"The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow." (Psalm 16:3)


"Death had been a frequent and lingering visitor to me by the time I had reached the tender age of twenty-two."


Selfishness has no place in a good marriage.






The party was over.


I still didn't get this "born again" thing that I was hungering to know more about.

"...I collapsed on my couch and cried, "Lord, help me". The burdens of the world lifted from me then and there and I felt a sense of joy and wholeness that words cannot describe. I couldn't explain it to anyone at the time, but soon I began to realize that I had been "born again" and that I could now say, "Christ is the center of my life”













"God is so good. He is our Redeemer and our Savior. He's redeemed the "sorrows of death" and the "pains of hell" for me and let me walk before Him in the land of the living."

Read More Testimonies @
The Open Door Fellowship

From Despair and Death
God Gave Me Joy and Life

                                                     born again testimony of Joanne Smith

                             Joanne's After picture



"The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow." (Psalm 16:3)
I could have written that scripture at one point in my life. When I read it for the first time I thought it had been written especially for me. Death had been a frequent and lingering visitor to me by the time I had reached the tender age of twenty-two. In 1971, when I was nineteen, three days before I was to be married, my life‑long childhood friend succumbed to colon cancer. She was seventeen. We buried her the morning of my wedding. I can only remember parts of that day, as I was numb to any feelings or emotions, but I somehow made it through the day. The one thing I do remember is standing at the altar wondering if I was doing the right thing, did I really want to go through with this?
I did, and I'm not saying it was a mistake because I know it was in God's plans for me but it wasn't the perfect marriage. We were too young and did it for all the wrong reasons. The main one for both of us, I’ve come to realize, was to leave our respective nests to be on our own. I wanted freedom to do whatever I wanted, a common desire for most nineteen year-olds.
I had freedom all right. Freedom to party, drink, drug and ruin my life. Our house, in the center of the town we both grew up in, became a haven for all types of people, mostly druggies, which fit right in with our lifestyle. It was one continuous party.
After three years of marriage our son, Jeff, was born in 1974. The event put a slight damper on our activities, but not altogether; we still managed to lead the same type of destructive lifestyle.

Death Spoils My Party          
One early summer Friday night I had made arrangements with my friends to go out “clubbing” for the night. My husband had made arrangements to go to a bachelor party and I had brought my son, who was nine months old, to my parent’s house for the night. Going our separate ways on the weekends was a common occurrence for us but this weekend was a little different. Bo had proclaimed earlier in the week that he was going to quit drinking. He had even bought a case of coke to try to prove to himself and others that he was serious. I had noticed a slight difference in his behavior, and we had had a pretty good week. At this point in our marriage I really didn't have too much hope that it was going to last much longer. I was stubborn, headstrong and selfish ‑ probably the single most thing that destroys relationships. Selfishness has no place in a good marriage. Bo definitely had his faults too ‑ he was used to getting his own way and didn't like to discuss alternatives. This caused many arguments and sometimes violent confrontations. I was usually the one to lose my temper and cause a big uproar, while he would rather just ignore the problem. Simply put, we had grown apart.
To get back to that Friday night, Bo expressed hesitation about going to the party, but since I had already made plans he decided to go anyway. Just in case he got drunk, he got a ride so he would not have to drive the new van he had just purchased.
After a full night of drinking, I arrived home at about 2:00 a.m. and Bo was nowhere to be found, which was a first. He was an early bird and rarely stayed out past 1:00 a.m.  I, on the other hand, was a night owl and would sleep until noon, so when I awoke at 7:00 a.m., with a start, to find that he was still not home, I became concerned. I went outside to see if he had fallen asleep in the yard or in one of the vehicles, but he hadn’t. Bo’s best friend, whom I had never gotten along with (nor cared to), owned and operated a taxi business in town. I called him to see if he had gone there to sleep it off on the couch in his office. (“T” was his closest friend who had been in the thick of the drugging and partying with him, but who had recently become "born again" and was trying to get out of that world).
No he hadn't gone there; he hadn't seen him at all. He had not attended the bachelor party the night before either. I made several other phone calls and then finally called the police ‑ but they really couldn't do anything - it was too soon.
Finally, at about 11:00 a.m. I dragged my sister, who had been staying with us and who had gone out with me the night before, to the club in Lowell, MA where he was last seen. It was a slimy place that I, coincidentally, had also been to at one point the night before. The club bordered one of the many canals in Lowell, and as we drove around the back of the building an overwhelming feeling that he was in there came over me and I couldn’t shake it.
The rest of that weekend is nothing but a big blur. Friends and relatives flocked around to help, but what could they do? What could anyone do? Where was he?
The police found his body on the following Tuesday morning in that canal in Lowell. The wondering was over. Minor flesh wounds were discovered on his arms, probably from his own camping knife that he had on his belt loop, but the cause of death was drowning.  Drowning by someone who had grown up on the ocean around boats and who was probably the best swimmer I knew. The man, who the police suspected of attacking him and leaving him for dead, or actually throwing him into the canal, was arrested on unrelated breaking and entering charges and hung himself in jail the next day.

I Am Given Hope
Bo was buried the day after what would have been his twenty-third birthday. Although I was in a state of shock from the time I realized he was in that canal to after the funeral and can’t remember much, I did recall something “T’s” mother (whom Bo used to call “Mom”) said to me. “Don’t worry,” she said. “You’ll see Bo in paradise, you’ll see him again.”          When she spoke them I felt in my heart that these were not empty words. She had recently had some kind of “religious experience” where she spoke about Jesus frequently.  It was something completely unfamiliar to me but I sensed it was special and her words genuine.
I had been brought up a Catholic, but had pretty much discarded my faith when I was sixteen or so. I got married in the Church but had not had my son baptized in it. The hypocrisy of it all bothered me. We were taught about eternal life, but I can't say I had any real faith that we were all destined to live on forever with Christ. It was all so "iffy". I clung on the words "God is Love" and that was good enough for me. As long as I was a loving person I was O.K., I thought. As for eternal life, I just couldn't be sure about anything. But “Mom” sounded so sure, so comforting ‑ I really wanted to believe.
About three weeks after the funeral “Mom” and "T" asked me to go to a Sunday service with them. A traveling missionary friend of theirs was preaching in the area. I reluctantly agreed to go. I was feeling pretty withdrawn still and didn't know if I was ready for this, but they had been so nice to me and I didn’t want to put them off. The service was very lively, nothing like I had ever experienced before. I noticed that a lot of the people looked like they were in real need, but they were all singing and clapping their hands with joy. I thought to myself, "They’re all losers." The words "so are you" then rang in my ears and I knew it was the truth. At that moment the missionary's words of "I know there's someone out there with a broken heart, God wants to heal that broken heart, please raise your hand." pierced my heart. I knew he meant me and I knew the people with me knew he meant me, there was no getting out of it. I raised my hand and the tears just gushed from my eyes. They all gathered around to hug me and I couldn’t stop crying. That was a momentous day.
I started to read the Children's Living Bible that "Mom" and her husband, Roy, had given to Jeff at his birth. She had also given me a booklet about the second coming of Christ and the Rapture and one of the scriptures it pointed out was I Thess. 4:15‑17. It reads (from The Living Bible) "I can tell you this directly from the Lord: that we who are still living when the Lord returns will not rise to meet him ahead of those who are in their graves. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a mighty shout and with the soul stirring cry of the archangel and the great trumpet call of God. And the believers who are dead will be the first to rise to meet the Lord. Then we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and remain with him forever. So comfort and encourage each other with this news.” These certainly were comforting words to me at this time.         
The party was over. Several months went by and my sister continued to live with me and was a great source of comfort and support for me and Jeff. If it were not for her and the fact that I had a young son to care for I would have probably drunk myself to oblivion. "T" would occasionally stop by and see how I was doing and play with Jeff. But still I was alone - alone and empty, with no plans or even hope for the future. I was a widow at twenty-three. My son was fatherless. Before he even knew what it meant to have a father he was fatherless. This one fact bothered me more than anything and, although I knew I was not directly responsible for his father's death, I felt guilty because of the lifestyle we had led. Drugs and alcohol had killed his father just as sure as that man had. And I was a big part of it.
Fall was soon upon us and as the leaves were dying around me, I felt just like the trees that lost their leaves - empty and barren. "T" hadn't been around for a couple of months. In a fit of anger after a silly argument one day, I had told him to leave and never come back (which I had done many times in the past and he always totally ignored). After some time had passed I realized, much to my surprise, that I actually missed him and began to feel sorry for the way I had treated him!
One day I found myself driving to his taxi office to see him. I never had to say the words "I'm sorry". Just my being there said it. We began to spend more and more time together. I began to trust him and felt the love that he had for Jeff was special. He spoke to me about the Lord but he didn't push it. I could see a change in his life and knew it was a true miracle. He had been at that service when my heart was healed; he was just waiting for me to get a hold of that. One cold December night he took me in his arms and he told me that he loved me! I had to confess that I loved him too. How could this be? It had only been six months since my husband was killed. I was convinced that I would never need a man in my life. A man couldn't fill the emptiness and loneliness I felt deep in my spirit. But, there was no fighting this because in my heart, I knew it was God's doing. It had to be. There was no other explanation for it.

Waiting for New Life
I still didn't get this "born again" thing that I was hungering to know more about. A few days before Christmas, in a conversation with a mutual friend, I heard "T" simply said to the person: "Jesus is the center of my life." That's it! I wanted to be able to say that more than anything, but I couldn’t at this point because I really didn't know what it meant to have Jesus at the center of my life. The Lord was faithful to bring me to the point where I finally gave up my own will and surrendered to his.
My family, understandably, was in an uproar over my relationship with “T”, as his reputation preceded him, so to say. They thought I had gone over the edge never to return. It was the day after Christmas when my father appeared at my back door as the three of us, Jeff, myself, and “T” were sitting at the kitchen table eating lunch. My father immediately started railing at “T” to leave me alone and get out of my house. “T” stood his ground and told him that whether he stayed or went was my decision, and then left us alone to confront one another.
I knew my father loved me and was only trying to protect me but knew I had to stand up to him for what I believed God was doing in my life. It was the hardest thing I ever had to do. I knew I was hurting him and that he was scared for me, but I couldn't tell him I was going to cut off my relationship with “T”. When he left I collapsed on my couch and cried, "Lord, help me". The burdens of the world lifted from me then and there and I felt a sense of joy and wholeness that words cannot describe. I couldn't explain it to anyone at the time, but soon I began to realize that I had been "born again" and that I could now say, "Christ is the center of my life”, just as I had hoped I could. What a miracle!
That was a long time ago. “T” (Terry Smith) and I were married soon after that and the Lord gave us two more sons and two daughters and our 11th grandchild is on the way! Jeff never knew what it meant to be fatherless. In fact, he married someone with not one, but three children and they then added one more together! God is so good. He is our Redeemer and our Savior. He's redeemed the "sorrows of death" and the "pains of hell" for me and let me walk before Him in the land of the living. The following versus from Isaiah 54, which are close to my heart, say it much better than I can.
"Sing, O barren, thou didst not bear; break forth into singing, and cry aloud, thou that didst not travail with child: for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife, saith the Lord...Fear not, for thou shalt not be ashamed: neither be thou confounded; for thou shalt not be put to shame: for thou shall forget the shame of thy youth, and shalt not remember the reproach of thy widowhood any more. For thy Maker is thine husband; the Lord of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; the God of the whole earth shall he be called. For the Lord hath called thee as a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit, and a wife of youth, when thou wast refused, saith thy God. For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee. In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee...

< back to Testimonies
< back to Bride