A couple’s prayers are answered as they discover the truth of God’s Word as well as new opportunities to share it.
When Caroline and Lawrence McCatty relocated from England to the United States in 2010, Caroline prayed—but not only for a smooth transition to a new country. “I prayed to God before we left that we would find a really good church,” she says.
Little did they know that God would lead them to a small WELS church in Clarksville, Md.
That church taught the McCattys the truths of Scripture, with a clear focus on Jesus as the Savior of the world, messages that had been sorely missing from their previous churches in England. “It was an amazing answer to prayer,” says Lawrence.
A clear understanding of the Bible was something that neither Lawrence nor Caroline had for most of their lives. Both grew up in non-Christian, non-religious households, maybe attending a service here or there for holidays or special occasions. The only place they had contact with Christianity was at school, where they both remember attending Christian assemblies.
Lawrence and Caroline met in London in 1980 when taking Foundation courses, a year of study before choosing a degree in college. They describe themselves at that time as “punk rebels.” “We were very into the idea of anarchy, so we had long discussions about how it worked and how we could change the world,” says Caroline. They spent their days discussing politics, different philosophies, and religion. When their Foundation year was complete, they went their separate ways: Lawrence attended a college 300 miles away while Caroline stayed in London.
During the next few years, “bizarrely, completely independently, we both became Christians,” says Lawrence.
Caroline began reading the Bible after she discovered the words of the reggae songs she was listening to were from the Psalms. “I started reading the book of Psalms. Then I read on and on and on,” she says. When reading the story of Noah and how God destroyed the world, she saw her problem with sin. “Having read enough of the Bible now, even though I wasn’t going to church and didn’t have any Christian friends, I suddenly thought, This isn’t good. I’m in a very bad place. I need to do something about it.”
Lawrence did have Christian friends; they lived downstairs from him in college. In the evenings, they would discuss philosophy and religion. “This went on for months, and I got to a point where I thought, Oh, I suppose I am a Christian,” he says.
He continues, “I became really convicted of my sin. It was that realization that your whole life up to that point had been meaningless. I saw myself as a cool guy, an anarchist, living on the edge. Then I was nothing, insignificant. That constant repentance was a miserable time for me. Everything I had from then on would come from God, recognizing what Jesus had done for me.”
Wanting to share what he discovered, Lawrence contacted Caroline for the first time since they had separated. He learned that she also had become a Christian. They began talking and before long decided to get married. They settled in London and joined a conservative Baptist church. Soon they moved to Gloucester to raise their family.
Struggling with the church’s teachings
Looking back, the McCattys now can see what was missing from the church in Gloucester where they were members for the next 20 years. But at the time, they did not know if their struggles were because the church had it wrong or they just weren’t good enough Christians.
One thing they both remember is how through the years their church—and religion in general in England—became more subjective in its teachings, not relying on Scripture. “Rather than standing as the rock that people need to come to in times of change, the church started to change to become relevant to people,” says Lawrence. “It became so diluted and mushy. We didn’t recognize the God we knew, the Jesus we knew.” The church stopped talking about difficult topics like hell. Lawrence says his young son noticed that on one Christmas Day service Jesus wasn’t even mentioned. “What was shocking was one, Jesus hadn’t been mentioned, and two, I hadn’t noticed. That’s how far we’d fallen.”
Caroline remembers praying when going to church that the music wouldn’t be so trite and that she would better understand important biblical doctrines like how to cope with her sin and what her relationship with Jesus should be. Because she never was taught how to read the Bible, she continued to question if the problem was with her or the church.
The church was their community however, and both were involved heavily, especially in youth activities. “I was leading Sunday school, but I was still wrestling with Scripture,” says Lawrence. “I felt like my whole relationship with God was withering.”
It was a relationship that neither were prepared to give up.
Discovering the truth
That’s why Caroline was praying when the McCattys moved to the United States because of Lawrence’s job in 2010. She wanted to find a good church. She sprang into action once they settled in Clarksville, Md., scouring the Internet to find local churches. She decided to listen to an online sermon from Christ Lutheran Church—even though she had never heard of Lutheranism. “It was gobsmacking—like nothing I ever heard before,” she says. “It was amazing.”
She soon visited the church and then brought Lawrence. They couldn’t get enough. “Jesus was talked about—he was the center of it all,” says Caroline. “I’ve never been taught law and gospel, and the way it was taught was beautiful.”
They appreciated being taught directly from the Scriptures. “You got the truth from Scripture, not someone’s view of the truth,” says Lawrence. “When you have the foundational teachings of Scripture, you can go back to them again and again and again. It’s life-changing.”
Thirteen weeks of Bible information classes further cemented their understanding of the Scriptures and Lutheran teachings. There were doctrines they struggled with—infant baptism, close communion, the ministry of the keys—but “we could ask difficult questions and have them answered,” says Lawrence.
“You don’t know what you don’t know until you learn it, and then you think, Why didn’t someone tell me?” says Caroline. This lack of knowledge was especially difficult for her when she learned about infant baptism. “I felt a deep sense of sadness because I didn’t get my children baptized,” she says. “If I had known this before . . . but I have to trust God on this.”
Preparing to tell others
The McCattys returned to England in 2015. When it came to their church life, “the thought of going back was terrifying,” says Caroline. “What were we going to do?” They knew that they could not return to their former church in Gloucester.
Jeff Samelson, pastor at Christ at the time, made sure they were connected with the WELS European Chaplaincy, which offers services once a month to a group of WELS members in London. Samelson also started using Skype during worship, setting up a laptop in the front row so the McCattys could participate. “We just pretended we were there, but we were doing it all from our living room,” says Caroline. Now they participate through the church’s livestream.
They also drive four hours round trip to London once a month to attend church and Bible study with other WELS members. They’re excited about the full-time WELS missionary who is serving London (see sidebar)—not just for weekly worship but also so more British people can hear about Jesus as their Savior. “It will be brilliant when he comes,” says Lawrence. “There’s really a need for that Christ-centered gospel in the Scriptures [in England]—all the solid meat that WELS gives you rather than the milk the people are currently getting.”
Caroline calls it an answer to what she thought was an impossible prayer. “I was praying for it but thinking, This is such a big ask. Now I can’t even express how overjoyed I am. I’m gobsmacked! God answered that prayer.”
Author: Julie Wietzke
Volume 109, Number 03
Issue: March 2022
- Confessions of faith: Four generations - 2022/11/27
- Confessions of faith: Caroline and Lawrence McCatty - 2022/02/24
- Confessions of faith: Teryl and Terry Bishop - 2021/06/29