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A Longing Heart Satisfied

October 01, 2013

Foster care, abuse, and her mother’s serious illness were all part of this young girl’s childhood, but God drew her to Himself.

By Marie Garrison

My parents separated early in their marriage, when my sister, Karin, and I were young. Mother was soon hospitalized with tuberculosis, perhaps in part as a consequence of stress and a broken heart. Because of this, my father placed Karin and me with different foster families over several years.

It was while we lived with Mr. and Mrs. Crow that God sent Pete Hiebert to our door to invite us to Sunday school at the Apostolic Faith Church in Vancouver, B.C., Canada. We accepted and began attending regularly. At church, I listened to the Word of God given in the lessons and preaching. It was clear that the people there loved us with a sacrificial love. I learned that God loved me and that Jesus died for my sin, and that He was preparing a home in Heaven for those who serve Him. I could tell that God had done something in the lives of the people at church, and I wanted what they had. One day at the age of nine, I went forward and prayed. I wondered, Is God real? Could He possibly be real? Right then God dropped faith into my heart. I asked Him to forgive me, and He washed my sins away.

Even though I was only a third-grade girl, God changed me that night. The Crows could see the difference. I told them, “My friend sure is easier to get along with these days,” and they said, “It’s not her; it is you. God made a change in you when He saved you.” God also put a song in my heart. After I was saved, I would walk to school singing praises to God. An elderly neighbor lady stopped me once and inquired, “Are you a Christian?” I replied, “How did you know?” That song of praise has never left me.

Two years later, my sister and I were reunited with our mother. Mom told us, after we were grown, that she felt convicted when she heard us singing, “Everybody ought to go to Sunday school,” and praying, “Lord, make the people who should go to church, go to church.” She asked where we would like to attend church and we replied, “The Apostolic Faith.” Soon after, Mother was saved. After that, she faithfully read the Bible, prayed with us, and set an example of godly living.

Mom worked as a waitress or kitchen helper in a nursing home. At times she wasn’t well enough to work, but God provided. Once when we were without food, Mom said, “Let’s get down and pray; we have nothing to eat.” We prayed and a short time later, someone delivered a box of food to the front door. Mom told us that when she started tithing, God stretched her money. I knew He did because Mom’s attitude of trust instead of worry confirmed her statement.

God not only saved Mom, but He sanctified and baptized her with the Holy Ghost. He gave her peace, joy, and a forgiving heart. She never said anything critical about our father. I knew that if he would have supported us financially, as the court had mandated, my mother’s life would have been significantly easier. However, I later learned that he had threatened her life if she tried to force him to pay. Mom told me that God had helped her to forgive Dad. She didn’t ever, to my knowledge, ask anyone but God for help. We were poor, but happy.

Growing up, I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to please God. Early on I realized with awe that the God who created the universe loved me. I felt compelled to give Him the rest of my life. I learned in church that Satan was the enemy of God and a hard taskmaster. I had also personally experienced the heartache that sin brings; I was abandoned by my natural father and abused by a foster father who was an alcoholic. At church, however, I met men and women who could be trusted. There, I was neither exploited nor used. It seemed an easy choice—love the God who loved me or be a slave to the enemy of my soul. I knew I wanted to continue serving the Lord.

The first time our family attended camp meeting in Portland, Oregon, I was twelve years old. Steve Cherwick brought us, and on the way he said, “We are not going to camp meeting to see the beautiful camp grounds, or eat good food, or make new friends, or hear inspiring preaching—although you will experience those things. We are going to seek God.” His words were meaningful to me then and now. During camp meeting when I was eighteen years old, God called me to a deeper walk than ever before. He reminded me that I had been mean to my sister, and I repented. I rededicated my life and sought God for sanctification and the baptism of the Holy Ghost, and God gave me those experiences as I prayed.

The damaging actions of my father and the abusive foster father had caused me to fear men. However, through my teen years I prayed that if it was God’s will for me to marry, He would lead me to a godly man. In His time, God did just that. At the camp meeting when I was nineteen, a young man named Chuck Garrison and I became friends among a group of young people who were hungry for God. Chuck received the baptism of the Holy Ghost that year, and I was impressed with his dedication to the Lord. I moved to Portland that fall to finish my last year of high school and complete a one-year course in nursing. Chuck and I took time to pray and get better acquainted. We continued to spend time together, and I learned through his actions and words that he could be trusted to treat me with respect.

Chuck and I married on December 30, 1961. I joined him as he completed the last six months of his stint in the Army in Elisabeth Town, Kentucky. We didn’t know where we would go when he was discharged, but we trusted God to lead us. We ended up in Seattle, Washington; half way between our hometowns of Portland, Oregon, and Vancouver, B.C. We were privileged to rear our four children under the shelter and protection of God and our loving Seattle church family. Chuck passed away almost fifteen years ago, but I thank the Lord that He gave me thirty-seven years with a good man. We served God together all of those years.

Six years ago, I was diagnosed with oral cancer and was told that if I had surgery and the cancer had not yet spread, I would have a 50/50 chance of survival. I prayed and so did others. After surgery, it was discovered that the cancer had already spread to several lymph nodes, so I continued treatment with radiation and chemotherapy. I told God that I would like to live if that was His will; but live or die, I would praise Him. The doctor told me that if I was cancer free five years after the operation, it would be very unlikely that the cancer would return. Praise God, I am still cancer free.

The Lord has been a Father and later a Husband to me. He’s been my Savior, my Lord, my Healer, and my best Friend.

Through the years, the Lord has been a Father and later a Husband to me. He’s been my Savior, my Lord, my Healer, and my best Friend. He is with me in joy and in sorrow. He has given me so many blessings, and every day I have His peace and contentment. When God changed my heart, He gave me something that has satisfied my every longing, and knowing Him is the treasure that I seek.

About the author

Marie Garrison is a minister of the Apostolic Faith Church in Seattle, Washington.