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Sharon Manning (right) speaking with Romanian President Ion Iliescu in 1996.

Sharon Manning’s essay told of her time in Europe and her opportunity to witness to Romanian President Iliescu.

Calvary’s Cashier, Sharon Manning, had no concept of attending college after she graduated from high school.

“I never heard of a Christian college,” she said, “so I always wished, when I found out about Bible colleges, that I could go.” The wishing went on for decades, “But God just kept shutting the door.” After fracturing her back at work, Manning found herself with time on her hands. “My mind just kept going to Bible college… And then one day it occurred to me, I looked up and I said, ‘God, is this you?’”

She packed up her life and started the process of moving. “God let me know, ‘You’re not gonna do this in a tidy package. This is gonna be a walk of faith.’” Now, she works as Calvary’s Cashier, continuing to pursue higher education.

When Manning heard about Townsend Press’s writing contest on personal belief systems, she entered an essay on her life with Christ. Her article covered how she came to Christ and how He carried her through difficult times in her life, and detailed some of the unexpected experiences she encountered serving in Romania. “At first, we did mission runs to provide physical necessities, Bibles, materials for underground printing presses, and other supplies to help further the ministry behind the Iron Curtain in a number of what were then Communist countries.” Speaking of her time in Romania, she said, “Challenges came in the form of mobs; bloody knife fights; thefts; con games; detentions; conflicts; and constant harassment and threats from police; border guards; government officials; and others.”

Despite the dangers of life, she found ways to use her circumstances to witness to others. She was living in Germany when the Berlin Wall fell, and “I bought an ALDI bag of these rocks [from the broken-down wall].” She wrote a letter saying, just like the statue of liberty represents freedom for America and the fall of the Berlin Wall represents freedom for Eastern Europe, Christ represents spiritual freedom. Manning paired these letters with pieces from the Berlin Wall and was able to give them to “President Iliescu, his body guards, and multiple American Ambassadors and Consulates at the American Embassy in Bucharest, Romania.”

“God just got it through my head. This is a broken world and it’s full of broken people, and he’s still God… and I can’t just quit living.”

While in Romania, Manning’s family suffered a personal tragedy. Manning described the situation, “I felt like, in a moment, my whole life was jerked up.” In her early years before she came to faith, Manning had experienced a deep, disconnected despair. When her life was struck with turmoil, these feelings returned. “Once again it appeared as though my future was nothing more than a black hole of despair and hopelessness, and that everything I had poured my life into had come to ruin and disgrace.” Looking back now, she can see that “God allowed everything to be taken away. But God was there.”

Speaking of her time on the mission field, Manning said, “I think it just shows the power of God. God was blessing us in so many ways.” After leaving the field, she struggled to share the gospel with others in the face of her own brokenness. “But God just got it through my head. This is a broken world and it’s full of broken people, and he’s still God… and I can’t just quit living.”

When she submitted her essay, Townsend Press awarded Manning an honorable mention and prize. She cited it as just another example of God’s provision for her. Manning closed her essay by referencing Joel 2:25, where God promises Israel, “I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten.” Manning said, “From the very beginning, this verse kept coming to me. And in to many ways, God has and God is giving me back the years that the locust have eaten. It’s only the grace of God.”