Marti's Personal Testimony
Usually when I begin speaking, folks say, “You aren't from California, are you?” and usually guess that I might be from Texas. Well, in fact, I'm from Virginia. Yes, I'm a Southern gal and I don't think that will change. Born to parents who were 15–30 years older than my friends' parents, I was faithfully taken to church where I loved getting new links on my Sunday school attendance pin. As treasurer of my 3rd-grade class, I enjoyed collecting the offering and keeping it in one of my dad's old cigar boxes.
But my dad’s cigar smoking bothered my lungs so much that at age 5, I became extremely ill with multiple allergies. My mother thought I might die. I had to eat hard rye biscuits, drink goat’s milk, and have my room stripped of everything except a plastic-encased mattress. Worst of all, my father refused to give up his cigars and I had to wear a triangular foam mask to filter out the smoke.
Needless to say, I didn't feel Dad's love and often left my banana peels purposely draped over his arm chair to let him know I was angry.
One summer, when I went to church camp, a vesper speaker shared some important things. The familiar verse, John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only son, that whosoever believeth should not perish but have everlasting life” took on new light as I pondered its meaning. At age 12, I thought the world was somewhere over in Europe but now I realized that I really was part of the world. Jesus loved me and died for me.
Yes! I wanted that love. I prayed a prayer something like this: “Jesus. Thank you for dying for me. I want to know you, so please come into my heart. I need your love. Amen.” When done, I felt as if Jesus was now my very own and I liked knowing Him.
However, the following year, life took a dramatically painful turn. Early one morning, I heard lots of voices downstairs and within a few minutes, Mom came into my room to tell me that Daddy had just died. Eight months later, Mom died of cancer in our local hospital, and I was sent to live with my stepsister who was 33 years older than me. She was verbally abusive so I tried to run away from home. Sometimes in the evening, when she'd gone to bed, I snuck downstairs to mix myself an alcoholic drink — a screwdriver — attempting to feel better. I was just 13 and my world had fallen apart.
I cried out to Jesus for help. Fortunately, He answered my call. Missionary relatives had invited me to Colombia, South America, for the summer. There, I'd heard enthusiastic testimonies from the lips of changed Colombians. And I drank in the love I'd been feeling while visiting college students. Jesus was more real than ever before. I wanted to read His word and learn all I could. Some of my friends, however, thought I had become too religious.
The next summer, other relatives treated me to several months in Hawaii in exchange for me, childsitting four small children. I decided to leave Jesus on the East coast and try life from a different angle. In my “off” time, I learned to surf, got tanned and skinny, and hung out at the Pearl Harbor Officers’ Club. Jesus never left me and He often tugged gently at my heart, reminding me that He was there.
The last few weeks before I began college, a question kept pressing on me, “Which way are you going, Marti, now and for the rest of your life?” I'd seen what it was like to live for Jesus and I'd felt the pain of walking away from Him. Now He confronted me to make a choice.
I decided to follow Jesus. Amazingly, He gave me the power to do this. Although I've experienced many dark times of depression, He's carried me through those valleys. When I wanted to run away, He reminded me that He'd never leave me nor forsake me. Having made that life-changing decision, my desire to know and experience Him has grown tremendously; I've served Him faithfully during the last 42 years through Cru.
He's given me a great husband and children who walk reliably with Him. I've often revisited a tender moment from my childhood when I'd nursed back to health a little sparrow for a few weeks. I then put it in one of my dad’s old cigar boxes, took it out to our garden, and watched it fly away. Although at times the enemy attempted to hold me in bondage by bruising me emotionally, God reminds me regularly that His truth has indeed set me free and, in Him, I am whole.
Sincerely and thankfully,