By Teena Myers
A friend gave me Ingrid’s phone number. Ingrid had just published a book of poetry and my friend thought I might be interested in writing about her spiritual journey. I was. We met for a MacDonald’s breakfast. I browsed through her book while we ate and recommended local book festivals. 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 and participated in founding a Baptist church. Her great-grandmother’s name is engraved on the cornerstone of the church. Even though her grandmother worshipped in a 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 found a home in a 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 and the Catholic church 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. I returned to the Baptist church my family founded.”
Ingrid felt like an outcast wandering in a wilderness when a friend invited her to attend a Full Gospel Church. She loved the dynamic service and stayed. “I encountered a new experience.” Ingrid smiled. “I went to the altar, they laid hands on me and 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 traveled 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 a crowd. Her new church of thousands lacked the personal touch of a smaller church. “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’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 ministry. Ingrid worked downtown and enjoyed shopping on her lunch hour until a co-worker invited her to attend a Bible Study. She was reluctant to abandon shopping to study the Bible, but consented to visit. “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.”
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, 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 who was a battered wife and had experienced a nervous breakdown.
“Discussing the woman’s problems left me conflicted,” said Ingrid. “I wondered why I was worried about this woman when my own children were doing fine. Then I remembered how 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 Ingrid through two failed marriages. At one time, she was unemployed for a year, but never lost anything. She kept her house and car. Her children stayed in all their extracurricular activities. 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 had given her. Jeanette had an evangelistic outreach. The names of people, who either could not or would not go to church, were referred to Jeanette. She called to verify if that person would let them hold a service in their home and pray for them. 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, Janice Charles.
Shortly after reading the article, Ingrid attended a funeral and ran into the pastor 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.”
“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 the Pastor. She liked 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 about the conference and learned she had attended grade school with the organizer. Janice listened patiently as Ingrid explained her struggle to fulfill God’s mandate. “We need to meet,” said Janice.
Ingrid went to Janice’s home and learned that Janice had been a battered woman. Janice wanted to start a half-way house where women could find refuge and help to escape an abusive relationship. Janice needed a counselor. Ingrid’s degree in psychology made her the perfect candidate. Ingrid was immediately interested but Janice cautioned her to pray before she made a decision.
The conversation changed to Ingrid’s sense that she was walking in a wilderness and she shared her encounter the Pastor. Janice let Ingrid pour out her heart and then said, “Ingrid, you keep talking about the lasting impression the Pastor made on you. You know the people at his church, like them, and believe you can grow there. I think you already have your answer.”
Ingrid returned to the pastor’s church and prayed about Janice’s offer. She was confident she had found God’s place for her when tragedy struck. Janice and her son had just purchased drinks at a convenience store and she was backing her Explorer out of the parking lot when they heard a man hollering for help. They saw a young man fleeing from two men with guns. “I know that guy,” yelled her son. “Open the door and let him in.” Janice unlocked the car doors. As soon as the man leaped into her car for safety, the men released a volley of bullets on her SUV. Janice’s only son was shot and died in her arms.
“Janice was devastated,” said Ingrid. “I talked to her and prayed with her often. Her grief was too great to proceed with her plans for a halfway house. I was sure this is what God wanted me to do and wondered what to do next.”
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. He asked Ingrid for permission to give her phone number to the director of the outreach. 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 the Baptist church. I’m home now and I’m not leaving, but there are mornings I wake up and feel like I have to go to Mass.”