Like many of us here, I grew up in the Catholic faith, in a strict New England Catholic Church. Don't get me wrong, the tradition and the beliefs are great, but the guilt made it hard to handle, so I stepped away from any church as I was brought up to believe there was no other church than the Catholic Church.
I was away for many, many years. I was certainly lost in my life choices, most of them I am not proud of. I always did have a belief in God and in fact still did pray, but only in the way I was taught, which was in pre-written and repetitive prayers, hoping it would do some good. Fast-forward 20-something years. I was dating a woman who was a faithful attender here at Hope, and I was asked on many occasions to come with her, but to me Sundays were for curing a hangover and watching football. After many requests, I finally agreed, on one condition, that she never ask me again. I was hoping this would put an end to it. I just knew that when I got to the church doors a big invisible hand would grab me by the head, shake me around awhile and toss me back into the parking lot. This of course was not the case, I almost immediatley felt comfortable. Eli was preaching that Sunday, and 12 years later I still remember that sermon. I know there were hundreds of people in the South Hall, but I was certain he was talking straight to me. Like a one-on-one conversation, he told me, “God didn't Love me because, or if, or when!” He told me that, “God just loved me, PERIOD.” It was as if he spoke directly to my heart, and for the first time in many years, my heart was open to listen.
That was in June of 2006, I have been a faithful servant of Hope Church ever since. Because of the lessons I have learned here at Hope, TODAY I know I have a long way to go—however, I know that my dad would be proud of the man I am today, and that means everything to me, and I owe it all to God, by way of Hope Church.