Changed: Michelle Wheeler

September 28, 2023

I met Jesus at a time when my heart was in pain. I felt unloved, unnecessary, and like someone who was just in the way, taking up too much space. I felt I wasn't worth anyone’s time, energy, or interest. And those that did show interest I figured only wanted to use me.

I was a teen. My family attended a small country church between Janesville and Denver. My brother and I were often the only children. Most Sundays we were bored out of our minds —so we poked each other's "angry buttons" to stay sane and awake.

I think it was my junior year of high school we were told we’d have a new pastor. His name was Jerry Burrow. He talked about Jesus with a passion I’d never heard. Then he suggested I meet his brother Ken, who was leading a youth ministry with his wife Beth, in Waverly. He said Ken helped teach teenagers about Jesus in a unique way. So I talked my father into letting me try it. I was the ridiculed kid in Janesville, so Waverly sounded refreshing. Maybe I’d make a friend. It seemed worth a shot. 

Changed: Michelle Wheeler • Riverwood Church

My father and I had no idea where we were going when we arrived at the church and met a young man who gave us directions to the youth room. (Spoiler: years later, that "boy" became my husband!) There, I met Ken and Beth.

Ken was open to taking chances with kids, finding their interests, and allowing God to draw their hearts to Him by allowing the teens to have input in how the group did things. He discovered I had an interest in music and asked me to join the worship team. I loved it! I didn’t really know Jesus at the time, but I enjoyed feeling useful.

For Ash Wednesday of that year, Ken asked Stacy, one of the youth helpers, to share her testimony. She shared of a time in her life of feeling unloved and scared, because she found herself pregnant and considering an abortion. She then shared how several people in her life told her God had led them to pray for her, but they didn’t know why. This led Stacy to confess all the hurt in her heart, because she felt seen by God. Stacy then took the opportunity to say to those of us listening that God also sees each of us.

Afterwards, a friend leaned over and shared she’d had times when she’d been suicidal. I knew that feeling all too well. I’d had many times when I stared at a puddle wondering if I was a mistake and wasted space. I grabbed my friend and went to find Stacy. I asked her about this Jesus who said she has value, and to see if this Jesus also saw my friend and me.

After Stacy answered my questions, I gave my life to Jesus that night and I’ve never been the same. God flooded me with hope and joy I had never known. Has the road been easy? No, but God does not promise easy. He promises to fill us when we feel empty and always be there when we turn to Him. 

I’ve made plenty of mistakes, not showing my Savior honor at times. But I’m so thankful for His grace. He calls me friend, and I don’t deserve Him.

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Riverwood Church, Waverly Iowa

We are on a mission to help people love like Jesus loved and live like Jesus lived.

It doesn't matter to us if you:

  • are a Wartburg student or a grandparent,
  • vote Democrat or Republican,
  • are married, divorced, or single,
  • have gone to church for years or haven't been to church in years,
  • make $100,000/yr. or wonder how you're going to pay rent this month,
  • or fear your past mistakes make you unlovable to God or others.

No matter where you are in your spiritual journey, we want to help you become who God has created you to be.

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