Everyone who is a child of God has a "God story," or commonly referred to as a testimony. In fact, we should recount the many stories we have of God's faithfulness to come to us in our hour of need. He meets us in our failure and our weakness. He delivers us and lifts us up to higher ground. And so - Let me tell you my "God story".
My two sisters and I grew up in a loving home. Although, we went to church on and off, it was not a Christ-centered home. We had Bibles but did not read them or pray together. When I was about seven-years old, there was a tornado that ripped through our suburb community near Kansas City which destroyed our schools, shopping center and church. I remember that it seemed like the whole town started going to the Baptist Church. There were many altar calls, and my whole family went forward and was baptized. It was a moving experience, but if I was born again at that moment, I did not grow. I did not read my Bible. I did not become a follower, nor a disciple of Jesus.
The Lord was someone I mentally respected, but I did not have a true relationship with Him. By the time I was in high school, I was the only one who sometimes went to Church, and then I stopped too. Life was just too filled with other things. After high school, I began my first semester of college taking Philosophy of World Religion. The first day of class the professor (an ex-Lutheran minister) held up a Bible and asked if anyone believed in "that book'? "Furthermore," he said, "all religion is essentially a pursuit not of God but of yourself" - the ultimate goal was to find "yourself" and not true happiness.
Well, he was singing my song. Of course, this made sense to me. I wanted to be fulfilled. I wanted to find my own way. And so - at the end of the semester, my grade in that class was an A+. I immediately dropped out of college and quit my job. I took all my savings out of the bank and moved to Mexico for three months. I traveled around, lived on the beach and was introduced to drugs.
On returning to the States, I continued this "quest" to find myself and happiness. These were the two darkest years of my life. At the end of two years, I did find myself -- but I did not like who I found. Always, there was a voice within me that said, "There's more. There has to be more." This was in 1969. The still-unanswered questions that I started this quest with were, "What is the meaning of life?" and "Does my life have purpose?"
One day while walking on the beach at sunset, I fell to my knees on the sand and cried out, "God, I know that You are real -- but I know that I don't know You." A few days later -- a girl I had known in high school saw me from across a room. She bee-lined directly to me, handed me a Gospel tract and said, "Debbi, you are looking for Jesus." I actually was somewhat rude and said, "Sure, I know all about Jesus." But, for the next month, those words kept coming back. "You are looking for Jesus." Then some really hard disasters came into my life -- leaving me feeling hopeless. I once again came across some young people who were sharing about how much God loved me and died to forgive me and give me life. This time, I did not shine them on. I listened. When they asked if anyone wanted to receive the Lord into their life -- I couldn't resist. As I prayed -- there were no bells or visions, but there was a deep gladness and hope.
I am so very thankful that as a "baby" Christian, I found myself surrounded by others who loved and read and sought to live the Word of God. Pastor Chuck Smith made a tremendous impact on my life as he just opened the Word and taught line by line with a power and simplicity that was contagious. This was the time of the Jesus People Revival. Thousands of young people were coming to the Lord. In those early years, I felt called to youth ministry in the outreach houses where I met my husband George. We worked together in the Shiloh Ministry. He later pastored a church in Oregon and hosted a call-in talk show. After the iron curtain fell -- he was able to take a team and start a church in Russia. This began a call for both of us to encourage and minister to our brothers and sisters in Russia, where many churches have since been planted and continue to grow.
It is my great love to encourage women and teach God's Word. I have to tell you -- I just love women's Bible studies. I love to see how women's lives are changed, and how they bond as they share with each other, and how they then affect so many around them. I have written several studies in a guided-inductive study format. I also strongly believe in gathering women for conferences, retreats and outreach teas. It is stirring to be together -- and we need these fun and inspirational times.
My husband George and I live in Southern California in north San Diego County. Our daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren also live in Southern California. We love to walk on the beach at sunset or in our neighborhood with our little Sheltie dog. How thankful we are for our wonderful friends and our marvelous church Calvary Chapel Vista.