Written by Julie-Ann Burkhart
In September 2010, Jacob and I made a life changing move from Boston, MA to the SF Bay Area. We moved because Jacob got a new job in San Francisco, so we found an apartment in Pacifica close to the beach where we could go surfing.
At the time, we were very involved in a church in Newton, MA. We were volunteer Youth Leaders and helped out with the Youth Ministry. It was such a blessing for us and we really loved the kids so much!
After moving across the country, we made a modest attempt to find a new church home. We tried a few off and on, but never found a place we connected with. We strayed from church life and formed a social life around friends from surfing and work. Life moved on and we bought a house and started a family. We had our son, Leo in July 2014. We planted our roots and we were very content.
Then, life threw us a curveball and in March 2015, my father unexpectedly passed away. Right before he passed away, we were able to make a last minute trip to New Hampshire to say my last goodbyes to him in person.
While my dad was on life support and in an induced coma, he and I had a very special night together. I sung his favorite hymns and praise songs, held his hand, placed my hands on his sickly body, cried a lot, I talked to him about anything and everything while he laid there, prayed and begged God to give my dad a miracle. I also told him that if he could make it through I promised I would go back to church. At the time, my faith and commitment in Christ was stagnant. I also told him I would bring Leo up in the church. He wanted Leo to know the abounding love of Jesus Christ. This was one of his biggest hopes and prayers he had for my son.
Miraculously, he survived the night. The Doctor actually said to my mom that it was a miracle that he survived because there was no indication that he should still be alive.
That same night we thought he was going to die, I had a dream that my dad went to heaven and saw Jesus. The next morning I was the first person in his room. With excitement, I told my dad that I had this dream. I asked my dad to show me any sign that my dream was right and that he could hear me. He came out of his unconscious state and opened his eyes, looked right at me, made a kissing face and smiled at me with the ventilator in his mouth, lifted his left hand to grab mine and his heart rate showed increased activity. To me, my dad’s response was a true sign that he heard me and he in fact did see Jesus and Heaven. I truly feel that he survived that night because he wanted to let his family know this…especially me.
My dad lived for 2 more unexpected weeks. But, ultimately, my dad’s body was failing and suffering so my family and the doctors made the decision to take him off life support. But, right before we made that decision, my mom asked him if he wanted to be with Jesus in Heaven and he shook his head and very clearly said, “yes!”
After we returned from my dad’s memorial service, I told Jacob that I wanted to go back to church. I didn’t want to go back on my promise because he did make it through that night and longer than we expected. God showed my family and me multiple miracles amongst the chaos.
We visited a couple churches, but still, we didn’t feel like they were the right ones for us. My mom came to visit after my dad passed away to take a break from everything. She and I took Leo to the park and she pointed out a sign and church I drive by almost every day. She said, “Have you ever checked that church out, New Life Christian Fellowship?” I said “No, I didn’t even realize there was a church there!”
When we returned from the park, we googled the church and decided to check it out the next Sunday. We were greeted by a really nice man, David, and he gave us a great book about how to choose a church and if it was the right one for you. We also saw some familiar faces. I had actually done some graphic design business with Waven, and we recognized Mitch who we had recently hired to clean our house.
Pastor Jonathan’s message was really thought provoking. I still remember it. It was on the “famous” verse in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7…Love is patient, love is kind…
I remember him saying, “Now insert your own name in throughout this whole passage and that is how you should live your life.” It really struck me! I had never thought of the verse that way. I still stick my name in there to make sure I am living my life that way.
After church, we were told there would be a full lunch served and we couldn’t pass up on free food! We met some really great people. I remember meeting Lasse and Andy, both members of the Worship Team. Jacob mentioned to them that we play music but haven’t ever played in church. They thought it was great and it was a nice commonality that we shared. We also met Pastor Jonathan and Maggie. They instantly took to Leo and Leo to them. They were so kind and really seemed authentic and wanted to connect with us.
Almost 2 years later, our family is immersed in New Life’s church. Since we don’t have family in California, this church community has become our family. Through good and hard times, I’ve come to see Pastor Jonathan as a father figure.
We are both on the Worship Team playing multiple instruments and sometimes we sing. The Worship Team is a special family to us. They have adopted Leo as their Mascot. He is so comfortable with all the members and sits on their laps and gives them hugs like he has always known them.
Jacob was invited to be a part of a men’s small Bible study group. I would have never in a million years thought Jacob would want to be part of this type of group. He seems to really enjoy it and is getting to know the Bible and the men in our church better.
Recently, I became the Media and Communications Director at the church. I am really enjoying working with the other staff members and Pastor. It doesn’t feel like a job, but what my purpose in life is suppose to be. I am utilizing my skills and talents to glorify God and further his kingdom, plan and purpose.
New Life is our church family and we are so blessed to be a part of this family. We wouldn’t trade it for the world!