Q&A ft. Denise Wharton
"Christianity was never forced on me, but it was always a part of my life. I needed to figure it out for myself."
I met Denise Wharton on my first visit to Exchange. She was welcoming others into the church at the front door. I was nervous, didn't know anyone, had just moved into town and was already contemplating my escape. But as I approached her, I spit out the words, "Hi, I'm Brooke, I don't know anyone!" She then introduced herself to me and we got to talking about life in Bend, Westside Church, and what it's like to feel anxious and "new". After our sweet yet short conversation, I felt comfortable to meet others. And I've met some amazing people since that day! I've also decided to stick around. So that's good. ... This is who Denise is. She is welcoming, kind, and has an energy that will easily rub off on you. When I started this blog, she was one of the first people that came to mind that I wanted to chat with. Well, the other day we sat down and had the chance to! Here is a little Q&A from our meeting at Backporch Coffee.
+ Can you tell me a little bit about your journey here at Westside? How did you hear about Exchange?
My family and I had found out that my dad had cancer. I didn’t want to go to church. I was trying to figure out who I was as a Christian and put God on the backside. I wanted and needed to figure out who I wanted to be. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be a Christian or not. I didn’t know. Christianity was never forced on me but it was always a part of my life. I needed to figure it out for myself.
After some time, I started talking to God again. I had kind of forgotten how to pray. I really didn’t know what to say. I just had to keep trying. He kept putting it on my heart to go back to church, Westside specifically.
I started going to church alone for a while but then heard of Exchange. I didn’t have anyone to go with me so it was hard. A bit later I was fired from my job as well. It was devastating. It shocked me! I started to shut down. Having used to suffer from depression, when things like this would happen I used to shut down. This time around it didn't happen. Why? God had brought me a good friend named Abby who was there to support and comfort me, I was able to trust the Lord, and I ultimately wanted to be strong for my dad. Oh! And amazing God moment! I was blessed with a new teaching job!
+ What about Exchange seems to bring you back?
I love the fellowship and think it’s amazing. It doesn't end. Everyone makes each other feel welcome.
It’s so funny, one of the things that really brought me back or got me to stay at Exchange was one of the first COCC gatherings. We all met at Nash’s house. I kind of invited myself but he was so welcoming. I showed up not knowing anyone at his house. We were all having such a good time. We were outside on his porch, it was chilly, and I had found a blanket to wrap around me. I was kidding when I said, "I’m stealing your blanket". He said it was fine! We argued back and forth for a little bit, and sure enough, I ended up taking the blanket home. I was completely kidding, but he gave the blanket to me. “No, you’re taking it,” he had said. I left the event with the blanket in my hands and thought to myself, 'What? What kind of church is this?!' But That’s the kind of church Westside IS. These are the hearts you guys have. You give people blankets from your homes. Does that make sense?
Yes. Yes and yes! Hospitality is so important and vital in today's day and age.
Denise apologized for seeming scattered during our conversation but I could tell that she was excited to share. She had so many experiences where God had shown his faithfulness. He showered over her mercy, grace, and love. He always has and will continue to do so. To see the passion, pain, joy, and everything in between on her face was inspiring. Denise's story is such a gift. Seeing her constant pursuit in wanting to grow closer to her community and church is beautiful as well.