It was the summer of 2017 that Katie and Trent Stutzman moved to Central Oregon full of anticipation for the changes that this new season and locale would offer. Amidst their church hunting, they found a home at Westside Church. Eager to go beyond just sitting in a service, they were looking to find real community and relationships. One Sunday they caught wind of Summer BBQ’s that were taking place all over Bend as a way for Westsiders to connect during the sunny, summer months. “Being new to the area and having this perfect opportunity to meet people seemed like a no brainer,” says Katie, “but, meeting new people can be weird and intimidating. As silly as it sounds this event felt like a blind date. Would we like anyone? Would anyone like us? Would anyone eat the salad we spent 20 minutes at Market of Choice picking out? Do we need a code word if one of us wants to leave early?” Katie admits now that they probably over-thought things a bit when considering attending the BBQ. The truth is, stepping out of your comfort zone to connect in community does takes courage. Something the Stutzmans finally mustered up even as they sat in the car second guessing their decision to come and wanting to avoid any potential awkwardness that might come from attending.
As Trent and Katie arrived at the BBQ they were relieved to see the clear signage indicating this was in fact a Westside gathering and not just a random BBQ they were unintentionally crashing. As the bubbly and friendly hosts welcomed them in, their nerves were put at ease. With food, conversation, and yard games, the Stutzmans found themselves connecting with various people in a relaxed setting. Looking back, they would have never imagined that their decision to attend a BBQ and play corn hole with Jesslin and Christian Close would lead to the very lasting relationships they had been looking for. As they chatted and got to know the Closes, it was easy and fun. Katie says that they later found out that the Closes had actually flipped a coin to decide whether or not to attend. “Needless to say, it was a divine intervention,” says Katie, “Since the BBQ, we have laughed, cried, traveled, celebrated, grieved, and gone on so many adventures with our beloved friends.” Community can come in the most unexpected places. It’s stories like the Stutzmans that remind us that showing up with expectancy and openness allows God to cause our paths to cross with the very friends he designed for us.
Maybe you are just like the Stutzmans, looking for community and real friendship the way that God designed for us to have it. We know showing up to events can be intimidating and that’s why we have a heart to create on-ramps to community in various ways. Whether it is attending a Summer BBQ, Blue group, or starting to serve alongside others, sometimes all it takes is showing up. Our prayer is that God would continue to create lasting friendships as we organically connect and do life together here at Westside Church. For more information about Summer BBQ’s and other ways to connect in community, visit HERE.
Written by: Jenna Anderson || Photos by: Various