My parents were missionaries to China, and I was born there. We were chased out during the Japanese invasion in 1944. The American military took us out with some of their soldiers. The war and stress of everything took a toll on my mother. She had a total nervous breakdown and was in a psych hospital for years, considered hopeless. My Dad would not give up on her. He was a medical doctor in China but studied psychiatry in the US and eventually got his boards and went into practice as a Christian psychiatrist. My mother was freed by the prayer of a Christian who recognized that there was demonic influence. But that is another story.
My parents later went to India as missionaries in Christian counseling for ten years, and mom was never sick again in that way. My husband and I were married by then. We grew up in a small town in western NY, and we went to a local Presbyterian church. I knew my parents had a deep faith and would die for Christ, but I thought that for me it would come with age. At about 16 years old, I went with my Dad to a religious conference. That night I talked to the preacher afterwards, and I remember kneeling down and asking Jesus to save me from my sins. I went back to our minister and told him about it, and what I remember is that he chalked it off as an emotional experience and that it would pass.
Thus I floundered for years trying to be a good Christian and doing what the Bible said. However, when Christ said you had to be perfect like God, I knew I couldn’t and fell short. After Grandpa and I got married, we continued going to church faithfully, and we were seeking true meaning in living a Christian life. We would ask others at church, and we would get a blank stare. They could not help us, because they did not know, and probably most of them were not true believers but religious church-goers.
We were both students when we got married, and after I was done with my BS and nursing program, we started our family. Grandpa was still in training, so I had to work. I floated as a nurse at the hospital the hours he was home, since we had not been happy with our babysitting experience. We had our 4 children within 5 years by choice. However, those years were hard.
I struggled emotionally trying to live up to the world’s view of the perfect mother, perfect wife, and I always felt like I failed. I was not patient enough. However, working as a nurse, I felt successful and I used to tell people, “When the kids are grown up, I will go back into full time nursing.” However, I also said that I believed my primary roles in life were to be a wife and mother, and nursing was secondary. But my actions said I did not feel satisfied with the major roles that God had given me. We always went to church with our kids, but inside I struggled with my own self-image and feeling like I never measured up to the world’s view of the perfect wife or mother. I was depressed inside but did not tell anyone.
The more I tried, the more I failed, but I did not talk to others about my feelings. We went to Liberia, West Africa after Grandpa finished his training, and for the first time under the US government, he had a good salary, and I did not have to work. However, in Liberia he was there to set up the dept. of medicine in a new hospital and I volunteered to help with the nursing program in public health mornings since all 4 of our kids were now in school. God was working on me and all those years I always read the Bible even if it did not mean anything much.
Then several American Baptist pastors came to Liberia for a preaching conference and we went and got trained as counselors. The first time we met for training, they went over salvation, and it was as if a light switch went on. I realized that is what happened to me as a teenager, how I was not in a church where I was taught and how I’d tried in my own strength to do right. I remember struggling with God in Liberia, as if I was standing on the side of the road, looking across to the green grass and flowers, and wishing I could go there. However, to get there I would have to cross over, and the way was dark and scary. What would God require? I felt like my nursing career was at stake. I finally decided that I would have to surrender all to the Lord to control my life, and I said in my heart, “Lord, you can have my life, even if it means no nursing. Take over my life and control me.”
I felt a sudden great relief, as if a big load had been taken off of my shoulders. I felt free to be what God wanted me to be and not what the world wanted. Grandpa had asked Jesus to save him a week or so earlier but did not say anything immediately. He had realized that he had never been saved; we had not even known that terminology in our churches.
I was asked shortly after that time to give my testimony in a missionary-sponsored ladies tea, since people had noticed the change in me. The missionary came to talk to me about it and prayed with me before leaving. That was when God brought back to my mind what I had done as a teenager. I realized that that point was when I got saved. However, no one had taught me, and I did not know anything about that after salvation, God’s Spirit comes to live in us. He will help us do the things He wants, and we will change with His power. What a freeing thing.
I chose John 8:31, 32 and 36 as my life verses. When Christ sets us free, we are free indeed. In Perfect, Gina was living to please others, and as we see in the story, we are to work to please the Lord. We cannot be perfect. Only God is perfect. It was there in Liberia that our Christian life really began, and I am so grateful to the Lord for His love and patience, and that he reached down for us in Liberia.
Growing up in the US, we did not know that there were differences in churches and went to one where we did not get the full gospel. However, we started taking Bible lessons in Liberia: Old Testament, New Testament, and Doctrines. It took a year to unlearn what I grew up learning in church. When I read the Bible now, it would speak to me. The rest is history. We do not stop growing and will continue to grow until we die, Lord willing.