Joe Ricker’s Testimony February 2023 I was not raised in a Christian home, and religion was not something we talked about. I have few fond memories of my childhood, mostly in the summertime with my friends and during the holidays when I was young. My father was an alcoholic and was oftentimes verbally abusive and occasionally physically abusive. I have lots of memories of my parents fighting, and still carry many of the physical and psychological wounds from my childhood. My parents divorced when I was 13, and I was crushed. I found solace in sports and that’s where I put a lot of my energy. I played Little League and even made the 13-year-old All-star team. I played baseball, track, and football in high school; yet in all my events, I have no memory of my dad being at a single game. Sports became my sanctuary, escape, and a way for me to release my aggression. Subconsciously, they were also my way of trying to prove my worth, especially to my dad. After my parents’ divorce, my mom moved more than a dozen times before I graduated high school, and she was very bitter towards my dad and life in general. My dad’s absence and my mom’s bitterness had a deep impact on how I viewed spiritual matters. To this day, on some level I still feel like I don’t have what it takes, and I have to prove my worth because I was never good enough in my dad’s eyes. I had some exposure to church during my childhood, since my grandparents were devout Christians and would sometimes take my brother and I to church. However, I had a poor view of a loving heavenly father resulting from my resentment and feelings of abandonment from my own father. I really wasn’t interested in anything related to church, Jesus, or God. Part of my resentment was the fact that I had to change school districts as I was going into high school. However, I think God’s grace was evident in my life, even while I was lost in my own sin and rejection of Him. When I was in tenth grade, I met the most beautiful girl in English class. I even told my brother, who was in twelfth grade, that I was going to marry her one day. I made good on that promise on July 30, 1994. I met my wife, Alison, in high school, and we dated through college even though we were at different schools 3 hours apart. I had even less exposure to Christianity in college. I think the only time I had gone to church was on Christmas Eve each year with Alison’s family as well as during the summer a few times when I wasn’t playing football. I jumped fully into worldly college life and all that entails, including playing college football and joining a fraternity. I had many college friends who were Catholic, and they would occasionally go to church, but I had a hard time reconciling their so-called faith with their hedonistic lifestyles. After graduating college, Alison and I got married and moved to Memphis to start our lives together. Even though I was lost spiritually, I was more agnostic than atheist. I had a strong sense that there was intelligence behind creation, and that there was ultimate meaning in life, but I had no interest in a relationship with something I could not understand. I was and still am very analytically minded. I need to understand how and why things work, and I am a natural doubter until I see proof. When we moved to Memphis after we got married, Alison wanted to go to church. I did not object, and I was happy to go with her. We started attending a church close to our home in Memphis, and we got involved working with the youth ministry. I really enjoyed it, and I connected well with the youth, but I was still unsaved and had no clue what I was doing. The kids started asking questions that I couldn’t answer, and soon those questions were also my questions. Thus, my quest for exploring and understanding Christianity began. I became immersed in apologetic study, determined to understand if Jesus really was the Messiah he claimed to be. I had amassed a library of books by Christian apologists, many of which I enthusiastically consumed cover to cover. I came to point where I was convinced, as I am now, that the Bible is true. As I grew in understanding, God was also working on my heart, and I developed a deep compassion for the needy and less fortunate. During this time, however, Alison and I were walking through the valley of infertility. She so badly wanted to be a mom, and I began to sense that maybe being parents wasn’t what God had for us. I was coming to terms with that, especially since I was fearful of what kind of father I would be after my own traumatic childhood. I felt helpless during this time, but also started having a hopefulness I had never felt before. We eventually became pregnant and God blessed us with beautiful twin daughters, Elizabeth and Abigail, in 2003. I cannot point to a single salvation experience, but rather it was a journey of understanding and God working through people and circumstances in my life in my 20s. What started with head knowledge of God and creation culminated with a saving faith as I fully understood that Christ died for my sins and my eternal security was through complete faith in Christ. In my late 20s, I wanted to be baptized but was dismayed that our church at the time did not do baptism by submersion. We eventually joined a church closer to our home in Olive Branch, and I was excited to know that they would honor my testimony and do a full baptism by submersion. So, Alison and I were baptized together in 2006 when I was 35. We committed to live our lives from a Biblical worldview, and focused less on what our heritage was, and more on what our legacy would be. God again blessed us with a son, Nathan, in 2007 and another daughter, Sarah, in 2009. Since coming to Christ in my late 20s, God has been leading me on a fantastic journey. God has given me a passion for making disciples, teaching His word, and ministering to the poor and less fortunate. He has led me and my family on multiple mission trips, taking His gospel to the nations. In fact, it was through our many mission trips to Honduras that our spiritual daughter, Daniela, came to be with us in 2014. I love the passage in Galatians 5:1 where Paul says that “for freedom Christ has set us free.” I have experienced this freedom and through the gospel of Jesus Christ I am free indeed. I look forward to the next chapter and how God will use me at Great Commission Church!
I was blessed to be born into a godly and Christ-filled home and to be raised in the church. I accepted Jesus into my heart and was baptized at a very young age. Although I do not remember all of the details, I do know that Christ began to work in the heart of my 6-year-old self. Throughout my childhood I was nurtured by the word through family worship, weekly Bible study, church twice a week, and through my biblical homeschool curriculum. I knew every Bible story like the back of my hand and knew all of the perfect Sunday school answers. My life was great. I was happy and I hadn’t gone through any major trials. I was so used to hearing the gospel over and over again for as long as I can remember that I don’t think I realized the gravity of what Jesus had done for me. That is, until around 6th grade. It was then that I fully realized and understood that Christ died for me, for my sins. He was the ultimate sacrifice. I don’t deserve forgiveness. I was baptized again shortly after because I wanted to proclaim to the world that I was rededicating my life to Christ. A few weeks ago, Mr. Don asked me what I would say if God asked, “why should I let you into heaven?” I replied, “you shouldn’t.” I could not ever earn salvation. But through Jesus dying for my sins, being buried, and rising again I am saved. I am so excited to join this church family and continue to grow on this journey with Christ.
I grew up in a Christian home and heard about God from a young age. When I was little, I started
asking questions to my parents about who Jesus was and why we learn about him. I accepted Christ into
my heart and was baptized when I was around 6 years old. I understood that Jesus died for my sins, and I
could go to heaven at that age but I didn’t fully understand the gospel until I was around 11-12 years old.
That is when I realized that I was a sinner and that I would never be good enough on my own. Jesus died
for me because I couldn’t earn my salvation.I also realized that being saved isn’t the end of the Christian
journey. My life had a new purpose and I try to live for Jesus and be a witness to others.
Alison Ricker’s Testimony February 2023 I was baptized as an infant in the United Methodist Church. Growing up, I went to church regularly with my mom and my sister. Although going to church was a regular part of my life, the rest of the week I just lived my life. I did go through all of the sixth-grade confirmation classes at my church, but it just felt like another class. As a teenager, I ended up going to another local church that was more contemporary. It was with that church that I realized that I needed a Savior. Jesus was that Savior who died on the cross for my sins, was buried, and was resurrected on the third day. I asked Jesus to be my LORD and Savior in high school, but since I had already been baptized as an infant and had gone through confirmation, they didn’t baptize me again. I did a few Bible studies with my friends, but I didn’t have anyone mentoring me and teaching me how to read and understand God’s Word. Therefore, I just tried to live “a good life” which obviously didn’t work. Consequently, in college I fell away from going to church and Bible study. Once I graduated from college, I married my husband, Joe, who was not a believer. I was such a baby Christian that I didn’t even know that I shouldn’t have married him because we were “unequally yoked”. Ironically, we went through pre-marriage counseling with my pastor in my hometown and now I realize that he didn’t even bring up that fact either. We then moved from northern Indiana to Memphis, TN because that is where we found jobs. Soon after we moved, I wanted to get back into going to church, so we found a United Methodist Church near our apartment. We ended up volunteering in the youth ministry when we were not working or going to graduate school. This helped me grow some in my faith, BUT GOD shook our world entirely when we ended up not being able to have children for many years. During this time, I found a support group called Hannah’s Prayer which helped me process what was going on mentally and physically, but not spiritually. I was so mad at God during this season of my life. I felt like I had done everything that God had wanted me to do so far and He wasn’t blessing us with children. I would go to church and sing the hymns, but I felt empty inside. For the first time, I felt like I didn’t mean what I was singing. I felt like I had fallen into a pit. I knew that to get out of the pit, I would have to humble myself to God, but I was still mad at God. I was still having a pity party. I specifically remember when I was nearing the end of my hope that we would ever become parents. I was at the end of my rope with how I could fix this situation on my own when I went to speak to my pastor, and I broke down. I let go that day and I finally gave the burden and desire to God. After he prayed with me, it felt like a weight had been lifted, but I still didn’t have any answers. I had to continually give it back to God daily because I would keep trying to take it back. Within a few months of that meeting, Joe and I found out that I was pregnant through IVF. Not soon after, we found out that I was going to have twins. I was beyond excited, but also scared that this was just a dream. To make a long roller coaster journey short, we were blessed with Abigail Ruth and Elizabeth Sage. Years later, we welcomed by birth Nathan Joseph through IVF as well. I think God has a sense of humor and He wanted to remind us that He is ultimately in control. When Nathan was six months old, we found out that I was pregnant with Sarah Alison naturally. We were surprised but so excited to be adding to our family. Then five years later, we welcomed Wendy Daniela into our family by spiritual adoption when she was a teenager. Along the way, we lost many babies that we never met. It was an extremely difficult journey. Our infertility journey is not one that I would want to relive, but I wouldn’t want to give up the intimate relationship that I have with the LORD after walking through it. When Abby and Ellie were one-year olds, we wanted to find a church closer to our home in Mississippi that had other young families where we could continue to grow in our faith. Through a friend of mine at Community Bible Study, we found a church that was perfect for us during that season. That church welcomed believer’s baptisms even if we had previously been baptized as an infant. I was excited to finally publicly proclaim what God had done in me. He had taken me, a sinner, and made me clean through His Son, Jesus, dying on the cross for me. He made me a new creation to live for Him. I have learned through this journey, that God wanted my heart and a relationship with me. He wanted me to live my life for Him, not myself. In light of that, Joe and I started making decisions for our family through the lens of a Biblical worldview. We grew so much during this time through other mentors teaching us about what God teaches in His Word about marriage, parenting, missions, and discipleship. Ultimately, I think reading through the entire Bible has been the most life changing for me. Once I understood what God’s plan was from Creation in Genesis to the new heaven and the new earth in Revelation, I could see how my life isn’t about me, but how God will use me to further His Kingdom through sharing the gospel and discipleship. I believe God has called me to disciple and teach our children to love the Lord and be warriors for His Kingdom. I believe that is why God had Joe and I walk through this infertility journey. He wanted us to grow from being “social Christians” to be warriors for His Kingdom before we discipled our children. I also feel led to encourage other women to read the Bible in order to grow in their relationship with the LORD. I am so excited to see how God will use me in the Great Commission Church family for Him. I am looking forward to meeting my new sisters and brothers in Christ if I haven’t already met you.