Hello old friends, new followers and fellow bloggers –
Today is “Freedom Friday” and as I promised last week, I am sharing one of my favorite stories with you. Today’s story was submitted to me by my good friend and sister, Aletra. Aletra is a fellow God-lover, Kingdom-builder, prayer-warrior and just plain loving person. She is amazing and she has an amazing story that I thought you guys should hear. She wrote her story for you guys, so here it goes… Aletra’s story.
“I was ambivalent about talking about my life when Mo asked if she could write about the different paths that I took, in my search of a true relationship with God. I wanted to share, but I did not know how much I wanted to share. Then I realized that there is nothing to be ashamed of. So I will tell what needs to be told, nothing more.
I grew up in much dysfunction most of my life. When I was five, my father brought my brother and me (and left my baby sister with my mother) down south to live with my grandmother. She was very, very, very strict and no nonsense.
I went to church with my grandmother when I was a young child. She belonged to Rockfish A.M.E. Church. They met the fourth Sunday of each month. The rest of the month she would send me to Adoram Baptist Church with one of her friends. I never thought much about, being a kid and all. It was fun because I got to dress up and got to see my friends.
When I would go to the A.M.E Church with my grandmother, I would be afraid sometimes because the preacher would lean over the pulpit talking about hellfire and damnation. That is not what frightened so much as all the sweating and yelling that he was doing. Sometimes it looked as though he was going to have a heart attack or something from all that yelling and sweating (a child’s thought process). As a child that stuff was scary. The church was an older congregation. There was one lady in the choir who looked as though she was having a seizure (fit back in those days). She was the only person I had ever seen doing that. In my infantile mind I thought she was going to have a heart attack or something also. After a few minutes she was alright. I did not get it.
Then I would go to Adoram Baptist Church with my grandmother’s friend, and it was a totally different atmosphere. The Pastor was reserved, and he did not sweat or yell. His wife beautiful, dainty and was always beautifully dressed. The congregation was quiet and reserved, and the service was short. I just went to see my friends for a little while.
However when I was seven, my father came to get us and took us back to New York to live with him, his common-law wife and her two sons who hated my brother and me; it was even more frightening, because we were back in the dysfunction again. We did not go to church. Finally when I was eight, I told my father that I did not like living with them and he took by brother and me to live with our mother and sister (I found out later that she had a different father). More dysfunction. We did not go to church. When I was 12, my brother, sister and I went to live with my father, his “wife” and her two sons (total dysfunction, and too much to tell).
We were told to go to the Catholic Church, but none of us understood Latin so we would go to Mass every Sunday, make the sign of the cross on our heads with holy water, and then take the money we were supposed to put in church and go to the store to buy candy, and then take our time walking home. There was no adult supervision so they did not know whether we went or not.
When I became an adult, I do not know why but I had a desire for religion of some kind. I did not know about relationship. I went to Lutheran churches, Methodist churches, Baptist churches, all to no avail. I did not get anything out of them. I did not know what I was looking for. In my finite mind I guess, for lack of a better phrase, I did not understand the whole “religion” experience.
My children’s aunt invited me to go with her to a meeting. I accepted the invitation not knowing what I was about to get into. She took me to a home meeting of the Nichiren Shoshu Buddhist in New York City. I had never experienced anything like it before, and I was thoroughly intrigued. After the meeting that night I decided to become a member. It was a really weird time in my life, considering all the other stuff that was going on (more dysfunction, and too much to tell) at that point in time.
My father had to go out of town one weekend. He asked me to take my grandmother to his church that Sunday. I said that I would. We went to a Baptist Church (which I will not name). How it had changed from when I was a child. It reminded me of the A.ME. Church. However, I was not afraid. After all I just went to take my grandmother to church as a favor for my father. I was not interested in anything else. After all, I was Nichiren Shoshu Buddhist. I did not care about any other religions.
As the service continued, the Pastor made the Altar Call. I felt this heat go all through my body. I heard a Voice say “Go up”, and I felt a push. I began to cry, and got up and went forward. I joined the church, but I was never asked to give my life to Christ. I didn’t know. I went back to the evening service and was baptized. After that night, I never went back to that church, nor did anyone ever check up on me. The only thing that I received from them several months later were some tithe envelopes. I never heard from anyone in that church again. My father never even spoke with me about it. So I continued on my journey as a Nichiren Shoshu Buddhist. I was a member for four years. However, I began to realize that Buddhism was not for me, and I left the sect (cult). I had no real desire for religion for a long, long, long time after that. I just lived my life the way I wanted to. I was my god. I did whatever I wanted to do, however I wanted to do it, whenever I wanted to do it, and I did not answer to anyone.
I moved to Wisconsin some years later. I was on my journey to find the “religion” experience again; and while there I became a Jehovah’s Witness. I began to see the double standards within the organization (cult). I now know that they were like the Pharisees. They set laws in place for the congregation to live by, yet they did not live by the laws that they put in place. Again, I was a member for four years. I had had enough. What’s with the number 4?
I began to realize that I was looking to have a relationship with Jesus Christ, not a “religion” experience but I had been going about it the wrong way. I had no one in my life to discuss this with, because no one in my life was in church. However, I began to purpose in my heart that I was going to join a church and dedicate the rest of my life to serving Him. I knew nothing about being saved. I just wanted to join a church and dedicate my life to Him for the rest of my life.
Shortly, after that I move back to New York (I had been living in Wisconsin for ten years at this point). I moved back on July 1, 2001. I had not looked for a church, or a job for that matter, because I was not in the frame of mind at that time to do so. I decided to take a few months to relax before I went out job hunting. I was living with a man who had no desire for God, so at that time it was not a priority (unintentional of course). I just had not given it much thought.
When 911 happened, I became so depressed that I decided that I had to go back to work somewhere. I called my former employer and was able to go back to work there. I began to get the desire for Jesus again, and I decided that I was going to join a church. Little did I know what God had in mind for me. The HR representative who interviewed me began to tell me that I was very spiritual (go figure). She began to tell me about a woman Pastor who worked there that she wanted me to meet. However, it was months before I ever got an opportunity to meet this Pastor.
It happened that we were both in the Administration building one day, and the HR representative had the chance to introduce us. The Pastor was Co-Pastor Angela. We greeted each other like we had known each other for years, but had not seen each other in a long time. Pastor Angela volunteered to pick me up in the mornings, but she left work before I got off, so I had to take the train and then a bus, and had walk four blocks to get home after midnight (another story too long to tell).
Co-Pastor Angela invited me to visit her church, and I went that Sunday. I really enjoyed the service. She invited me to attend a Women’s Conference that she was having the following week. I went and I was like “what’s going on here?!” People were falling out on the floor, speaking funny, acting like that lady in the choir at Rockfish A.M.E. I did not understand it. Needless to say, I did not attend the rest of the conference. However, when Co-Pastor invited me to visit her church again the following Sunday, I went. I gave my life to the Lord, went through membership class, and joined Open Door Ministries. That was in 2002.
I left one relationship that was not in my best interest, for the best relationship I could ever ask for. There are some challenges as I am ever growing in my walk with Christ, but I have not looked back, nor have I ever regretted my decision to serve the Almighty God for the rest of my life. I may not be where He wants me to be right now, but at least I not where I was. Hallelujah!!!
I decided to share Aletra’s story because I believed that she was relatable. Like so many of us, Aletra spent years searching for something, something more than what she was experiencing already. We sear our whole lives for something more and yet end up unfulfilled. That is what I love about Aletra’s story, she went from searching for something to finding peace and contentment in Christ. She is the proof that Christ fills our empty voids and that He is enough. He changes us-nothing else. She is the living proof of the gospel . I think she’s an awesome lady and if you have any questions for her- don’t hesitate to comment below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks & Happy Freedom Friday!
Until next time,
Featured Image credit : http://www.mlive.com/living/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2012/07/caption_contest_take_a_shot_at_3.html