Story Saturday- Stuff Only God Can Do

Hi Friends,

This past Sunday Brittanie Demeno shared the following testimony at Christ Church.  Be encouraged by how God is at work!

Pastor Jeff

I’ve been coming to Christ Church since May of 2016 and I have been beyond blessed to see the Lord work within myself, friends, and our church community. God has been so kind to surround me with friends that bring me closer to him through this church and I can’t thank Him enough for bringing me here. The last time I spoke in front of our congregation like this was in October of 2016 when I got to proclaim my faith by getting baptized. God has been at work all around me since then and I’m excited to share what He’s done with you, as I truly believe sharing with you will honor Him and bring him glory.

If you weren’t here last time I spoke, I’ll give you a quick recap. I grew up in a loving secular home in New York City and competed competitive gymnastics for most of my life. I spent 30-40 hours practicing a week and gymnastics became my identity at a very young age. I ended up receiving a full ride to Temple University to carry on my gymnastics career, and if I thought my identity was in gymnastics as a child, it grew to be even more in college. Successes, failures, and experiences came and went, but it never felt like it was enough. During my final year of gymnastics, God took it all away quicker than I ever imagined he could. Before my final season was up I suffered an injury that would end my career for good. This brought me to the lowest point in my life that I can remember. As if it wasn’t bad enough that I couldn’t compete anymore, Temple continued to require me to show up to practices being a scholarship athlete. During this time a new coach showed up to practice with a smile on his face and asked me more questions than anyone else had before. I hated him and everything he brought into the gym because the last thing I thought my injury would bring me was joy, which is what he kept talking about. He told me who Jesus was and eventually I got to a point where I felt like I had nothing left and had to give this Jesus guy a try. I would’ve said you were crazy if you told me then that I would be standing next to the same man on a regular basis living and sharing the gospel with young kids and their families on a weekly basis today. He started bringing me out to church, my ankle began to heal, and I started praising God for what he had done because without the injury, I never would have been in an emotional or mental state to open my heart to him and truly understand what his sacrificial love meant. 

Fast forward to May of 2016 and God brought me here to Christ Church. My first day was definitely one for the record books, but I don’t have enough time to tell that story. That’s a fun one for another time. From the moment I walked in here I knew this place was something special and God began to get to work right away. The people I met on the first day quickly became some of the best friends I ever experienced, and asked me questions a lot like that new coach did at Temple. I was welcomed with open arms, and I experienced a kind of love I had never been exposed to. It wasn’t just a community, but a community of people who took joy in serving others because of a love outside of themselves-Christ’s love. If you don’t know just how much God has changed me even since coming to Christ Church in May of 2016, let me tell you this- I did not like children one bit, little ones anyway. In fact they used to hide from me because I was the mean one that no one wanted to be around. ONe of the major signs of God at work in sanctifying me is that He has given me a deep love for the children of this church and I’m so blessed to see how this has flourished in my life.

Throughout the year of 2017 God had a special way of removing toxins in my life that prevented me from growing closer to him. I learned the meaning behind terms like accountability, modesty, service, and selflessness. None of these lessons were easy by any means, and my sinful heart resisted each and every one of these lessons. But God knew the entire time exactly who to surround me with to keep me on track during these times. I will never be able to express my gratitude towards those that were there every step of the learning process. In 2017 I really jumped into the community here at Christ Church, not for my own self gain, but because my love for the Lord flourished more than I ever could have imagined. This love also brought various trials and tribulations within my family and friends who don’t know Christ, but as hard as those times got, God met me every single time. God doesn’t have to speak or reach any of us in any kind of special way, yet He continued to showed up

As 2018 approached, I felt like there was something missing in my walk. I realized I was in South Philly three to four times a week and spending more time here than in my own apartment. I believed it was a waste to search for another apartment because I had such a good thing going in the complex I lived in. And I mean, I couldn’t buy a house right? Only married people bought homes… this quickly became another one of the many lies the enemy had convinced me if being true. When I mentioned the idea to a friend, things began to happen. I’ll never forget him saying. “Oh don’t worry, we’ll get you down here.” I thought he was nuts, and next thing I knew I had received a mortgage pre-approval, scheduled house viewings, and started to realize that it might be financially possible for a house to happen.

Next thing I knew I was under contract for a house a couple blocks away from here in March, and instead of praising God, it ended up bringing me to a place of entitlement, pride, and complacency. One week later God used that contract to humble me in dramatic ways. He removed a chunk of my finances, removed supports He had given me prior, and brought me back to a place where I had no choice but to turn to Him for dependence. After coming out of the contract, I thought that his house thing wasn’t going to happen. It had been months of searching, nights filled with tears, and more frustration than I had felt in a long time. I thought the house search was over. However, God showed up again on April 30 and gave me Job 36 (NIV: Bear with me a little longer and I will show you that there is more to be said in God’s behalf). By the end of May I went under contract for another house, and this time was able to keep His mission my number one priority and made the effort to focus on the many other mission fields I that were in front of me, such as my workplaces at school and the gym, and amongst my family and friends. Things started moving quickly on this house, and it was very difficult to hold my emotions in. I prayed that God would reveal to me whether or not was the house because wondering was distracting and taking an emotional toll on me. God met me where I was, again, as He has continued to do so. I had a sense that the house number meant something. 725… and the first scripture I was brought to was from Matthew. (And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock). I mean, I don’t know about you, but that to me was as if Jesus was standing in front of the doorway opening it up telling me, “Hey Britt, this is your house!” As wonderful as this high was, how quickly I was able to go from being comforted and surrounded by God’s love, to questioning Him again. I prayed, and still do that God would protect me, guide me, and provide for me throughout this home owning experience. I heard from my lender prior to settlement that I would have to pay an entire year’s worth of homeowners insurance up front on top of the rest of the closing costs. Naturally I panicked, because that was going to be coming out of the funds I set aside for closing. God knew though, He knew the entire time, and how quick I was going to question Him and was more than prepared. My Philadelphia income tax return had been missing for months… On a Monday I found out that my insurance quote was $1097.59. On that following Tuesday my income tax finally came in through the mail. I had no idea how much it’d be as I opened it. I fell to the floor and completely burst out into tears of gratefulness and disbelief at just how real God is. My insurance quote was $1097.59 remember? The check was for $1098.

As I approached closing on the house, I had many family members and friends tell me I would never get done what needed to be done in the house and that no one would help me, because why would they? Before I could start to fully believe these lies, I was surrounded by what the body of Christ can look like. Within three days, different members of the church flooded the house with service and the house quickly looked like a different place. On day two I couldn’t keep my emotions in when I looked around a realized all that God had done and was in the middle of doing. The house isn’t finished by any means, but it is pretty darn close, and not because of me, but due to a variety of different members here and their willing hearts. As I think about it, I can’t help but get excited to finally be a part of the community mission here in South Philly and also be able to serve and host a variety of people who have served and hosted me time and time again. As things move forward, I ask that you’d join me in praying for the house and people who live in it- That God would continue to grow us all and use one another to help make us more like Jesus. And that anyone who walks in would leave knowing who Jesus is, what He has done, and would be surrounded by His love whether they realize it or not. 

God has been all over the place in my life since coming to faith in 2015. I can’t begin to fathom just how much He has done in under three years, it’s very surreal to me. God sure knew what He was doing when He brought me here to Christ Church a couple years ago, and I feel so blessed that He has placed me to walk this walk here alongside all of you.