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A Personal Testimony About Why The Church Is Important

I have been asked for my personal testimony. I have never given a testimony before, mainly because I do not like to talk about myself or draw attention to myself. I would like to speak about other issues in the Christian life but I pray that this testimony will inspire those of you in church to do more and be more for our Lord.

When I was growing up, I was always in church. For me, my church and Christ were inseparable. I'm sure the people who attend there now, many of whom do not know me, would be surprised to realize how much of Christ they reflect. Those persons who have gone before them reflected Christ to me when I was growing up. More accurately, the people, the adults, the teachers, and the ministers of my church gave me a chance to know Christ. They gave me the opportunity to renew my relationship with Him repeatedly during my life. Those Christian people gave me the opportunity to always come back to Him when I needed Him. They provided a shelter for me...a place to feel secure and safe. The people of my church opened the door between Christ and my heart. When I invited Him in, He filled my life with His love, because they had paved the way.

I grew up in a mainline Baptist church in a mainline Baptist church family. No one at home or at school used evangelical jargon, which may be the reason I tend not to use it now in most of my current messages. My church was the safe center of my formative years. My school was a safe place, but also a place where I felt enormous emotional pain and humiliation. In my mainline life, Jesus was always there. I do not recall a time when I ever questioned whether Christ was alive or dead, there or not there, real or not real, He was just always there in my life.

Maybe it was the fifties, but sin was not something that was a tragic flaw with which I had to deal. My sense of the sin in the world appalls me today. Back then, sin was not so appalling. Sin was just the result of a wrong thing you did and that you were supposed to stop doing. However, I was a kid in the fifties in a small town in Indiana. Things were very different then.

When did Jesus come into my heart? When did I accept Him? If I had to choose between many profound events that have occurred in my Christian walk, the reading of a Billy Graham book may be the moment when I became fully aware of or formally accepted Christ into my life. This full awareness or acceptance of Christ was after I had gone through many pain-filled years. I was struggling to survive emotionally. Pain separates us from God, and for me, the place in my life just prior to my accepting Christ was a very empty place because of the pain. The book was "Peace With God" and I believe I still have it somewhere in all the books and materials that ministers collect.

When I repented, the act of repentance was an act of turning away from the pain I was in and a turning away from trying to fill the emptiness with a lot things other than Christ. Pain blinds us. Pain makes us go in directions ending up being blind alleys and dead end streets. Upon my acceptance of Christ, the in-filling love of the Holy Spirit filled my heart. The love of the Holy Spirit remains with me to this day.

What the people of my church did not know, nor did most people who knew me know, was how I experienced terrible distress, humiliation, and shame as a youngster. I was born with a facial deformity. Although I had over twenty-five surgeries to attempt to correct the condition, emotional scars remained on my heart until I was an adult.

When I was twenty years old, or in 1964, I received a telephone call from a graduate student at Indiana State University who wanted to interview me. He informed me that my name was given to him by my plastic surgeon and the interview would be very helpful in his research. I agreed to meet with him. Although I do not remember all the questions he asked of me, I do remember why he was doing the research. He informed me persons born with a facial deformity in the 1940's usually wound up in institutions. People with facial deformities did not live out in the community. He wanted to find out from me what there was about me, or about my life, that caused me to be able to live on the outside. I do not recall the answers I gave to his questions. However, I have an answer for him today. It was my church. My church enabled me to "live on the outside".

Of all the positive influences in my life, the church was the shelter. The church gave me a chance to find out how much God loved me and cared for me. Most of the people in the church when I was a youngster have gone home to be with the Lord. Unless I send this to the current members, they will never know about the wonderful legacy of Christ entrusted to them by the members who have gone home. They will never know what the church did for me and what they (and every other Christian) can do for others. Perhaps this is why the Lord is leading me to write this message even when I would rather not write it.

It was not until 1987 I realized how much pain and humiliation I had endured as a child. In that year, I went back to a high school reunion. Attending the reunion caused me traumatic flashbacks and it took me weeks to recover from the trauma. A year later I was in the gymnasium of my high school (where I had not been for 26 years) setting up a display for my wife. There must have been something about the lighting or colors because I went into the flashback mode again. What cringing humiliation I experienced growing up!

Although I was living in a trauma most of my growing up years, I somehow adjusted to the trauma because of my church. I now treasure so many sweet memories of my growing up years. The experience of the trauma has been sealed over by Christ and His love for me. I treasure the schoolmates and friends I had. I treasure the young people my age I went to school with. I treasure the Sunday School teachers, the schoolteachers, and the adults of my little town. I treasure my family members who lived with fear that I would not make it in the world. Praise God you were all who you were. And for all the people who have gone to be with the Lord, take care of them Jesus, for I want to see them again at your big party upon my arrival.

The fondest memories of my youth were of the church. The church was such a free place. It was full of security and I did not feel ashamed or feel humiliation there. We had all these dinners, and programs, and events. Of course, business in the church picked up around Christmas. Life was a wonderful whirlwind around Christmas. Back then, Christmas was not about presents, it was about the birth of Jesus.

What the church people did not know was how important they were. What the church did not know is when I was just a boy they were paving the way for Christ to come into my life. What they did not know is they were healing me as I was hurting. In addition, they were giving me substance to fill my life in my later years. I hope they (and every other church member on the face of the earth) never doubt their mission, especially with young people. They planted seeds in my life and the seeds are still sprouting and growing. I would not be in the ministry today if they had not sown those wonderful seeds when I was a youngster. I would not be reaching over a million people for Christ in this Internet ministry if it had not been for them.

When I was in high school, I began to have attacks or seizures of fatigue or sleepiness. As I grew older, these seizures grew worse and more disabling. Although I have been severely disabled due to this seizure condition for many years, God is good. He is wonderful and He has been wonderful to me and my wife and son. Praise His name. Only God could enable a person with so many limitations who He called to the ministry to reach over a million persons for Christ. The substance of Christ given to me by my church still produces fruit for His work.

Thank you Lord Jesus. Thank you Waldron Baptist Church.

In Christ's Love And Grace,

Patrick Kelly

My Internet ministry address is:




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Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (RSV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Copyright © 1952 [2nd edition, 1971] by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Shepherd's Care Ministries author and webmaster, Rev. Patrick Kelly, is affiliated through ministerial ordination with Church of God Ministries, Anderson IN 46018