Reach | Testimony #4
Mary Jane Johns | Worship Leader
I was just five years old when I asked Jesus to be my Lord and Savior. Even at an impressionable young age, I wanted to please Him. I believe He has placed His stamp on my heart in loving and serving Him. As I grew up, my family was at church every Sunday morning, evening, and Wednesday night. I loved every minute of it. Being part of a great big crazy family with seven kids was super fun – even adventurous! My parents were both only children, so they wanted a large family. We are all two years apart and felt very much wanted and loved. There was always music being played, sporting events to attend, and games to play. I always had a friend for the game time. The Strader kids were tight!
When I was 11 years old, my world was forever changed. It was shaken to the very core. My dad went to be with Jesus at the age of 47. He had several complications from Diabetes, and his organs failed. We were devastated beyond comprehension. The barometer of our home would never be the same. I watched as my mom struggled with finances for the first time, we switched schools, her health failed, and things were downright rough. Often times I would look into my mom and dad’s room and see her down on her knees with her Bible opened. She was quite a warrior. Even as she felt the heavy weight of grief, she was still crying out to God and seeking His heart.
Philippians 1:21-27 talks about living for Christ. No matter how much we long to go to Heaven to escape the perils of this dingy Earth, living for Jesus is huge. My parents both knew they would not go through life void of physical pain and suffering. It is like God put His stamp of approval on them as if to say, “You are my chosen ones.” They claimed these verses as their own. In fact, my mom had the verse “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21) engraved on my dad’s tombstone.
I am incredibly grateful for the time I had with my sweet parents. However, I am so immensely rich because of their love for Jesus. The lessons I learned as a small child left a deep impression on my heart. God’s precious grace, redemption, and love for me prompt me to be a better person. “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” will forever be engraved upon my heart because I am a follower of Jesus.