Lakeside People

Every week on our Lakeside Central & Downtown Facebook pages, we feature a short story or quote from real people around Lakeside. People who strive to be more like Jesus, even if they don’t always get it right. Perfectly imperfect people who are living out their faith in real and honest ways. We hope you’ll celebrate these stories and the people behind them. LIKE us on Facebook to see them first or follow us on Instagram @lakesideonline.

 

OLABANJI & ABIOLA AKINOLA

“Reflecting on our lives as Christians, both as individuals and as a couple, we are very grateful for what God has been doing in our lives. His presence in our personal, family, and professional lives has been a reassuring experience that we are, indeed, a part of His chosen people (1 Peter 2: 9). We cherish God’s loving kindness, the joy of His salvation, His peace that passes all human understanding, and His guidance whenever we seek His face.

More so, ever since we began attending Lakeside Downtown in the summer of 2014, we have had the opportunity to connect with a lot of God-fearing and caring people, and have made, and continue to make, new friends with whom we hope to deepen, engage, and build our knowledge of God as Christians. In addition, the opportunity to be members of the welcome team at Lakeside Downtown is something we are very grateful to God for leading us into. Our passion to contribute to the building of God’s Kingdom within and beyond Lakeside is an objective we pray that God will forever strengthen and equip us to fulfill as we walk and work with Him.”

 

MELISSA GOETZ

“I walked through the doors of Lakeside Church 16 years ago. I was newly married, with a young son, and eager to check out this church that friends were excited about. The moment I walked through the doors, I felt “home.” I knew this was the place for me – and it was a place I had been searching for so, so long.

I was raised Catholic but usually only attended church on holidays. I received all of the sacraments but didn’t really understand their meaning. We didn’t really talk about religion at home. From an early age, my interpretation of God was that of a strict judge, someone looking down on me, weighing all my good and bad choices against each other. Despite this, I remember always feeling the need to be close to God. I just didn’t know what to do with it.

When I started attending Lakeside, I wasted no time getting involved in a small group and serving in the kids’ classes. My questions were finally getting answered and I was able to apply the things I was learning to my everyday life. I asked Jesus to come into my heart and lead my life and I followed it up with getting baptized (out by the barn!) a year later. I felt on top of the world and that my life couldn’t get any better … but the years that followed proved me very, very wrong.

What was in store for me was a divorce, living life as a single mom to two young sons (both of whom were dealing with severe anxiety) and years of my own anxiety and depression. I fell away from church, angry with God for allowing my life to take this turn. I struggled with guilt, shame and anger. I pushed God out of my mind and heart and didn’t give Him a moment of my time for many years.

That was, until I re-married (Kyle) and had my son and daughter. I began to wonder why God was continuing to bless me when I was clearly so undeserving. My life was getting back on track and I began to allow my heart to be softened. I felt God nudging me so many times to return to Lakeside, and I tried to ignore it. It would be painful to go back. Would people look down on me because I went through a divorce? Had a blended family? I remember talking to Kyle one day about going back to Lakeside (he was all for it) and just feeling God’s presence so strongly, almost hearing Him say that He’d be with me every step.

I walked through the doors of Lakeside (for the second time) on Kick-Off Sunday, September 2016, and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I was welcomed back by so many people!

In hindsight, I see that God led me back to Lakeside, and to Him, at just the right time. This past year has been a heartbreaking one, watching my oldest son struggle with severe depression, mental health issues and a hospitalization. There is no way I could’ve gotten through this time without my faith. Without my church family praying for Jacob. Without the reassurance and strength that comes from knowing my hope is found in Jesus.

Although I still struggle with anxiety and depression, I am no longer filled with anger and shame over the choices I’ve made and the path my life has taken. Instead, I am filled with awe and gratitude that I am loved in spite of it all.”

 

EVAN VERSTEEG

“Over the course of my life I have been repeatedly knocked to the ground with an overwhelming truth; dreaming of your faith and living your faith are very different things. Of course this seems obvious, having been ingrained in many “Lifetime Christians” right from day one. “You have to walk the talk” was a slogan in one of my classrooms at the Christian high school I attended, and it of course makes sense.

I grew up in the reformed church with a very structured and set service. It’s just the way that everyone was brought up. We had Sunday school, the older kids had catechism, and we attended two services, so Sunday became quite a busy day for us! Though the years I noticed God did not rest in my heart, but rather my mind. I could name all 66 books of the bible in one breath but never in my life had I gotten even the slightest bit emotional about the idea that Jesus died for me. That was just a fact, one I knew since birth, and I realized that was a problem; Jesus didn’t really take part in my life other than Sunday and youth group. I was dreaming up my faith.

During the end of a relationship, and in a very confusing time of my life as I transitioned into university, I started going to different churches or worship concerts. I was blown away by how people were on their knees sobbing, jumping for joy, raising their hands or placing them upon one another and praying. The music that was being played brought these feelings up, which I always felt was frowned upon. “A prayer is going to be emotional if a guitar is playing in the background; the emotion should come from you not the music.” But I realized that there is a reason God says to praise him with the trumpet, with the lute, with cymbals and dancing (Psalm 150); it brings out emotions we never knew we had, that is what music is designed to do. After attending The Common and church services at Lakeside Downtown, I finally understood what it was like to worship from my heart. The small groups I attended helped me realize how common this problem was, and volunteering as a youth leader has allowed me to keep God steady in my life. My biggest realizations were that worship is an every day thing; sermons aren’t locked only to Sunday, and church is about being with your fellow believers, praying and encouraging and being the family that a church should be. I realized that this is how one lives their faith out.

I’m so thankful to the Lakeside community for being so open and encouraging, and for providing the opportunity to pursue God. I can’t say that attending Lakeside changed my life, but God used it to change me himself. I am nowhere close to being where I want to be, but I am grateful for the direction and I pray for more opportunities to serve the one who first served me.”

 

REBECCA SOTI

“I grew up attending Catholic School and although I was somewhat exposed to the basics of Christianity, I never truly had an understanding of the depth of Jesus and the relationship He wants with us. I had always been confused regarding my faith and I particularly struggled with whether I believed in God when I entered high school. As a result of the way in which God wired us, I knew my soul yearned for love, a love I eventually discovered can only be fulfilled through a genuine relationship with God.

About a year ago I turned up at Lakeside on an ordinary Sunday thanks to the guidance of a person who showed up in my life through very random yet perfectly planned circumstances. It is so true when the Bible tells us that sometimes we may not understand things that happen in our lives until later on when God’s plan is revealed to us and we just stand there in awe. I know that I was meant to come to Lakeside because ever since that first service I attended, my life has been completely altered. Within the past year, I have gone from being so lost in my purpose and overwhelmed with anxiety and cynicism to a life of passion and inexplicable love and peace as my soul has been saved. I can’t put into words how grateful I am that God has revived my faith and I am just amazed at how He has already used me for His glory so many times. I am truly blessed that He has revealed His power to me; a regular 18-year-old girl. Even though I fail and have still have doubts some days, God always bring me back to Him and in His embrace is the only way I know I can live my life.

Lakeside has been a big part of my faith journey and it has given me the opportunity to meet other people my age seeking God through Youth group. Pastor Daniel and my loving youth leaders, Emileigh and Priyanka, never failed to instigate wonder within me to inspire me to move closer to God every Wednesday. I also love volunteering at Lakeside Kids often where I am able to share my passion for Jesus and still learn about Him in the process. This summer, I am so blessed to have been given the chance to work as an intern for Lakeside Child Care Centre where I get to love the most innocent and adorable of God’s creation.

I am starting nursing school at McMaster University in September and my dream is to serve as a missionary nurse one day, healing the sick and bringing people to know God. I pray that I can serve God until the end of days and only deepen my relationship with the Lord and that I will forever hunger to be face to face with my Saviour, Jesus Christ.”

 

KEVIN & MARY LLOYD

“What brought us to Lakeside? The anonymity, to be honest. We had come out of a season of transition from the church we attended for 20 years and just needed to get lost in the mass of people on Sunday mornings. Coming to Lakeside ended a three year process of discerning His will for us and we came to the conclusion He was moving us to another faith community.
One of the most difficult times in our lives, it tested our marriage, our faith, and all that we thought had spiritual value.

A constant in our lives was the small group we are a part of for over 10 years, one couple in particular. We knew the tremendous value of having these people to pray with, see if we were really hearing the voice of God. When we heard about the small groups at Lakeside and met Janet Collins, we began to see where we could fit in to the fabric of this church community. We got involved in our first small group not two weeks after coming, much to our surprise. Then in the fall a church-wide study led to us meeting others from Fergus who wanted to form a long standing small group. What a blessing they have been to us! For us, getting to know church leadership, learning what drives the ministry of Lakeside, and then making the decision to get involved, all helped us to call this church community our spiritual home.”

 

KRISTA TROW

“I was fortunate to have grown up in a Christian home and have Christian influences in my life. Despite that, I have had some ups and downs in my relationship with God. I haven’t always turned to Him when difficult times have come around. When my husband, Bjorn, and I were married and made Guelph our home, we also made Lakeside our church home. Fast forward to the present, and we now have two amazing boys who also love coming to Lakeside. Through the Lakeside Kids programs they are learning how to live the life God has in store for them. I’ve been a Small Group leader for many years in Lakeside Kids, and previously served in the children’s ministry in the church I grew up in. Serving in children’s ministry is an opportunity to see the love of Jesus through the hearts of children. I find it refreshing that all I need to do is come as I am, just like I can be with God. Like God, children love us for who we are and appreciate us despite our imperfections.

There are many Bible verses that have impacted me through the years. One favourite is Psalm 119:105: “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” Having recently taken part in the church-wide study on prayer, I was reminded that the answers to our prayers are right in His word – the Bible. God continues to teach me daily to be patient and know that he will answer my prayers in His time and in His way. This isn’t an easy principle to live by, but thankfully God is also patient with me.”

 

MELISSA GREENFIELD

“When I was too young to understand the responsibility behind the decision, I gave my life to Christ. I followed this path along with my family and enjoyed the experience. As many teens do, I began to question aspects of the Christian faith and fell away over the next few years. My parents had the dismay of dealing with an angry teenager in their house, and I had to wrestle with an overwhelming feeling of unimportance and distrust.

Even though things had gotten better, during college I wasn’t thriving or engaged with the church. After an almost seven year hiatus from the church, I finally accepted that I couldn’t find what I was looking for without help. Later, I moved to Guelph and felt more alone than I had anticipated. When I would try church again, I would often disconnect, have not-so-stealthy power naps, or daydream during services.

I was initially just looking for a place to find friends and was feeling nostalgic for the feeling of home I was so desperate for. I searched churches for a while and finally after almost a year in Guelph, I signed up for a book club and slowly began to find my place within Lakeside. I found positive people to encourage me and was welcomed with open arms.

Despite my new community, I had always struggled to make church feel relevant in my day to day life practices. Then I came for what became my favourite series at Lakeside. It was about pursuing God-sized dreams, leaving our comfort zones, overcoming obstacles, and using our abilities to glorify the kingdom of God. For the first time in over a decade, I was hooked! God finally had my attention. When I went home a few weeks later, my parents couldn’t believe the change that seemed to have happened overnight. God had reached deep into my cold heart and ignited a passion I never again thought would exist for Him.

A few short months later, God allowed me to embrace my new faith-based courage and act on a dream I didn’t know I was ready for. I know God has much more planned for my life and will continue to be by my side as I follow His lead towards each new dream He places on my heart. With a limitless God and His limitless resources, they can be put to use to achieve the dreams he has gifted me with to help raise up His kingdom.”

 


GARY JONSSON

“I have been attending Lakeside for six years now with my wife Debbie. We moved to Guelph from Gravenhurst after going through the travails of a failed business and a bankruptcy. We needed a fresh start to restore and rebuild our lives, and we needed a healthy church community to be a part of. We found Lakeside Church on our first Sunday in Guelph, and the moment my wife and I walked through the doors, we knew we had found our new church family.

I have been a Christian for most of my life, but my journey with God was anything but normal. I grew up in a church that many would say was a cult. However, being in this type of church, I didn’t see that it was a cult. I saw that we were a part of special group that was faithful to God, and did all we could to obey Him. In 1996 our church went through major changes, and I was more than happy to take this new direction. Debbie and I had been married for five years, and we were happy to follow the road God was taking us down. However, not all of our friends and family looked at these changes the same way, and it was at this time that relationships started to fracture. We thought we were following God, but others said we were walking away from God. These changes made life difficult and confusing, and led to anxiety and insecurity. The church had been an anchor in our family’s life, but now was dividing us (and still does).

During this period of change we had moved several times. I had a restless spirit, and I was trying so hard to find that place where I should be, where I could find stability for myself and my family. In many ways, I was trying to deal with the brokenness of the relationship I had with my dad. However, while my relationship with my physical father was broken and had left me with much insecurity, my relationship with God my Father had always been special, as He had always blessed me with His love and presence, and I love Him more today than ever, and I would like to tell you why.

God has loved me and cherished me my whole life. He was with me in the church that was a cult; He was with me when I had a dad that never knew how to love me; He was with me when we moved over 30 times (which led to insecurity and bullying); He loved me when I was exposed to pornography and even sexual abuse at much too young of an age; and He loves me when I still battle the fears, hang-ups, anxieties, and failures to this day. His love is greater than all of these things, and He has shown this to me over and over and over again. He tells us in Romans 8:18, “…that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory that will be revealed in us.” Some will ask how I can still love God if there have been so many challenges. I don’t have specific answers for everything, but I do know He was with me everyday. When I wonder why it’s so hard some time, and I ask the “Why me?” question, I hear Him ask me, “Why not you?” He asks how I can have love and empathy to others who have gone through life challenges if I don’t know myself. I believe that God can redeem all things, but if I don’t face some of life’s adversities how can I know for sure that He does? I have seen Him redeem these things, and He continues to do so, and this gives me more strength and hope that I could have ever hoped for. Which brings me back to Lakeside.

When Debbie and I walked through those doors on July 3, 2011, we didn’t see a perfect church, but we saw a church that was perfect for us. We were given that inexplicable sense that this is where God wanted us to be to do His redeeming work. What we found at Lakeside was an amazing community where people were more real than any other church we had been to. A place where people shared real life together, overcoming “hurts, hang-ups, and habits.” A place where I was challenged to discover how to use my life’s experiences to serve and encourage those in and outside our community. A place that has the resources like Celebrate Recovery, Alpha, Griefwalk, DivorceCare, Small Groups, Youth, and children’s ministry, and so much more. A place where we can worship our God freely, with music and relevant teaching. A place where we are encouraged and taught to discover the gifts and blessings God has given us. A place that is not perfect, and has many needs to be filled.

When I complained with other men that there was a lack in men’s ministry at Lakeside, we were reminded that maybe we should be a part of the solution. We said there should be a place where men can come together to share life – like a breakfast – so four of us guys got together to do just that. Now we have five breakfasts a year, with 100 men or so coming out, and about 30 men who pitch in to help make it work. There are many others at Lakeside that serve this way in many other ministries, and that’s what Lakeside is all about, and that’s why Lakeside has worked, and that is why we want to be here as long as we can.”

 


MAYNARD BAUMAN

“Church is a place I have been going to all my life, but not all of the years were productive for my spiritual growth. I grew up working on a farm which kept my social circle somewhat isolated to people like me – people who grew up in church and knew the correct “motions.” For me, church was something that was done by default just like being baptized when it was “time.”

I started working in the city when I was 20 and this opened a door of vast opportunity in the areas of education, brand new social circles and time away from my old normal life. In due time I started to question the foundational things I had been taught or had assumed. I struggled with challenging what I’d always believed, but the questions grew, and I wondered, ‘How can we take a story such as the Bible and believe it and defend it and fight for it when we haven’t even tested it or checked alternative possibilities?’ And so it went until one day I realized that I actually believed very little of what I’d been taught.

So I set out on a journey to discover the truth. It was an interesting time of alternating between baby steps of faith and cataclysmic landslides which bordered on confusion at times. But this time, it was MY faith – not my parents’ faith, or my pastor’s faith or my best friend’s faith – it was mine.

After that pivotal shift, I went through a difficult time where I felt like God really let me down, and I became angry with Him. I had my list ready and I could point out in fine detail exactly where He messed up and didn’t lift a finger to help me (and he could have done it easily the whole time).

I started to become a bitter person, until it occurred to me that I had to personally make a move, change my thinking, and throw out the dark thoughts as an active thing on my part. This time of testing changed the direction of my life and helped refine my faith so that when another difficult situation came up, I was able to lean into God. Just before our wedding, my lovely wife, Priyanka was fighting cancer and I believe the previous testing/refinement I’d been through before was vastly helpful for me during this time.

I suppose in the future, there will be more times of testing but I know now that God won’t abandon me. He won’t let me down. God is faithful.”

 


JESSICA HOLVIK

“At 14, I was a very shy young lady with just a few friends who was always waiting to be something more. More cool, more desirable, more outgoing, more popular. I didn’t know where I fit in. I always imagined that joy and happiness were in my future, but they didn’t have anything more than superficial and short-lived moments in my present. I remember my mom telling me that she was worried about me because I didn’t smile much. I probably scowled at her in response.

I grew up going to a more traditional church. Christianity always seemed like an academic exercise to me, and church was just what you were supposed to do on Sunday. I believed that God was out there, but far away. In my mind He was out there in the universe, detached and relatively uninvolved, except I figured that He would make sure that overall, good prevailed for good people. It all seemed to have little relevance to my life.

Then at 14, in Grade 9, a friend of mine invited me to her youth group at a different church in town. The people there seemed different. Their faith seemed like far more than an academic exercise. Their lives were oriented around it. It was life-changing. And on top of that, they seemed to really care about me. It was a warm, welcoming, safe place for me. I was drawn to those people and fascinated by the way their faith seemed to be the foundation of everything they did.

I started to read the Bible. Contrary to what I had been suspecting, it didn’t sound made-up. I couldn’t even image the amount of work that would be required to write the Bible, if it were a fraud. It seemed far more likely that it was actually a bunch of real people telling a story of what they had seen and heard, each from their own perspective. The more I read, the more I believed it was true.

Then one evening, I decided to give my life over to Jesus, and ask Him to be with me. I really actually felt different. It’s so hard to describe. It was warmth and joy and peace and comfort and belonging, all radiating from deep inside me. As much as it has been challenging at times, and required sacrifice, I’ve never regretted that decision, and never looked back. It has changed me, and is still changing me, always, in every way, for good.

I married one of the boys in that youth group. Twenty four years into my own faith journey, we both constantly aim to make God our first priority. It draws us closer together, makes us better parents, better friends, and better neighbours. It helps us keep the rest of our priorities in order. We don’t have big important jobs, a big fancy house, nice cars, and we wouldn’t win any modelling or fashion awards, but we’ve had a rich and incredibly fulfilling life.

In that moment that I chose to live my life for Jesus, back when I was 14 years old, I found my joy and my happiness.”

 


KRISTEN STUART

“In Kindergarten I met my best friend and it was she (and her family) who showed me what following Jesus looked like, in normal, real, tangible ways. She and her family were founding members of Lakeside and I watched their passion for creating a church for people to comfortably come, explore and grow in their faith, where the music was current to the culture and the language used was easy to understand instead of “churchy” – a place for people like me.

I didn’t know anything about the Bible when I started attending Jr. Youth, but the friends I made, made it a fun and comfortable place to be. Over the next three years I grew in community with my peers and their parents and began giving back by serving in Lakeside Kids. This was transformational. I began meeting people on Sunday mornings, meeting parents, babysitting for them outside of church and making connections.

Church wasn’t about me; it was about community and where I could plug in and be used by God. In my 20s I served as a leader in Lakeside Youth and sang in the band on Sunday mornings; now with a family of my own I’m back in Lakeside Kids. For me, it’s not about going to church, but being the church – faith in action in normal, real, tangible ways – to make this place comfortable for those who are where I once was, looking to find out about Jesus and growing in a relationship with him.”

 


JACKY WATSON

“I have known God all my life in a diluted way, but since I found Lakeside in 2004 (after taking an Alpha course in my building) my strength, faith and love have grown tremendously. I became a member the same year I started coming. I have become much more of a seeker and less of a lukewarm Christian. I have loved and enjoyed many Bible studies and met some fantastic people along the way.

I have volunteered at Alpha for several years — what a great way to meet people and interact with them! I have been so lucky to have met some wonderful people. I will be forever grateful for my pastor and the church that opened my heart.”

 


RUTH MORTON

“When John and I got married, it never occurred to us that we’d have difficulties having children, but after a miscarriage and no other pregnancies, we started seeking help from fertility specialists. We shared our pain and struggle with the small group we met with regularly from Lakeside. One night as we were reading the Bible and talking with the group, I completely broke down and, through tears, laid out my fears and doubts about whether we were doing the right thing by continuing with fertility treatments. I’ll always remember the responses full of compassion and grace as each person shared verses that John and I needed to hear, and the group prayed with us.

Our struggles didn’t disappear that night and we still had a number of moral and spiritual issues to contend with but the group helped me bring my worries to God and not let them consume me. And now, years later, we are the proud parents of twin 8-year-old boys.

For me, it’s the people of Lakeside that have made all the difference. They continue to challenge and encourage me in my walk with God every day.”

 


LINDSAY DUNCAN

“Growing up, I have always loved being around people and connecting in community. However, throughout the years, loneliness became a consistent theme in my life. It started for me with the social aspect of a variety of settings where I was severely bullied. During my teens and into my university years, I struggled with being the odd one out when it came to my faith and values (I’d accepted Jesus into my life when I was fairly young and even then, I knew that He spoke to me and I to Him). In a crowd, I could still feel so isolated. In all of this, I’ve known that God is my rock and we speak to each other – especially in moments of deep loneliness. Still, I started developing habits and mindsets that revolved around achieving the approval of others and doing everything I could to make sure that I wasn’t a bother to anyone. I started to feel that I wasn’t good enough for God to love me, because no one else seemed to think I was good enough either.

As I got older, I began experiencing episodes which I now recognize were anxiety attacks. This was another way the loneliness presented itself where I felt isolated in my mind. It took a lot of encouragement from my (incredible) prayer group and some of my other close friends to encourage me to seek help and dig deeper about why I was struggling so much mentally. After starting therapy and beginning the journey of sorting through many hurts from my past, I know that my identity isn’t in being the “fixer” or the “yes” girl for everyone.

God is present when others are not, and better yet, He is absolutely not defined by the hurt others have caused me. When everything in this world fades away – our successes, our failures, our loved ones, our jobs, our legacy – God will be present. If you feel that you are in a dark place of any kind, there is always help available and there is absolutely no shame in asking for it. God heals in so many ways: His word, His voice, through therapy, medication and a strong community. I am not defined by the opinions of others, my anxiety or my past – I am defined by the One who created me and died for me.

I know that I can love others well, and rest in the fact that in my brokenness, God has made me whole. God doesn’t just like that I’m around. He is actively pursuing me each day, forgiving me, loving me and healing me”

 


RICHARD VANDERSTARRE

“I still remember my grandparents taking me to Sunday school. I was five years old, sitting on a little wooden stool singing, ‘Jesus loves all the children of the world.’ And then a little older, being picked up by the Baptist minister and taken to church, learning the Bible stories, singing the hymn, ‘Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.’ Now 45 years later I look back and think, WOW! Someone like me! Someone who is so unworthy and so undeserving yet Jesus calls me one of his children and only through his amazing grace could he save a person like me!

From the time I was a teenager I’ve felt like the world is always watching, waiting for me to fail. And I’ve failed God so many times. Through my faith journey there have been many peaks and valleys. I’ve been on fire for God, ready to serve anywhere I could, but then I question my faith, my sincerity to God. Can I even call myself a Christian? Is there really a God or am I doing this all for naught?

I struggle everyday with the pressures of life, work, family, and my faith, but I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t need to complicate Christianity. The answers are right in front of me through his word. I read a meme the other day that said, “You can’t find God through a closed Bible.” I know I don’t open my Bible as much as I used to, but I’m at the point in my life where I feel my mandate is simple: First, love God with all my heart, soul and mind. Second, to be the best husband and father that I can be to my wife, Tess and our children, Andrew and Abby. I don’t always get it right, but through God I cannot fail.”

 


KIMI CORNEY

“It’s crazy to think that my family has been coming to Lakeside for almost 23 years! Lakeside is not just a church we belong to….it’s a part of our lives. It’s who we are. We’ve grown with the church through new phases of construction, participated in and hosted bible studies, our girls have been through the youth program, and we’ve served in various areas throughout the years.

After I retired from providing childcare for over 25 years, I was at a loss of identity of sorts and I decided to volunteer at HOPE House. What started as a one morning a week grew into three to four days. I thought that by serving at HOPE House I’d be helping others — and I did. But what I didn’t realize was that helping others also helped me! The opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life was amazing and rewarding. I felt like I was doing God’s work. I loved my years at HOPE House. Many of my dearest friends are people I served alongside there. My current focus has been on my health and my family (with eight grandchildren, there’s always someone who needs some ‘Nana care’) and I’m not sure where I will be led to serve next, but Lakeside is my church home and serving, for me, is a part of being a child of God.

Many years ago, there was a sermon on being a “Proverbs 31 Woman.” I really loved all that it stood for and realized that was the type of woman I wanted to strive to become.

Proverbs 31:25-30 reads-
“She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future. When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness. She carefully watches everything in her household and suffers nothing from laziness. Her children stand and bless her. Her husband praises her: “There are many virtuous and capable women in the world, but you surpass them all!” Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised.”

Not easy standards to live by, but I’m a work in progress! I thank God and Lakeside for who I am on a daily basis.”

 

 


EMILY ELSASSER

“I grew up in a Christian home, attending Lakeside since I was about 4 or 5 years old. I loved going to youth group, on retreats and serving. My faith, as I knew it was fine. Just fine.

In 2005 I went on a Lakeside mission trip to Camaguey, Cuba. That was my first “life-changing” experience. The heartbreak of poverty, but the steadfast faith of those who had nothing rocked my world. I don’t remember when the change happened, exactly, but I left Canada feeling “meh” and came home on fire!

In the summer of 2006 I went to Romania on another mission trip, but this time it felt very empty, like God was too busy helping others and was leaving me out. I came home feeling dissatisfied and disillusioned. I started questioning everything I thought I knew and became distant from God. I couldn’t seem to connect the dots between God and me. I felt like He was over there and I was over here.

In the summer of 2007 I decided to give God another chance and packed my bags for South Africa. I didn’t really know what my motive was but I figured the only way to find out was to hop on a plane! Once again, I came home disillusioned, let down and feeling more alone than ever. Over time I began to see that my faith wasn’t fine – it was almost non-existent. I fell away from church after that. My view of God had twisted into something unrecognizable from my childhood. There was so much disconnect.

During that time, I went from one unhealthy relationship to another, the longest being five years. When that ended, my world shattered. I felt so lost and so defeated. I realized that I couldn’t do it on my own anymore. It took quite a few years to swallow my pride and come back to church with a new, softer attitude toward God.

It’s been a long journey and I’m nowhere near done, but through connecting at Celebrate Recovery and the support and love from my church family, I’m finding my faith again. It’s not perfect and I have a long way to go, but I am still amazed by the grace of our God, that He should love someone like me.”

 


KATELYN REMUS

“University was a turning point in my life and my faith was really challenged. I struggled with various sicknesses and I was discouraged and unhappy. Anxiety and bitterness began to consume me and I struggled to see how God fit into my life. After graduating university, I ended up going to Capernwray Bible School where I realized that no matter how hard I tried to find satisfaction and happiness in other things or people, only Jesus can truly fill the void.

Being anxious is still a daily struggle, but I know that God is faithful and my hope is in Him. Matthew 6:34 says “do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” While this is easier said than done most of the time, it is a good reminder to take each day at a time and trust that God is in control and has a plan for my life.”

 


MEGHAN McNALLY

  “Almost two years ago I was feeling lost. Unsure of who I was and where to turn. A friend began talking with me about Jesus and how his life had been impacted by the love of Jesus. This left me with many unanswered questions as I had no idea what that love looked like. I went to church as a child, but it never meant anything to me and at the age of 14 I walked away from the church and never thought about it again.

I recently turned to a therapist out of Lakeside HOPE House. At the time I didn’t have a lot of Christian influences in my life and knew I needed to. That is when I made the courageous decision to walk through the doors of Lakeside Central for my first ever Celebrate Recovery night. Little did I know the actual impact this program would have on my life and the relationship with God that would form because of it.”

Having the ability to hear that I was not alone in my suffering, my hurt, my uncertainty, my shame, my self-blame and so much more created a great sense of comfort. Not only was I developing my own personal identity and intimate relationship with God, but the new relationships formed have encouraged me to use my own faith walk to help others. The influencers you have in your life play a huge role in your personal development. Choosing Jesus as my main influencer was the wisest decision I have ever made. Choosing Jesus has started a fire in me that I never knew existed.”

 


ABBY

“I always knew who God was since I grew up in a Christian home and attended church every week, but that didn’t mean I always felt God there. I had many struggles growing up and as I got older, things kept getting worse. In seventh grade I hit rock bottom. I felt like my whole world was falling apart. I felt so broken and alone, which caused me to question God. I thought that if he really was there this wouldn’t be happening, so I made the decision to take God out of my life completely. It was honestly the worst decision I ever made. As time went on nothing was improving. I was falling into a darker state, I turned to many different coping ways, I didn’t go to church and when I did, I didn’t enjoy it since I was always very shy and feared being judged.

Skipping ahead a few years, I couldn’t live in darkness anymore. I needed to find that light again, and that light was God. I gradually started to build up my relationship with God once again, and it was incredible. I could actually smile without feeling so broken inside. However, I still wasn’t very comfortable attending church every week, but in ninth grade, I decided to start up again and it was life-changing. I used to be the shy girl who just sat in the back doing nothing, but now I’m a completely different person. I’ve done things I didn’t think I could or would do.

I’m seriously so blessed to be involved in such an amazing church. Thanks to Lakeside, I’ve met some of the most amazing and inspiring people. I’ve built a lot of friendships these past few years and they’ve all helped me grow into who I am today. They made me stronger, more confident, and most importantly, constantly encouraged me to grow with God.

Thanks to God and Lakeside Church, I realized I’m not alone – none of us are. And I will always be so thankful for that. I know that as life goes on, I will continue to run into obstacles, but now I know that I can win these battles because I trust that God is always there guiding me every step of the way.”

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” – Isaiah 41:10

 


EMILEIGH SAMPSON

“My family began attending Lakeside in early 2010, but I avoided making connections or getting involved. It was my way of punishing my parents for making the change to a new church and God for allowing them.

Being so stubborn and in such a new environment, I found myself walking away from God more than once. Eventually I attended youth but I still struggled with finding my place. Outside of youth, it took a lot of prayer and searching for God before I truly felt that this was the place he called me to be.

The change was slow, and since I’m not a very patient person I really struggled with knowing what I wanted and what it was that God was doing in my life. One of the first steps of action I took was getting involved with Lakeside Kids. Since then I have moved from small group leader with the little ones to working with the senior high students in Lakeside Youth. God has led me ​to find a passion for kids and youth, to be able to help them grow deeper in their faith with God and experience life as a genuine Christian.

I know there are still struggles ahead but I trust that God has a plan for me.”

 


DILLON CAMPBELL

“Growing up I always wanted to be that classic NHL hockey player. Training hard and competing at high levels was how I lived my life, but when Grade 12 came around I quickly realized that my dream wasn’t going to happen and I needed to come up with another plan. I decided to study Sports and Recreation because it was something I loved to do. I always did what felt best for me.

I would soon realize that God had other plans. Four years ago, after completing three years of college, God made his plan clear that ministry was where I was to be. I selfishly pushed that aside, knowing I didn’t want to be there.

After trying to pursue other potential careers, God kept bringing me back to ministry and through youth leaders and my passion for youth, I found myself applying to Heritage Bible College majoring in Youth Ministry. This was definitely God’s plan although I never understood why until this past year. Becoming extremely distant from someone I grew up modelling was the hardest thing I have ever had to face. I had never been so confused, hurt, and lost all at once.

Romans 8:28 says, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

This has been my go-to verse for the past year or so. I never really understood this verse until it became real this past year. This verse has been one of the things that has kept me going. Next to my loving parents I have been raised by, this verse continues to give me hope that God’s plan and purpose as to why things happen will one day be shown. My parents and my church family have been a prime example as to how I am to trust God and surrender everything to him.”

 


BLAIRE CALDWELL

“In December of 2014, my supervisor informed me of an emergency staff meeting scheduled for that night, a Wednesday night two weeks before Christmas. As a committed leader in the Fuse Student ministry I informed my ministry leader that I’d most likely be late for youth that night.

Nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to hear. My administrator, assistant administrator and the president of our board sat the staff down and announced that our child care centre would most likely be shutting down because our landlords were evicting us after 29 years. This was a huge blow.

As I drove to Lakeside that night the tears began to flow, despite being able to keep my cool during the meeting. I was, in fact, late but my ministry leader, a friend of mine, had informed other friends of this. Some were waiting for me in the atrium as I arrived, to see if things were ok.

I chatted and prayed about the situation with a fellow leader and friend. We soon joined the group in worship where we discovered none of my Grade 12 girls and fellow leaders showed up that night. I was invited to join the Grade 11 girls.

We made it through group and then it was time for prayer requests, I shared my news with the girls and other Grade 11 leaders, sobbing as I went. After youth finished that night one of these Grade 11 leaders approached me. She informed me that Lakeside was opening a Child Care Centre in 2015 and that she had wanted to approach me about becoming an ECE in the newest Lakeside ministry. I was so devastated from the news prior in the evening I couldn’t comprehend the blessing that was just given to me.

My employers looked and looked for a new place to relocate to but with little hope in sight, it looked like I would be out of a job. I decided it was time to look for a new career altogether and ministry was what I was thinking, but how does an Early Childhood Educator make the jump into ministry? Then I remembered about my conversation on that awful night in December.

I spoke to that person again and her offer still stood. With the hopelessness of not finding a new location for the centre to relocate, I gave my answer to Lakeside, Yes, I wanted to be a part of this ministry!

Shortly after I gave my answer to Lakeside, the centre found a new home in another local church. God definitely orchestrated this whole thing. It was in his plan for me to be working at Lakeside and be in ministry with the population of people I love the most – young children. Now in 2017, I am the Lakeside Child Care Centre ministry leader and I wouldn’t change where I am at all. Our God is so good!”

 


ROCCO ROSA

“I have been exposed to Christianity my entire life. I was brought up in a Roman Catholic Church and went through a Catholic school system. I knew of God, Jesus, all the angels and saints and the most common stories of the Bible.

As a teen I grew away from a faith journey. A short history of not feeling appreciated and a victim of abuse had me thinking that something was wrong with me and that I was not someone who was worthy of love from anyone, even God.

Although I was blessed my entire life, my journey without Jesus was very dark. I battled many demons, including feeling I had to fix everyone, making myself look better than anyone else, at the same time tearing them down, and a terrible sexual addiction that almost tore my world apart. This was a battle that I was losing.

At my lowest point, I was introduced to three strangers. This all happened in a small room at Lakeside Church with people I did not know, praying over me. There, the crust on my heart started to break and I welcomed God back into my life. With their love for Christ shown to me, a sinner, I started my new life. This happened almost 7 years ago, and with so much healing, including the life-changing ministry of Celebrate Recovery, I am now a sinner saved by God’s Grace and worthy of His love.”

 


CALEB

“God works in many different ways. One of his ways that sticks out to me and has changed my life was during my grade six year at the youth retreat known as BEDLAM. That weekend was the first time I had a noticeable encounter with God. I remember the band’s male lead singer calmed us all down and then he prayed an amazing prayer. In this prayer he asked God to be with everyone there so that we would bring glory and honour to God. Right after that everyone went quiet and the guy said, “I feel God is here and he is pleased.” After that he said something I will never forget. He said, “I feel God hugging each and every one of you right now.” When I looked around, so many people were crying. Then out of nowhere I felt a cold chill as if someone was hugging me. I didn’t think of it at first but after looking at every door, I finally realized that it was exactly as the guy had said. God was giving me a hug. I felt a calming feeling around me and a sense of peace as well.

At the time I was going through some rough things. I have ADD. At that time I was feeling really down and very depressed. I felt like no one cared about me and to know God was with me made me feel better and more important. That was great. I had a new sense of hope, meaning and purpose. Now in my life, even with occasional depression I know God is with me wherever I am. When depression causes me to have suicidal thoughts I remember God cares for me and has a plan for me. I also remember that my family cares about me as well. The way that I live my life now is different than it was then. I am now more open with friends and when people are feeling down, I try to help them so they can feel better because I know God has a plan for everyone. No matter who they are, he cares for them as well.”

 


ELAINE DUIGNAN

“It’s not easy living with health challenges, but I am thankful to God for how he answers prayers and heals. A couple of years ago I had a hernia that had just grown and grown and grown, like a football or a watermelon. I had to walk with bags to balance myself, and my mobility was severely limited after some unsuccessful surgeries.

I was told that if it was operated on again, it would be fatal. But a local surgeon wanted to perform the five hour surgery anyway. I struggled with the decision because of what had happened before.

Through the encouragement of others, I had the surgery on Dec. 7, 2016. The prayer team at Lakeside prayed for me, and many others prayed for me. And I’m fantastic. God answers prayers left, right and centre. I can’t thank the prayer team enough. I’ve been put back together like Humpty Dumpty.”

 


KYLE BURTON

“Upon hearing Isaiah 6:1-8 at a youth retreat, I began to question my entire view on what a life of following God really looked and felt like. Years later I began to see the life change in other people but never felt it past the emotional prayers of re-committing my life to God at every youth retreat.

I felt like a fake as I led worship to a God that felt distant and absent in my life while I grudgingly watched Him continue to bless and change others. Was I not good enough? What did I have to do to earn His attention? These questions continued to circulate in my mind as I went through the motions of being a “Christian” with a blind, distasteful faith.

At the end of high school, I had the opportunity to go on a mission trip to Peru with a team from the Lakeside youth group; it was there that I began to recognize the longing for community in my life and see how God works through it. Upon returning from Peru, the strong community I had felt daily slowly seemed to fade, and my questions and anger returned in my loneliness. I doubted that God would ever seem real to me and what faith I had left seemed too small to build back up.

In the last year I was introduced to a bible study put together by some old friends from my youth group. Through my past experiences, I have learned that putting my faith in people will always fail me, but through their example I have begun to ask and express my questions and frustrations to a community, as well as to God Himself. They have encouraged me to look deeper into the Bible and listen for His guidance. Since this began, God has been using my tiny, mustard seed-like faith (Matthew 17:20) to tangibly move in my life.”

 


BRIANNA BELL

“I became a Christian when I was 11 years old at a Vacation Bible School at Bramalea Baptist Church. This church laid the foundation for my faith, from my time at the church’s daycare at only 2 years old, up until high school. I have had a lot of childhood hurt and trauma, and my life didn’t change much once I accepted Jesus as my Saviour.

I spent many years battling confusion over why God didn’t make things simpler for me. Why did I have to experience abuse, trauma, neglect, from early childhood until present day? What did I do to deserve this, and why did it not go away no matter how hard I prayed, or how many Bible verses I memorized?

It’s only been this last year that I have finally learned, and am learning to accept, that God doesn’t take away our pain and our hurt just because we’re his children. I still battle the lies that my pain is a result of God loving me less, or a punishment for my sins, but I am learning to live in the light that God’s love is all-consuming, all-forgiving, and will never change, even when my life is difficult and the road is rocky.

I’ve had to learn that my actions and my works don’t relate to the circumstances of my life. Regular giving doesn’t mean I’ll have enough money at the end of the month to pay my bills, and making wise decisions and loving God doesn’t mean I won’t experience severe depression and suicidal thoughts. I’ve learned this all over the past year.

I have felt for a long time that I shouldn’t share my struggle – with my faith, with my life circumstances – until I had overcome it and gotten to the other side. But I’m ready to share today, not because I’m free from lies and struggles, but because I’m full of hope and joy in Jesus, amidst the raging storm.

I am aware of God’s presence. I am aware that I am God’s child, that there’s purpose in the pain, and there’s a story being written that I don’t understand.

One of the things I am most grateful for through this has been my family and my church. My husband has been dedicated and supportive, and our church has given him the freedom and ability to love me the way that I need through this time. I’ve had many loving friends who have come over to wash dishes, or sit with me, or play with my kids, and through their love they have been an extension of Christ and his all-consuming grace. Without my faith, my family, and my friends, I know that my life would feel hopeless, and without Christ, my story would feel meaningless.”

 


AMANDA VAN SOELEN

“I grew up in a wonderful Christian home, went to Christian schools, married a boy from my home church, and we started coming to Lakeside 18 years ago as newlyweds who wanted to connect with a contemporary church that was family focused. We joined small groups where we have made lifelong friendships. I have grown in authenticity in my faith while I have struggled with what I believe, but I’ve had the security to ask tough questions and have friends hold me accountable.

Over the years I have made some real genuine friendships – friends who I can really “do life” with. We have gone down some dark roads together and supported one another. We have also experienced real joy and have made lasting memories. These friendships are where I get to see God’s love, grace and acceptance mirrored.

I went through a dark period when I miscarried our first child. I couldn’t believe God would let me go through that pain when he knew how much I wanted a baby. But friends and women from small groups helped me work through the grief and a year and a half later we were blessed with a baby girl.

My friends from the Lakeside choir held a baby shower, as did our small group. We were so supported as new parents. I am so grateful for how Lakeside walks alongside parents in raising their kids, provides tools and great programming, and opportunities for families to connect. Now our kids are teenagers, and both kids love youth and enjoy being involved in Lakeside.”

 


NORMA CYCA

“I was raised in the church – I played the organ and sang for many funerals and weddings – and raised my three children in the church. When my husband and I divorced after 16 years of marriage I just stopped going. It was too painful.

When I would go home to see my family I would go to church with my mom, but I would just sit there and cry the whole time. As I was divorced I was not able to get remarried in the church I attended, so I just divorced the church from my life. But in doing so I was lost as to where to go…so I went nowhere.

About 10 years ago, I heard about Lakeside through neighbours and one Sunday I went by myself. I felt the messages were directed at me so I went back again and again. One Sunday when I was there I met a wonderful lady that was a new friend and she too was looking for a church to go to, so we started going together.

Since then my faith has been restored and my relationship with the Lord has grown, and I am very thankful that I found Lakeside. Sometimes I still cry in church as the songs and messages touch my heart, but these are no longer tears of sadness; they are tears of pure joy. I’m part of a small group and feel very fortunate to be learning and sharing with these ladies. My volunteer work at the church is very rewarding so I feel very blessed.”

 


DAVE SAUNDERS

“Growing up, I always believed there was a God but I didn’t know him. I had a lot of anger for how my dad treated me, and blamed God for letting it happen. Then I married Deb and she showed me Jesus’ love. Finally, after nine years of marriage and two sons, I asked Jesus into my life. He helped me forgive my dad and myself. I felt peace for the first time and things started to change.

Back then I was a smoker and I couldn’t quit. Every year I would tell myself I would stop but every year I kept smoking. After 30 years of not being able to kick the habit on my own, I started praying about it. After about a month, I woke up one morning and had no desire to smoke anymore, and no withdrawal symptoms.

Jesus did that for me. I know I still have a ways to go, but with Jesus’ grace, I am a better man today.”

 


KRISTEN TILLEY

“Just over a year ago, I was diagnosed with epilepsy after having a series of unmediated seizures. As I found myself in and out of hospital care as we tried to find answers, I was left grieving my old sense of self, my old sense of security, and embarked on a journey with God I never could have imagined. At that point my faith became as real as it has ever been, as I had nothing else to hold on to.

Fast forward a year, and my relationship with God has grown in aspects I had never thought possible for my life. He restored many years that the locust had stolen – just as He promises. I still battled epileptic events regularly that would knock me down for days at a time, but it was a price I was grateful to pay for the blessings I had received as a result. I had come to peace with what I thought my life was going to look like moving forward, living with this condition.

Then, about a month and a half ago, I woke up in the hospital after being told I was in a coma for almost a week. I was having uncontrollable seizures that put me on life support multiple times to the point that the doctors didn’t know what to expect if and when I woke up. On day 6, by the grace of God I was stable enough to begin recovery to move into a specialized ICU to determine where in the brain the seizures were originating and do surgery. By the end of the monitoring, I was officially declared epilepsy free. My previously abnormal brain wave activity had miraculously returned to normal. I am now off all medications.

There is no medical explanation as to how this can happen, but I know firsthand the life-saving power of prayer. There were thousands of people praying for me worldwide, some I have never met who had heard my story. Many were praying the exact phrase “complete healing” over my life, something I had never considered praying for myself. But strangers came together to pray this over me, and God heard those prayers. I am epilepsy free.

The truth is, it’s hard to walk around fully alive while knowing I should have been fully dead. I know that there is nothing I have done or will ever do that could possibly warrant the grace that I have been given. There are no explanations, but there is one truth, and that is that Jesus inside me is stronger than the darkness that threatened to overtake me. He claimed defeat over death on the cross, and He defeated death within me.

I don’t have all the answers. I don’t know why God chose to use His power to heal me of something that I was beginning to accept as a blessing. All I know and choose to believe is that I serve a God of impossible odds, and if He can intervene to save my life, then I know the chains of fear are forever broken.

He’s inviting me to enjoy the life that He’s already won for me, and if that’s not love, then I don’t know what is.”

 


JUSTIN SYTSMA

“This year has been the most bittersweet, challenging, healing, and stretching year of my life. It’s actually hard to put to words the mixed emotions that go along with it.

In February, I was honoured to take over the pastoral leadership at Lakeside Downtown where I had previously been serving as the associate and worship pastor. In March, my wife Lindsay and I became parents to a wonderful and sweet girl named Iris. She is truly the joy of our lives. But amid that joy, the church community that I love so deeply went through a very challenging season.

My wife and I walked alongside some friends as they went through exceedingly painful situations. Loved ones also went through equally difficult circumstances, and my wife and I felt completely helpless. For a few weeks this past fall, anxiety and a feeling of dread plagued me more than ever before.

In everything, my deepest fears, insecurities, and flaws felt exposed.

Sometimes, in those dark moments it felt like God wasn’t there, or at least that it was hard to hear His voice. But when I felt like I couldn’t handle any more, God sustained me. I’ve had these incredible moments of His peace, and the assurance that His presence will never leave me or forsake me.

As the end of the year approaches, not everything is solved and some prayers have been left unanswered. But here’s what I do know: Jesus has never failed me, and I don’t expect that to end anytime soon. God’s Spirit is refining me. God is shaping me and affirming His call over me. God is continually reminding me of His great love for me and His provision.

No matter what next year brings, my resolve hasn’t changed: Above all else, I am simply called to faithfulness. God will take care of the rest.”

 


JIM BAXTER

jim-baxter “I was raised in an actively faithful Christian family and decided to follow Christ at Camp Kwasind when I was 15. But in my years as a young adult I had many questions, and my faith was somewhat diluted with a comfortable, relaxed, cultural approach that did not significantly challenge my day-to-day thoughts and activities. God did, however, place people in my life that kept my faith alive…if just simmering.

Eventually through our desire for a greater Christ-focused worship, God led us to Lakeside. It was a difficult decision to leave our previous church. One day my wife, Sandra and I met for lunch on a bike trail in Guelph. As we rode our bikes and talked about the potential church change, one of the Lakeside staff rode by and waved to us. We looked at each other and laughed. Just one more time that God had placed people in our lives to help us make good choices for our family.

The decision to attend Lakeside and the very practical and life-changing teachings have impacted every part of our family life and walk with Christ. Each of us has been affected differently, but in such positive ways; from the friends we met in small groups, the participation with the Lakeside youth ministry, to the very helpful counsel of Lakeside staff and friends. Lakeside has been nothing but good for our family.

So as I sit in Lakeside Live and listen to Pastor Dave, or occasionally at Lakeside Downtown with Justin, or at youth with Daniel, and feel encouraged or convicted, I thank God for opening the doors to get me and my family to the places we are at today.”

 


LILLIAN LANDSBOROUGH

lillian-landsborough “I was raised in a big family – one of five girls – by parents who had emigrated from Europe. We went to Sunday school at the Baptist Church and in Grade 9 I became a believer. Throughout my teenage years, I learned about God from great teachers, and after high school I married my loving, caring, strong, faithful husband, Bill.

One thing I am constantly reminded of is that God is in control. He has blessed me in so many ways and has answered many prayers, but not always in the way I wanted them to be answered.

After we were married, Bill and I were told that there was a 98% chance we wouldn’t be able to have children. Although angry, we accepted the fact that it would just be the two of us. I went back to school with plans to start a decorating business, and was scheduled for a hysterectomy. Bill got called away on business to Europe after that, so I delayed the surgery and went with him.

Maybe it was the fact that we’d accepted the news that we would never be parents or maybe it was the many hours we’d spent praying for a family, but after all that time, God blessed us with not just one baby, but two. They were not easy pregnancies but they were miraculous. Life is a journey. I truly love life and my faith and along with our son and daughter we now also have three beautiful grandchildren.”

 


SETH DUNCAN

seth-duncan “When I was about 14 or 15 I didn’t really know much about who God really was. I believed he was real, and that there was more to life than just what we can see, but I had never really learned how immense and powerful He really was.

I decided to go to a youth retreat over the May 24 weekend called Pitch and Praise. There, I discovered how huge God really is! I heard about how much He loves us, that grace is greater than all of our sin and that salvation isn’t something we have to try and earn, but something we have been gifted, that will always be ours to have. So that weekend I decided that this was the way to go, and that my life shouldn’t be the same knowing all of those things. I committed to following after Jesus and putting His glory before mine.

Since then there have been many ups and downs, but thankfully I have an amazing group of friends and family that love me and help me grow in my faith no matter what life throws my way. Not to mention a God who provides and answers when I need Him most.”

 


ANDREW WHEELER

andrew-wheeler “I’ve been following Jesus for pretty much my whole life. Sure, there have been times I drifted away from that relationship, and I’m not the most saintly of guys, but I don’t really know what it’s like to live without Christ.

Over the past few decades, I feel really fortunate to have had opportunities to live out my faith. I have been truly humbled to see God work through me in some very tangible and amazing ways.

Back in high school, I travelled overseas to share the message of God’s love through drama. It was old-time revival-style Gospel and I have to say it was invigorating for me—emotionally and spiritually.

Later on, I had the distinct privilege to work with World Vision. I got to see and be part of a very practical ministry—relief and real-life change in the lives of people in the most desperate situations around the world.

In all of this, what has struck me the most deeply is how God can use someone so full of shortcomings to complete his will.

I know my faults all too well and am constantly amazed at his willingness to use me. And I think that’s what resonates most about the gospel.

In 2 Corinthians 12:9, Jesus tells Paul: “My strength comes into its own in your weakness.”

You just have to show up and God will take it the rest of the way.”

 


SHEENA BIER

sheena-bier-small “I am the mom of five active children between the ages of 3 and 12.

Motherhood is such a responsibility and challenge, but also such a privilege. It feels like the to-do list just keeps getting longer and longer every day – making it hard to experience true joy and to live in the moment.

I need Jesus throughout my days, for joy, for peace, and for strength (‘Lord Give Me Strength’ is said many times throughout my day) and for wisdom and patience to know how to raise and love our children the way they need and deserve. I am often asked by friends and strangers, “How do you do life with 5 children?” All I can say is that it’s by God’s grace and strength!

Here are a few ways I find to connect with Jesus throughout my day:

  • Praying and chatting with Jesus while I do my morning exercises before the whirlwind begins. I want to be healthy and strong, emotionally, spiritually and physically, to be there for my husband and my children
  • While walking to school with ‘the gang,’ we usually pray together before reaching the school doors – sometimes it’s a quick ‘chat’ with God as we run up the street, dragging the wee ones along and sometimes it’s a moment of peace as we wander.
  • We often have worship music on in the background of our home which helps fill me with peace, quiets my heart and calms me during the chaos.
  • I often find that the moments when I am simply watching and enjoying the kiddos are the moments when I am most aware of God’s presence. That’s when, in my heart, I thank Him for them, recognize how blessed I am and say quick prayers to Him for them, for me as a mom, and for my husband.

Although I didn’t expect my calling to be that of a stay-at-home mom of five I know it’s where I’m meant to be right now and I am learning day by day to live in the moments that I’ve been given.”

 


MARIELLE LEHOUX

marielle-lehoux “Recently, the bottom of my world dropped out in a matter of minutes. A time where everything I knew was in question because of the circumstances that surrounded me. I had been deeply hurt, betrayed and broken by someone I was very close to. I looked at the storm which was my life and then to what I knew to be true about God and His character. Nothing fit and nothing made sense. I wrestled with so many questions. How could my good Father allow this to happen? Why would He allow me to go through this? How and why, I asked Him over and over. It felt as though my faith had been ripped down to its studs and all that was left was my belief that God was real, that He was good and He was sovereign. Each time I looked down at the shattered pieces of my life, God softly and lovingly reminded me to fix my eyes on Him instead. The lyrics, “Nothing is wasted, you work all things for good. Your promise remains, forever You reign,” rang through me constantly.

God does not promise an easy life. In fact, we are almost guaranteed the opposite. What our amazing Father does promise us is that He will see us through every storm and trial we face. “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” Hebrews 6:19.

I had wandered from God so many other times in my life and had learned that there is only emptiness to be found apart from Him. This time I knew that He was the only answer. I am so grateful to serve a God who is full of unending patience and grace for me. One who does not leave us in our time of need, but pleads with us to allow Him to be our everything. I have learned that God is constantly speaking and revealing His perfect love for us; we only have to turn and look to Him. In choosing to remain in Him and not turn, He has blessed me with a relationship with Him that is far better than anything I could have imagined, one that is built on a solid foundation of knowing not only who I am, but more importantly to whom I belong. This relationship has come at high price, but it is one I would pay again. God doesn’t make everything easy, but He does make all things possible.”

 


LAUREL DAVIS

laurel-davis “I know that God is all-powerful, He can do anything; He is always present and He know all things. But there are times in my life when I wonder if my prayers are significant enough for God to pay attention or if I am faithful enough to deserve His attention or response. I am grateful that time and time again the Lord reminds and reassures me of His GREAT love for me and allows me to experience His provision and care.

For example, recently I was at work and needed to meet my youngest child at the bus stop but was unable to do so. From time to time this happens and usually I am able to ask my neighbours for help. Not that day. After calling and texting my usual list of reliable parents, no one was available. I was beside myself, desperate and feeling hopeless. While wringing my hands at my desk, worrying about how I was going to solve this problem, my cell phone rang. It was Damon, my husband, calling to say he had wrapped up his meetings and obligations for the day, was on his way home and could meet our son at the bus stop.

I know that it was God’s answer to my prayers. God loves and cares not just for me but for my youngest child and the rest of my family. I have done nothing to deserve His unconditional love but am comforted that I can rest in it. The lyrics to one of my favourite songs are, “Your love never fails, never gives up, never runs out on me.” It makes me emotional almost every time I hear and sing it because it is a reminder to me that God does love me, I am significant to God, He is concerned about me, He pursues me, and never abandons me.”

 


NICK

nick-guardiero “Being a teenager is hard. Being a teenager and living out your faith is even harder. I don’t always get it right, but I know God loves me even when I don’t make the best choices. I love the verse, Luke 1:37, “For nothing is impossible with God,” because I know that through God I can do better than I think I can.”

 


WILL HOCHACHKA

will-hochachka “I was blessed to grow up in a Christian home with loving parents. My dad worked in ministry and I grew up hearing all about Jesus and the other stories in the Bible. Coming to university and no longer living at home my relationship with God has become a more personal one (separate from my parents). Over the past four years I have been blessed to be able to explore my faith and strengthen my relationship with God by owning my faith and living for Him. Specifically in the last year I have been humbled and have realized more and more that I need God’s grace and strength every day to live a life worthy to be His ambassador.”

 


ROB CAMPBELL

rob-campbell “In 2012, the Friday before our family vacation, I was told our company was letting go of over 600 employees and I was one of them. I had not realized that climbing the corporate ladder had become a sense of security for me. Even though I credited God for my success, it totally shattered my sense of worth and meaning when I was let go without cause.

I learned that trials come to refine our character and strengthen our faith. God becomes real when we give up control and accept that we are nothing without him. We’ll keep looping until we figure this out.

After running from a calling for over two years, I finally took a first step out on the tightrope of living by faith again. Giving became a sign of my complete trust in God; despite the challenges of starting a business. I’ve never been happier now that I’ve gone back to a life with my faith on the front lines. Self employment means you never know how you will eat your next meal. By keeping an open hand, the Lord has blessed my family and shown us favour in every area of our lives. Ask, believe and expect the Lord to be your provider when you place him as first in your life. It is foolish to trust in man; place your faith in God alone. What we do with our money is an indicator of whether we’re on the front lines of faith or not. Living by faith is the only way you can really live life to the fullest.”

 


ANGELA LOWE

angela-lowe “I am in constant awe of what God is doing in my life. These past couple of years have been character building and the toughest ones yet. From moving back home with my husband and going back to school, I see how God put those steps into place to get me where I am today. Without him, I would have no love, no hope, no light in my life. I am reminded daily to continually put all of my trust in Him. I understand everything will be okay, and when I ask myself, “but how will it be okay?” that’s where God shines his light in my life in big and small ways. From the sunrises I get to see on my commute to the people he’s specially placed in my life. Through it all, I want to give glory to God in all the areas of my life so others can see what God is able to do in their life.”

 


CORY

cory-francis “Ever since I can remember, I’ve always been very philosophical; someone who passionately would seek for answers to life’s toughest questions. Years ago, by the grace of one of my very good friends, I discovered Lakeside Youth. Despite being there, I had virtually no faith in God until I took it upon myself to search for him personally. That’s when I discovered him, and that’s when I realized God is the answer. He helps me improve and guides me through trials and tribulation. In this ever-changing world, and thanks to God, my best is yet to come.”

 


DAINE KUIKEN-ROGERS

daine-kuiken-rogers “[A transforming moment in my faith journey] was when I realized that God works in mysterious ways, as corny as that sounds. Growing up, I made questionable choices involving relationships, and I hit rock bottom four years ago. I had never prayed so hard for change in my life and God answered by giving me the most beautiful, amazing woman a year later – and I married her. I never thought I would ever be married, yet here I am. I never thought I would own a beautiful home with the woman of my dreams, yet here I am. And I never thought I’d be a dad to the most beautiful boy in the world, and yet here I am. No matter what you are going through, as tough as some things seem, if you let go and give it all to him, he will look out for you and take care of you. He is so powerful and almighty.”

 


SUSAN WATERS

sue-waters “As I look back over the years of being a single parent, I can say that I am very thankful for those difficult years that caused me to draw closer to God. I trusted Him to be my husband and the father of my kids – especially during the teen years. Out of desperation, I developed a lifestyle of clinging to Him, trusting God to lead me through court battles, health and financial struggles and more.

His faithfulness and unconditional love have transformed my life from fear and turmoil to peace and great joy as I continue to step out of my comfort zone into His plan for my life.”

 


DAN LOVERO

daniel-lovero “I grew up in a Christian home and was at the church 2-3 times a week serving in different areas. A turning point in my faith occurred when I left home for university. Leaving my comfort zone, my faith was tested. Being away from home and having no authority, I began seeking for what seemed fun, but I couldn’t get over the emptiness I felt.

That is when it all changed for me. Having met a great group of guys, we quickly became great friends and would spend nights worshipping God. Up until that point it was just an act for me, a part of my schedule. This is the moment it became real, the day I took a stand for what I believe and gave everything to God. This is a part of the crucial foundation to who I am today, and God continues to work in my life.”

 


BILLY MARTIN

billy-martin “When I started coming to Lakeside I was 16, and the reason I came was because I had good friends and youth was fun. But a year later my grandpa lost his life to addiction and that hit me hard because I didn’t know he struggled with it. I started to see brokenness in this world, my life and how we need Jesus Christ to persevere, to heal, and to be given grace. I saw God’s presence in one of the darkest parts of my life, and from then on I haven’t looked back. God has so much in store for everyone’s life; we just have to accept his presence.”

 


BETH ROUND

beth-round “We came to Lakeside just as HOPE House was beginning and the Downtown church plant was becoming a reality. When I heard about it, I thought it was a great opportunity – for someone else! We had two young children and had come to Lakeside exhausted. Five years of hoping for children, being blessed with our daughter, then experiencing complications after she was born had left us exhausted, both physically and emotionally. But I felt God nudging me.

We prayed and God answered every concern I had. I realized how much healing we had experienced at Lakeside. Just being able to take our 2-year-old to Kids’ ministry, and having a nursing room where I could go with our infant son and still watch the service; so many things had allowed us to rest, and find refreshment, in God’s presence and in community.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 came to my mind: Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

I felt that God was telling me that He had made sure that we arrived in time to receive and be restored, and now He was calling us to go and share what He had given to us with others. I hope that, even in small ways, we are.”

 


JON WARNHOLTZ

jon-warnholtz “[Leading a small youth group] has helped me understand how to meet others where they are in their faith, and has definitely given me a new perspective on more creative ways to show and share God’s love with people. If nothing else though, it’s helped increase my patience, because, let’s be honest, they’re wild Grade 6 boys. Getting 10 of them to sit still quietly for 30 minutes is a challenge.”

 


ELISHA

elisha-yabut “God has used me in ways that I never imagined possible this year. I am not a fan of change by any means, the whole concept of having even less control over my life terrifies me, but this year I finally put all my life in God’s hands, not just the pieces I felt that I could, but every part of me…the good and the bad. I’ve learned to be OK with change because it brings up opportunity and new beginnings.”

 


PRIYANKA BAUMAN

priyanka-bauman “I felt the presence of God strongly when I was driving home from a close friend’s house during a thunderstorm and the song ‘Coming Home,’ by Sean Combs started playing on the radio. I had heard the song many times before, but it seemed more significant this time, especially in the pouring rain. I was going through tests to see if I had cancer. I felt as though God was saying to me: “No matter what your tests results show, this cancer will not overtake your life. You will be OK.” I believe that is what the song is about and no matter how many times I have doubted that (and still do), I am always free to come back to a place of God’s grace and forgiveness.”

 


ADAM TEETER

adam-teeter “Since becoming a father, I’ve come to a deeper understanding of God’s grace. My love for my son and the care that I have for him is an entirely new experience, one that stands apart from anything else in my life. It has opened my heart and mind to the depth of God’s love for us. I want nothing more than a relationship with my son and to know that he is cared for. And yet, I know that these feelings are only the barest hint of what God feels for us and so I am both humbled and amazed by God’s deep care and grace for his children.”

 


JACQUI KOWALCHUK

jacquie-kowalchuk “I honestly can’t say there was a moment when I knew that Jesus was truly my Saviour; it was a relationship that progressed over time. I came from an unchurched, single parent, alcoholic family, and when I was young (9), a new family moved into my neighbourhood. I started to go to church with them every Sunday (my mom did not attend).

On Thursdays, my friend and I would take the city bus across Calgary to go to choir. I think it was there that I felt that I wasn’t alone and that no matter what was going on at home, I had those two days of the week to look forward to. There was a true comfort in being in that big old church. I definitely felt God’s love and security when I was there. I left the church for a period of time, but when I was pregnant with my oldest, Larry and I returned and continued our faith journey. Not always a smooth one, but hoping to continue to grow.”

 


JOHN MARTIN & HELENE ST PIERRE

john-martin-and-helene-st-pierre “John and I come from Christian backgrounds, but very different. My mother was and is still the driving force behind my faith and we talked openly about God as I grew up. John comes from a more formal church-going family.

When we met more than 25 years ago we talked about our faith but we did not journey together. I pray and have prayed to God all of my life, through some pretty heavy stuff as I grew up, but it was not until our son Billy started to go to Lakeside Youth that we decided to try out Lakeside, and then it was clear that Lakeside filled a void we were looking for.

Recently, I have been going through health issues and because of our faith, prayer and the wonderful children we have, I have peace in my heart, most of the time, and I know God is looking after us.”

 


JACOB MOORE

jacob-moore “Identifying a point in my life as the defining moment in my faith and relationship with Jesus is not easy. I grew up in a Christian home, with Christian parents, attended a Christian grade school, and went to a Christian high school. I’ve gone to Lakeside since I was one. I can’t remember a time when Jesus was not part of my life. For me, my faith journey has been much more gradual, much less “epic turning point” and more of a “slow burn.”

Over the years I have learned more and more about what it means to have faith in Jesus and how that plays out in my life. In 2009, I would not have been able to handle nearly dying three times in a hospital without faith in Jesus.

I am still growing. I mess up, I go through bouts of doubt, and more often than I’d like to admit, I try to do things on my own. I can look back though, at the change I see in my life that has come from striving for a deeper relationship with Jesus. I can look back and see how He has been there for me in the past and I can take strength and find confidence moving forward, knowing that He has been and will be faithful.”