Salvation

God Doesn't Waste Pain

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All along there was Jesus.

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During my time with Anthologies, I have heard and read many stories. Some are filled with joy, some are filled with blessing, some with suffering, and some with pain. But all of them display God’s work through human lives. I sat down with Cathy and was quickly made aware that this story is one of pain that reveals God’s steadfast presence, His provision, and His use of the pain we cause each other to reveal Himself to us.

The story of Cathy’s childhood is replete with pain: physical and mental illnesses, dysfunction, alcoholism, misery, injustice, abuse, abandonment, suicide, and legalism.

Hers is a story of how sin wreaks havoc in children’s lives, of how people either knowingly or unknowingly bring such deep harm to each other that some only see escape in death.

Hers is a story of a schizophrenic mother forced to live in institutional care away from her children, repeatedly attempting suicide, eventually cancer took her life.

Hers is a story of a father abandoning children emotionally and physically; a father that divorced his mentally ill wife, remarried and brought one of his daughters with him when he moved to Florida, leaving the others behind.

Hers is a story of siblings torn apart, some forced to live in abusive and crowded foster homes; a brother who passed away from leukemia and another who committed suicide – his step-daughter died from an accidental overdose just 9 months after.

Hers is a story of a Baptist-run foster home with instability due to legalism and constantly rotating foster parents; sometimes they were good, sometimes they weren’t.

Hers is a story of having just enough to live through college and summers where a home wasn’t guaranteed.

But that is not all of the story. All along, there was hope. A hope that can’t be undone by pain or erased by sin.

Cathy encountered Jesus while living in a Baptist-run foster home. She watched a Christian film at church that day and accepted Him as her savior and Lord. She remembers seeing a rainbow in the sky that evening, marking the beginning of her transformation into a woman of faith. She finally met Jesus, the same Jesus who carried her family, sometimes unbeknownst to her.

All along there was Jesus.

Jesus who strengthened Cathy through her suffering with a work ethic that got her into Cedarville University despite a lack of resources, showing His truth through Ephesians 3:20, which has become her life verse. He blessed her with extended family and friends to provide a home each summer.

Jesus who saved her mother with His grace, healing her enough to get her out of the institution and back to her children before cancer set in.

Jesus who revealed Himself through the brother who died while still in high school from leukemia; sharing the gospel through his testimony to all who would listen.

Jesus who led her father to salvation, and during his third marriage to a Godly woman brought her remaining siblings into his home.

Jesus who showed her brother His love and gospel through Cathy before he took his own life; and showed her Psalm 116:1-6.

Jesus who brought Cathy and her sister into His service using their testimony to fuel His ministry; Cathy serves the mentally ill and her sister works in an inner-city ministry, creating Christ-filled rap music.

Jesus who empowered Cathy with grace to comfort her sister-in-law with the love that only He can generate as she endured the loss of her husband and daughter just months apart.

Jesus who brought a man into Cathy’s life with whom she can share her love of Jesus for a lifetime; together they have three children who all love and serve the Lord. They consider their house church to be family.

Jesus who gave Cathy a love for us that she would share her heartbreaking story of pain and ultimate redemption so we could know the truth of our Lord Jesus even more than we do now; and bring comfort to others (2 Corinthians 1:3-5).

As Cathy says, “I want to be used by God.”

2 Corinthians 1:3-5 (ESV)

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.

 

Author: Jonathan Allain

Pulled from the Pit

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I survived my childhood and teenage years, so what would God have for me next? I had no concept of what love was, thought this world was simply ‘survival of the fittest’ and was literally living from day-to-day. As a young man in my 20’s, I had more baggage than Delta, American and United combined. How could God ever love or possibly use a fool like me?

My name is Jay Buinicky. I am an Apex network elder, have been a follower of Christ for a little over 30 years now and this is my story of redemption. It’s not pretty, but it’s real.

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I grew up just north of New York City in a very large, ethnic family. My father was Lithuanian, my mother Italian and I had eight siblings, one brother and seven sisters.

My parents were professing Catholics, probably because of their ethnicity, but that is where it ended. My father was not a drunk, but he was an abuser. He beat my brother and me almost daily, beat my mother with regularity and sexually abused many of my sisters. The latter part I didn't even find out until just a few years ago after my sisters confessed. My family to this day is dysfunctional at best. Many of my siblings and my mother have lingering mental and emotional issues.

When I finally grew in height and weight, the beatings stopped. I was now bigger than my father at the age of 16 or so. His cowardice was revealed. I was a smart kid, took college-prep classes in school and was an Honor student. Yet I was socially awkward, felt alone and confused and was simply surviving life. I began hanging out on the streets with some of my cronies, and that soon turned into a ‘gang’ of sorts. We drank, went looking for trouble and often found it. Racial tensions were high at that time and we took full advantage of that. Our group had no direction; we were self-serving, violent and often foolish. But now I was now a part of something that felt like a family. I invested in the group and even rose to leadership developing a reputation for being ‘crazy Johnny B.’ This of course led to trouble with law enforcement officials. They knew me well and tracked my movements. After my first arrest at the age of 18, it was evident I was on the wrong path. At that point it was actually my father that suggested I join the military to get away from NY and this path that would eventually lead to a prison cell. How’s that for irony?

I joined the United States Air Force at the age of 19, and did not look back. My first duty assignment was in Washington State where I met my lovely wife. I had baggage galore, was a psychological mess and was immature, but I knew real beauty when I saw it! We married young, had children right away and the troubles started. We didn’t have Christ; I didn’t know how to truly love or lead and we were now parents to boot. Not a recipe for success in anyone’s book.

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After my marriage and our lives nearly fell apart several times, we ended up in California. Through a series of crazy events, the AF actually sent me there by mistake. It turned out there wasn't a 'critical need' for weather techs like they said. My commander welcomed me anyway after a few phone calls and raised voices from behind a closed-door. This was a pretty BIG mistake the Air Force had just made…was this a God thing?

I felt very successful from a worldly perspective, even with the marriage issues, but had this nagging feeling I was missing something. It was, of course, the Holy Spirit’s prodding. Now because I was a weather technician I had to go on the roof of the weather station to look at the sky recording weather data on an hourly basis. While assigned there I also met a strange, but funny guy in our weather flight by the name of Pat. He was an administrator for our commander, had a dry sense of humor and we hit it off pretty well. We often talked about life, love, the pursuit of happiness, and sports trivia. He even threw God in the mix every now and then. I was cool with that until one specific day.

He followed me up on the roof during my hourly, and began to ask questions about God again. Eventually he asked me, “So if you were to fall off this roof right now, break your neck and die where would you go – heaven or hell?” I couldn't believe he was asking me this. Now, I believed, as any reasonable person would, that if you did more good in your life than bad – you were in. And I wasn’t the brightest crayon in the box, but I knew I had WAY more bad than good. But I wasn’t going to tell my new friend this though. So I enthusiastically said, “Well, it’s kind of close Pat, but I think I’m in!” He looked at me, and began to laugh. When I stared back at him, he laughed harder…so I began to laugh too! Then he ended the laugh-fest abruptly with, “Well I just want you to know that if there’s any doubt about where you think you’re going to go, you’re probably going to hell.” Then he turned around and went back down the stairs. I was confused, hurt and angry at the same time. I was completely disheveled. Now as God (or Pat) had worked it out, it was my last weather observation of the day and I was going on a two day break. When I came back down the stairs I recorded the data then went after him.  He was going over a report with our commander in his office. They both looked at me, and Pat just smiled at me when our commander asked what I needed. “Nothing important,” I replied. I was fuming.

It took me the whole two days to calm down. I eventually ended up at, “What does he know that I don’t? He doesn’t even know me that well…does he?” When I came back to work, I ran into Pat...literally. It happened in the hallway of the weather station. He looked both startled and afraid, asking, “Well are you going to hit me or are do you want to talk?” We talked…for the rest of that day. He presented the Gospel to me. Several weeks later, after a few more proddings from God, a lot of hard thinking, and reading an amplified tract, I got on my knees and accepted Christ into my heart. I surrendered my life to the King of Kings. And for the first time in my life I felt truly free and not alone any more.

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Life has been very interesting ever since, with many stories along the way, but those life stories are for another time. To this day, Christ continues to mold and shape me more into his image and away from my own. I praise him daily for this. I certainly have had bumps along the way, some the size of Mt. Everest, but for the second time in my life I haven’t looked back. I like to share my story, because it is a love story.

In reflection, I was truly a broken vessel in more ways than one. I was in the pit of despair and hopelessness and God pulled me out. He brought me to California, courtesy of the Air Force’s blunder, where I met Pat the unorthodox presenter of the Gospel. (Don’t worry. It’s okay if I talk about Pat like that. He’d be the first to tell you it was true. And yes, we are friends to this day.) You see, God knew just what I needed and how I needed to hear it and from whom. He miraculously brought it all together. And by the way, there are more amazing details to my redemptive story as well…just not enough time to share all of them here and now.

I wanted to simply tell you that God loves us abundantly, unconditionally and will go to great lengths to rescue us. I am a living example of this.

If you’ve made it this far, thanks for ‘listening’ to my story. Each of us has one. Some are more dramatic than others, but the real beauty is that they are all love stories. I simply want to thank God for the love, grace and mercy he extends to us each and every day. I ask him for guidance,wisdom, and through him the strength to be obedient every day, not missing opportunities along the way. I look forward to spending an eternity with him…and you.

In Christ, Jay

 

 

Author: Jay Buinicky

When Selah Smiled

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"We are not the saviors, He is. And His work of adoption in her life reminded us so much of His work in adoption of our own lives."

By the time Ben and Julie Swain were celebrating four years of marriage, they had two young boys – Bryson and Lincoln. In the spring of 2013, before their five-year wedding anniversary, the Lord began breaking their hearts for adoption – specifically for young girls in China who were eagerly waiting on their forever families. Ben and Julie knew that many Chinese girls who aged-out of orphanages were pulled into a tragic life of sex trafficking and then often used to bear offspring – also resulting in high rates of abortion – further breaking their bodies and souls. Given the Swain's passion to speak and act for the unborn, adopting a child out of these possible circumstances was a conviction carved deep into their hearts.

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apex anthologies

The Swains followed their call to obedience and received a referral for a little girl in February of 2014. They were told that their daughter, who would be named Selah, was quiet, reserved and did not smile much in the orphanage. Julie mentioned that the advocacy group who visited Selah's orphanage did everything they could think of to get her to smile. Alas, no smile. The Swains received photographs of Selah during her time in the orphanage and Julie recalls the child's scared and sad face in every single one of them. These images really worked over Julie's motherly heart, wishing she could just reach out grab her daughter from afar, helping her to feel safe and secure and loving on her in her soon-to-be home.

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apex anthologies

When Ben and Julie met their daughter in person, in August of 2014, Selah cried herself to sleep the first night they were together. Julie mentioned that Selah even woke in the middle of the night with a detached and glazed over look on her face. Julie wondered what the transition period would be like; she wondered what and how long it would take for Selah to feel joy in her obviously broken and scarred heart.

The next morning, the family woke and had breakfast together – still no smile from Selah. They gathered their things and left to go finalize adoption paperwork; half an hour later, something amazing happened. Julie illustrated the scene this way,

30 minutes after the adoption was finalized...she smiled. And smiled again, and smiled again. Something in her heart that was broken had been repaired. Something that was once dead had come alive. It was almost like there had been oppression that had been over her that was lifted, and God breathed in hope. We are not the saviors, He is. And His work of adoption in her life reminded us so much of His work in adoption of our own lives. How He took us out of darkness and brought us into the light. How He gave us joy.”

apex anthologies
apex anthologies

As you can see, the Lord has made it obvious that the Swain's adoption story is part of His big story – His big story in all of us! Isn't it an absolute JOY in all of us that He is the Light who leads, who heals, and who rescues us from the depths of whatever darkness we encounter. Nothing is too much for Him. When we are resting in His abundant grace, mercy and goodness – who can do anything BUT smile?

Author: Tess Augustine

Photographer: Hilary Tebo

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