This past Sunday we welcomed 21 new members into our church family and each of their stories is an incredible story of God’s amazing grace. Below is one of the stories of how God brought a person to our church. What I love about this story is that it really shows the importance of two things that we tell every member of Christ Church. The first is that every member needs to think of themselves as on the greeting team. We don’t have greeters who wear badges, because we want each member to own the responsibility to greet those who are new. This testimony shows how God can powerfully use the simple act of greeting someone. The second is that every member is to participate in Kitchen Table Ministry. What we mean by this is that we want our members to be, not just attending a Sunday Service, but having people over to our homes, sitting around a kitchen table, getting to know each other and sharing life. God does powerful things through relationships and so we want every person who comes to Christ Church to get connected relationally. This testimony shows how God can powerfully use conversations at a kitchen table.
Just a bit of background about me: I was raised Catholic right here in Philly. Prayed my whole life, went to catholic school for a little, and did the whole church thing on holidays. But the story I’m about to tell you transformed my life and took my relationship with God to the next level. It’s a bit of an emotional story, but stick with me, it gets good. I promise.
On my 23rd birthday, I woke up to the news that my best friend Sam, my childhood best friend, had passed away from an overdose. You have to understand we went thru girl scouts together, I still had the card she handmade me for my 13th birthday, she witnessed my first breakup, she came with me to pick up my cap and gown for college graduation, and she was the one who gave me the pep talk to kiss the guy I now share a life with. So you can only begin to imagine what this did to me.
I was jolted. I realized that although her battle was finally over, mine was just about to begin. I have struggled with depression my entire life and I was absolutely terrified about what grieving the loss of Sam would do to the stability of my health. You see, I know grief can send people into spirals they never return from. So, I knew I was going to need something so much bigger than me to see the other side of this.
I knew nothing and no one–no podcast, no pinterest quote, no individual person–would be able to console me enough. I needed something bigger than me and bigger than you. Through the tears and the hysterics, I fell back on prayer and God harder than I ever have. Everyday following Sam’s death, instead of sleeping in like depression told me to do, I’d intentionally wake up early for some alone time. During these mornings, I’d open my Bible app and I’d read. I’d read and I’d read until I found any ounce of hope that would get me thru one more day.
And what I found out was that our God doesn’t have malicious intent. That if He was going to take Sam away from me on my birthday… there was a purpose for me in that. Sam’s duty on earth may have already been fulfilled. But if I was still here to walk thru life without her, then there was a reason.
That faith I developed in God created a hope in me that not even depression could take away. But I needed something more than reading the Bible by myself, and deep down I knew that. So when I passed by Christ Church after moving to South Philly my eyes locked in on it. There was something about it. I felt a magnetic pull.
A few weeks before the two year anniversary of Sam’s death I showed up here at 10 on the dot, not late, not early (as I still do most Sundays). My initial thoughts were ok there’s no crucifix hanging on the wall but the joints pretty cute. I had a really good feeling about this place, but it wasn’t until Pastor Jeff stood up somberly to announce that a member of the church had just passed away from addiction that it felt a little more meaningful. I had to hold back tears because it felt like no coincidence that I showed up here on that day. And so, I continued to come back week after week hoping I would continue to feel that connection.
However, after a few weeks of coming here, I started to have second thoughts. Despite loving the service, I was hesitant to meet anyone or really grow roots here. I told my boyfriend that the following weekend would be my last shot at it and then I’d probably stop.
The next Saturday, I spontaneously attended a Polish festival in the middle of Doylestown. I was totally unaware that it was taking place on the church grounds of a pretty famous Polish-American Catholic Church. I wound up taking a tour of the church and it made me very nostalgic for Catholic masses. I had stopped to pray at the Blessed Mother’s statue when I heard a mom telling her daughter “Look it’s Mary. How do you know when Mary is with you?” and the little girl said “When you smell roses!” and the mom said “That’s right. When you smell roses and there’s no flowers around that’s Mary letting you know she’s there.” Being a Catholic all my life, I had never heard that before. But I loved it. I couldn’t stop thinking about it for the rest of the day.
Fast forward to the next morning, I arrive here at Christ Church and for once I’m a few minutes early. Remember, it’s my last go of it so I am really giving it my all… With my spare time I make myself a cup of coffee, and in the back of my head falling back in love with the Catholic church recounting that rose thing at the polish fest. Mid coffee sip, a girl comes up to me with the most genuine smile and introduces herself. She says “Hi I’m Rose.”
And again, this felt like no coincidence.
From there, it was a snowball effect. I joined a small group at the Magitz’s house where Ashley and Matt welcomed me with open arms. They invited me and my boyfriend Brett over for dinner one night and I briefly touched on why I came back to church. I said you know I lost a friend to addiction and reading the bible alone only did so much. What really got me was that my first day I came to Christ church, Jeff mentioned you guys had just lost someone to addiction too and that really had an effect on me. Matt nodded solemnly and said “Oh yeah, you mean Sam?” My jaw dropped and my eyes locked with Brett, as we realized that the church member had the same name as my best friend.
Call it what you want, but that’s a sign from God in my book.
I’m a firm believer that God is always at work. My prayer for you is that you’re given the ability to look a little closer at the coincidences, the minor details, and even the major tragedies and see He’s working in the background for you. And that you know it’s always for good and with love.