A True Story: Christ Comes to Trevor
This morning it is our joy to publish an encouraging letter about the providential and unseen working of God through the gospel. The following note, recently received, is shared with permission and the author's name has been changed. We continue in our prayers, with you, for additional stories of God's favor toward His people.
My name is Trevor, and I wanted to tell you a pretty unique story about my personal spiritual journey and how relevant Redemption Hill is, despite the fact that I've not only never attended your church, but I haven't attended any single church service for about 14 years.
I grew up in a Catholic family and was baptized (not immersed) Catholic as a child. My parent's weren't nearly as devout as my grandmothers were, so we would go to mass here and there. The problem was I never understood the Mass. My father spoke Spanish and my mother spoke Portuguese. I speak English. Going to Mass was not only a chore in my young life, but an hour of just being present in a place of worship. At the age of 11, my parents enrolled me to receive my First Communion...in Spanish. As you can imagine, the struggle of going to Saturday night classes and not being able to communicate put me in quite the predicament. This was just another unfortunate chore that I was merely a present body. I had no idea how to make a confession, say the act of contrition, or describe what exactly the Eucharist was.
I was so disappointed with the process, I had no intention of voluntarily going back. I didn't even go back for Confirmation. And as the bad news mounted about the misconduct of the Catholic Priests, I unofficially renounced myself of the faith. At such a young age, that renouncement was probably more out of spiritual sloth than anything else. And as time went on I grew comfortable in my ways. I prioritized my own needs and desires and enjoyed my Sundays to myself. Life dealt me a difficult hand at home, where I briefly questioned the existence of a God and spent years being indifferent towards Him.
At some point less than four years ago, I was on my way to work and on my usual commute. I got off at Wellington Station and near the entrance were a few school-aged girls and their mother's handing out a 5-pack of gum and a card. As I took it from a young girl, I moved over to the parking lot to smoke a cigarette and looked at the card. It said “Redemption Hill Church”. My initial reaction was something along the lines of 'that's a pretty cool name for a church. And what a unique way to evangelize.' I was enjoying my spiritual laziness, though. But I was never able to shake that memory off, and I don't think I even wanted to.
Years went on and I was still in that funk, until about four-ish months ago. Out of nowhere, what I can only describe as a message from the Holy Spirit that it was time to seriously discern. I entered into religious exploration that involved re-examining my Catholic roots, the Orthodox Church, Judaism, Mormonism, Islam, and other Christian churches. I ruled out Islam and Judaism very quickly, because despite the years of negligence, I had a reason to believe Jesus Christ is my Savior. I began listening to Catholic apologetics and listening to a hilarious podcast of someone called “The Catholic Guy”. The apologetics didn't speak to me or leave me knowing more than the little I already knew. The questions I had about praying to Mary and canonized people and the stairs to climb to communicate with God were answered in a manner that didn't seem to be coming from scripture. “The Catholic Guy” however did convince me to do something. For the first time in 13 years, I went to my local parish and made a confession. Something still did not feel right. I didn't feel any closer to God doing that. I felt more in tune praying directly to God without a script. And I certainly didn't stick around for the English Mass afterwards. I got the feeling that I was doing this only out of continuing family tradition. I felt as if the Holy Spirit was trying to tell me that I need to discern further.
I did keep listening to “The Catholic Guy”, and I added a few more podcasts to my line-up of local church planters' sermons, including your own. I work the third shift, so I spend an easy 8+ hours listening to the variety. The Catholic Guy made me laugh, but others and yourself at Redemption Hill created these incredible sermons that spoke to me. I knew that I was heading into the right direction.
On the Catholic comedy podcast, the host invited someone referred to as the “Bible Geek”. The host asked him something along the lines of pointing to parts of the Bible that were entertaining. He pointed to Galatians 5:12, where Paul says, “I wish those agitators would go so far as to castrate themselves!” And like the Redemption Hill card and gum, this also stuck with me. Being bible-illiterate, I had no idea what the context was of this verse. The aforementioned Bible Geek did mention that this was because of the confusion among the people as to whether they should get baptized or circumcised.
About two months later, I still felt spiritually confused. One night, I made a mental note to myself that I need to pray for more guidance once I got home from work. I saw that I downloaded a Christian apologetics podcast and proceeded to play it. And what was the host talking about?: Galatians 5. Of all things in the Bible, this played. The host was hammering in the point that this verse is one of many that show that we are saved by faith and not by works. What the Catholic Bible Geek didn't mention was Paul reacting to the people with a pun of “You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love.” It was at this moment that I realized exactly why I felt nothing as a lapsed Catholic. The legalism severs the relationship, because if you seek salvation through works, then did Jesus not die for all? I received the free gift of salvation from God not because of who I am or what I've done, but because of his grace. Jesus died for all of our sins and I cannot repay him. It would be arrogant to say my salvation depends on me or that I was the one that found Jesus. He chose me. It was this moment I knew what it meant to be born again of the spirit.
As the gears were working in my head, I knew I had to start the significant step of church shopping! I thought of you, but I had to know if Redemption Hill had a statement of faith that aligned with the major puzzle pieces that just got put together. And sure enough, the church did. And this beautiful but mentally exhausting experience was sparked by a pack of gum and a card about your new church almost four years ago.
As I have not yet attended your church, I look forward to going this coming Sunday. I look forward to hearing about the steps to becoming a member of your church, becoming a part of the church family, and strengthening my relationship with Jesus Christ.
I thank you so much for time and what you continue to do.
God Bless. -Trevor