The Exchange church has been our home for eight years. We have grown up here. When I started coming to The Exchange, I was a young mom of one toddler, and now I am a mom of four. We brought three of our babies “home” here. Ellie actually took her first steps over at the Peyton’s learning place parking lot after church one Sunday morning, seven years back! I have grown tremendously as a mom, as a wife, and as a church member. When I look back over all of the time spent here, all the things we have experienced, learned, seen, been a part of… I mostly remember two things: the community, and the mercy of God.
Coming to the Exchange, I didn’t have a lot of friends. I had been part of many churches and small groups before, but none like this. I was pretty lonely, as one of the youngest moms of multiple little kids, and I was so scared to open up and be real with anyone for a long time. I didn’t know how to have friends or be a friend, let alone how could I ever be of any value as a friend in the life situation I was in, and the struggles I was facing. I didn’t know what biblical community was supposed to be, I didn’t know what I could give, and what I could have, and I had no idea what God was about to bless us with.
Enter community groups.
Fred and I had the honor of hosting community groups in our own home for five seasons. We loved it! We loved having people over, having good laughs, eating so many good meals, and getting to talk through the sermons and some things we had all been working through. We got to experience life together, and these people became our closest friends. We experienced people coming and going within the group, and even within the church, and in a small church, that is really hard. But still to this day, some of the friends we made have become lifelong friendships. These friends didn’t judge us, or leave us, and they didn’t leave us to figure things out on our own before they could spend time with us. Instead, they cared for us and loved us as brothers and sisters in Christ should. They supported us when we were struggling, called us to repentance when they saw things in our life that didn’t seem healthy, let us talk through all the hard things (very honestly!), and loved us, even through all of our flaws. I walked through some of the darkest times in my life, through grief of losing multiple loved ones, through postpartum depression, through anxiety that controlled my daily life, through marital struggles, job changes, parenting lots of energetic young kids, all while hand in hand with people who truly showed us the love of God and what biblical community can, and should, be. Someone may have thought we were serving them by hosting these community groups each week, but in reality, they were serving ME, and our family, by pointing us to Jesus over and over again.
I am forever grateful for this.
Second, I am reminded of God’s mercy to us.
When you spend a good amount of time in any one place, you begin to notice how much you have changed… for the good and the bad. On one hand, growth is great! We can see God working in us, to make us look more like him. On the other hand, when you start to see those things, and experience the consequences of your actions, of things you did while you were much younger or in a big growth season, it can be painful. When I was in some of my darkest moments, I sat across the room from Joe in his office, and told him that I didn’t think that God was good anymore. That I didn’t know what I believed in, because how can all of these things be happening at once, and God still love me? It didn’t feel possible or right. And Joe, over the course of many months (and countless hours of counseling) cared for me so well, by reminding me that God was good, despite my circumstances, and that God loved me, despite what my feelings were saying. He gave me practical tools to help me fight anxiety, but more importantly, he was a calm and gentle light of the gospel, and in pointing me to Jesus with every conversation, eventually that gentle gospel washed over me and changed me in every way. God broke through my barriers of disbelief and anger at my circumstances, He transformed my body and my anxiety, and showed me how good and gracious He truly was. The good news was that I wasn’t stuck, and that Jesus had already died to save me from all of these things, and that I could trust Him with my entire life, no matter what my circumstances were.
I experienced the mercy of God in physical ways too.. like when we had only been at The Exchange for about six months and Fred got laid off, and we didn’t know how we were going to pay our bills or take care of our little one year old girl at home, and all of a sudden, this guy named Matt Sanders, bless his heart, as a young bachelor who worked at a bar in downtown Flint at the time, showed up at our door one night with a jumbo pack of name brand pampers diapers and said “I love you guys.”
I will never forget these moments, and how God showed us mercy through the people of The Exchange. You have been His hands and feet more times than I can count. God has been gracious to the Massie family, and I stand here today to tell you that you can trust Him with your whole life, even when it’s hard. Even when things don’t go the way you ever expected or planned. I am so heartbroken to leave this place today, and none of us want to… I wish things were different. I know that I am repeating myself by saying this, but I also think that’s kind of the point… I know that God goes before us, and that He is going to direct each of us in whatever is next. Each day, we are given the grace for that day. And again, the next. And this repeats, and we keep talking about it! Until the day that we can see Him face to face. I love you guys.