May 10, 2004
Hi. My name is Stephen Puderbaugh. I attended the Greater Dayton Emmaus Men's Walk number 28 and sat at the table of Stephen.
My original walk was about two years ago in May of 2002. Like many of you, it was a life-changing experience. It felt like a new beginning for me. There were two things on that weekend that had a monumental impact on me. The first was when I was able to give Jesus a burden that had affected me most of my life. I was able to leave it at His feet and the relief that I felt was like nothing I had ever felt before. An enormous weight had been lifted from me. The second was when I experienced God's love through His people to a degree that I didn't know was possible. It is completely amazing what the Holy Spirit can do with people who have their hearts in line with His. This love I experienced wasn't a light, airy, abstract, somewhere in space type of love either. It was concrete. It was full. It was real. It was love that I could get my arms around and truly feel throughout my entire soul. It was exactly what I needed. Because of that experience, I am able to see God more easily; see God more clearly. I see Him in nature, I see Him in other people, and I can even see Him in myself. There have been many things throughout my life that have caused me to hold onto my feelings and shelter myself from others, including God. The Walk to Emmaus, as well as being married to an extremely outgoing, expressive, loving woman, have helped me open up to God (and other people) more than I ever have before; and because I am more able to open up, I am also able to become closer to God and others as well.
Besides the experience itself, the Walk to Emmaus also gave me two other things. The first is a share group. My friends in my share group have been priceless to me. If you are not in a share group right now, I would highly encourage you to find on or start one. The accountability that my friends provide me keeps me headed in the right direction and makes it easier for me to keep my hands off of the burden that I left at Jesus' feet. They are also there for me whenever I need them, whether it is praying for me and my family or helping me to discern God's will for my life.
The other thing that I have since I went on my Walk, is this awesome family, all of you in this community. I remember so clearly the words Mary Pat said, "You will never have to go through anything alone again." How true these words have been. Never before have I even seen, let alone been a part of, a family like this. I know that I can be fully honest and authentic with you. Within this community is a place where I don't need to be afraid to share what I am really feeling inside of me. When my wife, Connie, and I found out about her tumor's return last year, I knew I could turn to the Emmaus Community for support. Let me tell you, I wasn't disappointed. When we had a prayer service for Connie, not only did a lot of you come and pray with us, but we were also blessed to have two clergy, that we only knew through Emmaus, help us with the service. Thank you (look for Mamie). Thank you (look for Plamer). Then, when it got closer to her surgery, you signed up for a 72 hour prayer vigil. It is simply amazing what the power of prayer can do. Even now, after Connie's physical death last November, I know many of you are still praying for my daughter, Rachel, and me. Someone told me at Connie's funeral that there will come a time when all the people supporting me will disappear. I should have told him, "Oh, you must not know about Emmaus." But, I am rarely good at witty comebacks like that. I realize it has only been about 6 months, but I haven't seen you let up yet. Often I am asked how I am doing since her death. Truly I can say that things are OK. I know how strong her faith was and there is no doubt where she is right now. I also know that it won't be all that long until I see her again. It is very comforting to know that when I say that to any of you, you know what I mean and that I really am being sincere with you as I always am.
In short, my Walk has meant a real connection with my Lord Jesus and with those who make up the body of Christ.
As for what I plan to do now, let me share with you the words I said at the end of my original Walk. "I am just going to do whatever God wants me to and share His love as much as I can." I didn't really know what that meant at the time, but now that it has been a couple of years, I have a little better idea of why God led me to say those words.
After my Walk, I wanted to get as many people as I could to share the same experience; to see what God has for them; to see how much they are loved. I was so blessed to be able to sponsor my wife, Connie, on her Walk last February. It was so awesome to be able to share that experience with her fully. It brought us so much closer together. Although I must confess that I am glad I had a 9 month head start on her. That way I at least knew a few people before she did. I was also blessed to sponsor my parents on their Walks last year and my brother-in-law and sister-in law this year. I hope we can continue to bring more of our earthly family into our Emmaus family.
Since my Walk, God has led me to serve on two Emmaus Teams. I know that God used me to touch specific pilgrims and other team members. Each person has experiences and a testimony that someone else will have a unique connection with. That is why it is a Team experience. God has a reason for each team member and each pilgrim to be on a particular Walk. If you have not been on a team yet, I encourage you to ask God if he wants you to be on one. If you have any feeling that maybe that is what he wants you to do, then get that Willing Servant form in. You won't regret it.
You know, I really enjoy speaking in front of people like this. Generally speaking, I really am a lot better doing this, than when I talk to people one on one or in smaller groups. I'm not sure why that is, other than it is a God-thing. Perhaps that is why he has led me in the direction I am now going. I want to share with you one sentence from a letter I got on December 15 of last year. "I have the great pleasure of telling you that you have been granted admission to United Theological Seminary for studies in the Master of Arts in Religious Communication beginning in the Fall 2004 semester." Yes, after my Walk, God laid it on my heart to go back to school, for Him. I am so thankful I was able to pray about this with Connie before she left. I am not sure exactly why He wants me to go to school, but, I am trying to listen more closely to his hints.
What I plan to do during my Fourth Days is to continue to share God's love and to try to do what he wants me to do. I feel so fortunate to have your encouragement as I go along my spiritual journey. Thank you.