|Kathy Senkbeil||These were the two words that guided me as a new Christian twenty years ago and continue to guide me today. I was raised in the church but was never given a Bible. I was told if I was bad I would go to hell and if I was good I was going to heaven. As a child I didn't see myself as bad. In fact, I was pretty obedient and good to my parents until of course I became a teenager. My activities and behavior became increasing sinful until I decided if there was a God I was in really big trouble. So, after an abortion at the age of 18 I decided I would no longer believe in Him. I became increasingly angry at people who protested at abortion clinics even though I had such bad memories of the one I went to. My life reflected the pain I suffered inside. My neighbor, unbeknownst to me, was praying for me for 6 years. When I found out that my husband was having an affair with my best friend she asked if she could pray for me. In her prayer she refered to me as a sinner. My first thought was "did she hear me right - I'm not the one commiting adultry" but later that night I was convicted after reading scriptures about husbands and wives that my divorce attorney gave me. I prayed these three things: 1. Help! 2. Teach me fast so I can teach others. 3. Who is Jesus? Needless to say, God answered all three. The divorce went through even though I did not want it. But those two words, trust and obey, kept me focused while God changed me and taught me. I only knew the titles of the 4 gospels when I started and was asked into leadership of a Bible study in just 2 years. I bought Christian books and Bibles for everyone that would ask me a question about God. I told God one day that I would do anything for Him except commit myself to teaching Sunday School every Sunday. I have been doing that now for 18 years. I met my husband five years after the divorce. We met at a Singles Bible Study. We sometimes teach together and do mission trips together. I now have a marriage that I know pleases God. In 1999,I was reading a book by Randy Alcorn called "Deadline". The main character was a columnist. I knew nothing about writing a column but after reading the book I did. Soon after the editor of the local newspaper asked to meet with me. She had heard from the director of the Pregnacy Care Center where I was a counselor that I wrote studies to help the girls. Before I realized it I was writing a Q&A column on the Faith page about relationships, especially about our relationship with God. This amazes me that God can use me in this way. All I did was trust in what He says in His Word and obeyed it with the help of the Holy Spirit. I asked for work to serve Him and He provided the training, opportunity and promotions. I know there is more to do in His kingdom to help others find their way to Him and to help them along the Way. I know the very things I do now are training me for something else. There's no time to waste. I hope this testimony of mine will encourge you who read it to answer His "help wanted" words in the Gospels. The testimony of others have always encouraged me through difficult times to be faithful to my faithful God. Trust and Obey for there's no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey!|
was a single mother of 5. We were very poor and my mother was very promiscuous.
She would have men coming in and out of our home. A lot of times she didn't know
who they were.
She would get in a very depressed state and would take it out on us by physically and mentally abusing us. She would leave us weekends at a time to be with different men leaving us with no food in the house. My older brothers had to go out in the neighborhood and ask for odd jobs. My oldest brother cleaned houses and my second brother mowed lawns or shoveled snow to earn a few bucks to buy milk, bread and eggs for us 3 younger ones while my mom was out partying with her men. Needless to say I began resenting my mom and as I got older our relationship got further apart. By the time I was in high school my mom had a steady boyfriend who was physically abusive towards her. I had to call the police several times but each time she would drop the charges and would let him back in the house.
My older brothers were moved out and it was just me and little brother and sister left at home so now I was the oldest sibling to have to take care of things. Throughout all of this my major escape was through music. I was always in my room singing along to latest popular songs. My dream was to get out and become a singer myself but my mother always was a discouragement. She always told me that singing was a waste of time and that I would never make it as one. (She was such a loving and supportive mother wasn't she?)
Well, by my junior year in high school I met someone whom I fell madly in love with and ended up losing my virginity to. (I'll call him Will) Unfortunately Will was the bad boy type and wound up in jail the day after our intimate moment for attempting to rob a convenience store. He ended up in prison for a year. I ended up waiting for him to come out. My mom disapproved of him and our relationship. But she was the last person I wanted to listen to about relationships. When he got out we stayed together and planned on being together forever.
It was time for me to go off to college and I decided to get far away from home as possible. I told Will that he didn't have to wait for me because I knew that long distance relationships never last, as much as it hurt me to leave him. But he refused and said he would be supportive of me and be there for me. We kept in touch the first 2 months but then he suddenly disappeared with no word until a friend of mine told me that he was seeing someone else.
I was hurt and furious at the same time. So what do I do? I began dating this Frat guy who had been wanting to get with me the whole semester.( I'll call him Ron). Basically I was on the rebound but Ron turned out to be a really caring guy. We got along really well but the thoughts of Will still kept lingering in the corner of my mind. I went home for Christmas break and guess who paid me a little visit? You guessed it, Will!.....To make this part of the story short Will apologized but ended up hurting me again the same way. I ended pregnant by Ron and found out that Will had 2 daughters by 2 different girls. I was devastated!
Needless to say I never finished college, Ron ended being a loser dead beat father and Will and I got back together. We ended up living together for about a year and within that year he was a totally different person. He became abusive mentally and physically. I swore I would never let a man hurt me this way because of what I saw my mother go through but here I was accepting all this abuse for the sake of blind love.
I then found out that I'm pregnant by Will. My son by Ron was a year old at this point. I decided I wanted out of the relationship but Will became furious and held me prisoner there. He said I wasn't going anywhere with his baby in my belly. I finally got the courage to just leave and moved in with my aunt and Will did every thing he could to get me back. I had the baby and seeing him with her just melted my heart and my weakness allowed me to give it one more try.
Well, like the other times it didn't work out and Will became furious that I finally began showing him that I didn't need him anymore. So what did he do? He beat me and kidnapped my daughter. I called the police and pressed charges for domestic violence and kidnapping. But the police told me since he's the biological father he had rights to her. From that point that was the last time I saw my daughter.
I took every measure I had to as far as establishing custody and making the kidnapping charges stick. There was a detective on the case who I made sure was working hard to get my daughter back. (I'll call him him Detective Firestone). Detective Firestone and I kept in touch almost everyday because I wanted to make sure he didn't treat this case as any ordinary case. He was very understanding and very supportive. I was determined to get my daughter back. I cried every night wondering how she was doing, whether or not she was eating properly and if Will was taking good care of her. Now mind you I was not a Christian at this time, obviously, but I would cry out for God to help me. Detective Firestone had gotten approval to have a nationwide warrant out for Will's arrest. So where ever he went within the U.S. he was wanted. I had made a call to America's Most Wanted and they were willing to accept my case. They came out and interviewed me and my son. They were very nice and sympathetic.
Although I was showing on the outside that I was being strong about all of this I was totally breaking down inside. The thoughts of not ever seeing my daughter consumed me and I felt so helpless. But like I said, I had to stay strong because I still had my son to take care of. One night I was crying in bed and at this point I was tired of crying myself to sleep, so I decided to watch tv. As soon as I turned the tv on there was Billy Graham. I quickly changed the channel to see what else was on. There was nothing appealing but something told me to turn back to Billy Graham.
His message was about trials and tribulations. As I listened to his message I felt that he was talking directly to me. At the end he had mentioned that there was only one way out and that was through Jesus Christ. He also said that if we give all our burdens to the Lord he would take care of it for as long as we have faith and live for Him. In closing he asked if there was anyone who wanted to open their hearts up for Jesus and allow Him to take care of them to just simply repeat the sinners prayer.
Well, I felt this may be what I needed. So, I repeated the sinners prayer with every feeling in my body and my arms lifted up in the air. Afterwards, I instantly felt a feeling of relief. I felt all burdens lifted off of me and I began to cry hysterically. It wasn't a cry of depression this time. It was a cry of joy because I knew in my heart that I was going to be ok!
The next day I felt like a whole new person and saw everything in a positive light.
The next week on Thursday I was waiting for Saturday to arrive because that was the day America's Most Wanted was going to show my segment on the show. I was so excited. I was thinking, "Boy, is Will in for a great surprise!" But no one was more surprised than I was when I received a phone call that Thursday night from the California police dept. calling me to tell me that they have recovered my daughter. Talk about a state of Shock! I began to cry "Thank you Lord! Thank you sooo much!". I called Detective Firestone to share my joy. I called the interviewer from America's Most Wanted. They were all so happy for me.
I flew to California that night to get my daughter. It had been 10 months since I've seen her. She was big and beautiful!
The great thing was that I got her just in time to celebrate her 2nd b-day. I threw her a big party and invited all my family and friends even Detective Firestone who I ended up marrying a year later. He's such an awesome man and a great father to my kids. Will is serving 6 yrs. in the Pen. My husband and I have found a dynamic non-denomination church that we are very involved with. I am one of the soloist in the choir.
Remember when I said that singing was my dream? Well, I found my purpose in life and that's serving God through the music ministry. Many doors of opportunities are opening up for me as far as many Christian organizations requesting that I sing for them at certain Christian events. I'm also on the verge of cutting a Christian CD. If it's His will, it will be done. I am truly blessed! My life has been going up-hill from the moment I accepted Christ into my life. Of course Satan is there to try and throw monkey wrenches into my life, but having love and strength in the Lord there's nothing I can't overcome. I now know my purpose here on earth and I'm running with it. I live for Him and He brings many Blessings.
I'm sorry that this was so long, but I was told to never be ashamed of my testimony because there's always someone out there who just might be going through the same thing and need encouragement.
If you read this whole thing, thank you for allowing me to write this.
Have a Jesus filled day!!! May the Lord shower you with many blessings!
I've always been found solace in stories like that of Paul. He started out hating Christians... hunting them down and persecuting them... yet even he couldn't resist God's call. God used a terrible sinner like Saul (who would later be known as Paul) to ultimately become one of God's greatest evangelists! It always gives me comfort to think of stories like Paul's, because they're proof that no matter how great our sins, God is quick to forgive those who seek His forgiveness, through His Son, Jesus. God could've chosen any one of a million people to spread His Gospel, but he chose Saul to show us that His love is available to any one of us, regardless of our past sins. I didn't hunt down Christians, but the first half of my life was about as far from God's will as one can get.
I guess it really all went downhill when I was about 15. I wish I could blame it on a bad upbringing, or a troubled childhood, but I can't. I was raised by two loving grandparents with old-fashioned values. My grandfather was a former minister, as was my grandmother's father... so I was raised in a decent environment, and taught to love God from the time I could speak. However, somewhere along the line things went south in a big way. It started when I went to visit my mother in Boston. I hadn't seen her since I was a baby, and the thought of finally escaping from a small-town and living in a big-city appealed greatly to me. So I packed up and moved to Boston, unsure of how long I'd stay. I figured I'd play it by ear.
Well, it took about a day for the culture-shock to hit me. My mother grew marijuana in the window sill of her bedroom. She drank heavily. She was an ultra-liberal. Quite a change from the conservative Christian grandparents I'd been raised by. I quickly adapted though. Within a month, I was hanging around the wilder crowd at school, listening to "The Doors" and "Pink Floyd", and getting my ear pierced with a safetypin. I became involved with a girl I met in school, and was soon experimenting with LSD and hanging out with a rock band. It was like a whirlwind; everything happened so fast I'm not sure I can even explain how I got pulled into such a radically different lifestyle so quickly. I grew my hair out in an attempt to emulate my new hero, Jim Morrison. I began drinking vodka, and experimenting with drugs. My visit to Boston culminated with a bizarre night in which I stole a collection of antique jewelry, dove into a swimming pool fully clothed, and nearly broke my hand punching a tree, all while on LSD. I then skipped town, selling the jewelry at various pawn shops as I traveled back home to my small town.
Even on the bus-ride home, I managed to find trouble. I met a girl at a bus station in Philadelphia, and ended up convincing her to run away from home, and travel the remaining distance across the country with me.
Unfortunately, the trouble didn't end when I returned home. Over the next 3 years, I managed to get thrown into a rehabilitation center for fighting with a cop, got arrested 3 times, and attempted suicide. I found myself in many ugly situations during those years, like the time a guy tried to drive off with my girlfriend and I pulled a gun on him and forced him out of the car. I also returned to Boston three times. Once I was even threatened at knifepoint in the so-called "Combat Zone" after I'd tried to buy some drugs from a guy in the projects.
But wait, remember Saul? He wasn't a very nice guy either, and look at how God used him! And there was King David! Didn't that sweet little boy who defeated Goliath send a guy to his death so he could have his wife? There's still hope for this testimonial, so give me a chance and read on...
Okay, so I'm about 18 now. I'd met a girl named Stacey in rehab, and started hanging out with her. She always knew where the parties were, and always seemed to have a single friend who was interested in me. So one day she introduced me to a friend of hers, and before I knew it, I'd run away with the girl she'd introduced me to, and a friend of hers. They were both 16, and somehow we got it in our heads that it would be fun to drive to Canada. We picked up another guy, so it would be like a double-date, and then took off on what we fancied to be a sort of Bonnie-and-Clyde adventure. It all came to an abrupt end a few days later though. I got arrested for transporting juveniles across state lines, and endangering their welfare.
So then I found myself in jail. Because I lived in a small town at that time, it made big news. There I was, all over the front page of my hometown paper. (Remember, up until a couple of years before this, I was one of the "good kids". I hung with a good crowd, and was top of my class). Now suddenly, I was faced with he humiliation of my arrest being on the front page of a paper read by 5,000 of my teachers, friends, church members, and friends' parents. I knew I had 7 charges hanging over me, so I decided to take the easy way out: I tried to kill myself. I took a blanket and tore it into strips, and braided them into a noose. I came pretty close to hanging myself from a vent in the jail's ceiling, but then I saw the light. No, not the inspirational light... (at least not yet. ) No, I saw a bare lightbulb and decided it would do a good job of cutting my wrist. So I broke the bulb, and slashed both of my arms. I did a really good job of it, too. I lay in bed, as blood sprayed out freely. It was very dark in my cell, and the jailers rarely checked on us, so I knew I'd succeed.
It was the loneliest night of my life. I laid in bed, growing colder and colder. I began shaking uncontrollably as I went into shock. It was around midnight when I started to get dizzy and vomit. My legs went numb, and when I tried to sit up, I blacked out. I knew I was dying. I'd scribbled out a small, apologetic note to my grandparents, and went to sleep, knowing I wouldn't wake up.
...but i did. I woke up at about 6am, when the jailer brought me my breakfast. They found me lying in a puddle of blood which covered the entire floor of my cell. I was rushed by ambulance to the hospital, and told that I may have to be flown by helicopter to the city trauma center. When they asked me what time I'd cut my arms, they said it was impossible, and that I would've been dead if it had happened any earlier than 5:45 or so. They insisted that I couldn't have lain there any longer than 10 or 15 minutes.
So from there I went to a psychiatric hospital for evaluation, before being taken back to jail a few weeks later. Soon, my public defender approached me and said that the best he could do was convince the prosecutor to offer me a plea bargain of 10 years. He said that my prior convictions plus the sheer number of charges against me were my undoing. They'd also found stolen merchandise in the car, and one of the girls had tested positive for drugs. I told him I'd sign the agreement, but asked him to try one last time to bring the prosecutor down to 5 years. So he agreed and left.
The next morning, I was visited by a private attorney. He informed me that some people from the church I'd grown up in had contacted him, and asked him to look into my case. The group of people from my church had given him a $5,000 retainer fee, just to examine my case! Almost instantly, the prosecutor dropped several of the charges, and lowered his offer to 5 years. Many months went by, while we argued things out in court.
Finally, my lawyer approached me and told me we were at a crossroads. He said, "I think I can beat this thing completely, but it will take a few more months. Otherwise, we can accept a plea bargain for 120 days." I didn't want to cost those people helping me any more money, and I'd already spent nearly a year in jail, so I gladly accepted the 120-day plea agreement. I was told that I would officially be given probation, although I would have to serve another 120 days of "shock" detention.
Ironically, in the end I took a plea agreement for the only charge I was innocent of: "Hindering Prosecution". They accused me of trying to warn a friend about an investigation against her in which she was suspected of stealing a VCR from the school where her father worked. I hadn't tried to warn her, and really knew nothing about the VCR... but I still happily grabbed the plea-agreement, as an alternative to the other 7 charges they had originally threatened me with.
So I got shipped off to prison for my "shock sentence". It really wasn't bad, actually. Compared to the 10 months I'd spent in jail, while we hashed-out the case in the courts, prison was a vacation. Jail was essentially solitary confinement. I was in a tiny cell with no real windows, no fresh air, and no sunlight; but prison had plenty of outdoors, libraries, and cable TV... (Yes, the stories are true; They even have Nintendo systems, and other luxuries which I don't personally feel have any place in a prison.) I got along well with everyone there, and even knew a couple of people from my hometown.
Then God reached out to me.
I still get goosebumps when I write this, or tell it. I'm always very skeptical of people's dreams. It's not that I don't believe God occasionally speaks through dreams, but I think many people place far too much emphasis on dreams. All I can say from the experience I'm about to share is, if God speaks to you, you'll know it. If you have to ask, "Do you think this dream means anything?" then it doesn't. I don't believe God will allow any ambiguity if and when He speaks. At least, He didn't in my case.
A couple of weeks before I was due to be released, I had a dream in which I was standing in a large church. The congregation was singing a hymn, and I struggled to sing along. I felt very self-conscious, as I was the only one in the room who didn't know the words and wasn't able to sing along. A loud voice in my mind said, "If you went to church more, you'd know these words." All I could do was hang my head in shame.
So then the congregation stopped singing, and they all opened their Bibles and began reading a verse. I opened mine, but couldn't find the verse. I flipped through the pages, looking for the passage they were reading. It was vaguely familiar, yet I had no idea where to find it. The voice in my mind said, "If you read my Word more, you'd know what verse they're reading."
Then the crowd smiled and turned to face a bright beam of light which was coming from the ceiling. It was a beautiful beam of light, and they all approached it. In an instant they were gone. I found myself frightened and completely alone. The voice in my mind said, "If you loved me and obeyed me, you would be with them now, together with me."
In a panic, I reached out for the beam of light, wishing to join those who'd been there a moment earlier. I wanted so badly to be a part of them... away from the filth of the prison, and the sinfulness of the people I'd spent the last 3 years of my life hanging around. I wanted to be pure... forgiven.... free.
I touched the beam of light and awoke with a jolt that was so powerful I can't describe it. Tears were streaming down my face and I simply muttered, "I touched God. I felt Him. " over and over. It was the most powerful sensation I'd ever felt... so much so that now, twelve years later, I still can't write or recount this without crying and getting goosebumps.
Well, the rest is a story of redemption and rebuilding. I called on Jesus to forgive me, and to give me the wisdom and obedience to repair the damage I'd done to my life. I spent my short remaining time in prison hanging around the chapel, and reading my Bible. When I got out, I moved, joined a church, and made every effort to put bad influences behind me. Something in me had truly changed. I found that I hated sin. I would turn on the TV and grow sick at what I saw. I would hear my old friends telling dirty jokes, and I would walk away from the conversation. I would think back to things I'd done, and grow remorseful. Thinking about my past was like looking into a stranger's life; I couldn't believe I ever held those values.
Don't get me wrong... I was far from perfect, even after the dream... but I'd become a "new creature" ( 2 Cr 5:17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. ) It was like I was suddenly seeing sin though new eyes, and finding myself convicted of things I'd previously not given a second thought over. I still made occasional mistakes but unlike before, I felt true remorse when I did sin.
Over the next decade, I found it easier and easier to resist sin. I realize I'll never be perfect, but the differences in my life now are profound. When I think back to the things I'd done, it makes me ill. I'm deeply ashamed of actions which I use to be proud of. Yet as ashamed as I am for my sins, I know God doesn't hold them against me any more than he held Paul's sins against him. If He can forgive Paul for helping to persecute and kill Christians, how much easier can He forgive me?
I'm now a Paramedic. I'm happily married to a girl I'd met way back in high school, and we have 2 wonderful kids. We've been married for about 10 years now. I completely disclosed my background when I applied for my paramedic licenses, but because of my age when they occurred, and because of the ultimate disposition of the sentence (probation with a suspended sentence), they didn't hold it against me. I even testify as an expert witness in criminal cases from time-to-time. I'm very involved in my church, and have had a strong interest in eschatology for 12 years now (ever since the dream). Working on an ambulance gives me many unique opportunities to tell others about Jesus. I often find myself at their deathbed, as they're breathing their last breaths, or comforting families who've lost loved ones. A few months ago I even had the opportunity to help a well-known Christian author, who'd become sick. We had a wonderful conversation, and he invited me to attend a prophecy conference which he later hosted.
Whenever I feel myself drifting from God, and growing slack in my focus, I recall the dream and it sets me straight. Throughout the past 12 years, it's served as a sort of compass, to keep me on track.
Go to Church.
Read the Bible.
Love me and Obey Me.
.... how basic were those simple instructions? Yet how profound has their impact been on my life!