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  • Writer's pictureVirginia Knowles

This Is My Story #3: Preppy Teen

In the Spring of 1977, Dad’s company transferred him to Baltimore and I promptly morphed from hippy to preppy. Cowl neck sweaters, pleated wool skirts, and clogs were in, and I went for it! In chorus class at my new school, sweet Anne invited me to her Presbyterian church. Her parents gladly went out of their way to pick me up at least twice a week. This is what I call a providential pivot, a place where God changed my story in an instant. Their kindness made all the difference in the world. The memory still brings me to tears. Welcomed by my new youth group friends, I shed most of my social-reject status, at least at church. It was here that I began a season of intense Bible study, fell in love with Christian literature, sang countless hymns and praise choruses, and attended my first Christian concerts.


This congregation even sent me to Scotland on a summer missions evangelism team. While I was singing “Victory in Jesus” on street corners in Ayrshire that summer, my parents moved us to northern Virginia. I didn’t want to leave my cherished church friends in Maryland, but I had to make the best of it. In this new chapter of life, I blossomed even more creatively in the faith. I started writing my own Christian songs, inspired by contemporary Christian performers like James Ward, Keith Green, and The 2nd Chapter of Acts. My oil painting took on inspirational themes such as Christ’s sacrifice, prayer, and entering into God’s presence.




I devoured Christian books and magazines, so my “when I grow up” dream was to own a Christian bookstore. When I sat down to write, it was to encourage my fellow believers and to witness to those who didn’t yet know the Savior. I loved theology. I loved church history. I loved global missions. I loved all things Christian.


After my junior year of high school, I spent five weeks in Israel on my second missionary trip, a construction project in the Arabic-speaking section of Nazareth. I would walk where Jesus walked, living the Bible’s story in real-time, only displaced by a millennia or two. Since we would visit the Sea of Galilee, our missionary host had offered to baptize any of us there as long as we knew our parents and pastors wouldn’t mind. I’d already been christened as a baby in the Methodist church but wanted a believer’s baptism to personally affirm my own faith. I didn’t have time to write home and ask permission, but I was surprised to receive a letter from my mom saying she’d been baptized in my pastor’s pool. That was my answer. I was baptized in that sacred place and carried home a little bottle of Sea of Galilee holy water in my suitcase. I still have it somewhere.


On our mission teams each summer, we memorized dozens of Bible verses, read biographies of Christian heroes, and learned what it meant to work together as wholehearted disciples of Jesus. Yet even here I experienced rejection as an awkward and clumsy teen who couldn’t fully participate in my team’s physical work. The main exception to this was a boy on my Israel team, a talented guitarist who wrote beautiful worship songs. He had a crush on me, and by the banquet at the end of the summer, we were a couple. Living several hundred miles apart, we wrote long love letters and racked up the phone bills. I visited him in Florida at Christmas.


(To be continued in College and Courtship, Of Course!)

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