Influencers of My Faith
By: Cindy Heron-Braggs
As a child, I didn’t have that special someone teaching me what it was to have a relationship with Christ. Still, when I reflect back on my life, I can see how God worked to bring me to a place where I would know Jesus as my savior and He would call me his own.
I was born and raised in San Francisco. Most Sundays I attended a Lutheran church with my parents and older sister. I was baptized as an infant at that same church. I always knew the Lord’s Prayer because my mom would pray it with me at bedtime. When I was seven years old, my parents got divorced and my sister and I went to live with our mother. We didn’t attend church for a couple of years after that. My mom was in survival mode without much financial help from my father. Eventually we moved into the same neighborhood as my maternal grandparents, Clarence and Martha Waeltz. They realized we stopped going to church and while my mother was no longer interested in attending, my grandparents began picking up my sister and me every Sunday and taking us across town to drop us off at our home church for service. They would then drive to their own Lutheran church to attend service—and then come back to our church and bring us home. Every first Sunday of the month, my grandfather would pick up my sis and me from our church without my grandma because she would stay after their church service to help wash the glass communion cups and bread trays. She would also volunteer to help wash dishes after special church events. Note to myself as a child: ”Grandma sure likes washing dishes.” Note to my adult self: “Grandma loved serving God.” Without knowing it, seeds were being sown in my heart.
At my church my sister and I got involved in the youth choir, and when I turned 12 years old, our minister, Pastor Martin, invited us to begin preparing for our confirmation. That was a process of several weeks of Bible studies with our pastor followed by a day with a ceremony that involved us professing our faith publicly. Although I couldn’t fully grasp it then, that was a very important part of my faith journey. As Proverbs says, train up a child in the way she should go and when she is older, she’ll likely come back to it (emphasis mine).
In the summers, my mom desperately needed a break and would send me away to two Christian summer camps. One was associated with my home church, and the other was associated with the local Catholic Church run by stern but nurturing nuns. I would swim, play, sing, and praise the Lord and eat really good food. I thrived at summer camp. God was watering the seeds. When I was 14 years old, I went to live with my bachelor dad, and it would be many years before I would attend another church service.
At 25 years of age, me and my BFF play sister, Vicki, left San Francisco and moved to the San Fernando Valley. Vicki, having grown up in the Catholic Church, began attending a non-denominational Christian church called Hillcrest. Seeing Vicki pray and read her Bible regularly was inspiring, so eventually I went with her to church, and before I knew it I was being baptized and rededicating my life to Christ. Pastor Dudley Rutherford took us under his wing and helped us understand how to read our Bible and pray, and he did his best to answer every question we could throw his way. The seeds were sprouting.
Several years later, I reconnected with my paternal grandmother, Mommy Alice. We grandkids dared not call her “Grandma.” She had given birth to my father at 15 years of age, so she was a young feisty single mother of seven who always carried a can of “Kick Butt” in her purse to check any man, woman, teen, or child! She became an ordained minister in her later years, and it was this Mommy Alice that would gift me a set of J. Vernon McGhee Bible study books. For five years I got on the Bible bus and grew closer to Jesus, savoring every Scripture and commentary. God was shining sunlight on the growing sprouts.
Now looking back over my life, I see God’s hand weaving together threads like a tapestry and creating a foundation for me for my faith to rest on. I’m not worried that there’s still so much room for growth because I am confident of this: that He who began a good work in me will be faithful to complete it (Philippians 1:6).