Journey to Romania, Part 1... The Growing Years
Who doesn’t love a good story? I’m sure you just had a favorite come to mind. Ever since I was a little girl my favorite has been Cinderella. I know…a fairy tale with a princess, a handsome prince and, let’s not forget, a cool pumpkin coach, sparkling glass slippers and a dress that twirled and twirled as they danced and sang…until midnight. Looking back, I love that Cinderella was always kind, regardless of what others did to her, and she allowed all the circumstances to play out without being vengeful or spiteful. In the end she got the Prince, the dress, the shoes, the castle and she lived beyond midnight to “Happily Ever After.” Truly a beautiful story. Only in a Fairy Tale?
The best stories are the ones we allow God Himself to write; after all, He knows us best (Psalm 139). I have been asked to “pen my testimony.” It’s really God’s story of what He has done and is still doing. It’s still being written and I did omit some of the more lengthy details, but I can’t edit God’s work, so here goes…
“Once upon a time” (oops, I couldn’t resist writing that), I was born in Los Angeles, California. I grew up in the San Fernando Valley/Hollywood areas. My mother loved Jesus and met my father at Grace Community Church (later pastored by John MacArthur). My grandparents were founding members and my mom and her siblings grew up with (future pastor) John and his sisters at church and school; our families have lots of history together. My father was directed to the church through one of the prison ministry pastors when he was released after serving time for various felonies, including drugs and fighting. He pursued my mother and they were married just a few months after their first date.
I was born two years later. When I was older my father shared he had not wanted my mother to have me. My memories of him are filled with his drinking, violent rages, gambling away the household money, and carousing with other women. On most family vacations I sat in the ladies’ room of a Las Vegas casino with a coloring book or dolls until he would allow my mom to come and get me.
By my early teen years, I grew to resent him. Just ahead of my thirteenth birthday my mother was diagnosed with incurable breast cancer. She made legal arrangements to ensure that my younger sister (by twelve years) and I would not remain in the care/custody of my father so we were sent to live with her sister six months before she died. At my mom’s passing I became angry with God. My aunt and I did not get along; she resented my close relationship with my grandmother (her mother) and openly shared that information with me when I moved into her home. Not only was I the first grandchild (and the only granddaughter for over twelve years), but all of my aunt’s children were boys and I had spent a lot of my growing up time with my grandmother. Ours was a nurturing relationship and she was a shelter for me against being home with my father.
When I was eleven years old, the Sunday School teacher had asked, “Who wants to go to Heaven and be with Jesus when you die? I raised my hand with enthusiasm, because who wanted the other alternative…hell? What I did not understand at the time was the Lordship of Jesus Christ; that salvation involved admitting our sinfulness and our need for a Savior, which involved a full surrender to His Lordship in our lives.
In my teen years I looked to men for acceptance. I hadn’t received it from my own father, so it became a driving force in my life. I often wondered why the good looking, strong Christian boys at church didn’t give me a second glance. Well…I was not walking with Jesus.
by Coleen Jejeran, Missionary to Romania
(Look for Part 2 of Coleen’s story soon)