Faith Stories: Stewardship Sunday 2019
2 Corinthians 9:7 says “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” Giving softens the heart and frees the soul from dependence on money. Giving comes in many forms including prayers, presence, gifts and service…and I have seen that lived out here at St. John’s in many ways.
Each of you have your own spiritual journey and what led you here to St. John’s. Mine started almost six years ago and includes three or the four top stressors for most people: Divorce, a Move and a New Job.
When I first arrived in Baton Rouge, I was suddenly single for the first time in 27 years and had just re-joined Capital One, after a 6 year absence. My former husband and I had been separated for just a few months when he had the opportunity to move to Baton Rouge. Being a United Methodist minister, we knew that was a possibility, but the timing was not ideal. I needed my support system more than ever during this time and a move was not part of the “healing” process for anyone. After much prayer, I made the decision to move to Baton Rouge to ensure our children had both parents in the same city.
I remember feeling so lost that first year, as I tried to acclimate to my new surroundings, without the foundation of my family and friends. At Capital One, I had the blessing of becoming friends with Carol Gordon, who after hearing some of the struggles I was having with finding a new church home, invited me to St. John’s. Russ and I had begun dating and we were actively visiting churches together. Carol also told us about the Genesis Sunday School class and agreed to escort us that first Sunday. Being “new” in a church is tough and wow, was I nervous! I don’t know if she knows what a blessing that was to us to have her by our side during those early visits! And what a blessing this church and our Sunday School class has been to us since.
Our pastor at the time was Juan, which many of you may remember, and he was so instrumental to Russ and I, as we began our new lives here in Baton Rouge. He helped us sort through our feelings of the breakup of our long-term marriages, the worries we had about our children and helped us to embrace the joys of newfound happiness. I will never forget meeting with Juan in one of our counseling sessions and telling him that Russ and I were wanting to get married, but didn’t have a minister. We had asked my Mom’s minister, but he had turned us down because we were both divorced. Neither one of us ever thought we would find ourselves in this situation, but here we were in a strange city and brand new members at St. John’s. “Any advice?” I asked. With no hesitation, he looked at us and said “You are loved and children of God, and God wants to prosper you. I’ll marry you guys and I have a really good track record.” That was God’s grace lived out through Juan at a time when we needed to feel it most.
Fast forward six years, and a lot has changed. We are a beautifully blended family of six, with our first grandbaby on the way. While those were tough times, I know that the reason I am where I am today is because of God’s Grace, God’s Gratitude and God’s Generosity.
I spent a lot of time in prayer and remained disciplined financially, hoping and believing that at some point I would begin to reap God’s blessings. What I now realize is that I had them all along and just couldn’t see at times because I was blinded by my own situation.
St. John’s people and ministries were a BIG part of my journey. Russ and I have been immeasurably blessed by having the opportunity to volunteer for The Shepherd’s Market, the annual Great Turkey Giveaway, Mission Fairs and Opening Doors…just to name a few. We continue to be amazed by how St. John’s LIVES out its mission through ACTION and not just words.
Please prayerfully consider your own journey here at St. John’s and how you can give back a portion of all that God has given you, as we move into the conclusion of our Stewardship campaign next Sunday.
I will leave you with the words from Casting Crown’s song, “Who Am I”…”Not because of who I am, But because of what you’ve done, Not because of what I’ve done, but because of who YOU are, I am yours.”
Watch Debbie’s Faith Story as Presented Sunday October 21
Faith Stories: Stewardship Sunday from St. John’s UMC Baton Rouge on Vimeo.