During my childhood years, my parents did not get along with each other. The memory of them fighting and yelling is still very vivid in my mind. I can remember my dad with a butcher knife in his hand, and my mom with a cast iron skillet in her hand protecting herself. Those were such tumultuous times for me as a child. I can’t remember carrying on one conversation with my father. I would often wonder what it would be like to have a Father who loved me and was concerned about me. I had an extended family that lived in the country about fifteen miles from our house. I was allowed to go there for summer vacations. I looked forward to the tranquility that I would be able to experience during my visits. Today I can almost feel those warm country evenings. My grandmother would always let me lay near the window. As I lay there, the warm breezes blew across my face, and I watched the thousands of bright stars glittering in the black sky. Sometimes during the day, my aunt would take me fishing in Turkey Creek. If I happened to be lucky enough to arrive on the farm before harvest, I would get to help my aunt prepare meals for the harvest crew. Harvest time was such an exciting time! Sometimes my aunt would go to town and stop at the ice house. I would get so excited because I knew that we were going to have homemade ice-cream that evening. Those are some good memories that I have tucked away in my mind.
During my high school years, my half sister would sneak me into the Officers’ Club with her. I started smoking and drinking. I began living a very wicked life and tried to find acceptance any place I could. My mother worked until 11:00 p.m. Many nights, I remember driving home drunk, jumping into bed, and pretending to be asleep so that I my mother wouldn’t discover that I had been drinking. Everyday I lived with guilt and shame, but I excused myself because of my parents’ miserable relationship.
One day my sister came home and began witnessing to me. She had just received Christ, and was very excited about the Lord. I didn’t want her to bother me with that religious stuff. One night, after she had witnessed to me, I had a dream. It was about Jesus coming to earth. When I woke up, my heart was racing, and I was very frightened. Although I didn’t understand the dream at that time, I never forgot it. In my last year of high school, my half brother and his wife invited me to church. It was more like badgered me. “Okay”—thinking to myself—“I will go this one time and this should get them off my back.” I went to church with them that next Sunday morning. As I listened to the preaching, I got under deep conviction. During the invitation, I held tight to the pew in front of me. I wasn’t about to step out and be embarrassed. All of a sudden, a man tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Honey, if you would like to go forward, my wife will go with you.” That was all that I needed. I stepped out and walked down to the altar with her. I don’t remember much about that day except crying and begging God to forgive me of my wickedness. I left that church feeling clean. I drove to my boyfriend’s house and told him what had happened to me. A few weeks later, he was saved and we were married. After we were married, we moved to another state. I will never forget the first time we realized that we could do anything we wanted to do with no parents to look over our shoulders–we were of age. We went to a bar and sat down to order some drinks, but we couldn’t drink! No one had preached to us and told us that we couldn’t drink, but something in our hearts told us that we shouldn’t be here doing this. We got up and walked out. We soon got into church and began serving the Lord. After about five years, my husband came home and told me that he thought that the Lord was calling him into the ministry. I got my suitcase out and said, “When you get that foolish notion out of your head, call me.” Within few months, God began to work in my heart, and I surrendered to His will. We went to Bible College. Although those years at Bible College were very difficult, God sustained us and I learned many lessons. Soon after finishing Bible College, my husband and I left our home state of Oklahoma and moved to New England to begin a new church. With two small children and an overloaded U-Haul trailer, we said our good-byes to friends and family. Although I had determined in my heart that this was the Lord’s will for our lives, I was a little frightened and apprehensive about this new endeavor. We moved to Woonsocket, Rhode Island. Being raised in the South, Rhode Island was very different for me. I had grown up where everyone lived in single family homes. The people in Rhode Island lived in three story tenement buildings and hung their clothes out second and third story windows. The town where we settled had a population of 48,000 with 22 Catholic churches. We later discovered that the area was 98% Catholic. The first winter was very difficult. We had to rent a church building and buy oil to heat it. We had to rent an apartment and buy oil to heat it. This was all a new procedure for us. In Oklahoma, we just received a bill for natural gas. In the coldest part of that first winter, we didn’t have money for oil for our apartment or the church. We got down on our knees and told the Lord, “Lord, we don’t want to quit—but we need $1,000. or we’ll have to go back home.” The next day, my husband went to our post office box and there was a plain white envelope with ten one hundred dollar bills. What a confirmation that we were doing His will. Although the years we ministered in New England weren’t easy, the church was able to purchase eight acres and build a lovely building. The church grew to support over thirty mission projects and see many members go into full-time service. My husband and I began to pray in 1990, “Lord, please make us fruitful. Little did we know what that might cost. On July 23, 1991, my husband and I left Rhode Island around noon to preach a Mission’s Conference in St. Hubert, Quebec. Before we left the driveway, we bowed our heads and asked the Lord to give us a safe trip. As we traveled, it began to rain. By the time we reached New Hampshire, the sky was black, and it was raining furiously. Since our windshield wipers failed, we left the interstate to look for a service area. My husband pulled off the side of Route 4 near Hanover, New Hampshire. He turned on the car’s flashing lights and tried to contact someone on the CB radio, but had no success. He got out of the car and got some tools from the trunk. He got back in the car and sat down for a minute. He said to me “I’m going to get wet before this is all over”. He then pulled the hood release and got out of the car. He bent over the left fender and began working on the windshield wiper motor. He discovered that the switch was bad and that he needed to by-pass the switch to get the wipers to function. He was in this process when a vehicle struck him. As I sat in the car, I saw him fly past me. I jumped out of the car and looked down the embankment where he had landed. I thought he was dead, but I heard a moan. I then went to the side of the road and waved for help. All of a sudden, a man wearing a black trench coat held me. My body was shaking and I was in shock. The man spoke to me gently and firmly, “Honey, he will be alright. There is a doctor with him right now.” I thought, “How could this be? There is no ambulance. here” Dr. Silvestre, a pulmonary doctor, had been traveling just behind us and stopped to see why I was standing outside of the car in the rain. Rescue workers came and loaded my husband into the ambulance. The man in the black trench coat, whom I believe was a ministering angel, gave me explicit directions of what to do next. He took care of my car and instructed me to go with my husband in the ambulance. As I got in the front seat of the ambulance, I was still shaking uncontrollably. I opened my purse and reached for my small pink Bible. I opened to Psalm 120 In my distress I cried unto the Lord, and He heard me. I then glanced down to Psalm 121 I will lift up mine eyes unto the hill, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth. Suddenly I stopped shaking and a warmth started in my body which started at the top of my head and moved through my whole body. I experienced a peace which I can’t explain, but I knew at that moment God was in control and everything would be alright. When I arrived at the hospital, the hospital officials escorted me to a private room with a telephone and told me to start calling the family. My children arrived a few hours later and we waited in that room all night. At 5:30AM, a doctor came in and shared what he had done. He said, “Mrs. Lewis, I would like to give you more hope, but I have lost patients with less injuries than your husband received. We will just wait and see.” The next morning our church in Rhode Island organized a prayer meeting for my husband. At 11:00 AM, (During the Rhode Island prayer meeting), a nurse came to me and said, “We are going to try to take your husband off the ventilator; if he can breathe alone, there is a good chance he might make it.” At 11:20, she came to me and said, “Well, he’s breathing by himself.” The day my husband left the hospital, his attending physician spoke to him saying, “I really thought they would be taking you out the back door.” It took my husband several months get back on his feet, but God showed us through the ordeal that He was answering our prayer, “God, just make us fruitful.” In February 2002, the church honored him with the title “Pastor Emeritus” and commissioned him as a “Missionary Evangelist”. Our son Randy assumed the pastorate. Since that time my husband has held Bible Conferences and revivals both in the USA and foreign countries including: Russia, Canada, Mexico, Romania, Malta, Guyana, the Philippines, Hungary, England, Wales, and Scotland. In 2004, he helped plant a Baptist church in Baghdad. On his second trip to Baghdad, he took six other preachers with him to help ordain his Iraqi pastor. During that trip, his good friend John Kelly, a Rhode Island pastor, was shot and killed by terrorists on February 12. My husband called me from Baghdad and told me to drive to Mrs. Kelly’s. That Saturday afternoon, my son and I went to Jane’s house and stayed with her for the remainder of the evening. We discovered while we were there that John had purchased a beautiful Valentine’s card before he left for Baghdad, and he had instructed his daughter to give it to her mother on Valentine’s Day. The card was a beautiful card that shared how much he loved Jane. He then had instructed a florist before he had left to send Jane a dozen red roses with a card telling her how much he loved her. That day Jane received the beautiful card, the roses, and then the phone call from my husband informing her of her husband’s death. Sunday afternoon Jane called me and asked me to speak Monday evening for a ladies meeting that had been planned. Monday morning I woke up, looked out the window and saw John’s truck parked in our front driveway. I began to cry, “Oh, Lord, I can’t do this! Jane has lost her husband, the children have lost their father, and the church has lost their pastor. Without Your help, I can’t to this.” That evening I picked up Jane and her daughter and drove to the meeting. When I saw Jane, I had never seen her so beautiful. Throughout the evening, Jane spoke with such poise and grace to the various women of the group. God had given her a peace and strength which was phenomenal. Her strength was a testimony to her ladies and to me. Jane later shared with me what she had prayed while John was in Baghdad, “Lord, if you want him, take him; if you want to return him to me—return him. Whatever your will it—I will accept it.” God knew He could trust Jane—she meant that prayer. Reminiscing over my life, I have come to realize that God is control over every circumstance of my life. He is greater than my doubts, my insecurities, and my uncertainties. I know that I can face all the circumstances of this life with boldness and confidence in Him. He allows things to happen because He loves me very much. I know that everything He allows is for my good and for His glory.
Mrs. Judy Lewis 02/08/12