Below is a Story of Transformation from Jared Yochim who joined membership at FGCC on December 11th, 2016.
My name is Jared Alexander Yochim. I like music and being creative and making changes to my hair. I have been attending Forest Grove Community Church for the last two years and recently came to the conclusion that it was time for me to become a member.
Around the same time that I started attending Sunday morning services, I got involved with the senior high youth group on Tuesday nights; this will be my third year hanging out with youth students at Forest Grove.
The main reason that I decided to start attending church here at Forest Grove and get involved on Tuesdays was because of my previous involvement at Camp Kadesh. I had noticed a pattern in the staff at Kadesh having some level of relationship with Forest Grove and at the end of summer 2014, I thought to myself,
“This is where my friends are, this should be my community as well.”
Picking a church for me to plant myself in was not an easy process. I grew up going to church, and as a result, am very fluent in both Christianese and church culture. When I was 12 years old my parents told me that we were going to stop attending the church that I had gone to my whole life. This was frightening to me because the church that we attended doubled as a private K-12 school during the week. I literally spent seven days of the week in that building. And it was made very clear to my family that if we were to stop attending the church, then we wouldn’t be allowed to attend the school either.
This was tough for me because the overlapping relationship between this church and school life was all I knew. All of my friends were there as well.
After my family left that church, a lot of our relationships with people from the congregation had become sour or nonexistent. All these years later, the details of this cold indifference that my family felt have faded slightly. I don’t desire to make unfair allegations about a church who is also actively trying to figure out their salvation with fear and trembling, but I do know that at the time of our exodus from this church, our family felt cut off and alone. Without being fully aware, I got a front row seat to some of the evil that the church is capable of.
After my family left this church, we started church hopping until my parents decided upon attending a multicultural church on the south side of Saskatoon. They loved it for the expressive music and the charismatic teaching style. While I was thrilled that my parents had found a place that they could call home, I never really felt at home there. My long hair, pierced ears and decision to wear denim on Sundays didn’t sit well with some of the congregation members. At times, I felt like they tried to connect with me, but due to my uneasiness, I began to church hop by myself in high school
During my church hopping years in high school, I remember looking for the one church or denomination that had their theology figured out. I knew there must be at least one body of believers that I could find where I agreed upon absolutely everything and would find justification in disagreeing with what other denominations preached. To my great surprise, I never found that body of believers. It’s almost as though there isn’t one perfect church out there. Who knew? However, my inability to find a church home in Saskatoon did not phase me. I knew that in a few short months I would be graduating high school and beginning the next chapter of my life.
When I graduated high school, a friend and myself moved to Orange County, California to be involved in a church of around 200. I remember immediately feeling accepted, loved, and valued. What stood out was the high priority that was placed on church family involvement. They were adamant about everyone getting their hands dirty with service. This was the first time I had ever been a member of a church in my whole life. However, to my great surprise, I learned that this church was not perfect either. Even when a congregation is actively focused on being involved in their community and serving the greater community outside of themselves, there is still room for imperfection and dissension to sneak in.
As my time in the states came to an end, I prepared myself for the uncertainty of moving home. I felt like I had belonged in California, despite the imperfections that I saw in myself and in the organized religion I saw around me. I felt ready to move home, but unclear on where I would plant myself and where I would find the solid community that I found down in California. When I returned home, I did another summer on staff at camp Kadesh and decided that since my new found Canadian friends who served with me at summer camp called this church “home”, so too should I.
Over my years of being involved in the greater church body, I have seen many grow cold and indifferent to the church as a whole. I have seen personal conflict lie not so much with Jesus himself, but rather those who claim to follow him. My friends from childhood, school, and work tossed around terms like hypocrites, or, money scam, or judgmental, or even homophobic. This saddened me as I began to feel for my friends who had shared my experience in being hurt or burned by the church. I began to see clearly the pain of people who had turned their nose up at the church for the hurt that had been caused to them. And my heart broke.
I found myself at a crossroads. I had been apart of the church for most of my life, more by obligation than for any other reason, but now I had come to the point where I was to decide where I stood in regards to how I choose to engage in organized religion. On one hand were all of my close friends who had been hurt by the church, and on the other were the people who were allegedly doing the hurting. This thought is one that I have been able to reconcile only through the power of the Gospel.
I once heard that St. Augustine had said something along the lines of,“The church is a harlot, but she’s still your mother.” To me, this quote has taken on a new reality as I have seen some of the evil things that people – not just people in the church – are capable of. But I have hope. I know that I would not be where I am today if it weren’t for this beautifully messy family called the body of Christ. I have gained a new understanding for love and grace and the ways in which we have the opportunity to extend these wonderful gifts to those that have wronged and hurt us. In the same way that Christ has extended these gifts to his ever wandering followers.
Not only is the body of Christ guilty of inflicting pain, but so am I. I knew that to join the ranks of a body of believers meant being associated with the very same people group that my friends had been hurt by. And as I have reflected and looked out over my own life, I have seen the ways in which I have hurt others. To take the stance of pointing fingers at people who have hurt others, would be to take the stance of pointing my fingers back at myself. But, I believe Jesus was a man who fought for reconciliation and restoration of relationship. Not only did he heal the leper, but he also restored him to a community. The healing that Jesus offers goes far beyond the physical.
In short, I want to be a part of this family. The church isn’t perfect and neither am I. And I think that there is immense beauty and belonging in that fact. I know that Jesus is actively healing the hurt in me and the hurt around me. God is in the business of bringing beauty out of brokenness and it just so happens that I’m interested in the family business.
So today, I stand before you as a man who knows little and tries to love much. Who fails greatly and yet is loved radically by Jesus. Who wants to follow Jesus yet at times, finds himself faltering. I ask that you would have me, love me, challenge me, and hold me accountable. And do all of this with the same love that Christ has loved each of us with. And I will promise to do the same. Thank You.