“From the moment I heard the metal of my car crunching, I knew. I knew that God didn’t make this happen to me, but I knew I had been running from God and this was his way of letting me know he was still there…waiting for me to follow Him.”
This is how Brian Stuchul describes the car accident that was a turning point in his relationship with Jesus.
Never is his life did he not believe in God. At a young age of five years old, Brian accepted Christ as his Saviour after hearing his Sunday School teacher speak of the love that Jesus has for all. While being old enough to understand the love and grace of Christ at an early age, he was not yet mature enough to understand the Lordship and the complete surrender of his life to Him.
Continuing to grow up in church, Brian was surrounded by a vibrant youth group, wonderful mentors, and serving opportunities to help him grow. His freshman year of high school, his family went through a dynamic change when his parents divorced. At the time, it was a taboo subject for churches to talk about and not many people knew how to approach Brian to see how he was feeling. He often received the stereotypical church answer hearing statements such as, “God will use it for good.”
From early teens on, Brian had many hurts and pain that he attempted to push under the rug. “I was definitely carrying them around with me, but I didn’t realize I was carrying them with me.”
He went through high school never really breaking the ‘major rules.’ “I was a people pleaser. I wanted my parents and youth leaders to be proud of me,” he recalls, “But after graduating high school there was no one really to look out for me. No one to tell me I was doing a good job. All my life I had done the right thing to please people, not because I believed it was the right thing to do. So I began to test the waters a little bit.”
Over a short time span, Brian went from hanging out with the wrong crowd every once in a while to moving in with those individuals. He stopped going to church altogether. The bad choices continued as he financially began going into debt and entered into broken relationship after broken relationship.
It all came to an end one evening while driving to his then girlfriend’s house. He pulled out in front of a volunteer firefighter who was on his way to assist with a fire. It was this car accident that was a pivotal moment in his life. “I didn’t sleep much that night just thinking a lot about what I would do from this point forward. God had been working on me for a while, but I just kept resisting.”
The next day, he broke up with his girlfriend, moved out of his house, and began to attend church again. “I knew that the life I was living was so empty because I was living for myself. I didn’t want to go on living that way,” He said. He remembers telling God, “If you can do something with this life, go for it.”
Beginning to attend church again, Brian recalls how people reacted to him stating everyone was more gracious than expected. He started serving in ministry and within two months was put in charge of working with 3-6th graders. It was during this time he fell in love with ministry and specifically ministering to students. Over the next several years, God brought mentors in his life through avenues such as leadership training and discipleship. In 2007, he was asked to leave his job and go to work as a Youth Pastor full time within the church. Ever since that time, Brian has worked with students at some level.
In 2012, he met his now wife, Melissa, and they fell in love immediately. They met, were engaged, and married all within nine months. Just a week after the wedding, the couple packed up their belongings into a small car and headed west to California where Brian had accepted a pastoral role with another church. The time was enjoyed by the young couple for a season, but it proved difficult being away from family and friends. About five months after moving, there was some turmoil within the church and both Brian and Melissa went through many emotions during this time: questioning why they ended up there? Why would God allow certain things to happen?
It was in that season, God provided the opportunity for the Stuchul’s to move to Kansas City and work at Graceway, the church Melissa had grown up in. Once arriving, a lot of things changed for them, they now were surrounded by friends, family, and had a good church; but something was still off. “We found that even though the external things were changing, the internal things had not.” Brian describes being shut down and reserved; never really sharing with anyone the whole truth.
Over time and through some counseling, the couple began to face some hurts they had experienced – not just in California, but throughout their lives. Brian said, “When we think back on our time in California, I think God allowed some of the difficulty in our lives during that time so that we would face some of the hurts we had experienced over the years.”
“Maybe God brought us to Graceway because sure, we could offer some things to the church, but maybe it was so we could grow personally and connect with the idea of learning to love well and learning how to love ourselves, those around us, and have a right relationship with God.”