Submitted 2019 by Kathy Farmer
There were five children in my family, and we weren’t raised in any denomination as Christians — we never attended church as a family. My parents were good, moral people, for the most part, but the only time I heard the name of Jesus was the very few times we lived close enough to a church to walk to Vacation Bible School. Neither I, nor any of my siblings, remember how a 10-volume set of Bible Stories ended up in our home, but at some point, it did – we all remember them. We never had much money growing up, so I’m not sure if someone gave them to us or bought them for our family. They would have been much too expensive for our parents to purchase – at times we could barely afford milk and bread.
A Strange Presence
My conversion began when I had my baby girl at age 20. I wasn’t married, but I loved my sweet little baby more than life itself, and I wanted everything good for her, not only in this life, but the life hereafter. One evening I was in my apartment in Daytona Beach, Florida, when I felt a strange presence in my bedroom. My daughter was with my parents in Orlando for a few days while I worked extra hours at Taco Bell. I managed the restaurant there, having worked for the owner previously at his Taco Bell in Maitland, Florida. He owned three Taco Bells, and out of the blue had invited me to manage his restaurant in Daytona Beach. I was happy to do that. The salary he offered was good for a young, unmarried person with a child. The strange presence was heavy and intimidating, and I don’t know why, but I just knew in my heart if I didn’t get out of my apartment right away, harm would come to me. Before I fled, I called a friend, and told her what was happening, what I felt. She said to come to Orlando and we would go to her sister’s brother-in-law’s house, who was a youth pastor at a local non-denominational church. We thought he would know what to do. While I was on my way she called him and set up a meeting at his house. By the time we got to this man’s house, he had called some other prayer warriors and we all sat in a circle in his living room and held hands. I explained everything that had happened at my apartment in Daytona Beach, and he led me in the sinner’s prayer, step by step, verse by verse, and I repeated what he said. I knew Jesus had come into my heart at that moment. I sensed His presence and His peace. When I got back home late that night, I wasn’t afraid anymore. I prayed for God’s power and presence in my apartment, and went to sleep.
Search for a Church
My search began for a church for my daughter and me to attend. There were so many different denominations, and non-denominational churches, I didn’t know where to start. The first church we went to on a bright Sunday morning was called “United Brethren.” I liked the name, it sounded inviting and inclusive, but sadly for me, it was not. I felt like the stranger that I was, no one talked to me, although a few shot a forced smile my way. I felt very much out of place, so after the service I determined never to go there again. I attended a few other mainline denominational churches, but it seemed they all had their own groups – cliques – and I wasn’t welcome to join them. I was discouraged, to say the least. I prayed continually for the Lord to lead me to the church that would embrace me and help me grow in my new found relationship with Jesus. I felt the deep need to belong to a Christian family.
I Want the Books
One day at a local grocery store, as I was standing in the checkout line, I saw a box of colorful advertisements standing on top of one of the many shelves with last minute items the store hoped would catch your attention on your way out. I took one and immediately recognized the books it offered – it was the 10-volume set of Bible story books we had in our home as a child. I took it home, filled out the information, and mailed it. That’s right, I mailed it – no email, text, or website in the early 70’s. I naturally expected to get something back in the mail outlining payment plans, etc., but as you may know, that’s not how the literature evangelist’s system worked. In a few weeks I had a knock at my door, and there stood a man and his wife with the card I had mailed in their hand. I knew I wanted these books, I didn’t have to be “canvassed” but canvassed I was! A few times during this lo-o-o-o-ng canvas, while he was unfolding his colorful, stand-up, multi-folding pictures and talking almost non-stop, I was able to quickly say, “[T]hat’s okay, I want the books, just show me where to sign. I know I want the books. You don’t have to continue your sales pitch, I want the books.” But, as I learned later, that’s how the literature evangelists are trained in order to fully demonstrate how important it is in your life to buy these books! I FINALLY got to sign on the dotted line and get my books. Before they left, Jack Dixon and his wife, Millie, asked me if I’d like Bible studies. I hadn’t ever thought about formal Bible studies, and I was so taken with the idea that I jumped at the chance. So began a weekly study session – they brought their little projector and showed me studies on the wall. Then we would open our Bibles and go through, step by step, the subject of the evening. They never once asked me to believe anything based on their opinion or what society deemed true. They always had a Bible verse for any questions I had, and that impressed me beyond anything else they could have done. They were so patient and kind, sometimes staying at my apartment until midnight answering my questions. I’ve never met anyone like them since. They also began to take me to church each week in addition to the weekly Bible studies. It was a 100 mile round-trip every time they came to my apartment. They lived in Orlando and went to church in the nearby Forest Lake Church and Academy. That was 300 miles they traveled each week to study with one searching soul! When they first invited to take me to church I was shocked to hear that they went to church on Saturday. I had never heard such a thing. We hadn’t studied about the Sabbath yet, and I was so totally unchurched that I had never heard the name Seventh-day Adventist. However, I was so impressed with my new friends’ kind and caring attitude for me that I didn’t hesitate for long.
The Future God Planned
I had one year, all total, of Bible study – six months with the Dixons and six months with the pastor of the Forest Lake Church, before I was baptized. I was among seven or eight others who were baptized on December 20, 1975. My life has not turned out at all how I had envisioned it in my younger days, but God knew the future He had planned for me all along, and in my heart I know I wouldn’t have had it any other way.