Don & Christine Ames

Serving the Lord with our Hearts and Hands

Don’s Roots

At least as far back as I, Don, can remember; I was raised with strong Christian values by loving parents. My parents were married in 1952, and as was common back then they joined the local church. I was born in 1955 in Idaho. My early years contain memories of dad doing a lot of volunteer work at church and mom singing in the choir. We went to Sunday school and learned some of the basic Bible stories. I don’t remember ever hearing that I could have a personal relationship with Jesus back then. When I was about nine years old, in 1964, we moved from Idaho to the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania area. I remember my parents driving us around one Sunday morning looking for a church. My brother and I sat in the back seat complaining because we wanted to stay home and play with our new friends. Unfortunately, my parents gave in, and we never attended church again as a family. I think our complaining made them question why they were going to church and “habit” or “social responsibility” weren’t good enough reasons to fight with us two boys. So from age nine through age thirty-six I had no reason to attend church regularly. I married in 1975, had a daughter in 1977, and was divorced in 1979. After that I dated a couple of women in search of the perfect relationship and happiness.

Text Box: Don & Christine meet
Christine was introduced to me at a motorcycle club meeting by a mutual friend in 1981.  As soon as I met her, I grabbed an extra chair from the back row and placed it next to me for her to sit down.  She struck me as a very attractive woman, and after talking with her for a short time that evening, I discovered her wit and intelligence.  I wanted this woman!

We made a date for the following Saturday afternoon, and I picked her up for a motorcycle ride.  We rode into the country and parked the bike in a small village where we took a walk along a quaint little stream.  We hopped from one boulder to another across the creek until Christine fell and scarred her shin.  We sat on a large boulder watching and listening to the water, and each other.  We had our first kiss there, and our hearts both melted.  It was as close to love at first sight as either of us had ever experienced.  To make a long story short, we quickly moved in together, and though planning to get married, it just didn’t happen.

We lived together for nearly four years, bought land and began building a home.  Unfortunately, the house had a better foundation than our relationship.  Neither of us were committed Christians or knew God’s plan for the marriage covenant.  While Christine was working as a bartender to help earn extra money to build the house, she became involved in the party scene.  She became involved with drugs, alcohol, and late night clubs while I tossed and turned waiting for her to come home.  Finally, she could no longer live the lie with me and moved out October 28, 1984.  I was heart broken, but we stayed friends and I helped her move.  During our separation, while I was going through one lady after another in search of another Christine, she was having her own experiences.

Christine’s Testimony
Christine was born in 1953 and had grown up in similar circumstances to mine, in that her parents took her to church because that was the socially acceptable thing to do.  She was married in 1971, had four children, and was divorced in 1978.

One big event that occurred during our separation, which I didn’t know about, was that Christine had accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior in 1987.  At the time, she was managing a women’s clothing store in central Pennsylvania when a regular customer of hers, Kathy, asked if Christine would help with a fashion show at a women’s retreat.  It was a weekend affair and she was having a great time until Sunday morning when she found herself in a charismatic worship service.  Initially, she was a bit overwhelmed by the intensity of the style of worship, but she’d had a good time with the ladies and Kathy had become a good friend.  Christine asked “Is this one of those born again churches, and what does ‘born again’ mean?”  Her friend told her “yes” and suggested Christine read the book of John in the Bible.  She also made sure Christine had a Bible and knew where to find it.  That night Christine read the book of John and came to the third chapter in which a learned man asked Jesus what it meant to be born again.  The next day Kathy came over to answer questions and explained how Christine could accept Jesus as her personal Savior.

Her life changed dramatically, first with salvation, then a major surgical procedure, and then with the loss of her job while recuperating.  Within a few years she moved to Indiana with a professing Christian man with the promise of marriage and a new life.  She found out too late that the guy was fooling her, and probably himself, as he turned out to have a drinking problem and even got abusive once.  Christine fled to a women’s shelter and a slow road back to self-sufficiency.

Don & Christine get back together
We stayed friends and talked periodically on the phone from October 1984 until October 1991, when we started dating again.  We call this our seven-year trial separation that didn’t work out.  During that separation, I dated several other women and would compare each to Christine.  When something went wrong, I thought “Christine wouldn’t have reacted that way” or “Christine would have enjoyed this with me; I wish she were here.”  Each time I talked to Christine on the phone I would ask her when she was going to come back and marry me.  Finally in 1991, she informed me that she was considering it, thus beginning a long distance courtship.  The house we started building where I lived was in Eastern Pennsylvania; Christine was now in central Indiana, about 700 miles, or thirteen hours away.  In October, I began driving out every other weekend to see her.  She had a job where she worked six days one week and four days the next.  I was in my slow season as an electrician, so I would leave Thursday morning and return home Monday evening.

After dating long-distance for three months, fate, or more accurately, God, led her landlord to not renew her lease in January of 1992.  She had just opened the letter and was crying when I arrived at the apartment for the 1991 Christmas weekend.  I told her that there was room at our house so she could move back to Pennsylvania and marry me.  After some thought and prayer on her part she agreed, and resigned from her job.  So in January of 1992 I rented a truck and drove out with the same mutual friend, who had originally introduced us.  We packed up Christine’s belongings and her twin fifteen year-old daughters and moved them all back to PA.

We enrolled the girls in school and started to finish the house.  I was working on it a little at a time and the main living area was not finished.  I had my business on the ground floor with the temporary kitchen and laundry room in the garage.  The two bedrooms and a bathroom on the third floor were finished, so Christine moved into one with me and the girls got the other.  Christine was fighting the conviction that she should not be in the same bed with me and let me know that she was uncomfortable.

She told me also that it was important that we find a church and that we tithe on our income.  What is a tithe?  That is honoring God with the first tenth of everything He gives you.  Well, I wasn’t sure I wanted to acknowledge God’s role in MY income, but as I said before, it was the slow time of year and I was lucky to make $100 a week.  I figured that if $10 would make Christine happy, I would commit to this tithing thing.  Well, God has a sense of humor - our first tithe check was not $10, in fact it wasn’t $100.  It was $138.00!  Now all we had to do was find a church to give it to.  When I saw that God would bless our commitment to tithe, it became very important to find a church and continue to do so.

Don’s Testimony
The first church we tried was a little too religious for me, and they were a little too pushy.  In fact one of the guys actually chased us across the parking lot trying to get us to sign the guest book.  We literally ran to the car and fled the scene.  Then I called a guy I had bumped into at several motorcycle events.  He was a nice guy and wore the insignia of the Christian Motorcycle Association.  He suggested Shepherd of the Hills Church at which we felt welcome, and not pressured or threatened.  We went to their membership classes to see about joining the church and talked to the pastor about marrying us.  In the membership class, I heard for the first time just how much God loves us, and seeks to have a relationship with us.  I didn’t respond however since the whole idea that I was a sinner in need of salvation, was foreign to me.  In fact it was a bit insulting.

Okay, so what was my problem and how was it overcome?  I believed I was a good person, and compared to everybody else I should be good enough?  Wrong!  I found out that God doesn’t compare us to other people.  We are compared to God himself!  Romans 3:23 says “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  I then had to ask, “What exactly is sin?”  Sin is anything that goes against God’s character.  Jesus explained that even thinking about breaking one of the Ten Commandments was the same as actually breaking one.  Maybe no one else would ever know, but God knows the instant the thought crosses our minds.  I have had a hard time controlling my tongue and have found it impossible to control my thoughts, some of which are contrary to God’s purity.  After finally counseling with mature, committed Christians and reading a book by C. S. Lewis called “Mere Christianity,” I realized that my good deeds were worthless when compared to Jesus and a righteous and Holy God.  I did need a Savior after all!

When I finally understood the fact that I can’t even come close to God’s ideals on my own, but that Jesus was willing to pay my way, the decision was easy.  I asked for His help.  It was an evening in June 1992 when Pastor Vernon came to the house, explained some Bible passages to me, answered some questions, and prayed for “the Lord to soften my heart”.  Meanwhile what Vernon and Christine didn’t know was that the Holy Spirit was at work here and what I heard and prayed was for “the Lord to come into my heart!”  I did not fully understand all of the scriptures, or why a Loving God would allow a “good guy” to go to hell, but I knew that Vernon, Christine, and several of the people at church had something that I wanted.  At this same time, unknown to me, Christine had told Vernon that she would not marry me if I were not born-again.  God had made it clear to her that her husband needed to be the spiritual head of the household (1 Corinthians 11:3).  Now you have to understand their nervousness since the wedding was planned for July 25th, the invitations were out, the hall was reserved, and the caterer contracted.  Christine had a peace, but she was praying hard.  That evening one month before the wedding, God answered Christine’s prayer even though our pastor wasn’t sure I was ready.

In reality, this was only the beginning.  Over the next two weeks it felt like there was quite a struggle in the spiritual realm over my soul.  My questions changed from the challenging type to the “feed me” type.  I was now eager to learn more about my Savior Jesus Christ.  Why did He have to die for me?  Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

I learned that God started the sacrificial system back when Adam sinned in the Garden of Eden.  The chosen people were required to sacrifice an innocent spotless lamb in payment of their sins.  Jesus became the ultimate sacrificial Lamb, dying on the cross to pay for all of our sins.  I came to learn that either I reject God’s free gift of salvation, and go to Hell, or I accept His free gift, and spend an eternity in Heaven with Him.  I knew I didn’t want to spend eternity in Hell, so what does it mean to accept the gift?  All I, or anybody, has to do is believe.  Believe what?  Believe that I am a sinner, and that Jesus Christ the Son of God died for my sins, and that after three days in the tomb He rose again to conquer death.  That seemed like a pretty abstract thing to believe, but if you believe the Bible, then the evidence is pretty strong.  Now on the other hand, what did I have to lose?  Nothing!  I have everything to gain and nothing to lose, and remember, there is that certain something I could see in those other Christians for which I longed - an inner peace, strength, and a pure joy.  I didn’t understand it, nor was I ever able to get it on my own.  I had spent the first thirty-seven years of my life trying to find inner joy and satisfaction the world’s way but failed.  I heard it said once that if you want different results then you need a different approach.  I was ready finally to do something different.

As I learned more about Jesus and tried to live my life more like Him, I started to gain that joy.  Christine and I married on July 25, 1992 and continued attending Shepherd of the Hills Church.  We joined a small group Bible study and my desire to learn became stronger.  Within five years we became full-time missionaries and went to Bible School, but that is a story for another chapter.