By Krissa Rumsey
Everyone has a story. Many of the best ones are stories of redemption. It’s a theme that never gets old.
I witnessed a beautiful redemption story when my daughters and I became involved with a faith-based scouting organization. The organization is the American Heritage Girls (AHG) and I thought it would be a great way for my girls to have fun while impacting their faith at the same time. And, it was. What I didn’t expect was the way it would impact two of our leaders.
St. Luke has agreed to be a collection site for a shoe drive we’ve just launched, which will ultimately raise funds for our AHG troop while supporting the economic development of people in impoverished countries. I’m grateful for the shoes that will be given and grateful to AHG for playing a starring role in a story about God’s relentless pursuit of his children.
Four years ago, my friend Jenny introduced me to AHG and asked if I would help her launch a local troop in our community of Milan. At its inception, AHG was the sister organization to the Boy Scouts. It sounded great.
In order to start a troop, we needed leaders. Two moms we knew, Crystal and Margie, had been active Girl Scout leaders and had also expressed an interest in starting a different kind of troop in Milan. Though I enjoyed the Girl Scouts when I was young, our local troop was struggling. We asked Margie and Crystal to be involved in the formation of a new troop, through AHG, in Milan. After initial conversations, they loved the idea with one exception. They weren’t comfortable with the faith-based part.
I remember one conversation with Margie where she explained that she didn’t feel equipped or even comfortable talking about God. Neither Margie nor Crystal were church-goers and I don’t think they wanted to be. I remember trying to convince her that there would be others of us who could help with the God talk. Every AHG troop has a Troop Shepherd and talking about faith was part of her role.
Neither Margie nor Crystal were church-goers and I don’t think they wanted to be.
There was still reticence on the part of Margie and Crystal—they even looked into other scouting organizations and had thought about going off on their own. Several of us prayed fervently that they would have a change of heart. At one point, Crystal and Margie met Jenny at her house and sat down at her kitchen table, intent upon telling her they didn’t feel equipped to lead the girls the way AHG wanted. The newly recruited Troop Shepherd, Charissa, was also present at that meeting and insisted they were perfect for the job. If they had weaknesses, it was okay for the girls to see them. She encouraged them to do the parts they felt called to do and rely on others for the rest. Needless to say, Margie and Crystal came on board knowing they didn’t have to be everything.
Margie and Crystal both had a story that fueled their reluctance to get involved with anything churchy. But we didn’t know it. We just knew they were enthusiastic, gifted leaders and we wanted them to know Jesus. Unbeknownst to them, we were praying that the Lord would reveal himself to them through their involvement.
Four years later, they gave a testimony I don’t think anyone expected.
The leaders and board members met to plan the coming year and Margie and Crystal, having returned from a national conference of AHG leaders, wanted to share their story.
Margie shared that she had never really gone to church as a kid. She described her family as a Christmas and Easter family. When she was married as an adult she specifically asked the pastor not to be too “churchy” with the ceremony. A few years later, she and her husband decided to start a family. Soon after the birth of their second child, Margie was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had a double mastectomy, underwent chemo, and struggled to get healthy while caring for her infant daughter.
Margie recalls people saying they would pray for her. She would thank them and think to herself “God doesn’t even know me…why would He listen to their prayers?” Margie cried as she described feeling completely far away from God and assumed He didn’t care what happened to her. As her children grew older, she wanted to introduce them to God somehow. Maybe God didn’t care about her, but surely He would care about her kids.
Crystal was raised by a church-going mom and non-church going father. As Crystal grew up, rebellion took over and she ran far away from God. She got married and lived a fun-filled life with her new husband and their two incomes. She felt completely in control and liked where their life was headed. But then, the children they wanted didn’t come so easily.
Though it took a while, they finally had a child. Twins followed shortly thereafter. While Crystal was on bed rest, pregnant with her twins, both she and her husband lost their jobs. They were most definitely not in control. The marriage suffered. Crystal wanted to walk away from all of it and felt very alone. She didn’t have any friends to speak of. Though she was surrounded by other moms from her kids’ school and activities, she did not consider them friends she could turn to for support. Crystal felt she had turned her back on God and probably missed her chance with Him, but she didn’t want her kids to do the same. Both Crystal and Margie came to their leadership roles with AHG feeling alone, rejected, reluctant, and seeking.
When Margie and Crystal started with AHG, they seemed to be on a good path. Margie had beat cancer and Crystal and her husband were in a better place. But even though they had health, homes, active and loving families, they lacked their most important resource: knowing the unconditional and irresistible love of Jesus.
American Heritage Girls served as a vessel drawing them into a relationship with other Christians, drawing them into a church home and ultimately into a relationship with their savior. They both began attending services at the church that has been sponsoring our troop. Margie and Crystal began sending their kids to the youth programs there and attending a weekly Bible study together. This past fall, Margie and her daughter were baptized and Crystal reaffirmed her commitment to Christ.
At the end of their story, they both described having real friends for the first time in a long time.
AHG is obviously an organization that has meant a lot to me because of the way God has used it to influence Margie and Crystal and my own life, as well. I also have found it hard to develop relationships with women in my community that offer more than just casual conversation. It has also just been a great tool for my kids in supporting their faith development and providing opportunities to serve.
Please consider giving your gently used shoes to our troop. We will use the proceeds to continue to provide opportunities for our 60 girls, their families, and our leaders to engage with one another and with Jesus.
There will be a box for shoe donations in the entry way of St. Luke Lutheran church from Sunday, March 13-20