Pulled Back by GodTheir faith had lain dormant for a long time, but their spiritual journey was about to receive a kick start.
As she drove away, the cross on the church in her rear view mirror stirred something deep within Theda McKenna. “I can’t explain it,” says Theda, “but every time I dropped my son off at pre-school and drove away, I would look at that cross in the mirror and feel strangely drawn to that church.”
Dave and Theda McKenna with children (l. to r.) Nicholas, Isabelle, Joslyn, and Ashleigh.
Theda’s faith had lain dormant for a long time, as had her husband Dave’s. “I attended church-run elementary school and high school, but I never truly understood in my heart what the Lord had done for me and the path He wanted me to follow,” explains Theda. “When I became a teenager, my life got bigger than my faith. It wasn’t cool to believe in God. When I became a young adult, I didn’t even make it out to church for Christmas.”
Dave attended a church-run elementary school for six years, but stopped attending church in his late teens. “I remember turning to prayer whenever I had a difficult time, but would stop praying when the trouble passed.”
Dave grew up in Victoria, British Columbia, where he eventually joined the Navy. Theda joined the reserves in Thunder Bay. Their paths crossed when both were stationed in Halifax. There they fell in love, married, and started a family before moving to Lower Sackville, Nova Scotia.
Their spiritual journey was about to receive a kick start when they found a preschool called “Tiny Treasures” for their son, Nicholas. The preschool operated out of a church called “Rock Church.” The first stirrings were prompted by that cross in Theda’s rear view mirror. Then, at a preschool parent/teacher meeting, Dave and Theda could not suppress a desire to know more about the church. They shyly waited until the meeting was over and the other parents had left before approaching the teacher. “We were given a tour of the facility and were amazed at what we saw. It as so different from any church we had experienced.”
Dave and Theda began attending Rock Church in Lower Sackville with their four children. “There is a real sense of community at that church,“ says Theda. “And it was not boring. It was extremely different from church as we had known it in our early days.”
Dave was drawn to Pastor Ted Yuke. “He is very low key. He’ll say from the front of the church, ‘We’re glad to have you here. We are not out to recruit you. We just want to help you develop a relationship with God,’” says Dave. “It was relaxed, low pressure. I never felt like I was ‘recruited.’”
One Sunday the pastor announced the start of an Alpha course. Dave and Theda were curious. It sounded like something they would like to do, but dismissed it because they would need to have someone look after their kids. Being new to the community, they didn’t know who they could call, and besides, they couldn’t afford a sitter for the duration of the course. “Our life was bigger than our faith,” Theda admits.
That obstacle was removed when Theda dropped Nick off at Tiny Treasures one day. “Nancy Weir, one of Nick’s teachers, asked if we were going to attend Alpha. As I hummed and hawed, Nancy added that the church would provide childcare for the kids.
“With the money taken care of, we decided to go,” says Dave. “Someone from the church came to our house every Alpha night and looked after our kids, sometimes girls from the youth group, sometimes a couple.”
Dave found the same comfort level at Alpha as he had felt at church. “Alpha was nondenominational, not telling you you’re right or wrong, but providing a place where you can find a relationship with God.
Everyone made us feel welcome and at ease. I soon found myself enjoying the company and the conversation. Our hosts made it very easy to take part in the discussions.”
Dave continues, “I had a lot of baggage and negative thoughts about religion and prayer. I found myself wanting to develop my relationship with God instead of just complaining to Him. I am learning to listen to God, and I realize what a powerful book the Bible is.”
Alpha felt strange to Theda at first. “It was a part of my life that I had put away for a long time, but it didn’t take long for me to feel my spirit coming back to life. It’s like not talking to a friend for a year, and then seeing that person again and picking up where you left off.”
Theda continues, “The Alpha course gave me a forum to feel comfortable with like-minded people who are hungry for a relationship with God. It gave me a place to make friends, both with people and with God.
It has brought us back to the Lord’s house, and Him back to ours.”
Nancy Hynes, who co-administers the Alpha course at Rock Church with Mark Jobb, says, “This couple was astounded at the love and caring that was shown from the Alpha leaders and church leaders, and everyone in between. They felt loved and cared for in a way that you just don’t see in the world.”
Nancy remembers the first time she met Dave and Theda at Alpha. “Theda was just aglow with excitement at what she was learning. She said, ‘This prayer thing is just wild. I have a need, I pray, and the next thing you know the prayer is being answered!’”
Nancy can’t wait to get them as leaders, “because they will be awesome!”
Life has changed for the McKennas. “Jesus is my friend now,” says Theda. “I just talk to Him. Our kids do too. I have a sense of peace. I have more patience with my kids. When I feel like losing it, I stop and ask the Lord for His help and He gives it.”
Dave feels that this revival of their faith has changed their family life. “We’ve become more comfortable with our relationship with God. The kids say a blessing before meals. It’s a normal part of our eating now.”
And as for the church… it is no longer just a curiosity for the McKennas, but an integral part of their lives. According to Nancy Hynes, Theda can be seen buzzing around the sanctuary, visiting new friends, checking on her four children, volunteering in the church nurseries. “And Dave is a steady support to her buzzing.”
Bill Bonikowsky is the editor of Alpha News.
Originally published in Alpha News, Spring 2008.
Used with permission. Copyright © 2009 Christianity.ca.