Writing this post has been on my mind for a few days, at least, but I knew that this post would take some time and I didn’t want to spend that time away from Brendan. And maybe it would be more ideal if I could have said what I am about to say in person, but believe it or not, I am a super shy girl. Hopefully, posting the words on this blog post will be the next best thing. Here goes.
I first attended Daystar Church of God when I was just fourteen years old. My boyfriend at the time (Mark) and his family attended this church and I attended with him at times. However, if I am being honest, I did not go to church to learn about God or strengthen my relationship with Him, I went to church because that meant that I would spend time with my boyfriend and his family. I loved the church members, they were sweet as can be but I had zero connection with God. I didn’t grow up attending church and as much as I wanted to believe in God, I am not sure that I actually did.
Years went by and Mark and I broke up. I began dating someone else and after ten months of dating, I became pregnant. He was the first guy that I had ever become intimate with. We (kind of) practiced safe sex, my birth control pills were making me sick, so I didn’t take them every day, but Ryan used protection…news flash: condoms don’t always work. Oh and at the time that we conceived, I had been really sick so my grandmother gave me an antibiotic to take and I had no idea that it counteracted with birth control. So, I already wasn’t taking them right (and I was very forthcoming about this with Ryan, he knew that I was struggling with taking them), so when I took the antibiotic, that made the pills even less effective. All of this is to say that if it is in God’s will for you to have a baby, you are going to have a baby. And I did. I was seventeen years old and pregnant.
Ryan and I kept the secret to ourselves for a couple of months. Oh…and I need to also add that even though Mark and I were no longer together, we remained friends and I was still very close with his mom, Mrs. Pam. Mrs. Pam was one of the first people that I told that I was expecting and the very first day that I told her, she suggested that I call her pastor, Luther Strickland, who also counseled families at his church. Luther contacted me that night, I was already familiar with him because of me going to his church in the past. My mom and I attended several counseling sessions with Luther and we attended church a few Sundays, but it didn’t last long. I was only seventeen and it felt so awkward talking to anyone about something so personal. Also, I still didn’t have a connection with God, even though I desired one, I just had no clue where to turn. I was so lost.
A year or so after I gave birth to my baby boy, my mom, my cousin, and my aunt began attending Daystar Church again. Brendan would go with them a lot too. I was nineteen years old when I began attending Harvest Cathedral Church on the regular and I was saved a few weeks after attending. I began to have a real relationship with God and it was the most wonderful feeling to have that connection. However, through the years, I also attended Daystar occasionally and I began to really trust Pastor Luther. He began to become a grandfather figure in my life. When I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, he supported me one hundred percent. Luther stood by my side before early morning surgeries in Atlanta. He prayed with me. He prayed FOR me. He fasted in my name. Luther was just a very positive presence in my life. Sadly, Luther became very sick in 2012 and he died October 31, 2012. I remember trying to be so happy for Brendan because it was Halloween and we were going Trick or Treating, but I just wasn’t in the spirit, at all.
Their were several people who pastored at Daystar after Luther passed away but for whatever reason they would not stay or they became sick and had to step down; sadly, one pastor passed away. However, I just didn’t connect with anyone like I connected with Luther. Daystar just didn’t seem the same without him…and it wasn’t. This is why when my mom came home from church one day and told me that she really liked a new pastor at the church, I wasn’t surprised. My mom liked all of them, so I didn’t think that this pastor, whose name is Robbie was going to stand out much. However, Brendan and I began coming to church and we really liked him as a person. Brendan got saved shortly after Robbie took on the position as pastor. Before Brendan’s baptismal, Robbie pulled me aside and asked me who Brendan’s favorite NASCAR driver was and on the morning that Brendan was baptized, he gifted Brendan with a few NASCAR shirts, it was a very kind gesture, that Brendan and I both very much appreciated.
I became to really enjoy Robbie’s style of preaching, I felt like he really connected with his fellow members of the church, and I also felt like Pastor Robbie spoke in a way that most people could relate to. There have many times that I have been to church and after the service is over I feel like everything that was said just went way over my head, I am like, “what in the WORLD did this person just say?”. However, because Robbie spoke in a way that was relatable, I didn’t feel like this at all with him. Because of the connection Robbie had with the members, little by little, the church began to grow.
Unfortunately, in 2015 I began to get sicker with my Crohn’s (you can read a little about that struggle here). I was transported to GRU Hospital in Augusta (formerly Medical College of Georgia) and the plan from the very beginning was to do surgery. I knew that I was not going to get better without surgery so to finally find a surgeon who agreed to perform the surgery for me was just a blessing. I ended up being in the hospital over ninety days, if my math is right, that equals 13 weeks. I was a sick girl. I was drained both emotionally and physically. I missed Brendan immensely. I was scared. For the most part, I was alone, hours away from home. I was a mess.
One of the biggest blessings in life are those people who walk into your life at the perfect time, times when you need them the most, and they are able to make even the most tragic circumstances seem not so bad. These people are like a breath of fresh air to be around, they can brighten your mood with just their presence. Pastor Robbie and his wife Lisa are these kind of people. Robbie and Lisa drove hours to visit me at least every week, they probably spent close to eighty hours traveling in the car to see me over the summer, that is a lot of hours! Before I got so sick over the summer, I knew that Robbie and Lisa were great people with huge hearts for Christ, however, I had no idea how much of an impact that they would one day make in my life.
Robbie and Lisa could have arrived to my hospital room and just knelt down beside me, prayed with me and then left…and that would have been just fine. Although, this was not the case by far. I have been to churches in the past where members are lucky to get in a prayer request before the sermon and where the pastor had no clue what was going on in the personal lives of most of the members. Our church is NOT one of those churches. Robbie serves. Him and Lisa would arrive to see me each week and go way above and beyond to make sure that I was well taken care of. They would bring me food (which you know was more than amazing if you have ever had to eat hospital food), Lisa helped bathe me, they made sure that I had the things that I needed (toiletries…pens…notebook paper), they brought me flowers, balloons, my favorite drink (Diet Dr. Pepper), they laughed with me, held my hand as I cried, pushed the button to my pain pump when I hurt too bad to move, they helped me walk, they were my voice, and most importantly, they prayed over me. Oh, and they made sure that the church covered my family’s hotel expenses. This was another huge blessing. I don’t even want to think about what my hospital experience would have been like if those two people had not been there for me.
Robbie demonstrates the love that God has for us by pouring in his time, his resources, his spirit, his money, and his love, to the good of others. He doesn’t just stand up at the front of the church every Sunday and then call it a day, instead he steps up every single day to help and be there for others. The way that he lives is such a testimony to his faith. The sacrifice for others that Robbie and Lisa both make is huge
Pastor Luther Strickland’s dream as a pastor was for the church to grow, especially in terms of the youth. I respect Luther so much but because he didn’t preach in a way that many younger people could understand or relate to, the youth attendance was never high, actually it was almost non-existent. I would love for Luther to have witnessed, in the flesh, the growth and changes that Daystar has undergone since his passing but that just wasn’t God’s will. However, the direction that Robbie has led the church in since he took over as the lead pastor has been really great and I am proud to be a part of it. At the end of the day, we’re all sinners, sinners standing at the foot of the cross, because of this, I am very grateful to have both Robbie and Lisa encouraging me through this crazy life. My prayer is for everyone to have great people like these two in there corner in life, knowing that I have their love and support is an awesome thing!