Tough. It was definitely tough. During middle school I had my first two falls and then surgeries and casts and prosthesis. When I was younger, I developed osteo and psoriatic arthritis. Me being a girl, it wasn’t easy. Having people at home waiting hand and foot on you – it sounds amazing, but it wasn’t. At one point I had a full body cast and I couldn’t go to the restroom without assistance.
I fell behind quite a bit at school and eventually when I was able to go back I realized how mean kids were. They let me have it – calling me cripple and other names. One day another kid threw one of my crutches up on the school roof and I had to wait for the custodian to come and bring it down; something was always happening to me. I pulled through and was able to graduate from middle school, but even that was hard. I was super nervous walking down the aisle during graduation because I was already self-conscious about my way of walking and then knowing that all eyes were going to be on me was even more nerve-wracking, but I did it.
My mom is the one who made me start coming to Bible Club during that time. At first, I’d say to my Mom, “Mom, you know you don’t have time.” And she would respond “Oh, don’t worry, I don’t have to worry about taking you because they’ll come pick you up.” Really?! There’s no way around it? I had no way out.
The Bible Club leaders would pick me up and we would work on homework, play games, learn about God and pray. We would read parables and Bible stories and I remember thinking, “This isn’t as boring as church – why doesn’t my mom just bring me here instead?” I started liking it and I’d say, “Mom, it’s Thursday, am I going over there [to BCM] again? Because Maria [my friend] is going to go, so I should go; I need to go.” Bible Club was a safe place. It was welcoming, nobody was judging me or being mean to me because of my physical appearance. At Bible Club I wasn’t defined by my crutches and surgeries.
Bible Club was also very different from my experience with God growing up. Church seemed scary to me. It was somber, and I was hearing things like “If you don’t listen to what they’re saying, [insert scary scenario here] is going to happen...” At Bible Club I learned about Jesus and about love and not just repentance. I also got to see another style of worship and other ways to experience God. One of my Bible Club leaders, SueAnn, used to pick me up in her little yellow buggy. I was always used to sitting in the back of church, not getting noticed. But no, [at BCM] they made us sit in the front. Next thing I know, I’m jammin’ and dancin’ and having fun.
BCM kept me off the streets and away from negative influences. Instead, I learned how to cook different foods like homemade marinara sauce and to explore new flavors like Vietnamese rice paper rolls. I also got to go places like Santa Cruz, Muir Woods, Raging Waters and camp. Bible Club was a special place to me because of the new experiences, the positive adults, the sense of safety and belonging and the chance to learn about God in a new way.
My daughter Janelle has trouble with reading and retaining information and has a learning disability. Before BCM, she was constantly having trouble even focusing. I would tell her, “Janelle, whatever homework you get should all be a recap of what you did during the day at school. It should be familiar territory.” But she would just get frustrated. She was in another after school program and they still weren’t helping her. I would drop her off at school at 8 and pick her up at 6, 6:30pm. That’s a very long day for a child and then to go home and still have to grill her about homework. I pulled her out, because there was no use in her staying at school that late and still not getting her work done. I messaged one of my cousins and asked if she knew of any programs for Janelle that I could afford with my one income. I didn’t want to pay a lot of money and I needed something flexible. Then she said, “How about Bayshore Christian Ministries?” Why does that sound familiar? Holy cow! BCM! I used to go there!!! Almost 20 years ago I was part of the original crew.
So, I came and checked BCM out; I was very nervous about Janelle but she liked it. Academically she started doing better. The staff were always encouraging and positive. I realized that Janelle didn’t have the same behavior issues at BCM that she was having at school.
At the end of the school year, I would ask her, “Do you want to go back to BCM” and she would say yes. And then she started going to Bible Club on Wednesday and now she also goes to robotics. My daughter enjoys being at BCM. During the summer she went to Vacation Bible School (VBS) and loved it. She would come home talking about God and what she learned that day. I want Janelle to have the same opportunities through BCM that they gave me so many years ago.
God and faith are intimidating subjects to me and Janelle would ask me questions that I didn’t know how to answer. I like having Janelle involved in Bible Club because her leaders can answer questions that I don’t know how to answer. I’ve noticed that Janelle even talks to her little brother about God. My son Josh is very intrigued and wants to know when he can come to BCM, too.
Last year started out like an ordinary year, but then I went through a really intense time of loss. In less than two months during the spring of 2017, I lost 4 close family members. My life as I knew it changed completely. I never imagined becoming the head of my household the way that I did. That was tough, and it still is. I’m still working through the grief and anger. I know that God exists, but I have questioned my faith because of the hard times that I’ve faced. With Janelle being part of BCM, that helped me feel more at ease and reminded me that God exists and there is still good. That without loss, we wouldn’t be the humans we are intended to be.
I am grateful for BCM because it gave me a life outside of school and my house. I was able to have friends who shared my background in a place where I wasn’t judged. I was able to have experiences that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I learned other ways to praise God. As a parent, I appreciate that BCM feels familiar, like a home. I like showing up to BCM and feeling known. People say, “Hi Evie, what’s up.” instead of just “Janelle, your mom’s here.”
I am thankful to God for bringing BCM into my life and that this has been a home for both me and my daughter, a place where we are known by name and loved.
Here, Evie gives her keynote address at our annual banquet.
Pictured here is Evie and a few other BCM students back when Evie was a BCM student.
Here, Janelle (Evie’s daughter) poses for a photos with two of her friends during VBS this past summer.