Finding God’s Grace in His Church and in the Beauty of His Creation
My siblings and I walked to North Minister Presbyterian Church in Waterloo from our home every Sunday morning. We lived only a couple of blocks from the church. My Sunday school teacher was Mrs. Dutton, she was our Pastor’s wife. Her teaching brought about my desire to be baptized. I was yearning to experience God’s Grace. The Sunday evening after I was baptized I walked out to our back yard. It was a summer evening and the beauty of God’s creation filled me with joy. The smell of blooming flowers and the view of many bright stars on a clear night inspired me to pray. I was thankful for Jesus loving us so much that he would suffer pain on the cross and die for our sins. After praying I felt such a great calm and peace come over me, I knew it was the Holy Spirit coming in to my heart.
As I became older I stopped attending church. I was working and pursuing a teaching degree from the University of Northern Iowa. I thought I could maintain my relationship with God through prayer and reading the Bible. But without even realizing it I turned my face away from God and walked away from him.
After Roger and I married, we purchased our first home and became neighbors with Pastor & Mrs. Abbey. Pastor Abbey was the Pastor at Grace Brethren Church. Shelly (a mature 3 year old) started taking piano lessons from Mrs. Abbey. Before long Roger and I were attending Grace Brethren Church. We both found God’s grace in the Holy Spirit speaking to our hearts through Pastor Abbey’s sermons and through the love and care we were receiving from the members of the congregation. We were both baptized, dipped backwards completely under the water, in a tank build behind the wall above the communion table. Normally drapes were closed that hid the tank.
About a year later, I started to quietly disagree with the sudden emphasis in the Brethren churches that women should not play a role in the leadership of the church. Women were not allowed to serve as deacons, elders or preachers. At the same time Roger was taking up the game of golf. We stopped going to church and once again I gradually turned my face away from the Lord. While Roger continued to feel God’s Grace in the beauty of His Creation on the golf course.
A couple of years later a Jehovah’s Witness began calling on me every Saturday morning. I started to read my Bible again so I could clearly explain to her what I believed and why. When we stopped meeting she was heart-broken that I did not convert to her faith and join her church. She believed that only Jehovah Witnesses will go to heaven. I told her I was so grateful that God had brought her to my door to renew my faith. I felt God’s love for me once again. And I realized I was not able to stay the course without becoming a member of a church and attending worship service weekly. Also, we now had three children and we wanted them to grow up in a church.
We started attending Sunny Side Church (current name Cedar Valley Community Church). However, this church did not work for us. It was too large and expanding too rapidly. The children were being bused from the church to a roller skating rink for Sunday school and then bused back to the church just as the worship service ended.
And sinner that I am, I once again walked away from my Lord and Savior. I became too busy with my career at Deere & Company and work on a Master’s Degree at UNI to pray, read my bible and belong to a church. We had moved and lived close to Walnut Ridge Baptist Church. Roger started taking our children to Walnut Ridge Baptist Church. It was Roger’s faith that allowed our children to grow up in a Christian church. It was at this point in our lives that Roger was filled with God’s Holy Spirit and joined a bible study composed of men from many different Christian denominations who openly met daily in a lunch area at John Deere. The John Deere Bible Study group provided a powerful witness to other employees during their lunch break. On Saturdays they took their ministry to their neighborhoods, knocking on doors and sharing Bible verses on how much God loves us and inviting neighbors to pray to accept Jesus as their savior and inviting them to attend church. They would also purchase food staples and deliver them to needy families.
Fast forward ahead about 25 years, Shelly became engaged and wanted to be married in a church. Pastor Cathy Young was the Assistant Pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Waterloo, so we started attending church there. Roger and I joined First Presbyterian Church in Waterloo. I really felt the Holy Spirit move me in this church. Of course, that may have been true in any Christian church that I might have attended. I realized I had been walking in a spiritual desert of my own choice without looking for, listening to, or praying to God for many years.
Thanks be to God for his love that kept drawing me back to him. From that point on I have tried to walk with my Lord and Savior every day. We lived in Georgia for 5 years and joined a large Methodist church that had the most awesome Praise Service. Everyone raised their arms in praise when we sang.
When we moved back to Iowa we went church shopping with Shelly. Cedar Heights Community Presbyterian Church had everything we were looking for: Pastors whose sermons moved the Holy Spirit to speak to our hearts; Elders who are lead by God when making decisions for CHCPC; spiritually powerful, beautiful music that helps our praises sour to the heavens; a loving, caring and giving congregation whose ministries reach out to each other and to many others outside of our church; Sunday school for young children, an active youth group, many children of all ages sharing their gifts during worship services; Sunday morning adult education groups and finally but not last, women serving as deacons, elders and pastors.