I have been a Christian for a pretty long time. I think I really figured out that I was in love with Him when I was in 6th grade going on 7th, even though I 'rededicated' my life to Jesus at EVERY single retreat and revival I went to for the next five years after that (which means I have accepted Jesus enough times for me and a small African village). This also means I have been going to church very regularly for a very long time.
I primarily went to one church with my family in Toronto, but then a bunch of not-nice thing happened there, which coincided with my leaving the country, so I stopped going there. Then I went to a ginormous church in Seoul. Seriously ginormous- well into the thousands. That was good too. I knew a good number of the pastors, so I felt like I 'belonged' more than if no one on the pastoral staff knew who I was. Then I came to Arizona and we started going to Sun Valley Community Church, mostly because Robert, Chris' brother, is a pastor there.
And I have to say that being at Sun Valley has been absolutely amazing! I have made most of my best-friends-in-Arizona connections through this church, but my faith has seriously grown just by seeing the Holy Spirit at work in this place day in and day out. This last weekend was no exception.
So as I mentionned in my last post, an elder passed away during the Saturday night service. Though I didn't know him, I have the pleasure of calling his only daughter, Katherine, a friend of mine. She is presently preparing to be a full-time missionary in Africa. How amazing is that? Katherine is a serious go-getter type, but the best move she ever made was actively pursuing a relationship with her father. She has three brothers, and her dad wasn't all that close to any of his four kids while growing up. He loved them to be sure, but to have a deep and intimate relationship with your kids takes a lot of work- on both ends. And Katherine decided to do that work. And man did it pay off!
Apparently Katherine's dad went to be with the Lord right after taking communion. How crazy is that timing? Though the whole situation freaks me out some- it's also kind of amazing and almost makes me want to die at church while praising Jesus!
All the pastors and staff dealt with the situation amazingly, and I have to give it up for the Sun Valley pastors- cause they deal with every situation with such compassion and grace. After the elder was taken out of the sanctuary by the EMT, service continued and 100 people were baptized that night. The next day at the 3 following services, the pastors talked about the elder who had passed, we praised Jesus for the life that he lived, and 100s were baptized thereafter. Over 400 people were baptized this weekend! It was such a blessing to be able to witness even just a quarter of them! I have never cried so much- from sadness and elation, during a Sunday morning service before in my life. And boy was I glad I don't wear eye makeup, cause I would not have been prepared for that.
Even though Sun Valley is a pretty big church, the pastors try very hard to meet all their congregants and make everyone feel welcome. When small groups started out, the pastors went out to EVERY small group to meet all them members. On two separate occassions we had three pastors meet our group. Scott Ridout, the lead pastor, has been blessed with the gift of remembering people's names. After being in a home with us for about hal an hour, he showed off by going around the room and reciting everyone's names. There were two 'new' people there that I had met two or three times before and I still couldn't remember their names! I will probably never be the head pastor of a church...
Anyway, if you are new to the Valley, and you are looking for a place to worship the Lord (the music is a bit loud, but it's pretty great) and make amazing friends, and meet pastors who cry almost every Sunday while preaching because their hearts bleed for the lives of their congregants- I would strongly recommend Sun Valley.