#216. Gurl Get Your Mind Right

Photo by Jeff Rogers Photography

I was born in Pittsburgh and raised in a middle-class family. My parents divorced when I was eight years old. My mom put me in dance classes when I was two years old. I took tap, ballet, jazz, tap solo, and baton — all at the same time. I became really good at it. My teacher told my mom I should audition for the play written by Gershwin, Porky and Bess. Out of 4,000 kids, I got the part. When I was eight, we moved to the country to live with my grandparents. I was no longer able to go to dance lessons. This was devastating to me. I loved dancing and believe that was God’s calling on my life. I was raised going to church every Sunday, but I don’t remember confessing and accepting Christ as my Savior. 

My mom remarried when I was 15. We moved back to the city. I moved from a predominately white school in the country to a predominately black school in the city. It was a culture shock. One night I went in a car with some of the guys from my high school. We ended up at a wooded park. They got out, but told me to stay in the car. I didn’t listen and when they saw me coming toward them, they grabbed my arm. They told me there were guys who were planning to rape me. They took me back to my house. God worked through those guys to save me. 

I was a thick girl. I thought I was fat. My mom was very critical. She made comments about my clothes making me look big. My mom was physically, verbally, and emotionally abusive. Nothing I ever did was right. If she and my stepfather got into an argument, she blamed me. He was the best stepdad a person could ever have. He tried to get my mom to be nicer to me. 

My senior year in 1976, I was a cheerleader and started dating a football player. He turned me on to weed, opium, hash, and cocaine. I started trying other drugs. I even snorted heroin once. It was God’s grace that protected me. I was promiscuous and slept with married men. 

I was excellent at typing and after graduation became a secretary in the nursing department at the University of Pittsburgh. I got my own apartment at 17, a two-room efficiency, paying $95 a month. I watched a movie of a baby being born when I worked in the nursing department and knew then I never wanted to have a baby. I was 23 when I had my first daughter, Brandi. I had seven abortions prior to that. Six with the same man who fathered my daughter and one with a boyfriend. I didn’t know any better. No one taught me. I had no self-worth. My pregnancy was a nightmare. The father told me that it wasn’t his baby and that I was fat. I had stopped doing the drugs during my pregnancy and replaced the drugs with food. I became addicted to food. In the last three months of my pregnancy, I gained 100 pounds. I was an emotional mess. 

My daughter’s father didn’t go to the hospital with me when I gave birth. He came around a few times to see Brandi, but he wasn’t really involved in our lives. I started smoking weed again. I got a job at Aetna insurance. Jim, a Christian gentleman from the Houston Aetna office, came to our Pittsburgh office and asked me to come to Houston. He said there was a position that I would be really good at. He said, “If you come to Houston, I will make you the supervisor and you will get a raise and you will get a bonus to cover your move if you show me what you showed me in Pittsburgh.” They offered me $10,000 more to do the same job in Houston. My daughter was only three when we left Pittsburgh. When we got off the plane in Houston, Jim and his wife, Tamara, met us. They drove us to our apartment complex and gave us a TV. We only had our clothes, a couple of towels and a clock radio.  My furniture was coming on a truck that was stopping in other states.  It took two weeks to get our furniture.

When you move to a new town you don’t ask people, “Who has weed?” One day as I walked through the apartment complex there was a big group of guys and one of the guys came to my door and asked, “Do you get high?” I told him I did. I sent my daughter to her room. I thought he had given me weed, but he had given me crack cocaine to smoke and I was hooked immediately. He told me where to get it. I started dating this guy and he would bring the crack over. I became more and more addicted. 

Jim did everything he promised. After one month, he made me a supervisor and gave me a $10,000 raise plus a bonus to cover my moving expenses. I was excelling at work, traveling to provide training and had been the employee of the month four times in the same year. But I didn’t have the money to afford my drug habit. So, I came up with an elaborate plan. I started forging names on checks at Aetna and cashing the checks. Eventually, I was out sick and one of the girls in my department figured out what I had been doing. My boss asked me to come into the conference room. A man with a briefcase said, “Have you ever cashed a check besides your paycheck?” I told the truth. He said, “I’m glad you told the truth.” Then he took the checks out of his briefcase and laid them across the table. He said, “We know what you did but don’t understand why you did it. Why? You had such a bright future.” I said, “I’m addicted to crack.” He said, “We thought it was drugs.” He asked me how much I had taken, and I told him I had a folder at home with all the checks. He asked me to bring it in. I brought the folder to him and he told me to go home and they would let me know what they were going to do. 

My friend John from work called me and said, “Where are you?” I was driving and said, “I’m just going to kill myself.” The devil was telling me to just let the wheel go. John said, “Just drive to my house.” Then Jim called me. He had told the leadership at work he was going to remain my friend. I believe God was intervening on my behalf through both of these men. Jim told me I needed to immediately go to treatment. I went. Jim and Tamara not only took care of Brandi for two weeks, they also went to my apartment and packed up everything and put it in storage. They sent my daughter back to Pittsburgh to my family. Aetna fired me, but because I cooperated with them, they didn’t press charges. The bank didn’t press charges either. Nobody came after me. God spared me. I should have gone to jail for what I had done. Jim came to that facility every day and brought me a Bible. I wouldn’t listen. I said, “Get that Bible away from me.” He said, “It’s the only thing that can help you.” My therapist told me I had to get to the root of why I was there. I felt like my parents had robbed me of who I should have been. I loved dancing. I should have been a choreographer. They took something from me that was near and dear to my heart. I also realized the resentment for my daughter’s father. I discovered all of those things in treatment. 

After 90 days, I got out. Aetna had kept me active on the payroll to pay for my treatment. This was another way that God provided for me. God saved me from killing myself through John and Jim. He saved me from myself. Jim and Tamara let me live with them with only two rules — stay sober and go to my meetings. They gave me a car and credit card. 

I went to church with Jim and Tamara but was still stuck. One night they were getting ready to go to Bible study and I was sitting on the couch and balling. My daughter was coming back from Pittsburgh and I knew that I was going to have to face her and make amends for all I had done,  including locking her in the house at night, while sleeping, so I could go out to get crack, putting her in danger. 

Jim and Tamara invited me to Bible study but I didn’t want to go. While they were gone, I was thinking about how to kill myself again because the thought of facing Brandi was overwhelming. When they came back, I was still crying. They got down on their knees and said, “There is only one way. You have to accept Jesus.” I asked, “Will it make this pain go away?” That night I confessed Romans 10:9 and everything changed. I started going to a Bible study group. I got an apartment. One year to the day of my sobriety, December 16, 1988, I got offered a job at Enron. This company was drug-free, and employees had to be drug-tested to work there, which was what I wanted.


Things were going well at Enron. I got promoted and got bonuses. The girl they put me with at Enron was a Christian and had me listening to a Christian radio station. I went to her house for Bible study. I was clean and sober but then I noticed people were getting things and recognition that I wanted. I figured out a way to cash travelers checks at work. They confronted me and I admitted it. They fired me but didn’t press charges. This time I couldn’t blame it on crack. I had to do self-inventory and say to myself, “Are you a thief? Do you just steal?” Even though I had accepted Jesus, I still didn’t have a personal relationship with Jesus. 

When I found out I was pregnant with my second daughter, Courtney, I immediately went to have an abortion. I was single, overweight, depressed and scared to death because of my pregnancy with Brandi. I went to an abortion clinic. I knew I was right at 12 weeks. They lady said, “You are 13 weeks. We can’t do it. But you can go upstairs. They do it up to 26 weeks.” So, I went upstairs. I am sitting there with a sheet over my lap and the doctor is getting ready to examine me. I prayed, “God I know this is a sin, but I can’t have this baby. I can’t even afford to raise Brandi.” The doctor examined me and said he couldn’t do it. I asked him why. He said, “I don’t know. I just feel there is a risk with you.” God intervened . . . again.

When Courtney was born you would have thought she was a crack baby. She had a hernia, a tear in her liver, a hole in her spine, her heart was on the opposite side, her intestines were in knots, her neck muscles were messed up, and her head was tilted. She was transferred to the ICU at Texas Children’s hospital, where she stayed 90 days. She went home with a feeding tube. She had a special-needs caregiver. I was working at Enron when that was going on. God preserved me — my mind — through all of that. I had no family, but I did have Jim and Tamara. They were my family.

Some of Courtney’s problems have been healed, but she still has some health issues. God gave her a brilliant mind. He preserved her and He did the same thing for Brandi. Brandi is so imaginative and creative. I truly believe God protected her mind through my drug battle.

In 1999, I began attending a non-denominational church, New Light Christian Center. Dr. I.V. Hillard was having a Spiritual Millennium Warfare conference at this church. I went down for the altar call and experienced spiritual healing. I had finally found my church home. This church taught me so many things. I was delivered from addiction in 1988, and I never went back. Crack cocaine is euphoric-demonic and is spiritual warfare. I finally got to the root of my problem. I had been self-sabotaging. For so much of my life, I didn’t have a personal relationship with God. When this happened, my life was transformed. God called me to evangelism, to minister to women with low and no self-esteem, bound by addiction like I was. 

When I was pregnant with Brandi, I developed diabetes. As a result, I’ve had five toe amputations. I have diabetic retinopathy in my right eye. I have been in stage three kidney failure for 15 years, but God is sustaining me. I have been at death’s door many times, but God has protected me. God is faithful and loving. If we just seek Him, He will never turn His back on us or leave us. God did not give up on me. He kept pursuing me. He kept helping me get on the right track. God protected me and my daughters and provided and intervened for me so many times. I am so grateful for the people God placed in my life, for the revelations He has given me, for the healing He has provided. I am grateful for my two daughters who are amazing women. 

I transferred to Mooresville, North Carolina, to work in human resources with Lowe’s. I thought that my purpose of coming to North Carolina may have something to do with my ministry GurlGetYourMindRight which God gave me 10 years ago . My lease is up in August, and I plan to go back to Pittsburgh. I believe God wants me to go back home. There are women who are there who need life spoken to them. I really believe the ministry will take off there.  

Lastly, no matter what you go through in life, always remember “it’s just temporary” because we’ve already won! The ransom that was paid for us covered all our sins but we must continue to renew our minds and not be subject to this world.  To the ladies, who are still being controlled by men and this world…….GurlGetYourMindRight!

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.Matthew 6:33 NIV

#208. Purposeful Design

Photo by Jeff Rogers Photography

Years ago, God gave me the opportunity to be on the board at Wheeler Mission in Indianapolis. I was also involved in discipling men. For about 15 years, I led Bible studies at Wheeler. Often when I was there, I would ask the men how they were doing. Over and over the answer was “I’m looking for a job.” I must have heard that a hundred times. I had sorrow about this and wished I could do something to give them a job. I decided to ask God about this. I prayed, “What do you say about this God?” Some other men friends of mine began to join in that prayer also. 

One day I was doing something on the internet and I ran into the idea of taking shipping pallets and turning them into furniture. I wondered if we could sell the furniture and create a revenue stream to cover the cost of wages. So we did an experiment and started small. We used shipping pallets and started making beverage carts. Pretty quickly we figured out shipping pallets weren’t the way to go. A local business donated lumber and we began making furniture and selling it to friends and family. That’s how it started.

We hire men and train them to make beautiful handcrafted furniture. Now over 90% of our operating expenses are covered by things the men make themselves. Everything is custom made. We sell to a lot of commercial enterprises. We make a lot of conference tables and shelves. We make tables for restaurants, school cafeterias and some residential furniture. The first year we had $37,000 in sales, which was a great blessing and beyond our expectations. Last year we sold $1.4 million in furniture. While the finances are important and we are very grateful for the business, our primary mission is to hire and train craftsman and see lives changed. Our organization, Purposeful Design, has two components. 

One part is a training program called the School of Woodworking and Discipleship and the other part is the business where we hire people to work making furniture. Even if we don’t hire people to work for Purposeful Design coming out of the school, we have a network of other employers who offer job opportunities. All the those we serve come from places where they struggle with addiction, incarceration or homelessness and otherwise would have difficulty finding a job. 

We have partnerships with ministries and relief organization that send people to our school. The trainees are exposed to woodworking, job readiness and discipleship training. We start each day with prayer and have weekly Bible studies. We have about 40 volunteers from the community who do the instructing. They come in to teach and add their own stories. They are loving and build relationships. One of our partnerships is with Purdue University. They helped us launch the training program and sent us two professors to teach the trainees how to work with wood. This whole ministry is really a walk of faith. A lot of people who serve have a background in business. My own background is in business.  But I had no experience with woodworking or running a nonprofit. Our business is a registered 501c3. God has provided so much for us. We depend on Him to show us our next steps and to provide the resources, people to help us, and customers. It has been amazing how the Lord has helped us and provided. 

The second part of our organization is the Purposeful Design furniture business. We have 16 full-time craftsmen. It is a delight to see them grow. They are not all believers. But we expose everyone to the Word of God and flood our place with love and encouragement. We strive to strengthen everyone and help them succeed. We are like a family. We want to keep it a walk of faith. It has been a joy to see where God has brought us. We didn’t plan any of this, and now we find ourselves in a niche that sells to many large institutions like big hospitals, universities and banks. All of these organizations have their own mandate to do good for the community. They desire to do good for society, and they also need furniture, which makes our products a perfect fit for them. 

As long as the Lord keeps opening doors, we will keep running as hard and fast as we can to help more people. We provide on-the-job discipleship, beginning each morning by circling up and praying together and sharing a bit from the Word. We have a lunch Bible study every Monday. 

We are getting ready to launch a campaign, “Turning the Tables on Poverty.” To prepare, we have run some statistics and have found that in our six years, we have saved the taxpayers $2.3 million in what it would have cost to take care of those who were homeless who are now employed. In addition, our employees have paid about $350,000 in taxes. These folks have changed from being totally supported by taxpayers to now contributing their own taxes to our city. We also see our neighborhood changing for the good before our very eyes. Healthy people make healthy neighborhoods. Most of us live about a quarter of a mile from Purposeful Design. We are available to help each other and encourage each other. We see marriages restored and kids reunited with their fathers. God is truly amazing. 

As we have seen God at work, there are three things we have learned: 1. It is good to pray. Purposeful Design is the result of prayer. 2. We have all tried life our own way, and it didn’t work out. God’s way is better. 3. Jesus really, really does set people free. We have absolutely seen the transformative power of God at work. We have seen a 17-year heroin addict set free. Another guy told me he hadn’t been sober a day in his life since he was 14. Now he is sober and can be spotted walking his children to the park. He is loving his wife, and he is one of our most loyal and trustworthy employees. 

My own heart tends toward prideful thinking. In our early days I would think, “Haven’t we done well!” The Lord has now shown me my need for humility. Now, I go down on my knees and thank the Lord right then and there when something good happens. Our success is not from me. God’s hand is at work here and our success is from Him.  

#202 Yet, I Will Rejoice: Part 2

 

Photo by Jeff Rogers Photography

So, I became a young single mother and have raised my almost 11-years-old son alone, since he was about four months old. I went back to finish my master’s degree that I had started in Kenya years back. I got support from my family and I went back to church. However, I still felt like a failure. I felt like I had failed God, my family, and myself. None of my relationships worked because I brought a lot of trauma that I had not dealt with into them. I thought my career would make me feel better. I did have a relationship with God, but I focused more on work than letting God work in me to heal me. I got very good jobs that were well-paying and was able to take care of my bills and my son, but I still felt empty.

After finally graduating with my master’s degree in Kenya, I enrolled for a PhD course in Public Health. My sister wanted me to come back to the US, but I didn’t want to leave because my career was going so well. I told my sister, “I’m not coming as a student. I will only come if I get a green card so that I can work.” I applied mostly not to disappoint her. I knew chances of me getting it were slim, but on my seventh try, my application was successful! I still did not want to leave Kenya, but people I trusted told me this was the second time God had opened a door for me to go to the US, and I should ask myself why God opened the same door twice. They advised me to walk through the open door by faith.

I resigned from my job and came to the US with my little boy, a plane ticket, a $50 bill and two suitcases. I was very afraid. I cried all the way in the plane and kept telling God I hope I made the right decision. I had worked so hard to get to where I was career-wise, but left all that (my well-paying job, my friends, my relationship, my consultancy firm, my PhD, family, church). I left everything to come to the US and start over.

I thought it would be easy to jump back to my career. I knew there were a lot more opportunities for me to advance my career in the US and to make my life better than back home. What I did not know was that it would take years. It took me a year to get my transcripts sent from my former college in Kenya to the Board of Social Work in Kentucky, so I could get certified as a social worker. It also took much time and moneyfor me to get my transcripts accredited. By the time I finally got certified, available jobopportunities were for people who had prior experience working in the US and/or had a master’s in social work. My master’s was in medical sociology, so the only option I had was to use my high school certificate to get a job.

So, I started working at Amazon. I went from an office job to standing 10 hours a day. All the money was going to daycare and rent. I could barely pay my bills, and I got frequent eviction notices. When I put my son to sleep, I would cry to God, “Just take me. Why did you bring me here?” I was in this job close to a year until I finally got a job at the state psychiatric hospital as a mental health associate. I led groups and also provided direct care. It was tough. Patients wanted to fight, but I still had a heart to work with people with mental illness. I did this for two and half years.

After I got the job at the state hospital, I got accepted into the university. I tried to continue my PhD in public health, but I had to start at post baccalaureate, then four semesters of a master’s program before being accepted into the doctorate program. But social work was still my passion. When I was near completion of my doctorate, I still felt empty and didn’t know what I wanted to do. I also faced many challenges in the program. My professor-mentor prayed a lot and felt his work was to shepherd students. He realized that public health wasn’t my passion and was probably not a good fit for me so he prayed with me. I believe that was God’s favor. My professor said, “Why don’t you transfer and get a PhD in social work. If you push yourself, you can finish your PhD in three years.” God brought me back to His original plan I believe. I had already practiced in the field of social work and I had a desire to work with vulnerable populations. I hope to defend my final project in August and graduate in December. God gave me the grace to work and do my best in school. People would say, “How did you do that?” Even I don’t understand. It was definitely God’s grace.

Lately God has been dealing with the inside of me, releasing me from the trauma of my childhood. I have been praying about it and letting it go. I feel like I am experiencing healing in this area. God is my counselor. I breakdown and cry, and He leads me to Scripture.

I look back and see God’s hand working behind the scenes. In the past, He seemed far away and I felt like He had forgotten me, but He was always there. Looking back, I have come this far because of His grace. Every day he provides healing and delivery from my past trauma. I am still a work in progress, but I have come a long way. I am amazed at God’s unconditional love. He loves us as we are and though at times we see ‘broken,’ He sees ‘precious.’ In His due time, He will elevate us. Our lives are in His hands, and He has good plans for us. We may not understand the mountains and valleys that we go through, but His love will keep us. He will always be our victory. He will embrace us in our trying moments and give us the grace to sing even in our most painful times. His love sustained me, and I know He embraced me when I felt broken and lost. He embraced me when I was giving up on life. He did it for me, and He will do it for whoever might be going through a similar experience and is feeling lost or forgotten. The Lord surely does give beauty for ashes. He is able to fix our brokenness into a precious vessel — a work of art — that is so valuable. He is able to bring out the best from even the most painful moments.

Jeremiah 29:11–14 (NIV) speaks hope to me because I know that in every season, whether good or bad, God has a good plan for us. He is a God who restores and brings us back to His purpose when we deviate from His plan. He loves us unconditionally and never gives up on us. At times we may not understand the pain that we go through, but He is still God, a good God who has good plans. Whatever the season, it does not change who God is!

“For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, they are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me in earnest, you will find me when you seek me. I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and bring you home again to your own land.” Jeremiah 29:11–14 (NIV)

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.

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.

#201 Yet, I Will Rejoice: Part 1

 Photo by Jeff Rogers Photography

I was born in Kenya in 1980, the last child in a family of three siblings. When I was six years old, I woke up late in the night and was looking for my mum. I asked my dad where she was. He told me she had left, and he did not know where she went. I was confused because to me, my family was perfect. I kept asking my dad where my mum went and would she ever come back? He kept telling me he did not know. My questions bothered him and at times made him very angry, so I stopped asking. But silently, I suffered deeply inside. I kept wondering why my mum had left me?I was so young. Why did she reject me? 

The next time I saw her was in court three years later. She had filed for divorce. She and I never really had a connection and, much later, I asked her why she rejected us? Why she left us? She told me that she had to leave because they were fighting a lot. She said she loved us and tried to look for us all those years, but my dad would not allow her to see us. I tried to accept her version of the story and worked very hard to establish a relationship with her, but it was so difficult. My relationship with my dad was so close. He was my hero and I loved him. I think I chose to believe his version of the story. 

My dadraised my siblings and me after my mother left. Growing up was tough without a mother’s love. I think dad was pushing himself too hard. I think he was afraid he would lose us. One time he mentioned his fear that the court could take us away from him. You could see that the thought of not having his children broke his heart. He provided everything we needed. However, he was very angry, bitter, and tired. So we grew up afraid. As loving and protective as he was, he would say some mean things out of anger. We learned perfection from him. Everything had to be perfect. From elementary to middle school (known as primary School in Kenya)we topped the class, and my dad pushed us even harder. Our grades had to be perfect. We were not even allowed to date. We were very involved in church, sports, extracurricular activities such as music and drama, but he monitored all that closely. By the time I was in sixth grade I could cook and clean for the whole family, and I could comfortably stay home by myself after school. He had taught us to be independent.

 

During college I visited my mother. We would bake, take walks, and try to do mother-daughter bonding activities to make up for the lost years. I was really starting to connect with her, but after a few months, she fell ill and died. It broke my heart. I was very involved in church and had a group of girls that I met with to pray and that got me through. Yes, losing her still hurt but the prayers and encouragement from my small prayer group gave me courage to keep moving forward. God gave me the peace and grace to continue focusing on school. I could trust Him despite the situation. I cannot explain the strength I had going through that situation, but I know it was only with God’s help. 

Both my siblings went to the US to build their careers, but I remained in Kenya and was among the first cohort in Kenya to train as a social worker. When I graduated, I got an internship at the United Nations in Nairobi. My first formal employment was in a research study for HIV prevention among high-risk women. I did not have much experience. It was a miracle that I got the job. I enrolled for a master’s degree in medical sociology. 

Having gone through a broken family and trauma, I was drawn to working with the kids from similar backgrounds and those going through abuse. While I was doing well in my career and working on my master’s degree, my father became ill. My dad began getting sick around fall of 2007, which was an election year in Kenya. When the election results were announced, violence broke out. This escalated cases of abuse and violence and kept me very busy at the violence recovery center. I could not go visit my dad because of the post-election violence. Tribes were fighting against tribes and political parties against each other and it was risky to travel.

 

Unfortunately, my father also could not travel to see his physician for medical care in another city. Instead, he went to a local hospital in a rural town in Kenya, but he did not make it. I remember the last time I spoke with him. I had left work at around 4 p.m. I talked to him and his phone went off. I remember him telling me to take care of myself and to tell my siblings the same. I asked him what he was talking about? I told him the violence would end, and he would get out of hospital, and I would go see him. I was told that the last thing he mentioned was that he wanted to take a short nap and rest, but when he slept, he never woke up. The next morning when I heard my dad had passed; I thought my life was going to end! I did not see how I would live without my dad because I loved him so much. He was my hero, my best friend. I was truly daddy’s girl. I felt like a part of me died when he died.

 

I didn’t date until I was an adult and got in my first serious relationship when I was 25 years old. I wasn’t experienced in relationships and I didn’t know about normal relationships because I came from a broken home. When my dad was sick, I met the man who would become my husband. He was there with me when I got the news about my dad’s passing. He saw how crushed I was and decided he would take me to the country to attend the burial/funeral. We were both risking our lives because there was still tension, due to post-election violence. I cried all the way from the city to the country. The seven-hour drive was very scary. You could sense the tension. We knew anything could happen, and we could get killed. This really brought me and my boyfriend close.

When I returned, it was very hard to get back to work and to finish my master’s degree. I felt empty. I wanted to die and I prayed to God to take my life. I drank a bottle of wine or sometimes two, to wash away the pain. My boyfriend was there for me during this time, and I was still involved in the church, but instead of turning to God, I turned to this relationship. After a few months of dating, we decided to get married. We really didn’t know each other very well. My whole family was against it. They thought I was still going through trauma of my dad passing and thought I should wait, but I did not care. I went ahead with the wedding plans. My siblings could not make it to my wedding. Only a few of my family showed up. I smiled during my wedding ceremony, but I was breaking inside. I had no dad to walk me down the aisle, as I pictured all through my life, I was getting married to someone I didn’t know well, and my family didn’t support me. 

The morning after my wedding, I looked at my ring and I remember thinking, “What have I done?” We went for our honeymoon in Mombasa, a coastal city in Kenya, but I was unwell and unhappy. One night we decided to go out to one of the clubs. When we were heading back, we were stopped and surrounded by a group of about 10 men. We actually thought they were police, but they were not. It may have been an initiation into a local militia group because they didn’t steal anything. They started cutting us with machetes. A man was cutting me again and again. I faced death. I had two deep cuts in my head, and blood was flowing like tap water. I was silently whispering, while holding my blood with both my hands, “Lord Jesus, forgive me. Please remember mercy. Save me!” 

 

I cannot believe I survived this ordeal! I had said my last prayer at the time because I knew I was going to die. Miraculously, they left us (probably for dead). People heard our cries for help and came to help us. A man offered to take us to the hospital in his car. I believe God intervened to save us. I really don’t know how I survived. From a beautiful bride a few days before, I lost all my hair. They had to cut all my hair with a razor so that they could stich my head. I almost lost my eye as well. I still have a scar. The next day we informed our family back in the city. They arranged for us to be flown back to Nairobi. That is basically how we started out marriage. With a traumatic experience and nursing wounds from our near-death experience!

 

My husband was drinking a lot and at times not coming home. I was also drinking my wine. I was depressed and felt stuck in the marriage. I did not know who to talk to because my family was against the marriage in the first place. I was too embarrassed to reach out for help. My siblings were far away in the US; I had no dad to talk to. My spiritual life was a mess. I felt very far from God.

 

We decided to go for counseling from our pastor, but we still had problems. We also went to talk to his family, and the aunts advised us to have a baby. They said having a child sometimes solidifies a marriage and makes a couple bond. I was scared and excited at the same time. I had stopped my master’s program; I did not graduate, taking a three-year break from school. I got pregnant but I had no one to take care of me emotionally. I felt alone. I spoke to my sister and explained how sad I was, and we decided it was best to go to the US. I applied for a scholarship and got accepted to pursue a master’s degree in public administration in Louisiana. My husband seemed okay with it. My plan was to go to Louisiana then transfer to Kentucky to be close to my family. I was only a few months pregnant. My husband and I agreed that we would try and apply for an F-2 visa for him as a dependent spouse. I traveled to the US and applied three times, but we were not successful. I also tried to transfer to Kentucky and was unsuccessful. I took a semester off from school and had my son. When I held my son, I felt blessed and happy. At the same time, I was scared because I did not know if I would be a good mother. I fell in love with my little boy immediately. He lit up some part of me that was broken inside. I decided that it was best to go back to Kenya, so my son could be close to his father. I did not want to go through a divorce like my parents did because I know the pain it caused me then, and I did not want my son to go through the same. 

When I went back to Kenya, my husband continued with his old ways, drinking, partying, and sleeping around. There was infidelity and neglect, and we reached a point where it was best to end the marriage. We ended up separating and later divorcing. It was so hard for me to divorce despite infidelity. I thought about repeating my parent’s history. All this time I kept crying to God. I felt unworthy because my walk wasn’t always right. I wondered if God really accepted me. But I realize now God loves me unconditionally. We are the ones focused on other things — focused on the pain or the lack, but He is always there.

Habakkuk 3:17–19 is one of my favorite verses and reflects how I was feeling at this time and what I still believe today. Through it all we should give thanks and Praise the Lord. It might be difficult to do that when going through pain, when the road is all foggy, and we are unsure of where we are going. Even when it hurts, we should put our trust in the Lord and rejoice because He gives us grace and strength to go through these seasons, whether good or bad. He is there behind the scenes. He is there carrying us, even though we do not “see” Him or “feel” His presence, He is there, putting every piece of the puzzle in place, where it belongs, and ordering our steps. 

“Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vine, even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren, even though the flocks die in the fields and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation. The Sovereign Lord is my strength! He will make me as surefooted as a deer and bring me safely over the mountains.” Habakkuk 3: 17-19 (NIV)

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.

#199 A Mustard Seed of Faith

 

Photo by Jeff Rogers Photography

I grew up in a single parent home, living with my mom and younger sister after my parents divorced when I was young. My parent’s marriage was plagued by domestic violence, so my earliest memories are of my parents fighting. My home situation and my parents fighting made me feel very insecure, though we did have lots of extended family, which provided safe places to spend time. My mom became a Christian when I was seven. I remember going to church with her and to Vacation Bible School, but I didn’t understand what was going on in church. 

When I was 11, my mom got remarried to a man who lived in Indianapolis. He was a godsend. He was a great guy and didn’t have any children, so he took me and my younger sister on as his own. He was a Lutheran and put us in a Lutheran school. That is really where I learned about God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. We had religion class and learned the books of the Bible. But this was head knowledge and had not made it to my heart. There was no relationship with Jesus. As a result, I always felt like something wasn’t fulfilled within me. 

In high school, I could see I had two choices, two groups of friends to choose from. I could pursue my education and do the right thing, or I could take another path. I chose the other path and started smoking weed. I became pregnant at 16 years old and had my son the first week of my senior year in high school. Out of fear, I didn’t tell my mom and dad until I was seven months pregnant. To their credit, they didn’t put any pressure on me to choose — either put the baby up for adoption or to keep the baby. That was another God moment for me. I lived with them and they helped take care of the baby. My mom helped care for my son, and my dad took care of us financially. I was enrolled in night school and finished high school mid-year. Our family dentist then hired me to be his dental assistant when I was 18. 

I had second child, a little girl, when I was 19 years old, with a man who became my husband several years later. I was still working for the dentist, though I moved out into a place with the father of my child. We did the best we could, but we weren’t very equipped to raise two small children. At around 20 years old, I got introduced to crack cocaine. The first time I used it, it changed my life. I became addicted immediately and, by age 21, I was arrested for the first time for drinking and driving. 

I was in and out of incarceration from 2000–2011 for drug-related issues. My life just spiraled out of control for several years, but I believe the Lord was working in my life during this time. In 2005, God awakened my soul! I had to go to prison when I was seven months pregnant and that finally got my attention. I was imprisoned in March, my daughter was born in April, and I was released in September 2005. My mom was her caregiver while I was in prison. My other two children were living with my mother-in-law. I moved in with my mom when I was released. God provided a good job for me, which was a true blessing. I worked in that job for a few years and things went pretty well.

For me, it wasn’t one moment, but many moments over the years that really changed me. Each time I was incarcerated, there were volunteers who would come in and minister to us. They told their stories, brought Bibles, led recovery groups and Bible studies. They were so consistent in sharing God’s Word and God’s love with us. It made such a big impact on me. There was a mustard seed of faith that was growing inside of me into a tree. The Bible studies, recovery meetings, and programs available while I was incarcerated, were the biggest blessing to me. 

I remember one man named Ralph who came weekly to pass out Gideon Bibles and to share the Good News. He was probably 80 years old and had emphysema. It was really hard for him to breathe, but he came faithfully. I asked him if he would visit my grandparents and share the Good News with them. He ended up going to my grandpa’s house to share the Good News and my grandpa accepted Christ. About a week or two later, my grandpa passed away from a heart attack. I’ll never forget that moment — that is when awakening began!

I did well for several years, but in 2008, I got into another relationship and got pregnant with my last son. The relationship with his dad was very hard. It was a rebound relationship for me, we didn’t know each other very well, and there was a lot of emotional instability on my part. I was just in a bad situation. By March 2010, my life was out of control, so I gave my two-year-old son to his father and my five-year-old daughter went to live with my sister. I got arrested in September of 2010 and was incarcerated for four months. 

In 2011, I had gotten back together with the man who fathered my second child when we were 19. We were staying in hotels using drugs every day. I was exhausted and just couldn’t take it anymore. On November 5, 2011, I cried out to God from a hotel room. I prayed, “God, if you don’t save me from myself, I’m going to kill myself doing this. I need you to help me.” God answered my prayer. I prayed that prayer around 6 a.m. and around 6 p.m., we were pulled over by the police because we had tinted windows. I was arrested, but I believe my arrest was divine intervention. Actually, each of my arrests was divine intervention. I feel like each arrest came at a time when I was going to die. God was saving me from myself by using the judicial system to stop me. Nothing else could stop me. It was like being possessed — something I couldn’t control. My addiction was such a tug of war for my soul. 

On November 5, 2011, the day I cried out to God, I was arrested for the final time. I went from jail to prison, jail to prison — four different facilities in one year. At that point, I was really engaged and applying myself in pursuing God. I was attending Bible studies and using all the resources available to me. I took a recovery course and went to classes. I worked a recovery program for a whole year while I was incarcerated, which really set the foundation. In January of 2012, I was baptized in the Holy Spirit in jail. My spiritual eyes were opened and each day after that I grew more and more in my understanding of Jesus, God, and the Holy Spirit. One night a scripture verse (just the book and verse number) came into my mind during a dream. It was Galatians 6:9. I looked up this verse when I woke up and read it, I realized these were just the perfect words to encourage me. This was a real game-changer for me.

So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Galatians 6:9 (NLT)

I was due to be released on November 7, 2012, and before I was released, my mother-in-law sent me information about Wheeler Mission Ministries: Higher Ground Addiction Recovery Program. It is a God-centered program and I thought it sounded perfect for me, so when I was released, I went directly to the Wheeler Mission Higher Ground program. One of things that makes recovery challenging, is that often, when people get released from prison, they go back to the same community, same friends they left. Then they end up back in a bad situation. It’s important to look for a supportive program or another place to go. There are re-entry programs and resources available, you just have to find the courage to do something different. 

The initial commitment at Higher Ground Addiction Recovery is eight months but you can stay as a servant leader in training to serve your program after this eight months. I chose to stay and became an assistant in the recovery program. In 2014, I became an employee. My personal relationship with Jesus has been growing since God’s intervention in 2011 and I am still actively pursuing God. I am now a case manager for Higher Ground. By the looks of it on paper, I wasn’t qualified for the case manager position, but God made a way. God provided me with this position. I love my job. I love being able to encourage and strengthen women and their relationship with God and be a person they can count on. I love being able to share about Jesus. 

When I got to Wheeler Mission, I saw the Bible lived out in the way the people loved God and loved others without condition. That is another reason I’m so grateful for the position I have now. I can share the love given to me and encourage other women to reach their full potential, to be good mothers and family members. 

When I look back, I see God’s protection all through my life. Sometimes I was in dangerous situations and He had His loving arms around me. I can see it completely now. God is patient and consistent and unconditional in His love. He does correct us though and that is an important piece of His character. But His correction is as a loving Father and is done to help and protect us. His correction saved me. I can’t put into words how loving and caring He has been to show me so much favor my whole life. I got my daughter back from my sister in 2015, which was a miracle, and I became a homeowner in 2018. The biggest gift that God has given me is my children, my relationships with my children and the grandchild I have on the way. 

All God wants is a relationship with His children and He doesn’t give up on them. Even when people don’t know Him, He still wants the relationship. He pursues us, but he is a gentleman, and He doesn’t force Himself on us. 

I am often reminded of this verse that is on the wall at Wheeler Mission: 

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 

Matthew 11:28 (NIV)

When I read that verse, I see a Father with his arms open to His children. Don’t wait to pursue your relationship with God and grow as a person. Start today! Pick up a Bible and read it. Let God change your life!

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.

#197 Improbable Survival, Part 1

 

Photo by Jeff Rogers Photography

It is Thanksgiving, around 5 a.m. I am less than two weeks out from quadruple bypass surgery. I actually feel pretty well and have clients scheduled for next week, so not too much disruption from having your chest opened and your heart stopped for four hours, while it g

 

ets a plumbing job of rerouting arteries around blockages. I really have not paid attention to the details of the surgery, but my surgeon told me if I did not have the open-heart surgery I would be dead, again, within a month. There were precious few physical symptoms to indicate that I had such serious coronary heart disease. I take care of myself physically and I go to the doctor for annual physicals.

That’s right, dead again. Those words do not even look real. I had no idea I died Friday November 15 around 4 p.m. I just remember collapsing on the trail and waking up as I was being transported down the trail. I had a sudden cardiac arrest while backpacking up a steep slope. I was participating in a church (Crossroads) retreat for men called Man Camp. There were approximately 1,000 men attending a weekend camping retreat near the Kentucky River in Richmond, Kentucky. 

I had experienced what is called “ventricular fibrillation” (VF) in the lower left chamber of my heart. This causes the heart to vibrate so rapidly that it can’t pump blood. It was not a heart attack per se, but rather an electrical malfunction, where the heart loses normal rhythm and there is no pulse. Only around 10 percent of people survive VF, and most of those survivors are already hospitalized or in health care settings.

I would not have survived if I were not hiking with two men (Eric Curvin and Shane Porter) who knew what to do and immediately jumped into action performing CPR and mouth to mouth resuscitation. Eric is a nurse anesthetist and Shane is an Iraq veteran. They kept my heart and brain alive for at least 15 minutes, until the camp medics, volunteer medical personnel serving at Man Camp, arrived with a defibrillator to shock my heart back into rhythm. I was then transported to a hospital.

I would not have survived but for the grace of God. I am told that men immediately surrounded me and began praying out loud, calling on the name of Jesus. One of my best friends, Lynn Buckles, tells me my skin was ashen and my eyes were open, staring, like a dead man. I was a dead man — and he pleaded with God to raise me from the dead, as did others. Another friend, Bryan Carter said, “I have seen dead people before,” so he knew what a lifeless body looked liked. I can’t imagine what that was like for them, but it had to be traumatic; both of them have their own stories of dealing with death and near death.

So I am thankful I get to spend this Thanksgiving with my wife, Carolyn, our children, Seth, Danielle, and Isaac, and my brother, Trip, who flew from North Carolina to be with us during surgery. The gift of my life, to survive this, is a mystery. I could have just as easily died, as most do. I will die, someday … but why God allowed my healing is something to prayerfully and respectfully consider. There is more to this story, so many connections that cannot be explained as happenstance, and the telling of it will continue.

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.

#179 Chance Encounters

 Photo by Jeff Rogers

When our son was born, he was normal. At three months old it was like a switch was flipped. He started throwing up. Our first child had problems with lactose intolerance, so we thought that was it. We went to the doctor and he changed his formula. But he didn’t get better. Months later we spent six days in the children’s hospital running tests. They came up with a diagnosis of failure to thrive. This is basically a diagnosis that they give when they don’t know what is wrong but they know something is wrong. We battled this for four years. It was back and forth to hospital doing feeding studies and running tests. At four years old he was well underweight at 20 pounds. Every time he would gain weight, he would get sick and lose weight. The only thing that would stay down was his formula in the bottle. We stopped going to the hospital because it wasn’t helping.

It is amazing how God works. When our son was five he started going to a Methodist preschool. The mom of another child started talking about a severe illness her child had. As she described his symptoms, it sounded just like what our son was going through. We told her about our son—about his illness and all that he had been through. She said that she felt sure he had the same disease as her son, a rare disorder called eosinophilic esophagitis (EE). Not long after this, their family moved away. Her husband was a microbiologist and had taken a job at the college in our town but was only there for two months and then they moved away. But two months was long enough for us to have the conversation with his wife. There is no way we would have found out about the disease if we hadn’t met her.

We took our son back to the doctor at the children’s hospital. We told him that we thought our child had eosinophilic esophagitis. Turns out this hospital has the number one clinic in the world for eosinophilic diseases! After several months on the waiting list, we were finally able to get our son an appointment in this clinic, and they diagnosed our son with eosinophilic esophagitis just as we suspected. They told us to eliminate the 10 foods that most commonly cause allergies. We did this for several months, but the results of his scope came back worse than the first time. What could it be then? The doctor called me personally and said the results of his scope were very bad. He said our son had to have a feeding tube or he would die. They told me how they do the feeding tube and how they cut the stomach and put it in. I was so upset that I cried, but it seemed we didn’t have a choice. In 2011, he got the feeding tube. It was so hard on him because for four days he laid in the bed and he normally has lots of energy and is a people person. I worried that he was shutting down.

The feeding tube bypasses the esophagus (the tube that takes food from the mouth to the stomach) and goes directly into the stomach. For three months, he wasn’t allowed to have any food by mouth. All of his nourishment went through his tube into his stomach. We put a special formula into the feeding tube to feed him. In three months, he gained 10 pounds and his esophagus was healed so he was approved to eat some things by mouth. But what he took in by mouth was not providing his nourishment. We were still putting special formula into his feeding tube, and this is what provided the nourishment he needed to live.

We had another problem. The formula cost about $1,500 per month. Insurance wouldn’t pay for this and I had lost my job in 2015, so money was tight. We couldn’t afford to buy the formula.

I had read about a law passed in Illinois that mandates insurance companies to pay for the formula for EE patients who need it in their tube feeding to survive. In my mind, this was no different than insulin for a diabetic patient. Our child had to have this to survive.

Our state representative helped to get a bill passed in our son’s name that would ensure Kentucky insurance companies would pay for the formula needed for survival in EE patients. As a part of this process, our family testified before the state legislature’s insurance committee. There was a unanimous “yes” vote in that committee. A unanimous “yes” vote had never happened in that committee. We also testified in a House of Representatives committee and a Senate committee. So many prayers were being said. Everything fell into place, and the bill became a law in only two months!

Life is still hard for our son. He is 60 pounds at 13 years old and has had 27 scopes in seven years. But even after everything our son has been through, he is still is so joyful. God made him an independent and positive person, and we are so thankful for that. He loves people and sings and plays the drums. He is a blessing to many people.

Through all of this, we have realized how many people have prayed for our son and how God has answered prayers. One day we were at a rest stop and a woman saw our son and said, “I have been praying for you.” She was from another state, and somehow her church found out about our son’s struggles and he had been on their prayer list. At critical moments in our life, God has provided in some way—the mother at the preschool, the specialty clinic at our hospital, the law that passed in two months when we were out of money and couldn’t afford the formula. God’s provision and timing have amazed us again and again, and we are so thankful.

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.

#177 God Goes Before Us

 Photo by Chelsea Jo Photography

It is the Lord that goes before us. He is with us. He will never leave or forsake us. Do not fear or be dismayed.

Deut. 31:8

I had memorized this verse a couple of weeks before heading on our trip to Alaska . . . not knowing that we would see this promise in action.

We left for our 50th anniversary trip on July 31, 2018. Ardon and I were in good health and looking forward to visiting this “last frontier” of beauty and nature. We first flew to Seattle, staying two nights to become accustomed to the time change. Before leaving, I had contacted an old friend. I knew she lived in the area, but as we did not have a car, I knew the likelihood of seeing her would be slim.

On August 1, we purchased an all-day pass on the Light Rail that went from the south side of Seattle to the north side. We rode all the way to the end, determining sights we would see on the return trip. When we got off the train, we found we were at the University of Washington Huskie stadium. I remembered that my friend’s husband was a professor there and guessed they wouldn’t live too far away. I called her and found out she had the time to visit, and she picked us up at the university. We spent time in her home, went for lunch, and caught up with hours of good conversation. This friend and I had not seen each other in 54 years. God went before us.

Our trip continued on a flight to Anchorage, a train ride on the Alaska Railroad to Denali, an eight-hour tour through Denali National Park, then back on the train to Fairbanks to enjoy a couple of days and a riverboat Discovery tour that passed Susan Butcher’s home and a native village. Now we were homeward bound to the “lower 48 states,” but our Heavenly Father wasn’t through with us yet.

The next day we flew to Anchorage for rest before heading home. But that wasn’t God’s plan. During Ardon’s first void of the morning, he passed a one-centimeter kidney stone. The pain, the bleeding, and the shock of passing something that large put him back in bed for a half hour. I asked him if he wanted to go down for breakfast. He did and so we did. During the time we were eating in a very warm dining room, I noticed that Ardon was beginning to shiver. I asked him if he wanted to go back to the room and he said yes. Fully dressed, he got under the covers and said he was freezing. I recognized the “shocky” symptoms and said I needed to go get help. He said, “No, let me rest for a little while.” I could see that things were not improving and finally said that I was going to the desk to get help. I went down and asked if there was a physician in the hotel. He said no, but asked if I would like him to call 911? I said yes but would need a wheelchair to get Ardon down to the lobby. They had a wheelchair, and a staff member came to the room with me. I gathered my tote bag and Ardon got in the wheelchair. When we got down to the lobby, Ardon was shivering violently. I asked for blankets which were kindly provided. The EMTs arrived and Ardon was sensing that his body was failing. The ambulance took us to JBER (Joint Base Elmendorf/Richardson AFB) where the only VA medical center in Alaska was housed. Our ER doctor was a graduate of the University of Nebraska, our home state. God had again gone before us.

The doctor recognized the signs of septic shock (blood sepsis) and immediately started two bags of saline as Ardon’s blood pressure was going down severely. The EKG indicated the heart was being attacked and a PIC line was inserted with two kinds of broad spectrum antibiotic administered via IV. Four IVs were running simultaneously. Urinalysis, chest X-rays, and blood tests were also being done during the next eight hours. Ardon was at that point stable but in very serious condition. Meanwhile, I was contacting children and siblings, getting all the prayer warriors on board. Within six hours, prayer warriors from coast to coast were praying. Another of God’s provisions.

Ardon was transferred to ICU that evening. The social workers came alongside me to find out how to help. We were to have flown home the next day, and our suitcases were still at the hotel where we had paid for two nights’ stay. The social workers provided taxi vouchers to and from the hotel and said that I would be able to stay at Fisher House (a ministry to out-of-town vets and active-duty military and their dependents) as long as needed. Praise God. The social workers took care of all the cancellations and were able to get a percentage of our non-refundable tickets and hotel fee returned to us. God had gone before us.

After checking out of the hotel and returning to the hospital, hearing from the doctor that Ardon was still in very serious condition, an appointment was made for me to check into Fisher House. When I left the hospital, Ardon said, “If you come back to just a body, know that I am more alive in Glory and I will be waiting for you.” The confirmation and assurance of that statement was affirming that Ardon knew his eternal home was waiting for him . . . but it was also a shock to me who was accustomed to seeing him attack all his “medical emergencies” with a fighting spirit. I walked to Fisher House, introduced myself, got registered, received a tour and my keys, and told them about Ardon’s comment and our hope in Jesus’ finished and redemptive work on the cross. The social worker said to me, “We are all believers here, too.” It was comforting to know that God was continuing to go ahead of us.

At the hospital, Ardon was showing a little improvement. His blood bacteria levels were going down, but now I was seeing swelling of his arms. The doctor said the swelling was a part of the process and that in three days it should go down. Later in the morning, I received a call from a young lady I hadn’t seen in 20 years, a grand-niece of dear friends back home. She said she was married, was a nurse, and lived in Anchorage . . . and would I like a visitor? Of course I said yes—if she could get on the base. She arrived after lunch with her little three-month-old daughter. We had a good conversation and she asked if there was anything she could do. With all these antibiotics going into Ardon, I was concerned that his intestinal flora was getting upset and that he might end up with C.Diff. I felt he needed some probiotic and/or Activia yogurt. She said she would be glad to get that for us. During the time she was gone, I went to Fisher House and returned to the hospital, caught my toe on the well-polished tile and fell, cutting my chin with the key on my lanyard. The young lady returned with the probiotics and promptly took me to an ER off base. She surely was an instrument of healing and ministry to us that day. God was indeed going before us.

On Sunday, Ardon got word that his blood was clean and would be moving to the general ward if he reached some of the achievement goals. I had been using the public restroom on the floor and had started reading the bulletin boards there. To my astonishment, all the boards contained protocols and articles for sepsis. What would be the chances that this hospital had just finished their staff in-service with instructions on sepsis?!! Another of God’s provisions.

Ardon was moved to the general ward that night. The next morning brought more news. The nurse told him he could continue recuperating for a couple more days in the hospital or he could continue recuperating at Fisher House. Needless to say, when he heard that news, he was determined to be moved immediately. But Physical Therapy had to sign off that he would be able to be at Fisher House and walk around it safely. When the therapist came in, his first question was, “Where in Omaha do you live?” I said the northwest corner. “No,” he said. “I was raised there. Where do you live?” I said, “156th and Maple.” He laughed and said, “I went to Kiewit Middle School and graduated high school at Millard North.” I said, “Stop, you are going to make me cry. That is where our grandchildren go.” Again, God was letting us know He was going before us. Ardon passed his PT test and was transported via wheelchair to Fisher House.

Over the next five days, Ardon recuperated, gaining a little strength each day. His appetite was poor due to the antibiotics and lack of exercise, and he lost 11 pounds. One of the residents was a chef and made some lovely breakfasts and suppers. So with better food, exercise, fresh air, conversation (he was able to share the gospel with this resident), and sleep, Ardon was ready to travel by Sunday. During this time, I was able to pray with one of the female residents, and Ardon and I befriended a young mother and her three-year-old daughter who were in Anchorage for surgery. May God get all the glory—for who He is, for His ever-loving kindness to us, and for His leading in our lives. We could not do life without Him.

Since returning home, follow-up visits and doctors have all confirmed that Ardon is way ahead of the healing curve, and his strength continues to increase. We are so thankful. We wanted you to know with total belief and trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ, that you can have a Heavenly Father who goes before you and with you wherever you go. His love is extreme, abundant, and free. Place your trust in Him today.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16

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.

#173. Then The Doorbell Rang

Photo by Nicole Tarpoff 

When I was growing up my family didn’t go to church. But I wanted to. I was saved at a youth convention when I was 12 years old. It’s been a long journey, and there have been times that I haven’t been as close to God. But I’ve always felt His hand on me and I have felt His guidance.

After I retired as a high school librarian in the public school system, I became a librarian at a local college. During this “retired” season of my life, God began to lead me on a new journey. I’ve always had a heart for teenagers and I saw in the newspaper that a lady who had a pregnancy center about an hour and half away was coming to our town to see if someone would open a pregnancy center in our town. Her center was the closest one to our town and she had so many girls from our county that she couldn’t serve them all.

There were seven of us that met with her about starting a center in our town. We decided that we would open a pregnancy center and I would become the director. Initially, we had no money but God put together a caring board of directors who had experience and talents that really helped. We raised $18,000 through a baby bottle drive that allowed us to lease a building downtown for the center. We had spent nearly all the money preparing the building and preparing for our clients. We had no other money coming in and no one really knew about us. We didn’t have many clients—I think we had had one client, and I wasn’t sure she was really even a client. We had no donors. I was pretty discouraged. I thought, “What have we done?” I went to the post office to see if we had gotten any donations in the mail. None. I walked back and went into the back room of the pregnancy center. I prayed, “God, I feel like you called me to do this but I’ve always been a librarian. I don’t know if this was in my mind or your calling.”

Just then the doorbell rang and a lawyer walked in. He said,“There’s a group of us that have gotten together and we love what you are doing and want to support it.” He handed me a very large check. This was an immediate answer to prayer and the confirmation and encouragement I needed. We have never looked back. God continues to provide and His timing is always right.

The pregnancy center has been open 12 years now. We are in the far-most corner of Eastern Kentucky, and we had nothing like this in our area. We serve both men and women of all ages from 12 counties and three states. What we do for each person varies because each person is different and has different needs. We are part of Care Net, a national group founded in 1975 by Dr. Harold L.J. Brown with the advice and encouragement of the late Rev. Billy Graham and the late Dr. Francis A. Schaeffer. We had to take training to be an affiliate.

We teach GED classes and try to get the young women to finish high school and get into college. We teach parenting and life skills classes and we have a fatherhood program. We even have a new grandparent’s classes because so many of our clients have been addicted to drugs, and the grandparents raise the children,so we are trying to help the grandparents. A lot of things have changed since they were parents. We host a girl’s night out and a grandparent’s night out. We have a program for ladies who have had abortions, to help with guilt. We provide counseling and a Forgiven and Set Free class they can take. We have a lot of hurting people in Appalachia that need material items, so we have a Bundle of Joy room/store in our center. The room is filled with light and organized beautifully by a volunteer by item type, size, and gender. We have many clothes, blankets, shoes, and other items that food stamps and WIC (Women, Children, and Infants Federal program) doesn’t pay for—like wipes, diapers,and even new car seats. Clients earn baby bucks to shop, by doing things like taking their baby for a wellness check or taking a parenting class.

The main thing we are doing is trying to save lives. We are very gentle when we talk about saving baby’s lives. We want to let the girls know that God hasn’t given up on them because family and friends have given up on them. Girls feel embarrassed, scared, and hopeless, and we minister to them at a brokenhearted time. They often feel very alone. I imagine my 16-year-old granddaughter in that situation. I wouldn’t want her to be judged and alone. I would want her to have support, compassion, and love.

Shortly after we opened, a pregnant teen came to us for help. Her parents were so angry that they disowned her and she lived with her grandmother who also wasn’t very happy with her. When she delivered her baby, we took a collection of brand-new baby clothes and accessories as a gift to her in the hospital. Her room was dark and she was by herself. I said, “Hi! We’ve come to celebrate your baby!” She said, “Nobody has celebrated my baby.” I showed her the gift we had brought and her face lit up. As I held up each tiny garment for her baby, I could see hope on her face. That’s really the main thing I want to give the girls…compassion and hope. This young woman went on to become a nurse and her baby is a thriving 10-year-old girl! We saw her not long ago and she told my husband, “You wouldn’t believe how my life was changed because of the pregnancy center!” This is just one example. I have seen God change so many lives through the center.

I remember one evening after the center was closed and I was working late, a young woman came into the center because she saw the light on in my office. She had been on her way to get an abortion. God’s timing is always perfect.

Another time a teenage girl came to the center very upset because she wanted to keep her baby, but her mother was adamant that she have an abortion. I talked with both the girl and the mother together but there was no resolution. I had done everything I knew to do. I asked the mother if I could pray and she agreed. When I prayed, I laid my hand on the mother and said, “God I’m praying for things that are not as though they will be. I pray that you will reveal to her that this is her grandchild.” His Spirit filled the room. The woman was not a Christian, and she got saved that day. Her grandchild is now is 1 year old.

We get no federal or state money to run the center. God provides through His people. We have three big fundraisers, a baby bottle drive, the banquet for life, and a golf tournament. You can just see what God has done. I have discovered that God’s mercies are new every morning. His faithfulness is great. I know that things that are not possible with man are possible with God.

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.

#172 Marketplace to Ministry

 Photo by Brianna Rapp

For many years I held an executive position in a major technology corporation in the United States. In my mid-forties I began to feel uncomfortable, sensing that there was something more important than working in the corporate world. I asked myself, “Why am I spending so much time building the kingdom of this company, when I could be spending time building the kingdom of God?”

About this time, our church wanted to plant a new church. A friend and I were asked to lead the church plant with our families. Four other families joined, and in 1994 we began the new church. I shared the pastoring with one other fellow for two years as a lay pastor. Our growth was explosive. We first started meeting in a conference room and outgrew that space; we moved to a junior high school and outgrew that space as well. In 1996 we were meeting in one of the largest high school auditoriums with about 250 parishioners. However, in a completely unexpected move, the administration told us one day that they would soon start renovations on the auditorium, and so we had to leave within four weeks. 

Faced with no place to meet, we contacted other big high schools in the area multiple times. Each time all of them told us their policy was to not allow any organization to use their facility. Our situation became desperate. We needed God to provide and God did.

The pastor of our church was in a prayer meeting with several other men and he explained our situation. An ex-NFL football player was among those at the prayer meeting and he asked if his high school alma mater—one of the schools who had refused us multiple times—had been asked to help. The pastor told him that the high school had been asked by our church several times and the answer was always no. 

Hearing this, the ex-NFL player decided he would ask his alma mater high school for us. To our surprise (but not God’s) they agreed! Not only were we allowed to use the auditorium, which held 600, but we also were allowed to use all the classrooms for our children’s programs.

I am so grateful to God for many things: for the corporate job that provided so well for my family for many years, for the call out of this job into ministry, for the many people that God brought into the church, for the lives that were transformed by the planting of the new church, and for providing a connection that led to a place for our church to meet. 

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.