I had turned my back on God, but my co-worker still had hope
Kenneth Woody had walked away from the church, angry at God, until a co-worker’s persistence made him think again.
My life was shaken by two tragedies in high school.
First, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. My mom is the rock and foundation of my family. Her sickness devastated me. I hated going to see her in the hospital, and I hated seeing the pain she suffered after having a double mastectomy.
Then, a good friend on my wrestling team passed away. He was one of the nicest, most kindhearted people I had ever met. And he was also one of the most gifted athletes I have ever seen, and yet he drowned while swimming across a small lake.
It didn't make sense to me that bad things could happen to good people. Church was a large part of my life, and church camp was the highlight of every summer. How could God allow this to happen?
I always had a nagging feeling that something was missing from my life.
The Blue Ridge mountains of North Carolina are a favorite place to hike.
At that point, I walked away from church and God. When I moved away for college, I called myself an atheist. I wouldn't even say the blessing when I ate with my family. My faith was non-existent.
But I always had a nagging feeling that something was missing from my life, like there was a void I couldn't fill.
After college, I moved back to Spartanburg trying to find a new direction in my life. At the Upscale golf community where I worked, several of my co-workers attended NewSpring and were very open to talking about church. They had invited me a couple times before.
Then, one day, my co-worker, Blair, asked what I had planned for the weekend. "You should come to church with me," she said. This time, something very strange happened: I "heard" my granddad say, in my mind, “You should go."
My grandfather was the pastor of our family church, and a very influential person in my life. He had died 12 years before. He was a great, Godly, Christian man, who I looked up to my entire life and who consistently gave me advice on how to live a Christian life.
It stopped me in my tracks, and I knew I should go to NewSpring.
If Jesus could work in their lives ... I knew he could work in mine.
My grandpa, whose influence on my life was huge.
A Special Service
The next Sunday, I arrived in the parking lot of the Greenville campus with many doubts racing through my brain. I felt like I was under attack. "This isn't the right place for you," I thought. "You don't even believe in Church anymore," I told myself.
But with every smile I saw and every "good morning!” at the doors, the nagging thoughts and doubts became quieter and quieter. Still, I made sure to sit on the end of the aisle in case I needed to leave in a hurry.
The service was a stories service. The three stories gave examples of how Jesus was working in people's practical, day-to-day lives. I could relate to it a lot easier than hearing a pastor give a sermon. If Jesus could work in their lives, I thought, I knew he could work in mine.
God loved me during my time of doubt, just as He loves me now.
My dog, Henry, makes a great hiking companion.
The service really weighed on my heart that day. Seeing the Gospel at work so clearly in the stories gave me the reassurance to renew my walk with God.
Over time, through hearing messages and understanding more and more, I realized I knew a lot about church and Jesus, but I didn’t have a relationship with Jesus. So I asked Him into my life.
As a kid, I had a works-based faith: “These are the things you do because you’re supposed to, and if you do the right things, you'll get to go to heaven.” I guess that’s why those tragedies were so hard to deal with as a teenager.
The key for me was understanding that Christianity was all about relationship — going all in — and I got baptized. It made me feel secure in understanding my salvation.
God loved me during my time of doubt, just as He loves me now, and He will continue to love me forever!
Many fears and insecurities gave way to trust and faith.
In the Care Room with my brother-in-law, who recommitted his life to Jesus that day.
Faith That Works
I could see God working in my life in unmistakable ways. Instead of impatience and selfishness, I had more compassion and love for others.
My viewpoints on a lot of things changed, and I began to let go of other areas of pain that had burdened me. Many fears and insecurities gave way to trust and faith.
I found purpose in serving as a volunteer and then an intern with Next Steps in Spartanburg. Then I moved to Fuse, where I help volunteers start serving so they can grow in faith like me.
I’d always felt there was something more — and that longing went away when I found Jesus. He was what I was looking for. He was what I needed in life.
My Gauntlet group showing out in the hotel lobby.