Remember when you were little, and you dreamed of your life in the future? I don’t know about you, but my life always looked something like this: I was going to be married to a handsome man who loved me deeply, we would have multiple children who were always obedient and fun to be with, we would live in a nice house, not want, or need for anything, and that was it. That was my dream. Well, we all know that is not reality most of the time – but I have to say that in a lot of ways my dreams came true. But, not without a long, bumpy road along the way. I’ll explain.
My name is Faith (James) Crissman and I am the daughter of Robert James. I grew up in Oregon and belonged to the Church of Jesus Christ Forever from the time I was born until I was about 14 years old. My childhood was filled with joy and laughter for the most part. From as far back and I can remember I was always playing outside with my friends most of which were also members of the Church. There were quite a few kids my age including cousins and they were my best friends. We did everything together. It brings a smile to my face thinking about all the adventures, games, and fun times we had. I am the oldest of 5 kids and my siblings and I were raised like most anyone else would want their children raised – we were taught to listen to our parents, have good manners, be kind to others, always tell the truth (lying was wrong), but have good, clean fun. If we messed up, we were punished appropriately. There are consequences for every choice in life. My parents did the best they could and I thank God for my upbringing.
Middle school years are hard enough with all the awkwardness and trying to find one’s place, but those years were especially hurtful for me at school. The hurt I speak of came by way of persecution and being ostracized at school. While walking the hallways, kids would shove me into lockers as they walked by, they would hold up their fingers in a cross and say, “People of Rose, people of Rose”, among many other outrageous things. On the way home from school my bus route went right by Rose’s house and Maxon Manor and I was constantly ridiculed and called names; Rose, my church, and family were accused of many ridiculous things. I thought that it was just stupid kids being immature, none-the-less it hurt. Why? Besides the obvious reasons, it was also because Rose was nothing like what I had heard others saying about her! They knew nothing about her except for the gossip they themselves had heard.
I remember Rose as a very kind person who was always happy. From my earliest years I had a deep love for her that I couldn’t explain. A fond memory I have of her is going to hug her one night after Church and laying my head in her lap. She so kindly brushed my hair away from my face and said, “Oh my little Faithy.” She meant the world to me and I was devastated when she passed in 1992. Shortly after her passing my mom and dad left the Church and moved me and my siblings to Michigan.
From there my life takes a dark turn, filled with sin and shame. We had left the Church and God all together and who I became was everything opposite of how I was raised: completely self-involved and selfish, self-indulgent in every way, getting into anything and everything you can imagine, and rebellious. My life quickly spiraled out of control, and I became a very tortured person inside, to the point that I thought of suicide many times. Thank God I was too much of a coward to go through with it. However, despite my sin and the fact I had turned my back on God (He is EVER so gracious), he let me meet my future husband when I was nineteen years old. I was stuck in an extremely abusive relationship with someone else when I met him. I knew from early on he was the one God had intended for me. After ending the abusive relationship, my husband-to-be and I quickly grew close. We were married in November of 1999 and by September of the next year we had moved to Texas for my husband’s new job. I was pregnant with our first child, a son, and although I thought life was about to get better, I was still living with a darkness inside. I was an emotional wreck – deep down I knew I had walked out on God and the sin I had yielded to had made me a miserable person and I began to take it out on my sweet husband. He saw it and was distraught because he didn’t know how to help me.
During this time our son was born and shortly after being taken to the nursery he had stopped breathing. I will never forget my husband’s face as he walked in the room after being told the devastating news – your son has stopped breathing. “We had to resuscitate him, and he is breathing, but he is unresponsive,” is what the doctor told me. It was said that he had been without oxygen for so long that he was certainly going to have brain damage, but how much was not clear. This is the beginning of my journey back to God and the beautiful life He has given me.
My dad called me that day of Cody’s birth – crying and telling me that God spoke to him that he (my son) was going to live. He quoted the scripture from Isaiah, “shall I bring to the birth, and not cause to bring forth?” He was not going to have brain damage. He instructed me to pray in tongues over my son; that God would heal him. Speaking in tongues is the the full indwelling of the Holy Ghost – the pure Spirit language of the Intercessor and Comforter, and tongues is the evidence of that indwelling. This is what I had been taught growing up and had read about in the scriptures, but I couldn’t remember the tongue God had given me. It had been a long time since I had prayed – let alone prayed in tongues. But I prayed and told God that I didn’t remember my tongue, I told him that in my heart I was praying in tongues just like Dad said. “Please heal my son and let him wake up out of this coma.” Within hours he was awake and eating and tracking. They ran test after test and couldn’t find a thing wrong with him. On day 5 we took him home. God raised our son from the dead! A spark had ignited and I started to reach out for more.
Although I was reaching out for more, things were not that great at home. My husband and I were close to divorce in 2001 when I returned to the Church for my dad’s ordination. Dad had been reconciled to God and his calling and I was going to go to support my dad, but I was determined not to return to being a member of the Church for one reason, and one reason only: I didn’t want to give up my sins – my selfish ways. I wanted God, but I wanted God “my way”. I knew that there was a standard that the people of the Church held to and it was, and still is this – THE WORD OF GOD. But, after almost 10 years of being away from God I found myself sitting in the Church I grew up in and talking to him in my heart. For the first time in almost a decade I felt the Spirit again and I was overwhelmed. He showed me personally that this Church is where I belonged. I don’t remember having any conversations with anyone that night (although I have been told I did) because it was just me and my Father in Heaven talking. Nobody had to say anything to me; I KNEW what He was saying, “This is where you belong.” Although that meant a complete lifestyle change, I knew there was no other choice for me and I made a vow that night in my heart that I would NEVER fail God again in my walk, that I would stay where He told me I belonged as a part of the Church: that I would follow Him and love him with my whole heart, soul, mind, and strength. I have kept my vow and will NEVER break it.
I would like to tell you that life got better immediately and we all lived happily ever after. Not right away anyway. Like everyone, my husband and I faced challenges and hard times throughout the years, but God has seen us through every step of the way. To say our God is faithful is a massive understatement! Phil and I have been married for over 22 years and have been blessed with the raising of our 3 amazing sons and a loving daughter. We have moved all over the southern part of the United States as a family – moving 18 times within a 14 year period before settling near Fort Worth, Texas in 2014.
For the past 21 years my husband and I, along with our children, have been members of the Church of Jesus Christ Forever – joining services via phone conference and video conferences every chance we could, and Kale Aluli has been our Pastor. The top three men in my life whom I love from the depths of my heart and soul: my husband, my dad, and Kale. He is a faithful shepherd like Jesus describes in John 10 when he lays out the difference between a shepherd and an hireling. He has been there for us throughout all life’s challenges and has NEVER led us wrong; his counsel has yielded righteous fruit EVERY TIME. He selflessly gives of his time answering the phone at all times of the day and night; always ready and willing to help. I remember late one night I was in great turmoil and I called him at 3:00 in the morning. He not only answered but gave me advice on how to handle the situation I was facing which brought peace and resolve immediately. But that is such an inadequate example of the blessing he has been to our family. If I were to write a book on all the ways he has been there for us and helped us, it would fill an entire library! I thank GOD for Kale – because of his guidance by the Spirit and careful watch over our souls, our marriage is one that others envy, our children are now young successful adults who love God with their whole hearts, and life is just wonderfully settled in joy.
As for the rest of the Church members, although we are hundreds of miles apart, we couldn’t be closer. We are family. We visit often and spend as much time as we can with them every year. Our children (now young adults) look forward to every visit and even beg us to ‘stay for the summer’. They have even tried to convince us that we should move back to Oregon so that we can be near everyone there. As much as we would LOVE to be that close to everyone – God has us in Texas for a reason. Besides, they come and visit us also – something we very much look forward to! Yeehaw!!
Bottom line, I am so proud to be a part of this family and stand beside them. Rose and Kale are foundational in my life in teaching me to love others and be selfless, to not sin even as Jesus commanded, to know God for myself – something I have raised my kids to know – and to stand up for what is right and true no matter what. The Church of Jesus Christ Forever is the greatest people on earth. Any one of them would give the shirt off their back to help their fellow man and they stand for nothing but truth in all of Christ.
The reason I am writing this letter is because I have been on both sides – being a former member and now a member of this Church and I’m here to tell you truthfully and sincerely that there is no comparison between the two. The difference is night and day. It is like asking – do you want to live in this cardboard box, no running water, and suffer starvation? Or this mansion with all its amenities and never have to want for anything again? Two choices – your choice. NO CONTEST!! The proof is in the pudding and my life is the proof, by the grace of God, the careful love of our Pastor, and the strength of this Church. O the goodness of God!