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Staff Stories: Shannon Lewis

By Isaac Harris
In IBC Stories
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All it took was a simple invite.

Shannon Lewis lived in a foster home until the age of 15. After her grandparents reached an age where they could no longer be her legal guardians, Shannon entered the foster care system at a young age. For many, the foster care system is a source of comfort and structure. For Shannon, it was a source of trauma and abuse.

“It was a very abusive home,” Shannon said as she looked back on those memories of her teenage years. “I remember just kind of feeling like there was something on the other side. It wouldn’t be like this forever.”

She looked for every opportunity to stay away from home. If she could stay late at school, she would. An extended curfew with friends? Sign her up. Friendships helped carry her through this chapter of life, but as far as the good memories go, “trauma usually snaps a bunch of those,” Shannon said.

And then the invite came. There was a neighbor down the street who asked a 15-year-old Shannon if she would like to come to church with her—a church called Irving Bible Church on Finley Road. Attending church eventually developed into getting involved in the youth ministry and she loved it. It was a place for Shannon to blend in and not just be “the foster kid.”

Even though she found a refuge in her youth group, things at home weren’t getting better. “We were doing true love waits and I feel like it didn’t apply to me because of things I was experiencing in my household,” Shannon shared.

A year or so would go by and Shannon would make all kinds of new friends and connections at church. But one new connection would change her life forever: Johnny and Linda Robinson.

“It was a family from IBC that said, ‘hey, why don’t you come live with us and get into counseling?” Shannon said. “They [the Robinsons] took me under their wing. They gave me affirmation. They told me I was safe and that God loved me no matter what.”

After a long, emotional process, Shannon moved in with the Robinsons. “They started doing parental things I had never experienced,” Shannon said. “They invested in me and encouraged counseling. They became my family.”

Fast forward to 2021 and Shannon has been on staff at Irving Bible Church for seven years and has been a regular attendee for over 18 years. If you have ever walked into the building on a weekday, there is a good chance you have been greeted by the extroverted, bubbly Shannon that makes everyone feel welcomed.

“I man that circle desk and it is really fun,” Shannon said. “I get to laugh and wave to people all day. It is the easiest job for my extrovert self.”

She knows the delivery drivers by name and when a family walks in to play at the indoor play area, she is the first person connecting with the mom and welcoming them to the church. In fact, Shannon has saved a text message on her phone that reminds her of the ministry she is doing here at IBC.

It was from a mom who had just moved here from another state and didn’t know anyone yet. She had brought her kids up to the church during the week to play and was greeted by Shannon who sat and spent some time with her. Shannon would eventually exchange numbers with her and had her family over for dinner a short time later. The family would eventually call IBC their church home and sometime later the mom shot Shannon a text saying that “I would have never started to coming to IBC if you didn’t come over and wave me down and introduce yourself.”

Shannon has that special ability to connect with anyone. And when it comes to kids, she is the ultimate momma bear. But to put it bluntly, kids weren’t always her cup of tea. “I went from a teenager who hated children, like I didn’t sit next to children in a restaurant, to falling in love with a guy and wanting to have all his babies,” she said with a laugh.

Not only that, but Shannon has given birth to four children. Her and her husband have two kids of their own while also having given birth to two children through surrogacy. "The inability to conceive is far more familiar than we realize, and it was an honor to be a gestational surrogate for our friends,” Shannon said. “My family had a part in completing their family. And now, there are two more beautiful little girls in this world! Getting to witness such miracles has been a great blessing to my family.”

So what keeps Shannon and her family driving from Grand Prairie and calling IBC their church home?

“The excitement for where we are going,” Shannon said. “When the deaths of Trayvon Martin and George Floyd happened, it was hard driving past black churches to come here,” Shannon said. “But the thing that kept us coming was the awareness and the promise to do better. We now have a vision, and these are the things we are going after. This is where we have been, and this is where we are headed. That is a very exciting cause to be part of.”

As a black woman, Shannon has loved seeing IBC become more diverse, but hearing that gospel-centered, multi-ethnic vision preached from the stage by a white man has meant the world to her. “You want it from the stage,” Shannon said when talking about Pastor Barry’s willingness to address racial injustice from the stage. “You want a white man to understand what it means to be black or brown in this country. You need to feel understood and included when being taught about how much God loves us. When it has been a hard week, Barry walks in with the same heavy lamenting heart as people of color do on a Sunday morning. That is the Gospel, folks. And that is why we are here.”

Telling it like it is, in typical Shannon fashion, she is one of the most authentic people at IBC. Her years of experience both on staff and as an IBCer provide an invaluable perspective to the staff and the church. But more importantly, her shining light of a personality has made IBC feel like home for so many people over the years.

And it all started with a simple invite over 20 years ago.

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