By Devon Wayne

Our small group started with eight people who didn’t know each other, but over time our stories have woven together into a beautiful tapestry.

A job opportunity brought Julie to Southern California. She had been looking for a church but couldn’t find the right match, so she decided to join the one closest to her home. Google–that source of all knowledge–pointed her to Eastside. Since joining, Julie has volunteered to serve in Kidside, has travelled to Israel, and is preparing to go to on a mission trip to Thailand to serve people there.

Next is Bobby, known as Boy Bobby (as there was a girl Bobbie among our original eight as well). Boy Bobby has a huge heart and a gift of listening. He has taken on a leadership role in our group. He met Hannah, a beautiful, kindhearted woman who grounds him. Hannah has joined our group, and she and Bobby were married at the end of last year.

A few weeks after the group started, Bobby got sick enough that he needed to go to the hospital, and when he needed a ride home, he was bold enough to ask for help from a group of people he had only known for a few weeks. Brandi responded to his text and drove him home.

Brandi has a huge heart and sense of humor. She sees the Spirit within you and will be there to provide words of love and grace when you need them. Brandi leaned on the group as her mom, Nancy, battled with cancer. Before Nancy left us to join God in Heaven, a prayer of hers was answered. It all started at the end of summer 2015, when our group had a barbecue.

A former member of the group hosted the barbecue, and we invited her roommate, Aaron, to join us… and we wouldn’t take no for an answer. Aaron didn’t go to church or follow Jesus, but hey, barbecue is barbecue. We invited him to join us the following week when we started up our Bible study, and he came.

Brandi caught Aaron’s eye, so Aaron started attending church and asking questions about faith. We didn’t always have the answers, but we’d research them and come back the next week to talk more about his questions.

Last year, Aaron was baptized and proposed to Brandi. By then Nancy, Brandi’s mom, had gotten sicker, so a backyard wedding was planned weeks before the actual wedding. I had the privilege of doing Nancy’s hair and makeup for the backyard wedding, and Boy Bobby officiated the ceremony. Nancy went to Heaven a few days later, her prayer that her daughter would find a husband having been answered.

During this time Aaron’s mom, Michelle, started attending Eastside and was baptized a couple of months ago.

I guess that leaves me. I made the commitment to join Eastside in about 2014, and, after feeling lonely and lost in such an overwhelmingly large church, I decided to get plugged in. I joined a small group and began volunteering. The largeness of the church began to shrink, and it began to feel less lonely.

During the first couple of weeks of our small group, Brandi and I learned that we live a mere two-minute walking distance from each other. This proximity allowed us to do life together. She and her dog Clarence often stopped by for walks. When her mom’s condition worsened, I was able to provide dinners and next-day lunches for Brandi. These moments allowed our friendship to grow.

I was raised Lutheran and didn’t feel the need to be baptized again, but God’s whispering became more audible, and the Spirit swelled in my heart. In the beginning of 2015 I was baptized, and that summer I travelled to Kenya on my first mission trip. My heart for compassion causes has grown exponentially, and I am overjoyed as I prepare for my third mission trip. These compassion experiences make me feel more grounded and connected. My cousins left me a message online that resonates with me. They wrote, “Helping you turn the human race into the human family. God bless you.”

Turning the human race into the human family, I just love those words.

Our stories and lives have been interwoven through moments in time. We are now a group of twelve, and whether people have been with us for months or for years, their lives and stories are becoming a part of ours. Our group, like many others, shares life moments: baptisms, illnesses, deaths, mission trips, camping trips, potlucks, laughter, and tears, but most importantly we share God’s love as we seek to expand our knowledge of Him.

If you’d like to find a community of people to do life with, check out eastside.com/groups.