Worthy A Collection of Testimonies
by Zoe Fox
Worthy: A Collection of Testimonies ÂŠ 2020 by Zoe Fox Inquiries may be emailed to: firstname.lastname@example.org All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form without permission from the author.
For those who shared their story with me, my family, and Andrew. I love you all.
Introduction Testimony: A story telling someone’s journey of walking with Christ. I like listening to people talk about their testimony and learning about their walk in faith. It’s comforting. To know every Christian has a story, a testimony, and that these stories are changing even after saying yes to following Jesus brings the faithful together, and the telling of these testimonies is a powerful vehicle that can inspire others. Sharing our testimonies reminds us that we are all human, all experiencing different forms of growth as members of the church. When I came back to Christ several years ago, hearing others’ testimonies inspired me. I knew that, regardless of where I was in my walk with Christ or in my knowledge of the faith, I was on the path so many others had experienced. Sometimes I think about what a stranger’s testimony might be or where they are in their walk. We go about our day not thinking about how far we have come, how someone else came to know Jesus or how far they have come. When we think of testimonies we tend to think of when we share them with other believers and people we trust (because it is a vulnerable thing to share!). And sometimes we’re unsure how to share our story with non-believers or people we don’t know. And that’s something else I also think about. How can I share a testimony to a random stranger? How can we start to feel comfortable sharing how the gospel reached us so the gospel can also reach others? I wanted to figure out a way to present this through my artwork for my capstone project at Columbus College of Art & Design. How could I relate illustration to a testimony? How could I honor someone else’s story with my art? I spent a couple weeks praying and thinking. What I found to be important was a collection of testimonies from influential people in my life- a book that could be useful to others wherever they found themselves in their walks. And then I spent months listening, illustrating, and creating. So, wherever you find yourself in your relationship with God, this book is for you. Because it’s created by you. Testimonies of ten people. All different. All unique. All wonderful. Their stories are presented with illustrations meant to illuminate their testimonies. A phrase. A bible verse. An item. All crafted to honor the person sharing their intimate, important testimony. I hope this project inspires you to embrace your story and the power you have to share it with others. You were created in the image of an intimate and loving God that values your life and your journey. Maybe your journey starts now. Psalm 96:3 ESV “Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!”
01 Zoe Fox
I was raised in a Christian family. I was and still have a loving family and a good sense of values from my childhood and I look back on those times fondly. We prayed together every night as a family, we went to church, my sisters and I went to vacation bible study and Sunday school. I didn’t know anything else other than Christianity and I felt quite content making my little bible story crafts and having snacks every Sunday. When I began middle school I noticed a shift in everything. We weren’t going to church as often. If we did we went to a different one, we did this several times. We started praying together less and less. I didn’t understand what was happening until one day my family had a talk. My dad didn’t believe in God anymore. At the time my eyes were opened to the fact that you can pick a different religion, or not believe in one at all. I decided to keep believing in God, until I didn’t. There are so many reasons why I walked away from God. I can’t quite pinpoint one that sticks out more than the others, I think they all created a snowball that turned into an avalanche. I started experiencing extreme anxiety over death in late elementary school and middle school, and I prayed every night I wouldn’t die in my sleep. I became so anxious that God wouldn’t hear me that I would say, “in Jesus’ name I pray, Amen” at least 3 times and at most 10 times after my prayer to make sure he would hear me. I did this for a year or two. I stopped when I hit high school and had anxiety over other things. In high school I believed in God but didn’t care to have a relationship with God. Until sophomore year when everything went downhill. I entered a relationship I felt pressured into that lasted two and a half years. I was made to think everything in my life was keeping me from being happy in the relationship when really it was toxic and emotionally abusive. I believed that my family, my friends, and my religion were all the reasons I was unhappy but deep down I knew that they weren’t the reasons like he said they were. I was miserable. I couldn’t see my friends without him being there or texting me every single second I didn’t answer. I wasn’t allowed to wear makeup without him getting angry. I was slowly pushing my family away. I was exposed to things I wasn’t ready for. And I walked away from God. Even after the relationship ended I couldn’t get myself to come back because I was so angry. How could a good God let me go through something like that? Fast forward to Sophomore year of college, I was over one year in on my amazing relationship and taking classes focused on my major. I felt like something was missing, and through scrolling on Youtube I found wicca. I did a little research and decided to dive into witchcraft without knowing much about it. I thought it was what was missing from my life, what I was looking for. I felt confident, free and powerful. Until I started having nightmares of demons chasing me, and getting into spells that I knew nothing at all about. My fiance noticed and decided to step in and ask how I was and why I dived into this without any knowledge. We talked about religion until the early hours of the morning. He told me his testimony and why he believed in God, and told me that if I choose any religion I should know what I’m getting myself into and to think about it for a while. I told him how I was hurt and angry with God and didn’t know how to believe in Him after all the bad things. I don’t
remember a lot from the conversation word for word, but I do remember him saying “Bad things happen to good people but they still have faith. God did not want those things to happen to you but He knew you would make it through.” The next day I went to the highest point on campus and sat by the windows. It was quiet and peaceful as I watched cars pass by the campus to wherever they were headed. I prayed for the first time in over 6 years and asked for a sign and asked if God would come back. I waited. And waited. And then a flock of birds from the trees rose up and started flying together. It was swarming and chaotic but at the same time it was peaceful and still. I felt overwhelmed with God’s presence and all at once I felt like I was home again. I heard Him say “I never left”. I wasn’t quite sure what to do. Cry? Pray again? Laugh? That day I accepted God back into my life. I started attending church and joined a bible study on campus. Now I am a student leader of the bible study and am more involved in the church I attend. Although I went into my faith still doubtful at times and asked for more signs that He was still there, I no longer have to because I know He is with me at all times and He will help me through the chaos.
Nate Laughhunn When I was young, my parents and I attended a small Lutheran church. My memories weren’t positive, remembering only feelings of anxiety, isolation and coldness. There was something intangibly bad about the place, especially as a child. When I was about 6, my brother was born, and a year or so later, my dad left our family. He’d had a recurring trend of my mom and him fighting, he would storm out, and we would see him again a few days later. This time felt different. I chased him down the street in my pajamas and I didn’t see him again for a year or two. When I was just about into my teenage years, I was invited to church youth group by a school friend. We attended and immediately I was impressed and enthralled by the musical performance. The games, pizza and friends were good, but the music was incredible; music they called “worship”. Not long after, it drew me toward my own music lessons. My grandfather bought me my first guitar and lessons, and after about a year, I got bored and gave it up. Not long after though, all of my school friends started to take music lessons simultaneously with a need for new musicians in the youth group band. My friends and I started playing music together. By the time high school was about to begin, I started getting really good at sports, more confident, started taking vocal lessons, joined a traveling choir and slowly, but surely, started to sing in worship settings. Before long, I started leading worship services for youth group with my friends, and along with dating whomever I thought was the coolest girl, I said “yes” to God and Jesus whenever it was the coolest moment to. Every service I attended, I was “on-fire” for God because everyone was. Before long, my pride masking insecurities caught up to me. I’d pushed away good friends, my supportive mother, and any wise mentors because of one singular girl and the partying that came along with that. I felt empty, but the only way forward was down, so I doubleddown, rebelling and acting out more than ever. My grades dropped, my friends didn’t like me, and I was horribly alone. A missions trip to Texas came up my sophomore year of highschool. I was bitter about doing another thing for God, but also secretly hopeful that God would do something transformative with me. Day after day on the trip, distance from my girlfriend, family and typical stressors gave me perspective on another way to live. Still embittered, I longed for the day that the leaders had called “special” when we would go to the beach and have time to have God speak into our lives. When we arrived at the beach, I almost immediately told my girlfriend and leaders that I just needed space for a bit. I walked as far down the beach as I could go with the group still able to slightly see me. I put my feet in the water, still and quiet, and softly told God I hated him; that I was frustrated, hurt, not trusting in the One who could have and should have made things better. I stepped out further into the water, asking a little louder “Where were you? Where are you? Why’re things so bad if you’re so good?”. At this point, I could feel myself on the precipice of being completely open, honest and vulnerable, with the feelings to fake my honesty with God again creeping up. I closed my eyes and went further out into
waist-high water and yelled, crying out to God something along the lines of “I wish you cared, because if You did, I would be all in” and “I’m sorry, I’m sorry”. After I got all my honest feelings out toward God, I felt the strangest peace; like just declaring the truth, out loud, had laid evil in my heart to rest. I headed back to the group, performing some cheesy, youth group analogy, but I all I could hear and feel was the grace of my moment of honesty with God. The leaders reminded my girlfriend and I that we were about to lead worship. The leaders and fellow teenagers gathered around the van, my girlfriend and I sat with the side doors opened, and we sang two songs. On the first song, all I could think of was that it was my last time leading worship. I couldn’t do this and not believe in God. Then the second song came. As I led it, I started to lose interest, and just focus on letting my girlfriend sing and the people part of the small crowd carry the melody. But as I stopped singing, the voices seemed to get louder and louder and louder until they were overwhelmingly loud. I was startled, and then heard/felt a clear thought in my mind that wasn’t my own. It said something along the lines of “See? This isn’t/wasn’t ever about you. It’s about Me, and if you show up to lead, I’ll do the rest”. I felt a presure to perform and be the best and attribute worth via my works just fall away, and felt God saying “you’re good enough; be you”. I cried the whole way back to the campground, blaring Coldplay’s “Fix You”, praying that God would forgive me and use me however He wanted to. I would just be open. My whole life changed after that, and ministerial doors swung open. Opportunity after opportunity arose, and my plans changed completely to a life that served God and His people.
Drea Kirby I was raised in a Christian household by parents who were both raised in Christian homes. I always believed in God, prayed, and went to church growing up, but I didn’t know that I needed to give my entire life to Jesus until my family faced several back to back deaths, violence, financial instability, and homelessness. In 2009 my grandfather on my dad’s side had passed away, and that in my opinion began the turmoil. My family had already been in a financial struggle, and our house was being foreclosed. In 2011 my other grandfather died, and my family moved in with my grandmother who began her struggles with depression and dementia. Throughout the two and a half years of living in her house, we endured much betrayal and took on more responsibilities than we should have. My grandmother’s sister had to move in with us due to her terrible mental state, and both of my parents were still looking for jobs. I remember I would constantly be sick and have to stay home to not only take care of my little sisters, but also to watch and take care of my grandmother and greataunt. This meant I missed a lot of school. While this was all going on, family members on both sides began turning on my family, as if we were doing something wrong by trying to help get my grandmothers’ health and mind back. My mother and I were constantly threatened, blamed, and hated on for things we did not do. There were days where it felt like I was walking around outside of my body. I couldn’t believe there was hate that strong coming from every direction: family, school, friends, and even the district that we lived in. That was a hard time for us all, and looking back it didn’t feel real. We were always trying our best to do everything we could for other people, but the same genuine care and concern was not reciprocated. We held on to our faith. It wasn’t until we’d moved back to our own house and my grandmother moved in with my Auntie that things began to shift. My dad brought us all together for a meeting and he told us that he heard a voice telling him “go” in his ear. It was assertive, and my dad knew it was God. We ended up moving to Columbus, Ohio from Cleveland in August of 2014. But it wasn’t a smooth move. We didn’t have a moving van, and we packed 7 people into a car with bags, pillows, and suitcases to move to Columbus. We hotel hopped, motel hopped, and even slept in our car at a truck rest stop. My brother and I got jobs to help support our family. For long periods of time we lived out of a Red Roof Inn, a Sonesta, and a Value Place Inn. It was hard walking home from school with my sister knowing that we didn’t live in an apartment or house. We couldn’t afford bookbags, school supplies, or food. I was constantly made fun of due to my living conditions and for not having a car. My friends from my hometown dropped me out of nowhere suddenly, and it seemed as though all hope was lost. But we knew that God had told us to go for a reason, and I am so grateful that He did. We were obedient, and my dad (being the head of the household) had to lead his family to where God’s promises were lying ahead.
Had we not moved and separated from the chaos , none of us would have joy . I wouldn’t be in college, or making the Godly friends God knew I deserved. I wouldn’t have a clear mind, and I wouldn’t be healthier than I’ve ever been. My family wouldn’t have finally been able to move into a decent house in a nice neighborhood where my sisters could finally have a yard to play in again. My parents wouldn’t have gotten the jobs that God wanted them to have. God did so much for myself and my family, even though we had no clue what “go” really meant. I gave my entire life to God when I moved to Columbus. He started a new chapter in my life, and I am forever humbly grateful for every trial and tribulation he sought me through.
Lane Yerrick I was born on December 31st, 1998. When I was born, I had a hole in my heart that created a lot of complications. I don’t know a lot about what happened but I remember hearing that at one point I turned completely blue and during that time, almost died. My parents had our whole church (at the time the church I was at was the size of a house) pray for me, I was healed. There is no longer a hole in my heart and I live a normal life with no complications. I still technically have a heart murmur and a bicuspid aortic valve but again, no complications. I grew up in a family of ten. Seven siblings, myself, and two parents. I have 6 sisters and one brother. The oldest sibling being 30 this year (2020) and the youngest sibling being 14 this year. I did not always enjoy being a part of a big family when I was growing up. It could be very chaotic at times, and since all families fight and have disagreements, this meant our family was the same but bigger. But of course, as we got older we have become more mature and even closer than before. I love that. But growing up, we went to church just about every Sunday, we would miss sometimes but tried to go as much as possible. We would come into the church, sit in the same row, listen to the message, leave right away, go out to eat, and then go home. That was pretty much it. I remember seeing kids in the church singing during worship and putting their hands up and I remember thinking “Why are they doing that? Adults are supposed to do that.” I remember not feeling very connected to what I was supposed to be learning. In the summer between my 6th grade year and my 7th grade year we finally attended a youth & kids camp. We had never really gotten involved besides our kids classes on Sunday mornings. We attended camp and it was honestly a life changing experience. We spent five days at a camp in Navarre, Ohio and spent the whole time playing games, engaging in worship services with messages, talks, and lessons. The whole time I felt so much more connected to faith. I met a lot of friends during that week in 2011 that I still stay in contact with sometimes. I remember coming home with a new attitude but that attitude quickly changed and I was back to yelling at my sisters and getting angry with my parents. Yet I still felt intrigued with faith and wanted to get involved with the church more. So we started going to youth group every week. I loved it, I learned a lot and made more friends. At times we had 40 people and other times we had 5 people. It was still a pretty fun time. My family started to get involved too, they began serving and we spent less time in the row at church and more time in the building serving during service. My mom ran the slides for the lyrics and message and my dad was the head usher. My sisters would help in the kids’ classes and I began helping with cameras. We started to feel so much more connected to the church and we were pretty happy. A few years later I became friends with even more people and after a couple of camps, I had a solid group of friends. Unfortunately, our friendship had issues that came with it. We all started spending more time with each other than our actual families. And one mother of my friends in particular began to manipulate us into thinking we didn’t need to spend as much time with our families or we didn’t need to listen to them. She was our family. This caused some pain. I began to catch feelings for one of my friends and we began acting like we were dating. (I was in the 8th grade so did it really count as dating?) We ended up
going to homecoming at my school and her school. In between our two dances, we had some unspoken issues come up and our friendship/relationship fell apart. Along with other things, this caused hurt between us and even our families. A friend of mine sat us down to talk things out and before this, I hated talking face to face especially about serious things. I even hated talking to my parents about things going on in my life. I even let it make me angry when my parents would try to talk to me and I did not want to. I really gave my parents a hard time. But after this experience I became obsessed with talking things out face to face. It helped solve problems so much quicker and to this day I still prefer that way of communication. All of this hurt up until now caused me to grow. In high school I really wanted to go deeper and I told myself I was done being lukewarm. That year a friend I kind of knew texted me and asked me to help them lead the Fellowship Of Christian Students at our school. I was so excited to have a new friend who was so passionate about Christ and a way to keep me on the right path. I led that group for 2 years and really enjoyed most of it. It was hard at times but fun. During that time I ended up dating that friend and it became my first relationship ever but six months later, my first heartbreak ever. It was hard and during my senior year I knew I needed something different. Partially because I wanted to get away from the situation but also because I was nearing the end of my high school career. In August of 2017 I left home and came to Columbus for college at The Columbus College Of Art & Design. I was so scared but also so excited to start college. It was my first time living away from home for more than a few weeks. My freshman year is where I made a lot of amazing memories. I came thinking I would be the only Christian on campus but found a whole group I am still with to this day! But I also knew I would have to find a church. I spent a lot of time church hopping, I had never not had a home church. I spent so much time looking for something that was exactly like my old church, and of course, never found it. I didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t miss a single Sunday my first semester. I ended up staying at a church that was a satellite church so the pastor was at one location and they would live stream to other campuses. I did not feel very connected there and I knew I wanted more. I was struggling because I was in need of a home, a community. Along with that, I was having my faith tested, not by unbelievers but by believers! I was stuck in my ways and I was being tested! During a school break I was told a local youth pastor from my hometown was starting a church in Columbus and I reached out to get involved. I got involved from the beginning and was a part of the launch team and had been there ever since! During this whole time of transition I realized how tied I was to my old church, my old friends, my past, my ways of thinking. I never really thought for myself and it was time to start thinking for myself. I think everything in life has led to this moment. I am realizing I am my own person, with my own faith and my own personal relationship with God. I need to seek him for myself and not look to others to hold me up the whole time.
Emily Sirota This is the story. This is the story of me, but really, it’s the story of Him. This is the story of God’s making himself large in me. This is a highlight reel of His works within my life’s narrative, as of yet. Wholly conveying this story’s composition is a challenge. I wish there was vocabulary sufficient to enunciate the largeness and depth of every moment. I wish that there was a perfect combination of words to convey every detail in absolute clarity; every second on the spectrum of trenches and mountaintops. I often find myself longing for a perfect and all-encompassing way to illustrate the ever progressive weaving of a life; A way to illuminate every miniscule detail of its intricacy and the astounding juxtaposition of life. In awe, I consider it an honor to see my life through the lens of what is most likely a mere sliver of God’s perspective. Threads of my past, tightly and intricately woven into present, extending into glimpses of future, is the profound visualization of not only this story, but each and every one like it. Under the powerful yet careful hand of God’s orchestration, this image becomes reality for every life who loves Him. I, for one, have undoubtedly lived in the goodness of God. His hand and heart can be distinctly seen, even with human eyes, throughout the first decades of my breath and life. More situational arrows pointing straight at Him, have been drawn all over my life than there are seconds to begin to recount them. Life has, more often than not, been a situational ideal. For eighteen years, I existed in a childhood of dreams, full of little less than love, joy, and the simple fullness of God. What was negative shrinks in my memory under the largeness of what was good. With simple dreams, I felt to be already stepping into their beginnings when I was only seventeen. God had begun to fulfill my own brain-sized dreams only shortly after I thought to have them, as a gateway to His own. After experiencing an overwhelming contentedness within the simplicity of those seasons, it was, evidently, time to switch gears. Whether I wanted it or not, it was time to begin the process of preparation. It was the moment to step into the beginnings of necessary training, so that one day, I would be prepared to enter the large reality of His own dreams for my life. This first phase of training would not be easy. It would require more of me than I would have ever been ready to give up. I had no idea what I was stepping into, but He did, and He carried me. As everything I knew and loved began to disintegrate, life began its descent into the depths of an absolutely uncharted territory. Here began the decline into the begi nings of what would be the most lightless and lifeless season. Blindly, I embarked into the first few steps of what would turn out to be the longest seventeen months of my life, spent gruelingly trapped in absolute refining fire.
As I finished high school and reached the end of any and everything that I had ever experienced, my vision became foggy. Left with nothing, voices became muffled. Headspace became tangled. College. Intentional positivity and forced excitement were all I could muster and were met with a surprisingly strong start. In time, though, reality began to sink in. I would never again, as long as I lived, wake up and return to life as I knew and loved it. Days got darker, yet I refused to realize. A hopeless optimist, my subconscious was strong; I was confident. Determined to be okay. “Just a few more days, I’ll be better. My known self has to be returning soon. Just another week.” The decomposing progressed. My body could no longer ignore it. Panic. Selfimposed isolation developed into an occupation. Foreign to all I had ever been, social anxiety began to emerge, eagerly joining the plethora of chaos swelling within me. Laptop engages. Google searches. Personality tests. “I’ll find myself here; fix myself here.” Internet diagnosis; Depression. I was Horrified. Those progressively foggy months gained definition. Their substance became realized. The dullness of colors, explained. Crumbling led to hiding. Hopeless positivity had yet to die. “Now, I can fix myself. Now, this simple complication has a formula. Now, all I need is a whole lot of Google and a little bit of Jesus.” Messy. Colors kept fading. Days got darker. Tears learned to be quieter. “Keep smiling, make friends. Don’t break down until the door closes.” Tears hit the ground, head hit the floor; Routine. Face, unrecognizable. Shattered. Scattered. Light dimmer, smile wider. Eyes darker, grades higher. Yet, I was with Him through all of it, and I knew. I was faithful, and so was He. I sought and sought, as much as I could muster, as much as I knew how. He was there, through the nights of cereal by flashlight, an escape from the things I felt when I closed my eyes. Surrounded by cinder. Trapped in the disappearance of any place, any person, anyt hing on earth to call home. He was there through the spiritual warfare, through the darkness. There through the terror, the running. He was there through the things I had never felt, visions I had never seen. He was there, and He carried me. Through the feeling all too much. Through the fading memory of what it was like to feel anything at all. The mending came. The healing came. Slowly. Gradually. Intentionally. Painfully. I laid down the things He asked for. All I felt, was shredding. One day, I saw colors again for the first time, in the most literal sense. I learned how to keep breathing. Every passing moment turned to focus - on where I was going; On the day, someday, when I would no longer be trapped within my own being. I dreamed through the crushing, of freedom from my hated and inescapable reality. I dreamed of freedom from the abrasiveness with which every passing second ceaselessly coursed through my very existence. I dreamed of a day where seconds would begin to feel even a little softer, where the act of breathing would come just a little more naturally.
He was there. He was close, and I knew it. He instructed, I obeyed. Baptized in
front of hundreds. Unplanned, fully clothed. Covenant. I recommitted my life, He continued to prove that it was not mine. One final summer, every last thing, rendered to gone. With no one to miss, I moved across the country. Three months of no texts, no friends, no conversation, no voice. After a year of silence, I opened my mouth only to stutter. One last thing must’ve stood between He and I. He transitioned art school burnout into a complete and utter, mental and physical, inability to create. He wanted nothing else but all of me and He had me right where He wanted me. Three months with nothing left but His face and my healing. So, it was He and I, and it was good. He was good. He never took His hand out of mine, out from under me. I healed. I grew. I wrestled. And then. And then it all happened. Then, there was light. In the midst of all of this was His voice. His calling. His instruction. He gave specific, clear, and logical instruction that I was to transfer schools. Simple, yet doubted. The beginnings of the sound of His voice. Influential counsel intended to fill me with doubt, causing my growing faith to waver. Nevertheless, I trusted and obeyed through my own doubt and that of others. For many months of the struggle, I knew that there was something else ahead. Though I didn’t dare to expect it to appear as light in any form, there grew a faint and hesitant hope that what was on the horizon would be good. Little did I know, that when I got there, it would finally be time. Light came rushing in. Not enough words exist to illustrate the absolute wonder of that following year. Blooming. I arrived in a new season, met with an absolute provision of grace, of abundant blessing in every form. People who became family within the span of the shortest, most joy-filled months, flooded in. A place, became home - a concept so foreign for so long. Purpose, that expanded far beyond my own abilities. The beginnings of absolute light, overflowing from every second. The promised restoration of the years the locust had eaten. Another seventeen months, lived in the goodness of the Lord. Throughout this story, He worked miracles in every moment; Physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, relational, and situational miracles. If this were the place inwhich the story were to end, it would be enough. Enough to proclaim His realness, enough to have experienced His absolute grace on opposite ends of the spectrum. Yet, the most remarkable part of this narrative, is that this may only be the beginning. Now, the story gains deeper levels. Now, that He has taught me to recognize the sound of His voice, He speaks things that sound outr geous to human ears. Things that require foreign levels of faith. Things that refuse to conform to a mind’s logic. Things that cause a human to wrestle with God. I’ve seen glimpses of unknowns, but what I know is singular: He is good. It is the utmost joy to watch this life continue to unfold within and around me throughout every passing second. His plan expands in response to my utmost permission. His will, will be done. He is for me. I am thankful beyond words, content beyond understanding, and expectant beyond reason. To Him, be every fiber of glory, forever.
Angela Sapp My parents divorced when I was about a year and a half old. My dad was an alcoholic so I didn’t spend much time with him. He also was deported back to Trinidad when I was in 3rd or 4th grade. It was hard having a relationship with him because he was so far away. When I was younger, I would talk to him often and had an okay relationship with him. As I grew older, and started realizing some negative aspects to him, I didn’t want to have a relationship with him. So I stopped calling and texting him as much and he would reach out very rarely. As of today, the last time I talked to him was my birthday in June 2019. He texted me saying happy birthday, I said thank you, and that was it. It’s hard growing up without your biological dad. It’s even harder when he’s in another country. This toxic relationship made it really hard for me to have trust in God growing up. If I couldn’t trust my earthly father, how could I trust someone I can’t see, I can’t talk to face to face, and I can’t hear? Growing up, my family didn’t go to church regularly but I went to a private Catholic school from kindergarten to high school. Around my sophomore year of high school was when I really ‘stopped’ believing in God. During sophomore year, I was apart of a friend group made up of seven girls including myself. About the middle of sophomore year, they stopped being friends with me. Just left me up and dry. They were my only friends so when they left me, I had no one. I remember coming home from school countless days uncontrollably crying because I would be completely alone during the school days and never had anyone to hang out with over the weekends. This was around when I started self harming and developing depression and an anxiety disorder. In my mind, if my father left me, my friends left me, what was the point of even living? I was considering suicide and just felt worhtless thorughout my sohopmore year of high school. My mom found out about me self harming from the school nurse and helped me find a therapist to talk about everything that had been going on. I didn’t start really believing in God until my senior year of high school. I went on a retreat that was life changing and helped me find Jesus and accept Him into my heart. After I graduated though, even though I would call myself a believer, I still had my doubts about God. My freshman year at CCAD was when I really started to become a Christian. The first class I had was my intro to my major class and my friend (now one of my best friends) Nolan sat next to me. We started talking and I was doing a project on a Chrisitan band. She asked me what church I went to and I didn’t really have one at the time. She then told me about Rock City and invited me to go with her and her boyfriend that weekend. Because I was still in a weird spot with my faith where I wasn’t 100% sure if it was som thing I wanted to pursue I didn’t really want to go but I went. I enjoyed it but I still wasn’t really sold on the whole Jesus thing. Later that school year, in February of 2018, I was asked to go to a Chrisitan conferenc called Jubilee. I went, not really expecting much but this was when my life did a quick 180. Jubilee was the first time I had really felt Jesus’ presence and wanted Him to be apart of my life. I wanted to dive deep and dive fast into His teaching and learn how it affected my life and how I could make him more apart of my life. I would say that this moment was the true moment that I accepted Jesus into my heart.
Because of going to Rock City, I had been contemplating getting baptized. Because I grew up Catholic but I never really believed in Jesus or cared about church and my faith life. I wanted to get baptized because I had grown so much in my faith since high school. At Jubilee, I made the decision that I was gonna get baptized and my friend Rina really encou aged me to. So I did. I was baptized at Rock City in March of 2018 and I felt a huge weight being lifted off my shoulders. Even though I struggle still, sin still, and don’t act like a perfect Christian. I’m still thankful for all the experiences I’ve had and the people in my life who pushed me to be where I am. Without them, I wouldn’t be a Chrisitan today and I truly don’t think I would be alive. Today, I now know my worth and the value I have as a child of God. “The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still.” - Exodus 14:14
Sometimes I forget.
I get busy doing all the things—both exciting and mundane—that life demands, and I just don’t pause long enough to remember the way my life has been almost perfectly bifurcated into a before/after—nearly equal in years now—that differentiates between those who knew me then and those who know me now. The reminders, when they come, are disorienting, jarring. And I am surprised each time. At my high school reunion when someone cocks their head and smirks when I say that I am in full-time ministry. C’mon. You? No, you’re kidding me…right? Or when a colleague in full-time ministry flippantly asks Have you ever smoked weed? followed by Really? What about harder drugs? and then is somehow shocked by both answers. Social media is the place where my worlds are most likely to collide—where equal “friend” status is shared by all, whether it’s a friend who knows me now or back then. It continues to be disorienting, even discouraging, to realize how few individuals know me for who I was then, who I am now, and most importantly, how I got here. The last part is the part I want to make most clear: I am not who I once was, but only because of who Jesus Christ is. Period. Regardless of whatever else I have to say, Jesus is the most important piece. Let me try to explain. My story of faith consists of many of the usual components. I was raised in a Christian home. I accepted Christ at a young age. You’ve likely heard other stories that begin just like this. And like many kids who, you know, become teenagers, I was soon reluctant to surrender my whole life to Christ. Instead I pursued athletics, girls, and eventually parties. By the time I was 18, I was avoiding my parents, snorting cocaine almost daily, and living dangerously out of control. And then it was time for me to show up at college. At a conservative Christian college in Indiana where I had a chance to play basketball—except I never showed up for a practice because, well, I met a girl, found others who liked to party, and learned who would accompany me to Ball State on the weekends. So just like that, my college basketball career was over. Before it officially began. I could go into more specifics here. About how addicting cocaine is. How it prompted me to get a snowflake tattoo on my shoulder that I get asked about frequently. How God orchestrated (or simply used?) two horrible events over Christmas break my freshman year to sever ties with my strongest drug connections and gradually wean me off of this drug that had a stronger grip on me than I wanted to admit. I could share more about all of that. And some of that would be sensational, but it’s not the most important part of my story. I could share more about the unhealthy relationships I had with girls during that time. How selfish I was in all of my relationships. Just how many risks I was willing to take and how many laws I was beginning to break…often just for the challenge of it all. And again, that would be a more sensational story, but it’s not the most important part of my story.
The same could be said for me flunking out of that conservative Christian college after my freshman year (who knew that never going to class would have such consequences?), but I’d rather get to the most important part of this story. By the time I was 21, I was back at the college I had flunked out of two years before, and I started occasionally attending a Bible study, I was cajoled into going to a worship night (where I stood with my arms crossed the whole night), and, once or twice, I even showed up at church on Sunday morning. And then one night in my dorm at 3:00 am, I found myself laying on the top bunk of my bed, talking to God. And the conversation was not going well. It might be important to know that I had never been someone who did things halfway. I either did it with everything I had. Or I didn’t do it at all. I prided myself on taking the dares that no one else would. I played basketball year-round, often shooting free throws alone outside in the pouring rain or on a court I shoveled myself in the winter. When I chose to start doing drugs, I decided I wanted to try every drug at least once. Same approach to selling drugs: If you can sell a little bit to make a small profit, why not sell a lot? If the speed limit was 70, I was convinced I could double it. (Turns out, I couldn’t. But I got very, very close.) That character trait (for better and often for worse) is relevant, because it explains why, during that unexpected conversation with God at 3:00 am, I suddenly felt anger welling up within me. And I found myself saying to God, “What am I doing? Why am I going to church? Why did I show up at that Bible study? A worship night? C’mon!” I was suddenly scandalized by the discovery that I had adopted a haphazard/half-hearted way of living my life for myself while sprinkling in just a little bit of religious activity here and there. And in that moment, I was furious. It took me years to understand what was really happening in that moment (this most important part of my story) because for the longest time I thought I was telling God, “I need to make a decision tonight. I need to decide once and for all whether I’m going to live my life for you or for myself.” That is what I was saying, and I still believe it was time to make a decision, but I no longer think that idea originated within me. I think it was God’s Holy Spirit prompting me to make a decision: “What’s it going to be, Tyler? Are you going to live your life for yourself? Or are you going to live for me?” The answer was obvious. I had been living for me for the last 3-4 years, and there was no peace, no joy, no purpose in the things I was pursuing. I knew the Lord offered me all of that and more, but I had been stubbornly running from him—like an idiot with nowhere to go and no plan, but still running, nonetheless. But that night, I yielded. I repented. Repentance means not just asking for forgiveness (I needed that too), but also committing to “turn away from” something. I knew I needed to recognize my need for a Savior, and I needed to turn away from my insistence on living my life for me. In 1 Corinthians, Paul writes that “You are not your own; You were bought at a price.” As I sat atop my bunk, staring straight ahead at the cinder block wall, I said, “Okay God, my life is yours. And this time I’m going to be honest about it.”
From that point on, my life has been different. Not perfect. But different. But not because I did something right or figured something out, but only because Jesus cared enough about me to find me when I was lost and stubborn. My life has only been divided into a then and a now because of the undeserved gift of God’s grace. Because he’s willing to forgive idiots like me who—like the prodigal son in Jesus’s famous parable from Luke 15:1132—spend their days eating slop with pigs instead of swallowing their pride and walking back to the father who loves them more than they can imagine. But there’s great news for those like me who have been too stubborn to walk back toward their heavenly father: if and when you do, God has no desire to call you stubborn or to shame you in any way. Instead, that parable tells us that while the son was still “a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” That feels like exactly what I experienced in my dorm room that night. And like I said, I’ve been different. My life is no longer my own, and I’m better off because of it. That change feels most obvious when I encounter my bifurcated groups of friends—those who knew me then and those who know me now. But my desire is the same for all of them, the then and the now friends, those who can’t imagine me exegeting scripture with college students and those who can’t imagine me hunched over a line of cocaine with a rolled up dollar bill: I long for each of them to encounter and accept the love of Jesus Christ. I long for their story to also be one that has a then and a now that hinges on a life-changing encounter with the living Son of God who came into this world to offer us life to the full (John 10:10). And I pray that God will use this story to offer hope to people who are desperate for it. Honestly, that’s the reason I’m willing to keep sharing this story after so many years. Because I know God changed my life. Not because I’m special, but because he is. Which means this story isn’t just my story; It’s his story. Our story, I suppose.
And it could also be yours.
Rachel Zelle I grew up in a good family. I had a loving father and mother who to my knowledge supplied me with everything that I needed to be succes ful in life. Many people wouId disagree with this statement, as I grew up unaware of any possible god. My mother grew up in a strict catholic household where she was physically harmed to be reminded of the pain of Jesus Christ. Because of this negative childhood experience she decided to raise my brother and I as atheists. It wasn’t until my first family member, my great-grandmother, died when I was about 12 that I started to think there may be something else other than what is directly on Earth. After she died, I started to pray to her every night to keep the rest of my family safe. I was still in denial that there was any God, but I knew that she was up there watching over my family. I continued to do this for about a year until I lost all faith again. I did not give another thought towards faith until I went to college. I decided to make the move from Boston to Columbus for college, purely to get to know all my aunts, uncles, and cousins that lived in Colu bus, whom I only had the opportunity to meet twice before in my life. On my second weekend in Columbus, one of my aunts reached out to me, breaking my mother’s six-weeks of no contact rule (for college life adjus ment purposes) and invited me to attend Rock City Church with her family that Sunday. I had a completely negative view of church at this point, thinking that this would top the chart on a list of my ‘worst college exper ences.’ I decided to go anyways, as moving to Columbus to get to know my family wouldn’t really work out if I told my family “no” every time they invited me somewhere. Taking my first step into the door of Rock City, I already knew something was different. Everyone seemed genuinely happy to be there and the best of all, they were playing rock music! I enjoyed listening to Pastor Chad preach, as I felt that he was speaking as much to those of us that did not yet walk with Christ, as those that already did. After just a few short Sundays, I knew that Rock City was doing something great and that I wanted to be a part of it. I wish I could say that my journey was as easy as filling out a connect card and dedicating my life to Jesus, but that was not the case. I knew I wanted to be a committed follower of Christ, but the mindset of 19 years of being told there was no God was a hard one to break. Even after months of attending, I could not get myself to pray the salvation prayer and accept love and forgiveness.To break this mindset, I came up with a plan. I would get as deeply involved in this church as possible, hoping that eventually, I would be able to do away with any doubt I had. That spring, I started serving as part of the launch team for our ne est campus and serving on the guest experience team every Sunday, getting myself involved in a small group as well. Though I was determined to create my own plans to strengthen my faith in God, he seemed to have a different route for me that would eventually end in me getting saved not once, but twice and finally having faith and a relationship in him. I returned to Columbus for my sophomore year of college with crippling depression. At this point I started to turn away from the relatio ship that I started to make with God and filling my time with sinful activities such as self harm/mutilation, drugs/alcohol, and an eating disorder. I sank so low that I eventually got hospitalized multiple times for mental health concerns. The only saving grace in my life at that time was coming to Rock City on
Sundays. Many weeks, just knowing I was able to go back to Rock City on Sundays was the only thing that got me through the week. The friendliness of the staff and volunteers supplied me with the only environment in which I felt loved and prosperous in. That winter I decided to rebuild my relationship with Jesus by getting baptised and cleanse myself of the sinful way I had been living. This is when I considered myself to be saved for the first time. I was able to build my relationship with Christ over the school year. Though I still struggled with depression, I was able to cleanse myself of my self-harming habits, by instead turning to God in my times of need. My relationship with God started to fall apart a second time as soon as I left Columbus and Rock City for the summer. Going back home to an atheist household, with friends who were also atheists, I started to turn away from my relationship with God again and return back to the dark place that I was previously in. At the lowest point in my life and faith, I believed the only way out of my pain was through taking my life. I attempted to overdose by taking enough medicine to take the life out of someone twice my size, two times over. This was the night that I was saved the second time. The only difference being, this time it was God’s plan and not my own that would see me through. It turns out I’m one of those people that need to be at the lowest place possible in their lives to finally build a strong relationship with Christ. Coming back to Rock City from that summer, I was still mending, but I had a new strength to me that I didn’t have before. It was at this point that I was able to finally commit myself to a faithful relationship with God. It was at this time that I truly felt lead to serve God at a greater capacity through my church and community. As time passed, I became more involved with Rock City and became part of several life-giving teams. The reasons behind serving changed for me. I no longer served to desperately find a relationship with Christ. I instead served already knowing I had that relationship and with the hopes that I could make that difference in someone’s life that those who served once did for me. My church has truly become a home to me, and the believers I surround myself in community with have become my family. I’m still working on my relationship with God everyday and am happy to have met some major milestones of faith (at least in my book) over the last couple years. Though my story is one of struggle, and temporary defeat, I would not change even the smallest detail of it, as I believe every part of my story has enabled me to become the strong Christian that I am today.
Andrew Thomas Instead of a traditional testimony, Andrew submitted a journal entry from his time at CCO’s Jubilee Conference in February of 2020. I think it’s not only well written, it is also a good example of how we are never done learning in our walk of faith even after coming to know Jesus.
Lord, Here I am.
For me, Jubilee seems like the ultimate getaway trip with Jesus. Thousands of college students and me all accept an invitation to gather in fellowship in Pittsburgh for three days away from our campuses and away from stresses of everyday life. On Friday night, one of the themes that resonated with me from the worship leader was that God meets us where we are, wherever we are, and that he wants to walk WITH us. We’re coming to Pittsburgh to not only worship God, but He’s promised to meet us here. And I’d imagine he’s just as excited that we’ve scheduled this getaway trip to be with Him. Now obviously, God probably doesn’t need GPS coordinates to get to Pittsburgh. But I think this idea of God meeting us where we are is much deeper than that. But if you’re meeting a friend somewhere, the most important and basic detail is that you have a place to meet that both of you are aware of. Terms that are agreed upon. Friday night, exhausted from travel, a tough school week and seeing so many people, I remember thinking and even telling a friend, “I’m just not sure I feel it this year.” Where’s God? I thought. He was supposed to meet us all here. But where is “here?” I was in the right place, right? Pittsburgh. But where was I past that? Mentally? Spiritually? I was still carrying the stress, anxiety, and expectations I should’ve left at home, I wasn’t present. I wasn’t at the agreed meeting place spiritually. How could I expect a friend to meet me if my location was constantly changing? It wasn’t until Sunday morning, just hours before the end of our weekend that this came full circle for me. Me and Lane checked out a workshop on Stillness and Quietness and were meditating on a prayer with maybe fifty others in the room. The prayer was “Lord, Here I am.” Eyes closed, silence filling the room. Breathe in, “Lord.” Breathe out, “Here I am.” No distractions- no vibrations, ringtones, or lights. And then this response to prayer was put on my heart as I prayed “Lord, Here I am.”
“Where have you been?”
There are many possible meanings and answers to that question, but here’s what I’ve gathered: Schedule time for you and Jesus, whatever that looks like in your life. A getaway trip, coffee dates, brunch, whatever you want to call it. But make it a habit. He will meet you wherever you go if you’re present somewhere. You don’t have to be happy, full of energy,
optimistic, or even full of faith to meet Him. He’s dying to meet you where you are. His Son literally died so you could meet Him. All He asks is that you’re fully present, wherever you are.
Breathe in, “Lord.”
Breathe out, “Here I am.”
We are His destination, not Pittsburgh.
And that’s what I had wrong.
Song of Songs 4:7 “You are altogether beautiful, my darling, beautiful in every way.”
This is my testimony. My testimony based on self-worth, relationships, and finding yourself through Christ’s never-ending love amongst a storm. I ran from God’s love multiple times until He told me “little girl, it’s time to come home for good.” This is a story of a little girl who finally found herself and realized that the best is always yet to come. Who I find as my significant other affects my relatio ship with God. I’ve been through multiple physical, sexual, and verbally abusive relationships since I was 13 years old. I told myself that in every relationship I could still believe in God, but my boyfriend could have a different belief and that everything would be okay. I have learned that this is not the case and that I deserve someone who has a growing relationship with the Lord and that I’m enough. I was going into my second semester of sophomore year at CCAD and I had been in 2 abusive relationships beforehand. I believed in Christ at this time, but did not attend a youth group. I met a boy who I gave my whole heart to. He told me he didn’t believe in God and that my religion was all lie. I had told myself that I wouldn’t walk away from my relationship (like I had done before) with the Lord and that he could believe what he wanted. But the more I was with this person, the more I believed that God didn’t exist. I was being degraded about what I wore, my anxiety, and my creativity as well. I was slowly believing that God did not love me and that I couldn’t be saved from the dark hole I dug myself into. I stopped attending church with my Aunt and gave all my time to one person, because I was always told to do so. I slowly became property to another human. I stopped praying for a way out because I believed this was the new life I lived; listen to someone tell you you’re not enough, do what they say, and don’t ask questions. Your body and soul are now someone’s property. I skipped many classes as well to spend time with this person, and I slowly wondered “will ever be clean again?” I believed God hated me for always choosing people who didn’t believe in Him and that He thought “wow she just won’t ever learn.” This relationship lasted for 7 dark months, and I hit a breaking point in August 2017. I was getting ready to head back to CCAD for my third year when my parents sat me down and told me they believed it’d be wrong to send me back due to my low GPA. I believed I lost everything at this point. My boyfriend, my friends, my creativity, and now my schooling. My family gave me one semester to do better, or I wouldn’t be graduating from CCAD. When I returned to school for the Fall 2017 semester, I developed an eating disorder that got out of control, as well as battling substance abuse until one night I got a newsletter from CCAD saying that CCO’s Bible Study met every Monday morning at 11am. I won’t ever be able to pinpoint why I did this but I decided “I’m going to Bible study tomorrow morning.” That night I had gotten higher than I ever could, and I was losing weight rapidly. I felt like I would be judged the next morning, but this group embraced me. They loved me as if I were their sister. After this, I decided to get help for my substance abuse and eating disorder. At this time, I was trying to find my creative freedom as well. I was struggling with flashbacks and severe PTSD. I wanted to make a fashion line about what I went through to
help others going through something similar. I titled this line Yours Truly- meaning this is my story, signed yours truly, Marissa Britt Holt. This line took off to shows such as San Francisco Fashion Week, NY Fashion Week, and coming up Paris Fashion Week. My designs are a symbol that Christ can use your work to those who are struggling to find Him. This is my story. This is my story of a little girl lost, finding herself. This is a story of finding love within Him and that I am a creative vessel for His kingdom.