Faith Was Not Enough
Written by Teondra Lyles   

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. ~Hebrews 11:1


I can recall going to camp meeting this past summer in Kansas City and being very excited about the children's program that Mrs. Judith Mason, Central States Superintendent, had prepared. She asked both me and my twin brother,

Terrance Gibson, to work on her team. My nephew, Jonathan, and my daughter, Sydney, rode with us from St. Louis and were eager to see old friends and make new ones. The children enjoyed singing, learning about a healthy diet, and the benefits of knowing Christ during their time at camp meeting.

The Sabbath afternoon program included a talk by Dr. Elissa Kido concerning the benefits of Christian education. As I sat there, I was overwhelmed with the burden to stand up when asked, “Does anyone have any questions?” I was nervous because only a few of the participants responded to the question. In the back of my mind I recalled Sydney saying in the past how she had desired to go to a Christian school and that thought, along with the Holy Spirit, compelled me to finally stand up. My stomach fluttered, but God kept me standing long enough to inquire about test scores for students in the Adventist schools. Upon completion of the program, I spoke with a friend, Julia Butler, and Mrs. Mason, concerning my desires. These two women spoke words of life, but I realized my faith in making this decision would not be enough.

I was facing two life-changing decisions: how I would place Sydney in the same institution that my siblings once attended, and the second being my need to walk away from playing the piano for over 20 years at a Sunday church. The first situation required an added expenditure, and the second involved an elimination of existing resources. However, I knew it would be a blessing of rest and balance to my family, and most importantly, all for the glory of God.

My mind ached daily over these two decisions. I had never faced two critical decisions of this nature at one time. Faith required me to hope for something that was not seen. What I could not see were the funds required to put Sydney in this educational environment and keep her there. Faith also required me to leave a job for His glory, not mine. My faith drove me to tell the pastor of Southern Missionary Baptist Church that I could no longer continue as the church pianist. As tears streamed down my face, I proclaimed, “God will provide.”

While I had been taught that God would provide, I did not feel it. I spoke those words in confidence, but inside, I was scared. The members and the pastor asked me to stay and the more they asked, the more painful my decision became. I felt my season of service had come to a close. I witnessed members who visited this church for special programs and I was able to use my gift for Jesus. During my time at the church, I earned $600.00 a month from playing the piano. Eight weeks after I resigned my position I still had no means for replacing the funds. Nevertheless, I knew how critical it would be for me to show that I had faith, regardless of my feelings of nervousness. Faith will cause you to move.

I called Mr. And Mrs. Andersen who always embraced us with their smile when we attended Hillcrest. My two brothers, Terrance and Chauncy, sang in a quartet with their son, Devin, and his friend, David. I told Mr. Andersen of my desire for Sydney to attend Hillcrest and my need for assistance. Through God’s amazing grace, a door was opened that provided support from Dr. Kido and the school. Mr. Andersen told me he interceded on my behalf and the sun began to shine more brightly. In spite of all these efforts, I still did not have enough money, and realized even that the doorway of my faith was not wide enough.

Jesus was beckoning to me. “Teondra,” He said, “walk through the door.”

Sydney had been a student in the Francis Howell School District for eight years and the year was already in session. I experienced a heightened sense of conflict regarding my conviction to take her out of familiar territory and place her in a Christian school. Others close to me did not share my same values due to the unfamiliarity of a school of this nature. Francis Howell holds the reputation for being one of the best school districts in Missouri and to some it appeared that we were going in the opposite direction. Daily, I suffered emotional distress. I confided in others who understood my dilemma but I still suffered from anxiety. It was as if my daughter and I had been placed into a furnace and the flames were being stoked hotter and hotter.

Unable to withstand the pressure, I broke down and sought the counsel of Elder Mark King at Lighthouse SDA Church. He said, “You’ve got to trust that Sydney can recognize the voice of Jesus for herself, Sister Lyles. Explain to her that you trust her to make the right choice and that you believe in her. Explain the dangers of not following the voice of Christ.” Those words echoed in my brain until peace came over me.

I took Sydney to registration and told her not to worry about making a decision that day. I expressed my love for her and that it no longer mattered to me what school she attended for I knew the Lord would use her to shine for Him wherever she attended school.

After we had completed the registration process, Sydney and I drove home in silence. I turned to look at her and saw tears welling up in her eyes.

“Why are you crying, Sydney?” I asked.

“Mom, the little girl in the school asked me if I was going to ride with her to school.”

Unbeknownst to her, the little girl was the principal’s daughter. The principal had offered to take Sydney to school every day if we could meet her by 6:45 a.m.

“Sydney,” I said, “If you think the Lord wants you to go to this school then help Mom turn the wheel around and we will go back.”

Faith was not enough, even for Sydney. She had to help me turn the wheel around to go back. Sydney’s faith and love for Christ are what have compelled her to stay in Hillcrest during this school year.

“What is keeping you here, Sydney?” I’ve asked at times.

“Jesus is the only reason I’m staying, Mom.”

Sydney knew her friends from her other school for more than seven years and she misses them. She still experiences conflict with some family members because of her decision to attend Hillcrest. In the face of spirit-dampening experiences, she has demonstrated a spirit of courage which I have rarely witnessed in any other teen.

During a recent parent/teacher conference, her principal, Mrs. Melissa Morris, offered words of encouragement and support.

“Sydney,” she said, “you have become a leader and inspirational tool to our school.”

Hillcrest has been a big transition for Sydney, but she realizes that what she needs this year is more important than what she wants. Faith was not enough. Telling Sydney that I trusted her to make the right decision moved the heart of God, which pierced Sydney’s heart in return.

Personally, God blessed me with the opportunity to be a part of the after- school care team. This was important for me because I love playing basketball, but I was unable to maintain our YMCA membership. However, what I thought was a volunteer position and a chance to play basketball in the school’s gym, turned out to be a financial blessing, as well. Our tuition was reduced by $100.00 and for this I give God the glory.

Is it a challenge? Of, course it is, but I am able to move forward by using my God-inspired gifts. I expect God, together with my faith and hard work, to open doors that will enable me to pay my financial obligation early and perhaps bless another child.

I will never forget my daughter telling me in January 2014, “Mom, if God doesn’t give you a job in your area with your degree then it means you need to go back to college.”

Sydney’s confidence inspired me to return to college. I originally graduated from the University of Missouri in St. Louis in 2004 and March 2015 will mark my one-year anniversary since returning to graduate school. My faith was not enough, but with the help of the Holy Spirit, I was able to move and walk in the destiny that God had always planned. Through persistence, a spirit of resilience, a praying mother, a father who believed in my passion, two wonderfully strong daughters, loving siblings, a devoted church family and supportive friends I have been able to achieve a straight A average. All of this is for HIS glory!

I extend my thanks to the Hillcrest staff and families, the Andersens, Dr.Kido, Mrs. Morris and Ms. Kiernan who have been a tremendous support system.

Faith + the Holy Spirit = ACTION!!




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