Members Share Stories of Their Calling
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In response to requests in previous issues, members share the inspiring stories of their callings and baptisms.
"God Began to Open My Eyes"
On a cool fall evening a little over two years ago, I picked up my Bible, curled up on the couch and began reading. This was unusual for me, however I was about to embark on a remarkable experience. As I read, God began to open my eyes. When I arrived at Exodus 20:8, for the first time I saw that it is clearly the Sabbath day we are to remember and to keep holy. Being confronted with the realization that I had been mistaken on this point, I decided to find out all I could about the Sabbath.
My previous teachings were only fragments of truth. I began to pray that God would teach me His truth, knowing that in His Word were the answers I needed.
As time passed, it was no longer good enough to hear about God. I desired to know God, who He is, what His character is like and what He expects from me. I spoke with some friends, and what they told me I couldn't find in the Bible. The Bible says "prove all things," so that is what I set out to do.
My next step was to find a church that kept the Sabbath. To my surprise I found a local SDA church, but after a time I realized the Bible wasn't their only source of information. The search continued.
God's hand was guiding me the whole time. In our local supermarket a card titled "Revelation Unveiled" was on display. Having an interest in prophecy, I sent for the booklet. Upon receiving it, I was fascinated by what I read and wanted to learn more about the church that was distributing this booklet.
Within a short time I contacted the pastor of the closest congregation, Steve Shafer, and he and his wife came to visit.
They were both very helpful in answering all the questions I had. After reading every book I could get my hands on, taking the Bible Study Course and hearing many great sermons, I knew baptism was my next step. I am happy to report my husband and I were both baptized on Dec. 23, 2006. That night was like nothing I had ever experienced. I was saturated in the love of God, peace and joy. Now I know I am on the path of God.
"God Had Outfoxed Me"
I was confirmed in the Catholic Church. My father was an agnostic and my mother was a nonpracticing Catholic. Up to the age of 21 I probably attended church less than a dozen times. I was antichurch most of the time, even though I believed that God and angels existed.
At age 21 I was working in a small country town where the only activities on Saturday night were fishing and going to the movies. It was here that I was invited through a friend to attend a meeting conducted by a church that believes that every day is a Sabbath day. At the same time my brother was involved with a church that believed that the seventh day was the Sabbath day.
As I had time to spare, I decided to buy a Bible and prove to myself who was teaching the truth according to the Scriptures. I had no idea what I would do with the knowledge once I had discovered it.
In the process of study I proved God existed and that the Bible was His inspired revelation to mankind. After six months of study, I came face to face with the Sabbath question—to keep it or not to keep it. I was reminded of God's instruction that I was to choose between good and evil, life and death. By this time I knew too much. God had outfoxed me.
After four months of more study, I came to the point where there was no turning back. It was time to count the cost. If I wanted all that God was promising me, it would have to be total surrender. After 11 months of studying the Bible, I was baptized.
I could see the only solution to man's woes was for God to intervene in world affairs. To be part of the solution that God was offering me was too good to be refused. And I have never lost sight of those precious promises.
To be baptized was the best decision I have ever made in my life. I thank God for being smarter than me.
"Something Was Missing"
My husband and I were baptized together in November of 2003. My husband, Jason, was born and raised in Worldwide, then later United. I, however, was raised in a small Christian church in northwestern Kansas. The set of beliefs I had then were 180 degrees different from now. I always felt like something was missing.
My minister at that time was either unable or unwilling to answer questions I had, and it always felt as though God should be "bigger" than they were preaching. They had no answers for me when I asked about the origins of Christmas or what Revelation teaches or countless other mysteries. These topics were taboo to ask about and were often times ignored.
When I met Jason, I found myself intrigued by his beliefs. Here was a walking, talking person with little contradiction in his personal and church life (seldom the case with those in my church).
UCG's minister, Mr. Clark, was able to sit down and answer from the Bible the most pressing questions I had carried my entire life. But most surprising to me was the fact that none of my questions were dismissed or belittled. Jason's sister was also instrumental in helping me along the path to baptism. She was able to draw on her own experiences and knowledge of the Bible to answer other questions. For the first time in my life, things made sense.
It was a "light bulb" moment, when I went to my first Holy Day service in Wichita. It all came together and clicked. Since that time Jason and I have been through many trials, but I find it easier to lean on God, because I was able to have all those questions answered, and He was made "real" to me. He is not just some vague deity I am told to blindly worship. I am now able to better understand His guidelines and what He expects of me. My calling to be baptized was scary, and the decision was the biggest of my life.
I still have family members who do not understand my choice to join "Jason's Church," but they have also said they see a more positive person. It is no secret to those around me who I am, and what I believe. I am so blessed I was chosen to be baptized and am grateful to have been called into God's great plan for mankind.
Des Moines, Iowa, congregation
"I Turned My Back on God"
My parents were members of the Worldwide Church of God. My mother heard a radio broadcast by Mr. Armstrong back in 1963—could have been '62—and realized it was the truth. She was baptized, joined the Church and went to her first Feast of Tabernacles at Jekyll Island. My father joined soon after (much to the disappointment of my parents' families—being of Polish and Italian heritage, they were staunch Catholics).
So, that is my background. I enjoyed the Feasts, kept all the Holy Days, studied, prayed and truly thought I knew God's way. I was 23 when I turned my back on God and developed an "it's my life" mentality. I wanted to do what I wanted to do. No more of this Sabbath stuff and Holy Days (what's so bad about pork anyway?). I wanted to enjoy life and do things that others did. They looked like they were having fun—I wanted to join in.
For nearly 10 years I was neck deep in the world, "enjoying" everything it had to offer. I was having fun, but the consequences came along with it. God's law is in effect whether you believe in it or not.
Enter my future wife, Brigitte. I walked into a Starbucks and found love. We started dating, fell madly in love, married and got on with life. My wife was born and raised in a mainstream Christian home, but always had questions about her religion, i.e., why is church on a Sunday when the Bible says to keep the Sabbath, why do we have Christmas when Jesus wasn't born on Dec. 25, etc.
We started talking about attending a church. Well, to be honest, she started talking about us attending a church. We went to a couple of churches she picked that met on Sundays, but nothing was real for me because down deep I knew the truth.
On a fluke one day (or could it have been God calling?) I mentioned to Brigitte that we should find a church that met on the Sabbath and kept things according to the Bible. Well, by researching the Internet, she found that church. It was the United Church of God. They had services 20 minutes away. Talk about God working!
That was in the spring of 2005. We were baptized together in September 2006 on the banks of the beautiful and historic James River, in Jamestown, Virginia, by Todd Carey.
Williamsburg, Virginia, congregation
"My Career Was Greatly Threatened"
Pastor's note: Sabbath observance for people in Zimbabwe is an extremely difficult test. If they happen to lose their jobs, it is most unlikely they will find another job. The unemployment figure is not easy to pin down, but some put it at around 65 percent. The inflation figure is presently 1,700 percent. Miraculously the Eternal continues to provide for our members during these most testing and perplexing time.
—André van Belkum
I consider it a miracle that out of the dazzling myriad of different purported Christian denominations and doctrines, the Eternal Father has led me to His true Church. Even though it had always been clear in my mind that a church cannot save my soul, I knew it would make a big difference in my life.
I was born into a Protestant church, and my father was strict in ensuring that we attended Sunday school. As we grew up, I started visiting other churches, and I started to wonder why we have so many churches with conflicting doctrines and teachings.
At one time I stopped attending any church services because I always found a fault in all the churches in the neighborhood. I later got baptized into a Pentecostal church but eventually moved out because I could not put up with all the noisy sermons and so-called tongues.
I later decided to join a certain Protestant church because I found their church services to be more organized and peaceful.
In 2004 I started requesting UCG literature after I had stumbled on a Good News magazine in a local bookshop. I became convinced about the Sabbath, Holy Days, unclean meats and tithing, and I immediately stopped attending Sunday services. For the next several weeks I attended a local Seventh-day Adventist church because I had the impression that UCG was not yet established in Zimbabwe. I was happy to later get in touch with Mr. Hlazo in Harare.
As I continued to learn God's truths, the question of rebaptism boggled my mind. I received counseling from Mr. Hlazo and Mr. van Belkum (regional pastor) and became more determined to get baptized and seek the will of God.
Meanwhile, I was on my internship program at a local savings bank, and my superiors wanted me to report to work on Saturdays. My career was greatly threatened, but I finally won the war when I requested to be transferred to the head office. My protest against Sabbath work became known by a lot of people around the workplace and eventually my superiors passively allowed me to be off on Saturdays.
I got baptized on Aug. 8, 2006. Even though I know that my life is not yet perfectly free of sin, I am glad that I made the bold decision to try and live according to the will of God. Now my prayer is that the Holy Spirit will help me to bear fruits worthy of the soon-coming Kingdom of God.
"Something Made Me Say Instead, "I Don't Know'"
My wife, Melissa, and I have four children (ages 3 to 10). I attended the Church of Christ for 48 years prior to finding the United Church of God. Melissa and I were married in the Church of Christ. I taught adult Bible classes and Wednesday night services on occasion.
My wife began a daily Bible reading program of her own about 4½ years ago. After reading the Scriptures every day, she asked me one day, "Why is it we do not observe the Fourth Commandment?"
I started to answer with the "same old line" I'd been taught and learned over the years, but instead something made me say instead, "I don't know. Let's study and find out."
That study took 3½ years. Inquiries to the old church went without a response.
We went on a search to find a group of Christians that followed God's will as we were reading in the Bible. We found the Macon congregation in July 2006 and decided to completely recommit our lives to God's will in service to Him and His Son Jesus Christ and to set the example for our children.
As Melissa says, "We want to fully obey God and teach our children to do the same."
Macon, Georgia, congregation
Thanks to all who have sent in a baptism story. We hope to run more of them in a future issue.