WRITING TO HONOR GOD
A friend gave me Ingrid’s phone number. She had just published a book of poetry and my friend thought I might be interested in writing Ingrid’s spiritual journey. I was. We met for a McDonald’s breakfast. As I browsed through her book I recommended local book festivals where she could sell her poetry. Then we sipped coffee while Ingrid, a Catholic at heart who embraced the Pentecostal experience and found a home in the Baptist Church, talked about her spirituality.
Ingrid grew up in a strong matriarchal family. Her great-grandmother and grandmother were deacons who participated in founding a Baptist Church. The church’s cornerstone is engraved with her grandmother’s name. Even though her grandmother worshipped in the Baptist church, she loved visiting the Catholic Church and often took Ingrid with her to light candles and pray novenas. Ingrid’s mother left the Baptist Church when they failed to give her adequate answers to her questions about God and faith. Her mother eventually found a home in the Catholic Church.
Ingrid loved the Catholic Church, which she attended until she was thirty-six years old. She fell out of favor with the congregation when she married a Baptist. They moved to San Antonio where her marriage failed. Ingrid returned to Louisiana with two daughters. After her divorce became final some women in the congregation informed Ingrid divorced women could not receive communion.
“I became a “cafeteria” Catholic,” said Ingrid. “I could attend Mass but I could not participate. I wanted to be Catholic, but they did not want a divorced woman. My standing in the congregation reached a new low when I married a divorced Catholic and that marriage failed too. Staying in the Catholic Church was no longer an option. The Baptist were satisfied if I confessed Jesus as my Lord and Savior. How I lived my life was between me and God, so I returned to the Baptist church that my family had founded.”
Ingrid felt like an outcast wandering in a wilderness when a friend invited her to attend a Full Gospel Baptist Church. The pastor was a protégé of Bishop Paul Morton, founder of the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship. Morton’s new fellowship of churches lead believers into the fullness of the gifts of the Spirit, yet remained on the same foundation of Jesus Christ as taught by the Baptist. Ingrid loved the dynamic service and stayed.
“I encountered a new experience at the full gospel church.” Ingrid smiled. “I spoke in tongues. I kinda liked it, and I truly believe it is a gift from God.”
Ingrid’s new church had a ministry for every aspect of life. Unlike the Catholic Church, which banished her to the sidelines for being divorced, Ingrid was welcome to participate. She volunteered to work in College Ministry. She loved traveling to colleges with young people to guide them in making choices for their future. Even though Ingrid enjoyed her new church, she could not escape feeling lost in 6,000 member congregation. The church lacked the personal touch in smaller congregations. “I could have died and no one would have missed me,” said Ingrid. “At a smaller church the pastor and congregation notice when someone misses a few Sundays.”
Ingrid was entertaining thoughts of searching for a smaller church when she attended her daughter’s baby shower. Her aunt said, “Do you remember Burnell? He played for the Green Bay Packers but he’s retired now and has a full gospel church. I think you’d really like him. Why don’t you come check it out?” Ingrid accepted her aunt’s invitation and found a smaller family atmosphere. She joined the church a year later.
With her new church came a new work place ministry. Ingrid worked on Canal Street and enjoyed shopping during her lunch hour until a co-worker invited her to attend a Bible Study. “The study met on Tuesday and Thursdays from 12:30 to 1 p.m. and I loved it. I couldn’t wait for Tuesday to come. I knew that whatever I was going through, I would find relief at the Bible study,” said Ingrid.
The study had several teachers that rotated. When two of the teachers transferred to other departments, the organizer of the study approached Ingrid about teaching.
“Jeanette, you are out of your mind,” said Ingrid.
“Why not? You teach all over the world for U.S. Customs, but you can’t teach for the Lord!”
Ingrid thought about Jeanette’s reply and decided she could teach for the Lord. Jeanette put her in the rotation with the other teachers.
That year, Ingrid’s daughter came home for Christmas, and they talked into the wee hours of the morning. The topic of their conversation drifted from family to her daughter’s friend, a battered wife and had experienced a nervous breakdown.
“I was conflicted as we discussed the woman’s problems,” said Ingrid. “She was at my house more than her mother’s. I drove her to high school events, and she shared a room with my daughter when they were in college. I believe it takes a village to raise a child, and I had helped raise her. She was just as much my responsibility as my daughter is.”
As Ingrid continued to ponder the plight of her daughter’s friend, she thought about God’s faithfulness. God had brought her through two failed marriages. At one time, she was unemployed for a year, but managed to keep her house and car. God promised he would never leave us or forsake us and he had remained faithful in all her tribulations. Ingrid felt the Lord direct her to Habbakkuk 2:2 “Write the vision and make it plain on tablets, that he may run who reads it” (NKJV). Suddenly, Ingrid realized that she needed to run and tell somebody about God’s faithfulness.
The next day, Ingrid told Jeanette about the revelation God gave her. Jeanette had an evangelistic outreach to people unable to attend church. Every Friday Jeanette’s team went to a different house and conducted a service, including receiving an offering which was given to the homeowner. Ingrid joined the evangelistic team and taught from house to house believing she was fulfilling God’s mandate to tell others about his faithfulness.
“I felt good and liked teaching house to house until the Lord said to me, ‘That is not what I told you to do.'”
Ingrid tried to reason with God. The subsequent conversation went something like this:
“But God I’m telling people about your faithfulness.”
“You are not telling people the message I gave you. You were meant to be a teacher but you are forgetting about the women who are hurting.”
“Sometimes women who are hurting are at the house meetings.”
“Yes, but you didn’t write it plainly.”
Ingrid realized that she needed to fulfill God’s mandate in the way he chose. She had talked to several ministers about her dilemma when she saw an advertisement about a women’s conference in the newspaper. Ingrid was attracted to the article and the name of the woman sponsoring the event.
Shortly after reading the article, Ingrid attended a funeral and ran into her pastor from Bell Baptist who had baptized her as a Baptist. “I heard you are full gospel now,” said Pastor Turner.
Ingrid felt his disappointment and reluctantly said, “Yes, I am.”
“What you think, we are preaching half gospel?”
“I never looked at it like that Pastor Turner.”
“Ingrid, all I can tell you is that you will come back home. I know you will, but you are going to come back home when you are ready. I’ll be waiting for you.”
Ingrid could not escape her encounter with Pastor Turner. She her church but felt restless like she was still wandering in a wilderness. She recalled the article about the women’s conference and wondered if God would give her direction if she attended. Ingrid called the phone number on the conference advertising. Janice, the woman sponsoring the conference, had attended grade school with Ingrid. Janice listened patiently as Ingrid explained her struggle to fulfill God’s mandate. “We need to meet,” said Janice.
Ingrid meet Janice for lunch. She talked about her sense that she was walking in a wilderness and shared her encounter with Pastor Turner. Janice patiently waited as Ingrid pour out her heart and then said, “Ingrid, you keep talking about the lasting impression Pastor Turner made on you. You know the people at his church, you like them and believe you can grow there. I think you already have your answer.”
Ingrid joined Pastor Turner’s Church. One Sunday, Ingrid’s pastor told his congregation about Alpha Daughters of Zion Outreach Center. A ministry designed to give battered women the refuge and training necessary to escape an abusive relationship. Ingrid approached her pastor after the service to learn more. Ingrid soon found herself at a job interview for the center’s counselor. She was a perfect fit.
Ingrid set down her now empty coffee cup. “It took me exactly eight years to go back to Bell Baptist. I’m home now and I’m not leaving, but there are mornings I wake up feeling like I have to go to Mass.”