Mary E. Hanna's TestimonyI grew up on a farm in a place called Three Creeks Arkansas. It was named after the creeks I swam in as a kid.
In those days you didn't get in your car and drive to the church of your choice. You went to the church nearest to your home. We went faithfully to a little country church within walking distance.
We did not read our Bible as a family, or pray together, or even talk of God in our home. Be we never missed church unless we were sick.
My dad was very strict and I was very stubborn and rebelled against him. My mother said we were just alike and that's why we could never get along.
I had no thought or time for God except at night when I had to go to bed and was scared of the dark. Sometimes I was afraid I might die before I woke up. Then I would pray a quick prayer.
I was popular in school and started dating when I was 13 years old. At age 14 I met a guy five years older than me. After we had dated only three months, I learned that I was pregnant. At age 14 I quit school and got married. I loved my baby from the time I learned I was pregnant.
So my little girl was born when I was 15. I thought she was the most beautiful baby I had ever seen. As I rocked her and loved her, God started speaking to my heart.
I wanted Tammy to be a Christian - I wanted her to know God, to serve Him all her life, and to go to heaven for eternity when her life here was over. I also knew that since I was not a Christian, I could not teach her the things of God. In my heart I knew that first I must become a Christian in order to raise her in a Christian home.
Now my goal was to become a Christian. Only I did not know the simple plan of salvation. I was spiritually blind. I would read my Bible, but I did not understand anything I read. I would write verses down and still could not understand. I prayed, but it seemed my prayers went nowhere. I thought I had to be good to be a Christian. I started teaching Sunday school - I did all the good works - but still in my heart I knew I was not a Christian.
I went forward in church at the preacher's invitation thinking this is what I need to do to become a Christian. The preacher only shook my hand, he did not explain the plan of salvation to me. After church everyone hugged me. Some said they had been praying for me. I only felt disappointment because in my heart I knew nothing had changed. I knew that I still was not a Christian.
At age 16, I gave birth to my second daughter, Cindy. This only made matters worse. I also loved her with all my heart, but I felt there was no hope for them unless I could show them how to live the Christian life.
I continued to do my good works, read my Bible, and pray. At age 19, I learned I was to have my third child. At that time I cried out to God, and said, "God, stop giving me children if all the hope I have to give them is for them to be born, grow old, die, and go to hell." I would rather they not be born if only to be born and not be Christians. I had already given up on myself. I had tried everything I knew of to become a Christian and I knew I was still lost.
So my third daughter, Connie was born. I loved her, but I was so depressed. I thought of killing myself but I was afraid to die. I knew as soon as I died I would go straight to hell, and I was afraid of hell.
One night when Connie was two years old, I had a dream - only to this day it doesn't seem like a dream. It was so real it feels like it really happened.
In this dream I was in bed beside my husband, and I woke up. I woke up because I was in so much pain. I could not move anything but my eyes. The right side of my face was drawing toward the left side so bad my face hurt. My mind was clear but I could not move and I could not speak.
Something dressed in black with a black hood on its head floated into my room, until it was floating in the air just above me. This thing started talking to me. It said I am the angel of death and you are dying. The fear I felt was awful, because I knew it was true. I tried to reach over to wake up my husband so he could take me to the hospital, but I couldn't move. He continued to lie there sleeping.
The black angel said, "You cannot wake up your husband, and even if you could it's too late. He couldn't get you to the hospital in time. You are going to die!"
In my thoughts I started crying out to God, "Please don't let me die. I'm afraid to die. If I die I am going to hell. Please don't let me die. Please help me."
I was struggling and fighting with death until I wore myself out. Finally I said, "O.K. God, there is nothing else I can do. I give up."
When I said, "I give up, God," the black angel left. My body relaxed. It was over, and I was still alive. My face still hurt from the skin being pulled so tight to the left. My husband woke up, raised up in bed, looked at me, and asked what was wrong. I only said, "Nothing is wrong."
The next day I was still depressed because I knew I still was not a Christian. I still did not know how to become a Christian.
Two days after the dream, A girl I went to school with came to see me. We had never been close because she was a little older than me. We had never visited each other before. She came with the excuse that she had a playsuit her little girl had outgrown and maybe Connie could use it.
She also had her Bible with her. She was a new Christian and had never witnessed to anyone before. She came with fear and trembling. She said, "I have never done this before, but God has shown me that I must come to see you and tell you how to be saved." I had never heard the term "to be saved" before.
We sat at my kitchen table and she pointed out verses and asked me to read them. I read them out loud. I still could not understand them, even when she tried to explain them to me.
I really didn't think there was any hope in what she was saying. After all, I had already tried everything I knew to do and nothing worked. I had totally given up.
She did not ask me to pray with her, but before she left she said, "If you will just pray and ask Jesus to come into your heart, He will save you." Well, I didn't believe that. That was too easy.
Helen left and I went about cleaning house as if nothing had happened. But I kept thinking about what she said about asking Jesus into my heart. That was something I had never tried.
While cleaning my bedroom, I knelt down beside my bed and said, "Dear God, I don't believe this will work but I have tried everything else. I want to ask Jesus to come live in my heart. Amen."
I didn't feel any different. I knew it wouldn't work! I got up and started cleaning house again, but something inside me kept saying, "Call Helen and tell her you did what she said."
I finally called and said, "Helen, for some reason I felt I should let you know that I did what you said. I asked Jesus into my heart." I felt no different. I went on and finished my housework.
Later I sat down with my Bible and started to read like I usually did. Praise God! I understood everything I read. My spiritual eyes were open. I knew that God lived in me. I knew, "Now I am a Christian."
Everytime I read my Bible now and understand, I know it is the Holy Spirit in me, and the proof of my salvation.
I am saved, I have been born again. I have been set free - I am not afraid of death and hell any longer.
Since that time I have had my fourth daughter Dana. The girls are grown and married. Tammy is in the ministry with her husband. I am thankful to God for my daughters and my husband, Bill.
I have four great sons'-in-law and four wonderful grandchildren. God has blessed me abundantly above anything I could ask for. I still pray for my daughters and their families and expect great things to happen in the lives of my grandchildren.
I never take it for granted that people know how to be saved because they live in America and go to church. I believe I would have been saved earlier if someone had shown me the way. It was six years after I started seeking God before someone came to my house and explained to me how I could become a Christian.
What if Helen had not obeyed? What if she had not come? Would I still be lost? And my family as well?
Phil. 3:13-14, Forgetting those things which are behind ... I press toward the goal....