Because I have greatly desired to see you and to give you a gift of the Spirit that you may be confirmed in Him. And we will be comforted together in your faith and mine. – Romans 1:11-12
“These God-breathed words penned by the Apostle Paul have for at least the last five years or so, been my favorite verse of scripture amongst a generation of ‘John 3:16’. Now, don’t get me wrong; I am greatly encouraged by that verse, as well, and yet, the more and more time I spend with the LORD in His written word, the more and more I have a hard time having just one single favorite verse! The problem, though, is that while I was rejoicing in the various encounters I would be having with other believers on the streets, in my heart, I longed for a place to fellowship and worship God without having to continue playing ‘musical chairs’ with different churches in Grand Island. Believe me, I’ve been to almost every single well-known church here in town since coming back from the Marine Corps in 2009 and though I almost became a member of New Life Community Church downtown, the very Lutheran roots I had walked away from were somehow beckoning me back.
I grew up in the ELCA and was both baptized, affirmed, and confirmed at Trinity Lutheran Church in my then hometown of Wolbach, NE, just forty miles north of Grand Island. As a child of the faith, I remember studying Luther’s small Catechism, Sunday church service, and vacation bible school but really I hadn’t truly, truly grasped my identity in Christ. Looking back now, it seems very much akin to that beloved Matthew West song of mine that I was merely going through ‘The Motions.’ To make matters worse, once I enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2003, just out of high school, I found myself pretty much fully separated from my Lutheran roots still rooted back in that tiny village community of Wolbach.
Then in August of 2007, while stationed in Camp Pendleton, CA, I attended Pastor Greg Laurie’s ‘Harvest Crusade’ in Anaheim, CA, only because my newfound Evangelical Christian friend’s, Tom and Deanna, had invited me along. While I was there listening to Pastor Greg preach about sin, hell, forgiveness, and redemption in Christ Jesus, suddenly I found myself at a crossroads because quite honestly, I was embracing the very sin I was being told would separate me from God. Suddenly, something stirred deeply inside my soul and right there in my seat as he invited us to go down to center field to pray to receive Jesus, I felt myself longing to go down there, too! But instead, I asked my friend Tom to pick me up a New Testament Bible so I could take it home with me…
Long story short, that faith in God I once received through Baptism was ‘re-awakened’ inside my heart and over the next eight years I would find myself on a spiritual journey in Christ that would eventually lead me to Peace Lutheran Church. After having remained churchless for so many years it wasn’t until I qualified for a local talent competition at the Nebraska State Fair in 2014 called ‘The Galaxy of Stars’ that I would finally be led by the Holy Spirit back to my Lutheran roots I’d once abandoned out of absolute bias towards denominationalism. It was at the ‘Galaxy of Stars Talent Search’ where I would choose to sing ‘Praise You in This Storm’ by Casting Crowns and go on to qualify to be able to sing ‘I Can Only Imagine’ by Mercy Me in the talent show finals and then by the supernatural grace of God I would win the entire competition being awarded the Mega Star grand prize! This of course is where I would meet the father of one of the judges of the contest, Mr. Rick Hul, and he would later invite me to visit Peace Lutheran Church where I might see if my vocal talent could be used to minister there, as well.
The rest as they say ‘… is history’ and as of February 2015, I am no longer churchless having become a new member of Peace Lutheran Church. Looking back in the rearview mirror of time, I can now see God so sovereignly in control, having already planted the seeds of my Christian faith in a tiny Lutheran Church just north of here, and then, bringing me back to those Lutheran roots that had been sown faithfully and securely in my heart from the very beginning.
Truly, truly those beloved words of the Apostle Paul in Romans that I’ve hidden deeply in my heart have now come to pass as I continue to press on ‘sharing Christ’s love with each other and the world!!!”
– Jesse and his daughter, Aubrie Lynn Hake