Why I go to church

Sue Tornai found solace for tough times in her church. Now, she gives back.

Recently laid off, Sue Tornai turns to her church for support.

Recently laid off, Sue Tornai turns to her church for support.

Photo By debi shank

For more information about Sunrise Community Church, visit its Web site at www.sunrisecommunitychurch.org.

In the midst of turbulent times, 63-year-old Sue Tornai clings to her parish at Sunrise Community Church for the strength and courage to move forward into a new phase in her life. Recently laid off from her position as a financial services representative, Tornai has turned to her North American Baptist faith for the support and motivation. Also a writer, Tornai is proud of the contribution she made to the Spark Story Bible, an educational Bible for children which combines well-known parables with comic graphics and simple explanations.

What has your church experience meant to you in the past?

Well, for a long time, it was a good thing in my potpourri of life. I grew up as a Christian, so it was “the good thing,” but when things went awry and I experienced failure, I was glad I had a faith foundation to fall back on. I can’t forget the day that I cried out to God, when I was ready to give up, and [I] felt his love. So I started reading the Bible every day. I didn’t want to lose that feeling of his love or his presence, so by reading the Bible and studying it, I keep that connection. It’s a relationship that I have with a living god, and because I have that I can have more intimate relationships with other people.

Did you have a conversion experience to a new faith path?

Actually, I asked Jesus to come into my life when I was 11 years old. But, like I said, it was just one of the good things in my life. As a teenager I sat in the back row, giggling and passing notes … back then we called them “good girls,” and I was a good girl. When I experienced failure, turned to Jesus and cried out to him, “I don’t want to do this anymore,” he was there. I felt his love and his presence. That was the day, in my 40s, that I was able to turn my life around. It’s not just a good part of my life anymore, it is my life. He’s all I need, and he is everything to me. All this other stuff is how he blesses me.

What pushed you to make a change?

Well, I wasn’t practicing any faith, and I actually felt like I didn’t deserve to go to church because I’d made so many mistakes. I had been divorced twice and was in a relationship with a man I wasn’t married to. I really felt guilty, and I didn’t feel like I belonged in any church. I remember going to a pastor, and he told me, “Wait a minute. None of us deserve God’s love. Do you think all of us here in this church are perfect?” He said that I could go on beating up on myself, or I can accept the grace of Jesus. So, that day I chose to accept that grace.

What keeps you going to church?

Well, the main thing is the love. The love I experienced that day, the love I experience from the pastor, the love from the people at the church who are like a big family. It’s my opportunity to love God back and worship him. It’s my response to his love to me. I go there, and I’m with his people. I teach children how much he loves them, too. I have a great need to be needed, and I find it in my church. That need is fulfilled. I get to be part of a family and I get to participate in a very real way.