I stepped out of the Full Gospel Church on the crisp December night. The stars were brighter than I ever remembered. Everything was clean and new. The joy I felt was indescribable – I felt like I could fly. I was raised in church my whole life but I never heard the gospel preached like the visiting evangelist preached tonight. I was compelled to respond to the message, but I was sitting next to my brother John who had invited me to this special meeting. It wasn’t our church, but in this tight-knit community, I knew everyone in the packed sanctuary. I didn’t want anyone to see me. I timidly snuck my hand up and quickly put it down when the preacher said, “I see that hand.”
We belonged to a traditional church following the Norwegian tradition that had laid a strong foundation in my life. A few others from my church were at the meeting with the evangelist, and they raised their hands too.
The next day Mom was in the kitchen making supper. The potatoes started boiling and she turned the burner to simmer, and opened the oven to remove the bread pudding. She added the glaze on the meatloaf and closed the oven and asked me to put ice in the glasses for water.
“Mom, do the people up at that Full Gospel Church wear make-up? Do they wear wigs (a 70’s fad) and fingernail polish?”
“I don’t think so, but I know one of the ladies goes to Arizona every winter and she said the ladies of the same denomination all get dressed up, wear make-up and Sundays are quite a show of fashion.”
“John has been going to church there on Sunday nights. Do you think it would be okay to go with him? I really like it there. I always thought our church was the only one that had people go to heaven.”
Mom laughed at my silly notions. “Of course you can go. You know, I didn’t attend a church like ours when I was growing up.”
“You didn’t? Where did you go?”
“I went with my grandmother when I was very young, and when I was a teenager I attended church with my best friend Elsie. They were very similar to the Full Gospel church. When I married your dad and moved from the city I joined our church – it was his family’s church.”
John was happy I wanted to go with him to the Full Gospel Church on Sunday evenings. I’m pretty sure we created quite a stir in this tiny little church. We still attended church with my parents on Sunday mornings, but I could hardly wait for Sunday night. The piano was lively and the music in the songbook was different from the hymns they played on the old pipe organ at my family’s church. Pastor Losing taught from his Bible, and every sermon challenged me to read my Bible, be a good student, live like Jesus wanted me to live. The pastor talked about being a disciple. I knew Jesus’ disciples lived with Him but I was 14 years old and still lived at home.
I watched the families who attended the little church and listened to everything they said. I needed to know what a Christian was supposed to look like. I needed to know how a Christian was supposed to act. I needed to know how a Christian was supposed to talk.
Pastor Losing and his wife took a group of youth that recently made a decision to follow Jesus to a rally in a neighboring town with them. They invited me to go along. I was eager to be with them so I could learn how to live like Jesus.
“Oh, look,” Mrs. Losing exclaimed, “a wig shop! I could spend all day trying on different wigs. I wonder what style would look best on me.” I made conclusions on every word that came out of her mouth. I now had my answer concerning wigs. It must be okay!
A tall stately couple, Rex and Addie went to the little church. They saw how hungry I was to grow. Their son Ned was used to being taken from church to church because Rex, a retired old-time preacher, was often asked to be the guest speaker at churches in neighboring towns. They knew Ned could use a big sister to make the long road trips more fun, and I loved listening to stories about old-time revivals that had broken out in the old time tent meetings. I watched Addie and Rex. I saw how they were with their son Ned. I loved hearing stories of his life as a preacher from another time. They lived in a modest home not far from the school where Addie taught 5th grade.
“Kathy, would you give your testimony today?” he asked as we pulled up to the church where he was going to speak. “It doesn’t have to be long – just tell what Jesus has done for you.”
“But I don’t have a testimony!” I protested. “I wasn’t saved from drugs. I wasn’t healed from cancer. I never did anything that was that bad.”
“Well that’s good,” he said. “I don’t think you are going to find any drug addicts in this church. That’s why you have such a powerful testimony,” he explained. “Do you know that people need to know that you don’t have to be bad to need Jesus? Do you know that no matter how good you are, you still sinned? The Bible says in 1 John 1:10 that ‘if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves,’ The Bible says in Romans 6:23 ‘For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.’ People need to know they don’t have to be drug addicts or drunks to need Jesus. Jesus can save them from that, but they need to acknowledge Jesus and surrender to Him, or they are just as lost as the murderer and thief.”
“Sometimes I think I got saved too soon. If I don’t have a testimony of being saved from addictions, how can I help addicted people?”
“I suppose you’d have to look at Jesus’ ministry. Did he have to be delivered from prostitution to minister to the prostitutes? Did he have to be a tax collector to save the tax collectors? No – He just had truth – and that truth set those people free.”
One evening Pastor Losing asked how many people have been saved for a year. I proudly raised my hand. It had already been a year since I made that first decision to follow Jesus. He continued, “how many have been saved 2 years? How about 5 years? How about 10 years?” He asked, “How many have been saved for 40 years?” Rex and Addie and three or four others still had their hands raised.
I grew in the Lord, and I had many wonderful adventures in my life. I was thinking back to all the people in my life who taught me and molded me – I didn’t stop being a disciple just because I grew up – and in the years I realize that others have looked to me for guidance. Nobody ever asked me, but I can raise my hand – yes it’s been over 40 years!!
Read the lyrics to this song: Thank You – Ray Boltz
“I dreamed I went to heaven He said friend, you may not know me now
You were there with me But then he said but wait
We walked along the streets of gold You used to teach my Sunday school
Beside the crystal sea When I was only eight
We heard the angels singing Every week you would say a prayer
Then someone called your name Before the class would start
You turned and saw a young man One morning when you said that prayer
He was smiling as he came I asked Jesus in my heart
Thank you for giving to the Lord
I am a life that was changed
Thank you for giving to the Lord
I am so glad you gave.”
The Apostle Paul says in I Corinthians 4:15 – 16 “. . . for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. Therefore I exhort you, be imitators of me.” And again in 1 Corinthians 11:1 “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.”
I am thankful for all the mothers and fathers in the faith who brought me along and lived their life so I could grow in the Lord. I’m thankful for my own mother and father who laid a firm foundation for my faith to grow.
Who are you following? Who is following you? Do you work? Do you shop? Are you a parent? Are you an aunt or uncle? Do you have neighbors? “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16
“Little things that you had done, sacrifices made. Unnoticed on the earth, heaven now proclaims. And I know up in heaven, that you’re not supposed to cry. But I was almost sure, there were tears in your eyes. As Jesus took your hand, and you stood before the Lord. And He said my child look around you, for great is your reward.” – Ray Boltz