Posted by: Dot McEntire | March 21, 2010

A Personal Testimony – “Tell Them the Story of Jesus”

Brother Pat was our pastor and Qene’ was the church secretary at our church. We became fast friends with the two of them and have remained friends all these years. I’m honored and pleased to present to you her testimony of the love and grace of God. I know you will not only enjoy her testimony but at the end you will be saying along with her… “Follow the way of love”

Now, on to her wonderful testimony:

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My husband often says that the best way to tell others about salvation through Christ is to tell them the story of Jesus and what he has done in your life. I want to share that with you. It’s my testimony. And what He has done for me, He can do for you.

My testimony actually begins long before I was born. As with many of you, family heritage and choices made by parents played a big part in who I am and how I would know God and worship Him.

My father’s family is German, and Catholic. They have a strong heritage in the Catholic Church – being very devout followers of the faith. My mother’s family occasionally attended one of the local churches, Methodist I think. However, when my mother married my father she became a Catholic by taking instruction and baptism into the Catholic faith. She was very devout and perhaps stronger in her Catholic faith than my father who spent his high school years in a Catholic boarding school in Kansas.

Because of my father’s heritage in the Catholic Church and my mother’s choice to join the faithful and practice Catholicism, I was born Catholic. I’m what is known as a “cradle Catholic”.

I was due to be born on August 15, 1954. August 15 just happens to be a Holy Day of Obligation for Catholics. That’s a day when all Catholics are obligated to attend Mass. The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary takes place on August 15. The Assumption is when Catholics believe that Mary, at the end of her earthly life, was taken into heaven, body and soul. This day of obligation was dogmatically defined (an infallible statement issued by a Pope) by Pope Pius XII on November 1, 1950. There are many Catholics who believe that Mary did not die but was taken to heaven as was Enoch and Elijah. Her death has not been dogmatically defined, so it is not an error to believe that she was taken to heaven while her earthly body was still alive. For Catholics this date is known as her heavenly birthday. As it was a new teaching of the Church, my parents had decided to name me Assumpta Qene’ if I was born on that day. I can only thank God all these years later for his divine intervention. He had all my days numbered even from the beginning of time and my life was not to begin until August 18, three days later!

I was baptized in the Catholic Church when I was two weeks old and spent my growing up years attending Mass every Sunday and catechism classes every Wednesday. They say that if a child is raised in the Church until age 7, they will always be faithful and never leave the Catholic Church. All those many years ago that certainly was said of me. I loved the Catholic Church. I loved the ritual, the Mass, the celebration of the Eucharist, the rosary, the stations of the cross, the incense, the holy water, meatless Fridays, speaking Latin (although, I didn’t know what it meant, I could speak the Mass in Latin by heart.) and I especially loved the nuns.

I was a very religious person. As a young girl I wanted to be a nun and I spent many hours making my “habit” by wrapping myself in long flowing curtains, pressing out little “rounds” of bread with pill bottles to make communion wafers, and carrying an empty toilet paper roll pretending it to be a candle.

I was a terribly shy and backward child…..so backward that my kindergarten teacher told my mother not to expect much out of me because she believed that I was “retarded”. I was so shy that I thought I would never be married and wanted to spend my life as a nun…..preferably as a cloistered nun who was shut-away with prayers and penance.

Back in the 1950’s things were done in the “old way”. Mass was said in Latin and women and girls were expected to have their heads covered when entering the church. We had a closet in our home that was located in the “little bathroom”. The closet was located beside the toilet and it is where we kept our church hats. We loved that little closet! When it was time to go to Mass my sisters and I would race to the bathroom to see who could be the first to find the special hat…the favorite hat…..the one that had a long pheasant feather attached to it! The winner would proudly sport it on her head making sure that in the car and in the pew she would turn her head just so and brush the feather against the face of a sister, and perhaps even give her a poke in the eye with the beloved long feather.

There was always a sister that refused to wear a hat if she couldn’t have the beloved beige tam with the feather, and there was always a sister that would lose her hat to the open toilet while trying to wrestle and grab for the eye-poking feather. We would arrive at church only to discover that someone had left their hat at home due to hurt feelings or a hat swimming in the toilet. So, making a mad dash to bathroom in the basement of the church my mother would bobby-pin a square of toilet paper firmly and painfully into the erring sister’s hair, making a hat of sorts that would satisfy our obligation.

In the 1960’s, after Vatican II when a lot of changes were made in the Catholic Church, we were no longer required to wear a hat in church. Our priest at the time, who was a very dear family friend, said that the Pope had taken pity on the poor little Konen girls and made the new ruling so that they wouldn’t have to wear toilet paper on their heads to Mass. We were relieved – but we were also sad, as that meant we no longer had a hat closet, or a beige colored tam with a long pheasant feather to fight over.

When I was a 6th grader I fell in love with a boy named Pat. The minute I saw him I knew that he would be an important person in my life. One of my girlfriends was also crazy about him….she told me that he didn’t like me and she told him that I didn’t like him. So, that pretty much confirmed that I was called to be a nun. I was just too shy to meet boys and have a boyfriend – it was easier to hide behind a nun’s habit.

I still remember our first meeting all those years ago at the corner of McCord and Valley streets – riding our bikes with our best friends, who just happened to be brother and sister. I still remember it because even at the young age of twelve I knew that this person, this Pat, was going to be someone special in my life. That brief moment at the corner of McCord and Valley was the beginning of a wonderful life for me. Even though my friend put a little road-block in our way, we met again when I was a freshman in High School, at age fourteen. We were both enrolled in drama class and once I overcame my shyness, in our high school years together we were inseparable!

A few weeks later, while Pat was walking me home from school, he began telling me about his dreams for the future. That very week he made plans to enlist in the Navy following graduation. It was the dream of his heart and the tradition of his family. It’s the way it would be.

“If we still know each other when I get back from boot camp, I will stop by to show you my uniform”, he said.

“What? Are you crazy?” I thought. “I will always know you.” He was the dream of my heart – and I knew that’s the way it would be. Isn’t it funny how a “freeze-frame moment in time” can change your life in such a dramatic way?

Pat was not Catholic. At that time he was not anything, although he had been saved and was baptized in the Baptist church, but he didn’t attend or even talk much about his faith. In fact, he was running from a special call on his life and I wouldn’t even know about that until many years later after we were married and had three children.

I had two strikes against me – coming from a Catholic home and coming from a broken home. Neither was popular in that day. My parents divorced when I was a freshman in high school – about the same time I began dating Pat. His family was concerned about both of those issues, but we were in love and determined that nothing could separate us. I did tell him though to not ever ask me to leave the Catholic Church as I would have to choose it over him.

We were married in St. Agnes Catholic Church on August 26, 1972. Pat’s family didn’t really want to attend the wedding Mass and in fact there were very few members of his family there. But, I was determined that our ceremony would be during the celebration of the Mass – I was sure none of his family had ever attended and I thought it would be good for them to see what they were criticizing and why my Catholic faith was so important to me. Pat’s brothers were in our wedding and they had fun shocking the priest by drinking the holy water and ducking the drops of water during the blessing when the priest sprinkled us with holy water. They clearly didn’t understand anything about the Catholic Church – the holiness of the ritual, the importance of the sacrament.

When Pat and I married he was in the United States Navy. He had just completed a 9 month West-Pac cruise and came home the week before our wedding. In the Catholic Church it is a requirement that the wedding take place in the Catholic Church and the banns of marriage must be announced at least three Sundays before the wedding. The banns of marriage are simply an announcement that a wedding will take place for a man and woman on a certain date. It allows everyone the opportunity to attend the wedding so that if anyone knows of any legal objections, the marriage will be stopped. Before the marriage takes place the Catholic party must also attest to his or her intention of not leaving the Catholic Church, and of promising to baptize and to raise the children in the Catholic faith. The non-Catholic party is informed of these promises, attests to understanding these promises and in turn promises not to interfere in their fulfillment. Proper preparation must be made when a person marries a non-Catholic, so a time of instruction for the couple is required before the ceremony. Due to Pat coming home only the week prior to our wedding, the priest had only one day for our instruction. He showed us a film strip, asked if we had any questions, and helped us plan the service regarding Scriptures, the vows, and music. That was it. Pat felt very, very lucky. He had dodged the bullet of Catholic instruction.

Following the wedding we moved to San Diego where his ship was based. And unfortunately, Pat was sent to Viet Nam within weeks of our moving to San Diego. He had time to bring me home over a weekend before the ship pulled out of port. Several weeks after he left I discovered I was pregnant and he got to hear the good news over the telephone. About a month later I lost our baby through miscarriage. Pat was allowed to come home on emergency leave for a month, which meant we got to spend our first Christmas together. He returned to Viet Nam after the holidays spending many months sweeping the Viet Nam harbor for mines. I tried not to worry and I was relieved and thankful when he returned safely home the week of our first wedding anniversary. It was a long and painful first year!

While Pat was gone I lived with several different family members. I stayed with my aunt in Kansas City, helping her care for a four year old and a new baby; I stayed a few weeks with my mother and siblings at their home in Springfield, but it was very hard going back to the family routine with them now that I was married. I also spent several months with my in-laws. Out of respect for them I would go to Mass on Saturday evenings or very early Sunday mornings, and I would then attend church services with them at a local Baptist church.

We were brought up to believe it was sin for us to participate in any other religious activity or service outside the Catholic Church. So, I didn’t sing the hymns, I didn’t listen to the sermon….all I did was attend the service and I enjoyed many of the people I met there but I was very careful to not take part in their worship. All these years later I know they meant well, but I was very put off by the looks they shared when I entered the church building, the silently mouthed words, “Pray for her. She’s Catholic you know.” It hardened my heart a bit to know they were critical of my Catholic faith.

After Pat’s discharge from the Navy we moved back home to Neosho, Missouri. Between June 1975 and October 1978 I had three babies! Each one was baptized in the Catholic Church as promised.

Those were very poor years for us with many job changes and low pay with no health insurance. Two of my babies were delivered by C-section and my recovery time was slow due to having the babies so close together. When the youngest baby was one year old I contracted a staph infection in my eyes. Overnight I became very ill and unbeknownst to me that was the beginning of my journey to salvation.

I woke up late that morning. It was past time to get my oldest son up and dressed for preschool. In fact, he had already missed the school bus. I threw on some clothes, dressed the kids, poured cereal to eat in the car and we headed out the door and on our way. I didn’t feel well. I had a headache and felt feverish. When we reached the school I got all the kids out of the car, which seemed to take more energy than I had that day, and we proceeded down the hall to P.J.’s classroom. On the way a few people greeted me with concerned looks on their faces. Everyone asked me if I was feeling okay. I thought that was odd since you generally can’t tell by looking that someone has a headache, but I smiled and said I was fine and delivered my boy safely into the hands of the preschool teacher. Upon arriving home I went in the bathroom to comb my hair and properly dress for the day. When I looked in the mirror, I was utterly shocked! My forehead and eyes were very swollen and turning black! No one had said anything other than, “Are you feeling okay?” I couldn’t believe it and I began to cry.

It was obvious that I needed to see the doctor but I had no money, no insurance and no one to care for my children. By this time I was feeling really sick and I didn’t think I could take them with me even if I found the money to go. I called a friend from high school who happened to live in our town. She often watched my children and her husband had only months before transferred from his job as a doctor at the local hospital to a position in another town. He was home! I told him my symptoms over the phone and asked if there was some medicine I could take over-the-counter. He told me in no uncertain terms that I was to go to the doctor’s office immediately even if I didn’t have the money. He told me to tell the receptionist that he had insisted that I come.

Unfortunately his wife was being interviewed that morning on a local television station and she was unable to watch my children while I went to my appointment. I called Pat’s mom and she was unable to watch them. My mother lived in Arizona and I had no other family available. I tried calling every friend I had and no one could help me that day. I was beside myself with what to do!

I decided to take a bath and see if that would help me feel better. While I was in the tub I was sobbing and begging God to send me help. I didn’t know what to do! No sooner had that prayer escaped my lips than Pat was standing there in the doorway! Someone had called a bomb threat into the factory where he worked and they had sent everyone home! I was so glad to see him. He helped me with the children and took me to the doctor. I was in the hospital for a week running a high fever and my eyes and forehead were swollen and black. It was a very dangerous infection and it was only by God’s hand that I didn’t die or at the very least lose my eyesight. I did lose all my eyelashes and even thirty years later I am reminded of that by the sparse lashes that frame my eyes.

Shortly after that I went into a major clinical depression. My poor health and hectic lifestyle with three children was just too hard to bear. I was very self-sufficient and overwhelmed with all I had to do to take care of my children and home. I often over extended myself by helping others with various needs. In fact a newspaper article was written about my volunteer work which stated that I was known as the woman who never said, “No.” A friend referred me to a therapist, assuring me that they would help me even without insurance.

My depression was severe and the therapist thought it was necessary for me to be hospitalized but again I had no money, no insurance and three babies ages 1-4 years old, without anyone to care for them. I was able to convince him that the stress of going to the hospital would be too much to bear and only add to my burden and depression. It was decided that I needed medication and counseling, and after several months of both, I began to feel better and was able to cope with my life. I slowly learned to stay within my limits of what I was able to do. I learned to say, “No.”

Pat seemed very happy to go to Mass with me in the early years of our marriage and in fact we were youth leaders at our local parish. Interestingly enough, the priest who officiated our marriage was now assigned to this parish. I also taught the 3rd-4th grade catechism class on Sunday mornings.

During the severest weeks of my depression I began seeking a deeper relationship with God. I knew that my life was too much for me to handle on my own, though for several years I had tried to do just that. I knew He was the answer to all of my problems and that I would only be able to find my peace in my religion. I began going to Mass everyday with all of my children in tow.

One day while looking through some family pictures and mementos, I came across a prayer card to the Virgin Mary. It told the many ways Mary would intercede and bless if a certain prayer was prayed every day. I was very excited about it and believed it to be true. A friend named Zee (Christian not Catholic) stopped by to see me that day and I showed her the card. She said, “Qene’, that sounds very nice and it would be wonderful if those good things could happen in your life but they are not going to happen from you praying this prayer. Do you believe the Bible is God’s Word?” I said yes. She said, “Nowhere in the Bible does it tell us to pray to Mary. Nowhere does it say that she can intercede for us. The Word is very clear. Jesus is the only mediator we have. He is the only one who can intercede for us.”

When Zee left she wrote some Scriptures out for me. I was very disappointed and wondered why the church would tell me this doctrine about Mary was true if it wasn’t in the Bible. I had no idea how to look up the Scriptures but I did a little research and found out that this belief in prayers to Mary and her authority to intercede for us is based on tradition….nothing more. In fact many of the doctrines in the Catholic Church are based on traditions and are not Scripturally founded. I was crushed. I soon discovered that the traditions of the faith were considered to be as authoritative as the Scriptures. How could that be – especially when the traditions of the church contradicted the Word of God?

As I began drawing closer to God I started checking books out of library about faith in God. One of the books I read was a daily devotion book by Norman Vincent Peale. It was very helpful to me and talked often about reading the Bible. I had never read the Bible before. Once or twice I tried, but I thought it was like a regular book and that you had to start at the beginning. I never made it much past the first two or three chapters in Genesis.

In the Catholic Church I was taught that only the priest could interpret the Scriptures and we were not encouraged to read the Bible in any way. One day while Pat and I took a vacation day and attended Mass at a church in Eureka Springs, I saw a banner hanging in the church that said, “Come unto me all you who labor and are heavy-hearted and I will give you rest.” It was so beautiful and spoke so clearly to my need that I started crying. I had never heard that saying before but I knew this was the rest that I needed and wanted. I read it over and over again during the service – I had to memorize it so that I could find out if this was in the Bible. When we arrived home I called Pat’s mom and asked her about it. She told me that it is in the Bible and in fact these were word spoken by Jesus. She also told me how to find it in the Bible. I printed it out and put it on my refrigerator door because I wanted to read it often.

Because Norman Vincent Peale talked so much about the Scriptures in this book I was reading, I decided to start reading the Bible for myself. Pat’s parents had bought us a “Living Bible” (paraphrase) for Christmas and I found it easier to read than my Catholic Bible out of which I read a few chapters of Genesis. I don’t know why, other than God’s guidance, but I started reading in the book of Romans. I read all of it. I didn’t understand all of it but I read enough to be shocked at what it said about salvation….that a person must believe in their heart and confess with their mouth….and that all who called on the name of the Lord Jesus would be saved from eternal punishment for their sin, from hell. (I no longer have a Living Bible but am quoting some of the verses God used to convict and change my heart from the NLT.)

(Romans 3:23, 24) “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” (New Living Translation)

(Romans 10:5-13) “For Moses writes that the law’s way of making a person right with God requires obedience to all of its commands. 6 But faith’s way of getting right with God says, “Don’t say in your heart, ‘Who will go up to heaven’ (to bring Christ down to earth). 7 And don’t say, ‘Who will go down to the place of the dead’ (to bring Christ back to life again).” 8 In fact, it says, “The message is very close at hand; it is on your lips and in your heart.” And that message is the very message about faith that we preach: 9 If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved. 11 As the Scriptures tell us, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.” 12 Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They have the same Lord, who gives generously to all who call on him. 13 For “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (New Living Translation)

I had never heard anything like that before! I thought I was a Christian because I was Catholic….I didn’t know that it was a personal choice that I had to make….I thought the church claimed my salvation for me because I was a member, baptized when I was two weeks old. My parents had decided that for me and their faith was my faith. What an eye-opener to discover that I am personally accountable to God!

That day, in my home, with my babies asleep for their naps, my heart was changed when I asked Jesus to be my savior and to help me live my life. Other than my sobs for God to help me the day I was so sick, I had never prayed a prayer that wasn’t written or memorized. But that day I told Him how miserable and confused and tormented I was about my life and I needed His help and strength to live my life and raise my children. I wanted His free gift of salvation.

I didn’t realize the implication of all I had done. I just knew that instantly I felt like a new person, with a new life -but I didn’t know I was supposed to tell anyone or really even how to do that. I didn’t really understand that what happened to me was called “getting saved.” In the Catholic Church there is no opportunity to tell people about an experience like that. And, my friends at the church wouldn’t have understood the “getting saved” thing either. We thought we were Christians because we were Catholic. But now, suddenly I knew that I was different inside and I could feel God’s presence in my life in a way that I never had before. So as God began to draw me closer to Him, I began seeking Him in the Mass everyday…. that was all I knew to do!

I found out about a Marriage Encounter weekend through my priest. I really wanted to go. It was a weekend designed to improve communication in your marriage and there was so much that Pat and I needed to talk about! Even though we had a wonderful, loving relationship we sometimes struggled with communication. I managed to talk my husband into going to the Encounter weekend and my friend from high school agreed to watch our three children.

While I was there at the Encounter I was given the chance to go to confession. During my confession I shared with the priest that I had sinned when my last child was born. The doctor said it was dangerous for me to have another baby and I decided to allow him to do the necessary surgery while they were doing the C-section so that I could no longer have babies. I talked about that at some length with the priest and he did help me let go of my guilt for having done that.

I also told him that I had started going to a local Baptist church on Sunday nights and there was a Bible study on the book of Romans that I wanted to attend during the day. I really wanted to go to a Bible study on Psalms that was being held at the Catholic Church, but they didn’t provide babysitting and the Baptist church did. I asked permission to attend the study at the Baptist church. The priest said this to me, “I think it would be fine for you to go….however, just be careful that you don’t lose your Catholic faith.” Later I thought to myself, “That is so odd! Is it really possible to lose my Catholic faith while studying the Bible?”

I began attending the Bible study on Tuesday mornings and would occasionally go to Sunday evening worship with my mother-in-law. Pat wouldn’t attend the worship service with me – he stayed home, took care of the kids and watched re-runs of the Crystal Cathedral worship service on television.

I didn’t know it, but God was working in Pat’s life too. Within a few short weeks, God would take my husband and my family through a very alarming accident. It shook him to the core. It shook us – I still get chills when I think about it.

It was a cold, rainy night and Pat was working late. He was a driver for Holsum Bread Company in Joplin, Mo. The day had started out as a beautiful day so he rode his motorcycle to work. Later in the day the weather changed to a cold rain. Coming home late on that cold rainy night was very poor judgment but he didn’t want me to get the kids out so late to pick him up in the car. So, he started his motorcycle and the 20 mile trip home.

It was about 8:30 p.m. and I was home getting the children ready for bed. We were getting a late start because we had been waiting for Pat to come home for dinner. I finally decided to put the children in the bathtub all together to make it quick-work. After they had been in for several minutes my oldest son P.J. (Pat Jr.) came running into the living room naked and wet. “Momma,” he said, “Daddy fell off his motorcycle and he’s all wet.” I smacked his little bottom and sent him back to the tub telling him that his dad was ok and would be home soon expecting him to be bathed and in bed.

Several minutes later I heard a car in the driveway. I looked out the window and saw Pat and his boss getting out of a car. At first I was irritated at Pat for bringing his boss to the house so late! My house was a mess, my kids were in the bathtub and he was late! But then, I noticed that Pat was limping badly and I ran to open the door. He was very shaken and told me that he’d been involved in a terrible accident several blocks from where he worked. A semi-truck had passed him on the wet road and the draft from the truck blew his windbreaker up over his head!

Not being able to see, he lost control of his motorcycle and the bike slid under the rear wheels of the semi-trailer with him still on it. The tires actually went over the gas tank of his bike and it flipped him off and out from under the truck. Pat slid down the highway on his backside and then very suddenly found himself standing at the side of the road. Amazing – an absolutely amazing miracle. He didn’t tell me this part until weeks later, but he took his helmet off and said, “God, I hear you!”

The man who was driving behind him had witnessed the whole thing. He thought Pat was surely dead and couldn’t believe his eyes when the mist cleared and he saw Pat standing at the side of the road. It was, he said, a miracle! The next day a friend of ours who was a highway patrolman stopped by the house and said, “Pat, there were two other accidents last night that happened just as your accident happened. We carried both of those boys away in body bags.” We were both shook to the core. A trip to the ER would reveal a broken tail-bone and a few bruises….nothing more.

A few weeks later God spoke to me about something. It wasn’t an audible voice and yet I heard Him speaking very clearly in my thoughts and in my heart.

Pat was looking into the opportunity to go to college using his GI money for education. It was a way for us to have some money and for him to get an education and possibly a better job. He didn’t know what he wanted to do – what he wanted to study. One evening while I was stirring spaghetti on the stove, God spoke in my heart and said, “Pat is supposed to be a preacher. He’s supposed to study to be a preacher.” How could this be?! Yes, I was walking close to God and had that experience of asking Jesus to be my savior, but I was still in the Catholic Church. How could Pat be a preacher and help me with the youth in the Catholic Church at the same time? How could he be a Baptist pastor with me still being Catholic?

When Pat got home from work that night I said, “I think I know what you are supposed to go to school for. You are supposed to study to be a preacher.” His eyes were big, his mouth was wide and he said, “You know, I’ve been thinking about that all day!”

Pat had never told me that when he was twelve years old he felt God calling him to preach during a vacation Bible school. In fact, he had made a public profession of that during Bible school but within a year or two completely ignored his calling and stopped going to church. To cinch the deal he simply denied his calling by marrying a little Catholic girl who had said she would never leave the Catholic Church.

During the following weeks I really began to question what I had been taught all those years in the Catholic Church. I did attend the Bible study on Romans. Through the study and under the direction of an evangelist during a revival service at the church, I finally understood what had happened in my heart! I couldn’t wait for the revival service that night so that I could go forward during the invitation and tell everyone what had happened to me! I wanted to be baptized – I understood that it would be a picture of what had taken place in my heart and I couldn’t wait to do that. It would be a picture of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Through my baptism I would be preaching a sermon – giving a testimony of all that God had done and was doing in my life. It was so exciting and I felt so good about my decision!

A week later when I was to be baptized, two very hard things happened to discourage me in my new life with Christ. The first was that I had to tell my priest what happened and I needed to resign my catechism class and leave the Catholic Church. I didn’t feel I could continue on with God and stay in the Catholic Church. I was angry that the Church had lied to me about so many things. I was hurt and confused that the Church had never told me that I needed to choose salvation for myself….my heritage didn’t matter….my belonging to the Church didn’t matter….it was a personal choice that I had to make and they never told me! If I had died I wouldn’t have gone to heaven simply because I was Catholic and believed that eventually all Catholics will go to heaven….No, I would have gone to hell because I had never made the personal choice to follow Christ! I was following the Church, not Christ. I was a religious person and nothing more. I was in disbelief that so many of the teachings that I held on to as truth were nothing more than the traditions of men and not in the Scriptures at all. I felt betrayed.

The second thing that happened to discourage me took place when I called my mother to invite her to my baptism. I was afraid to call her but I knew I must. I told her that I had gotten saved and I was going to be baptized in the Baptist church and that I really wanted her to come. She said, “But Qene’, why would you need to be baptized? You were baptized when you were two weeks old.” I told her that this time I was being baptized because I chose to….before I was baptized because she and daddy chose it for me. I was trying to be obedient to Christ and I wanted to be baptized to show my new relationship with Him. She refused to come.

And, I was guilty. Guilty of turning my back on the Church. Guilty of disrupting the local parish. Guilty of rebelling against my parents. Guilty of not teaching my 3rd and 4th graders. Guilty because I was a traitor to the faith. Guilty because I didn’t respect the Church or her teachings. Guilty.

It was very hard for me emotionally over the next few months. It really took a few years before I let go of that guilt feeling. I knew what I had done was right. I knew that I had pleased God. But, it was still hard. Being Catholic was as much a part of me as being a woman, or being white. It was who I was….it was part of my identity. I had to go back to counseling for several months. I felt myself slipping back into that awful depression. The emotions of joy and excitement over my new life in Christ were conflicting with my feelings of betrayal and guilt over leaving the Catholic Church. I needed to resolve this so I could enjoy my new life in Christ and do what He had called me to do – serve in ministry alongside my husband.

My husband and I have now been serving in Baptist churches for the past twenty-nine years. I have come along way in my walk with Christ. Every day I learn something new about Him. My goal for these past many years has simply been to be F.A.T. for Jesus. Faithful, Available, and Teachable. In fact my life verse has been the motto for my walk with Him…..

“For my determined purpose is that I may know Him, that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly, and that I may in the same way come to know the power out flowing from His resurrection, and that I may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed in spirit into His likeness, even to His death.” Philippians 3:10 (Amplified)

It has been a wonderful, beautiful life with Him and I look forward to all He will allow me to do and experience in the time to come. My testimony will never end – because I have shared my faith in Christ with many friends and family and they too have believed in Christ to save them from their sin.

My testimony gives proof to the statement that God is in the business of changing hearts – even a religious heart that follows hard after the traditions of men. We must remember that He is the one who does the work. Only the Holy Spirit could have brought me conviction and understanding. A religious heart cannot be won-over with criticism and condemnation but we must follow the way of love with Truth.

My heritage as a “cradle-Catholic” definitely gives me a different perspective on all things concerning “church”. I do love Christ with all my heart. I love being a pastor’s wife and the many opportunities He gives me each day to minister to people and share my faith. And, after 37 years of marriage, I am still very grateful to God for the one He chose to be my beloved husband. Even as young teenagers we knew that God had something special for our life together….and, indeed, He does!

I am also sharing this writing that describes how I felt before I came to know Christ as my personal Savior. Perhaps it will be helpful to you as you witness to those who are blind to the Truth of the Word. Perhaps it will help you share the Truth by following the way of love.

I Once Was Blind –

but Now I See

Many years ago I was blind. I was living in a darkness that cannot be described. There was no light. No color. No beauty. There was nothing but darkness which enveloped the whole of my life. I was miserable and desperate. I was blind and condemned. I could not see any hope of ever escaping the pitch-black darkness.

Many people knew I was blind, but they refused to help me. They watched me struggle on a daily basis, minute by minute trying to make my way along in the darkness. They never offered a hand to guide me. They never offered love in compassion and understanding. Instead, they saw my blindness and chose to curse and ridicule me. They reproved and rebuked me again and again until my heart grew hard and cold against them. Those who knew the Truth used their truth as club to beat me, pounding away at my flesh until I was weak and ashamed. I bore my shame as I bore their judgment. It weighed heavy on my shoulders as I struggled against its enormous weight.

Day after day, trudging through the darkness with what seemed to be the weight of the world upon my back, I grew weak and weary. I longed for someone to rescue me from my darkness and shame; from my self-imposed prison of a religious heart – and from the cruel judgment of my self-righteous tormentors. As each day passed and no help came, I grew bitter and lonely, even despairing of life itself.

But one day I was greeted by One who is Light. He used a simple conversation with one of His daughters to open my eyes and show me the Way. He led her to follow the Way of Love. She listened to my heart and heard my pitiful cries. She wiped tears from my eyes and washed my feet. She spoke Truth into my life and Hope into my heart.

Then, the One who is Light gave me a garland for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for my spirit of heaviness; that I might be called a tree of righteousness, the planting of Jehovah, that He may be glorified. I shall forever be grateful to Him, my Jesus.

And, I shall forever be grateful to Zee, for following the Way of Love.

“And now these three remain; faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. Follow the way of love…..” 1 Corinthians 13:13 – 1 Corinthians 14:1 (NIV)

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Responses

  1. Hi Dot; I was very blessed in reading your testimony this morning.. It took me back to my first experience with God. God bless you sister.. Wonderful!!! Bro Pat.


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