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#storiesmatter A Faith Story from Jaraby Camago

During the summer months, we have been exploring the power of our stories to shape our faith and encouraging our members to share their stories. This is the first of many stories that we will share with the people of St. Stephen’s. We hope that your faith is strengthened as you read Jaraby’s story. 

My faith story began at the darkest time in my life. I was in a bottomless pit; at least that is what it felt like each day. God had sought me for years, but my sin and flesh would not let me embrace him completely. I made one bad choice after the next.

I was a 30 something with a 6 month old baby in an emergency women’s shelter trying to stay out of the grips of an abusive spouse. I left my home with nothing but my purse and a diaper bag.

I drained a majority of my finances on legal fees fighting for the custody of my son. I was completely devastated and not just financially. I was severely depressed from being in an abusive relationship for 8 years, post partum, and without a safe place to call home. My soul was bankrupt. I told my mom I was scared because I had no room in my heart to feel, other than the tender heart my son had lightly ignited.

Kind people, family, Christians like many of you in this room gave their time and love to BARN, a transitional housing program for homeless women and children in Virginia. I did not understand why they were so generous and kind to me. I felt loved and cared for. Little by little God would bless me. Remind me He was near and would take care of me.

I began to smile and laugh again. My heart expanded abundantly. I too, wanted to be part of that community of Christians that pour love on strangers. It has been a gradual process but I made my way to God’s house here at St. Stephen’s UMC. My son and I were both baptized here a few years back by Pastor Jeff. I found music and singing as a way to praise God through our Source Band. I will be celebrating my wedding in a few weeks right here in our Sanctuary with Pastor Abi.

I have been blessed to have the opportunity to pour love on strangers every day working as a nurse. I feel it is a privilege to serve our community with a willing ear to listen, an open heart to sympathize, and caring hands to help heal. St. Stephen’s has allowed me to pour love on strangers constantly and I look forward to working with some of our missions in the future where I may pour love on strangers from far away places.

My story matters not only to me, but for all those around me who need encouragement, for those who are homeless, divorced, depressed, single parenting, post partum, financially devastated, emotionally bankrupt, those in the cycle of domestic violence as a victim/abuser, for those trying to find God, those trying to pour love on strangers. My story matters, so does yours so let’s share them.

If you would like to share your story, please email your written copy to Carol Knachel, knachel7[at]aol.com, or give it to her directly. She is often at the front doors at 11 am on Sunday mornings.

 

#storiesmatter A Faith Story from Linda Baird

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During the summer months, we have been exploring the power of our stories to shape our faith and encouraging our members to share their stories. This is the first of many stories that we will share with the people of St. Stephen’s.  We hope that your faith is strengthened as you read Linda’s story. 

Our daughter suffered profound brain damage in a drowning accident years ago when she was 2 years of age. Devon was without any vital signs for 47 minutes. Little did we know God was placing His angels in our path from the moment it happened. From the EMTs who turned their radios off when instructed to discontinue resuscitation, to the doctor who was in charge of the PICU, to the transporter lady who offered to pray with Devon and me in the elevator on the way to Dev’s G-tube surgery, to the transporter’s friend who prayed with me on the phone during that entire surgery. These people, and countless others, would deny they are angels, but I know God had assignments for them whether they knew it or not. Because He wasn’t ‘done with Devon’. At 33, she has ‘witnessed’ for Him without ever uttering a word to many people who can see the light in her eyes and the smile on her face when we say the Lord’s Prayer or sing ‘Jesus Loves Me’. Six months after discharge from the hospital, my husband told me he didn’t know if he could make it if we didn’t see Devon smile again. She was seizing and crying all the time. Fourteen months after the accident, she smiled her first, tiny smile. Now when she smiles, it lights up the room and our hearts. God has taught me to smile at the little blessings that come every day and understand more clearly “in His time, not mine”.

God has taken my days of horror and misery and doubt, and there have been a few, and given me the peace and grace and comfort to get past them. The medical professionals highly recommended sending Devon to an institution because statistics say if we brought Dev home, our marriage would end in divorce and we would ruin our 4 year old son’s life. Our marriage is 36 years strong and our son is a remarkable teacher with a beautiful wife and a 3 year old daughter of his own. God’s gift is unconditional love and I can’t imagine my life without that love. My aging process has allowed me to see His daily gifts of mercy and miracles more clearly with each passing year.

I used to consider myself lucky – a great husband, beautiful kids, a nice home – but now I know better. What I am is truly blessed by His hand. He tells me to find joy in everything and I try my best. My job calls me to safely cross high, middle and elementary school students on their way to school in the early morning hours and often I’ll tell them to look up at the gorgeous sunrises. Getting them to notice one of God’s most beautiful gifts is one ‘politically correct’ way to share His love. They say ‘wow’ and I smile.

God is my safe and sure place. My constant and unfailing friend. The source of my strength and perseverance. Whatever befalls me, I know He watches me and gives me what I need to live each day the best I can. All I hope to do is take full advantage of His gifts. The gift of His Son, Jesus Christ, is indeed the very best gift of all. I thank God, for His beautiful begotten Son who saves us and delivers us and shows us the way to Him.

~Linda Baird

If you would like to share your story, please email your written copy to Carol Knachel, knachel7[at]aol.com, or give it to her directly.  She is often at the front doors at 11 AM on Sunday mornings.

 

#storiesmatter

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Please share your story

Our summer sermon series, which began July 19, was #storiesmatter. During this six week series, Pastor Mark featured the faith stories of several historical figures.

Faith stories are not, however, only a thing of the past. Each of us has a story that has been significant in our personal faith journey. Your story can impact greatly on the faith journey of others. We ask you to prayerfully think about your personal faith stories. We each grow in our own faith as we share our stories with one another. Perhaps you never thought of your story as significant because it seemed small at the time. As you reflect, however, you see the importance of its impact. Faith is a journey, always changing and growing. Other persons’ stories help us to change and grow in our journey too.

We invite everyone to share their faith story. You can submit your story to Carol Knachel at knachel7@aol.com or in hard copy to the church office marked for Carol. We also invite you to share your story, or portions of it on social media. Tweet to us @ststephensburke, or post to our facebook wall  with the hashtag #storiesmatter. We know it may be difficult to condense it to fit twitter’s character limit, but we think you can find creative ways to make it work.

We will also be featuring stories each month in the Scroll, and on our website. Click HERE to read them.

 

Letter from Pastor Marg

Dear Friends,

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It hardly seems possible, but the year I am to be with you has nearly come to an end. On Sunday, June 28, I will greet you one last time, then the next day Two Men and a Truck will come to move our few items back to Chester, VA.

From the moment I got a phone call from District Superintendent Smith, this appointment has felt like a gift to me. There was something that seemed unfinished when I retired in 2013 that now feels complete. I am grateful for the privilege of serving our God with you.

People often ask me about this year out of retirement. I tell them “St. Stephen’s is a wonderful church with incredible staff, leaders, congregation, ministry and future.” I hope you know what a blessed people you are. So many churches all around you are struggling, even dying. But God has given you a different spirit and you are faithful, even bold in living it out.

My greatest concern in coming to St. Stephen’s for just one year, was that we would just mark time together, that I would simply be a place holder. But you have not allowed me to do that and I am again so very grateful for what we have been able to do together in God’s providence. We have had two very successful Mission Sundays, reviewed and revised our policies, initiated a comprehensive new adult spiritual formation process, held a conversation on race relations, multiplied our Stephen Ministry by nearly three,

are in the initial stages of a ministry with adults with cognitive impairment, completed the five year plan and are nearly done in developing the next plan, as well as celebrated communion, baptisms, weddings, and entry into eternal life.

I cannot begin to express my gratitude for your graciousness to Bob and me. God surely has amazing dreams for St. Stephen’s and we are grateful that we have been allowed this small part. You will always be a part of our lives.