Gospel Stories

Redeemed and Rescued

by Roberta Kestell

Without telling you my entire life story let me say that over 54 years ago I was a very unhappy little girl, then a dangerously unhappy teen, and then a bewildered young adult. Demons came into my life.  I was so unhappy that I oftentimes went to bed praying that I would not wake up.  I felt powerless.  I knew the demons of anger, jealousy, vengefulness, suspicion, guilt, fear and hopelessness every well.

Raised as a Catholic I was taught that Confession could absolve me of my sins but it never made me feel free of them.  I felt totally unworthy and after a meaningless penance the demons would return.  My unhappiness suited the purposes of those demons and they ran my life.  I was a slave to them because I lacked the faith and understanding to overcome them.

A quarter of a century ago I realized that if I did not quit smoking I was not only going to die but I was going to do so in a long, drawn out, painful manner.  With that I asked God to help me kick the cigarette habit.  A simple request, not prayer, everyday for 2 years.  Then one day I quit.  Then, 2 weeks later I was cleaning my pool, made an error and ended up almost killing myself with toxic fumes.  My lungs damaged by chemopneumonitis seemed to be a way for my demons to show me who was boss.  Several more really bad things happened including my husband ending up in a wheelchair after being a hit and run victim.  I was pretty unhappy and bitter.  The demons fed well on that bitterness and grew stronger.

Then, about 14 years ago my mother became gravely ill.  I tried to reach out to the Lord and did not know how to.  Rote prayers to saints that I had learned about in grade school were about all I had to offer, I even watched Christian TV shows hoping for a glimmer of heavenly light to guide me.  Around that time my kid sister was attending a small, non-denominational christian church.  In fact, her pastor and his wife visited my mom in the hospital and talked to her about accepting Jesus as her savior, which she did before slipping into a coma.  I was overwhelmed when she died after her brief illness (10 days in all).  I felt unhappy, bitter and vacant.  That left an opening for the demons to expand upon.  Let me tell you that thoughts can be as sinful as actions and boy was I thinking sinfully.

Everyone in the family (including myself) would joke about my sister (former Disco queen) turning into "Church Lady" (SNL).  I would sometimes listen to her on the phone when she wanted to share what she was learning about the Bible, Jesus and prayer.  I was just too resistant to the Word at that time to get it.  Well, as time went on, it seemed that most of the people in my life were infected with a dark virus that debilitated them physically, mentally and spiritually.  Although I was not actively seeking salvation, the Lord knew that in my heart I wanted it.  Then, where I worked for a number of years, a gentleman I knew would recite different Psalms to me and would encourage me to look them up in the Bible.  I started to then busied myself with life.  The demons prospered and I continued to be a slave.

About 8 years ago another family member, my nephew Luke, became gravely ill and was comatose in intensive Care on life support.  Sometimes I would drop in on my way to or from work and read different passages from Psalms to him.  After about 6 months he returned home.  When Hurricane Charley was coming to Central Florida, he was readmitted to the hospital the morning of August 13th.  This was a precaution because he was still fairly debilitated and depended on oxygen.  Luke mad it through.  His mother, my other sister, Susan did not.  She finally took rest on the morning of August 15th.  She died in her sleep at 47 years of age.  Now I was not only unhappy, bitter and vacant but numb as well.  Not only had the demons prospered but they were beginning to drain the last of any good out of me.  All the while that dark virus I mentioned earlier spread further and grew more harmful all the time.

Overcome by those demons, I became ill.  I was bedridden, could not go to work, had problems there when I could make it and lost my beloved job of 17 years.  All the while family and friends sank further into Satan's muck.  Looking back, I cannot believe how bad it had become.  I won't go into details but I will say that physical, emotional and spiritual afflictions attacked mercilessly.

The passing years were basically shadowed by the wings of those demons.  I became critically ill and ended up in a coma on life support.  When I survived, a steady stream of doctors told the younger doctors trailing them that they were looking at a living miracle.  I understood that the prayer's of others pulled me through.  I would never have mad it on my own.

My friend resumed quoting Psalms to me.  My kid sister, although not attending services anymore, would come over and have me pray with her.  And eventually I began to open up, I became receptive.  My husband and I spent hours watching Christian programs and I started learning how to pray.  My first and foremost prayer was to find a Church.  Somewhere to learn about God and to affiliate with others who sought the same.  One day the daughter of and old friend and neighbor, Michelle, happened to be visiting my home.  For no particular reason at all I began to telling her how I was looking for a church and someone to study the Bible with.  In response she told me that her mother was actually holding Bible studies at her home once a week and attended a great church.   I was skeptical but eventually followed up the conversation with a phone call.  For whatever reason, it took me a long time to get that first church visit.  Once there, those demons began weakening immediately.   With every attendance I felt so good that I wanted to share it with others.  Responding to my new-found joy, Luke began attending with me.

We ere feeling hopeful and enjoyed learning about Jesus.  The demons were not too happy and stuck back with a vengeance.  Luke became critically ill and was hospitalized.  Pastor Wayne and Michelle prayed with Luke while the rest of the church prayed in service.  Not only was he healed, he was better than before the attack.  I saw a true miracle.  Leaving me blessed not stressed, I am now closer to God.  I am living a better life and have joy.  I own the fact that Jesus loves me and died for my sins.  The demons are now suffering the terminal cancer of faith.  I claim my freedom.

While reading Acts 16, I felt my journey was a parallel:  Paul was guided to Phillipi, I was guided to Antioch21;  Paul did not immediately cast out the demon from the damsel (maybe to show us that salvation is not necessarily immediate):  It took a long time for me to find the Lord;  the damsel/slave and I sought salvation and we were both healed;  her masters could no longer feed off her demonic powers and demons can no longer gain strength from my sorrow.  Praise God.

- Roberta Kestell

Recovering Good Girl

Hi. My name is Kate and I’m a recovering Good Girl.

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Kate P

For those of you out there not sure what a Good Girl is, substitute any of the following words or examples: perfectionist, perform-er, responsible, trustworthy, expert pretender, hard-worker, Martha (instead of Mary, from Luke 10:38-42). I want to do everything well. I don’t want you to see all my baggage, and I don’t want you to see me mess up. Actually, I don’t want to mess up, period – but if when I do, I certainly don’t want you to see it. I want to say yes to everything and over-commit myself. I view many a scenario through the lens of “what will you think of me?” I try hard to be…. fill in the blank: good enough, smart enough, skilled enough, whatever enough. If you’re still not sure what I mean, check out the book “Grace for the Good Girl” by Emily P. Freeman. That girl is blessed with a beautiful talent for words.

So, for all you Good Girls out there, just imagine my reaction when our worship coordinator Eddie Genao approached me this past summer about singing worship with him at Antioch21 Church. “You want me to what?!? You want me to sing in front of everyone?? I am not qualified. I don’t have what it takes.” I could hardly imagine something more vulnerable or exposing. “What if my voice cracks? What if I forget the words, what if I humiliate myself, what if its just not good??” What if, what if… The voice of the enemy was strong in my doubts and fears of what others would think. I told God “I can think of plenty of ways, I just know I’m going to mess this up. You better find someone else better equipped to be a good worshiper.”

Satan continued to scream out some lies to me – ones that are all too familiar to my Good Girl heart. First, that I am somehow bigger or more powerful than God. That I can thwart His plan or purpose and that the responsibility of God’s work weighs solely on my shoulders. That is far too much weight for one person to bear. But even deeper than the first, there was the fear that somehow my worship would not be acceptable to God. Worse, that I would not be acceptable to God. At the core, I fear that I have to be perfect to stand before God. As a Good Girl I am constantly measuring myself against God’s perfection, and am very aware of just how perfect I am NOT. The idea of singing worship to my perfect and holy God uprooted this anxiety that, despite Jesus’ sacrifice for me, I still somehow need to earn my way to God. And what if my brokenness and imperfection is repulsive to God? “He is going to reject you. You are not loved, you have no worth,” the enemy whispered.

But lets shed some light on the subject. Those thoughts of mine – all lies, the anxiety, and fear - not from God. Truth is, we have a God who is gracious, and merciful. He loves unconditionally. I am imperfect, sinful by nature, but I am redeemed, made new and complete through Christ’s death and resurrection. I stand before the Lord today and every day in worship whole and unblemished, and that is how I will stand before the Lord one day when I am reunited with Him forever. The joy and freedom that I have found is that worship is a glimpse of eternity. It is an opportunity to practice believing in God’s grace for me, in the wholeness and newness of life that I have as a new creation in Him. It is a chance to commune with my Heavenly Father. The conversation goes different depending on the night: sometimes I desire to tell Him how beautiful He is, to proclaim truth, or rejoice, basking in His goodness and glory. Sometimes I need to remind myself of the Gospel, or simply offer an honest cry from a wounded, broken heart. Sometimes I find that, through praising Him, my heart is actually changed to believe more deeply what I’m singing and increase my faith. I have learned that what matters most is not the perfection of the notes, chords, or rhythm, but how honest the heart of the worshiper and how holy and good the God we worship.

Praise the Lord that I didn’t listen to my doubts and fears when Eddie asked me to sing last summer. Because God has used the experience of worshipping at Antioch21 to speak truth into my heart, slowly pushing out lies that have lingered too long. How often are we content just believing lies? How often are we content sitting on the sidelines and missing or ignoring the call of our Father to draw nearer, to take the leap of faith to love Him and serve others IN our imperfection? How often are we content just enduring life, striving to get through each day, rather than living out of the joy and freedom we have because of our precious Jesus? Friends, be encouraged, for the His Word tells us this: “It is for FREEDOM that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” – Galatians 5:1

A Good Neighbor

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Being part of Antioch21 Church has been both the most incredible experience and, at the same time, the most challenging thing I've ever experienced. Four years ago, Jesus opened a door for me to come to Orlando, and the lives I've seen Him change around me is truly amazing!

Through birthing a gospel community in my neighborhood, I've really begun to experience what it means to be a "good neighbor" - to love others as I love myself. One such person that God has brought into my life is Michelle Daniels.

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I first met Michelle (pictured third from right), single grandmother and acting mother of Ivy (pictured far right) and Audry, when she began coming to our Sunday Gathering after Katie Yanusitus (second from right) invited her out. She hadn't grown up going to church, so this was a new experience for her. She began joining us in our gospel community last year and loved it, growing in her understanding of God's word.

This year we really began to notice her life changing as she began to take steps of faith in Christ and apply what she was learning about the truth of who Jesus is and what He did.  I remember her saying, after having hours cut from her job one week, that her reaction to the adverse circumstance was "so unlike me. Instead of [stressing out] like I would normally do, I just told myself that God is in control and He will take care of things, I don't need to worry."  Even her co-workers at Walmart are starting to take notice.

She is one of my many neighbors I've had the privilege of meeting, serving and sharing my life and faith with, which has, in turn, changed my life.

- Noah Seta