“…for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”
(Philippians 2:13)


Charlene Renne

God@Work in the life of Charlene Renne

Char was brought up in a Christian home ? at least she thought she was. Her parents and grandparents told her she was a Christian, but church was not on the agenda. “We would go to church on Easter, but to me it was more about the outfits than anything.” Char did go to Sunday school and enjoyed it but never had any kind of relationship with Jesus.

“My dad passed away when I was 16, and it was just Mom and me at home. My sister had married, and my brother was at school. Church? Not even a flickering on my brain.”

In 1990, things changed. “My brother and sister-in-law were saved about 15 years before that. They never really put it out there, but I just saw something about the way they lived their lives that was different. They had gone through some challenges, and I watched them. I couldn’t figure out what it was about them, but it had me curious.

Char says, “Around that time, we were all at the shore, and my brother brought up being a Christian. I said, ‘Well, I’m a Christian. I believe in God.’ But I knew I wasn’t. My sister, my mom, and I began talking about attending church. Maybe it was time.

“I worked at a car dealership, and a customer came in. I asked him what he did for a living and he said, ‘I’m a pastor at Fellowship Alliance Chapel.’ It was Dennis Episcopo. He was so funny and so engaging. That wasn’t my perception of a pastor. He gave me his business card, and I put it on my refrigerator.

“I didn’t want my life to change too much. I still wanted to go out and live the way I wanted to.”

“At the same time, a client at my sister’s travel agency starting talking to her about how much he loved his church. It was FAC. So by the end of the week, we were pretty sure God was directing us to a specific church ? FAC.”

Within a year of attending every Sunday, Char gave her life to Christ. “God put so many people in my path, so many conversations. It was a no-brainer, but I was still a little afraid. I didn’t want my life to change too much. I still wanted to go out and live the way I wanted to. One of the guys at work said, ‘Well, you can still do whatever you want. You’re just going to find that God will change your heart, and you are not going to want those things. You are going to want more of what God wants for you.’ I was still afraid of the cost ? but he was so right, about the changed heart!”

In 2009 after Char and her mom had been attending FAC for almost 20 years ? sitting in the balcony, keeping to themselves, and dashing out after the service. But things got a little more challenging.

“In December 2009, my mom had a very bad fall and spent 2 ½ months in the hospital before she passed away. That broke me. Totally broke me. It had been just my mom and me for so long. She was my secure base. Now I was lost. I was so blessed and had my family, and I don’t know where I’d be without them, but they couldn’t help me. I felt so alone. I would go to work, put on my happy face, be exhausted from all that effort, cry all the way home, and then escape into my home and spend time alone. This went on for a long time, but looking back I see God was drawing me closer and closer to Him! Nothing in life stays the same. It’s always changing, but God wanted me to know that no matter what, He would never change or leave me.”

One Sunday, Pastor Jim Entwistle was preaching. “At the end of the service, Jim spoke about the food pantry. I thought, all right, maybe I can do that. I don’t have to talk to anybody. I can just go in and put stuff on the shelves. That’s perfect.’ So I sent Jim an e-mail, and he sent me the application. I went in to see Jim, and he connected me with Pastor Don Hay and with Phil Morgan. Don and Phil suggested I get connected by doing a little administrative work. Just little things ?  thank you notes, memos, stuffing envelopes ? little stuff that I didn’t think mattered at all.”

An old friend moved back north from Florida. Char immediately began to lean into her, looking to replace the companionship she’d had with her mom. When her friend suggested they attend a women’s Bible study at FAC, Char backed away. “She said, ‘Come on. Let’s go and try.’ She assured me we didn’t have to stay. Well, we went and it was love at first sight! We did two Bible studies and got to meet some amazing, beautiful women like Suzzanne Kim Chung and Trini Mandy. Everyone I met began carrying me out of the hole I was in. I got more involved and started helping out with the Bible studies. They just loved me into the Kingdom and into the community.”

In the middle of that, Pastor Marty preached a sermon and said, “You’ll find no greater joy than in serving the Lord.”

“I recognized right away that he was so right! I had thought that I had to be doing amazing things, and I was just doing little bits and pieces. But God was using everything I did to get me involved with more and more people. He was moving me out of the hole ? out of my comfort zone ? and into a loving family.

“Last year, can you believe it, I went to South Africa with FASA. I was so frightened, but I went! What a blessing it was! I hesitated and procrastinated as much as I could. I couldn’t even find my passport. I searched every nook and cranny of the house. I challenged God if He wanted me to go He had to find that passport. The moment I prayed that to God, I knew where the passport was. When I got home, I went to a keepsake box that I looked in occasionally, and there was my passport on top! There was no question, God wanted me on that trip, and I had to go!

“I often feel like a misfit ? never married, no children, no grandchildren. But when I am at FAC and surrounded by the love and the community there, I’m home. I can’t believe I wasted 20 years just attending. You’ve got to plug in. You’ll just never believe what God can do and where He will show up. If there was anything I could share, it would be that you can’t be afraid to just step out and do something ? even if it’s a little thing. Just trust Him. He knows what He is doing!

“I’m just an average woman. I have a lot of fears and insecurities. I don’t think I do anything special. I like to do things in the background, but God has other plans and His plans are always best.

“Today, I have a deep relationship with Jesus. He is my “everything”! All I want to do is serve Him. All I want to do is be able to glorify who He is and what He’s done in my life. I can clearly see God’s unseen hand working in my life. Sometimes He has to get us to the point where there is nothing else but Him before we open our eyes. I love Jesus, and He is all that I am ever going to need no matter how tough it gets.

“At the end of the day, either I trust Him or I don’t.  My answer is always ‘I do.’ I can’t believe I waited so long.” †