Do Lutherans do personal testimonies? Well, we don’t emphasize this, because usually they are a bit boring (yes, I’d say this is typical, even as it is entertaining). That said, we do have our adult converts. Some great stories can be read in the regular “Wittenberg trail” feature of the Issues ETC Journal (read them here), and this account from Brian Wolfmueller is both powerful and entertaining.
One of my students has had a rather arduous and amazing journeys, and was kind enough to share it with me and gave me permission to post it here. I give you Kendra.
I guess that my journey with the Lord started at the age of nine. I remember asking my mother to pray with me in my living room to accept Jesus into my heart. The tv was blaring in the background, but at that moment I sensed peace and quiet in my heart. I grew up in a small town where everyone knows everything and I went to a tiny baptist church with a congregation of about 30 people. I have an older brother and younger sister and we are all 5 years apart. My father was severely bipolar, so when he was on his “up” times, he came to church with us and was a great witness to others, but when he was depressed and low he was an alcoholic and very abusive. I remember at a young age witnessing him beat my older brother and mom in front of my sister and me. There were many nights that we left our home to stay at my grandma’s and I can remember laying in bed and not knowing where we would go tomorrow, but having a calming feeling inside me that at least we got through today. I still felt safe and secure and I know that was Jesus holding my hand throughout those nights. Over the next few years his illness got continuously worse and at the age of eleven my dad started sexually molesting me. It started when my mom would work nights and my brother would go out with his friends. I knew when it was going to happen because I would get a dark feeling in my stomach and I would want to go to bed early with my sister. This happened over the course of a few months and I left this painful secret with me until I could bare it no more. God was telling me that I had to do my part to protect myself and the future of my sister. I needed to be brave, so after months of going on this way I finally told my aunt on the car ride home from school what had happened. We went to my pastor’s house, just her and I, and he prayed over me. I knew after that night that he could no longer harm me and that the lies he told me wouldn’t happen. I was safe again. We went to a town home and that night my dad was arrested. At that age I didn’t really know what to think about the whole process. I had so many people talking to me and everything happened so fast that all I could do was hold on the Jesus’ hand and know that he would hold me another day. Four days after my dad went to jail he was released on bail and that night he committed suicide in our home. I can’t really explain to you what it was like that night that we found out. So many things went rushing into my mind: What have I done to my daddy? If only I would’ve kept my mouth shut, he would still be alive. So many doubts rushed into my mind that I really started to question myself and most of all, God. Why would he take my dad away that way? Why would he allow my dad to do all he did and give me the courage to speak up and then to feel like I got punished for it anyway. I was very lost those couple of days and very unsure, but I know I was being carried through this wilderness and I wouldn’t have gotten through it had it not been for my faith. It took me many months after his death to realize that it wasn’t my fault and that his decision was his own and it truly wasn’t my fault. It wasn’t my fault. Knowing this and being able to go through the process of forgiving my father was the most amazing weight being lifted from an eleven year old’s shoulders. I knew that if Jesus could get my through this then I could do ANYTHING THROUGH CHRIST WHO STRENGTHENS ME.
The year after my dad died was quite the roller coaster. My mother had been with my dad since she was 14 and she was very co-dependent on him, so she took his death very hard. After that night she took a very hard turn and she was never to be the same again. Nine months after he died my mother was married to his older brother and we were moved to New Mexico, a place I had never visited and never wanted to live. We were made to leave our home, our family, and our comfort for this desert. I resisted my mom more than ever before. This barrier was now in between us and for some reason it would never be broken. My brother, my protector, my rock, and my best friend, had joined the military directly after our move and I really felt like I was alone. I didn’t know anyone. I didn’t have any family and my mom and I weren’t on good terms. Over the course of 4 years I would make the journey back and forth from Minnesota to New Mexico every 6 months, or until my mom decided she wanted to me live with her, or wanted me to live with my grandma. My stepfather wasn’t very accepting of my sister and I and there was some violence in the home and I just didn’t know where to turn. I knew where my home was and I wanted more than anything to resist all change and stay in Minnesota, but something called me to finally stay in Albuquerque my sophomore year and I did until my junior year when I graduated a year early. I have no idea how I achieved graduation that year, all I know is that it took night classes, summer school, online courses, regular school, a part time job. LOTS OF CAFFEINE, and the Lord. I did it. I graduated and I could now have my independence and I could go where I wanted. This is the year my mother started her downward spiral from us. She began to steal and lie. She stole from me, my brother, and my grandma. We didn’t know where this money was going or what was going on, but because she was my mom and because I still loved her, I forgave her. After I finished school at the age of 17, I moved to Seattle to go to art school and live with my brother and my beautiful baby twin nephews. I guess you could call this year of my life, my oasis time. I was very happy with my brother and watching my nephews grow, and most of all doing what I loved to do. My art. After that year my brother decided to finish his time with the military and move back home. I was going home. As much as I loved my year away, I knew that God was directing my life and my future to Minnesota. I had no idea what I was going to do, I had no idea where I was going to work, but I knew that it would be taken care of, because I was always taken care of and that was because of my FATHER, my real dad.
The next year to come went by very quickly and I grew up a lot. I got my own apartment, I worked full time and I was in the same apartment building as my brother. That year my mom left my uncle and she took off in the middle of the night to move back to Minnesota. What at first seemed like a home coming and joyous time for her, quickly turned very unfortunate for us, very soon. My mom was on some sort of path that none of us could quite figure out. We still had some what of a relationship, but nothing of substance and I was now the mother to her and I hadn’t had in quite a few years. I called to make sure she had eaten, she borrowed my money, and she continued to steal what she could. This time of my life was up and down and I really didn’t know where I was going. I didn’t know what to do with my mom and I didn’t know how to be a friend and a daughter, but the beginning of the next year was my big JOURNEY. I got married to the boy I knew since 2nd grade, my friend, John. I was 19. We dated for 3 months, were engage for 2 weeks, and got married with two witnesses in my small baptist church and that began my trip to the big city. I didn’t know why it all happened so fast. I knew that God intended for me to marry John and we both knew that we wanted to have our relationship be right with the Lord and get married before living together and starting off this way was right. We thank God that we began our lives together this way and the next year I know that the Lord had me with John for a definite reason. Months into our marriage my mom really just began to be lost in herself. She abandoned my 14 year old sister and she never looked back. She just left one day with a meth dealer and no one in my family has seen her since. This wilderness period of my life is still very much evident in everything I do. I had a lot of resentment and anger for my mom. To leave my sister, our whole family the way that she did really devastated me. Over the past 3 years I have really found myself questioning God’s intentions on why he would allow this to happen to us. My mother was very good at manipulation and playing a big role in the trust issues I have struggled with on a daily basis, especially in my marriage. I had trouble trusting what anyone ever said and I thought I had to be in control of EVERYTHING and that way it would be less possible for me to get hurt or be left again. I tried doing a lot on my own and that led me to even more heartache. Why would God let our last parent just leave us this way? It left me feeling very abandoned, as well as lied to, and most of all very alone. I felt that God allowed me to be cut and left to bleed by both of my parents and there was nothing I could have done to prevent either one from leaving the way that they did. I have had a major struggle forgiving my mom and being able to let go of her and really being able to turn her to the Lord because He’s the only one who knows where she is and is actually going to be able to save her. Through this process I’ve not only been able to free myself of the bondage, but also learn how to trust other people again and not control everything, because it all is entirely OUT of my control. It’s still an up and down process, but it is only through the Lord that I have been able to let things go and not be so critical and bitter toward others. There are many times that I have bitter inside and I really began to become hard. It’s that this point that I tried and still do try to be around other believers and ask for their prayers and encouragement because sometimes they’re the only ones that can pray me through the day. The hardship of my mom isn’t over yet, and there are days I need more help than others, but if I just do my Bible study and really ask God for His presence, it’s like He goes above and beyond just to show me that He still thinks I’m special and He’s a pretty great Dad to have to show me that. I know that God really has blessed me in my life with many people to keep me sane over this period. Even when I felt alone, even when I lay in bed wondering what happened to my life, I knew that God gave me so many people to keep me safe, to be lift me up and encourage and I know that Jesus wanted me to know, “Kendra I know that you hurt and that you don’t understand, but I have great plans for you, and I gave you people in your journey to give you hope. But most of all, remember that I WON’T LEAVE YOU.” That sense of abandonment has been my worst fear. The Lord has been so faithful in all of His ways an He truly has shown me that no matter what happens in my today, no matter where I go in my tomorrow, that HE is here with me. That HE is my best friend. He catches all of my tears, He lays awake with me in the middle of night. And unlike so many people in my life, HE WILL NEVER LET ME DOWN. I’ve been so encouraged throughout my life with so many people to help me through. My aunt has really stepped up and played an important part of my life and has been more than a mother figure to me and I couldn’t ask for more. My grandmother has opened her home to me and my little sister and she lives there even today. My sister has exceeded above and beyond even after my mom has left. She is 17 now and will be graduating from highschool with her A.A. and a 4.0 gpa and she has so much ahead of her to look forward and regardless of any of the hurt she has felt I know that God has sheltered and kept her through the years of hurt we have faced. My husband and I started going to Grace Church shortly after we got married and the Lord has shown us in so many ways that He is with us and helping us. The people at Grace have really guided us both and I am so grateful for the strong and courageous women that He has brought into my life through Grace. I may not have a mother of my own, but He has just poured godly women into my life to show me what a Mother is and how she can love. I couldn’t feel more blessed in my life at this point in time. I look back and see that I could have gone so many other places and been such a different person, but I know that it is my Christ alone I am saved and I am here today and this is my joy. I don’t regret anything that I’ve gone through and I can honestly stand here and say that I know I didn’t face this alone.