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The Joy of Coming To Christ By Jeremiah Roper In a prayer of thankfulness, Paul the Apostle once said, Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6). God began a good work in me back in 1989 and He has remained faithful through the years—although I did not. In fact, I strayed far from him for a long time. Nonetheless, He was merciful and longsuffering and brought me back to His place of shelter where there is liberty and rest. As a child I remember going to Lancaster Baptist Church in Lancaster, California. Our family was faithful, attending church anytime the church doors were open. We attended all three services each week, and as a family we went out on Saturdays handing out tracts. I thank the Lord for my parents’ faithfulness that paved the way to my salvation. One evening at church, as a mere six-year-old boy, I was convinced I needed to do something. I had heard the Gospel many times before but that night it was different. I told my dad I wanted to be saved and I recall the excitement that came over his face. That night in 1989 during the invitation, holding my dad’s hand, I walked down the aisle and was saved. Shortly after, I was baptized. Although I was only six years old at the time and knew what I was doing, I did not understand the magnitude of my decision. My parents’ faithfulness in church lasted approximately seven years. The enemy crept in through certain circumstances and we stopped going to church. Day after day, year after year, I stopped growing as a Christian, even when I got to an age where I could make my own decisions. Fast forward 18 years. I am 28 years old, married with two children, 11 years into my service with the Air Force, stationed in Tucson, Arizona, and still not attending church! Life was okay but not what it needed to be. At this time the Lord began to speak to me or at least it may have been when I listened for the first time. He started convicting my wife, Erika, and me to find a church. That was difficult for us—not knowing where to start—because Erika was raised Catholic (unsaved) and was not ready to let go of religion. We tried a church close to home but immediately knew it was not for us. Well, time passed yet again and we found ourselves expecting our third child, and very shortly after, I received unexpected non-deployable orders to Okinawa, Japan, for instructor duty. That is when the Lord started to break us down so He could use us. Our pastor often says, “God is longsuffering, but if you do not heed to His calling time after time, He will bring you to accountability and even chastisement if needed.” Finally, after almost eight long—almost idle—years in Tucson, we were leaving. Our house was being packed up and Erika went off for a sonogram to check on our baby before we left. Heartbreakingly, the doctor could not find a heartbeat and the miscarriage process began. Tragedy had hit just days before I had to leave for training and only weeks before we were to move to another country. By the Lord’s grace we made it through the move and I made it through training. We found ourselves in a foreign country, away from loved ones, and heartbroken. When the chaos of moving subsided, we felt the tugging of the Lord again. We listened and started the search for a church home. We tried all three chapels on base, even attending one of them for several weeks, but something was just not right. I was looking for a church like the one I was raised in, and after feeling a bit defeated, Erika decided to give a Baptist church a chance. We researched some local off base churches nearby and decided to try two starting with Maranatha Baptist Church, which was closest to us. We walked into Maranatha and true to its “Welcome Home” moto, we both felt we had arrived home. We never set foot in another church after that. Immediately, we felt comfortable but apprehension still remained. I believe my exact words to Erika were, “I do not want to be one of those families that goes to church three to four times a week.” We attended the Sunday morning services for a few weeks and that is when it happened. Pastor preached on “pride” that morning. During the invitation when he prompted everyone to let go of pride in making decisions for Christ, Erika (without telling anyone) walked down the aisle, repented, and accepted Jesus Christ as her Saviour. The Holy Spirit had us. Not long after, we wondered what the Wednesday night service was like and then Sunday night and before long we were attending them regularly as well. I thank God for a church that faithfully preaches the Gospel to get people saved and disciples them and does everything to ensure they are doing whatever they can for the Lord to bless and work in and through people’s lives. We were baptized together— Erika in believers’ baptism and I as a re-dedication to live my life for the Lord. Slowly but surely our lives became His. Just a few months later our oldest daughter, Valerie, also six years old like I was when I was saved, accepted Christ as Savior. And a few more months after that, we were blessed with new life with the birth of our third child. Now we are that family who goes to church whenever the church doors are open and, yes, it is three to four times a week, more if necessary! Looking back over the last three years, I can now see God’s plan for us: struggling and wanting to leave Tucson, missing something, receiving orders to Japan, having tragedy strike just before we leave. All of this worked to break us down physically, emotionally, and spiritually. In and through these struggles He worked to bring us to a place of respite and peace where He could mold us and use our lives for His glory. I have great joy in knowing we are a Christian family and more than that, we are part of a larger and wonderful body of Christians at Maranatha. Through God’s grace and blessing we have had the privilege to serve in some of Maranatha’s ministries as usher, nursery caregiver, Sunday school teachers, and Master Club leaders. What blessing there is in just being a servant unto the Lord in a place where we are learning what it truly means to be Christ-like and to know true Christianity! Though not perfect by any means and faltering often, together we strive for higher ground to honor our Father every day. The Lord is good and has led us to stay in Okinawa and Maranatha Baptist Church until 2019. I am confident He is growing and preparing us for what He may have planned for us ahead. He is establishing a firm foundation in preparation for His great work and glory until the day Jesus returns.