I became involved in Milwaukee Seed Sowers because for many years as a Christian sitting in church and taking part in church services and activities there was always this nagging voice in me saying we should be out witnessing and why aren’t we out witnessing? I would continue to sense that this is something God wanted me to do. The answer to my why personally was, I really did not have a plan and nor did my church. I shared my faith when opportunities stared me in the face but not on a regular intentional basis, which was my hearts’ desire.
In 2008 I was blessed with the opportunity to go on a Christian Cruise to the Bahamas. As part of the cruise you could participate in Ministry options with minimal training. I chose the evangelism track. We were trained for approximately 1 ½ hours in The Way of the Master evangelism course. We were then let loose onto the Island of the Bahamas to practice what we had learned. The opportunity to go out intentionally with the sole purpose of sharing the Gospel, turned out to be one of the most rewarding and exciting experiences of my life. Upon coming back to my home town I went on a quest to find more material and training to continue in what I had learned. I hit a dead end until exactly almost 1 year later, the exact same evangelism course was offered at my local church. I took the training and now I know longer sit in church hearing, why aren’t we out witnessing?
I’ve been a Christian now for over 20 years. Through a series of events by the Grace of God, I have been delivered from a place of extreme fear of rejection. As a result of that former bondage there were times when this season of sharing my faith, had been a bit more challenging than it should have been. But by God’s Grace and mercy I have been able to live out a statement made during our training in the Bahamas. The facilitator said, if you are physically able to share the gospel and you do not, you are only experiencing a portion of the joy of what it really means to live the Christian life. Today I am so thankful to God for Milwaukee Seed Sowers who have played a major role in equipping me to be obedient to the call of God, in the great commission, to go out and share the gospel.
Here’s my testimony:
I came from what many people might call a dysfunctional family. My father was critical, verbally abusive, controlling and a functioning alcoholic. Throughout most of our childhood we endured constant cursing, criticism and being called dumb and stupid on a regular basis. We lived on edge dreading the sound of the key in the door indicating our father was home. My mother was emotionally absent for as long as I can remember due to mental illness. Out of her four children, she made it perfectly clear that she did not care for me. I would sometimes here my paternal grandmother yell, as my mother hollered and threw objects at me, “If you don’t want her Doris, give her to me”. As a kid I acted like a little mother by taking on some of the responsibilities that a mother would normally do. Due to the lack of a normal family life I compensated by attaching myself to the families of friends at school.
I vaguely remember our mother taking us to church as small children but nothing after that. My first experience with church was through a co-worker in my early 20’s. Melissa would wait until I was the last person to be dropped off in our car pool and begin to talk to me about God. She did this every chance she got. She would invite me to church almost every week and every week I would make an excuse. Although I did not understand at the time but each time she shared the Gospel and Gods love with me, I would cry. One day she had a tragedy in her family. Her cousin was murdered. Because I looked up to her like a sister, I felt bad for her. At the end of that week when she asked me again if I would attend church with her, I agreed.
I don’t remember much of the message, but after it ended I found myself at the alter sobbing. I gave my life to Christ that day. I’ve since realized that I did not understand exactly what had happened to me but I continued to attend Church from that day forward.
I married, 1 ½ later and moved to Virginia. In time I grew in my understanding and faith in Christ. During those years, I found myself crying often in church. I did not know why, but it was not a joyful cry but a sad and pitiful cry. While attending church, and interacting with people in general, I realized through my actions and feelings that I had a paralyzing fear of being noticed whenever in a group or speaking in front of people. I maintained an uneasy and guarded disposition in social settings. I believe the world labeled it social anxiety. In order for me to go to work and function at any level of normalcy, I figured out that if I got up early in the morning and spent time in devotion with God, I would be able to make it through a day. I would feel confident enough to do my job, interact with people without anxiety and have less chance of experiencing rejection.
After 10 years in Virginia, we relocated to Wisconsin and my mother died a few years later. I loved my mother but I never really had a real relationship with my mother since she was absent mentally most of the time. After her death I went through a period of feeling like everyone around me was rejecting me. It got so bad that I even included my immediate family as those that were being rejected. I stopped attending church for a brief period. During this time I was consumed with thoughts about how my mother rejected me as a child and why I didn’t remember feeling any pain or hurt as a result. Even though my father lived in a perpetual tirade toward us kids, I still felt that he loved us and I didn’t really care about my mothers’ rejection…so I thought. Subconsciously I must have known the pain of the rejection, because I spent years trying to avoid it.
One morning I was beside myself with anxiety wondering why I did not remember how I felt when my mother rejected me. Why I couldn’t remember most of my childhood and why were there so many gaps in my childhood. For the first time in my life these questions were tormenting me. I finally put in a worship tape given to me by Tammy who had been ministering to me at that time. The tape was entitled Everlasting Love, by Vicki Yohe. I put the tape in and fell back into a chair and in my mind’s eye; God took me to a place. He took me back to a day in my life when I was a little girl. I was with my mother, maternal grandmother, older brother and two younger sisters. My mother was swinging me around on the porch outside and saying, I smell gas, I smell gas, as if it had affected me in some way. Soon a cab pulled up and they all got in and rode away. A neighbor, who must have known us, came from across the street and picked me up. He and his mother took me to an upstairs bed room, laid me on the bed and walked out of the room. I remember laying there…no feelings, just looking up into this bright sunlight shining through this window onto me. In my vision through that sunlight I heard the Lord telling me that he loved me and that he was there all the time. As I am experiencing this, almost every song on that tape ministered to me and brought about a layer of deliverance in my life from the pains of my childhood. As I lay there in that chair, tears streaming down and experiencing this deep pain and anguish, God was telling me I loved you then and I was there. I always had head knowledge that God loved me but from that point on I knew it from my heart.
I now believe that the reason why I didn’t remember feeling any pain from the rejection as a child was because God shielded me. I also believe that because of a childhood filled with rejection and verbal abuse, was why I also struggled with an inferiority complex, low self- esteem, and a special fear reserved for those I deemed represented authority. Because of my relationship with my dad I looked at all authority figures in a childlike manner and as a threat. I know I was saved but those feelings were real and debilitating. It was a source of bondage which crippled my Christian witness.
One evening during bible study one of the Elders in the church preached a message on covenants’. He asked the church which tree are you eating from. He said there are two trees. The tree of life through faith in Christ and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, a life through works. He went from Genesis to Revelations, contrasting faith and works. Through that message, I realized I had been doing what I now called spiritual calisthenics all those years to feel the power and presence of God in order to function and avoid rejection. This new revelation literally cut. I had even added fasting to my works for freedom and now he was telling me all those years, I was wrong. I had been practicing works. It was not about what I did or felt when I got up off my knees, but it was about what I believed. The thought of it hit me so hard that I literally went into withdrawal for three days. My husband thought I was depressed. I eventually learned that I could experience freedom in Christ from fear of rejection not because of any spiritual calisthenics I was doing but only through faith in what Jesus Christ did on the cross and intentionally applying it to my life. All those years I was able to apply faith to almost everything else but when it came to freedom to just be, it completely went over my head that that was included.
During those years of working for my freedom, I felt guilt at times because I believed that instead of spending time with God because he is God and I loved him, it was more for what I could get from him. On occasion I would experience joy and peace when I had no other motive other then, to freely spend time in the presence of God just because He first love me and I loved Him.
There were many times after those two experiences in my life where I have said to myself, I can walk into this place among these people and it will be all right because God loves me and that’s all that matters. Some of my favorite scriptures are, “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most high shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, he is my refuge and my fortress: my God, in Him will I trust, Psalm 91:1-2. “And he said unto me, my grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me, II Corinthians 12:9. And lastly, “ But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord”, II Corinthians 3:18.