Forever With Jesus
December 1, 2006 - As a 10-year-old girl I often wondered about spiritual things. I would go to bed worrying about what would happen to me after I died. I remember repeating in my mind, “Forever. Forever. Forever.” It would scare me. I asked my mother, who was not a Christian at the time, what happens when a person dies. She said if you’re good, you go to heaven, and if you’re bad, you go to hell. I knew that at 10 I hadn’t been really bad, but I also knew I wasn’t ready to meet God.
by Natalie James
When I was 15, my parents became Christians and began attending a different church. But the change was so drastic that it confused me, and although my parents prayed that I would put my trust in Christ, I did not respond.
So I continued to worry from time to time about dying—even after I had grown up, married and had children. When our small family moved from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Winnipeg, Manitoba, in 1965, the snowy, nighttime drive through the mountains terrified me as we waited for workers to blast potential snow slides off the mountainsides.
During those years, my husband, Al, often went drinking with friends from his work, which caused problems in our marriage. We were already facing severe financial difficulties.
Al and I both seemed to realize that we needed God, but somehow we never understood that we needed to turn from our sin and turn to Jesus Christ. We had visited a few churches, but we never felt comfortable at any of them.
Then my sister told me about Grant Memorial Baptist Church. As soon as we walked through the doors, we felt the warmth and the welcoming atmosphere. The pastor was a godly man who planted a seed in my heart, a hunger for something more. I wanted to have what he had. He would explain the plan of salvation, but we still weren’t ready.
One day we heard that Billy Graham was planning to hold a Crusade in Winnipeg. We loved watching his Crusades on television, so I don’t even remember discussing whether or not we would attend. I just know that we decided we were going. Al’s mother and sister came to look after our three children while we went.
I don’t recall what Billy Graham preached about, but when he gave the invitation for people to come forward and commit their lives to Christ, I wanted to go. I didn’t want to go alone, though. Then Al stood up, took my hand and asked, “Nat, are you coming with me?” I was overjoyed! “Yes,” I said, and we went forward together.
I felt an immediate peace. No longer did I have to worry about what would happen when I died. Al stopped drinking immediately, and that made a great improvement in our marriage. Not everything went smoothly. We continued to face financial hurdles, but we found that when we began to tithe, somehow we always had enough money to pay our bills.
We asked my brother, who was attending Winnipeg Bible College, to come and start a Bible study in our house, and people came from throughout the area. Later we joined our group with another group in the town next to ours. In 1970 the combined group decided to form a church, and my brother was asked to be the pastor. He has been our pastor ever since. We started in the basement of a house. My brother would come and work with youth on Saturday nights, sleep at our house, and we would have a worship service the next day. Later we moved to a Legion Hall, then met for one summer in a farmer’s front yard, and finally built our own building, which has been expanded several times. Now we have about 400 people coming every Sunday, and we also have a Christian school, Faith Academy.
Al and I look after 24 couples, visiting them, nurturing them, praying with them and for them. We’ve also taught Sunday school. We’re thankful that our children and grandchildren are all living for the Lord, too.
I think that a lot of people are like Al and me. They attend church and listen to the Gospel being preached, yet still fail to see that they need to repent of their sin and put their faith in Jesus Christ.
I’m so thankful that my family didn’t stop praying for us. God watched over the seeds they planted through their prayers and their Christian example until those seeds finally took root and grew. Our marriage is just one result of those seeds. Al and I recently celebrated our 45th wedding anniversary. We never would have reached this milestone if God hadn’t come into our lives 39 years ago when we heard Billy Graham proclaim the Gospel.
The question of where I will spend eternity no longer frightens me. God has replaced that fear with peace. Now I know that when I die I’ll be with my heavenly Father—forever.