I am a first-generation Christian. Growing up, my family never talked about the Bible or God. I couldn’t tell you one story from the Bible. Honestly, I never thought about God until I was young teenager. A family member invited my family to church, and I soon started attending off and on for a few months. I did not really understand what the big deal was. Growing up in a family that never attended church, I wasn’t sure if I really needed to go.
I was fourteen years old when I attended a Wednesday night service in November of 2007. That night the pastor preached on salvation and Heaven. Suddenly that night, I felt true conviction and finally understood it for the first time. I talked to the assistant pastor at the end of the service, and on the back row of the church, he led me in the sinner’s prayer.
I had no idea what God had for me. I began attending church every time the doors were open. Six short months later, I attended a revival meeting with a group from my church. Every night I felt strong conviction, but I was not sure why. The last night, the preacher preached on “Taking Up the Mantle.” At that moment, it became abundantly clear what God had for me. He wanted me in the ministry.
In the summer of 2000, I went to Hopewell Baptist Church in Napa, California. I did not regularly attend this church because I lived four hours away in a town called Visalia; however, my dad did attend this church on a regular basis. I knew that when I visited him, I would have to go to church. This particular Sunday my cousins and grandma were also in town visiting. My cousin and I went up to our designated Sunday school class. I do not remember what the teacher was speaking on, but I do remember at the end when she was praying, she asked if there was anyone who did not know 100% for sure that if they died they would go to Heaven. I remember knowing in my heart that I was not 100% sure I would go to Heaven, but I did not want to be the only one raising my hand. So like pretty much all children do during the prayer time, I peeked, and to my surprise, I saw my cousin raising her hand. Once I saw her hand up, I decided I would raise mine as well. A sweet lady then had us follow her out into the hallway, where she proceeded to tell us how we could know without any uncertainty that we were on our way to Heaven, and that day I accepted Christ.
Fast-forward seven years. At the age of 10, my mother’s addiction to drugs was discovered. Through a series of events, God me placed in Napa under my dad’s care. My dad was determined to raise me right. He placed me in a Christian school, made sure we were at every church service, and reared me according to the Bible.
I was what most people considered a good Christian girl. I was at every service, went soul winning with the teens, and was even awarded the Christian Spirit Award by our Christian school. Deep inside, though, I had rebellion in my heart. I regularly visited with my mother, who was not a devoted Christian. She was saved but did not live a life for Christ. I lived a double life for many years. I would be the good Christian girl at my dad’s, and the moment I got to my mom’s, I slipped into my jeans and put on my old sinful-natured self. At my father’s, I was living what looked like a good Christian life, but deep down I knew I was not fully committed.
God allowed my sin to be found out that year. My parents still sent me to camp but with strict instructions to be with a chaperone at all times because I was in trouble for living my double life. That year God did a tremendous work in my life. My pastor was one of the guest speakers at the camp, and during a Wednesday night service, he spoke on “8, 3, 1.” This message was a major turning point in my life. I had been having fears of death and questioning if I would really go to Heaven if I died. There were nights I was scared when thinking about if I were to die. As soon as the invitation began, I spoke with one of the counselors and nailed down my salvation. To this day, I say I truly accepted Jesus Christ as my Saviour on August 7, 2007. The fear of death and where I would spend eternity went away after that and never returned.
I had no idea that the second decision I made that night would be one of the biggest decisions of my life. Bro. Mike Johnson got up after my pastor and felt the Holy Spirit wanted him to extend the invitation. During this extended invitation, I rededicated my life to Jesus and told Him, “God, I do not feel called anywhere specific, but I will go wherever you send my husband . . . even if it’s Africa.” Bro. Johnson never did get to speak that night, but because he extended that invitation, a bunch of teenagers got saved and made life-changing decisions. It was during that extended invitation I made a decision that at the time seemed so small, but it would be the very decision that would lead me not only to my husband but also to God’s perfect will.