#163 Changing Jobs, Finding Life

Photo by Brianna Rapp 

The first time I remember the Holy Spirit convicting me of my sin was in 1972 when I was 18 years old. My mother was being baptized in John’s Creek and I was standing on the swinging bridge overlooking the creek. The song that was sung was “Shall We Gather at the River?” I felt a tug at my heart, but I didn’t really know what it was.

A few years later, in 1981, I was invited to play on a softball team with a member of a local Baptist church. I had anger issues and I always wanted to win. Sometimes I got really upset, but the man who had invited me to play never got upset or angry. There was something different about him. He was a super person—very helpful, very patient.

He and his wife came to visit my wife and me in our home. I remember the night very well—it was on a Thursday—and before they came I knew someone was coming. He shared the gospel with my wife and me that night. I responded, “Not today,” but told them I would go to church with him. He gave me a New Testament outline Bible which had outlines of different topics in it, such as “What is faith?” and “What is sin?” The next day at work I read the topic, “What is sin?” and after I finished, I knew I was a sinner.

The next Sunday morning, we played a softball game early and then later that morning I went to church. My wife, daughter, and mother-in-law went to church with me. When the invitation was given, my mother-in-law made a profession of faith. Then after the service was finished, my wife made a profession of faith, but I didn’t. I knew I was a sinner, but I thought I had plenty of time. “Not today.” However, that afternoon I kept thinking about it—and it was the most miserable day of my life. My wife and I went back to church that evening. I will never forget the invitation hymn that was sung that night: “O Why Not Tonight?” I went forward and made a profession of faith.

It was the beginning of my walk with the Lord. The people at our church were so loving and good to us. It was as if we had fallen into a gold mine of love. Within a month after my baptism, I began the Continuous Witnessing Class. It was a 13-week study of scripture memorization and training about how to share Christ with others. I decided to go through the study twice because I felt like I had just memorized it the first time. The second time I really learned what it meant. After completion, our church had a visitation program. My wife and I participated in the weekly visitation. Once a week we went to different homes in the community to talk with people about Christ. Sometimes we would know the people we were visiting and sometimes the people were strangers to us. We would knock on the door and I would say, “Hi, I am Roger. I am from the Baptist church and I wanted to sit down and talk with you for a few minutes if you’re got the time.” It was very rare for people to say no. Sometimes I could tell people were not receptive and we did not share the gospel, but many times people were open and we would share. The home visitation was fruitful. One year we had over 100 baptisms at our small church and a good part of this was a result of the church-wide participation in visiting. At church, the gospel is shared in general but not in a personal one-on-one way. This one-on-one sharing is what many people need, as it becomes personal. I am a very shy person, and knocking on doors and sharing with people was hard for me, but along the way God changed me. God was always with me and He always preceded me in everything. He gave me more confidence and helped me to share what He had done for me—which is the best testimony of all. God gave me the words; I was just a tool.

One of the ways that God has worked in my life is through my job. I started working as a heavy equipment operator when I was 18 years old. I worked 10–12 hours a day, six days a week and sometimes on Sunday. Several years ago I felt the Lord was calling me to do something different. I didn’t have any time for my family and my body was beginning to ache. It was not a healthy way to live. I started praying, “Where can I get a different job start to support my family?” Out of the blue someone called me and asked if I was interested in beginning a new career. The job would be for the county school system. I was told the staring salary. It was a $2,200 pay cut per month! I accepted the job. My wife is a school teacher (former banker) and she created a budget to make the new salary work. I am now on my 17th year in the school system and we are debt free!

In my job at the school system I take care of all the textbooks (ordering and distribution into the classrooms), and I also drive a school bus. It is 40 hours a week, compared to the 70-plus hours per week I was working before. It has been so refreshing to spend time with my wife and daughters that I never had before. After I changed jobs, I was able to drop my youngest daughter off at school every morning. Now I have a granddaughter that I can enjoy activities with. It has been the best money I have never made in my life! Also, physically and mentally it is so much healthier for me. My body would have been broken by now if I had stayed at my old job. Now I get up at 4 a.m. every morning and walk six miles before I go to work.

The change in jobs also allows me more time for ministry and service for my Lord and Savior. My wife and I are very involved in our church. I have an opportunity to visit people who may be sick and in the hospital. I also have opportunities for ministering at funerals. I also know some of the needs of the children and the families in our church field as a result of driving a school bus. This allows me to better serve them because I see what they really need. My job often requires me to be out in a lot of our schools daily. I have had people ask me to pray for them, and I pray for them right then wherever it may be.

God has saved me and has given me the opportunity to serve Him and grow spiritually. I am so grateful for the opportunity. He didn’t need me but He used me. God has always placed positive people in our lives that have helped us to grow spiritually. My Savior is so loving and forgiving, so full of grace and mercy. I don’t know where I would be without Him. The blessings of God are all around us. All we have to do to receive them is to be obedient.

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.

#87 Send Someone


 Photo by Renee Toole

I think there’s something to be said about the Creator of the universe and the Savior of the world being concerned enough and humble enough to be involved in the affairs of our little daily lives. You see, this is what makes our God different than other gods. Our God doesn’t sit up in the sky, listen to us calling out to Him, and turn away from us. He’s the God of heaven and yet He cares about answering our sometimes minuscule requests just so He can show us that He is who He says He is. Our God cares enough about His kids to show up for us in the little things. 

I was in a coffee shop a few months ago sitting by myself and journaling some prayers. I was simply asking God to send me some people that I could pray for or share the gospel with. I kept writing for a good while until I looked up to see two people standing in the doorway of the room I was in, looking for a seat. All the seats in the shop were taken except for the ones at my table, so they were stuck with me. I welcomed them and went back to writing. They had important things to talk about and I had prayers to write, right? 

As I kept writing and praying, it dawned on me…I had just prayed for God to bring people for me to pray for and a few minutes later two guys waltz right in my room. My heart started beating fast and my hands got clammy, because I realized that these were THE people and God wasn’t going to let me leave until I did what He was asking me to do. 

I kept praying and praying for an opportunity to talk to them as they went on and on about past wars and potential jobs. While I was praying and waiting for a pause in their conversation, God was stooping low to give me the words to say to the young man He wanted me to speak to. He was letting me in on things about this guy and giving me specifics…things I would have no way of knowing on my own. 

The friend of the young man went to the restroom and I knew this was my shot. I began a conversation, asking questions that aren’t normal conversation starters, because God had already told me things about him. I asked to pray for him and he agreed somewhat hesitantly, but assured me that nothing was wrong with him and he was perfectly happy with his life. I think he must have thought that something has to be wrong with you for you to pray to God. 

Well, God was so good and showed up for me during that prayer. My heart was beating out of my chest the whole time I was praying because God was asking me to be really bold with my words. I was clueless as to what I should say—but lucky for me, God wasn’t clueless and He spoke through me and provided words when I felt speechless. I looked up at the end of the prayer and I could tell that he was baffled as to how I knew the things I did without knowing him. His friend had come back in the middle of the prayer and was equally confused. They began asking questions and trying to figure out what my “agenda” was or if I was going to school to be a preacher, which I thought was hilarious. That’s when I got to explain the gospel and our call as Christians to simply love people and tell them about Jesus wherever we go. I could tell that they were curious. Their faces revealed that they had never heard of the things I was telling them about. My parking meter ran out, so I left, trusting that God would take care of the rest and send someone else to water the seed that He had allowed me to plant. 

A month and a half later I’m in the same coffee shop. I’m alone and there are no other seats in the place. The SAME guy walks in and looks around for a seat. He’s stuck again. He looks at me and says, “You’re the girl! I remember you!” and takes a seat at my table once again. He brings up the prayer and conversation from last time and obviously wants to talk about it. He begins asking questions about what it means to be a Christ follower, what sin is, and if he can still go to heaven even if he “sins or whatever.” My heart was ready to bust from happiness because God’s grace is just so simple. After answering several questions, I mentioned that he must come here all the time, since we ran into each other again. He replied, “The only two times I’ve ever been here is when I’ve run into you.” 

I think God does these things to remind us that He’s all around us even when we are just going through our everyday lives. He wants our everyday lives to be an offering to Him, but He doesn’t leave us to do that on our own. He joins us and offers us His hand every day if we will take it, and leads us on daily adventures for His glory. We don’t have to live mundane lives. We can make our days extraordinary if we accept God’s invitation and allow Him to intervene. I think He’s making Himself known to us in little ways all the time, so that we have enough confidence in His “realness” to share that about Him with others.

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.

#56 The Matriarch in Columbia

 Photo by Ashley Brown, Shining Light Photography

In the summer of 2015 I traveled to the mountain village of San Cipriano, Colombia. The village is secluded and there is no way to get there by road. Our plan was street evangelism and we brought 40 bags of food with us. When we reached the top of the mountain, we began sharing the gospel and passing out the food, but we quickly noticed that there were many more houses than we had planned for—60 or 70 houses, and we had food for only 40 houses. I thought about counting the bags to see how many were left, but then thought of the story of David when the Lord told him not to count his troops going into battle because the Lord was bringing the victory. God multiplied the food so that we had enough. The last house we went to received our last bag of food.

On this same afternoon, God highlighted to me a woman washing clothes on the roadside. God said, “Tell her I have called her my matriarch.” I went to her and told her I was on a mission trip and I asked if she had heard of Jesus. She had not. I shared the gospel and then told her what the Lord wanted me to say, “The Lord has established you in your house and you are looked to as your family leader—like the boss lady. The Lord wants to do a good work in you and through you and your decision to follow Christ, all of your family will follow, and through your family, your community and the nation will be impacted.” She immediately accepted Christ. She said she knew I was coming that day because she had a dream the night before, and in her dream a man told her that a man would come to see her the next day and that he would tell her about the one true God and she was to believe him and that God would do great things through her. Thank you Jesus for provision, for dreams, for pursuing us, loving us, and using us.

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.

#45 Speaking Hope One Tattoo At A Time

 Photo by Lang Thomas Photography

A burst of hope running through each human’s genetics was how he recognized God. Something you just gotta find. And there was one day followed by a thousand wondering cerebral flashes that drew him into Christ.

“If it had been a movie and you’d have taken a still frame, it would have looked so creepy,” he said, rediscovering a past life as he spoke.

In an elongated, scraping instant, skidding down a sidewalk, the car finally flipped. He smashed into a fence at the edge of a decay-ridden cemetery. Trees were bare of foliage. Perforated leaves, unreal and flimsy, were wandering around edges of shadow. It was black-ink dark.

“Please, God. Don’t let me die.”

This was the strange, life-giving, incoherent second when God became. And, for a moment, there was someone who might be compassionate enough to care and powerful enough to save. But his body was unconscious in the center of absence—graves and tentacle-like trees surrounded. There was, somehow, less than nothing. Land absent of life, prosperous with death.

A car passed like a revelation. Someone saw. Someone came.

For months, from within his own depths, the Father began to appear, not as a confusion or a blur. Real. Alive-making.

God emerged from a triggered question: “Why would I think to pray?” Imploring a God he’d never heard of? A petition from no knowledge? In his mind, church was a place of irrelevance and God was even less existent, less than nothing.

It was Monday night youth group he chose to try, because it wasn’t anything like that kind of stereotypical church-for-nerds. His Marilyn Manson T-shirts weren’t snubbed, and the other youth were attracted to his unknowing transparency. Not terribly long after, he committed to Christ in the only kind of sold-out way offered—baptism.

Slamming through his self was finally life! Not just lack of death but a kind of erupting and drumming Freedom. It caused his soul to breathe. It connected him to a fellowship of connective people. Church. He had to be part of it. He needed it like some sort of nourishing drug. But he didn’t burrow into it.

He began to apprentice at a tattoo shop. The guy in charge of the place liked his designs and asked for more. An inside-the-chest battle began. He needed to pay the bills. He didn’t need to get into everything that tattoo parlors bring. And he did everything but ink. It clawed at his existence: divergence between an occupation bizarre for ordinary Christians and looming costs of life.

A tattoo artist? He didn’t grow up wanting to be one. He lived in a turbulent home. In one slow moment of his childhood, he became the man of the house and had to visit his dad in prison only one Saturday each month. Through it all, though, he’d always been full of the calm of artful design.

And now he began to see God in deficiency. It was like negative space drew the outline of a Savior. His best connection to Him was through lack—seeing the absence of God in humans. Understanding their Fatherlessness made him aware of his Father-fullness. Including millions of people who lived with less than nothing—the absence of God—the tattoo shop was where he was supposed to carry out a calling. To him, the presence of God was made clear in this place of real people.

“I feel more comfortable around people who have no concept of Jesus—other-side-of-the-tracks people.” The kind of people who are so disconnected from God they are surprised to meet a Christian. Christians are, to them, a tiny, forsaken minority—if they exist at all. And if they exist they aren’t the kind of people who believe in the dude called Jesus or a Father who asks for everything.

But because of his own giant, faithful, whole-body tattoos and his straight-edge lifestyle, the ones getting their mark ask him about it all. And sometimes that burst of Divine hits them and they realize they can talk to God even if they are some crazy criminals.

This guy doesn’t look for and find the people who have a grudge against God; they come to him—every day. They feel annulled from church or unknown altogether. Not wanting to know because of no knowledge, they are void of God and no one talks to them about real Hope.

But, through him, one tattoo at a time, God does.

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.

#36 “Against All Odds” God

Photo by Nicole Tarpoff

Infallible and strong. A superman daddy, in her eyes. He’d been in the marines too—but that was before she was born. He was a giant not only in his work—he successfully ran his own businesses—but also in his faith.

The man lived and loved and breathed Jesus. He wanted anyone and everyone to know the Provider like he did—as an “against all odds” God. Prayers and Psalms decked his storefront; they were on his lips just as much. He led hundreds, maybe thousands, of people to Christ. Tom even spent time with addicts and DUI offenders, bringing Sunday services or Bible studies to jail. He loved people who were sometimes called “unlovable.”

His exemplary efforts weren’t out of pride or spiritual self-acknowledgement, but out of a plain and ordinary calling to bring others into the family of Christ.

And that’s how he thought of himself—ordinary. Not the sort of ordinary that is self-deprecating, but the kind that is humble through the honest knowing of one’s self. He liked to build things and people—to restore them.

Yes, he was strong. He was healthy. He was able. He didn’t just live life, but brought it with him to anyone who would take it.

When she got the call, the sorrow hit deep and sharp. The news took the very center of her heart and snapped it half. There was an immediate chasm where the future should have lived.

You see, it was too soon. He had “crunching lungs,” she said. It was pulmonary fibrosis—a fatal disease.

He stopped building. He stopped visiting his grown children and his little grandchildren. He stopped because he couldn’t make it up a few steps or down a slope.

He stopped being superman.

He stopped restoring old things.

And they lived that way—between hope and death, prayer and mortality, future and finitude.  Their whole family was caught there. The intervals of life stood quite still—yearning, perhaps, to gasp breath into an oxygen-less reality. They existed within a ceaseless liturgy of last rights where death was imminent.

And then there was a glimmer. It was like the sliver of light you’d see under your parents’ door when nightmares struck as a little child. You knew you could go in and feel cozy and safe and loved.

For them it was the promise of a new pair of lungs—working, breathing.

But, you see, it wasn’t a door wide open. It wasn’t jumping-up-and-down-on-the-bed. He was old—73. Not old enough for memorial but not young enough for a new organ. So, there was hope, yes! That hope, though, was held with kid gloves.

Not for his little girl, though. No. She knew a set of lungs would be his. She took heart in faith.  Not the kind of faith that says everything will be rainbows, unicorns, and tutus. It was the kind that looks to Jesus, the Provider, and waits with hope—and anticipation.

There were complications. All the antibodies in the new lungs had to match every disease his old lungs had faced. And he had lived a long life of health and sickness, like anyone. The doctors would have to clean out his old antibodies to make a match, which meant a long process of pumping blood out, filtering it, and pumping it back in. He was already weak.

Because of his age and height, it was a challenge to find lungs that would be a right fit. To open the possibilities, they were asked if he might accept lungs from an overdose patient. The answer, of course, was yes. Their dad had already lived among and ministered to them—of course he would accept. They were like family to him and there was no fear there. The risk, however, of contracting HIV from the new organs was high.

So they waited. And he grew thin. Gaunt, maybe. Not like her super-dad. And so, not like himself. The breath was slowly leaving his body. The odds were against him. But faith hoped in Provision.

Like a shiver of excitement, the phone rang. And she just wept. There were lungs! But her stomach was twisting and nauseous, and her emotions confused. Life for her dad meant death for someone else. And they knew it was probably a young person—who most likely died from an overdose.

So the tears were of relief and sadness, joy and pain, hope and heartbreak.

But, against all odds, he would get his lungs. Against all odds they would remove machines and he would breathe again. Against all odds, the Provider—Jehovah Jireh—would take the last offering of an addict and exchange it for life, for wholeness. Restoration would be inserted between life and death because of an “Against All Odds” God.

Author’s note: I love this story because it makes me wonder. It makes me wonder if one of the addicts whom Tom saved in prison could have been his lung donor. It makes me wonder how Tom’s family will someday minister to the family that lost their loved one—and I am sure they will. Or, perhaps the drug addict’s family will minister to them. It makes me wonder what goodness the future holds.

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.

#34 “Give Her Your Bible”

 Photo by Erin E. Photography

There’s something about a Bible that’s been worn down over the years that speaks to my heart. Church bulletins stuck between the pages, corners folded down to keep your place, notes scribbled in the margins—it’s all beautiful to me. A lovingly worn Bible is, to me, a visual representation of an intimate history with God.

As you can imagine, I was very attached to my own Bible. It was a thick, leather Bible that was a light purple color. I never would have picked purple for myself, but my mom had chosen it for me, and I learned to love it. I often scribbled prayers and commentary in the margins of my Bible, and sometimes I stuck pictures of people I wanted to pray for between the pages.

I carried my Bible with me everywhere my first semester of college, which was an intense season of growth in my life. To me, that Bible represented a new intimacy with the Lord that I had never experienced before. Meanwhile, I was becoming friends with a very sweet, quiet girl in one of my classes. Neither of us missed class often, and we would talk every class period as we worked on projects.

Around Thanksgiving, she stopped coming to class. Two whole weeks went by, and she was never there. I became concerned, and so I asked the teacher if she had heard anything. She hadn’t. I didn’t have any way to contact her, so I just prayed for her. And, the next week, there she was when I entered the classroom. She told me about some personal things that had been going on, but there was no reason she should’ve been in class that day. Due to some health issues, she missed so much of her classwork that she could no longer get credit for her classes. So, there was no benefit to her even showing up for class that day.

I know that God is the reason she was there. That day, through the courage and guidance of the Holy Spirit, I invited her to coffee. A few days later, at the end of finals week, we met for coffee. We talked for a few hours about our lives, and although she was not an active Christian, God told me it was okay to talk to her about Him. He made it clear to me that her heart was ready to receive what He had to give through me. So, I talked to her like I would any other friend. I told her stories of God’s handiwork in my life, and dreams He was putting in my heart. She was eager to listen and share her own ideas and opinions.

As our conversation wrapped up, God made it clear to me that I was to give her my Bible—my beautiful, worn-in Bible that I loved so dearly. Surprisingly, it wasn’t at all hard to give it away. God whispered to me that seeing all my notes and underlines and pictures would help make her eager to dig into His Word. Rather than being sad that I had to part with my memento of a special season of intimacy with God, I prayed that God would impart that same season onto her.

Giving her this gift was one of the most joyful experiences of my life, and I know that God had planned it far in advance. When I handed her the Bible across the table, her eyes lit up as she said, “Purple is my favorite color!”

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.