Gary Willingham-McLain

I was a missionary kid, and attended Sunday School and church all my life. My mother taught a lot of my best Sunday School classes. I learned about God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, and a lot about the Bible. My childhood in Burundi, Africa, was fairly happy: playing soccer, hunting fruit birds in the orchards, and reading books (no TV).

As an adolescent in junior high school I became increasingly moody. Maybe it was related to my parents’ deteriorating marriage. When I was in 9th grade, I was made acutely aware that they were not happy in their marriage, and that they would likely have to divorce eventually. I did not do well with learning that.

I can’t remember exactly when I met Jesus for real, experiencing a personal relationship with him. I know there were several altar calls in our missionary worship services, and I probably responded to them.

I was often very emotionally convicted of my sin (though I can’t remember now what my “sins” actually were back then).

I think, though, that it was when I was attending boarding school in Kenya, many hundreds of miles away from my home mission station, that I really began to meet Jesus very personally. I started reading the gospel of Romans on my own and taking lots of notes. And I wrote about what I was thinking, and my questions, in letters to a missionary lady named Jeanne Seagar back to my home country of Burundi. She wrote me back very challenging answers, pushing me into deeper prayer, commitment, and relationship with Jesus through the scriptures in Romans.

That was really my conversion experience, in the time between grades 9 and 10. After that I became engaged in reading the Bible by myself and in praying more. I began to want deeply to live for God. I could feel Jesus’s forgiveness, and that Jesus was with me. There was a small revival in my Christian high school in Kijabe, Kenya, and I remember being very active in scripture and prayer. I even felt the call as a teenager to preach. I gave an evangelistic sermon on a high school mission trip to a remote, unreached part of Kenya. I also remember leading a man to pray the prayer of receiving Christ, using the four spiritual laws booklet, in a park in Nairobi, Kenya. A central part of my story became walking with Jesus, and going deeper in Jesus.

Trusting Jesus has made a difference in my life, though it has been slow going for Jesus to really get through to me at a deeper level.

I have struggled with depression and have on occasion succumbed to addictive sin practices. When I feel distant from God, I tend to go into hiding, isolation, even escapist tendencies. Much later, after earning my PhD in English, I joined a recovery group. That time was one of the closest I have ever had with Jesus. This Christian recovery group allowed me to feel totally vulnerable and trusting with the others, in the presence of Jesus. The Holy Spirit has guided me in confession, repentance, and in trusting that God’s great kindness is the only answer for my life.

In graduate school, while on a year’s study visit to France with Laurel, my wife, we both felt the call to living in neighborhoods with the poor, and across racial boundaries. Later, back in the States, when I got my position as a young English professor at a university in Pittsburgh, we followed that call of God. We moved into a multi-racial at-risk neighborhood and focused our work for Jesus through a neighborhood church there. And then, a few years later, I felt God’s call to enter into full time ministry as a pastor.

My life with Jesus is one in which I know that he is the deepest and only answer to everything for me, and for others around me. I love preparing for sermons, I love discovering and rediscovering the majestic wonder and mercy of God behind the familiarity of texts I’ve read and heard all my life. A gift God has given me, partly through my literary education, is to see by his Spirit, the Great Joy and Newness of God. Behind the texts and surface appearances of life we are all so familiar with, God is real!

The adventure I feel God calling me to is the call to the heart of it all—again, but with much greater depth: the heart of living in Christ, trusting Christ, growing in prayer and intimacy with Christ, and sharing Jesus with others. I’m able to share the love of Jesus through preaching, in visits, in allowing God to lead our church more deeply into mission, in talking with people at the local coffee shop, and to reach out deeply to younger people. I personally want to become more vulnerable and open to the transforming power of Jesus’s Spirit in my life, and in our lives as Christ-centered people.

More Faith Stories

There are people who sometimes have a stomachache and think it's cancer, they think it is a terminal illness. Sometimes people think there is no solution, but it is only a stomach discomfort. It's something bad that you ate that upset your stomach. It is that people that are losing their faith. They get concerned about so many things. They wake up and see the car with a flat tire, and it is a bad day.

There are more important things we need to learn. We need to seek the Lord, because time is short, time goes by quickly. I've got three children: my first daughter is 25 years old. My son is 21 and my other daughter is 16. I mean, time goes by fast.

This means this is an opportunity for you to devote your heart to Jesus Christ, so that He can save you, so that He can be your guide, so that He can be your path, so that He can be everything in your life. Listen to this message, share it with your family. If you do not have a family do not think you are alone. God is with you wherever you are. God will be with you come what may.

Now, what happened with COVID two years ago was unbelievable. God put us to the test. Many people died, and that's something that's coming ahead. There will be more illnesses, there will be more regulations. But if we keep our faith in God, if we continue to trust in God, He will give us the peace we need, the peace the world needs.

Sometimes in the community, there are a lot of people who are watching their backs. For their own protection they hire bodyguards that watch over them night and day because they feel insecure. But we have God to protect us. Day after day, God protects us. God takes care of us. God gives us strength.

I strongly encourage you, I dare you to seek the Lord. This Why I Love Jesus ministry goes across the globe spreading the word of God, telling the world Jesus Christ is real, He is not dead.

There have been many stories in this world which were looking forward to changing history, but we have this story of faith that we believe, come what may, the Lord will be with us.

So if you have relatives, share this experience with them: brothers, sisters, parents. If your family has never been in contact with Jesus, now is the time for you to tell them to embrace Him, to embrace God. Tell them about the story in the Bible that says there is a man in hell, being burned there, and he would like to have a chance of getting out of there. But unfortunately, he has already lost the opportunity. In other words, there is no way he could leave hell.

And you who are there watching this testimony, this word of the Lord, this is the opportunity that you get. Maybe we don't wake up tomorrow; we don't know what will happen tomorrow.

This is the moment for you to say, "Lord, forgive me. I have failed a lot; I've failed in several things, but I want You to be my Savior, I want You to be my shield, I want You to be my strength, I want You to be everything in my life."

Make your decision. Sometimes in day-to-day life, we make decisions, many of them, but this is the most important decision you should make in your life. That is to devote your life to Jesus Christ, commend your life to Jesus Christ, so that He can be everything in your life. May He be your peace, your strength.

At times, people have enough money in the bank and think with that they will change the world, think that will be their protection. But money is only an ordinary piece of paper. In the end, the paper will run out, the money will run out, but treasures we did will remain when we're in heaven.

So let's make this an invitation. Let's hope this message will reach someone in need of it. So you who are out there, this message is meant for you.

My stepfather was an alcoholic, and we had a difficult life. But God changed us. When I began going to this church in 2000, God changed me. God changes you, and God wants to do great things with your life.

So, I mean, maybe you are also having a hard time with an alcoholic father, an alcoholic mother. Let me tell you, I had bad thoughts in my head about finishing him, killing him, destroying him, so that it all would end. But when I got to the feet of Jesus, when I started going to church, God made changes in me. God makes changes in you. God changes your mind.

When God entered into my life, and I looked at my stepfather again, I saw him in a different way. I held a grudge inside my heart, but nevertheless, God was working on me. God worked on me and gave me peace. I was smart enough not to commit a crime. God showed me the way I should live.

In addition to being at peace with God, He gives you intelligence. God gives you wisdom to be on the side of right every day in our lives.

So, this is an invitation, whether you're a woman, or man, or youth. Young people sometimes make decisions which scar their lives forever. To put it another way, if you are young, make your decision to accept Jesus: don't wait until tomorrow and say, "No, I'd better wait before accepting Jesus Christ, before accepting God in my heart. I've still got a long way to go. I want to live my life, and I want to do things. When I'm older, I'll see whether I change." But we don't know what happens tomorrow, so you should make up your mind today.

I've had some friends who made their decisions too late. I had a friend who said he was going to drink his life away. He was going to drink, that's what he was going to do. He was going to do drugs, to live a totally careless life. He thought he was being cleverer than God. But he wasn't, nobody is smarter than God. At the end of his life he was going to seek God's forgiveness.

Had God been given the opportunity, He would have forgiven him, He would have indeed. But my friend didn't take the trouble to get to that point. He was doing his drugs, drinking and whatnot. Then he grabbed a gun and shot himself in the head.

I mean, we don't know what was the last moment in his life, whether he asked forgiveness or not. We only had the word he killed himself by putting a bullet in his head. Odds are he didn't have the opportunity of begging God's forgiveness, and he lost his life. Or better expressed, do not let the enemy fool you. The enemy hampers your life.

That means to move on and accept Jesus Christ. He is going to give the answers. He is going to give you the peace you need. That's my testimony, and I know this is on behalf of God, so people would turn to Him.

People get lost, people haven't wanted to recognize their faults. God has a plan for your life. That means if He gave you this plan, accept it, accept it. We have free will, people make their own decisions. God has already chosen some individuals. God has predestined people. Whether you are predestined or exercising your free will, make your decision and follow Jesus Christ.

Your life will change, He is going to transform it, and He is going to help you in every way, be it economic, social, psychological, whatever you need, God is going to help you.

Thank you for your time, thank you for this opportunity that God gave me to share my faith. I come from Houston, Texas, but I've been working here in Delaware, and this is an opportunity God has granted me to share good news and continue to spread good news. We're the ambassadors of the word of God. So thank you for this opportunity, and let's move forward with this testimony which is for the benefit of society.

Barb Lambert

Barb Lambert

I wasn’t raised in a church; so I knew nothing about Jesus or God. I did go to Vacation Bible School in the summers and heard and loved the song, “This Little Light of Mine.”