A Testimony that Reminds Us Why We Do What We Do

Dear Friends and Partners,

I thought Helen had always been a godly, mature woman . . . until this week . . . when I learned her backstory – and how Christ changed her into the woman she is today.

Helen has been a dear friend and supporter of LRI for many, many years and is now in assisted living. Her daughters recently discovered a handwritten testimony which she shared with the women of Moraine Valley Church back in the 1980s, and Helen wants you to hear it. It’s a highly personal story that demonstrates why we help pastors learn to study and teach God’s transformative Word.

I wasn’t really born again until I was 30 years old, though I grew up in a Christian home.  My parents took us to a lot of gospel meetings, so I heard the gospel preached in many different ways. We knew the Bible well, but still I was confused about what God was really like and how to approach Him.

I led a double life. I did everything I was supposed to do at church . . . made a confession of faith, sang in the choir . . . but I was much more attracted to the world. Movies were glamorous and exciting, dancing was fun, and the guys in the neighborhood were more romantic and friendly. Of course, none of this was allowed in our home, so we had to find ways to do things on the sly. I learned to be an expert liar. The older I got, the easier it was.

I was first introduced to Rich in a tavern. That should have given me a clue to what lay ahead, but it didn’t. I was to learn that he was a wonderful guy when he was sober, but when he had been drinking too much, he could simply be crabby, or he might get really mean. It was like being married to two different men . . .  which one would be coming home?

Our marriage started out wrong, because I was pregnant and we had to get married. When you have to get married, you never know for sure if he would have asked you to marry him. Then we did something even worse. When we found out that we were to have our second child, I took some pills to cause an abortion. I lost the child in the fifth month and almost lost my life. It was our only boy.

I had a lot of trouble with the next two pregnancies, but we ended up with three lovely daughters. But how could the Lord ever forgive me?

I began attending Dr. A. W. Tozer’s church. There I met Christians who were really filled with the love of Christ. The women were so kind to me. They really loved me. I didn’t think anyone could love me like that. Now I was really listening to what they said because they had what I was looking for.

On Good Friday in 1958, I kept thinking about Jesus dying on the cross for me. It was as though He was still hanging there and the cross was blocking my way. I couldn’t go another step with my life until I decided for Him or against Him. If I decided to turn away, it would be forever.  There was no way I could do that, and there was no way around it. I had nothing to offer Him. Finally, in the afternoon, I fell on my knees and said, “Lord, I don’t know why you could want me, but if you do, you can have me!”

He did want me! On that Good Friday, I was crucified with Christ, and on that Easter morning, I arose with Him. I was filled with the most incredible joy as I sang the Easter songs in church and took the communion rightfully for the first time. I was a new creature, and I knew it!

My values began to change. I went back to studying the Bible. But I had a lot more to learn than I ever imagined. I seem to have to learn everything the hard way.

In 1960, the girls were at school and Rich wasn’t around much. Although I found a church and was involved in children’s ministry, quite often I felt lonely and depressed. So, I would listen to Moody Bible Radio or sing hymns, read the Bible or a Christian book, or just pray. Sometimes I would think of myself as sitting at Jesus’ feet like Mary did. I could really relate to the women that Jesus knew on earth, especially the really sinful ones who were forgiven by Him and loved Him so. He was so tender toward the women. I’m really glad the Bible tells us about them.

I remember studying Philippians 3, struck by the fact that Paul was willing to give up everything in the world for the joy of knowing God and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings so that he might lay hold of that for which God had laid hold of Him. I wondered what that could mean in my life, so I asked God to show me.

Later Bill Mills became my pastor. He taught us that it was for freedom that Christ has set us free and that our adequacy is in Him. He taught us about the Kingdom of God as opposed to the kingdom of this world, about discipleship, about God’s sovereignty in our lives, and about getting to know God. He taught Philippians 3, about losing your life in order to find it. . . .                    

Rich died two and a half years ago, and our last daughter just got married. Now, it’s just Him and me. It doesn’t matter what change point I’m going through, because for me to live is Christ. Always with the fellowship of his suffering goes the power of His resurrection. . . .

I hope you’ve been encouraged by the transforming power of God’s Word in Helen’s life. We see this same power at work in and through thousands of pastors worldwide.

Rejoicing in His resurrection power,

Craig Parro

President

PS: After Helen was widowed, she cleaned houses to bring in a little income. During that time, she contributed what she could to support LRI. I treasured her gifts as much as any. I still tear up thinking about Helen scrubbing floors so that she might give her widow’s mite. Thank you to each of you who similarly give sacrificially to this ministry. Those are precious dollars. May the Lord reward you!

Craig Parro

Since joining Leadership Resources International in 1989, Craig directed its international ministry, and as of January 2010, he now serves as President. A graduate of TEDS (M.A., Mission), Craig is a stimulating teacher and has equipped and encouraged pastors and churches throughout the U.S., Latin America and Asia. Craig also serves on the Board of Directors of TOPIC (Trainers of Pastors International Coalition), an association of pastoral training organizations focused on accelerating pastoral training worldwide. Craig has authored articles appearing in several magazines. His first book, Unlikely Warriors, was published in 1992. He is also co-author of Finishing Well in Life and Ministry: God’s Protection from Burnout.