My Christian testimony all started for me on ??? when I was born into a sinful world. Thank the Lord that I was raised in a Christian home by two wonderful parents, Don and Donnetta Bradley. My childhood, I guess, was like any other child’s. I remember some tough times. My parents were constantly sacrificing to make sure their children were taken care of. Early in my childhood Dad was laid off from working several times. I remember we blocked off certain rooms in the house because we couldn’t afford to heat them. We ate a lot of potato and vegetable soup (always without any meat). My father told me that at one time he had to sell his shotgun just so I could have some formula when I was a baby.
Most importantly, however, I remember that my parents always took me to Sunday school and church. The Bible tells us in Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” I believe my parents got the job done.
As a young teenager I found myself involved in a lot of church youth activities. When I was about thirteen years old, my youth group attended a youth revival at the Wurtland Nazarene Church in Wurtland, Kentucky. Rev. Sparks was holding the services. At the end of his message he had an altar call for the lost. I found myself gripping the back of the pew as tight as I could. I was under conviction. Some of the kids in our group saw what was happening and offered to go to the altar with me and pray. Finally, I let go of the pew and the sin that had been gripping me. I was saved that day!
As an older teenager I was veering off the straight and narrow path, even though I always saw myself as a “good kid.” However, I was not serving the Lord as he deserved. I graduated from high school and began attending technical college. I was working at Wendy’s at night. I remember always being tired and not having or giving the time to serve the Lord as I should have. I remember praying a very specific prayer one night. It was just one of the many prayers that the Lord has answered in my lifetime. But this one special prayer was for the Lord to send me a young woman that I could fall in love with and who would love me for myself. Sometime later, a young lady was hired to work at Wendy’s for the summer. In addition to her good looks and charming personality, she had a maturity about her that intimidated me a bit. I thought she had to be older than I was but, as it turned out, she was just seventeen and the daughter of a preacher.
Finally, I got up enough nerve to ask her on a date and she accepted! Four years later she became my lovely bride. During the four years we dated, I saw her as an example for the Christian life I should have been living. Every day since we met, her strong love for the Lord and dedication to God has been a blessing to me. While we were dating I re-dedicated my life to the Lord and became active in His purposes by serving in the church we attended. Throughout those early years of our marriage, I kept taking on more responsibilities in the church by teaching Sunday school and directing the song service each week.
In 2001 we moved to Russell, Kentucky and became involved in a local church closer to our new home and joined that fellowship. For the next few years we attended church regularly and I got involved to a degree in the church activities. Unfortunately, at that time my attitude was that I needed a break from so much responsibility that I had at our other church.
The summer of that same year, Deidre and I were scheduled to go on a whitewater rafting adventure at Cumberland Falls, Kentucky. Deidre, who has a more daring side than I do, was excitedly waiting to plunge down the big rapids. After arriving at the site, we were thoroughly trained about what to do in case of an emergency in the water. We were given our helmets and life jackets and down the river we went.
As we came upon the last bit of rapids, we hit a rock and I was knocked out of the raft. As I hit the water I didn’t have much concern since I knew I had all the safety equipment on. However, all the prior training didn’t help me because I was being pulled to the bottom of the river. Rather than floating I was caught in the undertow and it wouldn’t release me.
Frantically, I reached out for help but my hand didn’t get above the water and the river was too murky to see anything. I couldn’t determine where I was from the surface. In what seemed to be forever but in all actuality was just a few seconds, I began to realize that I was drowning. My life started to flash through my mind in scenes. I saw my wife and parents and thought about how they would manage without me. I thought about how devastated they would be.
I couldn’t hold my breath any longer and was starting to take in water. I thought, “Who would have thought that today would be the day I was going to die?” In one more desperate attempt, I reached up and someone grabbed my hand. It was a boy scout from the next raft’s group. Who better to save me than a boy scout, since I had been one too? The Lord spared me that day and has blessed me in so many ways since that incident.
When I look back on my life, there have been so many times that I should not have escaped death. God continually kept sparing my life. He must have plans for me and is preparing me for life’s struggles ahead.
In January of ’09 I found myself witnessing to my mother at the hospital. I was bold enough to talk to her about death, knowing that she is slowly dying of congestive heart failure. The cancer she was healed of a few months ago has never re-appeared. What mom is now dealing with is strictly heart-related at this time. I reminded her that I knew a little bit about death from having so many close calls in my life.
I especially talked with her about the whitewater trip and how it is just our human nature to worry about the people we leave behind. I told her that if I were ever in a life-threatening situation again, all I would think about was entering the arms of Jesus and that she needed to focus on that herself.
I told Mom not to worry about me and my family because we are in the hands of the Lord. And too, I reminded her that the only thing she needed to do was to think about Jesus Christ, standing in heaven with open arms to receive her, whenever it is time to go and meet Him regardless of when that time is. This was my second time in as many years that I was faced with the situation of Mom dying. However, when I was talking with her, I found that my attitude was different. I wasn’t afraid to speak to her about what lay ahead for her and those she loves.
The Lord has strengthened me beyond belief. I feel my faith burning through my veins like fire. We serve such a mighty God. It is only through Him that I could have been so bold to talk to my mom about these issues!
Thinking back to the fall of 2008, I remember being so emotional and distraught, I would have never been able to talk to Mom about her dying without breaking down. However, not long ago God instilled in me boldness, love, compassion and peace of mind so I would be able to withstand such situations.
Christian living is an on-going process and I thank the Lord for helping me get to the point of totally trusting Him. The state that He has brought me to is the most secure place I have ever been in up to this point. This is what surrendering fully to the will of God by the power of the Holy Spirit has done for me and that is what He can and will do for you. You just have to turn to Him with your whole heart and ask Him for help.
In late 2004, my grandmother was in the hospital for what would be one of the last times before dying in January of 2005. During one particular visit she asked me to pray with her and I thought she wanted me to pray. Before I could even open my mouth, she started praying specifically for me. She was such a good Christian woman. In her time of despair she was only concerned about my well-being and not that of her own. What selflessness!
During this special prayer, my grandmother mentioned something that made my heart melt. She asked God to let Deidre and me have a child. Although she passed away, her prayer was answered in December 2006 when my wife delivered a beautiful baby girl, Campbell Riley.
After Campbell’s arrival, God began a progressive work in me about my new position as a father, which has continued to this very day. I have come to realize the great responsibility the Lord places on people when they become parents. With this insight from God, I want to be a good example for a Christian father for my child more than ever.
The year 2008 was one of the most difficult years of my life. My mother was told that her cancer had returned after fourteen years. Three weeks after that news hit our family my brother Donnie was involved in a fall at work. After spending two months in a critical care unit in Cincinnati, Ohio, Donnie died at the age of forty-five.
During the first week of Donnie’s hospital stay, his wife Cheryle drove from Columbus to sit with him every day. My parents and I drove to visit Donnie every weekend. We also made the trip during the week when possible. During those visits I prayed with him several times.
Donnie had been in the hospital going on two weeks. The following Saturday our family was called to the hospital. We were told that his condition was so grave we should consider terminating his life support. Time was running out. I fell on my face and cried out to the Lord asking Him to give us more time to make sure Donnie was ready to go. I asked the Lord Jesus Christ to spare him from going to hell.
By the time we all made it to the hospital, we were heavy-hearted and expected the worst. However, Donnie had taken a turn for the better! My prayer had been answered so I was given the opportunity to visit him a few more times.
Unbeknownst to me, my associate pastor and his wife were en route to the hospital at the same time. We all showed up together and Pastor Smitty went with me to talk to Donnie. He asked Donnie in no uncertain terms if he could state that he had accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior at some point in his life. Donnie hesitated for a moment. A tear rolled down his cheek. He could not speak due to the nature of his injuries. He nodded yes!
To think that so many people don’t believe in the miracle working power of God! Nevertheless, it was apparent that I only had very little time left to spend with my brother, but at least I knew Donnie was saved.
A few weeks later, my Dad called me to tell me that the hospital was calling the family in. He was in bad shape. We immediately headed to the hospital that Thursday night. As early morning rolled around, we realized Donnie was going to meet his Savior. The family was called to a conference room where many options about what to do were discussed with his physicians. It was decided to remove the life support that had been keeping him alive and to administer morphine in order to make him comfortable and pain free.
The nurse asked if any of us would like to spend some time with Donnie before they began the morphine drip. He was already in a non-responsive state and just staring at the ceiling. We weren’t sure if he could hear us. I told everyone that I wanted to spend some time with my brother.
As I took the longest walk of my life to his bed in the unit, tears filled my eyes and guilt overcame me. What would I say to him? This would be the last time on earth that I would ever speak to him or spend time with him alone. As I entered his room and closed the curtain behind me, I bawled like a baby. I hugged him and kissed his forehead. I told him to think about nothing but Jesus. I also told him how much Deidre, Campbell and I loved him. I asked for his forgiveness for not being the brother that I should have been. I then told Donnie that I’d see him later.
About one hour later we gathered around his bedside for the last time. As I looked into my brother’s eyes I saw a lost and dying world, even though he was saved. God asked me what I was going to do about it. As my brother squeezed my hand while taking his last breath, I felt as if there would never be any tomorrows. God told me that He must rebuild me and make me the spiritual man that He requires. He promised that He would pull me out of the darkness and restore unto me the joy of thy salvation.
After he died, I kept asking myself this question, “How could I have put myself in the situation of not knowing if my very own brother was really saved?” I had witnessed to him several times in the past but did I really do the best I could have? My answer was no! Could I have been a better and more loving brother? Yes! I was convicted for having been a mediocre Christian. I could have done so much more with my life up to that point.
During the time of my mother’s cancer news, I was at my wit’s end. I kept asking God why she had suffered so much. Mom had lost her mother just a few years earlier and it was hard on her. They were very close–best friends. Then, my mother had to bury her own son which was a tremendous heartache. Now, she was faced with the fact of losing her own life and not seeing the grandchild she dearly loves grow up.
My mother always told me before my daughter was born that the love a parent has for their child is unbelievable. She was right! I can’t imagine the loss that she felt losing her firstborn.
One month after Donnie died, Mom returned to the doctor for a follow-up to see how far the cancer had progressed. Mom had already started radiation on her legs prior to Donnie’s accident. As the doctor compared her original test to her current ones, he was amazed at what he saw. He said it must be some kind of miracle! That’s right-the cancer was gone; another prayer had been answered!
During those dark days things just didn’t seem fair to me. I was losing my brother and had been given the bad news that my mom was dying. Indeed, during that time the circumstances I was dealing with were overwhelming. However, I began pondering my situation in light of how my family had suffered the same as I had. I came to a point where I had to ask, “Who am I?”
My father had lost a child and his wife was terminal, which made my situation seem small in comparison. I had my mom fighting for her life while suffering the loss of her firstborn child. I thought of all the situations going on in other peoples’ lives and again asked, “Who am I?”
I now remember how so many times I prayed presumptuously before asking for the Lord’s will to be done and not mine. For the first time, when faced with the facts about Donnie and Mom, I didn’t want to surrender to His will if it meant losing them. Literally, I battled for weeks, breaking down, crying, and trying to surrender to God’s will. Actually, I now believe that it was only after surrendering many weeks later that God finally healed my mother and got me to the place where I could survive the death of my brother without losing faith.
Sometimes when I look back at those dark days I realize that God allowed me to fall into a pit filled with depressions, despair and gloom only to pull me out so He could rebuild me and make me the spiritual man that He requires. He knows the final outcome of any difficult circumstance. There are times we Christians forget about the providence of God (the hidden hand of God). We spend too much time trying to figure out why things happen when we should start living our lives day by day. God has not promised us tomorrow. We may never know the full extent of God’s will all the time, but we must continue to serve Him unconditionally with honor, glory and praise.
When all was said and done I once again fell on my face and cried, “God forgive me.” Finally, I had surrendered to the fact that I had been self-consumed and not God-consumed. I vowed to do everything in my power to represent my Lord in both word and deed so I could honor Him by the way I live my life before Him, my family, other Christians and a world of lost onlookers. I promised God that I would never look at any person again in the same way. I would now look at people as souls that needed to be saved or recommitted to the Lord. Now, I would only serve Him wholeheartedly.
Nevertheless, at that point, I knew it would only be through God’s grace, wisdom and will that I would ever be able to complete the fulfillment of my faith, my vow to serve Him and His purposes rather than my ow