Claudiu: I grew up in a Roman Orthodox Church. My parents were nominal Christians. Most of my local church consisted of people going through the motions without really having strong faith. By high school I was agnostic, was into logic and rational thinking, and even had arguments with other atheists. I didn’t know any Christians. That changed by my senior year of high school. I was listening to a friend tell her testimony, and I just felt the presence of God very strongly. When I got to college, a friend invited me to InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. That’s when I really started learning about Jesus. Meanwhile, I was a little depressed and had some mental issues which progressed until my sophomore year at college. However, at the end of my sophomore year, I was at a conference praying by myself at night. It was just a huge key moment for me. I started realizing that suddenly, the things I struggled with were just miraculously gone. Now I want more of Him, and I never want to go back where I came from, because God is good.
Celeste: I accepted Jesus into my heart when I was four and grew up going to church. My parents homeschooled me and taught me about Jesus. When I grew older, I started to realize how little I was being active in my faith and that I was not talking to people about Jesus. All my friends were people I knew from church. I had a sense God was calling me to more, so when I got to college (Lehigh), I got involved with InterVarsity and began learning what it meant to step out in faith. I prayed a lot more, became bolder in my faith, and agreed to lead a Bible study. At first I was scared – I knew it involved calling people, having dinner with them, and getting to know them. Those were skills that I didn’t have. I knew I would need God to teach me. I had to trust God, and time after time, I saw God be faithful. I was growing a lot in actually being active in what I believed. But, by my senior year I was having a lot of faith questions. I saw people around me struggling, and I didn’t know how to match that with what I was learning about God and what the Church should look like. I was reading about rationality and began feeling skeptical. I sank in depression and hopelessness. I had questions I couldn’t answer and felt like I was hitting a wall every time. Meanwhile, people who I was looking to for support were failing me and weren’t showing me love.
For me, it wasn’t a sudden change, but within the course of a month, my faith came alive again, I was praying again, and I had hope. I read the Bible with hope instead of cynicism. I started listening more to God, actually having dialogue back and forth.
How did you meet?
Claudiu: [Celeste’s] brother was in my Bible study. We were at “Chapter Camp” the same time. Celeste and I were friends for a year and had a couple DTR (“define-the-relationship”) conversations about not having romantic interest in each other.
Celeste: Claudiu asked me about how I felt about him, but I dismissed my feelings. [I] felt the timing wasn’t right since I was depressed and was doubting my faith. Plus, I hadn’t seriously considered a relationship before. He kept pressing me though. Long story short, I told him, “Yeah, I do think I have romantic interest in you”. By that point, I was… coming out of my depression and doubt. [I] realized dating could be a possibility. We had gotten to be very close friends, and he had been pretty faithful in caring for me during that time. I valued his friendship, but first, I wanted to make sure my faith was solid and my emotions were healthy before we could start dating.
Claudiu: It’s been almost a year since we’ve gotten married, and now, we have a baby coming in December!
What made you decide Epic would be your home church?
Celeste: I started coming to Epic when I was at Lehigh. I was comfortable with Epic because it reminded me of my church back at home, plus it was within walking distance! I didn’t get very connected though until I graduated and began spending more time getting involved here besides Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights.
Claudiu: When we got engaged, Celeste had already been coming here for about six years. My main reason besides that would be Pastor Brian. He’s been meeting up with me and mentoring me in a way I’ve never experienced before. He has just been super welcoming and awesome!
Tell us more about the Community group you’ll be leading this summer.
Celeste: We wanted to lead a Bible study that would help people connect relationally. We’ll have dinner beforehand [to allow time] for people to get to know each other. Instead of the focus being intellectual learning, we’ll ask about how we can apply it individually but also as a group. [We’ll discuss] how we can be open with each other about the important things [in our lives] and how we can be praying deeply for each other. [It’s] the kind of community we want to create and see flourish at Epic.
Claudiu: We’ll be studying First Thessalonians!
If you’d like to be a part of the First Thessalonians Bible Study, or any of the other Epic Church community groups, you can get more details and sign up here.