Are your prayers more of a formality or when you pray are you having a conversation with Jesus? How about when you read your Bible, are you searching for a “good nugget” for the day or are you reading a letter from Father God?

Listen to this episode to hear how Anita and her youth group experienced God come alive to them and change their life forever. You don’t want to miss this episode as you will be encouraged to grow your relationship deeper with your Creator. 

Toby: Welcome back to Renewed and Redeemed, where we share stories of how God has renewed and redeemed everyday people’s lives. On today’s episode, episode 18, we have a special guest, Anita. Anita shares how she experienced a powerful move of God in her youth group. But even more impacting was her experiences of knowing God intimately. 

Toby: We hope this episode blesses you. 

Crystal: Welcome back to Renewed and Redeemed. On today’s episode, we have a special guest, Anita. She’s a longtime friend. And she also was a missionary in Africa that got to live an amazing adventure with Jesus right out of high school. Anita is now married with two wonderful baby boys that are both under two. Welcome, Anita, I’m so excited to have you. 

Anita: Hi Crystal. I’m so glad to be here. 

Crystal: One thing that’s always really stood out to me about Anita was how on fire she was for the Lord since she was a teenager. It was something that I always enjoyed hearing about and hoped to harness some wisdom from that so that I could pass it on to my own children. So, Anita, tell me a little bit about exactly how real God became to you when you were a teenager and just how all of that started your journey. 

Anita: Actually, it’s, it’s kind of interesting because I don’t really know the moment of my salvation. I grew up in church. I was in a big family. My grandfather was the pastor. I probably got saved a million times. At night, you know being scared or, or whatever. And my sister, she would, she would tell us about God. 

Anita: My parents were so diligent in that. So, I grew up basically being a Christian, you could say. But. I don’t know how much salvation is exactly like this one moment. I do think there’s a moment of birth or like there’s a moment where that seed just comes out of the soil. 

Crystal: Right. 

Anita: But. It does a lot of it underground. And I think that’s something to not forget. When we are thinking about our kids or people that we’re sowing into is there is something happening underneath that soil. And for me, I was this kid who believe it or not. I was in church; I was bored to death. 

Anita: Like the person who is on fire for God, that was not there in my younger years when I was supposedly already a Christian. I would be in church, and I would literally be so bored. I felt like I couldn’t even stand up. Like it. What is this going to be over? And I would just couldn’t wait until it was over, except maybe like the donuts. So that was nice. I liked the donuts. 

Anita: When it happened was everything kind of came crashing down all around the same time for me. I’m not very good with like, timelines, but I was probably around 12 when the church I had gone to my whole life. My grandfather pastored. It was very small. There was no other kids there except me and my many siblings. 

Anita: And we had to go to a different church. We had to like merge our church because my grandfather could no longer pastor. And at that same time, my family also went through a crisis, my mom and my littlest brother, her pregnancy with him. So, we were like put into school. Which we have been homeschooled our whole lives. 

Anita: And put into a different church all around the same time in my world is like completely I’m in like literally homeschool kid. Barely has seen other humans. I mean, I’m just kidding.

Anita: I’m thrown into this new world. But I will never forget the moment where I think my heart came alive because when I say I was bored before in church, I don’t want to insult my grandfather and his preaching or, the church that I was in. My heart was dead. It wasn’t where I was or what I was hearing necessarily. It was the fact that my heart wasn’t alive to God yet. 

Anita: Like I, and that’s the thing to me is that. Like my testimony is kind of one of those testimonies that you could say is not a testimony. Like, you know, I’m, I’m not going to tell you the story about I was on drugs or. 

Crystal: Right 

Anita: about to commit suicide. Nothing like that, but I was dead. My heart was dead in the grave. 

Anita: There was no movement. So, there isn’t more of a testimony. Then that. And that’s the testimony we all have, and I was just completely dead to it. Until this one Sunday and this new church. This group of kids comes onto the stage. And there was this girl, this crazy girl named Shelby. 

Anita: And Mr. It was like a skit. She was worshiping in the skit. And then the skit, all the other kids were like looking at her funny. I don’t remember the skit. I just know that I knew it was real. I knew that whatever she had was real and I was absolutely shocked. I was like, What? Like kids, my age can have this, like you can have a relationship with God. It kind of just blew my mind. So, like that’s the moment where it started. 

Crystal: Wow. Well, that’s just so impactful. Like I’m tearing up over here because you say it’s not a testimony, but totally is as a testimony. How much impact one person could even have that just on living for the Lord. 

Crystal: Not only that, but you were thrown into a time that was hard. But

Anita: Right. 

Anita: God had plans for that time. And He used that new church. The new people to speak to you. 

Anita: And now I can’t help but see it from a parent’s perspective. My parents probably felt more out of touch with their kids than they did before. 

Anita: Here they are putting us into school. And it. It wasn’t just me that got impacted. It was my siblings too. We all started going to this youth group at the church and it was a church and a school. So, it was all one. We were going to that same Christian school going to that church. And now we are going to youth group was a bunch of kids, our age. 

Crystal: Wow. 

Anita: Something. I want to tell you about this time, because I want to tell you like what God did in our youth group, because it has actually wrecked me forever. Like I will never be the same. Because of what happened in our youth group in these years. And it’s nothing short of miraculous. It’s nothing short of a raw move of God. So, we, we all went into this youth group, and I don’t know the timeline. I wish. Somebody else from the youth group could probably get the timeline better, but or like exact events. But I know that God has moved on our youth group. And., I don’t know the beginnings, but I know that at some point. 

Anita: The youth went on a youth trip, and I was too young to go. As I was like middle school. Something happened. They all just got on fire for God, and they came back. Everyone was on fire. I remember being upstairs at my house. And my older teenage brother is walking upstairs. He doesn’t know him up there and he’s just like speaking in tongues and like praying to himself. And I remember like my heart burning. 

Anita: And I was like, I want to have this. It’s so funny because. 

Anita: When you are an actual, relationship with God, and it’s not just this religion, it’s not just. Morality or good theology and good teaching. Like those things are so important. But without the voice of God was out relationship with God, without Him speaking into the heart. Those things don’t go anywhere. They, they leave you, they leave you empty. 

Anita: But with God’s speaking to us, we had so much more than we even knew that we had. I remember our youth leaders would like tell us if you love God, you’ll love His word. I remember just devouring God’s word. I would literally just read and read. I here I am like a home schooler, some of the stuff was legit and appropriate. 

Anita: I’m reading the old time. We were just devouring it. So, yeah, in our youth group, God just became the obsession. I can’t explain it. Like He became our reason. 

Crystal: Wow. 

Anita: Everything that we were. That’s everything that we talked about. 

Anita: So, you can imagine this young group of teenagers. And here we are coming into youth group. And we have our own private relationships with God we’re coming in and telling each other what God is telling us. Here’s what a youth group night might’ve looked like for us, we come in. We hear the word. We eat some pizza. 

Anita: Then we would go over and worship. And I mean like legit worship, we would actually seek God, like praise Him, see His face. Like we were actually seeking Him. And then we would come back and like tell each other about it. And then here’s the part that is just amazing. The next part, we would just turn off the lights. 

Anita: And pray for like a half an hour to an hour. And when, I mean, pray, like we were crying out to God. Crystal, we would be, we weren’t just praying for our grandma and our dog, you know, we were. We were crying out for our nation. We were praying for God to end abortion and for God to heal. 

Anita: The hearts of women and that we are praying for culture to change. Like we were, we would just be, we’d be pacing around the room, praying. I mean, this isn’t where you would come. If you wanted to come to youth group, hang out with your friends and talk about your crush. I mean, we were, we were after the face of God. 

Anita: And if parents walked in, I don’t know what they thought. 

Anita: And it would be over, like the time would be over and people would just trickle out, leaving. Until there was hardly any of us left. And so patient parents that would go, okay, whatever we’re done, we’re out here. We would just, we would just keep praying.

Crystal: Wow. So, the youth group, it’s totally on fire for God. Was that impacting the church in any way? 

Anita: Definitely it was kind of like almost like what we were experiencing. It was encouraging everybody in the church. It was almost like they would look to us almost. Wow. Going on with them. And we would, we had a dance and drama team. It’s funny because in those beginning times, 

Anita: Almost everybody in the youth group was on the drama and dance team. It wasn’t like, oh, this is your specialty. It was like, no. If you’re in this youth group, like, this is how we minister, I mean, that’s kind of how it was. We, our dance team, our drama team was kind of our ministry team. And since we were connected to a school, it was like, 

Anita: We would all get together in this dance team and we would. We looked at it as, this is how we get to share what we’re experiencing. We get to go out and we had chapel services on Friday. So, we have all of our peers. And I know it was a Christian school, but there is plenty of people who are not Christians. 

Crystal: Right. 

Anita: So, we would get to go out. And performed dramas on Fridays in front of our peers. Real life presence with people. And sometimes there would be revivals and chapel. 

Crystal: Wow. 

Anita: So, chapel was basically the whole school would come together and there’d be worship. And then somebody would give it like a word. Usually, the principal would share a message. 

Anita: But on the times when God moved. And the chapel service. A lot of times it was when we did a drama and then the worship just wouldn’t stop. And people would come. All the kids would start pouring down to the front. People would come down, sobbing at the front, people were sharing. People were getting saved. People were crying and praying over each other. And here we are just scraggly group of teenagers. 

Anita: Getting to pray over people. Getting to literally go up in front of our peers with a mic and share what God speaking to us. And I mean, it was terrifying sometimes, you know, you’re shaking, you know.

Anita: Then you’re in math class with them, like in an hour. 

Anita: I like sobbing and like pouring out or like doing these dances. And sharing scripture. Oh, it was just, it was an amazing time. 

Anita: That sounds so powerful. Wow. Well, I’m sure that’s like every youth group leader / Christian school’s dream or hope for their group.

Anita: I think that the amazing leaders who I will talk about in a little bit, I think that it was all that they could have ever wanted, and they just followed it. They just were willing to be obedient to God and to just go where He was going. And I mean, even now thinking about it, staying late, on every, every single Wednesday night staying late. And not only that having a million extra meetings because you’ve had all these hungry teenagers. 

Anita: So then nothing else to do going, can we get together and have another prayer meeting? We had this thing we would do. Called the 40-day revolution. Where we had fast for 40 days, we picked something we’d fast. And then every day of the 40 days there was like an assignment. And so, it’d be like, it would be practical stuff. It would be like, write a note to your teacher, like an encouraging note or like do this thing for your parents or bring donuts and tell everybody that, that God loves them, and He is a free gift, just like this donut. So, we would, we would be doing those kinds of things and then coming back together and having extra meetings. It’s just so funny when I think about it, because. 

Anita: Religion. Can’t do this. At normal sleepovers, like between me and my friends, we would literally get together and pray and be shouting and interceding. Crystal. I can’t tell you. I don’t, I don’t know how this happened. Like. 

Anita: I look back and I go, God, You just gave this to me, this was just a free gift to me. Like I don’t, I don’t want to know what my Christianity would look like without this experience, because this has shaped me forever. I’m never going to be able to go on and have just. Normal Christianity. I mean, I can. 

Anita: But I know what I’m missing out on. I know what I’m leaving behind when I’m not in this kind of relationship. 

Anita: Right. Once you’ve tasted and seen that the Lord is good. There’s nothing else that satisfies. 

Anita: Right. There’s no going back. We’re kind of ruined. We’re ruined for anything else. Like once you’ve tasted Him once you’ve, once you’ve experienced who He is and know what it’s like to be face-to-face with Him, you know when you’re not. 

Crystal: Absolutely. 

Crystal: You mentioned that there were some really impactful leaders. Do you want to tell me a little bit about them? 

Anita: Yes. So. I really couldn’t talk about this time without talking about Mrs. Kerce. 

Anita: Everything that I’ve described. And everything that I’ve left out, I couldn’t possibly tell all the stories of how God moved in those times. Like all of it. It’s just such a reflection of who she is. It was Mrs. Kerce and her husband, who kind of had to for medical reasons, kind of not be as involved in some of the later years of it. And also Mrs. Smith and a couple other leaders. 

Anita: That were that we’re just such an amazing stewards of what God did in this time. But. I didn’t realize so much of it until I became a little older, how much of what we experienced was impacted by Mrs. Kerce’s heart. Because. Everything that she is was about intimacy with God. And so now when I look back on this time, like what, what made it so powerful? Like what made us have this experience with God where we had

Anita: relationship with God. It wasn’t just fire. I know I talked a lot about all this crazy, you know, meetings and us doing all this crazy stuff, but it was, it was us knowing God. And that came from Mrs. Kerce. There was never a time where she would pray where it was a formality. 

Anita: It was never just a prayer before a meal, even. Every time she prayed; she was talking to Jesus. Every time she prayed; it was like she was coming through the blood. Like we all do, except it was like, she actually just had come through the blood and had just been forgiven freshly. Every time she prayed it was just full of her love for Jesus full of surrender, and intimacy. It was about knowing Him. I think that impacted us and it sets such an example for us. She laid the groundwork in that time for how to relate to God. If that revival had come without that premise, we would have probably gone off on just the exciting powerful moments and the exciting feelings, but instead we came away knowing Jesus. 

Crystal: Right. And that’s so important! One thing that I’ve come to realize is that if there’s not that intimate relationship with God. There’s no foundation there. You can have all these miracles or powerful worship songs or powerful worship sets or even amazing preaching and people getting baptized. But like if there’s not that foundation laid of really just anchoring yourself to Jesus and having that relationship of knowing Him, those things just kind of like fade away. They don’t leave the lasting impact to build on, like the relationship does. 

Anita: Right. I think we were meant to know Him. If you think back to the garden what we were originally meant to do, they were walking in the cool of the day. They were with God. They were knowing Him. 

Anita: That’s why I was so bored. No offense, but religion is boring. I get that we have to have good theology. It’s absolutely essential. But I think it’s just as essential for it to be a relationship because your good theology is dead theology if it’s not putting you in a relationship with Jesus. If you’re not knowing Him. Because Jesus said that eternal life is knowing God. That’s what it says in the book of John. That always just amazed me because that means we’re starting our eternal life now. 

Crystal: You had mentioned to me that Luke seven was really speaking to right now. Do you want to share about that? 

Anita: Yeah. I was thinking recently, if there was any verse that I could wrap around my heart to just always be sinking into me. It would be from Luke seven. It’s because, when I think back to all that I’ve been sharing with you. All that I’ve been given, I’ve been given so much. It’s any one of us, if we’ve received Christ. We’ve been given everything. I said to God the other day If you never gave me another thing and you’ve already given me too much. And so, I want to read Luke seven. 

Anita: It’s a well-known story. It’s about the sinful woman. Comes basically barging into a meeting that Jesus is having with a Pharisee. And this is the story where she is weeping and washing His feet with her hair. So, I’ll just read 44 through 47. From Luke chapter 7 to you. 

Anita: Then turning toward the woman He said to Simon, do you see this woman? I entered your house. You gave me no water for my feet. But she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in, she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore, I tell you. Her sins, which are many are forgiven. For she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little. And He said to her, your sins are forgiven. 

Anita: Wow. 

Crystal: Yeah. 

Anita: So. I know with my testimony. It might seem like, oh, I’m the one who is forgiven little. I remember reading that when I was young and be like, no, I want to be the one who is forgiven much because I want to love much. But I think here it’s not so much about how much you’ve been forgiven. How much do you realize you’ve been forgiven? Because here’s this man who I’m sure in the eyes of God had just as much sin. 

Anita: But he didn’t even give Jesus what He was owed. Like He didn’t even give him the basic thing that you should give somebody else. When he walks in the door. He didn’t even offer Him something to wash His feet off, but here she is washing His feet with her hair. And I just I want to be that person. I want us to be like that. I want us as a church as people to be moved by our Savior. And I think that’s the biggest thing to me is I have to be moved by Him. If He walked in, would we be moved? When the worship songs come on are we moved? I know it’s not all about emotion. 

Anita: I know that like our emotions can be deceitful, but what shouldn’t our emotions can move by Him? Like shouldn’t I be moved when I think of Him? That is the scariest place to be for me, when I realized that that I’m not moved by Him. When I think back to Mrs. Kerce, she didn’t read a Psalm. She didn’t open her Bible and just kind of read it separately. Like, you know, just here I am, I’m going to read this to see if I get any good nuggets for the day. 

Anita: It was always an encounter with God. It was always meeting with Jesus like He was in the room. And I think that’s my biggest takeaway from that time. I wish I could go back to having a community around me, like I had in high school. It was just amazing. If I could wish that for every single high schooler?

Anita: And I wish that for every adult. I mean, I wish church operated a little bit more like that sometimes. 

Crystal: Right. Yeah, me too. 

Anita: We did life together a little more like that. But I don’t always have that, but I do have this, that I take away. That I want to be moved by Him like that. 

Crystal: So, what would you suggest to somebody that says, yeah, I want that too. How can I get it? 

Anita: Well, I think all we can do is respond. And I know that that kind of puts it not in your ability like that. It means God has to do it, but you can ask Him to put you in that position. Like God. I want to see you. 

Anita: Put me in that, in that spot, that cleft, that rock so that you can pass by me. And I would also say like, just begin to act like He’s real. There was a verse in Hebrews 11, it says. “And without faith, it is impossible to please Him for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards, those who seek Him.” So, it says if you want to draw near to Him, the first thing you have to do is actually act like He’s real. 

Crystal: Yeah, 

Anita: seems kind of elementary, but it’s like when you go to pray, maybe stop acting like it’s a formality. Maybe just stop acting like you’re saying these words and you’re throwing them towards heaven. Maybe believe that you’re actually speaking to Him and that He actually is who He says He is. 

Crystal: Yeah. Amen. Amen. And I remember that was the first thing that I recognized in you. The first day that I met you, when you prayed. I was like, wow! She’s like really talking to God. Like, I want to pray like that. You know, it was like something I had never heard. And the way that I heard you pray. And that was really impactful to me. I’ve never forgotten that. 

Anita: And I didn’t know where I got that from, but that was just modeled for me by our leaders. And then of course we had a lot of practice. We. Yeah. Like I said.

Crystal: So that’s the second step one. Believe God that He’s real. And that He, does hear you. He is with you. All of that you had said, but also too. Don’t give up, keep doing it. 

Anita: Yeah. Absolutely. Well, and that’s, that’s the second part of the verse it says, and that He rewards those who seek Him. 

Crystal: Yes. Yes. Amen. Amen. Well, that’s good. Do you have any other words of wisdom to share with people about your experiences and if they were seeking or wanting to experience the same thing? Just maybe some nuggets of wisdom or encouragement for people to start on their own?

Anita: Hm. I don’t know this is exactly the answer to that, but one of the things that. I think I had to watch out for over time. I mean life has given me a lot of sanctification. That’s for sure. I wish I could say I was a spiritual giant by now. And I’m definitely not. So, I don’t know that I have all the advice in the world, but one thing I think that I have to watch out for is too much familiarity. 

Crystal: Yes. 

Anita: Kind of intimacy. Yes. We get to know God and closeness and deepness with Him. But. When you’ve been in the church for a long time. And when you read the word a lot, it can become really familiar. One thing that I think is interesting in the Bible is the word “despise.” 

Anita: I get it’ll say like despise not. And then, you know the word of God. You know something? I always thought despised like “hate.” It’s actually despise is to lightly esteem. 

Crystal: Wow. Wow. 

Anita: It’s basically a warning don’t lightly esteem, His words, don’t lightly esteem when He speaks to you. Don’t lightly esteem or don’t look down on it or don’t make something little of it when He speaks to you or of His word. And I think that’s something that I have to watch out for. We have to be, be aware of. Familiarity and lightly esteeming Him and not putting Him in the in the honor. Jesus said a prophet is not without honor except in his hometown. And I’ve always prayed against that. Like in my family, even like my husband, I don’t want to be the one person that doesn’t see my husband’s good qualities and doesn’t see the calling my husband has in his life. 

Anita: I want to be the person that sees it. The same for God, I want, when He comes into my house, I want Him to be highly esteemed. 

Crystal: Right. Yeah. I agree. I think that is probably a struggle for a lot of people that have been walking with the Lord for a long time, but that’s also just like the human condition. Because if we aren’t careful, we do that with our spouses. We can do that with close friends. We just don’t I think see them or appreciate them the way that we may have done at one time when we first were getting to know them. 

Anita: I don’t know what it is about that. I don’t know if we get lazy or if we just, we don’t want to keep looking underneath the surface or I don’t know what that is, but…

Crystal: Yeah. Yeah. But you’re right. Absolutely. And I think, when we realize that we are doing that, we can pray and ask God to open our eyes, to see things the way He sees things, to hear things the way He’s speaking them to us. 

Crystal: And even seeing it in other people. I think we can see so much of Jesus or even things He’s speaking to us through other people. And if we just kind of disregard the person, we miss it. 

Crystal: Well, did you want to pray for everybody that’s listening and close us out. 

Anita: Yeah, that would be great. 

Anita: God, we just thank you so much for this time. That we’ve gotten to talk to each other and share. Lord. I pray right now for every single person who’s listening. I pray that there would be a hunger God when I only have started this podcast. And I just feel like I saw like the parting of the red sea, just like just this part going through. And I just pray right now that there would be an opening right now for your, for your Spirit to come for, for people to pass through those waters. God, that they would be able to come into it at baptism of your Holy Spirit. And to be able to encounter you in this way that we would be drawn that deep one call out to deep. 

Anita: And that people would be drawn to know you, God. That we would be able to pour ourselves out at your feet and to see you as worthy as you really are. God. And we just pray this in Jesus’ name. 

Crystal: Amen. Amen. Thank you. 

Toby: Thank you for joining us today and please consider subscribing to our podcast and sharing it with your friends. For more information on Renewed and Redeemed and to check out our Bible study, blog, and shop please visit us@renew-redeem.com. We’d love to hear from you if you need prayer, have a question, would like to share a testimony, or give your life to Jesus. 

Crystal: On today’s episode, you heard Anita share how God set her and her youth group on fire for him. They found a passion for prayer and for sharing their story and God’s story with those around them. Their lives were a light to everyone that they came in contact with. And because of this, Anita was forever changed.

Crystal: The thing is though that God doesn’t want to just give that to Anita and her youth group. He wants that for everyone. He wants everyone to know Him and be in a close relationship with Him. He wants us to speak to Him like He’s real. And if that’s something that you also want, the Bible tells us, all we have to do is seek Him and that we’ll find Him, that He’s knocking at our door, and we need to just simply open the door.

Crystal: Simple steps like talking to Him, like He’s real in prayer and waiting on Him will change our lives and it will change the lives of those around us. We simply receive it. I hope that hearing, Anita’s story, encourages you to go after that, to seek God’s face and to know Him more deeply and intimately to let Him become alive in your life.

Crystal: Because friends once we’ve tasted him and seen that, He’s good. Nothing else satisfied? Nothing else can compare to knowing Him intimately. Draw near to him and he will draw near to you.