Remembering our history

Anna Bellum: I Can't Tell My Story Without the Free Church

A member of the EFCA Board of Directors shares about her roots with the EFCA—and why she stuck around.

I first got involved with the EFCA in utero. My parents met at an EFCA church in Gainsville, Florida, as students at the University of Florida. When they moved to Albuquerque before I was born, they immediately got involved with Hope Church (EFCA) and haven’t looked back. My mom jokes that she doesn’t remember potty-training me—she’s pretty sure the women who worked in the nursery took care of that (I don’t actually think it’s a joke!). But that is indicative of my story. From the beginning, Hope—and, by extension, the EFCA—has been the backdrop against which almost every significant moment in my life has taken place. 

The Free Church and I are woven together, I can’t actually tell my life story without it.

My first impressions of the EFCA are really best described as my “all-along-the-way” impressions. I came to know Christ in a Free Church. I was baptized here. When I was a child, and my dad lost his job for an extended period of time, our church community rallied around us with support: meals, parts of paychecks, mystery Christmas gifts on the front porch (I still don't know who gave me that stuffed soccer ball), benevolence gifts, mortgage payments, you name it—over the course of years! When I wanted to take athletics more seriously, it was my youth pastor who paid for a gym membership for me. I discovered my passion for missions, other cultures, languages and travel through Hope and our partnerships all around the world, many of whom are Free Church partners. 

In college, I majored in Spanish. Why? Because Hope took a short-term trip to a Spanish-speaking community when I was eleven, and God radically changed my life. I ended up pursuing a PhD in Latin American Literature, and when the time came for me to put my nose to the grindstone and finish my dissertation, it was Hope who helped make it happen. The elders gave me part of my sabbatical three years early in order for me to have time and space to do the necessary writing. The Free Church and I are woven together, I can’t actually tell my life story without it.

In the midst of all of those life events, I was more and more convinced that God was calling me to full-time missions—until He wasn’t. All of a sudden, in my late twenties, God started calling me back to my roots, deeper and deeper into Hope in different areas of leadership. I started to learn the church in which I had grown up in new and exciting ways. 

I never imagined I would work for a church. I was quite content with the thought of ministry as a lay leader that wouldn’t be full-time, but would be full-life. However, in 2015 our lead and executive pastors invited me to consider joining Hope’s staff as the outreach director. It wasn’t what I had expected, but it was what God was doing, so I said yes. 

Being in this role has allowed me to gain more and more friendships throughout the broader EFCA through conferences, meetings, joint missional efforts and the like. I don’t actually know who recommended I be considered for the EFCA Board of Directors, but I’m grateful for their vote of confidence and for seeing something I didn’t see myself. In June 2021, I was voted in at the virtual EFCA One conference and began my tenure as a board member that September.

By far, what I value most about the EFCA on a philosophical level is our ethos of majoring on the majors and minoring on the minors. In a cultural climate where people want to parse words, define lines and have the exact right interpretation on a particular topic or situation so as to prove others wrong, our ethos leads us to insist on what is essential, and then to leave room for dialogue and discipleship in all other things. 

Our movement is full of people who pursue God above all else, hold each other accountable and live our life in such a way that we believe is glorifying to God.

Even on secondary topics where we all agree, our primary unity is in agreeing that they are secondary. As such, we preserve, honor and lift high those ten points that we hold firmly to as our essentials—the same basic tenets the historical church has held to for millennia.

As a result of that ethos, our movement is full of people who pursue God above all else, hold each other accountable and live our life in such a way that we believe is glorifying to God. Wonderfully, even emphatically, we are people who disagree, save for our Statement of Faith; save for the only true tie that binds us. We have agreed to that. And that stands out to me about our movement.

The humble orthodoxy that is so deeply rooted in the EFCA can sway this way and that, but it will not be blown over. That is what makes me want to be a part of the EFCA; that and the people who have said “yes and amen” to it.

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