Occasionally, we get to interview various individuals from our WE community, as well as highlight how our different ministries have impacted those they serve. In this God Story, we are honored to share a bit more about Tandem One-on-One Women’s Mentoring and its intersection in the life of Renata*.
*Name changed for sensitive content.
A profile of grace and radical transformation, there are few things that 22 year-old Renata hasn’t already experienced. Kind, composed, petite and soft spoken, Renata’s thoughtful and unassuming presence conveys the beauty of Jesus interrupting, intervening and redirecting her life.
Despite her occasional exposure to holiday church services and a private Catholic-school upbringing, until only a few years ago she knew little about the Living God available to her in daily life. Before attending college at a Jesuit university, Renata had sincerely believed that “reality and truth are relative to personal perception.”
When conversing with Renata, she is the first to express the depths of despair, depravity and total darkness this paradigm led her to. And yet in the middle of this mindset, she met a professor who introduced her to the convergence of Art, Theology and Feminism, three arenas she previously understood as mutually exclusive from each other.
Discussing concepts of God as the ultimate artist, along with the often overlooked but essential role of women in Scripture, the class began to plant a nagging seed of curiosity in her. Choosing a Jesuit school because of their commitment to social action, the love of God for humanity had quietly and gently begun to allure Renata. “In the back of my mind, I began to reconsider my previous beliefs about God as a distant and condemning judge.”
At the same time, a relationship with recreational drugs that had begun years before with fun and pleasure was now slipping into depression, isolation, and hopelessness. Then, one day while studying for classes, her lung suddenly collapsed. Renata believes God allowed it to interrupt her trajectory of addiction and confront her with “the reality of Truth outside herself.” “I had rejected reality or care for the fact that my actions had consequences because I had determined that Truth could be whatever I wanted it to be,” she shares.
Following her physical rehabilitation from the collapsed lung, an intense battle for her mind ensued, sending her into a period of extreme spiritual darkness, ultimately resulting in a 72 hour hold at a psychological behavioral unit, ironically at “a place called ‘Mercy Hospital,’” Renata points out. Accosted by a different reality, one that included a very dark and active spiritual realm, Renata called out and prayed. “I was praying to something I didn’t have a name for, but I knew its presence was real. There were far too many moments of protection and guidance to simply call ‘coincidences,'” she admits.
But there, God intervened directly in that abysmal place and began to reveal to her that she was “in fact lovely and valuable.” Renata admits that this was “the first time I ever felt peace about myself and my intrinsic value and purpose. It became a gentle turning point from my lurking sense of a meaningless existence.”
In her recovery process both physically and mentally, she met a man who introduced her to a totally new perspective about Jesus. He told her that it was Jesus Christ who continued to pursue and protect her.
She eventually became re-acquainted with NCCC where she met Buzz Buzbee. “He was the first person who prayed for me spontaneously, in-person, and it really moved me,” Renata observes. “In the months that followed this experience, God continued to show up time and time again. His presence was revealed slowly but surely through family, friends, and encounters in the right place at the right time that confirmed the truth about what I had read in Scripture,” she shares.
About two months into this new journey, Renata was connected with former staff member Joelle Svenderson, who walked her through her immense faith questions “in the most non-judgemental way,” leading her through a course called the Alpha Project. Joelle then connected her with Tandem.
Tandem has helped cement Renata’s faith and new journey in Jesus, cultivating her spiritual growth over the course of six months with a more mature female Christian mentor. Initially, the idea of spending six months in a spiritual mentorship with an older, religious stranger seemed intimidating and unappealing to Renata.
Despite this, she followed the prompting to attend and began a fruitful mentorship and friendship with a woman named Carol Munhofen. Tandem has been the “best next step for creating intimate fellowship with another believer to nurture faith while answering the long-standing questions” Renata has always had. The transparency, compassion, and truthful teaching expressed by Carol has helped Renata steadily build confidence in her identity as a daughter of God.
Renata’s bright smile and undeniably fierce and contagious spirit emanates as she shares with resolute conviction. “My life is no longer empty. I know now that there is a God and His presence is real in my life. He gives abundantly, loves passionately, and extends His mercy eternally. Before, I had no knowing. My reality and truth had been meaningless,” she shares. “But now I know without doubt, that God is real and He loves me unconditionally.”
Thank you Renata for your bravery and courage in letting us share a tiny piece of a very incredible God Story of rescue and redemption. As your WE community, we rally around you and continue to lift you up as you walk forward in your faith and wholeness endeavors with Jesus!