Welcome to the #StillSTANDING Project. 500 years ago, Martin Luther stood up for the world to see his belief that our sins are forgiven through Christ alone. This fall, we are sharing stories from our St. Paul family on how we continue to stand on this life-changing gospel. This Fall, over the next several Sundays, we are sharing these stories one by one.

Anny's Story

I was raised in a Catholic orphanage in Rwanda—Orphanage  Noel de Nyundo. My parents had been Muslim, and I grew up considering myself Muslim. It was a history I could hold onto. But when I first came to Canada , I was angry at God. I blamed him for the life He had given me, for making me so alone. But he changed my heart. For the three years I lived in Canada, I had everything I needed: food, medical attention, safety. When I went back home and visited the refugee camp I had once lived in, I saw other girls suffering, and it made me wonder: What have I given to God to deserve this? It wasn’t until years later that I learned that it wasn’t about what I had done, but what God had done for me.  Until then, I kept Jeremiah 29:11 close to my heart and knew that I didn’t want to blame God:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

I remember during winter when my daughter was born, I was just so tired. It was so cold, and I was feeling depressed. I took my girls for a walk and passed St. Paul church. I went in, but the service had already ended. A woman invited me downstairs for coffee. That’s when I met Nicole. She just sat down next to me and didn’t really move. She asked me my name, where I came from, basic questions.

That was almost two years ago. Since then, she has changed the way I see my life. She was the first person who ever called me her daughter, and I needed a mother. She calls me on the phone just to talk. She introduced me to her family and told them that Annie is my daughter who I adopted. She became a grandmother to my two girls.  I feel as though God has sent me an angel to be in my life, reassuring me, “you are not alone.”

Being at St. Paul and getting to learn more about the Bible with Pastor Thompson has given me a lot of comfort. In Africa, I learned that there were certain things that could never be forgiven. But the Bible has shown me that God is really merciful. Jesus died for all sins. None of us are perfect, and when you ask him for forgiveness, he will forgive you. Now, I just get to serve him. I’ll be going back to a refugee camp to visit and bring supplies in just a few months. The last time I went, people asked me, “How can you have the courage to go back?” I’m not scared. I’m no different. For some reason, God has given me a different life, and I don’t want to take that life for granted. I just want to serve Him.

Manfred's Story

My story is not very uncommon and it reads like so many other ones except for a few twists in the road of life here and there which we all have. I was brought up Lutheran at the insistence of my Dear Mother. I went through Sunday school and then 2 years of confirmation class which I found truth be told very hard, harder than High School.  I went year’s not attending Church afterwards due to military service and being married to a non-believer with the busy life of constantly moving and raising 3 kids. Eventually the marriage broke up.

I met my wife Bonnie who steered my life back into Church life and getting my kids confirmed. Bonnie and I took the foundation class at Abiding word and with the help of Pastor Schultz we became serving members. I started to notice that the flame inside me for the Lord became alive and stronger again thanks to the Holy Spirit. I have since matured in my knowledge and faith and now serve here at St. Paul’s.

My faith means the world to me. I have an insight into where I am headed after this short life. I feel protected and secure in my knowledge of this life and the next one. I truly feel forgiven for all my past and present transgressions. I have a serious illness and through prayer from my brothers and sisters in Christ and my family, I know I have been given added time in this life through Grace.

Jesus my savior has rescued me from eternal damnation and has chosen me to be in Heaven one day with him. There are no words that I have that can express my complete thankfulness. It makes me cry just thinking about it that he loves me that much. Thanks be to the Holy Spirit that through countless Christians, he kept the Gospel alive to inspire and teach generations about who the Trinity is and what he has done and continues to do for all mankind. 

I feel like the richest man on Earth. I have a treasure that no one can take from me or tax me on it. I have Eternal life in Heaven with my Lord Jesus. I have my destiny all laid out for me. I have incurable cancer that affects my day to day life and yet I am not scared of the outcome. I will see my loved ones again and live forever in Heaven. What could be better!!

Monika's Story

My first semester in university was my most trying and difficult time. I realized that it wasn’t exactly what I had in mind and I was so far away from everything and everyone, that it wasn’t as easy to turn to someone for comfort. I started doubting everything: my decision to have moved away from home, my choice in university, and eventually, I also started to doubt God. I had never up to that point experienced such loneliness and sadness so I didn’t understand why he would let this happen. During those four months, I talked to God constantly. I turned to passages, read so many times that once used to only be words, but now all of a sudden had so much more meaning. I started looking at his word in a whole new light, and when the suffering finally eased, I realized that I had never been as close to him as I am now. Once again, I saw his hand at work and I was reminded that there’s a bigger and better plan unfolding than ours. “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ –this is the Lord’s declaration– ‘Plans for your welfare, not for disaster, plans to give you a future and a hope’” (Jeremiah 29:11). And there’s a certain sense of relief when I think that no matter what happens in my life, good or bad, it is all part of God’s plan.

I think of Jesus and how the reason and a purpose for everything that happened during his time was revealed and is clear to Christians. The ultimate sacrifice itself, which before Jesus resurrected, people didn’t understand why it happened, is the greatest comfort we all have today. The love shown to us through this act doesn’t stop there. If God would sacrifice Jesus to be with us, then why would anything he does ultimately be bad for us? Knowing that God is in control and does everything for our good fills me with a sense of peace like nothing else. This is something I never had before I went through a more trying time and today I am so grateful for it. Today, even when things aren’t going the way I planned, I think of the way God has always done things for a reason and feel better instantly, thanking him for his reassurance in his word.

Yi's Story

 I first stumbled upon St. Paul as an international student. I was already curious about Christianity: my close friend’s mother, Auntie Zhao, went from a sombre quiet woman with a trauma-filled past, to a woman who sang while she cooked and enthusiastically shared how happy she was to have found her Father in heaven, to be a Christian.  I could not believe the transformation, and it stuck with me. Many years later, when I migrated to Canada, I decided to check out one of the Christian churches in Sandy Hill that I walked by everyday on my way to get groceries. I borrowed a Bible from Sue in the church office and was invited to a bible class.

I started attending, mostly to work on my English, but as I continued in the class, Christianity starting making sense to me. It was no longer a mysterious, magical religion, but real and relevant to my life.  I used to think I came to Canada just to seek a new adventure. Now, I believe that the Lord was calling me to know more about him, to be his dear child.

Rob's Story

My faith isn’t something I just practice or preach, it is my identity. God through the gospel has woven into the very fabric of who I am the core truth that Jesus died on the cross to save me from my sinful nature and to provide me with everlasting life. However, there was a time when my view of my faith wasn’t so simple. As a youth, my journey was full of twists and turns and external pressures, and I succumbed to the temptations of the world to conform to societal norms out of fear of being alienated from my peers. Consequently, I drifted from the Lord and became lost. The further I drifted from the bible and church, the less I could hear His voice. Sadly to say, I had found the ability to fully tune him out of my life.

This went on until the day I met my wife, Brittany Ypma (Livingston), who reminded me of the sacrifice that was made for me so that I may live. This reclamation has allowed me to reconnect with the Lord and has reignited a spark within me that was out for far too long. So in closing, you may ask me what my faith means to me? It means everything! It is my north star that guides me each and every day. And although I may stumble and fall from time to time, I reminded by the Gospel that the Lord will be there to catch me. The Lord will always be there for you!