Since I'm writing this about myself, I figured Iíd start from the beginning, so that you can see the journey Iíve been through in order to get where I am today. It is my hope that through my testimony you will not only be encouraged, but learn a little about who I am as well.
From a very early age, I was introduced to the Lord through daily Bible stories, songs, and prayer with my parents each night before I went to bed. At the age of five, I began attending Abundant Life Worship Center. My parents at that time were helping out with the youth group.
A few months later, the church began holding revival services. So, of course my family went. I took my place in my usual spot with the youth group as the service begun. We sung a few songs and then it was time for the message. When the speaker had finished, I noticed that all the members of the youth group were going forward. Not really knowing why, I decided to follow them. I remember thinking to myself, wait for me, wait for me, as I ran as fast as my little feet could towards the front.
When I had reached the front, I was approached by a counselor who had asked me if I knew why I was there. I told her I really had no idea, but that I was just following after the youth group members. She then began to explain the gospel to me about how everyone on earth is a sinner. She said that sin was anything that we think, say, or do that displeases God. Because of our sin, we were separated from God. But God loved, and each and every person on earth, so much, He decided to send His one and only Son named Jesus to the earth to take away the penalty of sin once and for all by dying on the cross and then rising again.
Because He was perfect, the blood He shed covered the sins of the whole world so that anyone who wanted to have their sins taken away could. When Jesus rose again on the third day, He restored the broken relationship with God and man, so that we could be with Him in heaven when we die. Now, all we had to do, to be forgiven of our sins, and to have a relationship with God, the one who created us, was as easy as ABC.
First, we need to admit to God that we were a sinner and because of our sin, we were separated from Him. Then, we needed to believe with all our heart, that Jesus came to earth, died on the cross and rose again three days later to take away the penalty of my sins so that I could be with Him. Finally, commit our lives to living for and following Jesus.
The whole time she was saying this, all I could think about was how cool it was that God loved me. The God who created the whole world, the God who created me, and everything on earth loved me. He was willing to die, so that I could have a relationship with me and that I could be with Him when I die. He loved me that much. So when she asked me if I wanted to accept Jesus into my heart, I readily and excitedly said yes. From that moment on, my life was changed. For I had a peace and a joy in my heart. I wanted to serve God in everything I did no matter what the cost.
Growing up, I struggled with fitting in and making friends. Being the shortest and skinniest one in my class, I quickly became an easy target. Striving for perfection in all I did, didnít help my cause, as I would literally break down in tears at times when I didnít meet the expectations I set out for myself. Thus, for the next six years I struggled with being picked on, made fun of and even beat up at times. However, despite all the ridicule and the constant verbal abuse I took each day, I knew God loved me, and was with me each step of the way; and I wasnít afraid to share that with my classmates.
Upon graduating from the Herma Simmons Elementary School, I was faced with a choice. A choice to continue to the Clayton Middle School with my classmates or to go to St. Catherineís to start fresh with a new class. Remembering all the traumatic and hurtful experiences from Elementary School, I decided to start over with a new class in hopes of finally fitting in and gaining a sense of belonging.
My hopes were quickly shattered as I found 7th and 8th grade to be the hardest two years of my life. Once again, just as before, I soon became the target of jokes and ridicule. Already struggling with low self-esteem and self worth, I would come home many times in tears questioning why people didnít like me. I fell into a deep depression, coming to the conclusion that I had to have been the most unattractive and worthless person on the face of the earth; For thatís what I was constantly told each day and I just grew to accept it.
I began to question God. Why God, am I being made fun of all the time? Why God do I not fit in? What is wrong with me? Why canít I just be accepted? As I began to question, God began to answer with a few questions of His own. Was it not I, who created the whole world? Was it not I who formed you with my hand in My image? Would I create anything mediocre that had no value or purpose? As I created each day, my creation was good! Then, on the sixth day, my creation of you, wasnít just good, it was VERY GOOD!! Donít you see how much I love you? Donít you see how valuable you are to Me? Donít you see how precious you are in My sight? Why seek approval and acceptance from man, when you already have the approval and acceptance from the God who created them? Seek first My kingdom and My righteousness. Iíll provide all you need. You of all people should know by now that all things work together for good for all those who love Me and who are called to My purpose. Delight in weakness, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, and in difficulties. For when you are weak, I will make you strong. You can do everything through Me, for I will give you strength.
Though encouraged by these words, life still was tough, as I graduated from St. Catherineís and again was forced to yet another decision: Go back to Clayton Public School or to give Christian Schools a try for the High School Years. Figuring that Christian schools were supposed to be just that, Christian, I decided thatís where I would go. Thus, my freshman year of High School, I began attending Gloucester County Christian School.
Ninth grade was rough. As I started my first day, I quickly learned about how cliques work. I soon realized that fitting in once again wasnít going to be easy. Thus, I found myself a loner once again. Once again, I was back in conversation with God, asking the same why questions. And once again He kept encouraging me with the same response as He always shared before. I love you, I created you, and you are precious in my sight. This time however, through this encouragement God said, to show you I am listening, and My heart is breaking along with yours, I will provide you a friend. The very next day, was a day that I will never forget for as long as I live. For it was the day that started a friendship that changed my whole life.
Dustin Hallahan was one of the most popular kids in my class. Attending GCCS since his elementary school years, he had established himself as one of the core leaders of the group. So when he sat down next to me at the lunch table, I did a double take, for usually I sat alone. Over the next few months, our relationship really began to grow and develop. For the first time, someone was accepting me and liking me for me.
Things were getting a little better as I headed into my sophomore year of high school. I began building new friendships and getting involved in more activities at the school. Slowly, I was rebuilding my confidence in myself as I interacted with other members of my class. However, I enjoyed my times the most when I was able to hang out with Dustin, for he always knew how to bring out the best in me. He also challenged me and kept me accountable in my walk with Christ.
Ultimately, Dustin shared with me a love that only a friend could even to this day I am still very grateful for. Though things were going great, no one ever expected or knew how to deal with the sudden blow that would happen next.
In the middle of our sophomore year, Dustin began noticing little bumps on his body. Being active in sports, at first he thought he had just gotten a little banged up and that eventually it would go away. But they didnít. Day by day these lumps were growing bigger and bigger. Dustin knew it was time to face reality and see the doctor. Sadness struck the whole school as Dustinís test results came back revealing that he had cancer.
Dustin began undergoing treatments. Despite the situation, our friendship remained strong. What I found most amazing was how Dustin handled the hardship and difficulty life handed him. For, many times, he provided more love and encouragement than I did. Never once did he complain or question God. He humbly accepted his fate and shared the love of Christ with whomever he met. No matter how sick he became.
As I mentioned in the paragraph before, Dustin loved the Lord, and wasnít afraid to let others know it. His focus in life was to share God word with as many people as he could possibly come in contact with and to encourage and uplift people through prayer and counsel. Despite, the physical pain and torment he was going through as he struggled with cancer, he always went the extra mile to not only be there for his friends in their time of need, but to make sure they knew they were loved and valued.
Now you may be thinking, isnít this supposed to be your bio? Why are you talking about Dustin? Well, the reason is, because Dustin played an integral part in bringing me to where I am today in my life. Let me explain.
In High School both Dustin and I knew we were called by God to enter into ministry; specifically, youth ministry. We had talked on numerous occasions about our callings, our gifts, and abilities God has given us as we were preparing ourselves for whatever God would have us do for Him. Though I had doubts at times, Dustin always encouraged me to be faithful to my calling no matter how hard life got. Even though Dustinís strength grew worse, he never missed an opportunity to share the gospel, no matter where he was or who it was with. I thought to myself, if Dustin could be faithful suffering the effects from cancer, how much more faithful I should be in perfect health. Thus, from that point on my passion and love for Godís word and sharing it with others grew even stronger.
In 1998, I graduated from Gloucester County Christian School and began attending Eastern University. While at Eastern, God had given many opportunities as well as a new found confidence in myself. Looking back, I truly think that my college years were the best years of my life. I found college to be the place where I finally belonged.
My freshman year, I became the station manager of WECR, Easternís radio station. Having a weekly radio show with the hottest and best in Christian music, interviews with big time bands, live ins studio performances and yes, huge contest giveaways, I soon found, ďThe Tim Ewing ShowĒ being one of the highest rated and most popular shows on the air ways. I say all of this not to boast about my accomplishment and success, for it was all Godís working through me, but I mentioned this, because having my radio show is an integral part of my journey to where I am now.
Besides holding a weekly radio show, I was also very active in other campus activities. I played drums in the pep band, violin in the Eastern strings, was in a worship band, and was very active on the Eastern Exiles Ultimate Frisbee team. I also was a member of the big brother team, helping new freshmen get adjusted to college life. So as you can see I stayed busy.
As part of the curriculum for my youth ministry major, I also was required to do two youth ministry internships. My first internship was in my sophomore year, I accepted a position at Gaithersburg Presbyterian Church in Gaithersburg, MD. There I partnered with another youth ministry major from my school to run the Jr. High program for the summer. This was my first real hands on youth ministry experience, I was in charge of creating all the curriculum for the summer, planning all of the events and activities, leading Bible Studies, Bible School, as well as leading worship and other ministerial things like that. This was a great experience for me, for I felt that through this experience, God was confirming my calling of working with youth. Though there were times of struggle, it was a tremendous learning experience for me as I began to learn what it truly means to be a leader and how to run a youth ministry.
In my junior year, I entered into my second internship position. This time I was a little closer to home working at Sicklerville United Methodist Church. As with my experience in Gaithersburg, I again was asked to lead the Jr. High Ministry. Though many things were the same, in terms of responsibility and planning, I was on my own for the first time. I no longer had Dawn or other advisors to fall back on, like I had at GPC. I learned a tremendous amount about leadership and ministry during this time. It was such a blessing to have kids who were not only faithful in attendance to youth group, but were hungry for Godís word and learning how they could grow and mature in their faith.
My senior year, I found out that both the Jr. and Sr. High Youth Leaders were leaving Trinity United Methodist Church in Clayton (my home church) to start a new ministry in Pitman. Growing up in the youth group and being around the kids at the church, I asked if I could take over the youth group until they decided upon a replacement. For, I knew better than anyone what they needed to hear to grow and mature in their faith. When I took over the ministry, I began creating lessons that hit home and challenged them to take their faith to the next level. For the first time in awhile, there was true growth, not just numerically, but spiritually as well.
After the summer was over and the position was offered to someone else, I again was looking for a new job. Remembering back to the days of my radio and how much fun that was, I began applying to local area radio stations. Though things looked promising, God closed that door and told me that was not his will.
I then began trying to find jobs in which I could use my gift for writing. I applied to many Christian magazines all across the globe including some such as CCM, HM, 9 Ball, Youth Leaders Magazine, Group, etc. As I submitted resumes and talked with representatives, the response again was the same. ďWe thank you for your interest in working for our magazine, however at this time there are no current jobs available. If something would come up, we will contact you and let you know.Ē Again, I believe that God was clearly closing the door once again and that was not where He wanted me to be.
As I received each letter with the bad news, I kept going to God saying if not this, then what? Knowing I needed to continue to be faithful and obedient to His will I continued to say, I trust You Lord, I know You are in control, and will provide and show me what I need to do. Little by little, He began working out all the details out revealing and confirming where I need to be.
I continued looking for a job. Back then, I figured Iíd have a youth ministry job and work in somewhere in communications to supplement any extra income I would need. So I accepted a part time one year position at Clonmell United Methodist Church in Gibbstown, NJ. My responsibilities were pretty much the same as before, in terms of leadership, but at Clonmell I was running both the Jr. and Sr. High youth group. At the same time, I had mentioned to a friend of mine that I was looking for a job in communications. I told him if he knew of anything to let me know. Well, a month or two went by and he came back and said that this recording studio named Horizon was looking to hire someone. So, I went in and introduced myself and went through the whole interview process. Well, I got a call back a few days later saying that they werenít going to be able to hire me but if something came up theyíd let me know. Well, to my surprise, about 3 months later, I got a phone call from a guy named Richard Hartline. He told me that something had opened up and that there was a position for me if I wanted it. So, I went through training and began working part time. Remember I was also working at Clonmell too.
Well, one day, a lady named Cindy came into the studio. I knew I recognized her from somewhere but didnít know where. So I said to her, ďI know you from somewhere.Ē She said I looked familiar as well. Well, it was then that I found out that she was Cindy Hartline, the manager from Praz Jam that I had contacted some 3 years before at Eastern. Now you have to remember, I still didnít realize the connection between her and my boss. Then finally it hit me, Cindy Hartline, Rich Hartline. They were married. (Are you beginning to see how this is all coming together yet?).
Anyway, I continued working at the studio and building a relationship with both Rich and Cindy. Well, when my year was up at Clonmell, I began to discuss my situation with the two of them, and thatís when Rich upped my hours and salary so that I could be full time with them.
Believe it or not, when Praz Jam first started their ministry, I was in attendance at their very first concert. Now, I was still in High School at the time. I went to the concert that night because I had nothing better to do that Friday night and it was free. I had no other knowledge of the group prior to that day. As I watched the group perform that night, I was blown away not just by their music, but the message they presented as well. Their love for teenagers and passion for sharing the gospel with them impressed me, and in my heart, God was already working. I kept following Praz Jam, and their ministry. When I was at Eastern and began working at the radio station, God impressed upon my heart to call them up to try to work out an interview and possibly get them to do a concert at Eastern. So, I did some research and called Cindy Hartline, the manager of Praz Jam. Well, despite my efforts to get them to come to Eastern, things did not work out. I was however, invited to be a part of a Praz Jam live broadcast. Though things werenít completely clear, I soon began to see that God wasnít done working yet and had great things later to come.
Well, one day, Cindy had mentioned that she was looking for someone to help out behind the scenes with Praz Jam, taking pictures and journalizing about the happenings of the group. Interested, I said if she needed some extra help Iíd love to help her. Well, one thing led to another and I began interning for her doing webpage write ups and things for the group.
I began my internship and began going to practices, concerts, and other events writing about what I saw. On August 3, Praz Jam had a concert in the Poconoís On the way home, I rode home with Cindy. We talked the whole car ride home, going back and forth sharing stories of our past, about our calling and journey to where we are today. I believe that it was here again God was working and guiding.
A few days later, Cindy shared with me she felt that God was impressing upon her heart to offer me the opportunity to head up the ministry she created called Teens On A Mission for the 2003/2004 year. She said that it was an idea she came up with in 2000 but was waiting for the right person to come into her life before she did anything with it. She said that she felt that I was the one that God was impressing upon her heart to talk to about this ministry. What Cindy didnít know, that I didnít really share with anyone, was that for months, I had been praying to God that He would provide for me a way to do youth ministry without the legalism of church politics. A way to do everything I was called to do, to use all my gifts to teach those students who really want to learn and grow. So when Cindy told me about this opportunity, my heart raced, for it was confirmation that God was listening and that this was all His working.
As I began writing the curriculum for this new ministry, God also began giving me song ideas and melodies. As I received these divine revelations, I began being obedient, sitting down and writing them down. I would find that many times within 5-10 minutes the songs would be written and finalized. Thatís how I know they were directly from God.
As I began practicing and writing these songs, I felt that God was burdening my heart to use these to impact the lives of children and young adults. For, as God was molding me and breaking me, he impressed upon my heart the passion to bring back the love for scripture and the memorization of scripture passage.
Working with youth for as long as I have, I found in my teaching that the average student knows about 2-4 scriptures from memory. Of those, many know the universal ones that even an unbeliever knows. With that knowledge, I knew that something had to be done. Thatís when I began to ask God what exactly His purpose and plans were for these songs. Slowly, he began giving me stories and other ideas that I began using to create a program that was not only fun and exciting, but that truly taught the word of God and the plan of salvation.
If you were to ask me a few years ago if I would have ever foreseen myself doing this in the future, I would have said your crazy. However, the more I grow closer to God, the more I am trusting Him and letting Him use me for what He wants me to do. Though I will never be perfect, it is my hope that through the live I live and the things I do, all would see Christ in me and come to know Him personally.
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