Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
2 Corinthians 1:3, 4
Andrea Goff started Choosing Joy around three years ago. When she first started coming to Calvary, she was very sick. Commitment to any kind of ministry was out of the question since flair ups of her chronic illness were frequent and sporadic. "It was very lonely, desert kind of experience for me," Andrea said.
Andrea could sense the Lord prompting her to start a small group for people going through similar situations. The Lord used the period of isolation in Andrea's life to stir in her a vision and compassion to reach people walking through a similar trial. "I read Pastor Joel Sonnenberg's biography and it inspired me to talk to him and start something I had been thinking about for years," Andrea said.
The group was small for the first nine months. "It was difficult to get the word out with all the ministries happening around Calvary," Andrea remembered.
“The original intent of Choosing Joy was to serve and support those with a physical, chronic illness, but the Lord seemed to want to use the group to minister to those suffering from depression and anxiety,” Andrea said. Changes were made when they broadened their reach to include those suffering from depression. "That's when the group really started to grow. Now, the largest small group at Choosing Joy are those dealing with depression and anxiety."
There are those at Choosing Joy suffering from physical illness, too. Those in this group are the ones whose doctors are at a loss. They are suffering from pain and disabilities that seem to be untreatable. Andrea is getting the word out about Choosing Joy to doctors’ offices and health food stores.
"Those that don't know the Lord are coming into the group." This prompts Andrea to remember the days when she went to support groups in a secular setting and would leave even more depressed than when she arrived. “People had pain and complaints with no hope to offer,” she says. At Choosing Joy, when someone comes in that doesn't know the Lord, the gospel is shared. "We want to give them an infusion of hope." Praise and worship are an integral part of the meeting, along with laughter and sharing healthy foods together.
The group carries each other’s burdens. The burdens are real and the burdens are heavy.
Kieran helps. When he came to the group, he was extremely discouraged. He had no hope and no way to obtain it. But through the ministry of Choosing Joy, there has been a transformation that is visible. Kieran has a servant’s heart and is used of the Lord to touch and minister to others.
Craig has a brain injury. The group rallied around him before he moved to assisted living. They gathered together to clean his house. Craig is paralyzed on one side of his body and in pain on the other side. Even though he struggles, Craig inspires the others. He always comes and he is always smiling.
Injustice happens to these guys because they can't defend themselves. Many of the people who are disabled become victims of crime and abuse because they are often defenseless. Yet, they come out and are a source of strength to the others that attend the group.
As you can imagine, this group is the target of spiritual warfare. Prayers for those involved are coveted.
"Even so, Craig keeps smiling," says Andrea… "He's an inspiration to the group."