In 2015, my family left the only church that we had known. Though much of the teaching sounded spiritual and religious, in God’s kindness, he showed us that something was missing. Too often it seemed as though members were required to clean up the outside and cover up the mess on the inside.
After many months of searching for what we were missing, not even really grasping what that was exactly, Bonnie invited us to The Exchange. Looking back, it’s obvious what we had been missing. The Gospel. We were missing the Truth that the Gospel has the power to change everything in our normal, everyday lives. Without that, we don’t have the power to be good enough. Ever. Jesus exchanged his righteousness for my sin: past, present and future. It’s not about how good I am or how much more I can do to please God, it’s about resting in what Jesus has already done.
We didn’t merely join a church, we became part of a family. We were accepted into the kind of community that we had never known before. We were loved right where we were. Thinking back, the Bible, filtered through the Gospel, was like a completely different language to me. I couldn’t wrap my mind around it. I literally felt like I had been placed in a foreign speaking country and I had to start from the beginning, as a child would. It took years to be able to understand what I was hearing, let alone able to apply it to my life, and then to speak it. I was beginning to grasp the freedom that Jesus spoke about in John 8, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” And as I was learning this new language, the culture of God’s kingdom, God led us through five years of intense refining.
During those years:
- my dad and my mom died within 9 months of each other
- one of my children became suicidal and didn’t want to live anymore
- we became painfully estranged from family members
- my marriage was hanging by a thread
- I needed to quit my job for my family’s mental health as well as my own
It felt like we were placed upside down and shaken. One thing after another, to the point where we were always looking for the next thing that would finally do us in. And yet….
Throughout each of those difficult years, our family at The Exchange stood with us and didn’t let us go. Countless times, Joe and Ashley would talk with us, counsel us, pray over us, point us to Jesus. Others would spend time with us, bring meals to us when we needed help, care for us, remind us that Jesus was and always would be our only hope.
All along the way, God, through his Spirit, has created this beautiful culture at The Exchange that has been so special, so rare. It’s been a privilege to be a part of it and if I could choose, I would not want it to end. But I have learned that God’s ways are so much higher than my own and when I don’t understand, I can trust Him. By God’s grace, I hope to take what I’ve learned, what I’ve experienced, and share it with others. And before you know it we’ll all be together again, praising Jesus when we finally get home!