Before I share my testimony, I would like you to read Mark 5: 1-20:

They (Jesus & disciples) went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes. When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an evil spirit came from the tombs to meet him. This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him any more, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.

When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. He shouted at the top of his voice, "What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Swear to God that you won't torture me!" For Jesus had said to him, "Come out of this man, you evil spirit!"
Then Jesus asked him, "What is your name?"

"My name is Legion," he replied, "for we are many." And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area. A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. The demons begged Jesus, "Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them." He gave them permission, and the evil spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned.

Those tending the pigs ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. Those who had seen it told the people what had happened to the demon-possessed man—and told about the pigs as well. Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region.

As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. Jesus did not let him, but said, "Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you." So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.”

I wanted you to read that passage because my story is similar – I too have a Decapolis testimony. I don’t have a worldwide ministry. I don’t have stories about exciting mission trips. I’m not a great teacher or famous preacher. I’m just an ordinary person whose life’s been changed by Jesus. My ministry is here in this town and this country to tell anyone who asks what the Lord has done for me.

My story begins with Dick and Jane. Have any of you read Dick and Jane?

You don’t hear much about them, today, but Dick and Jane have a part in reaching me with the gospel. For those of you who don’t know, Dick and Jane featured a family of four who were perfect: the perfect dad and mom, two perfect kids, even a perfect dog and cat. I loved to read about Dick and Jane because their family was a lot different from mine.

I was raised on a 240-acre farm in Delaware. My home was plagued with alcoholism, pornography, violence, and sorcery—definitely NOT the perfect family.

We were un-churched. The only time I heard the name of Jesus was as a cuss word. I thought Jesus, Pinocchio and Santa Claus were all the same thing – fairy tales.

My mother, my two brothers and I lived in fear. My Dad’s drinking escalated to the point that he drank from the time he awoke to the time he went to bed. Many nights, he would go to a local bar after he finished his work on the farm. We never knew in what mood he would be in when he returned, nor at what time he would arrive.

On those nights, we would sit at the dinner table watching the food get cold and soggy, waiting. We didn’t eat. We just waited. Waited in fear.

I can still see his face now as he stumbles through the door. Behind his blood-shot eyes are pain, sadness and guilt. But, as soon as he sees us, rage takes over. His eyes flash. His muscles tense. I can feel the rage like electricity in the air.

“You hate me,” he screams, flinging a dish to the floor.

Food splatters everywhere. He grabs a chair and smashes it on the stairway until it’s just a pile of broken pieces, just like the Edwards family.

To survive this life, my mom turned to sorcery and various religions. She consulted fortunetellers and tarot cards; she read her horoscope; she studied biorhythms and Edgar Cayce. All in hope that she could learn the future and perhaps prepare for my father’s next outburst.

I survived not only by turning to sorcery like my mom, but also by determination. I determined that my life was going to be like Dick and Jane’s. Someday, I would have a loving family that had normal meals. My children would get hugs instead of humiliation; they would get fair correction instead of uncontrolled lashings. They would get love instead of fear. I could do this. I could make it happen.

Because I was academically smart, I earned a scholarship to the University of Delaware. So, off I went, but after one semester, I decided education wasn’t making me happy. So, I turned to boys. My goal for college was to date one boy from every fraternity.

I almost made it, but one of the fraternity boys, Bill, decided to take me out of circulation. So, I quit college in my junior year and got married in1970. I was 20 and Bill was 23.

Now, it was finally my turn to have my Dick and Jane marriage. At first, it looked possible. We chose to delay having children and enjoyed the first six years of marriage with no pressures. Bill went to Vietnam as a helicopter pilot and I enjoyed life as an officer’s wife. After Vietnam, Bill became a Delaware state trooper and I worked at DuPont Company. We had no money problems, no kids, and everything was wonderful.
Then the kids came: a boy in ‘76 and a girl in ‘77 – 13 months apart. Real life has begun.

They began to walk and talk and do what all kids do – get into mischief. However, instead of finding myself the perfect Dick and Jane mom that I thought I would be, I began to curse and scream and throw things: toys, dishes, furniture, basically anything I could get my hands on. It wasn’t long before the look of fear in my kids’ eyes told me what I already knew: I had become just like my dad.

I had to fix this. First, I did what my mom did - turn to sorcery. But that didn’t work, so I became an existentialist. (An existentialist believes that human existence is unexplainable, we live in a hostile world, and we have responsibility for our own actions.)

Next, I decided to go back to work – to escape. At least I wouldn’t be home to torment them. I put them in day care and went back to work. That lasted a year. I didn’t like being away from them for 40 hours a week.
Someone told me I could sell real estate in only 20 hours a week; so, I went to real estate school and got my license. However, instead of 20 hours a week, I spent the next year working 80 hours a week. The kids were in day care, night care, and weekend care. I began to drink (unsocially) and hang out at the bars. Bill and I and the kids rarely saw each other. It was just getting worse.

We began to talk about divorce, so I suggested we divide up the kids and go our own way. But, my wonderful Bill wouldn’t want to give up. He suggested we move closer to his work so we could spend more time together. So, we built a beautiful custom home in the country; I quit work and we tried again.
Now, as you’ve probably figured out, subtracting income and adding expenditures only adds up to one thing: money problems! So, now on top of emotional problems, kid problems, and marriage problems, we now have money problems.

But God knew what He was doing. I was 30 years old and finally convinced that nothing I could do would ever make us into a Dick and Jane family. All this was preparation for God to work.

First, God sent me a job I could do at home. A woman contacted me about transcribing her book for money. She didn’t tell me what it was about, but as I typed it, I discovered it was about her life in witchcraft and how she had gotten saved. Both Bill and I mocked the book, but it did get me wondering about this Jesus again.

I say again, because just before we moved to our new home in the country, our 5-year-old, Catholic neighbor had been telling my kids about Jesus. I ignored it as a simple child’s tale. However, after typing the book about witchcraft, I decided it was time to let my kids find out for themselves just how ridiculous religion was.

So God sent Diane. Out of the blue, a woman named Diane Baker called me on the phone. She was the granddaughter of a neighbor of my mother-in-law’s who lived 30 minutes away and had heard that I had just moved nearby. She knew I was an atheist but she called to introduce herself anyway. I immediately asked her if she went to church. Later she confessed to me that she was surprised I would ask that. However, we made arrangements to meet at her Methodist church the following weekend. I told myself that I was only doing this for the kids.

God had other ideas. He began to use Diane to show me, not religion, but the living Jesus. Diane demonstrated His unconditional love and mercy by inviting me into her home and expecting nothing in return. She fed me bodily and spiritually. She listened when I needed to talk. She prayed for me and invited me to a Bible study, patiently guiding me to the one sure help – Jesus Christ.

Over the next few weeks, I began to believe that Jesus was real, but I couldn’t give Him my life. Dabbling in sorcery had given the demons a stronghold in my life. I became convinced that if I gave my life to Jesus, Bill would die. I went to Diane and told her I couldn’t become a Christian because I didn’t want to lose Bill.

But Diane was also a prayer warrior. When I needed prayer, she prayed. Before long, Jesus supernaturally revealed to me that I could trust Him to take care of Bill. I finally accepted Jesus as my savior in June of 1980. Bill became a Christian one month later, but that’s another story!

The first thing I did after I got saved was to make an appointment for counseling. But, counseling didn’t help. It only made my life more miserable as I was rehashed all the bad things my dad did to me.

So, I turned to the Word. I’d never read the Bible before, so I decided I would read it from cover to cover to the kids. That way, we would learn at the same time.

We read about Abraham and how he and God made a covenant. So, I wrote out my own covenant with God. If he would heal me, I would serve him forever. I took this covenant to my counseling appointment and told the pastor I would not be back. God was going to heal me.

Then came the testing. The next day, the kids acted up. I felt the rage build; my muscles tensed; electricity sparked. But suddenly, something happened. I sensed the Holy Spirit tell me to go upstairs, kneel at my bed and pray. I cried the whole time I prayed and thanked God for stopping my rage. My spirit calmed, and then I went down and disciplined the children God’s way. My relationship with my kids was beginning to improve.

I read in the Word about relationships and how God wants us to do to others as we want done to ourselves.

I begin to think of Bill as an extension of me. I asked myself how would I like to be treated in this situation and began to treat Bill the same way. Again, the Word worked and our marriage began to heal.

I read in the Word about tithing, but that seemed ridiculous for us to even consider. We now had a huge mortgage and only a policeman’s salary. But we were both determined to do what God said. So we began to tithe on the gross (after all God should get more than Uncle Sam), spend money on necessities only, and Bill took on some extra pay jobs. Occasionally, we ate potatoes for supper (ironic as we were living in a custom built home in a very nice development). We also learned humility during this time, as my spiritual mom, Diane, would occasionally bring us a bag or two of groceries. But, we continued to tithe and watch God work.

Not long after we started tithing, we got audited. The tax people made our lives miserable for the next couple of months, but in the end, God was faithful. We walked out of the audit $500 richer! We had made a mistake on our taxes in our own favor. We kept tithing.

Next, two drunks hit my husband on his way home from work. His shooting arm was damaged. He was able to work, but not on patrol. The police department tried to force him to quit and made his life miserable for years, but Bill was only 9 years from his pension. He wanted to stick it out. He was willing to work on the desk. Finally, they forced him to see their doctors, but their doctor determined that Bill was worse off than even Bill thought he was. So, they pensioned Bill off on disability. We kept tithing.

Now what was he going to do? We began to pray, and Bill decided God wanted him to go to Regent University to get his masters in photojournalism. We sold our beautiful home and use the equity to pay for his college. I wondered how we would ever be able to buy a home again, but we knew this is what God wanted us to do. We continued to tithe on his pension.

After graduation, Bill took a job at Teen Challenge in Pennsylvania. Living conditions went from bad to worse. During the first year, we had to live in an old trailer that smelled of sewer. The floor was so rotten we had to watch to make sure we didn’t fall through. But, we kept tithing.

Eventually, we moved into a townhouse on the property. It was nice. I was thankful to God for my new home, even though it wasn’t mine. Maybe this was the home God was giving me. I was happy with that.
But God had other ideas. God was sending us to Tulsa to work in a new ministry; but before we left, we inherited enough money to pay for a home in cash! That is the home we are living in today. 

God is so good. He is faithful to do what He promised. Bill and I have been married for more than 40 years. He is the best husband I could ever ask for. We have two wonderful children that love us. Although we live on a modest income, I have food on the table, a comfortable home, nice clothes, no debt, and a car that gets me where I need to go. I’m reasonably healthy and I have good friends and a wonderful church. I couldn’t ask for anything more.

So, did I get my Dick and Jane life? No, Dick and Jane is fiction.

God doesn’t promise heaven on earth. Like most of you, I still have problems. My husband is losing his eyesight. Our pension is shrinking with inflation. We may have to give up our two-story home for a smaller one sometime in the future. My son is trying to recover from a terrible divorce and I never get to see my only grandchild.

However, because of Jesus, I have peace whenever life throws its ugly darts. I know that no matter what happens, all things work together for good, because of Jesus. I’ve been forgiven and have the ability to forgive others, including my dad, because of Jesus. (Note: My dad and mom both accepted Christ before they died.) I have hope and a future, because of Jesus. I have love from family and friends, and most importantly from God, because of Jesus. I wouldn’t trade any of this for a Dick and Jane life.

I am thankful to Dick and Jane, however, for giving me a vision. Because, without that, I might not have looked for Jesus!

I hope I’ve been as effective as the man from Decapolis in telling you how much the Lord has done for me.

I also hope that if you need peace in your life, you’ll turn to Jesus; if you need love, healing and forgiveness in your life; you’ll turn to Jesus. You won’t regret it. He’s an amazing God.

Thank you for allowing me to share my testimony.

Cindy Downes