Teresa Mitchell - Belief in God is not enough
I was born in South Wales, the eldest of four children and the only girl. My parents were brought up in a very strict religious church called the ‘Exclusive Brethren’.
In 1982 they broke away from it, being ex-communicated and were not allowed to see the rest of the family again. Because of this, my family emigrated to South Africa, to the south-east coast of Natal.
As children we had an idyllic lifestyle outdoors with beaches, acres of garden to play in, mountains to explore and many animals. It was truly wonderful. I am thankful to my parents now, that they took us to church regularly, and so we grew up having a belief in God.
I know now though, that just - believing in God is not enough.
At 12 years of age, I went to a Friday youth club and was asked by the youth leader if I had accepted Jesus into my life, which I replied that I had not. So my friend and I went into a room with the youth leader to say a prayer. I thought then, that I had become Christian - although no change had taken place in my heart at all.
And certainly my life as a teenager would testify - that I was still rebellious within and God was not leading my life at all. My dad was an entrepreneur and started up many businesses and went from one new venture to the next moving us all over South Africa. By the time I was in my mid teens I had been to 16 schools!
My parents later divorced and I quit school. I was only interested in myself and going to clubs and dating. At 21, I got married to a naval officer having met him in a nightclub we later had my lovely son. Unfortunately I was left as a single mother.
I did my best supporting and working hard raising my young son, in a country with no help or benefit system. However, the political climate in South Africa was becoming increasingly unsafe for me to live on my own. At that time I started going to church again. I made several Christian friends, one of whom would later become my husband.
Then in 2001 I decided to go to the UK with my son and my mother. We were staying in Slough with my two brothers, Jason and Lee, who had come to the UK a year before to earn some money. We stayed in a two bedroom flat, not a lot of room for all five of us. So early in the mornings before they went to work, I went running in the park behind the block of flats to have some space.
There on my own the Lord burdened my heart to yield to Him, as morning by morning, I beheld the beauty of His creation all around me, as I ran. During this period I started going to church again with my mum hoping this would somehow make my life better.
At the same time I managed to get some nightshift work at the Royal Mail. Unfortunately I got involved with the wrong crowd there - causing me to turn away from God. This resulted in me moving out of my brothers flat with my son and moving in with a friend. This was definitely the wrong decision and things deteriorated and I knew I had made a big mistake.
I had no help now, as my brothers had relocated, and my mum had moved to Devon. I got help from the Samaritans and they managed to get my son and myself down to Barnstaple. My mother had just started working there and had moved into a bedsit and so could not help us at all. We had no where to go. In December of 2001, we moved into a homeless shelter. Although this looked like the very lowest part of my life, the Lord used it for His glory, as he knew all my ways.
It was not a pleasant place for us to stay and reality struck home to me. I was determined to go to church again and put God first. Then just a few weeks later we were moved to the topmost room of the shelter into the attic because of over crowding. Up there in the cramped low ceiling room, my son and I lived for six months.
One night after reading a verse from the Bible in Jeremiah 29:13 - “You shall seek Me and find Me when you search for me with all your heart," I realised I had always lived my own way and God was not directing my life at all. I had always gone to church with the wrong motives - wanting God to make my life happy. I did not realise that you can never be truly happy living for yourself.
‘What profit is it, if a man gains the whole world but loses his soul?’ (Mark 8: 36).
I prayed and cried out for forgiveness, and asked the Lord to direct me now as He pleased for the future. I sought Him with all my heart and he heard me. The Lord soon after took me out of that shelter by the aid of a dear couple of Godly Christians. He also did many other amazing things for me which I did not deserve. Now my son and I had our own place and I became a member of a church for the first time.
Later my friend one of my friends, with whom I had stayed in contact with all that time, came over from South Africa. We ended up getting married and after the birth of my daughter Michal, the Lord guided us out of that church we were in. It was becoming very charismatic and worldly, and into a church that centred on the truth of God’s Word - the Bible. At this church my love for God’s Word grew.
The Pastor suggested it had been at the shelter that I had been truly saved and not when I was 12 years old in the youth group. I realised this was true, as only now do I walk by faith in God day by day.
‘For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls’ (1 Peter 2 v 25).
In 2007 I was baptised, it is a day I will never forget:‘Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new Creation; old things have passed away; Behold all things have become new’ (2 Corinthians 5v17).
Since then we have moved to Southampton as a family and have been through many trials and afflictions, but through them all, the Lord refines me, teaches me and makes His goodness known to me.
We have now worshipped at Spring Road Evangelical church for three years, they have become our family. The Lord has also blessed me by giving me the privilege of serving Him and others in my work at a Christian bookshop.
I do not know what lies ahead; my focus is no longer on the temporary things of this world but in Christ alone.
‘For without Faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those that diligently seek Him’ (Hebrews 11 v 6)
“For all things work to good to those who love God to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8 v 28).