Salvation Stories (pt.1)

Over the past six weeks Mercy Hill Church has been able to celebrate the salvation of three friends and family members.  One of the things we have prayed for fervently as a church is that God would use us NOW to speak the truth of the gospel to others and that we would see people come to Christ.  And God has answered in big ways.  We want to share each of these stories with you over the next three weeks as a means of encouraging you and reminding you that God is mighty to save.

Mercy Hill team member Emilie Castle – a senior at The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, – starts our series. Emilie tells us how she willingly became obedient to share the gospel with her friend and the awesome results that followed.

“I met Kelly in January of 2011 because we were on the same basketball team.  We got along fine, but our relationship was pretty much limited to on the court. At the beginning of September Kelly and I played on the same team again for a basketball tournament. This time though, the Lord had stirred in my heart a deep burden for Kelly. I started praying for her like crazy and begging the Lord for opportunities to talk to her and in the mean time for him to change her heart and draw her to himself. I kept praying and continued to intentionally seek out opportunities to hang out with Kelly. This started out with us just playing pick up together more often and then I invited her over to my apartment for dinner. As an underclassman, she loved getting off campus and it was a great way to just get to know her and love on her.”

“As we continued to spend more time together, I was able to hear about her family and religious background. She had grown up Catholic, but was not satisfied with the teaching of the Catholic Church and relayed to me that she was ‘searching’ for an ambiguous ‘perfect fit’ for her. I invited her to the Summit and she agreed. After the first time she came, she had many questions. We went to the mall after the Saturday night service and shopped and ate dinner, which provided the perfect opportunity for us to talk through everything that she had heard in the service. I was able to fully explain the gospel to her and then answer any questions she had.”

“After continuing to come to church with me for a few weeks, Kelly told me that she felt like she really didn’t know much of what the Bible said, but wanted to. I asked her if she wanted to start meeting weekly and reading the Bible together. She was excited and agreed. I had previously downloaded a document JD had posted to his blog called ‘Taste and See,’ which just compiles a variety of verses together in a format that can help facilitate studying scripture with a nonbeliever.  After two weeks of going through The Word together, I believed that Kelly had a strong understanding of the gospel and its implications, so I challenged her to a decision. I told her to pray about it and count the costs, as it was important for it to be her decision, not mine.”

“The next weekend we got dinner as normal, watched a movie and march madness and as I was leaving Kelly flat out told me, ‘Hey, I believe what JD was talking about tonight and I want my life to start to change.’ We talked for about an hour about what exactly this meant and what this practically would look like in her life now.  We rejoiced together at how the Holy Spirit had so clearly changed her heart and opened her eyes to her need for a Savior. Kelly shared with me that just months earlier, a girl she knew had invited her to a Bible study via texting. Kelly said that she did not want to go at all, so she simply ignored the text. Now just 4 months later, Kelly’s heart has been completely transformed by the love of Jesus.”

“There are two major lessons I learned during the past few months from my relationships with Kelly and Jesus. First, from start to finish, this was a complete display of the Holy Spirit at work and simply using His children to accomplish His purposes. Almost every time that I would meet with Kelly and either share the gospel with her or explain scripture, I experienced intense spiritual warfare and felt that my words were the farthest thing from being cohesive.”

“I constantly struggled with distractions and could not maintain a thought pattern. This was extremely frustrating, but I am so thankful for it. I am so prone to pride and self-magnification, but the Lord completely stripped me of receiving any possible credit in Kelly’s conversion because I’m about positive that nothing I said made any sense. I simply opened my mouth and prayed that she didn’t hear a word I was saying, but only what the Holy Spirit was saying to her. And boy did He speak to her!”

“This leads me to the second way that God grew me through this experience: prayer. For many years I have witnessed to friends and desired for them to come to know Christ, but my emphasis was always on speaking to them with convincing arguments and convicting them with my words. Right before I would meet with someone, I would pray that God would speak through me and have his way in the situation. I never saw much fruit from these relationships. So what was different with all those situations and the most recent one with Kelly? Very simple–prayer. Before I even started reaching out to Kelly, I was pleading with the Lord to save her. I would go boldly before the throne of God daily and presume upon His great grace and love for her.”

Audaciously, I fully expected that Christ would redeem her life and I prayed earnestly to that end. The Lord’s heart was tender for Kelly and I prayed that He would accomplish His will in her. My family and friends also joined me in pleading with Jesus to save Kelly. He heard the cries of his children and he answered our prayers, in order that the Father might receive glory. Now I know the secret to evangelism: me speaking is primarily an act of obedience through which Christ then rises and acts in response to His people’s prayers. Therefore, any time I spend with an unbeliever should be far outweighed by the time I have spent in prayer beforehand. Any words I speak should be far outnumbered by the words that I have spoken to my Heavenly Father in preparation. As much as I hate to be cliché, I simply cannot think of any other way to say it, it is truly prayer that changes things, namely people’s hearts.”

“Since then, it has been incredibly powerful for me to see how Jesus is transforming Kelly’s desires and giving her a huge burden for the lost around her. Last week when we met to study scripture together, I asked her if there was anything that she has really been struggling with since becoming a believer two weeks earlier. She replied, ‘Yeah, actually. My friends are really good people and they are really nice, but they don’t have salvation and they don’t know Jesus and it’s really been bothering me.’”

“If you’ve ever been around young children, you know that sometimes they can say the most profound things, but have no awareness of it. I felt like that is what happened here with Kelly. She was simply telling me what was on her heart and really had no idea how radical and amazing it was that she was feeling this way. It was so utterly obvious that the Holy Spirit had been at work in Kelly’s heart, and just as He drew her to Himself to be adopted as His daughter in a matter of weeks, He was also starting to transform her heart to be sensitive to the desperate need and emptiness in the lives of her friends. I was overjoyed by what Kelly had told me. I felt like it was the first fruit of her salvation that I had personally witnessed.”

“And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe.” (2 Thess. 2:13)

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