Neighborly kindness—and blueberry pancakes—forge a relationship that leads a couple on a path to Jesus.
For Allen and Rosalind Braun, the journey to becoming members at Cross of Christ, WELS’ home mission congregation in Liverpool, N.Y., has spanned decades. “Our story from the beginning is a culmination of many things,” says Allen. “It covers our families, people we’ve met, and different church denominations.”
That journey led to an unexpected meeting in the laundry room of their apartment building—a meeting that God used to change their lives.
The Brauns come from very diverse backgrounds, growing up on opposite sides of the country. Allen was born in Sleepy Hollow and grew up in Westchester County, N.Y., and Rosalind grew up in Houston, Texas. While Rosalind was raised Baptist, Allen was raised a Jehovah’s Witness. When he was 8 years old, his family moved to Texas. Allen recalls being ridiculed in school because of his faith. Even his relatives mocked his family for their religion.
Throughout his childhood and young adult years, Allen struggled with being a Jehovah’s Witness and questioned many religious topics, including the Trinity, additions to Scripture, and how only certain people are allowed to take the Lord’s Supper. He also struggled to measure up to the religion’s manmade standards and was keenly aware of Jehovah’s Witness elders keeping a tally of his “mistakes.” So he started asking questions about what he had been taught. Those questions and his actions eventually led to his removal from church membership.
In 2000, Allen met Rosalind from the same apartment building. On one occasion he mentioned that he was going to attend a concert. Since she also loved music, she handed him a disposable camera and asked him to snap some pictures. Those concert pictures didn’t turn out very well, yet their budding relationship did. The two went on their first date on July 22, Rosalind’s birthday, and by Aug. 22 they were married.
Allen and Rosalind began attending a local Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall together, where Allen was hoping to be reinstated into the faith. But it still didn’t seem right to either of them. The “hoops” Allen would need to jump through to be reinstat-ed caused them both to walk out and never return. “I was mentally torn for a long time,” admits Allen.
Needing a fresh start, the Brauns talked about moving out of Texas. Allen felt his home state of New York calling to him, so in 2017 they settled in Rome, N.Y. It was there Rosalind met someone who made an impression on her—a kind man named Jim Bruland.
Jim lived in their apartment complex, and one day he held open the laundry room door for Rosalind, politely asking if she needed help. “Our first encounter was cordial, but not much was said—just an exchange of pleasantries,” remembers Jim.
Some time later, Jim ran across both Rosalind and Allen in the laundry room. They started a conversation, with Allen commenting on a t-shirt that Jim was folding, which displayed 1 John 4:9, “God sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.” Jim said that the t-shirt was from his church, Cross of Christ. The seed was planted.
As the conversation continued, Rosalind mentioned that she makes delicious blueberry pancakes. “When Jim said that he loves blueberry pancakes, I invited him over and offered to make him some,” says Rosalind.
But it was a full year before Rosalind met Jim in the laundry room again. She had just lost her father, and Jim provided an empathetic ear, sharing his experience with losing his own father. Rosalind says: “We connected over losing our fathers.” Jim recalled her gracious invitation for pancakes, and he accepted it. The subsequent get-together cemented the friendship between the Brauns and Jim.
A shared faith
Even before meeting Jim, the Brauns had been searching for a church to call home. They had attended one Christian church with dear friends and visited a Baptist church as well, “but nothing ever fit,” says Allen. “It just didn’t feel right. So we did a lot of praying.” Because he remembered Jim talking about his church, Cross of Christ, Allen asked if they could attend church with Jim. “The Holy Spirit made me ask him,” says Allen. “It wasn’t me. It was the Spirit.”
Allen and Rosalind started visiting Cross of Christ regularly and began taking Bible information classes online due to COVID-19. Jim, a member of Cross of Christ since 2016, would join them in their apartment to help work through the lessons. The Brauns were guided through the membership process by their pastor, Ben Birner. “He was so gentle and reassuring with us,” remembers Rosalind.
Allen was joyfully baptized into God’s family at Cross of Christ on Oct. 18, 2020, Birner’s first adult baptism. Six months later, Allen, Rosalind, and another friend Susan were confirmed on April 18, 2021—Allen’s birthday. Their friend Jim was by their side, sharing in their joy. Allen recalls, “Our confirmation day was a culmination of learning the difference between the doctrines of Jehovah’s Witnesses and the truths of Scripture. To be able to say in front of everyone that I believe the words that came from Jesus and not from an organization meant a lot to me.”
The Brauns will be the first to tell you that being a follower of Christ isn’t easy, nor does it remove troubles from our lives. Both of them struggle with health issues. Right before the pandemic hit, Allen became gravely ill and was hospitalized. One of the nurses caring for him was a Jehovah’s Witness, and the encounter stirred up some of the hurt from his past. As Allen was wrestling with his feelings, he went to God in prayer, asking if he truly needed to forgive the people who had hurt him. “But then I knew that Jesus was saying to me, ‘My son, have you forgiven them? Because I have forgiven them all.’ And that was the answer,” Allen recalls.
Allen and Rosalind have certainly made sacrifices as followers of Christ, including enduring the pain of being estranged from Allen’s family, who remain Jehovah’s Witnesses. “My father no longer speaks to me,” says Allen. “My family never even told me when my grandparents and uncle died. My brother-in-law told me that he doesn’t owe me anything.”
Allen is now making up for experiences he wasn’t allowed to have as a child in a religion that doesn’t celebrate Jesus’ birth. Since early October, the Brauns have been joyfully displaying a Christmas tree in their home. “Christ is the center of Christmas,” Allen simply says. “The Christmas tree is up already because of all of the Christmases I’ve missed.”
Some may call it fate or coincidence, but we know that God arranged for Jim Bruland to meet Rosalind and Allen in that laundry room. “Our triune God, the only God, is amazing!” says Jim. “He works in mysterious ways. His ways are higher than our ways. My path on this pilgrimage was meant to cross Allen and Rosalind’s path. There was nothing I could do to keep those paths from crossing.”
The friendship that started with a bond over blueberry pancakes is now a bond of shared faith in Jesus Christ. “That’s all it took,” says Allen. “A friendly gesture, the simplest thing, led my wife and me down a path to God that we never knew we would take.” He is grateful every day for Jesus’ full and free grace: “I don’t have to consider works as my salvation. I have the freedom to now serve God, instead of serving men. Jesus by grace has forgiven our sins. Our ultimate reward is to someday be in heaven with him.”
Learn more about Jehovah’s Witnesses and how to share the gospel with them in Speaking the Truth in Love to Jehovah’s Witnesses by Roland Cap Ehlke. It’s available at Northwestern Publishing House, nph.net.
Author: Ann Jahns
Volume 108, Number 12
Issue: December 2021
- Confessions of faith: Allen and Rosalind Braun - 2021/11/30
- My Christian life: Serving in retirement as a vacancy pastor - 2021/04/28
- Confessions of faith: Kaitlin Lamb - 2021/01/29