Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Winders

Hello, hello from Idaho!
(That story will come in my next post!)
It's been awhile since I blogged, 
but I'm back!
And with something very worth while to read...

I want to tell you about our friends,
John, Steff, Trevor, and Carson Winder.
This family of four has forever changed our lives,
and we are so grateful :)

John and Steff moved to Corvallis (where Stephen and I went to school) to work for The NavigatorsThe Navigators is an international Christian ministry, made up of hundreds of people who love Jesus and who choose to share His story and His love while they (and all of us!) "navigate" through our everyday lives. (You can read more about The Navigators and this amazing ministry, HERE!)
John and Steff do this on Oregon State's campus, sharing their lives with college students, focusing a lot of their time in the Greek system. (Which is how Stephen first met John)
Currently the Winder family is back east working with The Navigators. 
During this time they held a "donation dessert" for those in the area that support them in the ministry. At this function John and Steff were going to share the story of Stephen and I, how we came to know them and how they have ministered to us and lead us through so many steps of life. 
John and Steff and their two boys impacted our lives more than any words could ever explain, but they asked us to try and do just that, write a letter they could share with their donors describing our relationship and sharing their ministry story in our lives. 

I would like to share with you our letters (long post today!)
John and Steff have changed our lives and their impact is worth sharing. 
We are so grateful for all they've done, they deserve to be recognized and loved and supported. 

(My letter to their supporters)
When the Winders first entered my life, I truthfully did not want them there. Though I’d heard nothing but good (no, amazing!) things from Stephen, I was in a slow and independent journey towards Christ and wrongfully assumed the Christian campus ministry leaders had plans to shove a bible at me and breathe scripture down my neck; not my ideal Tuesday night.
That does not, however, resemble any interaction I’ve had with the Winders.
Just as Jesus meets all of us, John and Steff met me just as I was; a sorority girl stumbling on her walk with God. They did not care where’d I’d been or what I’d done, they only cared that I was there, happy and loved.
Loving is their greatest gift, I think. They love with the love of Jesus, and it shows. (More like radiates!) Their words and their actions resemble His and their unconditional love, kindness, and acceptance is contagious. They make you want to know Jesus.
So I got to know Him.
With their guidance and support my stumble became more of a stagger, and slowly a walk. John and Steff always made themselves available for help and questions, always listening and eager to share in my sorrows or joys. They invited me into their home and into their family; an acceptance I will be forever grateful for.
I quickly began to relate to Steff, discovering through cooking classes, coffee dates and hanging out with the boys that we shared a similar journey to Christ. Our search began independent from our families and encouraged by the man in our life. (We both cried after attending our first bible study!) The comforts of knowing I wasn’t alone in this crazy, beautiful mess were indescribable.
They were there when I called myself an agnostic. They were there when Stephen and I got engaged. They were there when I attended my first bible study. They were there when I cried in church on Easter Sunday. They were there when I was baptized in the Pacific Ocean. They were there when Stephen and I were married. And I know that they will always be there.
I can’t imagine doing what they do; opening their lives to students and Greeks; giving their hearts to those who need it most. But where would I be if they had chosen a different path? Not here. Not walking with God.
The Winder family (yes, Trevor and Carson, too!) has played a vital and unforgettable role in my college years, in my relationship with God, and in my marriage. Though I have thanked them hundreds of times for the yummy dinners, the countless lessons in marriage and parenting, all the laughs and cries… I want to thank them again, now. And I want to thank you, their supporters. In supporting John and Steff you are in turn supporting me, and all the other “stumblers” who take this journey with the Winders.
- Allison

(Stephen's letter to their supporters)
I don’t like to think about where I would be without the Winder’s. I probably wouldn’t be married, I might not be in medical school, but most importantly I would probably still think that I was a pretty good person, and why would I need Christ if I’m pretty good? I remember meeting John and instantly being able to relate to him.  He wasn’t another campus minster telling me what I should be doing. He humbly shared his college experience with me and I could see myself in his story, I could see how God shaped him into the man he is today, and I wanted that too.  He was an example of a person who had been in my shoes, who had pursued Christ and who wanted to lead others to do the same.
I don’t know a lot of adults who want to spend their lives involved in the mess of Greek life.   The Winder’s spend their life in that mess. John would come to our Monday night dinners and meeting; lead value based discussions as well as bible studies and even brought Trevor and Carson with him. What a great example of being in the world but not of the world. He spent countless hours with me reading the bible, talking about life and playing sports (I think I won the last game of one on one volleyball). Both John and Steff have completely dedicated their lives to being personally involved with the lives of college students, to the point of inviting me to share their home and family.
The Winder’s have shown me that the best way to disciple someone is spending a lot of quality time with them, showing them how to walk with Christ by doing it yourself.  They invited me to live with them after I graduated, where I was able to be a part of their ministry and their lives.  Being in the Winder house for six months, I learned more about following Christ, loving my wife and how to raise my future children than I could have listening to any sermon, reading any books or taking a class.
I can’t imagine my life without the Winder’s and thank God I don’t have to.  They have poured their lives into me and so many others at OSU.  They shared their marriage, home, food (which is amazing), two wonderful boys (my much younger brothers), and everything else with me. They have made a very large dent in my life and I have so many great memories, from playing Easter Mud football, wrestling and playing super heroes with the boys, to being baptized with Steff in the Pacific Ocean by John.  They are part of my family and a very big part of my story. Thank you so much for being there for them so they could be there for me and all of the future lives they will change.
- Stephen

If you know the Winders (even if you don't!) and love them (as anyone who meets them does!) and want to support them in their ministry (as Stephen and I do!), click HERE to donate. Even if you can't donate, I know they would appreciate your prayers in their journey. 

Thank you for reading :)
And thank you to the Winders.
They are such an inspiration to us all.
We love you!

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