Mike VanderWeele is a Resurrection member who has a powerful testimony of transformation beginning with his attendance at the 2014 RezMen Retreat.
Having grown up in a Christian home, it is difficult to point the moment I first came to Christ. I attended Christian schools and was the model Christian kid until sophomore year of high school, at which point I started wondering why anyone would ever choose to sit in the front row at church. I quickly became distracted by other things – Halo, mountain biking, college applications.
I found myself at a Christian college where all the church-related activities were optional. I believed the only thing that was mandatory was finding who I was after leaving my hometown bubble. I had grown up in an environment where I thought rebellion meant smoking cigars at 18 and buying a lotto ticket. I quickly realized I had a lot to learn.
Once again I found myself in the “sit in the back row” crowd… Except we didn’t sit in the back when we went to church, because we didn’t go at all. I still believed in God and Jesus, but I wasn’t into it. I had beer to drink, cigarettes to smoke, and people to meet.
I joined a fraternity known as the “good guys,” diverse and accepting of anyone. Nonetheless, I preferred to hide my Christian beliefs. These weren’t the kind of guys interested in hearing verses like Ephesians 5:18 (
Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit). So when people asked for my opinion, I gave them Sunday School, Bible-based answers, secularizing it to make it more palatable for my fraternity brothers. I think deep down I found this really sad.
After graduation I found a job, but also found myself coming home after work to an empty house. After months of living in a frat house, the emptiness, combined with a long commute, was rough. I began stopping at a bar most nights instead. On weekends, my parents continued to ask me to church, but my Saturday nights left me in rough shape, so I almost always declined.
I did still love church – I really did – I just loved my Saturday nights more. On the off chance I made it to church on a Sunday morning, I no longer felt like I fit in. As the party weekends stacked up, I slowly found myself getting exhausted. I didn’t know what I wanted out of life, but I realized I hated spending money on alcohol and wasting my days. This was right around the time my parents invited me to Church of the Rez, where they had recently started attending. And I was surprised to find I like it. I wasn’t quite ready to give up my Saturday nights, but a seed had been planted.
Several months later, my dad signed us both up for the men’s retreat. I figured it’d be cool to spend some time with my dad and maybe sit through a sermon about nature or something. I had no clue it’d be so much more than that. It was an absolute gut check, but I found myself loving every second. The leaders and other men there were great, and showed me a true example of what it was really like to be a Christian man, following Christ without the judgment I’d come to expect back in college.
Since the retreat I think I’ve only miss two or three Sundays at Rez. The men’s retreat showed me that Rez was a community I wanted to be a part of; one that centered on Christ instead of alcohol and drugs. In the last year, I’ve gone through CORE, renewed my baptism on Easter morning, and committed to serving on the RezKids team. It’s been amazing to see where I’ve come in the last few years, from being spiritually lukewarm and miserable, to being grateful for forgiveness and loving this new life I’ve been granted.