Read My Testimony
This is my testimony . . .
Every day is a gift from God. My life almost ended as it began and again at nineteen.
After being married thirteen years my father and mother were anxiously waiting for me to be born. My mother developed toxemia and complications in her pregnancy. High blood pressure and a long delivery threatened her life as well as mine. When the doctor met my worried father in the hospital hallway he gave him a mind-boggling choice. “You have to choose which one you want to save—your wife or your unborn baby.”
My father looked the doctor in the eye and told him with all the sincerity in his heart, “you have to save both of them or bury three—I’ll drive off the Kosciusko bridge and I’ll die, too.”
Too far along in the delivery process for a caesarean, speeding up labor for my safety would increase my mother’s blood pressure to an even more dangerous level, giving her medication for the blood pressure and other problems would endanger me; finally I was born with injuries from the forceps and a misshapen head from being in the birth canal so long.
But we all three survived!
So, that was my dramatic entrance into the world. My childhood was filled with memories only possible in Mississippi small towns. We were a part of church as a family, and I learned about God, Jesus, and the Bible at an early age.
One day our pastor, Brother Davis, was preaching on John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Suddenly it was like a light bulb went off in my head and heart. I realized that I was a sinner (for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God), that I was going to Hell (for the wages of sin is death), that Jesus was God’s Son who died on the cross to save me from my sins (for by his stripes we are healed), and that I could accept Jesus as my Savior and my Lord and spend eternity with Him in heaven.
Down the aisle I went. Because I was young the pastor came to the house to counsel me and after explaining what I believed I was baptized. I accepted Jesus as God’s son, who died on the cross in my place for my sins, and who rose again and is alive today. I wanted forgiveness for my sins. He became my savior.
Then the long process of growing up and learning began. I was a part of the church programs including Girls in Action, a mission study and action group.
During my girlhood the fifty year celebration of the G.A. program was held in Memphis, Tennessee, and our faithful leaders took us there for the celebration program. Seeing the ducks march into the Peabody, staying in a hotel room with my friends, and going to such a large meeting was a huge event in my life.
During one of the sessions the program committee had prepared an oversized globe that glittered on the stage as the speaker explained the need for the entire world’s people to hear the message of salvation. God wanted missionaries to go around the globe to share the message of His love and how he wants a saving relationship with all people.
My heart stirred and I said yes to serving God in missions as a young girl in a green G.A. outfit in a balcony hearing God’s call to tell others about Him.
Growing up I fell in love with a young Christian man and felt that for some reason we should marry when I got out of high school. Now, I know 18 is too young to marry, but Phillip and I were in love and I felt somehow there might not be enough time for us. We married in June and went to Hinds Junior College together in Raymond, Mississippi. He worked for a radio station as a DJ and I worked at a shipping company typing bills of lading. We had a little apartment near campus. We often rode together from Raymond into Jackson, Mississippi, to work. I dropped him off at the radio station, went to work, and came back to study at the station until the wee hours of morning when he finished his shift. One January night during exams I took my own car to work and back so I could prepare for my tests at home.
Phillip called just before I went to bed and we exchanged good nights and said we loved each other. I went in and fell into bed—so tired. As I drifted off I thought that if anything bad happened I would get up and put on certain slacks and top and go to Hinds General Hospital down the road.
God was preparing me for the biggest shock of my life in a gentle, loving way. I was awakened by a phone call. The person on the phone said there had been an accident and I needed to come to Baptist Hospital. My impression, before I went to sleep, was so strong that I should go to Hinds General Hospital, confused me. I called back to the Baptist Hospital Emergency room to see if that was really where I should come. The tone of voice of the speaker told me that whatever had happened was very bad.
I dressed in the clothes I had thought of earlier, went out in to the dark morning, cranked up my burgundy Cougar, and set off for Jackson. Alone. I prayed. My heart was hammering, and I prayed over and over and over that Phillip would be alright.
I parked the car near the emergency door, went in, and was taken to a small examining room. People from the radio station and Phillip’s brother Hal were there. They all were pale and some crying. The doctor reached out and handed me a large manila envelope saying,” His personal effects are in here. He was killed in a car accident. His clothes and boots are so bloody you can come back for them later.”
My world had been turned upside down and shaken. I walked out of the hospital with my husband’s wedding ring and wallet to begin the drive back to what had been our home—so full of love, life, and a future only hours before.
As I drove down the pale interstate I looked across the changing sky. The heavens were turning pink and yellow with dawn. I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe another day was breaking. I felt as though my life was over—the shock of losing my husband was so strong I felt my body could not contain the pain.
In a flash I thought of a solution as the large concrete embankment loomed in my vision. I could drive off the road and into the concrete wall and end this painful agony that overwhelmed and drowned me.
Then it was as if I heard a voice; not my voice, say, “No, I have something else for you to do.”
God stopped me. God saved me from death again. I never thought of suicide again through the long grief process.
You see, on the way home Phil drove down a country road. It was foggy. A fence was down. A colt ran across the road in front of my husband’s red Triumph 7 convertible sports car. The mare raced across the road following her colt and collided with Phillip’s car, rolling over the hood, and her hoof struck him in the forehead over his eye. I was later told that he would have been brain dead immediately, although his heart may have been beating for a long while on that deserted, foggy road. I never saw that beloved face again.
I would have gone crazy without my caring friends and family, and most of all God. I prayed all my heartaches to Him. I was led to read from Psalms and Job. These scriptures soothed me and helped me hang on and go back to Hinds to finish the semester. I wrote what I felt. I read scripture. I prayed. I lived, but it was if I was enveloped in a dark cloud that overshadowed my days and nights of loneliness.
My questions haunted me: Why? Why him? Why did I have wedding presents I hadn’t ever used and no home with Phillip anymore? Why was that future cut off? How does God love me if I am in such agony? Slowly God helped me find balance and peace although some questions will wait til heaven to be answered.
I transferred to Mississippi State University and continued my English major. I also met the man who was God’s gift to me, although we would not marry until four more years had passed, and I had healed in my thoughts and feelings. Meanwhile I had decisions to make.
The Missionary Journeyman Program, a two year mission program of the Southern Baptist Convention, or graduate school? What should I do? I always wanted to be a published writer. What did God want me to do? What was the most important thing to do? What could I contribute to the world?
To help answer that question I applied for the Journeyman program of the Southern Baptist Convention. This is a mission program for young people who have graduated from college and want to serve to help missionaries in foreign countries or work with mission programs. It was a long process and as I continued in it I felt the call become stronger and stronger. I was accepted and offered three positions to choose from: teaching English in Hong Kong, Laos, or Japan. I chose Japan and the mission chose me.
Being an only child, my parents, especially my mother, had a hard time letting me go. However, they did not discourage me and supported me in my decision even though I would be gone two years.
How can I describe my experiences living and teaching in Japan? It was glorious. God gave me such an incredible blessing by allowing me to take part in His work. I taught English to junior high, senior high, and junior college girls at Seinan Jo Gakuin in Kokura, Kitakyushu, Japan. The school was operated by Japanese Baptists who welcomed me and my new friend, Charlene Robinson, who was also assigned to this mission site. We both worked in churches with English Bible classes, helped English clubs in nearby colleges, taught small groups of professionals, gave devotionals for the schools, and worked to build relationships not only at our school but in our community. Living in a foreign country is a wonderful experience to help you see God at work through any problems, cultures, or drawbacks.
I was able to see who I really was—what was part of me culturally as an American from the South and what my spiritual self was and could be. As we worked with the students who wanted to learn English, we shared our relationship with Christ and the salvation He offered. Two girls became Christians before we left the field. They are precious Christian wives and mothers now—one still in Japan and the other now living in the United States.
God was still healing my heart and answering the deep questions of my soul. I wasn’t sure if I should pursue becoming a career missionary when I returned to the states or if I wanted to risk falling in love again, marrying, and having a family—and the possibility of being hurt again.
The question was answered when I met Gary Michael Bunch by chance in August after my return home. He had been the one God intended for me and I had first seen him in a dramatic reader’s theatre at Mississippi State. We had noticed each other in the Grill as I sat with my English group and he with his theatre friend. Now, four years later we dated, fell truly in love, and when he asked me to marry him I could look in his penetrating blue eyes and say “yes” with all my heart.
Our love story unfolded over the years to include his call to the ministry, his becoming a pastor, and our becoming parents of three sons. Like Job, God had given to me in abundance, overflowing, more than I ever dreamed possible on that dark chilling moment on the highway when I wavered at the turn of a wheel between this life and eternity. When I saw my sin, God saved my soul and forgave me. When my heart was broken, God saved my life and gave me a purpose of living.
My life quest has been to do whatever it is that God saved me to do—teaching, working, being a pastor’s wife, a mother, a grandmother, writing—living for Him. I can say without a doubt that God saved me— my fragile body that I almost threw away out of pain. He healed me, strengthened me, never left me, and heard my most agonized cries and questions. I have learned so much through the years, but this I know. God is enough.
If you have nothing but God, He is enough.
Life is fragile, things are temporary, and people are what are precious and eternal. I have tried to live my life so I would not have regrets at the end—tried to fill each day to overflowing—tried to live in the moment I am in to relish it. I live in gratitude to God for my life and all the blessings he has given me so freely and richly.
These devotional writings are reflections on some of my experiences raising my three sons, Daniel Ellard Bunch, Andrew Michael Bunch, and Jonathan William Bunch, with the tears and laughter parenting brings.
My prayer is that my testimony and thoughts may help you, encourage you, amuse you, and bring you closer to God. Let’s put our minds together as I share bits of my life and the spiritual side of the everyday.
In His Love,
Connie Marie Ellard Fleming Bunch