Phillip's Faith Story
Last Sunday, November 10, Dan Bernhart baptised his longtime friend, Phillip Mellafont. The following is a transcript of Phillip's faith story:
I’m a married 42 year-old man with two grown children. My wife is Amanda. We’ve been married for 21 years. I grew up in Bow Island and Medicine Hat. I’ve moved around a bit, living in Calgary and Saskatchewan.
I worked in construction for quite a few years and was on my way to becoming a journeyman welder, but in 1997 I had a back injury which ended that plan. I tried to work for a few more years, but couldn’t manage the physical work because of my back. Technically, I retired in 2000.
My upbringing was pretty shaky. My mom was married several times. I’m from the first marriage. So I never really had a consistent father figure in my life. I went to Catholic school as a kid. I did religion classes and went to mass. I was stopped from taking communion once because the teacher said I hadn’t been baptized. That kind of shook me up. I didn’t understand since I was going to the Catholic school and going to mass, so it didn’t make sense to me. I was about 12 or 13 at that time.
My brother and sister and I went to Sunday school pretty regularly at the United Church in Bow Island because we lived right across the street from it.
Occasionally, my step-grandparents would take us to church too.
At that time in my life I believed that God was real, that He existed, but I would often stir the pot in my religion classes, arguing with a lot of things, especially after the communion thing.
As I grew into a teen and an adult God didn’t really play any significant part of my life.
Overall, I would say I’ve had a pretty hard life. Lots of lessons learned from mistakes.
A bit over 2 years ago I bumped into my childhood friend, Dan Bernhart. We exchanged phone numbers but didn’t really have a whole lot of contact after that.
In December of last year, things weren’t going very well for me. My son was in trouble and facing some serious charges. He ended up in jail. I was beginning to realize that I needed to change my life. I felt that there was a better chance that he would change his if I made changes in my own life.
In the early part of this year, in the middle of everything else, Dan sent me a text and asked me if I wanted to get together for coffee. And that text was like SNAP, a light went on. I asked Dan about his church. He said that he was part of Grasslands. I asked him if I could go.
After Dan and I had coffee and I went home and asked Amanda if she would be interesting in going to church with me. She said she’d be willing to give the tires a kick. I knew that I needed to make some changes in my life. There was something inside me telling me I needed to try church. I’m pretty sure it was God telling me that this was what I needed to do. It was a pretty strong force telling me this. It wasn’t just a whim.
So we tried Grasslands and really liked it. It wasn’t really churchy. It was laid back, easy going. I was different than what I had been exposed to as a child. So we started coming every week.
I knew God was telling me this was the right thing to do. He was challenging me to trust Him.
We were eventually invited to start studying the Bible in a Discovery Group, but I didn’t really feel like I was ready for that. I said “maybe later.”
But even though we kept attending church it just felt like something was missing. We needed something more.
We started attending Dan and Laura’s community group. We began to build relationships. Even though Dan and I have known each other for many years, we’re now really getting to know each other. And so I eventually I asked Dan to do the Discovery Group. I told him that I wanted to be baptized and needed to know what to do.
I had heard a lot of what we studied in the Discovery Group, but I had forgotten a lot of it. Learning to love God with all my heart and then loving everybody else, my neighbour and my enemies was a big lesson to learn. It’s not enough to just love my wife and my kids. God expects way more.
Having Jesus in my life has helped me have a more positive outlook on life; not always being negative. I have a desire to help others more than I used to. I have more grace with people. I’m not so judgmental of other people and I’m learning to forgive others.
I’m getting baptized today because I want everyone to see that I’m putting my life into the hands of the Lord. I love Jesus and wherever He leads me I will follow.