It’s been said that if the Lord showed us everything that was to come into our lives, we probably wouldn’t take the next step. Instead, God leads us one step of faith at a time. For Dana and Ryan Kroeker, it has been these steps of faith that have led them down paths they never would have imagined a few short years ago.
When they got married, Dana and Ryan were regular church “attenders” before visiting RiverLakes and making it their church home about six years ago. They began growing in their faith at that point, but little did they know what was about to come.
In August 2011, Dana gave birth to their third baby, but what happened next rocked their world in a way they never expected. A severe case of post-partum depression took over their lives and forced them to their knees, crying out to God as never before. At one point, Dana describes going through 15 days of not sleeping, being overwhelmed with severe anxiety, and feeling like she was losing her mind. In the midst of this, the Kroekers found themselves clinging to God in a whole new way. As Ryan puts it, that was the point where they went “all in” with God and their lives became centered on Jesus.
Dana was invited to attend a women’s Bible study, and found herself surrounded by godly women who loved her and prayed for her as she spent the first few gatherings just crying in their presence. God began to heal her over time and provided resources to help them, but their lives were focused on the Lord in a new way from that point forward. “I feel like God had pursued me for so long, but I wasn’t catching on. It had to be something big in my life to get my attention,” explains Dana, who now openly shares of her past struggle in order to give God all the glory for carrying their family through such a difficult season.
Over five years later, the suffering mom who sat in her women’s group crying her eyes out is now one of our Women’s Discipleship leaders! When she was asked to become a leader, Dana was nervous and felt ill-equipped, but says there was simply no way she could say no. “Accepting this role caused me to fully depend on God. I prayed about it, and realized that my faith has GOT to be bigger than my fear.” Both she and Ryan clearly see how this experience has been deepening her faith and dependence on God this year.
As a police officer, Ryan faces difficulties on a daily basis, and His faith in God is completely essential to him. “If I had no foundation in God, it would be miserable. He equips me with the tools I need to deal with the situations I see,” explains Ryan. He starts his day intentionally in prayer to keep his foundation of faith strong. His job is challenging, but he feels a certain sense of control in it that appeals to him. He did not, as he puts it, have any desire to go into an uncomfortable situation where he wasn’t in control... yet that is exactly what God called him to this past spring when he was challenged in a way he never expected.
It began one day at church when a friend said to him, “Thanks for signing up to go on the Mexico mission trip!” This was a bit perplexing, as he had never signed up to go! In fact, the idea of a mission trip to Mexico wasn’t even on his radar, but he went home, prayed about it, and committed to going.
That trip to Mexico, where Ryan was part of a team that built a home in a poor neighborhood, opened his perspective to what God is doing globally. One of the organizers said to the team, “You had faith to come here, but the people who live here have faith for everything in their lives.” That statement impacted Ryan, who came home and shared his experience with his family. Immediately they began making some changes, including getting rid of DirectTV and using that money to sponsor three kids in foreign countries. They are planning to go to Israel in the fall with RiverLakes, and have a desire to participate in future mission trips to Africa – something Ryan never would have imagined doing before. As he explains, “I don’t even know if my name was ever actually on that list for the trip, but I think deep down I wanted to go. I was tired of being on the sidelines.”
The Kroekers know that they can no longer say “never,” and Dana explains that they want to always keep growing. As Ryan puts it, “I want to continue to take steps of faith that are uncomfortable and frightening, knowing that in the end, it’ll be OK.