There is great joy in sharing our personal story of redemption with those who God puts in our path. We are giving God glory when we share how He transformed our lives. Our story of redemption presents a grand opportunity to encourage others and to point them to Jesus. Today’s blog is a bit longer because I have shared a beautiful testimony of my new friend, Kirk. I thought God had brought along a graphic designer to help me with my blog, but God introduced me to Kirk for another purpose... Maybe the blog later..
Kirk and I at the FCCI Conference
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor, he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and the opening of the prison to those who are bound.. to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit, the planting of the Lord, may be glorified.” Isaiah 61:1;3
This past week, Mike and I went to the Fellowship of Companies fro Christ International (“FCCI”) conference in Sarasota, Florida. While there, we attended a workshop, Express Your Faith, lead by a Perimeter Church staff member. (As members of Perimeter Church, it was neat seeing how Perimeter is working alongside FCCI, a marketplace ministry that Mike’s dad helped found over 30 years ago.)
After the Express Your Faith workshop, we meet three young men who also attended. While talking and getting to know them, I connected with Kirk, a graphic designer. I shared that I write a blog and had a few questions concerning my blog. Kirk was willing to meet me and walk me through my questions. Little did I know, meeting Kirk was a Divine appointment and God used my asking Kirk for advice as a means for Kirk and I to share our stories with one another. (Looking back, it was kind of neat that right after the Express your Faith workshop we had the opportunity to share our stories with one another..)
Kirk and I met a couple of times in an attempt to work on my blog. However, because the internet was very slow and my computer died, we instead took the opportunity to share our testimonies with one another.
“The heart of man plans his way but the Lord establishes our steps.”
After sharing general conversation, the Lord led me to ask Kirk, “Would you mind sharing your story?” I felt the Spirit of God all over this conversation. I was tuned in, on the edge of my chair as Kirk shared his journey. He is an overcomer with Christ. His story reminds me of Paul’s journey. Christ is the pursuer; Christ truly never gave up on Kirk and opened his eyes and heart like Paul on the road to Damascus. Kirk has allowed me to share his story so others would read and be encouraged.. I am honored to share his story with you; I will continue to pray for Kirk and be his friend forever.
God began working behind the scenes from a very early stage in my life. Fortunately, I have grown up in a very large Christian family that has over the years become an extremely strong support system.
God may have been working on me from the beginning, but it took me many years to come to faith in Him. Born nearly three months premature, I faced many challenges from the outset—all of which God has used in a miraculous way to strengthen my faith and be a better servant for His Kingdom. Two days after my birth, I was fitted for a shunt to help drain fluid from my brain. Three months after my shunt was placed my parents were given the news that I may never walk or talk—doctors had determined I had a mild form of cerebral palsy. Over the years, I attacked physical therapy sessions with a fierce determination so that I would be “normal” like my triplet brother; but more importantly that I would not appear different to the outside world.
However, God was just beginning to shape me into the type of person that he would use for the purpose He intended. Shortly before starting kindergarten, I would undergo my first in a series of surgeries for a variety of health-related issues. Over the course of the next eighteen months, I endured 17 surgeries—most in the hopes of saving the limited vision in my right eye. Instead, I had to learn how to cope with a critical loss of vision—most notably a loss of depth perception. Throughout my early childhood, I had quite a fondness for cars—the faster the better! Ultimately, God has used my inability to drive, to show me that I gain far greater riches when I trust in Him.
God continued to work quietly and wait patiently for the next 12 years before He presented me with another opportunity to come running into His warm embrace. Unfortunately, I did the exact opposite—running to a place I thought He could never find me—Islam. Two weeks before I was set to start my freshman year of college, I began experiencing extremely painful, severe “pressure” headaches--which caused double vision. Being new to the area, I had not had a chance to get acquainted with a new set of doctors. Without my medical records, doctors were hesitant to preform any medical procedures. Eight weeks passed with the medical establishment assuring me that I was experiencing nothing more than stress headaches brought about by my new surroundings. “One foot in front of the other” became my daily mantra for dealing with the incessant, unrelenting pain. An overwhelming feeling of numbness, both physically and mentally clouded my daily activities. Settling into a daily routine of numbness, I slogged through my school studies until that numbness triggered a series of mini strokes. Following my first stroke, doctors finally performed a much-needed revision of my shunt. Those headaches were not stressed induced after all.
Over the course of the next year and a half, I experience another mini stroke and two more shunt related surgeries. With the surgeries in my rearview mirror, my academic achievements were soaring; but my spiritual and mental states were hurtling upon a railroad toward a destructive collision course. Intense anger toward God had built up inside of me due to what I had perceived as unfair circumstances. “Please God give me a six week reprieve from weekly doctor visits,” I pleaded. To my way of thinking, if God had forsaken me I would do the same to Him. Up to that point my faith had remained untested during my first 20 years. Looking to rationalize the anger I was feeling toward the world, I turned to a passionate study of world religions. Certain principles of Buddhism and Confucius appealed to me, before eventually settling on Islam. Voraciously reading and studying the Quran with a former high school classmate, I developed a very radicalized way of thinking that seemed to satisfy my anger toward the world. My former Quran study partner and various Islamic religious leaders preyed effectively upon my inner anger to eventually lead me toward a strong desire for Jihad. Fortunately, God had not decided I wasn’t worth the fight. Slowly over the course of a two-year period, God used a female friend and her sister to direct me back to a path toward Him. The two sisters were a perfect example of God using people to pursue the lost sheep of His Kingdom. During college, I had built up a strong reticence toward God and was heavily guarded against others who spoke about the goodness of God. Growing up in a strong Christian household, I knew how to keep up outward appearances, but inwardly I was seething. Despite my aversion toward Christianity, it was evident the two sisters reflected God in their lives. The younger sister was waging her own battles against the cystic fibrosis that ravaged her body, yet each day she lived she focused on pursuing another for His Kingdom. She often repeated that she knew her years would be short, but that God’s work would not be completed in her until she had completed her impact on me. Each daily conversation we had ended with the two sisters departing by reiterating a common phrase, “God loves you more than we do, and we love you bunches.”
Looking out toward a large lake on campus in early October of my senior year, I was in deep conversation with the two sisters, when I asked them to explain how God could love someone who wished for destruction upon the all the “infidels” of the world. Patiently, they explained that compared to the holiness that is God we are all infidels. Listening intently as they spoke using the story of the apostle Paul’s redemption, I for the first time understood that God doesn’t see us as broken, and battered beyond love thanks to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross.
Since that day nearly six years ago, God has stirred within me a strong desire to share my experiences with others by giving me opportunities to recount my story through volunteering in many pediatric hospitals and other avenues that I can only say are orchestrated by God. Most of my life, I lived like Moses fearing that I wasn’t eloquent enough to share his message, but recently He has emboldened me to be a strong advocate for His kingdom. I will boast in nothing, but Christ’s love on the cross!
The Spirit of the Lord is upon Kirk, sharing with joy his story!!!
The good news of Jesus…
To Proclaim liberty to the the captives..
Comforts all who mourn..
Gives others a beautiful headdress instead of ashes..
The oil of gladness instead of mourning..
The garment of praise instead of a faint spirit that they may be called oaks of righteousness
The planting of the Lord that He may be glorified..