Sojourning Sister: Jeri Paden

Take a look into the life of one of our dear First Free sisters, Jeri Paden!

For those of us who do not know you:

How long have you attended First Free?

I’ve been attending First Free since the fall of 2001, and serve periodically on the worship team.
Tell us a little about your family (spouse, children, siblings, parents, etc), where you grew up, and what you do these days (work? ministry? hobbies? etc?).
My husband Paul is an engineer, and he has worked at Spirit Aerosystems for about a year and a half.  We moved here from the Dallas area in 2001 for him to take a job with Raytheon, and 8 weeks later he got hit by a layoff.  God quickly provided a contract position with Boeing, where he worked for 6 years before going to Hawker Beechcraft, and he was there for several years before another layoff.  That time it took 14 months for him to find a job, since he wanted to stay here in Wichita, and God again showed Himself so powerful & faithful.
We don’t have any children, and my only sibling, an older brother, died many years ago.  My mom still lives in Huntsville, Alabama, where I grew up listening to rocket tests for NASA’s space program on nearby Redstone Arsenal.  Paul & I now live on 80 acres near Towanda, most of which is farmed by someone else.  We have lots of animals, just none we are responsible to feed:  ducks, pheasants, turkeys, assorted other birds, coyotes, woodchucks, deer…
I think I have the best job possible:  I teach the daytime BSF class on the east side of Wichita, so I get to spend lots of hours in God’s Word, and work with a wonderful group of leaders.  When I find some spare time, I love to read, do assorted craft projects, and play in the dirt – I have an ongoing landscaping project that has kept me busy during the last couple of years.
Has there been a scripture reference/verse/passage that God has used to impact your life in a significant and lasting way? How and why did it speak to you so mightily? (this could include something recent, or one of those life-changing ah-ha moments)
It’s hard to choose only one Scripture passage, but one that has been an ongoing source of encouragement to me for years is Job 19:25, which may sound like an odd place to find a favorite verse.  In the midst of his questioning & discouragement, Job says “As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and in the end He will stand upon the earth.”  That puts absolutely everything else into perspective – no matter what happens in my life or in the world around me, He is in charge, is at work, and will return personally to claim His people.  It reminds me this is all so temporary, and my life needs to be all about Him, & preparing for that wonderful day when He “stands upon the earth.”
In Him, Jeri

i’m an alien

kingdom_6959cnMy daughter asked me what an ‘alien’ is recently. I told her it was a pretend creature that people made up to be in stories and books and such.

What I failed to tell her was that I am an alien; that she is; that daddy is. But after I had spoken to her I thought it. I didn’t quite think she’d get the whole “there are two kinds of aliens” discussion quite yet, so I let it be for now.

But it made me remember how I was with a friend the other day, and she reminded me that I was an alien here on earth, a stranger, and how I just won’t fit in a lot of the time. I’ll be uncomfortable. I’ll feel like I’m weird. I’ll seem to be different. I’ll often feel left out.

It was an intimidating thought, though I’ve known the truth of it all before. I’m an alien on this earth, a sojourner, my home is heaven, and I belong there. I know that. But sometimes I like to push things aside when I feel uncomfortable, you know? Just smile and nod and keep my feelings under wraps. And, this is often one of those things that makes me just a wee bit squeamish on the inside.

The irony of it is…I never want to be “just like” everybody else. Not that I’m this huge rebel or anything; I like to “fit in” somewhat. But it’s like, if everybody else is getting cats, I want to get a dog. If everybody else is eating jelly beans, I’d rather have a chocolate. If everybody else likes to wear preppy things, I’d rather be in my “skater” outfit (i.e. see my high school pics). If everybody else is proclaiming healthy food, I’m going to proclaim McDonald’s. If everybody is proclaiming McDonald’s, you betcha I’m going to be proclaiming healthy food. If everybody else wants to read this book, I’d really rather be reading something else, please.

And I don’t like clones. Cloning is so boring. I like a variety. I like to mix things up. I like to be around all ages, not just my own. I like traditions, and commonalities and such. But there’s just something about being around people who talk different, and dress different, and who just are different, that makes me smile on the inside. It’s probably why I like 1 Corinthians so much: the body of Christ is a mix of all types and sorts and gifts and talents…and I absolutely adore that.

And yet, despite all that, I still get in those modes of uncomfortableness if I’m looking or feeling just a little too different. A little too left out.

If someday you ever partner up with me for study, you will quickly learn that I love Greek words. I don’t actually know Greek, I can’t speak it, I don’t always remember it, and sometimes I am sure I get things a little mixed up. However, when I’ve got my Strong’s concordance by my side and my Bible in my hand…you can be sure that I am one happy girlie. Enter a sweet, teensy tiny lesson from 2 Peter 1:3-4.

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us, to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.

There are several truths to gather from this passage – beautiful, astounding truths, in fact!  But today, I have just one thing to point out. Look at the Greek word and definition of “nature”:

Nature (vs. 4): phusis

The sum of innate properties and powers by which one person differs from others, distinctive native peculiarities, natural characteristics. A mode of feeling and acting by which by long habit has become nature.

Whoa! Read it again. Because do you know what this is telling me, to us, who have obtained a righteousness by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ? It tells me that He is making me look like a native of heaven.

A native! Well of all things! Not only am I an alien and stranger in this world, and not only to I belong to heaven…I’m a native of heaven. Because He is changing me, transforming me, making me distinctively different. The sin and corruption in this world has been my natural tendency, my place of feeling comfortable. But now, God is growing me in the knowledge of Himself, and as He is, I am changing. My natural tendencies, my natural inclinations, my habits and thoughts, the places I feel most comfortable, are maturing and becoming more like Christ through God’s divine power.

I just won’t fit in here. No, I just will not. fit. in. And if I do start fitting in, a little too much…perhaps I’ve neglected to find the astonishing promises of God for each of my days, that keep me from falling and cause my knowledge of Christ to be fruitful. Perhaps, if I start feeling a little too comfortable around here, I’ve forgotten the abundance of His mercy that has – astoundingly – miraculously – divinely – given me all things I need to experience more of His very own divine nature, in my very own self, in my very own life.

I am not of this world (duh, Jane!). I’m in the process of escaping it, for goodness sake! He is making me distinctively different. He is making me divine, just like Him. Piece by piece, stitch by stitch, thought by thought, habit by habit, He is transforming me into the likeness of His beautiful, glorious, joy-focused and joy-filled Son.

Aliens here – natives of heaven.

Perhaps this is part of the reason we were told last Sunday to meet together and worship together? Because the places we “natives of heaven” feel most comfortable, the places we feel like we most belong, simply don’t look the same as they once did. Do you ever need that reminder? I know I do.

A native. I have a home. There is a place where I fit in. Maybe that’s why it can sometimes be so uncomfortable to be so very “distinctly different” in this world? Because those who do not follow Christ are comfortable here. This is their home, they ‘like’ it here. But for me…my home…it’s not here. I’m uncomfortable here; I stick out, I stand out and I look and talk and think like an alien. But it’s ok. Because I am a native of somewhere. That somewhere is just somewhere else. And I’m ok with that.

I don’t want to be like everybody else, anyways, remember?


Traditions Tea: Marjean Fooshee

Marjean3From our annual Traditions Tea held in November, here is Marjean Fooshee’s interview with Evanelle Olinger.

Marjean was raised in Wichita and attended North High School. She met George Fooshee at North and they began dating, continuing through college. For her first year of college, Marjean attended a girl’s school in Tennessee and then transferred to KU, receiving a degree in education with a minor in Speech Correction. George went to SMU, then Harvard Business School. They married and were blessed with two daughters, Jenny and Amy.  Now, after 58 years of marriage, they have 4 grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren with another on the way!

Although Marjean was raised in a Bible-teaching church, her heart was not touched by the gospel. She was well-versed in Bible stories but was not a Christian yet. After her marriage to George, they attended a church which preached and taught a social gospel. But it was through the long and wearing death of George’s father and the events afterward that God became real to them both. A women’s prayer group at their church provided a scholarship for Marjean and George to attend a retreat. They thought they were receiving an all-expense paid vacation but this vacation was different! They observed people carrying and reading their Bibles. George and Marjean heard teaching in a way they had never heard before and the last night of the retreat God touched their hearts and together they both went forward and gave their lives to God.

George set the spiritual pace in their home and Marjean grew as she memorized Scripture and studied about how to fill her role as a godly wife and mother. She gathered a group of young women, including Lynn Nolte, and together they studied their roles as wives and mothers. God multiplied that class, which they named “The Christian Home Class”, until there were classes spread all over the city and women began to grow in their marriages and understand God’s plan for them. Susan Dorsey said that God used Marjean’s friendship with her mother, Lynn, during this time to impact her as a young girl. Her whole life she has watched these two women follow God’s plan in marriage, parenting, and friendship and Susan says that she is who she is today because of their examples of faithful obedience to the Lord.

Through the years, George and Marjean have worked hand in hand in ministry as they studied and memorized Scripture, led Bible studies, and counseled couples. They became deeply involved in Crown Financial Ministries here in Wichita and also traveled to conduct seminars. They continue to serve as a couple, greeting people at the front door before the 9 a.m. service. Their newest ministry is to be salt and light to the people around them at Larksfield Place Retirement Center. They desire to be open about their faith watching for every opportunity to share Christ as He opens the door.

Currently Marjean also serves in ministry by greeting in the toddler nursery, serving on the Worship Focus Team as well as mentoring young women. She’s also involved in a weekly prayer group and serves at The Urban Ministry Institute, a ministry of World Impact.

Marjeans’s advice to Women of First Free? Scripture!

  • Marjean’s life verse is Psalm 40:8 “I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.” Other favorite verses are: Philippians 4:19 “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:11-12, “…. I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”
  • Marjean believes a verse vital for her marriage and others is Philippians 2:3-4: Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

Marjean’s last words for us: Watch your focus. Keep your focus on Jesus.

Traditions Tea: Margaret (Nelson) Spear

From our annual Traditions Tea held in November, here is Margaret Spear’s interview with Evanelle Olinger. Margaret Spear

Margaret was part of an Episcopalian church when she first sensed a heaviness in her heart and knew that something wasn’t quite right. She asked to talk to the Rector at the church and they visited for a while. At the end of that conversation Margaret was asked if she felt better, but Margaret answer was “not really.” The Rector then asked her if she had even received Christ. Margaret told her she had not so she prayed right then and there, receiving Christ as her Savior, knowing the joy of her sins forgiven. Margaret was so happy that she sang all the way home, and she wanted to share it with everyone.

Margaret grew up in Wichita and as a teenager worked at Joyland Park. There she met a young man named Stan Nelson and their relationship grew. They were married in December of 1950 and they both continued to work at Joyland. Later when the opportunity came to buy the park, they took it. Stan and Margaret became the proud owners of Joyland and operated it until it closed in 2006. For 51 years it was their life and since it was open every day of the week it left little time for ministry in the church. But Margaret and Stan grew in the Lord as they attended First Free when Pastor Mike was pastor the first time. They also benefited much from the great Bible teaching of Ed Pointer for over 35 years. Ed’s wife Jeanne is here today!

God used Margaret and Stan outside of the walls of the church and within the walls of Joyland, using their gifts of hospitality and administration to bless many families in the Wichita area and beyond. They loved people and loved to see people having fun. They also had the opportunity to share their source of joy, Jesus Christ, with many of those they came in contact with.

Many here at First Free have fond memories of Joyland. First Free had several all-church picnics there and of course Joyland was a favorite destination of family outings for many at church. Jo Coltrain recalls: “Those hours spent at Joyland are some of our best family memories. The wonderful roller coaster was such a big hit. One special day, it was just our church in the park. My three boys would just get off the coaster and then head right back to the front to ride it again. I can’t remember the count now, but it was something like 15 or 16 times on that roller coaster. When it was time for a little refreshment and we headed to the concession stand, I would always glance behind the counter to see if Margaret was back there – making funnel cakes or popping popcorn. Somehow our family felt special that we knew Margaret and Stan, the owners of Joyland.” Because of their warm and welcoming ways, Stan and Margaret were what made Joyland, Joyland and such a favorite place for many people.

For 59 ½ years Margaret was married to the love of her life and God blessed them with two boys and two girls. Their children were also very active in the park. Stan and Margaret were also blessed with 17 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren. Stan’s death in 2010 was a heartache for Margaret but it was God’s plan for Margaret to marry the second love of her life, Gene Spear. Margaret and Gene just celebrated their 22nd month anniversary.

Advice to First Free Women:

  • Love the Lord with all your heart. Pray and listen to Him.
  • Love your husband and make the most of your time together. Yes, you need to take care of your children, but your husband should be number 1 in your life. After the children have their own lives, it is then just the two of you. Be sure that you have nurtured your love for each other through those years of raising your family.