"I hardly remember my life before Christ. I was saved at age 12! I was raised in a close family with very loving parents, 3 younger sisters, and a grandmother who prayed for all of us daily. She held backyard Bible school for us and our cousins when we were little. So I've known about Jesus since I was very young. But at age 12, I attended a youth retreat in Kentucky with our church youth group. It was there that I learned what a "personal relationship" meant. I remember slipping away from the crowd to talk to my Pastor at the time, letting him know that I wanted a life with Jesus. I was baptized shortly after that and began serving in my church youth group. I don't have a traumatic testimony with drugs, alcohol, abuse, wayward living, etc. And I truly believe it's because of God's grace that I don't. I used to think that I couldn't witness to anyone because I didn't have a "testimony" worth sharing. But my whole life has been filled with God leading me to places where He opened doors for me to share my faith. I've been blessed to work an atmosphere where I can share my faith, and do that freely. As a nurse, God has allowed me to pray with patients and co-workers, and now with medical students. I've come to love daily texts, emails, and personal visits in my office or lab from co-workers and students needing encouragement and that often ends in prayer. I truly believe God has me right where He wants me and I'm so honored to serve Him there."
"I knew Jesus loved me as a young toddler, sitting at the feet of wonderful Sunday School teachers telling me so with scripture, songs, and those beautiful pictures of Jesus with children at his feet. At the age of ten I asked Jesus to be my savior and became a baptized believer, at First Baptist Church, in Kirksville, in 1968. Yes, I grew up knowing Jesus loved me, and I loved Him; blessed with a church family and a mother making sure I grew in knowledge of His love and Word. The world also played a huge impact on my growing up and it wasn’t a Christian impact either. I tried to merge the way of the secular world and my Christian walk for many years and the sinful choices didn’t work well with God’s plan, so I stopped attending church. Maybe I should say I ran away from the conviction. The consequences from choices I made were not as enticing as the sin from which they came. I began to fear the consequences of these choices enough to start praying about it. The stir within began. It took several years to arrive back on the narrow path and to walk in the full light with Jesus again. You see, He never left me, I never denied knowing Him; I just didn’t follow Him. I tried to do it my way, and that didn’t work. With brokenness, I returned to church, starting to attend on Sunday mornings again. I was welcomed back into the arms of those same people who loved me as a child and teenager. Who embraced me and began to mentor me. I learned to not only know, but to love and follow the Bible with a hunger and to serve with a joy for His glory. “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:24-25. Don’t let fear and pride of your actions and heart keep you away from walking with Jesus. Come to Jesus."
"I was blessed to be raised in a Christian family. We attended Church every Sunday morning and evening. I grew up believing in God, Heaven, and Hell. We'd watch Billy Graham on TV. I really enjoyed listening to him and the worship music also. Our Church had all sorts of youth activities. I sang in the choir from 3rd grade through high school. As a teenager, I went to Old Mexico and Colorado to teach Bible School. When I was 11 years old, I accepted Christ as my personal Savior. I felt like a different person! I was baptized on April 14, 1957. It wa on an Easter Sunday, my mom's birthday! I left home and moved to Iowa a year after high school. I met my future husband David. He was a Christian. We attended church but only sometimes. When David passed away with cancer in 2002, I came to finish Baptist. I wanted to get back to walking and talking with God. I am so very grateful for God's patience with me for all of those years. I am grateful that I found God. I am grateful that I found First Bapist and my church family."
"I grew up in church, it has always been a part of my life. When I was around ten years old I realized that it took more than just going to church, I needed a personal relationship with Jesus. I asked Jesus into my heart and was baptized. Then I became a teenager and although I always claimed to be a christian my relationship wasn't what it should be. I've made that walk to the alter more than once recommitting my life. I was married and had my first child. I was very involved with church; teaching children's church and leadership in the women's group. At a weekend women's retreat, God really started speaking to me about the resentment I had toward one of the pastor's wives in our women's group. That resentment was hurting me not her. I knew that to have the relationship with God that I wanted and needed, I needed to apologize to her for the way I felt about her and forgive her for what she had done, even though she had no idea! I went to the alter and asked God for forgiveness and for strength to do what he was asking me to do. I told God I didn't even know where she was sitting in the large group of women, how was I going to find her? When I stood up and turned around the first person I saw was that woman! I've realized that when God asks me to do something, it doesn't matter if I feel that it's important or not. It's all about obedience, and God requires it! I can call myself a christian and work in church but to have the relationship with God that he desires for me to have I must be obedient to whatever he asks. I wish I could say it's the only time that God has needed to correct me but that would be a lie! I'm thankful for that correction because as long as he's correcting me I know that he still loves me and he hasn't given up on me!"
"I grew up in a Christian home of 6. Every week my parents would take me to church and I'd hear the Bible study lessons as well as sing the songs with our church. For the first 8 years of my life, I went with that flow of going to church and going home and then, at the age of 8, I recognized a part of the future that God and I wanted for my life. I decided to follow Him and invited Him into my heart as the Lord of my future. This meant that my sins, regardless of number, were forgiven and the price for my wrongdoing was paid upon the cross by Jesus Christ, the Son of God. From then on I have been able to find rest and peace in the fact that I know my future and eternity are secured in Christ. Life hasn't been without its hills and valleys, and I only learn more each day about just how much my relationship with Christ is growing and in need of continued growth. I've sinned more times than I could count and done more foolish things then I'd like to remember. But God in His all-saving, almighty, and all-forgiving grace has forgiven me for all time and I stand now as a testament to His faithfulness. He has provided me with instruction, wisdom, and above all love from my life and family. He's blessed me beyond compare with all I could ever need and a family that supports me. I can't imagine having tried to live my life to this point without Him. He has called me into the ministry to serve Him and His people in love and guidance. And I pray daily that He would continue to guide me down the path in life that he desires for me. I'm now 23 years old (in 2021) and I have learned a great deal about God in many ways. But if I were to give a summary of the knowledge I've attained up until this point on how one should live, I would say, 'Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all of your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.' - Matthew 22: 37-40"
"As a preacher’s kid, I grew up hearing and learning about Jesus and salvation. In my teenage years I knew I was a sinner and needed a Savior. After hearing a gospel presentation with clear focus on the eternity of hell, I prayed for God to save me. I didn’t want to go to hell, but the truth is that I also didn’t want to lose control of my life. So, I lived for many years with the false assurance that God would save me without my full surrender to him. In 2009, I reached a breaking point. I had no joy in life and was living recklessly and sinfully. I remember standing in a bookstore and was desperate for help. I was so aware that I had nothing to offer God but a broken and sinful life, but silently cried out to him with “if you will have me, I will surrender my life to you.” I walked out changed – saved by grace. In the days that followed, I found I had lost my taste for the sinful addictions and desires that had once held me captive. Those desires were replaced by desires to know God, to share about Him and follow Him. It is true...I once was dead, but now I live!"
"I grew up in a loving supportive home with parents who made sure I was at church every Sunday. My parent’s sought out a church with a very active children's and youth ministry. I grew up surrounded by a church full of members who invested in me and were always encouraging. A close friend's mother led our children's ministry and I remember sleepovers at her house that always ended with a bedtime Bible story and prayer. I cherish those memories and appreciate how much she poured into me. While attending a summer church camp at age 10 I remember a strong feeling of God calling me to accept him as my personal savior during one of the worship services and I went forward and prayed with a camp counselor. It was my first year of college before I followed in obedience with baptism. It is difficult to describe my life before Christ because I did accept him at a young age but I can confidently say I’ve always had a sense of peace that can only come from a personal relationship with Jesus. I know that I’ve been extremely blessed in all aspects of my life and that I’ve done nothing to deserve these blessings. I’m thankful for the many blessings, the things I enjoy, and too often I need to be reminded about all the intangible blessings that God has given me, like forgiveness, mercy, grace, peace, hope, and eternal life. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”-John 16:33"
"My journey began when I was about twelve. That is when the understanding of the penalty of sin began to work on me. My family attended church regularly so I was exposed to the penalty of sin on a regular basis. I held back for about 2 years and attended a Vacation Bible School in July of 1958. A visiting evangelist spoke each day of how to come to a relationship with the Lord and to have my sins forgiven. He made it understandable. The last day of the VBS in July 1958 at 14, I accepted the forgiveness that God offers that is the only way to salvation. The 2 year struggle was over or so I thought. That is the first time I felt clean. The realization that the journey was only beginning was not apparent to me. We did not have a very good training/discipling program so I drifted a long way away. About 8 years later Joyce and I met and I started attending Pure Air Baptist church with her and her family. Her dad, Vernie, lived the life of a Christian man so I started to follow the example he lived before Christ. After Joyce and I were married at that church we attended regularly in the meetings at Pure Air and that opened the life I knew would be much different. That is the reason that the story of the Prodigal son in Luke 15 means so much to me! We moved to Cedar Rapids, Iowa a few months later and attended a good church there and then, a few short months later, we were moving again to Iowa City, IA. In Iowa City we became members in a mission church and met the pastor that came to mean so much to me. His name is John Vaughn and he discipled 3 young men there. He awoke in us the necessity of study and building your relationship with God through His Son. He also taught us evangelism and its necessity for our Christian lives. We later moved to Carbondale, IL for 30+ years and in July 2007 came here. In looking back at all the ways God has molded us, which we are still praying for that process daily, I find it hard to believe that God could change me from what I was to the life I now live."
"I don’t really remember a time in my life before Christ, as I was saved as a very young child during Bible School and then I rededicated my life to Christ when I was 13. I’ve always known and loved the Lord, but I didn’t actually start growing in my walk with Him, until I was faced with some really dark times in my life, as an adult. When my life hit rock bottom is when I finally fully surrendered to the Lord. I remember saying to God, “I can’t do this by myself anymore. I need you to help me.” God met me there. He pulled me out of a black hole, by rescuing and redeeming me. Since that time, God has continued to mold me into who He wants me to be, by strengthening me and maturing me in my walk with Him. Although I am far from perfect and I fail God every single day, my life is better because of God’s goodness, faithfulness, mercy and love. He has never left me or forsaken me and He continues to strengthen me as I try my best to live a life that glorifies Him."
"Church was always a part of my life. My parents showed the importance of church by being involved in many areas. I remember going to AWANAS programs, singing in children's choir, and going to VBS in the summer. However it was not at church that I accepted Jesus as my Savior and Lord. I was saved at the age of 9. I was on my living room floor. I was watching a television program for children. A man dressed as a pirate was explaining about a person who was a good guy but never knew Jesus. He used shoes to walk through this man's life and at each stage he had an opportunity to know Jesus but refused. Then the man died never knowing Jesus. He went to Hell. Then the plan of salvation was given. It was at that time the Holy Spirit gripped my heart and convicted me of my sin. I realized I needed a Savior. I asked Jesus to forgive me and accepted Him as my Lord and Savior. Shortly after I was baptized by immersion at Liberty Baptist Church in Dublin, GA. Even as a young child I knew God was working in my life and have always looked back on that morning in my living room floor as the moment I met Jesus. I attended church regularly and learned about the basic Bible stories. It was not until I was in the youth group at First Baptist Dublin that I began to really grow as a Christian. I had a youth minister, Jeff Sanders who took me under his wing and invested into my life. He taught me about relationships and began to disciple me. He taught me about reading the Word and Scripture memorization. I began to walk with Jesus in a more real an intimate way. Jeff left and without that accountability I lost my zeal. It was not until I was a freshman in college that it returned. I was 5 hours away from home and anyone I knew, completely on my own. It was then that the roots that Jeff had placed in me started to bear fruit. I had a roommate who was not a believer and he would question what and why I believed. I went back to the disciplines I had learned. I read my Bible and began to journal. This is a discipline I still use today. I read daily His Word and journal about the insights and lessons He is teaching me. I get up early and meet with God through His Word and through prayer. This time is so important to me. My roommate could see something in me and began reading as well. We would stay up at night and talk about the Scriptures. God was using the lessons I learned and I could once again feel His presence walking with me. It was during this time that the Lord called me to the ministry. I thought everyone called in the ministry was a preacher. So that is what I went to do. I have a group of people around me that help me keep Christ first. Sarah is such a great partner and strong believer. In my later college years, I roomed with Troy, who also had surrendered to the ministry, and we still talk and hold each other accountable. That relationship started in college and I consider it a blessing to have such people in my life. "
"I did not grow up in a Christian home. I had aunts and uncles who were Christians but they were viewed as “religious” and I was always uncomfortable being around them. When I was about seven or eight years old my great aunt Cleta Miller started taking me to Sunday school. I was in Amy Hubbard’s Sunday school class and remember enjoying it. Once I graduated out of her class I stopped going to Sunday school. I really don’t remember why. My teenage years were difficult ones. I was not happy, there was not a lot of joy in my life. I spent most of my time alone and built up a lot of anger and frustration. My college years were even worse, I hated college and everything about it. I was lost, alone, and confused. During my junior year of college my best friend and first love died a very slow and agonizing death. I was convinced she was the only one who understood me. I was filled with rage which I directed at God. I vividly remember screaming at Him to please get out of my life. I didn’t need or want Him. I pretty much became agnostic after that point. When saying the Pledge Of Allegiance I would refuse to say the words “under God”. Over the next ten years or so I went through life not caring much about anything. I was just living. I was very self-destructive and didn’t care much about anyone especially myself. This all finally led to early 2006, I was broke in more ways than one. Most of all I was broken spiritually. For reasons that only God knows I started reading a book Called The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. This book had a humongous impact on my life and changed my view of just about everything in my little isolated world. I realized I needed to make a massive change in my life. I was tired of being dead, it was time to live! On Easter Sunday of 2006 I professed Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior and have never looked back. Today, I barely recognize the person I was 20 years ago. It’s like I’m talking about someone I once knew but don’t know anymore. On May 1, I will celebrate ten years as a member of FBC. I have found two of the greatest loves I will ever know; the love of God and the love of my church family. I thank God every day for His love and His patience. I also thank Him for my church family and for all the amazing people He has brought into my life. Most of all, I thank Him for a second chance at life. I know that the life I was living before had no future. The end result of the life I was living was hell. The end result of the life I am living now is eternity with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."
"Romans 3:23 says for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. As a young boy what bad could I really do? At the age of 5 my parents were divorced and we moved from Des Moines, Iowa to Kirksville, Missouri. From day one people were there inviting us to church, giving us rides to church and other events. They taught me that I was a sinner and I needed to enter into a relationship with Jesus. I responded, "you expect me to believe that?" The answer was YES!! And through their guidance I accepted Christ at the age of 8. John 3:16 tells about Gods gift to us all, His son Jesus. As I grew older I admit I fell away from that relationship. But the people God put in my life just never seem to go away. God gave me a second gift, my wife Tina and eventually a little girl named Vanessa. Through the events of having a child we got back in church and rededicated our lives to Christ. And guess who was there? The same people who had been sharing Christ with me all along the way. Philippians 4:13 says, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." How did life change? Serving God and others became important. By teaching and preaching worldwide missions, God has allowed me to do things I would have said impossible. But life is different with Him. God is good. Be willing to serve and He’ll bless you through it. "
Heather Anne Ward
"Before surrendering my life to Jesus Christ, I lived to please myself. Even though I knew a great deal about God and the Bible, I had a nonchalant attitude about God’s truth and did not desire to pursue a relationship with God. I wanted to live my life my own way. In my early to mid-teenage years, I began having several vivid dreams - nightmares - that were filled with Satanic images. I would awake in the middle of the night filled with a deep fear and dread of being dragged off to hell because of my sinful ways and lack of desire to follow God. In those middle-of-the-night moments - surrounded by darkness - I would cry out to God and plead with Him to forgive me. Growing up in a Christian home and attending church and youth group my whole life certainly laid a firm foundation of God’s truth for me. Even though I had prayed to receive Jesus Christ as my Savior at the young age of seven, I did not fully understand what it meant to follow Jesus. During my freshman year of high school, through the godly examples of my youth leader and Christian friends, the Lord ignited in my a deep desire to surrender my life to His Lordship and to receive Him as my Savior. I recognized that I was a sinner condemned to hell, and my only remedy was through faith in Jesus Christ, trusting in His sacrifice on the cross on my behalf. With Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior I now have the assurance of heaven. Satanic nightmares no longer plague my dreams because I know that I am a child of God and I do not need to fear the dark or being dragged off to hell. My life is filled with peace amidst the uncertainties of life because my hope and trust is in God, who knows the future. He gives me the desire to want to please Him. The Lord continues to grow my desire to know Him more through the regular study of His Word, hearing His truth taught every week, talking to Him in prayer, and applying His truth to my life every day. God has used and continues to use various trials and challenges to reveal attitudes and motives in my heart that are not pleasing to him. I am eternally grateful for His loving, faithful care to grow me into Christ-likeness, which is a life-long process."