My name is Alondra Almaguer, or for those who know me at the En Español campus, I’m the “Coffee Lady.” I’ve been a regular attender of Chase Oaks En Español for the past couple of years, but this is my story of how Chase Oaks made a difference in my life and stuck with me through thick and thin, ultimately leading me to Christ and new life in Him.
A Tumultuous Upbringing
Originally from Mexico, I experienced a very tumultuous childhood and adolescence. I lived with my grandparents until I was seven, in whose home I witnessed both domestic violence and alcoholism. After turning seven, I met my mother and moved with her to the United States in 1993. Unfortunately, things didn’t improve despite changing living arrangements, and my stepfather started molesting me when I was nine, which obviously put a significant strain on my relationship with my mother. I told her later when I was 18 about what had been happening, but she didn’t believe me. As a result of these unhealthy relationships at home, I looked to find love elsewhere and got pregnant at the age of 15 and had my daughter, Olimpia, a month premature.
With tensions on the rise at home with my mother, I reached out to my daughter’s biological father for help and moved in with him; but what was supposed to be the start of a new family, ended up being another broken home, again due to addiction and domestic violence.
In 2007, I moved to Plano to marry another man I hoped would bring me happiness because I really wanted to “belong” and be loved. Sadly, that was not the case, and instead a pattern of physical abuse, alcoholism, drug addiction and affairs ended our marriage after just three short years.
A Time of Reflection
“What was wrong me?” I thought. So many times I questioned, “Why doesn’t anybody love me or want to be with me?”
Oftentimes, the answer for me was to turn to alcohol to numb the pain. Then after losing several of my extended relatives in less than a year to untimely deaths, I found myself falling into a depression. I was also struggling to provide for my kids, dealing with house repairs and going through a divorce. Before long, it was also taking a toll on the children, and the school they were attending found out about my situation with the house. The school signed me up as a candidate for ShareFest, which Chase Oaks Church held annually to reach out to the community and help those in need. I was selected by one of the Chase Oaks LifeGroups who came out and did repairs on the house. It was then that I began to become familiar with Chase Oaks. I met Shannan McEowen, the leader of the LifeGroup that helped me, and as we talked, I shared a little about my struggles.
After learning about my situation, Shannan, who also works with Open Table (another ministry at Chase Oaks that helps individuals transition out of poverty to live independent lives), recommended the program to me. So in September 2011, I got adopted by an Open Table group. These people on the table didn’t even know me, but they would go on to help me with resources, teach me about Christ, and invited me to Chase Oaks with them on many occasions. In spite of all that, I really hadn’t allowed the Lord completely into my life, because I still wanted to control it myself.
A Turning Point
In 2013, I married again and moved to Caddo Mills with my new husband, Eddie. Shortly into our union, we began to have marital problems. I also discovered that Eddie was involved in a religious cult and spent much of his time there. In addition, he used work as a way to avoid the problems in our marriage and was gone a lot. As things continued to worsen in our relationship, feeling hurt, lonely and empty inside, I made the decision that I needed to find a support group and decided to start attending Chase Oaks En Español in March 2014.
I remember crying at almost every service because it felt like they knew what was going on with me and in my life, and I was so ashamed and didn’t want to let them know that I had failed again.
But I needed to hear the sermons, which were my motivation to endure what was going on in my life. Plus, I was able to help out and serve, and the kids and I really enjoyed attending. However, things took a turn for the worse in June 2015, and I landed in jail for punching my husband in an argument. Ashamed of the circumstances and learning that Pastor Armando knew about it, I thought to myself, “How could I ever go back to Chase Oaks?”
A Church that “Sticks”
But Chase Oaks En Español was different than any other church I had ever attended. Why did I “stick” with Chase Oaks En Español? Or more accurately, why did Chase Oaks En Español stick with me? The answer was: “Unconditional Love!”
The love of a caring Pastor, a patient Pastor’s wife who was also a great listener, a Christ-loving Honduran Doctor, a wise counselor, Bible classes and a retreat, along with the Chase Oaks Elders praying diligently for me and my husband. It was at this retreat, that I was asked the most important question of my life: “If you believe in Jesus, why not surrender all of it to Him?”
So on Saturday, October 3, 2015, I decided to surrender my life to Jesus. It wasn’t an easy journey, but the Lord had His plan for me. And He used a Christ-loving village from Chase Oaks En Español to guide me and my family, to pray with and for us, to support us and embrace us in the midst of our struggles. As a result, Eddie left his cult; and we both got baptized in July 2016 and are currently attending Dallas Theological Seminary in Spanish.
I’m so thankful for a church that stuck with me and didn’t judge me for my past or all the mistakes along the way. One of the Chase Oaks DNA statements says, “We’re All in the Same Boat: We celebrate momentum over destination and inspire through grace rather than shame.” Chase Oaks and their ministries did exactly that with me, and now it’s my pleasure to stick with them and help do the same for others on their journey!