LIFE at Wheaton Bible Church

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Where Food and Friendship Meet

Andrea and Melanie

Andrea and Melanie

Melanie doesn’t recall the exact circumstances that drew her to the Hunger Team training that Sunday afternoon in 2011, but as the following days and weeks unfolded, it was clear that God had orchestrated a significant role for her in the lives of a young mom named Andrea and her three children—a role that was launched in that Sunday-afternoon workshop.

It was the very next day that Melanie got a call from the Hunger Team coordinator telling her that there had been several urgent phone messages from a mom who was asking for food to feed her family.

The First Meeting

Melanie agreed to follow up, and when she first showed up at Andrea’s front door—accompanied by Pam Moore, who joined her that day—they met a woman who needed friendship even more than she needed the box of kitchen staples they’d brought.

Andrea agrees with that assessment, admitting that her calls were as much a cry for help and connection as they were a request for food. Looking back, Andrea describes herself that day as “stuck.”

Not long before, she had walked away from the church where she grew up—a church, she says, that claimed to believe  in God but taught a lot  of things about Jesus  that aren’t in the Bible. Even so, leaving her family’s church had left  a serious void in her  life, and Andrea found herself in what she calls “a dark place.”

Andrea remembers the day when Melanie and Pam walked into her life. “They were warm and friendly,” Andrea says, “and Melanie invited me to visit the church. ‘You don’t have to come,’ she told me, ‘but we’d like to see you there.’ And then she invited the kids.”

Although Andrea wasn’t ready to go to church herself at that point, she was okay with her kids going to Sunday school. But after getting a second invitation a few weeks later, Andrea was ready to check it out.

“I remember the service being very peaceful—and the music was a nice surprise,” she said.

It was not long after that first visit that Melanie got a call from Andrea, who said that her daughter Angelina—then two-and-a-half years old—was very sick and they needed a ride to the doctor. There they learned that Angelina’s diagnosis was serious, and the little girl was transported by ambulance to the hospital emergency room.

Melanie and Pam, who brought a box of food—and much more—into the lives of Andrea and her family.

Melanie and Pam, who brought a box of food—and much more—into the lives of Andrea and her family.

Throughout Angela’s hospitalization, Melanie, Pam, and others from the church became the kind of support system Andrea had never experienced—driving Andrea, who had no car, to be with her young daughter, and caring for the older children, keeping their lives on track. For a week, Melanie even took the two older kids into her home so Andrea could focus on the critical needs of her youngest.

During that crisis and in the weeks that followed, Melanie became acutely aware of the depth of Andrea’s spiritual need and her hunger to learn about God. When life settled down for Andrea, Melanie invited her to attend Alpha for Women on Wednesday mornings.

As she heard the talks at Alpha, Andrea says, “The message of the Cross became real to me.”

“That’s where I really saw the truth come together for Andrea—for her faith to really cement,” Melanie recalls.

One of Andrea’s fondest memories of that class is of the women she met at Alpha, women who readily responded to her eager questions and offered friendship in return. She also points to the lessons from the Alpha teacher, Lon Allison.

“They had us look in the Bible to find answers to our questions,” Andrea says, “and I was feeding and growing off all that information.”

Andrea followed up the Alpha course with a more in-depth Bible study called Beyond Alpha, where she continued to learn and grow.

As she experienced a new relationship with God, Andrea saw areas of life—including her parenting role—where she needed help. She was directed to the Monday night family support groups, where she joined the group for single parents while her son and two daughters participated in Caring for Kids.

They all looked forward to the family meal that begins each Monday evening, and what each of them experienced in their own groups brought some much-needed learning and healing—including the opportunity for each of the kids to talk about their feelings. Interaction with their adult leaders was also important, and those relationships continued even after the program was completed.

Andrea also remembers how valuable it was for her two older kids to write in the journals the program encourages. “Caring for Kids was really good for my kids,” Andrea recalls.

“It allowed them to deal with some of their emotions about what had been going on in our lives.”

Melanie, with Andrea, and her three children, Brianna (14), Angelina (5), and Alex (12)

Melanie, with Andrea, and her three children, Brianna (14), Angelina (5), and Alex (12)

For Andrea’s son, Alex, then in his preteen years, the program was literally life-changing. He was really struggling at the time, and in his group he found support from his leader and also from the other boys. This included a beautiful time of prayer one Monday evening when the boys prayed with Alex as he made a personal decision to accept God’s gift of salvation through Jesus Christ.

In addition to the spiritual growth and healing happening in Andrea’s family, they also had the opportunity to see the love of God’s people in action as a CareFest team swooped in to their home for a day of painting, repairing, and caring for their living space. Shortly after, much-needed furniture was donated for their use.

To Melanie, the donation of furniture—at just the right moment, from a family right in Andrea’s neighborhood—was another sign that God’s hand was evident in the entire situation.

“Really,” Melanie says, “I knew from the very first call for a box of food that God had planned for me to be a part of all this—to be introduced to Andrea and to be there when her daughter was in the hospital and her other kids had no place to go, and all the rest.”

Andrea agrees. “God brought Melanie into my life,” she says, “someone I could really trust. I’ve never known people like this.”

When some really difficult circumstances piled up for Andrea in the months that followed, she was able to see God’s hand even in the toughest times.

Melanie remembers how those troubles drove Andrea deeper in her new faith.

“It was a time of real growth for you,” she reminded Andrea in a recent conversation, “in both reading and learning, and in prayer. Every time we met, your questions were going deeper too. We’d talk about how Jesus works today, and how that applied to what was going on in your life.”

Today Andrea is participating in Celebrate Recovery and is part of a small-group Bible study connected to that support ministry. Those programs, along with some of the new friends Andrea has made in the group, are helping her work through some issues she’s carried since her childhood and young-adult years.

“I’m peeling back layers and figuring out some important stuff,” she says. “I thought I would never be happy again, but God has given me back my smile.”

She’s also learning a new kind of dependence on God. “I can’t do this on my own. I know that now,” she says. “I can’t live for God without Him guiding and directing me.

“I felt so alone—even with three kids in the house and neighbors all around and family nearby. I remember Pastor Lon [Allison] saying in Alpha, ‘You might feel lonely sometimes, but you’re never alone.’

“I didn’t think I could have a life, and now I feel like I have everything,” Andrea adds, almost overwhelmed as she tries to list all the evidences of God’s touch on her life.

What began with a willingness to knock on a door with an offer of food and friendship has made an eternal difference in one family’s life. It’s a story that’s still evolving, Andrea says with a smile, “but it’s already got a really nice ending.”

My Story

FF_AndreaNot too long ago, I was overwhelmed with life. I was a depressed single mom of three in need of stability and hope. I was on shaky ground and had lost my footing. During that time I tried to return to the religion of my childhood, but the emphasis on rules and works only led to more discouragement. I knew God was there, but He felt very far away. I kept praying for wisdom and guidance.

One day I called Wheaton Bible Church, asking for food from their Hunger Team. I now know what I didn’t fully realize then: I didn’t really want food as much as I wanted friendship and a chance to know God better. Soon after I made the phone call, two ladies from the church, Melanie and Pam, brought a box of staple goods to my door. It is not easy for me to trust people, but it did not take long to see that these women were sincere. Their direct, no-nonsense style of communication told me that they wanted the best for me and my children.

They invited us to church. At first I just sent the kids, but eventually the children’s comfort and enthusiasm rubbed off on me, and I joined them. Over time, the message of the Cross became real to me. I began to love the people at church and the atmosphere of personal growth. More and more I felt free from the condemning voice of the religion I had grown up in and realized how upside down my beliefs had been. Now I know that I don’t do good works to get saved or to earn God’s love. Instead, God saved me by His grace. I am thankful for that, and in response to His love, I want to do good things.

I know God is there to help me when I give Him the chance. He has proved that He is trustworthy—like a loving parent. Even when I fail, I fall into His loving arms.

I realize that God heard my prayers in the midst of my despair. I was lost—now I am found. I was in bondage—now I am free.

It is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves,  it is the gift of God—so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in  Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.  —Ephesians 2:8–10

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This entry was posted on March 14, 2014 by in My Story, Spring 2014 and tagged , , , , .

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