Five personal journeys
Five personal journeys
God’s ways of working on the hearts and in the lives of people are more vast and unsearchable than the grains of sand on a beach or the drops of water in the ocean. The apostle Paul exclaims, “How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!” (Rom. 11:33).
Just when we think we know what to expect of God, He does something utterly surprising and totally outside the “box” in which we humans have placed Him. Above all, the love, compassion, and forbearance He shows for fallen humanity—and the lengths to which He goes to save us for eternity—leave us in awe of such a benevolent God.
Here are five vignettes about people in various world regions who have shared their personal journey, or search, for hope in a hurting world—which ultimately led them to Jesus. We pray these stories will reveal even more fully the immeasurable love of the God we serve.—Editors.
From Dancehall DJ to Promising Preacher
Getting a buss” is Jamaican slang for breaking into the dancehall music industry as an entertainer. Many young Jamaicans see this as a route out of poverty into wealth and fame. Underneath the glitter there is often a life of drugs, violence, and lewd living.
At age 20 Ricardo McCalla, who was known as “Bling,” was the rising dancehall star of Skibo, a rural community in Portland, Jamaica.
Fraught with illiteracy and unemployment, Skibo was unlikely to produce anyone noteworthy, so the community was proud of their budding entertainer. In 2002 he was poised to make a big career move—recording his first album. The Saturday night before the Monday recording he threw himself into his performance at a stage show.
There was another persistent influence in McCalla’s lifehis Seventh-day Adventist motherwho warned him about his wild lifestyle and encouraged him to attend church. He went occasionally with no intention of being baptized. His mother’s influence did, however, help him feel a need for Christ.
McCalla left the stage show that Saturday night drunk, and collapsed into bed. He woke up Sunday morning badly hung over and vomiting. He then overheard his mother praying, “God, You gave me this boy, but I cannot manage him. Take him, Jesus.”
Thinking she was praying for him to die, McCalla felt angry and deeply unsettled. He then remembers being startled as a bright light suddenly surrounded him. The light started to move away, and he felt terrified that he was witnessing the Spirit of God leaving him. He begged God not to abandon him.
“I knew at that moment I had to give my life to God. It felt like a life-or-death decision,” he says.
The Skibo Adventist Church was holding an evangelistic series, and a baptism was scheduled for that same Sunday morning at the river. Without informing his mother, McCalla went to the church and said he wanted to be baptized. The pastor reviewed the beliefs of the church and prayed with him. He was baptized that morning!
The community crowded around the baptismal site to watch in disbelief as the man who did them proud at the stage show the previous night surrendered to Christ. No one was more surprised than his mother.
“She cried for a long time, but then rejoiced that God had answered her prayer,” McCalla says.
Things changed rapidly for McCalla after his baptism. In time he learned to read well, led out in the local church, and got married.
Today he and wife, Nuvia, have three children. He is studying theology at Northern Caribbean University and is set to graduate in 2020.
He says, “I can never be ashamed to share the gospel, not after what God has done to transform my life!”
Lawrie Henry is a media writer, producer, and adjunct faculty member for the Department of Communication Studies at Northern Caribbean University in Jamaica.
By Logic and Faith
I was supposed to be in the car with my parents that day. They were going to keep me home from school as a special reward and take me with them to test-drive a car. But when the time came, I suddenly felt panic. You can’t be in the car with them today. I behaved in an unruly way, and I was dropped off at school.
It turned out to be a warning. A huge truck hit my parents’ car, crushing the entire back seat and causing the car to roll down a 30-foot ravine. My parents survived and recovered from the crash, but I would have died.
I’d been raised in a religious household. A moral upbringing, but without religion, because of my parents’ negative experiences. Religion had been a cause of pain and justification for abuses, not a source of love.
I was 10 when the car crash occurred. At that point I felt strongly that there was something or Someone looking out for me, guiding and protecting me. My grandmother gave me an old King James Version of the Bible, and I tried to read it like a regular book, got frustrated, and hid it in a bottom drawer of my dresser. But I felt compelled to keep it, to protect it. Somehow I knew it was sacred.
The tipping point came when I went to college and the Internet was available. Suddenly I could learn about different religions. I was a straight-A student studying microbiology and music, but I struggled with the holes I saw in the scientific theories taught. To make extra money, I played the oboe for church performances.
When you play for a church, you go in, perform, they hand you a check, and you leave. Treated as hired help, few realize the potential to witness to musicians.
I was eventually asked to play for an Adventist church. I appreciated the sermon about not trusting people (they’re fallible), but testing everything against the true light of God’s Word. Plus, the members were friendly. I was invited to a potluck for the first time.
I made friends with a pastor’s son, and we had long conversations about the Bible, religion, and truth. I asked hard questions and got answers that were based on logic and reason. I moved to Maryland for graduate studies and eventually got baptized by the pastor of the Spencerville Seventh-day Adventist Church in Silver Spring.
I had come from a place that associated religion with pain and fairy tales. I needed more than platitudes; I needed a rock-solid foundation that held up against critical analysis, one that matched the science and could explain the love of my Guide and lifelong Protector.
Jamie Jean Schneider Domm writes from Virginia, United States.
From Buddhism to Jesus
I grew up in a home where we followed the beliefs and rituals of Confucianism and Buddhism. When I enrolled in a Christian university, however, I noticed the differences in church cultures. I also met MyeongAe there, the woman who would one day be my wife. She was a faithful Seventh-day Adventist.
I began attending church with MyeongAe on Saturdays, the biblical Sabbath, and felt I was experiencing true worship.
MyeongAe and I were married in 1981, but my parents strongly opposed our religion. The conflict was so great that I persuaded my wife not to attend church. In time, we moved away from where my parents lived, and even though MyeongAe began attending church again, I continued to follow the religion of my parents.
When giving birth to our second son, MyeongAe became seriously ill and had to have surgery. While at the hospital I noticed the Adventist pastor and his wife sitting nearby and praying for my wife. I will never forget their sincere prayers, as well as their love and concern.
Because of the power of prayer, MyeongAe recovered and my son was born healthy and well. I now had a positive attitude toward the Adventist Church, but my faith was still weak.
After 10 years of marriage everyone in my family was going to church except me. My older daughter was attending elementary school, but the teachers and students were making life very difficult for her because she kept the Saturday Sabbath. The stress affected her grades.
MyeongAe suggested that we enroll our daughter at the Adventist school, so we did. It was a long daily commute, but the difference in my daughter was immediate. Her grades improved and she was happy in school. I began to look at the church and school with increasing favor.
Life became more challenging, however. Because of crises and conflicts at work, I ended up resigning from my job. It was a difficult time, and at my wife’s suggestion I began studying the Bible with the pastor. I learned more about God, and the Holy Spirit filled my heart with love and peace. I was soon baptized—together with my daughter—into the Adventist Church. God led me in my journey to Him and used a desperate situation to provide me with a greater opportunity to come to know Him.
Life has continued to provide many challenges. But as I look back on my journey I can truly say that God is good. God continuously led me closer and closer to Him, little by little every day. He is with me still.
ByungGwan Choi serves as an elder in the Gyomunri Adventist Church in Guri City, Seoul, Korea.
“I Should Have Been Dead—But God Saved Me!”
I grew up believing in my ancestors; in other words, worshipping the dead. With that worldview I moved from the mountainous province of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa to a town near Johannesburg, where I lived and worked in a more Christian-centric community.
There I found people who professed to live as Christians but were very rude, showing no sympathy or love. They told those of us who followed traditional African religions that we were sinners, that we were useless because their God hated sin.
I developed a hatred for Christianity. I started reading books on Bible criticism, intending to get rid of these Christians’ attitudes. I would ask my Christian colleagues questions that were tricky to answer, questions that would undermine what they believed. Some of them yielded their faith, but one man strongly stood up for his faith. He shared Isaiah 8:19, 20 with me. It showed that God was against what I believed in. This verse troubled me, but in my mind I still fought against Christians.
I am a qualified electrician and work with heavy current electricity. One day at work I was shocked by a strong bolt of electricity. I fell to the floor, and while lying there I heard a “small” voice ask, “Who saved your life?”
I knew I should not have survived a shock from such a high voltage, but somehow I had. I should be dead, I thought. I decided that since God had miraculously saved my life, even while I was trying to destroy His people, I would give my life to Him. That moment I accepted Christ with all my heart.
My life changed completely. The very next day my cravings for cigarettes and alcohol were completely gone. I began to realize how powerful God is. I bought a Bible and started reading it. I started praying. I no longer associated with my old friends.
I became interested in the book of Daniel, but I couldn’t find anyone to explain it to me. Then I asked two brothers in Christ to fast with me for three days for answers to the book of Daniel. A month later one of them told me about a study on Daniel on TV. The speaker went through the book of Daniel, and I understood it! I also learned about end-time events. I went to many libraries to check the references, and confirmed that the information presented in the study was correct. The Bible started to make sense and my faith increased.
I didn’t know that these studies were sponsored by Seventh-day Adventists, so I continued to attend my same church. My church leaders couldn’t explain the book of Daniel, or answer other Bible questions about such subjects as the Sabbath or speaking in tongues, so I started praying for direction. I asked God for a sign: that two people would come to my house and tell me where their church is, a church that followed the Bible.
Mr. Mahlangu and Mrs. Xaba, Seventh-day Adventists, came exactly as I had asked the Lord. It was then—because of prayer and God’s leading—that I joined the Adventist movement.
Sakhile Nxumalo is a first-year theology student at Helderberg College in South Africa.
Finding Jesus Through a Movie
Natalia Tatarczuch, 24, studies sociology and psychology in Krakow, Poland. She loves to play squash, listen to music, and go to movies. The last passion, though, is special. Two years ago she had never heard of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. That changed when she watched Mel Gibson’s movie Hacksaw Ridge.
Natalia is very candid: what she enjoyed most when watching Hacksaw Ridge were the special effects. The Desmond Doss story, however, inspired her too.
“I admire people who are different,” she says. She identified with Doss to some extent because people find her to be a nonconformist as well, she says.
Before watching the Oscar-winning movie, Natalia, a member of another denomination, had not heard of Doss or Adventists.
“Actually, I heard the name ‘Adventist’ for the first time ever [in the movie],” Natalia says. “I was repeating it in my mind several times so I could check it out after the movie.” And she did. She then sent an e-mail to a local Adventist pastor, who invited her to attend a meeting. The meeting turned out to be a Bible study.
Natalia found it difficult to change her beliefs and religious practices, and living the “Adventist lifestyle” seemed as if it would be a burden.
“After a while, though, I realized that something was missing in my life, and that I needed to put God as number one,” Natalia says.
“I was gaining new knowledge from the Adventists, who welcomed me warmly,” she adds. “I remember the first time I went to the Adventist church. I felt awkward because I was sitting in the first row, not knowing when to bow down, when to stand up. However, some [of the members] hugged me and showed me so much love!”
Natalia was baptized on January 27, 2018.
Natalia deals with more challenges than most university students. “I have suffered with epilepsy for 18 years, but it has drawn me closer to God,” she explains. “I don’t understand this illness, and I still struggle with it, but it has made me a stronger person. Many times I’ve had to be strong for myself as well as for my parents, who have been very supportive of me. They’ve been with me in hospitals, hiding their tears. They are still very supportive, even of my life-changing decisions.”
Polish Adventist youth actively promoted the Desmond Doss story, the movie Hacksaw Ridge, and the Adventist Church in many creative ways, including posting pictures of the Doss story on Facebook and printing slogans on T-shirts that read “Desmond Saved 75. Jesus Saved All.”
Natalia finds herself as one of those who was saved. She now feels that the missing “puzzle piece” in her life has been found in Jesus.
To view a short documentary about Natalia’s conversion, go to https://youtu.be/GOQs2KegwkI.
Marek Rakowski is executive secretary of the Polish Union Conference, headquartered in Warsaw, Poland.