Cindy and Rob Stichweh have a lot to be thankful for. They have four grown children, all doing Kingdom work around the world. Their marriage of 36 years is rooted in Christ and as strong as ever. They are a part of a house church which allows them to eagerly pour into the younger members as if they were their own. But this story isn't really about Rob and Cindy, or their children. It is about the beautiful way God orchestrates our lives to leads us to Himself.
Cindy describes her conversion experience as powerful and instantaneous. Her life changed the moment she was filled with the Holy Spirit. However, the Lord drew Rob to Himself over the course of many years as he watched Cindy and their children grow in Christ. Though Cindy was raised going to Catholic school, and she went to church every Sunday, the questions she had about faith and purpose in life went unanswered. Throughout college she began to search for answers, yet her questions remained. She wanted knowledge regarding her faith; yet she lacked the right motivation. Everything changed after Cindy's first child was born. Motherhood led Cindy on a passionate pursuit of faith. Hungry for answers, she sought out many sources. Cindy spoke to different pastors from various faiths and read her Bible. However, nothing stuck. Rob didn't mind her seeking out religion, but he didn't have a desire to seek for himself.
A friend of Cindy's began witnessing to her, saying things like "receive the Holy Spirit" and "you must be born again." Cindy found herself intrigued by this new kind of language and, for the first time, she felt as if her questions could be answered. Excitedly, and truly hungry, Cindy attended her friend's Pentecostal church. "When I went in I felt something so powerful and wonderful, it was unlike anything I had experienced in my years attending Catholic church. I didn't know what I was feeling at the time. I know now it was the power of the Holy Spirit and basically that's when my life changed. I went to the altar, repented of my sins, and asked Jesus into my heart. He filled me with His spirit and everything was new and exciting. I was instantly a different person on the inside." As Cindy recounted her experience to her husband, it was as if she was speaking a different language, her words fell upon deaf ears. "I was so desperate to know Jesus more and eager for the Word, I wanted everyone to experience what had changed my life!" Rob was still not ready.
Cindy remained diligent in her relationship with Christ and her commission to raise Godly children. Rob and Cindy's four children accepted Christ, grew in their relationship with Him, and like so many of us at one time or another, they were pulled towardstheir earthly desires. Each child went through a period of living for themselves rather than God. However, God is gracious! He drew each one of Rob and Cindy's children back to Himself and now, as adults, they all serve in various ministries, do missional work around the world, and plant thriving churches. Throughout all these years, from the diaper stage, to seeing their children begin their own families, Rob observed the transformative power of Christ.
When their youngest child left for college, leaving them as "empty nesters" after 32 years, it was very difficult. Cindy often wondered what this new chapter of life would look like without their children in the home. "It was a little scary!" as Cindy recalls. However, as Rob's heart softened to the gospel he and Cindy began attending Apex. Rob's life long journey to the Lord culminated at an Apex welcome lunch. When Rob prayed with one of our teaching pastors, he was finally able to understand Cindy's excitement all those years ago. Rob and Cindy began reading the Bible and praying together, they were now speaking the same language. "Some people have an experience like me, one day and instantly your life changes. But with Rob it was gradual, like over the last 33 years. It has been so exciting to know he is loving the Lord, growing in his faith, and motivated to serve; he's the spiritual leader I hoped and prayed for." Cindy proudly exclaimed.
As Rob and Cindy entered into their next phase of life as empty nesters they fervently sought God's will for their life and trusted His guidance for their path. "It's really cool to see and I'm so thankful I can look forward to our empty nest with our souls equally yolked."
Let this story be an encouragement and this scripture a belief to live by, "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened." Matthew 7:7-8
Author: Elizabeth Van Dine
Photographer: Hilary Tebo