A taste of FAITH, a touch of LAUGHTER.
My Testimony (July 12, 2013)
Hi! My name is Ann. I’m 64 years old and I have a story!
I’m currently living in Manitoba and caring for my granddaughter while my son is serving in Afghanistan for 6-9 months. This is quite a stretch for me, having to leave my home in Campbell River for so long, but also a blessing I would not have missed…..
I’m semi retired, since going through a depression in 2011, and a consequent bout with cancer. I’ve had to leave the profession I loved, teaching, and relocate from the community I was living in and serving in for almost 35 years, a small isolated First Nations village, my husband’s home community. As I look back through my life today, I see the hand of God’s grace working continually in my life and I want to share my story with you in order to encourage you, wherever you are at in your life circumstances today. I want you to know that no matter what you are going through, God cares for you……
My story begins in Scotland, where I was born. My home background as I grew up was pretty happy and fairly secure. My parents taught me good things. Neither of them attended church, for their own reasons, but they sent me to Sunday school, so I learned things about God. My Mom tells me that when I was 5 yrs old, I told her that I was going to marry a minister one day!
I grew up in a musical home. My Dad played the drums every day. He bought me and my sister accordions, and my 2 brothers had maracas and bongo drums. I remember my Mom happily singing hymns she had learned as she was growing up, and my sister and I would join in and learn the words. I remember when we would visit her family. My grandfather was a Salvation Army man and he would be up at 6:30 in the morning, shining his shoes and singing gospel songs at the top of his voice! One of my Mom’s brothers and his family would come to our house periodically with their instruments (one had a trumpet!) and sing and play worship songs. We would join in with our instruments and we all just had a great time together! When I was 14, I joined a local church. I couldn’t understand why there were no young people going there. I found it very interesting to listen to sermons and loved the songs.
After High school, I left the shelter of my home and family and went off to College to train for a career in teaching. I was introduced to all kinds of different philosophies in my studies there and I drifted away from all the values I had grown up with.
Eventually, I would begin to go to the bars with others on my nights out. I would take up smoking and drinking and looking for male company. I was searching for something and I didn’t know what it was, so I took a lot of risks over those years and did a lot of foolish things. I knew that what I was doing wasn’t right but I did it anyway.
I remember being drawn into a church building at some point during those 3 years at College, because I felt some kind of need. I just sat there for a while but I felt that I couldn’t recapture whatever that was that was missing and I left there with a feeling of disappointment.
After college, I met, dated, and fell in love with a man from Paraguay called Jésus, who was attending university in Scotland and who wanted me to go to South America to be with him after he returned there. We corresponded after he left for home. I thought about it.
During my second teaching assignment, I had met a Canadian girl, who became a close friend and when she went home to Canada in 1972, I went along with her. I wanted to know if I could make it on my own in life. I needed to know that before considering going to South America to be with Jésus. That was when things really began to change.
I was very lonely without my family as a base. I continued to look for reassurance in all the wrong places. I eventually let myself get involved in a live-in relationship which lasted 7 years on and off and centered on the use of drugs and alcohol, and as a result, I went through some bad experiences and had a nervous breakdown.
I would often try to end this relationship but I felt like I was caught in a trap. I truly cared for the man, but in all, this wasn’t really a wholesome relationship. All through this time I didn’t really acknowledge the sin in my life. I knew it was there and I wasn’t very comfortable with it at times but I thought that since I was doing a whole lot better than a lot of other people out there, I was really O.K.! That’s how far I was from God!
One day, when I was back in this relationship again, and struggling in it, a surprise parcel arrived, out of the blue, in the mail for me, from a lady who had taken over a previous teaching post after I went through the breakdown. In amongst this parcel of things I had left behind in the classroom was a school bible (it was a Gideon’s bible) and another bible, a simpler version, called “Reach Out”.
At that time (in the early 70’s), teachers were expected to read selected verses to the children in the classroom at the start of every day. The Gideon’s bible was the King James Version, and I found the language difficult and was disturbed that the children I taught would not understand what they were hearing. So I found and purchased a simpler version (Reach Out, the Living New Testament) which I would read from in the mornings.
I remember thinking, “Why was this sent to me?” But God knew exactly what I needed and had looked after that in His own unique way! I began to read the bible, and God’s word spoke directly to me about my life.
In particular, there was a verse that seemed to describe me. It was Psalm 31: verses 9&10. “Have mercy upon me, o Lord, for I am in trouble: mine eye is consumed with grief, yea, my soul and my belly. For my life is spent with grief, and my years with sighing: my strength faileth because of my iniquity, and my bones are consumed.”
Now I knew and acknowledged that I was living in sin. My life was wasting and I needed God. I began to study what the bible was saying. What Jesus said was beautiful. It was perfect. But no-one could actually live that way, could they? The standard was too high! I did not understand how it could be possible!
I thought that maybe getting back into the church would be the answer. I was living in this small isolated community. I didn’t want to be involved with the church group there. I guess it was too close for comfort! Besides, I didn’t want to ask the local people or risk having anything to do with them because the people who went to church there weren’t held in high respect by anyone I associated with at the time.
In February of 1980, I attended a funeral service for the first time in my life. A visiting evangelical preacher, Earl Johnson, spoke there (this would turn out to be the man who performed my marriage ceremony in July of 81). His words were very powerful and very convicting to me. As he spoke, it was almost as if a curtain was drawn aside, and I saw and felt the presence of God for the first time. It was an awesome experience and I was touched by the strong faith I saw in the people around me.
I began to think earnestly about God again. I knew that an elderly man next door, Ben Gillette, listened to taped sermons almost every day and I wondered where he got them from and if I could get some for myself. I had a set of encyclopedias so I set about looking in there for churches in Canada that would compare with the one I went to in Scotland. I found one that said it was close, and there was an address in Toronto! It was a long shot, but I thought I’d give it a try……not TOO risky!
I wrote a letter asking about taped sermons and songs, and took that to the mailbox and put it in the slot. I remember thinking wistfully, “Well, that’s probably the last I’ll hear of that!”
However, God had orchestrated the whole thing! Through this contact, He sent a born again Christian into my life to tell me how I could have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour! In my journal, I wrote this: “A man came down from the sky to tell me about God!” This is how it happened……..
In September of 1980, as I was working in the school, preparing for the next day, I looked out as I heard a plane coming in. It circled overhead and I saw a dove on the tail of the plane…..pretty unusual, thought. It landed in the bay and taxied to the school dock, where the pilot stepped out and tied up the plane. I looked at him…..he wore a large cross on his chest!
Wow, I thought….brave man! What is he doing here? Must be here to see the Principal, who I know is a religious man. I continued on with my work.
There was a knock at the door of my classroom. I opened it, and there was the guy with the big cross on his chest…..he said, “Are you Ann?” I said wonderingly, “Yes” and he said, “I’ve come to visit you.” Seeing my bewildered look, he said, “Didn’t you get the letter?” I told him that I hadn’t received a letter and he explained that the church I had written to in Toronto had contacted a church on the island, and they had contacted him about me. He was a lay preacher, a pilot, traveling by seaplane around the logging camps in my area, telling people about Jesus!
I was touched…..someone out there cared about me! We talked…..I told him my current life problems, and he told me how to have a relationship with Jesus. This was something new to me. I was really encouraged!
He shared scripture with me and advised me to read through the book of John at home. I followed his instructions and prayed a simple prayer from my heart that night. I told God that I was sorry for my sins, that I knew I needed Him and that I wanted Him to be in control. That was when Jesus came into my life and began to change me! The real Jesus! I had met Jésus many years before but I needed to know Jesus the Living Word of God!
I no longer felt comfortable living in this troubled relationship outside of marriage, or with our lifestyle. I wanted to do things right. I wanted to go to church. I wanted to be married. I did not know at that time that the Holy Spirit was now beginning to speak into my heart and to reveal to me the things that were not pleasing to God. But I did know that I was no longer alone and that everything was in God’s hands. I could trust in Him and I wasn’t afraid any more.
I approached my partner about these things but it was not for him. He didn’t want marriage or church. Things got worse between us over time, mostly because of alcohol consumption and the relationship did not end well. Bad things happened. He was not the only one to blame. I was not wise. Separation did not work. There was eventually an incident of abuse.
I was pretty desperate to get out of that situation, was rescued by another man, and ended up staying in his home with him and his family. I had gone from the frying pan into the fire, so to speak. Alcohol and drugs were there also, but there was one difference. This man had asked me if I believed in God. I told him I did. He said he didn’t and then asked me to pray for him. I said I would and privately thought he must believe in God or he wouldn’t ask me to pray. I began praying for him.
You can see that I was not living my life entirely the way God would have wanted me to, even though I had made that commitment to Him, but God was still at work in my life, bringing about change, and I was still learning. He honoured my budding faith and my prayers for this man and did a miracle in his life (that is another story!) and in mine also. We got married, he came to believe (yes, this was AFTER we were married) and God turned both of our lives around through our marriage, even though we had started out in the wrong way.
We definitely had our trials and tribulations, especially in the first 7 years of our marriage, but we eventually made it to church together, then bible studies, and then bible school! I was given a godly husband, who in time also became a missionary to his own people and finally my pastor! God did a wonderful work in both of our lives as we looked to Him as our source and our strength for living.
God gave me a secure marriage relationship and 2 children to bring up for Him. Both of our boys were the direct result of answer to prayer. They kept us on our toes over the years. I think that the Lord gives children in order to stretch our faith and also to increase and intensify our prayer life!
Not everyone I meet understands or accepts my faith or my lifestyle, but I have learned to leave that to God. He has proved Himself to me in so many ways. He forgives my sin as I confess them to Him. He relieves me of my fears as I bring each one to Him, and He heals all my hurts in His time. He brings peace where there is turmoil in my life and inner satisfaction in the place of wrong desires. As I seek to do His will, He has given my life purpose and direction. I went to Bible School because of Him! I became a missionary today because of Him!
God’s grace has been at work in amazing ways in my life! Grace, I believe, is at the very heart of the Gospel. What is it that makes Christianity different from all other religions of the world? Grace……..God accepts us with no conditions when we place our trust in His Son and the work He did on the cross for us. Although we are helpless in our sin, God, in His grace, forgives and cleanses us through the shed blood of Christ.
2 Corinthians 5: 18-21, in the Living Bible says this, “All these new things are from God, who brought us back to Himself through what Christ Jesus did. And God has given us the privilege of urging everyone to come into His favour and be reconciled to Him. For God was in Christ, restoring the world to Himself, no longer counting men’s sins against them, but blotting them out; This is the wonderful message He has given us to tell others. We are Christ’s ambassadors. God is using us to speak to you; we beg you, as though Christ Himself were here pleading with you, receive the love He offers you-be reconciled to God. For God took the sinless Christ and poured into Him our sins. Then, in exchange, He poured God’s goodness into us.”
Paul wrote these words to the church in Corinth, but I believe this is to be our ministry today, to tell others this good news. This is the news that was brought to me in such a very special way and the news that changed the direction of my life.
Things certainly are not all perfection in my life. It sure isn’t roses all the way. There are problems to face every day, in my work, in my relationships with others, in parenting my children. Things go wrong especially when I neglect my bible and forget to bring everything to Him in prayer. I am still growing and learning how to live a life that is pleasing to my Lord and Saviour through the power of His Spirit living in me. But God is teaching me and He is my strength and my joy and I know I can depend on Him. A favourite prayer of mine over the last few years is that I would come to be “to the praise of His glory” (Ephesians 1:12)
My husband is now gone home to be with the Lord (March 2006), but God’s hand of grace on my life continues……..even through this loss and my sickness.
Jeremiah 29:11 says this, “I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”
God has given me hope and a future. He has taken away my fear of death through my confrontation with cancer. He is working change in me every day in more ways that I can tell you about right now…….there are so many stories within this story!
I hope you are encouraged by this small part I have shared just now. I hope you will want to know more about the God who changed my life, and is still changing my life, because He loves you too…….I hope you will come to know Him!
Praise the Lord! God is good! ❤