Day 26: Testimony

31 STORIES OF FAITH ADVENTURES

DAY 26:  TESTIMONY

I didn’t grow up in church.  When I was in 7th grade, my family moved to the town of Burleson, TX.  We had lived there before, from 2 years old to 1st grade before moving around a lot.  In many ways it felt like finally moving back home.  My parents bought a house around the corner from an elementary school.  There were so many children on our street, and we made friends with all of them.  

Maybe my mom felt like she had settled back into home too.  Finding a church was heavy on her heart.  Maybe she saw how her oldest was growing up.  My son is in 7th grade this year, and I am starting to see him begin the process of bridging that gap between child and adult.

My mom had became a Christian as a little girl, and she had gone to church with her mom growing up.  As a teen, she had lost her mom and moved in with extended family.  Church was not a part of her life anymore.  She met my dad.  My dad was a good guy, but he did not know the Lord at all.  In fact, his family had been involved with the Jehovah’s Witness at different points in his life.  That interaction had left him both confused and disillusioned with church and pastors.

My mother prayed.  She asked God to help her find a church.  A letter came in the mail the next week inviting our family as newcomers to the neighborhood to attend a church just four blocks from our house.

One Saturday night my mom came in my room and told me we were going to go to church in the morning so I needed to pick out something to wear.

It was such a odd thing to happen.  I had never had this experience.  I didn’t know what to think or what to expect.  Part of me was very excited.  I had gone to lots of Vacation Bible Schools and even a church camp with friends.  I knew the basics of the gospel.  I had prayed several times to accept the gift of Jesus, but I had went home to a secular home.  

We were the typical non-Christian, American home.  My parents had their vices and our influences were not censored.  My dad drank beer almost every day and dipped chewing tobacco.  My mom smoked cigarettes.  We watched whatever the television piped in including scary movies and Richard Pryor comedy specials.  My parents said bad words when they got mad or stubbed their toe.  We lived for payday and shopping trips to beg for stickers or Chiclets gum.  We had fun at weekend lake trips to water ski, riding my bike with neighborhood friends, and gathering quarters to take to the corner store.  We dined on sandwiches and Manwich and spaghetti noodles with Ragu and popsicles and pop tarts.  We listened to the radio and records and cassette tapes and music videos.  My dad worked, coming home from his job everyday with a whistle or a 60s song and a beer can in a paper bag.  My mom stayed home, cleaned, did laundry, cleaned, and smoked.  She was the last of housewives.

The thought of church was also a bit scary.  What would it be like?

I had an experience at my friend’s church once, and it had made me a little afraid of church.  In 6th grade our neighbor’s granddaughter had invited me to her church.  It was a Wednesday night service with pews, hymnals, and a sermon.  I was trying to find the pattern of the sitting and standing, and I thought I had it figured out.  As we started the next song, I was concentrating hard on that hymnal, drawing from all my knowledge from elementary music class and my new band assignment of flute.  About ten words in I figured out that I was the only one standing.  The kids on my row began to giggle.  I plopped down into the seat as my face turned beet red.  

Church had culture and customs that had to be learned.  It was like the many times I had been the new girl in class, except that instead of just a teacher watching, I had the God of the universe now taking note of my behavior.  I remember that Wednesday night sermon.  The pastor told us how we were like grasshoppers, only a drop in the bucket.

The last thing a sixth grader needs to be told is that they are insignificant.  Believe me, they know.

What was church on a Sunday morning going to be like?  What if there were kids from my school?  Would I be able to know when to stand and when to sit?

Church slowly became a regular part of my life.  After a few months, my mom went forward and joined the church.  I became a part of the youth group.  It was a very small church, so that only meant one in about 8 kids.  We had this amazingly sweet youth minister named Steve Murray.  He was soft spoken, tenderhearted, and funny.  He came by our house several time to visit with me about my salvation.  

I remember many times when someone from the church would come by to visit and my dad would be out in the drive way working on something (working has always been his favorite hobby).  He would have a beer in his hand, and I would be very embarrassed.

I actually respect my dad more that he wouldn’t hide his beer or act any differently toward the pastor or youth minister or church friends than he would his family or our neighbors.  I admire his honesty in his integrity to who he was as a human being.

Steve and I would discuss whether or not I knew the Lord, and that simple question was confusing to me.  I had prayed at about 5 different summer vacation Bible schools and a church camp.  I was bogged down in the “am I, aren’t I.”

There was a young man in my town named Garrett Roper.  He had begun to go to the flag pole of his high school to pray for his friends.  He knew many of his friends were not Christians.

My future father-in-law (who I didn’t know at the time) had set down to talk to Garrett and heard how he was praying.  Later that week he was in a denominational meeting and mentioned the young man’s commitment to praying for his friends.  See You At The Pole was born.

Our church joined in on the new movement and a bunch of kids met by our flag pole to pray one morning in September.  That evening a group of churches had a “See you at the pole” youth rally in an old building.  About three kids from our church attended, including me.  There was music, videos, and skits.

When the alter call began, I knew I wanted to pray.  I just didn’t care about what those childhood prayers had meant.  All I knew was that I wanted to follow Jesus from that point on.  When the alter call began, I couldn’t stand up fast enough.  I didn’t even care that the room was full of kids from my jr. high and the local high school.  I prayed that night, and my life was not the same.  I was a new creation.

It is funny to me now because I know my future husband was setting in that crowd of kids.  We wouldn’t meet for another 4 years.

I remember getting back to my church to have my mom pick me up.  When I told my mom that I had prayed to ask Jesus to be my savior, she cried on the sidewalk in front of the church and hugged me.

That week I met with the pastor about being baptized.

My dad was mad.  Even though I was almost 13, he didn’t think I was old enough to make the decision to be saved and baptized.  He was convinced that the pastor only wanted our money and that the church was just there to scam us, tickle our ears and pass offering plates.

He refused to come to church that Sunday.

After I was baptized, the church paired me up with a woman who went through a study called The Survival Kit.  It taught the basics of Christianity.  The woman I was paired with had just lost her son a few years earlier.  Her son was killed while riding bikes.

I was so impressed by her faith that had been tested.  She had grown to love the Lord through her suffering, and she was volunteering her time to teach me, a new believer, about Christ because of it.

Looking back at my testimony, and I’m thankful.

I’m thankful for answered prayers, for my mom pursuing Jesus, for adults who took time to talk to me and disciple me, for the leading of His spirit, and most of all, I’m thankful to Christ for loving me enough to die for my sins.

For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
— Romans 10:13 ESV

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