My testimony begins in northern New Jersey, where I was born at a very early age. I was an only child, and grew up in my parent’s sandwich shop in the storefront. Many in the town called me “the little boy who grew up in the window”. I learned to entertain myself and became very creative, taking games and toys others threw out and finding ways to play with them anyway. Some of my best friends in those days were the town police officers, who would come into the shop just to talk to me. I grew up in a Christian family, going to a Christian & Missionary Alliance church. I was involved in youth group and went on as many retreat type events as I could. Most of my best friends were at church. In fact one of them, I still keep in touch with.
When I was twelve, I went on a winter youth retreat. It was here that I actually went forward for an altar call to “accept Jesus into my heart.” The main things I remember from that event was the incredible sense of peace and joy I felt. I called it being high on the Holy Spirit. I can’t say that at that point in my life I had a whole lot to repent from, and my lifestyle didn’t change all that much, but I have always considered that to be the point where I started living for God.
That is only the beginning of my testimony, however. The next significant time in my walk with God came in my senior year of high school. After junior year, my family moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan. I was glad to get out of New Jersey, although I miss Italian food made by real Italians. As nice as Grand Rapids, Michigan was and how good it was to go from a public school to a Christian School (especially one filled with tall, blonde, Dutch girls), I went through a lot of difficulties as well. I had to say good-bye to the few friends I had in New Jersey, and thought I had a girlfriend whom I had been writing for a year and a half, waiting for me in Michigan, only to have here break up with me shortly after moving. I had to go to a new school, new church, and try to figure out what I was going to do with my life.
I loved fighter planes and I loved photography. I figured that someone had to take the pictures I had in my room of the fighter planes, so I decided to sign up for the Air Force. I soon was on the delayed enlistment program and was slotted to go to basic training the September after I graduated high school (1991). Around Christmas, however, I got sick and ended up in the hospital. The diagnosis was Crohn’s Disease. This gave me a speedy discharge from the Air Force before I even went to active duty. Now I was 3/4 through my senior year and had no idea what to do after graduation. With all I had been through, I was in darkness. I was not suicidal, but I didn’t care if I lived either. I went to a youth seminar at Grand Rapids Baptist College, and after one of the sessions went off by myself to be with God. I told Him that I didn’t care what He did with my life, just do something with it. The next day the darkness was gone, and the peace and joy was back.
I decided I was going to be a “missionary/pastor” type person and went to that Baptist College I went to for the seminar to pursue a Bible degree. I was there for five years, changed from a Bible major to a Religion major for financial reasons, and picked up a drama minor. I was in choir and musicals, and in my second senior year met Amanda Welch, who was a freshman in the choir. My self confidence with girls at that time was very small, so the fact that we ended up getting married was due more to God’s hand and her perseverance and patience, than my tenacity in pursuing her.(That is an interesting story all its own that I will leave for another place and time.)
By the time I graduated from what became Cornerstone College (now Cornerstone University), I had become disillusioned by church leaders who took advantage of their ability to support themselves financially through their ministries and decided to pursue non pastoral employment and also didn’t see the need to go to seminary at the time. After getting married I spent the next seven years taking whatever jobs I could to pay bills. One such job involved working on a shipping dock at a factory that put chrome on truck parts. These parts were placed in bins and covered with newspaper. One day, as I was carrying one of these bins I read a headline, “Can Jews Really be for Jesus?” I was intrigued. It was about a Messianic congregation in town where Jewish people believed in Jesus, but kept all the Jewish laws and traditions. Still intrigued I visited. After just one visit I felt like my Christian walk had been in a giant mansion and all my life, even through Bible school, I had explored and even only knew one room. Now I saw there were many more rooms to explore, and as I did I saw things in the room I had been in in a different, better light. I was hooked and soon so was Mandy, who grew up in a non-denominational, very conservative, almost charismatic church.
After our second child, Elijah, we saw the need to get out of our two bedroom apartment but didn’t know how. I was also struggling with my job and needed to do something different. This was when thoughts and even dreams of being in the Air Force came back. By the way, three years after my diagnosis with Crohn’s disease I had a colonoscopy which confirmed I did not have the disease. Divine healing? I like to think so. I now had a family and I was almost 30. I couldn’t join now. However, the thoughts wouldn’t go away. I finally came to the conclusion, “What if this was what God wanted me to do. Could I say no? No.” So I talked to Amanda, which surprisingly, after the initial shock, was all for it. Weird. Then everything began to fall into place. It seems after scoring a 90 on the ASVAB just about anything can be wavered in the military, and on March 9, 2004 I left my family for San Antonio, Texas for basic training.
We ended up stationed at Fairchild, AFB in Washington, and most people at Chavurat know the rest of the story. I now am one of the regular Torah teachers, and have four wonderful children. Due to a glitch in documentation, I ended up having the opportunity to get out of the Air Force. With four deployments under my belt, talk of longer deployments, having to work on the Sabbath, and other issues, I took the opportunity to get out while I could.
Now the next chapter of my testimony is being written. I have no idea how it will end up, but it is definitely ministry related. There are so many possibilities, and I am waiting for God’s timing to bring them together. I am learning to live on faith, and just how God is our Provider. Though I seek, no employment has been provided, however I work anyway and God provides. Bills are being paid and food is still on the table.
My greatest testimony is that with God all things are possible, and those who wait upon Adonai will renew their strength. They will mount up with wings as eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not be faint. (Yesha’yahu/Isaiah 40:31)
* * *
That was written almost a year ago. I thought about editing the last two chapters, but I decided to keep it so you can see where I was and where I am now. In September, I got a job working as a background investigator, but that lasted only a month and it was back to unemployment. In October I was ordained as a Messianic Minister and started Kingdom Star Ministries. The focus of this ministry is to teach Torah to all people, whether Jew or Gentile, saved or unsaved. Anyone can benefit from living the way God has designed us to live. We meet in my home and I intend to continue to do so. I think buildings get in the way of outreach. We will eventually outgrow my dining room, and when that happens, I have a plan which may revolutionize how we do “church”, and may become necessary as we get closer to the end times. I have come to believe that the church as we know it is on the verge of the largest split since the Reformation and the separation will be caused by the Holy Spirit leading Believers to Torah observance.
God has continued to take care of our needs and gave me a job in the middle of April (fulfillment of a prophesy to the day, made three months prior) This is a security job which I am well experienced in. I enjoy it, but hope to eventually upgrade my career with a criminal investigator type job that pays considerably more. To facilitate this, I have gone back to school for my second degree. I am attending classes at ITT Tech to pursue a degree in criminal justice. The best part is, the government will be paying for most of it. You gotta love how God works.
On May 30, my second son, fifth child was born. His name is Asher Malachi. He was born with a club foot, which is being fixed at Shriner’s. It will be a long process, so we are praying for speedy healing. This has been a rough year, but has been a testimony to what God can do when we seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness.
Kevin “Oriyan” Phipps (2009)