I’m originally from Vienna, Austria. I grew up Catholic (this is the main denomination in Austria). I was baptized as a baby. I attended a private Catholic school between the age of 6 and 18. At the age of 7 or 8 I had my First Confession, followed by my First Holy Communion. I remember that this was a big deal. At school we had a class called “Religion”. I don’t remember much, but I know that we spent a lot of time on the sequence of the Holy Mass and what to do and what to say during certain parts of the mass. Looking back, the focus was more on rituals than a relationship with Christ. At school, they never made us read the Bible, can you believe that. How can you have a Christian School and not EVER read the Bible. So as you can see having a personal relationship with God was pretty much a foreign concept. I didn’t think much of it at the time, I just thought that was how things were done. My subconscious mind told me that this is THE right way. I wasn’t even aware of any other practices or denominations, as growing up Catholic is part of the culture.
At the age of 17, I decided to attend a private High school in the U.S. Jim, a long-term friend of our family, recommended I’d apply at Canyonville Christian Academy in Canyonville, OR. So I attended Canyonville Christian Academy in Canyonville, OR for one semester. For the first time in my life I experienced a lively worship service. All of this was new to me and I really liked the Christian songs. All I was used to were “old” church songs that young people usually don’t get excited about. So the “religious education” including the style of worship made me receptive to more.
During spring break, Jim picked me up from Canyonville to show me more of Oregon. I remember that one day we attended a kind of house church that was led by Alger and Gloria. (By the way, I had never heard of a house church before) I don’t remember any details of this house church service, but I recall that I started crying and I felt the love of God in my heart. I would consider this moment as when I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior for the very first time.
I then heard that Gloria and Alger were offering a “HeartChange Workshop”, and it was only a few weeks away. As a new believer and wanting more of God’s love, I immediately registered for the workshop. Again, as all of this happened in 2000, I don’t remember any details, but only the feeling I had in my heart - which is worth more than words anyway. I remember that at the very end of the workshop I said that I would never forsake God. I was able to feel God’s love for me in my heart and I decided to walk with God. God definitely grabbed my heart during this workshop and it was a pivotal event in my life. I’m forever thankful that my parents allowed me to attend a school in the U.S. as I’m sure that I would not have a personal relationship with God today without this experience.
Going back to Austria was pretty difficult as I couldn’t find anything of what I just experienced. Coming home, I wanted to go to church, but all my mom knew were Catholic churches. So I ended up in a Catholic Church. It seemed to me that nobody was on the same page with me. I was thirsty for more, but my thirst couldn’t be quenched. I attended various religious conferences, but none of them were what I was looking for.
I joined the Military a year later when I was 18 years old. The more time passed, the more I drifted from my Christian values and beliefs. I didn’t have any Christian friends and no understanding how crucial it is to read the Word of God, in fact my Bible knowledge was zero. Although I always knew God’s heart for me and I always sought God, I made some poor choices. The only spiritual “refilling” I got was during my trips to the U.S. I spent pretty much every vacation I had in the U.S. as I was able to find more of God here than back home. (By the way, it saddens me to see more and more people in the U.S. today walking away from God and becoming spiritually dead).
In 2013 (after about 13 years of looking for a church in Austria), I finally found a non-denominational church in Austria. This church - although very atypical for Austria - was definitely a gift from God. The pastor of this church also grew up in Austria, but lived in the U.S. for many years and his wife is from Oklahoma. So finally I found someone who understood what I was looking for. Attending this church brought me closer to God again, slowly realizing the mistakes I had made. Pastor Karl Michael was key in bringing my faith to a new level. He inspired me to read the Bible and to seek to understand the context in which the Bible was written.
Call to Christian service
Fast forward to today: I’m now 35 years old and 18 years have passed since I first gave my heart to Jesus. I served in the Austrian Army for about 10 years, completed my Master’s in Military Leadership and my PhD in Political Science, served in two peacekeeping missions in Kosovo, etc. It’s almost a miracle that I’m where I am today. During all these years of spiritual meagerness, I didn’t give up and I always remembered what I said at the end of the HeartChange workshop “I will never forsake God”. The reason why I made this proclamation is that I understood how much God loved me and that He wanted me to be close to Him.
Today, I am working for the Ministry that offered the HeartChange workshop. I would love to expand the workshop so that as many people as possible can experience God’s love for them.
I’m also thinking about starting my own Ministry, and therefore I started my Master of Divinity Study at Western Seminary in Portland, OR in April 2018. To be honest, my Bible knowledge is still not that good due to so many years of living in a “dry land”. However, my study helps me to catch up on it.
Just recently (September 2018), I attended a Christian Conference in Portland. I received the Baptism with the Holy Spirit. Since then, my spiritual life is profoundly enriched. I can’t describe the feeling, but I feel a peace that I have never experienced before. Things of this world seem to be valueless, and I have such a strong desire to share Jesus with people. I’ve felt this desire before, but it is now so much more powerful than ever before.
Having a personal relationship with God has changed everything for me. He is now a part of my daily life and there is nothing I do that He is not a part of. He is at the forefront of my relationship with my boyfriend, something I have never experienced before as well. For me, having a personal relationship with God means to include Him in everything I do, to seek His guidance in every facet of my life. Especially in the life changing decisions I need to make. No longer is He relegated to Sunday mornings at church, inside the walls of the church. He is with me everywhere I go and in everything I do.
I want everyone to experience this personal relationship that God intended for everyone of us to have with Him. Being a Christian doesn’t mean that your life will be easier or free of troubles, Jesus says that we will be persecuted in His name, but your life will definitely be more purposeful. If you are looking for a true friend who really knows you and is passionately in love with you despite your shortcomings, then you might want to consider to invite Jesus into your life. It won’t just change your life - it will change your ETERNITY.
Would you like to make Jesus the Lord of your life too?
If so, you can pray this prayer - Lord Jesus, I believe you are the Son of God. Thank you for dying on the cross for my sins and rising again. Please forgive my sins and give me the gift of eternal life. I ask you into my life and heart as my Lord and Savior. Please help me grow in you and live for you. Thank you for coming into my heart.
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