March 31, 2014

By Fred Koenig

When Shawn Kirby was picking up his kids from school, he was often approached by Rolando Quiroz, who was then pastor of Marionville UMC. Quiroz would invite him to come to church, and let him know that there’s a place where he could re-find God. 
    
“I didn’t think I needed to do that,” Kirby said. “I felt like I had already worked through all of that when I was incarcerated, and I had refreshed my relationship with God.”
    
But Quiroz persisted, and Kirby relented. Through Quiroz, and the Marionville United Methodist Church, Kirby learned that there was more. Several years ago Kirby had spent two years in state prison from an assault charge. The time was particularly hard because he missed his children. His own resentment was still a hard spot on his soul.
    
“I then come to realize that my resentment was getting in the way of God’s forgiveness,” he said. 
 
Kirby has never been a regular part of church before. As a child he was in some Straight Arrow programs at an Assemblies of God church, but it didn’t take. “I didn’t get church people, and felt that my relationship with God was more of a personal and universal thing,” he said. But he learned that his faith could be developed, and put into action. He took charge of a Care and Calling ministry, that was initially focused on visiting shut-ins, but now extends to caring for people in need. 
    
When it came time for Quiroz to be appointed to start a new church in a different town, Kirby almost walked out, too. “That was tough for me, because when I started attending church there I didn’t realize that Methodist pastors moved around,” he said. “But Rolando got me through it, and taught me that you can experience God through all of the people of the church, not just the pastor. Now a lot of people look to me to strengthen their relationship with God.” 
  
 Kirby has come to learn the congregation is made up of caring people with generous spirits. He now serves as chairman of the administrative council. 
  
 “The United Methodist Church holds onto the Wesley spirit so deeply. The people here don’t want to pass up an opportunity to help children of God,” he said. “It’s a beautiful thing to see.”