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