A Missionary’s Testimony

testimony

I heard recently that as a missionary, at least one local pastor was interested in hearing my testimony. Here it goes: To give the testimony I feel I need to give right now requires some jumping around, but I think it will make sense in the end. This will tell you the latest in my spiritual walk, and serve as healing for me, as well. In 2006, when I graduated from Asbury Seminary, I first took a job in Ashland, KY as a homelessness prevention social worker. I got into this job through Americorps VISTA, and because I needed to think life over. I also stopped attending my home church regularly because I knew I needed a fresh start. This led me to a large-ish church in Portsmouth, OH.

In 2009, I finally decided to use my seminary degree and went to East Asia for the first time. It’s been a calling and blessing ever since. I do pretty well with the “secret-Christian” stuff; I’m an introvert after all. My personality does not casually say things I shouldn’t that others could overhear. I am still not a master of vague writing though, if you think reading this blog is strange, I feel strange writing it. Anyway, in 2011 I met my wife in Asia. She’s from western Kentucky. We were set up by my supervisors. It’s a story in itself. Fast forward to November, 2014 and we have our first child, a daughter.

Way back in the beginning, my family attended a relatively good-sized United Methodist Church here in Southern Ohio. We went every week. I think my walk with God started when I strangely started to cry during the reciting of the Lord’s Prayer every week when I was 8 or 9 years old.

I say I got saved at age 14. I’ll admit it was 1994. But I’m going to be all ecumenical and non-controversial and not get into the details. A testimony is best when it’s mostly about what has happened recently, anyway. At age 17 three things happened. I went to Chrysalis in Portsmouth, I started the UM ordination tract, and because I have Cerebral Palsy I received a full scholarship to Asbury University where I majored in Bible-Theology: Pre-Seminary. They said it was one of Asbury’s hardest majors.

Back then, every Sunday night at Asbury you had the opportunity to hear three missionaries speak. The Salvation Army, World Gospel Mission, and… oh, I shouldn’t tell you. I’m with them today! All three groups have student centers on campus and these Sunday evenings (along with a missions majoring ex-girlfriend) is where all the fun began.

The fun came to a temporary halt when my parents divorced my senior year. I ended up still enrolling at Asbury Seminary though, which was not a bad idea considering their emphasis on the “Wounded Servant” as church leader. The worst thing though and what I really want to share today was that for the sake of my evangelism education I started to attend a seeker church that at one point was seeing more than one decision for Jesus an hour.

I wanted to learn how to have a successful church, and so I attended long past my comfort point. The church was administratively opaque, it had it’s own Christian language, it often hired from within and usually hired people without any ministry training, it asked people to volunteer over 10 hours a week in some cases, and new Christians there started to doubt my salvation. They asked me why I questioned church actions and asked why I wasn’t as “joyful” as they were.

The answer was I’m a critical thinker and an introvert who was taking 12 graduate hours (13 was the maximum allowed) and working in the children’s ministry directly teaching the pastor’s oldest kid. I was exhausted every Sunday and Wednesday! However, that wasn’t good enough for them, and after hours of confusion and millions of tears with people I respected I fled back here to southern Ohio and took the first job I was offered. I was hurting in a bad way!

Right after Christmas this year, I discovered on Google that my concerns about that church had been right on. In September 2014, the pastor admitted to an affair. Not only this, but I discovered chat rooms and blogs dedicated to the closing of this church and making the case that it is a cult. This man almost changed the direction of my life, and he stole my confidence in myself, and in my salvation. I never fully bought into his program and I suffered tremendous peer pressure and spiritual pain for it.  

Why am I still a Christian? Why am I even still in ministry? First, I’m told I have a “never quit” attitude. Second, I don’t blame the church or God for what happened, but I know people in similar situations end up blaming God or the church when bad things like this happen and leave the body of Christ. I usually blame people, or better yet…Satan. The key is to not blame God for the evil things in life. How you do that in your mind and heart is a topic for another day or author, though. I can’t tell you how to do that in a few sentences. I will say I am going to forgive this pastor often and pray for his family. I need to be Christ-like enough to forgive him.  

What is the good news in all this? This experience 8-10 years ago convinced me that I could not trust what I thought the Holy Spirit was telling me. I’ve known I was saved for a long time now, and the wonderful thing is I now believe I can hear the Holy Spirit on my own again; my self-confidence has returned!

*This blogger is a missionary to a Creative Access country and requires that his identity remain anonymous. To contact him, or help support his ministry, please contact Robie Day first at robieday@southernohiopastorscoalition.org.

@mjp2110 is from from Wheelersburg, OH and attended Asbury University and Asbury Theological Seminary before being selected and sent to minister to a Persecuted People Group in Asia.

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