Jon: I’m Jon.
Rachael: And I’m Rachael. We have three girls, Addie, Taylor, and Lola. I became a Christian when I was very young– around six years old. My dad was a pastor. When I was about 10, we moved to Venezuela. My parents were missionaries there for about 35 years. And when I graduated, I came back to the United States and went to school in Arkansas. I had met my husband in Iowa. We both were counselors at a Christian summer camp. We got married in 2001. We had three girls right away. So, that was pretty fast. During that time, we were in a life group. It looked great from the outside. Everything looked pretty picture perfect.
Rachael: Then after the birth of my twins, I became addicted to pain medication for the C-Section. That was my way to cope with some of the pain that was going on behind the scenes. The struggle with three girls, and being home all the time, was truly hard on myself and relationships. And my marriage, as well. And I really dove into the addiction at that point. I went from being in a community with other Christ-followers to having a lot of secrets and lies in my life.
Rachael: So, during those really dark times, where I was very alone, I started running into old life group friends, from our very first life group. I would see my friend, Christine, in just random places. And she kept inviting me to Encounter, the women’s bible study at church. I just did not want anything to do with it, at the time. But I kept running into her over and over. And every time, she invited me. So, I decided to go ahead and go. During that bible study is when I finally told a select few people what was happening.
Rachael: And the minute I told friends, I felt like God lifted this huge weight off my shoulders that I had been carrying for years, and I could sense something was wrong in my heart about it. I knew I didn’t want to live like that. So, God was making some pretty amazing changes in my own life. But yet, my marriage was still struggling. And I was hoping for change there, too. In fact, at that point, we had lost track of the life group. We were no longer in that life group. And we really didn’t have any community, really, to hold onto.
Rachael: So, I think in hopes that things might get better, I decided to move out. The girls and I got an apartment. After about a year and a half of being in the apartment, my husband died unexpectedly. And throughout all of this, Mike and Carol, the leaders of our original life group, just stood by me the entire time. They gave us a place to stay. They took care of me as if I were their daughter and the girls were their granddaughters.
Jon: I grew up in a Christian family. We were involved with a good church and by the time I showed up in Madison, to go to college at UW, it was a free for all for me. And I came to a point where I felt there was an emptiness. And it was shortly after I graduated from college that I decided to start attending Blackhawk. Initially, Blackhawk was a little bit overwhelming because it is so large, and I didn’t have any community support. I feel like I wasn’t growing in any relationships.
Jon: So, I first I started out with the worship arts community, and I made friends that way. I ended up in my first life group, and that led to several other groups. I eventually ended up in a group called Guy Time. And I was invited to go on a missions trip…. one of the men I’d met along the way, his name was Mike. Toward the end of the trip, he made a comment, “I know this great girl back in Madison. And I think you should meet her.”
Jon: So, fast forward eight or nine months, and I’m sitting in Blackhawk. Even before the service was done, Mike was at the end of the row. He made a comment like, “Hey. I want you to come to the back. I want you to meet my wife, Carol.” So, I show up at the back. And there’s Mike and Carol, and this good looking woman, who later I would find out was Rachael.
Rachael: When Mike came back from Honduras, he had told me about Jon, Jon, Jon. At that time, I still just was not ready. That’s when we finally met at church. So, Jon invited me to coffee. And I think I drove around the block two or three times before I got up the nerve to go in. I think the third time we’d gone out, by that time I felt like I really need to tell Jon everything that I had been through. I remember him saying, “If you’re trying to scare me off, it’s not working.”
Rachael: Even though I think I was scared to get into a relationship again, God hadn’t closed any doors. I just didn’t feel like I had to hold anything back. My friends were excited for me that I had found somebody who would love me for who I am. But of course, they had concerns to make sure that Jon was in the right place for himself with God, and then with his community, to bridge that gap to a family.
Jon: I mentioned earlier, I was involved with a group, we call it Guy Time. And a lot of those guys were just awesome, supportive, asking important questions. And I think it was really an affirming time in both of our friend circles. So, it was a really exciting time. It was pretty apparent in my life that I wanted to marry Rachael. And just figuring out the right time to do it.
Rachael: I think that day felt just like a joy, that somebody wanted to be with us forever. Just a confirmation that God’s taking care of us. And providing a godly man to step in, and just be family with us.
Jon: I think we’ve experienced a lot of different things along the way– we’ve been in moments of extreme joy and happiness to moments of extreme frustration and doubt. But I think God has worked in each one of our lives. The girls have had a lot of grace with forgiving me, and I have to joke that I’ve never had to apologize as much as I do now. But it has been amazing to see how God’s worked to bring five separate individuals together.
Rachael: We were in a life group right after we got married. And I think that really helped show us what a healthy family looks like.
Jon: And being in the life group, you pretty quickly realize that we aren’t on an island. And I think it just speaks volumes to what support and community provides.
Rachael: Like Jon said, just the amazing peace of people from 15 years ago, that I met when I first started coming to Blackhawk. It’s like God was putting the puzzle pieces together.