Nancy Carol Willis
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. (Proverbs 3:5)
As a child I regularly attended Sunday School, sang in the choir, participated in youth fellowship, and completed three years of confirmation classes. Yet for all of my Christian education, I completely missed the point about God. I feared and distrusted Him. Why would God create Adam and Eve, I thought, and then set them up to fall from grace in the Garden of Eden? Why would He destroy all but Noah’s family in a great flood? God’s many laws and commandments made Him seem emotionally distant and impossible to please.
I did not attend church during college, a politically and culturally turbulent time when traditions, like God, were often dismissed as irrelevant. Besides, my artist friends and co-workers held anti-Christian views; so, it was easy to stow God on a back shelf, where He wouldn’t meddle in my life.
I got married and my husband and I bought a Colonial-era fixer-upper near Middletown. We tried out the local churches, but none seemed to fit. Several years later my husband was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Not knowing where else to turn, I sought out God. To my amazement He had not abandoned me. I felt His comfort and assurance. “I’m here for you; you can trust Me,” He seemed to say. He led me to a nearby church in the middle of a cornfield where I immediately knew I belonged.
I signed up for a Lenten Bible study led by the pastor and was reading the story of Jesus’ crucifixion when God revealed Himself to me. I knew Jesus had died so that I could receive the gift of eternal life, but I never fully understood what that act had cost Jesus. “Father, why have you forsaken me?” He cried from the cross. Taking on my sins had made Jesus unholy and cut off from God for the first time in eternity. His love for me restored the relationship God had always desired. Knowing how deep the love of Jesus was gave me profound joy and peace.
The goal of the Why I Love Jesus ministry is to build a global community of faith storytellers of all ages and cultures who can reach people with personal experiences of Jesus’ love and grace.
My husband lost his fight against cancer, and in the aftermath, his family rejected me. I realized that the ability to control the outcome of my life was an illusion. I told God I trusted His plan for my life, admitting it would take time to let go of my fears. At every turn, God demonstrated his faithfulness to me. He sent friends and church family to minister to me. He provided new ways for me to earn a living through teaching. When I was finally ready for a relationship, God even hand-delivered a wonderful, Christian husband named Paul.
Now the Holy Spirit guides me into all sorts of adventures: I’ve served as Mission and Evangelism elder, lead an Arts Ministry, ring hand bells, and sing in the choir. I’ve traveled on service trips with my husband to build schools and churches in Kenya and help run a Vacation Bible School in the Dominican Republic.
In 2020, during the Covid pandemic, I founded the Why I Love Jesus: Sharing My Faith Story nonprofit ministry to help ordinary Christians of all ages and cultures share their own faith stories. The goal is to build a global community of faith storytellers who can help overcome the negative effects of isolation and reach people with personal experiences of Jesus’ love and grace.
Why do I love Jesus?
Because God is Love, and because Jesus first loved me.
More Faith Stories
I’d been drinking all day long and pulled out into the path of an oncoming vehicle with a with a woman and all of her children packed into this car. They T-boned me and at that moment everything went blank.
One Sunday the music director said the handbell choir needed more members. I thought, “No, I wasn’t ready to get involved.” At the end of the service I found myself volunteering for bell choir!
One Sunday afternoon I was sitting drunk in a bar, and I’m looking around. The only ones in the bar were the bartender, some shady looking guy in the corner, my ex-boyfriend’s mom, and me. I heard this voice in my head say, “What am I doing here?”
This past year I found a black dot on my thumbnail that looked like a pencil point. Nothing much to it. Then it became an abrasion at the end of my nail. My doctor referred me to an orthopedic surgeon who found it to be malignant skin cancer.
At that point I said, “I can’t do this myself. It’s in your hands, God.” That part I remember clearly. It turns out that it was really, really was up to Him (and a good surgeon).
So when drugs and alcohol came around, it was easy for me to say “yes,” because I didn’t have anything in me saying “no” anymore. As I got more involved with drugs, I got into more crime. I started committing violent crimes, selling drugs, abusing drugs ended up back up in prison.