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Testimony Tuesday: Story #1 from Jo Johnson Antzak

My story began by going to Faith Furniture (a Trinity ministry). I applied for social services because I experienced going through an extremely violent relationship that left me disabled.  Faith graciously supplied me with furniture to start again. 

Debbie and Chet became lifesavers for me.  I spoke briefly to Deb about my situation. She then gave me a card and encouraged me to come to Trinity.  It was holiday time and I was all alone in Whitesboro New York. My family were living in New Jersey and North Carolina. Although, social services provided me with an apartment and food stamps there was no cash allowance left over to give me. I became very anxious and wondered what I would do next. It was one of the lowest and loneliest times of my life.

It took all the courage and strength I could fathom to attend the Saturday evening service. Coming out of abuse, I felt ashamed, insecure, and afraid.  Walking into the gathering room, I saw many people and almost turned around and left. Rhonda H. was one of the first people who came up to me.  She seemed  jubilant and friendly.  I sat in a pew towards the back next to Jean P. and her girls, Kile and Jess.  To make a long story short, we introduced each other and she offered to take me out to dinner after the service. 

I told her of my plight and she was extremely kind to me.  Fast forward: she took me into her home and helped me regain my sense of worth and dignity.  I met with her primary Dr. for help and meds and also her former psychologist who I still see today and that was back in 2010.  All I can say is God’s hand was on it every step of the way.  

My story is not a coincidence by any means.  I was led to Trinity by the grace of God.  I am not the same woman who walked in, fearful and ashamed.  I know my worth in Christ and I am a “Child of the most high God”.   I truly enjoy the sermons,  praise music, and fellowship.  I also listen to K-love which plays many of the worship songs we sing. 

Thank you Trinity United Methodist Church for being a beacon of light for me in my darkest hour!!

Sunday, 09 July 2017 01:28

Why I Never Miss Church

Written by

It's Saturday night. The kids are asleep and I'm looking around our house. It kind of looks like a hurricane blew through it. That's how our week has been.

The thought comes into my head: I don't feel like going to church tomorrow. 

After the last seven demanding days, the whole family is exhausted. The idea of spending a quiet morning at home is quite appealing.

But we’re not going to do that. No, tomorrow morning we will get up, we will encourage our slow eaters to chew faster, and we will race around looking for lost shoes and car keys. We’ll drive the thirty minutes to Trinity United Methodist. And we’ll probably run in halfway through the first song.

But we’ll have made it.

And after a lifetime of not making it, that’s something of a miracle.

My family hasn't missed church for 63 straight weeks now. And what started as a fun challenge to try to attend church every week for a year has quickly turned into something so much more significant. 

Week after week, I am amazed. But I am most amazed on those weeks when I came closest to not going. When I had pretty much decided, “this is the week we will stay home.” And then something moved us to go anyway.

What I am finding is that on those days – those weakest of days – those are the days the Lord has the most waiting for us.

Sometimes it is the message that speaks to me. Like when Pastor Jane so closely described an incident that had happened in our house the day before and her words went straight to my heart.

Or another time when I was so ashamed of myself for my inability to control my temper, and she talked about the violence she knows is within her and how we can all find peace. What an act of grace, of mercy, for the Lord to give me those words through PJ that day.

I really needed them.

But relevant messages are minor examples.

There was the time when I barely dragged the family into church having spent the last two weeks watching a loved one die. We made it by the third song that day and as I stepped through the front door of Trinity, I was met with my favorite line from my favorite song:

Whatever may pass and whatever lies before me, let me be singing when the evening comes.

This has great meaning for me. And the comfort it brought with its impeccable timing was immense.

Weeks later, still in sort of an emotional funk from that death and other life circumstances, I found myself standing in church during the opening songs and I wanted to run. My two young children had spent the night at Grandma’s, so I didn’t have them to distract me. I had an overwhelming desire to leave the sanctuary and hide in the bathroom, or to go sit in the car until service was over. I felt panicky. I felt lost.

I prayed, “Lord, please bring me close to you. I’m obviously not doing a very good job at being your follower if I’m feeling this way.”

And then, just a few moments later, Sue Barber came up to me and asked me to serve communion. (So much for running out of there! I was stuck.)

When it was time, I went to the front of the church and held the bread in my hands. I had to ask what you say when you give communion, because I couldn’t even remember.

There were a lot of people in church that day. Together with the Sunday school kids they formed a long line that went out of the back of the sanctuary and into the gathering area.

As I doled out piece after piece of bread to person after person who came to me with hands reverently cupped, something happened. Watching each of my fellow church-goers coming to God’s table, each saying, “Lord, I believe in you. Lord, make me whole” . . . it was powerful. It reminded me that the body of Christ, broken for me, was sent to do just that. And it restored me.

It might not seem like much on the outside, but for me, that day exemplified amazing grace. And I am consistently moved at how when I go to Him, he gives me just what I need.

But perhaps the best example of a Sunday that I am glad I did not miss was the first day that Pastor Michael was out sick. His absence was sudden and the worship leaders did not have time to plan anything to replace his sermon.

And, so, worship leader Randy Barber told a story.

Before I tell you his story, I should tell you that I had been doing a lot of praying for my family. I had been praying that my husband would believe in Jesus and that he would turn to God.

Heated arguments and so many other things had taught me that all I could do was pray about this. No amount of pushing or convincing would make it happen. Coming to Trinity had made him open to learning. Pastor Michael’s words had broken through walls that had been built up over the years. But there had been no blatant experience where he knew God was trying to reach out to him. And I didn't even know enough to pray for such a demonstration of that love.

Until that day when we almost didn’t go to church.

It was a very rough morning, one of our first few months at Trinity. I don’t remember the details but I remember getting back in bed and giving up. Somehow, we ended up at church after all.

And Randy told his story: the Bible in his hand was something he’d had for years. He had been away from home at a worship training and the leader had instructed them to give away their possessions. A woman walked up to him and said, “this is a Bible I have carried with me for years. I have a feeling it will be of use to you in your work.” The Bible was in a colorful woven case. I believe it came from Guatemala. The woman had procured it while working as a missionary there.

Randy took the Bible and opened it up randomly. He was greeted with a surprisingly meaningful verse about worshipping God by making joyful music. He was at the training to learn to lead the church band in doing just that. He carried the Bible with him everywhere for more than a decade from that day forward -- until that day we almost missed church.

The point of Randy’s story really wasn’t about the Bible – the subject of his anecdote was actually what they were doing at that training, the exercise about giving away your possessions. Yet in the middle of his story, he suddenly changed course.

He said, “I’ve been carrying this Bible with me for years but, today, I want to give it to someone who I think needs it more than I do.” And then he walked up to my husband and there, in front of the entire congregation, gave him the Bible.

Time sort of stopped in that moment.

Afterward, Randy’s wife told me he hadn’t planned to give anyone the Bible. “He must have been moved by the spirit,” she said.

I don’t think Sue or Randy really knew just how moved we were by that gesture.

On New Year’s Eve, our family was writing down our favorite things that happened that year, and that moment was mine.

It was a start of our walk with God.

It confirmed to me, that God was reaching out to us. And that he’d always been.

Imagine if we’d missed it!

When my husband got home, he took the Bible in the back yard and opened it. Here is what he read:

Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. – Daniel 10:12

So many amazing things have happened in the last 63 weeks. I hope to share more with you here.

Many times I go to church and my faith is strong.

But there are times when I go and it is weak.

Those are the days when I am strengthened by being in a church family. When seeing the steadfast faith of Debbie McAloon, Pete Campola, Pat Zawko, or Pastor Jane reminds me I can keep walking this walk.

The days when I don’t want to go to church are the days when I am at my weakest. And those are the days when I need it the most.

For by never missing church, I am consistently reminded that this universe is governed by a loving God who comes to his children when they are weak.
And, God, do I need that.

Who: You!

What: An exciting live auction with a silent auction on the side! Many local businesses and individuals have donated items and gift certificates to be auctioned.

Why: To benefit the ministries of Trinity United Methodist Church, including: Apple Tree Preschool, Tree House School Age Afterschool Program, and Faith Furniture (which sells quality pre-owned furniture at affordable prices to people in need).

Where: Eastern Star Home, 8290 State Route 69, Oriskany NY

When: Saturday, June 17th at noon.


About us

Welcome to Mohawk Valley Trinity United Methodist Church. At Trinity we see ourselves living on the edge of a new mission frontier for the 21st century, which starts right at the door of the church and extends across the globe. We understand that in our rapidly changing world people need to connect to God in new ways that are multi-cultural and multi-sensory. Whether you’re a spiritual seeker or a committed Christ-follower, we’ll communicate in a way that’s easy for you to understand and apply to your daily life. We believe that no matter what you’ve done or where you’ve been – you matter to God. If you live in the Utica/Mohawk Valley area, or are just planning to visit, we hope you will join us for worship. There are tremendous programs and ministries for people of all ages and stages in their spiritual journey.


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Trinity United Methodist Church
8595 Westmorland Road
Whitesboro, NY 13492

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