of battling with Lung Cancer. It greatly affected my Mom and I know she was wrapped with guilt for moving away from her family. I can imagine that my Mom was seeking a religious community to provide care and support during her own process of grieving.

But why Wake Forest Christian Church?

Well, my Mom worked at Forest Pines Elementary. Another teacher who worked there was Leah Eubanks, the wife of Jamie Eubanks, Minister at Wake Forest Christian Church. My Mom and Leah quickly became friends and through personal invitation, my Mom wanted to try out Wake Forest Christian Church.

I barely remember the visit itself. The main things I remember was how small and intimate the church was. I also remember how warm and welcoming the church members were as well. There was maybe 15 people there or less. Thus, it was perfect for me to not get overly crowded for my first church experience.

As I am currently studying to be a minister, I have learned that churches cannot stop at just welcoming new people. Church’s must make people feel wanted in the community and loved all the same. That is how I felt at Wake Forest. I remember two members, Albert and Susan Coffey, visiting our home and offering us a pastry dessert. I remember how each Sunday as we returned to the church, different people kept asking me about my life and wanted to get to know me better. Jennifer Friedley and her children quickly became close friends to me and my family. Emily Currin and Carol Hanson always made feel warm and welcomed when I saw them. Anne and Carl Flick were always so kind and generous to not just me but to everyone. Jamie and Leah treated me like I was one of their children. The list of people who were a part of the church around that time may be small, their loving actions are continuous. And as more members and visitors came to Wake Forest, the more love and support I received from everyone in the church.

On November 19, 2006, after several months of being a part of this wonderful church community, I made the decision that had greatly affected my life. I wanted to join the Disciples of Christ Church and be baptized as a Christian.

I joined that day and after church services, got baptized at a fellow Disciples church, Hillyer Memorial Christian Church (Wake Forest didn’t have a baptistry).

The change that occurred that day was not sudden or miraculous. I did not see a blinding light and heard the name of Christ like Paul did. My quiet and timid personality did not suddenly change into an evangelizing extrovert.

However, the change that occurred that day was a continuous process. The change that occurred led me down the path of becoming a leader within my home church. That change eventually got me introduced to the wonderful ministry of Camp Caroline and Christmount. That change got me interested in religious studies and eventually pursue becoming a ministry.

If it was not for that moment ten years ago, I do not know what kind of person I would be or where I would have ended up, if anywhere else in life.

Joining Wake Forest Christian Church was undoubtedly one of the best decisions I ever made for my life.

So I want to thank you, Wake Forest Christian Church, for not only continuing to be my Home Church after so many years of being away from home, but for being so warm and welcoming to me and for wanting to hear my story and encourage me to grow into the person I am today.

I love each and every one of you and I celebrate another year of wonderful ministry that has occurred from this small, and yet incredibly amazing church!

Peace and Prayers always be with you and again…Thank You!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Where is the Hope Now?

I am not a political person. Never have been and most likely never will be, but even I paid close attention to the election of our new President for I knew our future would be made no matter who won.

But last night…last night was brutal. As I watched how the United States map slowly turned red, a fear crept into my heart and I fought terrifying tears from falling from my eyes. A fear that undeniably came true.

And so many people surrounding me share my fears and still are incredibly fearful for our future.

And the worst part about all of this is where is the hope?

I find myself struggling to find hope in the midst of these fears.

However, as a Christian, I have to wonder…where was the hope for the Jewish people in the midst of persecution throughout the Hebrew Bible? Where was the hope for the early Christians in the midst of persecutions from the Roman Empire? Where was the hope when Jesus, died on the cross, and only a few heard and saw his resurrection?

And as an American, where was the hope for the Native Americans when the Europeans and later identified Americans took over their homes? Where was the hope for the African American slaves and persecutions of African Americans under Jim Crow and Racism? Where was the hope for women when submission and being dominated was all they could do to get by? Where was the hope for gay men, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, queer, asexual, and questioning people when even the police would raid and terrorize them in their sacred homes? Where was the hope for all differently abled people when they were locked up instead of receiving the love and support that all people truly need?

The truth is hard for us to admit, but there was none. They had no hope. Those were terrible times to be living in and there was no light at the end of those tunnels. We know now that there was hope for their future, because we are their future, but at the time, they did not know that.

I know many people, both Christian and non-Christians, are really scared of the future we have in store. I share your fears with you.

And there is nothing wrong with our fears. Our fears come from a real and horrible reality. But we do have a choice what to do with our fears.

Our fears can paralyze us, cause us to do nothing because why try in the midst of no hope.
And our fears can embolize us, keep standing strong and do all we can in the midst of no hope.

So…this is what I want to encourage to you…do not give up. Do not give in to the paralyzing impulse of your fears. Instead embrace the embolizing impulse of our fears. And within that embolization, we will find our hope.

Our hope does not lie in the president of the United States. Hope lives within you and our ability to not give up and to press on and encourage each other and support each other is going to get us through these troubles.

So, my friends, we will get through this. We have hope.
Will you join me in not giving up and fighting harder for those who need our help?

May the Love and Peace and Stability of our Ruahs be with us and everyone we meet,