This is part 2 of 3 in a series of posts about the churches that have impacted my life in big ways!
My family attended Heritage Baptist Church in Lebanon, OH from the time I was in fifth grade on. When we began attending the church, we met in a small home/store on Main Street. In the next few years, we would congregate in a school gymnasium, a store front, and finally, our own church building. Heritage was an exciting place to be! It was fun to be a part of a church that was growing quickly. The classes were small and intimate, and I was able to develop close friendships within the church. In junior high and high-school, I was a part of the youth group. Though in just 6 years I sat under the leadership of 3 different youth pastors and many different youth workers, each had great influence in my life. The youth group always had a great balance of fun/spiritual teaching that made me want to come back every week! While I may not have realized it at the time, this was a big learning time for me. I spent time in youth workers’ home just having a good time and being loved on like crazy! At the same time, I was being taught Biblical principles that applied to all areas of my life. I can’t imaging going through the transitional teen years without a firm foundation of truth in my life, and the teaching in the pulpit and in the youth group was just that for me at this pivotal time. I was able to see my parents get involved in the church, and the effects of this could be seen in my home on a daily basis. We were all truly being fed and growing as a family. I learned that being a Christian wasn’t about doing all the right things but that it was about wanting to do all the right things because you are so in love with Jesus!
The Lord also used Heritage as a time to warm up my heart towards a life lived for the sake of the gospel. I attended a short-term missions camp at King’s Domain with my youth group when I was a junior in high-school.The money we raised to attend this camp paid for at-risk urban children to spend the week at with us. This was the first time I witnessed a real, obvious need of the gospel. Most of the children knew nothing about the Lord. Many of the children lived in families where violence reigned and love was something they had rarely, if ever, experienced. My heart broke for these children, and everything inside of me wanted them to know Jesus. I was only able to spend a week with these children, but this week forever changed my life. I realized there is no better feeling than knowing God used you to bring someone to the knowledge of his saving grace. I realized that I can’t assume that everyone around me knows about Jesus, and I learned that serving Him with the right attitude can be FUN (even if it involves scrubbing toilets and cleaning up after 5 year olds). God used people I respected at this camp to encourage me to consider ministry in my future plans. Of course, I was already thinking about it because I was in love with Paul Taube who was going to the mission field with or without me! But this was just the thing I needed to encourage me. I never wanted to go just because of him. I wanted to want to go because of Him! And this week played a big role in changing my mindset about the mission field.
I continued to grow in my faith my senior year and developed a close relationship with the new youth leaders at the end of that year. I saw a church family come together with the loss of a teen just a few years younger than me, and, the Biblical truth that life is a vapor really became real to me. I needed to live for the Lord today, and I needed to live in light of eternity.
I am incredibly grateful for Heritage Baptist for caring for the youth like me when it seems like we don’t care about anything but ourselves. I learned so much during these formative years, and I was encouraged in my personal relationship with the Lord. I know He used my time there to help me to commit my life into His hands, to allow Him to do what he would with my life. Here I am, living the most rich, blessing-filled life I can imagine, and I can attribute being here, in part, to Heritage Baptist Church!