Career, Faith, World Changers

Scholarship Essay by Rachel Larson

May 2, 2016 | Posted by LCEF

On a snowy February day, a big green moving truck strained up the steep hill into our subdivision and began to unload our possessions into our new home, box by box. This move was necessary when my dad’s job required that we pack our possessions, leave our old friends and begin a new life in a new city. While it was a difficult transition for me as a sixth-grader at the time, little did we know how soon we would meet new friends that would impact our lives greatly.

Within an hour of the arrival of the truck, a couple of families who lived next to us stopped by to introduce themselves. We discovered that we had great neighbors. One family was a couple with a three-year old boy. We soon learned that they were not members of a church. My family has always been committed to telling others about our faith. Naturally, we wanted to be a blessing to them and share how much Christ loves them. This story has a happy ending, which maybe you can guess. However, the best part of this story is something that you may never imagine!

As the weeks and months passed, we got to know the family well. We visited with them when the kids were playing in the front yard or talked across the backyard decks. Before long we invited them to attend church with us. We found, as is often true, that they were very open to the invitation, but no particular Sunday seemed to work out.

Not too long after we moved in, they found out that they were expecting a baby. Just before Christmas, their baby girl arrived. I was asked to babysit, when she was just five months old. I would tell her about my faith by singing “Jesus Loves Me” to her if should could not fall asleep.

In time, we invited the children to VBS and they accepted. Their daughter was sometimes in my group, so it was another chance to share God’s love with her. From this beginning, we have developed a very close relationship over the years. Even though she is much younger than I am she will ring the doorbell and ask if I can come over. We know that it will be a struggle for her since I will be leaving for college in the fall.

After a time, this family came to church for the first time on Easter. They had reservations and a lot of questions at first but eventually, they attended our church’s membership class and learned about the faith. They decided to send their children to our Lutheran school. It was really a great joy for our entire family when the mom and dad were confirmed as adults and both children were baptized. This was a great day! As wonderful as this was, it is still not the best part.

This family became very involved and really grew as disciples. The mom has been a leader in the community service ministry of our church. The dad soon became an usher, and eventually a Sunday School teacher. The children learned a lot about Jesus in the school and often shared this with their parents. Recently, I was kidding with the older son that the Easter bunny would not come if he did not do what I asked. He replied, “I don’t need the Easter bunny, I have Jesus!” I couldn’t argue with that!

This family has invited many of their family and friends to be a part of the church and school. There are at least five families in the school, some of these children were baptized; some have joined the church. It is great to see how the whole family has grown in their faith and are reaching others with Christ’s love but, believe it or not, this is still not the best part.

This is the best part. Of course, we know that God used me and my family to be a blessing to this family by telling them about Christ’s love, but what we did not know is how much of a blessing they would become in our lives. In so many ways, they have shown their love for us. They have become family.

We know that if we need anything we can always count on them. Since we have moved, my family has gone through some tough times. They have always been an extra shoulder to lean on and people we can trust since our family lives very far away. When members of my family were not able to attend my confirmation, my neighbors attended even before they joined our church. When my parents were out of the country on a mission trip, they helped care for my brother and me. When I went on a mission trip to Belize this past Spring Break, they supported me with gifts and prayers.

We don’t tell others about our faith to get something back. We have already received everything we can imagine from God – forgiveness, peace and eternal life – all as free gift of grace (Ephesians 2:8-9). Yet in our case, we really did receive great blessings in return. I think it probably happens a lot — maybe most of the time. The love of Christ changes lives and knits people together more closely than we could imagine. Now we know that their family and ours will be in God’s one family forever. That is the best part!

Rachel’s essay above earned her a $500 Take Heart Scholarship from Lutheran Church Extension Fund (LCEF). The staff wishes her God’s many blessings!