The Reformation Herald Online Edition

God’s Law: The Grand Charter of Freedom

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My Two-Conversion Story
Veronica Lee Collins
My Two-Conversion Story

If you have ever listened to the words from the song O Glorious Love written by John W. Peterson, you heard my story of conversion in a nutshell. The first line in the lyrics mention, “In my darkness Jesus found me.” Yes, languishing in my deep pit of midnight, this is exactly where my Lord and Saviour found me. Without hesitation, He called me by name through His Holy Spirit—out of darkness into His marvelous light. 1 Peter 2:9 informs us, “Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.”

I was 27 years of age, on my second marriage, and residing in Tulsa, Oklahoma, at the time of my conversion experience. More specifically, this established my second conversion experience because my first happened when I was eight and lasted until I turned 15. From 15 to 27 I lived in ignorance and terrible sin.

When I was eight, my parents divorced and my dad secured custody of me, my one brother, and one sister because my mother had met another man, ran away with him, and left her children behind. Mother took our furniture, including our beds. She had divorced our dad to remarry this man who did not exactly care for (much less even like) children. Basically, my mother chose this man over her own children. After Mother’s betrayal, our estranged family began attending an Emmanuel Baptist Church in Arkansas. Daddy informed me and my brother and sister that he was searching for a wife and desired our input. What better place for him to search than in a church, right?

Happiness and hope

Meanwhile, as I walk down memory lane, I fondly recall my first experience with Jesus like it was yesterday. The Baptist preacher made an altar call and an appeal for sinners to walk down the aisle to the front of the church. I was sitting in a pew close to the middle of the church and felt a burning in my heart during that moment as if I were the worst sinner on the planet. I marvel today at how such deep conviction of sinfulness was felt at such a tender young age. Nevertheless, I recognized beyond a shadow of a doubt the Holy Spirit indeed calling me. I left my seat, made my way to the front of the church, bitterly wept my heart out, and sincerely prayed for forgiveness. I understood what I must do: With every ounce of sincerity in my heart, mind, and soul, I invited Jesus to come into my heart. Jesus fulfilled His promise: “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26).

Yes, Jesus came and washed away my filth and sin. Jesus gave me a new heart. My prayers were answered, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10). I felt freedom, and for the first time in my eight years of life as I sensed Jesus living inside of my heart. Jesus: pure, simple, real, and best of all—alive in me! I dared not deny the desire of serving and pleasing Him. This remained my earnest aspiration . . . until I turned 15.

Let’s now backtrack a bit: When I was 9, my father had remarried a second wife, Mona. Five years later, when I was 14, he suddenly disappeared when he came home to an empty house and found a note from his second wife stating that she was divorcing him. He left his company van parked and running—and walked away from his dry cleaning business, his new house, new car, the family dog, and his five children (me, my brother and sister, and Mona’s two children).

Like a whirlwind, I was torn from my friends, my school, and my surroundings. Mona sent me to Tulsa along with my siblings to live with my mother despite what her husband thought, as he had no choice in this situation. Mother agreed to pick us up in Arkansas and transport us to live with her in Tulsa. With Tulsa came a new life, school, friends, and a bigger city.

Trouble in Tulsa

While hanging around the house one day, I paused to consider my 13-year-old sister who was experiencing what appeared to be fun. At that moment I started to look down on my own little miss goody two-shoes, sweet and innocent Polly purebred lifestyle, marveling at my younger sister’s spunk for adventure—erroneously thinking I was missing out on something. Alas, it was nothing but the sinful ways of the world!

So, in vain pursuit of “fun,” between the ages of 15 and 27, I found myself swearing like a sailor and becoming extremely vain and proud. Nobody could tell me what to do or when to do it, as I seriously thought I knew everything and understood what was best for my life. (But in reality, I soon hated the person I became and loathed my life.)

As teenagers, my sister, our friend Joann, and I began hitchhiking the length and breadth of Tulsa to get to where we thought we needed to go. It finally took a horrifying, life-threatening living nightmare to wake me up from the dangerous hitchhiking scene.

I realize these were not lovely times of my life. I am thankful, though, for the Bible promise that “the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent” (Acts 17:30). The reality is that my life was a complete disaster as the spiral of sin ran thicker and made deeper inroads. At 25, I married my first husband after only knowing him for one month. The marriage lasted one short year. Not long afterwards, I took a second vow to a second husband who was an alcoholic. I paid dearly for the second marriage, suffering mental and physical abuse.

At last—a turning point

At 27, I was working as a receptionist at Mead Paper Company, when one of our employees, Jody Moon, stood at the reception desk and offered to sell me her jewelry. I adored jewelry and had collected bracelets for five years. I owned at least 300 pairs of earrings and a few expensive rings. How I treasured my jewelry . . . “for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:21). My carnal mind refused to comprehend why Jody or anyone would ever consider selling such priceless items. (Then I recalled reading that some people contemplating suicide get rid of valuable material items? . . . ) But the actual reason I couldn’t fathom was the reality that Jody Moon happened to be stepping forward in faith in the process of returning to her Seventh-day Adventist roots—and at that time, Adventists did not wear jewelry.

The same year Jody stood at my desk, the option of bearing children was permanently taken away from me because of endometriosis, a disease. I had never been pregnant and was learning to face the reality I would be barren for as long as I lived. After my surgery, Jody and her brother visited my hospital room with Bible in hand, read Scripture, and offered prayer.

After recovering and returning to work, Jody gave me a Steps to Christ book, which I hid under some magazines in my apartment because I was not sure I desired anybody to see me with a book in my home concerning Christ.

Sometime shortly after this, Jody invited me to church. I accepted partly out of curiosity—yet mostly because deep down in my soul I knew I needed Jesus.

Meanwhile, I was also friends with a married woman who was having an illicit affair. I called her Little Barbie because she was petite. Little Barbie worked with me at the same paper company. I had lunch with her and we hung out together after work. I admired her and desired to remain her friend. I recall the time when she left her husband and was staying in a hotel room. I went to visit her and sometime shortly before this time, out of the clear blue sky, the Lord started working on my heart. I felt the Holy Spirit calling me back to Him. I could not deny the strong call in my inner spirit. I will describe this best as a gentle yet definite wooing.

IN MY DARKNESS JESUS FOUND ME!

I recognized His voice and I knew not to take it lightly because He might never call again. I became fearful of the thought of losing my soul. I was tired of living for self. My life and my marriage were on the brink of total disaster. I longed for the eight-year-old-girl experience of Jesus living in my heart. At the same time, I did not know what to do or how to get back to Jesus. I was standing in the doorway of Little Barbie’s hotel room and we were talking. Barbie understood that I lived with a violent husband and began questioning me regarding my life plans. I bravely related my feelings of Jesus calling me. I felt Him tugging on my heart and knocking on the door of my heart. I told her I did not know how to explain what I felt. At that moment, I needed my friend to understand my desire to get my life right, get it straight, and somehow, some way, through the darkness find my way back to the Lord. I explained I had to make my choice and answer the call.

I am thrilled beyond words because I did answer the call, yet sadly, I lost my then-best friend in the process. Unfortunately, Little Barbie refused to have anything to do with my Jesus. But I had found a new Best Friend—an eternal One!

A wonderful new journey

Now I began my journey following the lovely Jesus. At first, I did not possess a Bible until Jody came to the rescue and gave me one. Then, on my own, I sent off in the mail for some Bible studies geared for Seventh-day Adventists. I studied the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation. During this process of studying on my own, I learned other Seventh-day Adventist beliefs. For example, 1 Peter 3:3, 4: “Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; but let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.” Bidding farewell to my makeup and jewelry was not an easy feat. As mentioned previously, I had collected bracelets for five years and owned over 300 pairs of earrings. Plus, I was one of those women who did not consider going out the door without wearing makeup.

Regardless, my mind was like a sponge, soaking up this newfound truth straight from the Bible. I was willing at every point to obey the voice of God. Because I saw with my own eyes the church that was keeping the Sabbath, it was not long before I became a baptized Seventh-day Adventist. This church had first drawn me by one person: Jody and her living testimony to God’s magnificent grace. Afterwards, I met other souls for the kingdom in Jody’s church who were equally as pleasant. The individual attention I received not only played a role in attracting me to this church, they made my journey a welcoming experience.

Eventually, my newfound religion became a wedge in my second marriage, which ended in a divorce. Afterwards, I married a third time.

Ready for reformation

One day after church services, a friend, Linda Sue from the SDA Church in Tulsa, invited me to attend a religious gathering in a home in Collins, Missouri. There I became friends with some fine country folks, an elderly couple named Joe and Ellie Rogers, who were members of the Seventh Day Adventist Reform Movement. Joe and Ellie held meetings in their home. The truths I learned from their Sabbath school lessons were unlike the Seventh-day Adventist Church because the teachings dug deeper into the word of God. At my previous church, I rarely heard a preacher or Sabbath school teacher mention the name of Ellen G. White or the Spirit of Prophecy. At the Reform Movement, however, her name and teachings were highly regarded and freely appreciated.

From my biblical studies in the SDA church, I had learned the Leviticus laws regarding diet. However, the Reform Movement teachings went straight to the sanctuary message and the pot of manna, as these relate to God’s people today. The Reform Movement sent a pastor to present in-home studies and I followed along in my Bible. This type of personal touch (to my knowledge) had not been practiced at the SDA church. I enjoyed the one-on-one Bible studies from the Reform Movement, and my mind was opening up to new truths. The individuals at the Reform were equally as nice as the SDA’s. However, they did not possess a double standard of living. (In the SDA church, I had become disturbed by seeing too much of a double standard style of living. For example, a dear friend of mine—an elderly gentleman who openly smoked cigarettes—experienced no problem being counted as a church member there. A second example was of a woman who had been baptized the same day I was and continued to wear makeup after her baptism.)

In the back of my mind, I had taken note of several discrepancies between the SDA church and the Seventh Day Adventist Reform Movement. I will confess that I proved no saint at the time I visited the SDARM. I had gone back to wearing some makeup. Lipstick became the most difficult addiction to totally relinquish. I felt ashamed because I believe that the double standard I witnessed at the SDA Church had shed a negative influence on my walk with the Lord. I began to view the SDA Church as a stumbling block because when I did wrong in the church, no one was willing to point out my fault. For example, I recall one specific incident when I deliberately wore a mini-skirt and dark red lipstick to a church event. Not one member so much as whispered a word regarding my scanty dress and crimson lips. At the Reform Movement, however, my own conscience felt conviction and shame for my sins.

A disturbing trend

Not long afterwards, while I was still attending the SDA Church, our pastor attended a seminar, and as a result, was absent for a while. Upon his return, our church suddenly changed. The announcement falling from his lips was plain: He claimed that we no longer needed a pulpit because supposedly it would obstruct the speaker. At the time, I was a choir member and our choir leader suddenly informed us that when we were singing we needed to leave our seats and walk out into the congregation. In addition, our choir leader, who doubled as our piano player, said we would be changing the beat and sound of the music. The music—instead of sounding traditional—would sound fast, furious, lively, and upbeat. I recall her demonstrating on the piano the difference in the sound.

In the interim, after implementing the changes, our church began preparations for an evangelist arriving with a series of meetings. The idea was supposed to attract the public to the meetings. In compliance, our church covered the church name and sign with a huge banner.

When the first meeting night arrived, I was hyped with everyone else and took a seat in the sanctuary. Immediately, I noticed the louder-than-usual music piped into the sanctuary. There was a woman in a wheelchair expecting a divine healing during this meeting.

The evangelist made his tall, impressive presence known from the front of the sanctuary and when the meeting started, he began singing a familiar song in a boisterous manner. He walked the length of the middle aisle, singing with the music blasting. At his bidding, the congregation began standing, clapping hands, and some were lifting up their hands in praise. I felt the Holy Spirit leave this place; I did not wish to remain any longer and witness this mayhem. I spoke to the greeters in the front lobby and in my best efforts tried to impress what the church was doing was wrong, but the response was not what I wanted to hear. I seriously wondered, was everybody in my church in agreement with this sort of service? I became confused; doubt and disbelief crept in my mind regarding my church’s actions. I refused to stay—and as I walked out of the church, another couple was also in the process of exiting. They, too, cherished my same feeling and I believe the Holy Spirit was the One telling us that this service was wrong.

A place of refuge

As a result of this experience, my visits to the SDARM became a shelter and refuge from the SDA church. The lines of distinction between the two churches became clear in the days ahead. This experience made my eventual stand with the SDARM church significant. The SDARM doctrines, principles, and teachings filled in the missing gaps and answered the long-sought-after questions in my spiritual experience. So I went from being a half-hearted, half-converted Christian to a sincere individual determined to trust God fully.

Certainly, I face serious challenges and temptations in the SDARM, yet as unworthy as I am, the Lord continues sustaining.

My third husband divorced me some years after I took my stand as a member of the Seventh Day Adventist Reform Movement. None of my biological family became Adventist. I remain the only Sabbathkeeper, yet my family does try to respect me—and with God’s help and grace I am able to treat my biological mother with forgiveness, respect, and honor.

As for me, I had barely passed my GED test by two points yet with God’s help I was later to further my education by earning four college degrees. “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy” (James 3:17). The Lord remains an excellent lifelong stronghold and has worked tremendously in my second conversion above my expectations. He has kept me, sustained me, and is still working on me. I am thankful for every spiritual jot and tittle He continues to perform in my life.

Twenty-six years ago, I got “sand in my shoes” and have continued to shake it out ever since I moved from Oklahoma to Florida. The Lord provided this barren womb with what I refer to as my “spiritually adopted son,” a sweet daughter-in-law, and four lovely grandchildren with a fifth soon to arrive. Thus, the Lord fulfilled His promise in Luke 23:29, “For, behold, the days are coming, in the which they shall say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck.” I remain truly blessed!

The rest of my story is found in the remainder of the first stanza from the words to the song,

O Glorious Love:

“In my darkness Jesus found me

Touched my eyes and made me see

Broke sin’s chains that long had bound me

Gave me life and liberty!”

“And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints.” “And they overcame . . . by the blood of the lamb, and by the word of their testimony” (Revelation 15:3; 12:11).