For this meeting I was asked to give my testimony.
Most of us have had to hit bottom to reach out to God. We thought that we were doing just fine. Deep down if we had any religious upbringing, we knew that we were off track in many areas. But as we looked around at others, they were all doing the same thing. We had lots of company.
Saying The Prayer
At 47 years old, everything in my life was going downhill – physical, mental, marriage. Finally I reached out to God. He had someone prepared and waiting – a stranger in fact who had been praying for me. She led me to the Lord and I had no idea what that meant. Oh, I had a bit of an idea. I had heard that born again people were a little strange. I wasn’t sure this was the right thing to do, but I was desperate and I did it! Thank God that I did!
Gradually God taught me. I started to desire to go to church again. But this time I wanted more. I had seen and heard of a God who heals, a God who delivers. And that He didn’t just do it in the Bible, He is doing it today. I had learned a few scriptures as a child in Sunday School but I didn’t know the power of God’s Word. I didn’t know that He had made us thousands of promises in His Word.
I started reading the Bible and I prayed for a church where I could learn. God led me to a church in Portland since my parents lived in Maine and I spent most weekends there while my husband worked in New York City. I was fascinated watching people raising their hands as they sang spirited songs that praised God. This was all strange to me. I remember being so physically weak that standing 1/2 hour for what they called “praise and worship” was very difficult. The service was long but very exciting. Their prayers sounded musical and almost poetic, not like plain language. One impression I will never forget is hearing the pastor speak and feeling definitely that “He was speaking words from God.”
Baptism of the Holy Spirit
In one of the first services I attended, the pastor mentioned Pentecost and the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. I didn’t know what that meant but I went forward to be prayed for. The woman who led me to the Lord hadn’t told me anything about this, I guess she felt it would be too much at one time. I began praying in tongues and it was then that I started to see more changes in myself. Almost immediately I was delivered from swearing. I was so filled with anger from childhood that I swore, as I would say, “to vent my spleen.” In those days, my every other word was a swear word, bad ones, and I used the Lord’s name in vain. The swearing stopped. Every once in a while something might slip out in a moment of pressure or distress.
My husband worked away and really wasn’t at all interested in what was happening so I few I could talk to. God was teaching me at great rate through his Word, other people, books, and Christian radio. I was bubbling over. I remember coming back from Fitchburg with the woman who led me to the Lord and talking a blue streak. I was talking so much I didn’t notice the blue light behind me. I got a speeding ticket and didn’t even know why I was being pulled over. There was a speed change as we entered the town of Ayer.
Learning and Growing
God soon started using me as an intercessor, praying for others before I even knew what the word meant. He taught me spiritual warfare – that the devil is real – he came to kill to steal and to destroy. He is out to destroy our health, our marriages, to trap us in sexual sin and addictions of every type. But I learned that Jesus came to set the captives free and to bring life – life in this world as well as life everlasting. I found a church in Gardner, MA, 30 miles from my home. At this church I continued learning the Word of God. I changed and I saw the people around me change as they learned and grew.
I remember hearing new friends quote scriptures. These sounded strange to me at first, but I wanted all that God could give. “I can do all things through Christ. We are more than conquerors through Christ … No weapon formed against us will prosper. Greater is He that is in me than He that is in the world.”
I saw how Jesus used the Word of God as a weapon against the devil’s temptations in the desert. I saw how we can use the Word of God against the devil when he tempts us by putting wrong thoughts in our minds.
The Power of Tongues
Speaking in tongues is a gift that God wants to give to everyone who asks. The Apostle Paul said that he spoke in tongues more than the rest. Is tongues necessary to go to heaven? No. Believing that Jesus died for your sins in enough. As John 3:16 states, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son. That whosoever believes in him will never die but have everlasting life.”
But if you really want to change, conquer your fears, your weaknesses, your past, you need God’s dunamis (dynamite) power. If you want to serve Him to help others be healed and set free, you need this power. Is it easy once you have received this baptism? No, the road gets narrower and harder. Things can get tougher because you become a threat to the devil, his target. You have to stay close to God, pray more, listen harder, and keep learning. For more, see Parts 7-1 and 7-2.
Since the day I was baptized in the Spirit, God has been the prime mover of my life. I see lots of people who say the prayer but they don’t seem to change and I wonder why. One thing I understand is you need teaching and you need to read and study this book called the Bible. You have to learn God’s promises before you can appropriate them for yourself.
There is another factor which may be vital. That night I started to pray in tongues I remember dedicating my life to God. I think I felt him say to me are you sure, think about it before you commit. I didn’t take long to think. I was sure. I was changed and I was not going backward, no way! I said yes!
My life at that time centered around boats. I always loved boats as a child and had a nice 15 foot Wellcraft outboard with a 55 hp Evinrude when I met my husband. We traveled all over with this boat, camping, fishing, water skiing.
Then we started with sailboats. We got involved with the Power Squadron. I took all their courses up through celestial navigation and I ran the basic boating course in the days when women couldn’t even be members. My husband became commander of our Acton Squadron. We “graduated” to a 39 foot ketch and our dream was to sail around the world. We were preparing the boat for such a trip.
While David was away, I would take my cat Schooner and go to work on the boat, first in Portland and later in Newburyport. I spent hundreds of hours just on plumbing. I replaced every hose on the engine, in the galley and in two heads (toilets). During that time, I was known well by every plumbing shop within 50 miles of Newburyport. My dream was to live on this boat. I felt if only we could live on this boat, our lives would be perfect. I now tell people that my God before Jesus was this boat called Lode Star.
Schooner and I did live on this boat at a marina in Boston Harbor the summer I took the macrobiotics classes. But things didn’t get better, they got worse. I remember a big fight we had when David came home. He never wanted to go boating when he got back from New York City but I did. I got him to go to the boat one weekend and the engine was leaking oil. It needed a new pan gasket. I ended up disconnecting the diesel engine – a Westebeke 4-107 – and getting it ready for the mechanics to work on. Something drove me to tackle that job and somehow I did it.
We took one more sail after that. We sailed to Bar Harbor and back. After that we had the boat hauled to our yard in Harvard, MA where she sat for 11 years. I sold her after David died and two owners later, I believe Lode Star made it on that journey around the world.
By the way, the name Lode Star, means a star by which to set your course. We kept the name from the previous owner. To me now, this means Jesus. David had designed a star logo to put on our sails and sail cover. More about that later.
Long Island Secession
My husband quit his job at Associated Press in NYC after 10 years of commuting, 10 days there and four days off. After two years of his not working, things were a bit tight so he got a job with a local company. At about that time we started to help Long Island, Maine, secede from the City of Portland. The City of Portland had raised taxes an average of 300% in one year and people were understandably upset. My family had owned a small cottage on the island, since I was 10 years old, which I inherited from my parents. I was upset so I got involved and I convinced David he should help also.
This was a project that got us working together. The relationship was still strained and difficult but the work was unifying. David became head of the Legislative and then the Finance Committee. I was secretary of the secession Research Committee and then the Finance Committee. I just retired from the Finance Committee this year. We both “baby sat” the secession bill going through the State of Maine legislature and our island voted to become a separate town. Long Island has been a town since 1993 and is growing and flourishing.
Just before we got involved in secession, God gave me the idea for “Prisoner’s Notebook.” I was praying one morning at home in Harvard, MA, when God gave me the name for the book, “Prisoner’s Notebook” and that I was to take Proverbs and put it into categories. I felt specifically that I was to use the Living Bible.
At that time, I really had no idea what the name meant or exactly how the book would be used. However, a few months later I got started organizing. The first edition had a simple cover, just plain type, and it had a plastic spiral binding. I had 2500 copies printed and since money was tight, I borrowed on my life insurance to do it. I printed another 5000 and then a final 20,000 with a nicer cover.
I started by getting it into Christian bookstores and was relatively successful. But later on I felt I was to get it into prisons. I understood more about the name at that point, that we are all prisoners in some way or another. The name doesn’t just refer to those behind physical bars.
In 1995 I got started in Prison Ministry, going into MCI Shirley in Shirley, MA. I went into Medium Security section with a couple from Newton who are still my friends and prayer partners. Under the Catholic Chaplaincy, we put on a little charismatic service with praise and worship, a teaching, and a testimony video. Then we prayed for each man who attended, for their health, their families, their future. I even got to do some of the teachings. We saw lots of changes and miracles.
David died in December of 1995 of colon cancer. It was only a month from the time of his diagnosis till the day he died. He did turn to God in those days and it was such a pleasure to be able to pray together. For the previous 10 years, he had fought my Christianity. We prayed and prayed but he didn’t get a miracle. I didn’t get mad at God for his death. I got mad at the devil. At that time, I promised God that if David died, I would get 50,000 to accept the Lord. This is a very tall order and I am about 49,900 short at this time but who knows. All I know is that my life took quite a turn at that point. I was now on my own. See Section 8-6, David’s Memorial Service.
Moving to Maine
Since much of my support system was in Maine, I decided to leave Harvard, MA, and move to the island. David and I had already been considering this and some friends had offered us the use of their year round house for the winter that year, since we were working on Long Island business. Among other things, we printed the tax bills using our computer. After David died, I would spend one half week in this house and the rest back in MA. On the island, the cottage I owned was on the beach, on pilings, with an outhouse and chemical toilet. Storm tides would threaten the cottage and when hurricanes approached I always spent much time on my knees.
I didn’t know if I could build on the small lot of land. It looked impossible with all the town regulations and with shoreland zoning regulations. I didn’t know if a septic system would fit on the land. I started by buying a set of hedge clippers at Maine Hardware and started clearing the lot behind the shed. Then I decided to hire someone to check to see if a septic could be built. Amazingly, there was room. Maybe I could build after all.
It took lots of miracles and changes in the Town zoning regulations that had been inherited from Portland. On my computer, I designed a house that would fit on the lot. Since I had to come in 20 feet from each side line, the house could only be 18-1/2 feet wide so I made it two stories. I hired an island contractor who could work from my rough drawings. On my design I had put a LODE STAR which is really a cross at the top of the house. Instead of representing my god of the past, my boat, it now represented the God of my present and future, JESUS!
One day when the second floor was just going up, I got very discouraged. I can’t remember the details. But this was a big project and I was doing it strictly on my own with little help or advice from anyone but God. I knew if I asked I would get lots of opinions, particularly about costs, and perhaps never get the project done. I came back to the house that day and Phil, my contractor, had cut out a rough cross from scrap materials and mounted it on the peak of the house. That cheered me immeasurably.
I have just spent my fourth winter in this house. It is beautiful, although the side view is not too attractive. I credit God with the design. Upstairs I have an office and bedroom with balcony overlooking a lovely white sand beach. I look out at Chebeague and Hope Islands and down the channel toward Harpswell. Downstairs I have a combination living room, kitchen and dining area, a guest room and half bath. I also have a full open cellar for lots of tools and projects and our church food bank.
Another dream is just now being fulfilled in my life. For many years I have had a desire to help others, especially those in prison and getting out of prison. Building prisons is one of this country’s fastest growing industries. In the United States we have about 2.3 million in prison or jail, approximately 1 percent of our population.
One third of our taxpayers’ funds are spent on corrections, yet the system is an absymal failure. Of the total incarcerated, we are releasing 500,000 each year. 80% of those released return within 3 years, 60% of them within 6 months. The interesting part is that at least 1% of those released are estimated to be Christians. The recidivism rate for Christians is the same as that for non-Christians. The church isn’t there to meet them, no one is. Very few – Christian or non-Christian – have anything to go home to. They have no job, no family, no home, no church. No wonder they return.
When I ended up living on an island in Maine, I wondered how any of this vision would ever be fulfilled. Last summer, this vision started to become reality. I felt God’s leading and took a step of faith. Through a series of God incidents, I have teamed up with a young man I have known since 1993 who has been in prison and knows what it is like to lose everything and start over. Together we have started a non-profit corporation called Jericho Homes to help men and women getting out of prison. We are starting by training mentors from the churches to go into the prisons and start mentoring 6 months before the individual is released. Next we will establish Christian recovery programs both in the prison and certain churches, so that individuals will have a familiar program to go to when they get out.
Our largest project will be to provide transition homes. We are looking for funding for our first home. We are working with prison and jail officials in Maine and they are anxious to see us succeed. We would indeed appreciate your prayers for this ministry. The enemy isn’t happy with this endeavor!
Could we pray?
Dear Heavenly Father:
Thank you for Your love, inspiration and direction
for Jericho Homes
We know that prisoners and those who minister to them
are close to your heart.
You love them so much!
Break down the walls of fear and pride that
keep Your Church from reaching out to prisoners
Keep us protected and help us be obedient to Your Word
Show us how to move forward in Your love and with Your power.
Guide us, we pray, for Your glory!
DLH – A talk given in Foxboro, MA
June 11, 2001
We never built that first home, but I and several others spent a number of years working with families of prisoners. I also mentored several sexual offenders for the state. Jon Cordiero, my co-director in the ministry, moved to Texas and has established successful homes and treatment for sexual offenders. Jon’s ministry’s website is www.newnameministries.org. For more on prison ministry, see 8-4, Transition Prison Ministry.