In 1993, I accepted a contract position in Springfield, Illinois. Instead of going home every weekend, I decided to find a church in the area and make Springfield my temporary home.
I’m so glad I did! What I learned at my church and through my friends there was instrumental in shaping my daily walk with Jesus.
(NOTE: During the first quarter of MultiColor Monday blogs, I'll be sharing about teachers and mentors who played key roles in helping me grow in my faith, and whose teaching helped me understand what it means to live as a Christian.)
I began attending Calvary Temple within a few weeks of my move. The friendly “welcome” staff directed me to a single’s Sunday school class taught by Chris Hogan, where I met Big Al, LeAnne, Jon, Brad, Sue, Kahla, Marlito, and then a whole lot of other people who quickly became my friends. I joined a weekly small group, attended church Sunday morning and Wednesday night, and continued to attend Sunday school. As a new Christian I was hungry for God, and they were all filling me up. Even though I was older than most of them, they all welcomed me with open arms and accepted me “as-is”.
In addition to church events, we went to the movies, had game nights, organized progressive dinners, went to concerts, roller-bladed (yes, me, I roller-bladed all around the neighborhood in flatland Illinois) and had picnics. We laughed together, prayed together, cried together, and had a whole lot of good old-fashioned FUN! Working with kids' church I also met Kera, a lively and energetic 9-year-old who captured my heart and brought me great joy.
The sermons, discussions, and church activities were full of truth and light, and I soaked it all in like a sponge. But more than that, I learned from watching people’s lives and spending time with them. Here’s an excerpt about that time from my book, Intentional Fitness:
I began to see that a completely different culture existed. And I quickly realized that while I had received my new life by faith, I had a responsibility to invest in my relationship with God if I wanted my faith to grow. My new friends lived what they believed, didn’t cuss, didn’t tell dirty jokes, didn’t mock people, and most of them didn’t drink alcohol or smoke. We had lots of good, clean fun when we got together. I learned that you can have fun without drinking and without being physically intimate.
When I left Illinois in 1995 to move to Raleigh, NC, I left with a deeper knowledge of Jesus, and with a different perspective on what it meant to live as a Christian. I’m still in touch with many friends from that time, including Kera, and I always smile when I think of that season of my life.
Thank you, Pastor Mark, and all my friends, for your part in giving me a rock-solid, foundational start in my walk with Jesus.
If you live in the Springfield, Illinois area and you're looking for a church, be sure to check out Calvary Temple.