Woodward, Bernitta (Bone)

Finding My Way Forward

Intro: Bernitta Woodward, formerly Bone (parents Bernard and Wilma, 4th/5th generation), married to David Woodward (parents Earl and Roberta Woodward, 2nd generation, Earl was once a worker). We have 4 adult children, 10 grandchildren, with #11 due in July.

I was born and raised in California, and after marriage, lived in Chico, California (with a short 11 months in Boulder, Colorado), from August of 1982 until July of 2018, when we moved to Florida. We moved to Boise, Idaho, in 2021 after 3 of our 4 children and their families moved here in 2020. Now all four of them are here, along with 8 (soon to be 9) of our 10 grandchildren.

I retired from my work as a teacher in a unique homeschool hybrid environment in 2016, and now divide my time between babysitting grandchildren, rehab, and ministry. I completed a Bible school course 2021 that included leadership development with the intention of becoming ordained, but that plan got derailed when I had an accident in August of 2022, sustained several injuries, including a broken my shoulder, and a concussion/brain injury. That shifted my focus to rehabilitation and recovery.

Finding my way forward: a bit of my story

I have seen so many questions and comments on the topic of what now or what next:

  • We’re still fed in our meeting, so we feel comfortable staying where we are.
  • If we don’t go to meetings, what then?
  • How do you find the right church?
  • Every church has issues, I think it’s better to just stay home or go out in nature.
  • No one needs a church – all we need is a personal relationship with God.
  • I’m not even sure if there is a God or if I believe in Jesus.

So how does one make decisions and move forward, whether staying in meetings or moving on to something different?

First, let’s talk about Biblical community.

  • In my experience of pursuing God, God has used people to speak to me, encourage me, discipline me, and teach me. Through community, God has prompted people to speak blessings into my life, pray for me, comfort me and show me his heart.
  • Wounds and trauma and shame happen in community. Healing happens in community.
  • God is community and he invites us into community with him and with each other (Romans 8:15). 1 John’s 5:1 says that everyone who loves God loves those born of him.
  • Jesus lived his life on earth in community.
  • Scripture depicts communities of believers gathering to break bread, have fellowship, pray for one another, serve one another, encourage/edify one another and to comfort one another.
  • The evidence of the fruit of the spirit requires community. Love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, etc. – demands engagement and community.
  • Jesus said his disciples would be identifiable by their love for one another and he never gave any other identifier by which his disciples would be known.
  • Humans cannot serve and obey God living in isolation.
  • The bride of Christ is a body of believers and Christ is coming back for his bride, the church.

So clearly, loving community is part of what it means to walk with God as followers of Jesus Christ.

The Scripture warns us against deception

  • God never lies (Num 23:19; 1 Sam 15:29; 1 Heb 6:18; Titus 1:2) and does not condone lies or deception. Deception is a mark of the “Father of lies,” (John8:44) not the God of light (“God is light and in him is no darkness at all” – 1 John 1:5).
  • Deception and betrayal often result in withdrawal and isolation.
  • A community that is fraught with deception and betrayal is not a safe community.
  • An unsafe community separates us from God, from each other, and creates fear and division.
  • A community that is not safe for one is not safe for anyone.
  • How do we move forward?


David and I left meetings in 1993 after experiencing ugly abuse from male leaders in the work and from some “respected” elders. After one of those elders threatened my life, I went to Sydney Holt, who accused me of maligning that elder’s character, then dismissed me as having a bad spirit. Distraught, I found myself in my room yelling at God “Are you THERE? Do you CARE? Is there a PURPOSE in life?” I was hurt, I was angry, I felt betrayed and abandoned, and I was scared.

I threw myself across my bed, and pounding my pillow with my fists in anger and frustration, I sobbed and screamed and yelled at God. Into that chaos, I heard a voice speak that instantly stilled my heart, calmed my body, and peace washed over me. I heard, “You have built your house on the sand. If you seek me with all of your heart, all of your mind, and all of your soul, you will find me.” This was the first real prayer I had ever prayed. It wasn’t from a posture of trust, from a quiet and gentle spirit, or with an expectation of getting a response. I was angry, I was hurt, I was afraid, and I was desperate. This was the first time I experienced hearing the voice of God.

For the first time in 3 years, I felt at complete peace. I recognized the story of the house built on the sand, but I did not recognize the promise of finding God. I later found it echoed in  

  • Deuteronomy 4:29 “But from there you will see the Lord your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.
    • Jeremiah 29:13, “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.

I had trusted workers and elders who had betrayed me. I had read my Bible and attended meetings, and done all the things. I was obedient and I was compliant, and I loved meetings and everything about them. But I did not know God. I had never before heard his voice, but I knew that I knew that I knew that the voice I had heard was God.

So I started on a journey to find God and to know him. I read my Bible to find God and to know him. I prayed to find God and to know him. I wasn’t searching for a testimony. I wasn’t reading and praying to check off a to-do list. I was seeking God. I set aside everything I thought I knew…except meetings. I kept going to meetings because I thought meetings were the right way and the path to God.

I was lonely and afraid. I had experienced abuse, betrayal, deception, lies, threats, unmerited rebuke and shunning.I had been ostracized, rejected, judged, and condemned. I suffered a miscarriage. I developed a stress-induced autoimmune disorder and severe depression. We had few friends, almost no social life, and very little local support. I was isolated and stressed. I had 4 children under 4 and I was an emotional wreck, and we were floundering. And we were still attending meetings.

Do you hear the difference between my lived experience and the way scripture describes fellowship? My experience did not align with scripture.

  • I did not experience love or kindness.
  • I did not experience care or compassion.
  • I did not find encouragement or comfort.

Every Sunday and Wednesday I left feeling more pushed away, isolated, and lonely. I was still attending meetings, but I was not experiencing biblical godly fellowship.

As I continued to pursue God,

  • I looked for the people and places where I experienced more alignment with scripture.
  • I asked God to show me where he was and what he wanted.
  • God began to speak to me through people and events.
  • Pain drove me to obedience. God made it clear I needed to set aside meetings, too, because I was not experiencing God there.
  • We stopped attending Sunday morning meetings the end of June 1993. After a season of time in fellowship with God, my husband, and my children (about a year), God drew me into fellowship with other believers and gave me multiple reassurances that he was leading me, and I was hearing correctly.

I am working on writing the stories of how God led me and confirmed his leading. There are many!

I have learned one thing to be vital. It isn’t finding fellowship. It isn’t finding the right church. It isn’t how we worship, and it isn’t finding the right ministry.

Psalm 27:4 One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple.

Through his life, death, and resurrection, Jesus gave us access to the God of Heaven. God wants us to seek him and pursue him! He wants us to find him!

When we find God, and come to know him, and recognize his voice, and recognize his Spirit – when we abide in him – dwell in his presence and gaze on his beauty – he will lead us to sweet fellowship – not to find salvation, but to experience life with others who know him and love him and are a part of us because we are a part of him.  

So how do you know when you have found the place God has for you? When you find

  • a place that causes your heart to sing
  • a people that inspire you to deeper love and greater awe in the God of heaven
  • a fellowship that fills you with joy and love that is ridiculously magnetic, and you just want to be present

you will know you have found the place God has prepared for you for the next season.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).

Don’t settle for anything less than an abundant life – filled with the promises of God! Don’t settle for where you feel comfortable. Don’t settle for where you feel fed. Don’t settle for what is familiar. Don’t settle for anything short of FULLNESS and ABUNDANT JOY! Pursue God until he leads you into fellowship that beautifully fulfills the promise of scripture. Then pursue him some more!

Above all else, SEEK GOD!

Read also: Some Gilroy, California Convention Ground History
By Clair Bone, with input from Warren Bone and Bernitta (Bone) Woodward, 2008