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By Jennifer Morris

I grew up knowing who God was but unaware that one could have a true relationship with Him. Raised in Dayton, Ohio, I was the youngest of four children in a blended family. I idolized my oldest brother, who was thirteen years older than I. He was my best friend. He looked out for me, defended me when my other brother was picking on me, and let me try to do all the “big kid” stuff. He always took care of me and looked out for my best.

Until one day he stopped.

I would ask my family if my brother was ever going to be coming over to see me again. They always answered, “Hopefully, sometime soon.” He made promises to be at my games or to come get me from school, but unfortunately, he wouldn’t show up. My family tried to hide his addictions from me. Then for a period of more than two years, we didn’t know if my brother was dead or alive because my father made him choose between alcohol and drugs or his family.

Jennifer with Greg and Tina Stapleton from Dayton, Ohio.

Jennifer with Greg and Tina Stapleton from Dayton, Ohio.

I honestly don’t know when I realized that alcohol was such a big problem in my family’s life. I just remember saying to myself, “I never want to have to depend on this the same way some in my family do.” One night my cousins were sleeping over and my intoxicated uncle stumbled and fell down a complete flight of stairs. We kids thought he was playing a joke on us until we saw blood trickling down his face. My father was forced to kick him out of the house.

When I was thirteen years old, I was invited by a friend to go to church camp with her, so I did. I didn’t quite understand how God could talk to me directly because I was used to confession, where we talked to a priest. But Lisa and Mike Baker, at that time youth pastors at Calvary Open Bible Church in Dayton, Ohio, helped me to understand that God wanted a relationship with me and that I could talk to Him at any time. That day I asked Papa God to be the God of my heart.

Anyone that knows me knows my family means everything to me. Most of them aren’t saved yet, but I know one day they will be. I believe that because of an amazing event that happened with my parents.

Right after I graduated from high school, my parents, having been married for 25 years, divorced. My mother moved to Texas to live with family, and my father and I stayed together in Dayton. I had to grow up pretty fast. My dad and I both helped pay the bills at the house. At age twenty, I decided to get away and do something for myself, so I moved to Michigan and attended Great Lakes Master’s Commission.

During that time God really worked on me, showing me what love really was. At the beginning of each year we would right “Dear God” letters. These were basically letters to God stating what we wanted Him to do in us that year. We would put the letters away and not read them until the end of the year, so we would forget some of the things we wrote.

Jennifer with Mike and Lisa Baker.

Jennifer with Mike and Lisa Baker.

During my second year of Master’s Commission, I went on a trip with my mother and father to watch my other brother (whom I’m now close to) graduate from Airman school. It was the first time in three years that my mom, dad, this brother, and I were all together since my parents’ divorce. After that weekend my mom went back home to Texas, and I was about to go back to Michigan when my dad told me that he and my mom were getting remarried and he was moving to Texas in August.

I honestly don’t know when I realized that alcohol was such a big problem in my family’s life. I just remember saying to myself, “I never want to have to depend on this the same way some in my family do.”

Later that year when we read our “Dear God” letters, I found these words I had forgotten I had written: “God, I know this may be a little funny to ask for, but I would really like it if my parents could get remarried to each other.” (To this day I still have that letter!) From that moment on I have never questioned God’s faithfulness to His people.

After I graduated from the program, I stayed in the area and worked for the church I was attending, helped with a ministry in the Toledo area, and served as a youth pastor for Harvest Land Ministries in Clarkston, Michigan, pastored by Pete and Heather Freeman.

Even though I was now a Christian and trusted in God, disappointments like my oldest brother’s absence in my life had made me rely on myself and not want to ask anyone for help. I was afraid to trust. Several godly people went out of their way and invested time in me, showing me that God never intended for it to be that way. They showed me that love is unconditional and that even when you mess up they truly care.

Mike and Lisa Baker, my former youth pastors, became like a second set of parents in my life. They made sure I got a ride to church. They let me ask as many questions as I wanted and never asked anything in return. I hope one day to have a love like the love the two of them share.

When I moved back to Dayton to pastor a college group at Open Bible Christian Church a little over five years ago, I met another amazing and selfless couple who took a chance on me and gave me a job. Greg and Tina Stapleton and their sons, Tyler, Jake, and Kyle, became my family and showed me the true love of Jesus. Tina and Greg have been there through every trial to pick me up and dust me off.
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Another couple that have shown me unconditional love are Tomy and Christy Tredway and their children, Ellie, Owen, and Grayson. Even though I have known them only a year and a half, they have made me part of their family and helped me so much in my walk with God. They helped me to understand that even when things don’t go exactly how I want, God is still good, and He is still praiseworthy in every situation and in every season.

I have decided to trust God more than my circumstances. Although I’m still praying for complete healing for my oldest brother, I choose every day to find the good in people. I have been able to open myself up to new people and formed some amazing relationships. I don’t do it right every day, but every single morning I tell myself that today will be better than yesterday.

About the Author

MSG Morris Jen 0319Jennifer Morris, a licensed Open Bible minister, is the ministry assistant for the East Region of Open Bible Churches. You may follow her on Twitter or Instagram.

About The Author

Message
Open Bible's Publication Since 1920

Since 1920, Message of the Open Bible has been a medium to celebrate all the wonderful things God is doing through His people in Open Bible Churches – from personal testimonies, to news-related stories, to inspirational articles by quality authors.