My name – Amanda – translated from Latin means ‘worthy of love.’ However, my whole life I have felt far from this definition. Maybe I was named wrong, like how Naomi felt. Since the time I can remember my first memories, I’ve always felt different, inadequate, and not good enough – and on most days I still do. After meeting James Cook, healing started to begin. Here’s my story…

Without going into mass details about my life, I haven’t had good experiences with men. I have my share of scars in being molested at a young age, growing up with a Jekyll/Hyde father, a loveless marriage, and an ultimate mistake. All of these experiences revolve around men and how they have treated me. Sadly, these experiences have had lasting detrimental effects on how I view myself and relationships with men. For a long time, I viewed that most men were placed on Earth only to use, hurt, and finally reject women – me specifically. Notice that I said most because I know that there are good men out there – I just didn’t have a lot of access to them. Trust has always been a big issue with me and has hindered a lot of what I do. I was brought up in an agnostic home and stumbled on religion by almost accident within my college years. However, developing a relationship with God and believing that Jesus came to save me didn’t happen until very recently. These are the men that I have found ‘true Heavenly love’ from. Still, I convinced myself that I don’t have the playing cards for ‘Earthly’ love. So if I kept people away due to trust – and especially men – I would put up a wall and protect myself from hurt.

I recently, went on a mission trip to New Orleans with the expectation of providing comfort and hope to an area filled with desperate need. I was not expecting the lessons that I learned and the transformation that would happen within me. I was there to give and not receive – that was my egotistical outlook. Thankfully, God placed James squarely in my path like an unmovable mountain.

Without going deep into his Testimony, which I advise anyone to read, a very supernatural experience occurred – this type of thing has never happened to me before. James was talking about his mistakes and got to the point in his Testimony that reflected his view and actions toward women as a youth. As I braced myself in my seat for the hard part of hearing his story, I felt an overwhelming peace of mind and heart that I have never felt before. Here was a remarkable man with a quiet strength in his voice that was openly confessing his sins to a group of strangers. He admitted his failures, owned up to his responsibilities, and sincerely apologized. Truly and deeply saying, “I’m sorry.” I have never had this experience with a man before. For me it felt like God was channeling all of the bad incidences with the men in my life through James. At this point of the discussion, it really felt like James was talking to me directly and personally. Although a part of me really wished that James would stop sharing my life and secrets with everyone else in the room, a part of me needed to hear his ministry. James often used the analogy of encountering God is like getting hit by an 18 wheeler – you’ll come away changed. Yup, I got hit hard and just when I had a moment to take a breath, here’s the next 18 wheeler…

James asked me for forgiveness! Here was a man that I knew for about 20 minutes and spoke maybe three sentences to and in his humbleness he asked me for forgiveness of his past. I believe that again God was using him as a vessel to start to forgive the men of my past. Again, peace and comfort started to wrap me in a supernatural way. Maybe not all men are bad and are here to hurt me? Take a deep breath because here’s the third impacting truck…​

Not only did he encourage me to forgive him (and them), but also to forgive myself. I have made disastrous mistakes in my life and have carried around the weight, guilt, and shame for so many years. Constantly blaming myself for failures is both tortuous and tiring. However, here was this gracious man telling me I can forgive myself – again, God was channeling through him. He said words that I desperately needed to hear. For the third time, I got hit by the 18 wheeler truck and again forever changed.

At this moment, I saw James through God’s eyes and saw an amazing person – Full of ministry and the ability to heal through God’s words and truths. I honestly believe that God specifically used James as a vessel for me to begin to heal. Although I will probably never see or speak to James in person ever again, his ministry has forever changed my life. Even if I did, I am not for sure what I would say anyway – I’ve often feel like Moses wondering why God would send a stuttering mess of a messenger out into the world. The phrase ‘thank you’ seems too minor and insignificant in the type of major transformation.