It has come to my realization that I have never written out the story of how I gave my life to the Lord. I have spoken it at many different events, but not once have I written it down. I felt a tug on my heart to do so today! YAY! And at the end, I have attached the video of my spontaneous baptism just a few days after my surrender to the Lord.
Growing up, I had gone to church on and off because that is how my father grew up, and that is what he had us do. But it never went much deeper than that. In middle school, I had a crush on a cute boy at youth group and continued attending church with my mother so that I could see said cute boy. I attended a summer camp, and went on a mission’s trip or two, but never because of Jesus, only because of friends. Entering high school, as part of my story I have shared before, the first two years I was severely physically, sexually, emotionally abused. Depression, PTSD, and etc.… plagued my life the following years. Because I came across this person through the church, and because they claimed God made them do all the horrible things to me, I disliked God. I had a hard time believing any of it anymore, and grew more into a bitter, angry person. I lost friends, my family had become so broken, and I had no sense of who I was anymore. It felt as though everything was stripped away from me, and I was alone in it. I was desperate for anyone who would be in my life, and dependency became a huge problem for me. I stopped attending church, and when forced to go, could not enter into the services but would sit outside in a ball of rage. I threw away any Bibles, crosses, anything that reminded me of God. Toward the end of my senior year of high school, I had completely turned my back on Him. I started looking into other religions, other belief systems and theories, which allowed in a whole different kind of darkness. Eventually, I just gave up.
My mother forced me to attend a summer camp that summer after high school. Hume Lake Wildwood. I was furious and refused to go but…she wouldn’t pay for my college if I didn’t so that ended that discussion. I packed my bags and headed out for a week. When I first arrived, I was very distant and bitter. Each “Christian” thing I was forced to participate in just made me angrier and angrier. Fortunately, I saved my journaling from that time.
“Wildwood Day One: Solo Time
Well, they are making me write so I guess I will jot down some of my first thoughts of being here.
- The hike was way longer than my birks and I had anticipated
- It is wayyy too hot
- There are wayyy too many bugs
- I am uncomfortable
- I want to cry and go home
- I don’t like Jesus
So far, it is not as awful as I thought it would be. The facilities are nice enough but I hate going to the bathroom at night. Everyone is pretty nice, but I’m pretty sure they see me as the ‘unsaved’ chick which means I am a project to them. My eye is swollen. Day one and I am already deformed. Anyway, the main issue is that I am here at this deep discipleship Christian camp and I don’t even have a bible anymore. I have so many doubts about God, and the Christian faith as a whole but this week I’m supposed to be ‘drawing closer to him?’ I guess we’ll see how this goes…”
Oh little Ione, you have no idea what is about to happen in your life. The next day, we had to go analyze this piece of Scripture. This is the worksheet I actually kept! It is torn and dirt stained but still clearly read.
If that is too far away to read, some comments are:
“So…you have to do something in order to earn Gods friendship and generosity?”
“If this is a metaphor to people what does this mean? He kills them?”
“Kinda harsh for a loving God, huh?”
“Really? But it just said if we don’t, we are thrown away and burned? So…conditionally [loved]?”
The beginning of this day hardened my heart even more, as I listened to all the other campers give the typical Sunday school answers. By that evening, I wrote “I still don’t like aspects of this. I really just need to ask questions before I make any decisions.” OOO! The heart is softening! Just a few moments after this was written, we were called to this big lawn where we did prayer circles. Our group rotated to the station where we prayed for those who were not saved. I remember watching these girls from my cabin sobbing as they cried out in intervention for their loved ones who did not know the Lord. They described the pain and darkness that those people experienced and I started to cry myself (though I hid that). It hit me that that was…me. I quickly shut down that emotion and moved on to the next station. But I couldn’t get that thought out of my head. I so badly wanted to close myself off, but the Lord was persistent.
The next day, near the morning, I wrote: “So much has changed already. It seems like everything here, every chapel message, every worship song, even just the comments and sharing’s of the other campers, is directed toward me and everything I am thinking.” I went through the activities of the day, still keeping this realization in mind. I remember feeling more softened toward everything, more willingness to ask questions. Something was pulling me, I know now that it was the Holy Spirit. A friend placed the book “The Case for Faith” on my pillow and I started reading it. Things were developing.
They called us all together to give us the next activity of the day. It was more toward evening now, so I brought my favorite flannel with me. With journal in hand, and a borrowed bible, I followed the leader up the mountain and she placed me in this patch of pine needles all alone. As she left, I looked around and could see no one but this chick very far away on a rock. In any sense of the term, I was alone. For four hours. I was tired and cranky, the bugs were flying around my head and I became frustrated. I refused to journal or open that Bible. I took my time eating the sack dinner they gave me, sketched a drawing of my face, and then finally started to write. I determined I must’ve sat there for an hour at this point. But I wrote:
“I have been thinking a lot. Maybe I do want this thing. I really turned my back on you, huh? Not just that but all Christianity and all religion. I didn’t just not believe you existed, but I hated all people who did. I came to this camp telling myself I wasn’t going to let you or anything else change me. I had a hard heart, guarded from any of this stuff.
But yet, here I am. My heart s mushy. And I am afraid. What if this isn’t real? What if faith is just tricking yourself into thinking you are a better person? Right now, I don’t have all the answers. Honestly, I don’t think I have any answers and I don’t know if I ever will. But what they keep talking about this week is that we don’t have to have all the answers. But I tend to get in my own way. You know how my brain works. How I have such high expectations. Like right now, I expect you to do something miraculous li”
And at that moment, I had to stop writing because something was shaking the ground. This giant deer comes stampeding down the hill past me as I write. Startled I jumped up, dropping my journal, pen, and Bible. This is the part that no words I think will be able to express what I experienced. But it was God. There is no doubt in my mind. There was wind, and light. Everything faded around me, the bugs flew off, all sound ceased. And then I heard Him.
“Ione, come home.”
I fell to my knees, shaking, stunned, frozen. I could do nothing but fall on my face in worship. Through tears and shouts of joy, I asked the Lord into my life. I told Him that I was unsure, and still had questions, but that I was ready to experience life with Him. He impressed upon me to look up at the ground in front of me, where my Bible lay open. I begin to read:
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their mind son the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
You however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells will also give life to your mortal bodies through his spirit who dwells in you” (Romans 8: 1-11).
I read that entire chapter up there on that mountain, the first time I had opened a Bible in years. For the rest of the time, which seemed so short, I worshipped and prayed, communing with my Lord and Savior. I came down from the mountain a changed person. It became quickly evident to all those who had endured me throughout the week. Rejoicing was what I was met with that evening, though I asked it stay only with a few. On the last day, I spent the entire time joyfully serving those around me, making the most of my time, asking as many questions and soaking in as much Scripture as time allowed. During any free time, I would journal and pray. It was transformative. Right before our last chapel, God directed me to a passage of Scripture that read, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:1-4). Pondering this, I headed over to the last chapel. The speaker, Cory Fenn, asked people to share their camp experiences this week. I sat there, heart pounding, hearing God prompting me to stand up in front of all those people and admit that I gave in. I wasn’t going to do it until the girl next to me leaned over and whispered “Hey. You gotta tell em’” I sheepishly raised my hand, and got the microphone. I said, “Hi. I came into this camp atheist and surrendered my heart to God yesterday.” The entire group jumped up with shouts of praise. I was startled by the outburst, as people cried, sang and rejoiced. I felt the love of God in that moment. The speaker, shocked went to move onto the next person as the group quieted down, but then quickly turned back to me. “Do you want to get baptized?” There was no hesitancy as I said, “Yes!” Everyone quickly ran up to the pool, I got changed, and then this happened…
And that is my story. I felt it was one worth sharing! It has been a little over two years since then. PRAISE GOD! A few months later, this blog was born. And I have been growing tremendously ever since.