I learned firsthand that God loves everyone

I would like to give my testimony. In California, I grew up
in the World Wide Church of God. From first glance, it looks like a
normal sounding church. That could not be more contrary to the truth.
Ironic is the best way to describe the title. The Pastor of the church
believed himself to be a prophet of God. Receiving his revelation
early in his life as an advertising agent, he knew how to spread his
ďword.Ē My Mom and Dad had never known anything different so they taught me
what they thought was right. They taught me a distorted Christianity.
A Christianity that said God sat up in heaven keeping a tally of the
good and bad things we did. It wasnít that we had to go to church on
Saturdays, or that we had to keep Jewish holy days that affected my view
of God. Not being able to eat unclean foods didnít affect my view of
myself. It was the fact that I just completely missed hearing the
gospel. No one told me about the Jesus Christ who loved me so much that he
gave up his freedom so that I could have freedom. A life filled with
good works and doing things to please God is what I had. Along with my
forming theology, there were also people in my life that drastically
affected my self-esteem and my view of God.

One person in particular was my elementary school counselor Mr.
Perkin. Taking special interest in me, I was asked to come to his office
everyday after school to help him clean his office. He made me do a lot
more than just clean his office and they were things that a second
grader should never have to experience. My childhood and innocence had been
stolen away from me from a man that was supposed to be a guide. Taken
along with my innocence was my self-esteem, self-worth and my ability
to relate to men. I began to trust people and God less and less. I
questioned everyoneís motives and decided that I shouldnít have to give
anyone anything. I was all I had. Immersing myself into books, writing
and playing the piano, I shut the world out as much as I could.

Despite everything, I can look back now and see God through every
step. I can see God leaving his footprints. I had two of the greatest set
of parents I could ever ask for. My mom taught me to treat people
different from me the same as everyone else. She showed me an
unconditional kindness toward everyone she met. The life she lived before me did
not go unnoticed. My dadís life also didnít go unnoticed. He gave to
anyone that needed it. Even before his business became successful, he
was giving whatever he had. It gave me the small piece of hope that
there was more to life than my own suffering. My Mom and Dad were the
only thing that kept me alive.

I was deeply shaken when I turned 12 because the pastor of our church
was starting to realize that the churchís doctrine had been seriously
wrong. We had just moved across the country to Indianapolis so I was
already trying to adjust to a new house, new town and new school. Now I
was dealing with the knowledge that for the past 12 years everything
taught to me about church was wrong. It was a hard reality to come to.
Blaming my parents didnít sound right, so I blamed God. I blamed him
for letting me go through what I did, and I blamed him for allowing my
family and me to be deceived for so long. After I yelled and screamed
at God and I didnít feel like I was getting an answer, I decided that
God didnít exist at all.

I had met my friend Meghann right when things we starting to get
tense. She was my very first real friend. She was the only person in my
new school that gave me the time of day. Because of the status you had
in my life, I listened and believed everything she said to me. She made
fun of me. She made fun of the way I dressed, the music I listened to,
my clumsiness, and everything else that made me, me. She always tells
me that she was joking, but she never let up and gave me a compliment.
She never once complimented me. So, I believed her. She made me feel
like I was a person who didnít deserve to have anything. I didnít
deserve peopleís praise or love because thatís what she made me believe. So
I started hanging out with people that gave me acceptance. People that
didnít question why I am the way I am. So I started doing the things
that they were doing. I started drinking with them, and smoking pot
with them.

At that point, God was just a name in a book that sat on my momís
bookcase. My parents had stopped going to church and I didnít believe in
God anyway. After all, I religion had already burned me once. So
depression set in deeper and deeper, the worse I felt the more I drank. I
was only 14 and I was sneaking out of the house to go drunk with my
friends. But God was working.

Looking back, I can see that God was using certain situations to bring
me to Him. At the beginning of my first year of high school, my older
brother Nathan started going to the Christian church down the road. He
would come home every Sunday afternoon excited about what he was
hearing. My parents were starting to like what they were hearing too, so
they started going with him. I donít think Iíve ever seen anything else
like it. My entire family changed almost over night, but I was still
too deep in depression to take to heart anything. At least until one
day when God revealed himself through a man I had never met before or
seen since.

I had just gotten off the school bus so my mom wasnít home yet. At
that point of my life, I was so depressed that I was willing to do just
about anything to make the pain go away. Willing enough that ending my
life was the only way I could see out. We lived off a busy street, so
I left a small note and went out to the road. I waited until I could
see a car off in the distance and when I saw one, I stood in the middle
of the road waiting for it to come. The man driving towards me barely
saw me before it was too late, so he served out of the way right into a
tree. The man knew what I was doing and immediately jumped out of his
car unharmed and came over to me. He looked at me as if I was his own
child and said, ďI donít know your story, but I know that you deserve
to be loved by someone.Ē He pulled out a book and handed it to me. ďIf
you donít think anyone loves you, you are dead wrong because someone
does more than anyone in the world ever will.Ē He pointed at the book,
got in his damaged car and drove away. God revealed himself to me that
day. He showed me his unconditional love and he showed me that I wasnít
alone. It was then that I began to read his word, and trust Him.

I started going to church with my parent the Sunday after that
happened. My parents in the meantime had been very patient with their
rebellious daughter. They could however see that I was really starting to
understand the truth about Jesus but knew I couldnít make the change on my
own. They were smart enough to see that the public school I was in was
not doing good things for me. I realized then that my parents are the
smartest people in the world. I was getting horrible grades and
hanging out with the wrong crowd. I didnít know it at the time but my
parents were conspiring against me a plan for my next school year (sophomore
year). In the meantime, I finally decided that I was ready to give my
life to Christ. On April the 3rd 1997, my mom and I were baptized
together. I knew then that I was going to be in for the ride of my life.
A few weeks later my parents announced that I was going to be
transferred to a Christian high school and I was going to spend the entire
summer in Africa on a missionís trip. I was not excited about the news. I
was still having severe trust issues with God and with my relationships
so I didnít think I was ready to embark on such a ďspiritualĒ trip. My
view of God was still not quite right. Following Christ wholeheartedly
was something I wanted to do more than anything but I just wasnít sure
how to do it. I still saw God as someone who wanted me to do certain
things in order for me to gain salvation. Perfection was something I
knew I couldnít achieve. My only previous exposure to the church was the
legalistic one I grew up knowing.

Struggling with my faith, I packed up and spent 3 months in South
Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. The summer changed my life forever. I
had to sleep on the ground, eat nasty food and walk a half mile to a
dirty pond just for a bucket of water so I could take a bath. All of those
luxuries werenít the reason I changed. I spent the entire summer with
31 Christians who were my own age. They were people that accepted and
loved me because I am a child of God and their sister in Christ. God
revealed himself through those people. I saw Godís unconditional love
lived out through my very eyes. I was also starting to understand what
grace really is. I saw the way the Africans lived and how they were
extremely happy and content, yet hardly had anything. God used what my
mom had taught me about treating everyone the same because it gave me an
unexplainable intense love and burden for those people. I knew that
God loves them just as much as he loves me. God was showing me his
grace, mercy, compassion and his use of bad situations for a greater
My testimony on that trip helped many of the girls on my team.
Growing up the way I did helped me to relate to some of them. I was able to
show them how God was changing me and showing me his nature. I
remember reading Philippians chapter 2 and having a deep desire to follow what
it said. I was praying for God to help me have a servant attitude so
that I could influence other people. Serving other people and sharing
Christ was starting to become a deep conviction of mine. Sitting under
a tree one morning during devotions, God came to me in a little boy
that was washing his clothes on a rock. The little boy came over and
smiled at me and God told me that I was going to serve people like that the
rest of my life.

I came home that summer a completely different person. My priorities
lied in things that I was reading in the Bible. I was even keeping my
room neater. I think my parents kept checking to see if they had
picked up the wrong kid from the airport. I had a huge heart for Christ and
was ready to tackle any task he put before me.

I was well intentioned, but I didnít know anything about the Bible.
My Mom and Dad knew about as much as I did, so I was really searching
for someone to give me some guidance. I started going to Covenant
Christian High school my sophomore year. I was required to take 4 years of
Bible to graduate so I began really immersing myself into studying Godís
word. God continued to reveal himself through my Bible teacherís and
my best friendís mom. I met Laura in biology (which I had failed the
year before) class. We became best friends and so I started to go to her
house all the time. Her mom Noreen was very interested in my story and
so she invested her time into discipling me. She taught me how to
live by the Spirit and how to trust God for little things. I was starting
to make an all around change in my personality and my morals. I was
making better decisions and starting to get better grades. My Economics
teacher Mrs. Price helped my self-esteem out tremendously. She helped
me see that I was worth everyoneís time and that I really had something
to say. She showed me what kind of a person I was in Christ. My
sophomore and senior Bible teacher Mr. Hudson helped me learn that God takes
joy in having a personal relationship with us. My junior Bible teacher
Mr. Nurre gave me a fire and passion for learning about Godís word. I
learned about God in every class that I took. Covenant gave me
knowledge of the Word and it combined with my passion. I made such a huge
change in high school that my youth minister started to have me teach
junior high Sunday school. Those 3 years shaped my Christian worldview and
gave me Godly adults that I could look to for spiritual guidance. I
stopped wondering where God was and started to trust him. I understood
grace and that I am not being weighed and measured with all that I do.
Throughout high school, I continued to go on mission trips during the
summer. I went to 15 countries in all and I learned something about God
in each one of them.

I really grew the summer after I graduated because I led a team of
junior high kids to Israel for a summer to do mission work. In the midst
of not getting any sleep, I learned to have patience and tolerance and
I learned firsthand that God loves everyone. I came home changed
again and started going to Lincoln Christian College. I have been here
about a year and a half and I have really been challenged to have better
self-esteem and to love people unconditionally. A good friend of mine
my first year here started out the school year completely on fire for
Christ, and ended up dropping out, having sex with lots of people and
almost killing herself. It really shook me up and made me question
whether we can lose our salvation. I really struggled over that issue but my
SFG leader has helped me to see that I should not worry about it, but
continue to serve people the way I have beeb\n. God continues to put
wonderful people in my life and he shows himself through them. Iíd like
to end reading an excerpt from a recent journal entry that I wrote.
This journal entry really shows how I stand today spiritually and where I
wish to go. I copied a quote I read in a C.S Lewis book and then gave
my thoughts on it.

February 10th, 2002
I have decided to make this quote my quote for the year. ď"But there
must be a real giving up of the self. You must throw it away "blindly"
so to speak. Christ will indeed give you a real personality: but you
must not go to Him for the sake of that. As long as your own
personality is what you are bothering about you are not going to Him at all. The
very first step is to try to forget about the self -altogether. Your
real, new self (which is Christ's and also yours, and yours just because
it is His) will not come as long as you are looking for it. It will
come when you are looking for Him. Does that sound strange? The same
principle holds, you know, for more everyday matters. Even in social
life, you will never make a good impression on other people until you stop
thinking about what sort of impression you are making. Even in
literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be
original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth you will, nine time of
out ten, become original without ever having noticed. The principle runs
through all life from top to bottom. Give up your self, and you will
find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to
death, death of your ambitions and favorite wishes every day and death of
your whole body in the end: submit every fiber of your being and you
will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not
given away will ever be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died
will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find
in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and
decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything
else thrown in."

I think this quote can say something to any reader, non-Christian or
Christian. I really want to experience self-discovery through
Christ-colored glasses. I realize now that nothing else matters but the
glorification of Christ through his Church. I want to live out what
Philippians chapter 2 says about imitating Christ. I canít begin to say that
Iíve reached the point of self-satisfaction in this idea of denying
myself. That may be the point but I know that I canít accomplish it in this
lifetime. However, I do know that is it is the process that counts.
It is the process that we go through to get to that point. It is our
heart, our motivations, our desires and our struggles. I really want to
set aside my life, my desires and the like so that I may accomplish all
that Christ has set before me. I want to give myself completely to
Christ and do nothing that does not involve serving Him. He is what

Testimony submitted to the Breadsite. To submit yours click here.