I Thought I was a Good Person
My name is Shirley Fenstermaker, and this is my story.
I grew up in Allentown, PA, the oldest of five children. When I was young, my parents did not attend church. I did attend Vacation Bible School a few different summers. I also went to a program called Pioneer Girls at one church. One lady there gave me a Bible with the verse John 3:16 penned in the front of it. I sort of memorized that verse but really didn’t understand what it meant until recently. I never really read that Bible, but for some reason I have kept it all these years. I am grateful to that lady for trying to introduce me to the Bible at such a young age.
As I got a little older, my Mom and Pop sent us to Sunday School at the Church of the Nazarene in Macungie. I remember that my Aunt took her kids there too. My Aunt was “religious” and was always trying to get my Mom to go to church, but she never went. At the time I think church was just a place to send us kids to get us out of the way for the morning. “We went for awhile, and then lost interest. I didn’t really get anything out of it.” We went for awhile, and then lost interest. I didn’t really get anything out of it.
I always knew that there was a God, but I didn’t understand anything about salvation. I thought that Jesus Christ was a fictional character that preachers talked about in church. I was a good person and thought I was going to heaven because of my good works. Therefore, I tried to please people, and was always looking for someone to say, “Good job!” As I got older, I knew there had to be more to this life than what I was living. I didn’t have a bad life—it just wasn’t as fulfilling as I thought it could be.
I met and married my husband Lewis. We had a son in 1989 but we never went to church. Oh sure, there was the occasional wedding, but that was about it. One day I decided that we should get our son baptized. My husband had been baptized as baby so he figured he was OK—he was going to Heaven. But I had not been baptized as a child and neither had some of my nieces and nephews. So we decided that we should get baptized. One of my nieces found a Lutheran church that was willing to baptize all of us. We didn’t have to join the church or have any spiritual knowledge whatsoever. We were thrilled that we had found someone to baptize us. We all went and were baptized, but I never really felt anything different about it. Soon I just kind of forgot about it. “As time went on, I still felt a sense of something missing in my life, even though I considered myself as having had a pretty good life.” As time went on, I still felt a sense of something missing in my life, even though I considered myself as having had a pretty good life. I had my family, my health and had always believed in God. But I never read the Bible or went to church as an adult. Somehow, something didn’t seem just right.
In 2001, I started a new job. One of my co-workers was always happy. I couldn’t figure it out. It seemed no matter what was going on she had a smile on her face. It drove me nuts! I even told her it drove me nuts and she would smile even more! Then one day we started talking about religion. She told me that she had been recently saved and mentioned what a difference it had made in her life. She even gave me a Bible and wrote in the front, “Your friend in Christ.” She also told me that she was attending a Baptist church in Emmaus, and invited me to attend but I kept putting her off. Several times, she asked me to do a Bible study but I thought, “Why would people study the Bible?”
Over the next few years, Karen and I had many talks about God and Christianity but for awhile I didn’t take it too seriously. I kept telling her that I was not that bad—I was a good person and therefore I was going to heaven. But one day she told me that in order to go to heaven, I would have to be saved. She said that since I was not saved, I was a child of the devil. I had a real hard time with that one. I thought, “She’s got a lot of nerve! A child of the devil? Not me! I am a good person. I have compassion for other people. I like to do things for other people.”
Karen did not push me to go to church with her, but kept talking to me and inviting me, and patiently bided her time. One day, I decided to check out the website for the Lehigh Valley Baptist Church. I even listened to one of the sermons. What the Pastor said made a lot of sense. So one Sunday in April, 2006, I decided to go to church with Karen. I found the church to be everything she said it was. The people were nice, and the sermon was powerful. I went home thinking, “Maybe I’ll come back.” At this time, my husband was also starting to feel that there was something not right in his life. The following week after some urging, he went to church with me. He liked the sermon a lot and really enjoyed listening to the Pastor. “It didn’t take us too long to figure out that this thing called Salvation was something we both needed.” It didn’t take us too long to figure out that this thing called Salvation was something we both needed. Before I knew it we were both doing Bible studies—me with Karen and my husband with Pastor Hammett.
During the Bible studies I learned a lot about myself. I learned that I was a sinner and that my good deeds were not going to get me to heaven. One of the biggest revelations to me was that Jesus Christ was a real person and that He had come to earth to die for MY sins before I even existed. As I continued to attend the church services, the messages kept speaking to me. I realized that I needed a Saviour in my life. My husband had come to the same conclusion. When he and I talked about it at home, and he asked me, “When will we know that it is the right time?” I told him that I thought we would know in our hearts when God was speaking to us.
One Sunday morning in June, the song leader announced that we were going to sing the song, “Amazing Grace”. This has always been one of my favorite songs. As we started to sing, I thought of the words and began to cry. Then I remembered the Bible verse, “For by grace are ye saved, through faith and that not of yourselves. It is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) I knew I had to get my salvation settled. I couldn’t put it off any longer. The Lord was speaking to my husband too, because when the invitation was given, my husband took me by the hand, and we both went forward and knelt at the altar. That morning, June 18, 2006, I repented of my sins and asked God to forgive me and to save me. Suddenly I felt such a sense of peace.
Since this day many wonderful things have changed in my life. I’m not the same person. I look at things differently. When I sin, I am convicted and feel the need to repent of it. Now I desire to seek the Lord and to read the Bible. When I read my Bible, it means something to me. We used to watch TV continually, but now we rarely even turn it on. Instead, we sit and read the Bible to each other, and work on memorizing verses. We have started trying to spend more time together as a family. Some people who know me and have watched the transformation confirm what I already know—I am a child of God and the evil one cannot take that away from me. Since the time I’ve written my testimony I’ve seen my commitment to the Lord become stronger than ever!
If you don’t know Christ, let someone open up a Bible and show you the many verses to reveal to you what an awesome God we have.