My life is an answer to prayer. I grew up in the Los Angeles area as an at-risk child with a single mother. My mother worked constantly, my father was half a continent away, and my older sister, Susie, became my parental figure. I was not taken to church or taught about the Heavenly Father whom I now know longed to be in a loving relationship with me.
In junior high, Susie moved to Missouri to live with our father, stepmother, and three younger half-siblings. I didn't join my sister. When Susie did this, my mother slipped into a deep depression. From that time on I became a mother to my mother.
When I saw my father and extended family once a month each year, I felt more like a visitor than a part of the family.
After high school years filled with the baggage that comes with a life lived apart from Christ, I left our small California apartment and went to a private college in Northern Oregon.
My first night on campus, the school sponsored dorm parties complete with kegs of beer. That night kicked off four years of drinking several nights a week. I think I secretly hoped the alcohol could cover the pain I had taken with me to college. Through all of those turbulent and broken years, my Aunt Loretta, the one Christian in my family, kept praying for me.
After four blurry years of college, I headed to Seattle with everything I had ever wanted: a college degree, a great job in television, a handsome fiancé, and a great financial future. Although on the outside I had my life together, inside I found myself asking, "Is this all there is?"
Even at loud parties with friends and laughter, I was lonely and began to see hopelessness in all of our lives. One night I accidentally exited the freeway too early. As I stopped at a red light, I became fascinated with the construction of a new church sanctuary on the opposite corner. Since it was near my home, I started watching the construction progress on the church. I saw two men hanging a sign one day that read, "Visitors welcome. Our church can be your home."
Wanting to get a look inside at the beautiful stained-glass window, I woke up early that next Sunday and headed to Seattle Aurora Church of the Nazarene. As I got out of my car I remember thinking, "What am I doing here? I don't go to church." I was met with the love of Jesus Christ in the form of a greeter named Dolly Kirkeide.
She welcomed me with a genuine love I had not felt before.
After being warmly received in Sunday School, I followed people into the sanctuary and sat on the second to the last row. As the pastor preached, I wondered how this man knew my story. At the end of his message he said they had an altar and invited anyone wanting to accept Jesus Christ to come to the altar to pray. I wanted to go, but I couldn't move.
The pastor, Tharon Daniels, then felt the Holy Spirit telling him to describe what an altar is and what to do there. As he verbally walked me through the next step, I moved forward and met Jesus Christ that Sunday morning in November 1988. I left the altar feeling free and loved for the first time.
God immediately became alive in my life.
I soon learned, however, that my Christian decision came with a price. I lost my relationship with my fiancé, all of my college friends, and for a time most of my family. They all believed I had gone crazy.
I shed many tears over the cost of following Christ, but I wanted the life He had given me more than the life I was leaving. I had no idea then that God's plans for me would be a thousand times better than I ever could have dreamed. Eventually, I married the pastor's son, Scott, and God has blessed us with four beautiful children. My in-laws have filled the parental role I always wanted: they love each other and me. Many of my friends and nearly all of my family members have now come to know Jesus Christ as their Lord.
I am so grateful for an aunt who never stopped praying for her niece and a church greeter who truly helped a non-believer sense the love of Jesus Christ. My father-in-law tells me that the church welcome sign I remember those two men hanging up that Friday never existed. My family and I believe they must have been angels sent to get my attention.
God is so good. If you ever wonder if God still works miracles, the answer is yes.
My life is a testimony to the power of prayer and the transforming work of God's grace.
Debbie Daniels now serves at Pasadena, California, First Church of the Nazarene, where Scott pastors. She works with women and single mothers.
Holiness Today, 2006
Please note: This article was originally published in 2006. All facts, figures, and titles were accurate to the best of our knowledge at that time but may have since changed.