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!