Kamerin and I are officially joining the family of Vision Baptist Church today. Words really can’t describe how grateful we both are, but I feel that something needs to be said in attempt to make our gratitude known, so here goes…
About a year and a half ago, I received a handout on the door of my home from Vision Baptist Church about a Christmas event that they were hosting. As with most handouts, I quickly glanced at it and headed straight toward the trashcan. We had been a member of another denomination for the last 8 years or so, and I wasn’t “looking” for another church. However, in God’s good providence, my eyes scanned over parts of this handout on my way to the trashcan. I read the words, “Independent Baptist Church,” and I thought, “Hmmm….legalism.” I had tried living by the law in another Baptist Church years ago, and I wanted no part of that because I had failed miserably (as the law reveals to us all). I knew that I could only consider a church if they taught salvation by grace alone through faith in Christ alone. Then I read the explanation of the Gospel. They nailed it. If there was one thing I had learned in the denomination I was in, it was doctrine, and plenty of it. So as I read this handout, I carefully looked to see that the entire Gospel was presented. Yep. Everything was included, nothing was left out (Jesus, the sinless Son of God, died on the cross to save sinners from the wrath of God which we deserved since we all fall short of His glory. All we must do is repent to receive this free gift of salvation by Grace)…..No talk of a works based salvation….no hints of being driven by the law. Maybe this church wasn’t legalistic after all?” Then I read where it said that the pastors are committed to preaching book by book, verse by verse. “Hmmm”…..I thought. “No one does that anymore. I like that. It sounds very solid. No corny, catchy theme to catch one’s attention each week. I like that a lot.”
But still, I put the handout in the stack of mail and didn’t really plan on doing anything with it. Thankfully, God had other plans. Periodically, the handout would appear again as I would clean the kitchen, moving the stack of papers here or there, and I could not get the words “Book by book, verse by verse” out of my mind. I was just plain curious about this church now.
As time ticked on, I finally began to admit that the church we were in was not where I wanted to be. There was a heavy emphasis on doctrine, but very little emphasis on building deep relationships with one another. Each family was their own little entity, and being a divorced, single mom of 2 girls, there was just no place for us to…….fit. No doubt my sin nature played a factor in this as well.
However, I found safety in the doctrine and had come to the conclusion that solid teachings and close relationships could not coexist in the same church. During my time as a believer, I had experienced one or the other in churches, but never truly a rich measure of both. In a previous church where the emphasis was heavy on relationships and less on doctrine, it was all very much modeled after the world with some scripture mingled in the service. I could not accept that again. So, fear of trying something new led me to stay where I was for a while longer. Like it or not, I was the leader of my home, and my girls had been yanked around enough. So my plan was to worship God and study His Word with this group of believers and to just accept the loneliness I was feeling. I had a handful of precious friends, but for one reason or another, we were not able to “live life together” outside of church. I wanted that so badly.
One Sunday last summer, out of sheer convenience, I decided that I might just visit that Baptist church near our house. So, I thought, “Where is that handout they had put on my door back during the Christmas season?” “Would I be able to find it?” I began looking for it in my “less than organized” kitchen, and praise the Lord, I found it! I hopped in the car, put the address in the GPS, and I was on my way. Before the GPS had time to calculate the location, I was already there! A whopping 2 minutes from my house. “Wow! How had I overlooked this church during the 5 years I had been living on McFarland?!”
I came in the doors and was greeted (genuinely, lovingly, warmly) by not just one or two, but several people. “They sure are friendly”, I thought. “I bet the teachings will be lacking.” I was pleased to hear that the pastor would be preaching from Romans 9. “Well, this will be the test,” I thought. “If he teaches through this chapter, he will have to address the issue of whether or not salvation is a work of man or of God. There will be no way to avoid it.” I decided that if he said that salvation was all man’s responsibility, then I would not come back. I listened intently, trying to be sure that the Gospel message he was proclaiming was the truth-the whole truth, and much to my surprise, it was. The emphasis was clearly put on the finished work of Christ on the cross which secured our salvation. Our sins were forgiven AT the cross. Yes, we are called to repent, but this was no “works based salvation message.” There was not one word of contention. He nailed it. I was surprisingly encouraged.
After the service, at least 3 ladies talked to me (genuinely talked to me), and before I left, I had been given several phone numbers to contact if I had any questions. Well, I used those phone numbers to ask questions, I started attending the Monday night Bible study they were having, and I loved it. The next week, I brought Kamerin with me to the Bible study….and she liked it too. Then we attended our first Sunday service together, and the rest is history.
So, here we are….about to make our new family official. I couldn’t be more elated and grateful. I know that Kamerin feels the same. The relationships that we have built here throughout the past 11 months are just so wonderful and fulfilling. My assumption that solid teachings and deep relationships cannot exist together in the same church has been blown right out of the water-thanks to ALL of YOU! What a rare treasure we have stumbled upon, and I know it’s all a part of God’s sovereign plan! The deep loneliness I had felt is being filled with amazing friends. I had originally planned to name many specific people who have touched our lives in a very special way. But there are just too many of you to name, and I do not want to leave anyone out. So I will just say, “Thank you all.” Thank you for loving us and for being an example of how to love others. Thank you for being real with us. Thank you for laughing with us and for being ready and willing to cry with us when the time comes (as we’ve seen you do with others). Thank you for helping us with the enormous task of moving this past November (Praise the Lord, we still live close by–only about 7 min. away, and a whopping 2 minutes from the land where the new church building will be built.) Thank you for checking on us and for noticing if we’re here or not. Thank you for teaching us God’s Word and for showing us how it really looks to live out the Great Commission.
Ladies, thank you for being our true friends, for living life with us, and for showing us what it looks like to be Godly women who are genuine, transparent, loving, and fun. Men, thank you for NOT overlooking us (being that we are a single mom family). Thank you for having real conversations with us, teaching us, and shepherding us. Thank you for having jumper cables ready and a plan made to help us get my car started (if needed) before I ever even knew that I had left my lights on during an entire service a couple of weeks ago. Most importantly, thank you for being the Godly male examples that we so desperately need in our lives right now.
Betty and Austin, thank you for setting a tone of love and grace among this church family. Thank you for making our Sunday School class a place of wonder and exploration for the babes in Christ as well as for the mature, a place of refuge and healing for the hurting and broken, and a place of friendship and laughter for us all!! I look forward to that hour all week long!!
To those who are directly teaching/shepherding/mentoring/loving/spending time with Kamerin (some of you are teens, some are much older), my cup runneth over with gratitude for you. Every single time I see or hear about conversations, Sunday School or youth group lessons, activities, etc. which she has been blessed to be a part of, I could just burst with happiness knowing that you all are enveloping her in God’s love. There is just nothing better. Thank you all.
Also, thank you for making my oldest daughter, Alaini, feel so loved and welcomed whenever she is home from college and is able to come to church with us! That means more to me than you will ever know. She will be moving to Augusta, Ga. In the fall to begin nursing school. Please pray that she will become connected with a solid Bible believing church in Augusta and that God will lead, guide, protect, and bless her.
So here we are: we’re diving in and I can think of no greater joy than to partner with you all in this ministry. I ask you to pray for us and hold us accountable, as we will do for you as well. God bless you all.
Rescued by His Amazing Grace,