My Christian Testimony
My great privilege was to be born into a family whose members already knew God and were followers of Jesus Christ. That gave me a running start toward growing into what God wanted in my life.
With my father being a Presbyterian pastor for over 40 years, I never was left without knowledge of and hearing about Jesus Christ, and the Providence that God had in our lives. My mother was a Godly woman who modeled the Proverbs 31 woman to me in her daily living.
I cannot remember not knowing that we were supposed to believe that God created the universe, all things in and on the earth, and all human kind. We were given what was called free will, which I understood meant we could decide to obey principles of God or not. However, we would be blessed or penalized, depending on our choices. We were to believe that Jesus was a man born of woman, yet supernaturally from God, and that Jesus was God incarnate. Never did I doubt in my mind that eternal privilege (going to heaven) was based on whether I believed that Jesus was Deity.
Now, I am the first to confess that my natural sinful nature had its times at pulling me down, and there was my share of backsliding. My life did not honor God as consistently as my upbringing in a Godly family should have produced, as my life wriggled into adulthood, etc. However, I do not recall that my lips ever let pass any words that questioned the existence of God, or that Jesus Christ was His Son, sent to save me, and all humankind who would receive Him. Even in my college and university days, when I was around the first strong currents of non-Christian influence for me, I never abandoned that belief. I just gave in to retreat, and had little to do with those advocating non-belief. One bad decision made for myself in college days was that I did not darken the doors of many churches, and thusly my spiritual development was tepid, to say the least.
I remember joining our home church by making a commitment to Jesus Christ on March 18, Palm Sunday, 1951, at the age of 12. My father propounded the questions that required me to profess belief in the Lordship and Deity of Jesus Christ. To the extent that I was capable of understanding at that tender age, it was real to me. That was at Trinity Presbyterian Church, 7000 Lawndale, Houston, Texas, where Dad was the Pastor. It’s now merged with a Hispanic congregation and has the name, San Pablo Trinity Presbyterian Church.
I did not understand exactly what I was doing, spiritually, when Suzanne and I were married. I now know that our paths crossing and uniting into marriage was foreordained, and that it is the best human thing that has happened to me, through God’s consistently loving Providence. Suzanne’s musical talents, Christian commitment and participation in the Chancel Choir at Canal Street Presbyterian Church in New Orleans, Louisiana, the city in which we met, led us into active participation. Our marriage was in that church, conducted 105 days after our meeting, by my Presbyterian father, coming over from Texas, and the Pastor of CSPC, the Rev. Dr. Robert A. Pitman, a Godly minister whose friendship even today we cherish and continue, as he now is in his eighties, travels the world for Christian missions and resides in California.
My graduation from the University of Texas at Austin was in June 1962, a major in Personnel Management & Industrial Relations. Suzanne’s graduation was in 1961 from what today is the University of Southern Mississippi (name change). Her major was Biology.
Though I had grown up on a family where giving 10% of whatever we earned went to God’s work … the church. It was about our second year of marriage that Suzanne and I agreed between that our commitment would always be to give at least 10% or our income to what we understood was God’s purposes.
It later years, that commitment evolved into our practice of giving 10% to the local church of which we were members, and that over-and-above that would be for any other Christian or good causes we felt a motivation to support. In our golden years, when living expenses have moderated, our giving has hovered around 15% to 20%, and even, through an interesting set of circumstances in 2016, went to about 30%. It was such a blessing to do.
We lived in New Orleans 1962-1972, and all three of our Presbyterian children (Taylor, Tiffany & Todd) were born in a Jewish hospital, delivered by our dear friend, a Roman Catholic doctor. During a week of spiritual renewal at our church, a contingent of lay Christians came from across the South to share their testimonies. One couple was from Lubbock, Texas, Jack and Shelly Hall. It was in a meeting in our home after one of the services that we were with them and my brother-in-law, who was their Presbyterian Pastor, the Rev. Dr. Andrew A. Jumper, that they taught us more about the Holy Spirit, and they prayed for our filling, with speaking in tongues. That was in October 1965.
My employment had been a Sales Representative for one of the leading companies in the computer industry. Suzanne was a professional medical technologist in a hospital. Our volunteer work in the senior high youth group at our church, through a series of circumstances, evolved into an invitation to move to another city and assume a full-time youth ministry position on a church staff. This was unexpected by us, as we never considered about doing such. Of course, the compensation plan of a church youth minister pales somewhat from my computer industry work. The relatively high rate of income Suzanne and I enjoyed had led us to feel comfortable maintaining what was more debt that we should have assumed.
Our initial response was to pray about whether God was calling us to move. Meanwhile, inspection of the compensation package revealed that the total take-home portion of it was approximately what the payments were over the next year on our debts! No money left just to live and eat! Suddenly, we realized that our debts had imprisoned us from being prepared accept a call into ministry! Though we had not talked about going into ministry, this whole event initiated our consideration of such.
Then, Romans 13:8, “Owe no man anything, but to love one another…” sank into our spirits! The purpose of what whole experience of a job offer, we believed, was to teach us to be out of debt!
We graciously declined the ministry job offer, and immediately began working on our mountain of debt. For example, we had a high-priced automobile with large monthly payments. We sold it when it was just about five months old, and began walking and riding on the New Orleans Public Service bus & street car system. We lived within a 20-minute bus ride from my office, working then in a positon not requiring an automobile. That’s a fun pattern when you have two pre-school children in your family! We got out of debt by 1967.
In 1969, I chose to leave that work. In 1970, my professional life in administration and non-profit organization began at Trinity Christian Community in New Orleans, a ministry originated out of Canal Street Presbyterian Church and the Rev. Mr. William Brown. We believe that was the Christian calling intended for us all along.
It was a ministry to the down-and-out on the streets of what was known as the Irish Channel. We bought a 100-year old home down there with another couple, making it into a duplex in 1967.
The people with whom we worked were mostly African American teenagers & families, and Anglo adult people often associated with the ways of crime and interface regularly with the criminal justice system.
There were five bars that never closed (24 hours/day) within a block of our house, and during the five years we resided there, we witnessed five instances of handgun fire. The spiritual growth of our family took off, as the challenges of a crime-torn inner city in New Orleans where we lived tested us in many ways.
We continued to learn more of what God had for us and continue even today learning about what He has for us. We have grown over the years, moving from New Orleans to Saint Louis 1972-82, being members of the Central Presbyterian Church there. Then to Dallas, all of these years were working administratively for Christian organizations, the last 22 years being a large church in Dallas, Highland Park Presbyterian.
My retirement has been from employment, but not from work! We call it “Golden Age.” It seems I work full time. We live in Aurora, Wise County, Texas and are members of Eagle Mountain International Church, where Love is King and we continue to grow spiritually. God has called us to be a continuing part of that Body of Christ.
We did make use of debt on a few occasions, but such always was modest in relation to our income. We are pleased to realize that we’ve never had any debt this century (since 2000). We own free and clear our 10-acre rural home, two fairly new automobiles, and are financially beholding to nobody! Our only financial duty is our Christian privilege to give to God’s purposes as much as we can.
Suzanne and I cherish our mornings together when we read and pray for direction in each day. In 1986, we began reading through the entire Bible every year, and continue to do so today. We keep learning new things as God blesses us with renewed revelation.
God has made opportunities for Suzanne and me to participate in numerous circles in our communities where we’ve lived, circles in community service, political activity and being self-appointed ambassadors to reflect friendly and welcoming venues wherever we lived. My personal hobby has been learning about history and about my family’s ancestral heritage. In particular, I’ve sought to identify my ancestors who were Christians.
The spiritual understandings Suzanne and I have had in this most marvelous marriage partnership has blessed us in the blessings of God. We have clung to the Biblical principles represented in quotes from our Pastor, George Pearsons, “Your prosperity is on the other side of your obedient,” and “Pride will set you up for a fall, but humility will set you up for honor.”
Dwight Albert (D.A.) Sharpe
805 Derting Road East
Aurora, TX 76078-3712
Facebook: Dwight Albert Sharpe