(This post is part of a series of blogs we will be doing throughout 2020 as we prepare for our 10 year anniversary at RVC that we will be celebrating on 12/5/20. Search under the tag “RVC 10 Years” to read other post in this series.)
The Early Days
I was first introduced to RVC around this time of year seven years ago by my good friend Alex. He and his roommate invited me over for a game night and the topic of churches came up. I had just started taking my faith more seriously but was not yet connected to a church in Madison and Alex was excited to connect me to the church he loved so dearly. Within my first several weeks at RVC, I could see why.
While meeting in a high school and singing worship music accompanied by guitar was a major shift from growing up sitting in pews and singing hymns accompanied by organ music, I also felt a sense of welcome early on. I also heard the Word of God taught in a way that challenged me to learn and to grow in my faith. I was at first an irregular attender, coming about twice per month and working other Sundays. When asked if I would consider becoming a member of the church, I remember telling one of the pastors that RVC was a good model for the church I would one day join, but that I felt my campus ministry was my church for the time being.
Thankfully, my convictions shifted before long and I became a member in 2014. I continued to grow with the other members of RVC and took much joy in serving Christ by serving the church. Eventually, I decided to intern with Red Village and began in the late Spring of 2016. I was blessed to work alongside the leadership and congregation, to see how church life functioned, gaining a clearer perspective of both the highs and the lows. Pastor Aaron and others in the church provided great support as I prepared for two years of overseas missions work. I got as far as going to a conference where I was matched with three top choices for service destinations when the unexpected happened.
Mania, the Fog, and the Journey Back to Normalcy
I had a great deal of restlessness, excitement, and stress following the conference, which only snowballed from there. Nights with only 4-5 hours of sleep became sleepless nights, dreams were replaced with racing thoughts as I lay wide awake for hours each night. I thought that I was gaining increased clarity and insight and that my actions reflected my clarity of mind. I became convinced that Jesus would return within a matter of weeks and that I had a huge role to play in leading the world to prepare for His return. However, my roommates, church friends, family, and others were increasingly confused by my words, messages, and actions. Eventually, my family got me into a hospital where I was diagnosed with a manic episode and ended up spending 11 days.
The journey back to normalcy was long and difficult. I spent several weeks with my parents, who were very patient and helpful as I took steps towards mental and spiritual health. The church and other friends in Madison were also very faithful, especially through their prayers. Pastor Aaron made the 2 ½ hour drive to La Crosse to provide support and encouragement, which I remember as a boost for me. Eventually I felt prepared to return to Madison and came back to a city which was much the same, but which was more difficult to navigate in the midst of continued recovery. The delusional thoughts of mania gradually gave way to a dense fog of depression. Through the fog, God remained my guiding light. I prayed when I did not know what to pray and often falling asleep in prayer. I understood that in the midst of hardship God sees, hears, and He knows (Exodus 2). When I felt it was impossible to get off the couch to make a sandwich, go for a walk, or go to work, God’s grace allowed me to. It was also God’s grace that gave me encouraging friends and family as fellow sojourners who would point me towards the light of Christ, to lift my head up when it was downcast. I am forever grateful for the ways that my friends at RVC listened to me, gently encouraged me, or simply sat in silence with me during that time. Psalm 18:19 is a scripture that rings true following that time: “He brought me out into a broad place he rescued me, because he delighted in me.”
Moving on, but Always Grateful
As I came out of that season of depression, I was blessed with meeting Jen, the beautiful woman who would eventually become my fiancée. She is a wonderful person to journey life with and she consistently points me to Jesus in the highs and the lows. We recently decided that the best move for our family is to be part of a church body which Jen is already involved in and has a significant presence in the village of McFarland, where we will make our home together. In March I will have my last Sunday at RVC. I’m sad to be leaving, but am forever grateful for the people of Red Village Church and the ways God has graciously worked through RVC in my life and in the lives of many others. It has been an immense blessing to be part of seven of RVC’s 10 years as a church and I am confident that God will continue to use the church in powerful ways both in this city He loves so much and to the ends of the earth. May Red Village Church become even more faithful as a church “Where a Wooden Cross and an Empty Tomb Mean Everything.”
2 thoughts on “Celebrating 10 years of RVC–Hans Stennes-Spidahl”
I’m excited for your upcoming marriage. You are going to be a great father and husband.
Great job, Hans. I’m praising God for his grace in your life. Love you man!
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