Testimony Part 1-8 plus epilogue

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Mar 30, 2024
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#1
Okay. This is my testimony... and a long one at that. I wrote about it in my greeting post, but if you did not read that...

Three years ago, my pastor asked me if I would get up in front of my church to give my testimony. I laughed and told him that even if my voice cooperated, there was no chance of me getting it all out in an hour. He asked, "Well, how long is it? Can you shorten it?" I said, "I'll write it out and send it to you. If there are parts that could be chopped, let me know." I sent it and he said, "I don't think you could shorten it any." Then he said jokingly, "Perhaps we could shoot a mini-series!"

So, what follows is what I give as my testimony. I've divided it up to 8 chapters which will get it own reply here and at the end, I will then write my epilogue which is not written yet so it will come from me unedited. The actual testimony is 3 years old and has been through multiple re-writes and it still has multiple errors in it I'm sure.

One last thing. When I was writing this, I broke it up with music videos because #1, my thoughts went to a song for parts of it because #2, I am (or was at least) a musician at heart so I am always going to a song.

Anyway, I will start copy/pasting it now. Here it is... warts and all!
 
Mar 30, 2024
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#2
Over time, I have more than a few people tell me how I should write a book. On the one hand, it was something I have always wanted to do but I would start strong only to have it fizzle out in the end. When I tried to go back to the same stories and fix whatever had gone wrong, I tended to make it worse than before so I tore it up and started anew. Rinse and repeat over 10 years and I finally gave it up.

The other hand is… well, I will get to that as I try to write this autobiography-type of thing. I don’t want to give anything up I guess.

Why do I call this an “autobiography-type of thing?” Simple. From the time that I first started telling stories, I always told them in a way that I always came out as the put-upon reluctant hero that just wanted to be left alone. For years bordering on half a decade, that is what I truly believed. A few months back, I was forced to admit that I was arrogant at the edge of narcissistic and I could slant the story in my favor with the best of them. What I found was that the more recent stories were, at the best, tweaked. At the very worst, they were outright lies intended to show me as the patient hero.

As the memory of the events go back for decades, I can no longer remember what was true and what were lies that I told so many times that I started to believe they were true.

My suggestion is to treat this as a story about some real life people. Rich Mullins wrote in his song Jacob and 2 Women (
Jacob and 2 Women (youtube.com) ), “This is the world as best as I can remember it.” I can think of no better line to preface this.

Let us begin!
 
Mar 30, 2024
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#3
Song: I Spoke As A Child (youtube.com) by Todd Snider

The early years.

I considered much of my early life pretty routine at first. I didn’t have anyone to compare it with, so I thought it was okay. I had two older sisters… one was five years older and the other was a year and a half older. They shared a bedroom and I got the room across the hall but they were joined together by a pass-through bathroom. My father left for work before any of us got up. We had the run of the place, within reason anyway, until 4 PM. At 4, we were instructed to go to our room and shut the door, but we were allowed to travel through the bathroom as long as we were quiet and didn’t open our bedroom doors.

I remember one time I wanted to go outside and see my dad when he got home from work, but he was infuriated and spanked me until I was so sore that I couldn’t sit down that night over dinner.

It turned out that he never liked children, so my mother did her best to cordon us off each day. We had 45 minutes to come out and eat, but we had to eat quietly and not say a thing to anybody.

I would have been happier if I had never realized how strange it was. For the first 6 years of my life, that is how things were for me. When I was older and started going to school, I made some friends who always asked me over. I asked my mom if I could return the favor and ask my friends to come over, but she always said “no.” About that time, my sisters begin having people over, but not me. I again asked my mom and I got a confusing answer and dropped it.

That is how my life went for a long time, but it never sat right with me.

When I was in the 6th grade, I had a friend named Kyle Wilson. We were over at his house and I apologized about how we never went to my house. He looked at me in a funny way and said he understood. Something about how he said it prompted me to ask, “What do you mean?”

Kyle looked uncomfortable and said, “I shouldn’t say, but my mom said your mom said that you dad didn’t want any boys and he blames her for you being born. She said he forbids any of your friends from coming over.”

I was stunned. I chose to not believe it, but I couldn’t shake the feeling. Sometime years later, my dad invited me to come over to his house for dinner. He was drunk (like always) and he confirmed what Kyle had said to me nearly 15 years earlier. I was so hurt that it would be years before I would contact my dad again.

The year between my first and second grade years, we moved from Doris Dr. to Calumet. It meant going to a new school, but I was at that age that it didn’t mean that much to me. Everything continued as they had for the next 8 years. The summer before my sophomore year of high school, my dad announced that he was moving again and he packed everyone up and off to Dallas we went.

My mother was born and raised in Dallas, so you would think that she would have been happy to be back home, but it spelled the beginning of the end for her. It took years, but the writing was on the wall.

I was there for about half of the summer leading in to the school year. I had summer band to go to, which is why I was there. I made it through maybe two rehearsals before I had enough of that! I couldn’t stand the absolute brutal “initiation” that I had to go through, so I walked out. I told my father what had happened and he said, “I don’t care if they wanted to shave your head! You are going back!” With 15 years of snark, I said, “I am not! If you want it so bad, here!” and I thrust my trombone at him. He threw down the trombone, picked me up, and threw me across the room. Biting off every word, he said, “YOU! ARE! GOING! BACK!!!” I won’t repeat what I said, but I made it clear that I wasn’t going and that he would have to kill me if he wanted me there.

Not my finest hour, but I guess it worked. I was done with the Berkner band and I joined my sister Kelli’s volleyball team as a trainer. My mother and my other sister Kim arrived a few weeks later and when they arrived, I missed my blowup with my dad! My mother was not in a happy mood to be back in Dallas!!!

Before the school year reached the first 6-week period, she had enough and she loaded up her car with Kelli and me and we went back to Amarillo. I found out YEARS later that she had filed for divorce the FIRST time from my father and it had little to do with us. We were just the happy recipients.

I can’t remember when exactly this happened, but it really started to wear on me when we got home. We now were a broken family and I had to find a way to deal with that. I chose… and I failed MISERABLY in my choice.

On one of those nights, I was out WAY after hours. I was walking from a friend’s house on Harvard Street to another friend’s house on Oakhurst. We cut through Southwest Church of Christ’s parking lot and I made an off-color joke (that I will NOT repeat!) about the church. From Royce and Jerry, there was laughter! In the smallest corner of my mind, I saw the faint outline of Jesus shaking his head.

I was not a Christian yet. I had YEARS before I made that leap of faith. I knew who Jesus was though. I felt horrible about making that joke!

Either it was a small retribution or just dumb luck (I personally feel like it was retribution, but that will be a question I ask Jesus when I finally see Him), it happened the very next day. I went to Target with Jerry and I got busted trying to steal a calculator. It was only a $7 calculator, but they called the cops. I sat there stewing!!! “They called the cops! Oh man! I don’t want to go to jail!!!”

The cops came and I got a 30 minute lecture about how I was a thief and if they had their way, I would be going “downtown” with them. “Wait! I am not going downtown? WHEW!!!!”

I went home and told my mother what I had done. She called Jerry’s mom and spent some time talking about it. She came in to my room and told me in no uncertain terms that I was grounded for 3 months.

3 months to a 15 year old kid is a lifetime! It was still better than prison though!

School was not the most comfortable time for me, but it could have been much worse. For the most part, I enjoyed it until I went off to junior high. The three years I spent at Crockett was an exercise of bulling and being made fun of by people who used to be my friends. The barrier between elementary school and junior high is never easy, but for those of us “on the outside looking in,” it is fully awful!

I then joined high school… having spent my (almost) first six week in Dallas and then coming back home. My sophomore year was my “experimentation” with cops at target and then the rest of the year trying to forget my episode at Target. I had deep dread from Crockett, so I spent my time at Amarillo High with my head down and trying not to be noticed.

When I turned 16, my sister got me a job at the movie theater with her. That opened up a new avenue of somewhat older people who had already graduated (for the most part anyway). I spent my days, even my off days, up at the theater talking and getting some insight to what goes on in the minds of kids. I also got my first serious girlfriend there. We dated for about a year and a half. She was 18 when we first started dating and I was 16.

My junior year went by easily enough. I kept my head down at class and I got out and went up to the theater to sit on the floor of the box office while my girlfriend worked.

Then, about a week from starting my senior year, she broke up with me. I ended up rebelling (temporally) and took 20 or so people to see Young Guns at the theater. While there, I excused myself for a minute and went upstairs. There was a master key… just sitting on the desk… with no one around!!!

You can see where I am going, can’t you?

Yes, I took the key and went back down to the movie. After the movie was over, I sent most of the people home but took my close friends to Whataburger and asked that inevitable question… “Do you guys want to go back after-hours and watch Die Hard?”

Long story short, we went back, had a good old time playing arcade games and taking candy, and then I threaded up Die Hard. About 30 minutes in, we got restless and decided to go up on the roof. We were sitting and talking when I looked down and saw a cop car driving though the parking lot. I waved and went back to talking. We went back down and started watching the movie again.

I went to the bathroom and was shocked to find someone outside shining a flashlight in the doors. I went back and told everyone what was going on and then went back outside and opened the door.

I was expecting to see the original cop. What I actually saw was about 10 cop cars all with their weapons drawn on me.

Most of the policemen were very understanding. They were all kidding around with me, but one was irate! He was probably the first one that I saw from the roof. He asked me, “Are you allowed to be here?” I foolishly answered, “Of course!” He then called a friend of mine who actually was the assistant manager and asked him if I was allowed to be there. I heard him answer, “NO! He is NOT supposed to be there!”


(continued)
 
Mar 30, 2024
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#4
Ugh! For the second time in 3 years, I thought I was going to be arrested! Then I looked out and saw Mike screaming through the parking lot and walking furiously up to the entrance. I remember asking one of the officers, “Can you arrest me now? I would rather have to explain that to my parents than face what is coming inside now!”

He laughed. He then turned and looked at my face. He told me years later that I was looking like I was condemned to die and I was seeing the electric chair coming closer.

Needless to say, I got fired, but I did not get arrested! Again!!!

That was my second and last time playing “chicken” with the police!!! Unfortunately, that was not my last time doing something incredibly stupid at one of my work places. That came about 6 years in the future. More on that in a little while.

After my second brush with the law, everything about my senior year was supposedly normal. For the first time in three years, I walked proudly with my head raised high not fearing anything. It was a fairly nice (but short) period of time.

I guess I should tell this story but I don’t really want to. I have never told this to anyone before. When I was just starting out my 7th grade year, I was approached by my band director. She said that someone was being transferred in and she wanted to know if I would show him around. With that, Siegfried Erdmann entered my life.

Siegfried was odd but nice enough. He had a very short temper, but if you “weeded the branches,” he kept his cool. His father, I thought, was German. In reality, he was from Mexico. He tried to speak with a German accent, but he failed at that. He raised Siegfried thinking that Adolf Hitler was a misunderstood genius and I heard the Hitler Youth song sung at a very young age. When we graduated High School, Siegfried was still touting Hitler as the most misunderstood person ever. It was really weird!

Weirder than that though was Siegfried’s dad, Ralph Erdmann. He was bazaar in the extreme! I was only allowed to stay over when he was traveling but they insisted that I stay in a spare bedroom by myself “just in case.”

That “just in case” happened when I was a junior in high school. I had gone to bed but, as always, was having problems sleeping. About half an hour went by and I heard the front door open. Ralph had come home.

I saw him walking down the hall and then I saw him staring in at me. He stood there for a while and then walked towards the master bedroom. I heard him doing something before coming back out. He then walked to Siegfried’s room to check to make sure he was asleep. Then he came back to where I was.

What happened next was unclear. I thought that I felt his hand trying to remove my blankets, but I had a death grip on them. I tightly shut my eyes and hoped that he would go away. For nearly half an hour, I could hear him behind me. I never looked to see what was going on, but I can guess. I could hear him breathing and, at times, I heard him breathing faster and then not breathing at all before his breathing picked up again.

As I said, I didn’t see him, but I can guess what he was doing.

I waited until he had gone back to his room before I got up, got dressed as quickly as I could, and ran from the house! It took me a long time that night, but I eventually made it back to my house. From that day on, I never went to Siegfried’s house again!

A few years later, Ralph was sent to prison for faking performing autopsies for years! They had to exhume hundreds of bodies to actually perform autopsies on them. His testimonies sent hundreds of innocent people to jail!

About 3 years ago, I found that Jesse Quakenbush is using Ralph’s picture in an ad about “we need to quit sending innocent people to jail.” Even though I am not supposed to be angry or hate anyone, I have a hard time with not hating Quakenbush for that! He obviously uses Ralph Erdmann’s photo as a “get rich quick” scheme or something.

Anyway, enough of that.

When I started college, I went to Texas Tech. What I should have done is stay at home or join the military… anything but go to Tech. Don’t get me wrong. Tech is a great school. I, however, am not a great student. For all my wailing about how I needed to go off to school, I am very much a home body. I was born in 1971 in Amarillo and here I am, still living at home 2021 at the age of 50. Home… body!!!

My experience at Tech was a disaster. I rarely went to class and I quite happily failed everything except Freshmen Comp. 1. I got a “B” in that one. Yay! I came home, enrolled in my second semester at Amarillo College, and promptly had a wreck a few weeks later. Since I didn’t have a car any longer, I dropped out of AC and started feeling sorry for myself in general. Finally, I actually got a job working, of all places, at the theater that I had gotten fired from. I worked up to Assistant Manager when I was working there, but I felt lost at Amarillo College. I was getting good grades, but I was spinning my wheels. I had no idea what I wanted to do.

At Christmas time, I went to California with my friend who used to be the assistant manager at the theater, Mike Ackerman. While I was there, I was hit with an all-consuming desire to not go back to the theater, so I called my boss and put in my two-week notice then and there. When I got back home, I only had two days left from my two weeks. I started asking around for a new job and got one almost immediately… working as a desk clerk/personal trainer at Amarillo Athletic Club (which later became Gold’s Gym).

The first night, she walked in! I thought she was one of the most amazing looking women (well, girl actually. She was only 18, but I was 20 so it works) I had ever seen! I asked her what her name was and she said, “I’m Amy Ferro. Nice to meet you.”

Those two sentences were the best, and by a country mile, the worst things ever! Even today, I am still struggling to figure out how to deal with it all. All I am sure of, I was now on a course that would forever change me and would leave me at the bottom of a pit for years to come.
 
Mar 30, 2024
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#5
Song: The Escape Club: I’ll Be There
(The Escape Club - I'll Be There (HD) (youtube.com) )

The dark times:

I met Amy in January of ’91 when I was 19. We got to be friends right away, but I fell in love with her from the beginning. By March, I made it known that I wanted something more, but she was kind but firm that she had a boyfriend. We were still friends though.

In April, I turned 20. We went to a birthday party some friends of mine threw for me. I thought I saw something weird in her glances towards me, but I insisted to myself, “NO! We are just friends!!!” I was in pain though. I wanted more!

The next day, a friend of mine told me that she had said she was in love with me too. She still had a boyfriend though, so I tried my best to ignore it.

A few days later found us together at Amarillo Athletic Club again. It was 10 PM and I had just closed and locked the door, but I always said she could continue to exercise. It took me an hour to do everything after I had closed the doors, so she had time.

She finished her workout and was walking around with me as I was continuing my “close up and get ready for tomorrow” routine. She was looking down like she was wanting to talk, but she was largely quiet. I decided that she would say what she wanted to say when she decided how to say it.

I finished my cleanup and decided that she was not going to say anything. I was confused, but I would keep being her friend. I said that if she was ready, we could go. She placed her hand on my arm and said, “Wait.” She was silent for a while before she quietly whispered, “I like you.”

Stunned, I tried to control my excitement. I whispered, “Do you still have a boyfriend?” She nodded, “yes.” I asked, “Do you love him?” She never answered.

A few days later, I was partying with her, her friend named Nichole, and a friend of mine named Blu. We got drunk, ended up back at the athletic club and we went to the hot tubs. Again, I asked her if she was in love with her boyfriend. What happened next, I don’t know. She may have answered, but maybe not. She may have moved in to kiss me, or maybe I moved in to kiss her. What I do know is that we kissed! And kissed! I never wanted to let her go!!!

I don’t know how long we were there, but she ended up pulling away. Tears began to run down her face and she said, “I need to go!” She ran out and I spent a long, sleepless night running through what I had done and beating myself up.

The next day, she didn’t come to the athletic club. Or the next night. Or the next. I tried calling her, but she never answered. I felt like I was in h-e-double hockey sticks! In desperation, I wrote a note apologizing for kissing her and promising that it would not happen again! I drove by her house and left it on her car.

The next day, I thought she wasn’t going to come either. At 9:59, she came to the athletic club. She didn’t look up, but I let her in. She started her workout without saying a word, so I went about cleaning. When I finished, I pulled up a chair to watch TV while she was finishing.

Eventually, she walked up to me and held out a note of her own. Reluctantly, I unfolded it and read it. It only said two words. “Look up!” I did… and she kissed me!

I thought nothing would ever be as good or as perfect as this moment! Of course, I was still not saved. That was still several years away. I still remember going home that day thinking that everything was great!!!

I was deluded though. Keep in mind that Amy already had a boyfriend! She didn’t break up with him. I was essentially “the other guy.” I didn’t have the right to be smug… or confident… or anything else for that matter, but I did.

For the next month, we rarely spoke about him. The closest we came was when she told me what she wanted was to break up with him so I could take her to prom. I didn’t commit though because, for all my enjoyment of being with her, I still felt guilty.

On May 22, 1991, I was working again at the athletic club. As usual, Amy came in before close. I allowed her to work out while I was cleaning, but then my boss came through the door. Amy freaked and promptly left. Bob (my boss) said that it was okay for her to be there, so I walked outside to try to convince her to come back in. She never did, but asked me to call her when I got back home. I hurried to finish and raced home to call her. She never answered. I tried again. No answer. I called a third time but her phone was busy or taken off the hook.

Frustrated, I called Blu and we went out. We were not 21 yet, but we got our hands on some beer anyway. We went outside of town and started drinking and mouthing off. I said, “Screw her! If she doesn’t like me, I don’t like her!”

The next day, May 23, 1991, Blu and I went to work out. When we got finished, we went to my parent’s house to get… something. I can’t remember what. I was surprised to find my father was home. He came up to me and said, “You sister called. That girl you have been dating? She was in a car wreck. She’s at the hospital.”

Gone was the thought that I had last night. All I could think of was that I loved her. She had to be okay!

I turned around and said to Blu, “I have to go!” He said, “Come on! I’ll drive you!”

We got to Northwest Texas Hospital in record time. We raced into the lobby and I said, “Amy Ferro! What room is she in?” I forget what she said, but I turned to Blu (who worked at High Plains Baptist Hospital before they merged with St. Anthony’s) and he said, “That’s where they move people when they are okay! She must be fine! Come on!”

When we got to the area she was at, a girl walked up to Blu and said, “She’s gone!!!” I was in shock and didn’t allow myself to realize that she was dead. Over the next hour, I saw many people come through the hospital including Amy’s brother Tommy and her mother Mary Lou. They were both crying and still I didn’t believe she was dead.

Blu came and got me and we walked slowly back to his car. He was crying at that point as well, but I refused to believe it. He said something about how apparently High Plains and Northwest Texas had the same names for different reasons or something, but I was in a daze. Finally, about the time that we got back to my parent’s house, it hit me.

And I cried!

We walked inside and my father saw me. He said, “Good god man! Pull yourself together! Real men don’t cry!” I turned to face him, but I was unable to speak and I kept crying. He said something that was too horrible to repeat, walked to the back of the house, and slammed the door.

In the coming days, I found out that Amy and her friend (who is also named Amy) were sitting in her car in front of my house waiting for me to come home. Had I been there and seen that she was drunk, I would have gotten her to let me drive them to the Civic Center for their Baccalaureate practice. She stayed until they were already late and sped off. She was less than a mile away when she lost control trying to get on the highway. Amy Parsons, her friend, survived and told me that story.

I don’t really remember anything after that. I know that I was suicidal for a long time. I have a scar over my heart where I tried to kill myself with a Green Beret dagger. I was drunk and I decided it was too hard to go on. I walked to my bathroom, took out my razor-sharp dagger, and plunged it in to my chest. I still wasn’t saved, but I could have sworn that someone said, “Not like this!” and held my hand back. I went to the doctor a few days later and I was told that the blade was millimeters from my heart.

There were a lot of dark days. There still are sometimes, but I think what I mourn now is not knowing if Amy was saved or not. She went to church every Sunday, but that doesn’t mean anything. She never spoke to me about Jesus and she was often drunk. Her father had died of a massive heart attack right in front of her just a few years prior, so I can understand her need to dull the pain but I don’t condone it or even think it is wise.

We were only officially dating for just over a month… and still she had a boyfriend other than me. That no longer matters though. If there was one thing that I could wish for her, it is that I will find her when I get to heaven.

(Continued)
 
Mar 30, 2024
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#6
From age 20 to age 24, I was horribly lost. It all came to a head at my last time playing chicken… with my boss this time … and the most dangerous time.

I was now working at the Amarillo Town Club. During the summer months, I was one of three lifeguard managers. We had one time per year where to Amarillo Swim Team came up and had a party. I was in a bad mood because we could yell and blow our whistles until we were blue in the face. The swim team didn’t listen to us. I thought (incorrectly) that there was no reason why we should even be there.

So I told a guy working in the weight room to go buy us liquor! We were floating three sheets to the wind an hour later when one of the guys noticed, “Hey! The concession stand left their money here instead of locking it up! Let’s all split it!” I was drunk and hating the world, so I said, “Why not?”

My boss, Mary Ann, was nicer than nice and she was especially nice to me. Someone told that we were drunk and I thought I would definitely get fired. I kept my job however. Then Mary Ann found out that the concession bag was missing. She asked me about it, but I played stupid. I thought she would call the cops. She didn’t. She said she was disappointed in me and I just know she knew that I had stolen the concession money.

That day, I went up to our weight room to talk to a guy named Tim Pendergrass. “Are you still going to church somewhere?” I asked. “Yes I am.” He responded. “Can I go with you this Sunday? I’ve been playing with fire. I think that I still want to die. There has to be something more to life!” He crossed to his office door and shut it. He took out his Bible and said, “Let’s talk.”
 
Mar 30, 2024
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#7
Song: Caedmon’s Call: Lead of Love
Caedmon's Call - Lead Of Love (youtube.com)

My initial Salvation:

I would like to say that when I first got saved, everything was fine from then on. Well, it was… at first anyway. Not that it didn’t come without hiccups though.

When I first got saved and had my Believer’s Baptism, I was 25 years old. A few months later, I got the news that I guy I had known since I was in 2nd grade (named Brice) had committed suicide along with his older brother.

Back in those days, Soncy Road became a 2 lane road after I-40. Shortly after it turned into a narrow 2 lane road, it circled down and around a small(ish) ditch. It became known by another name… Suicide Gulch. Get you car up to 45 MPH and enter that area and there was almost no way you would make it out the other side. Brice’s car was going 80 when it hit Suicide Gulch. Another month passed and I had another friend that I had known since 7th grade (named Lee) commit suicide at the same place driving nearly the same speed. Shortly after that, Amarillo demolished Suicide Gulch and rebuilt Soncy as a straight, 6 lane road. It wasn’t only my friends who sparked that change. Soncy was named Suicide Gulch since I was in 2nd grade. They were just among the last.

Less than 6 months later, a good friend of mine named Patrick Cooper informed me that his mother had developed bone cancer. Doris was a special lady for me. She always opened her house when I was having trouble with my parents. When Amy died, Doris was the first person I told about the accident. She never even met Amy, but she started crying and gave me a hug that I never wanted to end. When my parents found out, my dad threw a fit (as I had already said) and my mother wrote a note but didn’t want to see me until I was better. Doris gave me a hug and didn’t let go!

It has been 25 years since Doris passed, but I still have her ceramic clown less than 5 feet from where I am sitting. When she died, Patrick said I could claim anything of hers that I wanted before the house decorations started to be sold at auction. That clown was all I wanted to remind me of her.

About the exact same time, someone else’s mother had been diagnosed with the exact same cancer and she died almost exactly the same day. I never knew her, but her son became the lead singer of a Christian band that I later joined. More of that shortly.

That part of me being saved was awesome, but at the same time, it was colored by some of the darkest days of my life so far. It was like the devil knew I was saved and he declared war on me. Maybe he did or maybe it was just a coincidence. What I know was that He protected me from the insane hurt of Amy’s death.

There was a guy named Tim Day that worked for me as a lifeguard at the Town Club. I was nice to him before, but “he’s weird! He likes that Jesus guy!” After I got saved, Tim became one of my closest friends! He was born and raised in the Christian faith, so I went to him with my many questions I had. He was a member of the West Texas A&M University Baptist Student Ministries, so he invited me to come to lunch with him there. Ever since Amy, I was subdued… almost shy. I was afraid to go, but I went anyway. My first visit there was fully awful! “People that I didn’t know kept… coming up and introducing themselves! What’s up with that???”

My introduction with the BSM led to my first mission trip going to South Padre Spring Break called Beach Reach. Yeah, I know. “THAT was your mission trip? Going to Padre???” It was really intense my first year though. When I went, I knew Tim. That was it. There were 75 people from WT who went and we were joined by the BSM from San Angelo, from Abilene Christian, from Harden Simmons, and from Lubbock Christian. All-in-all, there was something like 500 Christians there. I was a fish out of water!!! It was time to swim or sink.

At first, I sank like a stone! About the third day, I started to relax and get to know the people there.

What I did at the Beach Reach was ride along on the bus at night to offer a ride to the drunk people who were there to party, try to talk to them about Jesus, and then go back and slept all day to make up for our night time bus rides. The next two years, I was much, much busier!

When we returned from Padre, I felt like I was on fire for God! I needed to find more! I joined my music leader at my church playing at first acoustic guitar and later bass when we had someone else who only played guitar want to join, I joined a Christian band named Sandal (named for Ruth 4:7), and then joined the BSM Drama Troup that was led by my friend Tim Day. The singer from my band was a guy named Tony McCallie who I met through Tim. Bryan Sims was the music leader at my church and was also the Praise and Worship leader from the BSM. It was all coming together!

Wasn’t it???

About that time, the news came down that people who were graduating and leaving the BSM had their recommendations for who would replace them going forward. I got nominated to become the Beach Reach Fund Raiser President. I had to find 3 people to help me out and I started raising money and getting donations in September for the coming trip in March. I had a lot of ducks in the air! For the next year, everything was good. The next year, the year that I would graduate from college, things started to crack.

It was all small things at first, but I began to do the things for me… not for the Lord. By the end of my college years, I was relieved to have it all done. I somehow kept my attitude in check enough to retain all my friendships, but I was close to telling them all that “I can do it all myself!”

When I graduated and started my first new job, I found out really early on that they didn’t care about my schedule with the band. I committed to work 8 to 5 Monday through Friday and I would be there no matter what the band wanted!

I was also growing tired of Sandal. “I should be lead singer. I should play guitar instead of bass. I need. I want.” It came to ahead a few months after I had started my job. I had it out with everyone and they thought I was no longer needed!!! “WHAT???? You don’t need a bass player with a questionable ability to provide harmony vocals with a major attitude problem???”

It seemed they didn’t and I was out. =P

All I had left was my work and my church. I ended up giving God an ultimatum because I was still believing that it was all about me. “God, give me that or I’m through!” I’m amazed that lighting didn’t strike me down then and there!

I went from having my life changed by God to demanding that everything I wanted be given to me by God!

I needed an attitude adjustment to be sure.

It wasn’t long before I got one, and once it started, I fell until I hit bottom.
 
Mar 30, 2024
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#8
Song: Michael W. Smith: I Miss the Way
Michael W. Smith-I Miss the Way (youtube.com)

My “Prodigal’s Son” detour:

I fell about as fast as I was lifted up originally, but I did not know it. When I was fired from the band, I pretty much left the church as well. Shortly after leaving the church, I started dating again. That was short lived though. The girl was named Stephanie (last name omitted). I thought she was gorgeous, but she smoked and drank pretty heavily. When I started to speak to her, I also started to smoke. By the time we went out on our first date, I had started to drink again.

I remember “the talk” on our first date. I mentioned Amy, started to tear up a bit, and told her about how Amy had died. When I told her that, Stephanie reached over and took my hand. I finished by saying that she was the first girl I had dated since Amy had died. Stephanie said that she understood because the same thing happened to her but instead of being her boyfriend, it was her husband. “You are also the first boy I have dated since then.”

I felt elated by hearing that! I mean, not that her husband had died. That would have been awful! I just meant I was happy that I had found this girl who had the same problems I had.

I still was under the impression that I was living a good, strong Christian life… even though I was not doing anything that I was doing back then. On our third date, however, we started out by getting absolutely snookered on beer and then making out on my bed. Then she moved over me and it got really scary for someone who believed he was still living the Christian way.

When Stephanie told me to get undressed, that is when I hit the brakes. I was immediately sober and I reached for my Bible. I then started to tell her about the pledge I had made about “True Love Waits” and started to flip to verses that would explain it all. I looked up and saw her livid. She never said anything, but I knew how much it hurt her ego. Still, I thought that “I can change her!”

Over the next few days, her story that she concocted started to unravel. One day, we were driving around and her young son was in the car. Trevor was maybe five. I said something and then he said something back that reminded me of the young child in Jerry McGuire. I started to laugh. He said, “I know who you remind me of! My mom’s boyfriend!”

I tried to pretend that I hadn’t heard him and tried to convince myself that he was mistaken. “After all,” I thought. “He is only five.” When we got back to her apartment and she put Trevor in his room, she came down and said, “Seems that Trevor spilled the beans.”

Still, “I can change her!!!”

Until I found out that her now EX-HUSBAND was alive and well and working for Street Toyota. I went in and talked to him and he said that he divorced her because he was sick of coming home and finding her in bed with some other guy. I confronted her about that and she said it was true.

Needless to say, it was over then.

I began to drink even more and smoke constantly. I usually went to the liquor store and bought a case of beer after I got off work, drank it all that night, got up the next day to go to work, and rinse and repeat.

[This is a strange place for an addition, but someone that I cared about did something horrible somewhere in this time period. I also need to add a song here because it impacted my life deeply. I have always needed music to express how I am feeling when words just can’t.

Song: The Fray: How To Save a Life
The Fray - How to Save a Life (Official Video) - YouTube

Sometime in there, I think 10 more years had passed; I heard the news about a guy who worked for me at the old UA Theater. His name was Darren Moore. He was a funny guy back in the day, but I remember seeing him years later and he looked miserable. I tried to talk to him, but I barely got a “Hello Jarrod” before he walked off. I was reading a newspaper article where they said that he had murdered his wife and then turned his gun on himself. That shook me a lot! I wish that I could have spoken to him again before he decided to pick up his gun to solve his problems. Maybe it wouldn’t have helped, but I would like to think that he would have changed his mind if someone said they cared.]

I believed that I was still practicing a Christian lifestyle. I wasn’t going to church, I had put my Bibles in a box in my closet, I was drinking every night, smoking every day, cussing up a blue streak, and only praying when I went to bed. At first, I was still praying like God was real but I ended up praying with, “You may not be real, but it’s a habit. I don’t think I could get to sleep if I never prayed.”

I think I caused Jesus to weep because of how far I had fallen! Still, I can see how much He helped me even if I wasn’t aware of it at the time.

For instance, I got my degree in History. I worked through my college years doing IT Support at the University I went to. When I graduated, IT was still fairly new, but it was a really hot occupation and no one knew how to do it yet. When I went to my job interviews for some History-related thing, the guy interviewing me got to the point of my resume that said, “IT Support” and he licked his lips. “I know what you are going to do!!!”

Keep in mind, I hated IT work! I went to my first 8 job interviews for a History-related job and I walked out because the interview had turned into an “IT or nothing!” I preferred “nothing,” so I kept turning jobs down. Finally, I took one and decided that I could work that job and get my Masters at night. Maybe then I could get a job I liked!

It never happened though. I got most of my Masters, but I never finished it. My boss found out what I was doing and made me work when I was supposed to be in class. I could make some of that up, but not all of it. On three separate times, I was forced to drop out of the Masters program. I finally gave up.

I was increasing unhappy with my IT job, but I decided to get my IT Certification in the hopes that I would generate better paying jobs. I got my MCSE for Windows 95 and got it updated for 98, ME, 2000, XP, Vista, and 7. I got my A+ certification for hardware support. I got my first Cisco CCNA and was starting to prepare for my second, but I was interrupted. Again, more on that in a minute.

Nothing worked. I started my career making $21,000 a year and when I left 15 years later, I was only making $30,000 a year.

I was feeling desperate. I was still smoking like a chimney, but I had finally quit drinking altogether about 5 years before. This was when I was 39 by the way. I was healthy looking, but I was not healthy on the inside. I had sky high blood pressure, but I refused to take any blood pressure medication. I thought and said it many times… “If my blood pressure kills me, good riddance! At least I will get out of doing this stupid-<bleep> IT work!”

I was trying to study my study books for my second Cisco test, but I decided to take a break. I loaded up my mountain bicycle in my truck, drove about 10 miles away to the mountain bike trails, and began riding. It was Saturday and it was supposed to be my day off. Suddenly, my phone rang and it was my boss telling me that one of my other co-workers did something bad and it was my job to clean it up.

I was feeling furious and kept riding. Furious! Riding. More furious! Riding riding. “That stupid son of a…”

Then blackness hit.
 
Mar 30, 2024
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#9
Song: Andrew Peterson: The Ninety and Nine
The Ninety and Nine (youtube.com)

Oddly enough, the real “lowest point:”

When I was 20 I think, my grandmother had a pretty serious stroke. I never knew what strokes were of course. I thought they were mini-heart attacks. I went up to the hospital to see her and she said, “Hello Richard!” Richard is my father’s name, so I obviously thought that she had developed Alzheimer’s and never went back to see her. She died alone 8 years later.

A few months before I was out riding, I had another friend of mine email me out of the blue. His name was Bill Cummings. I had known him since I was a sophomore in high school. We were talking and he said that he was in a wheel chair now. I asked him why and he said that he had a stroke and lost the use of his legs. A few days later, he had another stroke and lost his life.

When I came to, I was flying through the air with no bike in site. I thought, “Where is my bike?!?!?” <CRASH> “Oh, there it is!” And then I hit the ground.

I got up and took stock. My bike helmet was shattered, but my noodle was okay. I couldn’t catch my breath though and my sternum really hurt! Other than that, it seemed to be superficial.

I sat down on a water pipe and tried to get my wind back. After about 5 minutes, I thought I would be okay to ride back to my truck, so I gathered up my bike and went out to the street. I got on my bike and rode back. I threw it in the back and drove 10 miles back to my apartment. I took the bike upstairs and tried to change my shirt.

But MAN it hurt!!! “Yup,” I thought. “My sternum is broken!!!”

I went back to my truck and drove 2 blocks to an emergency care center. I went inside and explained how I had somehow blacked out and came to without my bike and hit the ground. “I think my sternum is broken” I said. I must have been enthralled about saying “sternum!”

I went back and repeated my story to the doctor. She sent me back to get an x-ray. I was laughing and carrying on with my technician and then I saw black again. All told, it was about an hour between fainting spells.

I woke up across town stripped of my bike cloths and wearing a hospital gown. There was a lady who said I had passed out nearly 9 hours before and she thought that I wouldn’t wake up at all. I asked her what had happened and she said, “You had a really nasty stroke.”

“But, I feel fine! All I feel is my sternum hurts!” See? I still said “sternum.”

“Your sternum is fine. What you feel is your body reacting to your stroke.”

“I feel fine,” I insisted.

“You will continue to feel fine for a few hours. Maybe days. Sooner or later though, your body will react. It is our job to try to get your blood pressure down enough to give you a pill that will, theoretically at least, block any negative body issues.”

She walked out. “But, I feel fine,” I insisted to no one.

I fell asleep again and I dreamed about Jesus looking at my broken body. He said, “You will live, but it is not how you thought. It is now time to make a decision.” I woke up.

I don’t know how long I laid there or how many days passed. They put a machine on my feet that vibrated. The vibrations sort of drove me mad until I wasn’t able to feel it on my right side. I thought that it had fallen off my right leg, but when I tried to tell the nurse, I discovered that I could no longer speak. Some time later, my “sternum” stopped hurting… and my right arm stopped moving.

Suddenly, I had a new understanding about why I suddenly became “Richard” to my grandmother. She still saw me as Jarrod. Her brain was unable to make that connection. Her mind said Jarrod, but it got all jumbled when her mouth spoke.

Strokes are weird things. They are different to just about everyone. My grandmother was able to speak right away, but she got some names backwards. I was still able to have perfectly coherent thoughts and I knew everyone by name, but when I tried to say anything, my words just never came out.

I don’t know exactly how long I was in the hospital, but I eventually got transferred to a place called Trust Point. The day a doctor came in and told me, “I’m afraid you will never work again,” my cigarette craving suddenly left me. I have not had a cigarette since!

I was suddenly in a fantastic mood! I would never again have to do IT work!!! I couldn’t speak, but I could laugh! So, I laughed! At everything! My physical therapist, my occupational therapist and my speech therapist said everyone love seeing me around! Everyone else was so grumpy and flailed at the hospital staff, but I was always in a great mood!

I still had trouble with making my body do what I wanted. Most of the time, it wasn’t a big thing. One time in particular though, it was huge!

There was a lady that I liked who worked for the call center at Suddenlink. I was working for Suddenlink by this time, so I had ample time to see and get to know her. I was afraid though. I hadn’t even allowed myself to think about dating since Stephanie more than 10 years earlier. I saw her though… and hoped!

When I got transferred over to Trust Point, I was pleasantly surprised to see her in my room waiting for me! For the next several weeks, she was there at 5 when she got off work and stayed until 10 when the doctors said she needed to go. All the while, I couldn’t say a word! I could reach out my left hand and hold her hand though, so that is what I did. Every time I saw her, I took her hand, she crawled up in bed with me, and we quietly watched television without speaking a word.

I don’t know why, but she decided that she needed to know more so she asked me one time, “Do you like me?” I smiled the biggest smile, looked in her eyes, and nodded my head. Her eyes went wide and tears started to run down her face. It was tears of heartache… not joy! I realized that I had shaken my head “no” instead of “yes.” I tried frantically to make her realize my mistake, but she raced out of there. I had no way to contact her, so I thought I would one day be released and I could make it up to her.

I never got the chance. A few months later, a friend of mine brought in a Lubbock paper. She had something go wrong with her breathing and she had a sudden and fatal asthma attack. She died in minutes.

I can’t even remember her name, but I remember what she looked like to the letter to this day. With any luck, I will find her in Heaven one day. That is another woman that I don’t know if she was saved or not though. (I remember a few months after I had written this. Her name was Courtney Kast!)

I was in Trust Point and then TLC for close to half a year. I had my stroke the last Saturday in July 2010 and went to my dad’s house for my last bit of recovery just before Thanksgiving 2010.

/shudder

You remember my dad??? They said I had to live with someone. I tried everyone I could think of but, to my dismay, everyone that I knew suddenly wanted to have nothing to do with me. My mother lived in a 1 bedroom apartment with her new husband. My sister had just had a new baby so she didn’t need this “baby” to clutter up the house. My oldest sister hadn’t spoken to me since she moved out my sophomore year. My dad it was.

He was difficult from the word “go.” He told me over the phone that I would have to find somewhere else to go and hung up on me. He refused to answer when I called back so I told the administrator to call him. She said that he said the same thing and hung up on her too. She insisted that I would have to leave, but I didn’t have anywhere to go. She said that I had to go to my father’s house and that was that. She had me call someone who used to be a friend. He drove to Lubbock to pick me up and drove me back to Amarillo to my dad’s place.

(Continued)
 
Mar 30, 2024
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#10
I tried and tried to get my father to let me in, but he initially refused. I think he finally let me in because all I had was a pair of shorts and it was below 0 that night.

THAT is who my dad is. He has been known to be nice to me, but he largely is a jerk. I love him because he is my dad, but I have a really hard time liking him.

I ended up staying with him for just over a month. Every day began with him yelling at me and saying that he would find out when I was cleared to live on my own and out I would go. In the meantime, I went down to Lubbock and got my truck and drove it back to Amarillo. A few days later, when I was at High Plains Sports Medicine, I was told that I could now start to look for a place of my own. I drove home and my dad said that he had called High Plains and “found out the good news.” He told me to turn around and go find a place.

Two day later, I finally found one at Summit Park and I am still here.

Even though it was never nice to be at my dads, being by myself was truly terrible! I had tried to call every single person I ever knew, but everyone had heard about the stroke and wanted nothing to do with me anymore. After how I had acted to my grandmother having a stroke, I couldn’t really blame anyone.

It was a hard time though. I haven’t considered suicide since I tried it when Amy died decades ago, but I seriously thought about it then. For 10 years, I was completely alone! I went to pay my rent and said hello to everyone there, but that was always a quick “in and out” trip. I went to get my haircut once a month, but I went there more to have someone to talk to than any real need. I went to the grocery store once a week to, you guessed it, have someone to talk to. Other than that, I was all alone. When my days were darkest, I surfed sites like Home Depot to find everything I would need to use my car for suicide. I also had my blood pressure medications that I was thinking of overdosing with. I even sabotaged my roof lock so I could go up there and throw myself off if nothing else would work. There was only one thing stopping me.

Jesus.

It had now been over 25 years since I had been saved. The end of my journey left something to be desired, but the beginning of my salvation was wonderful!!! I missed that feeling!

One of my truly dark periods came in October, 2020… not even a year ago. I was sitting in this exact chair and trying to find something, anything to make me change my mind. I ended up finding this site: SomersInAlaska - YouTube . You might not know it some of the time, but they are truly a family dedicated to Christ. Many of their videos, especially the older ones, show their faith. Beyond that though, they have something that called me to wait and think about it.

I went to my closet, broke open my box that contained my old Bibles, and started to read them.

And something started to change!
 
Mar 30, 2024
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#11
Song: Smalltown Poets: Call Me Christian
Call Me Christian (youtube.com)

My glorious return to His grace:

I began reading my Bible for something to do really. I was searching, but I didn’t know for what. All I knew in the beginning was that the Bible seemed hard for me to read. It wasn’t hard to understand. It was hard to know immediately what I had done. All the paths that I had taken away from God and all the dismissals I had hurled at Jesus, I still believed everything was right with God. Just a few passages into Matthew made my eyes start to open however.

I saw in the clearest of eyes everything that had happened to me from Amy dying all the way to my having my stroke and beyond.

The result of my stroke is the most impactful for me. The direct result of my stroke was I was in a wheelchair and looking like I would be in a wheelchair forever, I didn’t have the ability to speak and it didn’t look like I was going to figure that part out either, and my right hand was paralyzed.

Now let’s look at everything in my life before I had the stroke. I was a musician. I had played some instrument or another since I was 5 years old. My mom bought a piano for my oldest sister to play. I sat in the other room listening to her practicing and got up and played it note-for-note without making a mistake. My mother, impressed with that, made me take piano lessons as well. When 4th grade begin, I started to play the cello. In 7th grade, I took up the trumpet. It was too easy for me, so I switched to saxophone. Again, too easy so I took up trombone and I played trombone until I graduated.

When I was a sophomore, I bought an electric guitar and thought I would be like Eddie VanHalen or Dann Huff, but I was actually Jarrod Useless! The electric guitar, I was useless! Sometime in college, however, I went to Tolziens and bought a Takamine acoustic guitar and was a decent acoustic player. I then bought my first electric bass and I had some skill there, so I ended up playing it in my various Christian groups. When I had my stroke, I had 4 electric basses, 2 acoustic guitars, my old trombone, an electric piano, and the old standard piano that started me on this ride.

I had also challenged God to let me have a stroke and die. I was nearly 20 years into doing IT work and I hated IT work. I had done everything that I could think of to try to get out of it, but nothing worked. I decided to “commit suicide” by not committing suicide by not taking my blood pressure medications. I had measured my blood pressure at 230/200 for weeks before I had my stroke. I should have died!

I then remembered what I thought was a dream. “You will live, but it is not how you thought.”

I will never again play any musical instruments. I will never again sing (and you are welcome for that! I was never a strong singer. I sang in tune, but it is one thing to be in tune and quite another to “be good”).

I will also never again work.

Some people see what I do and say, “But you are working!” I am working half a day… not a full day. I go home and crash out from exhaustion the second half. That is not working strictly speaking.

I am fine with how it is believe it or not. That comes down to who I became when I started using my ability to play. I went from serving God to demanding to know how He would serve me! Believe me… I am perfectly fine with how I am now.

I went from sitting in my chair in total solitude reading my Bible and watching a short program on Sunday’s from Quail Creek church to getting involved at Southwest Church of Christ.

It completed my full circle. The very first time I saw Southwest was cutting across the parking lot when I was 15 years old and making some off-color joke about it. I went through everything that I could think of to be back here at Southwest as a member doing what I can do with what I have. It’s not much, but it leaves me feeling alive for the first time in my life at the ripe middle age of 50!

Now that is something to celebrate!
 
Mar 30, 2024
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#12
Song: Susan Ashton: Stand
Susan Ashton - Stand (youtube.com)

The path moving forward:

I can’t predict the future and I don’t want to. I used to want everything and I wasn’t too picky how I would get it.

I like the pace I have now. I am re-learning and trying to serve God and Jesus the best that I can. Sometimes, it calls for me to open my mouth and attempt to say what is on my mind.

It’s not always easy to do. I explain it like this. You take a normal person and take a picture of the roadmap from their mouth to their brain. They have one path leading from the brain to their mouth and another leading from their mouth to their brain.

Then you have mine. The stroke left a spaghetti trail leading both ways with no clear path saying what goes where so every road leads to a potential crash (the wrong words coming out of my mouth). Most of the time, I am aware and have the forward thinking to “hit the brakes” before I confuse everyone. When I speak, if I look down and stumble over my words, it is a time that I know what to say but my mouth isn’t cooperating.

Because of that, it leads me to be a “most times” participant. That is a person who listens but never offers much to say.

A person who will…

“Stand… with my face to the wind… with the storm beating down on the sacred ground. If I stand for the grace that I’ve known… for what I believe, then I won’t stand alone.”

Anyway, I’m planning to be here serving the Lord until I pass away or He comes back for me.

There is no brighter future than that!
 
Mar 30, 2024
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#13
Now, for my epilogue. Not really an epilogue, but just an explanation of my "Amy" part. She died when I was 20. I am now less than a week from turning 53. I never really had the kind of "boyfriend/girlfriend" thing that most people have, but it still hurts... a LOT! This past October 1, when 1 of my 2 biggest hurts with Amy began every year, I woke up and immediately started to cry. I prayed and prayed, "Lord, please help me through this!"

Now some may call it a coincidence and others may say it was something else. I just know what I saw. I read this passage 100 times or more, but it never really stuck with me until this past October 1. I prayed that prayer and sat down to do my normal reading and quiet time. The very first verse was this: Isaiah 57:1-2 NIV. "Good people pass away; the godly often die before their time. But no one seems to care or wonder why. No one seems to understand that God is protecting them from the evil to come. For those who follow godly paths will rest in peace when they die."

All I know is that it has given me some level of peace.
 

SunshineGirl

Active member
Jan 6, 2024
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#14
Thanks for sharing your testimony 🥰
I am so happy for you that you have found the Lord and know what Gods peace feels like. It's an amazing feeling.
What comfort to know how lost we get Jesus is always there to help and guide us.
They always used to play a song in junior church called 'Jesus Strong and Kind'

I love the way the song changes that when we are lost Jesus comes to us 🥰
 
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#15
I love that song! I have it on my Spotify so I have it come around once every week or so. I am vacuuming or cleaning one our church rooms when this comes on and I can't help by smile and praise the Lord!
 

SunshineGirl

Active member
Jan 6, 2024
279
181
43
England
#16
I love that song! I have it on my Spotify so I have it come around once every week or so. I am vacuuming or cleaning one our church rooms when this comes on and I can't help by smile and praise the Lord!
It's a nice song and lovely to listen to the children singing it out loud. I didn't know there was actions to it until this little girls showed me in church.
It is great that you can help out so much at the church you attend I bet they are very grateful of all your work 😊