I’ve tried to pick some things out of this long life of mine that I thought might be a help and blessing to someone.
The first seven years of my life was spent on a farm in Carrier, Oklahoma. My first remembrance of thinking seriously about death was when I was six years old. My eight year old sister Norma Lee died of Polio. We were not a Christian family. There is nothing more sad than to put a loved one in the cold, cold ground when you have no hope. It was in that condition that my parents sold our farm and we moved west, ending up in California.
It was there in the Bible Church that we heard the gospel for the first time. I’ve heard my mother say many times that although we faithfully attended the Congregational Church, we had never heard the gospel (That Christ died for our sins, was buried, and rose again, and by receiving Him one could be saved) until we came to Buena Park.
I was the first one saved in my family. My dear friend Janet Perry took me to Daily Vacation Bible School and on the tenth day, with her great encouragement for I was so scared, I went forward at the age of eight and I knelt with my Pastor and several others and prayed the sinners prayer and was saved.
They must have done a good job teaching us, for I always knew I was saved. I never doubted my salvation. In grammar school I witnessed some, read my Bible daily, and went to Sunday School.
Early on I became involved in sports. When I was in the fourth grade Jerry and I were in the same classroom, a combination class. He was in the fifth I was in the fourth. One day the older girls of our school came and asked me if I would play in a baseball game. They wanted to have a game and they needed one more player. I said, “I never played before.” They said, “That’s alright we’ll teach you.” When it came time to bat they gathered round and told me how to stand and hold the bat. Then they said, “Now, when she throws it keep your eye on the ball and swing with all of your might.” I did just as they said- I kept my eye on the ball and I swung with all of my might- and that ball went sailing out into the field. And I was hooked, I loved it! From then on I loved any game that had a ball in it: Baseball, basketball, volleyball, hockey, tennis.
I loved it all! Sports can be your God.
The girl’s baseball team in Buena Park, The Buena Park Lynx, was world champions. It was a big thing in our small town. Everybody went to their games. I loved to go. When I was a freshman I had a chance to try out for the junior Lynx team. That was the way you got to be a Lynx. One day I told my mother, “Would you tell Daddy I’m going to try out for the Lynx?” He worked nights and I wouldn’t be seeing him. “Tell him if I make the Lynx, I’ll get to travel all over the world, and they’ll pay me for playing ball.” She said, “Alright, I’ll tell him.” The next morning I asked her, “Did you tell daddy?” She said “Yes.” I said, “What did he say?” She said, “He said, over his dead body!” I knew that was the end of my Lynx career, but it was not the end of my love for sports.
As I grew older I grew away from God - Sports was my God. I got involved with pleasure that I knew grieved my Lord: The dance at high school, going to the picture show. One night as we were leaving the show I saw a friend of mine. Way across the lobby she yelled at me- clear across the lobby! “Wanda what are you doing here? I thought you were a Christian!” I was so crushed, so miserable. I knew she was right. I went home and cried myself to sleep.
The older I grew, the more unhappy and miserable I became. I was a Christian trying to ride the fence, and it can’t be done. I can never tell you the miserable state I was in.
One Sunday morning my brother and I walked to Sunday School. Out front set an old ‘29 Chrysler. I asked my friend, Thelma McDowell, “Whose car is that?” She said, “Oh, haven’t you heard? Jerry Osborne got saved at Corona. That’s his car, he’s going to be baptized.” We were all so glad about Jerry. Everybody knew what kind of parents he had; but his coming into the church made my life even more miserable.
He went to prayer meeting; I had never in my life gone to prayer meeting. On Saturday when we would go to the drug store to get a funny paper and ice cream, he would be on the street handing out tracts; I had never handed out a track! In high school he handed out tracts everywhere he went. I would see him give them to the big football players; they would take them, laugh, and tear them up and throw them to the wind. When I came to high school I idolized these football players; they were the big men on the campus. But when I saw them doing this, they shrank in my eyes down to the size of an animal cracker!
There are no words to explain my misery. My pastor would try to get me involved in child evangelism; I had no time- I was busy, sports was my God and worldly pleasure had a strong grip on me.
I want to explain. There was no reason for me to be so miserable. I had the best parents in all the world. They had bought a lovely home in Buena Park; I had my own room. My older brother had come home safely from the war. My younger brother and I had great times. Having grown up in Buena Park, I had many good friends. I loved my church and my pastor; but I was miserable for I was a Christian, yet I was not surrendered to God. I could use the family car whenever I wanted. Sometimes when I would take my friends home to Fullerton Hills, I thought about running the car off the cliff and end my miserable life. Oh how awful to be saved and un-surrendered!
It all commenced to change one day when I was a junior in high school. I came home from school and my mother was at the sink peeling potatoes, crying. I said, “What’s the matter?” She told me our pastor had fallen off the roof of the church, and was not expected to live. The men of the church were installing chimes; and they called him to come up and look at something. He was in his suit on his way to make a hospital call. He was in a hurry and did not set the ladder firmly. As he got to the roof the ladder slipped and he fell and hit his head on the cement. They didn’t think he would live.
I turned and went to my room, got on my knees and prayed, “Lord, let my pastor live and I’ll live for you always.” It was not in God’s plan, for my pastor died that night; but God had started a work in my heart.
A few weeks later my dear friend, Janet Perry, got me to go to a girl’s retreat- she was always dragging me somewhere I didn’t want to go. I was so miserable! Camp Bethel was put on by women of Biola. Great women. Godly women. How we need women like this today. The first night Miss Scott spoke. I have no idea what she spoke on, but I remember I saw Jesus dying for me, and I was overwhelmed with feeling I could never, never repay Him: I was a debtor. When Miss Scott gave the invitation for full surrender, I pushed my way forward- It was very crowded. With several others I surrendered my life to the Lord Jesus Christ. I told the Lord that night that I would go anywhere He wanted me to go, I would be anything He wanted me to be, I would do anything He wanted me to do: willing to go, willing to stay; willingly live, willingly die- anything; and I meant it with all my soul. As I stood there that night I could see myself living the rest of my life in Africa telling Africans about Jesus, and I was thrilled. I knew from now on God would be FIRST. No more pull: Should I go to church, or with my friend to the beach, to the Mountains? From now on God was in control, and I was FREE. What a paradox, my total surrender had set me free! After the meeting that night we went on a moonlight hike up the mountain. I’ll never forget as long as I live; it was as though I wasn’t walking- I was floating! I looked down at my feet to see if they were on the ground. I was too embarrassed to tell my friends. My heart was full of unspeakable joy. Oh, the peace that Jesus gives. Oh, the freedom of surrender. That night when we got into bed I wondered, “Will the peace still be there tomorrow?” When I woke in the morning it was still there. On Sunday afternoon when we got on the big truck to come home, I thought, “Will the peace still be there when I get home?” And it was, and it’s still here today, “A peace that passeth all understanding.”
Soon after, my new pastor must have seen a change in me. He urged me to take a beginner’s Sunday School class. He moved another piano into the auditorium, and wanted me to take a turn playing it. They asked me to give devotions at a girl’s Bible study group I attended. I knew I couldn’t do these things- what was I going to do?
One day as I was pulling weeds in my father’s garden, I was telling the Lord about it. You see, since I surrendered my life to the Lord, I no longer stayed every day after school for sports. God spoke to me about helping at home and spending time with my brother. In fact, several changes had taken place. On a Saturday when the family was away, I took some of my clothes and books- that I knew did not please the Lord- out to the old burning barrel, and I set them on fire. My aunt had enrolled me to a monthly book club. It was not real bad, but I knew those books were not for a Christian. Anyway, I’m on my knees pulling weeds, telling the Lord, “Lord, I told You I would do anything (I had taken John 9:4 as my life verse), I’ll go to Africa; but Lord I can’t get up in front of a class, You know how scared I get. I can’t play that piano. I haven’t had that many lessons, and I don’t understand timing, and all I can play by heart is Mary Had A Little Lamb.” By now the tears are dropping off to the ground as I tell the Lord all about it. I’ll never forget how God spoke to me and said, “Your problem is you’re thinking of yourself- forget yourself. Think of me uplifted for you!” Scores of times in my life this has helped me. When I was too scared- when I couldn’t make it alone- I would think of Jesus dying for me; and I found the help and power I needed in the Cross.
God showed me many times I had not only picked the happy way, but the best way.
In order to get through the junior year English class at Fullerton Union Senior High School, you had to turn in a theme paper. It took weeks of research and was very long. The Thursday before our theme paper was due, I was all finished but for the typing. It was Prayer Meeting night; of course, I knew what I was going to do. I would not stay home and type my theme paper, I would go to Prayer Meeting putting God first. Of course, I did pray and rely on the Lord; but I wasn’t that great a typist, especially when tired. After Prayer Meeting I typed it, hoping there were not too many mistakes, and on Thursday I turned it in. Two or three weeks later our teacher got up reminding us she had four junior classes and it had taken time to go through all the theme papers and read them all. She went on to say that in all of her classes there was on theme paper that was unusually good, and it belonged to Wanda Ester- and that was me! This may not mean much to you, but it meant everything to me. This was not a normal thing to happen- no, not special recognition like that. This was a miracle! This was God saying to me, “You not only made a happy decision, you made the best decision.” It pays to surrender your life to God.
Jerry and I were in the same science class when he was a senior and I was a junior. Our teacher was an atheist. Jerry was always witnessing to him and standing up for the Bible right in class. One day, Mr. Scoll announced that next Monday night the class was invited over to look through the big telescope [at the (Stack’s)]. Guess what? Jerry asked me to go with him. I wanted to go [so much!]. I was starting to think he was cute, and he was kind of giving me heart throbs. Of course, it was Monday night and that was the night of the girl’s Bible study, and a car load of girls were counting on me for a ride; so of course, I told him I couldn’t go. I also told the Lord, “Lord you know he’s so shy he’ll probably never ask me again.” Well it was three years before he asked me out again, BUT, I got him didn’t I?! It pays to surrender all and put God FIRST.
I thank God for my family: Jerry and the children.
In referring to Stephen recently, Cathleen said, “Mother he’s sheer Joy!” I loved it! I thought that’s the way I felt about my children- they were sheer joy! I cherished everyday, every hour we had them in our home. The four: Cahtleen, Janet, Paul and Donna were such a joy to us; and they never once complained about serving the Lord here with us.
I thank the Lord for giving us a place to serve Him. At our wedding our prayer song was Where He Leads Me I Will Follow. We meant it. But He only led us five miles from home. That was His will for us.
I thank Him for the wonderful people throughout the years that we’ve served the Lord with. But all the good things were icing on the cake. My life began- my joy began- when I surrendered my all at Camp Bethel at age 17.
I believe every Christian needs a Romans 12:1 in their life. Of course there’s much after that: daily surrender and the Holy Spirit teaching us and leading us all the way Home.
But as long as I live I shall never forget that day when the burden of my heart rolled away.
I wanted to put my testimony down so my dear grandchildren would know that their grandma found out that the best life to live is one that is fully surrendered to God.W.O. June 1993