Religious but not Righteous
The Testimonies of Bro. Jeff and Sis. Janis Bernard
It is not uncommon to hear about people who turned to Jesus Christ because their broken lives were bound in sin and destroyed by addictions, leaving them with pain and despair. Such people, we might say, had finally "reached the end of their rope." It may however, be less common to hear about ordinary, everyday people who in spite of their normal and stable lives, still turned their lives over to Christ.
Such is the case with Bro. Jeff and Sis. Janis Bernard; two ordinary individuals who grew up with small town values and a relatively normal and stable upbringing. Growing up, they both were actively involved in their churches and were generally regarded as "good people." Yet, when confronted with the Gospel message of repentance, they saw their need to make Jesus Christ their Lord and Savior. Bro. Jeff and Sis. Janis recount how they came to Christ and how thankful they are to know Him now in a way they didn't know Him before.
The Testimony of
Jeffrey L. Bernard
My name is Jeff Bernard. (Sometimes known as "Saint Bernard.") I've been attending Living Word Church since 1976. I currently work in Fulton, NY for a hydroelectric power company as a civil engineer.
Regarding my background, I was born and raised in Connecticut in a small town of about 4,000 people. We lived in the country on a former farm and spent our summers on a small lake nearby. I'm the second youngest of 4 brothers and one sister who are now spread across the country in Hawaii, California, Montana, Arizona and Connecticut. I had good parents, and a happy childhood.
My parents regularly attended the Episcopal Church and had us baptized as infants, sent us to Sunday school and had us confirmed in the church. We attended church usually once a week until my younger brother and I became teenagers, at which point our attendance dropped off because of lack of interest, and other time commitments, for example we ran a beach club on the lake. Church attendance was just a rite and ritual to me, something we were supposed to do, but I had no relationship with God.
I was a shy, fairly well-behaved child compared to my peers, but had my moments of rebellion, blatant sin and foolishness. Being second youngest of 6 children, I had the advantage of being able to watch my 3 older brothers and one sister maneuver through life and I could learn from their mistakes. In particular, my oldest brother who is 9 years older than me, became rebellious, had trouble in school, and was sent away to a school where discipline was paramount. He then started participating in Vietnam War protests and hitchhiked across the country. As I remember it, He made it to British Columbia, Canada, where the Salvation Army preached the gospel of Jesus Christ to him. He repented, became born again and changed for the better, which really got my attention. He then realized that he would likely be drafted, so he enlisted in the Army. He was sent to Vietnam, and was assigned to work in a communications van. The Lord kept him and even gave him the opportunity to help with some local missionaries. After serving two tours of duty, he settled in Hawaii. I was watching all this happen from afar and thought it was great that my brother had gotten squared away.
In the meantime, my second oldest brother became a Christian and was in the Navy on a ship, also in Vietnam. He mailed me a Bible when I was 17. That summer, when I wasn't working, I read that Bible from cover to cover and started to believe. I was particularly impressed with the answers to life that are in the Bible and the love that Jesus Christ displayed. I prayed for salvation while reading the New Testament.
During my senior year of high school, I started attending an Assembly of God church in Torrington, CT and was baptized there. Shortly after, I decided to attend the SUNY College of Forestry in Syracuse to study forest engineering. I prayed during the summer that I would get a decent dormitory roommate when college started. My roommate ended up being a fellow from New Hampshire named John, and he was definitely not a Christian. He had several friends from New Hampshire also attending college, so he spent a lot of time with them and I didn't see him much. But I prayed for him often and the Lord answered those prayers. One day, a Christian girl on campus was impressed upon by the Lord to witness to John. John eventually believed, became saved and went with her to attend church at the Church of the Living Word. I remember coming back to our dorm room and finding John there early in the evening, which was unusual for him. He knew I was a Christian, and therefore he was smiling broadly with a Bible in his hands, and told me his testimony.
I had been attending a Methodist Church near the campus and was studying the Bible with a Christian campus group called the Navigators. After winter break, in January 1976, I went with John to my first church service at Living Word in Phoenix. I thought the service was great and the exuberant worship was not a shock to me since I had visited a similar Pentecostal church in Hawaii where my brother attended. I felt right at home at Living Word, loved the worship and God's presence, and appreciated the Holy Spirit led, straight forward, toe-the-line preaching of Brother Bob. Except for the summer of 1976 when I was working in Virginia, I've been attending Living Word Church ever since.
The Lord has blessed me throughout the decades including: another dormitory roommate who became a Christian, college graduation, steady employment, a wonderful wife and children, godly sons in law, church friendships, and a beautiful grandchild. But above all, I'm most thankful for salvation through Jesus Christ, for being able to know and walk in the truth, and for His abundant grace, help and protection in times of trouble, sorrow and pain. The decades have gone quickly but the Lord has kept me throughout and been the Shepherd of my soul, using this church to help us endure unto the end.
The Testimony of
Janis L. Bernard
The Lord has been so good to me all these years.
Though my great grandparents' names were on the stain glass window of our little country church, I still needed the Lord. Even though there were ministers and missionaries in our family, I still needed the Lord. I needed the Lord, we all need the Lord.
Our life near Apulia Station in southern Onondaga County revolved around the family dairy farm, school and the little Methodist church. My parents took us to Sunday school and church each Sunday. As I grew up, I taught Sunday school and ran the church nursery. I had the doctrine, creeds, and commandments down. I had head knowledge but not heart knowledge of the Lord. There had to be more to this walk than what I had. By my senior year in high school, I was searching for answers and questioning the Bible. I wanted more out of life.
The summer of 1976 had caused me to do a lot of thinking. I'd spent a year studying nursing at St Joseph's Nursing School. I'd seen people terribly ill and dying. There were anatomy and physiology classes that had creator stamped all over them. I learned that people who had money had the same problems as everyone else and that their money wasn't making them happy.
In August of 1976, a little miracle/revival happened in Apulia Station. It was the summer of the Montreal Summer Olympics. A bus load of students and advisors from Christ for the Nations College in Dallas, Texas were returning from Montreal after having spent a few weeks doing street witnessing for the Lord. Their job was not done.
Their bus broke down on Route 81, near Tully. The only place that could repair the bus was Jack's Garage in Apulia, just a few miles east of Tully. The bus arrived with about twenty people into our small community. There were no motels or hotels in the area. The community and church people were asked to take these young people into their homes to be fed and lodged at no cost.
My parents took in two young men who stayed in our farm home for a few days while the bus was repaired. They were exhausted, disappointed and hungry. We fed them well and let them rest. They didn't rest for long. Soon they were telling me how I needed the Lord and had to have my sins forgiven. They said that I could have a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. They were on fire for the Lord and the Lord was real to them. I wanted what they had. That night I prayed to the Lord for his forgiveness and turned to Him in love.
The next day at a church group meeting, they wanted me to repent again in front of everyone. I did and was filled with the Holy Spirit. I could really feel the presence of the Lord. My life had been changed and I was on a new road with the Lord. Before returning to Texas, the students from Christ for the Nations encouraged us all to read the Word, pray and find a good church to attend.
Soon I would leave home and go back to nursing school. I desperately needed an on fire church where I could be fed and grow spiritually. A few people in the hamlet were attending Living Word Church in Phoenix, NY. That summer they were having a church revival at Long Branch Park in Liverpool. A group of us went. They loved the Lord and worshipped him in a way that I had never seen in the Methodist Church.
Living Word Church was about thirty minutes north of Syracuse and I didn't have a car. Once I was back in nursing school, different people from the church would give me rides so I could attend church services. That was nearly forty years ago. It has been my blessing to serve the Lord and His people for all those years.
The Lord blessed me with a wonderful husband, two daughters and now their husbands and a grandson. The road of life has not always been easy but the Lord has been there to guide and comfort me.
The Lord isn't a creed, statement, stuck on a wooden cross on the wall or dead draped over Mary's lap. He is real; He hears my prayers, answers them and is there to guide us through this life into the next one. Praise the Lord!