Monica Berenguel first heard the Gospel while attending a small group in Waterloo, Iowa. Unfortunately, the church dwindled in numbers and the group eventually dissolved. Monica was left alone. Again.
“I got sidetracked as far as the type of fellowship I had. I did not have peace in my heart,” Monica said. “I missed the relationship I had with the Lord.”
While pregnant with her sixth child, Monica moved from Waterloo into her parents’ house. Her parents lived on 64th Street, just down the road from Walnut Creek Windsor Heights. Monica began taking her children to the Awana ministry that spring. She soon understood what had been missing in her heart since her salvation years earlier.
“Everybody was warm, and Jen Engdahl just kind of grabbed a hold of me,” Monica said with tears in her eyes. The friendships Monica formed with other Walnut Creek members encouraged her to begin attending services, start serving with Awana, and recommit her life to following Jesus by getting baptized.
Despite all of the connections she made, Monica could not help but notice how different her family seemed compared to others in the church. “When I first started coming to Walnut Creek, I noticed right away that families had mothers and fathers,” Monica said. Because of this difference, Monica's feelings of isolation and frustration began to develop.
As she saw nuclear families all around her, Monica felt the temptation to compare. “I used to really long for a husband because that’s what I saw, thinking this is the way it has to be,” Monica said.
Monica and her kids would join other families in their activities, and she saw how her pattern of living did not always fit well. “To a degree, I would aspire to be like that and do the same things that married couples do. Within the last year, I have noticed that I am one person, and just because I don’t do x, y, and z, doesn’t make me less of a parent,” Monica said. “That has lifted a weight off my shoulders, and it has helped me to recognize the things that I do need help in.”
"Within the last year, I have noticed that I am one person, and just because I don’t do x, y, and z, doesn’t make me less of a parent.”
Monica decided to relocate to Walnut Creek Highland Park to unite her children with friends they had made through Awana. After joining a Community Group, Monica experienced the body in a new way. “The Lord has shown me that He puts His body together to work through things and support each other,” Monica said.
Monica can recount numerous examples when her Community Group members have served her by sharing meals, babysitting, and even moving her family into their new home. However, Monica’s greatest needs were met when not only her kids had lasting friendships but women reached out to show her the depth of her own relational and spiritual needs.
“For me–naturally–relationships are hard. One of the barriers was being vulnerable. Recognizing and working on my relationships with other women and being committed to staying in fellowship,” Monica said of the hurdles the Lord has helped her overcome. “There were times where I wanted to leave Walnut Creek but just couldn’t. The Lord pressed on my heart that I have a place at Walnut Creek.”
Finding A Place
The Lord reminds Monica that being different is okay. Her ongoing battle against loneliness and singleness only draws her to depend on God more. “He’s showing me that He’s not ignoring my needs, even though it is very isolating. I don’t know that women really understand how lonely it is to raise children on your own. And the enemy has his prodding and tries to root bitterness into my life, in different ways,” Monica said.
However, for Monica, recognizing these lies and continuing to serve the body has helped heal her hurts. Though she may sometimes feel out of place, she knows God is using her life to build up other believers. He has shown her she has more in common with others than it appears. “I hear ‘Monica, you are encouraging me,’ and I’m thinking, ‘How?’” Monica said. “They say things like, ‘Your dependence on the Lord and that you always want to do the right thing, to be in the Lord’s will and do what’s best for your kids.’”
Monica says the isolation felt in her singleness can be counteracted by the church as she initiates to extend grace and receives grace from others.
“He’s shown me that I really need to depend on Him even more so. The Lord has given me a community,” Monica said. “I am very grateful for my congregation and Community Group for offering assistance continually. My Heavenly Father truly provides.”