Real testimonies from real people.
On Sunday, August 23, 2020, we asked Judith Jackson, Melissa Lovatt and Craig Lovatt to share what life was like for them before they met Jesus and what it has been like since that point in their lives. This is the video recording of that service. You can also read each persons testimony below.
My life before Christ Jesus I can sum up in one word, FEAR. I was afraid of the future, crowds, death, celebration. Afraid to live.
I was in church one Sunday; this was about 10 years ago. I still remember where I was sitting. The word was about finding freedom in Christ.
I was going to church, I loved the Lord, but I did not understand freedom in Christ. As the pastor spoke, I
could relate, I was checking all the boxes:
• Are you anxious about tomorrow?
• Do you lay at night thinking about the what if’s?
• Do you feel the cloud of darkness over you?
• Are you living the life Christ dies on the cross for you to live?
1 Peter 5:7 says, “Cast your cares upon Him, because He cares for you.”
Philippians 4:6-7 says, ”Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
I really did not fully understand what all this means. But I knew that I did not want to be afraid anymore, things will happen in this world to which I have no control, why should I be afraid? I then came to an understanding that it is not God’s will for me to be afraid, there are so many verses in the bible that command me not to be afraid.
I cried out to God, I told Him my fears. I told him I wanted freedom, whatever that looked like.
I wrote scriptures down, I read them, I asked the Holy Spirit to speak to my heart. This did not all happen overnight. I know we are all looking for quick fixes, but this was a new way of life, changing my thought process. Instead if pondering the world news, I ponder the word of God. I listened to praise and worship songs and read verses like “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your soul (Matthew 11:29). My soul needed rest. Being afraid is so unhealthy for your body.
My favorite scripture is Joshua 1:9 which says, “This is my command, be strong and courageous, do not be afraid for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” This is my source of strength when I must fly.
LIFE AFTER ACCEPTING JESUS
It has been a journey, but with each passing day, the circle of panic, anxiety and fear has gotten smaller and smaller.
During the depth of this pandemic, I happened to be a leader in a Long-Term Care Home. I can tell you I was not afraid.
Many people, including staff, expressed to me how afraid they were. I was able to pray with them, encourage them and I told them how God had delivered me from fear.
Reading God’s word and listening to sermons have cause my mind to change; the way I think and react to fear has changed.
In closing, I want to leave you with these words from the Bible with you, “And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as member of one body you are called to live in peace and always be thankful.” (Colossians 3:15)
Today, I am thankful for God’s peace. When I hear about disasters in our world, instead of panic attacks, I cry out to God, my Saviour, our savor to help us and we are completely lost without him.
Growing up, I knew of God. My family was Catholic by default. As Filipinos, it was culturally normal to attend mass every Sunday. But it was just a religion to me. A list of do’s and don’ts, reciting prayers in hopes to gain good standing, and attending a Catholic school with little to no remorse. It felt good to be religious. But the feeling never lasted.
If I could describe my life before Jesus, I’d use one word: “rebellious”. Meaning resistance to an established government, ruler, authority and control.
I was introduced to drugs, sex and alcohol by a group of friends at a very early age, 15 years old. Like most teenagers, I was searching for a place or group of people to identify with. I found myself in a very toxic relationship in high school, and surrounded myself with toxic friends. I had a very broken view of my self-worth. I thought the only way to feel loved was to give my body away. I thought the only way to have fun was to intoxicate myself. Being sober was boring. Being sober brought my reality to the forefront.
And the reality was, I was robbed of my innocence through sexual abuse by a distant relative growing up. I remained silent about it for years. I was slowly dying inside. I trusted no one. I felt invisible. I felt unwanted. And the only way to prove to myself that I was worth something was by being promiscuous and rebellious.
By the time I was in college, my low self-esteem and brokenness led to boastful pride. I walked around knowing I could get anyone I want, do anything I want and pay little to no price for my poor decisions because of the reputation I had built for myself.
My passion at the time was producing film. I enrolled in a Broadcasting & Film course at Centennial College. My ambition was selfishness, greed, power and control. But I called it art.
In my second year of college, we had an assignment to produce a documentary on someone who impacts their community. I immediately thought of the young adults pastor at the church my parents attended, Malvern Christian Assembly.
By this time in my life, my parents had turned their life around and accepted Jesus. The only reason I knew of this pastor was because I’d unwillingly attend church with them to keep the peace in our home. I would show up here high and drunk from the party the night before.
Looking back, I know this exact moment was when the Gospel of Jesus intersected my life. And I’m eternally grateful He did.
So that Sunday I walked up to the young adults pastor. She had no idea who I was. And surprisingly, she gracefully said yes and agreed to be interviewed and filmed for this documentary.
I had never been exposed to church outside of a Sunday morning. Both the pastor and the young adults were very exuberant and unashamed of their faith. So to say I was shocked and perturbed while filming is an understatement. But I was exposed to the full extent of the Gospel through it.
I’d attend their young adults nights every Friday hoping to get some good footage. I literally thought they were all crazy and possessed as I watched them lay hands on each other, pray ridiculously loud and speak in foreign languages.
The young adults pastor was extremely welcoming however, and introduced me to her leadership team. They were all around my age. They were all so kind, respectful, joyful and lived their life with a purpose. Their character intrigued me. They would invite me out for dinner after filming. They would invite me to hang out with them just cause. They always included me. They became my friends.
Yet, they didn’t even know me. The real me. The vulgar, promiscuous, prideful, drug addict me. But they continued to love on me hard. They purely displayed to me the love of Jesus.
Being around them was the first time in a long time that I experienced having fun sober. I didn’t think it was possible. One guy in particular on the leadership team would call me out on my cussing. It was annoying. It was also the first time a boy told me that I was more beautiful when I didn’t cuss, and didn’t want me for my body. His name is Craig Lovatt.
Through these friendships I was able to trust again. I felt seen. I felt wanted. And I was hungry for more of it.
After the documentary, I was asked if I could produce a young adults promotional video for the church. I agreed.
The Sunday the promotional video was shown in this sanctuary, November 28th, 2010, I accepted Jesus. I realized that it is because of Jesus that I could place all my trust in Him. It is because of Jesus that I know that I am seen. It is because of Jesus that I know I am wanted by my Heavenly Father. It is because of Jesus that I have an identity. It is because of Jesus that I know I am created for someone and something greater than myself and selfish desires. It is because of Jesus that I discovered true sacrificial love. Jesus set me free that day from all my shame, brokenness, pride, rebellion, and addictions. I was no longer a slave to my past. And I no longer had to prove to myself or anyone else that I am worth it. Because Jesus tells me daily that I’m worth dying for.
If I could describe my life now with Jesus, I’d use one word: “abide”. Meaning believing, trusting, resting and receiving in and from something or someone. For me, it’s Jesus.
I am so incredibly undeserving of this life. I should have been arrested, or died of an over dose, or continued a life of destruction. But a group of friends decided that I was worth loving. So if you find yourself today with a friend who says you are worth loving, know that it is because it’s true. And there is a God who loves you deeply, and it’s never too late, and you are never too far gone, to step into His love.
There’s a story in the Bible of a man named Saul. Saul was, at one time, thought to be one of the greatest persecutors of Christianity and Christians. While he was travelling one day (on his way to persecute Christians) he was stopped dead in his tracks by a great light that caused him to fall to the ground and tremble. A voice spoke clearly to him revealing that it was the voice of none other than Jesus.
Saul was on a path of destruction; a path of his own choosing; a path that led straight to hell.
When I was just about to turn 13 years old my life and my world was shattered when my father sat both my brother and I down at the dinner table and told us that, “Sometimes people fall out of love.” He left our family and he and my mom were now divorced and that left a huge hole in my heart that I then began to try and fill with every and anything.
I came to Canada when I was 3 years old from Scotland and we grew up in Mornelle Court. By the time we were teenagers, and with my dad no longer around, my mom basically lost control of us. She did an amazing job raising us but now she was alone with two very large teenagers, there wasn’t much she could to stop us doing whatever we wanted to do.
Mornelle Court was quickly becoming known as a place you didn’t want to live in and a lot of that was due to the actions of myself and my friends. It was already known as a rough neighbourhood with lots of violence and drugs and gang activity but we were not making things any better.
One short story…one evening some friends and I were sleeping over at a friend’s house up here in Malvern when the phone rang late at night. My friend’s mom came into the room panicked and telling me that my mom was on the phone screaming and crying. I took the phone and my mom began telling me that there is shooting outside in the playground area and that my brother was there. She didn’t know if he was still alive. I vaguely remember that night but all I know is that I cried myself to sleep not knowing if I would see my brother again. He was missing for 2 or 3 days and we were terrified. Praise God, he did show up eventually and told us everything that happened and how he was hiding out at a friend’s house to be safe. I would later find out that the shooters thought my brother was me but because it was dark out they didn’t know who was who. I eventually found out who attacked our neighborhood so me and my boy hopped into his truck, gun in the glove box, looking for revenge.
I didn’t know it then…but as we were driving something told me to get out of the truck, to go back home. I would have called it my conscience back then but today I can tell you that God was speaking to me even before I knew him.
I asked my friend to turn around and take me back home.
Meanwhile, I was attending West Hill high school and was doing quite well socially, so to speak. I was tall, fairly handsome, and captain of the basketball, football and rugby teams as well as the president of the Boys Athletic Council. I was pretty set on my path as I was pursuing a basketball scholarship as well and had become quite popular with the ladies.
But…God. God had different plans.
I met a group of guys while on the football team who quickly became my very best friends. But there was one particular guy who sort of…stood out from everyone else. He was different. He was always happy and smiling and upbeat and positive. As a matter of fact, he was so different that he was often teased and picked on and people thought he was gay because he didn’t sleep around with girls and whatnot.
He never beat the Bible over my head. But he would always tell me about his church and he would often ask me to come check him out because he played the trumpet in the band. I always knew what he was ACTUALLY trying to do, to get me to church, so I wasn’t having it. I was the type of person that truly believed that if I stepped into a church that I would be burned up in fire upon trying to enter the building. Guys like me don’t belong in a church.
But he was persistent. Both my friend as well as Jesus.
I finally decided to go to his church just so I could get him off my back and he would stop telling me about his stupid church. That Sunday, January 26, 1999, I went to his church. This church, and I never left.
That day…I finally realized who that voice was that told me to get out of the truck and go home. The story of Saul (Paul) touches me deeply because on that Sunday Jesus stopped me dead in my tracks, I got up from the pew and walked down the center of this church, by myself, crying (big old gangster me crying), accepted Jesus into my heart and He forgave me of all of my sins. Miss Olive Marshall led me in the sinner’s prayer and from that day on my life was never the same.