THESE DOGS LEAD TO HEAVEN
Let me introduce you to two members of our church, Jeffrey and Katelyn Hoglund, with a history and a testimony unlike any other.
Jeffrey and Katelyn are recovering drug users. Each of them has been clean for almost 6 years. But some would use the word ugly to describe many of their years in their past. Jeffrey and Katelyn would probably agree. They’re very open about the seamy life they’ve left behind. They’ve even put it in print. But before you read the details, let me tell you more.
The Hoglunds today are committed Christians. After repeated invitations from Jeffrey’s cousins, Megan and Mike Seta, they visited our church a little more than a year ago and signed up for Rooted the first Sunday they attended. Rooted introduced them to Christ in a way they’d never considered him before. Both were baptized at the celebration that capped the 10-week Rooted experience.
Here’s where it gets really interesting. The Hoglunds have five dogs, five big dogs who are the subject of a website and Facebook and YouTube pages that have made them social media stars. Katelyn posts hilarious videos of the dogs interacting with her and Jeff: dogs in birthday hats perched on chairs around the dining room table, dogs in bunny ears scarfing an Easter treat. Katelyn has 330,000 followers and says these videos are typically viewed by millions.
But it doesn’t stop there. In fact the dogs are only the beginning. Katelyn has started recording “Coffee with Katelyn” vlogs where she shares reflections and discoveries about her life in recovery. And her growing faith and her community with Christians through our church are natural parts of that conversation.
Katelyn began the social media activity before she became a Christian, and she admits it was a big step later to inject faith into her posts. Jeffrey pushed her to move forward. “I want our faith to be a huge part of what we’re sharing,” he said.
“For the longest time I thought my job was to make money and live the life I wanted,” Katelyn admits, but then quickly adds, “Now I believe our mission is to share hope.” When she begins to talk about serious things online, she often mentions her faith and says, “This is why our life has fulfillment.”
Katelyn is especially open on her personal Facebook page, which has about 4,000 followers. Sometimes readers who want to know more about her recovery will ask, “How do you live the life you’re living?” And then she shares specific steps she’s taking that include her relationship to Christ, the Bible, and our church.
After one post, a reader commented, “You lost me when you started talking about Jesus.”
But another (an atheist!) replied, “She says this in a way that she’s not shoving it down my throat.”
“That comment gave me the positive reinforcement I needed to keep on doing this,” Katelyn says.
On her personal page, she always posts a link to our church’s live feed of the Sunday-morning worship services. And we’re getting dozens of views because of that. One of them, a viewer from Seattle, Washington, named Brittany, wrote me not long ago. Here’s part of her note:
“I wanted to take a moment and thank you for all you do. I have had a hard time finding a church where I would feel spiritually led and connected. Katelyn Hoglund posted awhile back about Christ’s Church, and I have been an avid Sunday service streamer ever since. Your sermons, among other things, have changed my life and relationship with God for the better in the past few months.
… In the last couple of years I’ve been in and out of hospitals, in countless emergency rooms, and dealing with chemo, infusions, and more after being diagnosed with 12 different diseases. I went down a path of being angry at God and resenting my life. Your sermons and hope have gotten me through. I believe my relationship with God is where it is now—in a much healthier place—because of Christ’s Church.
Thank you for providing a safe place.”
Katelyn says she’s found a safe place at Christ’s Church too. “We’re getting close to several couple in the church,” she says. “We had been looking for community we never found in our 12-step fellowship. Finally finding it here has allowed for personal growth and real, meaningful relationships. These people don’t pretend to be perfect. They’re not judgmental. I’ve found a lot of surprise in friendships with Christians who are not at all what I would have expected before coming here. I want everyone to share what we’ve found, peace and community. We feel like we’re home.”
Katelyn and Jeffrey are launching a nonprofit foundation to help financially stressed families pay for unexpected vet bills. Their long-term goal is to start a halfway house where recovering addicts out of treatment can train and nurture rescue dogs that will live with them at the house until they’re adopted. The foundation just launched, and I’m guessing this is only the beginning of ways the Hoglunds will extend their transformation to the redemption of others.
For some people, Katelyn’s online presence is their first exposure to Jesus. The Hoglunds are using their personal platform for him. They’re intensely honest about their struggles and how Jesus helps them through them. They’re an example for all of us Christians, even those—especially those—who have been in the church for years. So, when we say around here at Christ’s Church that we long for this to be a place of authenticity, because Jesus is found in the authentic place…this is what we mean.