I first came to sandals in January of 2017. My relationship with God was lukewarm at best. I had been feeling lost for quite some time and I had drifted from God and was searching for Him in the wrong places. My life did not have a clear path and had little to no real joy in it. There was no growth, no drive, no fire to get better.
I joined a group because my friend Courtney from work was leading one and she invited me to it. I actually went to the community group for a week or two before I ever ever attended a Sandals service.
My community group has completely reshaped my life. There is no feeling like having a tight-knit group that shares joy in your victories and encourages you through your defeats. My group has greatly helped me find my way back to God and has also helped me with my battle with depression. I have grown more in my spiritual life in the last two years than I have in my previous 23 years.
These groups are a beacon of hope that we have found people desperately need. We need more community like this.
God has moved so much in my life since I joined this group. I found my wife in the time I was attending the group and immediately started bringing her. So many of our closest friends are in our lives because of this group. As an example, two-thirds of our bridal party were also members of our small group.
Community has greatly influenced my relationship with my wife. We are more open and honest with each other than ever and I believe that is a direct result of our group surrounding us with love and support. We have found great friends, both single and in a relationship, that have offered wisdom and guidance to us while we embark on this journey.
I first came to Sandals at the end of an unhealthy relationship. At that point, I ended it and had nobody— I lost my relationship and many of my friendships. I was at rock bottom, but I knew Sandals may be a place for me to feel at home. So I came alone for a few months. I sat alone and left at the end of service as quickly as I could.
I realized that the supposed faith that I claimed was in fact a very shaky foundation. In the months before I came to group I was essentially starting from scratch. I was truly discovering what it meant to be in a relationship with God, but I knew I was at a point where I could no longer grow if I was doing it alone.
I was invited to the Young Adult Campus Group at Hunter Park by a friend at the time, Mitchel Oaks. He knew that I was in a painful season of my life, and he had expressed to me how much the group helped him heal from his own hurts, and given him a stronger sense of purpose. I was skeptical; I didn’t think I was ready to open up to people or make new friends. But I trusted my friend, and I decided to join the group.
Community group saved my life.
I was in such a dark place in just the weeks before I came, and was still recovering from thoughts of self-harm or worse even in the early months of becoming consistent with group. Not only did I begin to break down my emotional barriers with the girls in my group, but they showered me with love and showed me what Christ-centered friendships actually look like!
For years I thought I had good friends because we talked about everything and made the most of it, but when I became close and was willing to be real with the women in my group I saw that true friendship isn’t just listening to the problems, its holding each other accountable with truth and more importantly with grace. It is not pretending that the sin doesn’t exist or rejecting them because of it, but it is loving each other despite the mess and embracing each other with open arms and Scripture as we figure out how to clean it up and prevent it from happening again.
They supported me as I healed from the pain of a previous relationship, and celebrated with me as I fell in love with the man of my dreams.
Since joining group, Mitchel and I began dating, we got engaged, and celebrated our marriage with the best family we could have chosen: our community group through the Sandals Young Adults Ministry.
True friendship is a beautiful symbol of how deeply Christ loves us: to give us a gift, expecting nothing in return, when we don’t deserve to even be in His presence. These women have become more than just people in my group, they are friends and sisters in Christ. Our community group gave us a family, and we are now so blessed to have these people surrounding us as we navigate our new marriage.
Go to move.sc/groups to find your family.
Photo credit goes to Jess Caste Photography.