(Editor’s Note: Did you know that we are approaching the biggest single day for church attendance, each year? On Christmas Eve, millions of Americans visit local churches, often for the first time. It’s true—Christmas Eve now eclipses Easter for record attendance. So, this week, we are publishing Suzy Farbman’s true story about what happened when one woman visited a church …)
Though Jan had been struggling in her marriage for a few years, she never confided her problems to anyone. Then this special ed para pro (teacher assistant) and mom of grown children had lunch with an old friend. Jan had babysat for Francene’s children 40-some years ago.
“It just felt right to open up,” she says. Francene offered to take her in if she needed a place to stay.
Several months later, Jan called Francene. Could she still move in?
“Absolutely,” Fran said. Divorced for a while, Francene understood what Jan was going through. She welcomed the company and the help with household bills. “I felt at peace in her home,” Jan says. “I could breathe more easily. The tension drained out of my body. I could be who God wanted me to be, myself. It was as though God brought me here to regain my spirit.”
Strolling around the gated community in a warm rain, admiring homes that backed up to a lake, Jan passed a limo waiting for a bridal party. The driver greeted her. She explained her reason for being there. He admitted to going through the same challenge. “I didn’t feel so alone,” she says.
Francene suggested Jan borrow her bike and explore the neighborhood. So doing, she passed a large church. Days later, she attended a service at Cross of Christ Lutheran Church in Bloomfield Hills, MI. A fellow worshiper offered to show her around. An older couple in the pew next to her introduced themselves and welcomed her. A younger couple on the other side revealed they lived near the house she’d recently left. Their children had attended Barnard Elementary school in Troy, MI, where Jan once worked. They embraced her; said they drove 11 miles to attend this church. “Because of the warmth of the people I met; I understood.”
The pastor invited her to take communion even though she was Catholic. Then Faith, a learning disabled child (daughter of the senior pastor), came up and held her hand. Because she works with special needs kids, Jan says, “I almost cried.”
Jan says, “At a time I was feeling lost and alone, it was as though I’d adopted a new family. God spoke to me as I biked past this church. I found my new home. Now when I attend, I go early. These special new friends sit with me and give me hugs, which God knows I need now.”
According to a Swedish proverb: Shared joy is a double joy; shared sorrow is half a sorrow.
Jan is living, and loving, proof.
(I love hearing your Godsigns stories, whether serious or lighthearted. Thanks for sharing them.)