Healing Happens Here
Faith Stories from St. John's Presbyterian Church in Houston
Early Records and Remembrances
On Sunday, November 6, 1955, 25 persons gathered together, with one desire in their hearts, to form a Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. in Southwest Houston.
St. John's Presbyterian Church was one of only a few Northern Presbyterian Churches in Houston, Texas. It was formally organized by the Presbytery of Houston on Sunday, April 8, 1956, with 34 members. The congregation decided at their first meeting that the Charter Membership Roll "had not been closed”. It was not closed until December 31, 1956. At the end of 1956 there were 156 communicant members. The first pastor was Rev. Ewing McPhail, who had spent nearly two decades in building up the First Presbyterian Church of Baytown, Texas.
The group that became St. John's began meeting in the Bellaire Community building. On September 4, 1956 the newly formed church moved to the Westbury Water District Building on Chimney Rock and continued there until the fall of 1958 when the Church moved to Bellaire High School.
Largely through the efforts of Mr. Kermit Shimeall, a charter Elder, a 3.75 acre site was reserved on the corner of West Bellfort Avenue and Balmforth Lane. The Church, at a Congregational Meeting on August 21, 1959, purchased an adjacent 2.46 acres from the Meyerland Company, thus completing our present 6.2 acre site.
On Sunday, October 5, 1958, the ground-breaking ceremony for the Fellowship Hall and Educational Building I was held, with the address being given by Dr. Elmer Ferguson, Pastor Emeritus of the Central Presbyterian Church of Houston. Mr. Luther Smith was Chairman of the Building Committee. On April 15, 1959 St. John's became a self-supporting Church with a communicant membership of 355 and a Church School enrollment of 500.
The landscaping, much of which we still enjoy today was given by Mr. and Mrs. Paul (Betty) Robinson in memory of his parents. (The notes above were taken from the book REMEMBRANCES OF ST. JOHN'S PRESBYTERIAN, U.S.A. 1956-1996)
Just pretend you’ve never heard of St. John’s Presbyterian Church in Houston. How would your life be different? Would it be richer or poorer? Would it be better or worse? Or would it be about the same? These are the kinds of questions we asked as we celebrated our 60th anniversary in 2016. Only you can say how this church has or has not changed your life.
I want you to think about what St. John’s means to you because it will cause you to be thankful. Perhaps you raised your children here. Perhaps you celebrated the life of your beloved spouse in the sanctuary and had a reception in McPhail Hall. Or you may be just considering putting your toe in the water here and are wondering what it would be like to be part of this faith community.
This book was written for you. In it people like you reflect on what this church has meant to them. Some of the stories are short. Some are long. All of them are true stories. May this book inspire you to greater faith and service. May it give you a glimpse into the lives of some of the Christians in this faith community. None of us claim to perfect because St. John’s is an imperfect church with an imperfect pastor.
Yet, God somehow still lives here and every once in a while it seems love peaks through the veil and winks at us. Here are some stories of how that has happened here. Each of these stories begins with the name of the person telling the story. Since I’m the current pastor here, let’s begin with my story.
Pastor Jon Burnham
You might be surprised to know that ever since I've been 13 years old, all I wanted to be involved in is urban ministry. St. John's is located in an urban setting at 5020 West Bellfort Avenue in Houston, TX. The first time I heard about St. John's came when I was seeking a new church. So over the course of several months of conversation with the Pastor Nominating Committee, the possibility developed for me to become pastor at St. John's and it seemed like a natural fit.
I'm not sure you know it but another connection between me and St. John's came about when I was 3 years old. It is about that time that I got it in my mind that when I grew up I wanted to be a missionary to Africa. As things have developed thus far, my life dream never came true. However, I do find some sense of ironic fascination in that there are several families in this congregation from Africa. In a sense these African families are missionaries to me in the United States. So this is another way that my life journey connects with St. John's in Houston.
Gradually over the past 10 years or so we have accomplished many things. We have remodeled and upgraded our buildings including installing a rest room in McPhail Hall, refurbishing the Session Room, and installing the floors in Building One and Two. We have installed a state of the art sound system and video screen in the sanctuary and have installed a new a new organ in the sanctuary. We have an organic community garden blooming on our beautiful campus now. Perhaps the biggest upgrade has come in the gorgeous addition to our campus of our 4 high quality duplexes that house our Single Parent Family Ministry.
We now have 4 beautiful duplexes on our campus. They house 7 single parent families and 1 full-time social worker. This project was paid for, organized and staffed by one of the highest quality nonprofits in the nation. I'm talking about the Presbyterian Children's Home and Services (PCHAS) Our partnership with PCHAS over the past 10 years has blossomed and manifested in one of the most creative and effective ministries of any church in America.
Personally my wife Jana and I have been blessed to have our family here. Houston has been a great city in which to rear our two children. They have had access to a very high
quality public school education. The cultural and diversity options they have experienced in the course of their daily lives have been of the sort that can only be experienced in a cosmopolitan city such as Houston. My wife and I are very grateful for the opportunity to rear our children in the city and in this congregation.
St. John's Presbyterian Church has been and remains a very caring, generous and supportive faith community for me and my family. I came here when the previous pastor had died after only a few months of service as pastor. It was a period of shock, anger and grief in the life of the church. Together we worked through that and have come out on the other side a stronger congregation.
One of the things I've always appreciated about St. John's is the emphasis on mission and the high quality of the volunteer leaders. We are blessed with a highly committed, missional community of Jesus believers. I've seen more mission work accomplished by this church than at any other church I've ever been associated with or known about.
As I think of the mission minded people I’ve known here, I remember people such as Dr. Jack Westmoreland who was instrumental in the Braes Interfaith Ministries after his retirement from practicing medicine. I remember Phyllis and John Freeman who led our mission for many years and established us as a missional church. I think of Leonie Tchoconte who has been on so many mission trips and brought so many people to our church. These are but a few of the mission minded members of St. John's. There are other missional members who are too numerous to name.
One of the things I like about St. John's is the way we are connected to our Presbytery and the denomination. St. John's started out as a Northern Presbyterian Church back in the era when there was a Northern and a Southern Presbyterian Church. We were one of the few Northern Presbyterian Churches in the Houston area. I think that orientation of the Northern Presbyterian Church toward working closely with the Presbytery and trusting the connectional nature of our church system has helped us in the years that we have been serving the community. The Presbytery of New Covenant and over the past 10 years Presbytery Executive Mike Cole have been key partners to us in our effective ministry in this community. The more we work closely within our denominational system the more we grow and develop in faith and effectiveness in ministry.
In looking ahead toward the next 60 years I think when we made the decision to move forward with the single-parent family ministry on our campus, we decided at that time that we would stay in this location and be doing ministry in the name of Christ right here for the next 60 years. Allow me to say that unless Jesus returns before then, I fully expect St. John's Presbyterian Church will still be here 60 years from now reaching out in the name of Christ, glorifying God, making disciples, and meeting human needs. Thank you for this opportunity to walk alongside you as your pastor for these past 10 year or so.
Thank you again for your generosity to me and my family. I look forward to seeing what great things God has in store for St. John’s Presbyterian Church over the next 60 years. What would it be like for you to be part of a vibrant, faithful, Christian congregation that is not pretentious but is fun, laughing, playing together and doing significant service in the name and spirit of Jesus Christ? You really should join me in remembering what a blessing this congregation has been to you and your family. I want you to join me in continuing to support St. John’s Presbyterian Church as we move forward in faith for the next 60 years.
In the fall of 1958, my family and I moved into this neighborhood. My husband, Dr. Jack Westmoreland, had a patient who was his friend named Travis Brown, husband of Eleanor Brown. When Travis learned that we were moving near his neighborhood he asked Jack about his religious denomination, and then informed Jack that he too was a Presbyterian and that there was a new church located nearby.
Eventually we attended a service there. It was celebrated in a nice new building (McPhail Hall) with a beautiful, colored stained-glass steeple. Building 1 was still under construction but provided restrooms. This church was full of young people with children.
The space near the kitchen was partitioned off with Plexiglas serving as a nursery equipped with toys, cribs and playpens. We had a four-year-old, a two and a half year old and a three month old - all boys.
Rev. McPhail was a compact man with a broad, welcoming smile and open arms. His wife Myrtle was equally welcoming. A few weeks later we met Vivian Ivy, secretary to Rev. McPhail who was just as sweet and friendly then as she is today. Also we met Mrs. Dorothy Eschenbrenner who was in charge of Christian Education. She was a good and caring person. Mr. Sam was the custodian and groundskeeper. The rest of the staff comprised of volunteers like Thalia Bunnel and many others. So we joined St. John's 58 years ago. Later we welcomed one more new baby. All four of our children were baptized at the church by Rev. McPhail.
Years later Mrs. McPhail invited me with my little daughter to make cookies in her home where we met her daughter Jane. Eventually my husband volunteered to teach Sunday School but had to stop when he began helping his ailing parents. Later I took care of the 3 and 4-year-old classes. Years later our boys joined the Boy Scout troop sponsored by St. John’s. They loved the program, especially the camping trips on weekends. My husband, along with Don Bunnell, Bill Nelson, Paul Robinson and many others, helped the head scoutmaster organize and lead the camp outs. There were many fathers who participated.
Our daughter Annette joined the youth choir under the direction of the founder, Phyllis Freeman. Our youngest son Jack, a musician, played the drums for the modern and informal youth service.
Later I joined the Women's Association and for 3 years I led the afternoon circle. I participated in various committees, mostly the Caring Committee.
We truly enjoyed the Mariner's Club where my husband was active in the entertainment sketches, mostly men on stage! Jack attended the Men's Breakfasts and Luther Smith was the best cook. Jack washed the dishes.
After he retired my husband served many years volunteering on the Buildings and Grounds Committee working to maintain the upkeep of the structures and the landscape at St. John's.
Throughout the years, in the 1960's St. John's became integrated and diverse with new members eager to help. Later the church sponsored and assisted refugees from Cuba, then from Vietnam and Cambodia among other places. And still later we welcomed immigrants from Africa. We helped orient the Muanza family. Most became faithful members, serving on committees. We had other reverends including Maynard Smith and John Shute. I still enjoy the bible study classes with Rev. Linda Herron and really enjoy attending Sunday services with the sermons from Rev. Jon.
I look forward to the 60th year celebration plus more years enjoying the blessings of St. John's with my love to all,
Dan and Sally Shaw's journey started in 1968, 48 years ago. We had Kim and Kelley who were baptized at Central Presbyterian Church where we were married. Kathleen hadn't even been thought of. We went to our first Mariner's couple's group meeting and met Eleanor Brown first, who became my lifelong best friend.
Mariner's was a fun group. We probably did a lot of politically incorrect things. There was a style show by the men dressed in their wife's clothes. Dan wore a low cut evening dress of mine and Curtis Brisch looked fetching in Barbara's tennis outfit. At the 25th Anniversary party there was Ma and Pa performed by Buzz and Margie Byers, along with a "Little Nell" skit with John and Phyllis Freeman, Maynard Smith as the villain and Charlie Sechrengost. There was also Sally and her rock band which could very well be forgotten. Beth Person, George and Marian MacNeil, Cory Duvall and Dan were good as the backup singers.
Sally was 7 months pregnant with Kathleen at one Mariners' meeting singing "I Should Have Danced All Night."
Mariners' is where The Anchor House apartments were started around 1994. A shower was held for that first apartment. Eleanor Brown and Esther Bender took care of finding the tenants and soon increased them to three apartments. When Eleanor couldn't handle it anymore, Dan and I took over in 1997. We had the great tropical depression, Allison in 2001 and were out of commission for a year until The Presbyterian Disaster Relief Fund gave us money to replace our furnishings. Maria Kutz joined us and we increased the apartments to seven. In 2011 we moved from Nob Hill Apartment Complex to The Greenbriar which is closer to the Medical Center and we downsized to five apartments.
Then who could forget the " New Wind". It was started by Maynard Smith and Phyllis Freeman. This was also the beginning of the Contemporary Service in which the youth completely led the service. The parents were forever grateful for Phyllis who spent countless donated hours with not only The New Wind but the children's and middle school choirs. The youth put on numerous unforgettable musicals and really bonded. Phyllis would always drop each child a note telling them what a good job they had done after most performances. After they graduated, they would come back during the holidays and everyone was excited to see them. At Easter they all gathered in the front to sing "He is Alive". Phyllis also organized alum parties for those that had graduated. Some of the alums got pretty old but still came to the parties.
The youth would go to choir practice every Sunday evening. There were so many members in the choir they filled the stage. First they would have PYF, then the mothers took turn feeding them and then they would have choir practice. Once a month they had an after party. The Shaw's entertained them frequently since we were so close to the church along with the Freeman's. There were usually two tables of Spades going on or some played Air Hockey. Of course more food was served. Phyllis had several Polaroid parties. They were divided into groups and each group had a camera. One thing they had to do was escort an old lady across the street. They piled Phyllis in a wheelbarrow, put a hat on her and wheeled her across the street and took her picture.
The New Wind also went to Mo Ranch every year to a music camp. They were asked to sing at a Presbytery meeting. They also sang at the Huntsville prison several times. The time I went the prisoners also sang for the youth. There were ski trips to Crested Butte. We rented a big bus filled with the youth and their friends. The Urquhart's took a group one year. Dan and Linda Herron, Esther Bender and Dan and I went one year. Our driver was Red Wolf who looked 80 years old. I didn't sleep at all that night because I felt I had to help keep him on the road as it was snow and ice after Amarillo. The two Dan's had the boys in their house. I'm not exactly sure what the boys did at night as the chaperones promptly fell asleep.
Family Camp started around 1970. an and I and Jim and Barbara Olsen went to Huntsville State Park and scouted out the possibility of having it there. We were there about three years before moving to Chain O Lakes outside Cleveland, TX. Everyone either camped in the shelters provided or brought campers or tents. We gathered on Friday evening. Saturday there was a potluck supper and a singsong and then Sunday morning we had a worship service. People brought their old fences they had torn down to build a bonfire and what a bonfire it was. Again the children had a wonderful time playing with each other. There were probably at least twenty or more families in attendance along with their dogs. Card tables encircled the bonfire. The adults played a lot of bridge or other games. There was a lot of fishing or paddle boats. The highlight was getting Travis Brown to take you in his motor boat on the lake. The Westmorelands had refurbished an old school bus and painted it blue, "The Blue Goose". When we moved to Chain O Lakes, we had to camp with the alligators. There was always the yearly softball game with the youth and adults mixed together and lots of swimming or hiking.
Our fondest memories were while the children were young and active (1968-1980's). The church meant so much to them and they made wonderful friends as we did also. Newer members need to add their memories to the history and keep St. John's alive and well.
I literally grew up at St. John's. My family joined the church when I was about 3 so around 1968. I was always involved in choir and eventually hand bells. We had a softball league coached by David Rainwater which was a lot of fun even if we weren't very good.
The best years of my life were during high school. New Wind was the name of our choir and we were very involved. Some of my best friends were in New Wind and we also hung out when not singing. We put on numerous musicals, sang at the prison, and attended choir camp every year at Mo Ranch. We also went to Camp Cho Yeh every year to begin practicing our music for the year. I got to play piano every once in a while for the New Wind. We even invited non-members to join the choir. It was not unusual to have more than 30 high schoolers standing on the altar singing our hearts out!
Phyllis Freeman was a saint for putting up with us all those years. At that time, the youth in church was the top priority and we always felt it.
Maureen McNally Balogh
My family (the McNallys) joined St. John's in the 1970's when I was in elementary school. My parents started the Company Onstage Theater in Building 1 by McPhail Hall with Maynard Smith's blessing. He even acted in the shows along with his wife, Betty.
I grew up at St. John's through Sunday School, VBS, choir, PYF, weekend conclaves at Cho Yeh, music summer camp at Lakeview, Mo Ranch, Heifer Project, musicals, etc. As a young girl, one of my most vivid memories is Maynard's indoor/outdoor bee hives that were in one of the Sunday School rooms. I remember reciting the books of the Bible to Maynard before I was confirmed. Talk about nerves! I remember Jo Jo Fentress and David Rainwater playing their guitars and singing out of the Folk Encounter books as we entered the sanctuary Sundays for worship. Jed Steckel, Max and Sandy Kattner, Nancy Flowers, Ann Holmes, Susan Werstein, Carey Youngblood, Missy Graham, Phyllis Freeman and David Rainwater were some of our fabulous youth leaders/choir directors over the years. If the youth group wasn't hanging out at Kattners watching a movie we rented at Blockbusters on a Friday or Saturday night, the Kattners must have been out of town!
I remember Senior Sunday 1988. There were about 20 of us graduating that year, and we were all very close. We get together when we can and they are lifelong friends.
My Sundays were centered around St. John’s. I would sing in the choir in the morning and return that evening for PYF, dinner, choir practice and afterglows.
I was married at St. John's in 1993. My parents’ memorial services were also held at St. John's and their resting place is the columbarium by the sanctuary.
I will be forever grateful to my parents, Mary Hughes, and several others for finding such a warm and inviting church as St. John’s. So, yes indeed, St. John's holds many memories for me that I hold near and dear to my heart.
Congratulations!!! I am so pleased to be present for this celebration. So many of St. John's family and friends are responsible for the exciting success of The New Wind. It is impossible to name everyone, but one person who must not be forgotten is Phyllis Freeman. Her heart and soul and perseverance kept all of us going when the going got rough. The New Wind brought so many wonderful new families to St. John's, people we might never have known otherwise. We can all be grateful for the years of joyful worship and prayerful leadership the New Wind contributed to our church.
Amethyst (Werstein) Kurbegov
My family and I started attending St. John’s in 1980, when I was 10 years old, and I stayed actively involved through high school and into college. My mother, Susan Westein, was director of Christian education and she loved working with Don, Maynard, and Len who were pastors during her time at St. John's.
The church and its youth groups, Sunday School teachers, and choirs for Middle and High School became precious and crucial parts of my childhood and friendships. I have great memories of choir directors and their patience and dedication (Carey Youngblood, Carolyn McShan, and Missy Scott plus Shirley Boyd on piano); musicals and worship leadership Sunday mornings were great experiences. Sunday School teachers (particularly Nancy Flowers and Ann Holmes, may they rest in peace) taught us great faith while promoting mutual respect and inquisitiveness for various views. You leaders spent every Sunday night dinner and time with us guiding us in decision making and faith journey. Cho-Yeh campouts, lock-ins and mission trips to Heifer Project farm made for great memories. Some of my best friends from childhood attended church with me, and they remain close to my heart.
Today I try to replicate some of the magic of St. John's for my own children as they grow up in a church environment. I grew up at St. John's during wonderful years and it's hard to find again!
My association with St. John's Church and what it has done for my family goes back to the early 1970's. My children started attending Sunday School and going to church with me at that time and shortly after I joined the church. The kids participated in the children's choir, were baptized and joined the church and participated in the very active youth group and New Wind Choir. They both were eventually married at
St. John's. During this time, I taught 3rd /4th grade Sunday School for a while, always worked at Vacation Bible School and fed the youth for a year while the kids were in the youth group. I have been on lots of church committees but mostly Fellowship, Christian Education and served a couple of years on the Outreach Committee about the time the connection with Living Waters was developed. When the preachers were offering a weekly Bible Study during the week I attended with about 15 other people, mostly women. We met for 5-7 years. I really looked forward to those classes and was very sorry when they stopped. They were very stimulating classes and then most of us would go out to lunch following the class and continue our fellowship together.
During this time the church was my anchor and played a very significant role in my life. Whenever there was a family crisis or other significant development in our lives, I always knew I could go to the church and talk to the pastor and come away with a sense of peace and a direction in my life. Through the years that my husband and I lived on the Rice Campus responsible for 350 students in all phases of their lives, God and the church got me through those times- some very hard and others very joyful.
I came and went from St. John's a lot of my life for we were gone on Sabbatical two different years, spent another two years in the DC area and then spent most weekends at our lake house for close to 20 years. Whenever possible during the week or on weekends when in town I always would return to St. John's. It was my anchor. I did attend church near the lake house when up there but it was never the same as being at St. John's.
Life has come full circle for me now. We live in town permanently. I go to St. John's every Sunday and attend a weekly Women's Study Group without fail. This church continues to be my Anchor. I have the added benefit and blessing of having three of my grandchildren attend church with me every week. Sometimes all six grandchildren attend church which adds to my blessings. They all have been attending VBS at St. John's since they were three and I became very active once again in participating as a worker at VBS.
Now once again I live within walking distance of St. John's and have the comfort of being back in my home church continuing my spiritual journey among friends both new and old. Thank you St. John's and all that have made it the church that it is for being a very important part of my adult life.
Who am I? A daughter, a wife, a mom , a cousin, a friend , a blessed child of God.
What is St. John's? A community of faith, a group of people who are willing to help someone in need, my spiritual home and family.
After a serious battle involving credibility/ veracity / etc. in our former church and after having been wounded, we began looking for a new home after we completed our commitments for that year. Elizabeth had left before us and was involved at St. Phillip Methodist Church. We thought Allison should go with her while we looked for a new home.
We visited St. John's first because its schedule fit with our needing to pick up the girls from their early service and Sunday School. We were looking for an authentic pastor and congregation, not one where the pastor was egotistical and thought he never made mistakes.
When we came to St. John's in 1987 Lynn Johnson was interim pastor. God put him in our lives to sooth us, to love us, etc. It seemed in the prayer of confessions he knew where we were and what we needed to say to God. His sermons never were condescending, often it seemed he was talking to himself as much as he was talking to us. Sandy Kattner and/or Mary Herlitz told him why we were looking for a new church and to give us time to heal, not to push us into a commitment right then. Lynn referred to us as his most faithful visitors. We often sat behind Fran and Dan Sloan who were very gracious and friendly to us.
We never even went to another church except for special times at our girls’ church. After Elizabeth left for college we ask Allison to begin coming here. She knew the Herlitz boys and a couple of others, including Ann Holmes daughter, Stacey. When Allison came to choir for the first time Stacey introduced Allison to the choir director, Missy and said, "This is my good friend, Allison and I know she will fit in well with us."
We told Lynn we wanted to see who the new pastor would be before we would commit to this congregation. Awhile after Jim Wert arrived we were comfortable and joined. While Jim was here I finished my degree at UH and was then ready to "do my part" in this congregation. First I was asked to teach Sunday School and since I had taught Middle Schoolers before that is where I landed. Chris Grisham was my teaching partner. We had a challenging group...they preferred to visit rather than learn anything about Jesus or God. Chris and I tried many things but it got no better. Finally, we decided to use the mini-series "Jesus of Nazareth" and the bible verses that went with each scene. We were showing them that the Gospels do no always agree, especially the Synoptic ones. We graded the film makers on how well they got the story right. The group got into the swing of things better and Chris and I were relieved. When we finished that, we went back to the curriculum and back to the same problems. And the same frustrations for Chris and me. I was about at the point of quitting. Then the second or third fall I was taking the BSF class on the book of John. When we got to Chapter 4, best remembered for the story of the woman at the well, we got to the discussion between Jesus and the disciples who had gone into the little town to get food. In that discussion, Jesus quoted an oft used saying, "One sows and another reaps." That spoke to me and gave me permission to not be constantly looking for "my harvest". I was sowing and watering, and I did not have to be responsible for the harvest. That gave me the freedom to just love them and not worry about how much they were understanding. I love seeing "my kids" when they come back at Christmas or at other times. And I love following them on Facebook.
In Jim Wert's last year, Barbara Brisch put my name in for being an elder. After asking Mary Herlitz if the session did real work or was it just a rubber stamp for the pastor and his small circle of friends, she said that was absolutely not the case. I accepted along with Bill Nelson and Dan Herron.
The first committee I served on was Evangelism! God really has a sense of humor. Hiring a third minister to do nothing but Evangelism had been the final straw in our previous church. Bill Nelson was moderator and the committee members were Paul Robinson, Joyce Carson, and Nancy Jordy. The next year I moderated for the committee. Evangelism!! I HATE Evangelism! I lived through it, but did not enjoy it.
When John Shute became our pastor, he started a "visitation" program. We went through the sheets from the attendance pads, collected names and addresses of visitors, and went to visit them that afternoon. We took warm fresh bread and only stayed a few minutes. Paul Robinson devised a way to heat the bread and a couple of bricks and put them in a "cooler" that really did keep the bread warm. I believe it was May Herlitz who nicknamed this the "Hot Bun Run”! Being on session led to getting to know more members of the congregation. The relationship with members of session that I came to treasure the most was with Clayton Thomas.
God evidently had plans for me. He provided a push to retire thru my employer's changing the retirement benefits. I had to retire by the end of 2007 or work another 8 1/2 years to get the same level of benefits. There was no way I wanted to work that much longer. So this was God's first big intervention in my adult life. I call it "being hit with a 2x4".
The next big "thing" at St. John's for me was after Jon Burnham became our pastor. He started a Lenten study on Centering Prayer. I had not been a very "spiritual" Christian...that was not my thing. But I went, mainly to support Jon when he was facing determined opposition on most anything he wanted to do.
I fell in love with Centering Prayer and while I was doing it 3 -5 times a week I was growing spiritually in ways I had never known. One morning it brought a flood of feelings...being in God's presence as never before. I was overwhelmed by the feeling of universal love. I made calls to both of our daughters just to tell them how I loved them and why I was sharing that at this particular time. Thinking about that morning still brings a strong feeling of being loved by our Heavenly Father, being wrapped in his love. I did not realize the impact opening that door to my soul would have.
Later that spring I still had not settled into doing volunteer work, but I knew I wanted to help with the Anchor House ministry and do the Presbyterian Pastor to Out-of-town Patients. Evan Harrel and Kathie Hartzog were the leaders at Small Steps Nurturing Center (SSNC). I had told them I would do "adult" things but I did not have any interest in working with those "snotty nosed little kids". One type of volunteer was to be a "buddy" to a child, spending 20-30 minutes a week playing with the child, helping build language and communication skills, providing the undivided attention each child needed while playing, maybe becoming a stabilizing influence. That certainly had not gotten my attention. But God had other plans.
Evan's wife, Suzette wrote in the newsletter about five children at SS that needed buddies. One of the children was part of a set of twins with an older brother and a set of twins right behind her. Mom had 5 children in less than 4 years! That sounded familiar! My mom was born right behind two sets of twins with three older children! Grandma did not have much time for any of them individually. People in the community had taken an interest in my mom and it meant so much to her and helped her become the person she grew up to be. Suzette could have written about any number of other SSNC students, but she choose Aubry! How could I not be her buddy? I have referred to the moment I read about Aubry as the second of God's 2x4's. It was the beginning of a wonderful experience in my life.
Several months after I began being a buddy, Kathie told me she had taken Jon Burnham and Suzette on a tour of the neighborhood SSNC served. I mentioned I would like to do that. So one day during that fall, she called and said to meet her at SSNC as she was taking some food to some of the families in direr need. As we went from home to home, Kathie seemed very distracted. I asked what was on her mind and she told me of a former student, a sixth grader at the time, whose mother had come by a few days earlier asking for help. The son was getting Class "C" misdemeanor tickets and had to go to court. The mom did not know what to do. Suzette, an attorney, went with them to court. And this story became God's third 2x4!
As Suzette and I talked about this young man and the needs of other SSNC students who needed Special Education Services, Partners in Educational Advocacy was formed. There were lots to learn! Supporting parents of children with special needs is challenging and rewarding.
This young man could not read. In having him tested, we discovered he did not know the English names and sounds of all 26 letters of the alphabet. He was acting out because he did not want others to know he could not read. A year later after taking North Forest ISD to litigation, and trying a modified class situation for him that did not work, we finally got the young man the services he needed but it was too late. His friends intervened during the Christmas holidays and he quit trying to learn to read. He is currently serving time for intoxicated manslaughter. "Special Ed: Pipeline to Prison" played out as could be predicted in this young man's life.
We have had several students we helped, including a girl who received some brain damage when a car backed over her at age 18 months. God intervened in our efforts and provided the help of an organization, Youth Development Center that works with children after school, providing a snack, help with homework and access to computer programs that help them get caught up. Within a year she was reading almost on grade level. Her smile still brightens my heart.
When I completed a two-year commitment on a presbytery level committee, I was asked to return to session. I did and worked closely with Jon as Clerk of Session. In April of that year we began planning for the PCHAS Single Parent Family Program duplexes that now sit across the parking lot from McPhail Hall. Looking back, I realize we pushed forward in the congregation without having complete information. PCHAS did not give all the details of how the duplexes would look (they had not been designed yet), exactly what the vetting process would be, nor what the rules would be. There was a small group within the congregation that immediately was against it. Meyerland Civic Improvement Association (MCIA) fought us at every turn, even trying to get the mayor involved. We were "papered" in anti-PCHAS flyers on our windshields on Sunday, somehow the "Stop PCHAS " group got our mailing list and we received mail at home admonishing us to give up the project. The office got about 80 form letters (some with hand written messages) admonishing us to not do something the neighborhood felt so strongly about. There were signs throughout the neighborhood stating: "St. John's Presbyterian Church we want you but STOP PCHAS! Love your neighborhood!" What a perversion of a commandment of Jesus! It got very ugly at points with a nearby neighbor funding a private investigator to look into the "police call record: of the year-old pilot program in Weatherford, TX. Turns out all but one of the calls came from inside the program about people and events on the outside of the facility. But that did not slow down the efforts to defeat the project.
We were blessed with three advocates that were not members of the congregation. Lisa Gossett and Gerda Gomez, residents of Meyerland who dogged the MCIA thru it all, (both have since been elected to and serve on the MCIA board) and Debra Tice, a resident of Westbury and a Catholic mother of a single mother. Her family went to a Stop PCHAS organizing event with their single parent daughter and granddaughter. They carried signs in support of PCHAS. They engaged folks who said things like: "You might want to leave. There could be trouble." and "Well if all the single parents were like you we would not have a problem." "It's "those people" we don't want”. (In August of that year their son, a veteran and law school student doing work as a journalist in Syria focusing on the impact of war on children was taken hostage and only heard of once since then.)
I cannot imagine this project turning out any better than it has. There has been very little in the way of problems. We know one of the original participants was not following the rules. When she was showing no progress she was asked to leave. Some of us have volunteered to keep the children when the moms are in various classes, such as parenting and Bible Study that Lynne Parsons leads. It has been interesting to watch the children become better adjusted and calmer as being in a stable situation made them feel safe. What a joy to have been part of seeing the project from the beginning thru to fully operational.
The resistance did not really end. Almost until the duplexes opened, MCIA were making demands to be included as overseers, demands for money, for security, etc. We waited them out, trusting God to bring His plan to completion. Looking back, I learned that when we don't know what is coming and make it up in our own minds, we frighten ourselves and when we are uncertain or frightened, we cannot hear. Ed Knight tried to tell us and our Challengers that PCHAS knew what they were doing. I was not sure in the beginning but the result of the opposition and the experience of being in meetings with the PCHAS folks and Homeaid folks brought me around quickly. I am grateful I came to see what quality partners we had. And the day we along with donors from other Presbyterian churches stocked the kitchens, baths and bedrooms was such a joy! While we lost some members because of this we gained some new ones because of it and the fierce opposition brought the rest of us closer together than we had been in a long time.
The next interesting event was the Unbinding efforts which began before the PCHAS initiative came up and pushed the Unbinding program off the table for months. Remember I said earlier I HATE Evangelism? Well the Unbinding books were about personal evangelism. God had put me in the evangelism business again! When Jon got ready to roll out the second set of classes to be taught by those who participated in the first classes it was October. We made up lists of folks we thought would be interested. I was getting very discouraged because I kept getting turndowns, several on the basis of what a busy time of the year we would be meeting in. Lynn and Jim Austin were getting the same kind of response. Jon was pushing and we were saying we thought we should wait until the first of the year. He kept giving me new names and finally we got enough who said they would to do it to begin. There were two ladies who had come to Jon with heavy hearts and he told them they needed to be in the class. That was 2012. We are still meeting, having worked through several books on the spiritual life and disciplines. It has changed each of us in ways most of us never imagined. God had a plan. God had a list of participants. Jon's efforts at creating a class, my resisting the timing were overcome by God. What a blessing the group has been to me and to each of the participants! We lost an original member, Elaine DeSouza to cancer within the first year. This spring another original member, Hilda Garza moved to be near her son. God sent us two new members for whom we are very grateful.
Joining with Sally Shaw and Marie Kutz in the Anchor House Ministry keeps me mindful how blessed my family was when my husband John was diagnosed with lymphoma, blessed that we did not have to leave home and support system to get life-saving treatment! The ministry has been very blessed with tenants who have been grateful for comfortable home-like apartments in which to live while in treatment in the medical center. Can you imagine coming to an unfamiliar city and having to find housing while your world is being turned upside down by devastating illness? We have been able to keep the rent lower than the costs for hotels or the corporate apartments: that are an alternative, but we wish we had funds to make the rent more affordable. We know we have done a good job when we hear them refer to the apartment as "home” in a conversation. And we have some long-term relationships from working with tenants.
God has been very good to me! St. John's has been a gift of God to me. Small groups at St. John's, including Adult Sunday School classes have also been gifts of God! The opportunities to serve others through St. John's are gifts of God! Thanks be to God!
Lèonie Tchuathi Tchocontè
On this side of Heaven, my faith journey started when God decided to send me on this Earth through my parents Josue Tchoconte (my father) and Madeleine Tchuathi (my mother).
From my parents and siblings, the church family back in Cameroon, Africa to St. John's Presbyterian Church in Houston, Texas, USA, God has placed on my path many people who have helped shape me as a person and contributed a great deal to my spiritual growth.
Coming from a French speaking background, it was not easy to go to school here in America, but God in His faithful grace helped me through it. So I wanted to thank God by:
1. finding a church where I will serve Him for three years, and
2. go on to be a traveling nurse, with the intention to be an active part of a Presbyterian Church in whatever town my assignment will be.
It is obviously clear that God said "yes" to #1 (He led me to St. John's) and "no", "maybe", "not yet" to #2.
Giving thanks to God with each breath and each heart beat, I feel blessed to be part of St. John's, this great community of faith whose Mission Statement is "To Glorify God by Making Disciples and Meeting Human Needs."
In due time, in His own way, God led me to St. John's Presbyterian Church in the year 2000. Besides the warm welcome I received, I felt at home hearing the Good News of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior and the above mission statement also got my attention and I wanted to be part of this church family, so I joined as a member in January 2001.
As I was praying for guidance as to which committee to join, I remembered being at work, changing a dressing on a patient's foot when the word "caring" came to mind like a light bulb and that was it! I joined the Caring Committee then and continued on to Outreach (helped deliver sandwiches and some of the tie-one-on blankets we made) to the children in the Houston area.
Then I was part of the Evangelism Committee. God got my attention on this one through the pamphlet "Evangelism? Me?" that was in the pew at the time I had not joined the choir yet. The Lord knows I picked the pamphlet up and put it down many times, as I was in the stage of "lalalalalala"...kind of like "don't want to hear it God." " Not me..." But of course God is patient. Thank God for that! I finally picked it up and kept it. Prayed and God guided me.
I have been part of the Faith in Action Committee, joined the choir, and now being part of the Caring/Fellowship Committee again, having served as an Elder in the past, Liturgist, and went on mission trips with LIVING WATERS FOR THE WORLD (a mission of the PCUSA Synod of the Living Waters).
Over the years this has been a very rewarding journey. Growing in the Lord, learning through mistakes too, going through trials and temptations and seeing/experiencing the love, forgiveness and deliverance of God, being given the opportunity to extend the same to others.
To be part of this great community of faith, to witness St. John's live out its Mission Statement and to be part of it is a blessing that overflows through me, with God's help, to the people around me, family and friends, and even furthermore the patients God entrusts in my care each day I go to work ; more than just work my calling. Thanks be to God
As I continue to serve my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ alongside my brothers and sisters in Christ at St. John's, my faith has grown, and continues to grow and St. John's Presbyterian Church has been a home not only to me, but also to my mother, my sisters, nieces and nephews, my extended family, and my friends who also have been blessed here.
All this journey began with God blessing me with Godly parents, a father who was the spiritual leader of our home back in Cameroon. So I could not talk about my faith journey without mentioning and putting emphasis on my father, his devotions to God, his family and the community.
The godly principles that my father instilled in my siblings and myself still help me each day in this journey. He is gone to be with our Lord now but his spiritual work, his legacy lives on. Praise God!
A couple of years ago God put on my heart to write a testimony about my father's devotions. Please find attached this testimony Once you read it all the way through, you will understand why I went all the way in some details.
My father's devotions are still very vivid in my memory as I remember growing up long ago, watching my father reading the bible every day. I thought, there must be something really good in the bible for my dad to read it so often.
So I tried to read the Bible on my own. Now we did not have a lot of Bibles in the house let alone the ones with the Old and New Testament in it. I believe the only Bible with Old and New Testament was my dad's. We did have a couple of small pocket size Bibles of the New Testament.
So I decided to read the Bible! Matthew - the Genealogy of Jesus Christ. It starts with names I could not even pronounce at that time, then it goes on with so and so was the child of so and so, on and on. I never was curious enough to go pass that first chapter! So I would get discouraged and give up. I kept watching my father, how it was his life style to read the bible. I was fascinated by it, so I would try to read the bible again, and the same thing will happen and I will give up again.
Then I thought, wait a minute. All this time, I can just go to Dad and ask him about what is it that is so good in the bible. So I did! That is when my father handed me his devotionals--My father's devotionals. From then on, reading the Bible was made easy for me. Not that I necessarily understood everything I read, but it was a start, even though I did not read it as often as my father.
This experience has often been a reminder to me at times, when I try to do or "fix" things on my own and I can't, until I take them to the Lord in prayer (which is where I should have started...)
My father was a Police Officer, a humble, Godly man. He made sure all his 19 children plus nieces and nephews he brought from the village to the city had good educations but most importantly spiritual educations also. Dad was practically the only breadwinner of the family, and gave us the best. With selfless lifestyle, he did not seek the things and the stuff of life, but made sure he poured out his all in all of us.
Being one of the babies, by the time I was a little older some of my brothers and sisters had left the house to college. But from what I remember there were a lot of bicycles parked in the living room each night. Pretty much all the boys had a bicycle once they hit Junior High. You had to pass a degree called C.E.P.E. (Certificat d'Etudes Primaires et Elementaires) to get into Junior High. My only sister who got a bicycle from dad is Nicole. She was more like a tomboy then, and still is the toughest of the girls. Dad trusted that she could handle/survive the crazy unsafe traffic on a daily basis, as they all went to school about five to ten miles away from the house. Having a bicycle from dad who earned a humble salary was a big deal and that encouraged all the children to take their studies seriously.
We did not have TV. So mealtimes were special and dad insisted everybody be home for meals. Most of our meals as I can recall were taken around the table. We took turns to pray before meals. I remember not liking cabbage and dad said if you don't eat it you go to bed hungry. At that time I was not a very happy camper, but looking back I can't imagine having 19 children plus, and every child liking or disliking certain types of foods, or choosing which foods to eat or not. I ended up not only eating cabbage but thanking God for it. Cabbage is good for you!
In time Dad was able to provide the only clean drinkable water faucet. Prior to that we would draw water from the well behind the house, boil it and let it cool off before we could drink it, until there was a community clean water location at about a quarter mile from the house, built in and protected by a huge block of cement in a square shape, with at each side a silver still hose outlet. We would attach our flexible rubber hose to the outlet and suck with our mouth at the hose until we drew water, then the hose will be pointed in the bucket or whatever clean receptacle we had brought to collect the drinkable water. Then we will carry it on our head and walk on back home.
We often gathered around dad early in the morning before leaving the house and late at night before going to bed to sing from the only worship song book we had. Lots of memorable childhood moments.
I was about eleven or twelve years of age when I came to Christ, had about a year of catechism class and had to pass a challenging bible test before I was confirmed, since I was baptized as a child.
Though I did not use my father's devotionals much back home, they became Church to me when I first came to the U.S.A. Although we learn English back home we really don't practice it that much. I could read and write but the American accent was way too fast for me. I could not quite understand at first. I could pick up words here and there but the language barrier was immense. So I could not go to church because I would not have understood anything.
Life was tough (still is but on a different level) and being in nursing school (which I love, because nursing is more a calling to me than a job) which I had never done nursing before let alone in English was very difficult.
I needed God more than anything. I remember calling my father just to hear his voice, to hear his encouragements over the phone. Then I will picture him still reading that Bible. I will be so encouraged and will find strength in the Word of God, still guided by father's devotionals.
The good thing is that by then I already had my own "big" Bible, meaning both the Old and New Testaments. God knows I would read the Bible from those devotionals. I used them so much until I realized they were starting to wear out. It broke my heart just to think that I could lose them or they would tear out on me.
So I decided to have them laminated and the day I did that I was so happy! Heritage restored! I treasure them so much because of the story behind them, because they belonged to my dad. They are my father's devotionals. For me it is the most precious heritage I have received from my father. They guide me through the Word of God, helping me find passages easily throughout the Bible. God used them so much in me and through me: to nourish and nurture my spirit throughout my life and especially those years I could not attend church because of the language barrier; until in due time, when my English was better, and my hunger for corporate worship was growing.
God led me to St. John's Presbyterian Church, after I had called the information line to ask for the closest Presbyterian Church to my address at that time and I was given the address of St. John's, only to find out later that St. John's was not really the closest. That is why I know God led me there. It is a great blessing He did because I found a wonderful family in Christ and my faith continues to be nurtured and to grow.
When my father went to be with the Lord back on October 6, 2002 I was very heart broken, but hopeful because in his own way, as a hopeful Christian my dad somehow had peace and joy and contentment and did not fear death. In fact, knowing that I was so far away from home he prepared me for his death. He had been sick for a while from old age.
Each time we would talk on the phone, he always said to me "mookwe" (this is like a special name we get according to the tribe from the father's side), if you hear that I have "closed my eyes" do not worry. And he will repeat that several times during our conversations, even though naturally I would say dad, don't talk like that...He never used the word death, only referred to death as "closing my eyes".
This tells me that my father read scriptures and believed them, because he was referring to 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. The bible verses that talk about " those who are asleep," referring to those who have died and the resurrection from the Holman Study Bible New King James Version p. 2036.
“But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus, we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore, comfort one another with these words.”
So now dad is gone, but his legacy lives on because these devotionals and my dad's humble life had a great impact on my life! Looking back, I believe now
(I did not realize it then) that my father lived out 1. Deuteronomy 6:5-9 and 2. Proverbs 22:6.
1. “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (NKJV-p. 288)
2. “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.” (NKJV - p. 1056)
I continue to use my father's devotions. I have made copies and shared them with friends and families in the past but this time God put on my heart to make it even more accessible to more people. That is why I wanted to give this little testimony about my dad's devotions. With God's help I have translated into English the French headings of the devotionals and I did a little helpful work regarding the abbreviations and their corresponding books of the Bible and of course on how to find a Bible passage (things that may seem obvious to some but not so much to others.).
God's given gifts are for us to enjoy and to share with others. It is with joy that I am sharing these hoping prayerfully that you will find joy in Jesus Christ too and share it with those around you. One good thing about the Word of God is that it does not grow old, it is always refreshing and is that it does not grow old, it is always refreshing and the Holy Spirit is constantly showing up to reveal something to us. I have read so many parts of it over and over, so much that over the years I have been blessed with so many important bible passages to be my anchor on a daily basis. Here are just a few (from the Holman Study Bible NKJV)
Psalms 24:1 “The earth is the LORD'S and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein.”
I Corinthians 4:7b “What do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it why do you boast as if you had not received it?”
I Corinthians 15:10 a “But by the grace of God, I am what I am...”
Matthew 6:33 “But seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”
(Leonie's father's devotionals were small cards with Bible readings for the weeks and months. It was a beautiful study guide of the Bible. Ask her to share it with you.)
My first visit to St. John's occurred on the evening of December 19, 1992 at the wedding of my oldest son James and Diane, daughter of Linda and Dan Herron. The beautiful church sanctuary was filled with poinsettias and candles. The pews were filled with family and friends and our first Houston pastor and dear friend Phineas Washer officiated. He had baptized James soon after his birth. It was a very special introduction to St. John's. At that time, we had been members of St. Stephen's Presbyterian Church in Houston since 1966.
Years passed, our youngest son had married, we had moved to Pearland, major life changes happened and I found myself frequently attending St. John's to be with my son, his family and my niece Lindsey Sen-Roy. Family and music were the first things that attracted me to our church. Long before I officially joined my soul was nourished with the heavenly sounds of Mark Swindler's vocal and bell choirs. Who wouldn't enjoy Alina Kimaszewska's gifted piano and organ music! I enjoyed the weekly music and the frequent special music programs and thought this church is so blessed with music.
During my long "visit' there were special people who extended hospitality and encouraged me to join. Erin Owens, Vivian Ivy, Betty Robinson, Jana Burnham, Hilda Garza and Betty Nelson were early friends who made me feel welcome and needed. After joining church in 2010 I became active in the Woman's Organization. I served as a circle chairman two years before that organization came to an end. That group allowed me to meet many more women of the church and during that time I was privileged and blessed to attend a most meaningful bible study on the Book of Revelation taught by Elaine Desouza.
Pastor Jon Burnham invited me to be a founding member of a new Sunday school class which he was starting. That became another way to meet new folks and share our faith through discussing social issues as they related to Biblical teaching.
St. John's has become a huge part of my life. It's members have nourished my faith, brought solace during sorrow, provided new dear friends and brought laughter and humor into a life that had become rather old and stale. I have been given the opportunity to study, teach, lead, and also work with young children during VBS. We have a great many outreach programs that have also given me opportunities to reach out to the community and world through our support.
St. John's has helped me feel comfortable in the worship service. The Presbyterian rituals of my youth are followed here and bring me peace and help me feel closer to God. Pastor Jon introduced me to Ash Wednesday services. They have brought a new and enriched understanding of the observance of Lent.
I have enjoyed various Bible studies through the Women of the Church and Sunday School Classes but by far the most meaningful studies have been through the various books we have read and discussed within our Tuesday group.
The Tuesday group began as a special study of the first book in the Unbinding Series. One group had gone through this study and Pastor Jon suggested that it might be good to reach out to others so he asked Ann Hardy to lead another class. Ann took on the assignment with Shirley Boyd as her co-leader. The first class I believe met on October 23, 2012, the day before my 50 year marriage officially came to an end. One sad loss was replaced with a very special new beginning.
The original class consisted of Ann Hardy, Shirley Boyd, Libby Adams, Hilda Garza, Kathy Roth, Gerry Jump, Mary Phail , Mary Sterner, Fran Urquhart, myself and Elaine Desouza. Shirley and Elaine were both going through chemo treatments for cancer. It quickly became apparent that God was working through this group. Almost four years later we have studied many books and have become a closely knit prayer, study and support community within
Over the years our Tuesday group and St. John's has experienced the loss of Elaine to her 24-year long battle with cancer, and Hilda and Mary Sterner to moves. Betty Robinson and Victoria Thompson have joined the group and both have been such a blessing. We have also had the following come for a few times or far a special book study before being called to other activities: Alvina Hamilton, Erin Owings, Linda Dobbin, and Kay Swint. They each added so much.
St. John's has become my faith home and I love being with my family of believers. It has been interesting and challenging to live through some of the challenges that the church has faced since I joined. We may not be the biggest church in town but God is definitely at work here.
The 1950's was a time of building in the U.S. and especially in Texas. Houston was not yet one of the ten most populous cities in the country. The determined souls that committed to the building of
St. John's understood the vision of growth that comes from a genuine relationship with the Creator God. The generous gifts that purchased the fine property and raised the buildings for worship and education were richly received and bore much fruit. They were careful to build on the Rock of Salvation so that today we enjoy a heritage of fine buildings and true spiritual blessing.
As a visitor to St. John's I expected a few handshakes and of course many token questions. However, my spirit became at once immersed in a flood of genuine caring. Needless to say I found a home and a new family of believers. The congregation was peopled by every kind of neighbor. The real pleasant experience came as I got to know my new family better. The modern world of science and technology has made me skeptical about the future of the Christian faith. At St. John's we find professors, PhD's, MD's, an abundance of engineers as well as educators who have all been thoroughly exposed to humanist reasoning, yet the learned folks at St. John's are the first to reach out in fellowship, pray with you, and share their saving faith. The Holy Spirit is alive and Well at 5020 West Bellfort, Houston, Texas.
Lynne and Jim Parsons
The first time we walked into St. John's to worship we both immediately felt the presence of our Lord. It was as if God was calling us to come be a part of this Christian community. What was it about this place that spoke to our hearts?
In walking this life journey, we have found that people and places play a significant role in our spiritual growth. We can be nurtured or ignored, built up or torn down, supported or neglected. At the time we came to St. John's Presbyterian Church we were looking for a place that would allow us to both worship the Lord and serve Him with other believers. Additionally, we wanted a place for our son where he could connect with kids his own age and share time with families who valued a church experience.
St. John's welcomed us but gave us space and allowed us to find our way.
Our pastor and friends have provided encouragement and instruction along this walk. Beginning with an invitation from Pastor Jon to join a Discovery course about St. John's, opportunities to participate and be part of this community have been available to us. After our son completed confirmation the three of us joined this church community and felt at home.
Although we continue to walk in faith asking God for guidance in discerning how we could best use our talents and passions, it was the Unbinding the Gospel course (our entire church community was asked to join) where we began to share our faith, struggles, doubts and our hearts with our fellow sojourners at St. John's. That experience transformed our hearts by expanding our prayer lives and by creating closer relationships with those in our community. There we relearned the significance of the small group experience in growing closer to our Lord. From that we have participated in many small groups in which we study the Word through religious book studies. Each one is different, yet each one allows us to grow and develop in our Christian walk. Each one empowers our faith enabling us to give of ourselves in service to others in His name.
Through these experiences we have been able to demonstrate God's love and serve others by participating on the Worship Committee, serving as a liturgist, greeter or usher, volunteering with PCHAS, playing the piano at the Living Gift Market and accompanying the children's choir on Christmas Eve and participation in many opportunities of mission as well sharing our resources and our time.
This loving community of fellow believers has embraced and accepted our family and poured out their love to us. They have allowed us to be a part of the body of Christ. In a world torn apart by fear, violence, entitlement and selfishness, St. John's has provided a place of refuge and respite that refreshes and energizes those seeking the Word and enabling His children to be His hands and feet in the world.
Sixty years ago, St. John's Presbyterian was merely a vision with a group of people who loved the Lord. They persevered and sacrificed so that we are able to worship and serve Christ today.
Today St. John’s is a strong and growing faith community that desires to be relevant to the world through mission, through loving acts, and by helping disciples of Jesus Christ develop their walk with him.
You have heard the faith stories of some of our leaders and members. We are a people of faith, hope and love. That is our history and that is our future. We would love to have you join us in this journey of faith as we
glorify God by making disciples and meeting human needs.
Happy 60th Anniversary to St. John's Presbyterian Church in Houston.
Healing happens here!