“And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.” (Revelation 12:11 ESV).
When I met Barbara seven years ago, she shared her testimony with me. Although, until recently, I had not seen her for about four years, I had never forgotten what she had shared with me that night. How God had sovereignly intervened in her life through her children’s involvement with a local youth ministry. How at a time of great difficulty in dealing with her first husband’s addiction and subsequent death, God was working for her salvation and her joy. And, how God brought her husband Michael and her together for a long joyful marriage of service to God.
Barbara came to know the Lord 44 years ago, and yet her love and exuberance for Jesus are as contagious as if she just came to know Him. The Lord has carried her through years of difficulty and living life in a fallen world. Her testimony can and, I believe, will encourage any woman who needs to be reminded that the Lord is sovereign. And, that for those that love Him, He is working all things together- (all things including the addictions of loved ones, widowhood, single-parent child-rearing, church ministry)- for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28 ESV)
“I was born and raised in the Roman Catholic church faith from 1931 to 1972 when Jesus changed my life. I attended Sacred Heart School in Yonkers, NY from kindergarten through high school graduation in 1948. I received First Communion at age 8, and Confirmation at age 12, attended all Novena services, sang in the choir, and prayed the Rosary novenas. One of my uncles was a Roman Catholic priest, and my Father was a St. LaSalle teaching brother at Manhattan College until he had to leave the order to take care of his mother and sisters when his father died. My mother’s family also were strong Roman Catholics.
In 1953 I was married in the Catholic Church. God gave us four boys and four girls. In 1974, my oldest daughter was invited to a service in a Baptist church, and I gave her my permission to go there.
My husband had a problem with alcohol and our family was suffering from the results of his addiction, but he was unwilling to get help. After being out of work as an accountant for a company involved with hotels and motels he finally, after a year at home, went for a job interview and, as I found out later, he was hired. On the train coming home, he had been talking with people in the bar-car and got off at the wrong station. When he realized his mistake he tried to get on the moving train, but people tried to pull him off. When they let go of him- he lost his grip and went under the wheels. He died an hour later at the hospital. That was November 6, 1970.
My Daughter and Her New Faith
I started to notice my daughter who had gone to the Baptist church taking her Bible and notebook to her favorite spot every day and sharing with her brothers the things that she was learning. I went to see my parish priest and asked him what he thought about the Baptists. The only answer he gave me was, “Keep yourself and your children away from them.”
My daughter was telling her brothers about the things she was learning and I started to notice a change in their behavior. To satisfy my curiosity, I invited the youth group to have choir practice in my home. I heard the messages of love for the Lord and reaching out to people with the message of God’s love that changes lives. I found out the reason why Jesus had to die a horrible death. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God and ate the forbidden fruit, the stain of their sin of disobedience was passed on to every person who was born. Baby baptism does not remove the stain of sin. The person being baptized has to acknowledge their separation from God, as they are put under the water to be buried with Christ in His death, and brought up out of the water to be raised out of death to walk with Jesus in newness of life.
From Praying the Rosary to Surrendering All
On October 30, 1972, at 10:00 A.M. I went into my bedroom to pray the prayer of the rosary devotions. After saying a few Hail Marys my mind turned toward remembering the messages of the songs. One song says, “All to Jesus I surrender, all to Him I freely give, I will ever love and trust him, in His presence daily live. I surrender all, all to thee my blessed Savior, I surrender all.” With tears rolling down my cheeks, I surrendered my life to my Lord Jesus Christ. I gathered my children around and shared my experience with them. I prayed the sinner’s prayer with each of them, but at different times the Lord gave each one their own experience.”
At one time the Pastor at Calvary Baptist Church needed a secretary and asked me if my daughter Joan could come for an interview and would I be present with her. While Pastor was gathering information from Joan, in my mind the Lord was impressing on me that “This is my job.” In my mind, I told the Lord that Joan was the one being interviewed, not me. Three times the Lord impressed on me that this was my job.
Serving as the Church Secretary
After two years as Pastor’s secretary, Joan was offered a job at Rug Works which was owned and operated by members in the congregation. And so, Pastor was, again, without a secretary. Three weeks after Joan left, I asked Pastor if he needed a secretary. His answer to me was, “When can you start?” The next day I began my career as a church secretary, which lasted until my retirement in 2006.
My children Anne, George, and I were baptized by immersion in 1973.
I served the Lord under Pastors Haire, Farber, and the present Pastor Pandolfi.
While I was secretary I was involved with the youth group, and for three summers my two-week vacation was used traveling with the youth group to churches, sharing the Gospel message. My brother and sister-in-law stayed with the children while I was away.
Falling for Michael
On November 6, 1974, Billy Graham had a crusade on television ministering to young people and my future husband Michael listened to the message. In the course of his life, he had traveled around and worked at Yellowstone national park. He had met some people who shared the gospel with him. As he listened to the message, he remembered the things that had been shared with him in his travels. When the invitation was given, he poured his heart out to invite Jesus to take control of his life. He prayed to ask the Lord where he should go to church. He remembered seeing a church being built not far from where he was staying.
The first person he saw was the minister of youth. Michael said to him, “Is this where you find Jesus?” Of course, the answer was, “Yes, Sir, you’re in the right place.”
After about a year of observing how involved, I was with the youth group and gathering information from church members, Mike found out that I was a widow with 8 children, a church secretary, a piano teacher for children of two families who were church members, a Sunday school teacher (4th-grade students), leader of ladies Bible studies, sang special music in some of the services, and had traveled with the “Agape” youth group for two weeks, two summers (to Georgia one year and Niagara Falls another year). Mike went to a family in the church and expressed to them his desire to ask me for a date. They encouraged him to ask me. I agreed to do Bible Studies with him. We waited three years before we got engaged and three years before we got married.
My husband and I now live in an apartment complex in Port Jervis, New York, with 49 other families; and we share the Gospel message as the Lord leads. My eight children, Anne. James, Robert, Joan, George, Kathleen, William, and Maryan have their own families and live in different states.
No longer Searching
As a side note, When I was still searching for answers, and had gone to the priest and asked him what he thought about the Baptist church, the only answer that got from him was “Keep yourself and your children away from the Baptists.” I also wrote to the Bishop of Rockville Center, New York City, and I asked him if she knew if he would go to heaven. His secretary sent me a short note saying, “We have to leave that up to the Lord.”
I remained a Catholic for about one year after I accepted the Lord, and I left tracks regarding the Lord’s message of salvation where people might find them. Before I was saved, I had been elected ‘Corresponding Secretary’ of the Rosary Society; but, because I had given my life to the Lord, I gave back all the materials they gave me. I also took my daughter’s best friend to one of the ladies’ homes to witness to her. I never saw that lady again. Some nights I stayed up all night reading the Bible, and when the children left for school I would go to bed for a few hours.”