The year was 2006, as I stepped into the little white church on the corner of Washington and Front I was a nervous wreck. I was 11 years old and this was my first time ever walking into that church… by myself. I woke up at 9:30 and left my house to make the short walk to King’s Parish at 9:50. It was summertime and the air was fresh. I had a feeling it was going to be a good day, but when I entered the church I didn’t see the familiar face of my great grandmother and I became even more nervous. There were a grand total of 7 people there, including me. The six people I would later learn to be James, his wife Bonnie, Harold, his wife Sandy, Wayne, and his wife Katie. Katie led worship that morning and when we split into classes, I was taught by Bonnie. James was the pastor and my great grandmother, Mary, was the senior pastor (meaning she would fill in whenever James couldn’t preach). I went to church for about a year, then stopped going for a while. It was hard being one of only five other youth attending church on a regular basis. However, the next summer, I found myself once again sitting in those pews.
The following summer, I was 13, my great grandmother approached me and asked me if I would like to teach the little children. My class would consist of our youth in elementary grades. She told me to pray about it and to let her know so, I went home shared my excitement with my mom and dad and I prayed. The following Sunday, I accepted the position and I didn’t know it then, but my journey with God had officially begun. Occasionally my younger cousins and my brother would accompany me to church, but when they didn’t I had only 3 students in my class, and that was on a good day. I started teaching in a closet. The desk for the kids was small and it folded up against the wall. on the opposite wall there was a painted on chalkboard interrupting the off-white color that spread across the rest of the room. There was a door that led outside of the church immediately to the right of my classroom door and I would try to take the kids outside as much as possible because I knew it could get crowded in the classroom and they could be quite loud, oftentimes disrupting the sermon in the sanctuary. All of the supplies I needed fit into a small tote that my grandma Peg gave to me. She had provided me with my first set of pencils, paper, crayons, etc. Everything I needed to teach my little class of three. They may have been my class, but they were the ones who taught me most of the time. I started teaching without much Bible knowledge to begin with and I quickly learned that teaching others really helped me to learn too. In fact, my teaching abilities have expanded beyond Sunday School and now I use it to study for my college exams.
I taught at the little white church for about 4 years before my world got flipped upside down; I would no longer be attending services at the little white church. We were moving. We moved to the bigger white church on the corner of Main and Lightner my Junior year of high school. I hated that church at first, it was bigger and not nearly as personal as our previous church had been. I soon realized that I had lost sight of the real reason behind going to church; to learn about and to praise God. Then it happened. James announced he was leaving. The congregation was wrecked, no one had a clue what to do, our church had grown since the move and none of us knew how to preach besides Grandma Mary, but she was always so tired that we didn’t want to burden her with preaching. So, we went through an awkward period where random preachers would come in on various Sundays until we had found the one. His name was Joseph Reidling, my uncle. He began preaching in February 2011 and I was so proud of him; he had come a long way from where he was and although nobody believed it, he had changed. I had also gotten my parents to start attending church just a short while before he came on and although they too struggled to believe the change, they gave him a fighting chance. However, one-by-one the congregation that made me, as a teacher, possible left. I felt lost, but God knew what He was doing because, as they left more and more new people came in. It was like 5 new people for every 1 that had left. The growth in the church amazed me. The little congregation was all I knew, but I soon learned that there was a world waiting for me beyond my own comprehension.
November 2011, it finally happened. My boyfriend of 3 years finally stepped foot into a church, my church. No, he didn’t burst into flames at the door like he believed he would, but something even greater happened, a transformation. He started going to church with me and my family on a more regular basis and got saved in January 2012. God was doing great things and I was right there in the front row witnessing it all. Still, there was some trial and error. Uncle Joe was just learning the responsibilities of being a pastor and the rest of us were just along for the ride, fulfilling our duties as they needed.
It’s now June 2016, and I am faced with yet another move. I have been attending King’s Parish for about 10 years and I am scared. I don’t want to fall into the hatred I had for my current church building. I want to continue to trust God and to know that He has a plan just as Jeremiah 29:11 says, “‘For I now the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'” I still continue to have this battle in my head between the voice of my own self-pity and self-righteousness and the voice of God. While all the changes take place that are necessary for growth in His kingdom I still find myself saying, “that is my church, I have been there the longest, I deserve to have a say in what happens.” But, I must remain strong in the Lord and trust that he has a plan, because when we moved to the big white church in 2010, I never though in a million years that my class size would grow from 3 (reminder: that was on a good day) to at least 10, on average. Besides that though, I’m no longer the only teacher, my husband (yes, the boyfriend I referred to earlier) is now the youth pastor and is teaching the high school class. We are now going on about 4 years teaching alongside one another. Although I may be hesitant about the move, Proverbs 24:16 reminds me, “for though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again, but the wicked stumble when calamity strikes.” So even though I may need a constant reminder; the journey continues.