Kent was raised in a small town in the heartland of the United States. Growing up, he went to church most weeks, attended the local Vacation Bible School each summer and was generally a good church boy.
As a teenager, he got a part-time job which often required him to work on the weekends. His church attendance fell off till he only darkened the doors for an occasional Easter or Christmas service.
For the next 15 years or so, Kent found himself chasing the next promotion, the next pay raise, the next pursuit, too busy to spend much time thinking about spiritual matters.
But then something happened that became a turning point in Kent’s life. A question was raised by his grandfather in the midst of a seemingly mundane conversation. Kent’s grandmother had passed away not long before, so Kent was checking in with his grandpa, chatting about the usual things: hunting, fishing, gardening, cars. But then Kent’s grandpa got real quiet and turned to him, “Do you think I’ll go to Heaven when I die?”
Just picturing the scene still brings a rush of emotion for Kent. At the time, the question completely stunned him, as he had never discussed religious matters with his grandpa before. “I wasn’t really sure how to answer the question,” he shares, “but it is a conversation I’ve thought about literally every day since then.”
About a year went by and Kent began to notice his outlook was changing. He felt like something was missing in his life. He felt like he wasn’t sure where he was going or what he was doing.
Finally, the questions piled up to the point that he felt like he needed to talk to someone. He had noticed that his company manager, who had become a close friend, had a Bible sitting on his desk. So, one day he found himself standing in his manager’s office, asking his boss if he had a few minutes to talk.
The manager glanced up and said he was pretty busy, but after a short pause asked, “What is it you want to talk about?” Kent told him he wanted to talk about his church if he had time at some point. Without hesitation, the man stood up and said, “I always have time to talk about my church.”
The two men headed down the hall to the lunchroom, where they sat and talked for two hours about the manager’s church and his testimony. In the end, he invited Kent to go to church with him. Kent accepted the invitation and began attending church with him and his family.
Several months later, Kent and his girlfriend, Ashley, purchased a home in a different town. As they considered what to do about attending church, they decided they should find another church closer to their new home.
Not long after, as Ashley was getting her hair done, the hairdresser suggested they try visiting her church. The couple appreciated the invitation, but never got around to going. Then, when Ashley was due for another hair appointment, the hairstylist extended the invitation once again. This time, Kent and Ashley determined they’d give the church a try.
The next Sunday, the couple approached the large building. Even before entering, other attendees greeted them warmly. Kent and Ashley left the service a little early, since Ashley wasn’t feeling well. On their way out, one of the pastors stopped them and expressed his appreciation for their attendance and invited them back again. Those few simple words of thanks really struck the couple. It was this show of genuine friendliness that prompted them to come back again and eventually settle into the life of the church.
When Kent and Ashley became engaged, one of the pastors offered to do pre-marital counselling, to which they agreed. As part of the counselling, the couple went through The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus.
Kent said, “It was like nothing else I had experienced in the past. There were a lot of concepts that were discussed that I thought I’d understood, that I actually had no clue what was actually happening.”
Then one Wednesday evening, as the couple met with the pastor, everything clicked together for Kent. “I finally understood what Jesus Christ did for us and how that impacts our lives. That night I remember laying in bed, thinking about the conversation I’d had previously with my grandpa. I would answer his question to me with a question of my own.”
“I would ask him if he truly believes that Christ died for us on the cross and rose on the third day and gave us his righteousness. And if he believes that, then yes, I’d definitely agree that he’d be going to Heaven.”
Since trusting Christ as his Saviour, life has changed quite a bit for Kent. Previously, he shared how he had been living for himself, focused on doing only what seemed right for himself and his family. But now as a believer, Kent says, “I now know there’s significantly more to life. I’ve been trying to impact others and help them find the joy in Christ that I have found since being saved.”
Ashley’s story: Everything clicked—everything finally made sense!
Ashley’s story is all too familiar to many these days. She grew up in an abusive household, her father absent from her birth and her mother a frequent drug user. At seven, she moved in with her grandmother. Occasionally, she would be taken to church as she grew up. She remembers praying fervently for her parents and brothers to be reunited into a normal family. “I wanted so badly to be like my friends, with their normal households. When that didn’t happen, I lost interest in praying,” she shares.
At 16, Ashley had a friend who was going through Confirmation classes at church. When she asked Ashley to join her, Ashley accepted. As part of the requirements, she was told she had to be baptized. Consequently she was baptized, thinking that it would be her “ticket to Heaven.”
However shortly after, Ashley quit attending church and began heading down a very different path of rebellion. It wasn’t until she was 20 that she began going to church again.
At the time, this particular church had the practice each Sunday of extending an invitation to the congregants to be saved. Every week, Ashley’s heart would begin racing, as she felt her need for salvation, but she never never responded. Instead, she thought that, because she had attended church regularly and because she’d been baptized and said an occasional prayer, she was already a good Christian. She admitted that, at that point, she was simply too proud to publicly acknowledge her need. So she didn’t. She simply continued with her sporadic church attendance and avoided the altar calls.
A few years later, Ashley met Kent. They began going to church regularly, but for them, their spirituality simply consisted of attending services on Sundays and saying grace before mealtimes. “That was it,” Ashley says. “I still had no concept of what a relationship with God really meant.”
After the couple moved to a different town, they began to look for a new church home. While getting her hair done one evening, the hairdresser invited Ashley to try out her church.
Ashley shares, “I just wasn’t in a good place at the time. We visited the church, but towards the end of the service I began having an anxiety attack. We got up to leave but we before we could get out the door, one of the pastors stopped us and thanked us for coming. That meant a lot to me and my husband. I had been to many churches before but never before met a pastor. So we continued to go back.”
When one of the pastors offered pre-marital counselling upon their engagement, the couple agreed. As part of their sessions, he took them through The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus.
One night, everything clicked for Ashley. “I’d heard so many times before that Jesus had died for us—for our sins, but before it just felt like words. It didn’t makes sense before now. Now, reading through The Stranger, everything clicked—everything finally made sense.”
“I realized that he [died] for us, for me, so that I could be forgiven for my sins and have his righteousness in return. That was huge for me. The darkness that I had carried around all my life as a result of all the things that had happened to me and that I had done—I felt all that lifted. That was huge, because I’ve lived with that my whole life.”
Ashley continued, “This has made such a difference in my home, in my marriage, in my day-to-day living. I finally have the answer: to be living in Christ, rather than doing everything by my own will and creating more problems for myself. It doesn’t mean life is always perfect today. I still have problems, as we all do. But I’m able to see them differently now because of this.”
What started out as an obligation to go to church on Sunday mornings has now become the highlight of Ashley’s week. “I crave going to church on Sunday mornings, to growth group on Sunday nights, Wednesday nights, just having interaction with church members throughout the week. Praying isn’t just saying grace around the dinner table anymore; it’s so much more than that. I’m thrilled to get into the Bible more and learn more. I know that I’m just at the beginning of a new journey and I couldn’t be more thrilled.”