My Story: Jessica Stefano of Edinboro

I am sure now that the fact that my first visit to McLane Church was the Saturday evening that the “40 days in the Word” journey was being announced was not an act of coincidence. After a pleasant service and an even more pleasant dinner shared with very welcoming strangers, I uncharacteristically took a leap and ordered a “40 days” course book, committing my family to 40 days of becoming reacquainted with God and His Word. I have been something of a spiritual wanderer since arriving in Edinboro and moving in with my now-husband four years ago. We were both recovering from divorce and dealing with the challenges that come with single parenting and difficult former spouses. We had tried to attend several churches, but road blocks and difficulties eventually brought us to the point of giving up. We thought, we were both raised as Christians and are intelligent and hard-working people. Surely we could manage a relationship with God without having to face the obstacles that were placed in front of us when we tried to attend church as a family. Those who are more spiritually mature than I am can likely guess what happened; without a regular relationship with God, our faith slowly faded, prayer was no longer a part of my daily life, and I began to face every battle in life as though I were in it alone. I stopped praying for help. I stopped praying in thanksgiving. I tried to move forward without taking God with me. Getting through the problems of life without God felt like trying to drag a car out of a ditch on my own – impossible, painful, and anxiety-inducing.

During my first visit to church in three years, I made a decision to stick with McLane Church, and by association, with God’s Word through the entire “40 Days” program. Upon receiving our workbooks, I prayed for the first time in a very long time and asked God to help me to not give up or get distracted and to help me to find my way back to Him. I paged through the workbook and looked ahead to the first day’s verse: “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6 (NIV).” For the first time in a long time, I felt like I had made a request and allowed myself to be open enough to hear God’s voice.

When Brian spoke that Saturday evening about the “40 Days in the Word” program and how it would be a life changer – that it we would see “amazing things happen in these 40 days” – I expected to hear stories of the spiritual equivalent of the earth moving. I expected the earthquake and fire, but, as in 1 Kings, for me the amazing voice of God was in the whisper. The amazing change that these 40 days have brought me is not in the world around me, as I expected, but inside me. I have found a peace that I thought was impossible. I have found a faith that I thought was lost. And unlike our worldly friendships, God wasn’t put off by the fact that I had been gone so long. I felt welcomed back to His side as though I was merely returning from a short walk. His blessings abound, even in a world as broken as ours can sometimes be. And He will always leave the Light on, no matter how far we may have traveled or how long we have been gone . It is because of that Light that I was able to find my way home.