Tom Traughber

"My testimony."

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Late one evening in mid December, 1976, I was kicked back in my Lazy-Boy recliner reading a paperback book about receiving the baptism of the holy Spirit. The author was giving instructions to a congregation on speaking in tongues. My heart raced as I read in anticipation of what he would say next. The print seemed to jump off the pages, piercing my heart and soul. The more I read, the more I could feel something inside of me starting to swell like a river ready to overflow its banks.

Finally, I read these words, “Cry out to God! Cry hallelujah!” When I cried hallelujah out loud a rush of unknown syllables came flowing out of my mouth. It really did feel like a river of living water flowing from out my belly, (John 7:38). It was a wonderful experience.

During that time of my life, I was attending a Catholic Charismatic prayer meeting in Floyd Knobs, IN. My father and mother also received the baptism of the holy Ghost during that time, and we attended these meetings together.

My life took many twists and turns the next three to four years. The closer I got to God and his people, the more my relationship with my former wife drifted further and further apart. We finally divorced. She moved to Tennessee taking our two small children with her. I decided to quit my job and go to college full-time. In December 1981, Jesus put Suzi and I together as husband and wife.

My father, mother, Suzi and I along with a few friends started a prayer group at the Catholic church we were attending at the time. The meetings were held on Monday nights. People from various denominations gathered in the front of the church on the massive marble sanctuary surrounded by tall golden candle sticks, stained glass windows, statues of various biblical figures, and a large crucifix.

My involvement with this Catholic church also included playing the guitar at Sunday services with a small group of musicians. For a time, I even drove a school bus on Sunday mornings picking up members, taking them to services. I also was a member of the Parish Council, a committee that made financial and other church related decisions.

Needless to say, I had developed many relationships through my involvement with this church. It seemed as if Suzi and I could have stayed there forever—but Jesus had different plans for us.

In 1984 Suzi and I moved from Southern Indiana to our present home in Louisville, Kentucky. I was taking evening college classes and could no longer attend the Monday night Charismatic prayer meetings. I did, however, continue playing with the guitar group on Sunday mornings. During September of that year, Suzi started a new job where she met a child of God named Tammy. Unbeknownst to us, our lives were about to change forever!

Tammy invited us to her Friday night prayer meeting. Since we had not attended a prayer meeting of any kind in a while, we gladly accepted her invitation. This worked out perfect for me because the time would not interfere with my school schedule.

I'll never forget the first meeting we attended. When we walked in, we were first met by a young red haired man named Junior. His eyes were full of life and with a big smile he shook my hand and said, “ H-e-y there, come-on- in!”

Fifteen or twenty people were gathered in this small building tucked away between two houses in an older Louisville neighborhood. Right away I noticed a few flattop guitars leaning against brown metal folding chairs with their apparent owners close by ready for action. Other people were sitting in long wooden pews upholstered with burgundy seating. Some had small children at their feet busily coloring or playing quietly with their toys.

As I made my way to an empty seat I heard a small voice inside of me whisper, “Sit down here and be still. I am going to teach you something.”

Once we were settled someone started to sing a song. My heart melted at the sound of the first strum of the guitar. Other than our brief acquaintance with Tammy, we knew no one else. The only song I remember sung that night had a line it that said, It Doesn't Matter Where You Are, It's Where He is that Matters. Later I learned that the one who sang it that night was Pastor John.

It is difficult to describe the feelings I had inside of me. Here Suzi and I were gathered together with complete strangers in this small garage-like building that didn't even have a cross on the wall, feeling like we belonged, as if we had finally made it home.

Suzi and I started attending regularly every Friday night. We became more and more involved with the people and their day-to-day lives. At first we had no intention of leaving the Catholic church we attended. I continued to play with the guitar group on Sunday mornings and on Friday nights we attended the prayer meetings.

My hunger for the things of God was strong. Jesus gave me a desire to seek his truth and to learn to follow his Spirit rather than to simply trust in traditions and doctrines of men. As time passed I found myself changing inside. There were times I would hear Pastor John teach some truth that my mind could not fully understand but my heart would cry, “AMEN! That feels right!” As an example, I didn’t quite understand why a person did not need to be water baptized. Water baptism, as I had been taught, was essential. However, I did not allow my lack of understanding keep me from denying what my heart was feeling. I finally saw that Jesus baptizes people with the holy Ghost who have not been water baptized. What I was feeling turned out to be right.

I was growing spiritually and loving every minute of it. Without realizing it at the time, I was like a lamb that had found a hole in the fence. I would crawl through the hole and feed on the luscious pasture on the other side. When I was full I would crawl back through the fence until it was time to eat again. Finally, one day outside the fence I was too fat to fit back through the hole.

Leaving my family and friends at the Catholic church was not easy but I knew Jesus was calling Suzi and me to a more perfect way of fellowship. I thought for sure that my family members that attended the Catholic Charismatic meetings would be as excited as I was; but this turned out not to be the case. I brought a few of them to the Friday night meetings but to my disappointment they said it was not for them. I felt sad that they did not love this way as I loved it.

When I finally made the decision to sever my involvement with the Catholic Church, I wanted to leave in good standing. The Catholic priest who was also the pastor was very close to my family. I cared for him a lot. He had been good to me. I invited him to lunch so that I could tell him my plans of leaving. We met in a small restaurant, just the two of us. I could sense that he was a little nervous as to what I might say. I too was feeling a little nervous because I really did not have a whole lot to say. I explained to him how I was feeling. I wanted him to know that we were not leaving because we were angry at anyone or because we had been mistreated. We simply felt that Jesus had called us to follow him into a new way of life in the Spirit. It just felt right.

Many years have passed since then. I have never regretted the decision Suzi and I made to obey the voice of God to leave the Catholic Church. I am grateful for my life and the path Jesus has designed for Suzi and me.

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