Well, I did not grow up in a Christian home. I grew up in the projects and did not even realize, at the time, that we were considered poor. It was home and it was where I was loved and played and learned respect for authority and my elders and I was happy. There was a lady in our neighborhood named Mrs. Turner who would entice us children with cookies and Kool-Aid to come into her back yard and she would tell us stories from the bible. There was a Lutheran church around the corner whose members would often come into our neighborhood and take us to church, and it was there that I saw my first film strip on the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. My first and second grade teacher taught us the Lord’s prayer and the 23rd Psalm. The word of God was planted in me at an early age. My fourth and fifth and sixth grade teacher was Catholic, and she would make the sign of the cross after saying grace at lunch time and I thought that it was so neat, so I began to do that too after I said grace. My mom (who had a Presbyterian background) would also allow me to attend church with another one of my teachers who took me to her AME church, and it was there that I was first baptized. A few years later I also attended a Baptist church in our neighborhood and when I was twelve years old, I was also baptized in that church. However, with all that seed being planted and both baptisms I do not once remember anybody praying with me to accept the Lord.
My teen years were very turbulent as I was extremely rebellious and there were a lot of things going on in my home that led to some very troubling times. Eventually, upon graduation from high school, I joined the Air Force. I had been in the Air Force for a few years and was stationed at Lackland AFB in San Antonio Texas when I got into a car accident that could have cost me my life if it had not been for God’s intervention. After the impact I found myself in so much pain, but I heard a voice call me by name, “Vera, turn off the car before it blows up.” So, I reached for the key in the ignition, turned the car off, took it out of drive, put it in neutral and pulled up on the emergency brake. Then all I could hear was the 23rd Psalm being recited in my mind repeatedly. There was an emergency room technician in the car in front of me and a nurse in the car behind me and the accident happened in front of the Mexican Baptist Children’s Home. The people from the home brought towels to help stop my bleeding. I still have a tiny scar on my face and on my left leg today that are reminders of the graciousness of my Lord even when I had not yet surrendered to Him.
A few years later I met my husband Mike and as he was in the army and I was in the air force the challenge we faced was being in two different branches of the military and both having received military orders to change our duty stations. His orders were to Fort Clayton, Panama and my orders were to Hahn AFB, Germany. Now both of us were church goers as that is what had been instilled in us as children but neither of us had a personal relationship with the Lord. But, I was desperate so I prayed a simple prayer, “Lord if you are as real as I have been taught that you are then please answer me and keep me and my family together and I will serve you for the rest of my life.” Within 30 days or so my husband, our two children and I were leaving San Antonio on the same day, going to Misawa AB Japan. God heard me and He answered. For the next three years I served the Lord the best I knew how by attending the Gospel service and singing in the choir at the base chapel. It was not until our last year there that I experienced a shifting that would affect me for the rest of my life. I was working in Environmental Medicine and there was a young airman that I had to communicate with frequently who was at Clark AFB, Philippines. Her name was Airman Linda Nelson and she was a Christian. Some of the conversations that we had were quite challenging for me and made me begin to question all that I thought that I knew about God. Eventually our time in Japan was up and we had to move to another duty location. When I made it to Sheppard AFB in Wichita Falls, Texas one of the first people that I was introduced to was Airman Linda Nelson! God had done me a favor and put us together. She invited me to attend a James Roberson Crusade with her that very week and it was there that I surrendered my heart to the Lord! A few months later my husband also got saved as well as our daughter and our lives have never been the same.Vera Leray Warner