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Mar21ThuA barely remembered childhood dream was the key to one woman's salvation. March 21, 2013 by Ken Ramstead
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- Faith & Friends
As Professor Debora Herb-Sepich stands at the lectern in front of her marketing and management students at George Fox University in Newberg, Oregon, a necklace glints in the classroom light. The jewelry portrays a carefree girl on a swing. For Debora, that necklace represents a past—and a promise—that has come full circle.
Born and raised in Oregon, Debora was the oldest of nine children.
“My dad was an engineer and an inventor,” she recalls. “We lived a feast-or-famine lifestyle, sometimes subsisting on food stamps and welfare. However, we kids never knew when we were poor and we never knew when we were rich. Our parents instilled in us an amazing love of family.”
But when Debora was six, she was abused by a babysitter, who threatened to harm her family if she told anyone.
Overwhelmed with guilt and scared for her parents and siblings lest the secret came out, the youngster found no solace in God.
“Though I went through the motions of attending church, to me Jesus was never real, never personal. He was a statue on a cross. I certainly never saw Him as a friend or protector.”
During this stressful period, Debora started to have a recurring dream where she was pursued by something evil, a wolf or a monster, for instance.
“Then Jesus would appear by the swing set in our front yard. I would sit down, He would push me, and the danger would disappear.
“As I grew older, swings became safe places for me,” she goes on. “I would try to swing as high as I could. It was the closest thing to me to true freedom.”
Fortunately, the babysitter moved away and as Debora's pain, humiliation and loss receded from her memory, so did the dream.
In the meantime, Debora had completed her studies and was working at a job she loved. She met a man, married and had a child. Her life seemed complete.
It wasn't. She was shattered when she caught her husband having an affair with her best friend.
With her world in tatters, Debora turned to the Bible, something she'd never done before.
“I read the New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs. It was as if I was turning the pages of a whole new world.”
One day, fresh from reading her Bible, Debora turned the television to The 700 Club.
“I'd always thought Christian TV shows were weird,” she smiles. “But a woman was talking about her sexual abuse at a very young age. I couldn't believe it. Oh, my! I thought. This is my story! And that day I accepted God.”
Epiphany in a Poster
What was she to do now?
“I was a single mom with a year-old son. My husband had left me, my best friend had forsaken me, I had no home, no prospects.”
At that moment, the telephone rang. It was Debora's former boss offering her her old job back. She'd no sooner put down the phone when it rang again: Her aunt was offering her a place to stay, two kilometres, as it turned out, from where she would be working.
“I thought, How did that happen? I'd gone from losing everything to having it all.”
With her life back on track, Debora visited a Christian bookstore one day. As she idly leafed through some posters, she stopped short in shocked recognition.
It was an illustration portraying the hand of God holding a swing with a young girl on it. At the bottom of the poster was the question: Will You Trust Me?
Memories of her childhood came flooding back, memories of an awful time, when all Debora had was a dream to comfort her.
“That was Jesus protecting me,” Debora realized. “That was Jesus helping me even back then.”
Now happily married with a son and daughter, Debora still gets emotional when she recounts her epiphany.
“Life is never easy, and my life has never been perfect,” she says, “but no matter how bad things get, it is always better with God. That's what I sensed back then, that those dreams made life better, and that is how i feel now, that life will always be better with Him in my life."
Debora Herb-Sepich is an assistant professor of marketing and management at George Fox University in Newberg, Oregon.