Jesus Did It!
By: Deb Blackburn
God says to be proud of where you have been and how He has given you a new life in Christ Jesus. God pulled me from the depths of hell, reached right down into the pit I was in, and pulled me out! He took my eyes off of myself and put them on Jesus - then Jesus turned them to others in my life who are very much in need of the same love and forgiveness that I was so mercifully shown. I did nothing to deserve this great love of God - I have come to know this as Grace!
I am 57 years old (2012), have been a Christian for almost four years. I live in Mahahual, Mexico with my husband and have lived here for almost eight years now on a full-time basis. We moved from Lexington, South Carolina in May of 2004. We made the decision to move to Mexico after my husband had a heart attack and two strokes, with indications from doctors that he may not have much longer in this world. We decided to live out our remaining days together in Mexico, a place we had grown to love over many years of vacationing here. I left behind my parents, a sister, two sons, and many close friends. I didn't think it would be very long before I would be returning, not thinking that my husband's health would hold up much longer. God had other plans!
At the time we left, both of my sons were struggling with drug addictions manifested by all of the pain in their lives. Most of this pain was caused directly by me or those I put in their lives. I thank God every day for the transparency of my heart today, knowing the true forgiveness of Jesus Christ. It's amazing when your life comes into the Light! You see things in a totally different way, and you forgive yourself for choices you have made during your lifetime which have hurt others, affected others, not to mention what you were doing to yourself at the time! You find peace among all the clutter, the garbage, the ugliness of sin that once existed in your life. You are a forgiven child of God. Sin is an ugly word and something that people run from - no one likes to hear that they are a sinner, but we're all in the same boat! We all need the love and forgiveness offered to us so freely in Christ Jesus - every day. And, He paid a phenomenal price so we could have that love and forgiveness - He did it for us - all of us!
Less than a year after moving to Mexico, I had a terrible automobile accident on the highway when a tire blew on the truck I was driving. I was traveling alone. The truck went over a 20' embankment, straight down, then traveled about 300 yards over rocky terrain at 65 miles per hour - I had the cruise control on and never touched the brakes. The truck came to rest against a tree. I came out of the accident with only a broken hip which had to be put back together with pins and rods. I was not wearing my seat belt! The accident happened at 11:45 a.m. and it wasn't until 8:00 p.m. that I received medical treatment. I was told that I might never walk again. Everyone said I should not have come out of the accident alive. God had other plans! Today, I walk just fine, with a little wobble as my husband calls it, but I'm as good as new except for a very beautiful scar. This scar reminds me daily of God's Love for me. I was bedridden for three months; lots of time to think about the direction my life was taking.
Shortly after my accident, we moved to another area further north and further away from town. We moved onto the property of two very good friends we had met shortly after my accident. This lady, my dear friend JoAnne, is the only one who came to visit me every day. I don't know why she came - I was a dreadful mess and cried a lot - yet, she came every day - without fail. They allowed us to move our RV onto their property which was magnificent - right on the oceanfront. We built a life there, a very carefree, laidback lifestyle that was so very precious. We lived there for about 2 years, then came Hurricane Dean.
In August of 2007, Hurricane Dean devastated Mahahual and surrounding areas with a direct hit -- it was a Category 5 -- and it destroyed everything in its path. There was not a single loss of life, however, with good planning and preparation of moving the people out before the storm arrived. We were very fortunate to have our RV, so we packed it up with a few personal belongings, as many as we could take with the space we had available, and moved inland to a little town called Limones. Little did we know that when we moved, we would not be able to come back for almost two months. All of the roads were completely washed out - houses destroyed. It was not a pleasant experience . I felt so helpless trying to comfort those who lost everything - and I do mean everything!
Those of us who were fortunate enough to still have a place to live joined together to deliver food, water and clothing to the people of Mahahual and the surrounding areas. A friend of mine cried when talking about one of her deliveries on a given day saying that one of the ladies begged her for her plastic garbage bag once she had unloaded her items, saying she needed it to stay out of the rain. I have never seen such an effort of the foreigners living here in coming together with endless love and compassion. It was very, very hot, and conditions were such that, in some areas, we actually had to use all-terrain vehicles to drive up the beaches to deliver food and water as there were not roads that were passable. It was one of the most humbling experiences of my life. I remember sitting at the table in my RV one night, talking to God. I told Him that I couldn't keep doing this; it was just too much and the heat was just unbearable. He reminded me of the night He saved us from that horrible storm, with six adults, three children, and my two dogs and cat in a 10'x10' concrete building with the windows and doors rattling and threatening to be opened by the horrid winds. He also reminded me of my home, the RV, which sat through treacherous conditions without a scratch or ding! He reminded me of our many blessings - and they were immense!
In October, we moved back to the area where we had lived before. However, the property where we were just prior to the hurricane was damaged so badly that there was no place for our RV. We made a decision to move onto the property of some new owners who we had worked for prior to the hurricane in an effort to help them put their home back together again. It also gave us a place to live. It was an experience of a lifetime. If you can imagine a city or town with no trees, no foliage, nothing green - everything was gray! It was very hard not to be depressed being surrounded by so much destruction. We worked very hard alongside the builder and were able to get their house back together for them to enjoy Christmas here that year - a miraculous task if I do say so myself!
Sure, I Knew There Was A God, and I Prayed And Talked To God, But Only When "I" Needed Him
I remember when their family arrived - such a joyous group of Christians. At this point in my life, I was not a Christian; had not been in church as a child. Sure, I knew there was a God, and I prayed and talked to God, but only when 'I' needed Him! I never took the time to just say Thank You Lord! I must say I was envious of what I saw in their family. They had so much love, so much joy, so much togetherness. I felt very sorry for myself, knowing my family was left behind in Carolina and I had no family here other than my husband. I also reflected on the many struggles in my life as a child and as a mother - the divorce, my drug use, the financial difficulties, and the most critical error of all - not allowing God into our lives!
One special afternoon, I was invited to join them for a devotional. I anxiously accepted the invitation, and couldn't wait until the time rolled around. When I entered the house, I was welcomed with lots of love, hugs from all, and I can't remember a time in my life when I had ever felt more loved. What a spectacular array of God's Love! We prayed, we enjoyed the devotional -then came the music! I could not sing as the tears were flowing like rain! They comforted me, they loved me, reached out to me and were concerned about me. But one thing that appeared rather strange to me was that through it all, they were smiling. As Christians, they knew exactly what was happening - I was, for the first time in my life, sitting at the feet of Jesus! The evening ended all too soon for me, but I do know that when I left their house that night, I had been changed.
In March, 2008, I became aware of the presence of the Holy Spirit in my life -- I became a Christian. God wrapped His Arms around me and my life and embraced me in a way I had never been loved before - and I know now that He had been there all my life, but I just didn't know how to find Him - I didn't know Jesus! His Presence was absolutely overwhelming and stronger than anything I had ever experienced.
This is a time that I remember very vividly; a week that I was spending alone as my husband had returned to the U.S. for a doctor's appointment. Being alone, it gave me time to think, read, and spend some quality time with myself. Little did I know that God had other plans for that week! It was then that I started to uncover who I really am!
The owner's home had been closed up for the spring/summer season. It was unoccupied for those months. However, being alone, with access to the house, I went over to gather some reading material. I found many inspirational books and thought I would give it a try. I must say at this point that I wasn't sure I could understand them as all of my life, I had been plagued with a serious reading disability. I was ashamed of this disability, and hid it very well from the world. However, deep inside, it was something that had bothered me for years. So, I would attempt to read in my leisure time - so here we go! I started reading one book I will never forget - It was titled: 'Inspirational Stories That Touch The Heart.' I don't remember the author, but I promise you, at that point in time, that was of no significance. There was a purpose for choosing this particular book. I didn't recognize that purpose when I started, but by the time I finished the book eight hours later, I was beginning to come alive!
My Heart Was Softened To The Point Where I Was An Emotional Mess
As I read the stories, the words flowed from the pages as if there was someone else reading, not the one who had a reading disability! And as the words flowed, so did the tears. I remember going through almost an entire box of Kleenex before finishing that one book! Something was strange here; what was happening to me?!? But, I couldn't stop - I didn't want to eat, sleep or move. I was totally overwhelmed with this filling - not feeling - but filling! My heart was softened to the point where I was an emotional mess, but I just couldn't stop reading!
I went back to the house for more books, and this time, I got three or four. This reading marathon went on for days without end. Three days later, I had a friend who visited me to check and see if I was okay being here alone. When she walked into the RV, I remember the look on her face. The couch was full of books - probably 20 or 30 books - seriously! Once I got started, I just couldn't stop! She looked at me and asked if I was okay. I remember telling her, 'I'm wonderful! Sit down, we have to talk.'
She sat and listened to what I'm sure she thought was a crazed woman, being locked up alone for a full week with no one to talk to. As she listened, I told her, 'We're going to start a church, and I'm going to preach!' She laughed until I told her that I was serious, that it was something that was very much needed here, and I was up to the challenge. At that time in my life, I felt like I could stand on the mountaintop and preach to the world without any hesitation, reservation or doubt. Of course, at the time, I had been filled with the Power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus had come into my life! I was not 'prepared' to preach, but you couldn't tell my heart that!
I had to 'do' something with what was happening to me, but I didn't know what. The excitement; not being able to sleep, eat, and my mind would just not stop or slow down. I remembered a friend here in Mahahual who was the only person I knew that was here that time of year who was a Christian. I got in touch with her and told her we needed to have lunch. There was a fence that needed mending in that relationship, but I was so very quick to ask for her forgiveness - something I would never have done in my past life as pride always got in the way.
I Was Scared, I Must Admit, But Knew That This Was No Accident
We had lunch, and when I told her what was happening to me, I remember her giving me a big hug, and we cried together - they were tears of joy! She said she had been praying for over eight years that something would happen here in our little town, and her prayers had finally been answered. We started with an Easter Service at her home and found a place to meet on Sundays for a women's Bible study. We formed a small group of friends, American, Canadian, Mexican, and we studied, we prayed, we sang and we delighted in the Lord! We called ourselves the Circle of Faith! Six short weeks later, my friend was returning to Canada for the summer months, and if the group were going to continue, I would have to lead. I was scared, I must admit, but knew that this was no accident. I was up for the challenge. God be praised!
The story of how Circle of Faith has evolved into a Mexican Lutheran Church is a very long one, and a story to be told at another time. However, I feel it important to say that God has truly blessed us in four short years with many part-time pastors and teachers, and now, our own full-time pastor! All of these miracles we know are from God, but they have been facilitated by the Lutherans who have devoted themselves to spreading the Gospel in this area of the world!
I became a member of the Lutheran Church in March 2011. I made the decision to become part of the Lutheran Church as a result of spending many months in study with a wonderful pastor of 40 years and coming to understanding the doctrine of the church. Up until that point, I had stubbornly taken a stand that I needed to remain non-denominational in order to reach the various religions we encounter in this area. Today, I believe I have an even greater opportunity and privilege enhanced by my understanding of the truth through God's Word as the Lutheran Church confesses. There is nothing greater than the grace of Jesus! All Glory be to God!
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"And this gospel of the
died for sinners] shall be preached in all the world for a witness
unto all nations; and then shall the end come."
(Quote from Jesus Himself: Matthew 24:14).
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MY CONFESSION OF FAITH AND BURNING PASSION TO SHARE GOD'S LOVE