Many of us believe the Lord can’t use us to reach others —some of us out of fear of not being the best speakers or being afraid of not knowing the correct thing to say. However, I believe we can always share our personal testimony with others. As followers of Christ, we should be prepared to share our testimony. It is our personal account of our relationship with the Lord and can’t be argued.
With that thought in mind I would like to share my personal testimony. It begins when I was five years old and I went on my first Church trip, a children’s camp with First Baptist Church of Alma. The camp was held on St. Simmons Island and it was the first time I had gone on a trip without my parents. I can still remember it, like it was yesterday, leaving the church that first morning. It is amazing to me how we can remember things like this but sometimes I struggle to remember what I was doing a few days ago.
During the camp, I felt the tug of the Lord on my heart and I surrendered my life to the Lord in 1989. One of my favorite memories of surrendering my life to Christ was being able to share what had happened with my family, who actually surprised me and picked me up early on the last day of the camp to spend some family time at the beach.
As I was so young I remember speaking and praying several times with my father, Freddy Gardner, and my pastor, Wayne Woods to be sure I understood the decision I was making. After meeting with them, I was later baptized at First Baptist Church in Alma. Throughout my years I have been blessed to go on several mission trips, including to Mexico, Nigeria and Haiti. I was ordained as a Deacon at Red Oak Baptist Church in 2015. My brother, Josh Gardner, my father and my father-in-law, J.E. Roberson, have all been youth pastor at Red Oak throughout the years. My brother, my sister, Rachel Landmon, and I also met all our spouses through Red Oak. Currently, I am serving as a Deacon and Sunday School Director at Patterson Baptist Church.
One of the defining events in my life happened a few years after I was saved. While at the home of a family member, I was molested by an adolescent family member multiple times over a few years. It was a part of my life I kept hidden from everyone else. I kept all this hidden so well that my parents did not find out until several years later. While this was taking place I was not old enough to completely understand what was happening but I was old enough to remember.
Until recently, I was not able to speak about what happened to me with others due to the fear of what others might think. I was afraid others would ‘look at me differently’ or ‘treat me differently’. But through study of God’s Word in the Bible and prayer the Lord has taken the fear away.
For many years I also had anger and animosity towards the person that was involved. My way of coping was to tuck it away and not think about it. However, at a family function around 15 years ago this person was in attendance. Also in attendance was this person’s child., who played with me for much of the time. At the end of the evening while leaving I gave the person a hug and told, “I love you”. That was my “I forgive you”. After that day my whole life has been changed. I no longer hold on to the anger and it was like taking a weight off my shoulders.
In the past few years, I have spoken to several people who have dealt with similar situations — individuals I was shocked to find out about. However, many have not been able to cope and have had life altering issues as a result of the molestation. It is not to say I have not had my struggles through the years, as all of us do, but I could not understand why I have not been as affected by what had happened. But recently the Lord revealed the reason I have had less difficulties. It is because God was with me. Being saved so young, I was sheltered from a lot of the pain and anguish by His Love.
The Lord has also taught me, we need to share our lives with others — not to hurt anyone — but to let others know we all have dealt with difficult situations in our lives and to show the love of Christ can heal all wounds. It has also been very helpful to me to share as part of the healing process. As I have learned through the past few years with the pandemic, we as Christians need each other to share our burdens and be able to confide in one another. But most importantly we need to share the Love of Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 says: Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.
I also believe sometimes we all just need a platform to share our struggles so other Christians can help us and, most importantly, we can pray for each other. I want to offer this column space to any one who would like to share his or her testimony to others. Your testimony does not have to be dramatic or be filled with large struggles to be a blessing to others.
My prayer for this column space and through sharing our testimonies is that the Lord will be glorified, for He alone is worthy of our praise (Deuteronomy 10:21). Also, through His grace, I hope anyone who does not have a relationship with Christ would come to know Him as their personal Savior and come to know the peace that is beyond all understanding (Philippians 4:7).
If you would like to share your testimony or need someone to pray with or for you please email me at email@example.com, stop by the office at 121 SW Central Ave. in Blackshear or mail to PO Box 410, Blackshear, GA 31516.
•Matt Gardner is the Publisher of The Blackshear Times. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.