Jackie Mangante: Smiling, happy Jackie! I’m told that’s how people usually see me. As a little girl, I was always cheerful and my dream was to be a teacher. So I’d gather my younger sister with all of our stuffed animals, and I’d take attendance and teach them the alphabet. In school, I was up and down. I’d start off great, but then lose focus. A teacher actually once told me, “I don’t know what’s going on with you.” Well, I didn’t know either!
But I found my peace was in the Children’s Worship Service or CWS. I remember when my parents started bringing my sister and I to attend and right away, it felt like home. I remember so clearly all the officers who would come to talk to us, to teach us. I loved singing hymns: In this my humble life / I’m blessed by God above. It was a comfort I never felt anywhere else.
After high school, I was rejected from the universities I applied to. Eventually I was accepted into an Early Childhood Studies program, and I really enjoyed what I was learning. But I struggled to function.
After starting my second year of university, I stopped going to class. Sometimes I couldn’t even get out of bed. I’d stay in my room and sit in the dark for hours. That was October. Then November. Then December. I still wasn’t going to school.
But do you want to know one really amazing thing?
Twice a week I got up to go to the only place I felt true joy. I continued attending worship services in the Church Of Christ and with God’s mercy, I never missed a single one.
Everything else around me seemed a blur. People were articulate and productive and amazing and I was just… I don’t know what I was. I was in a dark hole, and the only time I could see light was when it was time to worship. Everything was clear.
So I looked forward to going to Church where I poured out my whole heart to God about everything, about feeling like a failure. I could always feel Him listening to me, loving me. I’d hear His words that strengthened me. Every time, every time I felt like giving up, I’d be reminded that I matter to God. That I should keep my eyes focused straight towards the goal.
I was also thankful He allowed me to continue performing my duties as a Church Officer in the CWS. Helping the future of the Church grow stronger in their faith gives me so much hope. Seeing how eager they are to learn God’s teachings, and then seeing them grow up to be such bright, wonderful people with beautiful hearts, who just love to serve God.
You know, at that point in my life, the only time I found joy was in performing my duties. I couldn’t find success in school and I felt so sorry about it, and I would take those feelings to God in the next worship service.
And when I hit my lowest low, God showed me His great love in a way I’ll never forget – through His little children.
One day at our place of worship, I was trying to hide my tears. A few of the kids came up to me asking, “What’s wrong?” I said, “Nothing.” Then with some colored paper and pens, they started making me cards. One child made me a paper airplane. Another made drawings and wrote, “I love you so much.” One card told me to, “be happy.” I was so happy that day.
In spite of the sadness and the heaviness I felt, God was leading me towards all the help I needed – my family, who I love so much, my duties. I had so much to be thankful for. Our Father has always been so good to me. I need to be good to me. Always.
With God’s mercy, I performed my duty as a CWS chairperson at our Year-End Thanksgiving, thinking: I live for this. I live to serve God, especially alongside His little children.
You know, when people ask me, “How did you reach that low point in your life?” I really don’t know. But God saw me and He heard me when I surrendered all of my sadness to Him.
I pleaded to be surrounded by God’s love, and you know what He did? He continued to bless me with more love than I could ever imagine.
God helped me shift gears to a new course, and I started studying again.
And my dream, it came true! I became a teacher. The kind I prayed to be. At 24, God blessed me to become a teacher in the Children’s Worship Service.
Right before my eyes, every time I lead His young servants, God reminds me of my purpose. I take care of myself, so I can take care of this delicate duty to Him. So that I can take care of His children.
Smiling, happy Jackie. That’s how I see myself too now.
Even when things start to feel heavy, I never feel like giving up. When I pray, God blesses me with all of the strength that I need to take care of all of His gifts, my life included. With love and with mercy, He’s guiding my future steps.
Because I am a child of God, I have hope in the true Church Of Christ.
So with all my heart, I sing alongside our INC Kids: You made me the best I am / For You know better than anyone / I am blessed with all Your love / And that’s enough for me.
Lord, thank You for loving me.
That is my reason to smile.
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