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Freedom Friday

May 17, 2024

We are blessed to hear countless stories of transformation and ultimately, FREEDOM, as people learn to abide in Christ and find a new way, a new life. We want to share some of these stories with you in coming weeks. So, each Friday, we will feature a different story. If you would like to submit a testimony, please let us know by registering. TESTIMONY REGISTRATION

 

Submitted by Jeff Duff, Tehachapi, CA Kern County

 

My Christian journey has been one of moving from head knowledge about the character of God, to the deeper knowledge gained through experiencing the transformation of the heart — mine and others. For years my faith in Jesus was kept strong through church and biblical teachings that lead me to scripture. Deepened through small group studies, devouring many Christian teaching and allegory books and a blessing though brotherly fellowship. Yet, something was missing and my efforts to fill the void failed no matter how hard I tried. Like so many, I was not experiencing Christ’s abiding love in my heart, as the pursuit of knowledge became increasingly frustrating.

 

The Journey discipleship was new, guiding me into a reality that pointed me vertically, helping to mode spiritual disciplines of prayer, scripture meditation and journaling. A process that worked for me and modeling what a closer proximity with Christ looks like and experiencing this same process working for so many others on their own journey. I experienced and witnessed the fruit of transformed lives, a knowing of how God continues to work, which surpassed my previous understanding of how the Spirit of God works in my own heart and the hearts of others. Something I knew to be true, but never understood or experienced. I discovered that the Journey group contains no secret sauce, just an intentional process of discipleship that Scripture teaches, but one that was elusive to me for so many years.

 

Today I know God loves me and He is actively pursuing me and others through His body of believers. His Spirit is actively working outwardly to transform me inwardly. The friendship I have with my Lord and Savior Jesus is beautiful. He has taught me that the Kingdom He ushered into the world can presently be lived in. He encourages me to embrace the work He has for me, knowing that work will have eternal results, even among all the disorder we experience in our fallen world. God is Sovereign, especially through prophecy and promises, He will remain close to us as long as we remain close to Him through Scripture, prayer and community. I love the fellowship I have with my local church as much as I do with my Journey group brothers and sisters. Chasing after Jesus and inviting others along the way, brings an abundance of peace and joy that no thief can steal.

 

 May the 10th, 2024

Submitted by Jaime Vega, Influencers Tulsa, OK

Thank you for the opportunity to share a little bit about my testimony and the work that God has done in my life. Growing up, my parents did a great job of taking me to church every week. I grew up knowing and hearing about God, but all my life it was only surface knowledge. It was one of those things where I went through the motions and went to church because that was the right thing to do, but once I’d leave church, I’d immediately return to my normal life and forget about God either until the next week when I went to church, or until I was in a bind and needed something from him.

In 2018, I was at a point in life where I was so focused on advancing in my career and moving up the corporate ladder as quickly as possible. I had been an assistant manager at my job for almost 5 years and the next big opportunity was about to come up. I had been receiving outstanding performances in my annual reviews, I was very involved in community events, and pretty much doing everything I needed to prepare. Three management opportunities were opening within my company at the same time, and I was thrilled because I was ready for that next challenge. I interviewed, felt confident, then came to find out, I didn’t get any of the 3 positions. The funny thing was that out of the three people that got the positions, I had helped to train two of them. With those three people being promoted, it opened another opportunity at a larger branch. It would be as an assistant manager, which is what I currently was, but since it was a busier location, it would pay more, so it could still be looked at as a promotion, kind of.  I applied, went through the interview process, then came to find out, I didn’t get that either. It just didn’t make any sense. I was working hard, doing all the right things, scoring excellent on my annual reviews, so why wasn’t I getting any of these promotions? I immediately became angry at the organization. I was so bitter that everyone else was being promoted, but I didn’t get a thing. I started to feel sorry for myself and felt unappreciated, so what did I do? I went to LinkedIn and turned on that little feature that states that I’m open to new opportunities. A few days later, I received a call. There was an opening in our learning and development department and the person wanted to know if I was interested in applying for it. Years later, I found out it was a retention move to keep me there since the HR team saw that I was looking elsewhere. I was hesitant because that is not somewhere I saw myself, but I was so bitter at that point that I knew that if I stayed where I was, I was going to be miserable, so I took the position.

Over the next year, I continued to do everything I could to learn and grow so that I could get back to climbing the ladder. I was working full-time, I had my family to take care of, I was going to school working towards my college degree and doing all the volunteer/extra-curricular activities at work to try to stand out. My now VP of Learning and Organizational Development, Teresa McKay, has been an absolute blessing to me. She took me under her wing and started helping me work on further developing myself. She suggested that I joined the Hispanic Leadership Institute through leadership Tulsa, to give me additional leadership skills and to help broaden my expertise. I was so appreciative of the opportunity, so I decided to take her up on the offer. My days were so busy, and I was always sprinting. I got to the point where I started getting burnt out with everything I was involved in. I was overwhelmed, my anxiety got really bad to the point where I would get nauseous. I used up all my energy on my career that by the time I got home, I was done for the day. If you have read the Journey to the Inner Chamber, then maybe you remember at the beginning of the book where the narrator mentions that he was like a wounded dog, just ready to bite. That was me. I would get home and my wife never knew if I would come home in a good mood or a bad mood. My daughters were scared of me because sometimes I would yell at them for talking to me too much or simply for the fact that they were laughing too loud. They were constantly walking on eggshells. I was broken, I was ruining my daughters, and my marriage was hanging on by a thread. BUT GOD…

God had different plans for me. In early September of 2019, I was at one of the HLI sessions, and James Sanchez was a guest speaker that day. I knew James a little because we both did a lot of work in the Hispanic Community. During one of the breaks, we were talking, and he invited me to this thing called the Journey. He told me how they met every other Sunday for two hours and really encouraged me to go. I politely told him I’d think about it, but internally I was thinking HECK NO. There’s no way I am going to add another two-hour commitment to my schedule. especially not for 9 months! As the day got closer for that Journey meeting. I started feeling guilty. I thought, how can I make time for everything else, but I am not wanting to make time for God? When that Sunday came around, I decided to go. When I left my house, I felt so tired and overwhelmed that I started to cry.. this wasn’t like a little cry, this was a full on ugly cry.

When I got to the meeting, I immediately felt this feeling of peace rush over me. I was greeted by Sean, Mick, James, Carlos, Gorney, and so many great guys. These guys were different though. They had a peace and joy about them that immediately caught my attention. I wanted that peace and joy so bad! By the end of that session, I decided that I was going to commit to going back. Over the next several months, I got to know everyone really well and I began going through that transformation that everyone was speaking about. Carlos and I grew close during the process and our brotherhood kicked off. In May of 2020, I went through the commencement process. It was an amazing experience, but now I was sad because I was going to go several months without these meetings.

Sometime around August of 2020, I was called to lead. Literally. Carlos called me asking if I wanted to help him co-lead a group. He said that God put in his heart that he needed to lead a Spanish Journey group. He told me about how he wanted to do it through zoom, and he had people from other countries that might be interested. My initial thought was the same that I had for James the previous year, which was heck no! Not because I didn’t want to, but because I did not feel qualified. I was new to all of this, and I did not think I had it in me. By this point, I knew better though. I knew that God had brought me to this point in life and I needed to be obedient, so I took a leap of faith and before we hung up the phone, I told him I’d do it. In November of 2020, we started an all-Spanish journey group, and we had people joining from Venezuela, Colombia, Costa Rica, and Argentina. It was a great experience getting to commence this group of guys. The next year, we decided to do it again. We had several new guys that joined us for this journey. The majority lived in Costa Rica. One day Carlos asked, wouldn’t it be cool if we went to Costa Rica and did the commencement in person? After talking through it, we booked plane tickets and decided to commence in person in September 2022!

Now that we had planted seeds in Costa Rica, we decided to lead an in-person group here in Tulsa. It continued to be all in Spanish and in August 2023, we had the pleasure of commencing another group of amazing guys.

Now to back up a little bit. In 2021, Carlos and I went to the Influencers Summit down in Tahlequah. There is so much to be said about that Summit, but I won’t get into the details. All I can say is that if you get the chance to go, I 10 out of 10 recommend it. It’s one of the best things I have ever experienced. While at the summit, I met this guy named Tommy from Owasso. He was so hospitable, and it was so easy to carry a conversation with him. I think the first day we met, we stayed up talking in the lobby of the cabin until like 1 in the morning. We exchanged contact information, but over the next year, we were never able to connect. The following year, Carlos and I went to the summit again where again, I ran into Tommy. Through eavesdropping into his conversation, I heard him talking about wanting to start a couples journey group. I immediately started drilling him with questions and pretty much invited myself to his group since I wanted to do the journey with my wife. As the launch date got closer, he mentioned that this gentleman named Keath was helping him co-guide the group and asked if I’d be interested in helping too. Of course, I agreed. Over the next several months, we guided and commenced a group full of amazing couples.  

As I have matured in my faith, I have been able to reflect and compare my life pre-journey to now that I have learned to abide in Christ. Back then, I was striding to move up the ladder and trying to do everything on my own, as opposed to seeking God’s advice in what to do. Ever since I started abiding, I have been promoted in 2020, 2021, 2022, and 2024. I used to be angry at the world and thought all these things happening to me were attacks against me. Now I’m happy no matter the circumstance because I know that every trial has a purpose. I went from being bitter to full of joy. From feeling unappreciated, to grateful for everything I have. From being anxious, to having that peace that surpasses all understanding, from being overwhelmed and burned out, to feeling strong and energized. That’s not because I’m less busy. In reality, I think I’m busier now, but Jesus tells us in Matthew 11:28-29- “Come to me all that are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest in your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

I am now a firm believer in that verse. I have been able to accomplish so much more with Him in my life and not feel burdened. My marriage went from hanging on by a thread, to now being stronger than it’s ever been. Our marriage is Christ centered now and the closer we grow to God, the better our marriage gets.

One final reflection that I have is that sometimes our plans have to fall apart in order for God’s plans to come alive. Things that happen to us might not be what we want, but it might just be what we need. For anyone whose plans have been turned upside down, remember Jeremiah 29:11 which says “For I know the plans I have for you”, declares the lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

I am now happier with my life and my career than I have ever been. And as I look back it’s so easy to see now that God was orchestrating a better plan. If I wouldn’t have been passed up on those promotions, I would have never transferred departments. If I wouldn’t have transferred, I would not have joined the Hispanic Leadership Institute, which means I never would have gotten that invitation from James. Without James, I would never have known about the journey, and I never would have experienced this amazing transformation. I now know to trust God and know that his plans for us, are much better than anything we can imagine for ourselves.

 

May the 3rd, 2024

Jo Nipper, Norman, OK - Video Testimony

Meet Jo Nipper, an 86 year old woman from Norman, OK who shares her interesting life story and how going through The Journey at 86 finally helped her learn to Abide in Christ. She also talks about the power of using the STAR method of journaling. She is finishing her first Journey group and now making plans to start her own group. VERY INSPIRING!

 

 

April the 26th, 2024

Submitted by Jason Habbershaw, Influencers Prison Ministry, Mississippi

 

 

God is able! I want to tell you about a man named Merlin. He is a man who is a self-proclaimed special education student when he was young. He is now a grown man and resides in a place known as Parchman. He needs help reading and has teamed up with another member of our group to help him with that. Merlin will write out his answers, but they’re usually either very short, or spoken when asked for them. 

 

To put it into simple terms, he is borderline illiterate. But I was able to hear a testimony of how our God is able to do mighty things!

Merlin, came to me today and told me that over the last two weeks, he has been able to start reading and writing all on his own. He prayed for this! He has read all his scripture homework, written all his answers AND God wasn’t done… Merlin read a 72 page book not once, but wants to read it for a second time!!! 

 

When this happened he immediately started telling people around him! He also stood up during chapel on Sunday and told everyone (something he said he would never have done). 

 

Please hear me when I say that the same God that split the Red Sea, the same God that defeated Satan, the same God Whose Spirit lives in me, is fulfilling His promises! 

 

John 15:7 (NLT): But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted!

 

April, 19th 2024

 Doug Dority, Norman, OK

 

 

"What is the one thing you desperately want in your walk with God?" This is the question I was asked when I was first approached about the Journey.

I didn't even need to think about my answer. I said: "I want to hear God speak to me."

Being "saved and baptized" at 8 years old, I went on to become the poster child for the story of the Prodigal Son. After years of alcohol, drugs and Agnosticism, I finally surrendered and returned to Jesus. For the next 20 years by the grace of God I rebuilt what I thought was a good Christian life... replacing my bad behaviors with good, tithing and serving regularly, everything I was supposed to do.

So why could I not hear God speak to me? I was hungry for an answer.

As it turned out, the next Journey group was not starting for several months. Being my usual inpatient self, my new mentor Bob agreed to meet with me individually to start going through the first couple of chapters of the Journey workbook. I read Journey to the Inner Chamber, started getting to know God and began journaling.

In less than 2 weeks I was hearing God speak directly to me! I was blown away. In fact, I was so excited about the Journey that I wanted to wait until the next group started so I could do it with other men. I actually stopped using the Journey materials for the time so I didn't get too far ahead, and concentrated on daily devotionals and bible reading instead. My excitement only grew while I waited.

That first Journey group changed my life in more ways than I can express here, but I can honestly say I found my calling and my purpose in God's Kingdom... to invite and train other men to become true disciples and warriors for our Savior King, Jesus Christ!

I'm now Co-Guiding my 3rd Journey group and I've never felt so alive and full of purpose! Praise God for bringing one of His disciples into my life. His Holy Spirit is alive and active in our groups, church and community. Finding and growing disciples for Jesus is what it's all about. All praise and glory to our King!

 

Register HERE to give your testimony:

https://influencersglobal.churchcenter.com/registrations/events/1593257