The holidays are a time to gather and celebrate with loved ones, but sometimes we get so busy with preparations that we forget that. We’ve introduced you to Mandy Castro (Jason Castro‘s wife) before. Today, we wanted to pause before the crazy rush of the holidays begin and let you hear again from Mandy as she reminds us just how important community is for every believer.
4word: Tell us about your faith journey. When did you become a Christian?
Mandy: I grew up with two sweet, loving and supporting parents who took us to church at a young age. By the time I hit middle school, I’d heard all about Jesus, sin and the Gospel story. I was definitely a rule-follower as a child. I was taught that sin was bad, so I thought, “Ok I got it. I’ll be a good girl.” That became who I was. I never wanted to disappoint anyone.
But when I got to middle school, my family got really busy. Sunday became a day of rest at home. We stopped going to church, and we didn’t really talk about God much.
Then in high school, I was invited to a church event. I saw this senior in high school up on stage talking about the awesome relationship he had with God, and I couldn’t relate to what he said. I’d never heard about a relationship, just: “Be this. Do this. Don’t do this.” I’d never heard of grace.
I sat there thinking, “I’ve missed it all along. I thought I’ve been a Christian, but I’ve missed out on Christ.” That night I gave my life to Him, and it’s been so different to be in a relationship instead of checking off a list.
4word: So what happened when you went to college?
Mandy: I went to OU and got involved in a ministry called Student Mobilization. That ministry took my faith to a completely different level. I learned skills there that will last me a lifetime, like how to share your faith or have a quiet time.
Discipleship was huge in StuMo, as we called it, and I was blessed to have one of the older girls, Emily, mentor me and show me what it looks like to be a disciple of Christ. Before, I felt like I was trying to grow, but I didn’t know how to or what it looked like to follow Jesus.
4word: That’s awesome! So what’s the biggest thing you learned from Emily?
Mandy: I think the biggest thing she did was to help me grow a love for God’s word. Every minute you spend with Him in His word is worthwhile. It doesn’t come back void.
Emily taught me how to spend time in the Word. I remember meeting with her a lot and saying, “The Bible is confusing! I don’t know where to start!” It really can be an overwhelming book, but she taught me how to study the Bible well.
4word: And what’s something you are learning now?
Mandy: I’ve learned to be open and vulnerable in community. I had that closeness in college, but not as much since moving to Dallas and getting married.
It’s huge to be in community and live with other believers who can speak truth into your life. We help each other bring things into the light: what’s going on in my life and what’s going on in theirs. It’s so important to not walk alone and to have a community surrounding you.
4word: So how did you find the community you’re a part of now?
Mandy: That was the hardest transition I’ve made to date. Even harder than getting married or finding a job. I got married six months after college, and the six months in between graduating and the wedding were so hard. I went from living with my six best friends to being at home with mom and dad. It was just really hard.
I go to Watermark Church here in Dallas, and that has been so good. I actually got involved in my current group through one of my husband’s band member’s wives. It was kind of random the way it happened, but I think Watermark makes it so easy to get involved. If you are looking to get plugged in, they’ve got a group for everything.
I do think that it is much harder to find a good community once you’re out of college. While I was at OU, I was in this little bubble where a lot of people were focused on reaching out to and discipling young women like me. Once I graduated, that was gone. But I just started asking and getting to know people here in Dallas.
So I think that would be my advice for finding a community of your own: just ask around at your church and get to know the people there. It can be scary, but it’s worth it.
What does your faith community look like? How has being surrounded by fellow believers challenged and changed you?