My faith journey began before I was born. My father passed away suddenly when my mother was six months pregnant with me, leaving her with my three older sisters and me. A local pastor came to the house to offer his condolences. Before he left, my mother claimed the promise in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (KJV). She had placed her trust in Jesus which changed the trajectory of her life.
My mother became a charter member of Bethel Baptist Church in Prospect, New York, a small rural community in the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains. It was in that church that, at the age of five, I felt the Holy Spirit move me to go forward during an altar call. I was so nervous I was afraid to go, but I told my mother when I got home. She called the pastor, and he came over and led me to the Lord. I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Saviour and became a child of God.
Growing up in this church, I experienced God’s love in a tangible way. The church family reached out to my mom, a widow raising four daughters on her own. I remember one year when they bought our mom a garage door opener and had it installed. What a blessing that was, especially in the winter! Also, after many attempts and prayer trying to fix something, our mom would call a deacon and they would come over and help.
My family went to church every time the doors were opened, and I loved it. I never once remember my mother nagging me to go. By the time I was in junior high, I was getting up an hour early to have my devotions with the Lord. I loved Him and just wanted to serve Him. I also started going on week-long bicycle trips during the summers with a youth group from Little Falls, New York. I developed a close connection with some of the leaders who encouraged my spiritual walk, and I am still in touch with them today.
After I graduated from high school in 1994, God made it clear that I was to attend Liberty University in Virginia. This was a huge stretch beyond my comfort zone, but I was ready, and it became a life-changer for me. I had to trust God in a new way. I started as an accounting major but switched to Missions in my junior year.
As I was wandering around the different missionary displays at Liberty during Missions Week in 1999, I noticed a ministry called WHEEL POWER Christian Cyclists (WPCC). They were promoting a summer missions trip bicycling across the USA while sharing the Gospel. It looked like a fun and great adventure. After much prayer, God said to go. With the help of my home church, I raised the financial support I needed. I spent three months in the summer of 2000 cycling from San Francisco to Virginia with WPCC while sharing my faith. It was such an amazing time in my spiritual walk and finding more passion for the lost, those who have not yet have a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Attending a private college was expensive, and I learned to trust God for every detail including daily food to eat. For a period of a few months, I had to choose between rent and food. I chose to pay rent; yet, God didn’t let me starve. When I didn’t have money for food, I was able to eat the leftovers from my coworkers. It was a tough time, but it strengthened my faith, and I always knew God was on my side.
After I graduated, I worked hard and paid off my school bill in three years. I accomplished this by moving back home with my mother rent-free.
After paying off my debt, I also worked hard to pay off my mother’s debt. It was my way of paying her back for letting me live rent-free, and for all the sacrifices she had made as a single mom all those years. For example, when I was five or six years old, I had my appendix out. I remember my mother paying the last hospital bill after ten years. It gave me joy to be in the position to be able to bless her by giving back to her financially.
In 2003 I had the blessing of being on another mission trip with WHEEL POWER. This time my mother was part of the team as a driver. We bicycled throughout New England including Maine (my mom’s home state). It was a wonderful time of fellowship and ministry as well as precious mother-daughter time.
Years later, in 2016, I decided to go on another mission trip with WHEEL POWER, this time from Maine to Florida. Our trip was interrupted by a hurricane, so we were pushed off the trail, and I ended up in Lynchburg, Virginia, at the WPCC headquarters. The director, Judy Bowman, asked me to join the ministry full-time.
It was a wonderful offer, but I wanted to be sure it was God’s will for me. I prayed for almost a year before God said go, and I became a full-time missionary with the ministry in 2017. God opened my eyes to see how He had been equipping me for this for years. All those youth group bike trips, my previous WHEEL POWER mission trips, and my college degree in missions.
Becoming a missionary was a leap of faith for me. It meant I had to rely on God for everything, and I had to allow others to help support me. I presented my ministry opportunity to my church. It is such a blessing to have their support.
The greatest challenge in my life came when I was on a mission trip to Florida in 2018. I got a message in the afternoon from my sister that our Mom was in the hospital with possible pneumonia. I began praying for her, but I wasn’t too worried because my mother didn't have any underlying health issues. Later in the day, the WHEEL POWER director, Judy, received messages that I needed to get home. All the way back to Upstate New York as soon as possible.
This was really a problem. Judy was sick and I wasn’t able to drive the motor home we had. Plus, it would have been at least two days on the road. Besides, I had an intense fear and hatred of flying. But I realized that I had no other option, and for the first time in my life, I booked a flight. God gave me just enough peace and hope to make the trip.
When I got to the airport in Orlando, I realized I had booked the wrong day. The lady at the counter helped me change the flight, and I got the last seat on the plane.
I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me (Philippians 4:13 KJV). I was crying and shaking. They let Judy come with me almost to the point where I had to board the plane. I stood in the long line, and when I got to the end of the ramp, I froze. I could not move. I was aware that I was holding up the line behind me. I took a deep breath and took one step, and then another. I crept my way onto the plane and down the aisle until I made it to my seat which was in the very last row. I squeezed past two women and settled down into my seat.
Then I heard a ping and checked my phone. It was a message from the church prayer vine. A message I was accidentally sent. My mother had passed away. Only fifteen hours after she was taken to the hospital! No chance for me to see her one last time or for her to see her daughters together again!
I had an urge to get up and walk right off the plane, but I knew I still had to go and be there for my sisters. I burst into tears and cried into the shoulder of the kind Spanish woman God had placed next to me.
God somehow got me through a layover and one more flight back to Syracuse, New York, though I mentioned to Him that He could have made it easier on me and found me a direct flight.
God also got my sisters and me through our mother’s Celebration of Life service. It was a celebration because my mom had accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior knowing without a doubt she was in heaven because she knew there is only one way to Heaven and that it was nothing she had done on her own. As it says in Ephesians 2:8-9: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (KJV). Our mom did such a beautiful job raising us four girls and pouring her faith into each of us. Her legacy is that she left behind four daughters who love the Lord.
In the aftermath of losing my mother, I was comforted by listening to praise music based on God’s Word. A song that helped me through the pain of losing a loved one was Psalm 62 by Aaron Keyes and Stuart Townend. Here are the lyrics to the last verse:
I’ll set my gaze on God alone
And trust in Him completely;
With every day pour out my soul
And He will prove His mercy.
Though life is but a fleeting breath,
A sigh too brief to measure,
My King has crushed the curse of death
And I am His forever.
You can listen to this encouraging song on Youtube by clicking here.*
Since I became a born-again Christian all those years ago, God has been there and has helped me through each trial and will continue to be there. What amazing hope! Psalm 120:1 gives me this hope every day: “In my distress I cried unto the Lord, and he heard me” (KJV).
I don’t know what your challenges are, but whatever they are, God loves you and wants to walk beside you through them. If you call out to Him, He will answer you.
Learn more about WHEEL POWER Christian Cyclists by clicking here.
*Recorded at Table Rock Church on May 9, 2020 (I do not own the rights to this song).
**Photos taken by Judy Bowman and Chrissy Lawrence