A Living Testimony
by Neilja Harewood
How I Came to Know
My name is Neilja (pronounced
'neel-ya'). Forty seven years ago, I was supposed to be named Neil, after my dad.
Fortunately, I had a very creative mother who came up with a pretty good alternative to
having her only daughter go through life with a boys name. I'll tell you more about this
'virtuous' woman a little further on.
Now, I am the mother of two wonderful sons and the grandmother of a beautiful three year
old boy, all of whom bring great joy to my life. Our family was blessed with a little girl
in June 1998. She is the first child of my only brother, who is quite a bit younger than I
(our parents virtually had two only children). At this point in time, there are four
generations in my family....all healthy, happy and at varying stages in our walk with
As a child, I attended a Methodist Church with my parents and, occasionally, I went to
Mass with my cousins, since going to church on Sunday was what we were supposed to do.
Like many kids, I frequently fell asleep during Methodist service and Mass was in Latin in
those days, so to me sleeping was quite appropriate (particularly since I had no idea what
the priest was talking about). In my teen and young adult years, I knew I was heaven
bound. I believed in God; his son's name was Jesus; he died and he rose (else there was no
reason for Easter)...I believed it all. Furthermore, I was a nice person. I helped others,
if I could. I didn't drink (never liked liquor and wine smelled like sour grapes). I only
lied when it was absolutely necessary. And I smoked that "funny stuff" now and
then. So, there was no reason for me to give hell a second thought, I wasn't going there.
My seat on His right was already reserved...or, so I felt.
By the time my mother accepted Christ as her Lord and Savior, I was grown, had my sons and
was already divorced from their father. I still believed in God and, of course, still felt
I held an open reservation to heaven.
Though they lived in Philadelphia and I in Brooklyn, I spent a considerable amount of time
with my parents. Mom and I would somehow start talking about 'religion'. The more she grew
in the Word, the more the change in her became apparent and the more curious I became. At
the time, I didn't even realize it was becoming more and more interesting. Unlike so many
other 'sanctified' people, Mom never preached. Instead, she shared stories about the life
and death of Christ and answered the multitude of questions I threw at her. She never
judged nor condemned me and at no time did she ever tell me I was going to hell. Our
relationship did not change in one iota. I knew she loved me as much as she always had.
What I didn't know was that my mother was standing firm on God's promise to save her
household, as stated in Acts 16:31. So, as far as she was concerned it was just a matter
of time before I, too, would hear the knock and open the door to my Lord and Savior. I
need not say that this woman, whom I have worshipped and adored my entire life, was once
In June 1979 the boys and I moved to Los Angeles, leaving my parents and life long friends
on the East Coast. That August, Mom sent me a new bible wherein she wrote "Thy word
have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against thee (Psalms 119:11)". Her
message continued, "Neilja, may the above verse be yours. God bless you. Love,
Mom". Every now and then I picked up the bible and read random verses. Whenever I had
a question or couldn't make sense of what I read, I called home because Mom throughout my
entire life always had the answer. By now, she had been saved for many, many years and I
was convinced, by all that I had seen in and around her, that she had a 'hot line'
straight to God.
In one of our telephone conversations about salvation, she pointed out that I may have to
account for the sins of my children since I hadn't given them the basic foundation
necessary to make a decision as to whether they would ultimately follow Christ or satan.
Obviously, I had not taken that 'ultimate' step but felt that if Mom was right, as always,
I had enough sins of my own to account for and I didn't want the burden of their sins as
well. So, in the summer of 1981 I decided to attend the church of a friend. I had no idea
it was a Church of God in Christ. "Holy rollers" as I had always called them.
Their way of worship was totally foreign to me...far away from my childhood memories of a
reserved Methodist Church and the Masses in a language I couldn't understand. However,
once the 'hoopla' ended and the pastor picked up the mic, his sermon addressed issues that
were very present in my life...the only thing he didn't do was call me by name. I stayed
to hear what was being said. A few weeks later, I went back and a few weeks after that.
Each time I returned, I looked forward to my next visit.
On November 9, 1981 I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior...I finally dedicated my
life to serving God. In the beginning, it wasn't easy. Actually in all honesty, it was
pretty darn tough. I was attacked from every direction possible. I had never had so many
problems before in my life and wasn't sure God was worth all the aggravation. Had it not
been for that great woman who brought me into the world and the hedge God placed around
me, I would have thrown in the towel...life seemed so much easier before. That was
seventeen years ago and I have been a 'holy roller' since that day. Naturally, the attacks
still come but now, I have my own personal 'hot line'.
Dad went home a few years ago but Mom's still here....68 years young and standing even
more firmly on the Word of God. Except for the two little ones, her entire household has
dedicated their lives to Christ...her children and her grandchildren. I cannot count the
times nor will I prolong this page with the many testimonies I can share reaffirming the
greatness of the Lord I serve.
To those of you who feel I'm just another stupid, brainwashed Christian and that there is
no heaven or hell, I understand exactly how you feel. I, too, once felt that we were all
in control of our own destiny. And, to some extent, you are correct. We have been given
the freedom to choose what we believe. It will never make sense, unless you have a
personal relationship with Him. I 'knew' I had a good life before. However, I can assure
you that today it's even better....it's everlasting. It's wonderful to know that my name
has finally been written in the Lamb's Book of Life. Now, I'm truly heaven bound and I
hope to see you there one day!
Be sure to visit Neilja's site: One Way Home - Entrance
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