True Christian Stories
by Debra Matthews

Welcome! Here's another true Christian story from my collection of things that have really happened to me (including stories about miracles, angels, Civil Air Patrol and God's love and blessings). This one is from the 70s about my fear of 'witnessing' as a teenager, and how an accident changed all that.

"From Fear To Hope"
Copyright © 1999 by Debra K. Matthews. All rights reserved

We were 'The Three Musketeers Plus One', four teenage girls from Civil Air Patrol who were sitting in a booth at Denny's talking about everything in the world that came to mind. One of them brought up the subject of God and how she wondered what he was like. The other two gave their opinions and the conversation got kind of odd.

I had been a believer all my life, but I had never read the Bible through. As I sat there listening to them, I remember thinking That's not right -- God isn't at all like that. He's someone who really cares for us, someone we can know personally.

For me, he was everything. He was my Father and comforter; my shepherd, teacher and guide; my dearest friend in the world; the one I could go to with all my fears, concerns, needs and desires.

The thought had come to me, I should say something. I had barely thought it when an old fear came to me, What if they ask me questions I can't answer? And so I sat silently, not entering into the conversation at all. Then one of my friends said to the gal with the far out ideas, "Some of us are just now starting to find God. It's too personal to talk about," and they moved on to another topic instead.

A number of times that year I had the urge to talk to Ann (not her real name), one of the three, about the Lord. But each time I chickened out, using the excuse that I didn't know how to witness, I wouldn't be able to answer any questions she might ask.

In December a bunch of us, Ann included, attended 'The University of Montana Mission' -- a week-long encampment high up in the snowy mountains near Missoula. The university was sponsoring the event for C.A.P. and put us all up in cabins to learn survival, and search and rescue skills. Ann and I were together with another girl in one of the smaller cabins.

Throughout the week, I felt that gentle urging to talk to Ann, but always I feared that she would ask questions I wouldn't be able to answer. I was afraid of looking stupid if I couldn't explain things, and afraid that my ignorance would somehow make her turn away from God instead, maybe to some kind of cult or something. Lord, I prayed, you have lots of people who can say things right. Send her one of them.

It seemed like a cowardly thing to do, but I felt so inadequate and I knew there were people like the camp commander who were so good at talking about the Lord. I felt they could do a better job at it than someone like me.

On our last morning there, when Ann and I were alone in the cabin, I had the gentle nudging one last time: Tell Ann about me, came the clear thought.

Ok, I'll try, I thought, but then my mind went blank. I couldn't think of a good way to begin, and I let the moment pass. We both headed out for the remaining activities. The encampment ended without my ever saying a word to her about the Lord, and we all headed back to Washington.

Within a couple of months I got word that Ann had been in a horrible accident. A woman had been giving her a ride home from a nearby youth meeting one evening. She had been coming up the hill Ann lived on, misjudged the speed of the oncoming traffic, and had tried to turn left into Ann's driveway when suddenly a speeding motorist hit them broadside. It had smashed and torn almost the whole right side of the car away. Ann had been left with serious head and internal injuries. She was in a coma and died several days later.

Oh, Lord, I cried. No wonder you kept impressing me to talk to her. And I failed you! What if she didn't find you?

I was devastated. I had failed the Lord. I had failed Ann, all because I let my stupid fears get in the way.

Never again! I thought as I cut out the newspaper picture of the mangled car from Ann's accident. I pasted it in my scrapbook as a reminder of my failure. From now on, no matter how frightening it is, somehow I will always try to be a witness when I get the opportunity.

I read the Bible through to see what it said. I got everything I could find on how to share my faith with others. I got all kinds of training in witnessing and in counseling people who asked for help.

Still, no matter how much I volunteered at my church, or how well I learned to witness, or how many people I led to the Lord, the nagging question was always there: Had Ann ever found the Lord?

Dear Lord, please help me to not mess up again. Now I was more afraid not to try, than I had ever been of not being able to answer any hard questions. I wanted the knowledge at the end of this life that no matter what happened, I would be able to say I had at least tried.

Almost six years after Ann's death, I was working late one evening at my church when I got a phone call. At hearing the caller's name, my first thought had been, Oh, no. Not today. I don't have time right now.

The caller was one of my younger brother's old junior high school acquaintances; a young lady who had never had very many friends. We had lived near her family back then, and she had kind of 'latched onto me' as one person who wasn't rude to her.

On this night, though, all I could think of was how she could talk for hours, and I was really trying to get some work done. Not very Christ-like, Deb, I thought to myself. I tried to listen politely as she talked, while I continued doing my work.

"Guess what happened to our youth pastor?" she said.

"What?" I asked, only half listening.

"Well, he's been feeling just awful about a kid that he'd been around a lot, but never witnessed to," she said. "Last week the kid was killed in a robbery."

Suddenly she had my full attention!

"He always stopped at the local 7-Eleven on his way home from work," she continued. "He said he liked to have coffee and stand around and talk to the clerks, just about anything.

"Well, one day this young clerk was killed in a robbery, when the 7-Eleven got held up." I could hear the horror in her voice. "When the pastor heard about it, he suddenly realized that in all the times he'd stopped in there and talked to that very same guy, he'd never once told him that he was a youth pastor or that the Lord loved him.

"He was devastated," she said. "He went around for days feeling just terrible."

I knew exactly how he felt.

"Then one day," she continued, "someone asked him, 'Did you hear about the young kid that was killed in that robbery at the 7-Eleven?'

When he told her yes, she said, "Well, the night before the robbery, he visited such and such church over in Seattle, and he gave his heart to the Lord!"

My friend told me what a burden had lifted from their youth pastor at hearing that, and how he realized that even though he had failed, God still had a plan in place and had been working on the young man's heart even without the pastor's help.

Thinking about it afterwards, I too had had a huge burden lifted from me. All this time I had subconsciously thought I had been Ann's only hope, but that was foolish. God doesn't work that way. He puts many people and lessons along each pathway. We just need to trust and follow him a step at a time.

Each of us is like one 'witness' in a courtroom. As Peter and John said, "We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard."

All God asks of us is to love the people around us and tell them what he's done in our own lives -- how he's loved and comforted us, helped us, and carried us through our trials. Each person adds their own 'testimony' until at some point in time a person hears enough to make that final decision, "Yes, I want God in my life, too."

We each sow individual seeds along the way, sometimes just being the first to plant, sometimes watering the seeds, and sometimes being the one to harvest. But all of us have a part and we can trust in the One who puts all the parts together to make it all happen.


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Added October 30, 1999
Updated March 19, 2000