It was a cold, windy October day at the Davenport community garden festival when I first met this sweet family! The mother and wife of a 6-person clan, Jeanette,was in tow with her 4-month old son and the rest of her lively brood. We didn't get connected beyond the casual introductions until we began to close down the festival and put things away; it was then that I began to become acquainted with Thelbert, the father of this band of 6. One-by-one, The and I tore down and carried what seemed to feel like the endless supply of tables into the storage area for all the supplies. Simply by working together, doing the menial tasks of 'pick-up', a connection was made; it felt good to 'work together' to make this event a success for our neighborhood and families. Considering that Thelbert is deaf we were not able to use words to communicate this connection, but the smiles, hand shakes, and energy said it all: The Rudzavice-Moye Family was interested in learning more about what this young church! That interest was never more clear than by the pan of fried chicken that they brought to our bible study the next week. So began their spiritual journey.
Throwing themselves into the life of our initial core group study, it didn't take long to realize that this was a family that had been damaged by the sin of others, while creating a good amount of destruction on their own. Both Jeanette and Thelbert had come from broken families, which were riddled with substance and physical abuse, mental illness, tragic deaths, and many more horrible circumstances. In an effort to cope with the pain and confusion, both turned to a life of substance abuse, promiscuity, educational disengagement, and overall self-sabotage of their lives; these responses resulted in 18 years of prison for one and several felony convictions for the other. Four children later, the reality begins to set in that something needed to change for their family and for themselves. Therefore, they jumped into the spiritual dimension of their lives with both feet, willing to try anything to make their family healthy and sustainable.
This jump into the 'spiritual unknown' was not without some fits-and-starts and bumps-and-bruises. Not growing up within the church, there were a lot of questions and confusion, but their family continued to plug-in with teachable hearts. In the midst of their steep learning curve, both Jeanette & Thelbert continued to struggle with many of their past sin issues, and their destructive effects. However, as they continued to put their faith in the finished work of Christ, and to unite themselves to Him via membership, the fruit of the Spirit has consistently been working its way into the life of our church and their family. Thelbert continues to find longer periods of victory in certain areas of his life, while being a fantastic father and servant to his children; Jeanette has been empowered to finish her degree and internship, which is already paying dividends, for she is currently waiting to hear back from a couple of employers about employment opportunities. In addition, Jeanette has become a tremendous servant and evangelist; she is constantly inviting folks to church and the women's group, while helping several families in the neighborhood with childcare assistance. But perhaps just as amazing has been the impact this has had on their children.
With a consistent atmosphere of stability and peace, all of their kids have been given the space to concentrate, grow, and develop in many areas of their lives. Academically, they are all doing well in school and navigating the waves of change pretty well. In regards to responsibility, several of them have secured part-time work and are getting involved in leadership opportunities for the youth of the inner city. Why such a focus on the kids? Well, the simple fact is that God has done an amazing work in their lives as well; if you could have seen them when they first start attending our church, you would not recognize them today! They are polite, helpful, and with a glint of hope in their eyes; they have come to see that the Lord has much more in store for them than just educational failure, drugs, gangs, and confusion. See friends, lives in the inner city can be transformed, which means that neighborhoods can experience renewal as well if we just continue to bring the gospel, disciple the Lord's sheep, and provide them with empowering opportunities and resources!!!