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Jimmy lived most of life questioning why his dad left him at such a young age. But he was convicted and compelled by the gospel to love and pursue his estranged father in an effort to extend forgiveness and reconciliation.

A Father’s Love

My parents went to church, and my grandpa was the pastor of our church back home. During one of the mid-week services, my grandpa was up preaching and he asked the congregation, “If you died tonight, where would you lift your eyes up?”

And I started asking myself that same question. God started showing me how much of a sinner I actually was. He showed me, in a small way, my own depravity and my need for Him. I remember crying out to Him, “God, I want you to save me!”

Right then and there, He called me by name and He saved my soul.

After that, a really sweet thing took place (I call it sweet now, but it didn’t seem sweet at the time)…

A couple days later was a Sunday. My mom, my sister and my grandmother decided to go to the mall. Then, at the last second, I decided not to go with them. They came back later, and I remember looking out and seeing my mom crying in the back seat of the car. Then, I saw my grandma crying, and my sister crying.

My grandma walked up to me and told me that they had all caught my dad cheating on my mom with another woman at the mall.

I remember being so angry at that moment that I wanted to punch a hole through the light post that was standing next to me.

But then, in that same moment, I was reminded by the Holy Spirit that I’m different. I’m changed. I’m saved. And I actually need to forgive my dad.

But that just wrecked me! At the same time, I was so angry at my dad! I didn’t want to forgive him. He hurt my mom!

Still, at that moment, I realized that I needed to forgive him.

A little while later, he came back to the house. My mom and dad were arguing – screaming pretty loud. The only thing I could think to do was to pray.

I really wanted my dad to leave. I just didn’t want them to argue any more about this situation.

I mean… I was just in the sixth grade!

So, I ran to my bed and prayed. I asked God to just make him leave. Then I heard my doorknob turn and my bedroom door crack open. I heard my dad’s footsteps come through my door. The only thing I could think to do was to scream, “Daddy!”

He looked at me and the only thing I could say was, “Daddy, I love you.”

I said those words, and my own flesh and blood—my dad— looked me right square in the eyes, and just turned and walked out the house. He didn’t say a word.

That just broke my heart. I began to weep.

But, then God reminded me that I didn’t need my dad’s love.

I am loved by my Heavenly Father!

And that was all I needed.

All the way through high school, I continued to pray for my dad. When I got to college, I just stopped caring. In fact, I stopped praying about it.

I met a young man, who was in choir with me, and he asked me about my testimony. After I finished telling him my story, he asked me, “When was the last time you prayed for your dad? Actually, when was the last time you prayed for y’all’s relationship?”

I just sat back and said, “It’s been a long time.”

So, I went back to my dorm and said, “OK, Lord… I want to start praying for my and my dad’s relationship. I know it’s not good right now, and I want it to change. I want to know my dad more.”

After that, I began to call my dad. I’d call him almost every day. Many times, he didn’t answer the phone. And many times, he didn’t call me back. And there were many times when he would talk with me. And at the end of the call, I would say, “Alright Daddy… I love you.” And he wouldn’t say a thing. He’d just hang up the phone.

This happened for many years. But, I continued to pray for him and pursue him. I just kept running after him.

I actually wrote a couple songs about how I felt during that time, and how my mom felt, too. And, at one point, I actually sang one of the songs to him. I could hear my dad crying on the other end. I could feel the hurt within him. He began to repent to me. He said, “Son, I’m sorry. I’m sorry for all the things that I’ve done.”A Father’s Love

When we were saying goodbye, I said, “Daddy, I love you.”

And he actually said, “I love you”, back to me.

It touched my heart so much to hear those words.

And after that night, he actually started calling me! He was calling me even more often than I was calling him. He even would tell me he loved me without me saying it at all.

I look at all this, and I can clearly see how God has reconciled our relationship, and I see the Gospel in that.

I can see, through this story, how Christ has continually pursued me.

Oddly enough, I’m glad that all this stuff happened. Because, if this hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t be the man who I am today. I would not know Jesus as well as I know Him if my dad had not done the things that he did. The times when my dad wasn’t there, I learned that my Heavenly Father was always there. He would always provide when my dad wouldn’t provide for me. When I needed somebody to tell me that he loved me, my Heavenly Father would show me how much He loved me in so many different ways!

At one point, I called my dad and said, “Daddy, I don’t want you to say a word. I’ve just got some things that I need to tell you. God has used you in a great way – to push me to want to know Him more. And, I’m closer to God because of you.”

The next day, my dad called me, and said, “Okay… it’s my turn. Let me tell you something, and I don’t want you to say a word…”

And he went on to say things that I had never heard him say before. He told me how proud he was of me. He told me how I pushed him closer to God.

I see now how God has used me to display, in a way, a part of the Gospel in my dad’s life.

Reconciliation.

I’m thankful that God has reconciled our relationship. And to this day, me and my dad are really close. I look forward to the day when he calls me to tell me that he is saved, and I’m not going to stop praying for that!

I want God to call him by name.

The Austin Stone Story Team is a community of artists who tell stories of gospel transformation. We are photographers, writers, editors, filmmakers, and musicians on a common mission to use our gifts for His glory.

(By The Austin Stone Story Team. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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Faith on Amen Corner

After the last neighbor left, Debbie softly closed the front door. Eyes wide and hands covering her mouth, she turned to her husband and gasped, “Did you see that? Bobby, did you see that?” 

Bobby couldn’t utter a word. Half stuttering, he said, “That had to be the Holy Spirit. It had to be.” 

Bobby and Debbie Kopetsky marveled over the happenings of that night for hours. It was only the third time their neighbors came over to talk about God, and faith was already stirring inside everyone in the group. Faith on Amen Corner

Fifteen years earlier, the Kopetskys moved into their redbrick home on Amen Corner Road in Pflugerville, Texas. They smiled and kindly waved at their neighbors on their frequent walks, and Bobby chatted with the men at the neighborhood golf course. The interactions were brief––surface level at best. “You could recognize one another in the grocery store, but you wouldn’t know anything about their life,” Debbie explains.

In August of 2013, Bobby and Debbie heard about “Explore God,” a 7-week study series for churches, small groups, and anyone who had questions about faith and God.

The Kopetskys looked at each other, their faces saying it all: We have to do this in our neighborhood. “It was the Holy Spirit moving in us. God gave us the idea. He gets all the credit,” Bobby says.

A few weeks later, Bobby and Debbie laced up their shoes and went door-to-door on Amen Corner Road. They invited their neighbors over for dinner to explore those hard questions about God––something that neither of them, in over 30 years of being Christians, had ever done before. “We thought to ourselves, If we don’t make disciples now, when will we do it? Debbie says.

Bobby held Debbie’s hand and took a step onto the first front porch. He glanced down the block as he said, “God, it’s all Yours.”

“Our invitation was simple,” Debbie remembers. “I just asked them if they wanted to come over for fajitas and have a conversation about God.” Some neighbors didn’t make eye contact, some said they weren’t interested in faith conversations, and some didn’t open their doors. But some were excited. Some were intrigued. Some were searching.

A total of nine neighbors showed up on the first night. “We were excited about what God was going to do,” says Debbie. As they looked around the circle of neighbors, Bobby and Debbie sensed that everyone was eager to learn more about God. But when the conversations started, it was clear that not everyone believed God is real, that He is good, or that Jesus is their hope.

In fact, some of their neighbors had never opened a Bible before. One neighbor lost his parents at an early age and blamed God. Another neighbor was raised to hate Christianity. “There were a few who had some biblical background, but they didn’t really follow through. It was like they believed Jesus, but was Jesus their Savior? They didn’t know that. They couldn’t tell you that,” Debbie says.

For the next seven weeks, the group continued their discussions, despite the discomfort and doubt. As leaders, Bobby and Debbie didn’t always have all the answers, but God kept bringing the neighbors back each week. “It’s just about being obedient to what God is calling you to do. You don’t have to have all the answers,” Debbie explains.

On the last night of the study, the group aimed to answer the question “Why does God allow pain and suffering?” One by one, everyone shared their experience with suffering.  A father had passed when one neighbor was only eight years old. Another neighbor’s mother gave her up for adoption after two weeks. It was a circle of brokenness and pain.

But there was a problem—an unspoken assumption: Bobby and Debbie seemed to have it all together. It appeared as though the Kopetskys never experienced real suffering.

After all had shared, Debbie knew she, too, must break down the barrier and open up about her own pain. Debbie slowly gazed around the circle. “I was widowed when I was 32. I had three children,” she said, her voice catching in her throat. The room went completely silent. Wiping the stream of tears from her face, Debbie continued, “To this day, I don’t know why. Why did my children have to suffer? I don’t know. How was that in God’s plan? I don’t know.” 

From there, Debbie and Bobby told the story of their marriage. They met over 25 years ago, when the boys were still in elementary school. In that moment, the group saw that Debbie and Bobby’s faith wasn’t built on a life of smooth sailing. By God’s design, their lives stood on a solid rock—on something bigger. Someone stronger. Everyone was pointed to Jesus that night.

The study series was nearly over, but no one was ready to end the Sunday night gatherings on Amen Corner Road that brought everyone so close together. “You know, we only have two more weeks to go. What are we going to do now?” asked Katie, one of the members. Her husband, Chris, replied, “Let’s study a book of the Bible, and let’s do homework!”

So, they did just that.

Over time, Debbie became familiar with the eyes-wide, hands-covering-her-mouth routine. She was in awe. God was stirring faith in her neighbors.

Now, two years after their first meeting, the group continues to gather regularly for dinner and time in the Word. What started out as a group of nine neighbors has grown to 15 today. “They say Jesus is their Savior,” Debbie shares.

Bobby adds, “One of the men in our group is a lifeguard. When he’s not busy, he’s doing his homework for our study. He even invited a couple to join us!” 

One woman in the group confessed that the Word of God has restored her relationship with her daughter. Another neighbor said the group is like a family to them. “Now, they pray. They all pray,” Bobby adds, beaming.

And they love one another. In October 2015, Bobby and Debbie got a call that changed their lives forever. Their middle son, Tyler, suddenly passed away. “We were devastated,” Debbie remembers. “Our group was devastated right along with us. They cried with us, and they came over. They were all at the services. They all came to the house. They were at our side.”

“We know that we should let our light shine,” Bobby says, “because God says that we will have pain and suffering in this life. And we know from Scripture that we should use this to glorify Him, so that’s what we want to do.”

Chris, who once said he only believed about 80% of the Bible, says he now believes in it 100% after seeing God’s goodness in the Kopetskys’ loss of Tyler.

“This is the sweetest, sweetest, sweetest…” Debbie pauses to catch her breath through the tears. “This is the most incredible thing that God has ever let us be a part of.” 

The Austin Stone Story Team is a community of artists who tell stories of gospel transformation. We are photographers, writers, editors, filmmakers, and musicians on a common mission to use our gifts for His glory.

(By The Austin Stone Story Team. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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“I don’t want to do this, I change my mind.” The words fell out of Daphne’s quivering mouth as nurses ushered her into the dimly lit room and onto the blanketed bed. “No, no, no. I don’t want to do this anymore!”

“You can no longer make that decision,” the doctor responded.

due date of grace

Daphne lay on that blanketed bed on May 10, 2007. Only months before, she received the news and quickly began planning for her new life as a mom. She loved kids—even worked with them daily—and now she was having her own. But it wasn’t long until her entire life crumbled at her feet, leaving her seemingly alone, fighting for the life that was now inside of her. She eventually caved and agreed to the wishes of her parents and the father for her to get rid of the baby.due date of grace

After the procedure, Daphne had difficulty finding the will to live. She often fell asleep on the cold floor of her bathroom, crying in regret, with white tissues all around her. She felt robbed—as though she made the right decision at the last moment, and no one even cared. “I was so mad at this God I didn’t even know… that he could do this and let this happen to me.”

Then, two of Daphne’s co-workers began reaching out to her, encouraging her to wake up each day, and sharing about the freedom and forgiveness found in Jesus. Through many honest conversations about her issues with God, they persevered and continued showing her God’s love through their actions and words. On the baby’s presumed due date, Daphne’s coworkers had flowers and a card waiting on her desk as she came into work. On the card was a verse from the Bible:

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To Him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 5:10-11)

due date of grace“I read that verse and my soul knew that it was true. And I, by God’s grace and the Spirit, believed that things couldn’t get any worse, and that God was going to restore me.” On that day, Daphne started walking with Jesus.

A few months later, Daphne was living with her cousin in Cedar Park, working at a hospital, and attending The Austin Stone Community Church. Although God continued working things out for her good, Daphne battled with what she thought of as a tainted testimony of how God brought her to himself. She struggled with guilt, shame, and even feeling like she deserved the bad things that happened to her. Before long, God brought Daphne the man who would be her husband, a man who understood the depth of grace and the way it covers all sin.

They were married, and God blessed Daphne and her husband with a baby. The pregnancy was a difficult one, high risk with regular appointments every few days, but on the last appointment before the baby’s delivery date, the unexpected happened.

“You have to deliver today. Your fluid is low and your placenta is dying. Baby’s got to come out. Today,” the doctor said. It was May 10, 2013—one month before the original due date, and exactly six years from the date of her abortion.due date of grace

“I was a little overwhelmed with it at first, but I realized how much God wanted to own the full redemption. I felt like God was telling me, ‘I take what was a horrible day every year and I claim it for my glory, and I give you a reason to celebrate it with life.’ And I couldn’t believe God was so gracious even in the details,” Daphne remembers.

“I think the constant battle is doubt. … [I] doubt God’s goodness, doubt God’s wisdom. But God constantly reminds me that I am fully purchased. Jesus’ blood is fully redemptive. There’s no condemnation, nothing left to pour out on me. Staring at a baby everyday is like a direct reminder, but it gives me joy for what is now and what isn’t anymore. It’s done. I am fully redeemed.”

due date of grace

The Austin Stone Story Team is a community of artists who tell stories of gospel transformation. We are photographers, writers, editors, filmmakers, and musicians on a common mission to use our gifts for His glory.

(By The Austin Stone Story Team. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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after losing her husband to cancer, Taylor's faith has grown

Shortly after Taylor and Mike began dating, Mike started to experience vertigo-like symptoms that prompted him to get an MRI. At the age of 28, Mike had a brain tumor that would later be diagnosed as a rare form of CNS Lymphoma. After a surgical procedure and round of chemo, Mike showed no signs of cancer. “At that point, in our minds, Jesus had healed him, and it really was a miracle,” Taylor recalls.

Shortly thereafter, Mike and Taylor got engaged and focused on getting him better. “Through that whole time it was just about taking it one day at a time and focusing on getting him healed, balancing doctors and your faith…then we got married and we lived our lives after that.”after losing her husband to cancer, Taylor's faith has grown

A new job opportunity for Mike prompted them to move to Richmond, Virginia. After three years of facing the anxiety of regular check-ups every six months, doctors found “a small something” that was growing during one of these check-ups.

“Deep down, I always knew that the chance of Mike’s cancer coming back was really great. It just wasn’t one of those easy things. Despite that, we lived our lives for those three years just really confident in what Jesus had done. We tried not to live in fear each day that it would come back.” But when it did, Taylor was seven months pregnant with their first child.

During a time that was supposed to be the happiest time of their lives, Taylor and Mike were also going through the worst. Mike started an intense round of chemo that required him to be hospitalized for several days. However, due to God’s faithfulness, Mike was able to be with Taylor during the delivery of their baby daughter, Charlotte.after losing her husband to cancer, Taylor's faith has grown

Soon after, they learned that Mike’s tumor had grown and that the current chemo treatment was not working. It was time to do something drastic – getting help from some of the best doctors located at MD Anderson in Houston. With a two-week-old baby, Mike and Taylor packed up everything to move across the country. They knew this was what they had to do. “This was God’s way of bringing us home to be surrounded by people who love us and can take care of us,” Taylor said.

Despite Mike’s rapidly declining health, Taylor wanted him to experience what it was like to be a father and took care of him the best way she knew how. “Throughout this whole time, I tried to remember that you have to take it one day at a time and you can’t worry about the future. You just have to trust that whatever will be is ordained by God and that’s all you need to know.”after losing her husband to cancer, Taylor's faith has grown

Mike was eventually hospitalized for pain that was worsening by the day. “We realized that this was it. At that point, it was just about making Mike comfortable. It could be weeks or it could be days, but at that point all we had was prayer,” Taylor recalls.

“While that was devastating news, I felt like God had prepared my heart for it.”

It was a struggle for Taylor because she never wanted to feel like she was giving up on God’s ability to heal Mike. “I always believed – until the last day when Mike died – that if Jesus wanted to heal Mike, he would. It was possible.”

When Mike moved to hospice, they were able to leave Houston and return to Austin to be surrounded by family and friends. The elders of The Austin Stone Community Church came to pray around Mike and encourage Taylor.after losing her husband to cancer, Taylor's faith has grown

“I learned that I wasn’t giving up on Christ’s ability to heal all sick and all disease. But I believed that if God’s ultimate way of healing him was through his grace and eternal life and taking him home … then that was his path. That is what had to happen.”

Though Taylor experienced sadness and confusion at the end of Mike’s journey, she always had peace. Now, a year later, she feels like her faith has grown drastically.

After Losing Her Husband to Cancer, Taylor’s Faith has Grown

“Before I met Mike, I was guilty of coasting and being content with my walk with Jesus. When you are suffering, you are in constant conversation with God. I thank God for what happened to me,” she says. “When you suffer, your character is refined to look more like Jesus. Blessings outweigh the suffering, and new life came from our relationship.”

Taylor is facing the challenge of going back to a normal life but wanting to live it differently. “I have been changed and I don’t want that to go to waste. So what do I do now? How do I take what has happened and use it for my character and for others? I’ve been given a gift so I don’t want to waste it.”

after losing her husband to cancer, Taylor's faith has grown

The Austin Stone Story Team is a community of artists who tell stories of gospel transformation. We are photographers, writers, editors, filmmakers, and musicians on a common mission to use our gifts for His glory.

(By The Austin Stone Story Team. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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The Weight of Two Worlds

The Weight of Two Worlds

Shawn Martinez took a glass from the cabinet and set it on his kitchen counter. He grabbed a bottle of liquor, twisted off the cap and filled the glass. He picked up his headphones, put them on and turned the music up. It was 2:00 AM, and he walked out the door of his apartment. He wandered around the complex, carrying the weight of his mistakes. He couldn’t tell his fiancée Amber the truth. I’m taking this to my grave, he thought.

Shawn kept walking, and drinking, contemplating the choice ahead of him. I can go one way, or the other, he thought. He peered down the destructive route, the path toward more lies, more deceit, and he knew it was the easy way out. It was the path he longed to take.

Blinking away fiery tears, he deliberated the other path. For the first time, he considered telling Amber the truth. He knew it was what God wanted of him, but he also knew it was the harder road. I’d have to change a lot of things about myself, Shawn thought. He wondered what it would be like to lay his burden down. He doubted he could do it – he didn’t have the strength.The Weight of Two Worlds

For as long as he could remember, Shawn chased the attention of women. He also sought approval through money and possessions, going so far as to steal from others. He pursued happiness and fulfillment in one night stands. He lived for the moment, seeking contentment in money and sex, while displaying another life to his family and friends. For years, Shawn kept his two worlds apart.

Shawn met Amber at a gym where they both worked, and they were immediately drawn to each other. They started dating, and Shawn fell in love with Amber – but he continued his other pursuits in secret. The weight of his two worlds grew heavier.

After meeting Amber, God brought another person into Shawn’s life, Ronnie Smith. Ronnie came in to the gym looking for a personal trainer and, from looking at him, Shawn knew it would be a hard sell. But Ronnie surprised him by signing up for a three month plan.The Weight of Two Worlds

They started the workout plan and spent time together each week. After just a few sessions, Ronnie started asking about church. They discovered a shared background, growing up in the same denomination. They talked about God. Shawn knew about Jesus, but didn’t trust him. He asked Ronnie questions, and Ronnie preached the gospel during the workouts. One day Ronnie told him, “You give me a good sweat, and I’ll teach you about Jesus.”

As the three months drew to a close, Ronnie pressed on Shawn’s life more and more. The hard questions sometimes rubbed Shawn the wrong way, but he could not stay away. After Ronnie completed the plan they stayed in touch, and Shawn and Amber began attending The Austin Stone Community Church. Amber was a Christian, and she was happy to have a church they could go to together.

After almost three years of dating, Shawn and Amber got engaged. They signed up for the Nearly & Newlywed class at the Stone. They met other people and began to form friendships. God was drawing them closer to himself, but Shawn was still living his double life, seeking approval and happiness in other women. He could see his two worlds bearing down on each other.The Weight of Two Worlds

That’s when Shawn found himself walking around his apartment complex late one night, caught between what he knew was right and what he wanted. He thought about the sex and the greed. He thought about his bride-to-be. He thought about the paths that he could take. He had to choose.

After that night, God continued to pull Shawn into his arms. Shawn started fighting his sin. Shawn confessed his sins to God, but not to Amber. They joined a missional community, and Shawn began meeting with two of the guys in a weekly Life Transformation Group. In June of 2011, Shawn and Amber were married.

His struggle continued and the weight of his two worlds increased in the first few months of their new marriage. One day at lunch with one of his LTG guys, Shawn’s strength failed, and his two worlds finally crashed into each other. “I confessed these things to God,” Shawn began. “Do I really need to ask forgiveness from my wife?”

His friend did not hesitate. “You need to talk to your wife.”

After this Shawn was on a date with Amber and he could not fight the conviction of the Spirit anymore. “All the way up until the moment that the words crossed my lips, I was fighting it with all my being,” Shawn says. Shawn started tentatively, asking Amber, if there were things in his past he hadn’t told her about, would she want to know?The Weight of Two Worlds

Amber remembers thinking, God calls us to be completely transparent with each other, so as much as it is going to hurt, I want to know. She told him that, and they left the restaurant. “Even on the drive after, I was like, ‘No, this is not going to happen. I can’t do it,’” Shawn says. When they got home, Shawn finally yielded. “I fought it, and then I just gave up and let it out.” He told his wife about his past, about his infidelity. In this act of confession to his Lord and his wife, Shawn knew he was reborn. For the first time, his burden started to lessen.

But, it was a soul-wrenching moment. As he confessed, Shawn remembers being scared, but knowing God was there with him. “It was the most humiliating experience I’ve ever had,” Shawn recalls. “It was an experience beyond myself, it was beyond me that the words came out of my mouth.” He was terrified of what would happen next.

Amber’s reaction was not what he expected. “I remember hugging him, because he was crying hard,” she says. “I feel like God gave me the strength to get through it. Christ gave me the backbone and strength to listen to him.”

For the next several days, they continued to talk about his confession, and Shawn recounted his past further. It was hard, but not without hope. “All I wanted was for him to be guilt-free, and completely free of everything,” says Amber. “When he confessed that, as much as I was sad and hurt, I remember feeling joy too. Finally, he was allowing himself to be vulnerable to Christ.” After several days of conversation, it was all on the table and the healing could begin.The Weight of Two Worlds

The next year was not easy. Shawn and Amber immediately brought a mature couple into their struggle. Shawn opened up further to the men in his LTG and they responded with encouragement. During that year Shawn struggled with his sin, seeing victory and failure both. He started to understand the weight of his sin. But he also started to truly understand the grace of God.

It was grace that defeated his shame, and removed the weight of sin from Shawn’s shoulders. It is grace that’s restoring Shawn and Amber’s marriage to something greater than it ever was. “I see that he loves Jesus,” Amber says. “I’m grateful for everything God has brought us through.”

The Austin Stone Story Team is a community of artists who tell stories of gospel transformation. We are photographers, writers, editors, filmmakers, and musicians on a common mission to use our gifts for His glory.

(By The Austin Stone Story Team. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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Daughter of a King - From drug addiction to eternal salvation

Daughter of a King – From Drug Addiction to Eternal Salvation

Debra Cobbs never had a normal childhood and never knew what it felt like to be someone’s daughter. Born into a family haunted by drug and alcohol abuse, Debra has battled the same addictions for the past 36 years.

As she spent her childhood seeking love and approval from her family, Debra never knew her real father and lost her mother at an early age. Her addiction began when she was 15 years old and led her down a winding path of destruction and loneliness. When Debra’s mom wasn’t able to take care of her, she was placed with different family members who began to physically take advantage of her.

“When they got what they wanted from me, they were done with me. I never felt like I was wanted,” Debra tearfully remembers.

As an adult, Debra spent her life on the streets. She found her value in alcohol, drugs and men. During those years, she was never able to look at herself in the mirror because she was too ashamed.

“I remember the person I had become. I was an animal. I was sitting in the streets, drunk, and no one wanted to be around me.”

In 2012, Debra stumbled upon a faith-based organization, Mission: Possible! Austin, which aims to connect the body of Christ to Austin’s urban communities in order to foster life transformation and impact those who are struggling with homelessness. Even though she was not yet a believer, Debra had always felt a tugging in her heart to find out who God was.Daughter of a King - From drug addiction to eternal salvation

At first she was hesitant and guarded, but when the workers at Mission: Possible! Austin revealed to her their own past sins and showed her that she wasn’t alone, Debra started to feel more comfortable. But she was still using drugs.

It wasn’t long until Debra was arrested for possession of a controlled substance. It was her first drug charge and felony. After she was released from jail, she quickly slipped back into her old habits of substance abuse. Her friends from Mission: Possible! Austin continued to encourage Debra to return. She did, but could not stop using.

Finally, in 2014, Debra decided she’d had enough. In the solitude of her apartment, she fell to her knees at the foot of her bed and cried out to Jesus. She begged God to help her fight the addiction. When programs and counseling didn’t work for her, she felt the only cure could be God. In the past, Debra felt glimpses of his presence during the tough times but never felt like she really knew him.

But, in that painful moment when she was drowning in the pit of her sin, God finally revealed himself to her.

Debra was only sober for two weeks when she visited Jobs for Life, a global nonprofit with a mission to equip the church to help introduce the jobless back into the workplace. Debra was terrified to attend classes and, since she was clean from all substances for the first time in years, she was afraid to be herself.Daughter of a King - From drug addiction to eternal salvation

The class taught Debra more than how to find a job. It taught her how to see who she was in Christ. One of her instructors used an illustration of self-worth and value that stirred in her a desire to change.

If you were to take a $20 bill, crumble it up and throw it on the floor, would it not be worth anything because it’s crumbled up? If you picked it up and straightened it out, it still has value.

“And from that point on I thought, Wow, really? I still have value? Even though I’ve been damaged? Debra recalls. “And that right there gave me room to breathe and my heart began to be opened.”

The class also became a vessel for an unexpected friendship with Lynda, her once-mentor and now, one of her closest friends.

“When I first met Lynda, I thought she was too strict. I didn’t want to be paired up with her. But now I see that is what I needed. She has helped me to be where I am today,” Debra remembers. “I thank God for the people he has put in my life, because when I first knew I wanted to change I was crying out to God asking him for friends, I was angry that I didn’t know anyone.”Daughter of a King - From drug addiction to eternal salvation

The relationship between Debra and Lynda allowed her to experience living in community for the first time. The strong and assertive characteristics of Lynda that Debra once feared have become the qualities that she now treasures the most. Without the tough moments when Lynda challenged Debra to make wise choices, Debra wouldn’t have learned how to keep steady employment for the first time in her life.

“As I listen to Debra now, she is just so firm in what she believes and who she is,” Lynda shares. “She wasn’t like that when I first met her, but God has done a work in her and given her that confidence. It’s exponential what God is redeeming in her life.”

Debra fights every day for her freedom from addiction and for her relationship with her Savior. She won’t start her day without first immersing herself in the Word. But most importantly, Debra now knows where her identity is found.

“Jesus says he is the way, the truth, and the life. And I want life with Christ. I am a daughter of a King and that is now my identity,” Debra says. At 51, Debra now confidently knows what it feels like to be a daughter.

Daughter of a King - From drug addiction to eternal salvation

The Austin Stone Story Team is a community of artists who tell stories of gospel transformation. We are photographers, writers, editors, filmmakers, and musicians on a common mission to use our gifts for His glory.

(By The Austin Stone Story Team. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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God is with sex trafficking victims as they seek restoration

When Geanine Gregory was seven years old, a neighbor sexually abused her. The abuse produced feelings of guilt and shame that were never discussed in her family, thus harvesting years of sexual sin in Geanine’s life.

At the age of nine, Geanine’s parents divorced, and she was forced to leave her father and live with her mother and older sister. She learned to provide for herself because her mom worked long hours to provide for Geanine and her sister. This type of independence wrongly taught her that if she could control the circumstances in her life, then she could control her suffering too.

When the family moved to a small Texas town, Geanine felt forced into organized religion because that was the town culture. “I learned at a very early age to associate yourself with some kind of religion. I never knew what to say or how to feel, I just knew that you should associate yourself with people who went to church,” she confesses. But she never had a relationship with Jesus. She can look back now and see how God slowly began to weave the story of her salvation through her circumstances.

An unhealthy relationship in high school introduced a wave of sexual sin into Geanine’s life. “I quickly learned that you can control men with sex and that ended up being how I earned their love and attention,” Trapped in the darkness of false promises, Geanine started to work at a strip club when she was 18 years old, which only fueled her desire to become more attractive to men. “Once I opened the door to that sort of sexual freedom, it just got worse, especially in college. During that time there was a lot of sadness, and it was very dark,” she recalls.God is with sex trafficking victims as they seek restoration

After Geanine graduated from Texas State University, she moved to Austin. One of her new neighbors, who was a believer, accompanied her on a shopping trip to a Christian bookstore. “To this day I am not sure how I got there. I had owned a student Bible from years before and just thought it was time for a new Bible because I was not a student anymore.” Looking back, she knows it was not coincidental – it was God slowly pursuing her and sweetly weaving another piece of thread into her story.

While at the bookstore, she ran into a man who attended The Austin Stone Community Church, and he invited the two of them to check it out. After some hesitation, Geanine agreed to visit, but only if one of her co-workers would come along. Though she had attended youth camps and knew “religious people,” this was the first time Geanine had ever stepped foot into a church.God is with sex trafficking victims as they seek restoration

In the summer of 2010, after attending church sporadically for a few months, she saw an announcement that Total City Sports Camp – a summer camp organized by the For the City Network – needed coaches. Geanine always had a love for volleyball after playing the sport for most of her life, so she decided to volunteer. Despite being overwhelmed with fear, Geanine felt immediately welcomed into the community of her fellow coaches.

Geanine grew close to the other coaches as the summer passed. She not only was attending church with them, but she also started living in community with them. Geanine also began having a relationship with Jesus. Though she felt hope, she also felt that a wall of shame prevented her from walking in freedom with Christ.God is with sex trafficking victims as they seek restoration

“I feel like, being a woman, there is a stigma about dealing with sexual sin addictions. It is not openly talked about, so it brought on a lot of shame,” Geanine said. She started talking to one of her fellow coaches, and then later began counseling. It was through counseling that Geanine fully felt God’s restoration in each moment of her past sin; the wall began tumbling down.

Through her growing knowledge of God, she could see that he had been slowly pursuing her all along – that he had used her passion for volleyball to weave together a desire to love him and a community to help guide her through the restoration process. Though she felt like her story was over, God had only just begun.

In March of 2014, Geanine learned about NightLight International, a ministry with a mission to bring hope to women who have been harmed by commercial sexual exploitation. After speaking with a representative in Georgia, Geanine was invited to come on staff with the ministry. Geanine spent a month making her decision: she feared the temptation of sexual sin would resurface if she were re-immersed back into the sex trafficking environment.God is with sex trafficking victims as they seek restoration

In January 2015, Geanine moved to Atlanta, GA to work for NightLight. Though she felt disqualified to take on such a role, she found courage in the promise of Gideon’s story when he struggled with the same fear:

“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.” The Lord answered, “I will be with you…” Judges 6:15-16 

Geanine hopes to share with sex trafficking victims that God will be with them, too, as they seek a life of restoration and freedom.

God is with sex trafficking victims as they seek restoration

The Austin Stone Story Team is a community of artists who tell stories of gospel transformation. We are photographers, writers, editors, filmmakers, and musicians on a common mission to use our gifts for His glory.

(By The Austin Stone Story Team. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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Waiting on God’s Timing

Justin and Beth Day got married in the summer of 2011, in a season they both recognize as “later in life” compared to other newlyweds. But the end of their singleness didn’t mark the end of their hardships.

In 2012, the Days decided to start a family. However, after many attempts, the couple discovered Beth was infertile. Devastated by the news, Beth put her hope in the doctors to help her fight this battle.

“Justin did a great job supporting me,” she says, “but he also showed me that I was putting my hope in someone other than God. I wasn’t trusting that God could perform a miracle for us. I was putting all my hope in doctors and medical treatments,” Beth tearfully recalls.Waiting on God's Timing

Beth compares the medical process of infertility treatments to that of running a marathon. After going through that exhaustion, the two of them weren’t sure if they had it in them to withstand the days of waiting that come with the adoption process. They questioned God’s character and wondered if He was present during this heartbreaking time.

After hearing a sermon series on adoption at The Austin Stone Community Church, Justin and Beth decided to explore the path of adoption in February 2014. The Days partnered with Gladney Center for Adoption, an organization based in Fort Worth, Texas. During the Center’s orientation, the Days connected with another couple and began to walk alongside them during the process.

Justin recognizes that the adoption process awakened a boldness within both himself and Beth to proclaim the gospel, something neither of them were comfortable doing in the past.

“It has been a real opportunity for us to see God’s hand in this process and has allowed us to have a lot of conversations about God with them,” he says.Waiting on God's Timing

Justin and Beth were approved to proceed with the adoption process in June 2014. For 10 months, God reminded the Days that He was present even when they felt He was silent. Emails, texts, and words of encouragement from their Missional Community group reassured them when they felt too weak to keep waiting.

In April 2015, the Days received a phone call that answered their prayers. They were picked to be Ruby’s parents. The Days invested their time and hearts into creating a relationship with the birth mom and her parents. The relationships were challenging at times, but the gospel was proclaimed once again in the midst of difficulty.Waiting on God's Timing

After Ruby was born, she was placed in transitional care for 30 days until she could go home to Austin, Texas. Once again, Justin and Beth found themselves in the familiar place of waiting.

“It was not a great time for us, because at that time the birth mom had not signed away her rights to us. So we could visit once a week, but we didn’t know if Ruby was ours or not,” Beth recalls.

They describe it as the hardest 30 days of their lives, but during that time, God blessed them with the ability to see His love for them.

“We were pursuing Ruby not knowing whether or not we’d be her parents, and I feel like God pursues us even knowing that we are going to deny Him,” Beth says.Waiting on God's Timing

Ruby came home with Justin and Beth on May 22, 2015. Her homecoming has left the Days in awe of the goodness of God.

When Justin reflects on the painful days of waiting, he fights back tears of happiness because through the process of pursuing his daughter, he shared the gospel more times than he had in his whole life before then. Now, even when they tell strangers what led them to adopt Ruby, the Days share about their own adoption through Jesus Christ.Waiting on God's Timing

Justin compares their story of adopting Ruby to that of when Jesus was in a boat with His disciples during a storm. The Days and their Missional Community were like the disciples, witnessing a miracle from within the storm. When others around them could only see waves of suffering engulfing them, they saw Jesus calming their fears and restoring their faith.

“He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. ‘Where is your faith?’ he asked his disciples.” (Luke 8:24-25)

Waiting on God's Timing

The Austin Stone Story Team is a community of artists who tell stories of gospel transformation. We are photographers, writers, editors, filmmakers, and musicians on a common mission to use our gifts for His glory.

(By The Austin Stone Story Team. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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