Pain Transformed through Praise

June 19, 2023

Pain Transformed through Praise

Growing up, I had a limited understanding of the Gospel. Though my family attended church together for a time, while I was very young my parents went through some difficulties and ended up separating. My mom stopped going to church when I was about five years old, but she continued to send us children to different churches over the years, and I would often hear her praying at home.

Eventually, I also stopped going to church. By age twenty-one, I was a single mother with two boys, and was living with a man who was not my husband. Though I never drank or smoked, I loved dancing at clubs and sometimes would stay out all night. There was a time when I thought that lifestyle was fun, but the impact on me was not fun. Sin has terrible consequences, and I grew tired of that life. I wanted something better, and the Lord began to put heavy conviction on my heart.

When I told my mom that I wanted to get saved, she told me to go to the Apostolic Faith Church in Pensacola, Florida. My mom put me in touch with Sister Rosalie Scott, who was the pastor there at the time, and the next Sunday I went to the morning service with a friend. When it was time to pray, I simply told the Lord, “I’m tired of sinning. Lord, I want You to save me.” God did not disappoint. He forgave my sins and filled me with His love. It was so wonderful, all I could say was, “Thank You, God!”

The next time I went to church, the older saints told me I needed to go deeper with God and be sanctified. I did not understand what that was, but I was desperate for more from Him. They prayed with me at the altars saying, “Tell the Lord to cleanse you,” and I prayed, “Lord, cleanse me! I need to be clean.” As I said those words, the Lord started cleansing me and He sanctified me. Then the saints asked, “Are you ready for the baptism—the Holy Ghost?” As I continued praying, I visualized Jesus on the Cross and all I could say was, “Thank You, Jesus! Thank You for dying on the Cross for me!” Soon, I started speaking in a different language, the evidence of the infilling of the Holy Ghost. In less than a week, God had saved, sanctified, and filled me with His Spirit.

As soon as I told my mom I was saved, she fell under heavy conviction. Every time I would go over to see her, she was in tears, and I knew the Lord was talking to her. After a week, I was with her when she finally started to pray. Right in her home, she surrendered everything to the Lord and He saved her! The next church service was on a Tuesday, and my mom and I went together, both saved. Soon, more people from our family saw what God was doing in our lives and they started coming too. It was a time of revival and it was exciting.

Everything changed for the better

My life totally changed after God saved me. I became a new person. The way I dressed and talked changed, and so did the way I was raising my children. Our whole environment changed. I separated from the man I had been living with, and the Lord graciously worked everything out for me to be able to move into a new house with my boys. The type of friends who used to come around were also not around us anymore. Instead of their influence, God gave me new good friends, and I went to the seasoned saints at church for advice about how to live and raise my children. Our calendar became filled with Sunday school, Bible study, youth service, camp meeting, youth camp, and youth conference. My mom and I also started helping in different areas at church, so we were there often. She said she wanted to redeem the time she had lost while she was away from the Lord.

My mom told me that her turning away from God had happened in part because she had slacked off from reading the Bible and praying regularly. Now we both understand the importance of having daily communication with God and constantly feeding on His Word. The Lord also taught me that His mercies are new every morning, and if I ever make a mistake, I can go to Him right away in prayer and make it right. In time, He also taught me the need to forgive others. Even after being saved, there were some wounds that I carried because of things that had happened in my childhood. When I asked the Lord to help me forgive the people who had wronged me, I was able to grow even more in my relationship with Him. I learned that forgiveness is very powerful, and if I let go of offenses, God will bless.

A walking miracle

In August of 2002, my younger son was diagnosed with cancer at just fourteen years old. He was getting ready for a new school year and was planning to play football. During a physical check-up, it was discovered that his lymph nodes were swollen, and then an x-ray showed a mass that shouldn’t have been there. More tests were ordered, and after about a week, the doctor gave us the results: “It is cancer.” My heart broke at the news and I started crying. At that point, I had to trust the Lord in a way I never had before.

My son was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Stage 4B, which is the final stage. The cancer had spread throughout his body. While discussing the next steps with the doctor in his office, I turned to my son and said, “You are healed in the Name of Jesus.” Thank God, at youth camp that summer the Lord had saved my son. I remember praying, “Lord, if You can save him, I know You can heal him.” I asked for prayer at every church service, I called on friends and family to pray, I contacted the church headquarters—we had everybody we knew praying. As I sought the Lord, faith began to grow in my heart that God would heal him. In fact, the next time x-rays were taken, I asked the doctor, “Is the cancer still there?” He laughed at that, but I was serious. I was expecting to see God work.

My son started chemotherapy within a month of his diagnosis. After the first treatment, a more detailed type of scan was done, and the doctor told me there was no cancer found in the scan. I responded with, “What did you say?” and He stated it plainly: “No cancer found.” I had to praise God right there in the hospital room with my son! Then I started calling people to give them the victory report. The doctor cautioned me to wait until they could verify the results, but test after test showed the same thing—he was healed! To this day, my son is a walking miracle. God even allowed him to pursue the career he wanted in the military. We were warned that cancer is a disqualifying factor, but today he is a Gunnery Sergeant and has served for over fifteen years.

God turned my pain into P.A.I.N.

About ten years later, our family faced another trial when the Lord allowed my oldest son to be taken from us. On what seemed like a very typical day, I got a phone call that my oldest son had been shot. I could not believe what I was hearing, but I went immediately to the scene where it happened. When I arrived at the scene, I found a white sheet over his car and I knew he was gone. 

I don’t know how I made it through that day, but it seemed the Lord put a covering over me so that I was able to withstand it. I remember some of my loved ones commenting, “Wow, you’re taking this so well,” but it was only the Lord helping me. When I got home that day, I knelt down to pray and thought, Is this for real? It was real. I believe that if not for God, I would have lost my mind. The pain was too much for me. But God was with me that whole day and every day since, and He has given me peace through it all. 

After my son’s death, I had to help the Florida State attorney resolve his case. Not everyone can bear being that close to the details of their child’s homicide, but I was determined to do it for my son, and God helped me. He has enough strength for us to do so many different things, and I praise Him for that. I also thank God that I did not once feel hate toward the young man who took my son’s life. I know that is only possible because I have God’s love in my heart.

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” – Jeremiah 29:11

In the years since then, I have learned that God has a reason for everything that happens in our lives. Nothing is by accident or by chance, but it is all in His plan. There had been a lot of violence in our community leading up to my son’s death, and I felt led to attend a city-wide prayer walk to reduce violence in the neighborhood. Afterward, a group of concerned parents wanted to do even more, so we started a group that would eventually be named Parents Against Injustice and Negligence (P.A.I.N.). It is a support group for families who have been affected by a homicide. Our core members are all believers and our purpose is to lift up the name of Jesus to people who are hurting.

Emotional trauma can be every bit as powerful as the physical impact of a major accident. After a major accident, a person will usually be sent to an emergency room, then be moved to an intensive care unit, then a regular care unit, and sometimes also a rehab center before going home. Emotional trauma also requires an intense healing process, and that is what we want to help with—emotional and spiritual healing. I am not a specialist and I don’t have degrees from an educational institution, but I do have experience and I have the love of God in my heart that I can share with others. I simply tell people what God has done for me and what He can do for them, and I pray God will use that to bring them deliverance. I tell them that even when the sadness is overwhelming, God is good and He is greatly to be praised. In Him we can find rest, peace, and hope for a better tomorrow. He has everything we need.

One thing I often share with people is a lesson God taught me about the power of thanking God. I call it the “Thank God Remedy.” I tell them, “If something happens and you start feeling bad, just start thanking God.” Thank God that the sun is shining; thank God that He woke you up another day; thank Him for the food you have to eat. Thanking God is something so small, but it is so big. It changes our perspective and opens a way for God to work in our lives. When we do not know what to do, “thank God” is the answer.

A place to find healing

In 2014, the Lord gave me a vision for a place called “The Garden of Peace and Hope,” a memorial for homicide victims and a place where grieving families can go to find healing. Often people go to a gravesite or a makeshift memorial, but the Lord impressed upon me the value of having a quiet, peaceful place to reflect on good memories and joyful times. The other members of P.A.I.N. agreed that it was a good idea, so we started pursuing it.

Not knowing how much would be involved, I thought it might take a year or so to create the garden. However, I soon realized that there were major obstacles to overcome, including at least $170,000 in funding and getting approval from local governments. Yet, the Lord has opened doors in miraculous ways. It took a couple years, but the City of Pensacola finally gave us permission to develop the garden on public land. Then we needed blueprints for the design, which can be very expensive. Again, the Lord provided: my cleaning business had a client with an architecture office, and he offered to do the blueprints for free. Later I spoke with our mayor, Grover C. Robinson IV, and when I asked if he could help with the project, he said, “Sure, Lavon!” We then held a meeting with the mayor and some officials, and they agreed that the City could get the project started by laying the foundation and putting in some benches. There are too many details to tell it all, but it has been amazing to see God move so many individuals to accomplish His will. Truly, the favor of God is better than a pocket full of money.

Today, the Garden of Peace and Hope is a beautifully landscaped area with walkways and benches that overlook a pond, and soon we hope to add a memorial monument inscribed with the names of homicide victims. I meet many families who are broken and need deliverance, and my prayer is that in this garden they will find a place of refuge, peace, healing, and salvation, to the glory of God.

Walking in God’s plan for me

It is strange to realize that if my son were still alive, I would not have had the opportunity to help so many others. I cannot understand everything God does, but He has shown me that He has a plan for my life and I just need to walk in it. I cannot bring my son back, but I can choose to reflect on all the good memories I had with him and be joyful in that, and I can try to help anyone God brings my way.

I am so thankful that God walks with me and talks with me all through life’s journey. On happy days, difficult days, and every day in between, I have to thank God because He is good all the time. He has given me unspeakable joy and I can’t help but praise Him for the favor He has shown to me. Thank God!

apostolic faith magazine