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A Tribe of Hope

A Tribe of Hope

Seeing Trey Anderson playing electric guitar for a weekend service at Westside Church, you see a tall, talented musician. But for those that know him, the man behind that beard is faithful, humble, and most of all, a true worshipper. For Trey, God has used worship and vibrant community to carry him and his family through some of their darkest days.

Growing up, Trey, along with his older brother, Trevin, and younger sister, Taylor, was blessed with a simple and carefree childhood. A true Bendite to the core, he describes his younger years as being focused solely on Family, Church life, and Sports. Trey’s dad, Steve Anderson, was the worship pastor at Westside Church and his mom, Conya, served in a variety of ways, creating community wherever she went. If Trey wasn’t on the baseball field or gathered around the dinner table with his family, then he was adventuring through the halls of Westside as a pastor’s kid. Life was sweet, full of friends like family, and seemed untouched by hardship.

Trey admits he was a “mama’s boy” being extra close to his mom who was his biggest fan in all of his sports pursuits. Conya was a Southern woman born in Texas who supported her kids and husband with a steadiness, balance, and a healthy dose of sense of humor. “My mom lit up a room with her presence, with her smile and laugh,” Trey grins and says, “She always made sure that people were well-fed and comfortable.” A true Southern host, Conya knew how to disarm people with her sometimes shocking ways, but always left people with a sense of belonging, value, and greater personal purpose. “Her worldview was simple,” says Trey, “It was God, family, and friends valued above all. She was a cup of cold water for thirsty people and people were drawn to her because of it.”

In the year 2000, Trey was 12 years old and as it is common for 12-year-old boys, was most concerned with baseball stardom and general shenanigans with his buddies. Life was full but seemingly ordinary. One day his mom developed a pretty severe stomach pain and left her job at a local dentist office to have it checked out. There were some apparent symptoms to tend to, but in general, there was a mystery as to all that was going on with Conya’s body. A year later, Trey was awakened one night, “ to the red and blue ambulance lights painting the wall with color. “ Being disoriented he remembers the sound of heavy boots of paramedics coming in and his older brother, Trevin, peeking in to tell him to stay put. Conya had suffered a brain hemorrhage and was rushed to the hospital for immediate brain surgery to tend to the bleeding in her brain. As Conya slowly came-to post-surgery, the cause remained elusive. Trey remembers visiting his mom that next day. She seemed pained for her kids to see her in this frail state and yet her loving eyes still put them at ease in this moment of fear and pain.

Over the next several months, Conya transitioned to a rehab center where she learned to talk, develop motor skills, and walk again. Using her humor and kindness, she managed not only to work hard to gain strength but charm doctors and nurses along the way. After months of rehab, she was given a clean bill of health and sent home. The school year ended and summer was upon the Anderson family. Trey was invited to travel out of town with friends to Brownlee Reservoir for a week of wakeboarding. Trey was so excited at the opportunity that he almost missed saying “Goodbye,” to his mom as he left for summer vacation at its best. Mid-week in the midst of the fun, two family friends showed up and let Trey know that Conya had had another episode and was sick again. As he quickly packed up and headed home, his mind flooded with the “Why’s” and fear of the unknowns that awaited him back home.

At the hospital, walking into the ICU, Trey was amazed to see what seemed to be all of the Westside Church community crammed into the waiting room. As Conya lay unconscious, the Anderson family was surrounded. God’s people were present. Over the next few days, the scene was marked by constant food, games, and friends worshipping and praying at a picnic table outside. Trey says that in the midst of extreme heartache, “God’s face was tangible to me, it was present.” A few days passed, and the progress seemed favorable. Trey remembers, however, their family gathered in a small room where the doctor with tears in his eyes delivered the news that Conya no longer had any brain activity. Brokenhearted, Trey mustered up the courage to enter the tiny room where his mom lay. As a nurse also in tears busied herself unhooking tubes, Trey took a moment to say a final, “Goodbye,” to his beautiful mom.

In the season that followed, the community of friends like family cried, grieved, and remained together. Trey remembers a constant reinforcement of humans that brought a miraculous steadiness in this grief-filled season. The Andersons continued to have food delivered, hugs offered, their house cleaned, and their tribe surrounding as the months went on. They lacked for nothing in a stunning example of God’s people being His peace, comfort, and support in tangible ways. “In the moments you feel like [God] is really far away,” Trey says, “He is tangibly there through His people.” Because the Andersons had invested so richly in this deep-rooted community, they were overwhelmed at the outpouring of compassion and love that they received in return.

After Conya passed, Trey gave up his sports career. With the sting of loss that would have been felt with his mom, not on the sidelines, he turned to music. A couple of years after Conya passed away, Trey’s Dad, remarried a kind-hearted woman named, Kathy. Their family moved to McMinnville, OR part way through Trey’s Sophomore year of high school. In a matter of a few years, Trey had experienced the loss of his mom, loss of his love for sports, and a major move to a new community. The heartache was real, but Jesus was drawing him. Isolated and grieving, music became his outlet. Trey spent hours learning to play the guitar which led him to hours of worship. “Music became life,” he says, “a way for my emotions and feelings and who I was to be exposed to music and worship.” These times lessened the intensity of his pain and brought healing. “Music and worship became the constant that I needed.” Little did Trey know that these hours in God’s presence perfecting his craft would be the very lifeline he would need in the future.

It was 9 years later and Trey had moved to Nampa, Idaho to lead worship, attend Bible college, and intern at a church alongside his brother. Easter morning came and between two services, Trevin and Trey were met by a friend with the news that their Dad had had a stroke. They were handed plane tickets on the spot and told to travel back to Oregon immediately. Numb and overwhelmed, the brothers began to pray. As they traveled, they cried out to God to save their Dad. The potential of becoming orphans that day was too much to bear. Steve, was the worship leader at a church in Newberg at the time. He had been in the middle of his own worship practice when he started slurring his words and his hands seized up as he suffered a catastrophic stroke next to his brainstem. Steve was given 24 hours to live with not a lot of hope otherwise. Once again, the Andersons were surrounded by community. God’s people showed up to pray, to carry the burden, and to be present. Trey says facing tragedy this time he was much more aware of the spiritual aspects of this battle. Twenty four hours came and went and Steve lay there unconscious while his brain swelled. Then 48 hours and 72 hours passed. The prognosis for Steve wasn’t great, but things were also not getting worse.

Trey didn’t know what to do other than pray and worship. With acoustic guitar in hand, he committed himself to remain in that hospital room as he began to worship. Desperation was in his heart and Trey felt a real fear, but also a robust faith. He kept knocking. He kept believing. He kept asking God to move. Trey describes one of those days among the 45 he was in and out of the ICU alongside his Dad. As he began to worship, his dad miraculously opened his eyes. Brain still broken and confused, Steve responded to the palpable presence of Jesus amidst Trey’s worship. Each day in the ICU was a real battle for Steve’s life. Visitors continued, meals were brought, and God was present in the faces of His people. After 45 days, Steve was miraculously transferred to a rehab center. There he learned to walk, to talk, to play the guitar again. God had heard their prayers, and the doctors were dumbfounded.

The journey to recovery was long and arduous. But God was there. Once again community had flooded dark places and this time worship had become a weapon. Trey met God in those painful, yet sacred moments. He learned about deeper trust, deeper faith, and the gift of God’s constant nearness. Now 8 years later, Steve is alive and well, living with his lovely wife, Kathy in Yamhill, OR. Grandparents to 6 beautiful grandkids, they enjoy family and are passionate about their worship and prophetic ministry, Celebrate Ministry.

Two moments of tragedy with different outcomes and yet, one constant. God was present. He was tangibly there in the meals cooked, the games played, the worship sung, the prayers fervently prayed, the presentness of God’s people in small spaces where brokenness and pain were overwhelming. The story of Trey’s journey in heartbreaking terrain is one marked by community. “I found hope because the community around me had hope,” he says, “It’s the idea that you can’t lift yourself up, but others can. You can’t carry yourself, but someone can carry hope for you. Steadiness can be found in the community that God has put around you. But it’s not easy. There will be times where you feel hopeless. But that is just a wave that you have to ride.” After all that Trey has experienced of loss and pain, he still urges others with sincerity to not stop trusting, hoping, and praying.

Having walked such challenging roads, Trey is confident in a God who hears. He has tasted and seen that God is still good in the darkest of days. For those facing that darkness, he says,  “Don’t isolate yourself, reach out. Don’t walk the road alone. Regardless of the outcome, you are going to be ok. The thoughts and memories don’t go away, but there is hope and life and opportunities beyond the hurt and the heartache. No matter the prognosis or perceived outcome, never stop praying. No matter what, God is working. Maybe not in our timeframe or desired way, but God IS working.”  

Touched by the power of community in his own life, he is resolved to repay the impact he felt. He is one who cares, loves, and is present for those around him. He believes that his story wouldn’t have a happy ending if it were for God’s work through His people. Even Jesus said, “In this world, you will have trouble, but I have overcome the world.” Crises in our broken world will come. “Some people may talk themselves out of helping in a crisis, as if they are not good enough or spiritual enough or whatever enough to help,” Trey says, “ However, being present is the most powerful and courageous thing you can do. You don’t need a title or the perfect prayer to reach people in their darkest moment. Just be present, listen, and maybe bring a plate of food.” God designed His people to be a tangible expression of His unchanging character. Those around us will find Him as we stay present and engaged in our hurting world. Where we show up, He promises to be present, and His presence will make all the difference.

Written by: Jenna Anderson || Photos by: Erica Stubblefield

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