On Sept. 16, 1961, one month before my 10th birthday, my family boarded a bus from our church to Philadelphia Municipal Stadium. It was the second-to-last day of the Greater Philadelphia Billy Graham Crusade. When we arrived at the packed stadium, we heard songs from Ethel Waters and George Beverly Shea. Cliff Barrows led the crowd in singing.
Then Billy Graham preached that Jesus is the way, the Truth and the Life. He painted a picture before my eyes when he said, “There is a broad way that leads to destruction, and a narrow Way that leads to life” (Cf. Matthew 7:13).
I didn’t know which road I was on. By the time Mr. Graham gave the invitation, I was bawling. It took a lot of courage to leave my mother and dad and brother sitting there, but I went forward.
After the prayer to receive Christ, a young woman named Marlene Thompson tapped me on the shoulder. She counseled me, and after the Crusade she sent me a letter with her picture, which I still have.
I was so excited about the commitment I’d made at the Crusade that I went forward again at church the next morning so that everybody in the church would know what I had done. My church followed up with me and helped me to understand my new faith in Christ. The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association sent me a correspondence course printed on little square pages. After I sent in my completed pages, they returned the pages to me with corrections and encouraging comments. A month after the Crusade, I was baptized. In the following years, I became part of the church’s youth group and went on two mission trips.
During college, I stopped attending church. God was just “fire insurance” –a safety net in case something happened. Then at age 19 I had a car accident. My dad said God was trying to get my attention.
“You were bought with a price,” he reminded me. “You are not your own. You should try to live a life that glorifies God.” I took the warning seriously.
While I was a medical technology student, a family invited me to their house for breakfast one Sunday morning and then to church. Soon I was attending church regularly and having a revival of my faith, which led me to join the choir and help with the youth group. Pleasing God and allowing Him to guide my choices became my life’s goal.
During a snowstorm in 1977, a medical student named Barry Warner began a rotation at the hospital where I was working. We started dating and were married on Sept. 16, 1978–exactly 17 years after I received Christ. Since then, we have served God together in a variety of roles, including teaching preschool Sunday school and teaching 12- and 13-year-old girls about missions.
There isn’t anything extraordinary about me, but I do know an extraordinary God, and He has been my Protector, Confidant and Comforter. Our family has faced problems, but Jesus has led us through each one, including another car accident while Barry was working with a Native American ministry in New Mexico.
Barry had taken a sabbatical from his position at a university in Alabama, and we joined him in New Mexico when school let out for the summer. One day when I was driving our three children (our fourth child wasn’t born yet) to a clinic where Barry was working, an 18-wheeler struck our station wagon. The whole front of the car was pushed through the passenger seat, where fortunately no one had been sitting. My head hit the steering wheel and was cut badly, and my daughter Lizzie’s spine was broken in two places. But God saved all of our lives, and we felt His presence with us. We sang “Jesus Loves Me” while we waited for ambulances to arrive. Lizzie and I fully recovered, and today the scar on my head reminds me of God’s protection.
God was my solace when our children went through their own periods of rebellion. He gave me tools to carry on while I fought depression and, in 1998, breast cancer. I realize that many families face struggles like these, but so many of them don’t know the amazing God who sticks closer than a brother. Because of this, I have looked for opportunities to reach out to children. I trained to be a backyard Bible teacher with Child Evangelism Fellowship and am now teaching children’s Sunday school at a church in Mobile, Ala., where we live.
When we learned that Franklin Graham was coming to Mobile this past April, I wanted to become a Festival counselor so I could be there for a child who needed to hear the timeless message that had changed my life. God’s message through Billy Graham in Philadelphia in 1961 was the same message I heard through Franklin Graham in Mobile in 2006: Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. I know I’m not perfect, but my desire is to be faithful to Him, no matter what problems life puts in my way.