"Come my children listen to me, I will teach you the fear of the Lord"  Ps 43:11  

Senior adults from our 3Crosses family share their personal salvation stories and offer advice to the next generation.

Our role as senior adults, at 3 Crosses includes helping the church's mission of declaring the glory of God, strengthening the body of Christ, and reaching out to those who don't know Jesus. One way we do this is in sharing our personal testimonies and witness with the rest of our church family. As seniors, we have one thing, one gift that no one else in the church has ... we have the benefit of old age, experience, and hindsight. We have lived many years, walking for decades with the Lord, through successes and failures, joy and sorrow, and now we would share what we have seen with our eyes, and experienced firsthand concerning our God and Savior, with you.

  • The Psalmist says "I was young, and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken" ~ Psalms 37:25
  • "I have spoken of Thy faithfulness and Thy salvation: I have not concealed Thy lovingkindness and Thy truth from the great congregation". ~ Psalms 40:10
  • "O God, we have heard with our ears, Our Fathers have told us, the work that Thou didst in their days"  ~ Psalms 44:1

 

Testimonies  |  A - C

BOB OKAMURA

AGE: 78; YEARS AT 3Crosses: 28
YEARS AS A CHRISTIAN: Approximately 28

SALVATION EXPERIENCE

My walk with the Lord doesn’t seem very long to me, but as I look back on my life, I can see that the hand of God was working on me. He refined my spiritual gifts and skills that He used in my later years.

My life journey began in May of 1942 when I was born in Lodi, California which is a small community in the Central Valley between Sacramento and Stockton. My dad was born in Hawaii, but when he was ready to go to school, my grandparents sent him to Japan for his education. He is known as a kibei which means that he was a US citizen, educated in Japan and returned to the US. My mom was born in Burlingame, California and went to school in the US. After my mom graduated from San Mateo Junior College, my grandfather took her to Japan to find her a husband. An arrangement was made for my dad and mom to get married, and they were married in the US. A month or two after I was born, our family was ordered to report to the Bay Area for assignment to an interment camp because the United States had entered World War II 6 months earlier when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. We ended up in Rower, Arkansas where we spent the next three and a half years. In 1945, we left camp to go to Chicago, Illinois because my dad found a job there. It was in Chicago that my brother, Steven, was born, but he lived for only 3 days. My dad and mom had Rh incompatibility which means that the first child is healthy, but the subsequent children have blood disorders. Today, doctors who know that parents have this condition order a complete blood transfusion shortly after birth which saves the child. My parents were told that they couldn’t have any more children. So, I grew up as an only child. Several years later, we came back to California on a train and settled in a small farming community known as Acampo, which is located several miles north of Lodi.

Our family was not a Christian family, at least outwardly. After my mom passed away, I found her baptism certificate from a Baptist Church, but she never mentioned that. Most of my parents’ friends were Buddhists. When I was 8 years old, my mom asked me if I wanted to go to a church in Lodi with a classmate’s family. I said sure and enjoyed Sunday School, but the church did not emphasize teaching the children about Jesus Christ. After several years, I stopped going and did not attend any church for the next 10 years. After graduating from high school in 1960, I attended UC Berkeley. I went to church with several of my classmates. But again, the preaching and teaching didn’t emphasize the grace of Jesus and no invitations were given. I got busy with other things and distractions. So, I stopped attending.

After graduating with a degree in civil engineering, I went to work for the City of Los Angeles. But my draft board caught up with me and ordered me to take an induction physical exam. I didn’t want to be drafted into the Army and decided to join the Navy reserve. When I went on active duty, I was assigned to a Naval Construction Battalion (a Seabee maintenance unit), and we deployed to Dong Ha, Vietnam from June 1966 to June 1967. We worked 6-1/2 days a week and got Sunday afternoons off. But we were given the option to go to chapel on Sunday morning, and a lot of guys went to chapel to get out of working in the morning. So, I went because some of my friends asked me to go with them. It was a multi-denominational service because there was only one Chaplin and one service every Sunday. I still didn’t know what it meant to be a Christian.

After returning from Vietnam in June of 1967, I was separated from active duty and went to work. I got married in 1970, and we had one daughter. I worked for various government agencies and private engineering companies developing my skills gradually and working my way up the corporate ladder. Unfortunately, the marriage did not work out, and I found myself pursuing worldly things. During that time, I went to several churches including Neighborhood Church searching for something to give me direction in my life. One day in February 1992, I felt particularly empty and alone. So, I decided to call Neighborhood Church, where I had attended once before with a friend, to talk to a pastor. I met with Rev. Malcolm Cash who spent several hours explaining the Gospel to me. After he was done, he asked me if I wanted to accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior, and I said yes.

After I accepted Jesus as my Lord, I had many questions about what that meant. So, I began reading an old King James Bible that my mother had given me back in 1950. As I read, I came across a passage that really piqued my interest, St. Matthew 10:38, “And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.” Being a new Christian, I didn’t know what that meant. So, I kept reading wanting to know what that passage was telling me. Then I came to St. John 12:26, “If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be; if any man serve me, him will my Father honour.” The Holy Spirit opened my eyes, and I knew I was to obey God’s teachings and serve Him. That started my path to God’s service. I volunteered to becomes an usher because I felt that was the only thing I could do since I was a baby Christian.

My mountain top experience came in June 1992 when I went to a Promise Keepers conference in Boulder, Colorado. The event was held in the football stadium of the Colorado Buffalos, and there were approximately 35,000 men attending. We sang praises to God and heard inspiring messages for 2 days. That awe-inspiring moment lit a fire in me to go back to Neighborhood and begin searching for a way to serve. I worked in the singles ministry as well as the usher ministry. Eventually I became the Head Usher where I served for 14 years. I was then approached to serve on the Governing Elders Board for a period of time. In 1993, Promise Keepers brought one of their conferences to the Oakland Coliseum where I volunteered in the hospitality area. The next year, the conference returned to the Coliseum and I was chosen to be the event manager, in charge of the entire event as a volunteer which was quite an honor.

In 2005, I had the opportunity to go on 2 short term missions trips with Foot Steps, a missions organization, where I was able to use my gift of administration to help the others do their mission work. I went to Romania to help college students do church repair work and evangelize the local residents of Timisoara as well as a women’s group conduct Vacation Bible School classes in Sibiu. In 2006 I went to Costa Rica as the leader to help our group teach Vacation Bible School classes and witness to the local residents of Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui, and to do church repair work in San Jose, the capital. In 2009 I had the opportunity to go to Cambodia to use my engineering skills in planning a potential private university site in Kampong Chhnang.

After I retired in 2007, I volunteered to help in the senior adult ministry doing administration work. Eventually I came on staff working in the senior adult ministry and the finance office. I used my construction and administration skills coordinating church activities with the general contractor and the architect for the remodel of the A, B and C classrooms, and the work on the Children’s Ministry Center and the relocation of the Chapel. Several years later, I did the coordination work for the construction of the Connection Center/Café 4 building. As I look back on my life, I can see where God had His hand on me as I developed skills that I would use when I became a believer. My main spiritual gift is administration, and God used that gift in the usher, singles, senior adult, missions ministries and church construction work. My current job title is Missions and Senior Adult Ministry Coordinator.

God brought a wonderful woman, Susan, to be my wife, and together we serve on staff at 3Crosses doing what God has called us to do using our gifts, talents and skills.

Since I became a Christian at age 50, there is always hope for those in your family circle, co-workers and friends no matter how old they are. Keep praying for grandparents, parents, siblings, friends, and co-workers.

In addition to Matthew 10:28 and John 12:26, there are 2 other verses which mean a lot to me. The first is Hebrews 13:5 “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’” That verse keeps me focused on God rather than my own needs or especially wants. The second is 1 Corinthians 13:13, “And now these remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” This verse keeps me focused on others and not myself.

BOB RYAN

AGE: __; YEARS AT 3Crosses: __
YEARS AS A CHRISTIAN: Approximately __

SALVATION EXPERIENCE

Bob had been raised in the Southern Baptist Church. He said that he was going with a group of teenagers out to rob a school house. Previously, they had broken into a bakery, and stole some pies. At the time, it was considered a small town back then. Bob was 17 years old, and lived in Lubbock, Texas with his family. This one night, his mom wanted him to go to a tent Revival meeting at church. He was planning on going, and then leaving. His step-father watched him go into the tent meeting. (His step-father had a foot injury, so he was on crutches.) Bob said that he was going to run away, and meet his friends, but his step-father was standing there on his crutches, watching him that he stayed at the tent meeting. That night, Bob heard the gospel message and he went forward and accepted the Lord! His life was completely changed!

One other boy, one of his friends, was caught that night, trying to break into the school house! The judge gave him the choice to go into the Korean War, on the front lines, or go to jail. He later also got saved in the Army. He died a hero's death on the front lines, guarding the other soldiers, and he wiped out a whole squadron of Korean soldiers!! He died with the machine gun in his arms. Some of the others that broke into the school house went to jail.

Bob went on to go to college, and he was ordained in the Southern Baptist Convention as a pastor. He was then drafted into the U.S. Navy, and served in the Korean war as well. He visited the Neighborhood Church's Port O'Call in Oakland. He met his wife, Diane there, who was a Port O' Call hostess. They were married at the Oakland Neighborhood Church by Dr. Jacob Bellig.

Bob went on to teach Sunday school for several years, sang in the church choir, and he enjoyed being a church greeter at the Castro Valley Neighborhood Church.

BRENDA NELSON

AGE: __; YEARS AT 3Crosses: __
YEARS AS A CHRISTIAN: Approximately __

SALVATION EXPERIENCE

Humpty Dumpty Sat on a Wall
My first time in a Church, I was 4 years old. My mother, step-father and I were living temporarily with my grandmother in Brooklyn New York. My mother did not go to church, so my grandmother asked her if she could take me. Her and I walked across town to this white steeple Christian church. On the way my grandmother introduced me to the butcher, baker and everyone she knew walking. I never felt so special and loved. When it came time to sing the hymns, and everyone picked up the hymnal book and started singing, I wanted to join them but I didn't know how to read. I said to myself "I will open the book and sing along and no one will know I can't read." I sang all my nursery rhymes as loud as I could. Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall---- Little miss muffet sat on a tuffet--- Baa Baa black sheep have you any wool (ect.). My grandmother let me sing and never asked me to be quiet. I felt so good. When we left the church I said to myself (I want THAT in my life).

The month that we were living with my grandmother she also taught me the Lord's Prayer and also "Now I lay me down to sleep". She would tuck me in at night and sit on my bed and I would say my prayers. After a month we left and moved many times and out of state. I always asked my mother if we could go to church. She said no. I asked her if she would ask a neighbor that went to church, if they would take me. She said Yes and would, wherever we moved.

At age 9, my grandmother sent me a bible and I was thrilled, but I didn't understand reading the King James Version, but said to myself, "someday I will." I searched all my growing up years for a church. I went by myself as a teenager to small churches but no one ever acknowledged that I was there. It was a very lonesome feeling. I married a California man (in fact he was an Oakland Policeman) and had two children, and we were living in Castro Valley in 1974. He asked me what I wanted to do on Mother's Day and I said I want to go to Neighborhood Church, the one with the 3 crosses. We took our young children and went and I prayed that someone would greet us with a smile. Frida Post my first church friend greeted us with a big smile and welcomed us. That was it. My children grew up in the church and me and my husband were active members. He died in 2003. I invited Jesus into my heart along with my husband and children in 1974 when Pastor Bellig was Pastor. We all started immediately in a Sunday school class, and with the excellent Bible teaching at Neighborhood Church, I grew to understand the Bible my grandmother gave to me at 9. My husband and I have had a bible study in our home on Tuesday nights for 30 years, which has continued after my husband's death. The blessing from my grandmother taking me to church and letting me sing "Humpty Dumpty" has lead my whole immediate family, two children, four grandchildren, and six great- grand children to be strong Christians walking with the Lord

BUTCH MONK

AGE: __; YEARS AT 3Crosses: __
YEARS AS A CHRISTIAN: Approximately __

SALVATION EXPERIENCE

I was born into a Christian family and regularly attended Havens Court Colonial church in Oakland. Each Sunday was a family affair with no questions asked, required attendance at church. Church included morning and evening worship along with Sunday school, Jr. church, and weeknight meetings. Each Sunday was thoroughly a church day, with no going outside after church or wearing play clothes. In fact, the only outing allowed after church was to take an afternoon ride with the family and listen to the radio. Such radio entertainment as “Fibber McGee and Molly” or “The Jack Benny show” was considered acceptable listening on the Sunday ride. Throughout the week, our activities were predominantly church-oriented. I participated in the “Sky Pilots” each week where we learned memory verses, worked on model planes, and even had boxing lessons. My parents participated in many church activities from singing in the choir, leading singing in an adult Sunday school class, and cooking for church events. The significance for me in all of this was the development of a church-oriented mindset where all scheduling of activities hinged on what was going on at church.

One Sunday morning, after Junior Church, my two older sisters took me to the missionary guest speaker in order for me to have a personal conversation about what it meant to “give my heart to Jesus”. I am not sure about my motivation for listening to this presentation. Probably it was a mixture of fear and curiosity along with the fact that everybody else was doing it. I usually did what my sisters asked. I also knew that my parents would be happy that I finally “made a decision” to follow Christ. Sitting on the steps to the Jr. Church room, I prayed to accept Christ and started my journey as a follower of Jesus.

Shortly thereafter, my parents decided that it was time to start going to Neighborhood Church of Oakland. Neighborhood offered many more children and youth programs, along with a dynamic music ministry, an evangelistic emphasis both to the local community and the world. Jake Bellig was the pastor. His goal was to reach the Bay area for Christ. Every Sunday night, He and a group of dedicated volunteers presented Illustrated sermons that were named after modern songs. I found each service to be a fascinating combination of Biblical history and contemporary application. It was during one of the services, in high school, that I rededicated myself to truly following Jesus.

I started teaching in the Jr. high school department when I was eighteen years old. Ed Harris Sr. along with his wife provided an atmosphere of strong Biblical teaching and fun outings from ice-skating to trips to Santa Cruz and summer camp. The group kept growing and became a focal point for all my activities just as I had experienced when I was a youngster. The church moved to the Castro Valley location in 1969 and the Jr. high ministry grew even more with the use of the gym each week for Sunday School and break out Sunday School classes, that required movable partitions to be put up in the gym each week.

When Ed asked for someone to coach a girl’s basketball team, Pat Cozzens and I became the coaches. It was during this time, that I realized that Pat was the girl for me. I proposed after one of those basketball practices and we were married in August of 1970. By this time, I was teaching English at St. Felicities Catholic School. The audience for our wedding was full of students from St. Felicitas and from our Jr. High group at church.

In all of these events, I could see God’s Divine hand of providence working on my behalf. None of the events were accidental or coincidental. God certainly had orchestrated each event from childhood to young adult with His own special purposes in mind. I became the director of the Jr. High department in the mid-seventies and became a part-time staff member in 1975.

In 1972 I left St. Felicitas and moved to Redwood Christian School where I again taught English and eventually became a part of the administrative team. A new campus was opened at Neighborhood Church in September of 1975 and I was named principal. I retired from Redwood Christian schools in 2008. During these years, working at both the church and school, I had many opportunities to see God work in the lives of individuals and families. I have had the privilege of being part of countless programs and ministry opportunities all because God lovingly showed me grace and allowed me to be a means by which His work could be accomplished.

In December of 1990, I began to teach adults for the first time, becoming the teacher of the Challengers’ class. This class has become a major blessing that has led to many other opportunities with adults such as Active Adults on Thursdays. God has blessed Pat and I with an exciting ministry, four children, fifteen grandchildren, and innumerable Christian friends who have been our support system throughout the years. I thank the Lord for the influence of my parents and two Bible-believing churches that consistently taught God’s Word, provided opportunities, and accepted the many bumps in the road along the way.

Some thoughts For The Next Generation:
First of all, I would advise any young believer to make a daily quiet time with the Lord an absolute, consistent priority. In the midst of balancing two jobs and the busyness of life, God has used the daily quiet time, as the means by which He has provided daily guidance and wisdom for larger lifetime decisions.

Secondly, I would advise the young believers of the next generation to make an absolute surrendered effort to organize their lives around Jesus Christ. When decisions are to be made, and relationships developed, it is absolutely essential that one put Christ first and the principles of His Word. Often we think that the hurried, busy life that the world requires is somehow a sign of influence and status. But actually, as we commit ourselves to The Lord, we find that making Him the center of life, and slowing down to linger with Him daily in prayer are the keys to success as believers.

Finally, I have learned that strong Christian friends are an absolute joy and necessity for living the Christian life. Having a few, close friends with whom you can share perspectives, problems, and prayer will prove to be just what is needed when one becomes entangled in the difficulties of this world.

KEY SCRIPTURE

  • Proverbs 3:5, 6
  • Ephesians 4:1, 6
  • James 3:17-18

CARL ANDERSON

AGE: 69; YEARS AT 3Crosses: 5
YEARS AS A CHRISTIAN: Approximately 60

SALVATION EXPERIENCE

About the time that I was born, my mother dreamt that she had died and tried to gain access into Heaven, but God would not admit her. Based on this experience, she decided to return to church and take her children, too. Consequently, I started attending a Christ-centered church at a young age, and at approximately 9 years of age, I accepted Christ as my Savior.

Now that I am older, this is what I would like to share with the next generation. I firmly believe that prayer and Bible study are integral parts of the Christian life and need to be practiced daily to strengthen one’s faith. Praying allows us to stay close to God and is necessary for confessing sin and obtaining forgiveness. It is an indication that we are relying on God for wisdom and not trying to live the Christian life on our own power, something that is impossible to do. God’s standards are high, and through prayer, we can grow spiritually and take on more of the nature of Jesus Christ. Reading and studying God’s word will also transform our thoughts, words, and deeds to be pleasing to God. His Word is full of guidance that will improve our lives and others’, too. Memorizing Scripture is a worthwhile endeavor as you will have it readily available when facing temptation or life’s challenges. If I neglect prayer and Bible study, my spiritual life suffers. Conversely, beginning the day with reading His Word and prayer gives me comfort and strength.

KEY SCRIPTURE

One of my favorite Bible verses is a commandment given by Christ in Matthew 7:12: “Therefore all things whatsoever that ye would that men would do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.” (King James Version) This instruction sums up how to live according to the Spirit. Jesus is telling us to treat others as we would want them to treat us. By following His own example, we will improve our relationships with others and possibly give them hope.

CINDY VIADA

AGE: 59; YEARS AT 3Crosses: +30
YEARS AS A CHRISTIAN: Approximately +30

SALVATION EXPERIENCE

When I was 21 years old, in 1983, my mother became very ill. She was in a coma as she was in a hospital. I said, “God if you are real, take my mother home”. Fifteen or so minutes late God answered my prayer. One year later, in December 1984, I came to 3 Crosses to see a Christmas performance. At the end of it the pastor asked if anyone wanted to receive Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, so I raised my hand and went to the prayer room. One of the interns or pastors sat with me and read the 4 Spiritual Laws to me and that was when I asked Jesus into my heart.

As my walk with the Lord became stronger, and my faith also, I’m able to do a lot for God now because I listen more and read Scripture. God’s love is so strong I can tune in to Him more each day, and through His Holy Spirit, He has shown me more of who He is. When I was younger in my faith, I was not really understanding who God was. Now, 30 years later, my faith has grown. With people praying for me, God moved me to a better place to live. Now I am obeying God and helping more people at church; I’m now on the first-aid team. I know God can help anyone who wants to receive His son Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

He is a loving God, always caring, and is always here. He is also a healing God who gives you serenity everyday. He will never leave you nor forsake you. When you have Jesus in your life, you are never truly alone even when it seems so. But no one can take you from God’s hands, nor can you get out of His hands. God loves you no matter who you are or what your background.

You also are joining a really big family when you become a Christian. But it is not an easy road. There are many trails, tribulations, and mountains and valleys but also you will have eternal life and be with Jesus in Heaven; forever no more crying, no more pain, and no more death. Jesus wants everyone to be saved; come join His family for Jesus will give you a real peace, not man’s peace, but God’s peace. His arms are open wide for all to come to Him.

KEY SCRIPTURE

My favorite Bible verse is from Psalm 23.
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want”.
This is one of my favorite scriptures because God gives me what I need all the time. I do not need to worry about anything at all, He always provides for all my needs…..daily! I pray daily and God covers my needs.

 

Testimonies  |  D - E 

DAVE ROGERS

AGE: __; YEARS AT 3Crosses: __
YEARS AS A CHRISTIAN: Approximately __

SALVATION EXPERIENCE

HOW GODLY PARENTS & HOME CREATE A LEGACY
My journey with Jesus started at a very young age. I was born into a Christ center family. In my early years my dad helped set up evangelical tent meetings with sawdust trails. We went to church every Sunday and Sunday night. We had family devotions every Saturday morning. I was led to the Lord by my mother when she asked me if I wanted to go to heaven. I said “Yes” and accepted Jesus into my heart. From that time on, with guidance from my parents, I followed the Lord and experienced all His blessings. My dad was my Sunday School Teacher. Through the Sky Pilots Organization (a Boys Scout type program), we built model planes and flew them at parks and schools on the weekends to attract people who we could share the gospel with. I crashed almost all of the planes but it was one of many special connections that I had with my dad.

My story isn’t dramatic; it is just the opposite and somewhat anticlimax. The reason for writing it is to share how the Lord has blessed me through my godly parents/home. My parents not only shared with me their beliefs but modeled them as well. Their walk matched their talk. What they did, convinced me that this is how Christian parents should raise their children. My dad spent time (quality and quantity) with me in scripture memorization, witnessing, Bible reading, going to Mount Hermon, and attending Gideon and Christian Business Men (CBMC) meetings as well as many work and fun activities.

As I grew up I learned to trust the Lord for helping me in school. Studying wasn’t my favorite thing to do and I really disliked homework. But somehow with the Lord’s help I got through school. My mom and dad wanted me to go to college and encouraged me to attend BIOLA rather than other colleges. Attending BIOLA was one of the best experiences of my life. I matured from a shy introvert child to a young man who became Sophomore Class President, Student Body Athletic Director (I got to choose the cheerleaders), play basketball and run track. By attending BIOLA, I received a solid understanding of the scriptures (25 semester credits of Bible classes).

On one basketball trip from BIOLA to the bay area to play another college, two of my teammates stayed at my home for a couple of nights. On the team bus trip back to BIOLA, the coach asked each member of the team what was their favorite part of the trip. To my surprise, the two teammates that had stayed at my house indicated staying at my house and meeting my parents was their favorite part. At this, I began to understand how special my parents were and how unique my home and upbringing were.

My Aunt and cousins, plus my sister had worked on the summer staff at Mount Hermon. I applied and was accepted on staff and I spent the next 4 summers working as the baker. During these summers I attended many of the conferences and listen to some of the leading Christian speakers. My third summer working there I met my future wife. During our dating we ran into some rough patches. I wrote a letter to my folks seeking advice as to what to do. A couple of days later, to my surprise, they came up to Mount Hermon. I asked them what they were doing there and my dad said that you asked for some advice and we wanted to come to pray with you in person seeking His guidance.

Although the marriage was unsuccessful after 14 years in which we had 2 daughters and ended in divorce, it provided me with the opportunity to grow closer to the Lord. When you go through a trauma and have everything taken away from you, that is when you hold on tight to that which will give you some stability. The Lord was faithful and provided supportive friends and family that helped me though this turbulent time. After moving out from my family, I continued coming to church at Neighborhood (3Crosses) and eventually joined the Singles Class. By being where the Lord wanted me, I met my future wife, Linda, who was widowed. We have a daughter who grew up in the church and continues to be a Christ-follower. We’ve been married now for 37 years and the Lord couldn’t have provided a better partner and companion.

My dad died when I was 24 and in my last year of graduate school. The night I left his hospital bed, I knew I might never see him again but although I would lose him, I would never lose the precious memories that he had created for me.

It was easy to see how God the Father is a God of love because I had an earthly Father that constantly showed me how much he loved me. Two years later my mother married a man (George Clooney look-alike) from their church as godly as my father and just as loving. I was blessed by having three loving fathers (the Lord, my dad, and my step-dad).

My parents gave me a legacy. This legacy of following Christ and enjoying his fellowship is what has sustained me through these past 76 years. He has blessed me more than I can ever imagine and I am looking forward to spending eternity with Him.

The morning I wrote this testimony, having been convicted during the night that I should write something about my Christian family upbringing, I read this passage in the Billy Graham devotional “Unto the Hills”:

I want to suggest Ten Commandments for a solid happy God-honoring home:

  1. Establish God’s chain of command. The Bible teaches that for the Christian, Jesus Christ is to head the home, with the wife under the authority of a Christ-like husband and the children responsible to their parents.
  2. Obey the commandments to love one another.
  3. Show acceptance and appreciation for each family member.
  4. Family members should respect God’s authority over them and the authority God has delegated down the chain of command.
  5. It is important to have training and discipline in the home and not just for the family dog.
  6. Enjoy one another and take time to enjoy family life together. Quality time is not a substitute for quantity time. Quantity time is quality time.
  7. Do not commit adultery. Adultery destroys a marriage and is a sin against God and against your mate.
  8. Everyone in a family should work for the mutual benefit of the family. No child should be without chores or without the knowledge that work brings fulfillment.
  9. Pray together and read the Bible together. Nothing strengthens a marriage and family more. Nothing is a better defense against Satan.
  10. Every family member should be concerned about whether every other member of the family is truly saved. This extends after the immediate family to grandparents, uncles, and aunts, cousins and in-laws.

KEY SCRIPTURE

Proverbs 3:1-6: “My son, do not forget my teaching, but keeps my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity. Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

DAVID MORROW

AGE: 87; YEARS AT 3Crosses: 43
YEARS AS A CHRISTIAN: Approximately 75

SALVATION EXPERIENCE

I was born in Maud, Oklahoma, June 5, 1933. My father, Joseph, had moved there from Texas and my mother Florence (Ritchie) Morrow had come from Arkansas. My father was a poor (but honest) carpenter/farmer, as were so many Americans who were struggling to survive at that time of the Great Depression. To make matters worse, in the 1930’s the State of Oklahoma, which had held out so much promise to homesteading settlers, was plagued by huge dust storms, which became increasingly severe each year. Devastation of the land was followed by bankruptcies, which swept across the land. You would find it interesting to learn more about that phenomenon. My father took Mother and me to the beckoning land of California to find work when I was four. The climate and air agreed so much more with Mother that we soon migrated to the Central Valley of California. John Steinbeck wrote a famous book called “The Grapes of Wrath” which describes the great migration of poor people like our family to California.

We settled in Turlock. In time Dad was able to buy twenty acres with a small, one bedroom house. He acquired a small bunkhouse from the neighbor across the road and pulled it onto our property. Although it had no water or heat, it provided sleeping quarters for my brother, Don, and me until I went away to college.

I was always busy as a boy. We had cows to milk, eggs to collect, and wood to chop. About a quarter of our twenty acres were planted in eucalyptus trees, and Dad, Don, and I spent much of our “spare” time chopping down the trees (to clear the land) and cutting up the wood to sell.

A neighbor who lived beyond us stopped by and gave me a ride to school with his sons. Another nearby neighbor family invited me to ride with their family to attend Vacation Bible School, and it was at this time that I was introduced to Christ and accepted Him as my Savior. The VBS was run by the American Sunday School Union, an organization that I am grateful for and have continued to support to this day, as it was through their ministry that I found Christ. Finding Christ was the most significant event of my life. I began attending the little country church with these neighbors, and in time my parents began attending and accepted Christ also.

At Modesto Junior College I joined Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, an excellent organization which contributed greatly to my Christian growth. I became president of the group. When they went on a two week camping trip to a remote part of Catalina Island during the summer, I could only go for one week, as I had to work to save money for my next semester.

I completed my undergraduate education at Fresno State College (now California State University at Fresno), where I majored in Social Science, which consisted of Economics, History, and Sociology. Again I was involved with Intervarsity, and it was there that I met Beverly Camp. Bev played piano for Intervarsity and somehow I found myself leading the singing! Before I left for graduate school Bev and I were engaged.

I was fortunate to obtain a full scholarship through the Ford Foundation to attend the one year graduate program at San Francisco State College (now University) to become a teacher. Through my church I was put in touch with a family near the College who rented me a room inexpensively, and because of my scholarship and all of my summer jobs (picking peaches, grading them, working in the cannery, and going door to door selling Watkins products) I graduated debt free (but flat broke!) Bev and I were married July 6, 1956, after I graduated. One month later I was drafted into the Army and had to leave for basic training at Fort Lewis, Washington. Bev was able to join me after six months, and my military assignment kept me at Fort Lewis the entire duration of my active duty. Our first child, Francine, was born in Washington.

After my tour of duty ended I was hired as a high school history teacher in Ceres, where I became head of the department. While in Ceres our family attended Mountain View church seven to eight miles west of Turlock. There I assisted in the leadership of the church as Chairman of the Board of Deacons.

Tragedy struck our family while we were there when our first born son, Stephen, died of sudden infant death syndrome at approximately the age of two weeks. Stephen is buried in the children’s area of the Ceres Cemetery, near my parents. Bev is also buried there, as I will be.

In Ceres we had a team teaching approach, and when I applied for a teaching job in the Bay Area, my experience in team teaching (and also as department head) were the two factors which resulted in my getting a job. After a year at the old Foothill High School in Hayward I was transferred to the brand new Marina High School in San Leandro. I was there from the day it opened until it closed, eighteen years later.

During my time at Marina I continued my education, obtaining two masters’ degrees: one in Education and the other in Counseling. Subsequent teaching at Arroyo High School in San Lorenzo and at the San Leandro Adult School rounded out my working years.

Our family attended First American Baptist Church in Hayward, where I was Moderator of the Board of Deacons. Beverly was in charge of Christian Education. To facilitate spiritual depth and provide an opportunity for interaction and support among the members, Bev and I began a small group Bible study in our home, which we led for many years. In 1977 we realized the programs of the church were inadequate for our children, and we began attending the Neighborhood Church (now 3 Crosses Church) in Castro Valley. They had a many-faceted, robust youth program, which we felt would be a better fit for our family. I continue to attend that church to this day.

Almost incomprehensibly, our second son, Tim, died in his sleep at the age of 50. Now I had lost two sons. The grief I experienced from this loss, and continue to experience, would be unbearable without the assurance from the Lord that I will see my sons again.

Then, a year later, after a very fulfilling marriage of 57 years my dear wife, Beverly, succumbed to Alzheimer’s, a condition which had plagued her for ten years. My widowed brother, Don, moved in with me. I was grateful that I still had my daughter Francine, son Brian, and daughter-in-law Jane and their families.

Even though my life seemed over, much to my amazement, God brought Jean Braine into my life. Bev and I and Jean and Ray had been friends for many years, having met at Neighborhood Church in the late 70s. Ray died the year following Bev’s death, and somehow God orchestrated that Jean and I spend some time together, as I had briefly helped care for Ray in his last months and Jean and I had some business dealings together. We were both members of the Gideons, as well as the Challengers adult Sunday School class. Everyone was surprised – including us – when we were married in May of 2015. Our marriage has been such a blessing for both of us!

Serving God in any way I can has always been important to me. One of the prominent values I have had throughout life has been to cherish the friends and family God has given me. A manifestation of this value has been the fact that, along with my wife, I have kept in touch with many people that we met along the way – going all the way back to grade school. For many years Bev and I attended the annual Ritchie family reunion in Oklahoma. It has only been a few years now since those ended. I still have friends whom I made in grade school all the way through high school. Our annual Turlock High School class reunion is a highlight of my year when I see some of these dear friends. Each church we attended added a wealth of new friends whom I still treasure and try to maintain contact with. Friends and family are among my most valuable possessions.

KEY SCRIPTURE

God never promised that life would be easy. In fact, Christ told us to expect that life would be hard. But He did promise never to leave us. And He has been true to His Word. I can say with the Psalmist “The Lord is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation.” (Psalm 118:14).

A passage that has been so meaningful to me throughout my life is Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” Looking back over my long life of trusting in the Lord, I can attest to His faithfulness to me.

To those who come after me I would say receive Christ early In life, as soon as you learn about Him. Then follow Him where He leads you. Look for His direction, and He will not just lead you but be right with you all along life’s difficult journey. With Him, you can handle whatever comes your way.

DEBBIE RYAN-ZACHAROFF

AGE: __; YEARS AT 3Crosses: __
YEARS AS A CHRISTIAN: Approximately __

SALVATION EXPERIENCE

I went to Neighborhood Church, Castro Valley as a child. I attended Children's church, where Ed Hubbard was the church director. I had a medical emergency at 6 years old, where I had a fast-acting staff germ and infection, where I stopped breathing. My dad found me in my bed, all blue in the face, and not breathing. He called the Fire Department, for the paramedics to come and resuscitate me. The Fire Chief rushed me to St. Rose hospital in Hayward, CA. The doctors said that they had to operate on me. They said it wasn't quite an emergency surgery, but it was close! The doctors gave me a tracheostomy to open up my airways. I then had an out of body experience! I was totally knocked out for the surgery, not to mention not being able to breathe! However, I felt myself floating above the operating table, and I was floating up towards the bright lights. I looked down and saw the surgeon and nurses working on me, operating on me. I was embarrassed, because all I had on were some blue shorts! They Then resuscitated me! Then the next thing that I remember, was that I woke up in an oxygen tent in the hospital. As soon as I woke up, a beautiful blonde nurse came over and told me, "Happy Halloween!" She gave me a yellow plastic kitty cat, and told me that my brothers and sisters were trick or treating for me, that night, and they were going to save a big orange pumpkin full of candy for me!

So, then I thought about that experience for several years. Then one night, when I was 8 years old, while I was trying to pray to God, I started crying. I felt like my prayers were hitting the bedroom ceiling, and coming back down again! Then my mom came in and asked me; "Debbie, why are you crying?" Then I told her how I was feeling. She gave me some Bible verses, such as John 3:16, and then asked me if I wanted to invite Jesus Christ in my heart? I said, “yes", and then, right there, my mom prayed with me to receive Christ as my Savior! I kept going to church, and church camps. At my senior high school church camp meeting at Mt. Hermon, I committed my life to follow God wherever he wanted to lead me. Ron Story, the youth pastor, gave the altar call. The altar call was, "Here I am, Lord, send me." Then I attended San Diego Christian College in El Cajon, CA, where I met my husband, Peter. I majored in Education, and taught at Redwood Christian Schools, Fremont Christian School, and now I am a Public School 5th grade teacher. I love to share with others what the Lord has done for me! Since I received Jesus, I have never had that feeling of my prayers being blocked again. Now, I know that Romans 3:23 is true: for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. However, I John 1:9 says; If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

DELORES JACKSON

AGE: __; YEARS AT 3Crosses: 52
YEARS AS A CHRISTIAN: Approximately 50

SALVATION EXPERIENCE

I was one of six children brought up with religion, right & wrong, by godly parents. We even prayed together every night. But I never realized Jesus had died on the cross for me. I felt that I never fit in with others. I prayed to God often. After marriage and two children and then going through a divorce, I really felt insecure. A friend invited me to go to a “prayer circle” with her. Their prayers were what I felt for my life and I asked Jesus into my life.

KEY SCRIPTURE

Life brought more good and hard times; marriage- death-cancer, but with the Lord’s help I claimed Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” God cares.

Trust Him in all you do. Stay with God’s word.

DIANE RYAN

AGE: __; YEARS AT 3Crosses: __
YEARS AS A CHRISTIAN: Approximately __

SALVATION EXPERIENCE

Diane was going to First Presbyterian Church in Berkeley. Her pastor was Robert Boyd Munger who was the author that wrote the pamphlet; "My Heart Christ's Home". She thought she was a Christian. As a child she went to first Christian Church in Oakland. It was Labor Day weekend at Mt. Hermon. There was a Youth Group Retreat that everyone at her church was going to for the weekend. Diane decided not to go. She had something else going on that weekend. Her girlfriend got everyone to call her to go. There was something else she wanted to do. She finally said OK., and decided to go to the retreat. There was a Christian speaker there, who was a surgeon and spoke about being a Christian, and relating it to medical things, which my mom related to, since she worked at Merritt hospital in Oakland as a hospital admittance clerk.

She went forward and accepted the Lord right there at the retreat! The surgeon's wife was ready to have a baby, so everyone was sitting on eggshells for the doctor at the retreat! The surgeon gave several messages. Diane accepted the Lord on that Saturday night, and the surgeon left on Sunday morning, because his wife finally then had her baby! It was a nice conference and Diane said she enjoyed it.

Diane then went to serve in the Port O' Call at Neighborhood Church in Oakland as a hostess. She met Bob there, who was a Navy Sailor. They fell in love, and were married at 3Crosses, and raised their 6 kids in the church! Diane has gone on to become a nurse LVN, and worked at St. Rose hospital, as well as Kaiser Hospital for over 35 years! Diane (and Bob) had 6 kids, who are all Christians. She served in the Children's Sunday School at Neighborhood Church for over 60 years! Diane and Bob now attend the Challenger's Class, which is now called the Legacy Class.

DIETMAR BARNIKEL

AGE: 86; YEARS AT 3Crosses: 13
YEARS AS A CHRISTIAN: Approximately 41

SALVATION EXPERIENCE

I think the Lord has always been after me but I’ve taken a varied path in my faith walk. While growing up in a Christian home in Augsburg, Germany, Hitler’s rise to power was the first to sidetrack my walk. My father was a pastor at our Methodist church, so our family regularly attended Sunday service and school. When I was about 10, I became involved with the “Hitler Youth.” Their activities not only conflicted with Sunday worship and study, but also it brainwashed us into the Nazi system. In the beginning, I liked it because of the sports-oriented activities, such as running, hiking and wrestling. I remember that if you did well in your studies, your reward was a picture of a German general from the frontlines. We were told that our “V-1” and V-2” rockets (leading technology at the time) would win the war for us. Of course, that didn’t happen. After the war, at age 14, I had to go to work and so landed a job as a confectioner’s apprentice. Soon I was entrenched in the restaurant field where the long hours and pursuit of my trade took me on a path away from faithful worship. At this time one of my childhood Bible memory verses gave me some comfort: Matthew 11:28 - Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.

My trail led me to work first in Germany, then Switzerland, and then Holland where I took a job on a cruise ship that circled the world. By my mid-twenties, with many travels behind me and more to come, I immigrated to the United States in New York. While there for just 18 months, I was drafted into the U.S. Army and was soon stationed in Okinawa, Japan. While there, I had Sundays off so I again went to church, joined the choir, and met a girl, but that’s another story.

After military service, like many immigrants, my path took me in pursuit of the “American Dream.” Now in my 30s, I was working Sundays again at country clubs or hotel restaurants in the SF Bay Area. I bought a house, got married, had two kids, moved to Half Moon Bay and pursued what I thought was success. Looking back at those 12 years, I see that my idols were career and money and providing for my family, but not spending the time with them that I should. Before long my life collapsed when my wife began a divorce process. I wanted to quit it all, take a camper and hit the road on a new path. Worried about my state of mind, my sister in Germany recommended I talk to Robert Wattles, a friend of hers she had befriended while he was working with the Navigators organization in Germany after the war and, who now lived in the Bay Area. This I did and he shared the Lord with me, giving me Bible verses such as Revelations 3:20: “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” I realized that the meal Revelations spoke about was like none I’d ever prepared, but rather, with the Lord, it would entail mercy, grace, and forgiveness - just what I needed. Bob and I have remained friends to this day.

On April 13, 1979, I was camping alone on Mount Diablo and struggling with making the commitment to give my life to the Lord. With God’s grace, I opened my heart and when I came off the mountain, I met with Robert and told him of my new commitment. He welcomed me and, because I had nowhere else to go, he let me stay with him. He then set me up working as a chef at a Navigators’ conference center in Colorado. While working there, I participated in a discipleship program offered to the workers. I stayed with the Navigators for 3 years and shortly after the program ended, I enrolled in Multnomah Bible School in Portland, OR, where I graduated after 3 years. During that time, I was living off of savings and investments and working summers with my son, Eric, at a beautiful resort on the Oregon coast. At this time I felt the Lord leading me to serve Him in China, so I accepted an opportunity to join the Board of Directors at Educational Resources and Referrals China, a mission organization in Berkeley, CA. I was with them for 5 years. This is where I met my wife, Marty, who was Assistant Director in charge of recruiting and training Christians to go to China to teach English. In 1991 they arranged for me to visit many parts of China as a chef consultant/teacher and visit ERRC teachers to see how I could help out. This was just after the Tiananmen square incident so the hotel/tourist business was down. Nothing long-term developed for me, so I ended up going around the world again, this time by plane and train, consulting and working along the way.

After I returned from my travels, Marty and I began our courtship and in October 1993 we were married. I still had to work many Sundays but I regularly attended weekly Bible studies. In 2007, we found ourselves at 3Crosses, taking the 101 class and that’s where I learned about, and started the very rewarding discipline of a daily quiet time. This habit has really helped me grow spiritually along with the great spiritual influence Marty has had on me. Our life together is an adventure in which we challenge each other, pray and do devotions together. While at 3Crosses, we have been involved in International Student Fellowship, which has met our desire to reach internationals for Christ without going overseas. I have also been involved in CrossStreets ministry, primarily an outreach to local people in need.

Given my path through life so far, I have learned that everything is vanity if not connected to Christ. All the striving, if not God centered, is a waste. I learned through experience that even being a world-known successful chef, I was not able to share Jesus with the people I was closest to because I wasn’t doing things for the right reason. It’s so important for us to be an example of the Lord, to make connections with others by reflecting the Lord’s love, and by being a bridge to help them meet the Lord. In other words, we need to glorify Him, not ourselves. The only way to do that is to keep Christ as the center. He’s the only bridge builder between sinful man and our Holy God, and taking that bridge enables us to rest in Him.

KEY SCRIPTURE

All of this leads me to a couple of my favorite scriptures, because they speak to my journey and provide me peace:

  • Psalm 119:105 "Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light for my path."
  • Psalm 16:8 "I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken."

   

DUANE DOYLE

AGE: 65; YEARS AT 3Crosses: --
YEARS AS A CHRISTIAN: Approximately 58

SALVATION EXPERIENCE

Born into a Christian family, my parents and all four grandparents were born again believers in Jesus Christ as their Savior. My grandparents all came to the Lord in their 30’s. My grandmother, Geraldine Doyle attended Neighborhood Church at the original Oakland location with my Dad and his younger brother and my namesake Duane. The tragic death of Duane in 1938 brought my grandpa Doyle to faith in Jesus. The church rallied around the young Doyle family in its most difficult trial and Pastor Earl Sexour said this was the catalyst for much growth at Neighborhood Church at that time. My Grandparents Peterson started attending the new Church at 8411 MacArthur Blvd. in Oakland. Both my Grandfathers served on the board and as ushers for most of the rest of their lives. I remember alternating Sunday’s sitting with them in their usher seats at the back of the center section, Doyle on the left side and Peterson on the right and continuing this practice at the new Church in Castro Valley. My grandparents were great examples to me of living Christian values. I observed my grandparent’s devotion to reading God’s word every day.

I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior on November 28th, 1963 at Neighborhood Church in Oakland. Millie Story was the leader of “children’s Church”, held in the Crimson Chapel and she prayed with me that day along with several other kids to accept Jesus as Lord. Growing up in a Christian home and accepting the Lord at age 7 does not make for a dramatic testimony but I am very blessed. I have always wondered if pride would have been an obstacle at an older age, but my Lord spared me that challenge. I played saxophone in the Church Orchestra every Sunday night from 7th grade through college, attended camp every summer and did advanced Bible studies mid-week taught by “Big Ed” Harris. In college, Paul Travis challenged me and several of my friends to consider going into the ministry. I had spent much of my young life working as a mechanic at Peterson Tractor. I loved the heavy machinery and was focusing on a career at Peterson. The challenge to go into ministry really bothered me because of the conflict between my dreams and the possibility the Lord wanted me to go into ministry. I finally got to the point where I said, “Lord if you want me in the ministry, I will do it”. The Lord’s answer came crystal clear. He said, ‘I just wanted you to be willing to do my will, you don’t need to go into ministry”. What a huge burden was lifted from my soul by being willing to obey my Lord Jesus!

The example of daily Bible reading from my Grandparents is a practice I cherish every day of my life. Some day’s God’s word speaks to me more than others, but I know that being consistent in reading which I equate to “Listening” and prayer which I equate to “conversing” are the most essential components of my life.

I have been on NC/3Crosses board for over 30 years and appreciate the responsibility the Lord has entrusted. I would however consider leading a small group of men my greatest joy in service to my Lord. Our group comes from all walks of life and several started as seekers but now have Jesus as their savior too.

I am blessed with a wonderful, talented and patiently supporting wife of 44 years. Two believing children and their wonderful spouses and six super grandkids. I could go on and on about all of God’s blessings, but the greatest is the blessed assurance of our salvation and Christ’s coming victory overall.

   

ED HUBBARD

AGE: 74; YEARS AT 3Crosses: 51
YEARS AS A CHRISTIAN: Approximately 69

SALVATION EXPERIENCE

My testimony begins before the earth was created when God graciously chose me to be His object of saving love (Ephesians 1:4, John 15:16). Jesus lived my perfect life, obeying all of God’s commands, and resisting all temptation. He then absorbed God’s fierce wrath against the sins of all Believers, died in my place, arose from the dead, and returned to Heaven, where He currently reigns (Psalm 97:1).

God regenerated me (John 1:12-13) as a young child nearly 70 years ago, called me (Romans 8:30), justified me (Romans 8:30), redeemed me (Romans 3:24), and adopted me (Ephesians1:5). I realized that I was a sinner and alienated from God. A guest evangelist was speaking in our church when I felt the prompting of the Holy Spirit to ask my father for permission to get out of my seat and walk the long aisle to the platform to receive spiritual guidance. I remember the evangelist saying, “Here is the first child to come to the Lord this week.” In the prayer room, I wept over my sins (Matthew 5:3), repented, and believed in the Gospel (Mark 1:15).

My testimony continues today. I am on an adventure like no other — the adventure of sanctification: becoming what I am in Christ (Colossians 3:10). Continually changing. Continually conforming. Some days two steps forward and three steps backward. Never perfection, but maintaining the direction. As C.S. Lewis said, “I know that I am made for another world because nothing in this world can ever satisfy my longings.”

SOMETHING TO PASS ALONG

  • Be 100% certain that you are a Believer. Know what you believe and why you believe it. How do I know that I am redeemed? The Book of 1 John gives several tests of the genuineness of our faith. The primary one is love (1 John 4:8). We know that God is love, but do I love God? (Do I love God enough to regularly talk to Him in prayer? Do I love God enough to enjoy listening to Him by reading and studying His Word? Do I love God enough to want to please Him in all of my thoughts and actions?) Do I love others? (1 John 4:20-21). Am I abiding in love (1 John 4:16)?
  • Know and embrace every attribute of God.
  • Know and embrace every precept and principle and promise found in God’s Word. 
  • Do not even try to synthesize scientism or the latest cultural “morality” with the Bible. View all of life through the lens of the Bible. /li>
  • Do not add to or subtract from biblical truth. Do you want to hear God talking to you? Read the Bible. Do you want to hear God audibly talking to you? Read the Bible aloud.
  • Expect God to use you wherever you are and whatever you are doing in His name.

When I left my home and my home church to attend university, I knew I was saved and I believed the Bible, but my faith was sorely tested. I wished I had known then what I know now — but some things just take time.

KEY SCRIPTURE

"Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever." - Psalm 23:6 NASB

Since “the days of my life” began at my conception, I have always enjoyed God’s blessings and protection. Since “forever” means forever, I am saved forever (which, of course, is the definition of eternal life.) travels with Bill as much as she is able, assisting in evangelism, discipleship, and counseling.

ELAINE CARVIN

AGE: 90; YEARS AT 3Crosses: 55
YEARS AS A CHRISTIAN: Approximately 80

SALVATION EXPERIENCE

I was born May 25 at 9:30 am. Yes! I kept my mother out of church that Sunday morning. I was taught about Jesus as a young child and taken to Sunday school all my life. One Sunday morning, Pastor gave an altar call and I went forward to dedicate my life to the Lord. I have had the most beautiful life following the Lord Jesus and asking Him to lead, guide, and direct my life. As a middle child of seven siblings, we were a very close-knit family too. My mother played piano and we would all gather around the piano singing beautiful hymns. Dad had a beautiful voice and could really sing the hymns! This is why I love 39ers class so much; I was raised on hymns and they are taken from the Scriptures. All my life I was guided by Jesus, the Scriptures, and hymns. Every Sunday night at 9 pm we would gather around the radio and listen to the preacher, his sermons, and his wife-“Honey”. Honey would read letters from the congregation that were beautiful and were very blessed. At the same time, every Sunday night in California there was a young man listening to the same preacher. To this day we both feel that the Lord planned in our lives for us to meet. When I graduated from high school in 1947, my family and I left the farm and moved to California. My oldest brother was captain of the “President Johnson”, Merchant Marine vessel, and his first mate was the brother of the young man who had been listening to the same Sunday night preacher. God planned my life, and my husband’s, and we had 63 wonderful years together serving the Lord. He was raised at Melrose Baptist church in Oakland while I was raised at a Baptist church 30 miles north of Branson, Missouri. Can you believe it? We were 3,000 miles apart and God used my brother, The Sea Captain, and his brother, the First Mate, to introduce me to my husband, Duke Carvin.

For the next generation: Young people, you must put Christ first in your life! Next, find a good Bible-teaching church and “Lean on the Lord and He will direct your life.” He has given us so many promises. “I will never leave or forsake you”. Read your Bible- it is your guide to living a life for Christ.

KEY SCRIPTURE

I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.” Galatians 2:20

My favorite hymn is: "What a day, Glorious day, When my Jesus I shall See".

Christian fellowship is so important. We have had so many friends at 3 Crosses who have gone on to be with the Lord. God said we will know each other and have a new spiritual body. I am looking forward to seeing Duke and my friends again. Thank you Lord for my 3 Crosses church, Sunday school class, hymns, prayer-chain, Pastor Randy (my Sunday school teacher), the church board (godly people with wisdom), godly women for Women’s Fellowship, and Butch Monk and Eric Halverson (for our testimony request).

ERIC HALVERSON

AGE: 68; YEARS AT 3Crosses: 22
YEARS AS A CHRISTIAN: Approximately 47

SALVATION EXPERIENCE

I was born in Toronto Canada in 1952, but my parents moved to California when I was a baby and I was raised primarily in the SF Bay Area. My parents were Christians and my brother and sister and I were brought up attending church. It was while living in San Lorenzo and attending San Lorenzo Community Church, however, that the family became very active in church. I attended Sunday school regularly, participated in the youth group, and enjoyed a family life in which the church played a large role. In 1965, at the age of 13, I completed my “confirmation” classes and was accepted as a believing member of the United Church of Christ.

However, the following year my parents moved the family from San Lorenzo to Castro Valley and we effectively stopped attending church and the faith-based activities we had been involved in. So I started high school in 1966, and my teenage years, in a new location attending Hayward High. Being in high school in the Bay Area in the late 60’s (68’ Summer of Love, Woodstock, “Drugs, Sex, Rock n Roll”, political assassinations, Viet Nam War) was a challenging time and by my 3rd year of high school I had left my Christian faith and was a confirmed atheist, choosing science and intellect over religious superstition, as I viewed it. Although I was a good student, it wasn’t long before my focus was on playing guitar/singing, chasing girls, and partying, (drinking, smoking, getting high).

Between 1968 and 1970, the war in Viet Nam had escalated to its greatest severity, hundreds of thousands of young soldiers were being sent to fight overseas, tens of thousands of them were coming home dead (including two older high school friends). The need for soldiers was so great that  a non-volunteer draft lottery had been instituted (selection by birthdate) and young men were being drafted to fight in Viet Nam. The war that had once been popularly supported was now dividing the country. In my last year of high school, the draft was hanging over my head. I didn’t want to think about it…but I knew it was coming.

I had entered high school in 1966 as a Christian believer and as a supporter of the military but by my graduation in June of 1970 I was a confirmed atheist and strongly anti-Viet Nam war. And now I was confronted with the draft. Shortly after my graduation, that year’s lottery was held. My birthday was the 21st number drawn; I was going to be drafted and sent to Viet Nam.

But God, who had never let go of me, though I had let go of Him, began to slowly draw me back to Himself.

Because of the draft, I was now forced to think very seriously about the meaning of life...if it had meaning. Was I willing to go to war and kill? If not, why not? If Darwin was right, survival of the fittest was the rule for life. What value then was there in life? If it was OK to kill an animal in certain circumstances, wouldn’t that same rule apply to man?  Is man any different than the animals? Why? And if man is just another animal, and survival of the fittest (natural selection) is how the universe works, then killing not only should be OK, but expected. And what about morality? Natural Darwinism would reject the concept of any objective“ morality”; everything is relative.

But I was conflicted. Being confronted with Viet Nam pitted what I had embraced  intellectually (Darwinism, natural selection) against an internal witness  that I had begun to recognize and just couldn’t talk myself out of. Somehow I knew that man was special, different than the animals. And somehow I knew that there exists a universal morality that all cultures share and are obligated to. Murder is wrong, lying is wrong, oppressing the weak and helpless is wrong. Everywhere. All cultures. The answers provided by my secular humanism and Darwanism, the “intellectual scientific” theories and conclusions I had embraced, contradicted what I knew in my heart, in my soul. I knew that man was special. I knew that life mattered. I knew universal morality was real. But why? I couldn’t reconcile the contradiction between what my heart was telling me and what my mind was. I wrestled with this for weeks without understanding as I waited for my official draft notification.

Then one day, while meditating on these things and asking myself “What value is there in man that makes him special, above the animals?”  I heard, not audibly, but somehow I heard in my mind, somehow within my consciousness, “Because man is valuable to Me. I have assigned man a special place. ” Wait! What was happening?! I had not reasoned this out, I had not come up with this answer on my own.  If I had, I would have heard “Because man is valuable to God (3rd person)”. But somehow, in a way I had never experienced before in my life, in a way difficult to explain, I heard “Because man is valuable to Me,” in the first person!!

I was dumbstruck! Did that really happen?! But it was THE ANSWER I had been seeking; the only answer that made sense. God had given man his special place, his special significance over the rest of the animals. God had embedded within man an objective morality that was universal.  God was the answer to the questions I was wrestling with. God!  God reconciled the truth my heart insisted on with my mind’s reason.

I now knew and believed... God was real !!! He was the Creator and he had created man as a special being for Himself. And dare I believe it? God had spoken to me!

And God, who had never let go of me, though I had let go of Him, continued to draw me back to Himself.

But now that I believed again in God, which God? My search was not over. I reasoned that there are many “gods”, and many religions in the world, I needed to find the real one. But how?

I decided that I would not go to Viet Nam and kill, so I filed for “conscientious objector (CO)” status with my draft board and while awaiting their decision, enrolled at Chabot Jr College. As luck (?) would have it, there was a philosophy class on “World Religions” being offered so I signed up for the class so I could continue my search for the “real” God.

The format of the class was that we would study each major religion by reading significant portions from each religion’s “holy books”. We read from the Koran (Islam), then the Bhagavad Gita (Hindu), and then Zen (Buddhist).  Then we read the book of Genesis for the Jewish religion. Finally, we were assigned to read the Gospel of John for the Christian religion.

I was at home alone, one rainy December morning, doing homework and preparing for my afternoon classes at Chabot. I picked up where I had been reading in the book of John; John chapter 8. As I began to read, the words began to affect me in a way that none of the other religious readings had.

“I am the light of the world, he who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life”.

Reading the words began to have a physical affect on me. My stomach tightened, and I began to tremble. I stopped reading, composed myself, laughed at myself for this weird reaction, and started reading again.

  • if you knew me, you would know My Father also”
  • “He who sent me is true, and the things I heard from Him, these I speak to the world.”

Again, I had to stop reading. Why was this book affecting me so? The other religious books had been easy to read. Now I was unable to get through more than a paragraph at a time without beginning to shake and without my eyes beginning to fill with tears.

  • Truly, truly I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. “
  • “If therefore the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.”

Reading was difficult but I had to finish the chapter before class so I continued to read -

  • “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it and was glad. The Jews therefore said to him - You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham? Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.”

When I read this it was as if I heard Jesus say “I AM” directly to me. The power of His words “I AM” overwhelmed me. And I knew. I fell to my knees and wept. I  knew then that Jesus was the Son of God and my search was over. I prayed simply “ Jesus, I want to know you. Please forgive me. Please reveal yourself to me and lead me into Your truth.”

And God, who had never let go of me, though I had let go of Him, in great patience and faithfulness, had brought me back to Himself.

And the draft? Miracle #1- the draft board approved my CO status (almost never happens!). Miracle #2- the draft board asked me if I preferred to have a student deferment instead so I could continue with my college studies. (They had already announced publicly that they would not be giving out any more student deferments.) So I continued my studies and began my Christian walk. The active draft was discontinued in 1973. I graduated in 1974 with a BA in Philosophy. The war in Viet Nam ended in 1975.

To the Next Generation:
The Christian walk, our journey, the “race” as Paul framed it, is not a sprint. It is a long-distance marathon…and that requires a different frame of mind. It requires endurance, steadfastness, patience, and a lot of trust that the One who called us to start the race, is also the One who is able to get us across the finish line. Realize that there will be both good and bad times; both easy and tough times. The tough times may be harder than you ever thought possible; illnesses, deaths, broken relationships, career setbacks are but a few of life’s tragedies that befall believer and non -believer alike. There may be times when you hurt so bad you want to stop. But don’t stop walking. Never give up. This too shall pass. Jesus will see you through. He who promised is He who is faithful, and He will do it.  He has given you His Spirit as a pledge, a guarantee. You are His, and He will not forsake you.

KEY SCRIPTURE

  • “The Lord will accomplish what concerns me; Thy lovingkindness, O Lord, is everlasting.” Ps 138:8
  • If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. -1Jn 1:9
  • “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”- Rom 8:1

The three scriptures quoted above are special to me because I am a sinner. When I first accepted Christ as my Lord, as a baby Christian I gave in to sin regularly, but these scriptures convinced me not to give up. 47 years later, the Spirit has thankfully worked in my life, but I am still just a forgiven sinner that finds comfort in these verses.

Testimonies  |  F-K 

FERN WALLACE

AGE: __; YEARS AT 3Crosses: __
YEARS AS A CHRISTIAN: Approximately __

SALVATION EXPERIENCE

We attended a family reunion on my mother’s side in Wisconsin. I was seven years old at the time. I was reared in a Christian home and attended Sunday School and children’s church. I had heard about the way to heaven, but never made the decision to receive Christ into my heart.

One night I was overcome with a dreadful feeling of dying and going to hell as I wasn’t ready for heaven. I wanted my mother to pray for me, but was prevented from waking her up by my cousin. She sat me up on the ironing board she was using and gave me a lemon to suck on. She said I could go quietly in their bedroom and check to see if she was awake. I knelt before my mother and listened to her breathing in and out and quite deep in sleep, so I was afraid to rouse her at all.

When I awakened the next morning that awful dread had passed so I never told my mother of my experience as I had not died and passed it off as a strange experience.

At the age of ten, I heard two visiting missionaries who spoke in church. They ended it by singing “I’ll Live On.” I knew that I would not “live on” until I made things right with God. I went forward to the altar kneeling down to repent in tears and receiving an overwhelming gift of peace and wanted to share the good news of salvation and forgiveness with everyone. Of course, I shared that experience with my mother.

I like to say that sucking on a lemon will not take your sins away, but the precious blood of Jesus definitely will. All you have to do is ask.

FRED PORTER

AGE: __; YEARS AT 3Crosses: __
YEARS AS A CHRISTIAN: Approximately __

SALVATION EXPERIENCE

THIS STORY begins in Pontiac, Michigan.  I was born in 1942 into a marriage that lasted about one and a half years following my birth.  My biological father loved someone more than my mother so they were divorced in 1943.  In the summer of 1944, when I was two, my mother and grandparents packed their belongings and moved to Los Angeles to avoid a custody suit brought by my father in Michigan.  In those days he had no jurisdiction in California.

My mother and grandparents were Methodists although they did not attend church on a regular basis, but they saw to it that I attended Sunday school at local churches or community centers whenever possible.  Although I was taught many bible stories and knew about God, I did not know the God of the bible, but even then I felt God’s hand on my life.

In 1949 my mother married a man attending the Los Angeles Police academy.  During that first year he decided to leave the academy and join the Army to become a Military Police officer.  Following the completion of his training in 1950, the Army stationed us in Oakland, California where we lived in the projects until 1954.  Later that year we were assigned to Munich, Germany for one-year tour of duty where I once again attended a Sunday school on the Military Base.

In late 1955 we returned to the United States where my father was once again stationed in Oakland. Following our return my parents bought a home in San Lorenzo so that I could attend Arroyo High School and finally have permanent roots.  All of this led me to a friendship that became my introduction to a life of faith.

My mother found a job working at a local bank.  There she worked with a woman whose son was also attending Arroyo High School and was in the same grade. She told me about this woman and her son and asked me to introduce myself to him (Steve) and perhaps strike up a friendship.  Little did I know that this was an appointment set up by the Lord.

Shortly after Steve and I became friends, he asked me if I wanted to attend a boy’s club at his church in Oakland where they did crafts and other activities which sounded fun, so I accepted.  That was my introduction to The Neighborhood Church.  I enjoyed myself so much that I began attending the Junior Hight group on Sundays and eventually signed up for Junior High camp at Mt. Hermon that the following summer.  It was at that Jr. High camp that I came to realize that God’s grace pursued my heart and I committed my life to serving Him.

I became involved in (Omega) High School leadership, later in the college group, and finally, I became involved in adult ministries.  In 1958 I met my future wife and we were married in 1964 by former pastor Dr. Jacob Bellig.

After High School, I decided I needed to extend my education so I enrolled at the College of San Mateo.  After the first semester, I found that I wasn’t ready for the college experience.  I also realized that I was vulnerable for the draft.  Many of the young men I knew were being drafted into the Army and my being an Army kid, I knew I didn’t want to wind up in the regular Army.  A friend at church suggested I consider the California National Guard where I could serve and still stay at home and work and accomplish my goals which were yet to be determined.  So, I joined in 1961 and did my basic training and returned home to complete my obligation for the following nine years.  My service was completed in 1969.

Following our marriage in 1964 we had three sons over the next 10 years. Our marriage lasted 49 years until her death in 2014.  We raised our sons in the church and then, like it happens in many families, our sons were seduced by the music culture.

 Early in 2003 we discovered our youngest son had become a heroin addict.  He was arrested and placed in the court system.  He was convicted of using illegal drugs and sentenced to 6 months time in jail.  With God’s help and our love, he overcame his addiction. Today this amazing young man is an English Teacher teaching the English language to German students in Frankfurt, Germany. 

Our middle son got his education in Architecture and has become a successful designer and businessman here in the Bay Area. He has a beautiful family with three children and is giving them a multi-cultural education both here and in Mexico where they were born. 

In early 2008 our oldest son, having become a professional rock musician, and who for 15 years had toured with a major rock band and traveled both nationally and internationally, quit the band life. We saw that he was depressed and exhausted and needed help, so we volunteered our home to him at Lake Tahoe.  I thought this would help him find himself and restart his life.  However, I didn’t realize that this somehow only deepened his depression and sense of isolation.  I had started going to Lake Tahoe a couple time a month to spend time with him and attend church with him.  I felt he was making progress.  However, in June of 2010 while going to spend the weekend with him we discovered his body.  He has committed suicide.  Even today, I cannot reconcile his death because as his father it feels that I should have noticed the warning signs.  But I believe God knew his heart and brought him home.  (Isaiah 57:1-2) That alone in my consolation.

In 1975 I decided to start my own business as a Painting Contractor.  I became successful and felt I could be equally successful as a builder so 1982 I bought a large piece of property for a subdivision.  I had to overcome many obstacles on the project which also involved a law suit over the fraudulent sale of the property.  After more than a year I was not able to continue the suit and forced to surrender the property and file for bankruptcy.   This was a desperate time for our family as I had invested everything in this project.  We eventually lost our home and savings and needed God’s help.  Almost immediately our friend who was a real estate agent found us a rental home where we were able to live for the next 11 years.

For 10 years I struggled to get us back on our feet financially and continued to pray that God would provide relief from this struggle.  In 1992 I was recruited by a friend to join the maintenance staff at Macy’s department stores.  I was able to close down my contracting business and find financial security.  During the following 4 years I was able to prove my skills and expertise to my superiors and was promoted to Senior Executive of our division.  This completely changed my trajectory and opened new doors. After 8 years I left my employment at Macy’s and joined an project management company where I became a construction manager for Target Stores.

Looking back, I can clearly see God’s hand in all of this.  Although my eagerness put my family at risk, God was able to both teach me new skills and point me toward a career change that proved to be successful for our family.  Never rule out God no matter how desperate you feel.  He has a plan and you can trust Him to carry it out.

God also opened the door to ministry for me early on in my life.  In 1959 I joined the choir and the Sunday evening group called The Choralaires where I served for 18 years.  God’s hand was guiding me and opening doors for future ministry. During the years I served in The Choralaires, I became a member of a quartet which was very popular and performed regularly on Sunday nights during the musical portion of the Sunday evening program.

In 1975 our Quarter performed at the Bay Area Sunday School Convention.  We were only the opening group for the main concert that evening which was the Covenant Four Quartet who were based out of San Francisco.  I remember meeting these men and hearing about their travels and ministry and wishing that I could join a professional ministry like these men and use my musical talents on a broader scale. 

Surprise!!  In 1978 the Lord answered the desire of my heart and I was contacted by a friend who was a composer and producer for the Covenant Four Quartet. He asked me to audition for the Quartet.  Although I had been doing vocals for a local recording studio, my concern was that I might not be talented enough for such an amazing ministry.  But the Lord knew what He had invested in me and provided this opportunity.  At the audition I was accepted and asked to join.  For the next 35 years I sang with the Quartet.  There was traveling, recording 15 albums, radio and TV, and performing all over the western and central United States and Alaska. It was a wonderful period in my life and as the word tells us it was “beyond all that we desire or even think”.

Up to this point I have described how I came to discover and accept God’s work of grace and redemption in my life and the blessings I have experienced through that grace.  But my life has had its tragedy and pain.  God has not promised us an easy life. In fact, most of us who reach our age have discovered that life can be very difficult.  But God has promised to be with us and be our delight (Prov. 3:5-6,)

Following my wife’s death in 2014, my sons who were concerned about my state of mind, suggested I call on one of our friends with whom we had been close for over 40 years.  She was widowed having lost her husband a decade before and my wife and I had stayed close to her through all of the following years.  My sons saw that I needed companionship beyond what they could provide.  Here again God had a plan for my future. So, I called her and suggested we have lunch as friends.  That friendship continued and grow into a love that brought us both together to form the miraculous marriage we have today.  Pat is the miracle of my life and I wake up every morning and thank God for her love, grace, and beautiful spirit.  God completes our lives through his wonderful gifts.  We have been married for four and a half years and counting.  Every new day in a miracle.

In my life I’ve suffered business failures and successes.  Many things have interacted in my life at any one time.  I’ve lost a child and family members and through all of this He has loved me and been my comfort.  As I look back over my 78 years, I can see His hand in all of it. God knows our hearts and the Psalms tell us that he has planned every day of our lives before we were born.  He knows the hardships and victories and provides his love and care through all of it. The one consistent in my life had been the hand of God. I have lived a full life and a rich life and with whatever days remain, I will serve him till the end. 

In conclusion, no matter where you are in your life, no matter your age or financial situation or other hardships, God knows all of it and has a plan to see you through to eternity.  God uses everything in our lives to bring glory to himself.  All he needs is our trust and faithfulness.   Stay close to Him and trust in Him and he will be your delight. 

KEY SCRIPTURE

  • Prov. 3:5-6, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight."
  • Isaiah 57:1-2, "The righteous perish, and no one ponders it in his heart; devout men are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil. Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death."

HELENE GRANATH

AGE: 72; YEARS AT 3Crosses: __
YEARS AS A CHRISTIAN: Approximately 50

SALVATION EXPERIENCE

How I became a Christian: I saw the change in a person’s life when I was 22 years old and I knew I wanted that in my life also. I was raised Catholic so I have some understanding of God but I did not have a personal relationship with Him. I did not know you needed to invite Jesus into your life in order to become a child of God. So when I found out that is what was needed, I did it. Ps 40:3b Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.

KEY SCRIPTURE

2 Chronicles 20:6-12 "O Lord God of our fathers, are you not the God who is in heaven? (v. 7) O our God, did you not … (v12) O our God, will you not…for we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you."

It’s a great reminder that God is the creator of the universe (v6) and that He is in control (v7). God will help you as he has done in the past. (v12) God is there for your needs in the “here and now” to help you. There are insurmountable problems we all face and we don’t know what to do, but if you lay the problem on Jesus, He will guide you.

What is a scripture that has special meaning for you? One of my favorite scriptures is Psalm 103: 1-6 Bless the Lord, O my soul and all that is within me, bless His holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits. Who forgives all thine iniquities, who heals all thy diseases, Who redeems my life from destruction, Who crowns thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies, Who satisfies thy mouth with good things, so that thy youth is renewed like eagles. The Lord executes righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed.

The reason I chose this is because it tells us how to be saved and the benefits. You go to the Lord (v2) your sins need to be forgiven and you are healed spiritually as well as sometimes physically (v3) you were headed to hell before and now you have been given access to heaven and God’s lovingkindness and mercy while here on earth (v4) The Lord satisfies your daily needs and gives you strength for daily activity (v5) We are declared righteous in God’s sight through the blood of Jesus (v6) It goes from the moment you are saved till you go to the grave. God is with you.

JEAN MORROW

AGE: 81; YEARS AT 3Crosses: 73
YEARS AS A CHRISTIAN: Approximately 74

SALVATION EXPERIENCE

God has been incredibly good to me. It all began on July 26, 1939, when He brought me into an amazing Christian Family. My dad, Howard Critchfield, had been an Assembly of God (AG) traveling evangelist who had to find work during the depression years to provide for his family of now four. He took a job teaching at Monte Vista Christian School in Watsonville, and my mom, Laura, stayed home with my older sister, Anita, and me.

When World War II broke out everyone plunged into war work. We moved to the Bay Area so Dad could go to work at the Kaiser Shipyards in Richmond, building Victory Ships. We landed at his friend Irving Ford’s place in Oakland, where Dad helped milk the cow and assisted in Reverend Ford’s church.

In 1947 my parents decided to check out the new church they had watched being built on MacArthur Boulevard in Oakland: the Oakland Neighborhood Church. To Dad’s delight, his old AG friend, David Von Rotz, was playing the organ. While we had always attended Assembly of God churches, Dad commented “If it is good enough for Dave, it is good enough for me!”, and we made the move to Neighborhood, primarily for the excellent youth programming.

I recall the powerful pull of the Holy Spirit on my young, pre-teen life. In the late 40s we attended the evangelist faith-healing tent meetings of Oral Roberts in Alameda, where I went to the prayer tent and prayed to receive Christ. Then when Jacob Bellig became pastor in 1954, I went to the prayer room and counseled with Charlotte Bellig, where I made a more mature reconfirmation of my faith. Charlotte told me to read the Bible each day in the New Testament, which I began doing. I was off to a good start! 

When I was in high school the church began the annual Kick-Off Rallies in the fall at the beginning of football season. They were a very popular event among high schoolers, drawing big crowds. I was very active in the Omega ministry at that time, serving as president during my senior year. The church was my life! I played in the orchestra and then sang in the Choralaires. 

In 1957 I moved to Berkeley to start college at U.C. I would say today that the devil works overtime on college kids, trying to derail their faith. It was my goal to be a missionary – a Wycliffe Bible Translator. Neighborhood Church sent me to Mexico during the summer between my sophomore and junior years to stay with a Wycliffe family, learn about missionary life, and bring back a report. I was excited and switched my college focus from my major in psychology, to linguistics. But things got “fuzzy” for my faith and future as I mentally wrestled with the teachings of my atheistic professors, especially in psychology and anthropology.  I began questioning my faith.  I thought unbelievers “had more fun”. I wanted in on that fun, and I made some really bad choices. And I had a boyfriend.  Missionary work just wasn’t going to blend in with what I wanted for my life. I wanted to marry Ray and stay home. Ray lived a very exciting life of symphonies, operas, and world travel. While he was a Christian, there was no missionary future for him. Somehow I ended up throwing out my faith with my missionary ambition and married Ray.  

While I gave up on God for awhile, He never gave up on me. Oh, I continued to attend church, Ray saw to that. But I was confused and skeptical. I considered myself to be an “intellectual agnostic”. In fact, I had chosen to disbelieve because it was convenient. I had been tricked and duped by Satan.

Ray took a job in Colombia, South America, in 1969, where we lived for two years. While there I completed my Ph.D. thesis, writing a grammar of the Car Nicobarese language (spoken on the island of Car Nicobar, annexed to India. I had visited India twice to do research, and while I was there, I had the amazing privilege of a personal sit-down meeting with Jawaharlal Nehru, the Prime Minister of India.) 

Upon our return to California, we moved in with Ray’s parents. While it was home to Ray, it was suffocating to me! To get out, I quickly got a real estate license and went to work in my dad’s (then vacant) real estate office in Castro Valley. I loved selling real estate – it was so practical and down to earth – not acerbic and aimless as I considered college teaching to be (I had taught briefly – even having California governor Jerry Brown as one of my students!). 

Early in my sales experience a woman from Neighborhood Church - Elaine - contacted me about relocating. Elaine and her husband had four children (I had none and that was just fine) and she had a very visible faith in God. She prayed about everything. At that point, I had a gnawing emptiness in my soul and a longing for something more. I had turned away from God. Ray and I had travelled until I was tired and I could have anything I wanted, but nothing could satisfy me. Elaine was such a contrast. She hadn’t been anywhere and had to struggle to figure out how they would buy the house, but she exuded contentment and joy. I wanted what she had! On inquiry I learned that she attended a weekly Bible study which she said was just wonderful and gave her strength. She offered to pick me up and take me. I asked her where it was and told her I would be there! And I was – the very next meeting!

I will never forget that day, April 23, 1972. When I arrived – late, as was my style – there were probably 300 women on their feet singing joyously. My heart surged with the feeling that I was coming home – that this was what was missing in my life and here I would get back on track with God. And I was right.  I was assigned to a small group led by Jonette Richardson. Their group was having a luncheon after class in the home of one of the women; they urged me to attend. Meanwhile, after the small group the big group reassembled in the main hall of the church (First Pres, Hayward) and, after singing a song, we listened to a forty minute lecture explaining the lesson the ladies had just discussed in the small group. After the lecture I found the house where the luncheon was being held and enjoyed a kind of fellowship that I had never known. It was simply wonderful. I reaffirmed my faith that day. 

One of the things the lecturer, Sandy Blackmun, said was, “If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority.”  John 7:17.  Hearing this verse made me realize that my lack of faith was not resultant from lack of evidence. It was due to a lack of will on my part to obey. I realized it was also due to my pride and willfulness, a desire to be my own master and not be answerable to anyone. I had determined that God was not knowable because He could not be found through the scientific method, and I considered myself to be a scientist. But when I humbled myself and said “yes” to God, that I would obey Him, He revealed to me that He was much greater than my mere, finite mind could dissect and analyze and “find”. He will be found by those who seek Him in truth with a humble, willing heart. (Jeremiah 29:14) To those, He will reveal Himself. He revealed Himself to me. Salvation is a gift – even the ability to find God is a gift from Him. I am forever grateful for His grace to me.

God put a song in my heart that day, and He definitely “Keeps Me Singing”. Since then, life has been good: walking with Jesus every day, reading His Word, fellowshipping with His people. I can’t imagine a better life than I have had. And I owe it all to Him. 

Since coming back into fellowship with Jesus it has been my desire to get the word out about His great salvation. Through the years God has given me many wonderful opportunities to serve Him, among them:

  • Calling on visitors to the church to make them welcome
  • Beginning and coordinating a bus ministry to pick up children for Sunday school
  • Going door-to-door in Castro Valley inviting people to attend the church
  • Playing trumpet in the church orchestra
  • Leading small group Bible studies for over forty years
  • Beginning and coordinating a guest reception ministry on Sundays in the church
  • Serving as Bay Area Women’s coordinator for the 1996 Billy Graham Crusade
  • Joining and serving with the Auxiliary of the Gideons International, which continues to be a wonderful motivator and enabler to sharing my faith
  • Working these past few years as an online missionary with Global Media Outreach, through which I have worked with 672 people throughout the world to date

To those who know Christ, I would say God has not called us to sit and stew. We are to “occupy until He comes” Luke 19;13. We are never too old to serve the Lord.

To those who think they “don’t need God” I would say I found it was possible to have a fairly good life apart from God. But when I allowed Christ into my life I became dramatically more contented and full of joy. The emptiness was gone. And on top of that, I have assurance of eternal life. This is life at its best!

To those who say they can’t find God or don’t know if there is a God, I would say “Yield!”  Humble yourself, and yield as much of yourself to God to as much of God as you can understand. Ask Him to reveal Himself to you, and tell Him – and yourself - you will believe and obey Him when He does. And He will reveal Himself to you.

To everyone, I would say God is good! He is “what” makes life worth living. Take Him as your own Lord and Savior!

JENI LAMBEL

AGE: __; YEARS AT 3Crosses: __
YEARS AS A CHRISTIAN: Approximately __

SALVATION EXPERIENCE

I have been a believer nearly all my life but back in 2005 something went wrong. My husband of 30 years passed away to be with our Lord. I had already experienced the pain of my dear father’s passing a year earlier. I was not prepared for either of the two most important men in my life to join our Lord.

A friend suggested a glass of wine would help me sleep. Long story short…one glass turned into a bottle then a box. Over the next ten years, I found myself drunk 3-4 nights out of every week. I kept a good job but many mornings I went to work hungover, if not a little buzzed.

Time after time I prayed to my God to help me stop drinking. I thought He wasn’t listening. I remained a “good Christian” attending church and praying every night for His help. It didn’t come.

A doctor I was seeing asked on many occasions, “when do you think you will stop drinking?” or “don’t you think it is time to stop drinking?”. Well, this just went in one ear and out the other for years. Until one day he asked his usual question and it was the “last straw”. I said to him, “sure, how about now?” He picked up a phone and called CDRP at Kaiser (Chemical Dependence Recovery Program). At the same time, I was advised(required) to join AA.

In AA they asked me to “get” a Higher Power.  Well, I already had my Lord, and He wasn’t doing much to help me. But I played along with the commitment I had made to my doctor and myself. Well, week after week went by and I wasn’t drinking. Then weeks turned into months and months into years. Today I have been clean and sober for five years and counting.

Somewhere in the last five years, I realized God wasn’t ignoring my pleas, he was waiting for me to work with Him and not to expect Him to work another miracle and take this ailment from me.

He was with me the entire time. He just knew it had to be my decision to help myself. My requests, although I thought sincere, were really empty. When I decided to work with God, He helped me.

How many times throughout my Christian life have I asked God for something, sat back, and expected Him to take care of it?!

Now I understand what it means “with God’s help I can do almost anything”, with God’s help.

JOSEPHINE WONG

AGE: __; YEARS AT 3Crosses: __
YEARS AS A CHRISTIAN: Approximately __

SALVATION EXPERIENCE

I grew up in an atheistic home. But my father who was an Asian American soldier and fought in WWII in Europe, encouraged us, 4 kids, to attend church to become "good". Easter 1966 I chose to follow our Lord Who found me and loved me first. Here is what I recalled how my salvation came to be: 

I had a high school classmate (whom I will call "Hannah" here) who one day said something odd sounding to me. In discussing our upcoming Latin exam, Hannah said, "I believe in prayer."

Instead of writing her off, I listened. I was curious why Hannah would believe in an invisible God. Hannah invited me to her Friday night college/high school fellowship, "Souls for Christ Fellowship (SFC)" in Oakland. I accepted her invitation as a way for me to have something to do Friday nights. There was laughter, Singspiration, creative skits and BIBLE STUDY, and sincere sounding Prayer. It was my first exposure to young believers. I wondered why they seemed so happy and sincere in their faith. I listened and observed. I attended for months.

And then I got scared and quit coming Friday nights. I knew that I wasn't one of them.  This troubled me.

But Hannah remained my friend and invited me to join her at a 3-day Spring retreat at Redwood Alliance woods. By a church scholarship gift, I went, but by the 2nd evening, I decided not to participate in that night's campfire. I still could not "see" and understand God like them. This troubled me.

That evening, I skipped dinner and before I fell asleep in my lonely bungalow, I found myself asking God to show Himself. With a sad heart, I fell asleep in the darkness and stillness of the bungalow.

The next thing that happened is hard for me to explain. The bungalow light suddenly flashed opened awakening me from my slumber. Individuals were returning from the campfire. One of the girls threw herself on her bed sobbing and crying out, "I'm no good. No good! I failed Him." Other girls surrounded her giving words of comfort.

It was what she blurted out and her grief for being useless, that my heart finally understood that there was a Loving Father God Who loved me for being "NO GOOD. NO GOOD!". I can't explain it but on that Easter 1966, I became an authentic Christ-follower. I became born-again (John 1:12).  I loved Him then, I love Him now and His WORD is precious to me. For once I was blind but now I see.

By God's grace, I have served our Lord in many different ways as He's provided me service opportunities. My heart is to "GO! GO! GO and tell others!" I've been told that I'm Evangelistic. I can't help myself! I've had opportunities to serve in various capacities in the church, serve as a facilitator for 17 years in BSF, and recently in Griefshare. I am called now to pray for my children and grandchildren, for my family members, for my neighborhood, for those missionaries who serve sacrificially. Presently I'm called to serve my husband who is learning to manage his partial blindness with the help of the Society for the Blind.

He has granted me a loving family with my children also following our Lord. My parents, my brothers, many of my friends have become Christians because God has emboldened me then and now to share how REAL God is. By His Spirit, I live on this side of the River telling others of Him being real and I look forward to being in the Presence of Our Heavenly King. For those who have gone before me to enjoy His presence, I just think, "What a wonderful reunion that will be!"

KEY SCRIPTURE

  • Galatians 5:16 says, “So I say, live by the Holy Spirit’s power. Then you will not do what your sinful nature wants you to do.”
  • Galatians 4 speaks of the struggle Paul saw between those of the law and those of Spirit. Just as twins Esau (flesh) and Jacob (God's promise) struggled in the womb, I struggle in my weakness yet in Christ.  
  • "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:13)

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank You for Paul's warning not to be swayed by the flesh and stay with old comfortable habits. Thank You that even though Paul could have thrown in the towel, he kept on course and completed his race. Thank You that I understand You in Your Word now.

Thank You that I can hope in the reality of a Kingdom that I will soon become a part of. Help me not throw in the towel. Help me stay the course. Help me complete the race that You set before me. Help me rely on Christ alone to guide my thoughts. Give me Your Peace I boldly ask in Jesus Precious and Holy Name. Amen.

KAREN LEONG

AGE: 63; YEARS AT 3Crosses: 14
YEARS AS A CHRISTIAN: Approximately 48

SALVATION EXPERIENCE

I became a Christian when introduced to church in Junior High.  My parents belonged to a group called The Lucky 12.  It consisted of 12 couples. 1 couple hosted each month. The purpose was to get together for fun games of Mah Jongg for the wives and Poker for the husbands. Some couples brought their families with them. They would mingle on their own. I was one of them and there was another girl my age that went to church. Her dad and my dad had conversations about going to church since his daughter was attending one. My dad thought it was a good idea even though he never went. He thought it would be a good place for me to socialize.

My parents arranged a sleep-over at the other girls’ house and the next morning, her dad would bring me to church with his daughter. She introduced me around the small, apartment-like church and I saw another friend and a cousin I had known. I went a couple of times. So, one night when a Lucky 12 party was at our house, the other girl brought a tract to share with me. We sat on the side of the bed and read the tract together. That was when I accepted Jesus Christ as my Saviour. 

My parents never attended church. They worked and attended those parties. We just co-existed in the same house and every once in a while, I could talk with my dad. He would stop what he was doing and just listen.  I was well-provided for. My mom and dad made sure of that.

That small church was very friendly. They had weekly clubs for Elementary all the way to College. The children always had guidance through their teaching and events. I had no social problems. There was always something to chat about to someone. And the church provided the transportation with the many vans they purchased. While growing up dealing with all the worldly challenges, I had a group that centered on the Lord. The clubs had annual gender-based meetings also. Meetings where the boys and girls met separately to talk about anything the kids wanted to regarding growing up. I didn’t have to worry about peer pressure, drugs, joining a gang. I had a Lord-centered group. Church was the most positive thing in my life. 

Was it church or was it the Lord Himself that keeps me coming back?  I believe it was those who the Lord touched to serve Him in capacities of club sponsors, drivers, counselors, pastors, various club speakers. 

I found out about a God who cares, among thousands of people, about me. A God who cares about my identity in Him, my confidence in Him, my attitudes, my actions -- that they would reflect His goodness and love, which is beyond what the world could give me.  

My God has other attributes that attract me to Him. Not only is He good, gracious, and loving when the world isn’t, He is glorious, holy, merciful, just, faithful even when I am not. He is self-sufficient—it is only because of His love I can have eternal life, not anything I’ve done in my life. He is wise beyond all human thinking, all-powerful, all-knowing, everywhere— there isn’t any place He is not there. 

All I had to do was to say to Him, I believe in His Son, Jesus Christ. That He died on the cross to pay for my sin. And ask Him to come into my life. 

I would like to share with my children and grandchildren--to search for God. Find Him and His Son Jesus and join a God-honoring group/ a community of believers that studies the Bible and helps you grow through life’s circumstances. And if your church provides, find a Mentor- someone who is impartial and mature in the Lord. A person who you can spend time with. This provides the opportunity to share about things you struggle with.

A favorite song: Waymaker. This song describes the character of God. Life is not always pleasant. When that happens, focus on the song. You will find peace.

KEY SCRIPTURE

  • Eph 1:3-14 describes our identity in Christ. In the world, you will get huge amounts of criticism and teasing from others. You will get many self-judgements from yourself. Some of these can be harmful to a healthy self. Many are lies the world has taught you to believe about yourself. Now, look at what Christ tells about you. Those are true! That’s God saving you from harmful thoughts.
  • Eph 3:14-21 describes God’s riches, strength, love. God is vast. God is more than what we humans can ever imagine. 

A wish to anyone who reads this, may you find strength, peace, hope, and a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Testimonies  |  L 

LARRY VOLD

AGE: __; YEARS AT 3Crosses: __
YEARS AS A CHRISTIAN: Approximately __

SALVATION EXPERIENCE

My parents introduced me to Jesus through the way they lived and by bringing me to church with them when I was a child.  The Lord spoke into my heart through memorizing Scripture as a child while attending vacation Bible school at the Baptist Church my family attended.  Scripture memorization laid the foundation for that special moment when Jesus came knocking at my heart’s door as an elementary-aged child and I opened it, asking Him to come in.  Throughout the years that followed (and even those that preceded) I sincerely believed God loved me and wanted to lead me.  Opening my life to Jesus in 3rd grade, however, brought about an even greater confidence of this. 

My life as a child of God wasn’t stretched or challenged in any significant way until I reached high school.  It was there I started recognizing the difference between those who really knew and followed Jesus and those who didn’t.  For my freshman year, I took a passive posture toward following Jesus which began to erode some of my convictions about my faith, leaving me to appear much like any of my friends—even those who didn’t know or walk with God.  While I didn’t see what was happening to me, my faith was truly being tested and I wasn’t passing the test.  Thankfully, at the end of my sophomore year, the Baptist church where I had received Jesus’ gift of salvation, hired a youth pastor to focus on the spiritual formation of the teens that attended there.  This youth pastor’s personal concern for my life and example as a believer turned my life around.  I realized I could no longer straddle the fence and be passive in my walk with Jesus.  I realized that to follow Jesus meant denying myself and picking up my cross daily to follow him (Luke 9:23).  During the middle of my first high school summer camp, I went forward in a meeting at the invitation of the speaker, to fully give my life over to Jesus and His plans for me.

This was a significant turning point in my life.  I suddenly found myself concerned for the spiritual well-being of others.  I wanted others to know Jesus like I knew him.  I wanted the joy and love I felt deep inside to be shared with anyone I met.  I became somewhat of an evangelist on my high school campus.  Many of my classmates were introduced to Jesus through my testimony and also through inviting them to attend my church youth ministry.  The Lord did something very special in those years—as hundreds of high school students from four high school campuses near my church became Christ-followers.  I witnessed the power of the gospel and the way God loves to use anyone who is willing to be used for His work! 

After high school, my goal was to become a career fire-fighter.  I felt that by having this kind of vocation, I could remain busy as a volunteer in my local church and also do something very exciting with my life.  But God had other plans.  As I was finishing up my fire science courses at a local junior college and pursuing various fire departments for interviews and testing, a young high school student started attending our youth ministry.  This young man was deeply entrenched in the Occult and was manifesting characteristics that showed me the reality of the spiritual dimension just as Ephesians 6:12 states, “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”  Watching God’s work in delivering this young man from his bondage to sin and the devil through the gospel, made me yearn to be more involved in seeing others find freedom through Jesus Christ.  God used this season in my life to call me into vocational ministry.  Soon after receiving this call, I enrolled in a Christian liberal arts college and got my degree in Christian education while serving as a part time youth leader in the church’s youth ministry I had attended from childhood. 

After graduating from college, I was hired by a local church in San Jose and began my work as a full-time youth pastor.  This was an amazing time in my life, but the church went through some struggles which eventually resulted in letting me go.  But God used this also to strengthen my trust that I could trust what the future held for me.  Eventually, I was led to serve as a youth pastor at The Neighborhood Church in Castro Valley (now known as 3Crosses) where I’ve been ever since. 

I met my wife at 3Crosses through a student-ministry event that solicited the help of adults.  She was one who came to volunteer and it wasn’t long before I fell deeply in love with her.  We married in 1982 and in time, God blessed us with three children—all girls!  We all enjoyed an amazing season of life with my serving in various positions in the church before eventually becoming the senior pastor in 1996.  In 2019, I stepped away from my role as senior pastor and yet continue to serve in our church as pastor of spiritual care.  I will never stop thanking God for his faithfulness in allowing me to serve as a pastor in various roles for all these years in such an amazing Gospel-centered Church!  He’s been so faithful and generous for giving me a beautiful wife and loving children who are now adults.  My wife and I celebrate 39 years of marriage this year and the joy of three beautiful grandsons (and maybe more some day!).   Life isn’t easy or perfect, but God is working out everything for my good and His glory (Rom. 8:28)!

Now that I’m in my 60s and recognize that it won’t be too long before I leave this world to enter the glories of my heavenly home (which I also realize could be at any moment—God knows the number of our days as Ps. 139 reminds us!), I think of a few things I wish to convey to the younger generation.  First, I would remind them to value and leverage their youthfulness to the glory of God.  I didn’t, and most young people don’t realize the blessing of being young!  Ecclesiastes 12:1 states, “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, ‘I find no pleasure in them.’”  To be young is a gift for so many reasons.  Youthfulness allows an almost limitless supply of energy.  So much can be done because young people have so much energy!  If that energy can be directed toward gospel-centered endeavors, so much good could come to our world!  So be thankful for being young and USE your youthfulness to bless others with the gospel of Jesus Christ! 

The second thing would be to hold on to the truth of God’s Word no matter what the cost.  And the cost for doing this will be great, indeed.  We are living in times when God’s Word is under attack as never before.  Even so-called pastors and churches have jettisoned the precious Word of God and chosen any number of sources to direct their lives and ministries apart from it.  The prophet Amos spoke of a time when there would be a famine for “hearing the words of the LORD” (Amos 8:11).  Amos’ prophetic warning applies to us today more than ever. There’s a famine of God’s Word everywhere today.  It’s hard to find churches these days that without apology, teach that God’s Word is the trustworthy source of divine revelation which must be the rule of our faith and practice.   And of course, it’s even more rare to find individuals today who hold with strong conviction that the Bible is God’s unalterable Word!

Lastly, I would encourage both young and old to love God with all their heart and love others as they love themselves.  Let love be what we’re known for so that we can be used to share the message of hope found in Jesus Christ everywhere we go.

LIDIA FURELOS

AGE: __; YEARS AT 3Crosses: __
YEARS AS A CHRISTIAN: Approximately __

SALVATION EXPERIENCE

I was born in Córdoba, Argentina. My parents, Modesto and Constancia Zalazar dedicated their life to serve our Lord and Savior. They always had one room in our home to worship the Lord, to praise His name. We used to go house by house inviting people to the service.

They preach and explain the love of God; Sometimes getting together in the street corner, we started singing and telling others about Jesus. Papá always has the promise of Isaiah 55:11 "So is my word that goes out from my mouth; It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it".

I was born in a Christian home. What a blessing! My parents taught me about Jesus. Every day we had Bible Devotional, where we read and memorize verses of the Bible, and sang praises to the Lord. 

In our neighborhood, there were families where their children did not read or write. Their parents talk to our parents if would be possible for me to teach their children. It was a very unique experience. In the Summer, Mamá would prepare lemonade with cookies and in Winter hot chocolate with homemade bread and cookies. Children were so happy and... I did too. There were times we went with the children to the Barrio Square, teach them the word of God, sang praises, learn a Bible verse and everybody left singing what they learned. What a joy ! Never forget. 

The time came when Papá did start visiting some big and small cities in different parts of Argentina, also in Bolivia and Chile. The Lord was helping him to take the Word of God to so many people. Sometimes he went by train or by bus. Mamá went with him sometimes and my older sister and brothers were taking care of us. 

The marvelous time came when the Lord provided a Bible Coach, papá fixed it, some brothers came to help him and the coach was full of Bibles, New Testaments, Christian magazines, clothes for so many people in need, they all were so happy and grateful and later many of them went to the services. It was great to see the Lord's help.

In 1968, I came to USA. I attended the 1st Baptist Church in San Francisco. The choir director invited me to go to the choir practice, just wonderful. To me was like a dream. They all were so nice and friendly.  Then I went to 1st Baptist Church in San Francisco. I did start learning English in the International Institute in San Francisco and also going to the school as well.

I met Jorge, my husband in the Spanish Church in San Francisco. In July 1970 we got married. My brother lived in San Leandro. As my parents were planning to come to visit us, we prayed asking the Lord for a house to buy. Everything went quite smooth and we bought our home; it was like a dream coming true. We enjoyed their company so much and took them to 3Crosses in Castro Valley. When they saw such a big building, the 3Crosses in front of the church, people so friendly and all singing praises to the Lord. Other Sundays we took them to different Spanish Churches in the bay area as well. They preached, tell congregation different experiences. They really felt welcome,  happy and blessed.

I went to the School in San Leandro, took classes, really wanted to learn about USA and it was my dream to become US Citizen. One of the teachers asked me if I could teach one of his Spanish class about Argentina and also to teach them Spanish, show pictures and just to make the class attractive and interesting. My husband helped me to prepare all the material needed and we accomplished our purpose. Very happy and grateful to the Lord. When I finish the courses in San Leandro High, decided to go to Chabot College. 

I was looking for a job. In the morning went to different places among them one of San Leandro Bank. the manager and his assistant were very help full. They took me different tests and thanks God I was feeling his company and over having a lot of peace. Well, when I finished and gave my tests to the manager ask me when I could start working and I said Now...  The next week I was able to start working. They needed Spanish speaking and I loved to be helping in whatever was necessary. I went to training and that was the beginning in the bank where I worked for over 28 years. I started as teller, Customer Service, New Accounts and with the time they offered me to be working in Investment. The training was necessary and over all I enjoy my job. If my customer was bringing a problem... my goal was to see him leaving with and smile... I had the blessing to participate in awards and win some of them. The awards were beautiful and very challenging. Had the opportunity to go to Cancún, and visit beautiful places, there were excursions and seemed always were surprises around the corner. Also visited New Orleans, San Francisco, Monterrey and many excursions to different places. Also had the opportunity to meet different employees from different branches coming to enjoy their awards. In all the circumstances Jorge was coming with us, and that made a lot of difference. 

While I was working so hard in the Bank I was attending Chabot College. I was able to finish my Degree of Associate of Arts and Associate in Arts in Human Services. 

I had the promise from my Lord in Isaiah 58:9 "Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I."

As we were attending our Church in Castro Valley, Pastor Leonetti from 1st Baptist Church in Union City, ask us  If we could help in the Church as he needed to go to Argentina with all his family. Well, there was another time to be praying and asking direction from the Lord. Yes, they left and we helped as much as we could. I was helping in the music, the class for teen age girls in Sunday School and serving the Lord were ever was needed. It was a real blessing serving the Lord with all brothers and sister. The Pastor came back and we notice the place it was getting smaller. We started working together, just baking cookies and cakes and selling to the members. They all love it and starting having plans how to enlarge the place. We had the land, the church was getting smaller so we said, What can we do? Brothers did start working permission from the city, and we all started working and cooperating in the best way. We decided to work making Flea Markets on Saturdays. Took months of dedication to be working, brothers and sisters were ready to cooperate and singing... "If we all work together and in peace... what a joy that will be."

The time came when the Lord help us from the beginning to the end. Many brothers had ideas how to work in construction, all were doing different jobs but all serving the Lord. The day came and we finish our beautiful building were we all did our best to finish for the Lord. "Count your blessings name them one by one, count your blessings see what God had done..."  

"Give thanks to the Lord Almighty, for the Lord is good. His love endures forever."  Jeremiah 33:11

God Bless you,
Lidia Z. Furelos

LINDA DECKER

AGE: 78; YEARS AT 3Crosses: 27
YEARS AS A CHRISTIAN: Approximately 66

SALVATION EXPERIENCE

I was raised in Oakland, California by parents that were believers, but only attended church on Easter Sunday. I became a believer at the age of 12 and walked to church every Sunday by myself. This was my early habit of worship through junior and senior high school. After graduation from high school I went to work for Western Electric. 

At the ripe old age of 18 I was married to my now husband of almost 60 years, Roger. We had two children Dawn Ann, and Keith Dwight. As they became older I took them to Neighborhood Church on the bus that came to our Hayward neighborhood. The pastor then was Jacop Bellig, and I also attended Challengers class in what is now called the Child Ministry Center. As the children got older we started doing weekend family camping, water skiing, fishing trips so, church got put aside for quite a while. Once the kids were out of the house and on their own  I started to go again, but not on a regular basis. 

About 27 years ago I started to attend Neighborhood Church again and after a couple of years suggested to my husband that he attend also. He agreed and we have been members since 1996, and were both baptized on August 20, 2000. As members we found our calling being ushers on the third service and love all the fellowship involved with that position.

KEY SCRIPTURE

My favorite bible verse is Psalm 23: 1-6, because it is what I feel in my heart about our Lord.

What I would like other and or new believers to know is step out in faith and get involved in activity within the church, because the more you do the more reward you receive.

LUCY BAUMAN

AGE: 91; YEARS AT 3Crosses: 67
YEARS AS A CHRISTIAN: Approximately 75

SALVATION EXPERIENCE

I am 91 years old. It seems that I have been a Christian all my life, having been born into a Bible-believing family. It wasn’t until I was 16 years old and a freshman in college that I made a declaration to follow Jesus. I have been going to Neighborhood Church/3Crosses for about 67 years. Walking with Jesus means that you are never alone. He is always there for you. All you have to do is reach out for Him.

Some of my favorite Bible verses are John 3:16 and Romans 8:35-39. I do not write them out as I want you to look them up and read them. These are just a few of my favorite ones. They have given me a lot of comfort.

My advice to anyone is to get involved in your church, get into a Bible study, and read your Bible every day. You need this as much as you need your daily food.

Sometimes when I have a bad day, as everyone does, I sing this little song:

“Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Sweetest name I know. Fills my every longing, keeps me singing as I go!”

LYNN HALVERSON

AGE: 68; YEARS AT 3Crosses: 22
YEARS AS A CHRISTIAN: Approximately 53

SALVATION EXPERIENCE

I was raised in a little town of 5,000 people. Cloverdale was parochial in many senses, a strong Catholic and Italian majority, and a couple of Protestant churches. Neighborhood Church was one of these. Yes, just like here. Pastor Vold told me he knew some of the people of that congregation. I was not raised in either denomination. We celebrated the Christmas tree and the Easter basket but had no real connection to the meaning. As a child, I was not happy at home for many of the social reasons that still plague the present day. I coped by being athletic, a good student, and spending a lot of time at my friend's houses. I was blessed in many ways as I had a horse my entire childhood, a pool in my backyard, and great teachers who provided me with a solid education. I worked at a drug store, convalescent hospital and an open-air hamburger stand in my teens. One day at that hamburger stand an itinerant youth pastor came and invited me to a church youth event at Neighborhood Church. Truth be told, if he wasn't as cute as he was, I wouldn't have gone. That evening after hanging out with other kids, there was an altar call in the tiny chapel. I looked up at the cross and I saw God patting his lap and say," Come here, I'll be your dad". And I ran forward and accepted Jesus into my heart! It was the best day of my life. He has guided me through many years of acceptance of His love and forgiveness towards others. In my adult life, I have encountered many of the same social issues my family was challenged with and have been taught great mercy and forgiveness that I am so grateful to have reached. Without Him, I know I would not have. Thank you Jesus, everyday!

If I were to say something of use to a younger generation, I think I would focus on the Lord's Prayer. Always, always go there if you need His presence and don't know what to say or to ask for.

KEY SCRIPTURE

Facing past pain or present pain or just how to start your day, always go there. His presence and the Holy Spirit's presence will arrive as you say or sing these words:

Our father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name
Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven
Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us
and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil
For thine is the Kingdom, and the Power and the Glory forever and ever. Amen.
Matthew 6:9-13

Testimonies  |  M-N 

MARJORIE JOHNSON

AGE: 82; YEARS AT 3Crosses: __
YEARS AS A CHRISTIAN: Approximately __

SALVATION EXPERIENCE

Until the age of 8 years old I lived on a peach ranch with my parents, as the oldest of 3 girls, I was very happy and secure in my role at home and at school, liked and accepted by all of my classmates. Then suddenly we were forced to move to Modesto from the ranch because of a dispute between my Father and his Dad, who owned the ranch. The bottom fell out of my world. I changed from being self- confident to very shy and insecure, not knowing my new classmates and not feeling accepted by them. As I look back on that time now, I can see the Lord’s hand in this. Being in town now, my sisters and I were able to freely attend church, not dependent on being driven into town. We would walk, roller skate, or ride our bikes on Sunday mornings, while our mom stayed home on her only day off to do the laundry and the inevitable ironing. I have such treasured memories of accepting Christ at the age of eleven at an altar call. My younger sister Sharon and I went forward, faced the congregation, and repeated the words after the pastor, accepting Jesus as my personal Savior.

My salvation experience was glorious and I wanted to sing praises and write poetry expressing my love for Jesus. But due to tension in the family with my Dad’s alcoholism, my insecurities never diminished.
At the age of 15, I became involved in a relationship with my future husband Harold. “Hal was very controlling, which contributed to our marriage when I was 16, between my Jr. and Sr. year of High School. I did graduate from high school in 1955, while my husband was sent to Japan with the Marine Corp. After graduation, I joined Hal at his various assignments as a military wife. I was able to join him when he was shipped off to Italy for 3 years. The experience of living abroad added an extra dimension to our lives. In 1963, we returned Stateside with a 4-month-old baby, Eric, and a 1959 Maserati 3500 GT Coup. The Maserati had significance due -to -the- fact that it opened the door to what would become the primary source of income and focus for our growing family. In 1965 our daughter Liz was born in Modesto. Then in 1968 Hal and I established our foreign car repair business in San Leandro (which still exists to this day now owned and operated by Eric). In 1969, our son Christopher (CJ) was born in Hayward. One of our family’s greatest difficulties stemmed from Hal’s excessive drinking. He was also fiercely jealous of anything or anyone who would possibly take my time and attention away from him. He especially had a great hostility toward my relationship to the Lord, and wouldn’t allow the Bible to be visible or even to be read in his presence. I took our children to church over his objections and attended Bible Study Fellowship for a number of years until I started working full time at the family business. During this time my relationship with Christ, my church attendance, and my long-distance calls to my mother strengthened me.

My life’s verse is Romans 8:28 which says, “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.” This verse was such a comfort and held me together through some very rough times.

Over time, Hal softened somewhat in his objections to my faith. In 1979, Hal was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol with an added charge of assault with a deadly weapon. That night, after bailing him out of jail, I was able to persuade him to read a booklet called “The 4 Spiritual Laws”. I pray that he truly meant the words that he repeated. His life didn’t ever reflect a great change, although he did attend Challenger’s Sunday school with Glenn Schaeffer for quite a few years. In 2005 he chose to be baptized and was baptized by our son CJ, who was a pastor.

Hal passed away 5 years ago (2015) with dementia, leaving behind 3 children, 15 grandchildren, and 6 great-grandchildren. I am so richly blessed by my family.

At the age of 82, looking back on my long life I have such a strong feeling of gratitude to my Savior for all of my blessings. Watching my children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren grow and learn from their trials, mistakes, and successes shows just how important it is to make wise choices.

Walking with Jesus has been the source of my strength. My prayer for my beloved family is that each one will reach out to Him through prayer and studying His precious word.

MARTHA CAVILLO JUSLIN

AGE: __; YEARS AT 3Crosses: __
YEARS AS A CHRISTIAN: Approximately __

SALVATION EXPERIENCE

I am one of 6 children, the only girl among 5 brothers. I had a very dysfunctional upbringing. As a result, I grew up always feeling unloved, rejected, abused, and emotionally and spiritually neglected. This is how my mind was set from the very beginning. 

      I know now that parents cannot give to their children what they themselves do not possess but I didn't know that then and I was hurt and angry with the dynamics of my family. So, there I am, with a label and message in my head that I was there to serve and clean and endure whatever the males desired. Unfortunately, starting with my father, drinking alcohol was the focus for fun. With the drinking came dad's sketchy friends. They would come to our home unannounced and steal all the family time. This was allowed because my parents didn't want, or know how, to say no! No to unwanted company, no to allowing our home to be the hangout. So, as a result, the streets were where the kids lived; South of Market, San Francisco between 6th and 7th streets.

I was dominated by fear, surrounded by drunks, pedifiles, addicts, and abused women and families. Before I was out of elementary school I was already sniffing glue, smoking and drinking a little alcohol. Molestation began at age 8 until age 14 when my family finally moved.

By the time I'd graduated from High School I had already been beaten repeatedly by a drunk father, ridiculed by family and close family friends, and ignored and frowned upon by my mother. Looking for anyone to pay attention I cried out to God  "Don't you see me?"

Fast forward.....my only boyfriend in high school was mentally, physically, and sexually abusive. I was so insecure and had no self-worth. I moved to Texas to get away from him. Still, looking for love and peace, I married a man from Texas, thinking he'd be everything different than my culture and upbringing and we'd find a better way of living. Nope, he too was broken and unfaithful, so, I moved back to San Francisco. Then, another man pays attention to me and there I go again, actually believing we were gonna show this world and our families how happiness is done. Wrong again. He was just another broken individual, but this time we had started attending church and had the church to help right??? Wrong! who wants to get their lives involved with such toxicity and dysfunction? No One!! Unfortunately, I learned that attending church doesn’t just fix everything and other Christians, and even leaders, are not always equipped or available, and let’s face it, sometimes even willing to get involved in another person’s problems.

Nonetheless, I committed to trying to fit in, trying to learn to "Let go and let God" but still it seemed that no one was willing to become "our church family" or to take us under their wings and light the way. I searched for counseling for us, but my husband only gave lip service with no real intention of implementing change.

Then in 2013, I heard God's call to me! I was lying on the floor, curled up from crying, and God said " Stop arguing with him, you are participating in more sin that way. Be still and know that I Am God, and go enjoy your day and tell everyone what I've done for you."

I began to trust in God alone! I moved away from defeat and hostility and also received spiritual counseling. I removed myself from the toxicity and joined the 3 crosses choir and began a new life of worship and praise in the midst of my turmoil. Now I know that God is my only hope and has lifted my head and given me peace that passes understanding. He has freed me of the life I once lived, a life apart from Him, and now I have a new and joyful life walking with Him daily.

God told me to live.... and to leave my family in His hands. As for me, I needed to get away in order to heal and recover and discover what God has intended for me in this life from the beginning. So for now, I am on the Potter's wheel, loving the transformation, from old to new, His wonderful work in progress. God will get- and has- all the glory.

For the next generation
As I finish my testimony, I know that God wants my story to speak to the next generation. So, I say... Look for God first and foremost, because he's looking for you! He has a beautiful life in store even with troubles and heartaches. He knows what's best. He made you. Trust his Living Word and the people who have been transformed by it. Don't waste time going your own way, hurting yourself and others along the way because you think you need to be in control and grown up. No, we are always children of God. stay dependent on Him and His ways, like a child, and know God is our perfect parent, who will always be there, guiding and filling life with His great adventure and fullness. You will never be alone. The other thing I want to say is that in my old life, I started out a victim of my feelings and as an alien and stranger among my family. But thanks be to God!! In my new life I am a victor in Christ alone and can trust the feelings of the Holy Spirit to be a saved stranger, alien, and pilgrim looking for a " New City" and "Eternal Home". Now I am confident in the journey and in what His Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control will create in me for His glory.  

KEY SCRIPTURE

Romans 8:2 "For the law of the Spirit of Life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. "

Ephesians 1:4 "For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. "

Psalm 29:11 "The Lord will give strength to his people, the Lord will bless his people with peace. "

1 Peter:2:9 "You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light "

Psalm 25:4-5 "Show me your ways O LORD, teach me your paths, guide me in your truths and teach me. For you are God my Savior and my hope is in you all the day long "

MARTY BARNIKEL

AGE: 82; YEARS AT 3Crosses: 13
YEARS AS A CHRISTIAN: Approximately 45

SALVATION EXPERIENCE

I was born in Oklahoma but grew up in Santa Rosa, California, one of 4 children.  Mom and Dad were both teachers—Dad in high school and Mom in grammar school.

My parents were Christians, and involved members of the Santa Rosa Methodist Church.  So all four of us kids attended church.  Even though active in the Sunday schools and Methodist Youth Fellowship, I didn’t really hear the gospel preached until my late 30’s.  In the meanwhile, I had lived an undirected life in which I made poor life decisions, such as marrying at the age of 22 without giving it much thought and four years later getting pregnant, which wasn’t in my husband’s plans.   That marriage ended in divorce by the time my son was 1 year old. 

Five years later, I married a man who lived in Washington State and we began attending a church that preached the gospel and had altar calls after each service.

It was at this church that I was baptized and became a member.  However, even though I had confessed Jesus as my Lord and Savior, I had no idea of what that really meant.  As a result, operating under my own power, I enthusiastically proceeded to volunteer for any and all opportunities to serve.   At this time, I was teaching during the days, which limited my joining daytime Bible studies, but faithfully, God opened the opportunity for me to join the very first evening meetings of Bible Study Fellowship, held in nearby Mercer Island.  This 5-year in-depth Bible Study grounded me in my faith.

During this time, it seemed that life was going well.  However, when my son was 16 years old, my marriage started to fall apart, and after seeking counseling we agreed to a divorce.  Soon after, my son came down with an illness that lasted for several months.  It was a long and agonizing period of time before we saw any progress and it wasn’t until I finally turned him over to the Lord and prayed, “Thy will be done,” that my son was healed.  Ever since then, my life has been guided by the knowledge that God loves me and desires my very best.  All He wants from me is to trust and obey Him.

After my son graduated from high school and began his college years, I felt God’s strong hand leading me to something new.  In 1984 when I was a member of our church’s Missions Council, I learned that teachers were needed in China to teach English to Chinese college students.  Earlier, I had taken a trip to tour Mainland China with my mother, and while there I felt drawn to the country and its people in a most supernatural way.  So after praying and following through the doors that God opened for me, I discovered a Christian organization in Southern California that would train and place English teachers in colleges throughout China.  With the support of my church, I made application to the organization and was accepted for the school year 1985-86.  I then took a leave of absence from my community college and taught for a year in Changchun, China…a year that was much blessed with spiritual growth and new visions for my life.

During that year, I felt God’s prompting to commit to longer service in China, but to do so meant I needed to get more training in teaching English.  So, while still in China, I applied to the Master’s degree program of Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) at the University of Washington in Seattle, took my GRE test in China with hundreds of hopeful Chinese students, and eagerly awaited the results.  On getting the news I had been accepted, I immediately resigned my position at the community college. 

When I returned to Seattle, I had no place to live, but as God would have it, he had prepared a home for me in advance.  A friend with whom I had taught in the community college heard that I was returning to the States and planning to begin studies at the University of Washington.  She and her husband, both strong Christians, had just built a house close to the University with plans to accommodate 9 visiting scholars from Mainland China.  All had been prepared, but they needed a Christian to manage the home.  Enter Marty.  I joyfully lived with the scholars and managed the home for two and one half years. This was indeed a gift from God that met my needs to serve the Chinese as well as to study for my degree--a win-win.  

I received my Master’s degree in 1988, which was the same year my son graduated from Palmer Chiropractic College.  All seemed to be a “go” for me to return to China to continue my goal of teaching English there.  However, God had other ideas.  In the course of my making plans to go to China, I received a phone call from the director of a nonprofit Christian organization in Berkeley, California.  She said she needed someone to help her in the administration of her relatively new China teacher-sending organization and asked if I would like to move to the Bay Area and become Assistant Director. 

Even though I wanted to go back to China, God moved my heart to accept the position.  God’s reason for this became clear shortly thereafter.  My parents, who still lived in Santa Rosa, had been in poor health and were being cared for by my youngest brother who lived nearby in Rohnert Park.  Sadly, ten days after I accepted the position in Berkeley, he was killed in a boating accident, making it necessary for me to see after my parents.  Praise God for His care and perfect timing.

While working at ERRC I met my German husband, Dietmar, who was a prominent chef in San Francisco and, coincidentally, on the Board of Directors of ERRC.  We found that we had common interests and both loved the Lord so after a rather short courtship, we were married in 1993.    Since then we have traveled extensively both for fun and for Christian service and have served Him wherever we were called at 3Crosses.  We are thankful that God has been central to our marriage these past 28 years, as He has carried us through many of life’s challenges and has blessed us with joy. 

My advice to younger generations is to learn about God by studying His precious Word and spending personal time with Him on a daily basis.  Always consult Him before making decisions.  You can trust Him, for He is faithful.

KEY SCRIPTURE

  • Proverbs 3:5-6 - Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways, submit to him and He will make your paths straight. 
  • Romans 8:28 – And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
  • Philippians 4:3 - I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. 
  • Psalms 23:1 - The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.

MARY WHITFIELD

AGE: __; YEARS AT 3Crosses: 48
YEARS AS A CHRISTIAN: Approximately __

SALVATION EXPERIENCE

I thank God I grew up in a loving and peaceful family with my parents, three brothers, and two sisters. I loved hearing Bible stories in school about creation, Adam and Eve, Noah...and Jesus and all the miracles He performed in showing His love to people. I believed Jesus was God's son...that He loved all people including me. I knew He died on the cross, was buried, rose from the grave, and ascended to heaven.

But I didn't understand the details of the true gospel message-“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life:”...John 3:16,”

which most people know, and John 1:12 which says, "...to those who received Him [Jesus], to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God”. I had never heard Romans 6:23..."The wages of sin is death [hell] but the gift of God is eternal life [Heaven] through Jesus Christ our Lord." I also had never heard 2 Corinthians 5:21..."God made Him [Jesus] to be sin for us, who knew no sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." Jesus, Himself, made the gospel very clear by saying “ I am the Way, the Truth, the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

I figured I surely would go to Heaven someday because I loved God and tried to keep the commandments. But...not so. The Bible says we "are saved by grace..through faith....and this is not from ourselves, it is the gift of God not by works lest anyone should boast." (Ephesians 2: 8,9)

Well, life moved on. In my late teens, I felt the best goal in life was to be happily married, to have children, and to do fun things together as a family. :) Every night I prayed, "Lord, help me to have a happy and successful marriage." Well, a few years later I got married, and as in many marriages, my husband and I had struggles.

It was during one of those difficult times that my sister connected with me. She shared the gospel message and how the Lord was working in her life. She got me involved. I went with her to Neighborhood Church (now 3 Crosses), and one night, to a Bible study at a friend's house. I went home and read "The 4 Spiritual Laws" booklet, which the leader there had given me, and it shared how to become a child of God. And so I prayed. I admitted to God that I was a sinner, I asked Him to forgive my sins and come into my life and be my Lord and Savior. And He did!!! Oh what joy!!!

Very soon after that, I joined Bible Study Fellowship (BSF), and a home Bible study, and also a prayer meeting each week in the home of someone who was a spiritual mother to me. I was amazed at all the truth I was learning and grew closer to God every day. I was so thrilled that He was living in me, that He would never leave me, that He would supply all my needs according to His riches in Christ Jesus, and that someday I would live with Him in Heaven the moment I took my last breath on this earth! I wanted to shout it from a mountain top so everyone could know the joys of being God's child!

Since that time, my marriage saw great changes for the good, which I abundantly thank God for. Among these blessings were my husband coming to Christ, and our re-marriage after a brief divorce. The Lord blessed us with two wonderful children, and eventually our son-in-law, and two grandsons. Some years ago, I discovered in a class at church that...my personal mission in life is "to glorify God by leading the lost to Christ and helping those in need." I have served the Lord in various ways since becoming a Christian. It was my joy to do so then and still is. In recent years I have been involved in the kitchen ministry at church, and in children's ministry leadership at Community Bible Study (CBS); and also in handing out tracts, helping individuals in various ways, and above all, in following the verse that says, to "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope you have." (2 Peter 3:15). God has truly been good to me, and I am thankful He is helping me to live the abundant life that Jesus came to give me.

Looking back over my life, I would advise all people-no matter how young or old you are, how good or bad you feel you are or have been- the best and most important decision you need to make is to believe in Jesus and receive Him as your Savior and Lord. Then walk faithfully with Him in obedience to His commands and trust His promises. Like the vertical and horizontal spokes on a smoothly running wheel, it’s important for spiritual growth to read God’s word, pray to Him, fellowship with believers, and share the gospel with ‘the world”. Live out Proverbs 3:5,6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path”. I love using Romans 12:12 as a helpful focus. “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” And remember, God is faithful to His promises. He is our help and strength at all times!

MIKE ABSHER

AGE: - ; YEARS AT 3Crosses: 18
YEARS AS A CHRISTIAN: Approximately 27

SALVATION EXPERIENCE

I was not raised in a Christian home, even though as a very young boy I went to Sunday School thru a bus ministry. My early interests and life’s career path revolved around science and sports. Science had taught me and repeatedly stated, there is no God. That very same science made it clear that God and science are mutually exclusive, they do not mix. With my home life not involving God, my schooling not allowing God, and my work in a scientific field where God was denied, I definitely declare “God truly works in wondrous ways.” So, you might wonder how I became a strong and bold Christian. This is how it occurred.  

It became clear to me, after many years falsely denying God’s existence, that He is alive! In fact He was present all my life, even though I denied Him. God’s persistence and presence, by the power of the Holy Spirit, continued to seek me, until I fell on my knees before Him and confessed Jesus as my Lord and Savior. You see, being a scientist I proposed this question to myself. Did I create myself? No, of course not! My parents came together and I became, right? No, not just biology, there had to be more! More simply put, where did I come from? Who made Michael, Me? Who gave me a soul, a spirit? Are all those the same question? Are there any answers to those age old questions? Did I just come out of the nothing or did I just evolve? No! All science gave me were many empty answers or at least, more questions. Those answers do not explain one fact. I do have a being, my spirit. More than biology, more than evolution, those don’t explain spirit. They, that is, science and biology, and certainly not evolution, were Not the answer! In fact, I came from someone, from somewhere else, something more. Yes! Someone gave me “the spirit of life." I wasn't just cells that grew inside my mother. 

Science could tell the processes of birth and all that entails, but it could never answer "them big questions" like, where did the universe come from or when did it begin? When does the life force come into those cells inside my mom, your mom? Their must be an answer, a starting point, things don't just happen without a starting point! Ask yourself … Do they? I could not come up with an answer. As I was at the lowest point in my dissatisfied and destructive life, I listened. I finally HEARD, not my conscience or Jiminy Cricket, but “that voice inside of me telling me to mend my family, look for truth.” I knew for certain I couldn’t do it myself. Yes, that ever-present voice which had always been inside of me finally got through! Even so, ever defiant, I asked, why do I need to go to church? No answer! It took me some days fighting with why no answer, but I wanted answers. So, after nearly 33 years of denial, I went back to church where my wife, who was not a church person, had retreated for protection. I joined my wife and sons in church! That inner voice I had ignored and denied all of my life spoke loudly through my hurts. It said, “I am here, just believe, trust and come find rest under my wings.’’ In 1994, on my knees, I asked Jesus to guide my life as Lord and savior. I had begun to reconcile with my second wife and my children and along with some christian counseling, yes that helped, greatly. I listened and began to grow in knowledge of the Lord!

I know why God allowed me to explore the false-hoods science offers and why evolution isn’t correct as taught. The evolution as taught in our schools today is wrong. God allowed me to walk down wrong paths, so I could counsel and teach others who had questions and no answers. If you have any of these same questions, feel free to ask me for more info or further clarification. I am happy to discuss these truths further.  

But just realize this as always, when science finds a better truth they just rewrite the textbooks and proclaim those other, older scientists got it wrong! Sorry! And, have you noticed that our bible is re-translated, researched and reviewed but the basic religious doctrine or tenets are unchanged? I wonder why ?? 

Please, I implore any who read this, to listen to the voice who beckons from “within and without” each of us!

I affirm that my justification is by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone. In justification Christ's righteousness is imputed to me as the only possible satisfaction of God's perfect justice.

I affirm that because salvation is of God, for His glory, I must glorify him always.

I must live my entire life before the face of God, under the authority of God and for his glory alone.

I deny that I can properly glorify God if my worship is confused with entertainment, if I neglect either Law or Gospel in my teaching, or if self-improvement, self-esteem or self-fulfillment are allowed to become alternatives to the gospel.

Jesus is the sustain-er of my daily walk and the finisher of my spiritual journey. So, I thank God for His patience with me, and may the Grace and Peace of the Lord Reign in my life!

Finally, I am also sure of this, “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion.”

In Him you also heard the word of truth, the gospel “the good news of your salvation!”

KEY SCRIPTURE

My life verse is Luke 11:53
Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering.

MIKE CAVALLERI

AGE: 78; YEARS AT 3Crosses: 17
YEARS AS A CHRISTIAN: Approximately 40

SALVATION EXPERIENCE

I heard about the Lord when I was in the Navy in 1960. During that time, I would go to the “Sing for Your Supper” meetings in Long Beach, CA, to get the free meals.  I heard about Jesus during those meetings, but I ignored it.  All I wanted was to do things for myself.  When I got home from the Navy, I continued getting in trouble. I moved to San Francisco with my girlfriend, but that didn’t work out.  I met another woman and eventually married her, but that ended in divorce after about 11 years.  

After the divorce, some dear friends, Harvey and Marie Klein, and their three children invited me to go to church to see their kids in a musical skit.  Not knowing what the Lord had planned for me, I continued going to their church and a Sunday School class for adults. I was so lonely and had money troubles and other problems, and I lived in an 18-foot trailer for 3 years. During this time, as I continued to go to church, God softened my heart,  I finally gave in and accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior. I didn’t want to give up a life of sin because I thought going to church would take away my fun and freedom. But as a Christian, I’ve discovered a life that is so much fun and it turns out I didn’t give up fun and freedom at all. As time went on, I started turning my problems over to Him. Things began to slowly improve. I had to learn that all things come in His time, not mine. 

In the Sunday School class I was attending, there was a group of people that were not married. We would go out to dinner on Sunday evenings, which was often the highlight of my week. I decided to ask one of the ladies in this group to go with me to a yearly picnic event held at a camp near Watsonville, CA. I was nervous when asking her. I felt like a high school kid asking for a date. It was wonderful when she accepted. On the way home from the picnic, we stopped in Capitola to walk on the beach.  At one point I took her hand to help her across a creek that was running out to the ocean, and when we held hands, we both knew there was something special in our relationship. The Lord put Nancy Francis into my life.  He had definitely put us together.

A few months later, my dear friends, the Kleins and their 3 beautiful children decided to go to Disneyland in their motorhome.  I had a pickup truck with a camper, so Nancy and I decided to go too.  Nancy would stay in the motorhome with the Kleins and their son would stay with me. On the way to Disneyland, Nancy rode with me. I loved her so much, that during the drive, I asked her to marry me and she said yes. I knew that the Lord was in charge. I wondered how He could put together two different people like us, but felt this was what He wanted and who am I to ask why. We have been married 37 years, and we have one wonderful son. Over the years God has guided us through some big problems, including financial issues, lost jobs, and deaths of family members and friends. The Lord has taught me to pray and trust in Him through all of life’s difficulties. 

We started attending 3Crosses about 17 years ago. At that time, we felt that the Lord was leading us to find a new church. On Thanksgiving weekend that year, Nancy’s parents were visiting us.  We told her mom that we wanted to try out 3Crosses church, and she said, “Let’s go.”  So we did, and we’ve never left. We felt so welcome here and knew this was where the Lord wanted us. 

One thing I wanted to do was to serve others by being an usher.  The Lord led me to Bob Okamura who was the Head Usher at that time. I worked under his guidance for a few years and when he retired, the Lord led me to take his place as Head Usher. It was such a wonderful experience serving the Lord in that way.

Susan Okamura was a leader of a Bible study small group, and the Lord guided us to join that group. I did not read very well at all, and one of the first things I told Susan was that I didn’t want to read or pray out loud. Well, the Lord took over again, and Susan asked me to read just a verse out loud.  I had time to read the verse to myself several times before it was my turn to read out loud, making sure I knew all the words. That was the beginning of God helping me improve my reading skills. He has caused such an improvement, that as of this time, I have read through the Bible eight times so far, and am currently reading through a chronological Bible. Praise God for teaching me to read so well and for giving me enjoyment in reading and learning His Word.  I praise Him for helping me to read His Word!

I feel so fortunate to have met and worked with some wonderful pastors at 3Crosses.  Also to have made some life-long friends here. My wonderful wife of 37 years has been a very special blessing to me.  We know that what we do is always with the Lord’s help.

In closing, I accepted the Lord in September, 1980, and wish I had done so much earlier in my life.  I just turned 78 years old and have had a wonderful life with the Lord.  Even though I have had some problems, I have nothing to complain about.  I know that by turning my problems over to the Lord in prayer, He has accomplished so much in my life.  No matter what comes your way, pray to the Lord continuously and wait for Him to guide you through.  Also, you don’t need to feel lost in a large church like 3Crosses.  Join a small group and do some volunteer work in the church. You can also become part of one of the community classes. As you become involved in these groups, you could meet some wonderful people that will become life long friends. God will bless you greatly as you draw close to Him.

KEY SCRIPTURE

My favorite Scripture is still John 3:16-
For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.

NANCY BESSON

AGE: 74; YEARS AT 3Crosses: __
YEARS AS A CHRISTIAN: Approximately __

SALVATION EXPERIENCE

My siblings and I were sent to Sunday School as children. My younger brother and I went to a church-sponsored summer camp when I was around ten, and it was there that I gave my heart to the Lord.  

In my teens and twenties, I strayed away from the Lord, and it is by the grace of God that I lived through those years. I didn't go on to college right out of high school. At age 21, I met my future husband, Wayne.

Wayne was raised in the church but strayed away in his senior year of college. He taught Philosophy at a university. He became involved in The God Is Dead Movement. He tried to convince me there was no God, but I never gave in, but since my teens, I had already decided that I didn't need Jesus. 

We married in 1972 when I was 25. Wayne said he didn't want children, so I agreed. He had a son from a first marriage. In 1975, I became pregnant, even though we used precautions. Wayne wanted me to have an abortion, but I didn't. Our marriage was really rocky until my 7th month, when he came around.

Laurie was born with 2 heart defects. She had 2 surgeries at 3-1/2 months and 20 months. I started praying to God, but still didn't connect the need for Jesus.

In 1976, Wayne lost his job, and we moved in with his parents in Omaha, Nebraska. I didn't know anything about alcoholism, but Wayne drank a lot. He was an alcoholic. Of all things, we bought the largest nightclub in Omaha. My life became a living hell.

In 1977, our second daughter, Nicole was born, and we got our own apartment. I remember my sister would call me once a week, and I would cry. She had become a born-again Christian a few years before. She and her family lived in northern California. She would tell me each time she called that I needed Jesus. I told her that I was too bad of a sinner and I owned a bar. I wasn't worthy. My sister, Laurine, witnessed to me that we are all sinners, and that none of us are worthy. We are saved by grace.

Wayne intimated me, so I actually took my two girls and flew to my sisters with the intention of surrendering my life to Christ. Sunday, March 26, 1978, the pastor of Laurine's church gave an invitation, and I gave my heart to Christ. I was much bolder and confident when I returned home and started going to my in-law's church. It was very small, but they just started a 12-week discipleship program. God's timing was perfect.

Fast forward to Christmas, 1985, we were living in Los Angeles, and my parents came down from the Bay Area to visit. My mother announced that she had become a born-again Christian. My father intimidated her like Wayne had intimidated me. My mother said that she wished she could see her grandchildren more often. In October 1986, she was diagnosed with cancer, and 7 days later she died.

Laurie had kidney failure at age 9, and was on kidney dialysis, which I gave her at home. She was on a list for a kidney transplant. Wayne and I were separated at the time. January 1985, he gave his heart to Christ, and went through an alcohol treatment program. I didn't love Wayne in my humanness, but I kept asking God to let me love Wayne with the love of the Lord. We got back together as a family, and we renewed our vows in March.

At Thanksgiving, 1986, we were with Wayne's parents at their house. On Friday, November 28, Laurie told Grandma Shirbroun that she was going to faint, and she died. We were out in the country, on their farm, so we didn't wait for an ambulance. We drove her to the hospital.  She was brain dead. I tried to give Laurie CPR, but to no avail. We called her cardiologist, and he told us she died without pain. Laurie adored Grandma Shirbroun, and I believe she was where she wanted to be when the Lord took her to heaven. She died about 5 weeks after my mother. God answered my mother's prayer by having her waiting for Laurie in heaven.

When parents lose a child, no matter the age, they either draw closer to God, or away from Him. I drew closer to God, but Wayne drew away. He returned to drinking. We divorced. He died on Christmas Eve, 2007, of cancer, at age 67. Wayne never gave up drinking, but I believe he got right with God near the end.

I am 74 now, and I think I could fill a book of how God has blessed me and shown his love for me. Jesus is with me every day of my life. The Holy Spirit is inside me as my guide and comforter. My daughters and my sons-in-law walk close with the Lord. My 2 grandchildren, ages 15 and 9, accepted Jesus as their savior and were recently baptized.

In the name of Jesus Amen and Amen, 
Nancy Besson

NINA FILLER

AGE: __; YEARS AT 3Crosses: __
YEARS AS A CHRISTIAN: Approximately __

SALVATION EXPERIENCE

I have early memories of going to church with my mother.  These memories were during World War II in Europe.  I remember hiding in a ditch during an air raid as we walked to church.

As a teenager in post-war Germany my family attended a Lutheran church.  In 1948, I was attending a youth fellowship outreach group by the Christian and Missionary Alliance.  These missionaries from Canada held bible teaching Sunday school classes and fellowship activities.  It was during this period of time that my mother, Magdalena, accepted Jesus as her Lord and began a lifetime of growing in study and discipleship.  Through these missionaries I came to attend a summer camp.  On July 27th, 1953 I accepted Jesus as my savior at summer camp in the Harz mountains.  Years later, I was baptized by Mark Teyler in the Jordan river.  During these formative times as a young adult and a young believer I remember teaching on the importance of knowing that God was always watching what we do and what we say.  God is also listening to our prayers and it is never too early to begin praying for my future husband.  I spent two years as a teen in confirmation classes where we would memorize entire chapters of Scripture.  Much of this is still an impact even years later, having a foundation of God’s word that is always there to draw upon.  I grew up hearing and loving classic hymns, the beautiful words and melodies that are always with you in times of joy and apprehension.  One or two lines from a beloved hymn can lead to hours of personal praise.  I am grateful for the early foundation in Scripture and hymn worship that I received when still a youth.

I came to the United States when I was 18-years of age.  My family was sponsored by a Lutheran Church in San Leandro and after a lengthy 3-year process we came through New York Harbor and flew to our new home in California.  I did pray for my future husband and was blessed that God had a wonderful man chosen for me in the US.  We were married for 35 wonderful years where my priorities were my husband and then my children.  With the demands of a young family it was difficult to find the time and closeness I wanted with the Lord.  I would often remember a song from my youth group days and its line to “give of your best to the Lord”.  I wanted to do more and what I could do should be my best.  After 35 years of marriage the Lord took my husband home after a sudden and quick illness.  During this tough time, I read over and over Lamentations 3:21-23, “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end: they are new every morning: great is your faithfulness”.  God’s mercies are new and refreshing now and every morning because He is faithful.  It may hurt right now but God is present and bringing newness.     

I grew much closer to the Lord in this time of transition and began another season as a caregiver to my aging mother with dementia.  My 501 mission-statement was “to serve the Lord with a joyful heart”.  During this demanding stage I needed the constant reminder to be patient and joyful, especially on challenging days where there was little patience to be found.  Joy does not come from circumstances but from times of closeness with the Lord.  “Softly and Tenderly” Jesus is always calling us closer to him.  During all of life’s seasons and stages I can say “Thank you Lord for saving my soul”, for always being faithful to me.

Testimonies  |  O-R

PATRICIA MONK

AGE: 73; YEARS AT 3Crosses: __
YEARS AS A CHRISTIAN: Approximately __

SALVATION EXPERIENCE

I didn’t come from a church-going family, but was allowed and later encouraged to attend Sunday school and church.  When I was 5 years old, I went to Sunday school with our neighbor in Altadena, California.  My family moved to Hayward when I was 8 years old and my sisters and I started attending a small bible believing church.  It was at this time when I was around 10 that I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior. 

When I was a freshman in high school, my family moved again to Fullerton, California, where my sisters and I became active in Youth for Christ. Bob Kraning was our youth leader and we grew a lot under his leadership.  We especially enjoyed being members of a bible quiz team that made you study the scriptures. 

When I was a senior in high school, my family moved to Oakland, California. Even though my mother and father didn’t attend church, my father went and had a talk with Jake Bellig at the Neighborhood Church.  Jake told him that they could use some help at the Port of Call.  So along with being a hostess at the Port of Call, I taught Sunday school and coached a Junior High Girls’ Basketball team.  I co-taught with a handsome guy named Butch Monk.  I knew he was the one God chose for me and we were married on August 22, 1970.  We were the first wedding at the new church in Castro Valley.  Soon after we were married, my father passed away suddenly at the age of 46.  It was then that my mother started attending church and became a Christian.  Praise the Lord. 

We have been blessed with four children and fifteen grandchildren. Our greatest desire is for them to see Jesus in us and to know how much he loves them.

I would like to pass on that God is faithful even we stray at times.  He has rescued me from a few bad choices. Praise to Him.

It’s also important that we don’t listen to the devil’s lies.  He always wants to malign God’s character.  That is why it is so important to read the bible every day and to pray.  We can pray about everything, not holding back our thoughts and concerns.  We can be honest!

KEY SCRIPTURE

Philippians 4:4-7: "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

1 John 4:9-11: "This is how God showed his love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him.  This is love not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another."

PAULETTE RICHARDSON

AGE: __; YEARS AT 3Crosses: __
YEARS AS A CHRISTIAN: Approximately __

SALVATION EXPERIENCE

I have been a Christian since I was 12 years old. I babysat for the couple across the street from us. They took me to their church in Bakersfield and I accepted the Lord there. I have always attended church no matter where we lived. My parents did not take us to church. If a church was close to us, we went there. If a bus came by, we went to that church. My mother's father was a minister. My father's father was a minister. Maybe that is why they did not go but they always let my brother and I go to any church we wanted to go. I was baptized when I was in high school. When I was in high school I went to a church in Alameda. They took us to Oakland to see Billy Graham and I rededicated my life there and then I began to grow in the Lord.

What I want the next generation to know is that your Christian life is not easy or a straight line. It all adds on to each other. Don't give up, but continue to grow. Read your bible every day. Memorize scripture that speaks to you.

KEY SCRIPTURE

My favorite verse is John 1:1. “In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God and the Word was God.” It means that the Word was Jesus. He always was, is, and is to come. You can pray to Him each and every day, and all day long. Did you pray about it? Is the first thing you should do when you have a problem, whether it is "where did I put .....? or find a parking space, or pray about my kids or siblings. When you tell someone you will pray for them, please pray, don't forget about it. When God tells you to pray for someone, brings someone to your mind, pray for that person. You never know why God told you to pray for them, you may never know, but pray anyway.

PETER ZACHAROFF

AGE: __; YEARS AT 3Crosses: __
YEARS AS A CHRISTIAN: Approximately __

SALVATION EXPERIENCE

Peter was born in Kaiserslautern, Germany. His mom won the lottery to come to America, and the family settled in Bellevue, Washington. He was an altar boy in the Catholic Church in Washington State for 10 years. Then he joined the US Army. He got stationed in Texas, and he got saved at a Christian Servicemen's Center. He became a Champlain's assistant. He was also a tour guide in Germany for the U.S. servicemen. After the Army, he went to Bible school. He met his wife, Debbie, at a Christian College. They were married at Neighborhood Church, in Castro Valley by Dr. Jacob Bellig as well! Peter attended seminary, then received his master's in Special Education. Peter taught at Fremont Christian School for 10 years, and Redwood Christian School for 7 years. Now he is a public school Special Education Teacher. Peter is a member of the Hayward Gideons camp as well. 

RANDY ODOM

AGE: 63; YEARS AT 3Crosses: __
YEARS AS A CHRISTIAN: Approximately 49

SALVATION EXPERIENCE

IMMEASURABLY MORE, IMMEASURABLY MORE
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen”   Ephesians 3:20-21

I was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma on July 27, 1957. I am my parents’ only child. My mom had a daughter that was stillborn 3 years before I was born. Her name was Pamela Jo Odom. My dad, Richard, was a truck driver for the Katy (MK&T) Railroad from the time I was born until his retirement. My mom, Julia (aka Jude), worked part-time as a concession manager at a local drive-in movie theater and as a restaurant manager. Ours was an average working-class life in the 1960’s and 70’s.  Neither of my parents were churchgoers. My dad’s parents divorced when he was young (something very unusual in Oklahoma in the 1940’s), and my mom’s father committed suicide when she was just a toddler. Consequently, both of my grandmothers had a difficult time raising their children on their own. Single mothers in those days were not commonplace in mainline society, much less in the church. Neither of my grandmothers felt welcomed or at-home in the church environment. I can say, though, that they raised their children as “cultural Christians,” and I inherited that worldview from both of my parents.

At an early age I understood that there was a God, but beyond the cultural definition of that God, I had no understanding of His nature or of my relationship to Him. I remember sitting with my ear glued to the speaker of my parents’ console stereo as Barbra Streisand sang “The Lord’s Prayer” on a Christmas album. I felt goose bumps up and down my arms as I listened. I wondered who this “Father, which art in heaven” was that she sang so beautifully about.

By nature I am a shy introvert. As a small child, with no brothers or sisters, I depended on neighbor children to be my friends. However, because I was so shy, I was afraid to go knock on their doors and ask them to come out and play with me. Instead, I would go out and sit on the curb by the street in front of my house and hope they would see me out there and come out to play. I was blessed, though, with some wonderful cousins who became like siblings to me. My dad’s younger brother had a son just half-a-year younger than I, and we would often take turns spending the weekends at one another’s homes. Little did I know that this ambiguous God that I believed in was unfolding His plan for me right before my eyes.

At around the age of 12, my uncle Ray became a Christian. The transformation of Christ in his life was truly miraculous. Now, on weekends when I would stay with their family, I would go to church with them. For the first time in my life I began to hear the story of the gospel explained and personalized for me. In 1972, just three months prior to my 15th birthday, I attended a Revival Fires Crusade with my uncle Ray and his family at the Tulsa Assembly Center. I had already been coming under the conviction of the Holy Spirit when attending church with my uncle’s family, so on this April Thursday evening, when the invitation was given at the end of the message, I could no longer resist. I walked forward and gave my life to Jesus that night. Immediately following the crusade meeting a few of us went to a local church not far from my house and I was baptized into Christ. That began a transformation in my life that was astounding to my friends and family, and still astounds me as I look back on it.

I became actively involved in the high school youth group at East Tulsa Christian Church and the youth pastor there, David McClary, became my role model (dare I say idol?!). I did everything I could to be like “Dave” and spent as much time with him as possible. I’m sure I made a pest of myself by hanging out at their house so much of the time after school and on summer days. Dave had graduated from Ozark Christian College in Joplin, Missouri, so very early in my high school years I decided that I wanted to go to Ozark when I graduated. Sure enough, in 1975, after graduating from high school, I enrolled as a freshman at Ozark. I spent 4.5 wonderful years at Ozark, deepening my walk with Jesus and learning the skills of Christian leadership. In those days I had a decent singing voice and joined the concert choir. In my third year of college, this shy Okie boy found the courage to audition for an elite singing group on campus and I actually “made it!” That year, 1977-1978, was another pivotal year in my life. The group, called the Impact Brass and Singers, toured all over the midwestern US during the school year and did an amazing three-month west coast tour during the summer of ’78. I had been to visit relatives in southern California in my early childhood, but during that visit in the summer of ’78, I fell in love with the Golden State. I secretly planted a dream in my heart of one day living here. Once graduating from Bible college I intended to go into local church ministry in some capacity. However, around that same time, my high school and college best friend, Chuck Foreman, decided that he was going to be a missionary. Our home church was an extremely mission-minded church, so I had heard many missionaries share their testimonies during seemingly endless slide presentations at Sunday evening services at church. However, I had absolutely no interest in ever being a missionary myself. I couldn’t imagine myself dressing up in the local garb of the country where I served and boring people to tears with my slide presentations.  (Little did I know…!)

Chuck’s decision to be a missionary made a huge impact on me and I started to wonder if perhaps God would call me in the same way. In the early 80’s, just coming into vogue was the notion of using a secular career skill as a means of sharing the gospel in a country that was otherwise closed to traditional missions. And teaching English as a 2nd language was one such career that could open many doors to otherwise “closed countries.” This idea intrigued me very much. Around that same time, a dear woman in my home church, Velva Jo Johnson, gave me a book about a famous 19th century missionary to China, Hudson Taylor. (James Hudson Taylor founded the China Inland Mission in the 19th century. The CIM still exists today and is known as Overseas Missionary Fellowship.) When I read the account of Hudson Taylor’s commitment to the call God had on his life for China, I came away thinking, “I’m not even a Christian, much less a missionary!” With the Holy Spirit’s conviction and the inspiration of Hudson Taylor’s life, I began to think about going to China as an English teacher with the goal of sharing my faith with students and others.

In the summer of 1983 my secret dream of moving to California became a reality when I enrolled as a graduate student in the Department of TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) at Biola University. By that time, my youth pastor in high school had moved to Southern California to pastor a church in Rancho Cucamonga, so I moved in with his family while doing my study at Biola.

Sometime during the spring term of 1984 I found a flyer in my student mailbox from a Christian organization in Alhambra that was recruiting English teachers for Mainland China. Reflecting on my reading of Hudson Taylor’s life, I had to inquire about the opportunity. Long story short, I applied and was accepted for the 1984-1985 academic year. After an eight week summer training program I was assigned to teach with two other guys in the city of Wuhan in central China. Needless to say, I had never even heard of Wuhan! But in August of 1984 my two teammates and I took off to faraway China to teach in the Wuhan Branch of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Another trajectory-setting year was about to commence.

For the first semester in Wuhan I was absolutely miserable. I had never felt so far away from home. In retrospect, I have realized that I was suffering from what I now call “heart lag.” My body was in China, but my heart was still in the USA. However, not long after the start of the 2nd semester I began to make friends with some of my students and with others, so that by the end of that first year I was ready to sign-on long term. I notified my sending organization that I would like to continue serving in China and they agreed that I could stay. What started out as a one year commitment ended up in a six year stay. And those six years were probably the most pivotal years of my life. It was in those years that God grew in me a heart for missions and a commitment to finding my place in His mission plan.

Fast forward now to the spring semester of 1991. I was teaching in Zhongshan University in the southern city of Guangzhou in China. “ZhongDa” is one of the leading universities in south China and I had a wonderful experience that year. However, a botched romantic relationship sent me reeling emotionally and I decided at the end of that year to return to the States for a “break.” The sending organization that I was with at that time had its home office in Berkeley and they asked if I would be willing to come back to the States and serve as Director of Recruitment for them. I agreed because it would “keep my feet in China” while also giving me the chance to take a needed break from serving on the field.

In the summer of 1992 our organization had a summer training in Berkeley for new teachers going to China. I was involved as one of the trainers at that orientation. It was during that summer orientation that our office also welcomed a new clerical volunteer who had been a Taiwanese graduate student here in the States. Her name was Krystal. I remember being “smitten” by Krystal pretty much from day one. Unfortunately, not only was Krystal not smitten by me, she even asked a mutual friend in our office why in the world it was that I would sometimes clip roses from the neighborhood rose bushes and give them to her at the office. I was “crushed but not destroyed” by that comment and redoubled my efforts to show her my interest. Finally the ice began to thaw and Krystal began to see how really irresistible I am!

We courted for three years, and finally, when I was 38 years-old, we got married. By that time I had left the China organization in Berkeley and had begun pastoring the Fruitvale Christian Church in Oakland. Krystal and I were married in that church in September of 1995. During our years at Fruitvale we started what became a very successful English as a Second Language school as an outreach of the church. In its heyday our English school had more students than our church had members. Those were wonderful years; however, the stirring toward missions never left us and actually began to intensify in the early 2000’s. In 2002 we resigned from our ministry with the church in Oakland not knowing where the Lord would send us next nor how He would provide for us. 

At that time I was in the job market and had mentioned to a friend who attended Neighborhood Church that I was looking for a job. She told me that she had recently seen an announcement in the church bulletin for a custodial position at the church. I asked for a phone number and decided to inquire. I remember meeting with Greg Patrick, the Facilities Manager at that time. After giving him a brief history of my life he said, “Wow! We’ve never had anyone so overqualified apply for a janitorial position.” He offered me the job at $1 per hour more than the job posting had listed!!That was our first introduction to Neighborhood Church. Shortly after I started working at Neighborhood Krystal and I attended a Sunday service for the first time. “Coincidentally,” our first Sunday was “Missions Sunday.” Our hearts were bursting!! We walked out of the service that day saying, “We’ve found our church!” Again, little did we know…!

I worked as a custodian at Neighborhood for three months and then was hired by another organization sending Christian professionals to China, this one located in Hayward. As Director of Short-Term Programs, I was in charge of recruiting, training and leading short-term mission trips to China. While serving with this organization Krystal and I continued to attend Neighborhood and get more involved. Krystal joined the choir and I had a couple of opportunities to teach an elective class on missions. It was during this time that we got to know the pastoral staff a little more. Around about 2004, when Neighborhood Church did Rick Warren’s “Purpose-Driven Life” study, I began to sense that familiar stirring in my spirit. One day I said to Krystal, “Wouldn’t it be amazing if the Lord opened a door for me to serve at Neighborhood?!” Being the wise woman she is, her response was, “Don’t tell anyone, let’s just pray!” So we began praying that if it was God’s will for us to serve at Neighborhood he would open the door in some way. Then one day I had a fateful lunch with Pastor Mark Teyler. (There’ll be another fateful lunch a little later in my story, so hold on…) Anyways, Mark invited me to go out to lunch with him to discuss another mission class he had invited me to teach. While at lunch Mark asked, “Randy, how long is your commitment with the organization where you’re serving now?” Wow!!! Was that an open-door opportunity, or what? I felt the nudge of God’s Spirit and replied, “Well, it’s funny you should ask….” Then I explained to Mark what Krystal and I had been secretly praying about. After I shared with him, he said, “Randy, I’d love to bring you on staff if you’re interested.” I was like, “Am I interested?!?!!!!”

Well, in the fall of that year – 2004 – I came on staff part-time as Pastor of Outreach, I think it was. I finished out my service with the China organization that year and joined the full-time pastoral staff of Neighborhood Church in 2005. Again, God rocked our world with His goodness and His favor!

One of the things I have not mentioned up to now is the issue of my parents in these years. In the late 90’s and early 2000’s, as we started seeing my parents’ health beginning to become more fragile, we realized that we needed to be more involved in their care. Krystal actually made several extended trips to Oklahoma to help my parents when one or the other of them was hospitalized. We knew that even though they never said anything, they were secretly fearing that we were going to end up moving off to the uttermost parts of the earth at a time when they were most in need of support and assistance. As a result, we came up with a “deal” for them. On a trip back to Oklahoma we told them that we would agree to stay in the US for the rest of their lives, but that we would ask them to move to California rather than having us move to Oklahoma. Amazingly, they agreed. So in the spring of 2003 my parents made the only major move of their lives and came to live in San Leandro. We were able to purchase a small home for them in the same neighborhood where we lived, and they were happy to be close to us. Unfortunately, that joy didn’t last very long.

Exactly four months to the day from when they arrived in California, my dad passed away. He had been in failing health for the previous few months, so the adjustment was difficult for him. Once he was gone, my mom was stuck in a strange place where she had never lived and where she had no friends. After floundering for a good while regarding what was best for her, she ended up moving into Carlton Plaza Assisted Living in San Leandro. She thrived there until she passed in November of 2008. I’m delighted that because my dad was a veteran of the Korean Conflict that we were able to bury both of my parents in the National Cemetery in Santa Nella, California.

After my parents passed away, Krystal and I looked at each other and said, “Well, we’ve fulfilled our commitment to Mom and Dad about staying in this country for the rest of their lives… now what?” By this time my role had changed at Neighborhood to Pastor of Connection and Krystal was thriving in an accounting position at a large non-profit in Oakland. We were both at the top of our game professionally and in every other way. Finally, after praying and thinking and talking a lot, we came to the peace of saying that while we were not actively looking for the “next assignment” in missions, we would keep our hearts open and “go” if we knew the Lord had called us. This became the posture of our hearts as the year 2009 dawned.

Now comes the time of the next fateful lunch…. In January of 2009 I had lunch at Chipotle in Castro Valley with Brian Kalsbeek. We had gotten together just to hang out over lunch. No other agenda (or so we thought). As we talked, Brian began sharing with me about an organization he had gotten involved with in Cambodia. In fact, he was serving as Executive Director of this organization. As I listened, I said, “What are you talking about, Executive Director of a missions organization? You’re a chiropractor, for crying out loud!” He chuckled and continued his story. As he excitedly shared with me the various projects of this organization he began to talk about an orphanage in the rural far north of the country. It was then, as I was taking a bite of my chicken burrito bowl, that God landed the notion of Cambodia on my heart out of the clear blue sky. Whether it was a twinkle in my eye that Brian saw, I do not know, but almost in mid-sentence he stopped and said, “Randy, if you and Krystal would like to get involved with this, it would be awesome.” I literally laughed and replied, “Well, tell me more because I’m intrigued.” At the end of lunch he invited Krystal and me over to his home later that week to hear more stories and to see some photos he had from his recent trip to Cambodia. My world was rocked that day at Chipotle! Since then I have said many times, “Be careful about Chipotle! Your life can change over one burrito bowl!!”

When I got home from work that day I asked Krystal, “So, how’d you like to go and live in Cambodia for the rest of your life?” She had two words for me…. “I’m fine!”  Then, of course, she wanted to know what I was talking about. I shared with her about my lunch with Brian and told her that he would show us some photos later that week. After visiting his home and seeing the photos that night, on the way home I asked Krystal, “So, what do you think?” She said, “It’s great, but I don’t feel called to work with children.” I replied, “Well, I don’t either, but I’m not going to say that I can’t be called.” Later on, we found out that Brian would make a trip to Cambodia that summer (2009) and he invited us to go along with him to “scope out the land.” We agreed. So in June in 2009 we made our very first exploratory trip to Cambodia.

We decided that the purpose of that first trip was to discover if there were any “red flags” that indicated we should not go to Cambodia. Both Krystal and I are of the mind that all Christians are called to “go into all the world” with the gospel, so rather than going and looking for a call (the call to go has already been given), we should go trying to discern if there was a call for us “not” to go. We discovered on that trip that it would not be a “walk in the park” for us to go and live in a place where there were only two other westerners and where there was no electricity and the only water was from a well on site, and where we did not know a word of the language, BUT we did not think that any of those things were deal breakers. So we came home praying that God would confirm the call to our hearts once we got back home.

Shortly after returning to Bay Area, I met with Pastor Larry Vold and shared with him what we thought God was stirring in our hearts. Larry’s gracious response was, “Randy, we don’t want you and Krystal to leave, but if this is God’s call on your life, we would never stand in your way.” With that amazing response we felt free to seek God’s will to lead us forward. Finally, in October of 2009 we announced to the church that it was our intention to move to Cambodia in the summer of 2010 and stay for a period of at least two years. For the next 10 months we spent our time “untethering” ourselves from God’s blessings. Then, in August of 2010, we got on a plane with the few worldly belongings we had left, and headed out for Cambodia.

The rest is history, as they say, so I’ll not go into detail in describing the amazing eight years that we lived and served in Cambodia. Suffice it to say, we had no idea God would provide us a lifelong “souvenir” from our years in Cambodia in the form of a little boy whom we named Noel. He came to us completely unexpectedly at the Christmas season of 2011. We named him Noel because the people who dropped him at the orphanage where we worked said they did not know his name. At the time we thought he was God’s Christmas gift to the orphanage, so we gave him the name Noel. Now he is Noel Tum Dara Odom and he is a passport carrying American citizen. The journey toward Noel’s adoption would fill another testimony. I’ll save that for another time.

Apart from the generous and loving support of Neighborhood (3Crosses) Church, we would not have had the wonderful experience in Cambodia that we did. We thank God every day for this church! And we thank Him that the church was willing to open the doors to us again when we returned to the US in the summer of 2018. I have said since then that it was like God said in 2010, “I’m gonna push ‘pause’ on your life here in the States and I want you two to go play and serve me in Cambodia.” Then, eight years later, as we returned to the States, it was as if God pushed “play” again for us. Though much has changed for us since we left the US in 2010, coming back to this wonderful church has made us realize how much has stayed the same. Our God is the same yesterday, today and forever, and His people remain loving, generous and responsive to our presence in community. We could not be more thankful for that.

KEY SCRIPTURE

In conclusion, I hearken back to the Ephesians 3:20 -  “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Truly, God has done “immeasurably more” than anything I could have ever asked or imagined. I give Him all the glory and I pray that this testimony of His goodness, faithfulness and power will encourage future generations as they consider how God might lead and use them in the service of His kingdom.

REDGY JACKSON

AGE: __; YEARS AT 3Crosses: __
YEARS AS A CHRISTIAN: Approximately __

SALVATION EXPERIENCE

Past: Divorced once, 2nd wife died, 3rd more healthy than me! Both of my parents have died; have witnessed my best friend dying before me in a street accident.

Testimony: As a youngster, my parents brought me to church and Sunday school, probably at age 2 or 3, when I could start to remember, at 8411 MacArthur Blvd, Oakland. Probably at a Jim Voss electrical demonstration, at age 10, I started my Christian walk.

Completing college, I worked for four years for Lockheed. When the gas crunch occurred and everyone had to line up for gas lines of the ’70s ending the construction of housing,  I found myself without a wife, broke, and unemployed. My Dad brought me back to California. I spent the next ten years in the singles ministry at 3 Crosses. Finally, I married, joined the church choir, and performed in the illustrated sermons and summer musicals.

KEY SCRIPTURE

“God sent not His Son into the world to condemn it, but to save the world through His Son. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” - John 3:17,18

RICHARD KALMAN

AGE: 88; YEARS AT 3Crosses: 50
YEARS AS A CHRISTIAN: Approximately 48

SALVATION EXPERIENCE

I am one of nine children born into a family where both parents were Christians, my father was a lay minister, and a grandfather who was a missionary. As I grew into adulthood I did not accept the Lord into my life initially and thought I could handle whatever came along whether good or bad with my own solutions. The unfortunate truth is that I had not thought out or worked out a solution as to how I could effectively deal with my life problems. I wandered through life like most people in our world depending on myself to resolve each day’s problems. I personally tried to plan and run my life my way and wondered why so many things went wrong. I failed in marriage and had many problems come into my life that I was unable to resolve in a satisfactory manner? Many of my relationships deteriorated, and things I did to find happiness seemed to end in failure. Running around from party to party, and drinking with friends left me very empty inside, thirsting for something of substance, but not knowing how to obtain it. A need for a change in the course of my life was apparent.

By the grace of God, after many years drifting in this confusing world, I came to realize that when one encounters problems that become progressively more severe, one should chart a new course. I was blessed to have loving Christian parents and siblings who were a wonderful testimony and for me to strive for in my life. I decided to search my local area for a church to attend and finally settled on 3Crosses church that was founded on sound biblical principles. I discovered that God loved me and had a wonderful plan for my life. (Romans 5:8)" But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." As I studied the bible, my “Life Instruction Manual", I found wonderful truths and promises, and a way out of my dilemma. I read that man (and woman) is sinful and separated from God, and that Jesus Christ is God’s only provision for man’s sin. (Romans 3:23) "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God". Through Him, I could know and experience God's love and a plan for my life. I further read that each of us must individually receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. (I Timothy 2:5) "For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ". So I received Jesus Christ and turned my life over to him. On June 11, 1972, I was baptized at the 3Crosses by Pastor “Pop” Ruhl. That decision was not made on an emotional basis, and no earth-shattering changes came into my life right then and there. But spiritual growth began and changes in my life did follow. Each day brings new insights through the Word of God and growth continues. Sometimes I move forward and some days backward. But overall, the progress is in a forward direction. I look to God for solutions, drawing on his infinite wisdom as the creator of all things. He provides the answers in His way and they are always correct. In my new Christian walk in life, I became active with a 3Crosses Sunday school class and the Fellowship of Christian Airlines Personnel (FCAP) ministry that is a world-wide outreach to airline personnel that has brought many aviation personnel to a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus.

KEY SCRIPTURE

One of my favorite biblical scriptures (of many) is II Corinthians chapter 13 called the love chapter. This was read at my marriage to my wife Branka in 1989 by 3Crosses pastor Malcolm Cash who coincidently (?) was from my hometown of Akron Ohio. That chapter lays out wonderful guidelines as to how, as Christians, we should respond to others with love in our daily life. Additionally, I like Galatians 2:20 that as a Christian I am crucified with Christ spiritually and I live my day to day life in faith. Also, I John 5:12-13 is a reminder to me that I was at a crossroads in my life many years ago as a non-believer and I am blessed that I now have a new life in Christ Jesus.

ROGER DECKER

AGE: 78; YEARS AT 3Crosses: 24
YEARS AS A CHRISTIAN: Approximately 24

SALVATION EXPERIENCE

I am sure my walk with the Lord is not a lot different than many other Christians, but still unique to me. Raised in a Christian home, not my parent’s home, but my paternal grandmother’s home. Along with my parents, my grandmother gave me a sense of love and fair play and doing what is right. At eleven years old my father passed away, and so did my interest in the Lord. Fast forward 43 years my wife Linda and I visited our daughter and son in law’s church in Grape Vine, Texas. On the way home, Linda thought it might be a good idea for us to attend Neighborhood Church. The first sermon was good (Dr. Larry Vold), but what brought me back the next week was a young lady on stage singing solo. Her name was Tiffany Thompson. It was like God was singing just to me. Fast forward another 24 years, I greet, usher, and facilitate a discipleship group, loving every minute, seeing Christian friends and meeting new believers as they search for their calling. Not exactly sure when the Lord came into my heart, but to quote a now-deceased Christian brother, Bill Libbey, ”when it happened, I know I was there.”

KEY SCRIPTURE

Some of my favorite verses are:
Gal. 5: 22-23, But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

1 Corr. 13:13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. If you can keep these in your heart, I believe it is what the Lord wants for us. Coming up on sixty years of marriage, I have come to realize that love is our most precious gift from God.

My favorite verse is Psalm 23:1-6. Even when I was not walking with the Lord I always felt a guiding force in my life helping me to do the right thing, to feel safe in sometimes scary or uncertain circumstances, always being cared for by special others, knowing the Lord is in my heart and I am in His. And eventually dwelling in the house of the Lord.

Testimonies  |  S-Z 

SALLY HOLT

AGE: 80; YEARS AT 3Crosses: 15
YEARS AS A CHRISTIAN: Approximately 71

SALVATION EXPERIENCE

At age 8, my mom died. During school breaks in the next 3 summers, our dad sent my twin brother and me to Percy Crawford Christian Camp in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. There were 3 separate camps for adults, boys, & girls, but there was also a common meeting and campfire area. It was there that each of us said “yes” to the gift from our Lord Jesus. We returned to Brooklyn, where we lived. Each Sunday Pop would give us each a dime to put in “the plate,” as we faithfully attended Sunday School at the Evangelical Church of Peace. At age 12, for Pop’s health, we subsequently moved to Miami, Florida, and joined the First Baptist Church of Miami, where my brother and I were baptized together. It was there I joined the choir, with my step-sisters (my dad had re-married ). Soon my high school church pastor changed to the relatively unknown Charles Stanley. What a blessing. After graduation I attended a university 500 miles from home, no longer in a circle of believing friends and family. Tuition started at $75/semester! The next 4 years were spent as an RN in the US Navy Nurse Corps, with exposure to good experiences & new worlds. I moved to California and attended/examined many churches. Eventually, the Holy Spirit led me home to 3Crosses, praise the Lord. “Seek and you will find.” Matt 7:7.

SHARED ADVICE
a. I think a common feeling in new believers is guilt. As I grew from teen to adult, I experienced this uncomfortable feeling often. When I went away to college, I confess I put that out of mind. My advice now is don’t! God was very patient with me. Do what it takes to keep growing in the Lord, & don’t let Satan have his way. Charles Stanley has said “It doesn’t work when Satan is your defense attorney!"

b. We act the way we think. Make friends with someone who understands the Word of God. Speak with a Christian friend or pastor, if you have questions or concerns. Exchange verses, prayers, encouragements. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart & lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, & he will make your paths straight.” Prov 3:5-6.

c. When you choose to believe in Jesus as divine Savior, accept his promises as commands eg, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14: 27. Commit to nurturing your personal relationship with God, through study, humility, gratitude, and in prayer, as your will yields to Jesus in your life daily.

d. Forgive- “Carry each other’s burdens.“ Gal 6:2, Col 3:12-15. God wants us to depend on Him. As humans we are weak. He knew that when he told us to bear each other's burdens. We may need to ask Christ to enable us, to forgive as he forgave. As we are in a forgiven state, how could we not do the same?

KEY SCRIPTURE

Ephesians 2:8-9 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” This tells the why, the what, the how, the requirement, and the exclusions. It motivates me to feel thanksgiving and to want to “produce fruit” by sharing. It is my prayer the reader will be blessed by also choosing to accept this “gift of God.”

SHARON BREEDLOVE

AGE: __; YEARS AT 3Crosses: 60
YEARS AS A CHRISTIAN: Approximately __

SALVATION EXPERIENCE

I was an 8th grader when the big blue bus came from Oakland to San Lorenzo because a girl down the street had invited me to the NEIGHBORHOOD CHURCH! It actually picked both of us up at our house. That was 59 years ago! At an evening service, I learned what Jesus did! I loved Him for what He did. I didn't know much more about Him than that (He loved me, and that's all I knew!) I gave my testimony from the stage with Paul Travis. It was simply that I felt a hole in my heart without Him. I was emotional when baptized shortly after by Kenneth Backlund before he left to start another Neighborhood Church in Chico. That was publicly my first step of obedience. Ken Backlund, Don Larmour, Ed Harris (senior) led our teaching, membership outreach, ski trips, etc.

When the church moved to Castro Valley it got a new name of Cathedral at the Crossroads. The church sent a bus to Basic Youth Conflicts (Institute in Life Principles) to San Jose for a week-long seminar where I learned that man has a Spirit, Soul and Body. The Spirit (God-consciousness), The Soul (Mind, will and emotions) and the Body (flesh). I also learned that SIN IS ANYTHING THAT SEPARATES YOU FROM GOD! I soon learned that circumstances may not be appointed but allowed! God orchestrates and is is sovereign. The first doubt and question with my faith came from a crime against me that I lived through. Afterwards, I bought a snub-nosed 38 caliber revolver (shot hollow bullets - left a large hole as it exited. Sargeant Agler (homicide) explained that I shouldn't point the gun unless I planned to empty it. I was ready to kill anyone that attacked! Where was God? I figured that He didn't love me. I felt empty. But God was faithful. He showed me the way through Paul Travis, Eleanor, and Leland Todd. He taught me to listen (hear) and learn regardless of what I felt. God took care of having the right people at just the right time. I learned at a communion service (held on the floor, large circle, sung acapella, and cried). Paul said it was good to be so tender before The Lord.

Wanting to serve Him, I joined Charlotte Bellig with the little ones (on the "story rug") and then Ethel Fix and Millie Story took care of my teaching needs. I was seeking with my whole heart and needed to learn more. God involved me.

At the Welfare Department (Oakland), where I read the Living Bible through, Psalms 18 became very dear to me...."When I was weakest they attacked...(through verse 19)...for He delights in me. I learned that knowledge "puffs up" where true wisdom comes only from God. I I wanted to see the world through God's Eyes. A wise man, Albert Einstein, said: "I want to know God's thoughts - the rest are details"

My name was Sharon McKnight until 1978 when Paul Travis married John and I at the 1st Presbyterian church (Our church was busy with Christmas) I became Sharon Breedlove and John and I had 2 sons. We dedicated both to God (at ceremony at church where the entire congregation prayed for them and their future). Both boys came up through Redwood Christian Schools and wanted to reach others for Jesus Christ. They were 9 years apart in age. Matthew, our eldest, earned his way to Hong Kong and China as a Royal Servant with Reign Ministries. Elijah earned a scholarship to The Hope Home in Calcutta, INDIA where he taught English (and some math) for over a year! When the boys finished their around the world trips, Elijah stayed in India at The Hope Home. Matthew returned to the Hope Home with Impact Ministries and became close to Dev Sarker, the founder. Matthew, his wife Debbie and twin daughters (now 7 yrs old) Lexi and Anya found a no abortion country (there are only 6) with a storybook river house where they are learning to serve God. Now, in my 70's (60 years at Neighborhood) I have survived multiple surgeries, Cancer, Stroke, Raped, Robbed and Burgled 9 times. God never left me...did not forsake me (It was orchestrated by God, all part of His redemptive plan to further His Kingdom)

Now I am the dishwasher for the WIT (Woman in Touch) luncheons outreach for missions. Then I get to serve them (hostess) and collect written prayers and praises that are then sent to WIA (Woman in Action) where ladies fellowship and trim used postage stamps for missions and pray over the WIT needs.

KEY SCRIPTURE

Advice and scriptures for the next generation Since God is with us always, He deserves our attention. Include Him in all your conversations....don't leave Him alone, which brings me to a favorite verse:
  • I Thessalonians 5:16 “Rejoice Always!”
  • I Thess. 5:17 “PRAY WITHOUT CEASING “
  • I Thess. 5:18 “In everything give thanks!”

Philippians 4:8 taught me what was permitted to think about...."Finally brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” “Greater love hath no man but that he lay down his life for his friend.”

We love God by loving others. God will take care of loving us. We all have different gifts but all are "Others Minded." My adult needs were brought into focus through the Challengers Class and Alfred Monk (Butch) who I sensed loved God with all of his heart. He spoke my language and continues today with my eternal gratitude for his faithfulness to the truth. (I will make it plain to you if you fully obey the truth you have.)

God is not willing that any should perish. He gave His Son to absorb our sins on the cross. What more could He have done?

The Fellowship of the Unashamed

I am part of the “Fellowship of the Unashamed”. The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made. I am a disciple Jesus Christ.

I won’t look back, ley up, back away, or be still. My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, and my future is secure. I am finished and done with low living, sight walking, small planning, smooth knees, colorless chintzy giving, and dwarfed goals.

I no longer need pre-eminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity. I now live by presence, learn by faith, love by patience, lift by prayer, and labor by power. My pace is set, my gait is fast, my goal is Heaven, my road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions few, my Guide reliable, my mission clear.

I cannot be bought, compromised, deterred, lured away, turned, diluted, or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of adversity, negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity.

I am a disciple of Jesus Christ. I must go until Heaven returns, give until I drop, preach until all know, and work until He comes. And when He comes to get His own, He will have no problem recognizing me. My colors will be clear.

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of salvation to everyone that believes, the Jew first and also to the Greek.” - Rom 1:16

SUSAN OKAMURA

AGE: __; YEARS AT 3Crosses: 35
YEARS AS A CHRISTIAN: Approximately 65

SALVATION EXPERIENCE

The first time I remember thinking about God I was around 9 years old. I know now that it was the Holy Spirit touching my heart since I didn’t grow up in a Christian home and no one in my family or extended family ever went to church. Around that time, I began asking my mom about God, and my sister was interested too. My grandfather who lived with us off and on (he was a caretaker and worked on ranches), came to our house one morning as he usually did when he wasn’t working and brought my sister and I a rosary because we had been asking for one. We each kept it on our bedposts. To us, it represented God. Also, in those days there were door-to-door salesmen that came around in the neighborhood selling household items and miscellaneous things. My mom bought us a set of little Bible books, of which I still have Book Four, “The Children’s Friend,” “Pictures and Stories of the Life of Jesus.” (Copyright 1928) Even though my family never attended church, my dad encouraged us kids to go. Down the street from us lived a Swedish family, so my sister and I would go to the Lutheran Church with their youngest daughter, Marie. At other times, I remember my mom getting my brother, my sister and I all dressed up in our Sunday best and my dad would drive us to the Havenscourt Colonial Baptist Church and drop us off. I remember as we went in, we discovered we were early and the first ones there. Once inside the foyer, I looked up and saw a large sign that read “Silence, this is the House of the Lord.” We then went inside the sanctuary and sat down in one of the pews before anyone else was there. My little 5-year old brother sat there dressed in his best Sunday suit including a new hat. The kind usher came by and said “son, remove your hat in church.” We didn’t know any better.

As I entered junior high school, I was only 11 years old, and there I met my best friend Rosemary. We would spend the weekends over each other’s houses sometimes and when we were at her house we would go to St. Cyrl’s Catholic Church on Sunday mornings. I loved it! I started asking Rosemary questions about God and church, so she gave me her catechism book. I remember reading it from cover to cover. I wanted to know so much about God. As I learned more, I wanted to become Catholic and told my mom of my desire but she said no.

As time went on, my sister and I met a family that moved in down the street with 3 daughters. Sharon was the youngest and was my sister’s best friend. I remember one day my sister told me “Sharon says we have to be saved.” We didn’t know what “saved” meant. Sharon’s family were Christians and they attended Oakland Neighborhood Church on 84th and MacArthur Avenue in Oakland, not far from where we lived. They invited us to church and we went every Sunday morning and Sunday night. After a few months, my sister and I decided we were going to answer the “altar call” the next Sunday night. So, on Sunday evening, March 4, 1956, as Pastor Bellig gave the invitation to accept Jesus as our Savior, my sister and I raised our hands, walked down the steps to the isle that lead to the Prayer Room where Mrs. Foote, Sharon’s mother worked, and we prayed together to receive Jesus into our hearts. We were so happy that we had just become “Christians.” That night I wrote in my diary “we gave our hearts to Jesus. We are now Christians.”

As we became involved in Neighborhood Church, we began going to the High School activities on Friday nights called the “Hi Wy,” and on Sunday’s, Kenny Backlund was our Sunday School teacher. It was one of the best times of my teenage years, I was learning so much about God and Jesus. My sister and I would sit on our beds each night and read the bible together, given to us by Neighborhood Church. The next step was baptism. Sometimes on Sunday nights they would have a baptism service and that was my next step, but when I asked my mom’s permission, she said no. I was 15 years old at the time and it wouldn’t be until I was 36 years old that I would finally get baptized. During this time at Neighborhood Church, I invited my best friend, Rosemary to go with me and my sister to the high school activities on Friday nights. I also asked my grandmother to go with me to church one Sunday, she lived on the next street over from us and my dad drove the two of us to church that Sunday. As Pastor Bellig gave the invitation to invite Jesus into your heart, as he did at the end of every service, my grandmother raised her hand and we both went to the prayer room together where my grandmother prayed to receive Jesus as her Savior, she was 65 years old.

My Adult Years as a Christian

At the age of 20 years old, I married a young man I had met at the Hi Wy at Neighborhood Church and we were married in the Crimson Chapel. He was a Christian and had gone to a Christian Elementary School. As the years passed, we had two children, a boy, and a girl, I had started attending Fremont Neighborhood Church when my daughter was 2 years old and that’s where both of my children grew up. I started participating in small bible studies with ladies from our church. One day I saw an ad for a bible study called Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) taking place in one of the local churches. I went to the orientation and joined the first class, not really knowing how to actually “study” the bible. I was hooked. I learned so much after that one school year. I was then approached to become a “Discussion Leader.” For the next several years, I went from a Discussion Leader to becoming the Administrator in BSF. This was one of the best times of my Christian life. I was then approached to be the next “Teaching Leader,” the person that gives the lectures after the discussion classes. According to BSF guidelines, I was to ask my husband for permission to accept this position, but I was in for one of the biggest shocks of my life that would rock my world. My husband said no. To make a long story short, my husband had decided to leave our marriage.

One of the times in my life that I have actually heard God’s voice was after my husband had moved out. I had been on my knees every day praying and thinking about what’s next for me and my children and I remember saying to myself, “what am I going to do?” Then I heard God’s voice so clearly say to me “I will help you.”

After my divorce, there were some difficult times that followed and I confess that I drifted away from God for a few years and made my own (wrong) decisions and have had many regrets, but God is a God of second chances and in His great provision for me, He called me back to Himself, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Some years later, I remember reading in the book of Joel and thinking of those years I wasted, and as I looked down at the page I was reading, these were the Lord’s words to me, “I will restore to you the years the locusts have eaten…” Joel 2:25. I have carried that verse in my heart all those years since and He has restored to me ten-fold…no, one hundredfold to my life!

As the years passed, I was able to buy a condo and I lived by myself after my children had grown and moved out. I had to live very frugally but always paid my tithes each week and the Lord continued to provide for me. My friend was going to refinance his condo at the time and told me I should do the same. I was fearful that I could even attempt to do something like that even though I had managed on a shoestring to buy my condo, but would give it a try. Again I remember driving to work and saying out loud to myself, “Lord, if you can hang the stars in the heavens and call them all by name, you are able to make this refi go through.” Again, I turned to the book of Isaiah for the Lord’s answer, “Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you.” Isaiah 41:10 needless to say, the refi went through with flying colors.

I have been praying for my family members for many years and the Lord has again answered me through His word. One time I was praying for salvation for my family members with my bible open and I asked for a word from the Lord, as I looked at the page I was reading, I read “…Believe in the Lord Jesus and you shall be saved, you and your household.” Acts 16:31. I dated that scripture 10/25/93. In the margin of that page I have written over the years, those who have come to the Lord: my son baptized 4-2-94; my mom, 6/1/94; my son-in-law 12/17/95. And while praying over one of my favorite scriptures, Psalm 37:4 “Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.” The Lord once again answered me, my grandchildren: Harlie 7/20/14 and Ben, 3/26/16.

Another time while driving on my commute to work in Milpitas, I would pray for my day ahead as my job was very challenging a lot of the time. So many times I would read these scriptures over and over “…Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. Isaiah 43:1-2 They would sustain me.

I continue to use God’s word for every decision and task for my life, along with prayer. It has sustained me, and spoken to me at every turn. Specifically, one time I was trying to make a decision about my job, whether to continue to work or to quit and take a long break. After pouring over the scriptures for days, the Lord spoke to me again. We happen to be driving down to southern California and I was looking out the window, thinking about my decision. Again I heard the Lord’s voice, “You have a choice.” Right then and there, I blurted out the words, I’m going to quit my job!

What I would like to leave at the conclusion of my life is that the Lord is Faithful! Faithful to His promises, faithful to provide for your needs, faithful to speak to your heart with his mercy, grace and affirmation of His great and awesome love. He choose me before the foundation of the world, how awesome is that! “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” Psalm 139:16b.

KEY SCRIPTURE

I want to pass on to the next generation, the wisdom of the scriptures. God has provided a book to help us live life the way he designed it, if we heed his words. And I leave you with this scripture that I pray sums up my life: “Since my youth, O God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds. Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, Your might to all who are to come.” Psalm 71:17-18

What's Next?

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