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Entries in Testimonies (23)

Monday
Oct032011

God's Pursuit of Patty Murray

Charis Bible School-Plymouth second-year student Patty Murray and her husband Tom.
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Growing up, Patty did not know her biological father, and her mother was re-married three times during her childhood. She recalls some fighting and violence in her home, often the result of alcohol abuse. Patty grew to fear her step-fathers and men in general. Her mother was excommunicated from their church because she was divorced; however, Patty had attended enough services to pick up on the guilt and shame aspects of religion. Patty determined that her Heavenly Father was no different than her earthly ones—scary and unloving.

Throughout her time at school, Patty struggled with reading and comprehension; sitting still and paying attention were quite challenging for her. Patty and Tom with their son Tom Jr. and their daughter Katie.
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Being extremely shy and withdrawn, Patty slipped through the proverbial cracks and never received the help or encouragement that she needed to overcome her learning difficulties. Patty dropped out of school after ninth grade.

As an adult, Patty married and had her own children, but she continued to struggle in many areas of her life. She suffered from severe sleep issues and multiple back problems, for which she took prescription pain medications regularly. Patty remained extremely shy and fearful of people.

Patty (in blue) took a bold step and registered for classes at CBS-Plymouth in August of 2010. (Click to enlarge)In 2010, Patty learned that her friend, and former Woman’s Group leader, Judi Appleton, and her husband, George, would be opening a Charis Bible College extension school in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Despite the many hindrances in her life, Patty felt an urge to attend. The first time she discussed it with her husband, he didn’t think it was a good idea. He pointed out that finances were tight, Patty still had her attention issues, her back pain would hinder her from sitting all morning, the school was an hour away, and they only had one car.

Patty’s husband made a good case against going to school, but she was sure Satan hadn’t put the idea of Bible College in her head. Instead of letting the idea slip away, she decided to take a huge leap of faith and go for it—Patty and several first-year students sit with CBS Co-Director, Judi Appleton (in red) after registering for classes in 2010. (Click to enlarge)even though she didn’t know how to make it all happen.

When Patty found the courage to tell her husband that she really felt like God was leading her to Charis Bible School-Plymouth he responded, “Go with God.” That was Patty’s first confirmation. She filled out the registration form and brought it to the post office right away. While she was there, Patty looked down and saw a dime on the floor. She picked it up and read the words, “In God We Trust.” She took this as a second confirmation because she made a habit out of asking herself the same question each time she found money on the ground, “Am I trusting God?” She determined that she was and that she would continue trusting.

Patty receiving prayer at the opening rally in 2010.
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The same day that Patty mailed her registration to CBS-Plymouth, she received an unexpected check in the mail for $100—the exact amount of her registration fee. The check was from a man who had vandalized her car months before. Patty had witnessed the perpetrator smashing her car, and immediately reported the vandalism. Unbeknownst to her, the man had been caught, convicted and ordered to pay her a certain amount each month for the damage he had done to her property. This was yet another confirmation for Patty.

The following week was a rough one; Patty struggled, internally, with her decision to go. The enemy whispered lies and Patty lost sleep. On Sunday, when she and her husband pulled into their parking spot at church, Patty’s husband said, “Let’s pray.” This was so out of the ordinary for him that Patty was taken aback. She was further surprised when her husband began to pray, as it was usually Patty who led them in prayer. That morning, they listened to the sermon with amazement. As Patty made her way through first year, she began to experience true freedom in Christ. Here she volunteered with classmate Wilda O'Brien-Arauz at CBS's coffee house outreach.
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Each issue they had been struggling with, and every concern Patty’s husband had prayed about, was addressed in the message that morning. “We both knew I was going to school!” Patty exclaimed.

After the couple determined that Patty would go, the provision began to flow. Patty continued to receive her payments for the vandalism, which “coincidentally” continued each month until the end of the school year. The two also received a check from their insurance agency for an overpayment they had made, their mortgage payment decreased through no effort of their own, and they found a second car for less than a thousand dollars. They were thrilled.

Patty is able to sit through the class sessions. (Click to enlarge)When school first began, Patty found that sitting for long periods of time was tough; however, she noticed right away that she could listen and comprehend in class. Patty felt like directors made the teachings very personal and intimate. “It was like sitting in my living room, relaxing, while we they were teaching me,” Patty said. Then, on September 15, Patty experienced being in the presence of God for the first time. Instead of running away in fear, she felt His tender love for her. She found she wasn’t afraid of Him anymore. What a glorious victory!

“I’ve begun to learn how much I’m loved,” Patty said, I’m still learning, but I’ve gained confidence in my life.”The Murray family including Katie's fiance, Colin. (Click to enlarge)

Patty once felt condemnation because she dreaded reading her Bible. However today she says, “The Bible came alive for me at Charis, Plymouth.” Patty has finished reading the King James Version of the Bible all the way through for the first time, and has enjoyed her time in the Word very much.

When Patty started school, she would turn scarlet red and cry if asked to speak or read in class, but today it’s difficult to keep her quiet. “The encouragement from George and Judi was incredible,” Patty emphasized.

Patty has seen a major improvement in her back pain and is overjoyed to see growth and restoration in her family members. She is especially pleased to have experienced growth in her marriage; she now feels more connected than ever to her husband.

Patty ended up carpooling with several other ladies who attended Bible school for the year and today she calls them her best friends. “Every step of the way, God just showed up,” Patty said.

By the grace of God, Patty ended up being one of the top students during her first year at CBS. She is filled with confidence and joy today thanks to the revelation she has received from the teaching of grace and faith. “He is my Confidence, my Daddy, my Everything,” Patty said. Amen.

Monday
Sep192011

Terry McCandless: It's Never Too Late

Third-year CBC intern and Pastor of Set Free Ministries, Terry McCandless (Click to enlarge)Do you remember the moment you received Jesus as your Lord and Savior? Forty-three-year-old Terry McCandless does; he remembers his born again experience vividly—everyday. Terry was celebrating his thirty-fourth birthday, enjoying the special meal his wife had prepared, when there was a knock on his front door. That knock wasn't Jesus, but He would be there soon.

At the time, Terry and his wife Trina lived in a rough part of Oklahoma City, and they were far from God. They supported themselves making fast money; Terry operated an in-home methamphetamine lab, where he manufactured the drugs he sold, and Trina had a job as a dancer, hustling men.

There was a time that Terry wasn't involved with drugs, but he doesn't remember it. "I can't remember life before drugs. I must've been twelve—I know I wasn't thirteen yet—the first time A newspaper clipping from when Terry was shot. (Click to enlarge)I stuck a needle in my arm," said Terry.

Terry also remembers a brief period during which he attended church, but that ended abruptly when his first son died at birth. Terry was just fifteen at the time, and his pastor told him that God had taken his son away because of his lifestyle. In that moment, Terry decided he would not serve a God who would do that, and he declared that he would rather serve the devil.

Fast forward nineteen years, past the birth of his second son, when Terry was seventeen, past the death of his three-month-old third son, and past multiple trips to jail, back to the knock on the door on his thirty-fourth birthday; it was the girl from next door. When Terry answered the door, she said her boyfriend wanted to speak with him. Terry said he would be right out and he closed the door. Terry was shot at point-blank range with a sawed-off shotgun. As he lay dying he received Jesus as his Savior.
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He paused, put the pistol he always carried on the coffee table and went outside. As he walked out to the curb, the other man turned and pointed a sawed-off, double-barrel-shotgun at Terry. For several tense minutes, the two men attempted to reconcile their differences. Soon, Trina came out and stood at Terry's side which, in Terry's mind, changed the circumstances. Out of concern for Trina's wellbeing, Terry lunged toward the man to grab the gun. He remembers seeing the flashes from both barrels and the force with which he was hit. The blast carried him to the neighbor's driveway.

Terry was in the hospital for almost a year and had more than 21 surgeries.
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Fearing for his wife's life, Terry attempted to stand to defend her, at which point his wide-eyed neighbor turned and ran away. As he stood he could feel his insides falling out of his body. He stumbled to his porch and Trina ran to call an ambulance. As Terry lay on the porch dying, he called out to Jesus. He remembers telling Jesus that he knew he had lived a sinful life, and he repented saying if You will have me, here I am. At that moment a divine peace came over him. Then, Terry asked God for favor, "I said, 'Lord, if you will just allow me to live so that when I do return to you, I can hear the words, Well done, My good and faithful servant, I will live my life for You, one-hundred percent and I will bring others back with me."

Terry and the man that discipled him, Pastor, Rickey Musgrove.
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When Terry regained consciousness, three and a half weeks later, he heard the very words he had prayed being repeated back to him by the Lord. As the doctor stood at his bedside, she said, "I can't believe you made it." Terry responded, "God answers prayers." "He must son, because you're not alive due to anything we've done," said the doctor. This confirmed to Terry that God had given him a second chance.

Terry lay in the hospital for almost a year. He spent most of that time soaking in the presence of God, and building his relationship with Jesus. "I remember fellowshipping, worshiping, and just being thankful that He had given me the opportunity to As Terry grew in the Lord, his pastor encouraged him to lead a Bible study. One study grew into several, and Trina added a childrens' study. Before long, the couple's ministry had outgrown their home. (Click to enlarge)fulfill the life I had prayed about as I was looking death in the eyes," said Terry.

Terry had suffered severe damage to his pancreas, lost his spleen, gallbladder, half of his intestines, most of his colon, most of his liver, and the majority of his stomach. Aside from the initial emergency room efforts to put him back together, Terry endured twenty-one surgeries.

In the hospital Terry developed a relationship with a local pastor; a man who discipled Terry early in his walk with Christ. While Terry experienced tremendous growth and acknowledged Jesus as his Savior, Healer and Deliverer, he still lacked a true revelation of God's unconditional love and grace.

The Lord provided a building in which to hold services in the same area Terry had sold drugs. Where he once sowed darkness he and Trina began to sow Light. (Click to enlarge)Once released from the hospital, it became clear to his pastor that Terry had a calling on his life, and he began to encourage Terry to step out and lead a Bible study in his home. Over time Trina had received Jesus as her Savior as well, so the two prayed about leading a study.

After realizing the pastor's encouragement was a word from the Lord, they moved forward and held their first Bible study. Based on that decision to answer the call to share God's word, the McCandless' ministry exploded. In a very short time, Terry and Trina were hosting multiple Bible studies, offering children's services, and had created a food pantry. "It didn't take long for our home to begin to fill up. There were souls being added to the Kingdom, Trina and Terry ministering together in 2008. (Click to enlarge)and we watched Jesus heal and deliver people right before our eyes," Terry said.

While the couple's ministry, now called Set Free Ministries, was blossoming, Terry was still struggling physically. His stomach had been so badly damaged that he was unable to keep solid food down. He spent more than three years being fed intravenously at the hospital and drinking protein shakes, until one day, a friend stopped by and gave Terry Andrew's book, You've Already Got It. After reading it, Terry realized that he had been trying to earn his healing. As the revelation became his, Trina packaging meals from the Set Free Ministries food pantry. (Click to enlarge)Terry's digestive issues were resolved and he was able to eat solid food.

It wasn't long before their ministry outgrew their home and they moved into a building in the neighborhood where Terry had previously sold drugs. This troubled Terry, but the Lord spoke to him and said, "Where you once spread the kingdom of darkness, you will now spread the kingdom of light."

Several fruit-filled years passed and Terry began sensing that the Lord wanted him to attend Charis Bible College in Colorado. In light of their growth and success in ministry he didn't know how to share this with Trina. A short time later,

CBC students,Trina and Terry, at Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. (Click to enlarge)Trina approached Terry and said she thought they were supposed to move to Colorado to attend CBC. Terry told her that he thought she was hearing from God.

The McCandlesses left their church ministry in good hands and with its support moved to Colorado two years ago. Their time at Charis has expanded both their revelation of God's unconditional love, and their ministry's territory as the Lord has opened up opportunities in Colorado Springs for the couple to feed and care for those in need. Terry and Trina will complete their third year at Charis and step back into full-time ministry in 2012.

Monday
Jul182011

Finding God in the Pantry

Caroline's smile of liberty in Christ. She has been set free from severe religious bondage. (Click to enlarge) Caroline was so entrenched in legalism that she lived in constant fear for her life, and the lives of her loved ones. One false move and she was sure God would take pleasure in striking her down. She imagined Him laughing at her, waiting for her to make a mistake. The torment became so great that Caroline contemplated suicide. She had nowhere to turn, no one to trust. In desperation, she took a step of faith and called out to the God she so feared, and of course He was pleased to reveal Himself to her in all of His grace and glory.

The seventh of ten children, Caroline lived a sheltered childhood, never knowing anything outside her family’s religious doctrine, As a child Caroline, suffered tremendous abuse.
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which she was taught never to question. She was not allowed to socialize with anyone outside the church because, according to her parents, they could tempt her to wear pants, or cut her hair, and then she would go to hell. Caroline had poor eyesight, and as a result, struggled in school. Going to an ophthalmologist and wearing glasses was considered idolatry, and not allowed. In fact, the church strictly forbade hospitals, doctors, or even sipping hot tea for a sore throat.

Caroline went to school for twelve years with Craig, the man she eventually married; the son of the head pastor of their church. The two were not high school sweethearts, or in love, but instead were simply staying within the expected boundaries by marrying within the church. Caroline and her husband were married for four years before she became pregnant with twins. The baby boys were born three months premature, and because they were not allowed medical intervention, Caroline, age 25.
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the boys died. The couple went on to have seven more children. Caroline’s husband, well aware of her poor academic ability, used this fact to belittle and ridicule her whenever the opportunity presented itself, such as matters of the children’s behavior. She never felt good enough or smart enough to please him. She constantly struggled with jealousy, worried that her husband was attracted to other women whom she viewed as more attractive or intelligent than herself. She never allowed herself to hate or resent him however, because she didn’t want to bring a curse on her children.

Finding faults with others was a natural coping mechanism for Caroline. She, like others who struggle with condemnation, would find comfort in the thought that she was doing a better job at following all the rules than someone else. She would tell herself that at least she was still going to heaven, even though Andrew, good friend Virginia, and Caroline at the 2008 Gospel Truth Seminar in North Carolina.
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she was leading a miserable existence.

The anguishing fear that Caroline lived with brought her to the brink of suicide three times. The only thing that prevented her from following through was the added fear of going to hell for her sin. So instead, Caroline would go to the one place she could find a bit of privacy in a houseful of children, the pantry closet, where she would cry and cry. Caroline recalls crying out one day, “God, You promised me that I would have peace and joy, but I don’t feel any of that.”

One morning, when Caroline found her baby daughter suffering from a high fever and convulsing in her crib, she frantically called to her husband. Her husband instructed her to get some ice for the child’s head to try to cool her down. Caroline was paralyzed with fear. Although she knew the ice would help, she believed that using ice would be very wrong in God's eyes. Caroline and several of her children at the 2008 Summer Family Bible Conference in Colorado Springs.
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Caroline worried that if she did as she was told, God would take her baby’s life. Two months later when the convulsing started again, her husband fell apart. Caroline came face-to-face with the realization that her husband was not the proud pillar of strength that she thought. She began to seriously question the wisdom of men that she had been holding in such high esteem for her entire life. Why, she agonized, if she was doing everything she was told to do, was her child sick?

Caroline was further perplexed when she suffered a miscarriage that left her weak and hemorrhaging for an entire year. At one point she cried out to God, “You said perfect love casts out fear.” And in that moment Caroline heard, “It’s not your love for Me, Caroline and her husband, Craig. She says the greatest miracle in her life, aside from her salvation, is the change in her husband and the turnaround in their marriage. (Click to enlarge)it’s My love for you.”

As Caroline continued to ponder her own illness, she also considered her sister and three sisters-in-law who had all died in childbirth. Again she wondered what had they all done wrong? How could it be that God would give a woman ten or twelve children and then take her life? Caroline did not believe that God needed these women in heaven more than the children needed their mother. She continued to question, and God continued to break down her confidence in the pastors who had been sowing the lies in her heart.

Although it was frowned upon for Caroline to fellowship with her brother because he had left their church, Caroline and her family gather around her oldest son, Joshua, at his high school graduation. (Click to enlarge) her husband made an occasional exception. During one visit to her brother’s home, he gave her a tape to listen to that told the story of Ruth in the Bible. Caroline enjoyed the tape and when she told her brother as much, he gave her some of Andrew’s tapes. Caroline spent hours a day listening to Andrew’s teachings. As she did, she came to realize that all of the doctrine she had been taught was man’s idea. Andrew’s teaching fed her dry and thirsty soul and began to set her free from the religious bondage that had so enslaved her. “When God turns the light on, nobody can turn it off,” Caroline said.

Caroline’s husband began to notice a new joy and peace radiating from his wife, and at the same time he also realized that she was reading and comprehending the Bible without any trouble—something he knew she hadn’t been capable of in the past. These were unmistakable confirmations that Caroline had discovered something about God that he did not understand. Today, Caroline’s husband has undergone a tremendous transformation, has received Jesus as his Savior and is seeking to know more of Him alongside Caroline.

“I was a vessel broken into 1000 pieces and God put me back together and started filling me with just Him,” Caroline said. “Jesus can reach you anywhere, even in the pantry closet.”

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