Editor’s Note: Here are UFC we didn’t skip a beat last March when we faced the order to “stay home to flatten the curve.” Just seven days after our service at South Eugene High School on March 8, we were able to stream a modified Sunday service because we already had a recording device, internet connection, and knowledgeable staff. We are so thankful for the behind-the-scenes crew, including the amazing Chris Moore, for the hard work each week to make the livestream such a great experience. The gift of technology has also allowed us to utilize video conferencing and this blogging platform to continue studying the Bible together without pause in the last 12 months.
While we are eager to return to our large, in-person gatherings to worship the Lord together, we remain incredibly grateful for the technology that allows us to bless people around the world with the gospel. Gina Hedlind, who lives in Gresham, experienced this gift early in quarantine as she attended a Zoom Bible study group with her sister, Marla Pellum, who lives in Eugene and attends UFC. As Gina has participated in each study since then and has faithfully watched the Sunday livestream, she has grown in her relationship with the Lord and plans to be baptized during our Easter Sunday service on April 4. It is a joy to share her faith story with you today.
For the first 29 years of my life, I belonged to a church that was built on doctrine and ceremony. The church felt like home because it was all I knew, and I chose to raise my daughters in the same faith, teaching them the only faith I knew. But something was missing. God the Father and His Son Jesus were the source of our worship, but there was no real focus on relationship. Some Sundays I would leave the service feeling unmoved or indifferent. Ever so often a hymn moved my spirit and filled me with joy, or even a tear or two. I had faith and love for the Lord, and I feared God the Father. But I don’t recall much emphasis on the good news of the gospel. I knew that Jesus had died for us and that I loved Him, but the doctrine was lacking in knowledge of who Jesus really was and still is. I didn’t understand that God loved me enough to send His Son to take my shame, guilt, and sin and to fill me with forgiveness, love, mercy, and grace.
As a young wife and mother faced with challenges, I hit rock bottom. My siblings had been witnessing to me about the grace and mercy of Jesus, but I was resistant because I didn’t understand the message and was fearful. Then, one day I reached the breaking point and went into my room, where I fell to my knees and prayed as I had never prayed before. I gave my issues, burdens, and sadness to Jesus. I was broken, and I accepted His call, His loving invitation to trust Him and to know that I am not alone. He had been patiently and gently waiting for me.
I soon found that being a new believer among many unbelievers had its own set of challenges, and as time went on, those challenges slowly crept into my relationship with the Lord. My desert period lasted more than 20 years as I believed Jesus was my Savior and told people I was a born again Christian but didn’t live like Jesus had changed me. I was living with negative and ungodly patterns, and I was not surrounding myself with other believers. In this season, I tried to teach my children to love and fear the Lord, doing the best I knew how to at the time. I started attending a church sporadically, but it was not feeding my soul and addressing my sin. I even went to my childhood church off and on, but again I wasn’t being fed spiritually. I remained hungry for truth.
Gina Hedlind lives in Gresham with her husband of 35 years and their four cats. She enjoys daily time with the Lord, learning about Him and the Word. She loves spring and summer when she can enjoy walking, hiking, and gardening. I also loves to cook. Spending time with her family, including her three grandchildren is one of my greatest pleasures and blessings.
During my desert years, my husband and I owned our own company, which afforded us a nice lifestyle. We were comfortable, but the economy turned, and we had to close the company. We lost almost everything save our home, car, and that which mattered most — our family. Although our life changed in many ways, I was never angry with God. I said “everything happens for a reason” and continued to believe God is sovereign. Yes, we lost things, but God carried us the whole way, even when I wasn’t paying attention. I was so wrapped up in life that I couldn’t see that He was always there, waiting for me to come back to Him. He never left. I did.
A few years later I fell into depression that lasted a year. I was barely able to get out of bed or even have a conversation. My kids were teens, and my husband didn’t understand what was happening to me. The enemy tried to take me out yet again, but I knew in my heart that God was still there. He was my only glimmer of hope! I vowed I would not rely on medication, and my family and I prayed my way out of that pit of despair. God delivered me. That was 16 years ago, and I’ve never had even a glimpse of depression creep back in. God has never left me, and I continue to give Him the glory.
In the fall of 2016, I watched a faith-based video that a friend had shared on Facebook, and it was as if the Lord set off a wake-up call in my heart saying, “Come back!” My weak relationship with the Lord was evident, and I couldn’t ignore His call. I rededicated my life to Him, repenting and acknowledging that I am a sinner. Then, a year ago, while reading Scripture, I felt the clear conviction from the Holy Spirit that I would no longer fear the persecution of man. I would walk boldly and share my faith, rejoicing in trials because of my love for the Lord. It’s been the most blessed, fruitful, yet hardest year of my walk. But He has never left me.
Sometimes the enemy tries to beat me up over my desert years, trying to make me feel that I am a defeated, sinful person and God will leave me because of my past sin. But the enemy is a liar! The Lord has shown me so much compassion and forgiveness. He keeps teaching me that I am loved and worthy. My daily desire and prayer is to grow in godly wisdom, a deeper love for Him, trust in His direction, and humility as He teaches and corrects me. As I experience His forgiveness and love, I have an earnest desire to please Him and obey His commands. I am surrounding myself with believers and sharing the God’s Word, truth, and love with others. I still have so much to learn, but I trust that He will bless me, keep me, and guide me by His right hand along the way.