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I grew up in a dogmatically religious family. We went to church every Sunday, and I participated in all the sacraments of the church. I felt that I needed to do these things in order to be right with God and go to heaven when I died. God was loving, but He was also distant.
I had sixteen-plus years of religious education, but still I felt a void in my life. After college I became a Dominican nun, hoping that a more diligent walk with God would fill that void. But after six years, I left the convent, disillusioned and still lacking the peace I longed for.
After working in the corporate world for five years, I met and married a man who had very little religious conviction. It was hard, but I continued to attend church regularly without him. We had five children in six years and a half years! I was overwhelmed, lonely, and tired. My marriage was troubled, and after 16 years I was at a breaking point. I thought, There has to be more to life than this!
One day a young neighbor, who had seen my inner turmoil and lack of peace, suggested that I might not be saved. I was shocked. Of course, I was saved! All my life I had obeyed all the rules! But as I began to investigate what salvation meant, I found out it was not about being religious at all; it was about having a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
For the first time I realized the depth of God’s love for me, and I understood: I was separated from God by my sins, but He came in the person of Jesus Christ and died on the cross for all my wrongs. All I needed to do was accept the gift He gave me and ask Him into my life as my Lord and Savior. The Bible says, “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8–9).
The gift of salvation had been in my hands all my life, but until then, I had never unwrapped it and taken it as my own. Once I did, I had the peace I had been looking for all my life! That was on March 19, 1989. I was almost 49 years of age. Since then I have walked through some tough times, but I have always known God is with me.
I have been attending Wheaton Bible Church since April 2010. The church we had been attending was too far away for us to get as involved as I would have liked. I began to listen to messages from a variety of churches online, and I loved the biblical teaching of Wheaton Bible Church. When I discovered they also had a traditional service, I was really happy.
The first Sunday I came to the church, Pastor John White and his wife, Joyce, welcomed me. The following Sunday another woman, Verna Sheaffer, greeted me and invited me to her adult Sunday school class. I was amazed that people in a big church like Wheaton Bible Church noticed and reached out to me.
My husband and I have found the church home we were looking for, and I have enjoyed getting involved in several areas, including facilitating the Senior Women’s Bible Study and serving as the secretary of the Epaphrodites class. I also teach English as a Second Language (ESL) to two Iraqi women through Puente del Pueblo (the two women are attending church here on Sunday mornings!). I also helped with Puente’s Back-to-School Camp and will be serving as an after school tutor there this fall. Before I became a Christian, I thought I had to do good things to earn my salvation. Now I know that salvation is freely given—and today I serve to say thank you for God’s amazing gift.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rita grew up on the southwest side of Chicago, where her dad practiced medicine. She met her husband, Richard, at a mutual friend’s wedding, and they have been married for 37 years. They have five children and four granddaughters.