When Melissa started attending MOPS just over 12 months ago, she had no idea that God was about to offer her a new day… here’s her story.
How did you first connect with our church?
A friend of mine first told me of a fantastic playgroup that she was going to, where carers take your kids and entertain them while the mums get to drink coffee and do craft. To me this sounded like heaven! My family had only recently moved to Wollongong and I didn’t know many people so a break from the kids and chance to meet other ladies, I had to try this place!
What was that experience like?
It was just as I had expected – heaven! The kids room was full of fun exciting toys and craft, there was an outdoor play area plus they got fed. Kids taken care of! I was welcomed by some lovely ladies and handed a coffee. For two whole hours I was able to chat without being interrupted, eat without sharing and finish an entire craft. I left feeling refreshed and able to enjoy the rest of my day with my girls.
What was your initial motivation for coming to our Sunday services?
After a few visits to MOPS I soon realised that some of the ladies there also attended the church. I asked them about it, what’s it like? Should I go? Can I just turn up? A crechè at church? And a band? Wow! I was intrigued. I was raised Catholic but hadn’t attended church for many years. I loved singing in the choir as a kid but as a teen I broke away as it was not considered “cool” to go to church. I also felt that it was my duty to introduce some religion into my children’s lives.
So we turned up one day. We were warmly welcomed, we clapped, we sang, the kids danced with other kids, and then they went off to Jam and Mini Jam. I sat and listened to the pastor talk. He was not old and boring like the priests I had so often seen before. He was interesting and he spoke as though every single person there was his friend. Afterwards I was ushered to the welcome lounge and given more coffee. More people than I could count came and introduced themselves. I liked this church. Again, I left feeling refreshed and both the girls and I couldn’t wait to go back.
You encountered God through church. Can you describe what happened?
We continued going to Sunday services. The girls loved Jam and I felt as though I was getting so much out of the sermons. This particular Sunday a pastor from Sydney was preaching, Jon Owen. During one of his stories about a young girl my eyes started to well up with tears, I quickly wiped them away hoping no one would notice but they kept coming. Then it was time for communion and the tears were still coming, rolling down my cheeks, more and more, I couldn’t stop.
“Why is this happening?” I thought, unsure as to why it had affected me so much. I walked (with my head down hoping no one would notice the tears streaming down my face) to the back of the room where I found Maxine. She asked if I was ok, why I was crying and did I need prayer? “I don’t know, I just can’t stop, I don’t know what going on” is all I could say. I was bawling! I rambled on about being new and not knowing why I needed prayer.
Then Maxine asked me “have you given your life to Jesus?” A very confused “No” was my answer, then she asked “would you like to?”. I had no idea what she meant but I was compelled to say “yes”. She took my hands and prayed to Jesus.
I don’t remember anything she said but for the next hour or more I felt as though I was overflowing with joy. I had an enormous goofy grin from ear to ear and those tears just kept on coming. People I’d never met were hugging and congratulating me.
I had been filled with the Holy Spirit. It was an insanely awesomely amazing experience for me that I will never forget.
How has that encounter brought about a “new day” for you?
I don’t dwell on things like I did. My past is my past and that’s where it needs to stay. My encounter with God opened up a new chapter in my life where I feel safe and loved. I still make plenty of mistakes and bad choices but I know that if I live for Jesus, every day is a new day.
In what ways is God now a part of your everyday life?
I pray. I start my day with a thank you. I ask when I need help. Rather than worry about someone, I pray for them. The girls and I often sing songs we’ve heard at church.
You started serving with our MOPs team this year – what have you found challenging and what have your enjoyed about being a part of that ministry?
I love being on the MOPS team. I enjoy making people happy through good food and hospitality. Sticking to a budget has been my biggest challenge as I want to make so many yummy things!