Salem Baptist Church

Located in Salem, India and is a work in progress, planted by a seed from Beulah Bapist Church in Germantown Maryland. It is being watered and nurtured by the churches of Camp Liberty in Pontotoc, Mississippi. That seed that was planted is the family of Britto and Viji and their daughters Jessica and Ivanna.

 

BrittoFamily2014

 

Cindy Robbins

  The Missing Piece 

I told the church one night during a service that I felt like our church was missing a piece of a puzzle, for some reason in my heart it seemed like we were missing something. Little did I know that it was ME that was missing God in my life, the peace that passes all understanding. There were many in the church that realized this, but I was clueless until several years later. Here is my testimony of how the Lord revealed himself to me and gave me my missing piece, and made my life whole.

I was raised by my mom who had been divorced 5 times, and a bitter grandmother that had raised 9 children alone after her husband had died of bone cancer. It was a very unstable environment, but it was all I knew, I thought it was normal for many years. I have never known what it was like to have a father, because I am an illegitimate child. My biological father denied that I was his. So I was raised with a bad attitude about men. I was taught they were all losers, and self centered. The discipline that was carried out was by my grandmother, who carried a switch and was just itching for a chance to use it, and unfortunately I gave her many chances. Growing up in this atmosphere, I learned to trust in myself and appeared that I did not need or have to have a man to depend on for anything.

School years were great and fun and I loved school and my friends. I was very independent and started working when I was 12. I made my own decisions and answered to no one at a very early age. Ironically, I was looking for love by the time I was 13 and thought I was ready for marriage by 15. Kenneth, my husband, and I were classmates in high school, we dated for about a year and were married  just 3 short months after we graduated high school.  My purpose for marriage was not for love solely, but to not have to live with my mother and change situations that that I was not satisfied with in life. I thought I would get to rule my own life after marriage, however, that was not the case.

Two years after we had been married, I had my first child, a son, Heath. Kenneth and I had such a good marriage relationship that I couldn’t even tell him I was pregnant for 3 months.  I was afraid he would be angry with me because I was supposedly taking the pill (when I would remember).  He wasn’t too upset with me, so we muddled through the process of adjusting to having a child.  Kenneth and I had very different ideas of parenting, I wanted him home helping me, and he wanted to not be at home, not helping me. So, most of the time he went his own way and I went mine. He loved to hunt, and fish, and run beagles. We both worked, so my new life was raising a son, and his was well the same as it was before Heath was born. We rarely went to church, we had no desire to. He was raised in church, but I only went to church when taken by a relative. I had no thoughts of God or spiritual matters growing up, life was just life and you rolled with the punches, taking all matters into your own hands and dealing with them the best way you knew how.

When Heath was 15 months old he had spinal meningitis, he was very sick and at the point of death. The doctors rushed him to a pediatric hospital to spare his life, at this point I was 8 months pregnant with my daughter Brittany. Needless to say this ordeal changed my complete thinking about life and brought my mind to thinking about God. I was in the waiting room attempting to sleep waiting to see if my son was going to make it through the night. I realized at this point in my life that there was a God and that he was in control of all life and situations. I started making deals with God in my mind, I said God if you will allow my child to live I will start going to church and live my life for you the best I know how. I dozed off to sleep, the next morning my son was much better and the prognosis was that he was going to be ok after a few weeks of meds and being in intensive care.

Now it was time for me to keep up my end of the bargain that I had made with God.  After the birth of my daughter, Brittany, I told Kenneth we were going to have to start going to church. We started going to New Oak Grove Baptist, because that is where Kenneth attended when he was growing up and his parents were still members there.  We attended on Sunday mornings only, for awhile, but then as our children were growing older and getting involved in sports and many other activities, church was not a priority again. Our children loved sports, so that became our God, even though we didn’t realize it at the time. Both of our children were very good in sports, Heath played all star baseball from the time he was 7 until he graduated, and Brittany played all star softball from 7 until she graduated high school, and basketball also. We were on a sports field or basketball court, every day, every weekend for 10 years.

As the years rocked along, we still attended New Oak Grove when we could fit it into our schedules. We had several preachers that came and went, which had become a norm for our church. The faithful people of the church had become weary of the searching for a new preacher process, because they would only stay for a year or two and then leave us.

In 1993, the pulpit committee decided to ask the Blue Mountain College Seminary to send some young men for trial sermons. Bro. Claude Mills came to our church with his wife and family of 3 young children. I don’t remember what he preached the very first time he came, but when they called him back for his second sermon, he preached a sermon titled “what are we passing to the next generation”. That sermon touched many of our church members, deep meaning for us shallow minded people. We had never thought about what we were passing to the next generation. He was preaching spiritually, asking were we teaching our children the ways of God? All we were teaching our children that I could see was how to play ball. Of course, this could mean scholarships we would tell ourselves.  We certainly didn’t know anything about the bible to teach them, even though we had been attending church for years. Little did we know that God was going to teach us what to pass on to the next generation in the years and sermons to come.

We elected Bro. Claude to be our new preacher, because we were all impressed with his sermons and his family. After he got settled in at our church and got the feel for what we believed or didn’t believe and realized where our hearts were, he started preaching what he called “truth”. Truth was what the bible really said about things and the standard by which we should live our lives, according to what God and the Bible said, not what we thought was right in our own minds, or vain traditions of the church.

When Bro Claude came to our church, we were well into our love for sports, and our children’s lives. Kenneth and I had grown apart over the years of our marriage because of it, he went one way with Heath and his games, and I went another way with Brittany. We had very little time for one another, and when we did it was usually arguing about money or who was right about what and you did or didn’t do this for me, or the usual marital fights and justifications of your feelings.

I got to the point that I hated sports, hated being at sports events every weekend, being in the hot sun, listening to parents whine about their kid not getting to play or the coach yelling at my kid because they didn’t play good enough. I worked hard and I deserved better I would think, if my family loved me they wouldn’t put me through this mess. I was very selfish, became very distraught, very strong willed and obnoxious to everyone, not only my family, but anyone that crossed my path. I got into financial messes, and Kenneth would have to borrow money to bail us out. I didn’t care about who it was affecting, I would turn around and do it again. I eventually was unfaithful in our marriage, so therefore I was an emotional wreck, and put my family through hell, but I hid it all inside, or in my mind I was. I was very deceitful, I pretended that nothing was wrong and trudged right along justifying all of my thoughts and actions. While all this was going on, I had to appear to be a good parent and wife and attend church, after all that’s what I told God I would do, my feeble promise earlier in life. I was living a double life, pretending nothing was wrong, living one way at home and work another way at church. It became a miserable life circle.

When Bro. Claude started preaching truth, one of the first things he preached about was that God expected husbands to love their wives and wives to love their husbands. Not only did he preach this, he lived it. Bro. Claude and his wife Becky were much in love. They held hands in public, would sit close to one another in church, and kiss in public, enough to sicken me. I would make fun of them and tell them to get a room or make other smirk remarks to them. But I could really see that they cared for one another and cared what the other thought about things, and had a relationship and respect for one another.  It was not good to compare our marriage to theirs, because it did not match up. Deep down in my heart, I was jealous of their relationship but I knew in my mind I could never love my husband like Becky loved Bro. Claude or the way God said it was supposed to be. It was at this point in my life that conviction started piercing my heart. I started hearing God speak through a preacher and it was about love, a type of love that I had not ever heard of before, a love from an almighty God that would forgive me and wanted a relationship with me. A type like a husband and wife are supposed to have, unconditional, forgiving love.

Bro. Claude often preached about how to love God was to love him and love each other, not only your spouse, but people in the church. I was so in love with myself at that time in my life, I had no desire to love anyone in the church, or get close to them. If I were to get to close to anyone or open up to anyone, they might find out about my sins and my terrible attitude.  Another thing Bro. Claude preached about often was repentance, a form of humility and showing obedience toward God, I was not ready to do that. I remember sitting in church and wondering to myself and asking the Lord what I needed to repent of. Bro. Claude would say that repenting is a change of mind? I had no intentions of changing my mind about anything, because I was determined and convinced that I was right in all of my thinking. The Lord needed to straighten Kenneth out, and have him treat me better and take better care of me, but unknowingly to me Kenneth was thinking the same thing about me.  Somehow the Lord started showing me through many sermons that I needed to start seeking him, asking for forgiveness, and repentance. My heart was very hard and cold and I did not want to admit that what I was hearing about love toward my husband and others was the right thing to do.

I finally just ask the Lord what must I do to be right? He told me to get right with my husband, and love him. I did not like that answer and rejected the idea that was what I needed to do in order to be saved. However God started a work in my heart and life and convinced me differently. He sent not only Bro. Claude but other preachers, like Bro. Greg Moffitt, Bro. Tim Rutherford, and Bro. Terry Owen to help convince me of God’s teachings about love, mercy and forgiveness.

Bro. Greg Moffit preached a sermon at Grace Baptist Church that pierced my heart, it was out of Luke 18 and talked about how we trust in ourselves and have no need of the Lord. It talks about thinking yourself as righteous, and despising others. That was exactly how I felt. I thought I had everything under control and I didn’t want the spirit of the Lord showing me how sinful and what a mess I had made of things. I despised others that loved God and I thought everybody sins and I am as good as they are.

By this time, Kenneth and I were on the verge of divorce, I was at the point where I was ready to divorce and leave my kids. I wanted my own way and do my own things. The only thing that kept me from leaving already was I didn’t want someone else to raise my kids, I did not want them to be in a broken home situation.  I had no feelings for Kenneth, no love, I told him I wanted a divorce. Kenneth went to Bro. Claude and talked to him and told him what was going on. Bro. Claude started counseling with us individually.  He told me that my thinking was wrong and this is not what the Lord would want, and he felt like we could reconcile our marriage.

I had to get to know my preacher and trust someone besides myself. All this was a work of God in both mine and Kenneth’s life, drawing us to our man of God and teaching us to trust him. I was not in the right attitude about any of this to start with, I was still rebellious and really wanted my own way , but I wanted to do what was right for my kids and God eventually.  As I started hearing and obeying what Bro. Claude was saying about reconciling our marriage, the Lord opened my ears to what he was saying about reconciling to Christ. I started doing whatever Bro. Claude said to do. Kenneth and I separated and started all over, we started dating and trying to relearn each other, listening to each other and trying to sort things out. As I started to lower my guard and quit finding all the negative things about Kenneth and looking for positive, I saw that he wasn’t such a bad guy after all. The Lord showed me how he had really taken good care of me over the years and provided all the things I needed, I was just not appreciative of it, a type of Christ in a sense.

Bro. Greg Moffitt preached a revival service for us and one night he preached about giving your problems to the Lord, he used the words throwing up or puking up our sins. I went to the alter that night and tried to do just that, I cried and puked up every distasteful sin I could think of that I had ever done, but I did not get saved that night, but I was doing some serious repenting. Some people were confused because it seemed I was broken and looked like maybe salvation had occurred, Bro. Terry Owen came to the alter and asked me could he talk to me and I said yes. He asked me did I not know that God was there for me, I said no, I don’t see him or feel him. He said you might as well go back to your seat, because God was there for me, but I missed him. I did what he said, I was not upset, I didn’t even know that salvation was near, I was just trying to get rid of my guilt and sin on my own once again.

A few weeks after that, I awoke in the middle of the night and the Lord told me to walk away and sin no more. It was so vivid and real, not like a dream. I had no idea what that meant. I didn’t tell anyone for a few days, but it was constantly on my mind. So finally I told Bro. Claude what happened, and what the Lord had told me. Immediately he said do you not know what story that phrase comes from. I told him no.  He told me that was from the story of the adulterous woman in John 8, how the woman was caught in the very act of adultery, and the people brought her before the Lord and wanted her stoned, and the Lord told them whoever was without sin to cast the first stone and the Lord looked down and drew in the sand, and when he looked up, the people that brought her before the Lord were gone. He asked her where her condemners were, she said they are not here Lord. The Lord told her he condemned her not but to walk away and sin no more. I was like WHAT?! I said so you are saying the Lord does not condemn me and I can walk away and sin no more, forgiven by the Lord of Heaven. He said evidently, if that’s what the Lord told me. I just could not believe my ears. Why in the world would the Lord not condemn me, after all the things I had done to him? Well I just couldn’t believe it.

On August 27th, 2003, I went to church and Bro. Claude got up to preach and he read a verse out of the bible, I don’t even remember the specific verse, but he made the statement, that somebody in the service was a God hater, and we closed the service. It hit me like a ton of bricks, I thought I do not want to be a God hater, somehow through all the things that had happened in my life, I had learned to hate God, but at the same time it brought me to God and showed me how God had provided and taken care of me all of my life. I started to the back of the church to stack the chairs and put up the songbooks with all of these thoughts on my heart and mind. When I turned around to get another chair, the spirit of the Lord just sat down on me, I could not even stand up straight. Somehow I made my way to the pulpit where Bro. Claude was standing, by this time I was crying and I told Bro. Claude I could not leave the building that night without God and knowing that I was not a God hater. I was crying so hard I could hardly talk. Bro. Claude told me I just needed to get thankful, and thank the Lord for what he had done.  I was puzzled by this answer, I was like thank the Lord? I was not feeling thankful at that very moment.

Bro. Claude convinced me that I had already repented and it was time to be thankful, so I just started saying thank you Lord, and then the next thing I knew I was really thanking the Lord, for everything, for showing me myself, for sending me a preacher that taught me truth, for my husband, for my kids, for my church, for everything that he had taught me in the last 10 years, showing mercy to an unworthy sinner, for not killing me, grace and forgiveness of my sins and not condemning me, just on and on, I just couldn’t quit. I thanked the Lord for deliverance and salvation….SALVATION, yes the Lord had redeemed and saved me that night.  I worshipped for over an hour, it was unbelievable. I told the Lord that he was right about everything and I was wrong about everything. The spirit of the Lord not only moved on me that night but also my brother in Christ, Ralph Knighton, a birth of twins in the church.

The great physician had healed my heart, made me a new creature, gave me peace. I found the missing piece of the puzzle I had looked for. A great transformation had occurred that night.

My life has not been the same since, I love church, I love learning what the Lord wants and desires from me. Kenneth and I have a wonderful marriage now, he got saved 6 years later, and the Lord is still blessing both of us. When the Lord changed my life, it also changed the life of my family, our priorities changed, our decisions about where we go changed, everything is different, but better. Life for the Lord is wonderful, and he is still teaching us many things through the leadership of Bro. Claude and Faith Baptist Church. I would not trade my life with anyone.

Trust and obey for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey.  

    Tia Hall

           

           

WHEN GOD SMILED ON ME

Personal Testimony of Tia Dye Hall

From the time I was just a baby, God allowed my family to take me to church.  Early on we went to Moss Hill Baptist Church, where Bro. Greg Moffitt was pastor. My parents loved him and followed him faithfully.  However, along the way, God revealed to Bro. Greg that he had never been saved; He was lost.  He immediately resigned from Moss Hill telling the people that he had to go get help for his own soul.  Obviously, my mom and dad were shocked.  Nonetheless, they started looking for a church to attend and finally decided on New Oak Grove Baptist Church in Myrtle, Mississippi.  I remember there being a couple of different preachers that came and went, but as I child I don’t ever recall feeling God’s presence there. 

Around 1993, our pastor at the time resigned, and Blue Mountain College sent Bro. Claude Mills and his family over to preach for us.  We saw something different in them; something we had never seen before.  We asked Bro. Claude to be our Pastor and voted him in 100%.  He accepted and has been with us ever since.

Right away, God started changing things, not only in the church, but also in our family.  My parents had our family in church as far back as I can remember.  During the early years of New Oak Grove there were a lot of troubles.  People got mad at Bro. Claude because he was changing the way things were done.  Little did they know that it was not Bro. Claude making the changes, but actually God changing us.  God was tearing out the old traditions of men and bringing in the new and right ways of God.

I remember a point when my mom realized that the God that Bro. Claude and Mrs. Becky had was not the same God that she had.  I remember my mom and dad following Bro. Claude, so that’s what I did.  Somehow God made me see what Bro. Claude was teaching was right.  I never really thought about it being right or wrong for the most part.   I sort of just went with the flow of things.

Every year Bro. Claude and Mrs. Becky attended a camp meeting in West Helena, Arkansas called Mississippi Delta Camp Meeting, where Bro. Charles Shipman was Pastor.  It was the church Bro. Claude and Mrs. Becky came from originally.  They began to take the people from our church to Camp with them.  For the most part, I just went for the social part of it.  Little did I realize then that God was giving me friends that would be my forever friends – my friends for life.   

In a youth service at one particular camp meeting there, I felt God move on me for the first time.  At that moment, I actually knew for myself that God was real and not just a fairytale that I had been taught about my whole life.   When you walked through the doors of that Camp, you could feel the presence of God.  Some of the preachers that we are associated with now and that preach to me and my family today are preachers that preached at that camp meeting.

While growing up, I can always remember hearing my mom talk about how she was always afraid of God as a little girl.  She talked about preachers who told of how terrible hell was and it always scared her.  But I never can remember really being afraid of God, at least not like that.  I feared God because of who He is, but not because I was afraid of Him or of  hell. I knew that I didn’t want to die and go to hell, but I wasn’t really afraid of it.  

From the time I first felt God at Mississippi Delta Camp Meeting, my life changed.   God continued to deal with me off and on. I talked to my dad once about why I was stuck and couldn’t get saved and he told me something that I held on to.  He said, “Tia, why would God give you more light if you refuse to step in the light He has already given you?”   You see, I loved music of all kinds. I always listened to music.  That was the issue God had dealt with me about, but I refused to give up the music that I loved for the music that glorified God.  My sin wasn’t necessarily my love for the music but refusing to submit to God’s way.  I went a couple of years not really seeking God or worrying about Him or giving much thought to the things that were being preached to me.   I remember one specific thing that happened during this time.  Bro. Claude was teaching the youth during Sunday school.  We were all talking to him one morning about praying. Every time we would pray our minds would just wander.  Sometimes I would even fall asleep while praying.  We asked him in class about what to do about praying.  He told us to ask God to show us ourselves and ask him to show us Himself.  God began to deal with me and began to talk to me about being justified or declared righteous, but I really just brushed it off. 

At this time, our church was going through some major changes. Several families had left the church, because of the hard sayings, the truth, and the Ways of God were just too hard.  We began going to another camp meeting called Festival of Joy in Pontotoc, Mississippi.  This camp meeting was at Grace Baptist Church, where Bro. Terry Owen was the pastor.  Bro. Terry Owen, Bro. Greg Moffitt, Bro. Mike Williams, Bro. Tim Rutherford and Bro. Claude Mills were the preachers that preached at that camp at the time.

I remember being under some really heavy conviction at camp in June of 2000.  On the last night of the camp,  Bro. Greg was preaching out of Ephesians 2:1-5, which states: “And you hath he quickened who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:  Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)”   I went down to the altar and God was truly speaking to me.  He told me He loved me, and I called that salvation.  That “experience” changed my life, because I knew that God loved me, but I did not get saved then.

In June of 2002, God told us to move out of our church building and into the gym so we could renovate the church building. God changed the name of our church from New Oak Grove Baptist Church to Faith Baptist Church.   Bro. Claude told us that we had followed him even when we didn’t know what was going to happen or understand and that we were people of Faith.   It was all part of tearing out the old and bringing in the new. We couldn’t go into our new church building the same old people with the same old name. We completely gutted the inside of our church building and rebuilt the entire inside. God was also doing a mighty work in the lives of the people at the same time.   

I was in cosmetology school at the time and living the life I wanted to live.  I was sneaky and dishonest. To the world I was a “good girl”, but I knew better than to be doing the things I was doing.  I knew that I had to lie to my parents about what I was doing and that in itself made it wrong for sure.

In January of 2005, I met Jeremy Hall, the man I would later marry.  He took a stand and gave me some tough choices:  I could either continue the life I was living with my friends in cosmetology school or I could have him, but not both.  He was ready to settle down and start a family.  Jeremy wasn’t even saved, but God brought Jeremy to me and used him to save my life.

Jeremy and I started liking each other and wanted to date, but first he had to go talk to my dad.  My dad sat him down and told him there were some things that he expected of us and if he (Jeremy) didn’t think he could follow those rules then not to waste our time.  One of those rules just so happened to be Jeremy needed to come to church with me.  Surprisingly enough, he agreed to go.  Since then, he has pretty much been in church with me every time the doors were open.  The very first time he came to church with me was our first service in our new church building. Bro. Tim Rutherford was preaching a revival for us.  God began to work on him and us as a couple during that meeting.

God really began to deal with me in late summer of 2006.  I remembered Bro. Claude telling us when we were younger that when we didn’t know what to pray, to pray that God would show us ourselves and that He would show us Himself, so that is what I began to pray.  God began to show me how just downright awful and pitiful I really was. I was a liar, a thief, deceitful, a conniver and totally unworthy to be loved.  I was a person that I wasn’t proud of and didn’t want to be. At the same time, He began to show me how forgiving and trustworthy and gracious and longsuffering He was and that I was exactly the type of person He gave up the life of His son for. I was amazed that even though I was all of that bad stuff, He loved me anyway.

On Wednesday, October 11, 2006, we were at church and Bro. Claude started the message by saying, “This is specifically for someone tonight”.  He said he didn’t even ask God who because he was afraid He would tell him and he didn’t want to have his hand on anything that happened.  When Bro. Claude said that, I thought to myself, it’s probably someone else because they

had been seeking God a lot more than I have. I hadn’t even been that serious about Him for very long. Then Bro. Claude said, and “it’s not someone that has been seeking God.”  That kind of caught my attention and I thought, well maybe, just maybe, it might be for me.  Then he said, “Tonight is for someone that doesn’t deserve it and hasn’t even been serious about God, just playing games.”  By that time, I was listening to every word he was preaching. He talked about how this person wasn’t worthy, because God had sent His Son to die for the unworthy and that is what makes them worthy.  Bro. Claude said some other things, but my mind was still blown away at the fact that every time I would try to convince myself that God wasn’t there for me, Bro. Claude would tear down what I was saying to myself. He then went over to Titus 3:3, which states, “For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. But after that the kindness and love of God our Savior toward man appeared, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life”. I knew then, without a shadow of a doubt that he was preaching that specific message just for me. The only thing I could do was go to the altar.

When I got there, I just started talking to God and asking Him what I was supposed to do now. The only thing that was on me was thankfulness.  Even though I had not sought him or done any of the right things, He still loved me and wanted to save me. It felt like the only two people there in that church was God and me.  I couldn’t even hear Bro. Claude preaching anymore. I told God that I wasn’t worthy for Him to save me, and He said I was worthy, because when He looked down on me He could see Jesus in me.  God told me He was smiling at me because He was smiling at His Son.  At that very instant I believed Him, but I wasn’t sure if that was Salvation or not.  I just kind of sat there and looked and waited until Bro. Claude got done preaching.

When the preaching was over, I asked Bro. Claude if we could talk, and we went into a Sunday School class.  He asked me, “What’s up?”  I told him, “I think I just got saved.”   He said, “Well, tell me what happened.   I told him what had happened since he started preaching, how I had been arguing with God, but every time I would present an argument, God would knock it down in his preaching, how God told me He was smiling on me because He was smiling on His Son and when He looked at me that’s all He saw. 

Bro. Claude asked, “So what is going on in you now?”   I told him I felt I should be crying, but I couldn’t, I could only laugh. He started laughing and said, “Why would you want to cry?”  I didn’t really have an answer to that other than that’s what I thought I was supposed to do. I then told him that really all I wanted to do was smile back at God, since He was smiling on me.  He told me to go ahead.    I realized then that I had gotten saved and began to thank God for saving me and smiling on me.

Andy Johnson

           

           

I’M FREE:  NO MORE CHAINS

The Testimony of Andy Johnson

          My life started out like most other people.  I grew up in a family where church was a top priority.  My parents taught me the importance of the church my whole life.  I loved our church, and I enjoyed all the activities and friendships that came with it.

          When I was ten years old, my great grandmother passed away.  It hit me hard, because she was a big part of my life.  I missed her always being there.  We had a revival at our church a few weeks later.  The preacher made a comment that if you ever want to see your family and friends again, who have died and gone to heaven you had to be saved.   I knew that I wanted to see my grandmother again, so I went and talked to the preacher after the service.  He took me back in a Sunday School room and led me through a prayer to receive Christ as my Savior.  I didn’t understand what was going on.  I just knew what the preacher said, so I did it.  I told my parents, and they were so happy and proud of me.  I thought everything was okay then.

          I started my teen years resting on the prayer I said when I was 10 years old, but I always had doubts.  I always wondered if it was real.  I never really had rest in it.  Sometimes when I doubted, I would just repeat the prayer again just to make sure.  I went through my teen years doing things I was not proud of.  I still thought I was okay though, because I was at church every Sunday, every Wednesday, and all the other church functions.  I felt as long as I was there, I was okay.  This whole time I was still banking on the prayer I said. 

          I was nearing graduation from high school when the church called a new preacher.  For the first time in my life I started hearing strong preaching on sin and repentance.  It blew me away, but I still figured I was okay, because I had asked Christ into my heart.  I still had my doubts, so I had to figure out why.  Bro Lou preached a sermon on if you are truly saved, you will serve God.  He talked about doing things for other people and telling other people about Christ.  I thought that was my problem.  I had those doubts, because I wasn’t serving God like I was supposed to.  I thought if I would do those things, the doubts and fears would go away.   I jumped into serving God.  I started driving a handicapped man to church.  I started leading devotions in Sunday school and at Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) functions at school.  I would also talk to people about Jesus whether on my own or during visitation at church.  I started impressing a lot of people, including myself.  When I was busy doing all these things, I wasn’t worried about if I was saved or not.  But all these things still did not change this one thing:  At night when I went to bed, and there was nobody there but me and God, the fears were still there.  I went to sleep each night with the same doubts,  the same unrest, and the same emptiness.  I would wake up the next morning determined to serve God better.  I would make it through the day okay, but each night I still felt like it wasn’t enough.  My mind was set on the fact that I could serve God even more, so I would try even harder.  But, no matter how hard I tried it, was never enough.  I was doing all I knew and all I had been taught.  Every night was the same.  At night when I couldn’t prop myself up by my service or hear someone else brag on all I was doing, I was miserable.  This was the common theme of my life.  Work, work, work during the day, and go home with no rest.  I was tired.  I just wanted to go to bed and not have all the doubts and unrest.

          Our church started having some division because of what was being preached and some other things that were going on in the church.  To make a really long story short, some of the big shots of the church got people together and voted out the Pastor.  In the middle of doing this, they also did some ungodly things to our Pastor and his family.  The men of the church that I grew up respecting were the ones right in the middle of all this.  This put a nasty taste in my mouth toward the church and only made the doubts I had greater.  For the first time in my life, I did not like church.  I remember telling God that if this was what church was about I wanted no part of it anymore.  I meant that.  I asked God if He was real to somehow show me. 

          All this was going on around the time I met Crystal (my future wife).  We talked on the phone a good bit.  All she ever wanted to talk about was God and the church.  The manner in which she spoke showed me that she truly loved the church and the people of God.  It made me very interested in what she had.  She finally talked me into coming one night to Faith Baptist Church in Myrtle, Mississippi, where her father, Bro. Claude Mills, was the Pastor.  The church was having a revival.   I didn’t expect much to be honest.  The same nasty taste of my old church still lingered.  The service started and some things immediately caught me off guard.  I saw people thanking God and weeping for what He had done for them, and it pricked my heart.  The worship of the people blindsided me.  I quickly realized these people were not like me…..at all.  Then Bro Greg Moffitt got up to preach.  He started preaching on the God of hope.  He mentioned how God was not a God to leave you with no hope and that He was the source of our hope.  In the sermon, he got to screaming, “God is real! God is real!”  For the first time in my life, I felt the presence of God in a way that I could not describe.  I thought I was going to pass out.  I am not kidding.  That is how strong God was.  God had made it known to me that He was real. 

          A couple weeks later Bro. Claude sat me down at his kitchen table for a talk.  It was about my relationship with his daughter, Crystal.  I was 20, and she was just 15.  He told me he did would not let me date her for a long time.  He said I could come to church and talk to her on the phone, but dating wasn’t going to be an option for a long while.  I didn’t take that too well.  I thought that since I was 20 years old I should be able to do what I wanted to do.  I left that night with the intentions of never coming back.  Even though I had felt God in that service, I was going to walk away.  I was angry on the way home.  I was even getting angry at God.  I was questioning everything when God pierced my heart and said, “Don’t walk away from this.”  It was so strong I had to pull over.  At the time I did not understand, but now I know it was the wonderful grace of God working in my life to not let me run away from Him.  I decided I would give it a try.  I knew God had dealt with me, and there was a curiosity and wondering in me if there was something more.

          I started going to church with Crystal some, as well as attending the church that split off from my old church.  I continued seeing a lot of praise from the people at Faith, as well as hearing some very powerful preaching.  The presence of God in the services almost scared me away.  I always wondered why I couldn’t thank God like they did or why I wasn’t grateful for what He had done for me. 

          One Sunday night Bro. Claude was preaching out of Genesis 3 on the fall of man.  He talked about Adam and Eve eating the fruit that God told them not to eat.  He dealt with how they covered themselves up, because they were ashamed of what they had done.  Even though God knew, He still asked them, “Where art thou?”  That phrase started ringing in my heart strongly.  I was starting to see myself in that scripture.  Bro. Claude talked about how we try to cover up who we are.  He would hide behind a plant, acting like Adam hiding, while screaming “Where art thou?  Where art thou?”  Those screams tore me up inside.  God’s word and His Spirit started revealing to me who I was.  I had spent years of my life covering up who I was by my religious acts and good deeds.  I thought I was covered, but God could see the depths of my heart.  Yet, God still asked me “Where art thou?”  I was revealed for who I was - a lost man.  My cover was blown.  From that point, there was no denying that I was not saved.  I was scared to death, but somehow relieved.  I finally understood why all those nights I went to bed doubting.  It was because I had nothing but my works. 

The next few months God really raked me over the coals about who I was and how prideful I was. All the religious acts I had performed were all done in pride to make me look better than I was.  Bro. Claude started preaching through Romans. He preached about being a slave to sin. I never thought of myself like that until God revealed it to me. Not only was I a slave to sin, but I loved it. I lived for it.  It was my master, and it had complete control of my body and soul. It was not in just what I had done.   It was who I was.  I had never heard such hard things preached to me, and God had never talked to me so specifically before as to who I was.  It was the hardest thing I had ever gone through.  I spent days and nights with the constant reminder of who I was. There were no props for me anymore. God persuaded me of who I was.

From this point I had no hope that a Holy God would save me. I was too busy seeing myself and not God’s grace. Bro. Claude preached one morning out of Luke on loosening the colt.   He talked about God waiting for the right time to loosen the colt to be used. When they asked the Lord why he wanted the colt, He told them, “The Lord hath need of him.”   Through that God told me he wanted me.  I couldn’t wrap my mind around why God would want someone who was a slave to sin.  I couldn’t argue with what He said either. He wanted me.  I finally had some hope.

Bro. Claude continued preaching through Romans. I was reminded again how I was enslaved to sin. The hope I had somewhat diminished.  I knew who I was, and I would never merit salvation.  It was like the harder I tried, the farther I was from being saved.  I felt like I was chained down by sin and couldn’t break loose. The more I tried on my own, the tighter the chains got. What I saw as an impossible situation was just God getting me to the end of myself. He wanted me to see how I could not do it on my own.  How, no matter how hard I tried, I was still shackled.  I couldn’t move.  I had no strength to make the effort anymore.  Then Bro Claude started preaching on being free from sin.  He wasn’t dealing with who I was, but who Christ was. I had spent all this time shackled by chains, because I only saw me.  I wasn’t seeing my substitute.  I was not seeing my sacrifice.  He spent the next few sermons preaching on Christ, and how we receive Him not by our merits but by His.   God was just revealing to me over and over why I was chained.  He kept on mentioning being free.  The thought rung strongly in me, but I just didn’t believe it.  I didn’t believe it, but I couldn’t forget it either.  The thought of “Could I possibly be free?” went over and over in my head.

The next Sunday he started preaching the same thing: Free from sin.  Free from sin were the words, But I still felt like I hadn’t done enough. I realized that a slave is a slave until someone greater than him grants him freedom.  The slave had no control over it. God was talking and working in me.

I went to my parents’ church that night. To be honest, I didn’t expect anything to happen.  As the songs were sung, I felt the weight of my chains dragging me down again.  I felt like I was at the Mercy of God and, if he didn’t do something, I would die.  In the midst of all this, God reminded me of all that He had been saying to me about being free.  Out of nowhere I heard this sweet voice saying “You are free!”  Three simple words changed my life forever!  I believed God when He told me I was free.   All of the sudden I didn’t feel the chains anymore.   All I felt was liberty.  I was no longer worried if I had done enough.   I finally believed Christ for who He was.  I rested in His sacrifice.  All I could do was fall down and weep.  My heart was overwhelmed by the liberty I finally had.  I no longer had to try to prove myself.  Christ proved Himself for me. Sin was no longer my master.   I was blown away by how such an Almighty God could simplify His salvation for me.  God had made me free.  I was saved.  I had no more chains.  Thank you God!!!

    Sheila Culver

           

           

AMAZING GRACE

Personal Testimony of Sheila (Gibson) Culver

I was raised up in church all my life.  I went to Calvary Baptist Church in Arkansas where Bro. Charles Shipman was Pastor.  I considered myself a good kid, because I was always in church.  My parents made sure we were in church.  We were taught right from wrong. 

          I guess I was about 14 years old when God first started dealing with me.  I thought at that time God had saved me.  I did not realize that He hadn’t until I was older.  When I turned 18, my life fell apart.  In my mind I was grown, and no one was going to tell me what to do.  I didn’t like rules, so I moved out of my parents’ home.  I thought once I was on my own things would be better.  I thought I was missing out on a lot of things of the world, and  I made some bad decisions. 

At the time I thought I was having fun and not thinking about the consequences of my sin. I messed up and jumped into a marriage, got pregnant, and then left shortly after.  I went back home, because I wanted to go through the pregnancy with my Mom.  I started going back to church at Calvary.  I felt that I was where I was supposed to be. Then in February of 1998, I thought I got saved again, and it was great for a while. 

My daughter, Abbie, was born in April, and I was determined to raise her in church and around the things of God.  Things were going good for awhile and then I went back to my old ways and wanted to do my own thing again.  I started doing things a saved person wasn’t suppose to do.  I would go to bars and drink thinking things were good.  That’s when I met James (my husband now).   I continued to live a life of sin.  We went out for a while and then decided we would live together instead of getting married.  I was afraid of marriage, having already had one that failed, plus he was a lot older than me.  I wanted to make sure that it would work between us before I took such a serious step as marriage.   I knew I was doing wrong, but I didn’t care.  I was thinking only of myself.  I was trying to make myself happy. 

I remember going to Bro. Claude Mills’ church a few times, but I couldn’t make myself keep going.  I knew I was lost.  I knew if I didn’t do something, I was going to hell, but that still didn’t make me want to go.

James and I had a lot of problems, so I moved back to Arkansas instead of dealing with my problems.  I decided we were not living together anymore.  We were either going to get married or we were through.  I was tired of living like that, and I wanted to make it right.  We got married in 2001, and I moved back to Mississippi.  We still had the same problems - nothing changed. I moved back to Arkansas in 2003, because I thought I couldn’t take anymore. 

During that time, my Mom found out she had cancer.  That was devastating news!  Nine months later, she was gone, and I didn’t know what to do.  Things were so hard; my life was crazy.   My Mom always knew how to pick up the pieces and make me feel better, and now she was gone.  I was so upset.  I hated and blamed God for taking her.  I couldn’t understand why he would do that to me.  I needed her and I felt so alone.  I couldn’t get along with anybody.  I was just miserable. 

I decided I needed to get away from Arkansas, so I went back to James.  I couldn’t live in Arkansas anymore.  I was determined I was going to make my marriage work.  I loved him, and our marriage had to be fixed.  I was tired of running.  Things were going good, but I was still in a lot of pain, and I still blamed God.  I knew I needed to be in church, but I didn’t want anything from God.  I had a lot of issues.  I also knew if I started going to church I would have to change my life and I didn’t want to.  I would try going to churches around my house, but I got nothing.  I knew where I was supposed to be, but I kept using the excuse that James wouldn’t go so I wasn’t going either. 

Around August or September of 2008, out of the blue James suggested we go to Bro. Claude’s church.  I agreed I would go with him.  This time when we went I looked at things differently.  I saw what God was doing among that group of people.  Tia and Jeremy Hall were expecting little Abbey Grace. In the womb, she had serious medical problems diagnosed and it was uncertain if she would even make it to term.  I needed to stay and see God’s work accomplished in her.   I knew then I had to quit blaming God for taking my Mom.  I had to quit hating Him and realize He didn’t take her to hurt me.  He was doing a miracle right in front of me with Abbey Grace. 

We started going regularly. The more I saw the more I wanted.  I was hoping it was not too late.  He used the miracle of Abbey Grace to keep me coming.  She was born absolutely perfect.  I started doing whatever it took to get saved.  I couldn’t understand why it was so hard.  I went and talked to Bro. Claude, and he kept telling me I was trying to save myself.  He said I needed to just do what God wants me to do like being the wife and mother I’m supposed to be and leave the rest up to God.  I started doing that.  Then Bro. Claude said “I” was what was standing in the way.  I didn’t want to give myself up to God, and I loved myself more than God.  I thought he was crazy. 

On December 28, 2008, Bro. Claude was preaching on the gifts that God gives us.  That night he brought beautifully wrapped gifts for each one of the lost to open up.  Each gift contained a special verse from the Bible.  As each box was opened and the verse read, God would stir my heart.  The one that I opened is the one that really got to me.  It said, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God...” (Eph. 2:8).   When I read that verse, I knew God gave me that one for a reason. 

When I got home, I put the verse on the table next to my bed so I could see it.  I kept looking at it and started thinking “all this time I’ve been trying to save myself.”  I couldn’t go to sleep, so I went to the bath tub.  That is where I go to  relax.  Well, God was there.  God showed me the real reason of why He came on this earth, and why He died on the cross.  It was so weird, because I had never seen it like that before.  I knew the story in my head, but when I saw it through my heart, it was like I was actually there.  I started crying and praying.  Then God started showing me myself, and I couldn’t believe that was me.  Everything Bro. Claude had told me, God was showing me, too.  I was so ashamed and embarrassed.  I couldn’t understand why God would love somebody like me.  I told God if He wanted me, He could have me, but I didn’t know why He would.  I told God there was nothing I could do; He had to do the rest.  I shut up and didn’t do anything.  The next thing I knew the words, “Amazing Grace how sweet the sound, I once was lost but now I’m found” came across my heart.  All I could do was sit there.  I didn’t know really what happened.   I was thinking surely it wasn’t this easy.  All I had to do was “nothing.”  

It was around 12 o’clock at night, but I had to talk to Bro. Claude.  I called him and woke him up.  He was half asleep, but he said it sounded good and we would just have to sit back and see what happens.  I wanted him to say more than that. 

I couldn’t go to sleep.  I wanted to run around the house shouting, but everybody else was in bed asleep.  I kept thinking this is too good to be true, and it was so easy.  All I had to do was shut up and listen.  I had decided I wasn’t going to tell anybody just in case it didn’t really happen.  Wednesday night I asked Bro. Claude if we could sing, “Amazing Grace.”  He had Tia sing, “Amazing Grace, My Chains are Gone.”  I never heard that song before, and it really stirred me up.  I almost exploded, but I still wasn’t ready for anyone else to know.  I was afraid things would change if I said it out loud. 

Sunday came and Bro. Claude had everybody tell what they had gotten out of church that year.  I had memorized what I was going to say.  I was not going to say anything about getting saved.  When it came to my turn, God took over and I told everyone everything.  I was shocked and excited.  I realized there was a big difference in what happened to me this time than what had happened in the past. I went by feeling before, and this time it was all about Christ and what He did for me.  I had always imagined getting saved at church not in a bath tub.  Everything that happened was nothing like I had imagined it would be.    I know God knew that’s the way it had to be for me. 

Now that I’ve been saved, I can sit back and look at all the changes in my life.  The drinking and partying are gone.  I don’t even think about doing them anymore.  I stopped smoking.  I don’t hang around the people I used to anymore.  God has changed my life in so many ways.  God has been showing me a lot of things.  He has brought a lot of preachers in my life through the years to get me to the place where I am today.  He constantly reminds me where He brought me from, and I am so thankful that He never gave up on me.  He has given me a wonderful church and wonderful friends that I love very much.  I am so excited to see what else God has planned for my life.