In my lifetime I have met consistently in 5 different localities, across the country, for at least one year each. Then I have also visited at least 15 other localities around the world. I have stayed at and visited countless homes of brothers and sisters. And I want to share about my overwhelmingly positive experience in the church life.
In the church life I have never been controlled by anyone but have been led to the Lord. All through college I wanted to attend the post-graduate program that focuses on Truth, Life, gospel and service and is called the “Full-Time Training in Anaheim” (FTTA). I prayed that the Lord would allow me to go and He did. As my time in the FTTA was ending, I had before me a decision to make: I could either give my time to serve by preaching the gospel on a campus and serve with the church there, or I could go to a one-year extension of this training. To me both options were very precious, so what to do with my life was a dilemma. I therefore went to one of the overseers of the Full-Time Training because I thought that since he knew both situations well, he would just tell me what to do, like “Ana, this one is better, you should do this one.” But when I explained the options to him he responded “Ana, I think this is a wonderful opportunity for you to seek the Lord and see how He would lead you.” What? He led me to experience the Lord! I spent time with the Lord and then I went to another brother and talked about this matter as well, but this time not to get the answer from him, just to fellowship. He said “The Lord is the One who wants to take you to the full knowledge of the truth (as in 1 Tim 2:4). He will take you wherever you need to be for that to happen. He wants it more than you do.” I treasured those words of fellowship and I do believe them.
At that time a brother had recently fellowshipped with us about spending time with the Lord. I read the outline of the message and, with many wonderful verse references, it said we should spend time with the Lord not just to get the answers, but to seek His face. I did that. During the next two weeks every afternoon I prayed and fellowshipped with the Lord, read the Word or sang a hymn, looking at Him face to face and speaking with Him. At one moment at the end of those couple of weeks I got clear and realized—I am going to serve! The Lord in me had painted me with Himself, and what He was doing I was also doing. I was absolutely clear that that was the Lord’s will for me. And for the year and a half that I served, not for one second did I doubt that I should be there! Have you had this experience? I had full assurance that the Lord wanted me there. So even if something bad happened, I just knew for sure that He had me there. No one forced me to serve. It was my decision and with much prayer and fellowship.
During my time in the training I had things happen in my life, just like I had bad things happen in my life before the training. I brought them to the Lord and the Lord spoke to me like He spoke to Peter—frank words, but I opened to Him and agreed with Him. The Lord was very frank with Peter, if you read Matthew 16:23 onward and other accounts you will see that. But Peter was open to the Lord… The Lord also shepherded Peter, as seen in John 21 and other accounts. And the Lord today is also the shepherd of our souls. May we keep coming to Him.
I further appreciate that in the church life I am always being led to the Word, the Bible! I grew up being brought to the Word by my mom. She read the word to us often and when I came to her with a problem I was in, I asked her what she thought about it and she said “what does the Word say about it, Ana?” And when my sister and I found the church life we began to dive into the Word! We loved the Word and the Word always brought us to the Lord! But our experience of the Word and of the Lord would never have been so rich if it was not for the ministry of Watchman Nee and Witness Lee. I am thankful that the Lord allowed me to read this ministry. For instance, one thing I learned is that we can mix the Word with prayer and “pray-read” the Word. Many people in the world seek so much to satisfy their souls, but I have found that the Lord satisfies me when I come to Him and pray and read His Word.
The following is my experience about the brothers taking the lead. I cannot recall any moment where I felt that the brothers taking the lead anywhere were higher than anyone else. They are serving ones among us. In the locality where I am now, the brothers often get together to fellowship and one thing they fellowship about with tender love and care is how they could help the sisters to function, speak, and prophesy more. I went without speaking for a while for my own reasons. But whenever I do speak something in the meeting, a few brothers, specifically elders, always come to me and thank me and say that they needed what I had shared. Although some may think that the sisters in the church are not allowed to speak, I can testify this has never been so: the sisters are encouraged to speak. And I know these brothers who are here to serve us pray for us a lot and always carry us on their hearts. I can tell and I know.
In addition, my dad was absent for much of my life, so while I was in the training I scrutinized and analyzed all the brothers I encountered. I wanted to see who was a good pattern and who could be a father-figure to me, and a good one. The truth is, I found many fathers! My trainers in the FTTA—I analyzed them and found that they were good patterns. I may never tell them, but they were and still are father-figures to me and I am so thankful for them being present in my life. The brothers who were in the lead in my localities, they were fathers to me! After my dad left they were the ones who made sure to take care of whatever my family and I needed! I could never be unthankful for this. Among the churches I have many fathers, and among the co-workers we also have many fathers who love us—I cannot deny that.
Also, in the training I noticed that the brothers were there just to serve us. They gave their time to be there. They don’t make a ton of money or get a ton of benefits by being there, but day and night I know they have prayed for me and when I needed to speak to them they were there for me. And while we weren’t talking I was watching them and I appreciated them all the time!
All my time in the church life I have received care from the brothers and sisters. They have ministered to me practically, even financially though they did not have to, through their mentoring and through their fellowship and prayer.
From the co-workers: As I mentioned earlier, I analyze. I watch people. And as I watched the way the co-workers not only treated me, but also their attitude toward my companions and those around me, I could tell they had a heart of love and of inclusion. Some of my companions looked different than I, and acted different too. But the co-workers just loved them and treated them with tender loving care and respect all the time.
When I moved to go serve at a brand new locality, I encountered something that positively surprised me and warmed my heart a lot. The elders there worked with the full-time serving ones and many times they asked what I thought concerning situations and decisions. What? My thought was that I could not believe that those who seem to be higher than I am in function were open to hear me and what I had to say. And not only open, but they often asked us, full-timers, what we thought could be done, etc. Not because they did not know at all what to do, but because they were open to us. And I appreciated that…
In addition, any time I had to talk with the elders about anything, they always treated me with much respect. When I was wrong and had made mistakes, they took care of the situation with as much light and righteousness as possible. And they also fellowshipped with other mature people who knew the situation to get the best view of the situation possible. They took care of it, and at the same time they covered me by not going around telling their wives and the immature ones about all my mistakes. What wisdom. But the Lord through them did completely clear up the problems within me. A student once also approached me with a situation she was in, she wanted me to be the one to tell the brothers. I did so on her behalf and we all together cared for her and helped her to get out of the situation successfully. They addressed the matter in the best way they knew how and I was so happy.
The more I am in fellowship with the brothers who take the lead, the more positive experiences and testimonies I can tell, and the more I am led to the Lord and realize the Lord more. For instance, I recently realized that the Lord is the good shepherd, the great shepherd and the chief shepherd.
Now I am a parent. I am almost brought to tears sometimes by the care and love my children receive from so many in the church life and I think they are so blessed to have been born in Zion. As an example, I have had brothers and sisters stop what they are doing to come visit—not to visit me, the adult, but to visit my 1.5-year-old! When both of my kids were born so many brought over meals and gifts, sent prayers our way all the time, and supported us in so many ways. I have countless pictures of ones holding my kids and cherishing them. They have so many positive people around them, who love them a lot.