The sentence above is the Twitter profile that garnered the moderator’s attention when he thanked Debra Hodges for her numerous “favorites” and “retweets” of SBCToday. Curious about her conversion to Christ, the moderator DM’d and asked Debra to write her testimony for our blog readers. Immediately below is the prefatory email that bore her attached testimony, which is the bottom-most part of this post.
I received a tweet from you a while back asking if I was saved at 9 years-old and if I wanted to submit my testimony. So I prayed over it, and the attachment is part of my testimony. There is no way to write all that God has done in our lives, but I can testify that He has been who He said He was and He always did what He said He would do. He is faithful and true. I have never regretted giving my life to him. I have learned through the words of others that God is too good to be unkind, too wise to make a mistake, and that when I cannot trace His Hand, I can trust His heart.
Thank you for your consideration to publish my testimony. I have never written it out before like this…
Sincerely Yours Because of Him,
Debra Hodges, Pastor’s wife and Women’s Ministry Leader
Rice Memorial Baptist Church
When my grandfather passed away, our family moved from the country to the mill village in our city. This address change was not the only change that summer. I met new neighbors and went to a new school, but the greatest change was going to a new church. My dad decided to go to a Baptist church in the mill village so we all began to attend. The church was so close that I began walking to every service and attending every ministry available to an 8 year-old girl.
We had attended a church in the country, and I learned that God was good and that He loved me. At the new church, I began learning scripture through Vacation Bible School. It was held for two weeks every summer. GAs (Girls in Action) was a great experience for me to learn about missions, but also a place where I learned more scripture. Of course in Sunday school, I continued to learn how that God loved the whole world and that He had sent His Son, Jesus, to save anyone would call upon His name. Bible drills and Training Union helped me to grow in knowledge.
It was all of the above that God used to make me aware that I was a sinner in need of a savior. As a child I had sinned and I wanted to be saved. One Sunday morning, while sitting in the balcony of our church, I felt that God was drawing me to be saved. I went forward that morning and began to speak with the pastor about salvation. He had the 5th grade Gideon Bible and turned to the back of it where the plan of salvation from the Book of Romans was written.
Once he finished explaining what we read, he told me that if I was truly sorry for my sins and if I believed that Jesus was the Son of God who died, was buried and raised on the third day I could be saved. I said yes. He told me if I believed this with my whole heart and confessed it with my heart that I would become a child of God. He asked me was this the desire of my heart and I answered yes. Moments later, I prayed to receive forgiveness and invited Christ to be my Lord and Savior. I was 9 years-old by this time in my life. A few weeks later, I was baptized along with my older brother and my parents.
I continued to come to church faithfully and was hungry and thirsty to learn as much as I could about my new life in Christ. I was young and did not understand all that I had in Christ, but in the coming years God allowed me to learn more about Him but also to know Him through His Word and His Spirit.
The first way He spoke to me was while I was teaching my dolls what I learned at church. I loved teaching them. A great desire came over me to teach the Bible when I grew up. During GAs we studied about missions and I found myself wanting to be a part of this, too. I dreamed of going and sharing Christ with people in other places. I was hoping that one day I would grow up and marry a preacher.
Many years passed, and even though my parents quit going to church, I kept going. However, as a teenager I wanted to go to church elsewhere with my friends. I did just that but did not really grow much in Christ. My relationship with Christ began to suffer, and I did some things that did not honor Christ. But the Holy Spirit inside me would convict me, and I would try not to do those things again. I was losing the battle a lot because I wanted to serve the Lord and be with my friends. I began to date people who were not Christians. No one had ever told me that I should not be unequally yoked with an unbeliever.
I met a guy who became my husband. He was a very moral guy but I never asked him if he was a Christian. We dated and married. Not long after we were married, I began to remember those times when God seemed near and spoke to me about serving Him. I thought about how I had always wanted to marry a preacher. And now I was married to an unbeliever. I felt my calling was over to missions or being a pastor’s wife.
I remember the day I asked Alvin if he was saved, and he was rude to me and said no. He said to leave him alone. Well, at this time he was in the National Guard and he was going through basic training. The next week he returned for more training. A day off was given to the soldiers if they donated blood or needed to see the chaplain. Alvin gave blood for one day and then decided to go see the chaplain. He had no idea what he would say. The chaplain greeted him, and the first question he asked him was, “Are you a Christian?” Alvin could not tell the officer to leave him alone so he told him that he was not a Christian. That precious chaplain took the time and explained the plan of salvation to him. When he finished he asked Alvin if he would like to be saved. His answer was yes! Alvin became a born-again believer in the Lord Jesus Christ.
We were attending a Baptist church at this time, and Alvin presented himself as a candidate for baptism so I moved my letter. This is where our lives together began to grow in Christ. After some time, we both began teaching Sunday school, reading our Bibles and attending services regularly.
We became involved in a bus ministry, picking up children for Sunday school in nearby communities and participated in Children’s worship. We were leaders in the youth ministry. We got involved also in the visitation program, where Alvin went visiting with our pastor most of the time. It was during that time that God called Alvin to preach. He tried to tell God he would do youth ministry. God kept telling him no, he was to preach the word in season and out of season. I wanted the him to tell me that God had called him to foreign missions. Alvin did not sense in his heart that this was God’s leading.
After a couple of years serving as deacon and Sunday school teacher, Alvin finished two years of college. He was ordained as a preacher of the gospel, and we took our first church where he was pastor. By this time we had a son who was 5 years-old. While we were at this church, Alvin and I went to Toccoa Falls Bible College, where we grew by leaps and bounds in the word of God.
After three-and-a-half years, we moved to our second pastorate, where we were engulfed by a group of people who loved Jesus, and we had to really study to grow. They were far ahead of us spiritually. We met a couple who had 12 kids, and the mother home-schooled her kids and made their clothes. She was an inspiration. She invited me to go with her family to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary to a missions conference. Needless to say, that sparked the fire in my heart again for missions.
Of course, when I got back and confronted Alvin again about missions, he said that God had not led him to do that. However, he did go to Jamaica and Haiti with some preachers and later our church did a mission trip to the Cherokee Indians along with some resort missions in Gatlinburg. I was hoping that would make him change his mind, but it did not.
Alvin later realized his Bachelor’s degree was not enough, and he wanted to do his Master’s degree at a conservative seminary. God led us to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, which was the largest seminary teaching missions. Yes, in my heart I was hoping that God would speak to Alvin about going into missions overseas.
During the two years we were at the seminary, I had many young girls work with me in the Department of Religious Education where I had gotten a job. Little did I know that God would provide free matriculation for Alvin to get his Master’s degree. He also allowed me to mentor these young women who would later become pastor’s wives, social workers, missionaries and psychology majors. It was years later that I realized this was a mission field just like being a pastor’s wife.
I had come to a place where I had to accept that we were not going to be going overseas when Alvin graduated. Alvin said that God had not called him to the mission field. I found out when our son developed juvenile diabetes, we did not qualify to serve in that capacity through our convention. My heart was broken, and I never mentioned it again while we were there.
After graduation we moved to Greenwood. S. Car., where we have served now for over 26 years. Alvin loves the local church and enjoys being their pastor. But God did something so unexpected. A friend of ours had returned from Moldova and shared with our church his experience and later called Alvin and said he would like to go to Ukraine and invited him to go along. Alvin went with him, and it was there that God called him to do mission work. In 1995, God began a work there and it continues to this day. In 1997, I got to go for the first time.
The Holy Spirit engulfed me with His presence. I was filled with joy unspeakable and knew this was the fulfillment of my calling as a child. I had learned that what a person does on the mission field is what they do in ministry here in the local church. God had prepared me to share Christ unashamedly and openly with people I worked with and with strangers. So when I went to Ukraine, God gave me a freedom and anointing to do just that.
I have been to Ukraine 38 times on mission trips where I spent time teaching women, visiting pastor’s wives, sharing Christ in orphanages, taking food bags to the lost and poor. Our ministry has been a part of at least 100 churches. Some churches were built new, while others were renovated house churches which we purchased. We conducted evangelistic meetings in the villages all over Zhitomir Oblast. Sunday schools were set up in the orphanages over the years. Time won’t allow me to tell you what all God did in our midst while we were there.
We were also able to go to Tel Aviv, Israel, on a mission trip to Holocaust survivors. I can still remember a Russian Jew saying to me, “I believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” If he had been the only one, the trip was worth it. But he was not the only person who accepted Christ as His Savior; there were many homeless people from all over the world on the beaches there who came to know Jesus. We participated with Chosen People Ministries, who helped us serve food along the beach after the worship services.
In my church today, I am still teaching Sunday school, conducting Bible Studies, doing mission trips, and leading women’s ministries.
I am the mother of one son, and four grandchildren. Teaching my grandchildren is my greatest ministry. We enjoy reading Bible stories together, watching DVDs with Bible stories, and singing songs from my childhood. I taught them two songs recently.
One song goes like this:
Into my heart, into my heart.
Come into my heart Lord Jesus.
Come in to stay, come in today.
Come into my heart, Lord Jesus.
The other one is:
Thank you Lord for saving my soul,
Thank you Lord for making me whole.
Thank you, Lord for giving to me,
Thy great salvation so rich and free.
Not long ago, the two year-old was in the bed with me and she woke up in the middle of the night and began to sing “Into My Heart.” She leaned over and kissed me. I began to weep. It was then that I realized that doing mission work is sharing and teaching Christ crucified and resurrected — anywhere and anytime to anyone.
My faithful Lord has kept me, encouraged me, filled me, and loved me in spite of myself. He promised to complete the good work He has begun in me. I am trusting and obeying and cannot wait until my faith becomes sight.