At The Gate, we know that everyone has a story. We also know that God can change lives in powerful and dramatic ways – but first, He must get our attention. For some of us, He does this with a gentle tap on the shoulder. For others, He must knock us over the head.

Whatever it takes, God pursues us throughout our lifetimes. When He captures our hearts, everything changes. Here, we share some of our life-changing stories with you. ( check back periodically for new testimonials )


When I was 15 my Dad was killed by a drunk driver. I hated the man who did it and I hated God too. I was not a follower of Jesus at the time and I was very angry. I did not even think that God existed and if He did, then I wanted nothing to do with him.

Even though I was angry and rejected Him, over the years He found ways to cause me to seek after Him. When I finally believed, my anger at God dissipated. God forgave me of all my sins and even of my anger towards God!

A few years later God told me that I needed to forgive the man who killed my Dad. I did not think that was possible, but God softened my heart. I wrote the man to let him know that I had forgiven him and that I hoped he had forgiven himself too. I told him about how I was a Christian now and that I hoped he also knew Jesus. I explained that I now have peace with what happened even though I miss my Dad greatly.

I never heard back from him, but I trust that I did what God wanted me to do and the Peace He has given me is Wonderful!!! – Leslie Hiatt Sample

Published 01/01/17


God not only gave me life, he also saved it and then restored it.

In the 1970s, any girl who had been sexually abused was believed to have “asked for it.” Therefore, most of us kept quiet.

For me, the silence ate away my self-confidence. I began to think I was ugly, so I’d hide my body in a coat – even when it was hot outdoors. I felt I deserved punishment, so I’d take sharp scissors to carve lines in my flesh, and then sew them up with a needle and thread. I thought I was a bad person, so I dropped out of all school activities. I spent hours alone in my room.

I began to believe my family and friends would be better off without me.

When my actions landed me in the hospital at age 15, my parents were instructed to take all sharp objects and medicines out of the house. I began to see a psychologist, and continued until I left for college. That helped quite a bit, but deep feelings of shame and insecurity persisted.

After college, I derived my feelings of self-worth through my job, so I’d work 10, 12 or more hours a day – frequently followed to a trip to a bar.

Late one night as I drove toward my favorite bar, my car seemed to be on autopilot: I found myself in the parking lot behind a church. A stairwell led to a single door on the second floor. I walked up those steps and turned the knob – the door was open!

Immediately inside was a tiny chapel. Light from a street lamp shone through the stained-glass windows just enough that I could see a small brass cross on the altar.

I sat in a pew and began to sob – you know, the kind of sob where your entire body convulses with a lifetime of emotions. Suddenly, I saw light radiating from that cross and I heard a deep voice whisper just four words: “It’s okay. Start over.”

At that instant, an indescribable calm came over me. I knew I’d just encountered God, and that my life had just been profoundly and forever changed. I stopped working long hours. I never again went to a bar by myself. For the first time in my life, I began going to church and studying God’s word.

I have learned that God loves me, exactly as I am. He forgives me so easily — all I have to do is ask. He fills me with everything I need. I am so thankful that I don’t have to “do life” without Him.–BJ

Published 01/01/17


I was raised going to church as a young child until around the age of 10 or 11. Then my family stopped going to church regularly and then eventually stopped going at all. Which at the time, I didn’t care because I didn’t like going to church. I thought it was boring and some of the people were weird, also a big part of my extended family was believers in Jesus. So I can say I was exposed to the gospel growing up but I can say that I never felt that Jesus was in control of my life.

I felt that I was a good kid growing up. I obeyed rules and my parents (mostly) and tried to do things the right way with the occasional screw up. I did this because I had a strong internal sense of doing the right thing and trying to be a good person. Mostly I did this because I worried of what people thought of me. During this period I didn’t really think about God and what he was doing in my life.

When I was in my early 20’s a traumatic event happened in my family that had me questioning whether or not God existed. This event changed my path in life. It also changed me internally for the worse. This event happened right before I was going to go away to school. And after I went away to school I became very depressed. I felt all alone. I was away from my family and friends. I had nobody to turn to. Needless to say I didn’t last at school too long and moved back home. I felt that I had failed and didn’t know what to do with my life.

A few months went by and I thought I had everything figured out. I was okay with being alone. I was just going to do what I wanted and party and do things that I probably shouldn’t. It wasn’t maybe two weeks after I had made this decision that I met somebody. This somebody changed my life. She was my future wife. It was the first time in my adult life that I felt a higher power had done something to change my life for the good.

Sometime after 9/11 some family had been talking to me into accepting Jesus as my Lord and savior. After some thought I realized that I needed to ask Jesus to come into my heart and forgive me for my sins. After I had done this I tried to change a few things but I didn’t really try to walk with him. My wife and I went to church some before we got married but didn’t keep it up and basically didn’t go. I never had really lived the life of a Christian.

Then after several years of marriage my wife and I had our child. This was a big “wakeup” event. I realized at that moment my responsibility to my family and I was supposed to be the spiritual leader of our family. We started going to this church even before it was a church and I started to grow spiritually. I started reading the bible and learning how to live a Christian life. I have seen my life change in many ways. I now see the sin in my life and try to turn from it. Looking back I realize how God has worked with me throughout my life. He planted the seed of knowing Him when I was a child. He took care of my safety going through my teen years. He brought me back home to meet my wife when I felt alone. He gave me a child to show me the way to live a better life, to live a life for Him. He has been on my life’s path since the He gave me life. He gave me the gift of realizing that He has been working on me and has always been with me my entire life. And I am forever grateful.  – Mike Sample

Published 01/01/17


I remember many years ago, prior to being married, I had many people ask me if I was related to any Dr’s in Pella because my maiden name was VanMaanen. I would chuckle and say, “I wish!” That could not have been further from my upbringing. I was raised in Clinton, Iowa and was the middle of three girls. My parents were married very young and very dysfunctional
relationship. My dad was a binge drinker, adulterer and was both physically and mentally
abusive to my mom.

It was a Friday night ritual for my dad to come home drunk after work, after withering half his paycheck away at the local bar. That was WHEN, he was working. A lot of the time, he was out of work due to being fired for his attitude and violent temper at work or he just quit. On those Friday nights, my mom would be angry as we barely had enough money to survive as it was and my dad would throw money away on drinking. She would question him about the missing money and he would explode into a violent rage.

I watched my father choke my mom, try to break her arm, threaten to kill her, punch holes in the wall and kick in doors. I awoke one night to my mom, hiding between my bed and the wall, telling me to be quiet and not tell my dad she was in there. I could hear him coming and as I shook with fear, he flew open my bedroom door looking for her. When he didn’t see her, he turned around and left. My mom had to hide out in the freezing snow for over an hour one night or my dad to pass out. My father never laid a hand on my sisters or myself, but the damage to our hearts, souls and minds had been done.

I knew of God. I had wonderful life saving grandparents. Grandma and Poppy, my mom’s parents, were everything to me growing up. They showed me an entirely different way of life. I loved being with them. They made me feel loved, safe, secure and special. I wanted to be with them as much as possible. They took us on trips. They bought nearly all of our clothing. No one would ever have known I came from a home where my mom had fears she would not be able to buy a bar of soap to keep us clean. Grandma and Poppy were the greatest encouragers I have ever known. They made me believe I could do anything I put my mind. I went to church with Grandma often. She was a die hard catholic, so that was the only exposure I had. I recall longing to know God and feeling a peace when I went to church with Grandma. I felt God was real and I could feel Him gently calling me. I always had great convictions of right from wrong and had a fear of being in trouble or doing something wrong.

My convictions followed me to college and I was a minority as I did not enjoy the party scene, drinking and social flirting. I met a girl my junior year of college that introduced me to her non-denominational church. I loved it. I felt a presence of God there as well. My heart began searching for Him as He continued to call my name. During college, through God’s hands, I met a wonderful Christian family I began nannying for. I became very close with them and they often shared the gospel with me without cramming it down my throat. I was very open to listening and found such as peace in their presence. I saw what a healthy family looks like and my heart longed for nothing more.

Pushing forward to 2000, I married Garrick after dating off and on for six long years. Garrick and I became very active in the Catholic church, ushering, greeting, counting money and teaching CCD classes. We both had a desire for God and to serve God, but had no idea what God had in store for us.

In 2003, when Camden, our first born was 9 months old, some wonderful friends Garrick had met through a construction project introduced him to the gospel and together with them, we held hands in our family room and accepted Christ into our hearts. That was the day of our salvation and the day God began changing our lives forever.

From that point on, Jesus became our foundation and purpose. Though we still had our battles with sin and finding our way, our hearts were sold out to the Lord. We attended the same church for three years, until God called us to another church. We served in that church and stayed there for several years as well, but as time progressed we both felt God was leading us mln to something greater. Garrick had developed a massive passion for reading and studying the Bible and had a desire to teach and preach to others. Through a series of God ordained events, we began having Sunday morning church in our family room with the Sample family. Not one of us knew at the time what God had planned. This little home church eventually evolved into The Gate Community Church of Albia.

Garrick began preaching and teaching and we outgrew our home and found a home for our church on the Albia square. Our church was very different as we did not feel God calling us to be the American church. We sit around tables and practice family integrated worship. We have a very close fellowship and dedicate ourselves to living out God’s word with the strength and ability God gives us.

Due to my upbringing, I spent a great majority of my life feeling anxiety, fear, worry and dread. I struggled with believing in the good in the world and definitely wrestled with feeling God’s unconditional love and provision. Aside from my Poppy, I never learned to trust men and was deeply wounded by the fact that the man that was made to protect me, spent most of my childhood inflicting pain in my life. I had no real foundation. When things fell apart, so did I. I had no reason to believe that they would get any better and I consistently feared the worse and expected it as well. My mind jumped to catastrophic thinking and I put all of my trust in people and earthly things.

This has been the most amazing part of my journey with God. I have fought it along the way, don’t get me wrong, but I have a peace in my life that I would have never known without God’s presence. He is my Provider, my Protector and my Peace. He will always take care of me. It may not always be the way I would desire, but He will never leave me or let me fall. I trust that even through the pain and heartache of life, He has a plan and a purpose and He is using me to accomplish it.

I cannot imagine what my life would be like today, had God not called my name and I ran to Him. I once was lost…… but now I’m found. I was blind…. But now… I see. – Missy O’Brien

Published 01/01/07

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