“She wanted everyone to realize that God was sufficient for her, so she tried to make sure she was an encouragement to others.”  


This is how Ben Mengarelli described Lisa’s life story. Though a life of immense physical pain and hardships, Lisa Mengarelli’s life was a great example of a faith that endures and points others to Christ.


Beginning in the summer of 1997 that followed her senior year of high school, Lisa developed Toxic Shock Syndrome that was also causing compartment syndrome due to swelling and pressure, where she was life-flighted to Mayo Clinic in Minnesota with a presumed low chance of survival. Through meticulous physician care and church family becoming prayer warriors, Lisa not only survived, but her faith was strengthened.


Taken from the testimony in which she shared with many, she said, While I was in ICU, my parents, Dan and Faye Clark, showed me a couple of verses that remain special to me to this very day.  Psalm 28:7-8 says: “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in Him, and I am helped; therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him.  The Lord is their strength, and He is the saving strength of the anointed.”  It helped me so much to realize that I did not need to depend on my own strength.  God is my strength.  I learned that when mine fails, His takes over.  I could depend upon Him to do what I could not do.  Another verse that brought great comfort to her was Philippians 4:13, which says “I can do all things through him who strengthens me”.  


During the pain-induced three months’ time in the hospital that involved learning to walk again and regaining hand strength, she had decided to change her career plans from business administration to working in the medical field as a nurse – as the nursing staff at Mayo made a huge impression on her.  Upon her return home, she was welcomed by around 200 people when her flight landed at the airport – those who had been praying for her and her family throughout this journey.  Following this story of triumph, Lisa still had physical hardships she needed to overcome – ankle reconstruction, right hand tendon transfer, and a heel cord lengthened twice.  Throughout this time, she was in intense physical therapy that included hydrotherapy.  Through this endurance of faith and physical pain, she went from walking with a walker to only needing leg braces!  After this triumph, Lisa needed to have both knees replaced and, due to chronic bone infections in her foot, decided to have her right leg amputated below the knee in 2015.  After these surgeries, she received a prosthetic leg and continued to use the leg brace for her left leg.  During this time, Lisa had also been diagnosed and suffered from  Lupus, an autoimmune disease.  This physical journey that begun that one summer in ’97, Lisa credits God through it all, “God knew exactly what He was doing the whole time.”

Not only did she continue on to earn her nursing degree at Mennonite College of Nursing at Illinois State University in 2003, but also she met her husband Ben at church upon her return home from Mayo. Their chance to meet, which continued on to marriage in 2000, wouldn’t have been possible if she had went on to attend college at Maranatha in Wisconsin as she had originally planned. On May 30, 2006, they adopted their oldest son, Nick, who was seven days old at the time. They later adopted Eric in June of 2018. Three weeks later, despite doctors telling her she would not be able to get pregnant, she gave birth to Kendall.  Being a mom to the three of these children was a huge reason she felt that she had survived, and Lisa felt so blessed to be a mother to them. Her outlook on life was viewed through the lens of her Savior, where she said she gained more than she lost – as the whole journey drew her family and church together, changed nurses at Mayo, and changed her into the nurse she was.  A life full of a faith that endures.


On August 26, 2021, Lisa suddenly passed away from a brain aneurysm, which was unrelated to her other health conditions. When talking to Ben Mengarelli about Lisa and how was she able to use her suffering to point people to the hope found in Jesus, he said many people remember her for how inspiring she was and how she put others first, even amidst her hardships.  She would send cards and letters to those who needed to be reminded they were loved, to those that had a loved one pass away and continue to send them ‘thinking of you’ cards; she was always trying to encourage others. Additionally, she would give her testimony at different functions, such as youth or women’s groups; she especially had a heart for kids around the high school/college age, as that is the age in which she initially got sick.


Ben, having had a front row seat to what Lisa had went through and what she was thinking, has experienced God’s love and grace through his own journey of suffering. He said, “Even though I knew it wasn’t easy for her, she never gave up and had a heart for people and wanted to use that story for God’s glory.” He was able to see the effects of her faith and story even after she had passed, as people began coming up to him or writing to him providing stories about how she had impacted the lives of so many – this impact was greater than Ben had even imagined. These stories were so encouraging to his kids, so they could see how she touched the lives of so many.  


Having gone through this life journey with Lisa and continuing on with life after her passing, Ben shared what God had been teaching him over the past few years through this overwhelming season in his family’s lives: he had to rely on God through it all or he never could have done it.  “How do people get through this situation without faith? I couldn’t have. My faith could have been either ‘turn from God’ or ‘go to Him and rely on Him more than I ever have’.” There still are moments of sadness and moments of grief but knowing that she’s with Jesus in Heaven brings comfort to him.


As I had the privilege of writing this article on such a faith that endured, I wanted to end with one of the closing statements from Lisa’s testimony:

Never forget that prayer changes things.  God may not answer in the way that we wish, but His love for us surpasses our love for ourselves.  He knows the path of greatest good when we are blind to it.  If we allow Him, He will use our trials to mold us into His image and draw us closer to Him.  One of my favorite verses is Jeremiah 29:11: For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.’”



Last year, we heard from pastor Jon Bricker on the topic of church planting during our Missions Emphasis Month. A year later, I sat down with him both for a refresher on his burden for church planting and an update on what God is doing in the Metamora church plant.


AW: Jon, a year ago you and a few other pastors spoke at CBC on the subject of church planting. For those who are new to our church or as a reminder, tell us: Why church planting?


JB: I guess I would answer that question three ways. First, there needs to be more and better churches. And by that I mean gospel-centered, mission-oriented churches that are faithful to the Scriptures. Particularly in small, rural areas. Second, when a church comes to town, there’s a ripple effect in the other churches in town. A new energy and vitality begins to grow.


AW: How have you seen that ripple effect in Metamora?


JB: We saw the churches combine for a Good Friday service; and the pastors regularly meet for coffee and Bible study and encouragement. Church plants don’t negatively affect other churches, generally, but tend towards a positive influence. God is doing something in that community!


AW: You said you had three reasons, what’s the third?


JB: Thirdly, I would say church planting is a great discipleship tool – maybe the best! Within the planting church, the launch team itself presses into greater leadership roles and it grows that team and their gifts as they serve the church. Then on the sending church’s end, it gives the opportunity for members to step into leadership roles that have been vacated and grows those individuals as well. It’s really a step of faith for both ends of the ministry.


AW: Ok, that’s church planting in general, so let’s narrow it down. Why church planting in Central Illinois?


JB: The short of it is, “I am Central Illinois!” By that I mean that I have lived here and understand the culture. But beyond that, the thing that captured me was getting out a map and looking at a 60-mile radius from Bloomington/Normal and the towns in that range. I then investigated the spiritual presence in those communities. It’s the between. Between Bloomington/Normal and Peoria. Between Peoria and Springfield. Between Springfield and Champaign. What do those communities have?


AW: Tell me about some of the activity that has been going on among pastors in Central Illinois regarding the work of church planting.


JB: A group has been meeting for a while now considering the needs I mentioned. There’s definitely a spirit of, “What’s next?” A lot of time spent in praying. Since that group has gotten together, four churches have been planted. Towns such as Flanagan, Chenoa, Minonk, as well as Metamora have been reached. Honestly, we haven’t done much – other than pray! The common question is, “Does anyone have a guy?” and then we pray that it would lead to something. The group talks about specific towns and such, but it’s all of the Lord.


AW: You mentioned Metamora. That’s where you and your family began a church plant within this last year. What led you to Metamora in particular?


JB:  I knew I couldn’t do it on my own. When considering a place, I was considering partners. I kind of knew I’d know the place by whether I had a team that could form.


In looking into Metamora, there was an individual who had been praying for someone to come to that area to plant. That individual had stepped out of a leadership position in a church in Peoria because they felt they needed to focus on Metamora. When I told him of my interest in planting there, it meant a team was forming. Two of his brothers live in Metamora in fact, multiple generations of their family. This gave us a fuller presence in the area.


Then when I reached out to other pastors in Metamora, far from getting skepticism, the feedback was that more churches were needed. To give you an idea, between Metamora and Germantown Hills there are about 8,000 people, yet only 8 churches.


AW: What progress have you seen over your first year in Metamora?


JB: We moved in June of 2023 and by September had formed a team with about 25 adults and 15 kids. We launched September 24, and since then are averaging around 80 people. We’ve baptized 3 people and saw a partner of the team come to Christ. My neighbor recently came to Christ and he and his wife are joining a community group! Those groups launched just a few weeks back in addition to discipleship groups that have formed and are in motion.


AW: When it comes to the topic of church planting, what exhortation would you give the people of CBC?


JB: Ask God to stir in you an excitement that people in another locale would get to experience what you get to experience on a regular basis. Wanting to see that blessing for other people, somewhere else. Multiply what you’re doing!




If you had entered the church on the evening of February 3, the aromas of six different types of chili would have wafted toward you as you walked toward the small gym. The J.O.Y. (Just Older Youth, previously known as Senior Care) annual chili supper was in full swing. In addition to chili, there were soups, cheeses, relish and veggie trays, beverages, and an array of delectable desserts. After eating, there was a devotional time and a very spirited trivia game. Then everyone helped clean up so the gym would be ready for Sunday activities.


The chili supper is just one of many events held for Calvary seniors throughout the year. The J.O.Y. planning committee meets monthly to organize and schedule events. Judy Peavler chairs this committee. Other members are Dean and Diane Kunz, Dave Peavler, Mary Cruiser, Phyllis Swanson, Faye Clark, Nancy Howard, Jan Miller, and David and Jill Christiansen.


The senior care ministry has been in existence at Calvary Baptist since 2015. It grew from Sunday school classes. Before that, there were formal and informal senior gatherings, including lunches that were held by the pastors for the seniors. However, in 2015 a committee was formed to plan all senior activities. The mission of J.O.Y. is to bring all seniors together for fun, food, fellowship, and learning opportunities. The committee decided to change the group’s name in 2023 to promote more recognition and interest, and to avoid confusion with the high school seniors at Calvary Christian Academy.


The group holds larger social events on the even months and a coffee hour on the odd months, except for July. The coffee hour presents topics of interest not only for Calvary’s seniors, but also to bring in members of the community who would not normally attend a church service. The events for 2024 are:


  • March 12 – Coffee Hour with guest speaker Jane Foster. She will talk about the legal documents we all need to have in place, such as wills, trusts, and powers of attorney.
  • April 12 – Movie Night
  • May 14 – Coffee Hour with speaker Jill Young from Gift of Hope, which raises awareness about the importance of organ donation.
  • June 22 – Senior Picnic
  • August 10 – Ice Cream Social
  • September 10 – Coffee Hour with Tim Abney and Amy Freeze regarding volunteer opportunities at Calvary Christian Academy.
  • October 8 – Trip to Tanner’s Apple Orchard and lunch
  • November 12 – Coffee Hour with Cary Hedrick. He will be talking about our eyes – both physical and spiritual.
  • December 7 – Christmas Potluck


Would you like to be one of thejust older youth”? If you’re age 55 or older, please contact Judy Peavler or any of the other committee members. They would love to put you on the notification list and see you at future events.




You can register for events on our Church Center App anytime or click the title to view online at



Discipleship Conversations
Senior Coffee + Donuts
Good Friday Service
Easter Sunday


Night of Worship
Senior Movie Night
Member Meeting
Women’s Ministry Coffee + Community


05.03 + O4
CCA Musical
Men’s Prayer Breakfast
CCA Spring Concerts
CCA Kindergarten Graduation
CCA High School Graduation
Third Quarter giving (through 02.25.24)
Giving: $859,268.39
Budgeted: $844,182.50
Net Income: +25,085.89