We tell a lot of stories about big moments—single events that alter the course of a person’s life. But faith can’t be summed up in a single chapter of a person’s life. Transformation in Christ is a lifelong process, not a one-time event.
As a result, the little miracles we string together to form our faith stories don’t always hang in a perfectly straight line; there are dips and twists and even tangles.
Christine Woudenberg has a powerful testimony, but she doesn’t just have one story. Her testimony is a collection of the little miracles God has performed throughout her life.
In this interview, you’ll read about how Christine found a home in her church after divorce. And you’ll read about her experience as a mother helping her son battle cancer. She’ll tell you why she first decided to share her testimony and why she thinks we need to make more space for hearing each other’s faith stories.
Within these little stories, you’ll also see how Christine is part of a bigger story: the story of faith and the way God shows up for us, often in the places we least expect.
Finding herself in Christ after divorce
Faithward: You were a member of Ebenezer Reformed Church from birth, right?
Christine: My mom and dad were founding members of Ebenezer, so I was born into the church, was baptized there, and did my profession of faith [a process of publically expressing faith in Christ, usually as a teen] there. When I got married, I went to a Christian Reformed church for a little while, but I got divorced shortly after my marriage.
It’s one of those things where you’re not sure what to do with yourself anymore. I lost a bit of myself and my identity going through the divorce. So I came back to Ebenezer while I was trying to pick up the pieces.
The pastor’s wife kind of pushed me. She said, “You could be a great teacher for a Pioneer Clubs group,” [a program that equips kids to follow Christ.] At first, I went, “No, I’m not a teacher in any way.” But I prayed about it, and I started helping out. I found the Lord more and more through being at Pioneer Clubs, teaching kids about Christ. I eventually became co-coordinator. It was an amazing adventure.
“I lost a bit of myself and my identity.”
Faith through her child’s cancer battle
Christine: My son was getting ready to start high school, and he started complaining about pain in his foot. I said, “Did you fall or twist it?” No, nothing had happened. He had x-rays, and the doctors couldn’t find anything. But this wasn’t normal. He could barely walk on his foot.
We finally went to see a specialist, who came back to us and said, “There are lesions on his foot, and we don’t know what it is. We want to get you to SickKids [a well-known children’s hospital] over in Toronto right away.” … The doctors there ended up doing a biopsy.
At that point, they told us he had bone cancer. There was only a 50/50 chance he would survive.
I had to tell my son he had cancer.
His immediate response was, “Am I going to die?” I said, “No, we’re going to beat this thing.” Even then, I knew I had to have faith.
Faithward: But I imagine that must have been hard.
Christine: It was sometimes. I remember praying at church, asking God to take it away. I was just thinking, he needs to experience university, having children, driving—all those things he would be missing out on. There’s still so much life for him to live.
Christine: The doctors said that some of the test results were inconclusive. They would need to do another biopsy.
When the second biopsy came back, it was still cancer, but not a 50/50 chance of survival. He had Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma with a good chance to cure it. He would have to have a year of chemo. And it was a long haul, but we got through it together.
Faithward: What helped you through it?
Christine: There’s these little miracles you see God working through. We had pray-ers everywhere. I had a boss who was a really rough, gruff guy. He would just bark at you constantly. I was at work, and I was trying to say, “Right now, this is what they’re saying the chances are for my son.”
My boss looked at me out of the blue and said, “Have faith.” He was the last person I would have expected to say that to me. But God worked through him.
I stayed really involved at church, and I would just keep telling people, “If I can get through this, you can get through anything with God. I know God will carry you through.” And he has for me, through lots of ups and downs, but he has.
Faithward: How is your son doing now?
Christine: Today, my son is married and has a two-year-old. He and his wife just recently had twins.
“If I can get through this, you can get through anything with God.”
Healing more than just cancer
Faithward: Were there any points in this journey with your son that were especially hard?
Christine: It was after my son beat cancer that I hit depression. I struggled to keep things together—to pay bills on time. And there was a point when I just couldn’t even function. Your body just gives up.
I work now for a company that believes in mental health, the Canadian Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto. So I look back now and say, “Wow, I was going through major depression.”
I still found that my congregation loved me. My friends and family were amazing and upheld me when I needed it. And God spoke to me through songs. There was one called “Be not dismayed whate’er betide, God will take care of you.” When I was looking at that song, really reading those words, I finally snapped out of the depression.
Host an “Honoring Our Stories” event
Christine shared her story at an event called “Honoring Our Stories,” facilitated by RCA Women’s Transformation and Leadership. Many participants say these events are powerful and moving.
If your church would like to host a similar event, contact Rev. Liz Testa at firstname.lastname@example.org or 616-541-0897.
Why stories matter
Christine: You know, when we had the women’s [retreat], and I talked about my faith story, I looked back and saw how God had been with me every step of the way. God taught me to be a leader, starting with small children, to young adults, to running Bible studies, to being part of the church leadership as an elder. And God hasn’t stopped. I know there’s still more to go.
Faithward: Why did you first decide to do it—to share your story at the retreat? I imagine that it isn’t easy to talk about a lot of these memories.
Christine: It’s tough putting it all out there, but doing it opened up so much discussion among people who have gone through similar processes and experiences. And that’s the thing. When you hear about other people’s stories, you understand them better and you’re amazed by how God is working in their lives.
We heard stories in Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Chinese, you name it, and it didn’t matter where you were from. It’s wonderful to know how God reaches each and every one of us in our individual lives. … I highly encourage churches and communities to do something like this. It’s worth it.
Faithward: If sharing stories is so valuable, why don’t more people make the time for it?
Christine: Everybody’s busy. Why don’t people make time for church on Sunday morning? It’s the same thing. But I really feel that it’s important for every person to stop and reflect on their life story. If you don’t reflect on where you come from, how can you go forward?