After suffering through Hurricane Harvey, Ben LaGrone and Jessica Huang returned to church. They found a church home at St. John the Divine, where their hearts were enlightened to the Lord. They used their time, talent, and treasure to upgrade the LED panels in the sign on Westheimer. Theirs is a story of being available, listening to God's call, and giving their best.
Ben: I left the church after graduating from school. I was doing things my own way and thought I was very clever. I made a lot of mistakes and was taking charge of my whole life. I didn't really believe in much, so there wasn't a lot of meaning. Life had become very frustrating, very difficult. I knew I wanted to change, I felt like I really needed better guidance. I began to understand that the Bible was a good guide to how to life your life. I went to the Episcopal church when I was young and went to Episcopal schools, so it felt normal for me to be here.
Jessica: Through a series of frustrations and failures in my personal life, in my career development, in my social life, and in my health issues, I realized I needed to learn more about the Bible, learn more about God, and apply the principles I learned from the Bible to my daily interactions, whether with my family, my co-workers, or with strangers. I want to go to a church where I can feel happy, feel belonging. Ben wanted to go back to the Episcopal church, so I followed him and joined this church.
Ben: I came to church and heard people talk about faith and I wondered, "What does this really mean?" We took a trip with some church members to Israel. In Galilee I woke up in the middle of the night and I felt a message — that I should go read the last chapter of the Old Testament. It was the book of Malachai. God was angry at the Israelites because they were making half-hearted sacrifices to God. They were sacrificing a blind calf — the worst of the herd. They asked why God was angry, and the answer was that they weren't giving him their best. It is very clear to me that the answer to the question of, "What is faith?" is that God wants my best. He really wants me to act, to jump in wholeheartedly and give everything I have and my best to him.
After that message I received in Galilee, I told Jessica what happened. I said, "God wants me to give him my best, so whatever we're doing, we need to do more. Whatever we're contributing, making our sacrifice, we need to do more."
Jessica and I had the idea of donating a new LED sign to St. John's. We took it and ran with it, but it was a lot to learn. It led to some struggles, and it's still something that requires more effort, but for me it's the joy of service. We want to make sure that we're doing our best to help with the message of the church, and that's something that we can contribute. It is the mission that Jesus put his disciples on — to spread his word. This is something we can do to help that.
We started with no specific knowledge about these LED signs, so we went through a very long process of research on the technology. It was not just writing a check. It was finding a factory overseas that will do it, learning from them, getting their participation. It was getting on our hands and knees and building it in our living room and then struggling with the installers. Every time it rained, there were problems. And when it rains, it pours.
We travelled to China at the end of summer because we wanted to learn more. We wanted to get better at this. We found what the problems were, and we're still on the mission, somewhat on our hands and knees to fix it. When I was out there having to make some modifications, I realized this is what God wants me to do now, and I want to serve with joy.
Jessica: It was not easy to deal with the overseas manufacturing, and was frustrating to see the rain damage. But through the whole process, Ben would say, "I'm going to make it work, and I'm going to serve with joy." We are very happy for the opportunity and the privilege to serve the church and the church body.
Learn more about Living Thanks, Giving Thanks
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Pat & John Berry: Nothing is Too Big for God
Touched by St. John The Divine: An ESL Story
Ben LaGrone & Jessica Huang: Giving God Our Best