Posted by: kathyhugs | April 6, 2010

8 minutes at Easter

This Easter weekend, Rick and I were given the privilege and honor of speaking at all four of our church services. From beginning to end it took 8 minutes to share our testimony. We were interviewed by our senior pastor, Jeff McNicol about the events over the last 33 months. It was supposed to be a video interview but the editing couldn’t get finished in time so there we were live! It was a very humbling experience. I was shaky at the first service on Saturday. I was trying to remember what I wanted to say based upon the video we had done but the words were getting mixed up. The second service on Saturday Rick and I prayed and decided to allow God to choose the words we would say. It was so much better!!

But what an emotional evening. We got home and crashed on the coach, too tired to even talk. Overwhelmed and an emotional dish rag.

Sunday morning dawned: a beautiful resurrection day! There was a feeling in the air even as we stepped into the church. An air of expectancy, of excitement. This is it. This is the day. Jesus has risen. The heaven are opening up with a chorus of Hallelujahs! The sun is shining upon the Son!

We sit down to prepare ourselves. We pray together for God’s guidance and peace for our hearts. We pray that if there was anyone who could hear our words and draw close to God then this is all worth the tears. The music begins. The congregation, our family of believers, have opened their hearts to God and they are praising His name. The choir quietly takes their place on the platform. There is silence… then a joyous song springs from every mouth and every heart. The entire sanctuary is pulsing with the Spirit of God.

Pastor Jeff walks to the platform and we follow behind him. He introduces us by explaining that we have experienced an event and that he wants the congregation to hear our story.

Q1: In July of 2007 you had an event happen that would have shaken any parents heart. What happened?

Kathy: July 1, 2007; I was at youth group and Rick was on a plane to California. A friend walked into the church and found me. She told me that there might be a problem at Tonia’s house and that I needed to try and get in touch with her. Tonia was 25 and living in Wellsville, Ohio. I tried to call her cell phone, which she always had with her. When she didn’t answer I knew somewhere deep inside of me that she was already dead. I then tried to call the Wellsville Police department. The person who answered the phone said that there was no one at the station because they were all out on a police call. After thinking about it I called a friend who lived a short distance from Tonia’s house.  She said to give her a few minutes. She drove to Tonia’s house just in time to see them wheel Tonia’s body out on a gurney while the house was surrounded with crime scene tape. She walked up to the sheriff and asked him if he had told her family yet. When he said no she dialed my cell phone number, handed it to him and said Ton’s mother is in on the phone and you need to tell her. The next phone call that I received was from the sheriff. He said this is Sheriff David Smith. I am sorry to inform you that your daughter is deceased and we are treating it as a homicide. That’s is how we found out the news.

Q2: Rick what did you experienced in those early days?

Rick: Needless to say, it rocked our world.  We had been going along in what we had thought was a normal everyday life.  We never even imagined anything close to this.  It shook us to the core of our entire belief structure.  Is this something that a loving God would allow to happen?  We rapidly came to the conclusion that it was not God, but rather man’s sinfulness.  But, it happened and God brought His people around us to lift us up and carry us through.  The ways that He worked in us over the next several months was just amazing to step back and see.  Through His people, through direct intervention, through messages from the pulpit, there were so many ways that He spoke to us that helped us get through the anger, the hurt, the frustration.  We had no idea where we were headed, but with His help, things began to slowly take shape and the world began to look like it was a place that we could be again.

Q3: Rick this led to a prolonged time of legal issues that have just recently ended. What was outcome?

Rick: The legal process has just recently finished.  It turns out that our son-in-law was the one who killed Tonia, and he pleaded guilty.  He will now be in a state prison for the next eight years.  It has created significant challenges within our families.  It has brought Kathy and me much much closer together over time.  We were very close prior to this but our communication has had to expand tremendously through this ordeal.  Because that is the only way we could have made it through intact.  Without our communication together, our communication together with God, and His communication to each of us, there is no way we could have made it through this.

Q4: Kathy, people would expect anger, bitterness but you have shown otherwise. Can you tell us about that?

Kathy: From the very first moment it was almost as if there were two sides of me, one side of me that was crying out in despair. I felt like I was falling into a huge hole. Then there was the other side of me that knew that the only way we would get through this was by trusting and holding on to God. This led us to think of the people around us and that included our son-in-law, JC. After many months of prayers and talking about it , one of the things we were led to do was to buy a bible for our son-in-law. During our victims impact statement in court we were able to give him that bible. We told him that we forgave him, that we would continue to pray for him and that he was still a part of our family.

Q5: What allowed you to respond as you did?

Kathy:  Trust in God: Totally relying on him, knowing that He forgives us and that he loves us. Knowing that the only way to honor God and to honor our daughter is to say, you show us the way and we will walk the path, whatever it means. That means showing love to our family, showing love to JC and praying for His salvation because that is what God gave to us!

Rick:  There is clearly no way that we could have ever come to that conclusion on our own.  Without God’s help, without Him stepping in and guiding us, there is no way that we, on our own, could have been able to forgive JC.  That wasn’t us.

As we concluded talking and began to walk back to our seats, I started to shake and started to cry.  The conversation started clapping which made me cry even harder. May God use us to spread His love and His healing hand on just one person! Pastor Jeff’s message was inspired. He was delivering a message directly from God. A message of victory! God’s spirit was in that place. His love was evident. His victory won.

We played a very small part of this Easter service but I will always cherish the awe that we both felt. We were blessed!

Happy Easter!

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