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The Altruistic Achiever :: Tracy’s Story

As a follow-up to our God@Work sermon from the It Matters series, we’d like to share some stories of those in our community who have experienced what it means to live out their faith in the workplace. This story is a part of a larger series written by Jackson Crum and Patrick Hurley. Let’s start with Tracy.

Generally speaking, most leaders are both goal-oriented and performance-driven or people first and person-centered. Tracy Scott is both. She is as kinetic as she is kind. She climbs career mountains as she considers the feelings of others.

Altruism, def. “Unselfish concern for the welfare of others; selflessness.”

There is a reason for Tracy’s love for people.

A little background here. Growing up, Tracy and her family lived a, “Keeping up with the Joneses” philosophy. Simply put, the parents wanted to be the best in the neighborhood. It applied to their religious practice as well.

This dialogue between Tracy and her mother typified this vapid existence.

“Mom, why are we going to church?”

“Because church is good for the community.”

“Oh.”

Needless to say at that point in Tracy’s little girl life her parents and family were not Christians. They were just good for the community. Then, when Tracy was eight years old, her youngest sister was born. Her name was Kristen. It should have been, “Kaboom!” When that little baby came into the world, she blew up the image of the family that wanted to always look good for the community and scattered it to the four winds.

“My sister was born with cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder that may or may not be extremely debilitating for the remainder of one’s life. It is not predictable, so we had no idea how badly it would affect Kristen. All we knew was that her entire right side was completely paralyzed and that she most likely would never walk or talk.”

Tracy explained further, “It changed my parent’s life. They suddenly asked, ‘Where is God in all this?’  Facing the reality of a child with disabilities sent them on a spiritual quest that ended with them both becoming Christians.”

Kristen was a miracle baby. God immediately began using her life to turn Tracy and her family around for Him. Their first thought was that this little girl was going to be helpless and physically needy. Big sister Tracy stepped up and took care of her sibling. That unselfishness opened her heart from which God’s agape love began to pour out of her.

No one thought Kristen was going to be healthy and fiercely independent for the rest of her life.

They couldn’t have been more wrong.

Through miracle after miracle, and lots of love, the Holy Spirit outshone everyone’s expectations.

Today, Kristen talks, walks, confronts challenges and is a successful accountant for a national corporation in the Chicago area.  When she tells people her personal story, they are stunned. God used her to set in motion a family spirituality that had been seriously lacking up to that point.

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“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”  Romans 12:2 (ESV)

The name Kristen means, Follower of Christ. “It’s providential that the miracles presented to us through Kristen led both of my parents, and eventually me, to follow Jesus.”

Tracy’s dad had been highly accomplished, a trait she inherited from him. He grew up in a Christian home, had been an Eagle Scout, a Top Gun in the Navy, had attended an Ivy League college and held a Masters Degree from Harvard.

Impressive.

But, he had walked away from his faith. Now that he had recommitted his life to Christ, he was worried that Tracy would spiritually fall apart like he had done in college. So, he made a move to ensure that wouldn’t easily happen to her.

“My parents wanted to send me away to a Christian camp in Colorado just before I went off to college. It was designed for college students to be challenged in their Christian worldview. I didn’t want to go.”

“Not so fast,” said her dad.

“Normally, my parents are easy going but not this time, ‘YOU ARE GOING!’ they assured me. So, I went. It was the first time I experienced the concept of Christian community. It was also the first time my faith really began to grow deeper. It was awesome. I came home fired up for Jesus Christ. Then, my faith took a bit of a hit…”

The jolt she referred to was Santa Clara University. Tracy thought her faith would be strengthened by her college choice, but instead she found herself in theology courses where scripture was torn apart and biblical miracles were explained away.

She had been blindsided. It was not what Tracy had expected when she signed on there for college.

“I got involved in an InterVarsity bible study and hung on for dear life,” she laughed. Another professor told me, ‘We don’t encourage InterVarsity because they are not tolerant.’

This same professor pulled off her sweatshirt and revealed two men having sex on her t-shirt in class.

Tracy shook her head, “I had nothing against differences in doctrine but, I didn’t want these issues shoved in my face. The hypocrisy of my instructors proclaiming tolerance but silencing me from talking about a campus bible study was infuriating.  It was time for me to leave Santa Clara.”

This was not easy for Tracy since she had several scholarships there. But, her life with Jesus was more important to her. As the scripture said,

O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge,” for by professing it some have swerved from the faith. Grace be with you.” I Timothy 6:20-21 (ESV)

In 1994, after taking a year off from college to work and research scholarships, Tracy enrolled at Wheaton College in a suburb near Chicago. “It was absolutely amazing to be at a school where people wanted to learn about Jesus, rather than punch holes in Scripture.”

While there she was astounded at the attitude of many of her classmates towards the Christian chapels that were mandatory attendance for the student body.

“My contemporaries were griping about having to go to chapel. I couldn’t believe it! This was Wheaton College. This school brought in the greatest Christian speakers in the world! It was wonderful.”

She shook her head in amazement, “Coming from my experience at Santa Clara, it was hard for me not to get sassy with fellow students who didn’t grasp how amazing the culture was.”

Painfully shy growing up, Tracy confronted her reserved nature and majored in Communication. Furthermore, she took a series of five classes on, “Interpersonal Communication.”

She was not going to let her reserved nature win. “That course changed my life,” Tracy admits today.

Did it ever.

Two years later, her first job interview was to host a television show for a Christian station. While she ended up taking a job writing and producing, the shy girl had not only overcome her private side, she had obliterated it.

So began several years in the television industry.

Welcome to Outgoing Tracy.

She worked at Channel 38 in Chicago, later wrote and produced for the Discovery Channel and then the A&E Network and then she left to begin consulting with non-profits in communications and fundraising.

“I was not fulfilled just producing and hosting for secular television. I wanted to be a Christian spokesperson and help people do more meaningful work.”

God@work.

Tracy found her niche in fundraising, helping Christian organizations make millions of dollars to finance their ministries in order to reach people with the gospel.

Despite her ability to meet goals and achieve heights, Tracy always remembered something a woman at one of her secular television jobs said to her, “YOU are a Christian?” the woman asked in disbelief.  “But you’re so NICE.’ This floored me. Why was this so surprising to a non-believer? Being nice should be SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) for those of us who follow Jesus.”

Thus was cemented forever, Tracy the businesswoman with goals and Tracy the Lord’s lover with compassion. Simultaneously.

God@work.

Her story of how she came to Park Community Church not only blessed her and her husband but their future pastor, as well.

“We’d been attending Park for about five years when I produced a video about our church to send out to potential men who would be interested in becoming our new pastor. One of them, Jackson Crum, loved the fact that we lived in the crazy culture of Chicago, accepted diversity, baptized people in the lake and were willing to grow creatively. He signed on to lead us. When we met he smiled at me, ‘You’re one of the people who made that video weren’t you?’ I smiled back.’ So cool.”

God@church.

Then came the apex of her influence on the world, both Christian and not.

Tracy tells the story, “I was meeting with one of my bosses who was in a high position of influence in fundraising. We were discussing the problem many of our fundraising clients were having when it came to donations versus just getting people’s money. We both wanted to recognize that it is God who truly owns all the money out there and He is at the core of the all this activity. So, we forged a new model on how fundraising should be more about people and less about money. Ultimately, people will give because they feel loved and connected to a meaningful effort, not because they are an ATM machine.”

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”  Philippians 2:3-4 (ESV)

It made a major difference right away in the fundraising results of their clientele.

Goals were reached and people were served.

Tracy had taken her beliefs, personality and twin passions to her career and the outcome was stunningly successful.

God@work.

“My struggle in my early career was integrating my faith into it. I don’t want to sound flippant but every job should be a reflection of how we live out the gospel at work. It’s not an easy task. How can fund-raising (something so many people despise) glorify God?

Or, to put it in God’s words,

“O LORD, You are my God; I will exalt You, I will give thanks to Your name; For You have worked wonders, Plans formed long ago, with perfect faithfulness.” (NAS)

A Story of A Christian Jew

This is Scott Roth’s story of transformation that he read at our Easter Baptism 2012. As a Christian Jew, Scott is now hosting seminars at our Lincoln Park and Edgebrook Campuses to help us share the Gospel with our Jewish friends. 

I was raised in a Jewish home and had a bar mitzvah at age 13. In my teenage years, my father left us and I developed a hardened heart and became an atheist for the next 32 years of my life. I was re-married about 3 years ago to my soul mate, Diana – who was also Jewish (click here to read her story). Just 6 months after our wedding, Diana was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer. While my whole life I had dealt with issues on my own, this was something that brought me to my knees that I had no control over. About the same time – my 25 year old son informed me he had joined the Catholic Church after exploring Buddhism. I felt very sad in that I could not help him or add anything to that spiritual part of his life. To add salt to my wounds, I had also been out of work for several years. With all these circumstances- I didn’t know where to turn.

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I realized I had tried everything on my own and that wasn’t working. It was time for a change. After picking up a Bible for the first time at age 47, I started reading with apprehension. I spent afternoons in the bookstore, walking up and down the Christianity aisles trying to understand what I didn’t know, which was just about everything.

About  2.5 years ago I began to feel connected to God who guided and comforted me through the pain I was experiencing. God delivered, and my wife had a very successful operation and she is winning the war against cancer! Around that time – I became overwhelmed with the need to reach out to my father whom I had not spoken to for 15 years. Something (the Holy Spirit) guided me to forgive him. We met, and I had to do the hardest thing ever, confront him after all this time: I said I was wrong. I said I was sorry. I asked if he would forgive me and if we can start new. We embraced and wept… That night I felt the Holy Spirit flood me as I dreamed of a new life.

I then became intrigued with prayer and “this guy named Jesus”. I approached my wife and told her what I had been experiencing and was not sure if she was ready to hear my journey at the pace it was going. That couldn’t have been further from the truth! She embraced my new found spiritual life and wanted to join me. We both started praying before dinner.

Our first church service was just this past January (2012) and all I can say is…wow, THIS is what I have been looking for. Just after that service, we found out about Alpha and joined that Tuesday. Alpha presented Christianity in a language that we could finally understand.

It was during this process we both took a step of faith and accepted Jesus Christ into our lives as Lord and Savior. Afterwards, my life has felt so much lighter, more positive and I have dropped that angry feeling while gaining more patience – it’s like I just found out they invented air-conditioning! I now understand what is meant by having Jesus carry my load. Today I leave my past life behind and enter into a new life with Jesus as my Lord and Savior. Thank you for accepting two new “Christian Jews” into your community.

If you’re reading this, but not sure what church is, you can learn more here and we’d love to see you this weekend!

Community Is Countercultural

This is a guest post written by Erik Dunkin, our pastor of the saturday night service.

If you were to take a survey today on the topic of community, how would you answer the question: “Are you satisfied with the number and depth of friendships you currently have?”  I know for me the answer to that question would be a disappointed, “No”.  On the one hand, this answer makes sense.  We live in a broken world.  Because of our rebellion against God, we have alienated ourselves from him and from one another.  No matter how hard we try, and no matter how good of friends we have, we will always retain some sense of loneliness.

But on the other hand, answering “no” to this question should make us very uncomfortable. We are supposed to be the church.  We are the redeemed of God.  We are those who have been reconciled with God and are day by day being restored to the image of God, seen most clearly in the face of Jesus Christ.  And yet we who have been created for friendship cannot seem to figure it out?  This should cause us to question the way we are living.  If we find ourselves isolated, maybe it is because we have aligned our lives more with culture than with Scripture [Tweet that].  Maybe we have bought into the western individualistic picture of success instead of the Biblical picture of dying to self for the good of others.  Maybe we have busied ourselves with tasks and to-do’s in an effort to please the God who is already enamored with us.  Or maybe we run ourselves into the ground trying to please people who will never give us the feeling of significance we long for.

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God gives you permission to move toward deep friendships.  This means he also permits you to set aside whatever is keeping you from authentic community.  Realize that if you want to experience community as God intended, you will have to live differently [Tweet that].  You cannot be a “normal” Chicagoan, and expect also to have a Biblical community.  It takes a step of faith to abandon cultural norms and move toward others.

If you have not taken that step, I invited you to do so in the coming weeks.  Quit a commitment or two.  Get some margin in your life so you can engage in natural friendships. If you’re a part of our community here at Park then you’ve already got a good start. Click here to see all the events going on this month or click here to learn more about joining a small group.

Park Summer Fest 2013 Recap

If you’ve been around Park during the summer then you probably have heard about or experienced the day that has come to be known as Park Summer Fest. What many of you may not know is that this day has become a tradition over the past 25 years of our existence. Needless to say this has become one of our favorite days of the year, and we’ve heard it’s one of yours too.

Here’s a quick recap below, but since you all are so awesome at posting pictures, you can also catch some highlights from the day on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram here.

A Quick Recap…

  • Baptism at the Lake :: We celebrated nearly 100 people baptized and heard countless stories of gospel transformation. You can see every name here, and watch the baptism video to see each person who was baptized.
  • Worship Service :: All of our campuses met at 10 AM across the city to gather as communities to worship. There’s just something special about knowing that everyone at Park is gathering simultaneously to celebrate the work God is doing in our city. The sermon audio and video is available on our Media Page.
  • Celebration Festival :: This part of the day has been what has evolved the most over the years. What started out as a picnic and BBQ (and of course the traditional egg toss), has now turned into an all-out festival with amazing food, fun activities, and a great form of outreach to the city. If you got your picture taken “riding the wave,” your picture will be available soon for download here.

Here are some of our favorite pictures and videos from the day…

What were your favorite moments from Park Summer Fest?

Byron’s Transformation Story

Growing up, I had very little exposure to religion. My grandparents took me to church a few times, but my immediate family did not attend any church. I went through high school and college with typical ups and downs. I graduated, got a job, moved to Chicago, got married, and thought life was fine, but I was still searching for something. What that ‘something’ was, I had no idea.

Shortly after I was married, I began to worry about our future. Despite making a comfortable living, I was constantly stressed about having enough money. Financial security was always on my mind and I was never at ease. Not only was I stressed about money and security, I constantly compared myself to others. When I didnʼt measure up, I got very depressed. My self-worth fell dramatically, even though I was actually doing quite well. To lift myself up, I began to compete in triathlons and marathons. I did well in these races and it quickly turned into an obsession. I put all my energy and free time into training. I thought that if I was faster than all my friends and coworkers, then Iʼd feel good about myself. My priorities were way out of whack, I was depressed, and my marriage suffered.

Despite my struggles, my wife stood by me. During the summer of 2011, she suggested we check out Park. We enjoyed the service and, coincidently, the Alpha course was starting that Tuesday. We were intrigued and decided to check it out. She was confirmed in the Catholic church and needed a refresher, I was just plain curious. I really enjoyed each and every session during the course and was becoming more and more intrigued with this guy they kept referring to called Jesus.

During this time, I was still training extremely hard for the Chicago marathon, and I was in the best shape of my life. I just knew that I was going to have an awesome race and all my hard work would pay off. Iʼd make my goal time, people would look up to me, and Iʼd feel amazing. But, God had other plans. Around mile 24, my body couldnʼt go any farther and I was forced to drop out of the race. How could this be?!, I thought. I trained so hard, I was ready, I sacrificed so much, there is no way this could happen. What are people going to think of me now? I put so much emphasis on this race, so much was riding on it. For me to not hit my goal time would be a disaster. But to not even finish? It brought me to one of the lowest points of my life.

Fortunately for me, the Alpha retreat was happening just a few weeks later. It was there that I realized that no amount of money can give me the safety and security that Jesus can. It was there that I realized that no athletic achievement can ever fulfill me like Jesus can. It was there that I realized I was a selfish and sinful person in need of a savior. It was there that I realized it was Christ, and Christ alone, that could wash away my sins. I, with the help of my Alpha leader, asked Jesus to forgive me for my sins, come into my heart, and fill me with His Spirit.

Since then, my walk with Jesus has been awesome! My wife and I joined a small group and our marriage is stronger than ever. I have a sense of peace that I have never felt before. I realize that I donʼt have to look to races or to money or to anything or anyone else but Jesus to fulfill me. Because of Jesusʼ work on the cross, because of his unrelenting grace, I know that whatever happens, He is with me and will always be with me. He is now my security, and my salvation.

- Byron

I Felt Helpless – Dana’s Story

Dana’s Story

I was born in China, a country where there is no religion, where having faith is the equivalent of committing a crime.  Throughout my childhood, I have never heard of Jesus or Christianity.  The often challenged Christian friends I did have by asking them “if a person was born and raised on a remote island with no knowledge of Christianity then how can Jesus save him?”  I asked this question because in a way I felt like that person on the remote island. Although I came to the US during my middle school years it wasn’t until college that I first learned about Jesus.  By then, I was so rooted in my own ways that I saw no need for him in my life.  To me, life was fully within my control.  I worked hard to get into a top-tier business school, obtained my “dream” job, and was making a good living.  But as I moved through life I constantly felt this void in me.  It was a feeling of emptiness, a sense of being lost. Instead of asking myself why I was feeling that way I compensated by running faster in the rat race of life.

Everything changed in the fall of 2010 when my Dad was diagnosed with stage III pancreatic cancer.  Suddenly life was no longer within my control.  I felt helpless.  I didn’t know what to do or who to turn to but for some reason I felt a need to go to church.  I began attending the Sunday service at Park and since I had very little knowledge of God and Jesus I decided to give Alpha a try.  I didn’t know what to expect when I signed up for Alpha but after the first class I was hooked.  It was as if the objectives and curriculum of the course were designed just for me.  What Alpha offered was the answers to the questions I have been asking my whole life but didn’t know where to go to get them.  I really looked forward to each week’s session where I had the opportunity to learn about God and faith and discuss the learning with a group of like-minded individuals who shared the same questions as me.  After the 10-week course, I walked away from Alpha with new faith and friendships.

After an eleven-month battle with cancer my Dad passed away in October of 2011.  I miss him very much.  But through this struggle God revealed Himself to me.  Now I understand that those voids I felt before can never be filled with the things I was chasing after.  The only way to fill those voids and be at peace is through Jesus.  It is only through his grace and forgiveness that I can finally step out of life’s constant rat race and just simply be grateful.

I understand now that we cannot save ourselves.  We are not in control of our lives.  We will always sin and stray and the only person that can save us is Jesus.  Knowing how Jesus makes me want to be more like him in the things I do.  Through Jesus, I can see this world more clearly and can put things into better perspective.  I also realized that I was never that person on a remote island isolated from God.  Even in the most unlikely places, God was always there with me.   My journey to faith is a clear testament to the boundary-less love and grace of God.

- Dana Guo, Near North Campus

We’ve said it before and we’ll keep on saying it; these stories never get old. Thank you to Dana for sharing your story with us.

The Alpha Launch Party is tonight and it’s not too late to decide to come and check it out. For all the details, got to http://www.parkcommunitychurch.org/alpha

I Saw A Sign…on Clark Street – Michelle’s Story

If you come to Park, no matter which campus or service you attend, you’ll notice a large white candle lit at the front of the stage each week. We call it the Jesus Candle and it represents the Light of Christ.  When you see a small candle lit around it, it signifies that someone in our community has made a decision to step across the line of faith and is now a follower of Jesus. This past weekend, we had the privilege of lighting two candles, representing the lives of two women at Park.  WE LOVE THIS STUFF. Read on and be encouraged as you read their stories and of the hope and promise found in the grace of our loving God. 

Michelle’s Story

Growing up I was raised Lutheran and went to church with my family every Sunday.  I went to Sunday school, through catechism, joined my youth group and even became part of the state board of Lutheran youth groups.  I thought I knew what it meant to believe, but really I had no idea what it meant to have a relationship with the Lord. As soon as I took off for college I threw God to the wayside, I put him on the back burner.

From the outside looking in things seemed great, I was active on my campus, part of a sorority, I started an organization to raise awareness for breast cancer on campus and I was a leader in my classes.  I was one of the few who made it to college from my hometown and I was going places.  It was all about me. The truth was, I was actually bitter with God.  I found myself in an emotionally and physically abusive relationship during my first year of college and additionally feelings that I had suppressed from childhood abuse started to surface as a result.  I was so mad, how could God do this to me? I wanted nothing to do with him.  I eventually ended things with this man, but the damage was done. I was longing for something more and I turned to drinking and men in order to try and fill a void and numb the pain I was feeling inside. I had no self worth and was giving myself away without a second thought.  Who could love me? Who would ever want me? Little by little I was starting to feel more and more like nothing but a shell of a pathetic useless person.   I had nothing to bring to the table, nothing but my body and an empty heart. Without God in life I was allowing myself to be used, bruised and objectified.  I was ashamed of myself.

Then I moved to Chicago, I thought I could leave that part of me behind.  I was starting new, I had a great new job and again I was going places.  However, I went right back to my old ways, preventing myself from keeping and maintaining relationships and in some cases making poor decisions that were affecting my work ethic.

One day I was walking down Clark Street and I saw a sign outside for Park (Lincoln Park Campus).  There was something inside of me urging me to check it out, so I did.  I started coming back for more and more.  I was thirsty, and for the short time that I sat and listened, I was free. Then I found out about Alpha.

Throughout the weeks of Alpha my heart started to change.  Each week the teaching was speaking DIRECTLY to me.  The course introduced me to amazing people who believed in me, who showed me what the love of God truly is, and who kept me accountable.  They never judged, they never questioned me as a person; they simply showed God’s love for me.  In those weeks I came to find the Lord and what it meant to have a true relationship with Him.  On our weekend retreat, I told my leader that I wanted to be transformed; I wanted to live my life for the Lord. I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior and in that moment, he molded me into something else; he cleansed me and because of that, I no longer had to be who I was.  I have value in the Lord’s eyes, and I am wonderfully made.  I felt release and I was so filled with joy.  I’m not the same person I was.  I still work at living my life in a Christ-like way, I’m still working on my relationship and walk with him, but the Lord says, “Call to me and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things which you do not know.”  He showed me that I am worthy, that he loved me even in my darkest moment, and that I am forgiven. There is no greater relationship in my life than the one I have with him.  These are certainly great and mighty things that I never knew before.

- Michelle Ritter, Lincoln Park Campus

The Alpha Launch Party is tonight and it’s not too late to decide to come and check it out. For all the details, got to http://www.parkcommunitychurch.org/alpha

Park Summer Fest Highlights

This past weekend over 800 people in our church gathered to celebrate the baptisms of 67 people in our community and the great things God is doing in our city.

Check out the celebration that took place, and continue to celebrate with us daily!

Below you will find our Baptism Video, a link to pictures captured throughout the day, and the link to download audio of the sermon.

Click here to see more photos from the day!

Click here to see photos of baptism and the festival.

Click here to see all the #ParkSummerFest action on Twitter.

Click here to watch video of Jackson’s message from John 20.

Click here to download audio of Jackson’s messages or subscribe to our podcast in iTunes.

 

One Woman’s Journey: Diana

My journey in becoming a Christian has been eye opening, heartwarming and very exciting.

I was raised Jewish and have been for 45 years. While not practicing my religion and only going to temple on the holidays, I did not have a grasp on religion in general so to be honest, it was not a big part of my life. I thought I was fulfilled, but I also knew something was missing. When I was just 25, my father passed away suddenly. I was devastated. Needing to understand the whereabouts of my father’s spirit had me searching for meaning of a higher being as his death had left a hole within me that couldn’t be filled.

I have always had faith; I just wasn’t sure where that faith was being directed. It carried me through many relationships in my life and I believed that when one relationship ended there were lessons to be learned and I needed to be patient for the right man to come along. I did not marry until I was 43 years old. I knew I wanted to wait until I met someone who inspired me, taught me things I never knew and would continually challenge me.

Then, God brought me what I needed at the time I needed it most, while not even knowing it.

Just six months after our wedding, in May 2009, I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and given a 1-2 year survival diagnosis. We were devastated. How can this be happening? With no time to think about anything else but putting my affairs in order and getting the best medical treatment possible, my husband and I embarked on a difficult journey. I’m a fighter and I had just found the love of my life, I wasn’t about to let anyone take me away from him. I was going to fight and I realized I needed someone other than my husband, family and friends to help me win this battle.

Then entered God.

I remember praying many times in my life, but never really knew whom I was praying to. I did have faith in a “god” although it was just kind of floating around in my head. I always yearned for knowing a god that wanted to help and take care of the things that I could not. I did not take the time to learn and educate myself about who God truly is until now.

My husband, who was also Jewish with no real religious following, had the same yearnings for spirituality and something bigger than himself so he started reading the Bible like a man on a mission (no pun intended)! The day of my surgery my husband and I found ourselves at peace, we felt God was at our side. We believed that there were greater things ahead for us and we would get through this.

Although God had entered both of our lives when I became ill, there was still something missing – a yearning for more.

At the time I didn’t know it, but the Holy Spirit must have been speaking to me because there was a yearning to be attached to something. I reached out to a good friend who attended Park and that was our introduction in taking the next step. We were apprehensive about going to a church because of our upbringing, but found that Park changed our perspective on what church and community is. It was so refreshing to hear about God and Jesus in a way that we understood. After that service, we were then introduced to the Alpha Program.

In Hebrews 11:1 it says, Faith is the confidence that we hope for will actually happen: it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.   After the fourth session of Alpha when we learned about the Holy Spirit, I was very comfortable opening my heart and accepting Jesus Christ into my life.

After that weekend I told my husband that I now had joined him in becoming a Christian and wanted to know if he was ready for us to get baptized. I also asked if he wanted to renew our vows this coming May at Park with Jackson – we have come know, love and respect him. After my husband almost drove the car off the road in amazement, he said “YES!”

As I’ve witnessed throughout the past 3 years, I have had so many blessings in my life and truly believe God is watching over me. There is a plan for me and it’s not time for me to go to heaven just yet as I still have a lot of work to do on this earth. And now with Jesus as my guide – it all takes on new meaning.

It’s been just a few months since we have been coming to Park and since having taken the step of faith and accepting Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. My life is now taking on new meaning and life feels “lighter” and looks much “brighter.”

My husband Scott and I are so excited for the future and this new journey together and to grow with the community at Park – a newfound excitement that is burning within.

Thank you all – God bless,

Diana

One Man’s Journey: Scott Roth

I was born and raised in a Jewish home and had a bar mitzvah at age 13. In my teenage years, my father left us and I developed a hardened heart and became an atheist for the next 32 years of my life. I was re-married just 3 years ago to my soul mate, Diana – who was also Jewish. Just 6 months after our wedding, Diana was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. My whole life I had dealt with issues on my own, but this was something that brought me to my knees because I had no control over it. About the same time my 25-year-old son – whom I shamefully say had I no influence on spiritually – informed me he had joined the Catholic Church after exploring Buddhism. I felt very sad in that I could not help him or add anything to that part of his spiritual life. To add salt to my wounds, I had been out of work for several years due to the economy. With no income, my new wife diagnosed with a life threatening disease, a son going down a path I did not understand and a father I didn’t have a relationship with, I didn’t know where to turn.

A friend of mine suggested that I “put my trust in the Lord and turn to prayer and stop worrying.” My only response was, “I have no idea what to do with that or what that means” as I stared off blankly into space. It got me thinking and I realized I had tried everything I know how to do it on my own, and that wasn’t working. Time for change. So… my journey began.

After picking up a Bible for the first time at age 47, I started reading with apprehension. I spent afternoons in the bookstore going up and down Christianity isles trying to understand what I didn’t know, which was just about everything. I then began to feel God’s presence guide and comfort me through the pain I was experiencing. I prayed to God and even did a David fast before my wife’s surgery and God delivered, big time. My wife had a very successful operation and to this day is winning the war against cancer! Around that time I became overwhelmed with the need to reach out to my father whom I had not spoken to in 15 years. Something came to me and told me to forgive him. So we met and I had to do the hardest thing ever; confront him after all this time and forgive him: I said I was wrong. I said I was sorry. I asked if he would forgive me and if we could start new. We embraced and wept. That night I felt the Holy Spirit flood me as I dreamed of a new life ahead.

I then became more and more intrigued with prayer and “this guy named Jesus.” Needless to say, I went from a 30-some year atheist to now believing and praying to God and had a thirst for so much more. I was still missing something though – the feeling of wanting to share my new world with others. I approached my wife (who was still Jewish) and told her what I had been experiencing unsure if she was ready to hear about my journey and the speed at which it was taking place. That couldn’t have been further from the truth! She embraced my newfound spiritual life and wanted to join me. We both started praying before every dinner meal and giving thanks.

Our faith was growing day by day and I felt it was time to find a community that would allow us to grow. So, my next move (I realized God was using me to bring my wife along so I became the trailblazer) was to start trying out different local churches. I went to several in my neighborhood and none of them had the energy, message or congregation I felt comfortable joining given my infancy in the journey. Then one day, just a couple months ago, a good friend of my wife’s said they were going to Park and Diana asked if we could join them for a service. So, God took over as my wife suggested it to me! God was definitely speaking to both of us loud and clear!

Our first service was just this past January. All I can say is…wow. THIS is what I have been looking for and didn’t even know it. Young and vibrant, thirsty for the truth, loaded with historical references (OT and NT) – and the deal closer for my wife – VISUALS with historic facts to back the bible verses! Just after the service we were greeted by Bret, he heads up the Connections Ministry, and he handed me a pamphlet about Park 101. I had a million questions but started with “Do you guys have an adult Sunday school for dummies?” He said we would love the Alpha program. So, we joined that Tuesday.

Alpha has been exactly what we were thirsty for. From the leaders to the wonderful people in our group, the experience has been warm and inviting. We love it and are excited to go every Tuesday and as my wife said to me “I am looking forward to church on Sunday.” Wow! Who are we??! We have become believers. I feel like I am drinking through a fire hose!

During this process we both took a step of faith and accepted Jesus Christ into our lives as Lord and Savior. Afterwards, my life felt much lighter, more positive and I have dropped that angry feeling and heaviness – it’s like I just found out they invented air-conditioning! I now understand what is meant by having Jesus carry my load.

I never in a million years would have guessed that our lives would take us here and we both have so much more we want to learn and experience in Christ. We wanted to be baptized on Easter to celebrate our newfound faith and also renew our wedding vows in our newfound church on our upcoming 3-year anniversary. We thank God for the path He has us on and I just wanted to personally thank all those involved with Park for opening your arms and making a welcoming environment for two new “Christian Jews” and looking forward to our continued journey together.

God Bless You All,
Scott Roth

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