Romans 10:17 (ESV) states, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” Bonnie Barnett walked through the church doors every Sunday, sat next to her father, listened to the sermon, and walked out unchanged. “I walked out unchanged because the Bible was never presented, and the Gospel was never proclaimed,” recalls Bonnie. However, God used His Word to radically move her from darkness to light in a way she never expected.
The cry of the heart
Bonnie grew up in a wonderful home in upstate New York. She was born into a typical American family. They loved each other, worked hard, and went to church every Sunday. But something was missing—the Word of God. As Isaiah 53:6a (ESV) teaches, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way…” Bonnie was no different. As a young girl, she became heavily involved in the occult. Ironically, it was during this time she realized the reality of the powers of darkness. Tarot cards and séances drove her to desperately seek God’s protection, but she didn’t know how to find Him. Thankfully, God heard the silent cry of her heart.
“I walked out unchanged because the Bible was never presented, and the Gospel was never proclaimed.”
On the outside, Bonnie was a star student, athlete, and leader; but inside, her heart held stubbornness, fear, and pride. When she was 16, she was awarded a scholarship to spend a year in Denmark. As she boarded the airplane in New York, another girl her same age was boarding an airplane in Delaware. Linda had earned the same opportunity Bonnie had and, by God’s great mercy, they were assigned roommates. The first day Bonnie met Linda, she told Bonnie, “You must be born again.” Bonnie watched Linda read her Bible every day and heard her pray and sing songs of praise to her Savior. Linda radiated peace and joy—something Bonnie had never felt.
a life broken
For another five years, Bonnie struggled with understanding the true meaning of life. She looked for that elusive joy and peace anywhere she could. Relationships, substances, and various faiths and beliefs all left her feeling as broken and empty as she had always been. All the while, Linda’s words echoed within her: Jesus is the Son of God, and you must be born again.
Disillusioned by her fruitless searching, she dropped out of college and moved back home. Not long after, she had a terrible fight with her father that led her to leave and try living on her own. She packed all of her belongings into her 1969 Dodge Dart and drove away.
At 21 years old, Bonnie was hopeless and homeless. Eventually, she managed to collect a few small jobs and afford an even smaller room for rent. She started drinking heavily and steadily allowed her life to continue its decline. However, God had not forgotten Bonnie.
Even as she made a mess of her life, God sent others like Linda as messengers of truth. One by one, they watered the seed God had planted in my heart at age 16. On a cold January night in 1978, a blizzard raged, and she hit rock bottom. Utterly rejected and deserted by everyone she had ever loved, she didn’t want to continue living. After all, she tried everything life could offer and was miserably unsatisfied. “That night, I finally cried out to God and begged him for the truth. If Jesus Christ was really the only way to God, He had to show me,” said Bonnie.
A LIFE transformed
When Bonnie drove away from her father’s house in that Dodge Dart, she packed everything she owned—including a small, green Testament. Six years earlier, a faithful Gideon stood on the campus of Binghamton University in New York and handed her older brother that Testament. God used the Gideon to place His Word into her home, then into the trunk of her car, then into her hands on a cold January night.
Alone in that blizzard, Bonnie opened the Testament to the book of Matthew. “For the first time in my life, I understood what I read,” Bonnie remembers. After finishing the Gospel of Matthew, she read through the Gospels of Mark, Luke, and John. The winter storm blew outside her window all night long, but her heart was at peace. She read that God loved her even while she was a sinner. She read that Jesus had paid the price for her sins and offered her forgiveness and eternal life in Him. As tears streamed down her face, she fell to her knees and accepted Jesus as her personal Lord and Savior. Her chains fell off, and she was set free from darkness. The burden she had carried for years disappeared. She had a new life—a life of grace that was greater than all her sin.