God's Timing isn't Always the Easiest, Just the Best
Did you know that God’s perfect will comes with a condition? His perfect timing.
When God called Bob and Jennifer Strygulec to volunteer with the Fenton, Michigan, Freedom Center church’s food pantry and baby closet ministries about 10 years ago, it was clearly a great ministry for meeting needs of those struggling to make ends meet.
But the Strygulec’s felt that God had something more for this ministry.
“We began writing down ideas,” Bob says. “If we had a center, what would it look like? What kind of services would it provide?”
Although the Strygulecs now had a dream for what they believed God was asking them to do, they had to come to grips with when God wanted them to start doing it.
Bob says he and Jennifer waited on God’s direction and provision for seven years. As they prayerfully waited, they became convinced that God wanted the center to focus on developing relationships and providing people with life skills. Bob also felt led to become a minister — receiving his AG credentials in 2016.
Finally, in September 2016, the couple felt released to take a step into the unknown — quitting their jobs and entering full-time ministry. Believing God was asking them to trust Him, they launched the Center of Hope, using the pantry and baby closet as its initial services, but no longer a part of The Freedom Center church.
After a choppy first year, Bob and Jennifer knew God had placed this calling on their lives and given them a dream to pursue, but how they were going to reach that destination seemed to become more cloudy as time passed.
But in January 2017, God spoke — not to the Strygulecs, but to Dena Wiegand, the wife of The Freedom Center’s senior pastor, Jim Wiegand. She believed that God wanted the church to give — not sell — the Strygulecs the church’s office building. Jim agreed. The building was a converted three-bedroom ranch-style home.
Jim laughs and defers any sense of sacrifice on his part even though he lost his office, calling the move a win-win-win. “I’m ADHD and I really can’t stand being in an office,” he says. “Now I meet and do business at coffee shops, baseball fields, in my pick-up truck, wherever it’s convenient.”
He adds that the combining of the staff actually was more efficient and resulted in more being accomplished.
The patience and faith of the Strygulecs and the willingness of the church to empower them has resulted in God’s will coming to pass in His timing.
The gifting of the property enabled the Strygulecs to have the resources to turn the property into the new Center of Hope home — a separate 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization that offers far more than food and baby items.
Today, the Center of Hope offers the greater Fenton area multiple life resources and relationship opportunities — the heartbeat of what God desired for the ministry.
Resources include a literacy learning center, child passenger safety certified technicians, pregnancy resource center, emergency assistance, counseling room, crisis pregnancy center, life skills classes (cooking, nutrition, parenting, budgeting, and others), job skills mentoring, and life groups, not to mention a new 1,500-square-foot food pantry — the largest free choice food pantry in the county, secured by a grant Dena Wiegand pursued for the Center of Hope.
“We currently have 44 partnerships with the community and about 50 people from four different churches volunteering with us, including 15 to 20 moms volunteering for the baby closet,” Bob says.
Deacon Terry Carsten and his wife, Mary, serve at St. John’s Outreach, a partner of Center of Hope.
“We work together intricately with Center of Hope to take care of needs,” Terry Carsten says. “Often the needs are bigger than one church or organization can handle . . . , but by [working together] we can help a much larger group of people than we could handle alone.”
The Freedom Center (TFC), although it birthed the Center of Hope (through the Strygulecs) and is now a separate entity, is still a strong and benevolent community partner. In addition to putting on a large annual back-to-school event and later, a Christmas outreach, the TFC Benevolence Ministry, overseen by longtime church administrator, Jeff Waltz, has provided utility assistance, rent eviction assistance, counseling, aid for the elderly, financial assistance for the Center of Hope, along with other community efforts.
However, Jim Wiegand says that much of the church’s community benevolence is done through supporting the Center of Hope.
“Bob and Jen, they’re born for it [compassion ministry],” Wiegand says. “They love it — they’re wise, loving, kind, and also tough.”
Carsten agrees. “Bob and Jennifer are two wonderful people — they do a lot,” he says. “Bob has dedicated his life to this; it’s his mission in life and I think he’s doing a great job.”
Wiegand explains that the church is always encouraging people, such as the Strygulecs, to pursue their God-given dreams. “We believe in other people’s dreams,” he says. “We’re not about recruiting, but releasing, which often means, we’re encouraging them to leave.”
A key part of the Center of Hope is that those who visit the center on a regular basis are paired with (as much as possible) the same volunteer(s). This creates the opportunity for friendships — relationship — to develop, trust to grow, and ministry to take place in a more personal way.
Jennifer can now see why God placed “relationship” as a priority for the center. “There are a lot of young moms who were raised in foster care who now come to the Center of Hope,” she explains. “They did not have a role model for growing up and they’re really craving this — it’s amazing to see relationships blossom.”
Young mothers also have access to classes that help them learn how to be a good mother.
“We offer videos, classes, and training that assist young mothers in areas that help them as a person, teach them how to be a better parent, and understand the development of their child,” Jennifer says. “We also offer ‘earn as you learn’ opportunities. We just want them to know that Jesus loves them, and hopefully, one day, we’ll be able to lead them to Christ.”
Wiegand observes that the one thing that sets the Center of Hope apart from other ministries and agencies is that people aren’t treated as numbers, clients, or even guests. “They’re friends,” he says. “Bob and Jen work to build the Kingdom through honor and establishing relationships, not just through benevolence — they’re brilliant at ministering to people.”
The Freedom Center has experienced the blessing of seeing changed lives and hearing the many stories of how people found help, relationship, and Christ through the Center of Hope’s efforts. However, this isn’t a totally new experience for the congregation at TFC.
“Our church has had a heart of benevolence for decades,” Wiegand explains. “But now, with the expanded capabilities of the Center of Hope, there is more opportunity for those who have the ministry of giving to give, and those who need help to receive help.”