I grew up in a Christian family surrounded by parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents each with a strong personal faith in God. We were involved in a great church that taught the Bible in a clear and engaging way. I loved regularly attending the kids and youth programs of my church. I remember praying over and over as a little girl to “ask Jesus into my heart.” So, it is a little hard to write a testimony about when I first gave my life to Christ as I don’t remember a time when Jesus wasn’t an integral part of my life. Still there were moments along the way where I faced a decision about whether or not I was going to follow Him as my Lord and leader. Moments where I matured from a child-like faith into something deeper. Times where I felt God’s call toward ministry.
My first big challenge to my faith came the summer after fifth grade. I began hanging out with some of the older kids in my neighborhood. They were starting to smoke and drink and even use drugs. Wanting to be included in the group, I began to experiment with these things. Toward the end of the summer, God used a week at a Christian camp to wake me up to the choices I was making, and to call me back to following him. I wish I could say I was steady in my faith following this, but I was still pretty up and down, willing to follow the crowd. Fortunately, I was surrounded by a strong family and involved in a great church youth group. When I strayed, God kept graciously calling me back.
One experience God used to mature my faith, was a summer youth program I was involved in between my junior and senior years of high school. A group of us spent six weeks serving our community and some nearby rural communities, leading kids Bible clubs and VBS programs, and sharing our faith in various ways. During this experience, I learned the importance of developing a habit of daily prayer and Bible reading and found what it meant to walk by faith. As a result, a friend and I started a Bible study before school on Tuesday mornings during our senior year in high school. I began to invite anyone who would come. The study was student led, usually by myself or my friend. We rotated homes with parents serving breakfast. This was an amazing thing to be a part of. By spring we often had 40 kids (many of whom weren’t “churchy kids”) gathering at 6am to read the Bible together and pray. I began to feel God calling me toward ministry, but I didn’t know how he was going to put that all together as there weren’t many female pastors back in the 70s.
When Ben and I were married at 23, the last thing he was going to be was a pastor! He was selling real estate and hoping to make a living buying, remodeling, and renting out houses. I was an elementary school teacher. But God had a different plan for our lives. There is a long story about how all this happened, but five years later, Ben was a pastor in a small town in Wisconsin. As the pastor’s wife, I was deeply involved in the ministry of the church. There is another really long, cool, story here about God leading us, but not enough space to include it. It will be enough to say when the time was right, God miraculously opened the door for us to be working side by side in ministry at Woodridge Church in Medina, Minnesota. Ben was a teaching pastor, leading the small group ministry, and I was the children’s pastor. After three years ministering together at Woodridge, God led the way for us to start NorthRidge in 2000.
I see God’s hand throughout my life, leading me first to love him and follow him, and then to serve him in full time ministry. And while it has definitely not all been easy, it has been good, and more than that God has been good, and he has always been faithful.