What I am about to share with you is really only one part of my testimony–but a very important part nonetheless. It is the part that tells how God rescued me from the sinful life I was living, through the people and ministry of Zerubbabel.
I have known several of the folks in Zerubbabel, since I was nine years old. (I am currently 31). These folks and others I have met since then are family to me–my true, spiritual family. They know me better than anyone else–the good the bad and the ugly! They have seen me grow up and have been intimately involved with me and my family for years. Oh, I should probably mention I’m from England. I grew up in a working class, Christian home, going to Church every Sunday. I accepted Christ as my savior at a young age but sadly this didn’t mean much to me until I was older. My parents never really disciplined me and my brother when we were young and so I never thought much about consequences–this became very evident in the choices I made when I got older (as you will see).
Our parents took us to a Christian conference in England in the late 80’s, and that’s where we first met some of these people that I now consider family. They would come to England once or twice a year and we would go to the USA in the summer every year. These conferences were very different to any church or anything I had experienced before. I received love and discipline and Bible teaching and guidance in pretty much every area of my life.
Despite this, I started getting into trouble in my early teens: spending time with friends who drank alcohol and smoked and before long I was joining in. I was pretty sneaky about all of this, hiding it from my parents. This started a pattern of sneaky and rebellious behavior that continued into my adult life. My friends in Zerubbabel, however, had a good idea about where I was headed and tried to warn me. Sadly, I wouldn’t listen. So when, at the age of 25, after turning my back on God and my family (blood and spiritual) to live a life of flagrant sin for almost a year–I knew who to call in my hour of despair and misery–my spiritual family/Zerubbabel.
I had been living an overtly sinful life–living with a boyfriend, getting drunk most nights and basically living to please myself–for 11 months. I knew what I was doing was wrong but I’m ashamed to say now I didn’t care. What makes all this worse is that I had done the very same thing a few years earlier. I left home once before, when I was 18, leaving only a note, and lived a very similar life of extremely immoral behavior. After almost a year of sinful living I reached a point of desperation then, but my desperation was more about my physical circumstances and consequences than any real spiritual desperation. The ugly truth is–I was glad I had done what I wanted to do. I was never really sorry. (Only Godly sorrow leads to repentance–2 Cor. 7:10). So here I was again, right back doing the same things I had been doing before. I was sharing a house in a bad neighbor-hood with five other people about my age–one of them was my boyfriend. I would go to nightclubs several times a week and smoked sometimes a pack of cigarettes a day and always got drunk whenever I went out. There were times I had to be carried home; I couldn’t even walk. My boyfriend was covered in tattoos, rode a motorcycle and was quite possessive of me. I was frittering money away on sinful living and quickly got into debt. I was not eating healthily and hardly ever slept through the night. I would be hung-over at work and as a result did not perform well. Before long my new found "freedom" started to feel desperately miserable and lonely. I was always trying to escape the guilt I felt about what I was doing. Every now and again I would get into hysterical states where I would be crying uncontrollably (usually I would be drunk too) and no one could console me. No one under-stood what I was so upset about and I couldn’t explain it to them. The truth is I knew I was not right with God. I knew I was in serious sin and I was scared about what would happen to me. I could only ignore it for so long.
One of these nights when I was in a hysterical state I called one of my friends from Zerubbabel in the USA– Ginny. I think I was drunk at the time and I’m not sure if I would have had the courage to call her otherwise. Thankfully, she was home and willing to talk to me. I started to tell her all of the sinful things I had been doing. I don’t remember much about our conversation but the next morning Ginny called me back. I didn’t dare answer the call because my boyfriend was there but she left me a message saying, if I would be willing, she would buy me a plane ticket to fly to the USA to get help! This was the worst and the best news. I really wanted to go but I knew it put me at a crossroads. I was going to have to make a choice. At the time it felt like giving up a bunch of things, plus I was afraid of telling my boyfriend because I knew he would get upset and angry with me. But I just knew I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get my life cleaned up and get right with God. What if God never gave me another chance? So I called Ginny back and we started making arrangements. It wasn’t until I didn’t think I could find my passport that I realized how badly I wanted to go. I called Ginny in such a panic that I couldn’t find it and she just said clearly and calmly, "Well can you think of any-where you haven’t looked yet?" No sooner had she said that I was looking in a box and there it was!
I was so afraid of my boyfriend’s reaction that I got in my car and drove across town. I didn’t know how to leave without him finding out. I called Ginny
again and she helped talk me through this. In short, I packed a few things, my brother and sister-in-law drove me to the airport where I spent the night, and I flew out the next morning. I was met with open arms at the other end by Ginny and her mother Page (who had known me since I was nine).
Not only was I given a plane ticket to the USA, I was also given a place to stay with another friend in our fellowship–Sanda. Sanda had also known me since I was very young and would come to England regularly to teach our youth group. I was given my own room to stay in. It felt like a palace compared to where I had been living. I so clearly remember my first meal too–a freshly grilled steak, steamed asparagus, rice, and bread–all prepared for me and served at a table on very nice plates and with real silver. I just felt like I had been transported to another world. I had not eaten like this in a LONG time –if ever!
Physically I was being extremely well taken care of (better than the majority of people in this world ever experience) but I needed spiritual help too. The first night I lied about having a cell phone with me and I tried to call my boyfriend in the night. I was feeling like I missed him and needed him to be OK. When my phone didn’t work I used Sanda’s phone and made several phone calls to England. I was unsuccessful in reaching him. The next morning I confessed to Sanda what I had done and said that I shouldn’t be here because I still wanted to do the same things I had been doing before. When Page heard what I had done she came to tell me– looking me straight in the eye–that I was whole and complete needing nothing (James 1:5) because Jesus Christ was joined to my spirit. This was the first spirit truth I had heard spoken in a long time. The truth of that statement just shot through me like a lightening bolt and it was what I needed to take the next step. In fact, there were times when I felt so badly like I could not make it, or I couldn’t give up what I had been doing, that I had to tell myself this truth (and believe it in my heart) several times a day: "Jesus Christ is all I need. Nothing else or no one else satisfies." I began to start differentiating between what I was feeling in my soul and what the spirit truth was about me and the situation I was in–that Christ in me was able to do the next right thing.
Sanda then took me to Wal Mart and bought me some clothes I could wear to work in a friend’s restaurant. I think she decided putting me to work would be a good distraction–which it was. Slowly but surely, the days passed and by speaking the truth about myself and my situation ("be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind"–Rom. 12:2) the Truth began to take hold of me ("you will know the truth and the truth will make you free"–John 8:32). You can liken my experience to recovery/rehabilitation. It was not easy but God’s grace and mercy was undeniable. My life, (really Christ’s life) was being transformed inside and out.
Another crucial point came when I was challenged to see my sin how God sees it. The Bible talks about Godly sorrow and worldly sorrow (2 Cor. 7:10-11) and I had not yet experienced Godly sorrow. I knew what I had done was bad but I was not seeing it as detestable to God and that He can have nothing to do with that. I began reading what happened to people in the Bible that did some of the things I had done–it was pretty harrowing. That change in thinking about my sin made me truly desperate for the sacrifice of the Savior. I was a detestable, wicked sinner who deserved death. I was hopeless. Only Christ’s death and resurrection could make me right with God. But not only did I need my sins to be forgiven but I needed the sin-operator, Satan, to be cut off forever and to be replaced by the only sinless one–Christ. I had known this was a fact about me but I had never really taken it for myself–now I was desperate to. Only Christ could live a right, Godly life through me.
I don’t think that we can ever repent until we see our sin how God sees it. I think this is what I failed to do after returning the first time I had turned away from God. I was sorry about my consequences, but I never had Godly sorry about my sin. I am so grateful for my fellowship here picking up on this and seeing a difference between worldly sorrow and Godly sorrow. I think if this hadn’t been seen and dealt with I would probably have ended up right back where I was –whether it be one week later, one year later or ten years later.
Back to some practicalities–I was not earning any money at this time as a visitor to the USA without a visa and so Sanda was extremely generous to me. She bought me food and clothes, she and others drove me around to different places, she gave me money to go out with friends, the list goes on. After a month or so Page asked me if I would like to live here permanently! I don’t know if everyone would be excited about the prospect of leaving their home country to live somewhere else but I had always LOVED America and always wished that I could live here. Some folks suggested I could work for the ministry in the office and we could see about applying for a work visa. I just could not believe this! Ginny and I went to see a paralegal who helped us put together a visa application (another significant financial expense that was taken care of for me). In short, I got a work visa for two years! (With the option of extending it after that). The only downside was I had to go back to England for a couple of months to have an interview at the U.S Embassy in London and to wait to receive my visa. I was so nervous about leaving the U.S. I felt afraid that I would go back and face unbearable temptation to return to my sin ways, or someone like my old boyfriend might try and contact me. But this was the perfect test. Was I going to believe the truth about myself, for myself, when the tests came? I did talk to Sanda and Ginny on the phone while I was gone and although I had a couple of moments where I felt tempted it was nothing more than Christ in me could bear (" God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able " 1 Cor. 10:13). Before I knew it I was packing my bags to board a plane to my new home country! I actually flew out on my 26th birthday! When I landed Sanda was there to greet me. She gave me a hug and said "Welcome home!" It was music to my ears!
God continued to pour out His grace and mercy on me. I started my job here for the ministry and quickly began making the new position my own and settling in to my new life as a U.S resident. Among many other things I learned how to cook, how to dress nicely and how to manage a budget–all thanks to learning from various friends here who were gifted in these areas or who had learned along the way from others like I was doing. Another friend, Robyn, allowed me to drive her car with her accompanying me so that I could learn to drive on the other side of the road! I was thrilled when I got my own license. I was loaned a car to drive for a while before I was able to pay for a used car myself.
I hope this is giving you a picture of how every little area of my life was being transformed and taken care of– by God, ultimately, but through His people in Zerubbabel. I do not know if any other group of people would have been willing to take me on in this way. God, through people here, was taking care of my every need–physical and spiritual–and sacrificing time, money, energy and reputation to do so ("Greater love has no one than this that one lay down his life for his friends"–John 15:13).
I could end there and I hope that you would be blown away by God’s incredible grace and mercy towards me–but it doesn’t end there! About a year after I moved to the USA Sanda suggested I might like to live with a good friend who was the same age as me–Allison. I was sad to leave Sanda; my experiences with her through the last year had meant so much and I had so enjoyed living with her but I was very excited to move into a condo with Allison. About this same time I started spending time with a friend I had known from the first time I came to the USA when I was 15–Elliot. Thanks to Ginny’s gentle prompting several years earlier Elliot and I had become fairly close through emailing and phone calls and he had come to visit me in England (this was before I turned away from God). I never in my wildest dreams considered that I would get a second chance with Elliot after the sin life I had lived for the past year. Well I was wrong! That’s exactly what I got. And I almost cannot believe I get to say this but today Elliot is my husband! If that is not proof of God’s incomprehensible grace and mercy then I don’t know what is!
So, I feel like this part of my testimony is pretty incredible. If you could see my life in all it’s sin and squalor and darkness and then see my life today–I think most people wouldn’t believe it. There is not one area of my life that is not drastically different. From my surroundings (beautiful Appalachian mountains), to the house I live in, to the food I eat, to the clothes I wear, to the husband I enjoy as my co-soldier in Christ, to the spiritual freedom and peace I have–all thanks to God’s bountiful grace and mercy through this body of believer’s.
I will never forget that one choice I made to accept Ginny’s offer to fly to the USA. If I had not done that I can only imagine the horrors of what my life would be today and what I would have missed out on! I will never be able to express to Ginny, or my wider spiritual family, how grateful I am for their faith-fulness and perseverance with me through the years–really Christ’s through them (" he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins"–James 5:20).
I hope what I have shared gives whoever reads it some idea of what God does through our ministry here; because believe it or not I am just one example of many who have received God’s boundless blessings and mercy in similar ways through Zerubbabel.
More Articles from The Intercessor, Vol 26 No 2
- Who Will Deliver Me?
- Our Commission
- Editor’s Note
- Total Living Center: A Vision
- Further Soul/Spirit Clarification
- Zerubbabel Press: Republishing Norman Grubb’s Books
- Our Cutting Edge
- Christianity’s Lost Chord
- A Vision for Zerubbabel
- Zerubbabel Youth Ministries: Teaching the Total Truth
- The Christ Life…In Everyday Living
- Nevertheless I live, yet not I…
- Words to Live By…