Ray and Sue Diehl moved to Texas to be closer to their daughter’s family. They left most of their extended family in New Jersey, where they’d spent much of their lives.
Little did they know they’d find a church that feels like family when they were introduced to Kingwood Christian Church in 2017.
They learned about the church from Linda and Larry Gentry, who are their daughter Kim’s neighbors.
“There’s a lot to be said about the greeting we got from the people in church,” Ray said. “The first day I stood in the lobby a lot of people came up, shook my hand and talked to me. It was more than just an arbitrary hello. They were really interested in you and what you did. People were friendly, open and welcoming.”
Ray moved to Texas about a year earlier than Sue after accepting a transfer from FedEx, where he worked as a courier and did some data security work. Sue, who worked as a buyer at a distribution center, stayed behind with son, Brian. After their house sold, she moved in with her mom, who needed the help then. She didn’t come to Texas until February 2016, two weeks after her mom died.
The Diehls met while they were both working at the local hospital in high school. Sue was a sophomore and Ray was a senior. Ray actually first met Sue’s mom, who also worked at the hospital.. When she asked him if he was dating anyone, he said no but told her about the cute blonde he’d seen working on 3 West. Turns out that blonde was Mrs. Kopsco’s daughter.
Sue graduated from high school in 1971 and the Diehls were married in 1972. They moved to Texas shortly after because Ray was stationed in Laredo for the Air Force. “When I left here, I had no idea in my wildest dreams I’d ever come back here.”
But Kim’s husband, Dan, accepted a job here about 10 years ago. And the Diehls wanted to be closer to their three grandchildren, Colin, Cody and Emma. Their son, Brian, eventually moved to Texas too.
The Diehls bought a house about a mile from their daughter’s family. And the Gentrys became their first Texas friends.
At Larry’s suggestion, Sue checked out the Table service with her grandkids. But the Traditions service was more similar to what they had been used to at their Protestant Reformed Church in Somerset, N.J.
Soon after the Diehls visited KWCC, pastor Chad Mattingly said he’d like to visit with them. After spending a couple of hours chatting over coffee, they told Chad that Sue was scheduled for a cardiac ablation the next morning.
When they showed up at the hospital early the next morning, Chad was already there waiting for them.
“He waited with me in the waiting room for three hours,” Ray said. “He kept me busy, talking. I was thoroughly impressed with his outreach and concern. I couldn’t believe that he would spend that much time with someone he’d just met.”
Soon, they realized that kind of extravagant welcome was typical of the church and the congregation.
The Diehls got involved quickly. Ray joined the mowing team and a men’s group. They both volunteered with Feed My Lambs. Sue joined the bunco group and the women who lunched together monthly. And for the past three or four years, they’ve served as deacons.
“I thought it was important to meet people and to establish our own friends here since we knew no one our age except Linda and Larry,” Sue said. “We did a lot with Kim and her friends.”
After spending most of their lives near family and longtime friends in New Jersey, Sue had been worried about what they’d do with such a long distance move.
But KWCC erased those worries pretty quickly. “There’s wonderful people here,” Sue said. “So many people that help not only with the church but outside of the church.”
When Ray had a heart attack, church friends were there for the Diehls.
“I’ve never been so welcomed and accepted,” Ray said. “I didn’t think any individual who didn’t grow up with me 2,000 miles away would be that close to me. But they looked after me and were concerned about me.”
Sue remembers being so scared when the doctor came out to talk to her about Ray’s condition that she could barely remember what he had said. But church friend Garry Albin was there to support her and even ended up getting on the phone to explain the situation to the Diehls’ daughter.
That caring is a good example of how KWCC is more than a 59-minute service on Sundays, Ray said. “We got involved here and the way these people treated me was amazing.” The Diehls try to do the same for others when they’re sick or struggling because that’s just typical of how KWCC values community.
“I think a lot of people are impressed with the surroundings and church buildings,” Ray said. “But that’s not really what makes this church. It’s the people. It’s the entire congregation that makes this church worth coming to.”
This is one in a series of occasional profiles, written by Susan Bullard, on members of Kingwood Christian Church. Love 101: Do Your Part.