Growing up as a young girl I remember getting up early every Sunday morning with my father and going to church. Although I have fond memories of singing in the choir and hearing about Jesus in my Sunday school class, I had no idea how loving and compassionate God was until years later.
Much of my life as a child I witnessed a bitter-sweet marriage between my mother and father. Rarely did I encounter love between the two of them. The only time I remember peace in the home was usually during the holidays.
At the age of 10, I remember my father standing on the landing with suitcases in hand say to my mother that he was leaving. When I heard this it felt as though my heart dropped into my stomach. As I look back that was probably one of the most heart-breaking times in my life. ( I loved my father who is now with Jesus and I never held any unforgiveness toward him.)
Over the next few years I watched my mother take prescription drugs seeking relief from the pain in her life. What was supposed to be a temporary fix, turned into years of addiction for my mother. This was a time when doctors would write prescriptions without getting to the heart of the matter.
Over the next five years I witnessed first hand the heartache and pain that my mother so desperately tried to endure. But her battle was lost at the young age of 45 when she decided to end her life.
Even before her death I began to gravitate toward people my age and older that were big on alcohol and drug use. I remember (and I do NOT encourage) there were times when I would sneak out of the house in the middle of the night to get drunk with my friends while sitting on the corner of our street.
This behavior went on for years until one day, because I could no longer deal with my mothers illness, I decided (just days before her death) to go and live with my father along with his new wife and family. Two days after moving in with my new family my father received a phone call from a concerned neighbor asking him to come and see if my mother was alright since there had not been any activity at the house. When my father, who was a firefighter and captain of the paramedic squad arrived, the door was locked which led him to climb through the back living-room window. It was there he found my mother overdosed with a note at her side.
Now I had a new hurdle to overcome and that was my struggle with the enormous guilt that I carried for the next five years of my life: The only thing I knew to do at that time was to drown my sorrows with drugs and alcohol which also led to eating disorders.
In my senior year of high school I decided to get married (mainly to get out of the house) but it lasted only a year and a half and it was not long after that I began “partying” again. Then one day after my divorce (and while living again with my parents) I remember my brother Bob came to visit and shared with me about this amazing person named Jesus. While he was talking to me I knew that there was something different about him which that in itself captured my attention. As I look back I see how God’s perfect timing was spot on because I was getting real tired of my life fast.
It wasn’t long after this that I had been given a cassette tape with the personal story of a woman by the name of Sandy Brown. She was a former cocktail waitress in Vegas. She spoke about how Jesus showed himself to her and she didn’t even know who he was until He said his name and then she thought to herself: “I know that Name, I use it all the time!” From that day on Jesus began to transform this young womans life by helping her to overcome her drug addiction and ultimately opened the doors of churches all over the country allowing her to share her amazing story with others about God and His amazing love through Jesus Christ.
Because of all that I had been through I knew that I was ready for a change. So I said a prayer that I meant from my heart, and it went something like this, “Jesus I believe in you..I believe that you died for me and rose from the dead…forgive me of all I’ve done wrong. Help me to follow you, be my Lord and my Savior” After talking to the Lord I remember lying on the floor in my sisters bedroom and it felt as though I had a blanket on top of me, it was very comforting, I was also crying, not because of sadness, but because it felt like this huge weight was lifted off of me and I knew that something inside of me was different. Although the outside did not change much right away I knew that on the inside my heart was filled with God’s love, joy and a peace that I had never felt before in my entire life!
Has my life up to this point been perfect? No. But one thing remains true: I have by the mercy of God experienced the Lord’s goodness and feel a great passion to share His unconditional love with anyone who is willing to listen.
In 2003 the Lord led my husband Rick and I along with our two boys to start the first church in the history of our town. Each week at Ponce Church you’ll hear the importance of love and mercy for our neighbor and how we as followers of Jesus are to extend this love by helping others in need. We’re active in serving delicious meals to our homeless friends and families in need every Saturday in Daytona Beach. Our oldest son founder and pastor of our sister church Ormond Church and his wife are both founders and Directors of Legacy House our home for girls aging out of the foster care system by preventing youth homelessness and trafficking.
If you are looking for something meaningful in your life – know this: God loves you. There is nothing that you have done, or are currently involved in now that will keep God from showing His love to you. He is ready and waiting for you to call out to him. “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:13. Once you make the decision to follow Christ, keep His words by getting involved in helping others. Maybe it’s working with youth who are in trouble, or joining a group that feeds the homeless in your area. Jesus says when we love our neighbor – we will experience His Joy and our Joy will be full. John 15.
Members of Ponce Church and volunteers from surrounding communities help us serve delicious meals every Saturday at 320 North Street in Daytona Beach, FL. Everyone is welcome to join us. All we ask is that you come with a heart filled with compassion and kindness.
If you’re joining us, our serving hours are as follows:
Winter: Set up at 4pm and serve at 4:30pm. Summer: Set up at 4:30pm and serve at 5pm.
We also have a individuals who donate pet food for our homeless friends that have pets along with clothing, shoes and blankets for both men and women of all sizes.
Wherever you live I encourage you to get involved in some kind of charitable work or cause that helps others.
For a quick study regarding the words of Jesus and love for our neighbor, read Matthew 25:31-46, James chapter 2, 1John 3, just to name a few.
Visit our Facebook pages Pastor Nina Tidwell and Ponce Church also visit our website at PonceChurch.com
You can also get a copy of our first book “The Main Thing” and our new book, “The Right Thing” both available on Amazon in paperback or Kindle. Or if you visit us at Ponce Church you can pick up your free paperback copy.