Category Archives: Testimonies

How Grace Triumphed Over Empty “gospels” – Toni Meadors’ Baptism Testimony

toni meadorsOn Sunday, I had the honor of baptizing Toni Meadors. What follows is her account of how Jesus delivered her from trusting in empty Gospels by showing her the Gospel of His saving grace.

I grew up going to church and hearing about Jesus, but I had a shallow understanding of salvation. I spent most of my teen years believing I was a good girl because I didn’t follow the path many around me took. However, when I turned 17 years old, I followed the “gospel of the world” and got involved in all kinds of reckless behavior of which I am now ashamed to speak.  Eventually, because I was afraid of the consequences of my behavior, I told my mom what I had been doing and she took me to church.

That Sunday I walked an aisle, said a prayer, and sobbed rivers of tears.  At that point, I thought I had become a Christian. But that was not the case. The church I was attending increasingly began to teach the “prosperity gospel,” so for a long time I saw God as a means of personal fulfillment and gain.

Once I understood the fallacy of that gospel, I began attending a First Baptist Church.  The teaching was better, but looking back I see now that I learned and believed a “moral gospel” that taught me how to be a good person without any inward transformation.  During this time, I met and married my husband Tim, whom I love very much.  The army moved us around and we ended up in Virginia.  We attended church together, yet, I created lots of distress in our marriage because I had no power to recognize or fight sin in my life.

Despite my inability to truly love my husband, I was able to deceive myself (and everyone else) into believing that I was a born again Christian. I attended church, listened to Christian radio, was actively involved in a ladies’ Bible study group, had a quiet time every day, was passionate about conservative politics, gave money to various ministries, and even shared my faith. But looking back, I believed the lie of the “works-based gospel” and didn’t understand that I could never do enough to make myself right and acceptable before the Lord.

By God’s grace, 13 years after my initial profession of faith, I started listening to John Macarthur’s sermons online.  Initially, I did not like what he said as he continually preached about the great sinfulness of man and of a Christ who came to save men from their sins.  Through his preaching, God opened my eyes and I saw the multitude of sins for which I was guilty.

I saw the empty, sinful soul that was hiding behind the mask of morality and the mask of religion.  By His grace the Lord opened my eyes to see the truth, and for the first time, I embraced the Gospel of God’s grace. I believed the good news that God’s Son Jesus Christ saves and redeems men from their many and great sins, and from the punishment they deserve.

Shortly after God gave me this new life, we moved to Kentucky.  I attended a Gospel preaching church and began to read lots of theology.  Unfortunately, although I was born again, I began to become puffed up and was not loving my family as I should. My pride hindered me from humbly living out the Gospel that had saved me.

But once again, God showed me mercy, and brought me to Del Ray where I have learned that right theology and love can and must coexist.  I am by no means a perfect wife, mother, daughter, or friend but with God’s help I am learning day by day how to love and to live for His glory.

So, I am here today to be baptized in obedience to the command of my Lord and Savior.  I am here to identify with the One who bore my sins, took my place, died in my stead, and was buried and rose again for my justification.  I am here to publicly proclaim my intention to walk with Jesus in the newness of life for the rest of my life.

 

“I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” Romans 1:16

 

Praise God whose Gospel of grace triumphs all other false “gospels!”

 

Atheists Made Alive By Grace – Two Stories of Salvation

On Sunday I had the honor of baptizing Alvin Cao and Lucy Yin. Both these new believers grew up as atheists in China, but God has graciously made them His children through faith in Jesus Christ.

 

 

Alvin Testimony

By God’s grace, Alvin and Kelton have not only become good friends, but brothers in Christ.

Alvin Cao

“I grew up in China, where religion is a really sensitive thing. Before knowing the Gospel, my life was full of materialism, atheism and natural science.

Things began to change when I read a book non-religous book called Hyperspace. Through that book, I found our universe to be so incredibly perfect, with physical rules that cooperated together, it became hard for me to believe all of this is generated by chance. At that time, I thought there must be someone who designed all of these.

When I first came to America, I got a pick-up service for a Chinese bible class. When I went to the class and heard the Gospel, I found it to be very interesting. Then the class found me an English Partner whose name is Kelton. During this time I also attended an English conversation class at George Washington University, and I met a man named Michael Reeb there.

With their help, I realized the designer of the universe is the God of the Bible. I was also helped to understand the good news about Jesus by Garrett’s preaching and conversations with Stephen Yin. Two months later, I thought it was a time to start a new relationship with God. By God’s grace, I realized I deserve nothing because of my sin, but by faith in Christ, I could be forgiven of those sins.

Today, I stand here and I want to announce to the world that I am a Christian and I want to follow God and love him until the end of the age.”

Steven and Lucy

Steven and Lucy attended the same elementary school in China, but then moved away at different times to the United States. In God’s amazing providence, He saved them both, and then reunited them to become husband and wife.

Lucy Yin

“Hello everyone, my name is Lucy. I am Chinese and grew up in a small city near the capital. In China, the education told me there is definitely no God in the world.

However, my mother is a Buddhist and she always took me to temples when I was a kid. But I really didn’t like it because it was noisy and smoky.

Things began to change after I attended university in Tianjin, a big city near the capital. There was a catholic church near my university. It was so beautiful, that’s why I decided to walked-in and take a seat. At that time I knew nothing about God and the Bible, but I enjoyed the environment a lot. After several times visiting, an old lady there gave me my very first Bible. I began to study it myself until I met another Christian lady who brought me to their home church.

In the second term of my sophomore year, I suffered a hard time because I needed to go abroad to America and finish my studies there. I had to leave my homeland, my family, and my friends. People in the home church encouraged me a lot and taught me more about the Bible and Gospel. So I got baptized, but I didn’t really understand those things, and I just tried to find something that could calm me down and get me through the hard time. And I ignored them after arriving in America.

Then, during the winter break of my senior year in Miami I had done all my graduate school applications and everything went well, but I had difficulty with a class. Everything seemed ruined at that time. Then the dean of our school, who is also a Christian, not only helped me pass the class, but also helped me understand Gospel better.

At that time I suddenly realized I used to only treat God as someone who could help me with difficulty, but He is definitely more than that. From there I knew God was blessing me and was very patient trying to save me. At that time, I began to face my sin and understand the Gospel about our merciful and almighty God who sent His only son Jesus into the world to pay our sin and fix the relationship between us and the Lord.

After several times moving, I came to DC and met my husband Stephen (read his testimony), who is also a member of Del Ray. I’m so glad I can get a chance to know God and learn Gospel. He helps me get through so many hard times and give me a great life that I could never imagine. He prepared a great husband and marriage for me, and also brought me to this wonderful Christian church.

The marriage and many friends here have increased my faith a lot and showed me the importance to be involved in a church family. Now I stand before you as a broken, repentant sinner, saved only by the amazing grace of my perfect Father who will never leave me or forsake me. Today, I’d like to be baptized again as a truly believer and a public display of what God has done in my life!”

 

Praise God with me for the way He took Alvin and Lucy from the darkness of doubting His existence to the light of delighting in Him for eternity.  Pray for them to have grace to persevere in faith and for God to use them to proclaim the Gospel to many of their friends who are yet to believe. 

Remembering Dad’s Death – Peace in an Unanswered Prayer

Here I am snuggled up with dad in his favorite red chair. I miss him much.

Me snuggled up with dad in his favorite red chair. I miss him much.

This post is written by a guest author, my wife, Carrie Kell

“Dad, hey it’s me. I called to see if you know what you were doing 33 years ago today?”

“No, I don’t think I do. “

“You were looking at me for the first time.”

The silence was broken with a tearful voice, “You’d think I would remember that, huh? I guess it is August the 8th. Happy Birthday, Sis (he called me sis or sissy for as long as I can remember).

Dad actually never forgot my birthday. I wasn’t upset though, I knew he hadn’t been himself lately.

I had called him a few days earlier and he’d asked me (for the 3rd time) if I knew what “the baby growing in my belly was yet.” I reminded him it was a boy, and he was just as shocked and excited as he was the other two times I told him. I knew something wasn’t right.

What I didn’t know, however, is that the last time I would ever speak to my dad (perhaps for eternity) was on my 33rd birthday. I am forever thankful that I called and reminded him what day it was. His response was so sweet. He was emotional. I often wonder if he knew he was close to the end.

The Day

We were in Speculator, New York where Garrett was speaking at a family camp. We were there to relax and be reunited with some dear friends from Texas. I would need those friends that week more than I realized. The Lord’s timing always amazes me and encourages my faith.

Two days after we arrived, on August 10th, 2013 my sweet husband came to me in the dining area where I had just shared laughs with my friends. He led me by the hand into the hallway and said those words I’ll never forget, “Carrie, your dad died.”

My eyes widened in disbelief, but deep down I’d known something wasn’t right with him lately. But still, my dad? Mike Church? It just seemed so surreal.

You always know that your parents will die one day, but you can’t really grasp what that means before it happens. In fact, you can’t really grasp what it means after it happens. Losing those you love is very strange.

Mike and Me

My dad wasn’t like the dads my friends had growing up. Nor did he even come close to the kind of dad my children will have. But he was what God gave to me—and for that I am truly thankful.

In the early days of my life I remember curling up with him and falling asleep in his oversized red recliner he loved so much. He coached my sports teams, took us on vacations, and made sure to get us gifts we wanted at Christmas time. He tried to be a good dad, but he could only do that in his own strength for so long.

I was 11 when he left me, my mother, and my brother. He became a man of self-love and basically did as he pleased for the rest of his life. This kind of life with Mike Church wasn’t easy. There were years that he didn’t try to have a relationship with me, nor did he seem to care when I tried to have one with him. We were not his priority anymore. He was his own priority.

He thought this would make him happy. So he ran after it with all his heart, which is so sad, because it ended up being the very thing that made him so miserable and lonely. And it was my father’s misery that God used to soften my heart toward him.

The Changing of the Heart

When I was a freshman in college, the Lord convicted me about the way I felt toward my dad. Now you might think that I was angry at dad for what he had done to our family, but I wasn’t angry—I was apathetic. I seriously didn’t care. He had left us and I had no need to care about him.

The change began one evening after a conversation with a new friend. He wasn’t a Christian and was struggling to find happiness in his life. He’d been through hard things and was at a breaking point.

After my conversation with him, I went back to my dorm room with a heaviness like I had never experienced before. I began praying for him and pleading with God to save him. During that prayer I began to wonder how I could care so much about this person’s salvation, but not for my own father’s?

In many ways my new friend was much like my dad (he even shared his birthday). His self-centeredness didn’t make him easy to be friends with, but as he shared about his desire to find happiness, it softened me towards him. The Lord used that night to melt my heart and teach me not only what it meant to be broken over my friend’s salvation, but to begin to love my dad. Where my heart had once been so indifferent towards him, the Lord gave me a deep love for him. There is no explanation for this love except the grace of God.

A Father to the Fatherless

One of the first things God impressed on my heart was that if I was going to love my father, I was going to have to forgive all his sins against me. I had grown cold to the sting of those sins, but I knew they were there. In His mercy, God reminded me of how much He had forgiven me in Christ.

It was through this that God gave me grace to extend forgiveness to my father for all he had done to me. Jesus loved His enemies, and He called me to do the same (Luke 6:27-33). What I have found is that loving those who are difficult to love is only possible because the Lord does it for you as He works through you. My faith increased so much in those years, because I was certain the deep love I began to develop for my dad wasn’t my own love, it was the love Christ gave me.

The Lord also taught me that to love my father, my expectations would have to change. When I began to love him as a lost person and not a dad, it gave me freedom. I no longer expected Mike to be a real dad to me. He wouldn’t ever be that, unless God changed his heart. But this didn’t mean I would be without a father to care for me.

In Psalm 86:5 God promises that He would be a “Father to the fatherless.” Though my earthly father had abandoned me so many years ago, I have a heavenly Father who will never leave me or forsake me (Deuteronomy 31:6). God had promised to supply every need of mine according to the riches in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19), and making me His daughter is the greatest of those riches.

The good news of the Gospel isn’t only that Jesus forgives my sin through faith in Him (which is amazing), but that He gave me grace to love my dad and gave me assurance that God would forever be my Father.

The Prayer Unanswered

Though God changed my heart toward dad in college, my prayers for his salvation had begun long before that. I knew he was a lost man and desperately needed Christ, just like I did. I wanted him to have freedom from the life he lived and the pain and loneliness I could see so clearly. I also became convinced that I was his daughter for this very purpose (Acts 17:24-30).

Because the Lord had so changed my heart toward my dad, I really believed that eventually he would see his need for a Savior. I believed he would look back over his life, see where he had failed, and find hope and forgiveness in the only place he could—Jesus!

I prayed for this almost daily. I didn’t know when it would happen, but I was certain it would. I struggled to trust the Lord in other areas, but I was sure that the Lord would hear the cry of my heart and let me see my dad come to know Him!

Because of this hope, I shared the gospel with my Father often. A month before he died, I sat in his house in tears as I shared the importance of loving God, knowing Christ, and knowing his need for Christ’s forgiveness. He wasn’t convinced. It broke my heart, but not my faith.

That proved to be the last face-to-face conversation I had with my dad. We only spoke on the phone a handful of times after that day, including the day I reminded him of my birthday.

When dad died I was certainly sad, but even more so, I was confused. Why did I not see God save my dad? Why did God change my heart toward my dad if it weren’t for the purpose of seeing him believe? What did this mean about God’s character if twenty years of prayers for my dad’s soul weren’t answered?

Peace in the Unanswered Prayer

Though I have many unanswered questions, the Lord has given me peace. Though my prayers were not answered in the way I had envisioned, my heavenly Father loves me more than I can imagine and I know that all He does is done in faithfulness (Psalm 33:4).

1. I have no regrets.

By the end, dad knew I loved him, and I knew he loved me as much as he was able. Dad also knew the Gospel. I don’t always do this well with others, but the Lord gave many opportunities for me to share the love of Jesus with him and I truly believe there was nothing left I could have said.

Sure, our conversations weren’t always easy and I often walked away discouraged, but by God’s grace I have no regrets today because I shared the Gospel with him. This has served as a great encouragement for me that I will never regret sharing the Gospel with someone—especially once they are gone.

2. I have hope in God’s mercy.

Because I had shared the Gospel, I can rest in the fact that dad knew where to go for mercy if he wanted it. I don’t know what the last few days of dad’s life were like. I wasn’t there when he died. But I do know that as long as someone has breath, they can cry out to God who delights in saving those who seek Him, even if it is with their final breath (Luke 23:42-43).

This peace did not come quickly for me. There were many days and nights of praying and questioning since his death, but God’s mercy gives me hope, no matter what happens.

3. I have trust in God’s greatness.

Though I don’t know that I will see my dad again, I know that I can trust in the great love and wisdom of my heavenly Father. Once I am in His presence in heaven, I know I will lack nothing. In this I rest and in this I hope. Until that day, I will take my anxious heart to His Word and find comfort in truths like this,

“O Lord, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. 2But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. 3O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forevermore.” Psalm 131

Losing my dad has been a sorrowful journey and one that will change my life forever. But my sorrow has been put to rest because the Lord has quieted my soul. He will hold me fast. He will hold me fast.

My Abortion Story, An Open Letter to Emily Letts

EMILY-LETTS-ABORTION-570Dear Emily Letts,

We have never met, but my wife and I just watched your abortion story video.

You invited us, and the world, into your story, so I thought I would invite you into mine.

While we may not have a lot in common, I know we have at least a few things, and they have to do with abortion. When I was 19 I got a friend pregnant. I too “wasn’t ready for a baby.” I had hopes and dreams ahead of me, and having a child seemed like the end of all those dreams. So we aborted our child.

Now, I am a man, so in some very significant ways my abortion experience was different than yours. But in many other ways, it was the same. You see, when our procedure was over, I too felt relief. I felt free to begin life again and make smarter choices. I could get a fresh start, and in many ways I did.

But what haunted me in the months and years afterwards was a reality similar to what you expressed in your video, “I feel in awe that I can make a baby, that I can make a life.” That was what I couldn’t escape.

I had been part of creating a life.

And then I had been part of ending that life.

There was a heartbeat and I stopped it. There was life and I ended it. That reality was inescapable. I tried to ignore it, but there was nowhere to hide. My telltale heart beat louder and louder. I had loved my life so much that I had been willing to kill my own child to protect my happiness.

I never got to hear their laughter. Never got to lock eyes for the first time. Never saw their smile or cheered for their first steps or understood their first words. I never heard them read for the first time or endure their endless questions about why the world is the way it is. I missed all that, and so did they because I took my child’s life.

Emily, my child would be 17 today. We would be planning road trips to look at colleges. We would be looking forward to our last family vacation before they left home. I would be giving my final parental pep talk about working hard and looking for the right kind of spouse. But none of that is happening.

The fact is that I cannot undo what I’ve done in the past. None of us can. What’s done is done. The only hope we have is found in the sinless Son of God who came to rescue people who have lost their way.

He entered into our broken world and our broken lives to rescue us from our sins, including the sin of taking the life of the children He gave to us. That’s why He died on the cross of Calvary, to take the judgment sinners like us deserve.

Emily, someday the YouTube hits will stop. Your supporters will put away their pom-poms and your opponents will put away their pitchforks. And my prayer for you is that when you can’t escape the haunting reality of what you’ve done, you will turn to Jesus.

Emily, Jesus will heal your wounds if you cry out to Him (Matthew 11:28). There is no sin so great that He cannot forgive and no sin so small that does not need to be forgiven. If you will confess what you have done and turn to Him in faith, He will wash away all your guilt and all your shame (1 John 1:9).

The Lord gives these words to people like us, “Come now, let us reason together,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool” (Isaiah 1:18).

There is a place to go to be made new. I hope you will come and ask Jesus to turn your story into one where life is given. That’s what happened in my abortion story. Thanks for taking the time to listen.

Sincerely,

 

Garrett Kell

 

 

 

 

 

From Shamanism to Salvation – Nikki’s Story

Nikki (left) and Stephanie celebrating God's power over false gods following her baptism.

Nikki (left) and Stephanie celebrating God’s grace following her baptism.

On Sunday, I had the honor of baptizing a new sister in Christ named Nikki. This baptism was particularly special to me as her conversion was an answer to prayer.

I’ll explain more after you hear her story.

“I was born in Mongolia, a country under the strong influence of Shamanism, Buddhism and other folk religions. Growing up, my parents often visited the witch doctor because of my poor health when I was young. I wore protective amulets close to my heart and around my right ankle. They were my “saviors” and I trusted them to keep me safe and away from evil and harm.

I came to the US in September 2011 to study. During that time, I worked part-time at a dry-cleaners to practice my English. In December 2012, most customers would come by the shop to collect their clothes and as a courtesy ask “What are you doing for Christmas?” I would always respond that “I don’t celebrate Christmas”.

One day, a customer, Garrett, came to pick up his clothes and posed the same question. He followed up by asking about my family and invited me to his church after writing both his and Carrie’s name on a card. Come every Sunday, I would think about whether I should visit the church, but never did so. The following month, I was going through an extremely stressful time in my life and finally decided to visit Del Ray Baptist.

It seemed as though everyone there knew who I was and were extremely caring and welcoming. There, Carrie introduced me to Stephanie who I met on a weekly basis to study the Bible. At the end of one of our bible studies, Stephanie told me that “you cannot serve 2 masters” and challenged me to take off my protective amulets. I was so scared as I believed that if I took them off, I would die.

Stephanie continued to patiently pray with me, and taught me what the Gospel is and what it took to follow Jesus. I continued to question what Christianity was, thinking it was all crazy, but God was working on my heart and starting to change me.

In October 2013, I called my mother and told her I no longer believed in Shamanism and was now a Christian. It was one of the hardest decisions in my life as I knew that I was forsaking what my family and people believed and would face the ridicule of many of my Mongolian friends. Yet, Jesus is my true Savior, not those protective amulets or spirits.

As it says in Matthew 10:39 “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Jesus came to me in such a strong way that I could no longer deny Him. God has given me the courage to take off those amulets, I am still alive! and continues to protect and provide me in such amazing ways despite my circumstances. I am thankful that He loves me so much. What an amazing Father we have!

So I come here today to be baptized before you to say that I believe in Jesus as my Lord and Savior and I intend to follow Him for the rest of my life.”

 

Praise God for His great power over false gods!

God used my encounters with Nikki not only to save her soul, but also to encourage my own. I had been pretty discouraged with my personal evangelism in the days before I met Nikki. I felt like open doors for the Gospel had been nonexistent for several months, so I began to pray more fervently and committed to being bold with any small opening the Lord might give. After my first conversation with her, my wife and I regularly prayed for her salvation and dropped off clothes at the cleaners on days I knew she was working.

Once she visited the church, we had her over to our house with some friends who had done Gospel work in Mongolia and we encouraged others from the church to be praying for Nikki. I remember distinctly one Sunday while I was preaching and saw Nikki sitting next to Stephanie in the row behind my family and her face was beaming and head was nodding as she heard God’s Word proclaimed. There are few sweeter sights a preacher can see than that!

And as a pastor, I have fewer sweeter joys than to see the way our church has been used by the Lord through this whole process. Many have prayed for her, Stephanie has invested many hours of patient Gospel labor, and another single sister named Esther has recently rearranged her living situation so Nikki could move in with her. The Great Commission is always best carried out in a community where people are moved to show sacrifical love because they have first been loved so sacrifically by Jesus.

Having the honor to play a small part in the Lord extending mercy to one of His children is one of the most humbling and soul-refreshing experiences any of us can have. May God open many doors for us so the Gospel can go forth and many more false gods to be put in their place.

Also, keep Nikki in your prayers as she walks with her new Savior. Ask the Lord to encourage her, protect her, and give her opportunity to proclaim Jesus among her friends and family whom she loves very much.

“I am the Lord, and there is no other, besides me there is no God” Isaiah 45:5

 

 

Stephen’s Story – From Atheist to Child of the King

Stephen with his friend and language partner Michael.

Stephen was an atheist who heard God’s Word through several faithful witnesses,    including his language partner, Michael.

This Sunday, our church had the joy and privilege of hearing Stephen Yin share his testimony as he was baptized to publicly profess His faith in Jesus. Stephen was an atheist at this time last year, but the Lord sought him and saved his soul. May we never give up hope in our sovereign God who is able to transform even the hardest of hearts.

 

Here is Stephen’s story.

 

My name is Stephen. I am from China and am studying Statistics at George Washington University. I came from a country where the educational system taught you that there is definitely no God in this world. In my country, it is pretty silly to believe in God and anyone who says they do is viewed as a loser. Growing up, people always laughed at those who said they are God believers, and I was among those who laughed.

However, from September of 2012, everything about me began to change. On August 14th, I arrived in the US from my godless home country. I attended classes, struggled with the language barrier, suffered from culture shock, but still tried hard to be a good student.

One day, I received an email saying there was a free English class in our university. I thought maybe that was good for my language problem, so I just decided to go. When I attended the class, I found out it was held by Capitol Hill Baptist Church (CHBC), but I didn’t know anything about these people.

In the first half of the class, we picked a topic and read some articles and talked about them with English speakers from the church. In the second half, we did a bible study. That was the first time I read a bible and learned things about Jesus Christ. I had no plans to read the Bible, but God had other plans.

At first, this did not make any sense for me. I just thought “well, I attended their class, it was free, and it seems like learning this bible can make them happy.” So I just continued to do the bible study. At the third class, I met a lady named Cindy. She taught me some basic ideas about Christianity. Before then, I had never known anything about this Jesus.

At the following week of the English class, Cindy brought me a bible with both Chinese and English (which is the bible I still use today). Since I now had my own bible, I would read some of it when I was bored because at that time I just took it as a story book.

Then one of my friends told me there was a free food party on Friday night where they offer Chinese food. After the food, they would have a bible study and taught Matthew. Most of my friends who went there together with me gave up because they thought the bible study was too boring. But for me, I thought it is good to learn something from there. Actually, I cannot tell why I thought so, but I just felt I like reading the bible and all of a sudden it was not so boring for me. Also, I get free Chinese food, so I kept on attending the bible study every week.

Soon after this, I got a “language partner” named Michael, who was supposed to teach English and have conversation with me. I spent a lot time with Michael meeting every week. I told him I was curious about the story of the bible so maybe we can talk about it. Michael taught me a lot about the Christianity, who is God, how our world was created, why we are sinners, and how can we be saved by Jesus. I had never heard about these things before.

During my third month in the country, my life became filled with trouble. My cost to live here was higher than what I thought and I was feeling lonely and homesick. When I was really feeling bad, I did not want to do anything. Then I just picked up my bible and discovered that when I was upset, reading the bible gave me a sense of peace. I talked about this with Michael, and he encouraged me to just keep on reading the bible and keep on visiting church with him.

At this time I needed to find a new place to live and moved in with Mark and Laura who invited me to visit Del Ray Baptist Church (DRBC). At DRBC, I learned the Christianity and Garrett preaches slow enough so I could really follow the sermon which really helped me a lot.

I still went to the Friday night Bible study every week. It took me about 2 hours to get back home after the bible study as the bus runs every 90 minutes. Also I had to walk about 1 mile at midnight to the house. Though this was a lot, I kept on doing it, which even astonished me. Then I realized that God had been changing my mind and making me want to learn his word enough that all this late travel was no longer trouble for me.

When I lived with Mark and Laura they taught me about how to try to live in a Christian way. Before living with them, the bible was something like literature, but Mark and Laura taught me how to think of this world and how to apply our faith in our everyday life. I began to try to hand in my life to God and pray and worship God in my daily life.

At DRBC, I met one of the elders, Brian. We talked almost every week after church and he told me something about the sermon message and my studies and my life. I could always ask Brian any question I had about life or study or Christianity. We talked much deeper about what does it mean to become a Christian and how a Christian truly believes in God.

It was then that I truly believed that God created us, that all of us are sinners, that God loves us and sent his own son, Jesus Christ to our world to pay for our sins. Jesus Christ, as a man and also God, come to our world. He is perfect and died for us on the cross and rose from death again. Only through the faith in Jesus and God, can we be saved. I know all of these and believe these are true.

But it was difficult to understand this thing called “faith”. Chinese people never really believe in anything when we grow up, so I did not know what “faith” really means. I talked a lot about this with Brian. He taught me a lot about my questions and suggested that I read Romans.

Michael and I went through Romans chapter by chapter. I also talked with Brian and Mark in the church at this time. At that time, I prayed often in my daily life, had handed my life to God, trusted him and tried to do the right things to please our Father as Brian taught me.

But I never thought about to be baptized. One day, when I was together with Michael having the lunch, Michael asked me some question about what I believe, then he told me, Stephen, if you believe in all of these, you should be baptized and tell everyone you have become a Christian.

I realized that, yea I do really believe, I trust our God, I believe in Jesus Christ who came here, saved us, and rose from death again, and that only through faith in Jesus we can be saved. As an act of His mercy, God led me step by step in learning his words.  Now I stand before you as a broken, repentant sinner, saved only by the amazing grace of my perfect Father who will never leave me or forsake me.  Today, I’d like to be baptized as a public display of what God has done in my life!

The Stand that Saved My Soul

On Halloween night 1998 I threw a party in my apartment at Virginia Tech. I was 20 years old and was in the wildest season of my life. I had three girl roommates, a live in girlfriend, and I spent most of my spare time smoking weed, doing lines of cocaine, and drinking.

On that Halloween night, I was geared up for what I expected to be a good time. Because the party was going be so “unforgettable” I invited an old friend from high school down for the weekend. Dave and I had played hoops and partied together over the years, so I was excited to see him.

When Dave arrived, I greeted him and escorted him back to my room where I proudly unveiled the welcome gifts I’d prepared for him. On my desk was a fat bag of weed, a 6’er of his favorite beer, and I told him I had a girl he could get to know for the weekend.

But Dave didn’t respond like I expected he would. Instead, he gently closed the door and sat on the bed. He looked me in the eyes and told me he didn’t do those things anymore. He said he’d become a Christian and that he loved Jesus now and the reason he came to the party was to tell me that Jesus loved me too.

I laughed him off.

For the rest of the night Dave stayed at the party with people going crazy all around him. Other friends came up and asked me what was up with my buddy and when I told them he was a Christian we’d all sneer and say “oh, poor guy” like he’d caught a disease or something.

But as the night went on, my heart was uneasy.

In that room, with the music bump’n and laughter roll’n, I was haunted. As I looked at Dave, I saw he had a peace that no drink or high or lover could give. The party eventually ended, but the story was just beginning.

Over the next several days, Dave and I spoke about Jesus and about the Gospel. He gave me Scriptures to read and tried to answer my questions and endured my mocking. We spoke on the phone several times and exchanged emails. What follows is the family friendly version of an email I sent him about a week after his visit.

 

Dave-

Dude, we have to talk. Its great and all that you’re Mr. Religious now, but I want you to know I’m worried about you. I want you to be careful that you don’t go overboard and start getting all weird on me. I mean I know that going to church is a good thing and that God is real and all that, but if you don’t watch it you’re going to miss out on what life is really all about.

I know you are just trying to be a good boy and all, but when you came down here and wouldn’t drink, you looked like an idiot. I mean you were just sitting there with a cork in your mouth. What is wrong with you?

I’m not trying to be a jerk, but I’m really worried about you. I know you are just preaching at me because you are my boy and all that, but I know that I’m OK, God and I have our own little understanding. I know I get crazy now and again, but I don’t think God is going to send me to hell for having a good time. I mean he understands I’m just having a little fun. I’m not a bad person and he knows my heart and all that. I agree I get a little crazy now and again, but it’s good for the soul right? Well, enough of that, I’m sure you’ll be back to normal soon and we can smoke a fatty to celebrate. Be a good boy and tell Jesus I said hi.

Garrett

 

During another party a week or so later I felt myself becoming uncomfortable. I was feeling haunted, though I couldn’t explain it to myself. I felt dirty and confused, so I retreated to my bedroom and closed the door and said, “Ok, God, if you’re real, show me something.” As I looked down in exhaustion, I saw the corner of a bible that my parents had given me when I went off to college. Until that night it had been hidden under my bed. But for some reason, that night, it was peeking out.

I sat at my desk and played Bible roulette. The Bible opened to Ezekiel 18. I began reading and came to this,

The person who sins is the one who will die…But if wicked people turn away from all their sins and begin to obey my decrees and do what is just and right, they will surely live and not die. All their past sins will be forgotten, and they will live…Do you think that I like to see wicked people die? says the Sovereign Lord. Of course not! I want them to turn from their wicked ways and live…Put all your rebellion behind you, and find yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die…I don’t want you to die, says the Sovereign Lord. Turn back and live!” (NLT).

That freaked me out.

So I closed the Bible and said, “God, let’s try this again.” I opened again and this time it fell open to Romans 2 which says, “Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?

That really freaked me out.

A few weeks later I was at home on Christmas break and I was doing a drug called Ecstasy. Sometime after midnight I became strangely sober and felt an overwhelming burden to call Dave. So at 2:00AM Dave came up to my house, carrying his Bible, with tears rolling down his cheek.

We sat down and I told him I needed to know more about God. He asked me if I knew what he was doing when I called him. He went on to tell me that when I called him he was doing the same thing he’d been doing every night since he left Virginia Tech—he was on his knees praying for me.

Over the next few days and weeks I continued to read the Bible and have conversations with Dave. He told me that God made me to love and worship Him. He explained that the guilt I was feeling was God showing me that I was in rebellion against Him and was on my way to hell. He explained that Jesus died for sinners like me and then rose from the dead to extend mercy to me if I who would turn from my sins and believe in Jesus. He told me that Jesus would forgive all of my sins, change my life, and make me His forever.

I’m not sure if it was that night or in the weeks that followed, but God saved my soul. I began reading the Bible and it was no longer a book of old stories, but now it was like a spotlight that searched my soul and showed me the depths of my sin and the even greater depths of God’s love for me in Jesus.

Dave made a stand for Christ that night at Virginia Tech. God used him to get a message to me that eternally altered my life. Now, every Halloween night I call Dave and thank him for the stand. God used Dave’s stand to save my soul and my life from utter destruction.

I’m a very unlikely person to be a Christian. I loved my sin. I loved my life. I had a very hard heart. Dave was the 17th person to have some sort of Gospel conversation with me. I didn’t want Jesus. But for some reason, He wanted me.

As you read this, I want to encourage you to remember that God’s grace is stronger than the hardest heart. Romans 1:16-17 says “the Gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, the righteous shall live by faith.”

Who is the most unlikely person you know to become a follower of Jesus?

Take a moment to think.

You have a name?

Jesus can save them.

And you just might be the person He uses to get the Gospel to them.

The Gospel is the power of God for salvation, for rebels like me and rebels like you.

Make a stand for Christ and trust Him to use it for His glory.

That stand may just save a soul.