From Cindy Patterson
I received Jesus in name – better yet he received me – when I was quite young. Raised in the church with a host of strong witnesses who lived it around me, I believe that much of my heart longed for Jesus and was inclined to him “forever,” searching to fill a void, an emptiness, a drifting. It testifies to that scripture in Ecclesiastes that says he has “placed eternity in the heart of man.” And yet even after that receipt, for years I struggled with his true acceptance of me, his deep, deep abiding love for me and had a tendency to be drawn to other things to fill the void, searching for peace and direction.
After a tragedy and a great loss in my life and a walking away from God, a struggle that went on for greater than two years, I came back and yet again, our great and gracious God received me with an incomparable, accepting, abiding love that grasped onto and changed much of heart and also my head, turning the theology into a much more solid reality.
With Jesus, I find that he truly is a friend that sticks closer than a brother; he has and continues to be with me through the highs and the lows of life, offering his strength, his peace, his joy even in the midst. There is no other love or life like the one I have found and am finding in Him. It causes me to want to shout it from the mountaintops – I so long for others to know the peace, the life, the joy, the love, the acceptance that can only be found in Him. And thus His ministries become mine.
With a very thankful heart,
from Andrew Bagley
My life before I encountered Jesus was a intense quest to find my purpose. I had spent my entire life searching for an identity in athletics, engaging in reckless habits, and trying to mix in occasional religious principles and commandments as a way to feel less guilty about sin in my life.
But, here's what happened when I encountered Jesus. I found that Jesus was fun. That the life He died for so that I could live was mission filled with wonder and purpose. I realized he was intimately concerned about me. The law of the spirit of life had set me free from the law of sin and death that I was trying miserably to follow. He was God the Father, not the godfather. This mental concept finally settled in my heart after the birth of my son in 2010.
Now this is what my life is like since I encountered Jesus. I've committed my life to denying myself, dying to sin, and following Jesus. Nearly every day I can feel a greater sense of the Father's heart toward me and toward other people. My mission is to release my revelation of the Father's heart to my family, students that I teach, and people I come in contact with throughout my daily routine.
from Josh Austin
Life before Jesus was full of fears. Some of my earliest memories are times that I was overtaken by irrational fear—fear of dogs, strangers, noises, weather, sickness, and lots of other things. I had Christian parents who were doing the best job they knew how, but somehow rejection had set in. Even though I was fairly well-behaved, I was also a fearful and worried child.
Freedom began to come through Jesus. Around the age of 6, faith began to have real meaning to me and brought with it a degree of peace in spite of my runaway feelings. But it wasn’t automatic. It wasn’t like I prayed a prayer and everything changed in me. Instead, it was like I started walking with God and he led me by his Spirit and wooed me through his love to a safe place from my fears.
Now it’s in my heart to disciple. As I sit under the leadership of Jesus and find peace and freedom there, he calls me “to proclaim release for captives, and liberation for prisoners” (Isaiah 61:1). My mission is to feed God’s lambs. As I look around my community, workplace, and, at times, 3CF, I desire to share the good news that the kingdom of God is at hand. I want to see God’s kingdom work bring about the process of liberation.
from Don McCracken
When I was little I was self-centered and only concerned with doing what satisfied my desires. My Mom sent me to Sunday School and VBS where I was exposed to bible stories. I remember feeling very sad about people who suffered from extreme poverty and for those who were subjected to racial prejudice and hatred. I don't remember understanding anything about salvation. I was rebellious in school and involved in gang activities in Bridgeton during my teenage years.
One Wednesday night when I was 12 or 13, our youth group went to a service at church. The pastor (Benjamin Sooy) presented the gospel message which almost never happened in Deerfield. The Holy Spirit used Rev. Sooy and my dear grandmother (Ada Joyce) to draw me to the altar where I accepted Jesus as my Savior along with about 5 other guys. A lot of emotion and feeling happened and I know God did a work in me although I was too immature to really understand it. Unfortunately, we didn't at that time have any discipleship.Deerfield was a weird place; if you had faith that was fine or if you didn't have faith that was fine too. Either way you didn't talk about it. Although my soul was now secure in Christ, my lifestyle didn't change that much. I still considered my life was my business and I remained self-centered. I "did church" and I even tried witnessing but it didn't go well. I nearly scared to death a young Jewish boy on my ship in the Coast Guard when I told him he was going to hell for sure if he didn't accept Jesus as his Savior right now.
When I got out of the service I tried to live a good life. I took my family to church, taught my children right from wrong, finished my schooling, advanced steadily in my profession and tried to be a decent law abiding citizen. On the outside, my life looked pretty okay. But on the inside there was no personal relationship with Jesus Christ. My opinions about sin and morals and money were much closer to the world views than to God's word.
I was striving to get ahead, working two jobs and establishing a business and had no time left for church. My wife invited me to go with her and my sons to the Church of Our Savior in PA but I was always too busy. Then one day I was listening to Family Radio from my pickup radio as I worked in the field and something happened. As the bible was being read without comment or interuption, the Holy Spirit quicked my spirit within me. I wish I could remember what passage was being read, but I can't. At that very moment, I decided that I was going to go to church. The devil kept throwing reasons at me about how that was never going to work, what will people say, what will the pastor ask you to do, etc. But I was convicted.
I really read my bible for the first time. I hungered for truth and meaning and God opened my eyes in many areas. I became involved in church activities and gained respect for those in the church whose Faith had held our little church together for so many years. I grew a lot under the teaching of Rev. Groff and Rev. King and took on responsibilities in the church. And then God brought this new kid along named Jamie. Wow! Nothing has been the same since.
He began to teach me what a personal relationship with Jesus is really like. He helped me see things beyond myself, beyond my church, beyond seeing only from my own perspective, but rather to see things from God's perspective. God used Jamie to teach me about missions, servant leadership, sacrificial giving, teaching others about Christ....I smile now when I think back to the devils comment about "what if the pastor asks you to do something". I thank God for using Jamie to ferry me across to where Jesus is.
Now I meet with Jesus every morning. We have quiet talks and meditations. He teaches me, He guides me, He corrects me, He scolds me, He loves me, He forgives me, He keeps me safe, He...He...
He has given me a treasure chest just for me. Inside we have placed many things of great value: Salvation, personal relationship, opportunities that He has allowed me to join Him in. so many ways I can hardly count them...CEF, H*VMI, 3CF, Jamaica, Guatemala, Argentina, Nepal, Bankok, Sunday school, Home small group bible study, baptisms in my own back yard...memory fails.. Truly, my cup runneth over.
A true miracle has taken place in His bringing me from being a rebellious, self-centered, egotistical lost sinner to a place where I can honestly say my life without Christ has no meaning or purpose.
from Stacy Thomas
I remember giving my life to Jesus in Sunday School when I was five years old. Since I
was so young I don’t have much memory of life before that, but here are a few things that
stood out to me at that young age.
I came from a broken home and I lived with my mom. When I decided to follow Jesus I
immediately had an understanding that God was my Father and He loved me. I wasn’t
abandoned by my Father. I knew that I was valuable to Him and that He would never leave
me. I had love and peace in my heart. When I was fourteen I had an amazing encounter
with God’s presence that forever changed me. In that moment I completely surrendered to
God and committed to serving Him in all I do, for all my days. God gave me clarity
about serving Him through music and so I pursued that. In my eyes there is no life for
me apart from Jesus. It’s so far from my heart that I don’t even want to imagine it. I
take joy in following Him wherever it may lead. Six years ago the Lord led me in the
direction of ministry to children. I have delighted in learning more about God’s heart
for our children, and can’t wait to see where God will lead me next.
from MaryAnn Bowman
Knowing God, but keeping my relationship with him on the back burner. Always knowing right from wrong, but not convicted enough to seek him and his ways in order to make a difference in my life.
But when I encountered Jesus I experienced conviction by the Holy Spirit. I had desire to learn more about him and to live differently. I had desire to share Jesus with others.
I now realize that only he can give me peace in the storms I encounter. My prayer life has meaning.
from Nate Thomas
When I was a youth, life was all about me: having lots of friends, accomplishing great things in school and in sports, having fun, and chasing after my selfish desires. Much of those desires left me empty, and the Lord was teaching me that He had greater things in mind according to His purposes. I remember deciding to make Jesus the Lord of my life when I was in elementary school. An older, 12-year-old boy at my church prayed with me as I publicly made the decision. I came to realize that all the things about me and my accomplishments were of much lesser value compared to knowing Jesus and what He did for me. As Paul says in Philippians 3:7-9, "But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him…”
As I have known the Lord, I have learned that not only does He love me, but He really likes me. Even in my failures. Knowing how He values me, it has motivated me to encourage others to discover God’s dream for their lives. It is my hope that the youth and children at 3CF grow into this dream. As God has revealed His heart to me through His Word, I also have realized His great desire for the Church in these last days. I believe that the vibrant Church Jesus prayed for in John 17 is a praying Church. Partnering with other believers at the South Jersey House of Prayer is an outgrowth of this. What has God done as He has led the SJHOP?
- connected us with a model (harp and bowl) for prayer when many of us were looking for a way to stand in prayer
- spoke prophetically when He called us into an armory to "do battle" (prophetic man to Jamie, also spoken by Chris Regan and Rich Stevenson)
- spoke prophetically through 2 dreams that we would be the South Jersey House of Prayer and that it is His doing
- spoke prophetically, calling us to an Ezekiel mandate over Israel
- spoke prophetically, giving a "strategic plan" when it was needed
- connected us with Exodus Cry and gave us the opportunity to show the Nefarious Documentary
- connected us to a network of prayer with individuals at the college, area churches, and other houses of prayer in NJ, PA, and DE
- birthed out of prayer a desire to act justly (South Jersey Community Justice Group — Louise/Maureen/Melissa)
- spoke that we would be going from “defense to offense,” from the place of prayer to walking it out in victory
- we will celebrate 7 years (approximately 400 prayer meetings later!!) in April 2014