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Real Life Stories - Sharing Hope and Adding Value

Posted by Real Lifeline Stories on

When I was younger, I worked in a bakery alongside an old and thin woman named Vivian. She had a sweet heart, and she teased the split ends of her hair so much it looked like a long-haired cat sat on top of her head. She was a true believer, a holy roller, I’d say, who saw daily life as a constant battle between good and evil.

Back then, my relationship with the world around me was awesome…but whenever anyone wrapped religion around that relationship and called it God, it gave me the heebie-jeebies. And as much as I enjoyed Vivian’s company, I’d find her every reference to Christ and the Bible a bit off-putting, if not amusing.

One day, as she pushed crusty loaves of Italian bread through the slicer, she suddenly screeched.

“What the heck happened?” I shouted, rushing over to help when I saw the blood spurt from her hand.

“Oh,” she winced, wrapping her hand in her apron. “Satan took advantage.”

“Vivian, honey,” I applied gentle pressure. “I don’t think Satan pushed your hand into the slicer.”

“He did,” she said matter-of-factly. “I was casting judgment on that tramp of a manager over in Produce and Satan got behind me.”

Bloody loaves of bread and stitches aside, I found it amusing.

Once, while mixing a batch of dough and absently griping about my day, Vivian rushed over.  She closed her eyes, smacked her bony hand against my forehead and cast a spell with her other hand held up to the ceiling.

I know she was praying for better days for me, but it felt like voodoo.

I stood motionless, my arms slightly out to the sides, covered to the elbows in wet dough. Her spell caused all the shoppers to stop their carts and throw curious glances in our direction. When she was done, Vivian let out a glorious Amen! and opened her eyes.

I stood silent, not sure what to do. “Um…” I shrugged. “Thanks?”

I miss Vivian, though I don’t really miss the heebie-jeebies.

When I started attending Lifeline Church, one of the good things it offered was a sense of community. I had at first worried that I’d be joining a community of Vivians…which wouldn’t have been a bad thing, but not what I was looking for.

What I found was a crowd of folks spanning the entire spectrum; from folks like myself, to maybe a Vivian or two. Everyone seemed to temper their belief with respect that everyone else might be at a different place in their relationship with God.

Despite the time I had spent with these folks, I still felt like an outsider, though that was no fault of theirs. My own insecurities would make me feel like an outsider even at my own birthday party.

I decided I needed to take ownership for my part in the relationships and so I joined the men’s Lifegroup. And as much as I wanted to really develop that sense of community, I worried about what my time would look like spent at a Lifegroup meeting. My imagination put me at a table of guys dressed in Vivian-drag, all casting Hallelujah! spells and dishing scripture and tea. My imagination was wrong, of course, but I did seriously worry about what I was getting into when I agreed to go.

The first version of the Lifegroup was just myself, Pastor Dave, and a man named Wade. We met weekly for a time at the Cafe Firefly in downtown Algonquin. We didn’t discuss scripture much, just whatever was on our minds.

Most of the time I kept quiet, adding my two cents whenever it seemed they might be helpful.

Wade impressed me with how much he knew about what was going on in Algonquin. It wasn’t gossipy knowledge either…if something was going on that affected the town, Wade seemed to have a genuine interest in it. This passion of his was shared by Dave, who was always working through his thoughts for the next challenge in the church’s mission of sharing hope and adding value to the community.

He was reaching out to local businesses. He was talking with folks at the food pantry. He was developing relationships with folks at the school district. He kept asking how Lifeline Church could fit in with the community and help wherever help was needed. I was dumbfounded and impressed.

My sense of community suddenly expanded beyond just the three of us and the church. I had lived in Algonquin for over ten years and never once made the time to consider how I might add value to the community.

Sharing hope and adding value.

A mission so simple it might just work.

No voodoo. No heebie-jeebies. Even I could get on board with that.

By John R.