Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Inner Views of Barronelle Stutzman

"Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution."
2 Timothy 3:12
(KJV)

Some of us have heard and read the above Scripture most of our lives.
We have heard it, and we have shied away from it, because the very word "persecution" automatically strikes a dart of fear into the heart of a Christian and presents images of martyrs and past saints who have suffered immensely, many of them giving their very lives for their refusal to deny Christ.
We not only shy away from 2 Timothy 3:12, but we also have a tendency to pass it on to Christians who live in countries where they are not legally permitted to walk out their faith in an open arena.
We never think it could happen here...to us...in the land of the free.
After all, we live in a country in which the Word of God is its Constitutional core.

It is hard for me to imagine or wrap my mind around the fact that Christians are being targeted, not only in those distant, far-removed countries that are hostile to Christianity, but they are facing persecution right here, in the United States, on American soil, by the very government that was founded upon the tenets of God's Word.
How could this be?
How did we get here?
The thought is beyond alarming.
If our founding fathers were to have the opportunity to come back and see what is going on,
they would not recognize this as being the United States of America.

The dear lady I am interviewing today is one of the sweetest, most soft-spoken people you could ever meet.
She is genuine and sincere to the core, and she loves Jesus with all her heart.
Zach and I recently had the amazing privilege of being a part of an event sponsored by Concerned Women for America, during which we were so blessed to meet her face-to-face and hear her and her attorneys discuss the persecution she and her husband Darold are going through, simply because they are taking a firm stand to defend God's definition of marriage.
We left that encounter saddened and stirred in spirit, yet inspired, and determined to help pray them through this most difficult season of severe testing and trial.
Perhaps you are familiar with her story.
I am grateful and humbled that she so graciously consented to share an interview with us here, and
I know you will be blessed, deeply moved, and challenged as you read her heartfelt words.

Barronelle and her husband, Darold Stutzman

The
of
Barronelle Stutzman

Cheryl:  Please tell us about yourself.

Barronelle:  I was born in Springfield, Missouri, but soon after our family moved to California because my dad got a job working at Alcatraz. (My family actually lived on the island, even though I don’t remember much about it as I was just a toddler.) Later on, when I was still very young, we moved to Richland, Washington. Soon after our family arrived in Washington, there was a dust bowl, and I remember living with my mom, dad, sister, and our collie dog in an underground basement.

I had really good experiences growing up; however having my parents divorce when I was 13 was difficult. I remember when my mom told me they would wait to get a divorce until all their bills were paid off, and I thought, “Well, that’s not going to happen—there are lots of bills.” But plans must have changed because they divorced anyway.

I have lived nearly my whole life in the Richland area. For several years, we lived in Connell, Washington, which is a small town of about 800 people outside of Richland. I loved Connell. Everyone knows each other as you are constantly seeing each other at the store, post office, or gas station. It’s a great place to raise kids, and often the best entertainment was found with community games and events. In fact, one of my favorite pastimes was playing softball, and if I weren’t so old, I would still be playing.

Cheryl:  We would love to hear about your Christian testimony.  How old were you when you became a follower of Jesus?  What life events led to that decision?  What are some of the most tangible ways becoming a Christian has transformed your life?

Barronelle:  I was raised in the church, and my mom sang in the choir. I misbehaved in Sunday School so much that I should have been kicked out. So for any Sunday School teachers reading this, please know that there is hope for even the most challenging kids!

My sister and I were supposed to sit in the front pew, with our little white gloves and patent leather shoes, and be quiet. We’d get the stern look if we got out of line.

Growing up, I always thought that being a good Christian meant going to church, praying, reading your Bible, and following the rules. But there is a big difference between being a “token Christian” and being a follower of Christ, which is the true definition of “Christian.” But I didn’t understand the difference for years, and I just lived and behaved like most everyone else.

You see, when we truly believe that God is our life, we change. Instead of living for ourselves, we want to be obedient and faithful to Christ. But because I am full of sin—I have nothing to offer Christ except my sin—I needed the grace of God to save me. I prayed that God would take away my ego, my pride, and give me a childlike faith, that I may do whatever He has set before me.

Cheryl:  Who, in particular, do you credit as being your strongest Christian mentor?  How has this person strengthened you in your walk with Christ?

Barronelle:  When we were dating, Darold, (now my husband), asked me about my relationship with Christ. I was insulted.  “Why would he ask me about my relationship with Christ—can’t he see I’m a lovely, angelic woman?” Eventually, I figured out that he had actually asked me a good question. Even though I was a “token Christian,” I didn’t have a relationship with Christ. I am so thankful that God put Darold into my life.


I used to be very naïve about Scripture, even though I had read the Bible. I was naïve about what it meant to be a child of God, to have spiritual responsibilities. I didn’t know what godliness was all about.

Cheryl:  How did the Lord lead you into the florist business?  What part of this line of work do you enjoy the most?

Barronelle:  My mom bought a shop, and she asked me if I would deliver flowers after I got off work. I didn’t like to deliver flowers. Still, I slowly branched out into many other parts of the business. I learned how to keep the books, and I even started learning to make arrangements. Over the years, I have received training from some excellent floral designers, and I have attended several classes.

What I most enjoy about my business is working with God’s beautiful creation and bringing joy to others through designing. It is such a blessing to create with flowers—it’s art at its best!

Cheryl:  Please share with us about the persecution you are currently facing.  How and when did it start?  Living in a country that proclaims religious liberty, how has what is happening most surprised you?  How has it affected your life?  What will your next step be?

Barronelle:  Washington State passed its same-sex marriage law in 2012. And we were told that this was a matter of “live and let live”—those who disagreed with the law would not be affected. A few months later, Rob, one of my favorite customers, came in to talk about his floral plans for his upcoming marriage with another man named Curt. For years, I knew that Rob was gay. He always came in and picked out unusual vases, described the theme he wanted, and told me to just “do your thing.” I loved the freedom Rob gave me to custom design floral creations for him. He loved my work, and I loved doing designs for him.

Before he could get too far into discussing the details of his wedding, I gently put my hand on his and said, “Rob, I’m sorry. I cannot do your wedding because of my relationship with Jesus Christ.” He said he understood, and we talked for a few more minutes. We hugged each other, and he left. I thought all was fine, and we parted as friends who respected each other, but disagreed over a very important issue.

Within a week or so, without a complaint being filed by Rob, the attorney general sent me a letter explaining that I had to make custom floral arrangements for same-sex weddings. Otherwise, I would be sued. I turned down his ultimatum. Then, the ACLU also got in contact with Rob and Curt, and they also filed a lawsuit against us. Both the state and the ACLU are suing us personally and corporately.

We did nothing wrong. We just have a different view from the state and Rob on what marriage is. We believe it is a union between one man and one woman that signifies the relationship of Christ and his church. Evidently, in America, you can’t act on that belief in the public square.

We received death threats, and people threatened that they would contact all our wholesalers and put us out of business. We notified the police, installed a security system, and have even changed the route I take to work. Still, on the good side, we have had lots of support from all over the world—we have heard from people in 68 different countries.

We have presently lost at two courts, the latest one being the Washington Supreme Court. We are planning to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to hear our case.

Cheryl:  Your forgiving spirit is SO inspiring and moving to me and to so many others.  How have you found it in your heart to forgive when you know that you stand to lose everything...your business, your home, your life's savings, etc.?  How does one come to a place of such forgiveness, even compassion and love, for the very ones who are bringing about such severe persecution and hurt?

Barronelle:  I sin all the time, and yet Christ continually forgives me. So, it is my responsibility to forgive others, including everyone who has filed and pursued this lawsuit against us. Also, even though we have received a lot of hate mail and calls, we do not harbor any spite or animosity toward any of the folks who have sent hate our way. Amidst all the difficulties that this lawsuit has brought into our lives, Darold and I have complete peace about our situation.

We may lose all we own: our business, our life savings, our retirement. We have spent years saving and working to leave our children and grandchildren something. But it is not ours. We must offer our lives to God—that He would use them for His glory. What do I have that is not from His hand? What do I own that is not already His? All I possess in this life is His, and I offer it all back to Him.

Cheryl:  Throughout this ordeal, how has your personal relationship with God been affected or changed?  Have you felt abandoned, or have you felt His presence more intimately as you live out what it truly means to suffer for His name's sake?

Barronelle:  My relationship with Christ has grown stronger and deeper, but I still have a long way to go. I have to rely on Him because this case has brought such a big mess into our lives! Even still, it is exciting to see what He is going to do through all this. We have seen miracle after miracle happen during this case. God is really in control!

God says to count it all joy if you are persecuted. In America, we have faced a softer persecution than people in other parts of the world face. But I am still facing threats to remove me from the public square because of my religious beliefs. Now, more than ever, it’s time to stand and bear witness to the truth.

Cheryl:  Has there been a particular moment that you have felt the presence of the Holy Spirit ministering to you in a very individual and powerful way?  How did He assure you that you were not walking alone?  

Barronelle:  I especially felt God’s presence when I learned that I had breast cancer a number of years ago. I really wanted to be an example of how to lean on Christ. After I found out, we got our prayer group together, and we bowed in prayer. The room was filled with God’s presence.

Many times, God sends us just the right people to encourage us. They tell us their stories, their trials, and they give us the tools to comfort, listen, and just hug. Hugs are the best part.

Cheryl:  It is one thing to talk the talk of a Christian and feel a sense of boldness in times of support and lack of resistance.  It is quite another to walk the walk and stand in firm defense of God's Word while staring straight into the face of opposition and hostility.  When faced with such a situation as yours, it would be so much easier to recant and conform to what is politically correct..to not make waves...to not put one's own interests in jeopardy.  Please share with us about any inward struggle you experienced when you were asked to do something that contradicts the Bible and your personal convictions.

Barronelle:  I struggle with God’s Word. There are things that God says that I don’t like—like watch your tongue! But he gives us the Scripture for our own good. And when we choose to ignore it, we get in trouble. We’d all save ourselves a lot of heartache if we’d just obey the Bible’s teachings.

Cheryl:  How is God turning your and your husband's test into a testimony and a ministry to strengthen and inspire His people?  What doors has He opened for you to be able to share with other Christians? 

Barronelle:  We have been privileged to share our story with so many and encourage people to stand for religious liberty. Some of my favorite moments have been getting to encourage those in the church to stand for God’s truth. And we have been so blessed with the people who have come alongside us to affirm and encourage us. I am still surprised, however, whenever people refer to us as “heroes” or “saints.” The truth is that we are just simple people. You might say that God picks the most unlikely men and women to serve Him and further His purposes, and I suppose that’s why He picked us.

Cheryl:  What would you identify as being the greatest threat to religious freedom in our current culture?

Barronelle:  Our greatest threat is when Christians don’t stand for the truth, out of fear of punishment. Too often, we fear losing revenue or our jobs. The fact is: none of this is going away any time soon. Don’t think that it can’t happen to you.

Cheryl:  We recently heard you speak, and my heart was stirred when you mentioned how much you appreciate the way so many have stood behind you, and you asked that we not only stand behind you, but that we stand WITH you  Please tell us how we can most effectively stand with you in the fiery trial you are walking through?  What are some of the things we can do to support and encourage you?

Barronelle:  People always tell us they are standing with us. We cannot fight this battle alone. The future of our Constitution and our freedoms are at stake—our freedom to live out our faith in the public square is at stake. So talk to your congressman, get involved with your school board, or run for city council. Whatever you do, don’t stay silent.

Cheryl:  In Luke 9:26 Jesus says, "For whosoever shall be ashamed of Me and of My words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when He shall come in His own glory, and in His Father's, and of the holy angels."  As Christians, we would all like to think that we possess the necessary courage to do the right thing, should we be faced with a situation like yours...that we would not be ashamed of Jesus and His holiness, regardless of personal cost.  In that crucial moment of decision, how does determined faith overcome fear?  Having walked and still walking the difficult path of being the one who stands to lose so much because of your stand for Christ, what advice would you offer to the Christian who may feel a desire to follow your example, but who feels paralyzed by the spirit of fear?

Barronelle:  We all experience fear. But God will not ask you to do something for which He has not prepared you, and you can always be sure that He’ll walk with you through it all. We never thought we would be where we are today.  But here we are, not smarter, or braver, or bolder—just normal people, with a mighty God.

Cheryl:  How can we pray for you?  Are there specific petitions you would like us to help you lift to the Father?

Barronelle:  There are so many things for which we need prayer. Pray for Rob and Curt, the two men who are suing us. Also, pray for Alliance Defending Freedom and its legal team. What a godly organization that is representing us pro bono! 

Photo by Zachary Smith 
Barronelle with Matt Sharp, Senior Counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom

We pray that the U.S. Supreme Court would take our case. And pray for our pastors, that they would stand for biblical principles. And for Darold and me—that we would not fail in our task. Pray for all the persecuted Christians around the world (many of whom face things far worse than we do). Through their examples, God has taught us to be bold and shown us that there is a price to pay. Freedom is not free. Christ died for us; what are we willing to do for Him?

Very good question, Barronelle.
What are we willing to do for Him, dear friends?

The Alliance Defending Freedom is representing Barronelle and Darold, legally.  

Just a few days ago, they asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear their case.

I am copying a quote from ADF here...

"When some of our Ministry Friends heard about Barronelle’s situation, they immediately responded with a $2 million matching grant to help with the huge expenses of taking her case to the U.S. Supreme Court. This means that any gift you make will be doubled, dollar for dollar, to go twice as far to defend Barronelle and others like her.

Her case could make a big difference to the religious freedom of all Americans."

If you feel led to contribute to this cause, please click HERE.

At the end of one of Barronelle's responses, she said this,
"Don’t think that it can’t happen to you."

Barronelle and Darold's story could be your story...or mine.

We can no longer afford the "luxury" of sitting on the sidelines, refusing to take a stand.
Religious liberty for ALL of us is at stake and more in peril than it has ever been in our country.

If you aren't already doing so, please remember Barronelle and Darold in your prayers,
praying specifically for the requests shared in this interview.

Thank you ever so much, Barronelle, for taking time to share your heart with us!
We are so thankful for you and Darold, and we stand united with you in this battle.

"If God be for us, who can be against us?"
Romans 8:31

"Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us."
Romans 8:37

On a side note, Zach was asked to photograph the event where we met Barronelle.
 This one is my favorite.

Photo by Zachary Smith

Barronelle stood, hand-in-hand with another persecuted brother in Christ, Kelvin Cochran,
as many pastors gathered around and prayed over them.
Such a beautiful sight, and the presence of God was SO real in that room!
I will never forget it.
This picture speaks a thousand words!
Two precious children of God, standing in front of the flag that represents the freedom our ancestors bled and died to preserve!
A flag that represents "one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for ALL."
Dear Lord, help us!
How have we drifted so far?


Photo by Zachary Smith
Barronelle & Darold Stutzman

"Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord."
I Corinthians 15:58


If video doesn't load, click here.

To read other
click the links below.