Originally published September 14, 2016
Six years ago, many things within the small life that I lead now were so incredibly different. I know it maybe strange to some but just for a minute, I would like to write a farewell letter to HOPE.
We came to you, six years ago, broken. Our lives were tattered like a sail on a boat that floats in the breeze. Six years ago, the lives you see before you, the lives that have worshiped God and raised our children and coached bible quizzing and helped in Sunday School, those lives were broken. We came to you, that first Sunday, a married couple on the brink of separation. We may have walked in together but we lead very different lives. We were hurt and confused and I…… yes I….. was angry.
I wish I could say we walked into the church and it felt like home but the truth was, it felt like a trial. It was one. I was putting y’all on trial to win my hope. While we may have been broken and bruised, what we found in HOPE Center was a hospital. We entered the church and were immediately hugged, hands were shook and words like “We are so glad you are here” were said. When I looked in the eyes of the ladies who had hugged me, I knew they were truly glad we were there that morning. You see, until HOPE, I cringed at affection. I was a Midwestern gal born and raised and we shook hands. This “southern hospitality” thing would need to end with an appropriate amount of affection followed by a gentle “Good morning”. Instead, upon entering, I was hugged so tight and with so much warmth that it left me speechless. When the second women came up and greeted me, she air kissed my cheek while she hugged me. I was stunned.
And it hurt.
The pain I carried like a child’s blanket around me had created an exterior so hard, it was more like a shell than a blanket. When that first greater hugged me, it cracked that shell almost instantly and let love start to seep in. Love I didn’t know I needed or even wanted.
What we wanted was a simple place to worship God and only create a relationship that was just so deep. We had been living on ground bread and water for years, so it was hard to digest the meat and potatoes we began getting every Sunday. What we found instead, was a church following a Shepard that was following God. The Shepard and our pastor didn’t just get up each Sunday and say something nice and walked away, content on living out the week. He did exactly what he taught us, living out by example he put before us. It wasn’t long before we were invited to a Thanksgiving meal that would change the course of our family history. I remember sitting across from our pastor as he turned to Mr B and said to us “so were do you want to serve?”
It was such a simple request and yet it was so poignant. Where would you like to serve Christ? No one had ever asked us that. I mean, sure we were asked to teach Sunday school or help sing in the choir, but no one had ever looked at us and asked us what talents we thought would best be used by God. It was an earth shattering question to ask a couple newly back together. The 7 years we had been married up to coming to HOPE Center had been long and hard. With infertility issues, loss of children and faith in God lost, we had come to HOPE Center looking for something to fill a gap we couldn’t cross. We were put into a position that felt right but yet was challenging. Soon, we were running a classroom full of kindergarten through second graders. We watched the children’s ministry grow from 11 kids to over 35 in one short year. We not only grew together as a teaching couple, we grew together as a married couple. We attended classes that were meant to help heal our marriage and slowly, surely, we became more of a unit and less as separate ships gliding along together. We felt needed and wanted and most importantly, we felt loved. We went from one small classroom to a large classroom filled with happiness, shenanigans and Jesus. We went from the classroom to coaching bible quizzing.
But while the right position in a church is important, it was the people that we fell in love with the most. Where most were judgmental, our church was accepting. Where the world was hard, our church was soft. While others tore each other down, our church built each other up. They recognized hard work and gave everyone opportunities to shine in the talents God had given them. It was there, in the light, we let go of the darkness that had held our marriage hostage and we step into the grace we had read about.
HOPE healed us. It was the place we needed. God moved us to San Antonio for one reason, to move us toward him. I learned, as a women of faith, was that bible study is important, daily prayer was needed much like breathing but people….. people need to know they are important to you. The need to be cared for, appreciated and hugged on a regular basis.
Every single time I saw my Pastor’s wife she was living the words of Titus 2:3-5 ;
“Older women, likewise, are to be reverent in their behavior, not slanderers or addicted to much wine, but teachers of good. In this way they can teach the young women to love their husbands and their children. To be self-controlled, pure, managers of their households, kind, and subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be discredited.” She would show how to treat other and in turn our church ladies were kind and helpful to each other.
I realize this is more of a love letter to our home church but I will say this, one day, when we return to Texas, I will be able to say thank you HOPE Center for showing us what it meant to be a true Christian. Thank you for helping to heal us and to helping show us how to love others so that we could go and be the caring light somewhere else. But until then I will carry with me the memory of dancing at the altar, the laughter of ladies retreats, the long talks of phone calls about everything from babies to God’s Grace, the warmth of my Pastor’s home, the love of my home church and the copious amounts of tacos and crawfish eaten.
Lastly, I pray that one day I am able to thank each and every single women who has touched my heart at HOPE Center. Until then, I say…… I pray I am able to decorate a banquet table like Ruthie T. That I am able to laugh and pray and stand in the gap like Cerice O and Christina R. I pray I am able to show the hospitality of Terry M and Irma R. I pray I can go from English to Spanish like Sarah-Jane. I hope I am able to make a friend as strong and courageous as Elizabeth. But most importantly, if I ever get the microphone, I pray I am able to always sneak a preach like my Bebe.
It maybe a farewell to HOPE….. HOPE Center Church………but it is a start of a new beginning here in Florida.
A farewell to HOPE but a hello to Grace.
The Cutting Family
PS: If you need a church experience like no other and are in San Antonio Texas, check out:
HOPE Center Church
4545 North Loop 1604 W
San Antonio, TX 78249
Phone: (210) 764-3100
Pastor Nathan Scoggins and First Lady Bertha Scoggins
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