“While the leader was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.”
— John Wesley, May 24, 1738
God calls us to tell our story so that others may come to know Jesus Christ. “Hearts Strangely Warmed” was created to share these stories about transformational encounters with the Living God.
Pastor Jen Ryerson
I grew up in a Christian home with two very loving parents. My heart warms as I think about my childhood days of church potlucks, bake sales, handbell choir, Sunday school, and singing my first church solo. I get tickled with joy when I think about the Sunday mornings I sat in the pew of my grandfather’s churches. I would watch him in awe and wonder as he would preach the Word of God with such authority, with enthusiasm, and deep passion. My grandfather, Rev. Harold J. Knepp, was a mighty man of God. He impacted my life in profound ways. He had a servant’s heart and he showed me how to love. He taught me how to be the hands and feet of Jesus, leading by his own powerful example and witness. In my heart I believe he laid the foundation for my faith, he spoke blessing after blessing into my life.
It was around a campfire at Camp Penn church camp that I was saved. I was thirteen years old that summer I became a Christian. At that moment, around that warm camp fire with tears streaming down my cheeks, I received the Holy Spirit into my life. I remember feeling so alive!
Listen, my faith journey has not always been smooth and exciting. There have been times in my life when I have doubted God’s goodness and His grace. I abandoned the church and I abandoned God for a couple of years as I ventured out on my own and began to study at cosmetology school and even into my early 20s. I was living purely on my own strength and my own terms, never consulting with God during those years. I was having fun. Or so I thought. Looking back I realize, God never left me, not once. God has been constant! He never stopped whispering His promises in my ears. Glory!
The Lord led us to an amazing church and church family in 2002 and that is where my husband and I laid claim to our own personal relationships with Jesus Christ. No longer was I living with the Jesus that my parents and grandparents found for me. I had found Jesus and I began my very own intimate relationship with him.
Fast forward many years. My husband Dan and I have four beautiful and precious children. It was shortly after having our fourth child, just four-and-a-half years ago, that I strongly felt God’s call upon my life. I knew God was up to something. There was this fire, this passion, a stirring deep in my heart and my soul. I wanted so much more of Him and I so desperately wanted what He wanted for my life. I would be lying though, if I didn’t say that when I discerned that this call was a call to a life of pastoral ministry, I fought it. I fought it hard at first, full of so many mixed emotions. The greatest emotion that overcame me was doubt. Doubt in myself and quite honestly, doubting that God would be calling me. Me, the stay-at-home-mom of four. I just didn’t believe that I discerned the call correctly. I had to be wrong. I had a hundred questions and believe me, I feel like I asked God all one hundred of them many times over.
Glory to God! He just kept pursuing me and placing mentors and friends in and out of my life who were affirming my call. When I wanted to give up and when fear took up residence in my heart, there they were. My husband and many people were encouraging me, speaking truth into me, and holding me accountable. I wouldn’t be where I am today without God so lovingly allowing me the privilege of having these people so present in my life. God used these people as His holy vessels and I am eternally grateful.
I am thrilled to share that I am currently serving Longstown UMC in York, Pa., as a licensed local pastor. The Lord continues to mold, grow, challenge, and stretch me beyond my comfort zone. And I love it. I am reminded daily of the truth that His love never fails, it never gives up, and it never runs out. I am very excited to be on this journey. So often I say, “Yes, God, I am ready. Let’s go, let’s do this!”
And in those moments when fear and doubt creep in (because we all know those emotions are real) and I find myself on my knees before the King, I turn to the words of a favorite song titled, “The River”:
Precious Jesus, I am ready
To surrender every care.
Take my hand now, lead me closer,
Lord I need to meet you there!
God meets me there every single time and He is ready to meet you where you are too. Hallelujah!