Archive for February, 2011

February 27, 2011

Reborn, Into a family (Danielle)

Danielle sent me each of these testimonies in January, hoping to replace the first with the second one, but I think the two together give a moving look into the story of her journey with God over the past year. Thank you for encouraging us Danielle!

Reborn… (testimony #1)

I consider myself a born-again Christian; and a very new born-again at that.

I am still getting used to praying, reading the bible, and hearing God speak to me.

I grew up in a Christian home but unfortunately never got the true teaching I should have gotten.  For various reasons, I never grew up in the church nor had that core group of Christian friends.  Growing up, I always said I was a “Christian” but never really knew what that meant.  During high school, I had a major falling out with Christ.  I started hanging out with the wrong crowd as they say.  My grades started dropping.  My priorities in life were diminished.  I started hating life, hating my family, hating God.  I became in the mindset that life wasn’t worth living.  Why be alive in a world where I didn’t care for anyone or anything?

I cannot explain how or what triggered my mindset away from this negativity.  I left high school behind and entered college where I proudly said I was a Christian again, though still not realizing what this meant.  My last semester at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, I was lucky enough to find a new group of friends who happened to all be Christians. Perfectly, I found them during the best time ever.  I was spending my last semester in school with a “Yes, can do!” attitude.  I would say yes to a majority of the invites sent my way.  They asked me what church I was going to and I admitted I hadn’t been to church since I was the wee age of four.  They invited me to Church in the City so I went.


After a few months at the church, I realized this was where I was supposed to be.

On April 18, 2010 I asked Jesus back in my heart.

On September 8, 2010, I decided to get baptized in chilly Lake Michigan.

God is so good.  He is answering my prayers.  He speaks to me, shows me love, provides me blessings.  I cannot be happier having Christ in me.  I look forward to an eternal life with God’s love shining brightly in me.

~~

For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. – 1 Peter 1:23

…Into A Family (testimony #2)

I was privileged enough to be taught by Francois. He is awesome.
The worship band had a practice and teaching with him during his visit here in January.  We sang songs to Jesus and filled our hearts with His love.  The last hour, Francois decided to pray and prophesy over us individually.  He made his rounds with each person while I stood anxious for my turn.  I was fantasizing about the words he would give me; something amazing I hoped.  Or what if he got to me and gave me some lame two minute prophecy with no song to go along with it?

Francois finally stood in front of me and began his prayers.  I immediately starting crying, overcome with God’s love.  He started out by saying that this time in my life was a new season; a season filled with a new and fresh start.  God has been showing me new things and providing me with new things.  This was amazing to hear because I just asked God into my heart on April 18, 2010 and reassured it with a baptism in chilly Lake Michigan on September 8, 2010.

I am not to get frustrated, prophesied Francois, at the pace God is giving me blessings.  There have been a lot of new relationships, new opportunities, and new goods He has blessed me with instantly.  But I am not to get upset with God if He is taking a longer time to deliver His blessings.  In mid thought, Francois became silent.

I was afraid my turn was over.  No, please, that’s it?  That’s all I get to hear?

Luckily, he spoke up and makes a request to the rest of the worship team.  He asked them to just pray over me through the spirit out loud.  Fifteen or so people started praying, filling the room with such beautiful noise of tongues, words, and singing.  Again, the tears poured out, more heavily this time.  After the prayers silenced, Francois said he did this to show me the love and support I have right here.  He told me to stop fighting my battles alone because I have just witnessed the support that will help me.  He then asked one of the ladies if they could just hug me as everyone prayed over me again.  As I balled my eyes out, two of the most wonderful women hugged me and whispered, “Thank you, Lord” in my hear.

God does not call us to walk along the battlefield alone, so why am I?  I have been trying to be Miss Independent all my life so struggling spiritually has always been my own battle.
Christianity is a new thing for me so everyday is a new experience.  I cannot be happier to have God as my daddy.  I am thrilled to see what He has in store for me and for the amazing relationships He will bless me with.

Danielle

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February 22, 2011

Something Beautiful (Heidi)

 

A prophetic 4-year-old and two happy homeless girls….read on for one awesome testimony. More to come as God reveals more beauty from this story!

 

courtesy of Nate Tubbs, Mexico 2010 trip

Something Beautiful
“Grace (spiritual blessing and favor) be to all of you and [heart] peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah).” Philemon 1:3

On December 6th I was babysitting. 4 year old Bella wanted to turn off all of the lights so that she could shine her new plastic flashlight against the wall, but her baby bro thought that was a little bit scary and started to fuss. Bella declared with great gusto, “You don’t have to be afraid,…’cause you’re about to see something BEAUTIFUL.” And with that she promptly shined her Disney princess light against the wall so that we could clearly see a picture of Prince Eric and Princess Ariel caught up in a warm embrace. I texted myself the quotation as it was too cute of a moment to forget.

A few minutes later I received a phone call from one of my room-mates saying that we had been robbed! (Yes, it took me by surprise as well). Not only were two laptops and some money taken from our home but the intruder had climbed up two flights of stairs & through our kitchen window and left a knife in someone’s bed!! In the heat of the moment when I was still trying to wrap my mind around what Britt was saying, I felt very scared and then I saw my texts in my phone and Bella’s quote. Somehow it seemed timely that she had just said that, and it gave me courage.

I got to the apartment as quickly as I could and found out that we were going to have to get out of our lease and move out. Steve (our pastor) was there and the rest of my roomies and a couple of friends. Britt’s Mac was gone and so was Carolyn’s laptop. These were precious to the girls not only because of their usefulness but also because of our precarious financial situations and memories/work stored. However, we were so thankful that no one was hurt and God had protected us all. Brittney had actually had a dream a few nights before that someone was in our house with a knife but when she woke up and prayed the Lord gave her peace showing her where angels were stationed around our place and gave her a settled feeling that we would not be harmed. We weren’t sure if it was a threat or just a random break-in, but for a number of reasons the police and Steve both felt that we were not safe to continue living in that apartment-especially in the particular neighborhood where we were staying. Two of the girls decided to stay in the apartment until the end of the month but Brittney and I packed up our things and decided to stay at the Sudworths and then find new housing arrangements asap. Before we left we all prayed together and again that quote from Bella came to mind-I felt that it was for that situation in particular, and told the story, speaking it out in faith- “Don’t be afraid, ‘cause you’re about to see something beautiful.”

And let me tell you, we DID. The church and friends came through like…FAMILY. The Sudworths told all of us that we could come stay with them and they’d help us find new housing. Almost immediately I began getting texts, e-mails, calls-all from friends (most from Church in the City, but also from two families in the city whose children I sometimes watch and have become close to) who offered us all that they had to give-even if it was as simple as an air mattress on the floor. And people meant it! It all meant SOO much!!! In a manner of days the church raised more than enough money to buy Brittney a new Mac and there was even some left over, which they gave to her. Her family was flying in for Christmas and she had a CITC family take her in and then one who offered to take her whole family in for their entire stay. The Doan’s let me stay with them for as long as I needed (and I did while Steve and Debs had guests) and then they offered to let me use their van when I had to move. My fiancé (boyfriend at that time ) came to visit for Christmas and spent two of his first days in the U.S. moving my things across Chicago in the bitter, freezing cold. (And I didn’t have my IL license at the time so he had to drive on the “wrong” side of the road to do it!!). And he cooked lunch for friends that were there one day when I was packing~Just KIND.

Families/friends from church continue to house Britt while she looks for a new apartment. Because of my unique situation with upcoming international moving plans, the Sudworths told me that I could stay with them until I get married in June, if need be. But it was not just the offer that touched me-it was the WAY it was offered-with such openness, such sincerity and LOVE. And then the Suddies cleaned out their basement (which also served as Steve’s office and the kids hangout room) so I could stay in it and bought me new rainboots & even left a note and fresh flowers the other day. And Debs also insists that I eat her marvelous cooking when I’m home for dinner. If I don’t come up to get it, she might just bring it to me~seriously.

“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.” Romans 12:9 I could name person after person and family after family from CITC that has shown me/us this love since our predicament…when the darkness is darkest- God’s LOVE shines the brightest. Through one of the scariest things that has ever happened to me, I have reaped BLESSING and BEAUTIFUL love.

Philemon 1:3 is my prayer for ALL of you and your families…GRACE-spiritual blessing and favor and HEART PEACE from God our Father and the Lord Jesus be with you now and in increasing measure this new year (and always).

This is my long-winded way to try, somehow, to say thank you.

I love you, Church in the City~
with so much gratitude,

heidi

February 4, 2011

God Puts the Lonely in Families (Mel)

The following testimony sent by Mel V. is great stimulus for my New Years resolution: Be more conversational with strangers. I’m well over 12 years old now and it’s time to start talking to people I don’t know and see what God will do! Who’s with me?

stolen from the "girl at the coffee shop". Thanks Brittany!

I think this story may be more common for other Chicago residents than a lot of us realize. I grew up in the church: umpteenth generation Christian, my dad read devotions to us each night before dinner, church twice each Sunday, Christian school education, Bible studies and youth group retreats. And then college was done and it was time for real life. Well, graduate school at least, in a public university that was out of state. And I knew no one in the big city I was moving to. For a while, I tried to continue walking in faith. Having felt called to this degree, this program, and this city; I tried to press on. But the stresses of school, the homesickness, and lack of Christian community took its toll.

So my quiet times ground to a halt. I stopped trying to look for a new church. And then I stopped really paying attention to my relationship with Christ at all. I found new friends, in bars and clubs around the city. I went from never drinking due to personal beliefs and lack of interest to purposefully going out, on my own mind you, to drink as much as a I could to take away the pain of my loneliness and emptiness. Finally, months later, broke, sick from my poor diet and partying habits, and generally heartbroken, I fell on my face next to my couch, pleading with the God I vaguely remembered to place someone or something in my life to prove that He had called me here and still cared about me.

The next night I went out, looking for anyone to talk to who would listen to me, and I found myself talking to a coffee sample seller in the window of a coffee shop. A girl walked up, who I tried to encourage to take a sample of the coffee, just to have someone else to continue talking to, but she declined and moved on. I stayed for another half hour, irritating the coffee sample hawker I’m sure, until the girl actually came back. She asked me if I was going to go in and have a cup of coffee, which I blindly claimed “of course.” I walked in and she invited me to sit with her. Slightly confused, I accepted, and she started talking to me about her work, her family out of state, and her friends. She asked me questions about my life as well, about my school work, internships, and family. Abruptly, she asked me if I was a Christian. I must have looked surprised; she said she was wondering because of my necklace. Of course:the cross necklace my mom had given me for making profession of faith when I was 16. I never took it off. “Yes,” I responded, “I guess I am.” “Oh cool, I go to this church that has a lot of 20-somethings in school or recently graduated. I’m pretty new there, but I like it. You should come check it out.” She gave me the address where her church met, and told me to be there around ten if I was interested.

I decided to give it a shot (what else was I going to do on a Sunday morning? The rest of my “friends”were either studying or sleeping off the activities of the previous night). The service was pretty good,but I remember more being greeted by more than one person, genuinely interested in who I was and why I was there. After the service, a group of the girl’s friends were going out for a picnic and to play Frisbee. They invited me to come along and join in the fun. I did, and immediately felt more like I had a family than I had in two years. God provides what we need in His timing, and in, sometimes, the most surprising ways.

Thanks for the encouragement, Mel, and for being a part of the family! We love you! What a great God who loves us and sets us up to be loved by others. Stay tuned for the fascinating Prequel to this story involving 2 other people you may know and the same little coffee shop.