Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Al's Testimony

My Christian Testimony / Al Mulder 12-8-12

I grew up on a farm in Iowa, the second child of ten. My parents were hard-working, believe-in-God folks who read the Bible and prayed with every meal, who taught us to pray, and who never missed church – except maybe for an act of God.

Within this religious routine, there were at least two things that were not routine.

1.    When I was nine, my older brother – age eleven – died in a farm accident.

2.    The next summer, at a nearby one-room country school, the Vacation Bible School teacher challenged me to believe in Jesus personally, and to promise to serve him all my life.

The ‘God-thing’ is that God that used these experiences to commit my life to him. Vacation Bible School was about 8 months after my brother died. I know that his dying made me think more about life and death, and what after that!?  When my young Bible School teacher challenged me to trust in Jesus, the particular struggle I remember is not whether Jesus died on the cross as an atonement for sin, but how could I be sure he died for ME and for MY sin?!  The other lasting impact of this time is that my promise to serve God as a missionary was a motivating factor in wanting to become a minister, and in the kind of ministry that was important to me.

Fast forwarding, I graduated from Calvin College, got married, graduated from Calvin Seminary, served a rural church in Kansas, was a missionary to Navajo students in a large boarding school in Utah, and then pastored a Navajo-turned-multiracial congregation in Gallup, NM.  This was my life from 1953 through 1983.

My most intense spiritual crisis during my pastoring years was early in my tenure in New Mexico. Not too long after we came I became embroiled in conflict – as a spokesperson for the Navajo and Zuni churches over against the denominational board of missions. And on the heels of that, maybe because of that, I became seriously ill – forcing a two-month ‘sabbatical.’ During this time, again God worked change in me. First, through a near-death experience he gave me a deeper trust in him as Savior and in his good purposes for me as Lord. And second, he used some people to help me see how arrogant I was being, which in time prompted me to be more respectful and gracious to people who saw things differently from me.

Two quick footnotes here:

1.    During those years God also gave Darlene and me four daughters. Today 3 of them are grandmothers, and the 4th (became a grandmother on Dec 13).

2.    I have always felt enormously privileged and blessed to be in ministry, and all along the way have felt that – for whatever time or situation – there was no place I would rather have been! That also goes for belonging to Madison, and now to be a part of JAM.

Over the years, however, my larger and longer spiritual struggle has been over seemingly unanswered prayers (or not-yet answered prayers) where it counts the most – in the life of our family. My wife Darlene has suffered from anxiety and depression for decades! Going on disability in 1995, today she also is crippled up with arthritis. Our youngest daughter Eva, who lives with us, also is on disability due to a crushing car accident some 15 years ago. Care giving is not my lead gift, so I need to be reminded regularly that, as the Bible says, when we are weak God makes us strong (2 Cor 12:9).

I pray daily for our ten grandchildren. All of them give signs of believing in God, but much of the time they do not seem eager to hang out with people who do. (Already, God has given us 12 great grandchildren to be prayed over as well!)

Through these experiences, and lots of time with the Bible and prayer and Christian worship and Christian friends, God continues to teach me to trust him more – to trust both his purposes and his promises!

One Bible verse that has been a favorite of mine for at least forty years is John 16:33b, where Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

And I am also blessed by promises of Saint Paul, such as “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus,” and that “my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Phil 1:6 and 4:19).

As an older Christian friend reminds me, “It’s all about dying and rising with Christ.”

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