On May 3, 1998, I earned my Doctorate in Religious Education from Heritage Baptist University, but my real Christian education came by growing in the Word through the local church and missions at Harvester Baptist Church. How did this come about? Only by God’s amazing grace!
I grew up outside of New York City after WWII with my brother and sister in an environment where “intelligent” people didn’t believe in God, but in nature and in evolution. Personally, I could not accept that we were here by accident. I believed there had to be some superior Being in control.
My mom was a sacred singer, while my dad played the flute with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. I had exposure to many different “religions” since mom was paid to sing high church music for many groups. My conclusion was that all churches were social clubs. I can remember a Bible being present but not opened or quoted during the services. Dad claimed to be an atheist and later turned to agnosticism, but we never talked about God.
One day when I was 12 years old, I asked my mom, “What happens when you die?” She said, “Oh, you just go into the ground like any other animal, and that’s it. That’s the end of your life.” I felt an overwhelming sense of hopelessness and became filled with fear. Fear can be a terrible thing!
Gradually, over the years, my life moved into a destructive pattern of alcoholism, drugs, and poor choices. At age 33, my marriage had failed, and the damaging impact of my lifestyle was being reflected in the lives of my two children. There seemed to be no hope, and I was ready to end my life except for the haunting fear of what happens to you when you die. It was during this time that my health failed, and I had to undergo major emergency surgery. I was on the way to the hospital when I finally cried out to God and asked, “God, if You are real, please show me.” God answered my call. When I got to my hospital room, I met an unusual woman. I don’t even know her name. She was dying of cancer but faced it with a calm I had never seen. She explained to me that she knew Jesus and knew that she would be with Him in heaven and that she had no fears. It was all in the Bible, she said. I was able to identify the one thing I needed in my life – the “Peace of God” – peace to face death. My roommate’s confident faith remained in my mind.
One day after returning home, there was a knock at the door, and I opened the door to a young man I thought was a salesman. It was Pastor Simpson of Harvester Baptist Church. He was going door-to-door, inviting children out to Sunday School on the church bus. When I asked him who had sent him to my door, he said that God had sent him. He asked me, “If you were to die tonight, do you know for sure that you would have a home in heaven?” I said, “No one can know that for sure.” Pastor Simpson gave me his card, left pamphlets for me to read, and offered to have the church bus pick my children up for Sunday School that Sunday. Sunday came, and the children went to church. They came home bubbling over with happy excitement. The next week their Sunday School teacher visited in our home and shared from the Bible God’s plan of salvation with my daughter, Debby, who then prayed and received Christ as her personal Savior. The teacher announced Debby had gotten “saved.” My question was, saved from what? I was very skeptical, but the change in Debby’s life caused me to remember the lady in the hospital. She had peace too. Now how could I get it?
I was determined to see what this was all about and decided to visit the church myself. I heard from the Bible God’s plan for our salvation. After months of questioning and personal research, it was the number of fulfilled prophecies that convinced me that the Bible was the Word of God. Pastor Simpson once again asked me, “Nancy, if you were to die tonight, do you know for sure you would have a home in heaven?” I answered, “Pastor I know for sure I would not.” I had finally admitted my lost condition, but still I doubted. My problem? I was afraid I would fail again, and I couldn’t believe God could love me after all the years I had ignored Him and all the selfish things I had done. I was so ashamed.
I had no problem recognizing I was a sinner and separated from a holy God. That I readily admitted. Pastor showed me the fact that no one is good enough to get to heaven and “All have sinned and come short” (Romans 3:23). That surprised me, but I was glad I wasn’t the only one. He asked me if I believed Jesus is God the Son and that He willingly shed His blood and died on the cross just for me. I said, “Yes, I believe that.” Then he asked if I believed Jesus came alive again. I had trouble with the resurrection. I had never heard about it until I came to this church. But by this time I was convinced that the Bible was the Word of God, and I was willing, by faith, to trust in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ for my sins. Pastor shared God’s promise to me in Romans 10:13: “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord SHALL be saved.” It sounds simple, but at that moment in my ears it sounded like Latin. I could not understand. He explained the verse this way:
For whosoever – is you. If Nancy
Shall call on the Name of the Lord:
– Come before your holy God and agree with Him about
your sinful condition.
– Believe that Jesus is God and paid in full for all your sins
– Believe that He bled and died in your place, and
He came alive again to prove the payment was accepted.
– Then call on Him asking Him to forgive you and to save you, and He will.
Shall be saved: (not because you go to AA, go to church, or do good things) but absolutely shall be saved, based on what Jesus did for you, because you cannot save yourself.
Saved: – a guaranteed home in Heaven and forgiveness so you don’t have to spend eternal life in a terrible place of punishment the Bible calls hell.
When I hesitated, Pastor added, “Nancy, you have put your trust in everything in the past, and all have failed you, but why not try putting your faith in Jesus Christ. What have you got to lose?” What did I have to lose? Only my fears and my doubts. I was desperate for a new life. I remember praying to receive Christ’s payment for my sin and asking Him to be Lord of my life. I made my choice, and I was born again into the family of God. God added an extra miracle in my life when, within the first week, I lost my need for alcohol and all the other negative choices in my life. All my fears and loneliness left immediately. Within a few short weeks, my son, Billy, also made a decision for Christ. Then Debby, Billy, and I were baptized at Harvester Baptist Church.
As I studied God’s Word more and more, I began serving in the ministries of Harvester. The Lord opened the opportunity for me to become a Bus Captain with the church bus ministry – reaching out to other families just like my own. Pastor encouraged me to begin teaching. The first class I taught was a Junior-age class consisting of two girls. The Lord blessed, and within three months the class had grown to 25 girls.
My interest in Christian education continued to grow, and I resumed my studies. In May of 1993, I received my Masters Degree in Religious Education from Liberty University. Seeking ways to help teachers effectively communicate God’s Word to children, I took courses offered by Child Evangelism Fellowship and became a certified teacher instructor. In addition to an interest in the education of children, I had a goal of implementing a continuing adult education program designed to equip adults to serve the Lord. Working with Pastor Simpson, the Harvester Bible Institute became the fruition of that dream.
God continues His work in my life in the field of Christian education. “This year marks 10 years of mission service through Tool Kit Ministries, helping local churches teach and reach others by sharing the Bible basics learned through the ministries of Harvester Baptist Church over the past 30+ years.” Who would have thought that God could take such a broken vessel and use it to serve Him?
God is so faithful. Both my parents received Christ as their Savior before they left this earth, as did my step-dad. Many of our relatives have received Christ. It is only because of God’s power and His amazing grace that all these lives have been touched for eternity
In my life it all began with a simple prayer, “God, if You’re real, please show me.” Today my life verse is Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Thank You, Lord.