July 2017 Viewpoint
Reading the testimony of Sylvia Phillips reminds me of my first visit to our Dallas, Oregon, church on Mother’s Day in 1974. Shortly before, I had attended our Roseburg Apostolic Faith church, and the people there told me of the Dallas location, just thirty miles north of the Oregon State University campus where I was living. So on the evening before Mother’s Day, I telephoned the Dallas pastor, asking if I could come to the church service the next morning. He assured me that I could, and extended a Sunday dinner invitation to me. That pastor was Brother Earl, Sister Sylvia’s husband.
A couple of things about that Mother’s Day meal come to mind. First, my future wife Debbie, who lived with the Phillips family for three and a half years, helped with the meal. I confess to noticing her. What I didn’t know was that after my phone call the night before, the Phillips family had teased her by coupling my name with hers, saying repeatedly, “Debbie and Darrel, Debbie and Darrel.” That was a bit premature, but it was on target.
I also recall them asking me, “Are you saved?” Though twenty-one years old, I was not from a church background and had rarely attended church. I only recently had begun reading the Bible, and did not know what “saved” meant. Not wanting to claim something I did not have, my reply was, “No.” That left them puzzled because they could tell something had occurred in my life triggering my sudden interest in attending church. They were on target there as well.
When Sister Sylvia was saved back in 1948, she had no way of knowing the impact she would have on Debbie and me years later—we were not even born yet!
Just a short time before, I had experienced my first encounter with God, but did not know what to call my conversion and the resulting dramatic change in me. That event had taken place during spring break as I was attempting to sleep in the basement bedroom of our Roseburg home. The Spirit of God flooded my room, and for the first time, I became aware that there was a God. I prayed, “Lord, please forgive me of my sins. I don’t know how I can ever do it, but if You will help me, I will try to serve You.” In an instant, the power of God went through my entire being in a miraculous manner. I was never to be the same.
That prayer was remarkable in a number of ways. First, I do not recall ever being taught to ask forgiveness for sins. In fact, I did not even know what sins were. Second, I had no knowledge of the power of God or the possibilities that existed by praying such a prayer. Finally, I did not know what it meant to “serve” Him. In spite of my spiritual ignorance, though, at that instant I was born again. Since I had shared some of that experience with the Phillips family, they were understandably perplexed when I said I was not saved.
The following Sunday, in our Roseburg church, the pastor explained to me that when a person was saved, old habits and desires would be instantly gone and replaced with new habits and desires that were pleasing to God. Upon hearing that, I declared, “That happened to me two months ago!” It had. There had been no profanity or unholy desires since that March night in Roseburg. Instead, for two months I had been praying, reading the Bible, and looking for churches to attend. Four decades have now passed and those old desires have never returned.
I soon returned to our Dallas church and testified that I was indeed saved. In time, I ended up living in that city, and Brother Earl became my pastor. I sat at the Phillips’ table on many Sunday afternoons, benefiting from the cooking of Sister Sylvia. On Valentine’s Day, 1976, Debbie and I were married in the Dallas church with Brother Earl officiating. The Phillips were soon transferred and he pastored at other Apostolic Faith locations. However, the lessons we learned under their mentoring stuck with us.
Debbie and I lived in Dallas for another seventeen years. Our two children were born and later saved while we were living there. With the passing of time, we now live in Portland, where Brother Earl and Sister Sylvia also live. Roles have changed. I am their pastor, with Debbie serving alongside me, just as Sister Sylvia served alongside Brother Earl in the work of the Lord. We have had the privilege of traveling together to visit our churches in various areas, and have worked shoulder-to-shoulder in a variety of Gospel endeavors over the years.
When Sister Sylvia was saved back in 1948, she had no way of knowing the impact she would have on Debbie and me years later—we were not even born yet! And we are just two of many who have been positively influenced by Sister Sylvia’s testimony; her salvation story and example of faithfulness has reached hundreds and perhaps even thousands over the years.
Similarly, you have no way of knowing how many will be inspired by your decision to serve God. As you are faithful, untold numbers may benefit by your Christian example. Perhaps some of those individuals are yet to be born! As you read Sister Sylvia’s testimony, and the other articles in this quarterly magazine, we pray they will inspire you to consider the impact of your life on others.