Donnalee Jackson and I at outdoor church in Plant City last Sabbath.
As a Bible Worker, I love hearing how people have come to know and accept Jesus as their Savior. I enjoy hearing older people talk about how they came to know Jesus “back in the day” as I find it interesting how methods of evangelism change over the years and how they stay the same. Below is a testimony from Donnalee Jackson, a very good friend of mine from the Plant City, Florida Seventh-day Adventist Church. I hope you enjoy her story as much as I did.
Donnalee C. Jackson
As I look back, to reflect on how I became an Adventist, I see how I was led by the gentle, loving hand of Jesus. It has been a quiet progress that never seemed earth-shattering, however, my desire to find the truth, would take years of experiences, volumes of learning, and a growing longing, to find the right, narrow path.
The people that have influenced me were not pushey or wishy-washy, but people that I respected and cared about. They shared with me things that made me think and wonder by saying one word, and just by their actions. As my years are fading away, having lived a long time, I am filled with an urgency to be a living example that will help everyone I meet and those that I have been so blessed to associate with, including, and so importantly, my family.
Usually I am filled with meekness, patience, and loving thoughts to get a point over, and sometimes I feel that I need to share something unexpected to shake who-ever, to face their problems, pray about it, and find the real answers, usually by looking in the mirror. Now, to get back to how I got to this point—My Story!
As a child, in Los Angeles, California, and my parents introduced me to Sunday school. We always walked to the little church that was down the street, across Temple Street and up to Union St. to the Union Methodist Church. It was comforting to learn about God and His love. On Temple St., we passed the little country grocery store, owned by the partnership of a Japanese family and a Chinese family. I’ll never forget the day when the government hauled the Japanese family away to a camp. It didn’t make any sense to me then, and still doesn’t. They were such wonderful, kind people.
Next door to the grocery store was a small church that housed a group of people called “The Holy Rollers”. They were so filled with the love of
Jesus, that when they sang hymns, you could hear them almost from my house. When I peeked inside at them, they were all on their feet, waving their arms and singing at the top of their lungs. I wanted to join them, but I was pulled away and off to the one up the hill to the white church.
Everyone knew what a stubborn child I was, and I was troubled between wanting to stay and hear these happy people, or obey my parents. I have refined my stubbornness now, with diplomacy and lots of love. Honesty was so important to me, that if someone would ask me If I liked something or not, I would tell them—it wasn’t always what they wanted to hear—and that got me into more trouble. I really hope that I have learned to control this part of my character. However, as a child, I was so small, that something coming out of my mouth was unforgivable. I heard that a child should be seen and not heard, and that made me wonder if honesty was only for children?
Sometimes, my grandmother, who lived with us, took me to church. We went down the hill, through Echo Park to Aimee Semple McPherson’s Four Square church on Glendale Ave. In the front of the church, there were huge bins filled with wooden wheel chairs, crutches and other appliances. People had thrown them away when they were healed in this place. Amee was previously an actress that knew how to dramatize a production. There was a stairway from the balcony down to the stage that she used when she made her entrance to be the preacher. She wore long white, flowing gowns belted with gold ropes, and came flowing down those stairs as if she were flying like an angel. The only thing that I remember her saying was when she took up the offering. She said that wanted us to be able to pin it on the drapes, and she didn’t want to hear any jingling in the plate. So I put my nickels back in my pocket, if that was how she felt. A few years later, when we moved to Glendale, CA, my Dad took us to Forest Lawn cemetery to visit my grandfather’s grave site. Aimee has a really big, white monument for her resting place. It looked to me like the place where Abraham Lincoln’s place was.
From these experiences, I was filled with the desire to find what religion was all about. Living on Cedar St., in Glendale, CA., down the street
two blocks was a Methodist church, and my grandmother took me there.
Sunday school for teens was of some interest, and I met others my age that have become life-long friends. Fran was one of them that I was closet with. She is gone now, and remembering her fills me with laughter, fun and growing to adulthood with her. Now, since her children are like my children, I am reminded of the fun we had at the Methodist church. It’s an SDA church now.
On the way to church, we stopped and got the Herald Examiner Paper. Fran and I would sit in the far back, near the exit, and quietly read the funny pages with each other. Again, I am reminded of the emphasis on collecting the offering. A lot of time was taken up on the needs of the church, and it was mentioned several times during the sermons. I began to wonder if all churches were so money hungry. I never had very much money to do anything with. My Mother made most of my clothes, my Dad worked hard all the time. He even sold his blood to supplement our income. Everything was planned and saved for. There was no such things as credit cards. We used cardboard in our shoes, and wore hand-me-downs. I was glad I had an older brother, because I never had to wear any of his old clothes. We had to share bath-tub water with each other; and were told to eat everything on our plate, because there are starving children everywhere. We had our garden and chickens to supply us with a lot of food.
My grandfather had built our house on Belmont St., Los Angeles, CA. He made his own nails out of wood. So I have always been impressed with how to do with what you got. One man’s junk was another man’s treasure. To this day, my son has made a science of this virtue, and saved his family a lot of money.
After I got married and became a mother, I started looking around for a church to go to with my children. I went to several different denominations. When I went to the Presbyterian church, I went in with a stroller for my son and held on to my daughter’s hand. I had read about the mark of the beast and his number, and was searching for a church that followed and taught from the Bible.
As I glanced at the altar where the preacher was, right next to it was a
set of two foot square blocks. They had been having a building fund drive for repairs on the church and every Sunday they announced the current amount that was collected and, they put it on the blocks. I took a second look, and on the blocks was 666. I couldn’t pack up and get out of there fast enough. Besides, the lady sitting in front of me was glaring at me when my son slurped at his bottle.
So far, none of several churches met my needs. I got a job at the Orthopedic Appliance Center that was two blocks from my home. I knew the people pretty well since they had made my son’s special brace–the Dennis Browne Splint, attached to shoes that he wore at night. This corrected his feet to go straight ahead instead of outward. The Spillers knew I could sew, so they asked me if I could make special back braces and bras.
Now, Mom watched the kids for me, and I finally made some dollars. It was quite an experience making those awful, torturous garments. When the office was slow, I did the accounting and receptionist jobs. Sometimes when everything was done, I told Mr. Spillers that I had to do something, not just sit there and twiddle my thumbs. Mr. & Mrs. Spillers were Seven-day Adventists, and she brought me a whole set of Bible lesson studies. I thought, wow, a church that refers to the Bible for all the answers.
After finishing the series of studies, and receiving the answers from their Bible worker, I wanted more. So I called Betty, the Bible teacher, and she set up a time for me to have lessons every week. This is what I had been looking for. It made sense. She invited me to join them on Saturday for Sabbath school and church service. My husband studied with Betty too, and I was baptized in 1968 and he was in 1970.
Little by little, the Lord has pointed out something that I needed to correct in myself. I am thankful that He didn’t show all of them to me at once, it was hard enough to face one at a time. I was so filled with learning the truth, that I couldn’t wait to teach Fran and her family, another friend,
Betty and her family, and Diane, so to shut me up, they consented to take
lessons from me as the lessons that Mrs. Spillers had provided.
My journey to find the truth, has led me to the happiest, loving people on earth. My three friends, after studying with me, were soon baptized, and we all went to church together. I am still tempted and sometimes I trip, but Jesus still loves me, as He picks me up, dusts me off, and leads me on the right narrow path. My children have been baptized and occasionally we worshiped together. Growing up, I never had family worship at Sundown on Fridays and still feel envious of those who do study together. I wonder what my life would have been like to have done that.
What is your story?
The beginning of the end