In a few short days, Shady Grove Church and Gateway Church will merge. Like all transitions, the journey has been winding and replete with a myriad of steps and emotions that have brought us to this day. Here are some of the feelings I have had or I have heard others express as they have worked through the events and emotions of change… Shock, pain, tears, floods of memories, questions about the past and future, fear, faith, a few “Whys?”, joy, excitement, eagerness. All of this has had lots of prayer and counsel.
The good news is, the community who have made Shady Grove Church our home for one day or forty years, not alone. We make the step together. More good news is our leaders are trustworthy. Thirty plus years of oversight proves this point. But mostly, God is trustworthy. He is in the details and the big picture of this move.
I met my husband there, adopted and raised my daughter with that community. We all know church is not about a building but a people of God. We had many years of great teaching, caring leadership, revival, and worship that brought the presence of God into the sanctuary. In that place, we knelt and cried and embraced the form of the unseen Creator through the person of Jesus. We learned how to bring Him home and live each day with what we were taught. We learned how to love Him by loving each other. We learned how to laugh — even that we must laugh to go on…
At Shady Grove, my husband and I received a call to missions that first became a financial gift, a weekly offering that turned into many short-term mission trips that became a lifestyle, a calling. We had to answer, “Whom shall I send?”. We had to go and live abroad for ten years. Shady Grove believed and sent us to the mission field. Since then, we have learned to come and go and have seen churches all over the world. All that traveling taught us in reality that there is no place like home — no place like home that serves the kind of comfort food for hard times and joyous times. There is just no place like Shady Grove.
So I guess I am sentimental as we all make this next step and the day draws closer that our name will no longer be “Shady Grove.” I don’t know exactly what to expect, except that I know God is good and His plans for the future are perfect for me, for all of us.
I guess the merger is sort of like, well, like Julia getting married. When she joins her life with another man, she won’t be a “Wilks. ” She takes a new name, very different from the one her daddy gave her. But the point is: She is still the same little girl we brought home from Guatemala City, adopted, and that we loved and embraced as our own flesh and blood. She will always be ours. But her name will be different. Her DNA is ours, and she will carry that in her heart and give it away. Her upbringing comes from us, and it is a part of her gift to her husband.
Julia’s new husband will seem strange to us in the beginning, but God destined him to be flesh and blood. We will embrace him as family.
Yes, we won’t be “Shady Grove.” We will be “Gateway Church.” It seems impossible, but our DNA is the same. We have the same pastor/father, the same Father above, the same upbringing, the same values. We are from the same family. Maybe our culture has grown different but in the things in life that matter: We are the same.
I imagine when Julia gets married there will be great joy and happiness. There will laughing and celebration. There will be plans and talk of the future. I also know the day will come when she will make her home with her new husband and not live with us. In all the gladness of the occasion, there will be some lonely times and tears for her daddy and me. Our baby will be gone, and life will not ever be the same. But the joy of new birth and godly seed and tomorrow will overtake the momentary sadness that will shadow us for a short time.
After all, none of this life is permanent. If this life doesn’t bring us together with members of the body of Messiah, heaven will. In that place above, there will be no names, but His name alone. No shining lights, but His light alone. That is what this life is about! Making Him famous. I believe God knows that the best way the salt of the earth from Shady Grove Church can prepare the way of the Lord in these last days is to join our sister church. We have something to offer, and they have something to offer. And the two together will be launched farther than we ever dreamed. We will be shot into the world to reach a great sphere to be released with great force and power. To. Hit. The. Mark.
Yes, it’s the end of a glorious era, and I have so many to thank. Mainly thank you to the godly, selfless pastors — Olen and Syble Griffing, who have given the most. Many wells have been dug at Shady Grove Church, alabaster boxes broken, songs sung at midnight, sacrifices of praises, banners waved, worship in holiness, foundations laid, and souls rescued, healed and sent out. Shady Grove may your streams continue to flow into all the world.
Glorious days stretch before us. The best is yet to be!
I created this place for Shady Grovers to recollect a memory, write down a moment, to say thank you for all that we received in the last few decades. Wayne and I want to thank the pastors and elders, teachers, servants, staff, and volunteers who all contributed to leaving an eternal impact on our lives. We will always warmly and fondly remember our days and years at the Grove. It was an honor to serve and to be a tiny part of a plan that was bigger than any of us.
My favorite memories are two: Monthly staff meetings in the hospitality room with lunch and raucous laughter. So many of the elders and staff were great story tellers, and the archives of stories got funnier and funnier over the years. When we first went to the mission field, I missed those moments the most as far as community bonding and closeness. It takes years to get to know people like we knew each other.
My second memory is of worship itself in the sanctuary — the times of stillness, great rejoicing, hushed holiness, awesome prophetic impartation, dance, teaching, processionals, preaching. God drew us there, and His goodness passed by us!
Below are a few of the comments that I gleaned from a Facebook entry. I am just recording them here for posterity.
Hilda Simmons – Bonnie, I love this…..you stated it so well. We saw wonderful years at SGC and as you said, there are more Glorious days ahead. God is full of surprises. I do believe we “haven’t seen anything yet” to what is ahead.
Kim Yates – The best is yet to be. I’m so happy to be with so many familiar faces. Love you guys!!!!
Juan J. Constantino – I can’t wait!
Tom Schueleter – Many of us drank from those wells
Phyllis Scroggins – Yes and Amen…!!!…………
Ashley Standford – I have some amazing memories at the grove.
Syble Rose Griffing = Wow! What memories!! Bonnie, as usual you’ve said it so well! But, my oh, my what we have ahead of us!
Marie Johnson – Many “stones” that were laid in my life are from 19 years at the Grove! My heart is grateful to pastor Olen & Syble, who poured their lives out, as well as you, Bonnie and Wayne and so many others!!! Beautiful, fond, glorious memories and the best is yet to come….exciting!
Cynthia Nelson Nurss – Worship and intercession brings forth answers sometimes that surprise us! So blessed God set me at SGC 1999-2006! Even more excited to see God work through our prayers in the metroplex in the days to come as we labor in unity!
Hannah Briscoe – Amen. My home and family since before I was born. Looking forward to journeying on together.
Teresa Coyne – Amen!
Kerry Kirkwood – The deposits made here will never lose its affects but will continue to produce seeds of life into the next generation.
Hilda Simmons – Love, love love all these wonderful comments and really appreciate what Tom Schlueter said……”many of us drank from these wells.” Isn’t that the truth…..and there’s more to come.
Mary Jo Pierce – I “grew up” in the spirit at Shady Grove. From this “altar” of prayer and intercession and worship and nations will come forth all that God has said. Excited to be a part of past, present and future!
Shelly Key – I am with what Mary Jo said… not only did “I” grow up spiritually at Shady Grove but my 4 children were born and raised spiritually at SGC. None of us — myself, my family, my children — would be who we are today had it not been for SGC and Pastor Olen and Syble and the leadership there. God used you guys to make us all who we are today. Even though my family is grown now and we have not been at SGC for years now, I still to this day recount lessons and words from God that we received while there those 15+ yrs. We still consider Pastor Olen our “pastor”. Good memories! Thank you all!
AI Kaplan – Oh wow! I had no idea. Many blessings to come. Yes, I love you Pastor Olen, and Greens… and Dunns…
Marlie Espinosa – Wow!! A merge?? I look forward to hearing all! Just may get in the middle that!! I’ve been praying for direction. Love all my pastors from SGC, including P. Olen, Gary, Robert, Wayne, Bill, etc!! Words cannot express what I received over the years, including a servant’s heart.
Donna Austin – Yes….treasured memories….there is one memory that I have tucked inside my heart when I first came to S.G.C. in 1984…I think we had only been there a few months when Tim went to the Altar and asked the congregation to pray for his wife (me) because I was in the hospital and had gone blind due to MS. The WHOLE church fervently prayed and I got my eyesight back in 2 weeks. Thank you wonderful people of Shady Grove….we love you!
Charles Simmons – This is where I learned to worship in spirit and truth.
Yes Donna Austin – Yes, Charles and I remember putting you on a prayer healing list and people signed up to pray for you and I think there was some good results from all that…huh?
Donna Austin – I think buckets of love poured out in your heart Charles and mine too that people cared for us….enough to PRAY for us…this was big for me!
Hilda Simmons – My heart is so touched by all these words. I know the Griffings must be totally blessed by all these words of praise and affection/love for them.Fran Vaughn – This brought tears to my eyes! God showed me his presence in such apowerful way when I was there! I saw God move in ways that can not even express. I still feel so apart of this body and my family! I will always love you and have a special place in my heart.
Connie Briscoe – Wow! way to make one come face to face with the reality of what God has done and is doing at Shady Grove and shed a few tears in the process. Good verbalization Bonnie! God moved Phil and I to Shady Grove Church one month after we married 39 1/2 years ago and we have been so blessed as a result! We will continue to embrace all that God has as we walk on as Gateway Grand Prairie campus. Praise The Lord!