A family finds faith, forgiveness, and their church home.
Julie K. Wietzke
They hadn’t lost their faith, but the light of the gospel had grown dim in their hearts.
“We were just stumbling along,” says Tracy Heerema, of her and her husband, Daniel.
But they regained their footing—and the light burned brighter—when they started attending a small church right in their neighborhood that has a big heart and a big message of Christ’s love and forgiveness for all sinners.
“It just felt like home,” says Tracy about Prince of Peace, Flower Mound, Tex.
And it became their home.
Shopping for churches
Lutheran teachings were nothing new to Tracy; she was raised in the Lutheran church until the age of 11. But then her parents switched religions to Mormonism, and Tracy says she stopped going to church after her father died when she was 15 years old.
“I don’t think I ever truly didn’t believe in my heart that Christ was my Savior,” she says, “but I wasn’t interested in organized religion.”
When she and her husband got married and started having children, they realized that the spiritual part of their marriage was missing. “We felt like church was important,” she says, “so we bounced around from church to church to church.”
But something was always lacking in the churches they visited. “I just never felt like I belonged,” says Tracy. “When they say that everything is bigger in Texas, they’re not lying. Most of the churches are huge and overwhelming; to me it felt like it was all about money and show as compared to real community.”
Daniel had grown up jumping from church to church while his parents searched for a congregation they liked. He didn’t want that for his family, especially when their church searching wasn’t going well.
So they stopped looking. “We were burnt out,” says Tracy. “We just didn’t make it a huge priority.” For the most part, religion was reduced to a mention of Jesus at Easter and Christmas.
Making a connection
When their oldest child was 7, Tracy noticed that Prince of Peace, a church she walked by frequently in her neighborhood, was offering vacation Bible school for the community. “I remembered how much fun I used to have a VBS during the summer when I was growing up,” says Tracy. She and Daniel decided to send their son. “That was when I was first introduced to Prince of Peace,” she remembers.
A short time later she met Brad Taylor, pastor at Prince of Peace, and his wife, Molly, socially at the school their children all attended. Tracy had just had her second child, and Molly invited her to attend Mornings with Mommy, an outreach program that offers activities for young children to do with their parents, at the church. Tracy started attending the program.
After she had her third child, Prince of Peace began offering Power Hour as well. This program focused more on sharing God’s Word to parents and their children through Bible studies and activities. Parents were also invited to a parenting class offered by Pastor Taylor. Tracy naturally transitioned into attending Power Hour with her children along with the Mornings with Mommy sessions.
“During Power 4 Parenting, the 30-minute Bible class that Pastor has, his message and the way he presented everything was so a-ha, so natural,” says Tracy. “It wasn’t like anything else I had heard in any of the other churches my husband and I had tried.”
Tracy says that during that time she and Daniel were struggling with some marital problems. The messages she was hearing at the parenting class really began to resonate with her.
“One day, I just said, ‘I am going to try Sunday services,’ ” says Tracy.
She continues, “When I got to Prince of Peace and started hearing the message, it was like a light bulb went off. I thought, Hey, I know this. I remember this. That was what was missing going to all those other churches—the message didn’t resonate. It was too watered down, too taken out of context. I didn’t feel like it was right.”
Tracy says that after she and the kids attended services at Prince of Peace for a couple of weeks, her husband noticed a change in her—a change that sparked his interest. He decided to go too.
“Once he heard Pastor’s sermons, that was it,” says Tracy. “It was just so true; there was no crazy fluff. It felt like home. It was not a big, huge megachurch. It was traditional hymns and the reading of the Scriptures. . . . It didn’t need any of the pomp and circumstance because it was just the truth. My husband had the same reaction to it. He couldn’t wait for the next Sunday.”
The Heeremas started Foundations of Faith classes and were confirmed in May 2017. Now they are volunteering at the same community events that first introduced them to Prince of Peace.
Tracy says she notices many positive changes since their family started attending Prince of Peace. Their marriage is getting stronger, and the family now talks about their Savior on a regular basis. “With the kids, we can definitely help them to understand what it means to be a child of God,” she says.
She continues, “This has been a huge blessing to our marriage for the two of us to go through this journey together. We both know we’re going to stumble; we’re going to fall. But as long as we continue to remember that Jesus died for all our sins, we can wake up tomorrow and try a little harder.”
Having that message of forgiveness back in the forefront—a message she had learned long ago in her youth—is something that Tracy cherishes. “I just remember feeling a great sense of comfort knowing that I was flawed and that it is okay to be flawed because Jesus died to wash away all my sins.
“It’s been a blessing. It made me feel like everything has come full circle.”
They found their home.
Julie Wietzke is managing editor of Forward in Christ.
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Author: Julie K. Wietzke
Volume 105, Number 6
Issue: June 2018
Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2018
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