The first church I have memories of attending is Our Saviour Evangelical Free Church in Wheeling. I remember AWANA and VBS mostly - one time they had a giant whale made from garbage bags and fans were inside blowing it up. We sat inside and learned about Jonah. And I remember Mrs. Dondit. She was the pastor's wife and she was also my piano teacher... for 12 years. She set my foundation for learning music and inspired me to do it as a career. She loved Jesus and others, seemingly unconditionally. She was so patient and SO creative. Beyond creative. In high school, I remember thinking, if I could be half the woman she is, I'd be pretty well off.
Then, when I was in 3rd grade, we started going to Harvest Bible Chapel. My dad had driven by this big warehouse with a neon blue sign, which was the only reason you'd ever know it was a church. He wanted to visit. My mom said, no I've heard of that place. It's a holy roller church. He found out they had AWANA (which is a Bible-teaching kids program that only puts their program in churches who agree with their doctrinal statements) and so she said fine we can visit. My parents still go to that church.
At a Harvest junior high winter retreat, I accepted Jesus and REALLY understood what it meant. At Harvest, I got baptized. At Harvest, I had amazing junior high and high school mentors who patiently taught me what it looked like to love Jesus. They unconditionally loved me, regardless of the stupid choices I made at times. At Harvest, I met some of my closest life-long friends. At Harvest, I sat under the careful teaching and exhortation of God's Word week after week...after month after month... after year after year. At Harvest, I learned what it meant to follow after Jesus with my whole life and whole heart and not just my sunday-church-time. God's work through the people at Harvest set the course for my life.
After going to Harvest for about 13 years, I got married and we moved to the city. After about a year, we moved to Nebraska (as you know well if you've been reading this little blog for any amount of time). As soon as we knew we were going to relocate, we started praying to find a church in Lincoln. A church that would be home - that would first and foremost preach the word of God boldly and unapologetically. A church that would challenge us to grow spiritually and provide opportunities for service and worship and connecting with other believers.
God answered that prayer. Almost as soon as we moved here, we visited Lincoln Berean Church. The first message "had us at hello." We learned that the pastor had spent 15 summers teaching through the book of Psalms. Each week, he'd teach a new Psalm. 10 Psalms per summer (not necessarily in order) for 15 summers. We were there on the 150th Sunday, where he was teaching the last Psalm yet to be studied - Psalm 137. The last verse of Psalm 137 reads "O daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction, happy is he who repays you for what you have done to us - he who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks." You can see why he said many pastors pray for the rapture the week before they teach this one :) But, by God's grace and the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, he shed light on the meaning of this Psalm, one that I might have just skipped over because I didn't understand. Curious? You can listen to it for free here!
All that Psalm 137 explanation to say, both Ben and I were hooked. We both felt inside that this could be the church we prayed for. We quickly joined the new-people-intro-class to learn more about the church's ministries, doctrine, etc...
So here we are. We've gone to Lincoln Berean for 4 weeks. We're going to visit a young married couples small group on Thursday. The Lord led us to meet a one of the pastors on staff, who we really connected with. And get this- his wife is a private piano and voice teacher and works with the choirs at church! What a great connection :)
We think this is the church for us here in Lincoln. God's Word is taught, Jesus is worshipped, and I have to say, the people are pretty darn friendly. And yet, sometimes, I find myself secretly nostalgic for Harvest. I've thought a lot about this - why can't I just "get over it?" Why can't I just like this new church 100% and not compare it?
My super-wise husband suggested that maybe it's more than church style, preaching, or worship music. Maybe it's the fact that I gave my life to the Lord at Harvest. Maybe it's the fact that most of my spiritual journey - the ups and the downs, the highs and the lows, the times of rejoicing and the times of mourning - most of those times have been right in that warehouse off of Highway 53 and Rohlwing Road. The Lord has met me there time and again. His Spirit has instructed me, corrected me, and given me insight through the preaching. His Spirit has touched me as I worshiped Jesus wholeheartedly weekend after weekend, right in that warehouse. God gave me the passion to minister to and love high schoolers in that warehouse. And some of my dearest friends are there - right in that warehouse. I'm talking about the friends that know you inside and out. The ones you can pour your heart out to. The ones that you have served God alongside. The ones who inspire you to live more passionately for Jesus.
So I'm grateful to have found Lincoln Berean. More than I can say in this already-long blog post, God is doing a mighty work in this community through that church. And I am excited to jump on board! But, for now, I also have a part of my heart in that warehouse near Chicago. Sometimes I wonder if a small piece of my heart will always be there, or if it will move over somewhere else? I'm not sure.
One thing I'm sure of - the same God that I came to know over 13 years in that Chicago warehouse church, He is the same God I'm worshiping here in Lincoln. He's the same God believers all over the world are serving. He's the same God that Paul, Joseph, Abraham, Mary, Ruth, Esther, Moses, and Adam worshiped. He is Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)
Worshiping the One and Only King (from Nebraska),\