Pam Zangardi's Story
Pam was a Christian Atheist, until her neighbors lovingly invited her to Severn Run. And then invited her again. And again. And again...
The best way I can describe my life prior to becoming an active follower of Christ is that I was a Christian Atheist.
It might sound odd to put those words together, but that is exactly what I was - a believer in Christ, but not living as though I believed in Him. I always felt that a person's religion was something personal that shouldn't be shared. In my mind, it was enough to have Jesus in my heart, but I didn't need to go around and tell others about Him, as that might offend someone, and I certainly didn't want to be going around offending people, because then they might not like me. Getting into heaven was something that was for sure going to happen to me because I had memorized John 3:16 when I was about 10. Also, I was a good person who was honest, loyal, moral, and all the other good things one should be if they expect to go to heaven, right? I also felt as though I could sin openly because, according to the Lord's Prayer, I would be forgiven because I forgave others.
I had so much to learn…
In 2004, construction began on a house across the street from me. I had moved to this street in 2001 because there were no plans by the builder to build any houses across from us and I loved my view of the trees. Suffice it to say, I wasn't happy about it. In late 2004 the new neighbors moved in. Not only did these new neighbors take away my view of the trees, but they kept inviting me and my family to events at Severn Run, as well as services.
Yeah, they were those ‘offensive’ people I spoke about earlier.
Every time they offered, I would politely decline, and later I would joke with my husband about the invite. Eventually, in 2006, I finally stepped onto the Severn Run campus to enroll my daughter in VBS (Vacation Bible School). I was delighted with the experience and my daughter loved it! We would later attend Trunk-or-Treat, as well as VBS the following years. So, in 2008 when I had decided it was time to find a church in which my daughters could learn about Jesus, Severn Run was very high on my list. Those low pressure, high frequency invites from the neighbors carried a lot of weight with me in making my decision. Plus, Severn Run is really close to my house.
My initial plans were to stop attending services once I knew that Severn Run was a safe and fun place for my kids. I will always remember that first Sunday in August when I dropped my daughters off in the children's area and I went to sit in my first service. I walked in, sat by myself away from everyone else, just the way I wanted it to be. Before I knew it, the first song began to play, and I started crying. I had tears through most of the service. I didn't know what had come over me at the time, but now I know that I was being filled with the Holy Spirit. When I left that Sunday, I couldn't wait for the next Sunday.
I found myself getting excited on Fridays, not because the weekend was coming, but because Sunday was coming. I am not normally a morning person, but I found myself eager to wake up and go to church!
I was attending Severn Run for just over a year when I decided that I should be baptized. I remember the conversation with my daughter who was about four. I was telling her that I didn't understand why I had to wait until I was in my 40's to be baptized, and her response to me was, "Mommy, he wanted you to wait because he wanted ME to be able to see you get baptized." WOW! I knew immediately that God had answered my question through my child. He knew I longed to know the answer to that question, and He wanted me to be sure to hear his answer.
A short time later I found myself serving in children's ministry, but it wasn't with a cheerful heart. I did it mostly to help my own children adjust and want to attend church because they were more willing to want to go if they could hang out with me. After a few years in the preschool area, I decided that since I no longer had my own children in diapers, then I no longer wanted to change other kids’ diapers. So, my move into children's ministry was more of a selfish reason rather than to bring glory to God. And again, it was to help my own child adjust. I was absolutely terrified when I made the move upstairs. What if the kids were smarter than me? What if I told them something wrong? As a new Christian, what if I jeopardized their chance at eternal life? All I could see is that I would be doing more damage than good. But, then I remembered what I had learned in a previous service; God doesn't call the qualified, he qualifies the called. If I were not living proof of that, I would have never believed it myself.
Since I have given control of my life to God and accepted the free gift of salvation, I now try and look for opportunities to share Jesus, just as my neighbor shared with me. I have learned that being a Christian is not something I should keep to myself, because what if my neighbors hadn't shared or invited me? I see God working in my life like I had never seen before. I now know that God loved me so much that The Church at Severn Run was built where it is because God knew that it would get my attention. And then he placed my neighbors across from me because he knew that they would listen to Him, and when he told them to invite me, they would!
Today I love serving in children's ministry, as I want to bring glory to God. My life is so much more about helping others and less about me. I stepped out of my comfort zone to do Praise and Worship for the kids when the previous leader stepped out to have a baby. This was supposed to be for about six weeks, but then she was unable to return because her husband accepted a job out of state and they moved. I told God that this isn't what I signed up for. When he told me to step up and take over Praise and Worship, I believed it would be for a short period, but his plans were much different for me.
Again, I can see God's hand in every single event in my life.
Now I love serving Sundays, and I'm excited to lead Praise and Worship because listening to the children sing of their love for Christ is absolutely priceless. Introducing a child to Jesus and then watching them grow in their love is powerful. I'm learning more by serving in children's ministry than anywhere else in my spiritual life. God is moving so profoundly in my life that sometimes I feel selfish for being so blessed from serving in Children's ministry.
Today I find my worth in being loved by my Maker. Each day I try and be more like Christ, and less like who I used to be.
It is a daily battle that is really difficult, but I am totally up to this battle, because I know that it is worth it!