TESTIMONY — Chuck Middlekauf, Austin, TX — God was looking for this Western and Pop Culture Artist

TESTIMONY — Chuck Middlekauf, Austin, TX — God was looking for this Western and Pop Culture Artist

It’s interesting how God has brought my life around to where I am now. I was never looking for Him, but I guess He was looking for me.

I wasn’t raised in the church. When I was little, my mom taught me to pray before I went to bed, so I guess I knew there was a God, but we didn’t go to church. I asked God for His help on exams when I hadn’t studied, and you can guess that my grades showed the influence of my own disregard for school, not God’s input. I suppose that left me disappointed, and I definitely didn’t know anything about Him.

As an Air Force brat, I got to move with the family when Dad got transferred every three years. We lived in Hawaii, Germany then Rantoul, Illinois, Laredo, Texas, and finally, as soon as I graduated from high school, the family moved to Austin, Texas, and I immediately joined the Navy.

All that time, I was a loner. It was hard to start with new friends, so I just had a very few, and I usually opted to hang out by myself. When I got out of the Navy, I returned to Austin, and met and married my wife Carol, I found that I love hanging out with her, but that was about it. She’s pretty much a loner, too. She was a Christian, but neither of us went to church.

So, until I was 29, I wasn’t a Christian and didn’t like mingling with people, especially those I hadn’t met. Not too long after we married, we moved to Denver, Colorado, and spent most of our Sunday’s skiing. Not that we were any good at it, and our feet froze. But we got to enjoy the mountains in the winter.

Meanwhile, God was arranging some details.

Carol’s best friend growing up, Stephanie, graduated from college and married a man named, Bob; then they became missionaries to Kenya. Carol hadn’t seen her friend in many years, so when Stephanie and Bob came to Colorado from Africa for a Campus Crusade for Christ (CRU) conference, they invited us over for dinner.

I didn’t care about meeting Bob and Stephanie. You’re right, I didn’t want to go to supper at all. Especially with missionaries. After much discussion, Carol convinced me to go, insisting that all she wanted to do was visit her forever friend, and that Stephanie and Bob should meet me, too.

Steering the car northbound on I-25 from Denver to Bob and Stephanie’s room in Fort Collins, I kept repeating (loudly), “Don’t you dare bring up anything about God!”

Carol promised she wouldn’t.

So, Carol didn’t bring up the subject of God. However, swallowing the first bite of Stephanie’s apple cobbler, she nearly fell over. I must have asked Bob what missionaries do. He told me. And suddenly I was asking him dozens of questions about God!

The amazing thing is that, of all the people I could have met, Bob knew the Bible’s answers and was patiently explaining about God’s creation, His love, His plan, how Jesus died on the cross to pay for our sins. That evening I tearfully accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior!

Because most of what Bob had said made me think that God loves me, would forgive me if I prayed a prayer, and has a great plan for my life, it didn’t occur to me that God also wanted to change me.

So, we still didn’t go to church, except to watch a few televangelist from time to time. And they didn’t really teach me anything useful. Then, a few years later, Bob and Stephanie reentered the picture. They were home from the mission field, and they asked us over for supper again. This time I did want to talk about God, and Bob answered more of my hard questions for hours. When we were leaving, almost as an afterthought, they gave us Rick Warren’s book, “The Purpose Driven Life.”

Carol and I sat on the couch, and I read the whole book aloud, discounting any chapters that mentioned stuff I didn’t really want to do. Like going to church.

But God was still working on me. For one thing, Carol occasionally mentioned going to church. I declined. One day I parked the car outside the bookstore at the local mall. While I was inside, someone put a flier on my windshield. It said, “LIFE Fellowship: The Church for People Who Hate Church.” And the location was at the movie theater just across the parking lot. While the theater wasn’t in use on Sunday mornings, LIFE Fellowship set up everything and held worship meetings.

I can’t explain it, because it was God’s idea, but I told Carol we were going to church on Sunday. She nearly fell over.

That’s how we became regulars at LIFE Fellowship, and we got excellent, Bible-based teaching from pastors and Sunday school teachers. We both grew a lot. By this time, I was in my mid-30s. When we would go to a dinner of some kind, the host, not realizing that I knew nothing about praying, would ask me to pray for the meal. But God dredged a nice prayer out of me anyway. We also got involved with the youth group and even went on a mission trip and spent time doing gospel outreach at that mall. Who would have thought!

One Sunday, only God knows why, I signed up for a men’s retreat in the mountains. A few weekends later, I went to the weekend event. I’m sure there was good teaching, but all I remember is my impression that the men already knew each other and seemed to gather in their own circles to fish, play games, eat meals, etc. I seemed to end up outside the circles.

However, when I got home, I couldn’t stop crying. I can cry. But not like that. And it had nothing to do with being left out. At the end of about two weeks, I asked Carol to find somewhere where I could visit men in jail!

She nearly fell over. But she did it. The chaplain at a nearby jail needed a volunteer assistant who would deliver Bibles to inmates who asked for them. Because of God, I had discovered my kind of work. As long as an officer could see me, I could go right in the cells with the inmates. We laughed, cried, and hugged, and I exhorted them and introduced them to Jesus, too. I did that for several years.

Then Carol and I moved back and forth from Colorado to California, following my dreams of being an artist. Maybe 25 years later, when we eventually ended up back in Austin to be near our families, we hadn’t found a church, and we were stagnating. However, while Carol went out to the trail to train for a half marathon, I started watching TV broadcasts from Great Hills Baptist Church. Hearing Preacher O’Chester “shoot from the belt,” telling the Bible like it is, I realized that I had found our church.

However, the first time we visited the church, “Preacher” retired and turned the church over to Michael Lewis. Thank God, this young man also turned out to be a dynamo of a Bible-preaching pastor. His first step was to get almost 700 people involved in door-to-door gospel outreach visits. And, believe it or not, Carol and I joined the groups of three for several years, driving out to housing areas, praying with people on porches and in living rooms, and telling them about Jesus. Carol and I, the loners, loved doing that!

Another thing happened not long after we joined the church. We met Don and Sue. They were dressed in leather vests covered with pins. When we asked them, “Why the leathers, and what are those pins,” they “We ride to church on a Harley Davidson motorcycle.” The pins came from motorcycle rallies (the wild ones) where they minister to the riders. Not for me. However, when they told us they also ride the motorcycle right into prisons and jails where a dozen inmates might gather around as they share the gospel, I immediately asked, “Where do we sign up for that?”

They explained that it’s through the Bill Glass Behind the Walls Prison Ministry. So, long story short, in the last 15 years, Carol and I have traveled to more than 60 prison events, from Florida to California, and from Texas to Kentucky. And we joined an affiliated ministry, Ring of Champions, that involves spending an hour a week mentoring kids, ages 10-17, who are in a juvenile detention unit south of Austin. At least we were getting to go to jail, until Covid19 came along. We pray that we’ll get to go back someday soon.

You might wonder what this has to do with cowboys and rodeos. Well, as an artist, I paint my childhood TV and movie cowboy heroes, mingled with other icons I grew up with. I take pictures of cowboys waiting around at rodeos, relaxing on fences and ready to ride. That’s the way I paint them. After all, cowboys may spend a lot of time riding bucking horses and bulls and taking down steers, and maybe out in on the range chasing cows, but they also spend a lot of time kicking back, hanging out. So, I paint them that way, kicking back, hanging out, usually including my own favorite things and images in compositions that might not happen in real life – but they could. And to all of that, I add splatters and spots, drips, and drops. As the finishing touches, I paint images of the brushes and other art tools that usually roll around on my paintings while I’m working.

I had a nice message from one of those excited fans the other day, and here’s how I replied:

“What I want viewers to get is something like the energy we get when we listen to a favorite oldie rock and roll song…you just gotta sing along, tap your foot, and get up and dance. I’m trying to create visually what music does audibly – energize people and get them visually stimulated and have a conniption fit!!!! Kinda like what those cowboys in the TV and movie Westerns did for me when I was a kid and what Beatlemania did for me back in those days!”

I give God all the glory for what’s happened in my life and for selling a lot of my paintings since I became a full-time gallery artist in 1992. And I’ve pledged most of the proceeds from my sales to His Kingdom work. That’s where Preacher Scott comes in.

(Here is a link to see his artwork www.chuckmiddlekauff.com)

TESTIMONY — Darvis McCoy, San Jose, CA — From atheist to Bible smuggler

TESTIMONY — Darvis McCoy, San Jose, CA — From atheist to Bible smuggler

 I lived nearly four decades as an atheist adrenaline junkie, looking for adventure wherever I could find it and pushing the envelope in every way.  I was an extreme motorcycle rider, Yosemite rock climber and wanderer of the world.

The early chapters describe how my life was miraculously saved time and again despite my complete arrogance toward to a God I didn’t believe in.

Then, faced with life-changing despair at the age of 47, and on the verge suicide, God showed himself to me, changing my life forever.  Using the nature God had gifted me with all along, I found a new calling: smuggling Bibles to the underground Christians living in restricted countries. 

There are 51 countries around the world in which Bibles are illegal.  In many of those countries, just owning a Bible will mean prison or execution, but the people are starving for God’s Word, and are willing to take that risk. 

I found my new calling at the age of 53, in supplying their need, eventually working in 15 exotic countries to get the job done. 

Now, at age 62, God said my traveling for Him was finished and told me it was time to write a book to tell of all He has done in me and through me.  I was obedient and my book is now on Amazon:
https://www.amazon.com/God-Prepared-Fish-Transformed-Adrenaline-ebook/dp/B07CBDMW8F/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=Darvis+McCoy&qid=1595682099&s=books&sr=1-1

TESTIMONY — Cory Speh, Granite Falls, MN — Overcoming sin and building a faith-based marriage and custom knife business

TESTIMONY — Cory Speh, Granite Falls, MN — Overcoming sin and building a faith-based marriage and custom knife business

I was born and raised in the small Minnesota prairie town of Maynard. My family attended a local church and I grew up in a Christian home. I devoted my life to Christ when I was a child.

Unfortunately, I did not fully grasp what it meant to be a follower of Christ and quickly I had a very legalistic relationship with Christ, that hinged on my performance and avoiding a whole list of things that were not acceptable by the church.

As a teenager, I really struggled with my faith. It wasn’t until my early 20s and after experiencing a few of life’s lessons that I started to realize that my “religion” was my salvation, and that I needed a savior. An untimely death of one of the church elders’ daughter at my new church really woke me up! Witnessing the need for Christ in my own life really opened my eyes to seeing the need for Christ and for His love in other people’s lives.

In 2010, I met and started to date my future wife, Sandra. Our life together has not been easy, but God has been at the center of our marriage and His grace and mercy have always been there for us. Sandra’s best friend died in a car accident in the summer of 2011, and it devastated both of us and pressured us to get our lives back on track. We struggled with sexual sin and with lies that came with it as we tried to hide our sins from our Christian families and our Church family. In the summer of 2011, we vowed to abstain from any sexual desire until we were married.

Unfortunately, we failed keeping this vow and broke it the night before we were wed, which lead to sexual tension within our marriage. I also struggled with an addiction to porn up to being engaged. Sandra refused to marry me if I could not break the addiction. It was not easy, but I praise God that I have been released from the hold of that addiction. By asking for forgiveness, and finally forgiving myself for my past sexual sins really closed the door on that issue in our marriage and it offered healing for both of us. 

Paul knew what he was preaching about when it came to sexual sin the toll that it takes on a person. Thankfully, Sandra and I have been able to keep our marriage pure and it is a praise of His grace and mercy for that!

In the fall of 2013, my daughter Charlie was born and in the winter of 2014 my father in law David died. His death was extremely difficult to grasp, especially with the addition of my daughter that fall. David is dwelling in the Kingdom of Heaven and one day I will see him again!

In the winter of 2016 Sandra and I purchased our first house and we moved to Wood Lake, MN. Later that year, I moved my business to Wood Lake as well.

In fall of 2017, my son Zeke was born. After four months of bed rest, due to Zeke almost being miscarried and Sandra had to have a cervix stitch surgery to save the pregnancy. Sandra has infertility and had complications and had to receive a hormone regiment and we struggled to conceive for two years. We were very happy to see him, but something happened that we never expected. A couple of days after Zeke were born, Sandra was diagnosed with postpartum depression and she struggled to have a relationship with Zeke and even with Charlie at times. This lead to me taking extended time off of work at my full time job and stepping into a new role. All I can say, even in the worst of times, God is so good! That year was miserable, and watching my wife struggle with something that I couldn’t fix or quite understand just killed me inside.

God blessed us through friends and family and through my coworkers to help out where they could. I don’t know how many times I asked God to take it all away, to heal my wife, and the anger that I had from the effects of it. Sandra pushed through it and fought the depression the best she could, and one day it was gone… Thankfully we have our two kids, since we are not able to have anymore due the complications of the pregnancy Sandra had with Zeke.

This brings us to 2019. I am still making knives almost 12 years after the birth of Speh Custom Knives. Having this business has opened many doors for me to prompt Christ and to have contact with customers that have turned into very close friends. In Colossians 4:5-6, Paul tells us how to go about talking to others and I think its appropriate to share these verses as a new mission statement for myself.

Colossians 4:5-6 NIV – Be wisein the way you act toward outsiders;make the most of every opportunity.Let your conversation be always full of grace,seasoned with salt,so that you may know how to answer everyone.

We never know who God is going to put in our lives and simply showing the love of Christ to them is essential. Being accurate and loving with the Gospel is the goal that I am currently striving for in my own relationship with Christ. We can’t show someone Christ if we do not know Him ourselves, or if we don’t know the scriptures about His character, promises, and the hope Christ offers in salvation for all!

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