Nick and Sharron have found that the best way to live is by putting God first.
Nick tells his story:
When I was five years old, my family moved to Winfield, Kansas, so my dad could be the pastor of the Apostolic Faith Church in that city. Our whole family was involved at church all the time, and the Bible was an open Book in our home. I truly knew what the Gospel was about.
Around the time I graduated from high school, my parents moved to Aiken, South Carolina, and helped start a new branch church there. I stayed behind in Kansas because I was offered a football scholarship at the local community college, and that’s when my life took a bad turn. I chose to hang out with the wrong type of friends, and started doing some of the things my dad had never let me do before. After two years, I transferred to South Carolina State University, and then my life went crazy. I did so poorly in school that I had to quit and move back home with my parents.
His passing made me wonder, If God took him early, how much time do I have left? I had always thought I had plenty of time to get saved, but I realized that God might not let me get old.
A couple of years later, a traumatic experience jolted me into thinking about the condition of my soul. In 1995, my dad suddenly went into cardiac arrest and passed away. He was only forty-nine years old. He was a man who had lived the best way I knew a person could live, and his passing made me wonder, If God took him early, how much time do I have left? I had always thought I had plenty of time to get saved, but I realized that God might not let me get old.
That summer, my mother and sister and I drove to the Apostolic Faith camp meeting in Century, Florida. Though I didn’t get saved there, being around the saints softened my heart toward God. From then on, I was under heavy conviction. It felt like I was far from God, but actually I was very close to salvation.
A few weeks later, my brother and I visited our mom who had moved to Kingstree, South Carolina, and the church there was holding special meetings. I was in the back of the sanctuary, too ashamed to go to the front, and some saints came and prayed with me. There I surrendered my life to God, and He saved me! He forgave my sins and showed me that I could be happy without the sinful things the world had to offer.
Growing family and faith
At Century camp meeting I met a girl who had also recently gone through a personal tragedy and then was saved. We began to see that God was bringing us together, and Sharron and I were married the following year. We had our first child right away, and three more in the next four years. My wife and I were young in our faith and as parents, so we had a lot to learn. We found out that even for those who grow up in the Gospel, there are some lessons you just don’t learn by hearing. You have to grow into them, and God helped us do that.
A big milestone in my walk with God was when He sanctified me. I had been saved for about ten years and realized I needed to consecrate my life more deeply to God. When I did that, He sanctified me, and it made such a difference. It totally changed my attitude—even more than what God had done for me at salvation. Previously, I seemed to have a negative disposition; I would see the reasons something was bad, but never a silver lining. Though I was not a mean person, I was not always nice to be around. After sanctification, my outlook became positive, and that, coupled with my deeper commitment to God, turned my life in a whole different direction.
That same year, I began praying for the baptism of the Holy Ghost, but several months passed without my receiving it. I didn’t understand what I was doing wrong. Then, during some special meetings at our church in Aiken, I couldn’t sleep one night so I decided to get up and paint my floorboards. I figured if I wasn’t going to sleep, I might as well work! While I painted, I was talking to God and asking Him what I needed to do. He said, “Praise Me.” So I started praising Him, and the Holy Ghost came into that room in a powerful way! Later that day at church, God gave the witness that He had filled me. What a blessing!
After God baptized me with His Spirit, He began teaching me even more, and revealing to me that I needed to be a better leader of my household. From that point on, everything in life became secondary to the spiritual health of my family.
After God baptized me with His Spirit, He began teaching me even more, and revealing to me that I needed to be a better leader of my household. From that point on, everything in life became secondary to the spiritual health of my family—memory verses and Sunday school lessons became more important than learning ABCs and 1-2-3s. Our children needed to learn those things too, but the priority changed.
Our family had always enjoyed being with God’s people, but as we became more serious spiritually, the Gospel only got better for us. It drew my wife and me closer to each other because we both knew the value of what we were trying to instill in our children. We became involved with Sunday school and then started going to the church once a week as a family to clean, and we would sing while we worked and have a good time. It brought us all closer together.
In time, I felt God calling me to preach, but I resisted His call until a series of trials changed my mind. Our family had three serious health problems in a row, all requiring surgery. At Christmastime that year my mom said to me, “Son, you need to do what the Lord tells you to do. Don’t be like your dad; the Lord had to break your daddy’s leg to make him become a preacher.” I did not take her comment too seriously, though it was true—my dad did become a preacher right after he broke his leg. After the next trial, however, I started taking those words more seriously. With that one, doctors found a mass growing in my jaw that needed to be removed. A fourth surgery! I finally realized that I could not afford to be resisting God’s call when we so desperately needed His help.
Following that surgery, the doctor informed me that there had been complications and as a result, I would have some numbness in my lower lip for the rest of my life. Well, I preached my first sermon the following month. I wasn’t supposed to have any feeling in my lip, but God did a miracle. I did not have any numbness then, and thank God, even today if I spill hot coffee on it, I feel it!
Stage 4 cancer
In 2012, I started having serious health concerns. My weight dropped from 215 pounds to 180 then 170 in a matter of months. I was also having headaches almost every day. Eventually I went to a doctor and was diagnosed with Stage 4 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. The cancer had spread to both sides of my neck, my chest, liver—it was all over my body.
For a time I wondered why this was happening to me, and almost became discouraged. But the Lord’s work never stops, and I continued to preach even as we started making my treatment plan. I learned that even though I was going through a difficult time, others were also suffering, and God could use me to help them if I was still willing to answer His call. Being able to minister to others during that time became a blessing for them and me.
Right away, I called everybody I knew and asked for prayer. God’s Word says when we are sick, we are to go to the elders of the church and have them lay hands on us and pray (James 5:14), and I did that. That was so important because prayer works! I could feel the support of those prayers!
At times when I was feeling low, someone would call and say, “How are you, Brother Nick? I was just calling to say I love you and I’m praying for you.” With just that brief conversation, God would lift me back up. I would get up and say, “Well, God is good! Somebody is praying for me!”
As I started chemotherapy treatments, the doctor told me to expect side effects like hair loss, weight loss, nausea, and more. However, I experienced only minor side effects. Some days were harder than others, but I felt God’s blessing in many ways. During that whole time, my kids stayed healthy. My wife didn’t have to cook even one day because of friends and family who brought us meals. My employer let me work only a half day when I needed to, and still paid me for the full day. At times when I was feeling low, someone would call and say, “How are you, Brother Nick? I was just calling to say I love you and I’m praying for you.” With just that brief conversation, God would lift me back up. I would get up and say, “Well, God is good! Somebody is praying for me!”
I was supposed to have chemo for six months, but one morning in the fourth month my wife said to me, “The Lord told me that on your next scan, there’s not going to be any more cancer.” I didn’t really believe it could be true. However, I had a scan that week, and when the doctor brought me the results, he was shocked as he told me the news: “We don’t see any cancer.” Just like that, the cancer was gone! That sent my faith into overdrive because I had seen for myself that God can do anything!
A new chapter in Atlanta
In 2016, I was called to be the pastor of our church in Atlanta, Georgia. Moving to a new state felt like God was calling me to a whole new realm, but after all He had done for me, I did not doubt Him, and in Atlanta the blessings from God have just kept coming and coming. I’m so thankful God gave me a wife who is always right by my side in serving Him, and that our children serve Him with us, too. The Bible says faith without works is dead; we have to put faith into action, and that is what I want to do every single day—I just want to be faithful.
Sharron tells her story:
Growing up in the small, rural town of Kingstree, South Carolina, I was the youngest of four children. Our parents lived the Gospel way. They taught us about the Bible and took us to church twice on Sundays and again during the week. However, in my younger years I never thought about salvation on a personal level. I lived a moral life, but felt I shouldn’t pray for salvation unless I was ready to seriously commit my life to God, which I assumed would happen someday. In retrospect, I see that waiting was a trick of the enemy that I fell for.
During my junior year of college, our family lost someone unexpectedly, and that traumatic experience caused me to seek God in a way I never had before. There was so much pain and grief in my heart, and I started praying, seeking solace from God. One day as I prayed, I found myself repenting of my sin, and God saved me.
Even though I had been raised in a Christian home, I had to learn how to put God first and to rid myself of activities and people that would keep me from living the way I knew I should. That was a challenge in college; some of my friends were people I had known for years and it was not easy to separate from them. There were times when I was alone because of that, but God helped me and eventually I found new friends.
God made the difference in our home
The summer after I was saved, I attended Century camp meeting with my mom for the first time since I was a little girl. That was where I met my husband, Nick, and the following year we were married. At that point, I was twenty-one years old and still young as a Christian. I had sought God when I needed peace and comfort, but I had not depended on Him for much else. However, my husband and I had four children in the first five years of our marriage, and I quickly realized that I needed God for everything! I learned to seek God’s help constantly and to lean on Him.
We lived in Aiken, South Carolina, where my husband had family members. One of Nick’s uncles and his wife were well established in the Gospel, and they took us under their wings. They saw to it that our young family would make church an integral part of our lives, going out of their way to help lift any burdens that might have kept us from worshiping and serving God. When Nick was driving the Sunday school bus, they would send one of their older daughters over to help me get the babies ready for church. They also helped us financially so we could attend special meetings at other branch churches, and gave us advice and encouragement to keep us going in the right direction. They helped so much, and I don’t know how things would have gone otherwise.
It would have been easy to let church become a low priority, but we decided that our lives would be centered around church.
That period of time with four little kids could have been tumultuous and chaotic for us—and certainly in some ways it was—but God kept us grounded. He made the difference in our home. It would have been easy to let church become a low priority, but we decided that our lives would be centered around church. Camp meeting became our annual family vacation; we only missed once after we met there in 1995, and that was because I had a baby that month! Our financial standing was not ideal in those early years and it was not always easy to go, but when we put God first, He provided the means to pay our bills. Despite the challenges, it seemed God just smiled on us. Not only that, but putting Him first is what has kept our family close to this day.
Established in the faith
As I continued growing spiritually, I became much more intentional about my relationship with God and in applying the teachings of the Bible to my life. When God would bring some shortcoming to my attention, I would take it seriously and ask Him to help me change so I could serve Him wholly. He showed me some activities that I needed to focus on less, and others that I should be more attentive to, like prayer. God also made me aware of some selfish tendencies I had, and helped me to become more thoughtful of others.
There was a relationship in my life that had caused me a lot of stress; it always seemed to be up and down, back and forth. God showed me the importance of making that relationship better, and also that I had been holding a grudge against the other person and needed to give it to Him. However, letting go of that grudge seemed impossible to do.
One evening as we stood to pray at the close of a church service, that relationship was heavy on my heart. I knew it needed mending but that was beyond my ability. From the depths of my soul I told God, “I can’t fix this myself; only You can do it. I need You!” Just at that moment, God’s Spirit came down and not only sanctified me entirely, but then also baptized me with the Holy Ghost! Receiving my deeper experiences was not even on my mind at that moment, but as I brought my need to God, He answered by sanctifying and baptizing me.
God put a deep settled peace in my heart, as only He can give, and a love for others that is not contingent upon how I am treated but is based on God’s love.
Those experiences reaffirmed to me how real and how faithful God is. From then on, God put a deep settled peace in my heart, as only He can give, and a love for others that is not contingent upon how I am treated but is based on God’s love. It also became much easier from then on to recognize the leading of God’s Spirit in my life. I could easily tell when He was letting me know that I needed to do something differently, and in challenging situations He would give me insight to see what path I should take. The difficult relationship that I had been praying about also completely turned around, which truly only God could have done.
Serving God as a family
God has continued to show Himself faithful in our lives, and gracious even with our children. As my husband became more dedicated to the Lord’s work, we were all involved in it. God helped us show our kids the joy in serving Him, and they seem to be happy doing it. What a great blessing!
The hardest thing we went through was when my husband was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. The first night when we found out, I was truly terrified. I remember wondering, What if he dies? How would I . . . I couldn’t wrap my mind around how life could go on without him. Yet, that fear did not last long because soon God came in and gave me such peace! He let me know that no matter what we would go through, everything was going to be okay in the end. Then one morning as I was getting ready for work, God clearly told me that the cancer was gone, and sure enough, the next scan was clear. Not only did God heal Nick, but He told me first, letting us know the miracle was done!
Our family has been blessed beyond measure, and I know it is only because we put God first from the beginning. We have not always made perfect decisions, but we have tried our best to do what was right and chose to put our faith in God, and He has taken care of us.