This journey of Stories of Faith over this past year has been one amazing gift. The life long friendships that I have gained... the encouragement I have received... and just the simple fact of learning that we are not alone on this thing called life. OH MY... Thank you Lord for what you have and what you will continue to do through this simple blog. My prayer for 2018 is that these stories continue to stir those reading to keep going and in someway encourage them in their faith walk with Christ.
Aaron and Brittni... from the moment they jumped out of the car there was just an instant connection. They are easy going, easy to talk to, and just soon REAL!!!! If you know this couple I am sure you will completely agree. Let's be honest... sometimes pictures with people you don't really know can be a little awkward. Especially if you are talking to them about sharing their story on this blog you have... BUT there was never that awkward moment with these two, it was instant hugs and laughs. LOVE IT!!! Thank you Lord for instant friendships and connections with people who are like minded and filled with the Spirit!
Their story is one like no other... two very different people that the Lord would grow separately to then prepare for one day when their paths would cross that would then lead to a little Facebook stalking situation (wink wink ... Aaron) That would eventually land these two love birds hand in hand helping in a church as well as preparing to serve with one another over seas!!! WOW! Go God!!!!
Here is their story...
Aaron >>> In hindsight, I see God’s faithfulness to me was present even while I was still far away from him. When I was 14 years old my dad died unexpectedly. I didn’t know what to do with all of the emotions that arose from that situation, so I began to blame God. I hated him for what I believed he had done to me by allowing my dad to die. That hatred for God led me to a lifestyle that was far from him and filled with pain and bad habits that I could not break.
One night, I was lying in my bed frustrated and deeply unhappy with the person I had become, so I decided to pray for the first time in a very long time. I asked God to help me. I said, “God, I have built walls of sin around my life to keep you out, but now those walls are keeping me prisoner and I can’t get out of them.” In that moment, I knew what I wanted to say, but there was a small voice in the back of my head giving me a warning, “You better mean what you’re about to say…” I thought about it for a moment and decided that I meant it, “God, I need you to do what I can’t do. Take me apart and put me back together the way that you want me.” Although that prayer was simple, I had no idea the events that it would set into motion.
A couple of days later, I was riding my motorcycle in a group of about forty others. There was an 18 wheeler in front of me and I swerved to the shoulder of the road to avoid a car that came into my lane. I couldn’t see around the 18 wheeler until I got fully onto the shoulder and found that there was an abandoned car there. I hit the car going between 75-80 mph. For several days the doctors said I would certainly die, but God had other plans. After waking from my coma, while I lay in my hospital bed partially paralyzed and badly broken God reminded me of the prayer I had prayed. God reminded me that I was supposed to be dead and that he had saved me from more than just a physical death. In that moment, I knew that God spared me from an eternal death and he made it clear that he had not spared me for my own sake. God made it clear that he had spared me so that I would live for him. I readily consented and promised him that my life would be spent in gratitude and service to him. From that moment, God began to change me. He changed my desires. He freed me from the things in my life from which I prayed for him to free me. He gave me joy in place of my anger and he filled me with a desire to live a life spent in a way that would matter for all eternity.
God even healed my body in miraculous ways. My family was initially told that I would die, then I was told that I would remain paralyzed that it would be at least two years before I was released from the hospital. On top of that, the doctors told me that I would never work again or live independently. Praise God that he had other plans! I was released from the hospital two months after the accident and my paralysis was healed three months after the accident. I was even back to work at my job as a fireman only four months after my accident!
One thing he changed in me was the way I viewed people of other nations and cultures. Specifically, God changed my heart toward Muslims. Whereas I had always viewed them with skepticism and considered many of them to be my enemies, God filled my heart with compassion for them and a desire to see them saved. God has since taken me around the world to many different countries to share the good news of Jesus with people who have not yet had a chance to hear it. He has opened doors that I never expected to be opened and blessed me with a wife who shares my love for Jesus and my concern for the salvation of those who do not yet know him.
I became a believer at 14 and can look back at God’s faithfulness to provide people along the way to disciple me and teach me how to be a follower of Jesus. God gave me a youth pastor who was passionate about making the name of Jesus known around the world. Through him, my worldview was expanded to things I had never known. In college, I felt the tug to go abroad for a summer to share Jesus, and it completely changed me. Though it had its difficulties, that summer was the first time I ever felt like I was exactly where I was supposed to be - in the center of God’s will. I came home, finished college, moved to Jackson and started working. I worked for 2 years before the Lord shifted my focus back to ministry and I began exploring the option of going back overseas for 2 years. The month I began to fill out the application was the month I met Aaron. We initially met at Cups when I saw a mutual friend and spoke to him while he was with Aaron. Our very first conversation was about Aaron’s salvation and how God had opened his eyes to people/places like Ethiopia and Kenya. That conversation was only about 3 years after his wreck. Neither of us had any intentions of entering into a relationship after that conversation. I especially did not have any romantic intentions, since I was about to go overseas for 2 years! However, Aaron used his Facebooking stalking skills and asked me to coffee and so our friendship began. :)
I moved overseas only eight months later with a commitment to the Lord that the next two years were completely his. I spent those two years living in two different countries. I never would have expected the constant transition, but I was forced to move 5 times during those two years! All of the unplanned transition caused me to enter a very long season of anxiety, which was strange because anxiety was a foreign concept to me. “Anxiety” is a term that gets thrown around a lot in our culture, and I never want to downplay it because now I know that it’s very real. I cringe thinking of the feeling of panic that comes when thoughts spiral out of control. It got so bad that I reached a point when I could no longer discern my own voice from God’s voice from the enemy’s voice. God taught me a lot during that season of anxiety. He taught me about setting my mind on things above and not on things of this earth (Col 3) and that God keeps us in perfect peace when our minds are steadfast (fixed) on Him (Isaiah 26). I learned that it’s a discipline to keep my mind focused on Him when everything else seems to compete for my attention. It seems so natural to let my mind wander to anything and everything else. Paul commands us several times to “set [our] minds on…” and to “think on these things..” Paul used imperative commands when talking about that. He told us that we must DO something, which means that it’s probably not something we will naturally do without effort.
I know full well that learning those disciplines doesn’t necessarily make anxiety go away. Like any part of our spiritual life, it’s a daily decision to die to self along with our worries and concerns. There were days when I knew if someone else knew the thoughts that were in my head, then they would send me to a mental institution. There were days when I felt like I couldn’t take the battle one more day. There were many times when I longed for heaven and just wanted Jesus to just take me home. However, Paul reminds us to not grow weary of doing good for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up (Gal 6).
During those two years, Aaron was very consistent in his pursuit of me. We would email/skype, and he would send awesome care packages. One of them, which might have been one of my favorites, was a box of Charmin toilet paper. I had been sick A LOT in one of the countries and their toilet paper was HORRIBLE! I missed the soft stuff from America, so Aaron came to the rescue. :) God used those two years of being away from home and that season of anxiety to show me Aaron’s character. One of the things that drew me to Aaron more than anything else was his consistency as a man of God who was obedient in all things to the Lord. Hebrews 13 says that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. I saw that part of Jesus in Aaron. He doesn’t waver and his greatest desire is to serve the Lord, regardless of how that may look. We got married a year after I came home and the day we got married was the day the Lord freed me from an anxious mind. It seemed so bizarre! There are still some days when I sense anxiousness creeping into my thoughts and in those times I just have to remind myself of where to keep my mind.
In the spring, we plan to move to the Middle East to live among a people who do not know Jesus, so that we can share with them the hope that we have in him. There are many obstacles that will present themselves and many difficulties that lay ahead, but we are reminded of how faithful God has already proven himself in our lives. He has healed my (Aaron) body in miraculous ways. He has completely changed me from the person I once hated into a person full of joy and optimism. He has continually overcome obstacles that should have been impossible. He has given me (Brittni) peace to my anxious mind. He has brought healing through difficult circumstances. As I prepare to go back overseas, there’s a part of me that fears I will have another season of anxiety, but I will not live in fear. Instead, I’m going to choose to walk in the freedom God has given and choose to set my eyes and thoughts on the One who is peace. He is my constant. God is faithful, so we will not fear what lies ahead. We have experienced his goodness time and time again and we have no reason to believe that his faithfulness will fail us now.