It’s hard to describe the comfort and awe I feel for my involvement in Church for Neighbors.
I moved to Portland a few months ago and I was not searching for a church community. I hadn’t been to church for years, and my faith was still there but definitely shaky. My new church community came to me through a spontaneous connection with a woman that has become a very special influence in my life. I know it was no coincidence, but part of an intentional life path I’m being guided on towards a life rich with love.
Before I got to Portland I had been craving a renewed connection to God and the church. I tried going to a sermon on my own while living in New York, but I ended up at a family’s baptism and left feeling really confused and disappointed, so I decided to keep doing my own thing. I’ve always preferred to experience the world independently, but a spiritual life has always been a constant thread and God had kept me going, providing revelations in moments I wasn’t sure what was next.
Despite my doubts I had been calling out to God pretty desperately before coming to Portland. I was in a really abusive relationship that I was having trouble getting out of, and as it got worse and my safety was threatened I was so exhausted and really wanted to just give up. But there were these signs from God that wouldn’t go away, nudging me to get out of this situation. I felt his presence so many times in very desperate and scary experiences, but it took a really long time to listen, let go and head towards healing.
I got to a breaking point that pushed me to take a leap of faith and move to Portland, OR on the other side of the country. I was so excited and nervous, and I started praying every day that I was making the right choice. In my heart I knew I was headed towards a happier life.
One day after work at my new job I was so exhausted and feeling kind of lonely because I still didn’t know too many people in the area. I got some groceries and headed to the train station with kale sticking out of my backpack. I sat down on a bench next to someone and was just daydreaming when a guy came up to me and started doing his “thang” (hitting on me). I started cracking a few jokes at him and just brushed him off. The girl next to me was cracking up the whole time, and when the train got to the station we sat next to each other and talked the whole way to our stops. When she told me she played guitar and sang at a local church I was so excited because music is a huge part of my life and she was also new to Portland. We exchanged numbers and she invited me over for dinner with a group of friends who were part of some type of church community. I didn’t really understand what it was, but I was really curious so I met her for Sunday night church at a house not too far from my own.
It’s funny how the universe brings us right to sources of love if we just let it. I was pretty nervous about going, but the moment I walked in I was flooded with this sense of love and security. The pastor, Cory, reminded me of one of my best friends from NY and it made me feel right at home. We ate and sang and read from the book of Psalms; I remember we talked about how God is guiding us even if we might not know how or why.
The wonderful feeling of family and safety I initially felt from this community has not changed one bit since I’ve continued going to church. I’m so impressed by the generosity and kindness from these people that hardly know me, but already treat me like I am one of their own. As someone who needs family around to feel a sense of belonging in this world, it’s hard to express (without tearing up) what it means to me for this community to open up their arms and offer me opportunities to grow. I was coming from a very dark situation and really needed positive light, and I found it.
I’m so excited to see how my relationship with God continues to evolve as I learn from Cory and everyone else that attends our Sunday night gathering. Experiencing God in a non-traditional way- doing church in a home where we can break bread together and be comfortable and intimate- has been a breath of fresh air in what traditionally has made me feel very anxious. There is no doubt in my mind that meeting Jenna on the max sparked a grand purpose in my life to join this community of people living with loving intentions and faith. This is a family.