Tina’s Testimony

I grew up in southern California in a white, middle-class home.  Adopted by two Italian- Catholics, I went to catechism until I was in eighth grade when I was confirmed in the Catholic Church (not that I remember anything I learned!)  My mom was a homemaker and my dad was a general contractor.

In high school, I began to rebel against my parents. First, because they were very strict. I saw my older brother exercising his own freedom and tried to exercise a similar amount. Second, because of the stress of my dad’s health issues. During my freshman year in high school, my dad had his second major heart attack and had arteries so clogged that the pain stopped him from working.  The stress of this caused much turmoil in my home.  I would hear my mom telling me things like, “Your father could die at any minute”. Her fear led her to a kind of debilitating life that my brother and I both ran from.  

The pride and control of my parents lead me down a path of anger and arguments.  I tried to stay away from my home as much as I possibly could engaging myself in school sports and student body activities.  I can honestly say I never wanted to see my mom  again after I graduated high school. There were times that we wouldn’t talk for weeks at a time.  I really loved my dad, but it wasn’t really worth coming home if I had to put up with my mom.  This is sad, but so true of many unbelieving families who have no hope in the world.  I know that my troubles were not as bad as some, but I wanted out.

 There was one light that God had allowed in my high school experience – a friend, Manny, who was in student body with me and the only Christian who ever asked me anything about God.  Because I was so troubled about my dad’s impending death, I often would pray rosaries which are “Hail Marys and Our Fathers”.  Manny asked me one day if I believed in Purgatory.  I said, “Of course. It’s in the Bible! Catholics don’t believe things that are not in the Bible.” He asked me where it was in the Bible.  I said I would find it. I asked my mom if we had a Bible.  We did. I looked up purgatory in the index which lead me to Matthew 25.  Some of you may know that Matthew 25 is the passage about the judgment of the sheep and the goats.  Those who believe to the right and those who have rejected Christ to eternal destruction.  Well, even as an unbeliever, I could tell that this was not talking about Purgatory.  At that moment, I questioned everything I was taught as a Catholic.  Manny invited me to his youth group.  If I recall correctly, I just went without asking. My mom wouldn’t let me go because it wasn’t Catholic.  Of course, this made me mad and I went anyway.  Once my parents found out that I went, I was grounded.  I decided that once I went away to college that I could do what I wanted and I would find a Bible study then.  I patiently waited out the summer trying to read through the gospel of Matthew with a zillion questions.  My friend tried to answer them, but I didn’t understand the gospel message.

 In the irony of God’s salvation plan for my life, I received a full scholarship to a women’s Catholic college, Mt. St. Mary’s, in Brentwood, CA.  I left my house fully intending to not return. My first day at a student fair I asked where I could find a Bible study. A student told me there were none on campus, but there was one at UCLA where a few of the students went.  She put me in contact with Cindy who was elated because I was the answer to her many prayers.  Cindy began to take me under her wing and share the gospel with me.  She told me about how she was Catholic and how she heard about a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  She explained that all sinned and were at enmity with God.  She gloried in Christ’s work that paid for her sins.  She said she was born again.  Wow. This was new, but good.  She invited me to a beach Bible study even though neither of us had a car. Thankfully, Viv had one.  She was a student at UCLA and committed to taking Cindy to church and Bible study.  Sounded like fun.  At the beach Bible study I heard an amazing gospel presentation.  I heard about how my sin separated me from God and the only remedy was to put my trust in Christ to forgive me so that I might be reconciled to God.  I heard that God didn’t want rituals, but a relationship with Him.  He loved me and wanted to speak to me through His Word.  It all sounded so right.  

After, I began attending prayer meetings with Viv and Cindy, morning praise times on campus, Bible studies at UCLA and attending Grace Community Church Sunday morning and evening.

Once when I was at church, I met another girl who shared with me that I didn’t know the day or the hour when Christ would return, so if I hadn’t given my life to the Lord that I shouldn’t wait.  Hebrews says, “Today is  the day of salvation”.  The Bible study shepherd asked me what was holding me back to committing to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  I thought about this, but there were some things that I still hadn’t experienced yet.  Like I said, my parents were really strict and so glad that I was safe at this Catholic women’s college. I told him that I wasn’t ready to give everything to become a Christian.

It was one night that I went out dancing with my suitemates that helped me to rightly count the cost of being a disciple of Christ. I had always wanted to go out dancing at a club. So the five us got dressed up and went to some place in the San Fernando Valley. I wasn’t tempted to drink, I just wanted to dance. However, a few of my friends who possessed fake I.D’s were drinking. How disappointed I was when I was being hit on by a man in his 30’s. Some of you may know that Mount St. Mary’s is on the top of a hill adjacent to the Getty Center in Los Angeles. It is a very affluent area with very narrow streets. It was as I was driving with my intoxicated suitemate up a very narrow street with headlights in my eyes that I realized, “If I die tonight, I would go straight to Hell”. I was sacrificing eternity for some night at a dance club or whatever I thought would give me some lasting pleasure. But it wasn’t worth it. It was all hollow and meaningless in light of the weight of glory waiting for me in Christ Jesus.

Though at that point, I knew I wanted to follow Jesus, I still didn’t understand that I didn’t have to work my way to be accepted by God. Romans 5:8 says, “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us”. I thought I had to get right first, then be accepted. It was a few weeks after this that a student at the UCLA Bible Study explained to me that I only need to yield myself by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. She told me that God would give the Holy Spirit to change my life when I became a new creature in Christ. I couldn’t make myself good enough, only Christ was good enough. That’s why He was the perfect sacrifice that would cover my sin. What a relief! It was on October 15th, 1986 that I confessed that I could not save myself by my good works and that only Christ’s sufficient sacrifice could purchase my ransom and free me the yoke of slavery to my sin and eternal death. I understood the call to follow Jesus no matter what.

My life radically changed in a very short time. I had love for the Lord, love for His Word and love for His people. For all these years I have been committed to “walking in a mannner worthy of the Lord that I might please Him in all respects bearing fruit in every good work, increasing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience joyously giving thanks to God the Father who called me to share in His inheritance with the saints in light.” (Colossians 1:9-14).

Interestingly enough, Tim had turned from his sin and began walking with the Lord the same week in October. Although he grew up in a Christian home, he had no visible display of obedience in His life as well as a lack of desire for the Lord. A friend had spoken with him about a relationship with the Lord and prompted Tim to begin reading his Bible again. As he read through the epistle of 1 John he understood how he had been living a lie.

Tim’s life also radically changed as a born again believer. He too, like me began to have a voracious desire for the Word of God. As Tim walked to his college classes all over the UCLA campus, he would memorize huge parts of Romans. He met with a more mature believer and shared his faith regularly. Tim and I became friends and would talk about God and ministry at the end of Bible study or occasionally on a Sunday. There was no love interest. We were really just friends.

After a few years, we continued to grow and mature in our respective walks with the Lord. Each of us committed to discipleship, the study of God’s Word, the evangelization of the lost and worship at the local church. It was on a summer mission’s project that the Lord began to change our friendship into something more. We had more than respect for each other, we wanted to be together all the time. We sharpened each other to be more like Christ. We were better together than apart. So, in the Fall of 1988 we began to date exclusively and we married in December of 1989. The Lord was very much in our relationship. Even my parents, who were very much against my Christianity loved Tim and consented to our marriage even before graduating college. They were very adamant that I finish school, and I did. After my BA in elementary education, I went to the only school my husband would agree…UCLA. I guess we had to because we only had one vehicle at the time. It was my job to move the truck so we wouldn’t get a parking ticket! After a year, I received my MA in Curriculum Studies and began to teach.

Tim continued towards his Ph.D in Electrical Engineering until he graduated in 1993 with some post Doctoral work until our move to Boise, Idaho in August of 1994. I had stopped working after the birth of our first child, Hannah. We live in a seedy part of Van Nuys in a large one bedroom apartment. After our second child, Bethany, was born, we knew Tim really needed to find a job. The only door that opened was at a small computer chip company in Nampa, Idaho. So off we went into the great unknown. The Lord was faithful to provide a Bible Church in Boise where we committed to home discipleship groups and Bible studies. Tim eventually became an elder and taught Sunday School Classes.

We had Daniel in 1996 and Carissa in 1997. We had decided to homeschool our children up through their 8th grade year, a great joy for me. Though Tim and I had wanted a large family, four had seemed a pretty good number especially with the extra educational needs. But in 2001, God surprised us and blessed us with our 5th and final child, Gabrielle. (For the specifics of her story, please see “The Story of Brie”)

It was in 2001 that God had put it on Tim’s heart to go to Seminary. Though he was very successful in his job at Zilog and had been teaching a few engineering classes at Boise State University. As he prayed for direction, the Lord had impressed upon him to use the rest of his time on earth in a focused way to extend the gospel full time. He knew he needed training so we went back to our “home” in December of 2003, and attended The Master’s Seminary (2004-2006). Friends of ours from Boise were at Calvary Bible Church in Burbank with kids similar ages, so we ended up worshipping and ministering in the local body there. While our plans had been to go back to Idaho after seminary, the Lord closed doors in Boise, and opened them in Burbank. I had vowed never to live in L.A again! Similar to the prayer to never minister with Junior High or High School students (which we did for a time).

During my time at Calvary Bible Church, the Lord has allowed me to use my spiritual gifts of public exhortation, words of wisdom, teaching and leadership in the areas of women’s ministries and high school girls discipleship groups.  I currently direct a ministry called MOMs Ministry which can be found on at www.calvarybiblechurch.org under the ministries tab which will lead to women’s ministries and then to MOMs. It has been my joy and delight to spend time writing and teaching Bible Studies in that ministry.

During the past 23 years, it has been my joy and delight to minister the gospel in my home. Tim and I have faithfully imparted the Word of God and lived it before our children. Of course, we have not done this perfectly, but with sincerity and transparency. How thankful we are to witness God’s grace in the lives of all five of our children. We give God all the glory knowing that faith comes through hearing and hearing by the Word of God. Each of them are now ministering in their local churches (four of them at our church, and our son at Lighthouse Bible Church in San Diego).

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