My Story
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Testimony 21

Tommy Youngquist | Children’s Pastor

I was born on March 27, 1985, to Tom and Cindy Youngquist in Pontiac, MI.  My whole life was surrounded by something named “God.” I was saved at the age of five and baptized a week later.
I grew up in a Christian home. My parents made me go to church three times a week, and I went to an “independent, fundamental, conservative” Christian church and school (grades 3-12).
While growing up, I was saturated with a legalistic, Baptist mentality (if you can relate, then you know). Religion plagued me.  I became a very hollow person because of this mentality.  I knew what to say, to who I needed to say it to, but it was never the way I truly felt.  I believed how I looked and what I did merited favor with God.  Consequently, this thinking always leads to disappointment because we cannot earn God’s love.  I became hypocritical in everything I did, saying one thing, and doing another.  I was, and am, convinced I was saved, but my salvation was never complete. To tell you the truth, my salvation was never complete until the age of 25.

I like to relate myself to Gomer in the book of Hosea.  If you know the story, you are probably wondering what I am talking about considering Gomer was a prostitute, but I will explain.  Hosea was a prophet of God called to preach to the country of Israel.  God told him to marry a prostitute named Gomer in chapter one.  Gomer was unfaithful to Hosea and left him for another man in chapter two.  In chapter three, though, the Lord redeems Gomer and brings her and Hosea back to each other.  The amazing thing about these two people is that Gomer’s name means “completion” and Hosea’s name means “salvation.” Completion left salvation for a time, but God reunited the two by his grace and mercy.  For a time in my life, completion had left salvation, but God broke me in 2010 and for the first time, my salvation was complete.

All through school, I played basketball, soccer, and baseball.  I love sports (especially Detroit sports).  My mom made me take music lessons if I wanted to play sports, so consequently I learned how to play the piano, trumpet, and tuba (weird combo, I know). I graduated high school in 2003 with no clue on what to do next.  I ended up working with my dad doing commercial flooring for seven years.  During that time, I went to five different colleges and either dropped out or failed.  I lived extremely selfishly from 2003 – 2010.  I was the most selfish person I have ever known.  I quit trying to merit favor with God and just gave up.  I thought to live the Christian life was impossible, so I quit and started living for me.

In 2010, all of those selfish, deceitful, and sinful choices I was making caught up to me.  My world crashed down around me, and I did not know what to do.  I betrayed and lost my friends, I was in the poor house, and I saw no future for myself.  It was a real-life prodigal son moment.  I made the decision to start going to church again at a church in Holly called the River.  For the first time in my life, I found myself surrounded by genuine Christians.  People who loved other people because Christ loves them (1 John 4:19).  People who wanted to live rightly not because of rules, but because they truly loved God and wanted to live life more abundantly (John 10:10).  I started filling my time with volunteering at the River.  I started reading the Bible for personal gain for the first time in my life.  It was amazing!  My change was not instantaneous, but I started the process.

One day I was walking into the River to get ready for Fusion (our teen program) and Pastor Caleb offered me an internship.  Of course, I said yes (anything to get out of construction, right?).  I remember saying to myself, “I’ll work anywhere besides children’s ministry.” J Well, today I am the Children’s Pastor at the River Holly.  I have been doing it for four years now.  I went back to school, got my degree in business management, and was ordained as a pastor is 2015.  I love my job!  I love the kids here!  My process of change is not done, nor will it ever be.  However, I will never give up again.  I will always try to honor God with the decisions I make, the words I say, and the things I do. 

I am married to an amazing, wonderful woman named Ashley, and we love serving God together.  We are looking forward to our future and excited about it.  We love our River Church family.  We are looking forward to starting a family of our own.  We are living free of the chains of legalism and living in the grace of God.  Life is still hard, but we are persevering for the glory and honor of our Lord!

“So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God.  There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most”(Hebrew 4:16 NLT).

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