When Melva Smith first became a disciple of Christ 23 years ago in Springfield, Massachusetts, she had no idea what life might hold for her. She only knew that she needed Christ and wanted to follow him forever. Melva was inspired by the change she witnessed in her sister, Claudette, who had been baptized not long before her. Naturally, as a married woman with two pre-teens, Melva began her spiritual journey full of faith and hope that her children would be inspired by her own example and would soon follow her as she followed Christ. Without a partner in the faith at home, Melva valiantly fought alone to teach her children the word of God, faithfully bringing them to church with her at every opportunity.
Melva's daughter, La'Shauna, just 11 years old at the time, became a member of the very first pre-teen class at the Pioneer Valley Church of Christ, which Dave and Diane Merck led with great vision and a faithful prayer to see each one of their pre-teen students become disciples some day. La'Shauna quickly learned many Bible stories and built a foundation of faith in the love and power of God and the truth of his word. However, not long after entering the teen years, she stopped attending church and quickly followed the ways of this world. For Melva, it seemed that God was not answering the countless prayers she had prayed for her daughter to follow Christ. Did God hear her? Had he forgotten her?
After a few short years, La'Shauna welcomed two beautiful children into the world, Cheyenne and Pauli. Now a grandmother at a young age, Melva could have easily given up hope and become bitter at what seemed like another unanswered prayer, but she decided to remain faithful to God, despite the circumstances, and to hold on to hope. Instead of giving in to discouragement, Melva began to pour her whole heart into her grandchildren and to teach them about God. She began to bring them to church faithfully, week after week, year after year, often having to find a ride for the three of them to every church event. Those two children grew in stature and in faith, and soon Cheyenne and Pauli were members of Dave and Diane Merck's pre-teen class, just as their mom had been twenty years earlier (yes, the Mercks have taught that class for two decades!).
Watching a faithful disciple living for Christ, day in and day out, in your home, has its effects on a teenager, and towards the end of 2016, Cheyenne began to study the Bible. The powers of hell could not stand against the powers of prayer - hours of prayer prayed by Melva, the Mercks, Claudette, and so many members of the church who had witnessed Melva's faithfulness through the years and loved her grandchildren like their own. In June of 2017, Melva's granddaughter Cheyenne was baptized into Christ, with La'Shauna finally in attendance at church to witness the miracle!
This story would not be complete without a short side note about another mother's faithful decision in January of 2017. Diane Holly, a disciple for over thirty years herself, had been wrestling in prayer for her own teenage son and was fighting discouragement, not seeing answers. She decided to begin a prayer group on Saturday mornings where mothers could come and pray for their children with other moms.
Melva quickly signed up and the two mothers prayed faithfully every Saturday, along with other mothers occasionally, never giving up hope that God could bring salvation to their children. Cheyenne also, had begun to pray fervently and desperately for her mother to be saved. It was the deepest desire of her heart.
Meanwhile, seeing her daughter baptized certainly helped La'Shauna to think back about her own years as a kingdom kid. So did many walks with friends in the church whom she met through their teenage children's friendships. Finally, a bold talk by a young sister who she had barely met woke La'Shauna up to her own spiritual state and she felt an urgency to make peace with God. The initial decision to begin to study the Bible was perhaps the biggest hurdle for the now 34 year-old former kingdom kid who knew what it meant to live for Christ.
At the same time, without knowing how God was already moving in La'Shauna's heart, Diane Merck, battling her own discouragement, cried out to God in tears. She asked God to hear Melva's prayers and see her faithfulness and to help her children to find Christ. The very next day she received a call asking if she would help with La'Shauna's first Bible study, which had been set up for later that week! Diane Holly, who began the mother's prayer group with Melva months earlier, also joined in as we all stood in awe of so many answered prayers coming together to create a miracle story!
After beginning her studies, La'Shauna sought God with all of her heart, reading the entire book of John in a week, and listening to all 150 Psalms in one night! She was eager to study the Bible as often as she could. Her openness and surrender to God helped her to quickly repent and make Jesus Lord. On Sunday, October 15th, 2017, God answered countless prayers as Melva baptized her daughter La'Shauna into Christ!
We share this story to bring glory to God and praise him for his faithfulness, mercy and love, with the hope that other parents will find fresh hope and renewed determination to "always pray and to never give up."