My first introduction to The Exchange was when I was working at Bavarian Inn, I served Karl and Jeanette. That was the first time I met them. They asked if they could pray for me, and I had actually been having a really hard day. I shared that with them, and we prayed together. Then I was invited by Matt Sanders to come and play piano. I came almost every week after that until now because I was so drawn in and intrigued by Joe’s preaching.
It was at The Exchange I finally understood the gospel for the first time, not just for salvation but for sustaining and sanctifying through everyday life. That was 100% a new concept for me, despite having grown up in the church. I am so thankful to God for using Joe to teach me the truth that had been missing from my life, that I can look back and see that I was starved for before.
Unfortunately on my journey I “grew weary” and swung to the opposite side of the spectrum, counting on grace to abound. I fell so deep into such perverse sin, the sin I was freed from, and looked to it to relieve my suffering instead of letting my brothers and sisters walk with me through the pain and point me to God. I hid it from everyone and put on a show. But God’s grace did abound and he made me miserable and did not let me find satisfaction in my sin. Every single week on Sunday I was convicted of my sin and the greatest longing of my heart was to be back in authentic community with my brothers and sisters, growing in the word together. I was “with” everyone, but knew in my heart I was also so far from them and desperately wanted the deep connections that I saw forming all around me. It took a long time but finally I couldn’t continue that way any longer, and I confessed my sin.
I don’t know if I ever would have had the desire or courage to do that outside of The Exchange. I still today and will probably always feel the weight of the pain I caused, not only to Michael but to the whole church. It is still almost too great to bear when I stop to think about it. But Joe, the elders, and the rest of the church from the moment I told them showered me with grace and love and forgiveness. They walked alongside Michael and me as we navigated it, and as I fumbled through such imperfect repentance. I caused irreparable damage and for a long time I was ashamed to even show my face in the church, but my brothers and sisters never stopped loving me. When I wasn’t there, I longed for them, and I’m so thankful that I was so kindly welcomed back.
I have such a long way to go but have such a solid foundation and so much hope thanks to The Exchange and Joe’s teaching of the word. I will never be able to find adequate words to communicate how thankful I am for all my brothers and sisters and for Joe: the long hours spent counseling and praying for me, the sermon prep, Sunday morning teaching, the crippling anxiety you pushed through for years, your constant kindness and gentleness with me, and for showing us all what real coffee actually tastes like. Some of the best memories of my life to date were either at or with The Exchange. It would take too long to list them all but here are a few:
- Laughing for hours and hours with Matt and Ashley in their living room
- Playing music with Sanders and the rest of the team
- Getting daily memes for a looong time from Ashley
- Seeing Michael believe the gospel and make lifelong connections with the men there
- Seeing friends and family members come with me and experience Joe’s gospel centered teaching and the authenticity of the church and fall in love with it just like I did
- Probably hundreds of hours of soccer
- CG parties, playing volleyball, and just having the time of my life with friends
- Bible study with Ashley Noble and later, Shayna
- Community group at Ken and Kelsey’s
I love my brothers and sisters so much. All I have left now is the hope that we will all be together again because of Jesus, that God will finish the work he started, and that he will go with us, wherever we all end up.