Two Surrendered Hearts, One Blessed Home

May 6, 2024

Two Surrendered Hearts, One Blessed Home

Mark’s Story:

When I was still a baby, my dad abandoned our family in Guyana, South America, to travel the world as a mechanic on merchant ships. Because of that, I never knew him while I was growing up. I was the youngest of four boys, and after he left, my mother suffered a nervous breakdown. She ended up living on the streets and took me with her. An aunt later told me that the family tried to get me away from her, but she wouldn’t give me up. Eventually I became sick, almost to the point of death, and my mother had to take me to the hospital. Only then was my family able to get me away from her.

My mom’s stepmother took me home and nursed me back to health. My brothers went to live with other relatives, but I stayed with that grandmother. Other uncles and aunts also lived in the home, along with their children—about ten cousins altogether.

Unfortunately, there was alcohol and abuse in the home as well. I remember the abuse starting for me around age seven, and there were two cousins who tormented me the most. One of them abused me sexually and the other hurt me physically. He seemed to always be angry, and he took it out on me by picking on me, hitting me, and taking my food. Sometimes, for entertainment my cousins would tie me up in a bag and watch me try to get out.

When I was around age eleven, my grandmother moved to Canada, and after that the abuse at home became worse. One day, my cousin made some tea and then threw the hot water at me, badly burning my arm. I felt I couldn’t handle living there anymore, so I called my brother who was living in Georgetown with my dad’s mother. I asked if I could go live with them, and thankfully, they agreed. That environment was much better, though again there were several uncles, aunts, and cousins all living together in tight quarters.

A few years later, I got in touch with my father for the first time in my life. He had married a woman in the United States and was living in Ohio, and they invited me to live with them. I was sixteen years old when I moved to Ohio, and that was the first time I lived in a stable home. I had my own bed, my own food, and no one fought with me—there was no one to contend with because I was the only kid in the house. I finally felt like I had a home of my own.

After high school I joined the Army and served for three years. When I got out, I moved to Houston, Texas, and started working for a natural gas company. One day, a co-worker there asked me, “Do you believe anybody can live free from sin?” I really did not know a lot about Christianity at that time, but I thought I did because I had gone to church quite a bit. I had always loved being at church, probably because it felt like a safe place. So everywhere I lived, I would find a church to go to. In all that time and in all those churches, I had never heard that a person could live without sinning.

That co-worker invited me to his church and I agreed to go. I did not care for their style at first, but something drew me back. I kept going, and in time I came to understand that I needed to do more than just attend church. I needed to turn away from sin and turn toward the Lord. When I did that and committed my life to God, He saved me.

When I told my dad that I had been saved, his reply was, “Mark, I thought you were saved already.” He may have thought that, but I knew that I wasn’t. I had always been considered a good person; never drank alcohol or smoked, and was generally easy to get along with. But I didn’t have the Lord in my life, and He made all the difference.

The following year, I went through a personal heartache when a long-term relationship ended unexpectedly. I was devastated, but I reached out to God for help and He met me in a powerful way. At the time, I didn’t know what to call that experience with the Lord, but later I came to know that God had sanctified me. That made a big impact in me because my faith was not so easily swayed by circumstances after that. God put something in my heart that held me steady.

I continued walking with the Lord and began to seek for the baptism of the Holy Ghost. One day during a prayer meeting at church, I sensed the Spirit of God moving and I raised my hands and prayed, “Lord, whatever is blocking the channel, please remove it.” In that moment, His Spirit took control of me, and I started praying in an unknown language. That was a wonderful experience—real joy came into my soul! The Holy Ghost made a huge difference in my life. After that, it seemed like I couldn’t help but talk to others about the Lord and what He had done in my life. I witnessed to co-workers and family members, and I gave away so many tracts that my dad started calling them my “business cards.” I was excited about what God was doing and I couldn’t hold it in.

Very soon after receiving my baptism, I felt God calling me to preach. There was one big problem with that: I had a terrible stammer. I could barely talk in a regular setting, and public speaking was almost impossible. When the phone rang, I couldn’t answer it—I couldn’t talk on the phone at all. No words would come out. When I was in high school, my dad and stepmom had enrolled me in after-school speech therapy programs to teach me how to talk, but those didn’t help. They paid thousands of dollars to no avail.

Despite that obstacle, God confirmed his call on my life in a way that I could not deny. Then He reminded me of Moses, who was also called to be a messenger for God and was “slow of speech.” When Moses brought that up, God’s reply was essentially, “Who made man’s mouth? Who made the mute, the deaf, the seeing, and the blind? Didn’t I do that?” I understood that a stammer was not an excuse God would accept, so I surrendered to Him. When my pastor asked me to give a word of exhortation at church, I said yes.

My first sermon was very difficult to get through, but I did my best. To my surprise, within a short period of time God healed the stammer! Looking back now, I have to believe the problem was rooted in the abuse from my childhood, but God was able to heal parts of me that speech therapists could not reach. I didn’t expect Him to do that, but it has been an incredible blessing. In fact, in my career I eventually became a dispatcher, which required being on the phone with customers and service workers constantly. That was something I never could have done if God had not delivered me from my speech impediment.

The co-worker who had first invited me to his church was also from Guyana, and because of that connection, I became close to his family. That was how I met my wife, Rena, who is his sister. I had concerns about starting a family because of my own childhood. I had seen so many bad examples of husbands and fathers, but not good ones. Before we married, I told Rena, “I’m asking God to show me how to be a husband and a father, because I don’t know.” God has truly been the greatest Teacher. We married in 1985 and have five children, and we can only thank Him for the beautiful family we have today. He has been faithful and has seen us through every challenge, and we are abundantly blessed.


Rena’s Story:

When I was born, our family was living in Guyana and I was the fifteenth of sixteen children. We attended a holiness church, and I was taught from my earliest childhood that I needed to be saved. Many times as a child I went to pray at the altar. When I was nine years old, I remember being aware of what salvation was and that I needed it. At first I hesitated because I knew that decision came with responsibilities, but soon I prayed for God to come into my heart.

Not long after that, my mother moved to New York. She was trying to bring our family to the United States so we would have a better life. When I was twelve, several of my siblings and I wanted to attend a church youth camp, but my dad didn’t have money to pay for us to go. I knew we would be emigrating to the United States soon and that this would be my last opportunity to attend, so I went to prayer and even fasted one morning. My little prayer was telling God that I really wanted to go and couldn’t because of the lack of money. By 3:00 that afternoon, our pastor came by and said our mother had sent money for us to go to camp! I didn’t know my mother was even aware that we wanted to go. Right there, I knew God had answered my prayer, and that put a faith in my heart that nobody could shake.

In 1980, when I was fourteen years old, we moved to Houston, Texas. The United States was completely different from what I had been used to. The kids my age dressed and acted the way older teens did in Guyana. I already stood out from everyone else because of my accent and culture, and on top of that, my conservative Christian upbringing made me even more different. I didn’t like that feeling; I really wanted to fit in at school. The lifestyle of the other students looked bright and appealing to me, and I started to reconsider some of the things my parents had taught me.

One day after I got to school, I went into a bathroom and changed my appearance to look more like the girls around me. I didn’t do anything that was sinful, but I knew that if my parents found out what I had done, they would not be happy. As soon as I walked into my classroom, the teacher looked at me and said, “You look beautiful!” Right when she said that, something in my heart told me, “The saints wouldn’t say that.” Her compliment actually made me feel bad because I was compromising my values in order to fit in with ungodly people, and it was working! I knew I was making bad choices, and God’s Spirit convicted my heart.

When I left that classroom, I went to the bathroom and changed back to how I had come to school. I told God, “I’m tired of trying to fit in.” Right away, the Spirit said to me, “Choose you this day whom ye will serve.” At fourteen years old, I didn’t think I knew the Bible very well and I wondered where that Scripture had come from. Once I was home, I looked it up and read in Joshua 24:15, “And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve . . . but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

I started weeping and prayed, “Lord, I want to serve You.” The Holy Spirit was letting me know that the world’s way was not the path for me. Thank God that I didn’t reject His call; when He pricked my heart, I obeyed, and God sanctified my heart.

From that time on, I had a real determination to serve God. Up to that point, I had been depending on my mother and others around me for spiritual protection, but I realized that I needed God for myself to stay saved in my new surroundings. Some of the older people in our church also warned me, “If you don’t do things God’s way, you will find yourself with a lot of problems and wondering how you got them.” That kind of teaching also helped me understand that I needed something that would keep me.

Shortly after that, on a Sunday night at church the preacher said, “You need something that is going to keep you, and that is the Holy Ghost.” His words registered in my heart. At the end of the service, I went to the altar and prayed, “God, I need You.” Soon the power of God came down, and it felt as if no one else was in the room except God and me. His power came into my heart and I began praying in another language.

When God baptized me, He did a work in my heart that changed me completely. The next day at school, I had strength and boldness from above. I was no longer ashamed or embarrassed to be different than the other students. In fact, I started telling them that I was saved! Thank God, that power helped me to get through the rest of high school and beyond.

In time I met my husband, Mark, and after we married God blessed us with five children. We faced a number of challenges over the years, but God saw us through every time.

At one point, we had four of our own children and a niece living with us in a small, three-bedroom house. We did our best and we were content with what we had, but I was praying that God would make more room for our family. Then one day, one of Mark’s aunts asked if she could come stay with us, and bring a friend! I had never met this aunt before and Mark only knew her a little. I didn’t think it was a good idea, but God’s Spirit urged me to be hospitable. We welcomed them and did our best to help them have a nice trip. His aunt was so appreciative and kind in return, and at the end of the trip, she told us she wanted to give us a down payment to purchase a larger house! I didn’t even know she had money to do that, but that was how God met our need for a bigger home.

Another time, there was no money to buy groceries and there were several days remaining before our next paycheck. I was feeling discouraged because we were doing all that God had led us to do, but that didn’t seem to be working. I prayed, “Lord, You have never seen the righteous forsaken.” Then I called my mom to ask if she could help, and she said she had some cash she would give us. My mom was always willing to help, but I just hated to bother her. I was planning to go see her after work, but when I checked the mail that day, there was a letter from a friend with a check for $400 inside. The letter said, “Sister Rena, I could not rest nor sleep until I wrote this check. The Lord told me to do this.” When I called her and told her what we had been going through, she said she was so glad she had followed the Lord’s leading.

I could tell many other times that God has been there for our family. He has proven that He knows what we are facing and that He is willing and able to meet our every need. He has been faithful and I give Him all the praise.

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