Personal Testimony: Amber Harding
Always ready to give a hug and a word of encouragement to someone who needs it, Amber Harding is an integral part of the body at Oakland Heights Baptist Church.
Amber was born and raised in Ohio and grew up attending church regularly with her family. Amber says that around the age of nine she remembers praying a prayer of salvation to be forgiven of her sins by Jesus’s sacrifice and was then baptized several months later. However looking back, she realizes she really did not actually get saved at that time and she regularly experienced doubt. She remembers that on several occasions throughout her childhood various well-meaning Christian adults in her life tried to reassure her when she had presented her concerns about salvation. She realizes how dangerous but common this is for well-meaning adult Christians to give children “false hope” and not really help them come to understand what salvation is and how to know if they are truly saved.
Amber would like to emphasize that though a child may go to a biblically sound church, pray the right thing, have “evidence” of salvation through baptism it doesn’t actually mean they are saved. Accepting that you are a sinner, need forgiveness, believing that Christ is your atonement will be evidenced by a true heart change. She did not have a change of heart as a child and wishes that her doubts would have been addressed instead of her just being reassured.
When Amber was in the 9th grade, her family began attending First Baptist Church in New Philadelphia, Ohio. Shortly after Amber got the chance to attend the youth summer camp. The first night at camp the speaker gave a gospel presentation and she felt very uncomfortable. She talked to a high school small group leader and talked about her doubt: “When I was younger I prayed a prayer admitting my sin and asking for forgiveness. I know I can’t loose my salvation biblically so why does this feeling keep happening to me?” The leader asked if she had ever surrendered her life to Christ – it wasn’t just believing that God could forgive you it’s truly accepting that and turning your life over to God. Amber surrendered her life to Christ that night and the doubts left.
Amber began to see evidence of salvation in her life. She describes how she started growing closer to God, desiring to study the bible, regularly attending youth group, hearing godly teaching, and started having convictions from God. Amber says that she had a lot of spiritual growth through her sophomore, junior, and senior years of high school and during this time she really experienced the zealous excitement for growing in her relationship with Christ.
Like many other high schoolers when they graduate, she struggled to get connected in the college/career age group at church. She remembers, “they didn’t do anything wrong, I just didn’t really connect in the older group like I had in the youth group”. She started working two jobs, moved out on her own and put herself through college during this time. Even though she regularly attended church, she didn’t feel real connection.
Despite this time of feeling spiritually dry, God was still working in Amber’s life and bringing His plan to pass. Amber eventually started dating Thomas Harding, and although he had come from a different denomination, after marriage Thomas and Amber chose to stay as members at First Baptist Church of New Philadelphia, Ohio, and both completed personal discipleship, marriage counseling, and Ministry Tools and Training classes. Over time, Thomas started helping with and then leading the jail ministry and addiction recovery ministry at FBC. Amber, having a heart for broken people also served in these ministries.
After a few years they knew that God was calling them to do something different. They knew that the Holy Spirit was leading and preparing them for a change. At the same time Oakland Heights Baptist Church was looking for a student pastor, and through a mutual connection they were invited to come to Georgia. They began praying specifically about this opportunity. Amber states that when they visited OHBC for the first time she felt like, “wow, I really like this church.” Amber and Thomas chose to trust God and follow His leading and so they accepted the call to come to OHBC in Cartersville, GA. She describes how this experience helped build her faith more, and how thankful she is that God went before them and provided and took care of their needs.
Now at Oakland Heights Baptist Church, Amber is continuing to serve and follow Christ. She is involved in one on one personal discipleship, and is an active volunteer serving with the youth of all ages alongside her husband Thomas, who is now the student pastor at OHBC.