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The stories that follow offer snapshots of the lives of three people who offered invitations and those who said yes.
Tammy & Lynn
Tammy was a bus driver who had recently begun to pray for the students on her route. She had sensed that God wanted her to take her focus off herself by praying for others. Her next question was, Who should I pray for?
“I am a bus driver,” Tammy said, “so I decided to let the students on my route know that if they had something in their lives that needed prayer, I would pray for that need for thirty days.” Tammy would also encourage those students who seemed open to the idea to investigate whether God was real or not.
“About that time,” Tammy recalls, “I picked up a new route—one with only one young woman who needed transportation. Her name was Lynn.
“Because it was just the two of us, we had a lot of time to talk and get to know each other.”
Lynn got on the bus the first day not quite awake and not in the best of moods. Even so, she tried to be polite to the woman driving the bus. And in spite of that rocky start, over the months that followed, a friendship grew. When the day came that Tammy asked Lynn how she could pray for her, Lynn opened up and admitted that while she had once believed in God, she had become disillusioned by things that had happened in her life.
Talking with Tammy became such a bright spot in Lynn’s life that one day she asked Tammy to be her mentor, and with the approval of Lynn’s mom, Tammy agreed.
“She understood me,” Lynn says, “in a way other people didn’t.”
During the bus rides that followed, the two had many good conversations about life and about God.
One day as they talked, Tammy was reminded about the Alpha course at Wheaton Bible Church. She thought it might be a good place for Lynn to explore her faith and correct some of her misconceptions about God.
At first, Lynn feared that, at age seventeen, she wouldn’t fit in or that someone would preach at her and tell her she was a sinner.
“But it wasn’t like that at all,” Lynn remembers. “By the end of the first night, I felt comfortable. Everyone in the room was nice, and the speaker was warm, not preachy.
“After that first evening,” she said, “I had a new concern. I was beginning to sense God’s presence in my life, and I didn’t want things to go back to the way they were before. I didn’t want to feel angry or distant from God again.”
As the weeks went on, connections were formed around Lynn’s Alpha table, and she grew to see God as loving. “I learned,” Lynn says, “that He loved me unconditionally and that He wanted to have a personal relationship with me. I realized that He was reaching out to me and all I had to do was reach back to Him.”
She also began to understand that God could give her
About that time, Lynn went to a job interview but was sorely disappointed when the person she was to meet forgot the appointment and didn’t even show up. Despite her discouragement, however, Lynn felt peace, and the next day, when another business contacted her about a job, she felt as if God were telling her, You don’t need to worry. I have everything under control.
Not long after, Lynn and Tammy attended the Sunday-morning worship service together, and at the end of the message, the Pastor invited those who didn’t know Jesus as their Savior to ask Christ into their lives.
Tammy knew that Lynn had learned about Jesus as a young teen but had walked away from God in the years since. That morning, Tammy turned and asked Lynn if she wanted to reaffirm the commitment to Christ she’d made years before.
“That day,” Lynn says, “I was ready to give my life to Jesus in a fresh new way. So after that morning service, Tammy led me in a prayer that went like this:
God, I am sorry for the wrong things I have done. I turn from them now. Thank you for sending Jesus to die on the cross for my wrongs. I ask you to come into my life. I give my life over to you. Amen.
Over the weeks of Alpha, Tammy says, “I enjoyed watching Lynn engage with the lessons and with the people at our table. I saw her eyes being opened to the idea that she was precious to God and that He’d chosen her to be in a relationship with Him.”
Following Alpha, Lynn and Tammy are continuing to study God’s Word together at the Tuesday-evening Place4You Bible study for women.
Jim & Marty
“Jim and I have been neighbors for years,” Marty says, “and talked, as neighbors do.”
When both Jim and Marty were temporarily slowed by health issues, the
two men had a chance to sit on Marty’s front porch and commiserate.
“In the middle of our conversations about surgery and recovery,” Jim says, “I shared something that had brought me comfort: that God is in control and knows what’s happening in our lives at all times.”
“Jim asked me,” Marty remembers, “if I wanted to go to this ‘Bible-study thing’ at Wheaton Bible Church. I thought, If Jim is asking me, it can’t be too nuts.” Marty was familiar with the church because his daughter and her husband had been attending there for a number of years.
“At that time,” Marty adds, “I didn’t know that the ‘thing’ Jim was inviting me to was the Alpha course. I am an attorney, and I often ride the train into Chicago for work. For quite some time, Alpha had advertisements on the trains and buses in the city. I had always been curious about it. It wasn’t until I arrived the first night that I realized I was attending the Alpha course I’d heard about.
As Jim attended with Marty, he was pleased that Alpha offered a very welcoming situation for his friend. “There really weren’t judgments about what you believed as much as there was an interchange of ideas,” Jim recalls. “The presentations by the leaders set a foundation for the discussion—but the discussion was really a series of personal reactions to that foundation they had established.”
Marty appreciated the respect shown to the beliefs of others. It was also significant to him that Jim, who sings in the WBC Sanctuary Choir, took ten weeks off from choir practice to attend Alpha with him. Now Jim has gone back to choir practice, but Marty is continuing in a Bible study on his own.
“I’m enjoying the friendships and the opportunity to learn and discuss important ideas,” he says.
“For me,” Jim said, “this experience was one where I learned to be open to what God was prompting me to share with someone else about what I believed.”
Janet & Kathy
One Sunday when Janet was nine years old, a woman at the church asked her, “Are you saved?”
“I said, ‘I don’t know.’ Then the woman said robustly, ‘Goodness gracious, child, sit down,’ and I complied,” Janet recalls. “She went on to share the Good News of Christ with me. When she was done, she didn’t ask if I wanted to become a Christian but rather gave me an imperative: ‘Repeat after me.’ She then led me sentence by sentence through the prayer of salvation.
“After the prayer, as if by magic, a lovely pink Bible appeared from her purse. She put my name in it and the date. Then she gave it to me as a reminder of the day I asked Christ to come into my life.
“That is probably not the way we would lead a child to Christ today,” Janet says, “but it obviously stuck, and that is how I became a Christian!”
Because that woman and others shared with Janet throughout her life, she grew in her desire to live according to God’s Word and to serve Him.
“Now,” she says, “I want to share with others.”
That’s why, when she heard about Alpha, she began to think about inviting people to go. But first, she decided, she would attend herself to see what it was all about.
“I really enjoyed the experience,” Janet says. “It was nonthreatening and very low-key. And the Alpha talks answered questions in a deeper way than I could have on my own.”
Janet had four specific people in mind to invite. “I felt the Holy Spirit was guiding me,” she says, “so I wasn’t nervous at all. After all, I reasoned, all they could do was say no.
“So far, two of the four have attended with me: my sister Dana and my friend Kathy.”
Janet and Kathy have been friends since their daughters attended grade school together. Years later the girls, like their moms, were still friends and were in each other’s weddings.
Janet and Kathy also both owned golden retrievers, so when Kathy moved into Janet’s neighborhood, walking their dogs together—and talking as they walked—became a morning ritual.
They enjoyed each other’s company and shared their joys and sorrows. They also gave each other support in difficult times.
When Janet shared some encouragement from the Bible, Kathy would ask, “How do you know that?”
“When she asked me that,” Janet says, “it dawned on me how much hope I derive from knowing God and from His Word. This is not hope I want to keep to myself. I want everyone to share it.”
Kathy recognized that Janet’s relationship with God was different from her own. “Her life wasn’t perfect,” she said of Janet, “but when a crisis struck, her faith gave her strength.”
“I grew up going to church,” Kathy says, “but it was all rote. The prayers were memorized and were repeated almost without meaning. It sounds terrible to say it, but my belief in God was based mostly on fear, and He seemed very distant—not personal.”
Kathy realized that there was something in the Christian faith that she hadn’t yet discovered. “But,” she adds, “life was full, and time was at a minimum. I was working full-time, engaged with my adult kids, and also a very involved grandparent.
“It wasn’t that I didn’t want to learn about God; I just never felt I had the time.”
But after her retirement she finally said yes to Janet’s invitation to Alpha.
“This time,” Kathy says, “when Janet brought up the idea of going to Alpha—as she had several times over the last couple of years—I said yes.”
Apprehensive at first, Kathy soon began looking forward to the Thursday-night meetings. It also helped that Janet and her sister Dana were there.
“But even when they couldn’t make it,” Kathy says, “I went anyway.
“We sat with the same table group every week,” she adds, “and during dinner, the table host would have us share the highlights of our week.”
The group shared a lot about their lives and soon became what they called “Alpha friends.”
“After dinner, we heard a talk, and I got something out of every one,” Kathy adds.
Over the weeks, a change was taking place in Kathy’s heart and mind. “On the one hand, I knew that Jesus was God incarnate, that he died on the Cross for my sins. But I didn’t really know it. At Alpha, Jesus became more personal to me. He forgave me. I needed to forgive others and live more like Him.”
Before Alpha, Kathy had heard the Bible read in church, but now she was opening it and reading for herself. “I began setting aside time each day,” she says, “to read the Bible and make notes about what God is saying to me.
“I’m glad Janet pushed me to attend Alpha,” Kathy says. “I’m continuing to learn in a Bible-study group. I am like a sponge. I want to experience more of this loving and personal God.”