Seventeen years ago today, I was born into God’s family. It seems like yesterday. I was fifteen years old, struggling ‘neath the load of hormones and teenage emotions. I was trying to “fit in” somewhere. The only place I really fit in was at home. I knew my parents loved me more than their own lives. I had a best friend, but her family was in evangelism. They traveled with Evangelist Jack Parchman, heading up his tent ministry. They set up the tent and other equipment, as well as provided some special music.The best part was that they got to meet and make friends all over the country. Because they traveled so much, she was only around in the winter for a few weeks. How desperate I was for friends! My Christian school and church were not very large, and I was the epitome of a “people person.” Well, during the summer of 1993, my best friend, and her parents, offered me an opportunity that I would have never dreamed of – they invited me to travel with them for three weeks and go to two different meetings with them! One was in Raymond, Illinois, the other was in East Prairie, Missouri. My parents agreed and we were off. The closest I had ever been to a motor home was when I was little. I looked inside one that was a prize for a drawing at the Hot Springs Mall. On this trip, I actually got to ride in one!
I enjoyed getting to sing at the meetings with my best friend. I enjoyed eating three meals a day with her and her friends for three whole weeks. I loved sleeping in her camper. I loved making grilled cheese sandwiches with her and buying chocolate Zingers at gas stations. (I still think of that summer when I see those in stores!) I loved every minute of those three weeks! In fact, at the first meeting we were at, my future husband was there. He wasn’t interested in me, of course, nor I, him, but it makes for a funny memory!
I had grown up in church – I couldn’t tell you how many times I had heard the gospel by the time I was fifteen. My brother and sister were both active in church during their teen years, and I witnessed their enthusiasm first hand each day. My parents lived as much like Christ as they could. They were faithful and consistent. My sister and brother both graduated from Hyles-Anderson College. I remember going there when I was nine years old to visit for the first time. I would go many more times after that. My sister was voted “Most Compassionate” her senior year there – and that title fits her to a “T”. My brother had graduated from there before her. He was a pastor when I was fifteen and she was serving with her husband at a church. I had made a profession of faith when I was five and again at six. I remember wanting to be saved so badly – I had read and understood the verses; I had prayed, but I didn’t really believe I was saved.
That was because, I wasn’t.
This day, seventeen years ago, the Holy Spirit turned the light on for me. I had just finished reading my Bible on my bed in the camper – I remember I had just started reading Ezra – and the Holy Spirit said in my heart, “You’re reading your Bible, and you’re trying so hard to live the Christian life, but you’re not even really saved. You’re just a sinner trying to do good.” I stopped and thought about my previous professions of faith – I was never convicted of my sin! I’d never seen myself as a wicked sinner in need of a Savior.
I went to get my friend’s mother and told her I was lost. She got her Bible out, and read a verse or two, but then she turned to me and said, “Valerie, you already know what you need to do. Do you want to pray?” I said “Yes, I do!” There, in a camper trailer in East Prairie, Missouri, a place I’ve never been back to since, I trusted Christ as my Savior. I couldn’t wait to call my parents and tell them the good news! Back then, I had to use a calling card to call home, and go through an operator. The calls were expensive, so could only talk with them briefly. While I waited to be connected, I said, “Operator “I got saved!” I don’t know her name, but she was also a Christian, and she rejoiced with me!
It was the best day of my life. The Lord orchestrated the events so beautifully. He did the convicting, He did the saving, and He does the keeping. Seventeen years seems like a long time, but when I think about how long I will be saved – for eternity – it isn’t even a drop in the bucket!
I’m so thankful to the Lord for saving me. I am also thankful that since then, I’ve gotten to witness to many people and see many saved. One man I invited to church ended up getting saved, surrendering to the ministry, and marrying one of my good friends! What a blessing to have a part in their joy and service to the Lord! I’ve gotten to work on bus routes, teach Sunday school and Junior church, clean church buildings, lead ladies meetings, sing songs, and even play the piano (such as it was) for my Lord. The most amazing thing, is that Christ not only gave me the precious gift of salvation, but He allowed me to be the wife of a Pastor – me! I am so unworthy and so incapable of the demands of this role that I must rely upon Him for it all. This has brought me much closer to my Savior than I ever dreamed I could be, and yet I still have so far to go. I hope and pray He gives me many more years of service, but if not, I am thankful for what He has let me do thus far. I owe Him everything!
Securely in His hands,