An open letter to the incredible community of OTC,

How do I even start a letter than is meant to convey my most sincere, deep, heartfelt gratitude. Words seem not enough. Maybe writing them down as if to ensure lasting permanence of these incredible events so that it can be proof of something greater than a moment of thanks will help. I cannot begin to articulate the level of compassion, overwhelming love, and unbridled acceptance we found here. I know Jesus is amazing, but OTC is the PROOF that He is alive in each of us. GOD is here! God is working through OTC in a way that many would not understand. A community founded on LOVE, not words, not schedule, not command, but out of pure, all encompassing, overwhelming love. A love that I/We never knew of. A love we had longed for, but almost convinced ourselves it was too big for us and we would never be worthy. 

You all shattered that! You have brought us to a totally new level of understanding of what community is and what it means to live like Jesus. Almost 5 years ago Dahlea and I came to Christ after years of being raised Catholic, straying away, and then having a baby. Amazing what having a child will do am I right? My wife said it was an experience that changed her forever and brought Jesus right into the middle of her world. I’ll admit it was really tough for me at the beginning, almost angry that life was changing so much. She didn’t want to watch the same TV shows, go out with the same friends, do the same things, or even spend Sundays at the brunch spot and beach! But the changes in her that I saw, the light, the life….was undeniable. Shortly afterwards we were both baptized and on our walk with Jesus. That beginning was like many, so much hope, optimism, and I got a new job in the bay area, for even more pay…Yahtzee!! (does that show my age? LOL) Life seemed to be nothing but roses. I remember thinking “This is easy, trust God bro and everything goes awesome!” Even coming to The Bay seemed easy. We found OTC and met Anne at the Summer Games. Dahlea was instantly connected. It took me a week, but I quickly agreed this is where we belonged.

And this is where you all come in, not as some “amazing church we had been looking for” (even though you are) but for just being you. Being real, doing life together. We learned about small groups, men's and women's groups, Bible Study prayer group, and serving. We were growing as Christians, life was on track to take us to "the next big thing". And you all know whats coming next…..that's when things get real. The New Christian phase ended abruptly as Dahlea was struck with an auto immune disease and ultimately a second. I wont go into too much detail, but it was the beginning of a walk I/We never imagined was ahead. A walk that would lead us into a valley that was darker, longer, and more challenging than anything we had seen before by a wide margin. But God brought us HERE, brought us to all of YOU, because as we all know His plan is greater, His way is higher. Through the past 4 years we’ve had the worst health of our life, my wife has 2 auto immune diseases and has been in and out of the hospital, sometimes for weeks at a time. Our son suffered a medical complication that resulted in delayed development and the need to enlist special services to aid us in helping him get the right start. We had an apartment infested with mold that put us out of our home on our own dime, did a terrible job repairing the home, and told us to deal with it. We tried every medicine possible for Dahlea only to be hit with side effect, after side affect and asking ourselves if this was even the right course to take. She got to a point where there were no other options and all we could do is pray. I can't tell you how many times I thought "we're almost out of this" or "I'm getting comfortable withe idea that this may be permanent", but inside I was a wreck. Through this all I experienced my own personal challenges, dealing with my own sin, being called higher, having to step up not just as provider, husband, and dad, but as a father, a partner, a “ do ANYTHING thats needed” guy, I had to confess, change, trust, confess, ask for help, lean into prayer, trust, have faith, cry, scream, and cry again to get through it. Amidst this storm that seemed to rage on and on, and only get worse…..there was hope. It was all around me, it was more than God and Jesus, it was......

You... each and every one of you. YOU are all part of a living body, a community that believes Jesus is the answer and only love and real relationships can heal and change us all. I cannot begin to thank you all enough. I say again, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU from the depths of my soul and every cell in my being, I would not be here without you all, my family would not be here, and we would be lost from Christ if it weren’t for all of you, as we walked our darkest days. I don’t even want to name names because there are those of you I don’t even know who had us in your hearts, praying for us, bringing us food, taking time from your life on our behalf. but I do have to mention a few people specifically…..

Wayne, of course, none of this would be here without you and your relentlessly optimistic conviction in Jesus and His way being is the living water we all need. You are a diamond in the rough, and Becky knew this day 1, because you took yourself out of the equation a long time ago and made this all about us and HIM (Jesus). Your humor is always appreciated, your passion for engagement is infectious, and the time you give is so valuable. Thank you for doing it different, for keeping love at the center. Thank you for your honesty and your vulnerability. Thank you for your wisdom and empathy. Thank you for lighting the way for us all.

The Prayer team, as it ebbs and flows, has the steadfast commitments of Sharon, Jeff, Jim and Jane have formed a bedrock of this community that allows it to do such incredible things. Prayer works, it really really does. I’ve seen it, and not in the “Please do this God” and “Bing” it happens. But in the consistent conversation with God and a conviction that he will move. It’s not always how you expect or hope, but good always comes. We were told because of Dahlea's condition that we would not be able to have a second child and if we did conceive, it would be high risk and very difficult. Wouldn’t you know, God doesn’t follow medicine the way this world does, and he blessed us with our second son Jordan. The relentless prayers from the prayer team gave her the support she needed and ultimately she had an miraculous pregnancy and our baby is thriving.

There are so many more people who have brought their love here and shared it with us. Dahlea’s small group, my Wednesday Bible Study, anyone who has ever been on a prayer team, anyone who has served in child care for our two boys, anyone who talked with us during the mixers or services, shared some laughs with us at on OTC event, or even came to our home to share life with us, we thank you, all of you, for the big things and the little things, they will not be forgotten, ever! We are sad to leave, and I’ve cried about 4 times writing this, but we will be back when we visit Dahlea's family in San Jose, and f you're ever in Redondo Beach, please say Hi. Of course one day, we will ALL be together again, and what a glorious day it will be to be reunited again for eternity.

We hope this has begun to convey our gratitude, appreciation, and love for you all. Hopefully it has given our gratitude for all you have done, maybe it was something you needed to hear, or has empowered a new spirit in you despite your situation. It surely has for us, and will for you if you are open to it. What I walk away with that has me smiling through the tears is knowing that I/We will go forward in the world with a whole new perspective and commitment. You all have shown us the power of community, the power of love, and what it means to live like Christ. We will be better members of our future community because of it, we now know what the right community looks like so it will be easier to find our new home, and we know what it means to really serve people in need. I cant imagine any way we could ever return or repay what you all have given us, so we promise you this; we will go forward showing the love you have shown us, and seek to serve those in need like you did for us.

I really hate saying good bye, and it is really hard for Dahlea too, so this is one situation where I am so happy it is not good bye and it is “until I see you again, in this world, or eternity” because you are all our family! 

Thank you again, we love you, cant wait to see you, and sincerely wish the best for you all.

With all the love in our hearts we can share,

Written by Joey for The Steger Family- Joey, Dahlea, Hudson and Jordan