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Our Church Member's Stories

Josh



I grew up in a home where Jesus was real, so I never really doubted the existence of God. God was interwoven into our family stories and my parents were living by faith. My dad was the pastor of OCC. But, it was my own struggles that caused me to begin relying on God. I was held back in fourth grade and in tenth some of my closest friends quit school, leaving me feeling alone in the world. I started to read the Bible and journal my thoughts and prayers. My personal relationship with the Lord beginning to take root.

 

I went to college and shared the experience of living in community with my fraternity brothers and some other friend groups. I still maintained my relationship with Jesus, but it was mainly private and I was not attending church. This continued into my young professional life. I was dating a Christian and we attended her hometown church, but I did not get involved.  I was able earn a paycheck, but I was lacking passion and purpose.  

 

Then in the backseat of a car with a bunch of guys going to a football game, I looked up and saw a divided sky. For me, it was God laying before me a choice: light or darkness. I privately choose the light and asked for help because I was aware that I could not do this on my own. The girlfriend I mentioned became my wife and together we began to take the leap of faith. We started attending OCC, got baptized and got involved in the youth ministry. I experience the purpose I was missing. Later God called me (us) to Seminary and at my graduation my wife wept as we played (I was playing percussion in the band) “Here I Am Lord.” We were responding to God’s call upon our lives and we entered the Lord’s service.

 

Nancy

 

My loving family of 10 went to church with my Dad’s urging. I observed him read the Bible at night and he made attempts to lead us in what he called “morning devotions” when he played hymns (“Jesus wants me for a sunbeam to shine for him each day”). It wasn’t til a friend invited me to his Gospel Tabernacle street front church that I heard stories of Jesus that made Him real to me. 

 

It wasn’t til I was at the University of Wisconsin that I met a student who asked me out on a date* (I actually threw a chiclet at him to get his attention). On that date he told me he was reading the Bible to debate a fellow student. Later on he responded to a spiritual challenge by some Campus Crusade (Now Cru) staff about having a personal relationship with Jesus. Then I observed how he changed with a compelling new purpose in his life.
 

Over weeks of my wrestling with God about my being a sinner who needed a Savior, an early morning light in my dorm room gently nudged my asking Jesus to guide my life. He became My Lord that I wanted to serve throughout my life.

(*My date is my husband of 56 years, we served the Lord together.)

 

Kris

 

Some time in my teens I decided that, although God exists, He is not involved in human affairs. I could tell you circumstances that led me to this conclusion but they are only excuses for my willful choices. As a result of my wayward efforts to find companionship and happiness, by my twenties I was in deep despair and hopelessness. (Ephesians 2:12)

 

About this time, someone I knew was badly hurt in an accident. When I tried to pray for him, I was overwhelmed with shame and unable to speak. I took my father’s prayer book from the shelf and sobbed as I read the prayer of confession out loud to God, from my heart, tears streaming down my face. Then, emotionally exhausted, I went to bed. When I woke the next morning, it was as if I had been lifted from a bleak, dark space into bright light. It was joy! Within weeks I overheard a young man explaining how God forgives us because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and I knew it was absolutely true. (1 John 1:9, Psalm 40:2)

 

My destructive habits of speech and behavior quickly fell away and I had a strong desire to read the Bible. It wasn’t long before I read The Living Bible from cover to cover. Five decades later it is still my delight to find wisdom and direction in the Bible. I hope with God’s help to overcome unwanted thoughts and self-will. I have lingering shame and regret over those early dark years but I also have complete assurance of God’s forgiveness and care for me. (Romans 6:21, Hebrews 6:19-20, 10:22-23)

 

Jim

 

"I knew there was a Heaven — and a hell..."

 

One day in school, there was lots of talk around the locker room about a Church revival. Many students were excited about the guest speaker, Gorgeous George Grant, an ex-pro wrestler with an electrifying story. My friend Buck went the night before and heard the evangelist share about people, places, and sordid lifestyles to a packed house. He preached that Jesus was the way out. Buck went forward on the altar call and proclaimed that now he was saved and going to Heaven. I believed him.

In 1969, my understanding of the bible and gospel was based on a few weeks of vacation bible school. I knew there was a Heaven—and a hell—where I was told that I and most of my friends were going. Curious about a way out of damnation, I went to the revival. It began with introductions, prayers, and songs that everyone seemed to know except us sinners. Gorgeous George Grant didn’t pull any punches. Sweat poured from his forehead and through his shirt as he preached about drinking, drugging, big money lost, and the ugly side of pro wrestling. He preached Jesus beginning to end, the cross, resurrection, repentance, and forgiveness of sins. I swear that I could smell fire and brimstone all the way to the fifth row of pews. But I could not muster the willpower to go forward and profess.

Later that night, like so many nights before, I lay in bed thinking about me. The revival was powerful, unlike anything I’d seen before. But why did I freeze up? Was I powerless and doomed? I whispered, Oh Lord, help me find you before it is too late. While I slept, God tweaked something in that secret place where ideas originate. Because the next morning, my fear was gone. I knew that I would return to the revival and this time go forward during the altar call. I still remember the haunting hymn the choir sang. “Softly and tenderly, Jesus is calling … calling for you and for me.” And that October, the Holy Spirit gave me the courage to stand before a room full of people and testify that I accepted Jesus Christ, as my Savior.

 

Linda

 

"I'm good!"

 

Several years ago a classmate from high school reached out to me on Facebook. One of his first questions to me was, "How are you doing spiritually?" I was a little shocked by the question as no one had ever asked me that before and my knee-jerk response was, "I'm good!"  Actually, I didn't know what "doing well spiritually" or "I'm good" actually meant. I just said it.

 

Months later he was in town and had invited a group of classmates to dinner to reconnect and reminisce. After some small talk he said, "I want you all to know the important role you played in my life during high school."  He then went around the table explaining to each of us the role we played in keeping him from committing suicide. He also mentioned that he had read through the Bible book of John with one of our classmates that was at the dinner.

 

As we were all leaving and saying our good-byes I asked him, "What book did you read with Cindy?" He told me and to this day I cannot explain why I responded, "Would you do that with me?" He said he'd be honored to do so.  A week later after texting back and forth I prayed and asked Jesus to come into my life.  Shortly after that he met with my husband I for over two years discipling us on video calls.

 

Vicki

 

Fortunately, my parents and most of their families were born-again Christians. Strong Christians on both sides encouraged and set examples for my brothers and me. We attended a Bible-believing church that taught truth and was involved with ministries and activities. At nine years old, I was convicted that I was a sinner and needed Jesus, so I repented, accepted His salvation, and was baptized. I vividly recall crying as I walked down the aisle during the altar call that one Sunday morning. I did not understand the tears then but felt God’s presence and approval. My mother said I was smiling and beaming, but I remember the tears. Within my young mind and heart, I believed and was saved. I tried to do right and obey God and my parents. Missing was the reliance on the power of the Holy Spirit. Either it was not earnestly taught, or I just missed it.


 

Unfortunately, toward the end of high school and into my twenties, I drifted away from walking with the Lord. Now and then, I attended a church or had a Christian friend or two, but overall, I was lost, a prodigal daughter. Although knowing the truth, I rejected it and rebelled, wanting to do things my way. After having a son and a failed marriage, I was slowly pulled back to Jesus through some dark times. God put some of my family and friends straight before me, and through their loving patience and compassion,  I was once again convicted of my sin. My choices got me into a deep pit, which magnified the Lord’s deliverance and my gratitude. Accepting the guidance of the Trinity of God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, I surrendered, was redeemed, and recommitted my life. His plan prevailed, and my life was changed despite my wandering.


 

Everything seemed new and different. When there were struggles, I always had hope and a strengthening of my faith. Jesus’ love overflowed in forgiveness and was demonstrated in the blessings of a wonderful, godly husband and two more children. His power allowed me to serve Him in ways I knew were not possible on my own. Looking back over the decades, I see God orchestrating circumstances and always in His time. One regret is I did not recognize my recklessness, rejection, and rebellion sooner. Because I chose to return to the sheepfold and follow the Good Shepherd, I have hope and assurance of eternity with Him. Praise the Lord—Hallelujah! 


 

From Psalm 116

I love the Lord, for He heard my voice; He heard my cry for mercy. Because He turned His ear to me, I will call on Him as long as I live… I was overcome by distress and sorrow. Then I called on the name of the Lord: “Lord, save me!” … The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion.


The Lord protects the unwary; when I was brought low, He saved me.

 

Matt

 

I was raised in a Christian home. My dad’s day job was in a factory but he was also an ordained minister and would fill in for churches who were looking for a full-time pastor.   At an early age I understand what sin was and I understood early what God required of me to be accepted by him.  I believe I was around 8 or 9 years old when I prayed to ask Jesus to come into my heart. However, from that time until I was twenty-nine I really didn’t understand how to grow in my relationship with Jesus.  I went to a Christian college. As an adult I attended church faithfully. But I would describe my spiritual goal during all those years was to try my best to not sin from Sunday to Sunday.

 

I recall sitting in church one Sunday listening to the service and I had the strongest impression of having God speak to me. Why do I think it was God? Because the words I heard were something I’d never have said to myself.  I heard God say to me, “Matt. I want you to get out of my house… you’re stinking the place up!”  I felt an icy chill race down my spine. He continued, “Your faith is useless. You will pray about it. You will give money to promote it. You will defend it. You will argue about. And you want others to believe it. But you have never stepped out on it.”  In my heart I replied, “But God I don’t really know how to do that.”   Over the next several months I quit going to church and began searching for ways to deepen my faith or abandon it all together.

 

I came across teaching which explained in essence that “the Christian faith is not only difficult. It is impossible… to live apart from the empowering of the Holy Spirit.”   I had know of God nearly my entire life but I had never been shown how to live for Him.  Getting from Sunday to Sunday without sinning was a noble goal for me. However, it is was also a futile, unattainable goal as I was trying to achieve it in my own strength.  What God wanted me to learn was that I can’t please Him by trying harder but to submit to Him more.

 

Betsy

 

In the late 1960's, there were two godly women who traveled throughout Southeastern Michigan in the summer, providing vacation Bible School for small churches. Lila and Eileen came to our church in 1969. God used their songs, skits, games, and Bible stories to point us all to Jesus. As a 5 year-old, I raised my hand, indicating I wanted Jesus to come into my heart and be my Savior. All the way home we shouted, "WE'RE SAVED!"

 

Family circumstances caused my faith to blow hot and cold as a teenager. I couldn't make up my mind if I wanted to live fast and loose, or cling to Jesus. I found myself living a double-life: Monday-Saturday I was in charge; on Sundays I attempted to "clean it up." It all came to a crisis of faith as a young 20-something. I was a mess. Thankfully, Jesus had me. I decided then and there that I wanted to surrender fully to him.

 

Thirty-five years later, I find myself living for Jesus as a jail chaplain, serving as a missionary with my husband of nearly thirty years! Our motto is, "To know Christ and to make him known." 

 

God is so very kind and so very faithful. He never let me go. 

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