Aaron Desjardin’s story
I grew up in a Ukrainian Orthodox church. My grandparents had been involved with the church for 50 years, but I had a hard time understanding what was happening. All of the sermons were in Ukrainian, and I didn’t understand what was expected of me.
My grandfather, or “Dido” as we called him, was my role model and was always extremely active in my life. I learned all my manners and respect from my Dido. He had an attitude of, “help first, and expect nothing in return.”
Then, suddenly, he was fighting leukemia. I prayed every night for him. For a while, the whole family thought he would get better, but then he went back to the hospital and never left. Life never felt the same.
My grandfather was my family’s peacemaker, and God took him away from us. I didn’t think it was fair. There was a lot of anger and resentment, and after my Dido’s death, everything related to God disappeared.
In 2006, I met my wife, Justina. She grew up in a family of devoted church-goers, and she was very involved. But, like me, she never had a personal relationship with Christ. In 2011, everything changed. She no longer relied on alcohol or people-pleasing. She got involved with a Bible study — a group of real women who spoke the raw truth of God. They encouraged her in many ways, and my wife was on fire.
She started looking for a church, and after years of nothing related to God or religion, I started looking with her. Justina’s grandfather mentioned a church that met at a local golf club — The Gathering. It was different from my past experience of church. I could understand what was being taught. I could appreciate the way it was explained. It was genuine, and it wasn’t a ritual or a place of judgment.
And it was so friendly and welcoming. Pastor Garth would finish a sermon, then run to the exit to shake every person’s hand before they left. He has a smile that speaks love for Jesus and others. His voice is sincere, and he has passion for spreading the gospel. You could feel the Holy Spirit speaking through him to the congregation, and you’d even see tears at times. He’s not afraid to share his own struggles. He’s real.
He invited me to a men’s Bible study. It was the first Bible study I ever attended, and I felt a little uneasy. There were about 10 or 15 guys. Garth would teach from the Bible, and we all talked about people in the Bible who dealt with difficulties but trusted God no matter what. It touched my life in a personal way.
For me, coming to salvation was gradual through several moments where Jesus was clearly present in my life. One of the clearest of those moments is when I told my wife I wanted to follow Jesus. She told me she’d been praying for years that I would find Him. She had never said that until I told her I wanted to follow Him. Trusting in God has brought us closer together now. It allows us to focus on placing our burdens and issues on Him.
One day I was talking to Pastor Garth about how baptism works and how it’s explained in the Bible. I was baptized as a baby in the Ukrainian Orthodox church, so I just assumed I had already done that.
There was a lot of confusion and questions from my extended family, who didn’t understand why I needed to get baptized again. None of my family attended my baptism. Yet I was baptized at The Gathering as a follower of Christ. I felt a sense of calm, that God was watching and He would be there to lift me when I depended on Him, instead of myself.
Depending and trusting God is a big step. I feel happy to go to a church where you know you will be missed if you’re not there. Now my children are interested in God, and they ask us to pray with them every night before bed. If it weren’t for The Gathering and the support of people around, I couldn’t say that.
The Gathering is an SBC church plant in Windsor, Ontario. Pastor Garth started the church from a Bible study in his home, and, since then, the church has grown to over 200 members. For more information about The Gathering and Pastor Garth, visit their Missionaries page.