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We all have stories to tell
How has Jesus changed you? Have you ever shared your story? The story that you couldn’t have written, but the Lord wrote for you- your testimony. Simply put, it’s a chance for you to share your testimony with those around you. We know this is a vulnerable thing to do, but Revelation 12 says that the enemy has been “…hurled down….by the blood of the Lamb AND by the word of their testimony“. Your story has great power to bring light to those around you! If this is something you’d like to participate in, we would love to know about it! Here are some stories of our people below and ways you can share your own story with us!
- Jake and Flor′s Story
- Jeff′s Story
- Priscilla′s Story
- Will, Hayden, + Drew′s Stories
- Brad′s Story
- Albert′s Story
- Chrissy′s Story
- Michael′s Story
I was born and raised in small town Nebraska in a good home with a good family. My dad and mom both worked hard to provide my younger brother and me a good life. We lived in a good neighborhood, went to a good school, had good friends and good times. We even went to the Catholic Church because that’s what good people did. There isn’t anything about my childhood that wasn’t good.
But then, at age fourteen, all that I saw as good in my life was stripped away—or so I thought. My dad, who had been searching for a job that would offer a more stable income, came home one day and told us we were moving to Texas as he had just taken a new job. I immediately felt angry. How could my parents do this? In my mind, they were taking me away from everything that was good.
Shortly after this, I began to see and feel the pain of something bad, both in and around me. I saw all authority figures—parents, teachers, coaches, etc.—in my life as bad. To me, all authority was there to keep me from doing what I wanted when I wanted. And so, I simply rebelled. If I wanted to yell at a teacher for making me study, I did. If wanted to skip track practice because it was too hard, I did. If I wanted to smoke weed because I liked getting high, I did.
This apathetic and rebellious lifestyle continued after we moved to Texas and through my senior year of high school. By this point, I was a frustrated hedonist. Everything and everyone I was looking to and going after for pleasure—popularity, girls and drugs—was letting me down. This frustration was only compounded by the fact that I had to continually bear the shame and guilt from lying to my parents teachers and friends in order to maintain the façade that I was a “good” kid. Little did I realize, this frustration was actually the subtle whisper of God unveiling the truth of who I really was: “Brad, you are not good; you are a sinner.”
Then, at age eighteen, I moved nearly 300 miles from home for my freshman year of college. My plan was to continue the pursuit of pleasure, but God had better plans.
Upon checking in to my freshman dorm, I was told my roommate would be a guy named Mondrell. “Who in the world is Mondrell?” I asked. “Your new roommate. He’s upstairs. Go meet him,” came the reply. Something wasn’t right, because I had signed up to room with a buddy of mine from high school and his name wasn’t Mondrell. There was nothing I could do, so I went to meet my new roommate. Turns out, Mondrell was not at all what I expected. By all appearances, the dude looked like a thug. But after a couple of weeks of sharing a room with him, it became obvious that something was different about him. I couldn’t make sense of Mondrell’s rough past and his present joy. He kept telling me it was all because of Jesus, which sounded strange to me. I grew up in a religious environment, going to Catholic school and weekly mass, but for me Jesus was just a good man who did good things, not someone who transformed your life.
Mondrell gave me a Bible and I began to read it. Slowly and subtly, everything began to make sense. I saw with new eyes that all the frustration, guilt, and shame I had been wrestling with was due to a condition of my heart: sin. I mourned over my sinfulness and my inability to escape it. But my mourning was not in despair. For the first time I understood why Jesus was crucified, died, and rose from the grave. All the guilt and shame I felt for my “badness” and all the consequences I should have received for that had been cast on Him. All the pleasure, joy and satisfaction I had been searching for in popularity, girls, and drugs were now secured by His resurrection. This was the best news I had ever received and I believed it!
I am still a sinner, prone to look to other people or things for comfort, joy, and significance. But, that same grace that awakened me to the goodness of Jesus 17 years ago in a college dorm, continues to prove to me that He is better than anyone or anything. As a result, my greatest ambition is for others to experience the goodness of the gospel.[/
Committing the time, money, and energy to a global serve trip is something I had been too cavalier about; far too easily ignoring it for some time. But, God’s Spirit, wouldn’t leave me alone and compelled me to say ‘yes’ to this opportunity. What affirmed this decision even more was my wife’s encouragement to go. Even though I had gone on global serve trips before, I felt awkwardly unprepared as the date to leave approached. During those moments, I was reminded that it is God who saves people and not me based on my skills and abilities. I am called to be obedient to carry the message of the gospel.
While in India, I was humbled and inspired by the examples of the pastors and leaders we worked with. Their lives were a testimony to me on what means to live for Christ. I saw first-hand what it meant to believe in Jesus in spite of the costs–rejection from family, being kicked out of home and village, losing government benefits, wives even being beaten by their husbands–this is what people must face when choosing to follow Christ. Another amazing thing to me was the opportunity to bring the message of the gospel to remote villages to people who had NEVER heard of Jesus Christ ever before and to present His story of love and redemption. It truly was an honor to have that opportunity. My time in India sharing the gospel with hundreds of people was fulfilling, gratifying, and something I’m forever grateful to have had the opportunity to experience!
“Just tell the truth.” The words I have recently read come back to me now. Sharing my testimony publicly feels like showing up to church naked. Pretty terrifying. What if you judge me? What if you think less of my husband for marrying me? What if all the masks I wear no longer cover me? The morning I got an email asking me to do this I had read 1 Peter 3:15 which says, “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect”. So this is my attempt at doing that.
I was born in 1985 to two hippies living in Hawaii. My parents had an arranged marriage as part of the eastern religion they were practicing (similar to Hare Krishnas for those of you who were around back then). They had only been married a few years but my mom had already given birth to 2 boys and me by the time she was 25. Around a year after I was born, my parents split up and I got tossed around like a hot potato. I lived with various people but when I was 5 another family adopted me and one of my brothers. The religion I grew up in had some strict practices that made my life very different to other people. We woke up at 5:30 every day and took cold showers followed by our first “chant” of the day, we were strict vegetarians, outside influences (TV and music) were not allowed, we were home-schooled and I had no friends outside of that religion. The family that adopted me ran a type of ashram for new people to come join our way of life. I lived there part of the time and the rest of the time I lived in different girls schools (or convents as we called them). I moved frequently and lived in California, Hawaii, the Philippines and Arizona.
I had a reputation and one of my nicknames was “The Mouth” because I had a fiery tongue and very little respect for authority figures. I was kicked out of every place I lived and developed a very tough shell and attitude. Inside, I was so desperate for love. I wanted to belong but even in this tight-knit community I was an outcast. I prayed to God all the time but I didn’t feel like he cared too much since I wasn’t following all the “rules”. By the time I turned 14, I had no where else to go and I called my biological mom (who I had only met 1 previous time) and moved to Texas to live with her.
Going from the bubble I grew up in to public high school was quite a shock. I didn’t last very long living with my mom so again I got tossed around a bit. When I turned 16, I made up my mind to do it on my own and I moved out and got a tiny apartment in Dallas. The next decade was filled with very bad choices and many dangerous situations. I was robbed at gunpoint, dabbled in hard drugs, was raped and dated men that treated me terribly. The loneliness I felt was suffocating and I did everything I could to make those bad feelings go away.
When I was 22 a friend’s mom gave me the book “Redeeming Love” by Francine Rivers. God used this book to change my life. It’s a story of a prostitute name Angel who gets married to a godly man (Michael Hosea) and ends up completely transformed by the God he serves. She keeps running away and hurting him and he keeps fighting for her heart and forgiving and loving her anyway. It is a loose retelling of the bible’s Gomer and Hosea. Throughout the book you see God speaking to both of them. I cried the hardest at those points. I wanted to be loved like that. Something rang true for me for the first time and I knew this is what I had been searching for my whole life. The same friend’s mom asked me how I liked the book and I poured my heart out to her. She started doing a one-to-one discipleship with me and walked me through the bible and everything God says about redemption and forgiveness. At the end of 3 months or so of this, I decided to completely surrender my life to God and I was baptized. I wish I could say it’s just been smooth sailing ever since but I had so many patterns ingrained in me. I thought I could basically continue with the way I was living and just have God on the side to make me feel good about myself. I made terrible choices (especially in dating) and I ended up feeling very distant from God.
I met my husband, Brandon in February 2011. He was different from every other guy I dated and was such a gentleman. It didn’t take long for us to decide to get married. We set a date for just over a year after we met. We are both sinners and even though we professed faith in Christ, we didn’t live any differently. We had a very rocky start to our marriage and almost got an annulment after only a few weeks. I wanted the marriage to work but he still wasn’t sure. It was at this time that I found out I was pregnant. My pregnancy caused the problems we already had to just explode. We were a hot mess and at one point my husband decided he had enough and wanted a divorce. I was desperate and asked my brother for help. He pointed us to Pastor Brady Traywick for counselling. The day we found out we were having a little girl, Brandon was staying with his parents but he called Brady and pleaded with him to see us right away. Brady sat with us for hours each session and continually pointed us back to God while giving us practical ways to learn to live with each other. We started going to Crossroads Community Church and met so many other couples that impacted us. We were poured into, prayed over, loved on and fought for. The people of the this church showed us Christ’s love in a tangible way. We were transformed by this. We now know forgiveness, love, mercy and The Truth. We still have our ups and downs like any marriage but God has continued to cover us in His grace and mercy. We now have 2 beautiful girls and I feel so blessed to finally have the family I have longed for my entire life. God took me broken and ugly and made me full. He used his love like glue to put me back together and I feel whole. Psalm 68:6 says, “God places the lonely in families; he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy.” I am so thankful to no longer be a prisoner of my emotions, the world, and my sin and to now know real joy![/
God has plan for us. He will use each experience, mistake, disaster and wonder to mold us into the person we are designed to be. No matter how far we try to run, he will always put us on the right path…no matter what it takes! He is patient, he is kind, and loves each and every one of us.
I grew up going to the Catholic Church. As a child, I felt that I was forced to go each Sunday. I slowly became resentful that I had to go to church, and soon it became a burden. Once I left home, I stop going to church altogether. I spent most of my young adult life trying to find something to fit into the empty space in my heart; a space that belonged to God. I filled it with sex, alcohol, work, video games, and relationships, all of which cost me my values.
In 2009, I got in an accident that changed everything. I was riding a 4-wheeler in Bush Louisiana. The precursor to it all was first losing control and going through branches of a pine tree. But, not think much of it, I continued on. I got more confident and went faster…until I lost control and headed for a barbed wire fence. As I braced for the impact, I remember aiming for the t-post hoping to knock it down. The next memory is getting up and thinking “I hear my breath coming from the wrong spot”. I saw my friend racing towards me, yelling at me to get down on the ground as he called 911. I was quickly transported to the nearest hospital, where they packed my wound and then sent me to the University Hospital in New Orleans. There were some amazing “coincidences” during the accident, which could have only been from God; with the location of the accident, the overwhelming and rapid response from the first responders, and the barbed wire “jumping over” and missing both of my major arteries, there was no shortage of miracles. I lost so much blood in the field, it was surprising I survived. In addition, one of the top ENT surgeons just happened to be in town for a conference and was able to perform the delicate surgery to reconstruct my throat. While I was in the hospital I received a lot of mail sent from all over. Family, friends, and others that I did not know, wrote informing me that they were all praying for me. It was overwhelming to find that all of these people, most that I did not know, were praying; strength in faith…I mean WOW! Just writing this gives me a sense of awe, of the power that is above. Additionally, I heard from my uncle that my deceased great aunt said “baby boy in trouble “right when the accident happened! Within Five weeks, I was up on my feet ready to face the world anew.
When I got home from the accident, I tried to find a church. I went to a few of the bigger churches, but just could not connect; they felt so impersonal. I got to the point that I was falling back into my old ways….until Terracina.
Moving to Terracina was the trail head marker that put me back on the path to God. My guides? A wonderful community of people starting with Donnie and Aubrey. I first met these two, sitting on a table in front my apartment where they were reading the bible together. That table would become a meaningful meeting place that defined our block for the year to come. We had many conversations either at that table, or sitting on the stairs in front of the apartment. The true moment came when Aubrey , myself, and my roommate were all talking about God, sitting on our steps. We talked for a long while. Before leaving, Aubrey invited us to come to her church. She handed my roommate a book about a scholar of Christ that we had been discussing. I remember on the back of that book that there was a quote, “you will be handed this book at midnight”. The time, 1200am on the nose, gave us the chills. The next day was Sunday, so I joined Aubrey and headed for church.
The first impression, when I saw that we were meeting in a room at a Hotel, was “oh God did I find a cult”?! But instead I met a group of people and a young, enthusiastic pastor that would forever change my life. From the start I felt welcomed. Brannen, the pastor, really moved me with his sermons. For the first time I felt convicted, like this was how church was supposed to be. Little did I know how much Brannen would be an integral pivot point in my life that would lead me back to God.
Origin’s, while small, was truly a church defined by the people that congregated, not the building in which it took place. It was filled with young lives, involved and excited about God. We were a smaller group which made it easier to keep in touch with each other; not only did we do church together, we did life together. At the heart of this was Brannen, a man that I will always respect; a leader, a teacher, and a supporter. I quickly found myself in Aubrey’s community group and was baptized in the Terracina pool (Donnie Stopa presiding!). Through this church I met my wife and found myself serving in children’s ministry for the first time.
Then the next chapter in my church life was the merging of Crossroads and Origins. Crossroads was a new church with a new set of personal challenges for me overcome. For a while I struggled in finding my way; finding a place to fit. I started to work in the children’s ministry, but soon found it was too difficult to keep it up due to a crazy work schedule. Once again, if it wasn’t for Brannen staying on my butt, I would have probably slipped away. For a year it went on like this. I went to church when I could but never felt like I was really able to participate the way I wanted to. But alas, God had other plans for me; I found myself listening to Joel Osteen on the radio each day while at work. Through him, God was reenergizing me. Joel spoke on favors; favors that are stored up through prayer and serving. I felt like God was really speaking to me and calling me back into the Children’s Ministry. I then found that my work schedule had evened out and I had every Sunday off. Now you will find me helping in Children’s Ministry each Sunday, knowing that this is something God has called me to do.
Most recently I felt God calling me to listen to an audio book War Room. Listening to this audio version, I was compelled to get the book The Battle Plan for Prayer. This book is designed to help anyone become a powerful person of prayer. It taught me the importance, mindset, and fundamentals of how and when to pray. I start off each morning on my knees, reading a chapter and referring to it throughout the day.
Things haven’t always been easy in my life. The events in my life, the people I have met, and the friends that have crossed my life; All these things haven’t happened by accident, but have happened for a reason. God always has a plan. Looking back I see how each of these experiences have changed me; made me into a person that is continually growing into the person God has called for me to be. While I will continue to stumble and fall, I know that these will be the trials that will get me closer to God. The way towards God is won not by sprinting, but taking one step at a time.
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