Andrew and Genessee were living a life of no hope. They had two beautiful children but not much else to live for. Their life revolved so much around smoking marijuana that all other hopes and dreams had faded a long time ago. When are we going to get stoned, how are we going to hide this from the kids, how are we going to sell enough pot to our friends that we don’t have to pay for our own? Those thoughts persisted 365 days a year. In the deepest core of their imagination, they couldn’t conceive of a way their lives would ever be different. And really, they didn’t see a problem with that.
All this changed two years ago, on a Starbucks couch in north Seattle.
Andrew and Genessee with their two kids, Owen and Alexaundra
The “Christian Starbucks”
In August of 2011, Genessee was a shift supervisor at a Starbucks in Edmonds, Washington. When her boss told her she was being transferred to a store two miles away, she was not happy. The new store was known by many Starbucks employees as the “Christian Starbucks.” It earned this nickname for many reasons; it was down the street from a large church, it was frequented by customers who gathered for Bible studies, it employed several pastors’ daughters, and it was managed by a man who was an elder in his church.
This made Genessee uncomfortable because, as she says, “I was not a Christian. Not even close to wanting to be a Christian. Not even close to knowing about Jesus. I didn’t care. I was doing my own thing.”
Andrew says she was agnostic or atheist depending on her day and mood. Years earlier, when they were preparing for their wedding, Genessee was so anti-God that she refused to be married in a church. She also took the word “God” out of their vows. After they found out that they were unexpectedly pregnant with their son, Andrew, who occasionally attended church growing up, told her he thought God wouldn’t have given them a kid if they weren’t ready for it. She laughed at him.
It didn’t take much time working at the “Christian Starbucks” for Genessee to soften toward coworkers and customers and start opening up about her life. Every Sunday, during her morning shift, a customer named Patty would come in and tell Genessee her church was going through a sermon series called Real Marriage and it would be perfect for her since she and Andrew were still newlyweds. Genessee thought Patty was a sweet lady but refused to go to church with her.
Three months after the Starbucks transfer, Patty came into the store on a Saturday and asked if Genessee, who had just finished her shift, would sit with her. Genessee found her to be surprisingly open and honest. When Patty asked her why she didn’t come to church with her, Genessee responded, “It’s not my thing. I just don’t go to church. What’s the point?”
“Well, what do you know about God? Don’t you know he’s the creator of the universe?” Patty asked.
Genessee told Patty that she did not, that she was “more scientific” in how she looked at things. “I never wanted to go back to a greater creation,” she explains, “because it was too mind-boggling.”
Genessee shared with Patty about her upbringing, her belief that the universe was in control and stars would align when she needed them too, and major coincidences she’d experienced. Patty explained how Genessee’s perceived coincidences were actually God’s providence and planning in her life.
“God brought you to this store,” Patty told her. Patty then shared the story of how God showed up in her life and helped her through depression. She’d also experienced “coincidences” that she could now see were part of God’s planning. Then Patty drew a picture of the differences between religion and Christianity.
“They were just doodles,” Genessee says, “but they explained how religious men try to put themselves on God’s level and how Christians find themselves in Jesus. And then she drew this little cross and how sin separates, but the cross brings us back together with God.
“I was just blown away. Almost in an instant, at the end of that two-hour conversation, my whole mind changed toward God. She told me how God was pursuing me. She said, ‘God is literally pursuing you right now in this moment through me, at this store. Why do you think you’re here?’”
On the way home, Genessee called Andrew and told him, “Andrew, I think I love Jesus.”
“Well that’s just great,” Andrew said. “I want to talk more about this but I’m at work right now.”
“What do you do after you find God?”
When she got home she realized she didn’t own a Bible, but found a New Testament version of The Message. She figured she would read it, until she opened it up and “it was all Gibberish.”
“What am I going to do?” she thought. Then it dawned on her. “The computer. I’ll just go to the Internet.” She opened up her laptop and typed in “What do you do after you find God?” All sorts of weird and random things showed up, so she tried a second search: “What church should I attend when I meet God?” Mars Hill Church was one of Google’s sponsored websites.
The first thing she thought was the website looked nice. Then she researched Pastor Mark Driscoll on YouTube and watched some video clips before searching for his Wikipedia page. Still placing a high importance on coincidences, she noticed Pastor Mark’s birthday was the same as her mom’s, he went to the same high school as three of her cousins, and they grew up in neighboring cities.
When Andrew got home she was very excited and told him, “We’re going to church tomorrow. They have a great Kid’s Ministry and Pastor Mark is practically my family.”
“We’re not going to church tomorrow,” Andrew said. “Tomorrow is Saturday. Babe, are you really serious about this?”
“Yeah,” she exclaimed. “Of course I am. I love Jesus. You should be happy for me.”
“Well, we don’t have any nice clothes.”
“Who cares? Look at the people in the background of their website. They’re not in nice clothes.”
“Can we just wait a week? Let’s just wait one week before going to church.”
Genessee was upset but consented. So they waited a week to go to church. When they finally made it the following week, she told Andrew, “I’m going to get baptized. I love Jesus.”
Andrew responded, “Ok, babe. I’ll check back with you in two weeks and see if you’re still into this church thing.”
“Marijuana mastered us”
Looking back, Andrew admits his embarrassment for saying that. At the time, he didn’t know the Holy Spirit was actually in his wife and now he feels bad for making her cry. But he also had his own reasons for avoiding Jesus. It wasn’t just Genessee’s general hatred of God or her history of dabbling in other religions that kept Andrew from encouraging her. Andrew was pretty deep in sin as well.
“We were both big potheads,” Andrew says.
“Extreme potheads,” Genessee counters.
“Marijuana mastered us.”
“All day, every day.”
At the time, Genessee was in Marijuana Anonymous classes and had tried to quit many times. But her first thought when meeting Jesus wasn’t quitting pot.
“I didn’t even think about it,” she says. “I just wanted to get baptized.”
Andrew had been addicted to marijuana for 14 years and had also tried repeatedly to quit.
“It was what I thought about in the afternoon, what I did all day long. For us, it was always about how can we sneak away from our kids and go hide somewhere so we can get stoned without them knowing? I thought, ‘We’re going to go to church tomorrow morning? No, we’re not. I’m getting stoned tomorrow. I got plans.’ I was so deep in sin that I knew that starting to go to church and giving my life to Jesus was going to mean I was going to have to change.”
The first sermon they attended at Mars Hill was Can We_______? in the Real Marriage sermon series, a sermon based off 1 Corinthians 6:12 where the Corinthians ask the Apostle Paul if they are allowed to do a litany of sexual acts. Andrew says neither of them remember the sermon. He’s not sure if they got high that morning but they definitely did the night before.
“We were stoned through the whole month of April,” Genessee says.
“I felt the desire to sin just leave”
Three weeks after attending their first service, Genessee was still convinced she wanted to get baptized. She remembers being impacted by a new truth she had learned, that the blood of Christ washed over her sins and as a result, she became a new creation. Her life had radically changed. She says it was like turning on a light switch, from darkness to light. Some of the first noticeable changes were that she quit smoking pot, stopped gossiping, and Andrew says she became more humble.
“It was really miraculous watching it happen,” he said.
The massive changes in Genessee’s life convinced Andrew to pursue Jesus. “There was a whole new Genessee. I saw what happened to my wife and I was like, ‘Wow. I want that. Is Jesus pursuing me through my wife because I want the Holy Spirit?’”
Andrew started going to the Doctrine class every week. Even though he was stoned for the first class, he quit smoking pot shortly after. Genessee gave him a copy of The Message and he devoured it, reading the entire New Testament in a week. Then he switched to the Old Testament but got stuck in Leviticus. So Genessee bought him The Purpose Driven Life and says it was a clear way the gospel was opened up for him.
For many years Andrew had used marijuana as an excuse to sin. If he wanted to steal something, he would get high and justify the theft because he couldn’t control himself, he was high after all. If he wanted to increase his bonus at work, he would get high during lunch to give himself an excuse to adjust his sales numbers. But then one day in April of 2012, he felt God working on his heart.
“I was staring at sin,” he says. “Here was an opportunity for me to sin and I didn’t want to do it, because in my heart, the new heart God gave me, I knew it was wrong. I was stoned and thinking, ‘Well, I can do it anyway because I’m stoned but then I don’t want to sin. I want to turn from sin.’
“Then there was this Jesus who saved my wife, who changed her, and who is at the church I’m going to. Here’s the chance. I prayed to God to stop me from sinning. He stopped me and I felt this warmth from the Holy Spirit start at the top of my head and literally pour over me. I was sitting in my car at the time and I felt the desire to sin just leave. It was like the love of God was poured out onto me.”
“We want Jesus to be the cornerstone of our life”
Andrew and Genessee continued to learn more about Jesus through Community Groups. Genessee was so excited to find one and get connected with other Christians that she filled out seven connect cards in hopes of finding the right group. They dove right in. Then in September, they joined a Redemption Group.
Genessee says, “That’s when it all was like gospel, boom! Sinner, boom! One time I came home and I was like, ‘What is this all for? I don’t even want to be a Christian. It’s just too hard. I feel horrible that I killed Jesus. This is awful.’ I obviously came out of that in time.
“I know before we met Jesus, a majority of our conversations revolved around ‘how are we going to keep doing pot without the kids finding out?’ I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t have had hope in the future. We would’ve been in the exact same place. No plan, no dreams, no desires, just ‘when are we going to get more weed?’”
Life looks completely different now than it did just two years ago. Andrew and Genessee are at Mars Hill Shoreline every week serving in Kid’s Ministry, Women’s Ministry, and leading a Community Group. They’ve found a greater hope and a future legacy to look forward to. They’ve made many friends and developed a solid church family they love. They’ve also been able to teach their two kids so much about Jesus, including grace.
“Pre-Jesus I always thought Christianity was about rules, regulations, purity, and always making the right decisions," Andrew says. "Where I want our kids to go to when they sin is the cross, to understand there is grace for them. That’s the best part of the gospel for me, just that grace has been given to me. It’s like a free gift and I want my kids to really understand that.”
“We want Jesus to be the cornerstone of our life,” Genessee adds. “We want to model him. We want to show him. We want to help our kids know him and learn that without Jesus, we wouldn’t be anywhere.”
If you have a story you would like to share with the church, please submit it here. We would love to hear how God is revealing himself through his people.