A story of an unexpected friendship
Written by Angie Bunten and Amanda Van Cleave, members of MacArthur Blvd Baptist Church.
“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” Proverbs 17:17
Most people agree that having community is important, but oftentimes it is easier said than done. Honestly, making friends as adults is hard, and we tend to flock toward people around our same age and stage of life. The story of our friendship began when Pastor Rob Tayne (through leading the Connections Ministry) brought our two seemingly different families together.
Amanda: I have been at MacArthur Blvd since 2013 after moving to Dallas from Boston. I was serving in the Children’s Ministry and attending the Young Women’s Community Group when Rob asked if I wanted to be part of the Connections ministry, which is intended to connect people from older and younger generations. I travel for work often, and, therefore, I don’t have a lot of opportunities to socialize and connect with people outside of my small circle. I was excited (and a little hesitant) about the opportunity to intentionally build new relationships.
Angie: My husband, Art, and I have attended MacArthur since 1987. At MacArthur, we are involved in a 30’s-40’s Community Group; Art is a deacon; I play the Mandolin in the music ministry; and I have served in the Student ministry since 1989. Rob approached us in 2015 about Connections. And he said, “YES, we would be the older [generation].”
Amanda and I decided that our first connection would be lunch at our house. It was September of 2016. What we all thought would be a one or two hour lunch turned into over three hours of a little lunch and a lot of conversation. The following three months involved much travel for all of us, especially at Thanksgiving and Christmas. I would pass Amanda at church and say ‘hello’ or a quick wave, but that was the extent of our follow-up. However, I knew Rob’s intention for the “connection” was not for us just to meet and say ‘hello’ but to actually become more than acquaintances. In January, I asked Amanda if she wanted to get together for dinner, just the two of us, since Art was headed to Montenegro for two weeks. That evening turned into over four hours of a little dinner and a lot of conversation.
From then on, our friendship has grown as we have walked through life together.
The same week that Amanda and I had dinner, I found out I had a torn meniscus and needed surgery. Come to find out, years ago Amanda had the same surgery. She was so helpful in walking me through the process, bringing us dinner after the surgery and even loaning me her crutches (which I ended up naming “AC” and “DC”, after a band we discovered we both love). Who says it is only the older generation with advice and life experience?
After my recovery, we started walking and then riding bikes together. Amanda asked me to do a 5K run with some people from church six weeks after my surgery, followed by a 27-mile bike ride in Abilene. Both are things I probably would not have done on my own. 1 Thessalonians 5 talks about encouraging one another. When you have friends who are cheerleaders, it makes the struggles of life feel a little less burdensome.
Amanda: This past year I have had some unsettling times in my job, which caused me some anxiety. Angie has been great about putting things in perspective, sending me Bible verses as much-needed reminders, encouraging me and praying for me. One verse in particular that she shared which has been very helpful is Romans 15:13 “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” I now keep this verse pinned up in my home office so I can see it constantly. As someone who is prone to worry, it has been vitally important to have a friend who can talk me off the ledge with promises from God’s word.
We have also had the unique opportunity to travel together. Our first trip was serving together on the Seattle mission trip with MacArthur Blvd. You quickly find out who your real friends are when you teach small children together all day. Since then Angie has tagged along on my work trips to Florida, Seattle, Boston and Austin. And, for good measure, we have taken a non-work trip to Canada.
Through the ups and the downs, the good and the bad that this past year has had to offer, having a Christian friendship has been a real blessing. Friends who will pray for you, encourage you, and offer advice or just a listening ear, are priceless.
Relationships take time and intentionality to cultivate. It would have been easy after our first meeting to just smile and wave on Sundays. But, as we found out, it is totally worth the extra effort. Although we may not be in the same Community Group (or even in the same age group), our friendship has grown by branching out beyond our comfort zone and investing much into one another.
You can never have too many “Connections.”