DON AND MARY CHURCH BROWN
LIVES TRANSFORMED S H A R I N G
JONATHAN ‘LUKE’ AND JILL EVANS TENERY
F A I T H
J O U R N E Y S
RICHARD ‘DICK’ AND JOAN ENGLAND BRINNEHL
F R O M T H E W I L L O F PA T R I C K H E N R Y
“I have now disposed of all my property to my family. There is one more thing I wish I could give them and that is faith in Jesus Christ. If they had that and I had not given them one shilling, they would be rich, and if I had not given them that and I had given them the world, they would be poor indeed.”
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF LIVES TRANSFORMED? The mission of Lives Transformed is to provide opportunities for Christians to share experiences and circumstances that enriched their faith in Jesus Christ with the hope that these stories will encourage others to seek a deeper relationship with Him.
IS THERE A SCRIPTURAL MANDATE FOR SHARING OUR STORIES OF FAITH? The scriptural basis for Lives Transformed is found in Joel 1:3: “Tell your children about it in the years to come, and let your children tell their children. Pass the story down from generation to generation.”
HOW DO WE GO ABOUT LETTING OUR LIGHT SHINE? One way is by intentionally sharing our faith journey. We can give others personal snapshots that highlight the people, places, and events that have influenced us and molded us into the person we are today. Perhaps a gracious, caring Christian was a mentor to you. Maybe you are helping to empower others as they explore their own walk with Christ. As a spokesperson for the Christian faith, we can impact our community, our church, our school, or workplace in a way that has eternal value. In small ways or large, we can tell the story of how our faith in Christ has enriched and guided our life.
IS LIVES TRANSFORMED FOR EVERYONE?
NO ONE ELSE CAN TELL YOUR STORY IN THE COMPELLING WAY THAT YOU CAN TELL IT.
As Christians, we have a story to tell that can profoundly change the lives of our family…our friends…our colleagues…the people next door. Jesus tells us that we are to let our light shine before others that they may see our good work and glorify our Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16).
It is your story. But it is a story that needs to be shared. And that is what we are doing by sharing Lives Transformed. We are gathering faith stories of the Christ Church community and making them available to the congregation now…and to future generations, in response to the call of Jesus.
WOULD YOU LIKE YOUR LEGACY TO EXTEND THE KINGDOM? If you would cherish the opportunity to share your story of how God has faithfully directed you in living the abundant life, please contact us at the ASK Ministry office,
630.321.6770 or 630.654.1882 ext. 301.
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Water Tower—and I had climbed the Water Tower steps to check out the view. When we actually climbed those steps together, I explained to Mary that you can see the Sears Tower, which was new and the tallest building in Chicago at the time, from the Water Tower steps, which had withstood the
Don and Mary Church Brown Mary Church met Don Brown at a party in Countryside. As the evening progressed, several of the party-goers jumped into the pool to play water volleyball. Mary ended up with the volleyball, which was Don’s, and the logical thing for her to do after returning it to Don was to go on a date with him. That was 46 years ago, and the Browns have never regretted that late night water volleyball game! When they met, says Don, “I had already graduated from college with a degree in electrical engineering, and had served two years in the Army. I was 27; Mary was 21. I wasn’t interested in marriage at that time.” Don was, however, interested in skiing. Mary says, “I knew that I had to learn to ski if I was going to keep dating this guy. The first time we skied together was in northern Michigan, and then we started going to Colorado.” Both Mary and Don were Christians before they met, although Don says, “I had a heart for the Lord, but I hadn’t been going to church.” Mary started attending Christ Church with her best friend, Barb, in 1966. She and Trustee Edward Huskisson often rode the same train to work in Chicago. “He became a mentor to me. He listened as I shared about my first engagement, my
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“I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her.” breakup, and dating Don.” Also, Mary recalls that after she and Don starting dating, she “slept in a few Sundays and missed church. Henry VanBaalen, who was the greeter and Board of Trustees member, called and asked if everything was okay as he hadn’t seen me for a while. I told him that I was dating this fellow, and that we would both be there the next Sunday. That’s how Don started coming to Christ Church.” After dating four years, Don was ready to propose marriage. Typical of engineers, he planned everything down to the last detail. “It was Christmas night,” Mary explains. “Don asked me to go with him for a drink at the Hyatt Hotel. I thought that was odd, but I said okay. We sat by the window where we could see the Water Tower. Suddenly, this thing just washed over me – he’s going to walk me over to the Water Tower and propose. Right after that thought, Don said, ‘Let’s walk over to the Water Tower.’” Don continues the story. “I had scoped it out—sitting in the Hyatt looking at the
Chicago fire. It was a mix of old and new, and a significant place for those reasons. I told her that I cared for her, wanted to make a commitment, and I wanted it to be a one-time thing. I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her.” The engagement ring that Don chose was steeped in symbolism as well. “I knew that Mary liked star sapphires. The ring has four prongs representing the four years that we dated; the star sapphire represents Christ at the center of our lives. The base of the stone has a roughness, which reminds us of the strength required in difficult times.” The wedding was set for July 11, 1975. “It was a small wedding at the church with Dr. DeKruyter performing the ceremony,” says Mary. “Our reception was at my parents’ home in Clarendon Hills.” Don remembers that it was a rainy day. “We were doing the candle lighting, and just as we were saying our vows, a ray of light broke through.” Mary continues,
“Everybody in the audience said, ‘It was so cool.’ It just touched us. God has been involved in our lives from the beginning – we’re sure of that, and that ray of light was significant.” Their son Erik was born in 1977, followed by daughter Melissa in 1980. The Browns have five grandchildren. Erik and Erin live in Wilmette with their three children. Each weekday, Don and Mary care for Melissa and Aaron’s two boys. Mary particularly enjoys walking them into Clarendon Hills, photographing birds and animals that they encounter on their walks. Don and Mary say, “Having grandchildren is an amazing blessing and our most important ministry.” In their careers, Don worked as an electrical engineer for eight years with the Hammond Organ Company, and 30 years as a telecommunications product manager with AT&T-Lucent-Bell Labs. After attending Moser Secretarial College, Mary worked as a legal secretary for ten years, after which she was a stay-at-home mom, followed by working as an administrative assistant for 17 years at School District 181.
Dr. DeKruyter presides over the 1975 wedding of Don Brown and Mary Church Brown.
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Their faith grew as they became deeply involved at Christ Church. “I attended Dr. DeKruyter’s class on Basic Christianity. I knew so little about the Bible at that time,” says Mary. “The first class we attended together was Dr. Seely’s class on Proverbs.” “That class,” Don explains, “showed us what it meant to be a Christian. Then we took the Bethel Series, taught by Dr. Seely, and that was two years of intense Bible study.” The Browns taught Sunday School, she working with young children, he with an older class. Together they taught confirmation classes; Don has served as an Elder, is now a Stephen Minister, and a Prayer Minister. Mary says, “We loved Rev. Robrahn’s Family Forum, as well as other classes at church.” Expanding on their church activities, Don recalls, “In looking back, my life changed significantly just because we spent so much time in church together as a family. It became a routine, and it’s just like playing tennis. If you don’t play every week, you’re not going to finish the game or the journey strong. For many years we went to Family Camp with our children; most of our close friends are from the church, and that’s one way we stayed connected.” Currently, they volunteer with the Hospitality Ministry; Mary serves on the Hospitality Committee. The greatest challenge for the Browns began in 2002 when Don received the dreaded news that he had a rare cancer. “He was in the hospital,” Mary recalls, “and we didn’t know if he would live a year.” For Don, his prayer was that, “I would be able to walk my daughter down the aisle, and that I would see my first grandchild.” There was much rejoicing when both of those events occurred. “As I walked Melissa down the aisle at her wedding, I glanced to the right and saw Erik and Erin’s two-week-old baby, Cassidy. What a blessing!” 5 // cc-ob.org
After the reception, Don gave the bride and groom an equilateral triangle that he had made from oak. “I had inscribed Melissa’s name on one corner, Aaron’s on the other, and on the top, Jesus. I said that the bond formed by that symbolic triangle enables an enduring relationship. Marriage doesn’t work without that third element of the triangle.” Three months after Don’s cancer diagnosis, “I was home alone and received in the mail a CD about surrendering from Promise Keepers. As I listened to the words, I said, ‘God, it’s up to you.’ I had felt distant in my spiritual life, and that brought me back.” Don’s favorite Scripture is Matthew 7:7. “What always intrigues me about this verse is its theme, which is that seeking implies a never-ending journey—‘Seek and you will find.’” Mary loves 1 Corinthians 13. When she was a young Christian, “Dr. DeKruyter gave a sermon on that chapter. He asked the congregation to read it every day for two weeks, saying that we would ‘get something new from it every time you read it.’ The last verse, ‘…faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love;’ to me, that’s what it’s all about.” The Browns continue to be active: Don plays tennis; Mary swims and gardens. They’re both active in Clarendon Hills where they have lived for 41 years. Together, they walk, ski, and ride bikes.
MAY WE PRAY FOR YOU?
“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” —1 John 5:14 IF YOU ARE IN NEED OF PRAYER, PLEASE CONTACT
SHERRY LABATE AT 630.321.3936.
Don’s prayer is that their “children and grandchildren will always love the Lord.” Mary’s hope is similar: “We pray that our family sees that we’re a reflection of what a Christian is supposed to be. It’s a daily challenge.” cc-ob.org // 6
when he was jobless in my teen years. My dad remained faithful to the Lord in the storms in his life. His example of faithfulness strengthens me when I face difficulties.”
Jonathan “Luke” and Jill Evans Tenery
Jill continues their story: “After we had been dating for a while, Luke created a scavenger hunt in Wrigleyville. He left cards at various places that were special to our relationship, and I had to figure out the clues in the cards to continue the hunt. The final clue was to meet him at the church. That is where he proposed. He definitely knew my ‘lovelanguage.’ We were married about a year later in my hometown.”
Saturday mornings at the Tenery home: Luke and Jill like to take it slow. Morning coffee is more than a quickly observed ritual. Jill explains, “We snuggle with our coffee as the kids, Ruth and Betsy, watch cartoons. Then we set out the day at our own pace; we go out for lunch as a family.” Luke picks up the storyline. “In the afternoon, we have semi-work time while the kids are playing. Then we have dinner together. The Tenerys like food! And we really do like to be together.” Luke Tenery and Jill Evans met at the church near Wrigley Field that they were both attending. Jill recalls, “We were in the same membership classes learning about our faith, and I was baptized by immersion in Lake Michigan during the summer that we met. As we grew in our faith, we found ourselves involved in similar groups of friends and outings. We started dating, and our relationship just sort of grew.”
Luke continues: “We were both young professionals. I was a transplant from Nashville, having moved to this area around age 26. I am truly grateful to God that I grew up in a Christ-centered home. My parents were very grace-centered. I always knew that they loved me. I have an older brother and a younger sister. We were raised with the expectation that we would be faithful to the Lord.”
Asked about his attraction to Jill, Luke emphasizes, “First of all, she was attractive… seriously. I saw a person who said what she meant, and meant what she said. She had a heart of goodness from the Lord. We were
Jill’s early years, conversely, were not as idyllic. “I grew up as a ‘latch-key’ kid in a home where my parents had a tumultuous marriage. An only child, I was always at church because it provided stability for me.
both looking for a mate, and everything is in God’s good timing. Jill and I value a lot of the same things. God was working in Jill’s life and in mine. We both desire to serve the Lord through the church. Church and community matter to us.”
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The Tenerys visit Disney World.
My mom was a good role model, and she liked to serve at the church in Rockford, Illinois, where I grew up. I was the kid who was always around. I stuffed bulletins for the coming weekend, helped in the nursery. The church was a safety zone for me,” says Jill. Luke graduated from Lipscomb University with a degree in Information Systems Management. Reflecting, Luke recognizes that his “band of brothers from college were blessings from God.” Jill graduated from Bradley University, having majored in Elementary Education. While teaching in Berwyn, she earned a master’s degree in Administration. After moving to Chicago, both found a core group of friends in their Wrigleyville church. Throughout Luke’s life-during college and after—he has seen that the Body of Christ is a family of believers. “The Christian community helped my father
The couple continued to live in the city, “for about a year and I continued teaching in Berwyn,” Jill confirms. “Later, I was working as an assistant principal in Melrose Park. It was a long drive, and we contacted a realtor who showed us a house in Elmhurst. Then, we found that a ‘bundle of joy’ was on the way, so we bought the house.” That was in 2010. “We tried several area churches,” Jill says, “but were led to Christ Church. It is different from our Chicago church where most people were in one social demographic. Christ Church is an inter-generational congregation; there is a huge amount of diversity, which makes it a true community of believers. We could mentor, and could also be mentored. This is important to us.” Luke, who is involved in Men’s Fraternity, shares his viewpoint: “Christ Church just felt like home, like an extended family. Mark Davies and others have been a blessing to me. My parents were blessed through inter-generational relationships, and I learned that there is a wealth of wisdom in the elders and young ministers, too. The sermons are biblically-centered, and cc-ob.org // 8
the worship feeds our souls. Also, we see the Holy Spirit being active in the church. The outreach component of the church is important, and we see that the giving of resources weekly is a key commitment of the congregation. We especially agree with the ‘missional mission’ of the church to give to the local community, and to global outreaches. This convinced us that this is a safe place to plug our resources into weekly.” Jill teaches Sunday School, volunteers in the Hospitality ministry, and has been part of the MOPS [Mothers of Preschoolers] ministry for six years. “I found a group of women who I could identify with and it made a large church community much smaller. I was given an opportunity to join the MOPS leadership team and this will be my third and final year as Coordinator. I am thankful women in our church had faith in my ability to connect and lead others.”In a busy family, cooperation is a key element. “I am only able to volunteer on Sundays because Luke, unselfishly, takes charge of our children.” Luke works for a consulting group as a Senior Managing Director in Cybersecurity Investigations and Incident Response. In his frequent travels, there are challenges he faces when away from home. “I was thrown into a travel routine as a young adult, but I was in accountability groups with other men at church. I was fortunate to learn from the mistakes of other guys. I hear stories of men who have fallen into temptation. I’m doing my best to establish a work-life balance and place my family first.” At Christ Church in 2016, the Tenerys learned about a program to mentor children from broken homes called Safe Families. Jill describes their involvement. “We responded to a request for couples to take 9 // cc-ob.org
one of 19 children who needed a safe family for the summer months. As we drove to Atlanta for a family vacation that summer, we completed the audio training and had heartfelt, serious conversations. There were many things to consider—some were financial, some were family dynamics. Could I do this when Luke was traveling? We both knew that it had to be a 100% buy-in by each of us. God had been planting seeds in our minds; at our former church, we saw people being involved in programs like this. Now, God was nudging us to step up to the plate. “The experience was difficult at first, but we knew the Lord was with us. We felt blessed by the new child, Rachel. It was an emotional roller coaster,” Jill says with certainty. “I experienced serious physical anxiety. The doctor pinpointed my condition, and we felt totally supported by the Christ Church prayer teams. Several were praying for me, and my anxiety just left me. Praise God. What a joy to have twoyear-old Rachel with us. Ruth, who was age 5, was very loving and nurturing. Betsy, at age two, had to learn how to ‘share mommy’ with Rachel. We learned a lot about ourselves. The Safe Family experience was life-changing.” As for faithfully parenting their own children, Jill prays that “our kids will be service minded, and that they will know how to love the Lord by being faithful. Luke adds, “We always wanted kids, and we want to wrap them in love. They are such a great gift to us.” At this writing, the Tenerys expect another “gift” to arrive soon. “We want to grow spiritually with them,” says Luke. “We want to raise our kids with other families in the faith. We believe that a life well lived is the best way to do that.”
Richard ‘Dick’ and Joan England Brinnehl Harmony: Can be described as a pleasing combination of musical sounds; in tune; accord—the Brinnehls. Dick and Joan have been living in harmony, literally and figuratively, for 58 years. They continue their long tradition of making music by singing in the Oak Lawn Village Singers directed by their daughter, Virginia Ebner. Joan England was born in Chicago in 1932, into a Polish/Bohemian Roman Catholic family. Her parents built the family home in 1928 in the “country” town of Oak Lawn. Joan says, “My two brothers and I grew up in the home our parents created as the center of the family. Grandmother and sometimes other relatives lived with us. The whole family was active in our parish.” As a seventh grader, Joan became the organist at St. Gerald’s church. She was also accompanist for the children’s choir and played the music at weddings and funerals. “While attending high school at St. Casimir Academy in Marquette Park,” Joan continues, “I participated in athletics and played viola in the orchestra. And I directed a high school and adult choir at St. Gerald’s Church.” Concurrently, Joan worked parttime at the High-Low Food Store in Beverly. “Following my high school graduation, I attended Gregg Business College in Chicago. After completing the Executive Secretarial Course, I worked in that capacity for U.S. Steel Corporation’s sales office on LaSalle
Street until our daughter was born. When our children were in middle school, I was secretary for the church we were attending, holding that position for 10 years.” From her earliest memories, Joan’s main interest has been music. She sang in choral groups, one of which would be the catalyst that changed her life. The Chicago Oratorio Society was directed by Dr. Robert McGuire, a cousin of Richard Brinnehl. Dick was born in 1934 in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago where his family lived. He was the oldest of four children. By age five, his aunt was taking Dick to Sunday School. Dick says, “My formative years were spent at the Brethren in Christ Mission Church where I was involved in boys clubs and Sunday School classes.” Dick was nine when the family experienced a cc-ob.org // 10
tragedy. “A speeding car jumped the curb and struck my sister, Joan, while we were playing on the sidewalk, pinning her against a building. The last thing I remember, I was holding her hand. She died in the hospital a few hours later.” Consequently, Dick’s mother suffered a nervous breakdown; the children were cared for by their aunt and grandmother. Also, his parents divorced that same year. “My pastor became the father-figure in my life, and the church became my family,” Dick relates. “When my mother recovered, she moved the family into public housing in the South Deering neighborhood, where I attended Orville T. Bright Grammar School.” At Bowen High School Dick sang in a mixed chorus and was a member of the 5th Army R.O.T.C. program. Highlights include participating in the precision drill team and parades in downtown Chicago, graduating with the rank of Captain. To help with family expenses, he worked at the High-Low Food Store on Chicago’s East side. “As a teenager,” says Dick, “I attended Chicagoland Youth for Christ meetings at Moody Church on Saturday nights. “One night while listening to a message on hell, I became convicted of my sins. I spoke to a counselor and the next morning following the service, I knelt and prayed with my pastor. I gave my heart to the Lord at that time. That was March 17, 1952, and I was baptized by immersion as was the custom of the Brethren in Christ Church.” Dick taught a class for teenage boys, and served in worship services as pastoral assistant. “These responsibilities helped me stay on track. I enrolled in evening classes at Moody Bible Institute, which helped in my Christian development; my favorite Bible verse is Psalm 27:1.” Dick enrolled in community college, but after 11 // cc-ob.org
one semester felt he should get a full-time job to help support the family. He found work with the Research and Development Department of U.S. Steel at South Works situated on the shore of Lake Michigan. Dick recalls that, “This was an interesting, but hot-in-summer-coldin-winter job because the building was a large metal, uninsulated steel structure.” At a wedding reception in 1954, Dick’s cousin introduced him to Joan, thus beginning the rhythm of their lives together. “I did not know the Lord as my personal Savior, and didn’t have the assurance of salvation,” Joan confirms. Dick witnessed to her, using Scripture verses to answer her questions. “Dick had patience and perseverance. On January 11, 1957, while alone reading the account of the crucifixion, I realized that Christ died for MY sins, not only ‘for the sins of the whole world.’ He paid it all, and there was absolutely nothing I could do to earn salvation because it was a free gift. I then knew his blessed assurance.” Shortly thereafter, Joan was baptized as an adult believer. Her favorite Scripture passage is Proverbs 3:5-6. While Dick and Joan were dating, they agreed to wait two more years to get married; she wanted her family to know that she was “not changing my faith for Dick. My conversion experience was real.” They were married on February 14, 1959. Because she was not being married in the Catholic Church, her father did not walk her down the aisle. Her grandmother left town, and one of her brothers did not attend the ceremony. “That hurt,” Joan states, “yet I was certain that Christ was leading me along this path.” Over time, Joan’s parents accepted their marriage, and loved Dick as their own son. Dick and Joan were involved in their care until both parents passed away in 1997.
and dependence on God for His provisions, including our missionary commitments and church tithing.” Supporting missionaries was also a family affair. Joan elaborates: “We enjoyed having missionaries in our home. It was fun for our family, and educational for our children to hear of their experiences. We are personal friends with most of the missionaries we support.”
February 14, 1959
From the beginning of their marriage, Dick was head of the household, but in tune with Joan on everything. “We have never had a disagreement regarding finances. They were always discussed, and we went with the best solution.” After eight years at U.S. Steel, the department moved back to Pennsylvania. Dick chose to leave the company. By this time, their daughter, Virginia, born in August 1960, was now 11 months old; Dan was born in July 1961; Kathleen would arrive in June 1962. After six months of unemployment, the family was down to their last $50. A friend from church told Dick of a position at International Harvester Agricultural Research and Development facility in Hinsdale, which became Dick’s workplace for 31-1/2 years. God had answered prayer. Into his 20th year with IH, however, Dick was laid off, this lapse lasting for two years. “With God’s help, we paid our bills,” Dick explains. “After much prayer, I was called back to IH to fill a lesser job, eventually working my way back to my previous position. This was a growing experience for our family in patience
Over 67 years, Dick and Joan have served in many aspects of ministry at four churches including 14 years as treasurers. Together they were youth leaders for 27 years. In unison they say that “working with middle and high school teens is enough excitement for anyone!” Due to a financial downturn at IH, Dick was asked to take early retirement in 1992 at the age of 57. Since then he has been doing handyman work for many widowed and retired women in their community. Joan serves as treasurer for a women’s group and writes a monthly article for their community newsletter. Music has always struck a chord in their hearts. They believe that, “Music is a gift from God, and offering that music back to Him is in itself worship. Classical music has always played a big part in our family’s life.” Accordingly, it was a search for classic worship services that brought the Brinnehls to Christ Church in the year 2000, where they found caring people who became their church family. They remember being warmly welcomed by Don and Mary Brown. Dick recalls, “We were burned out and had ‘taken our oars out of the water.’ The classic worship services were inspiring. The quality and clarity of the preaching and teaching fed us spiritually and reinvigorated us. We became involved and are again on the rowing team.”
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READ MORE THAN 30 STORIES OF LIFE-CHANGE ONLINE!
Did you know that there have been nine editions of Lives Transformed, featuring over 30 stories of God’s grace washing over His people? READ NOW AT CC-OB.ORG/LIVESTRANSFORMED.
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There is a pattern that runs through the stories you just read. The lives of these people were transformed by the love of Christ. By sharing their faith journey stories, they hope to impact the lives of others. Would you like your life to be transformed? In Romans 12:2, we are told: Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Let your life be transformed. Have faith, be joyful, worship and trust in God.
God can transform the life of someone who chooses to: Believe | Worship | Trust
We’d like to thank the team that created this booklet!
FAITH is the confidence that what we hope for
And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. —2 Corinthians 3:18
• Jeanne Adams • Ann Bradley
will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. —Hebrews 11:1
• MaryBeth Clark
WORSHIP the LORD with gladness; come
• Kelly Frantz
before him with joyful songs. —Psalm 100:2
• Jan Huskisson
TRUST in the LORD with all your heart and
• Eileen Johnson
lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. —Proverbs 3:5-6
• Steve Johnson
• Tom Colao
• Carol Olsen
May God bless your efforts by helping others see that lives are transformed through the love of Jesus Christ! —Rev. Rick Glyman, Pastoral Advisor cc-ob.org // 14
Christ Church of Oak Brook 501 Oak Brook Rd, Oak Brook, Il 60523 630.654.1882 Â· www.cc-ob.org