Why does a once-believing child leave God’s kingdom? The question arises, “What happened?” The child becomes helpless and trapped by this world. Believing
parents experience great sorrow and helplessness when one of their own denies faith and becomes a prodigal child. Varied emotions and sleepless nights follow which drain one’s energy and the joy of believing. Bitterness must be fought away. Then when the Father calls the prodigal one again into His kingdom there is rejoicing in heaven and on earth. What seemed impossible was possible with God.
In this first of a series, LaVon and Jason Thomas relate of their time in unbelief and for LaVon, of her return to childhood faith. Their daughter Aaliyah gives a child’s perspective. The series will continue in Voice of Zion issues through 2018.
“My Life Now Has Hope”
LaVon and Jason Thomas were given the grace of repentance on Labor Day, 2014. LaVon returned to God’s kingdom after thirteen years in unbelief. She grew up in a believing home and enjoyed congregation life. She attended Sunday school, Bible class, many camps, and often traveled to Summer Services. She had Christian friends and was confirmed in living faith. Why do once believing children leave God’s kingdom?
“Unforgiven sin led me from faith,” LaVon verifies. “I was tempted to wear make-up and hang out and party with unbelieving friends. At first, it was curiosity
which then led to a very guilty conscience, and finally I felt too ashamed to want to go back to church.”
LaVon says that living in unbelief was a very “black part” of her life. “At first, I felt as if I could trust people the way I trusted a brother or sister in faith, but I soon found out how cruel and unforgiving the world is. I remember continually chasing after happiness, but nothing is true or pure happiness in the world.”
Satan continued to tempt with different things. “There is always anger and resentment, even after trying to forgive each other by saying, ‘Sorry, I won’t do that again,’” LaVon recalls. “I remember the feeling of trying to put matters aside, but if something happened again it all came back. Human forgiveness never really took away any pain because it wasn’t washed away with the blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
Of her journey back to God’s kingdom, LaVon shares, “I recall praying to God for years and pleading with Him to help change our life. I knew if we continued in the direction we were going our family would fall apart or worse.” In prayer to God for change, “I never knew His answer would be to become a believer again.” On their way back to Minnesota from LaVon’s sister’s wedding at Hasscib Lake Camp, her husband Jason told her that there was an unusual presence at the wedding, like a peaceful glow. LaVon says she told him, “Oh, that was probably the Holy Spirit.”
After they got home, LaVon says that Jason felt exhausted. He said later that he had wondered, “How can I ever ask God for forgiveness and He would accept me?” He knew that God’s kingdom was near, and he wanted to belong to it, yet he doubted that God would allow him to enter. He was troubled.
In the morning, still troubled, Jason told LaVon, “I think my conscience has been pricked. I need to talk to your father.” LaVon says that her heart was still worldly, and she said to him, “What did you do now? It’s okay, just tell me and we will get over this.”
Jason wasn’t consoled and insisted that he needed to talk to her father. “We can repent together,” he had said. LaVon told him, “It doesn’t work that way, God must give it back to me too!” Jason then called LaVon’s father, and a miracle happened; he repented. LaVon says she listened and watched Jason as the gospel was preached to him. He began to cry and tremble with joy. “The scales of sin were lifted from my eyes, too,” she says. “I knew I wanted that same joy that only a believer can experience.”
LaVon recalls how hard it was to go to services again. Satan tempted her immediately. “I doubted that I would be welcomed because of all the sin I had done through the years. However, our experience was good. We met people that we never knew before and they greeted us. They cried tears of joy for us, rejoicing in God’s call into faith.”
“My life has changed dramatically since repentance from unbelief. Now when I have my sins forgiven I feel whole and at peace again. I have a joy that only comes from having my sins washed away. My life in unbelief was that of chaos and destruction. My life now has the hope of everlasting peace,” she concludes.
Jason’s Journey—From Conflict to Peace
Jason’s parents were divorced when he was three, and at about age nine he alternatively lived with his mother or father. “I was a troubled youth. My mom moved around a lot and I changed schools so I always had to make new friends. It wasn’t easy,” he laments.
“As a child, I was brought to church and rooted in a basic belief and trust in God,” he says. “Yet in my unbelief I had a lot of darkness and anger toward myself, and I questioned—Am I truly doing what God wants me to do?”
The most difficult thing for Jason to accept once he repented was that his parents and extended family might never enter the family of God. “We must never give up hope for those family members who have once believed, or maybe never believed,” he says.
Since repenting Jason has found the journey to be both hard and easy at the same time. “The way is narrow, but if you keep your faith and trust in God and do what is pleasing in His sight, you will enter into eternal peace and joy,” he reflects.
In unbelief Jason had committed a drug crime. He wanted to correct that matter too, and returned to his home state of Florida. There he was sentenced to a long jail term. It was unexpected, as he thought there would be some leniency since he voluntarily surrendered and now had a family. God helped, and after only two months he was released. During his time in jail, believing pastor Russell Roiko and his wife Sinikka visited and preached the gospel to him. It also meant a lot to him that his friends Todd Lampi, Joe Matthews, and Drew McEleney traveled nearly 1600 miles from Michigan to visit and comfort him.
“Every Day I Get My Sins Forgiven”
Aaliyah Thomas is LaVon and Jason’s oldest child. She was nine years old when her parents repented. She says that before her parents repented, “I thought life was okay, but really it wasn’t. There wasn’t any peace in our home. Instead there were fighting and loud arguments. Worldliness was our way of life. Makeup, movies, TV, and many other things were permissible.”
She recalls that her nana and papa (grandma and grandpa) took her to church every Sunday morning, but “it was really hard to make friends.” Now that her parents are believers, “it’s easier to make friends, and there is no longer fighting. Homework is easier to do because we no longer have a TV.”
Aaliyah has been able to make Christian friends, some of which she mentions by name: Kylie Keranen, Annea Kesti, Mariah Landa, Sophia Wikman, and Paige Fuller. She says she plays with a neighborhood friend, Mckayla.
Aaliyah was asked what she likes most about being a believer. “Every day I get my sins forgiven, and I’m not afraid to go to church. I’m happy that my parents, friends, and God are always there for me.”
October 2017 Voice of Zion
- New Voice of Zion Feature: The Father’s Call
- Luther Experienced Loss of Loved Ones
- Column: God Hears Our Prayer
- Commentary: Work is a Gift, or Is It?
- Put Sin Away
- Introduction to The Small Catechism
- Times of Visitation
- Mikael Agricola, Finnish Reformer
- Editorial: Man, in the Place of God
- Faith Is God’s Gift