We often include a segment of our weekend worship hours entitled “From The congregation” in which someone in our church family will share a short story concerning their spiritual journey.
People try out new churches for all sorts of reasons—location, service times, contemporary services, a friend’s invitation—but did it ever cross your mind that the communion elements can make a difference? Well, if you’ve had a problem with alcohol in your life, even a bit of communion wine can be a concern. That’s one of the things that Ray A. had to consider when looking for a church in 1985. A recovering addict, he was looking for a church that served grape juice instead of wine. Bloomingdale Church fit the bill.
His first impression of Pastor David was in sandals and a robe with a big walking stick, preaching as the Apostle Paul. Ray questioned the churches’ financial status and wondered if Pastor David couldn’t afford a better wardrobe. (Ray quickly came to learn that Pastor David has a talent for bringing his messages to life, whether it be in biblical costume or even on a ten-speed bicycle!)
Fast forward to 2015 and Ray and his wife, Cathy, have made Bloomingdale Church their home for 30 years. Approximately six years ago, Ray started an open 12-step Recovery Group that focuses on the God of the Bible as the “higher power” of the traditional 12-step groups.
“It is an open meeting, so all are welcome. We are a fellowship of men and women who use Jesus Christ as our higher power to recover physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually by sharing our experiences, strengths, and hopes,” said Ray. “I believe there are two types of people in this world—those in recovery or those in denial—and if you are not working on your recovery (that’s your relationship with God) you’re working on your relapse.” The group meets after the Saturday night service in the lower level of the district building, across the parking lot from the church.
“We had little to no attendance until we moved it to the lower level of the north building, where people could sneak in and out unnoticed.”
Aside from leading the recovery group, Ray is involved with the Saturday morning men’s prayer group and feels like his week is missing something if he doesn’t make it in. He also really enjoyed participating in Alpha.
Talking about the early days of Bloomingdale Church, Ray reminisces back to a time when there was a balcony in the back of the sanctuary, and he and Cathy enjoyed “sneaking” up there to enjoy coffee during the service.
When asked about any special friends at Bloomingdale Church, Ray mentioned long-time member Walt M. The two are together during Saturday morning men’s prayer time. “There is just something about the way he prays that gets to me.”
Ray and Cathy live in Wheaton. Ray started his own drywall company in 1990, calling it R.A.C.E. Drywall Inc., using his first and middle initials (Ray Arnold) and his wife’s first and middle initials (Cathy Elizabeth). In 2005 Ray got licensed as an Illinois Realtor (which he’s particularly proud of, since he was a high school dropout).
Ray was raised by a single father who worked to prove to Ray and his siblings that God did not exist and if, just by chance, there was a God, we should have no part of Him, because He is cruel and unjust.
Today Ray has these words to share: “Bloomingdale Church, for my life, has showed me that everyone (no matter where you come from, or what nationality you are, or what position you hold in life) will suffer from a habit, hurt, or hang-up; but you’re not alone, and God will walk side by side with you if you let Him.”
Our Neighbors: sharing stories of Bloomingdale Church people.
With 31 teenagers and 7 leaders, our Youth Group OnMission team served the South Elgin community.
“We are all hoping that we can accomplish what God has sent us hear (sic) to do, have a fun time, and spread the word about Christ.” -Josh V.
“Even through all the hard work and sweat we put into these mission trips, It is 100% worth it.” -Trinity F.
“I thought it was cool how people even skipped lunch and worked later than they had to just to get more work done. This would be a type of trip that I would do again.” –Michelle H.
“During this trip I learned a lot about God and about his love. I grew in my relationship with [Him] so much. Everyone that came on the trip worked really hard and we got most of the stuff done.” -Jeremy H.
- We rebuilt and landscaped a whole new playground area and weeded all the gardens.
- We painted the church entry way and repainted the church sign.
- We led neighborhood kids through a Day Camp in a local park with five new families. (Surprisingly, for our first day, no kids showed up. We took this opportunity to stop and pray asking God what He wanted us to do next. It was clear from the teens responses that God was leading us to still bring Day Camp to this community. So we split up to run more fliers, prayed, and set up at a local park where kids saw us and joined in.)
Our students learned what it means to trust God in real time, and how easy it is to do great things this close to home. For more trip stories and student blog quotes, check out storiesof.us/soelgin.
For years you would see me and my whole family at the early Sunday worship hour. Same spot each week. In 2010 my wife asked me for a divorce and my world started to crumble around me. Three of our four kids wanted little/nothing to do with me. I faced huge compiling debts, and my young business was failing, forcing me to go on unemployment. I stopped eating, could barely sleep and was sad and cried every day. That was my life while going through my divorce, It was bad. Perhaps you know people that have gone through a divorce. Prior to this experience, I had multiple relatives and friends go through a divorce, and to be honest, my reaction was pretty lame. You may just as well told me it was going to rain. I had no idea how devastating it was. Until you experience a divorce, it’s hard to relate.
So please permit me to try to help us all relate to divorce. You know the feeling you get when you get pulled over by the police? It’s similar when you have a police officer serve you court papers at your home or work. Do you know what its like to go to court? Any legal battle can be daunting. It is awful when your family, and all of your possessions are at stake. Do you know what its like to have a loved one pass away? Its not exactly the same, but to me losing my wife I loved felt like becoming a widow. How about the experience of being a social outcast? When I was going through the divorce, I felt like I had no place to fit in. Not with families, not with my single friends, and it seemed like everyone we ever knew picked a side, and I lost touch with the people that picked the other side. Have you ever experienced tough financial times? That awful feeling when you don’t know how you are going to make the house payment, or the car payment, or buy groceries. The legal costs for a divorce are oppressive. There’s your lawyer, your spouse’s lawyer and even a lawyer for your kids. Plus now you have two households, two house payments and two sets of utility bills. Imagine if you had to pay a huge legal bill, and if all of your bills doubled each month. Picture walking up to the house you and your family have lived in for years. Inside is the typical gathering of friends and family present to celebrate a birthday. You go the front door and knock and have to wait for someone to let you in.
Imagine day after day, week after week, dropping your kids off and telling them that you will see them on the next scheduled visitation. Worrying if something happens on the off day, that you will not be there for them. Imagine becoming an empty nester after every other visitation. One day, a full house, the next day an empty one. Imagine after being married and faithful to your spouse for years, and wanting things to stay that way, but you cannot hang on to it!
Divorce is awful. And I went from barely noticing when someone was going through a divorce, to being painfully aware and empathic to how much turmoil a person in that situation is facing.
I was blessed to have the support of my church and my family when I was struggling so much. I am also hopeful for others since Bloomingdale Church will be offering a divorce care group.
We were not created to handle burdens by ourselves. I tried counseling – it didn’t solve my problems. I talked to friends/family, but often they couldn’t relate. Unfortunately our world offers plenty of poor decisions, like hit the bars, overwork yourself, become a recluse, or Jump into another relationship.
What I needed was a safe environment, some honest people I could relate to, a group of people to share and struggle together through these issues
This is what the Divorce Care group is all about:
- Its an inviting, inclusive group coming together to help each other in this ugly situation.
- It’s relational, sharing unique problems that most people don’t understand.
- Its an opportunity for growth, change, development, restoration.
Now over five years after my wife asked me for a divorce, I can tell you that I am truly blessed. My life has stabilized around me. My journey has provided me with some amazing stories of God’s love, some really wonderful friends, and a closeness to God that I only experienced in these troubled times.