Most of you reading this do not know my testimony. It is something that I have a hard time talking about because I do not want people to feel sorry for me or feel like I am bragging. I do feel that God wants me to post it for someone to prove to them that God is real and faithful. I was born on September 19, 1972 in Lubbock Texas. I was raised at the end of the piano seat, next to my mother, at Parkview Baptist Church in Littlefield, Texas. I attended church with my mom every Sunday morning, evening, and Wednesday. Church has always been a part of my life. In Vacation Bible School I went to the front with my friends and gave my life to Christ. I did Bible Drills and could beat everyone to any verse in the Bible. I thought I was doing what God wanted me to do. It was not until later that I realized that all I did as a child was get wet.
As a youth, I attended church camps in Floydada, Texas and felt like I was missing something in my life. I knew all the answers to the typical Sunday school questions but still felt empty. One night, while talking to my youth pastor, I felt a stirring in my heart that I could not understand. The next day was different that any day before. I felt God was talking to me but I had never been shown how to listen. At worship service that night, they did a skit to Carman’s “The Champion”. I realized I needed to be saved. I also felt God had a plan for my life. That night, I approached the Alter and gave my life to Jesus.
The next year at church camp I surrendered to the ministry. I did not really know what that entailed but I knew that God had something special for me. The Sunday after youth camp, the youth lead the Sunday night service and they asked me to preach. I had no idea what I was doing and did not get the support from the pastor that I needed at that time. I was thrown out to the wolves and they devoured me. The service was good and people seemed to like the 5 minute sermon that I tried to preach. The problem was at home with my dad.
My dad was not the church going kind of dad. He would go on special Sunday’s but not like my mom. Dad worked for everything he had and made sure I knew how much they all cost him. When I told him about my call from God he was not impressed. He told me that I needed to find an occupation that would pay the bills and support a family. That crushed my soul and I gave up on my call.
My journey to today has been an adventure. I decided to go the opposite way from what God was calling. I thought that if dad thought that little about pastors then he must not truly believe in God. All the things that I was taught all my life went up in flames with that little talk from dad. I started partying and doing drugs. The only friends that I had were the ones that no one else wanted to be around.
I was still going to church. My friends and I would set on the back row and play around the whole time. We had to of been a distraction to the pastor but he never said a word to us. I was playing the good boy on Sunday but doing everything I could to prove God wrong the rest of the week. I tried many churches over the years but never felt comfortable in any of them. Because of my mom’s position in the church I got to see firsthand all the politics and backbiting that went on in church. I had a hard time understanding why mom would put up with all that stuff for God.
Falling away from the church, a failed marriage, and problems with alcohol led to a life that I knew was not in the plan God had shown me as a youth. Through God’s prevenient grace, He held my hand through all the misspent actions of my young adult life and stayed with me through paths He knew I would walk even before they happened. God’s mighty mercy and grace began to pull me back to Him in January of 2007. I was set to marry the woman that I was positive God had sent to me. A woman who showed me that love is supposed to be joyful and tender. In starting our lives together, we both agreed that after our previous failed marriages, we would need God’s presence to guide us and help us endure the journey that marriage is. Two weeks before being married, we found a church home. God led us to each other, led us to our worship home, and gave us a spiritual family that he knew we would need.
In our first year of marriage we learned about God’s mighty power and faithfulness. September of 2007 we returned from a trip to the in-laws. We turned everything back on and I took out the trash. Upon returning to the house I saw that the living room was on fire. I yelled to my wife and daughter to get out and we stood in the front porch and watched all our possessions’ burn.
November of 2007 I went in to get check for some health issues that were worrying my wife. After the angiogram, the doctor told me that I would not be going home until after they replaced the aortic valve in my heart. I spent Thanksgiving of 2007 in the hospital recovering from surgery. God provided for my family during my recovery. For three months I was not allowed to do anything. One day Farrah and I went to see a movie. She wanted to get me out of the house and keep me from getting depressed. After the movie, we walked out to find a flat on our truck. It was very humbling to watch my wife change the tire. I could not do anything to help except bark out orders and people were looking at me like I was a monster. No one could tell that I had just had surgery two weeks previous. God taught me so much during the three months that I was required to stay home.
Through it all God has been there. His word has taught me how to have faith, forgiveness, joy and most of all peace that He is in control. My faith in His power was my comfort in accepting that His hands would guide the hands of the surgeons. It was His word and grace that gave my wife the strength to hold my hand through it all. It was His angels that carried us when we were too weak to walk.
I gave my heart to God at the young age of 14 but my total faith in his almighty grace and power is a process and journey that has only begun and I know will be the adventure of a lifetime. In February of 2008, I attended a Walk to Emmaus where I gave glory to God for his mighty power in my life and for a second time heard His plan for my life. This time I knew how to listen.
The first time God spoke to me I did not know how to listen. I knew what He was asking of me but did not know how to accept this calling or put His plan into action. I was a newly saved youth and was quite frankly nervous about the feelings I had swelling in my heart. After returning from church camp, our youth group was given the task of running the worship service for the upcoming Sunday morning service. As I had surrendered my life to ministry at camp, I was given the role of pastor for the service. To this day I do not remember the words that came from my young mouth. I do, however, remember one of the women from the church coming to me afterwards, tears streaming, as she said, “God has given you a gift.
Through the rest of my high school years all I thought about was attending seminary and God’s ministry. I was searching for a school to attend when it seemed my dream would be cut short. My father simply would not have it. He gave me the option of attending South Plains College or getting a job. Knowing that college was something I wanted in any fashion, I attended South Plains but never felt that I was where God wanted me. Not having the support from home to follow my heart, I fell away from what God was calling me to, but that desire never totally disappeared.
In fall of 2007, after open-heart surgery, I was offered an opportunity to attend the Walk to Emmaus the following February. I had heard both positive and negative things about the walk but I did not completely understand what it was about. I prayed about the opportunity and felt that this was where I was supposed to be for those three days in February. I spent most of the three months prior, talking to my wife about my life as a youth and what I felt was God’s calling for me. Needless to say, it was a bit of a shock to her as she was unaware of most of these feelings. She has been my biggest supporter ever since. I finally had the support and faith to trust my heart and God’s plan that I had not had as a youth. I had suppressed this calling on my heart for so long, however, I was not sure that God still wanted me.
By the third day of this amazing experience, I felt the Holy Spirit like never before. That night during prayer, I heard God speak to me for the first time since I was 14 years old. His words were clear and to the point, “I want you to teach my people.” That night I accepted, again, the calling that God had placed in my heart. I promised my life to his calling and vowed to put all my trust, faith and the control of my life’s path in his hands.
In April of 2008 I started attending Wayland Baptist University for a degree in Christian Ministry. Life was good and school was time consuming but I loved it. In October of 2010 I was set to graduate. I had signed up for my last set of classes in August and prepared for the fun of my final semester. September 11, 2010, I was told to head straight for the emergency room after a blood test for a possible bleeding ulcer. The nurse told me that my white blood count was 375 and 10 was high. So I picked up my wife from her birthday massage and told her what was going on. She was devastated and I was mad because I was scared that I would not get to graduate.
September 16 they told me that I was positive for Chronic Myogenic Leukemia. They told it that it was the best one to have if I was going to have leukemia. I did get to graduate on October but it was a struggle. I could not work anymore and the pills that I needed were very expensive. Once again God showed how good He is. We received an award that would pay for my $5,000 a month pills. Since then it had been a roller-coaster. The pills that I was on stopped working and so they put me on a new set of pills. Today I am in remission quicker than any doctor projected.
As I stated before, today was a day that I needed to enjoy life. Please do not let life pass you by. Do not wait for a tragedy to realize how special your family is to you. Thank God for what you have and stop getting mad for what you do not have. Stay focused on God and He will give you time to enjoy the awesome creation that He made for us.
Steven Lane Shipley