True Stories by Teena Myers
“My mother was eighteen when she conceived me in an adulterous relationship,” said Tom. “A family member advised her to get an abortion, so she drank some stuff that was supposed to abort me. All it did was make her sick. My mother’s sister was childless and agreed to take me if I was a girl. When I was born, my aunt said she didn’t want a ‘nappy-headed’ boy.”
After giving birth to two more sons, Tom’s mother told her sister that she might never have a girl, so she might as well take Tom. Tom’s aunt decided a boy wasn’t so bad and took him to live with her in Los Angeles.
“I called her ‘Mommy,’ and she loved me as her son, but I knew she wasn’t my actual mother,” said Tom.
Tom’s aunt, a devout Baptist, brought him to church every Sunday. One Sunday, Tom walked to the altar with tears streaming down his face. He didn’t remember what brought him to the altar that day, but he never forgot what his pastor said: “Tom, I’m gonna turn you into a preacher.” The pastor’s desire was thwarted when his aunt moved her membership to a new church.
“I didn’t understand salvation until I was twelve years old and returned to New Orleans to visit my mother. She had stopped smoking and drinking beer. She read Revelation 21:8 to me: ‘But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars — their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur.’ That was the first time I understood hell as a literal place,” said Tom. “Later that day, I thought about the things my mother told me and asked Jesus to forgive my sins. I returned to Los Angeles with my aunt, but my mother had the greatest influence on my life.”
While Tom grew into a young man in Los Angeles, Anna struggled to survive in a dysfunctional family. “I was a rebellious child,” said Anna, “always getting suspended from school for fighting. I believe a lot of it stemmed from my dad’s aggressive behavior. I could not stop him from beating my mother, so I took out my frustration on the students at school. My dad didn’t want my mother to go to church, but she brought us anyhow. Her faith in God was a lifeline that held her together through difficult times.”
As Anna entered her teenage years, her mother repeatedly told her, “If you give your life to the Lord, he will send a godly man to be your husband. If you don’t, you might end up experiencing the same things I do with your dad.” Their pastor often supported and reinforced her mother’s admonition.
By the time Anna reached fourteen, the desire to be a proper young lady replaced her aggressive behavior. One Sunday, her pastor preached a sermon about hell. “The Bible says the beginning of wisdom is to fear the Lord,” said Anna, “and the message about hell put the fear of God in me. I committed my life to Christ, and God filled me with the Holy Spirit.”
One day Anna stopped to shake her pastor’s hand after a service. “Anna,” said her Pastor, “what kind of husband do you want?”
“I want a minister,” said Anna.
“If God has to bring him all the way from Europe, he will bring a godly man to be your husband.”
The pastor’s declaration proved true. God had already brought Tom back to New Orleans. “I was sixteen when I returned to New Orleans,” said Tom. “Every time we visited my mother, my aunt asked me if I wanted to stay, and I had always said no. She was shocked when I said yes.”
Tom had strayed from God, but dutifully attended the Church of God in Christ with his mother. Anna’s pastor preached a revival in their church that prompted Tom to rededicate his life to God. Anna smiled. “God used my pastor to prepare Tom for me and prepared me to meet him unusually. A prize in a box of Cracker Jack included a fortune that said ‘You are going to meet a man named Tom.’ Before the month ended, I met Tom at a concert.”
“I almost didn’t go to the concert,” said Tom. “I had been working in a cafeteria all day. The best clothes I had were the ones I was wearing, and I couldn’t find my comb. My mother reminded me I had made a promise to play the organ at the concert and that I needed to keep my promises. I grabbed a fork from the kitchen drawer to tame my afro and headed out the door. After the concert, I asked Anna for her phone number.”
“God connected us that night,” said Anna.
While Tom and Anna were dating, God dealt with Tom about ministry. “I had always felt there was a calling upon my life to be a pastor,” said Tom, “but I didn’t want to force anything, so I fasted and prayed. One afternoon I said, ‘Lord, I’m just a child. I can’t do this.’ That night, Twanna’s pastor preached at my church. He opened his Bible to Jeremiah chapter one and read: ‘The word of the Lord came to me, saying, Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations. Ah, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am only a child.” But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a child.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you.”’
As the pastor read the scripture, Tom knew God had called him to preach the gospel. Tom and Anna married and immersed themselves in ministry. Anna led the choir. Tom became a youth pastor. Each of them taught a Sunday school class.
One day, an assistant pastor invited Tom to oversee a satellite church. He accepted the invitation to be its pastor. When his church severed ties with the satellite church, Tom remained. He has served as their pastor for over two decades.
“I had a license in the Church of God in Christ,” said Tom, “but denied ordination. My ministry had come to a stalemate. When I heard God was moving in a mighty way at church in New Orleans, we visited a service. We loved it and discussed joining the church.”
“It was hard for me to leave the church where I grew up,” said Anna, “but Tom prayed for me and committed the matter to God. I prayed until my heart was in agreement with Tom’s desire.”
Tom grinned. “At the Church of God in Christ, we felt like we were banging on a door that no one answered. The door was wide open in the Assemblies of God. I had my license to preach when an assistant pastor approached me about a satellite church. I accepted oversight of the congregation and six months later became an ordained pastor.”
When the church abandoned the satellite churches, Tom and his congregation took over the expenses and continued the work. The congregation grew, and they rented a bigger building. They were forced to move to a temporary location in a Methodist church when a restaurant purchased their building. Tom learned that a church nearby needed a pastor, so he entered negotiations to merge their congregations.
“It wasn’t pretty,” said Tom. “The church was bankrupt, and the abrupt resignation of its pastor had left the congregation bitter.”
“I was young and naïve,” said Anna. “I was so excited about having a bigger church family. I wanted to hug and embrace everybody, but I could barely get a handshake.”
“The next three years were difficult,” Tom continued. “I used to read about the children of Israel in the wilderness and wonder why they were so hard to deal with. I saw the same things in my congregation and concluded that people are the same in every generation. But I learned to be patient and saw some of the most troublesome people become the best Christians.”
“I sought God like I never had before and had a supernatural encounter,” said Anna. “It was my habit to pray after my children left for school. One morning, I noticed a book on my husband’s desk titled Ordinary Christian. I thumbed through the book to get a flavor of its message and then went to the sanctuary and said, ‘Lord, I don’t want to be an ordinary Christian. I’m not leaving until I know you better.’ As soon as I prayed, a tingling sensation came over me and then a weighty feeling and uncontrollable weeping.”
“I remember being on my back and thought I was having a heart attack. I stood up to go to Tom’s office and felt like I was wading through a pool of water. When I reached his office, my hand was heavy and trembling so much I had difficulty opening the door. I told Tom what happened, and he motioned for me to return to the altar. When I reached the sanctuary, I heard a voice say, ‘It’s me,’ and then I heard ‘I am anointing you to worship me, to preach my Word and to be a better help for your husband.’”
Tom and Anna exhibit God’s plan for marriage from the beginning of time. “The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him’” (Genesis 2:18). Clearly, God had prepared Tom and Anna to labor together in ministry.