One verse that I have really been appreciating is Matthew 20:16 – “Thus shall the last be first and the first last.”
I grew up in the church in Chicago to a biracial couple: my mother is Chinese and came from the church in Manila, Philippines, and my dad was saved on the campus in Indiana when the saints migrated to Indianapolis. My parents were 8 years apart in age and very different culturally, so they had a challenging marriage.
The first 14 or 15 years of my life they both met in the local church. I was very much raised by the dear saints in Chicago. I was cared for by many brothers and sisters who helped me, came to visit me, took me with them to preach the gospel, went for walks, spent time together, and much more.
I recall the time when many saints went to Taiwan and several of them came back and shepherded me. We went knocking on doors to preach the gospel together and did all kinds of fun things together.
The saints who cared for me in that way really met my need when my family life was not so great; I felt like I had a place to get some relief from the troubles at home. I also slowly but surely developed a relationship with the Lord Jesus.
I will always appreciate a serving brother who drove us to Anaheim to the semi-annual trainings where I feel the Lord really captured me. There were many young people there from all over the country and they were all on fire for the Lord.
We heard Witness Lee speak and his speaking was so wonderful that, even as a junior higher, it just pierced me at times. I would bring a tape recorder and record the singing in the meetings. It was just glorious. I had a shoe box of all these tapes that I bought, traded, copied, or recorded and would play them nonstop in the car.
I remember the day brother Lee finished the Life-Study of the Bible, I had my flash camera and my tape recorder. I felt we were in the third heavens all in that one room together.
Often we hear stories of the meetings at Elden Hall, but my “Elden Hall” was at the meeting hall of the church in Anaheim on Ball Road at the summer and winter trainings, singing and speaking the hymns all in one big room enjoying the Lord together.
I know brother Lee didn’t like having pictures taken, but at that time I think he was just so taken up by the Spirit to have completed the Life-Study messages, there was just a sea of flashes of light and he didn’t tell anyone to stop taking photos.
Instead, he just kind of sat and smiled, contemplated, and was at peace that he had finished what the Lord had commissioned him to complete.
It wasn’t until a few years ago that I completed reading through the Life-studies of the entire Old and New Testaments. I do pray that the Lord will give me the opportunity to read them many more times.
At these trainings, the young people would get together and pray and we were just enjoying the Lord so much. My spirit was really fostered during those times, while other kids were celebrating Christmas and the Fourth of July, we were all enjoying the Lord together.
It was such an exhilarating experience that when I would come back to school and everything else, I was a different person, who couldn’t stop speaking about the Lord to others.
I felt I was brimming with reality but was at the same time surrounded by friends who did not share that spark which I experienced when I was with the saints.
In a short span of about one year, I went from being popular to unpopular at my school. But the Lord is so wise because my school had a very high dropout rate and a big problem with drug abuse, teen pregnancy, and gangs on campus.
The Lord built a wall around me and saved me from all the negative influences at my school and from so many negative things that could have happened.
Since my parents worked a lot, the church life was my salvation. I would not have had a chance of making it out alive if I had been hanging out with these influences instead of being with the saints.
I also very much appreciate my mother for being so solidly consecrated to the church life. She was very busy with work but she was also committed to attending the meetings.
She passed away 4 years ago, but I will always treasure all my memories of sitting next to her in the meeting, singing with her, and being able to talk to her and even being able to encourage her at times. She could not afford to fly to conferences or trainings so I really appreciate her allowing us to go by van to Anaheim.
I feel that getting out of our situation periodically to visit other churches is so healthy; it helps us to see the Body of Christ, which is expressed in all the local churches, full of saints who are members one of another.
Everywhere I go the saints are just so welcoming, and we truly feel that we have known each other forever even though we may not even know each other’s names or situations.
Over time I met other young people in the cities around where I lived who had the same heart and we would call one another to pray together before school, often spending our weekends together pursuing the Lord.
I had such a heart for the Lord at that time and even now that I have children, when I look back I just can’t help but wish I still had that same burning hunger for the Lord. Now that my oldest daughter is getting to that age, I am realizing how important it is for me to be found in Christ so that she can also be shepherded in the same way that I was.
I do very much appreciate and am thankful that all three of my children, 8, 6, and even 2.5 really love the saints and love the meetings and love singing to the Lord. We just LOVE singing all the songs together – even my toddler son, he loves belting out “This is the year of Jubilee! Proclaim our liberty in Him!”
It reminds me of the story my dad always tells about me singing in McDonald’s, “The church is the house of the living God, the church is the pillar and base of the truth, and great is the mystery of godliness: that God was manifested in the flesh!”
I went to college at Northwestern University where there were about 30 saints who lived nearby and had a sweet church life.
After I graduated I attended the full-time training in Anaheim for one year. I was probably too self-aware as a young single sister to really get the full benefit of the training although I do appreciate experiencing a church life somewhere else and being among the saints in a different place.
I also appreciate having had the time to really read the word and the ministry since I was not busy with school or work. After the training, I drifted for about 4 years, mostly because I was not sure where I wanted to be and I was trying to get into design school so I got very busy with that as well as trying to support myself financially through another 4 years of private school.
I went to art school in San Francisco which was VERY different than all that I had been used to but after I completed art school, I returned to the church life in the Bay area and began to meet with the saints again. I met my husband online.
He was not a Christian but by the Lord’s great mercy, he slowly received the Lord and was baptized, and just like the verse says, the last shall be first. He eventually came into the church life and has far surpassed my fervour for the Lord, my hunger and thirst for the Lord, and the vision that I have for the Lord’s recovery.
I feel the Lord has really blessed me to have been born in the church life and yet someone who didn’t know any of this until they were 30 is even more blessed. We are all blessed to have the opportunity to participate in the Lord’s move in this age.
I know some people do not share that same enthusiasm but honestly I feel this is the most blessed place, much more blessed than to be the children of a famous or rich person because the Lord allowed me to hear and receive the riches in the Bible and to know the revelation of God’s economy and His purpose on this earth and to be among the members of His Body.
It is the most glorious experience to be sitting with brothers and sisters singing from the depths of our hearts hymns to the Lord, praising Him and enjoying Him and being able to touch our spirits together. Where can one experience this? I only wish I would enjoy Him more and more every day.
Every day I am very aware of how unworthy I am of it all, realizing how much grace He has bestowed upon me and the brothers and sisters, but what I appreciate time and again is that we believe in what He can do and we are endeavoring to fulfill it.
When I lend my ear to all the back talk or the conspiracies that have circulated around it just drags me down into hell. When I am with the saints I am in the third heavens. There is no becoming someone, or being something or gaining something.
We are dying to ourselves day by day, we are gathering with people we don’t even like in our natural man but by the Lord’s blood we are together, regardless of our race or our language, we are giving up our preference for pretty things or nice things or nice places or great places to raise our this and that…it is a huge sacrifice to meet with a local church and yet what we are sacrificing is dung in comparison to what we have gained.
I have many times been offended, many times thought it might be easier to give up or go somewhere else, but at the end of the day, who am I? I am nothing. We are all nothings.
We just toss all our baggage on the altar, everything we think we have a problem with. We give it to Him. It’s His church! Lord, this is Your church! The Lord just works it out. The Lord works out forgiveness in our hearts for the saints and also covers us for all the stupid and offensive things we have done to one another.
Lord keep us going on! I enjoyed that hymn this week: I won’t give up! No! I will keep running until I have attained the goal of my calling! I will press on, yes! I must pursue until I lay hold of Him who laid hold of me!
Testimony by Priscilla Barton – her sweet experience of growing up in the church life.