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Joy Comes in the Mourning

In 1987, Rhonda, a mother to a young son and nine months pregnant with her second son, found herself alone and facing divorce. “Little did I realize, at that point that I would be starting a new chapter as a single mom,” she says. Faced with the reality that she would be raising and supporting her two children, Rhonda made the decision to move back into her parents home.

She shared a bedroom with her two boys and did her best to create a happy family in that room. Although she was personally dealing with the devastation of what a divorce is, “the ripping apart of a family”, she is thankful for those precious memories with her boys. It was during this time that Rhonda, although fearful of the future, decided to trust the Lord to help her to raise her children and create a life she never knew she wanted.

Being a stay-at-home mom was always her dream, but reality had a different outcome. Rhonda had to go out and get a job, not knowing that it would end up being a 20-year career . For 13 years, her life was all about raising her children. During this time, Rhonda remained single and quietly dealt with feelings of loneliness and wishing her family were complete. She enjoyed going to her boys’ athletic games, but always felt alone. Leaning on her family and church body, Rhonda wondered if it might be time for her to start dating again. She had a good career as an administrator for a large construction company that blessed her family with perks that otherwise might not be an option such as, health benefits and season tickets to local athletic events. Even though these things were a blessing to her family, Rhonda was still by herself.  

Before she knew it, 13 years had passed and Rhonda had created a full life for her little family. As a way of grounding herself, she participated in many church activities; from choir, to worship team to mission trips. “Our church family embraced us and helped us through those single years,” she says. Part of that church family included, Charlie, who was also a single parent. For many years, they served together with their children and went on choir and mission trips. Their lives were a parallel of the same feelings of loneliness, despair and new beginnings.  

In 1989, Charlie found himself divorced and a single parent of a 2-year-old daughter. He says, “One day, I was sitting there watching her play and realized that I was alone. I had started a new career, and due to my divorce was moving to a new home. It felt like I was starting a new life.” At the same time, his daughter started at a Christian pre-school and he was blessed to be able to pick her up from school every day.

A year later, she asked, “Daddy, can we go to church?” Charlie wasn’t about to tell her no. “The first time we walked in the doors, the first person I saw was a gal that I went to high school with. She gave me a big hug and helped take my daughter to Kid’s Church. That Sunday was the first day the the new pastor was speaking at the church. He ended up pastoring there for the next 24 years.”  

Some time later, a guest speaker gave a message on the heros of heaven. That message really resonated with Charlie. He decided that night to give his life to Christ and build his faith by getting involved wherever he could. He went on mission trips, sang in the choir, got involved with all the different aspects of the church, and was very involved in a church remodeling project

With both of them finding love and acceptance with their church family, Charlie and Rhonda began to build a sweet friendship. Both were very cautious when it came to their children, and Rhonda even found herself afraid to have him around. She states, “There was one point where I realized that I was going to lose my friend if I didn’t change my mind.” It was the day before Valentine’s Day, and Rhonda was meeting Charlie for coffee. She had made up her mind that it was time to let him go, as he had started dating someone from another church. “I was going to say, have a nice life,” said Rhonda, “But what came out was ‘I think God has a future for us.

It was then that God did something in Charlie. After their conversation and seeking counsel with an elderly pastor, Charlie had a dream where he felt God telling him that, like Jacob and Isaac and others before them, he needed to go home to find a wife. God led Charlie back to his home church to Rhonda.

With three teenagers in tow, Charlie and Rhonda merged their families. They had the usual struggles that blended families can bring, but God was faithful. They both knew that second marriage statistics were not good, but with their strong belief in the institution and covenant of marriage, God truly gave them a second chance. “It’s hard to believe we were divorced,” she states.

Through the years, Charlie and Rhonda have used their involvement in the church to lead and counsel others going through the ravages of divorce. Because they have seen the favor of God come full circle, they are able to share with others how God had a plan for them. “You may think that you are on Plan B, but God can turn it around to Plan A. If he did it for us, then he will do it for you,” says Rhonda.

Three years ago, Charlie and Rhonda moved to Bend to be close to their children and 3 grandkids. Rhonda is retired from her career as an administrator and although she was not able to be a stay-at-home mom to her boys, she enjoys being able to now spend a lot  of time with her grandkids . They continue to serve in the church and having come full circle, they are blessed to be able to serve under leaders they knew from their original home church. The final puzzle piece to their story seems to be in place. It gives them great joy to share their story and give hope to others climbing the mountain in search of victory at the top. Despite the road they have walked, the Abellera’s still say, “We believe in marriage, and we believe it is God’s best for us.” When the world would throw in the towel and claim broken marriages as the norm, stories like this give us hope. God is in the business of restoring what was lost and making all things new.

Written by: Kellie Gregory || Photos by: Erica Stubblefield

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