A Testimony of God's Love
by Wendy McMillan Downing
One of my earliest memories as a child is being wakened in the middle of the night by my daddy and momma fussing and fighting. I remember my sister (Candy Phillips) and my brother (Jack McMillan, “Jackie”) trying to get us all out of the house. We would run to a neighbor’s house, sometimes barefooted across a field or down the road. Seems like we would take turns going to different houses. Both of my parents were alcoholics.
I remember the fear I felt as a child, being in another room and hearing something break or a thud and knowing they were fighting again. To this day I can hear those sounds and I go back to when I was a child and I would find myself waiting for a scream or argument to break out.
As we were driving down the road one night, my daddy was driving drunk. He zig-zagged all over the road, barely missing cars. At 4 years old I remember asking God to be with us. Many things we saw as children that no one should ever have to see or go through. I know now the Lord had us wrapped in His arms. To me, this life was normal and I thought all parents and children were the same.
When I was 5 years old my momma passed away. I couldn’t understand why God took her (why me?). I think then the bitterness started to grow. Candy and I went to live with our Aunt Margaret, and later on I went to live with our grandmother (Nanny). Jackie went to live with our Aunt Melva Dean and our little brother (John), who was 4 months old, was adopted by a lady in Southern Pines. We were being “auctioned off to the highest bidder.” I hated being split up and I couldn’t understand why we weren’t all kept together.
After I went to live with my nanny, my grandfather, John, passed away. We had to move from a peach farm in Raeford, where I had open range to run and play wherever I wanted to, anytime I wanted to, to the projects in Southern Pines. I couldn’t go outside in fear of being kidnapped or shot. It was the only place my Nanny could afford, $17.00 a month. I was picked on for being the only white child in the neighborhood and on the bus. We had no car. I wasn’t worried about hell because I was already living there.
Many times I would overhear grown-ups talking about me, not knowing I was paying any attention to what they were saying. They would always say negative things, like I was going to end up like my parents, I would never finish high school, “Oh, she will be pregnant as a teenager.” I believed what they would say. It was easy to believe the bad stuff. When someone would say something good I thought they were lying and just saying it to make me feel good. I never could believe the positive things. I knew I was “less than” everyone else, and, in their words, I was going to amount to nothing.
I carried those things with me all my life until recently. The Lord showed me that I am a child of the King that made everything, even me, a sinner saved by Amazing Grace.
My daddy was in and out of prison several times. He passed away when I was 11 years old, and with the help of his social security check we got every month we were able to move back to the country. It was heaven to me.
My teenage years were spent in rebellion. No one could tell me anything. I thought I knew it all and I just wanted to live my life the way I wanted to. My Nanny did the best she could and she did teach me many wonderful things. I thank God for giving me the chance to go to her years later and let her know how much I appreciated all she did do for me and how sorry I was for all the hell I had put her through. I remember her wrapping her arms around me and saying, “Oh, honey, you don’t have to ask for my forgiveness. I always loved you just the way you were. I knew you would turn out all right.”
One of the few times I remember feeling really special was one night I spent the night with my cousin, Billie Sue Clippard. As we lay down to go to sleep she came in the room with us and prayed. I remember her calling my name out to the Lord and asking Him to have His hands upon me. I couldn’t believe someone was actually praying to God for me. I felt so special at that moment to hear someone calling out to the Lord for me. I know the Lord used her in a special way to help me through a very difficult time in my life.
I finally graduated high school in June 1988 after dropping out for a year. Just hearing everyone tell me, “I knew you couldn’t do it and would drop out,” was enough to make me go back and prove everyone wrong. I was sick of all the negative things.
I was 19 years old and had just ended a string of bad relationships. My sister invited me to a church convention at Bible Tabernacle. I sat with my cousin, Melody Clippard, on the second row. I will never forget the service Brother Thomas ministered that night. He was speaking straight to me! I thought that someone must have gotten to him before the service and told him everything I was going through.
God was there and He was speaking to me face to face. The things He said were hard to hear, things I knew were true but didn’t want to hear. When the service was over I left with my tail between my legs and so heavy-hearted. That night I couldn’t sleep; all I could think about was what was said. Brother Thomas said God loves me. How could this be true, everything I had done? There was no way He would have anything to do with me. I finished going to the rest of the convention, 3 more services, one the following morning, that evening, and the next morning.
Thinking I could ignore what was said to me, I went back out in this world and tried to do the things I was used to. I couldn’t. Something was going on in my heart that wouldn’t allow me to continue on like I was. Thank God, that seed was planted and had started to grow.
The authority Brother Thomas spoke with was something I had never experienced. I was drawn to it and the anointing that was upon him when he ministered, it was paralyzing to me. All I could do was just sit in my seat and drink in God’s precious word that was coming forward. I finally had a home. Thank God, He changes us little by little and day by day. The days that followed were long and hard, many things to overcome. Bitterness was finally being chipped away and replaced with healing and love. I experienced a peace and joy I had never known.
Later that year I met a young man, Danny Downing, that later became my husband in 1991. Dating was so different now. There is something awesome about dating someone that loves the Lord compared to someone that doesn’t even know Him. The trust and love I had for him was something I had never experienced. I wasn’t dating someone that in time I thought I could change. I didn’t have to change him; he was already more than I could have ever hoped for. I sure didn’t deserve him. He is a husband that truly loves the Lord and I thank God for him every day and for helping me to wait on the one He had for me.
With marriage came a whole new set of trials. You have to remember I never had had a head over me before. I don’t even think I truly honored God as my Head, much less my husband. I was still trying to do things on my own. I didn’t want to submit to him or do what he told me to do (whether he was right or not). The rebellion was still there at work. I know many times Danny must have said to the Lord, “Lord, you said you wouldn’t put more on me than I can handle,” with me in mind. But, praise God, he hung in there with me. God’s love is patient and kind -- never-ending.
You don’t realize how selfish you are until you get married and then again when you have children, and I am very selfish. I realize I took my childhood into my marriage with me. The insecurities were still there. I just couldn’t let them go. It wasn’t until I almost destroyed our marriage that I realized I had to let them go. I saw how strong God’s love was in Danny’s heart and the true love the Lord gave him for me. (She that findeth a husband findeth a good thing.) I was able to lay difficult things at the Lord’s feet and forget them and move on with the rest of my life.
Our young people sing a song that says, “He never said you’d only see sunshine, and He never said there’d be no rain. He only promised a heart full of singing, about the very things that once brought pain.” How awesome that is, singing about the things that once brought pain!
The Lord has given me a new love for my Aunt Melva Dean West and Aunt Margaret Pope. The bitterness that was there is gone and I am very appreciative for all they have done for us. They both are like mothers to me now.
I have a heavenly Father, the father I have always longed for now. I can go to Him with anything, talk to Him anytime, and He meets me right where I am at. The Lord has blessed me with so much more than I ever deserve. I have a husband that loves the Lord and me and two healthy beautiful children, which are gifts that God gave us. My prayer is that the Lord will continue to help me be the wife and the mother He wants me to be. I desire with God’s help that He can show Danny and me how to raise our children for Him. Thank you, Lord, for setting my feet on that solid rock and for finally giving me a home. Continue to mold and make me to what you would have me to be.
Wendy McMillan Downing
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