We all have a story to tell! Personal Connection is just one of the ways we share stories here at Circles of Faith. Ordinary women are doing extraordinary things for God. We hope Chelle’s story encourages and inspires others to take that next step to what God is calling them to do.
In our Spotlight today is Circles of Faith contributor Susan Panzica. She is a blogger, author, speaker and co founder of The Justice Network, a new human trafficking awareness group.
Tell us your FAITH story.
I grew up in a not-very-religious Jewish home.
Growing up my family was dysfunctional. The best way to describe us individually is we were treading water trying not to sink. I was painfully shy from the time I was able to talk, so I usually chose not to speak. My younger siblings were smarter and funnier, and I was the invisible child. In middle school, my parents divorced and my dad remarried. Now at awkward 13, living in a different state, going to a new school, I retreated inside myself. I began to develop questions about life and existence and if there was a God, why didn’t I see the evidence? I drank and went to bars before I was legal. It was on the dance floor that I found my happy place. And that is exactly where God met me.
At 24 years old, I was introduced me to Jesus through a band I met in the Hamptons.
In between sets, members of the band came over to our table to say hello. To be nice, we told them we liked their original song Born Again To A World Of Love. They jumped on opportunity to ask us if we knew what it meant to be born again. We didn’t, and they started sharing the Gospel. When the club closed at 2am, the band invited me and my friends back to their house. We did and talked about Jesus all night. My friends and I went back to our rented beach cottage and started to read the Bible.
I came across the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus exhorts us to love our enemies by turning the other cheek, offering your coat, going the second mile. I questioned (more like ranted at) my girlfriends, asking, “Why should I love people who don’t love me?” When they didn’t respond, I picked up the Bible and started reading more. I found Jesus said, “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?” At that moment, Jesus answered my question, the first of many I would ask Him over the next 30 years.
When Jesus hung on the cross and asked the Father to forgive those who were screaming for His death, He set an example for me to follow when people treat me badly. He said that they didn’t know what they were doing. But they did know. What they didn’t know was Who they were doing it to, and what His death was producing for them. Therefore, I decided that if people are hurtful to me, they are simply giving me an opportunity to forgive and to develop Christ-likeness, an opportunity that I wouldn’t have were it not for my offender. That offense then becomes a gift.
My passion is to see and to bring an eternal perspective to earthly matters. Everything we go through in this life is useful if it develops Christ-likeness in us and prepares us for eternity.
What does LIFE look like for you?
I live in a lake community in Wayne, NJ. I work with my chiropractor husband Tony. My daughter Lauren who graduated from Montclair State University with a Dance and Dance Ed degree, went to Hillsong College in Sydney, Australia for a year and half, and is now working at several nonprofit organizations in NYC teaching dance. My son AJ, who is a senior at NJIT, will be working for Aecon/Tishman Construction upon graduation in May.
I love spending time with friends and family. Period. Things I like to DO with them? Just hang out, eat out, and/or go out to Broadway shows and movies, concerts, football games, especially the NY Giants.
How does community inspire your life?
Small groups play an important role in my life. My church family, Bible study group, Life Transformation Group, and Marriage Group foster my faith. Online I love being a part of Circles of Faith of course! I am also a contributing writer for Laced With Grace and write and interact those on my own blog Eternity Café .
I have a solid group of friends that I regularly pray with.. Our nickname is LOLs – originally because we were Ladies of the Lake and we Laugh Out Loud. But our sons call us Little Old Ladies, although that name is not as much fun.
Other communities that are important to me are my home lake community, my writers group, and Justice Network – a new human trafficking awareness group that I co-founded.
Where and how does the above come together for you?
My faith infuses everything I think, say and do, so it’s hard to denote a specific intersection. My calling is to share, as Paul said, “what I received from the Lord I pass on to you.” As a speaker and writer, I am called to be a resource for encouragement. I am more of a conduit than a reservoir. I love God and by His grace am loved by Him. And you are too.
My blog is where I periodically share illustrations to bring an eternal perspective to earthly matters. God made everything and I see parables of encouragement in the most ordinary things. I’m writing a book on our identity in Christ and who God says that “I AM.”
I recently took up the cause to eradicate human trafficking. God has grown my efforts into an active group called Justice Network dedicated to raising awareness and providing ways to make a difference. It was sparked by a Facebook comment where I asked myself:
“is this one more time where I want to do something, but actually do nothing? Or will I actually DO something?” Edmund Burke said, “Nobody makes a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little.”
I committed to do the little I could, and let God do the rest. My group of two grew to twenty-two in less than two months. By the time Justice Network was four months old, we were spearheading a social media campaign raising awareness for the NJ Coalition Against Human Trafficking.
I look forward to the continued growth of Justice Network. I am also writing a book about our identity in Christ, am hoping to increase my speaking engagements in 2014. I would love your prayer for success in all these areas as well as salvation for unsaved family members, wisdom for the leadership of Justice Network, and protection for my family.