#10. What You Were Created For

Photo Nicole Tarpoff

 It was late January of my sophomore year of college. Life seemed to be crumbling down around me. My family was in shambles—lies, poor choices, conflict, pain. My heart was broken by a man I thought I trusted. My desperate, sinful choices were overwhelming, like a longing never fulfilled. And in the pit of confusion, I was once again caught in the same traps that the enemy laid before me the previous two decades of my life.

In the midst of each raw circumstance crashing down around me, my mind was even more unsettled than that. I was in the middle of an identity crisis—one I had been battling since birth. Failure. Shame. Heartache. Worthlessness. I couldn’t figure out WHY I was here again. Same mistakes, same fear, same outcome. I had “given my life to Jesus” a year and a half prior to this moment. Aren’t things supposed to get better? The questions, the heartbreak, the sense of failure—all were haunting me as the conviction of the Holy Spirit stirred deep. Will I ever get up from this place with victory?

I truly didn’t know. It was on this night (with these longing questions) that I sung out to the Lord in agony on my bedroom floor: “You know when I rise and when I fall. When I come or go, you see it all. You hung the stars and You moved the sea, but still You know me. . .” The truth of His pursuing love began washing over me in these lyrics. The song continued, “Nothing is hidden from Your sight. Wherever I go, You find me. You know every detail of my life. You are God, and You don’t miss a thing.” The lyrics of Steffany Gretzinger’s song became like an anthem in the pit. It was a moment of DECLARATION over the raw, exposed, bleeding places in my life.

In my wailing melodies, a Strength entered the room. It was sudden and clear. A simple whisper, more powerful than the pain, spoke like a arrow into my heart, “Are you ready to surrender everything?” The presence of God came into the room. It was a revelatory moment. I heard no other words, but with absolute sureness I saw that I must pursue Him for everything He is and says that I am. I saw the condition of my unhealed soul, filled to the brim with wrong beliefs and perspectives that were not in line with His. In this moment of clarity, He was allowing me to make a choice: to keep on going in my path, or to abandon everything I knew and walk toward a path where I could see no end without cost. I made a choice with reckless but hopeful abandon that this moment would change everything.

He made it very easy for me to see the path to take that night. It was almost like a surrender of my will for His. What an exchange of glory! I genuinely asked Him to have everything. It was the night I took a step toward healing. Little did I know it was a massive leap toward discovering who I REALLY am. Not who the world says I am, but One much more eternal than that. He comes to heal the brokenhearted. He comes to set the captives free. He pursues us in the darkest pit. He doesn’t love with conditions. He is true. He is faithful, even when we aren’t. He loves us too much to leave us in our state, but also loves us too much to force His way. He is kind, and His kindness leads us to repentance.

My life changed FOREVER that night. It’s been over four glorious years since this time in my life. I never knew what would be waiting on the other side of surrender. I never understood how paramount saying “yes” to Jesus can be. Our obedience, even when it doesn’t make sense and you know it may hurt, is worth it! He is GOOD—so, so good. I never imagined the anchor He could be for one who KNOWS what it means to be a daughter of the King. Life doesn’t just “get better.” It’s better than that; we learn who we are in any season! We see who He is, holding tightly to these constant promises. Trials will come, but they can’t dictate our unwavering hope any longer. We are free from being tossed by the waves. We are identified by His image. It’s a love stronger than our strength. It is the power of God Himself indwelling in us. It’s our inheritance as children of God.

Pursue healing. Chase the true reality of His promise. You’ll find His Presence is what you were created for. I sure have.

A Million God Stories is a Christ-centered ministry which offers a platform for Christians from all streams of Christian faith to give praise for how God has worked in their lives. Christ heals in infinitely creative ways and we acknowledge that His way of helping may differ from person to person.

#9. God Used The Pain For Good

Photo Nicole Tarpoff

I am a sophomore in college and just spent my summer working in Texas—1,600 miles away from home—as a camp counselor. We didn’t have access to our phones most of the time, and I truly missed my friends and family. But I learned so much about how to sacrificially love others. We were trained to put the campers first in everything and to sacrifice ourselves for our campers. I was with my campers 24/7 for weeks, and with God’s help my goal was to pour out His love to each one with all that I could. By the end of camp, I was emotionally and physically exhausted.

But there was a friend back home, who was like a brother to me, who I wanted to be with as soon as I could. His grandfather had died the week before. I had missed the visitation and funeral because I couldn’t leave the camp early. I loved my friend and wanted to be there for him in his grief, just as he had been with me so many times before—especially when my dad died when I was 11 years old. I called my friend before I left camp and promised him that I would walk with him in the days ahead as he dealt with the grief of losing his granddad that he loved so dearly.

And then before I boarded the plane to come home, my mom told me that another good friend’s dad had just had a heart attack and died. My heart broke for my friend, as I knew that he had a very close relationship with his dad. He was with him when he died. Thankfully, this time I was able to go to the visitation and funeral. Less than 48 hours after I landed, I was on my way to this visitation and funeral. 

The morning of my friend’s dad’s funeral, yet a third friend sent a text to me saying that his dad had just died. Again, my heart broke, and I wanted to go to my friend and be with him. And so the day after I returned from one funeral, I left home to attend another and comfort another friend in his grief.

It seemed like one death after another . . . one heartbreak after another. Tragedy upon tragedy. In those moments, it’s easy to question God and lose hope. But I knew from my own experiences that God is never closer than when we are feeling most hopeless and heartbroken (see Psalm 34:18). Having lost my own father, there is a special bond, a special understanding, but also a special pain that comes with being in these situations at funerals and visitations. The memories that come back are difficult.

However, God uses this pain for good (see Genesis 50:20). My tragedy eight years ago, when I lost my own dad, helped me understand the pain and grief of my friends in a way that many could not. I believe that God used that experience to help me comfort others (see 2 Corinthians 1:3–4). Ultimately, I cannot provide healing and true comfort that the heart needs. But what is special about sharing in deep tragedy and sorrow, is that it gives us the opportunity to speak about real hope and ultimate healing of the heart that only God can provide.

In the midst of this week of death and grief and sorrow, when my heart broke for my friends and my main goal was to love and comfort them, God found a way to love and comfort me. I was looking for something in my car the day I arrived home from camp and found a note that I had received at my high school graduation. It was written by a wonderful family friend about the man God had molded me into in light of the trials I had been through in my own life. I had forgotten about the note, but God had not forgotten and knew exactly when to put this message before my eyes. Here is what it said:   

      Like a lighthouse, you are a strong and steady presence of hope at the very place where the waves of life crash onto the rocky land. You are a light bearer for those who are storm-tossed. Christ is the light within you. He shines through you with compassion for the lonely, strength for the weak, love for those lost at sea. Be not afraid. That light within you can overcome any darkness.        


Only God, in His perfect timing, knew how much I needed this reassurance in that moment with such trying times up ahead. He knew my anxious and inadequate feelings as I prepared to offer whatever comfort I could to friends who needed it so dearly, and who were especially looking to me with anticipation, as they knew I had been through a similar tragedy. I would be lying if I said that my soul did not feel the burden of this. However, just as only God can, in my time of need, He was there to give that gentle yet so powerful reassurance that indeed I should not fear. He would be my strength. My friends did not need me in this time; they needed the Lord and the comfort, hope, and light in darkness only He offers. He reminded me that it was the light and hope of Christ that He had shown me in my life that could overcome any darkness. 

God knows our deepest needs and He always provides.

A Million God Stories is a Christ-centered ministry which offers a platform for Christians from all streams of Christian faith to give praise for how God has worked in their lives. Christ heals in infinitely creative ways and we acknowledge that His way of helping may differ from person to person.

#8. A Second Chance

 Photo by Erin E. Photography

I am a doctor and the chief of Pediatric Critical Care at a large university hospital. In 2014 I was heavily involved in medical missions to Haiti, and I felt that God might be calling me to leave my position and go elsewhere. I interviewed all over the country but learned that I would not be able to continue mission work if I started a new job.

After I made the decision not to leave my job, I thought it would be a good idea to explore life insurance and disability insurance. All the usual tests were done. I was told that I couldn’t get disability insurance and that life insurance would be expensive because I had liver issues. I had never been diagnosed with liver issues and did not have symptoms of liver disease. I wasn’t concerned initially and didn’t follow up, but my wife encouraged me to see a doctor, and finally I did so.

I had the tests done on a Friday. The doctor told me then that although my diagnosis would have to be confirmed by a radiologist, he thought I had primary sclerosing cholangitis, a rare liver disease, affecting only .01 percent of the population. They don’t know what causes the disease, and it has no cure, no treatment, and is very unpredictable. I would likely need a liver transplant but could get sick and die before that happened. I held onto the chance that the radiologist would not agree with the diagnosis.

Over the weekend, the church elders prayed for me. On Monday, the radiologist came to get me while I was working in the pediatric intensive care unit. She wanted to tell me face-to-face . . . she confirmed the diagnosis. I sought out second opinions with multiple doctors at different facilities, but each confirmed the diagnosis.

A friend once told me, “You never understand it until it happens to you.” This is so true. My biggest fear was for my family. I wasn’t afraid of death, but I was afraid of disability and how that would impact my wife and our four children. This was a rethinking time. For months, I prayed that God would take care of my family and help me understand what to do with this diagnosis. I became more intentional in spending time with my wife. We began traveling more together, including renewing our vows on the beach in Hawaii. I laughed more and lived more fully than ever before.

Having this disease redefined my life in a very good way. It changed the way I look at people and patients. In September of 2015, I went to the doctor for more tests, including an MRI. After reviewing the results, the doctor told me that there was no evidence of disease—NOTHING, NO DISEASE. How could this be? The doctors had absolutely no explanation. This was as surprising as the first diagnosis.

God healed me.  I don’t understand why and I feel like there is more to the story. God gave me a second chance. I think about it every day. God taught me through this experience to be more intentional in prayer, in love, and truly living. It really was the best thing that ever happened to me. 

A Million God Stories is a Christ-centered ministry which offers a platform for Christians from all streams of Christian faith to give praise for how God has worked in their lives. Christ heals in infinitely creative ways and we acknowledge that His way of helping may differ from person to person.

#7 He Sees the One

Photo Nicole Tarpoff

When I was in college, I went through a season of rebelling against the Lord, but He brought me back around. I felt like the first thing He wanted me to do was to switch from music school to nursing school. Nursing school was a lot harder than my music major. I began to realize that I had some real problems with anxiety. I got so anxious that I would throw up before exams and sometimes had to leave the exams because I felt so ill. I couldn’t focus on the questions; I couldn’t even process them. Other students would be finished and turning their exams in, and I would be on question number two.

Pharmacology was a particularly difficult course for me. The teacher was kind and let me take the exams in a private room by myself to help my anxiety—but even so, I made a D- on the first exam and an F on the second. After this, my teacher met with me and told me that I would have to get A’s on the rest of the exams to pass pharmacology and that I had to pass pharmacology to stay in nursing school. This was so confusing to me because I truly felt God called me to nursing school.

This was a Friday night and I really just wanted to stay home by myself. I was broken. But my friend insisted that I go to church with her that night. I cried all through worship. There was a guest speaker and in the middle of his sermon he just stopped and said, “If I don’t share this now the rest of what I say won’t be anointed. Is there someone here who wants to be a nurse but feels like they can’t? Raise your hand.”

My friend said, “That’s you!” 

Now, there were close to 1,000 people in attendance and someone else raised their hand before me. I wasn’t sure about it. I was raised Baptist and we just didn’t do that kind of thing. I hadn’t really been to a church before that didn’t follow the bulletin. I halfway raised my hand while the other person was already sprinting toward the front. I made my way to the front as well, but much more timidly. 

The speaker prayed for her and it seemed harmless, so I let him pray for me too. He looked intently at me—right into my eyes—and said, “Oh, honey—it’s you. The enemy has been telling you that you are dumb since you were little and the Lord wants you to know this isn’t true.”

I hadn’t said a word up to this point, but he knew and said, “Do you want all this anxiety to leave?”

I said, “Yes.”

He prayed for the anxiety to leave me and I felt something very heavy lift off of me. He said, “The Lord has called you to be a nurse and the enemy is doing everything he can to stop it but it’s not going to work. The Lord is going to use you in miraculous ways as a nurse.”

After this I had no more anxiety. I made A’s on the rest of my pharmacology exams. It was such a big difference that my teacher pulled me over to the side and asked me how I was cheating! I gave my testimony and she said, “I need that person to pray for me!” 

While I was still in nursing school, I had a dream that I would be working as a nurse at a specific university in their children’s hospital. In my dream, I was in scrubs walking down the hallway of this hospital. When I graduated from college with my degree in nursing, there were no job openings in the university children’s hospital that I had dreamed about. So I applied for a job at Shriners Hospital for Children in the same town.

While I was there on my interview, the manager said she didn’t think Shiners was a good fit for me and thought the university children’s hospital would be better since I had pediatric experience at Vanderbilt and had a passion for working with kids who have cancer. After our interview, the manager already had a walk scheduled with the head of the university children’s hospital. They were friends and regularly met to walk together, and the Shriners manager said she would tell the director at the university hospital to make a position for me and hire me—the university wasn’t hiring at that time. 

Soon after this I was called in for an interview at the university children’s hospital. When I was on my interview there, the hallways looked exactly as I had dreamed about them. I have been working there nearly 10 years now. I started a Bible study on my unit and 40 nurses attended; five gave their lives to Christ and got baptized. God has miraculously healed two children whom I have prayed with.

I came away from this experience seeing how real the enemy is and how he works against God’s plan for us from the time we are children. I also saw how in a room of 1,000 people, God saw the one—He saw me. He knows everything about me and cares about me. There is a freedom available in God that I didn’t know existed before this happened. God set me free of anxiety in a moment. Only God can do that and only God can bring about the plans He has for us. They are always too big for us. That’s why He is the One to be glorified!

A Million God Stories is a Christ-centered ministry which offers a platform for Christians from all streams of Christian faith to give praise for how God has worked in their lives. Christ heals in infinitely creative ways and we acknowledge that His way of helping may differ from person to person.

#6. Saturated With The Glory Of God

Photo by Nicole Tarpoff

 I went to Cuba to minister in a number of house churches in 2004. On the eastern side of Havana, there are hundreds of tenement housing projects that were built in the 1950s to house Soviet Army barracks.  Now, literally thousands of people live in each building—and the buildings stretch one after another after another for miles and miles.  During the last morning that I was teaching, my interpreter didn’t show up. I don’t speak any Spanish and they didn’t speak any English. It was really awkward, being crammed into a small sitting room with about 40 people just staring at me, waiting for me to do something.

As I sat there looking at them, and as they sat there looking at me, I felt like the Holy Spirit engaged me in what became a running conversation. I seem to get in these talks often with the Lord, especially when I muster the audacity to kind of argue with Him:

“Sing.”  The Lord told me very distinctly.

“I don’t sing, Lord.”  Like He didn’t know that already!

He said it again, “Sing.”

“I don’t speak Spanish.”  Like He didn’t know already.

For the final time, He said, “Sing.”

“Sing what?”

“’Nothing but the Blood.’”

If you’ve ever been around me during any worship times, you’d know that I have a singing voice that only the Father could love! Ironically though, the Lord used me as the worship leader in a couple different congregations that I pastored when I was a missionary in the Philippines. He’s not really looking for technically proficient singers—just people who worship Him with whole hearts. 

Anyway, back to Cuba. In that small sitting room on that day in 2004, I opened my mouth and began to let it rip. I know this may sound cliché, but suddenly, it was as if Jesus opened the door and walked in the room. When I started singing, I felt like a big bottle of Coke: someone took the cap off and God came rushing out. The whole atmosphere became super-charged with the presence of the Lord. The air in the room began to feel so heavy that when I tried to lift my hands to Him in worship and adoration, I couldn’t even raise them above my head. After a few minutes, my feet couldn’t support me any longer because the spiritual climate of the room was saturated with the glory of God. I had the sensation that if I could just raise my hands above my head, then I could poke through the ceiling and all of heaven might fall down! 

People began to pray and sing in the Spirit, in Spanish, and even in English. I started gently laying hands on almost everyone present just to bless and encourage them—and men, women, and kids began to fall out all over the place. The power of the Holy Ghost was so pronounced that one guy even hit his head really hard against the wall on his way down, and I remember thinking, “God, this better be you…because if it’s not, that dude is gonna be in pain.” 

It was the most intense, power-packed renewal that I had ever experienced. Maybe the Lord wants these kinds of encounters to be normal? At any rate, this environment continued on for maybe 20 minutes until finally another interpreter arrived. Everyone kind of regained their composure, including me, and I began to minister through some of the material that the Lord had given me. As I’ve said about my singing, I’m not the greatest preacher on the planet, either. Yet that morning, as I stood there and simply talked about Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus, people just wept and wept and wept. The floodgates were open. I talked about her posture—how every time she appears in the gospels, she’s always at the feet of Jesus.

The church couldn’t get enough. Jesus was in the room in the many-membered Body of Christ—singing, laughing, weeping, loving. His power and glory were on display in our midst in the most concrete, tangible way.  May it ever be so Lord!

A Million God Stories is a Christ-centered ministry which offers a platform for Christians from all streams of Christian faith to give praise for how God has worked in their lives. Christ heals in infinitely creative ways and we acknowledge that His way of helping may differ from person to person.

#5. Just The Right Words

Photo by Nicole Tarpoff

 This summer I spent time in prayer to prepare for a mission trip to Cali, Colombia. Three days in a row the same image came to me during my prayer time—a white horse. I had no idea what this was about. Then, the day before I left for Colombia, a group of friends was praying for me and although I had not told them about the white horse, one of the girls praying for me said she saw a picture of a white horse. She said she felt God was going to show me a white horse in Colombia and that it would be a sign that I should minister to the owner of the horse. Now, Cali is a big city, around two million people. It’s not like there were going to be horses running around Cali, Colombia—but I trusted that it was in God’s hands and that He could do anything.

The first day in Colombia we went to visit some orphanages and slum areas and then headed back to the couple’s apartment who was hosting us. They had organized horseback riding lessons for some of our group. One of the girls who was taking a lesson needed an interpreter, so I went with her to interpret. She and I walked with the riding instructor over to the barn to find a horse for her lesson. The instructor was very well known in the area. Not only did he own this large farm and employ many individuals, he also trained many people and was very influential in his community. When he opened the stall to get out her horse, there standing before me was the white horse. I could hardly believe it!

I told God, “Lord, I have no idea what to say.” I felt God say, “Good, because it’s not your words anyway.” After her lesson, I asked the instructor if I could talk to him. I told him about the white horse I had seen during my prayers and about my friend’s prayer and what my friend had told me. And without the slightest effort, from my lips escaped the perfect gospel presentation. The Lord, knowing this man so intimately, knew how to present His truth in terminology this man could understand; namely, He connected to this man through horses.

“You have gone places on your own strength already,” I explained to the man, “but you could go so much further if you partner with Jesus. Imagine you are in a race. You are running, but I’m on a horse. Who will go further? Who will move faster? Who is going to win the race?”

The man answered, “You will.”

I responded, “Yes, and in that same way God wants to partner with you to take you places you could never go on your own.”

While I was talking, I felt he had a calling for healing through horse therapy. I told him that I felt that even with this same white horse, he was going to see people healed on a regular basis if he partnered with the Lord. The man’s jaw fell open, and without a word he pulled out his phone and showed me a video from the previous week. A five-year-old boy, who, due to a mental disability had never been able to walk, was brought to this man in hopes that horse therapy would be of help. After the session, almost miraculously, the boy was indeed able to walk!

Now this man had a strange religion—the horse was his God. But he was in awe that a complete stranger from another country had been sent by God to tell him this message. I shared how deeply God loved him and that if he were the only man on the face of the earth, Christ would have gone to the cross just for him, so that he could spend eternity in relationship with Him. Right then, the man made the decision to give his life to Christ. 

Thank you, Jesus, for loving and pursuing us. Thank you for just the right words at just the right time. Thank you for the miracle of healing. All honor, praise, and glory to you, Lord.

A Million God Stories is a Christ-centered ministry which offers a platform for Christians from all streams of Christian faith to give praise for how God has worked in their lives. Christ heals in infinitely creative ways and we acknowledge that His way of helping may differ from person to person.

#4 Breaking Chains of Shame

Photo by Nicole Tarpoff

My God story happened my freshman year of college when I woke up in a fraternity house. Unclothed and unaware of thestranger sleeping next to me, I was flooded with confusion and guilt. I abruptly got up, went to my dorm, balled my eyes out, and thought: “I feel disgusting. What am I doing?” I then thought, “I feel like God probably has a purpose for my life, but I don’t think this is it. Why am I here? This is not what I was made for.”

In that moment, something in me switched. Little did I know, that little thought was really Jesus knocking at the door of my heart, saying, “Let me in. Come. Come know me. Come taste and see.” So I came. In the beginning of this journey, I started to attend our campus ministry to get my life together. I didn’t want to feel so horrible about myself anymore. What I didn’t expect was for God to transform me from the inside out. But that’s what He did.

When Christmas break came around, my Bible study leader dragged me to a conference in North Carolina where I heard Marian Jordan Ellis, founder of Redeemed Girl Ministries, speak for the first time. She was gorgeous, full of life, and she spoke with authority (and a little sass). I loved it. After her sermon, she kicked all the guys out of the room for “women’s time” where she shared her full story with us. She let it rip. She was so real and raw with us, and as she was talking, I felt as if she were speaking right at me. She was pointing out all the shame that we had felt, all the hurt, and all the heartbreak. After being rocked by the fact that our struggles were so similar, she began to talk about her love: Jesus. As she talked about Him, she got choked up and teary-eyed simply telling us how beautiful He is and how He had changed her heart forever. Hearing her speak about Him as if He were so close, I realized that this woman really knows Jesus. This woman really loves Jesus.

I thought to myself, “Okay, I don’t feel as guilty and dirty as I did before, but I feel like there’s more to this Jesus thing than I thought there was. God, I want to know you like that. I want a heart that loves you like that. A heart that loves you more than anything else in the world.”

WOW. Never underestimate the power of prayer. I soon realized that God will never say “no” to a prayer that asks to know Him more. This revelation caused transformation in my life. As I sought Him, He showed up. He opened my eyes to see, and He started blowing my mind. So I prayed for more. “God, I can’t really understand the Bible without you. Please give me understanding.” Prayer answered. More and more, God broke off my chains of guilt and shame, awakened me to His love, gave me understanding of His word, put a fire in my heart, immersed me in amazing communities, gave me true joy, showed me that He SPEAKS to us (WHAT?!), let me see Him miraculously heal my friend’s broken foot right before my eyes (WHAT?!), and brought LIFE to my dry soul. A once depressed, shameful freshmen girl became a new creation—a set free, redeemed, and cherished daughter of God. My life went from complete darkness to light in one year of college.

But He didn’t stop there. As I was reminiscing on that powerful memory of hearing Marian Jordan Ellis, I stopped by her website to see more about her ministry. I noticed that she hosts events all around the nation that gathers college women to hear her story, and it said to contact the “redeemed girl” email. I sent an email, never expecting a reply. Shocked, I read her response: she would be able to come in January 2016.

Following this email, God did all the work. He provided funds to host the event, the venue, and a team of 25 college women from all over campus to lead, plan, and pray for this event. Believe me, I am not administrative. God did all of this. After a semester of prayer, growing in confidence and leadership, and getting the word out, Redeemed Girl Ministries arrived in Lexington, Kentucky all the way from San Antonio. At 7 p.m., we opened the doors of our classroom building to almost 400 college women who showed up for this “Girl’s Night Out” with Marian Jordan Ellis. Boy, they didn’t know what they were stepping in to. After her fun and energetic introduction to these sorority women, Marian, once again, let it rip. Her testimony brought this room to tears, and the Spirit of God encountered these girls. Light hit darkness. Desert souls tasted living water. Jesus walked into these girls’ lives, and hearts were opened. People realized—many for the first time—that they are worth dying for. Over 100 University of Kentucky girls accepted Christ for the first time that night.

God has been bringing waves of revival to Lexington this year, and this was one of them. And it all started with one lost girl whom God gave eyes to see. Thank you Jesus. You’re not finished with us yet, and this God story is not even close to finished. “For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing upon your descendants. They shall spring up among the grass like willows by flowing streams.This one will say ‘I am the LORD’s…’ and another will write on his hand ‘The LORD’s…” (Isaiah 44:3-5).

A Million God Stories is a Christ-centered ministry which offers a platform for Christians from all streams of Christian faith to give praise for how God has worked in their lives. Christ heals in infinitely creative ways and we acknowledge that His way of helping may differ from person to person.

#3 Love In Any Language

Photo by Nicole Tarpoff

I was formerly an ordained minister in the United Methodist Church (in Florida, in the 1970s). In 1989, I was part of another network of churches and I traveled with a group of pastors from various states to Warsaw, Poland to attend the United Methodist Annual Conference.

We had been invited to speak on John Wesley and the Holy Spirit. At the end of the conference, our group divided up and went to different places in Poland. I went to Auschwitz where I spoke at a small Pentecostal church. At the end of my message, I invited congregants to come forward for prayer. Five people came forward and I prayed for each.

Then a man approached from the side of the church. The man was massive, about six foot two and 260 pounds. He wore a rumpled suit and had a strong odor of alcohol and tobacco. His shoulders were slumped, his head down. He made no eye contact and said nothing. His countenance was one of defeat. I put one hand on his back and the other on his chest.

And then something happened that I had never experienced. This man felt like a cold, concrete pillar, and everything inside of me shut down. I had nothing to pray or say to this man. I knew enough not to just make something up that sounded religious, but instead I stepped back and just looked at him. Tears began squirting out of my eyes. I felt as if this man in front of me was the only person in the world and God was pouring His love through me into this man. I had an overwhelming and heartbreaking sense of love and mercy for him.

I placed my hands on his chest and began praying out loud. I was crying, and my words and tears were mixed together such that I sounded incoherent to myself. About 15 seconds elapsed and the man jerked upright and fell backwards onto the stage. The church members attended to him and the wife of the pastor at this Pentecostal church told me that she knew this man well and assured me that he would be okay. I left the church with the pastor and his wife and did not see the man again.

As we ate dinner that evening, the pastor’s wife asked me, “How much Russian do you know?”

I answered, “None, why?”

She had a very puzzled look on her face and told me that I had spoken to the man who had fallen back on the stage in Russian. She told me what I said in Russian to the man when I prayed for him: “Those who stole your heart and your life are smaller than I am. I, the Lord and your Savior, have come to restore your heart so that you may have a new life.”

I asked her why God would have used Russian words to speak to this man . . . we were in Poland. Why not Polish? She answered that the Soviet system forced all Polish people to learn Russian and that the Russians had removed this man from teaching—a job that he loved—and forced him to work in a factory—a job he hated. His hate of the Russians led him to alcoholism and depression. She said, “I think the Lord chose to speak to him in Russian, words of life and love, so he could forgive the Russians and trust God to be greater than they.”  

A Million God Stories is a Christ-centered ministry which offers a platform for Christians from all streams of Christian faith to give praise for how God has worked in their lives. Christ heals in infinitely creative ways and we acknowledge that His way of helping may differ from person to person.

#2 Encountering A God Who Saves

I was raised the son of a Nazarene evangelist. My childhood was spent going from one church camp and revival to the next, all across the United States. The Jesus that my father portrayed behind closed doors was something I didn’t want anything to do with. 

When I was 13 years old, my dad continued to travel and preach, but I stayed home more and began getting involved with rough crowds, smoking and drinking. In my teens, I began smoking marijuana and taking pills, LSD, and cocaine—you name it. Eventually, in my late teens and early twenties, I became a crystal meth addict. This went on for five years; all the while, I was playing in and out of bands. I was vehemently against Christianity; if someone even mentioned Jesus to me, I would cuss them out.

My sister and brother-in-law were praying for me during this time. They gave me a copy of The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel. It was a miracle that I even accepted the book. But I did, and one night I found myself reading it in bed at 3:00 a.m, with a joint burning in the ashtray beside me. But it really wasn’t the book, as much as it was what happened while I was reading the book. The manifest presence of God entered the room—and by “manifest,” I mean that His presence was palpable. I KNEW GOD WAS THERE. Basically, He said, “I am real. Now, what are you going to do about it?”

I then had a non-verbal conversation with God, saying something like, “I know you are real but how do I let go of this empire of garbage that I have built around my life? I want to but I don’t think I can do it.”

In a thought more powerful than words, the Lord said, “You don’t have to; I will.” God knew that because of the way I was brought up, if He revealed Himself to me in church, I might feel manipulated. He approached me in a way where there was no denying that it was Him. In that moment, I gave my life to Christ and stopped selling and doing drugs, and never returned to that world again.

My girlfriend gave her life to Christ a couple of weeks later. We were engaged and eventually married. My relationship with my father was restored and he baptized my wife and I. About a year later, I was hired as a worship leader. That was 15 years ago, and I have been a worship leader ever since. The Lord is still writing my story and I am constantly in awe of His goodness!

Today, I am a worship leader and songwriter for Iron Bell Music in partnership with Essential Worship and Provident Label Group, which is the Christian arm for Sony Music. We just released our first national single, “God that Saves,” which I wrote from my own story of encountering the God that saves. My goal is not fame, but rather to make Him known—to make Him famous through the gifts and the testimony that He has given me.

A Million God Stories is a Christ-centered ministry which offers a platform for Christians from all streams of Christian faith to give praise for how God has worked in their lives. Christ heals in infinitely creative ways and we acknowledge that His way of helping may differ from person to person.

#1 Single But Never Alone

Photo by Nicole Tarpoff 

I was a single mom for 17 years. Many of those years I longed to meet a wonderful man and remarry. I was told that my children needed a father, and I truly wanted a good father for them. I was so, so lonely. Life was hard, raising children alone and working long hours to support our family. But I believed that God had a plan for our family and continued to pray each night for God to bring the right man at the right time for me and my children. Night after night, year after year, I prayed this prayer. I waited—sometimes patiently, sometimes not so patiently. While I waited, I tried to grow and learn and become a better person. I practiced gratitude even when life was hard, and eventually gratitude came much easier.

But as I got older and my last child approached high school graduation, I was pretty sure that a husband and father was not in God’s plan for our family. Strangely, though, I was at peace with this realization. Over the years I head learned to use my time alone to deepen my relationship with God, and I trusted wholeheartedly that I was indeed NOT alone. I felt God’s presence with me. I knew that I could be happy with or without a husband and began looking for a few acres in the country where I could build a small cottage and have a flower garden after my son moved away to college.

But then a man who had been sitting behind me at church for many months, began to talk to me. He walked me to my car—which, in the parking lot full of hundreds of cars, was parked right next to his car! Eventually, he ask me to join him for dinner. Six months later, we were married in a small ceremony in the church where we met.

He has been the answer to my nightly prayer and so much more. I am so thankful for the husband and father that God provided at just the right time. God used my years of singleness to bring me closer to Him and to grow my faith. It was hard, but I don’t believe I would have ever developed the gratitude and deep relationship I have with God now if I had a married earlier. My years alone as a single mom forced a dependence on God that resulted in my KNOWING that God is with me and that God listens, loves, and responds in just the right way, at just the right time!  

A Million God Stories is a Christ-centered ministry which offers a platform for Christians from all streams of Christian faith to give praise for how God has worked in their lives. Christ heals in infinitely creative ways and we acknowledge that His way of helping may differ from person to person.