Episode #19 From Out-Spoken Atheist to Devoted Follower of Jesus. Kim Endraske

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From Today's Episode

Kim Endraske, author of God is Real: The Eyewitness Testimony of a Former Atheist, shares how God transformed her from an “evangelical” atheist to an evangelical Jesus-follower. As you discover how God made in-roads into her hardened heart, you’ll be drawn into God’s heart of unstoppable love and be reminded that no one is beyond His grace-filled reach.



Today's Verses
  • Romans 5:8
  • 2 Corinthians 5:17
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From Out-Spoken Atheist to Devoted Jesus-Follower. Kim Endraske

[00:00:00] Welcome to the Unshakable Hope Podcast, where real life intersects redeeming love. I’m Kelly Hall, and this is where we wrestle through faith questions, such as, How do I trust God’s heart when His ways and delays are breaking mine? How can I believe God is good when life doesn’t seem good? My prayer is that God would renew our hope in these conversations, and that each of us would experience the very real power of His presence and love.

Hey friends, today you’re going to meet my friend Kim Endraske. She is the author of God is Real, the eyewitness testimony of a former atheist. She’s going to be sharing the story of how she went from actively trying to convince Christians God was not real to experiencing the actual reality of God’s infinite grace and unfailing love.

It is such a cool story. I can’t wait to share it with you. One thing I wanted to mention is after you’ve listened, you can [00:01:00] scroll down into the show notes and you can check out our books through the Amazon affiliate link that I have listed there. If you purchase anything through Amazon, when you use one of these affiliate links, it generates a really small source of income for this ministry.Doesn’t cost you any more to use it. So I just wanted to mention that.

Before we begin the conversation, I want you to know that Kim and I have a very special connection. We met in 1994 when our family moved to St. Louis with our four kids, so that our three daughters who are profoundly deaf could receive cochlear implants and attend specialized schools where they’d learn to listen with these implants and where they’d learned to speak.

Kim is my daughter’s very first teacher at that school. And so at a time when life was overwhelming, our family was going through this huge transition, Kim was a gift from the Lord for me and a source of [00:02:00] encouragement. And I’ll just add that only a few months after our daughter started attending this school, Kayla and I had our very first conversation ever.

It was the very 1st time that she had not just communicated what she needed, what she wanted. This time she told me something that happened at school. Someone made her laugh and I asked who had done that and she told me what they had said and who it was and I responded to that and she responded back.

We had never experienced a conversation like that. Tears filled my eyes I just wanted to praise God out loud. It was a special, special moment where God just affirmed that we were exactly in the place where he had called us to be. So here we go. Kim, thanks for being willing to share this story with my listeners today.

Kim: Thank you so much. I’m really excited to [00:03:00] be here Kelly.

Kelly: Why don’t you start by just telling us a little bit about yourself?

Kim: Okay, so you did really good saying my name Kelly. Well done Kim Endraske. It’s a lot harder than Kelly Hall is. So I have four children. My oldest daughter is 27, and she is married and has two little girls. So I’m a grandmother of two now.

And then I have a son who is like 24, married, no kids yet. And then a daughter who is 19 who is at college and gets to come home on the weekend. And then my youngest one, Daniel, is 16 and I’m homeschooling him. So in my spare time, I, teach English online to students in Asia, generally four or five days a week in the morning.

And, I don’t work with deaf kids anymore, but I think God is really still [00:04:00] using my teaching gifts and my, helping with pronunciation and enunciation and so on teaching online English and also help with a local community Bible study group with the youth. So I’m the youth director for 5th through 12th graders.

I really have a heart for that age, middle school, high school age, because it was really pivotal time in my own life. I guess I didn’t say where I live. I live near Memphis, Tennessee.

Kelly: All right. That’s awesome. Did you say how long you and your husband had been married?

Kim: Gosh, all these questions, 28, 28 years, something like that. We’re married in 94. So isn’t it the man that’s not supposed to know how long I don’t know my husband could tell you like this About as long as I’ve known you Kelly because I think I was a newlywed when I met you

Kelly: Oh, okay,

Kim: Isn’t that amazing.

Kelly: Yes. I’m really interested to hear how some of your story fits in with our 1st meeting [00:05:00] because I can’t remember it all. At one time, Kim, you were a vocal, hardcore atheist. And so I’m really curious, about your upbringing and what was it in your life that shaped you into someone who wasn’t just an atheist, but was actively trying to convince other people that their faith in God was a big fat lie.

Kim: Ah, yes. That’s true. That’s me. So that was upbringing

Kelly: That was you.

Kim: Amen. But it’s part of who God used that, who I was to make me who I am and praise his name. So actually both sets of my grandparents were church going Christians and my parents were both raised going to church at some point. I have an older sister, either before I was born or when I was very young, my parents stopped going to church.

Some of that was [00:06:00] busyness and some of it was just that, they were not really strong in their own faith. And so I think sometimes when there is just a void. And you don’t believe in anything, then you are teaching your children to not believe in anything. So my parents were not teaching me that Christianity was false, but they were just not teaching me anything.

And so into that void, I decided that my parents didn’t believe in God. Now my mom does tell a story of when I was five years old and told my grandmother that there was no God. So to me, if a child is only five years old and they’re already saying that, that has come from somewhere.

But we were a very intellectual family. My dad is an attorney by trade and is a very intelligent man. He has he’s just a really smart guy. I have complete admiration for my parents, and they were doing the best they could with what they knew and where they were. We spent a lot [00:07:00] of our free time talking about intellectual kinds of things.

We had dinner together almost every day. My mom and dad would come home from a hard day at work. And we would have dinner together. We would talk about what I did at school and about what their case was. And so on, we had a very intellectual kind of upbringing. So you take that and you put it into a public school system and encyclopedias and science classes and everything that teaches evolution and evolution exclusively.

It’s like my faith what do I believe in? I believe that we evolved from monkeys, so if you believe that you evolved from monkeys, well, then there’s no God, and then you take that and you mix it with a strong dose of ignorance, which is I really didn’t know what Christians believed.

I did on occasion, go to church with my grandparents, but the churches that they [00:08:00] were a part of or not really preaching the gospel. And to me, Christianity just meant that, you did these things and you didn’t do these things and then that made your Christian, I didn’t really know a lot and then sprinkle in some bad experiences with professing Christians.

But that would have been more when I got older middle school, high school, college, where I had some bad experiences with Christians, which just cemented for me that I didn’t want to be one.

Kelly: Yeah, and it was just evidence that God must not be real.

Kim: Yes. I think. Yeah. I think you’re right. I don’t I do not think that my parents ever taught me. I think this is something I want the listeners to understand. I don’t think my parents ever taught me there wasn’t God,

Kelly: yeah.

Kim: But I thought my parents thought there wasn’t God.

Kelly: Okay. Yeah. So they still believe there was a God, but they just didn’t communicate that to you. So it left a void in your life where you just came to the conclusion that he must not be there.

Kim: And my [00:09:00] parents talked to me about so many things.

They really intentionally taught me about political, their political views. They were very diligent to teach me that, but they did not. I did talk to my parents at one point about it. They did not want me to be indoctrinated into Christianity. They felt they had been indoctrinated into Christianity.

Indoctrinated, taught against their will. This is what you have to believe. And my parents didn’t want that for my sister and I, they wanted us to make our own decision. But I think that parents by nature, children want to be like their parents. So my parents were actively teaching me their political views, their academic views, their views on life goals, but they weren’t teaching me faith.

Therefore, I walked away with that thinking that they didn’t have any faith in any higher power rather than, Oh, well, I can make up my mind. This is what my parents believe and I can take it or leave it.

Kelly: Yeah.

Kim: Keep in mind. I’m a mom of four. I’m a mom [00:10:00] of four. So when I share this, I think about, maybe some of your listeners are parents and maybe it would make them think about how they’re parenting.

Kelly: Well, your worldview completely turned upside down and inside out. So we want to know, we’re all very curious. How in the world did that happen? How did Jesus make inroads into a heart that believed God did not exist? And you didn’t want, you did not want anything to do with God or Christians.

Kim: Yes. So there are two specific things I would look at when I was young.

Maybe three specific things I would look at little seeds that were planted when I was young and then fast forward to when I actually met Jesus. Okay. So one time I remember when I was young, I was probably about 10 years old and I was laying in bed next to my grandmother. I was spending the summer not the whole summer, but a couple weeks in the summer, I was spending with my grandmother and I remember laying there thinking about what it would be to die because, she seemed really old [00:11:00] and my grandfather had already passed away.

She had been widowed and I was thinking about what it meant to die and death really made me think about whether there was God. So when you think about death, you think, does life have purpose? Does life have meaning? And so there was a little seed planted in my brain. Now, I didn’t know what to do with it.

All I did with it was, wow, death seems really scary. And I thought death was just nothingness and all this life was all that you had. I didn’t believe in any kind of Eternal anything, either direction. And so death seems scary.

A second time that I remember I was my sport of choice in high school was I was a debater. I was I think a good debater, won lots of debate awards and I was at a debate camp and I remember I’m sitting in this big green field, and I’m looking up at the sky, and the sky is blue, and there’s these trees, and it’s just beautiful, and I’m all by myself, and I have this moment of wow, [00:12:00] God, if you’re real, God, if you’re real, will you please speak to me?

And in that moment, God didn’t speak to me. Nothing happened. Nobody like walked up and handed me a Bible or a Quran or an angel, are you with me? Nothing happened. But now I look back and it is that Romans 1 of the creation of the world. He was communicating to me. He was drawing me to want to search for him.

But when that didn’t, when nothing happened in that moment, it was like, okay, well. I gave you a chance and I guess you’re not real. And so it just hardened my heart again. I hardened my heart again that God must not be real. So then fast forward, I go to college and I was looking for love in all the wrong places, right?

So when you want your life as an atheist, I wanted my life to have meaning and purpose. So my parents really encouraged me to be a good person. And to do good for other people and help other people. That was a way that [00:13:00] you could really have purpose in life.

And so in many ways, I was a really good person. Okay. But I made my own rules. For what I thought was right and what I thought was wrong. And so I had a very close relationship with the same guy all through college. But unfortunately it was an abusive relationship. It was very not good for me, but I felt well, I’m going to date the same guy. We’re going to get married when I graduate from college. And finally I got, we had already bought wedding invitations. Already had my wedding gown. We already had a reservation at a country club to get married in right? We were getting married. Okay. And I was like, I can’t do this. I can’t marry this guy and I broke it off with him.

Praise the Lord. I broke it off with him and I moved to St. Louis to student teach for 8 weeks and while I was in St. Louis, a friend of mine who I had lost touch with. [00:14:00] Who was Christian. She called me on the phone and said Kim, I’m getting married tomorrow. Now, what bride does that? What bride calls you on the phone the day before her wedding and says, you come to my wedding?

Well, lo and behold, she was getting married in St. Louis. I’m from Iowa. I was going to school in Illinois, but I’m in St. Louis for all of eight weeks. And so I went to this wedding and at this wedding, I met a guy who I became friends with. It turned out that he was working just two blocks away from where I was student teaching.

And so we’d meet for lunch and hang out together. Cause I don’t know anybody. And he is a Christian and he starts just arguing, debating with me, arguing with me. And I would argue about my stuff. And after about three weeks of arguing, he said something about being saved.

Kelly, it was like a five second moment of humility. It was very brief. And I said, what do you mean being saved? I didn’t know what that word meant. It’s a [00:15:00] word that Christians use that I didn’t know what the word saved meant. And I heard the gospel for the first time. I heard that I was a sinner that because of my sin, I deserved God’s judgment that Jesus had paid the price for my sin, that Jesus was God.

Jesus was God, even that I didn’t know that Jesus. I know it just gets me. I didn’t understand that Jesus was God. All of these things I had never, I’d never had anyone just sit down. I would steer the conversation to talk about evolution or about homosexuality or about, how can you believe in things like Jonah and a whale?

Like, how can you, right? I would argue about these talking points that I had. But no one had ever just shared the gospel with me in a clear way. And I just immediately started crying and was like, this is the best news I’ve ever heard. I couldn’t even believe it that God would do something like that for me.

Why would he do that? And so that day I, I’m [00:16:00] like, okay, so if I wanted to believe something like this what should I do? And so he encouraged me to pray. And it was like that, the Bible talks about faith of a mustard seed, meaning teeny tiny faith. And it was like, my prayer was something like this, God, if you are real, I really want to believe this. Will you please help me to believe that this is real?

And at that point, then shortly after that, I got a Bible. This guy that was witnessing to me gave me a Bible. And. Before I would read the Bible and I would just think, .(this is weird)

After praying this prayer then my friend gave me a Bible and I started reading this Bible. Well before, we had a Bible in our house. Okay. And I had read I don’t know, probably Genesis chapter 1 through Chapter 5. I hadn’t read very much of the Bible, but it would just be like. I can’t believe people believe this stuff. This is so crazy. God created the world in six days, and [00:17:00] Noah and the Tower of Babel. And I just thought this was ridiculous.

And then, I start reading this Bible that he gave me, and it was like, the word was alive. It was… I could understand the Bible and believe it really in a supernatural way.

It wasn’t any kind of rational, like I did all of this research and now I believe the Bible, it was the Holy Spirit had come into me and was giving me power.

The Holy Spirit was empowering me to, for the first time, really to understand his word and believe it.

Kelly: Wow. That is so incredible. Both of both you and I were tearing up during the part where he spoke to you the gospel and it was the first time you’d ever really heard what was true about God’s word.

And I’m just even going to go back a little bit further into what you shared. The fact that your friend, out of the blue, called you and said, Hey, Kim, I’m getting married tomorrow. And, oh, isn’t [00:18:00] this convenient that you’re right here in St. Louis and my wedding is right here in St. Louis and the whole thing is so incredible.

Kim: It is. It is absolutely incredible. It was almost like I had been chosen in him before the foundation of the world. It’s almost like that.

Kelly: Almost like exactly what the word of God says. That’s beautiful. Yes. I just love how God wove the story together. And before we go any further, I also just want to hear what it sounded like to you.

What were the facts that he communicated to you about the gospel that you had never heard before?

Kim: Okay. First of all, that I’m a sinner. Now, keep in mind that really wasn’t too hard for me to accept because, like I said, I was making all of these rules, okay? And I couldn’t even keep the rules that I made for myself.

Kelly: Let me just add one of the definitions of [00:19:00] sin that just makes so much sense to people who haven’t been in Christian culture is simply just a separation from God.

Kim: And I was definitely separated from God.

And so first explaining that I was a sinner, I actually didn’t have a hard time with that, but I will say, I think that as our culture is getting more and more accepting of everybody can do whatever they want, I think people rebel a little more, maybe now against the word sin than they would have. But the idea that you’re trying to be good and you’re failing.

Yeah, I think we’ve all felt that. Where there are things that you know in your heart, I ought to tell the truth right now and I just can’t make myself tell the truth, or I ought to be kind, but I just can’t make myself be kind, like that idea. Okay. Yeah, I get that. Yeah, that’s true.

Then really one of the big ones is that Jesus is God. So I know [00:20:00] this is I grew up in America. I grew up in the Midwest. Like, how did I not know somehow that Jesus was God? But, I don’t know. You see this man on a cross and you see a little baby in a manger. It’s a man. It’s a baby. Somehow. I never knew that Jesus was God.

It is like somehow people think that people know things, like I’ve homeschooled my children for 20 some years. Sometimes it blows my mind. I will say, do you know what this word means? And no, they don’t know what that word means.

If you’re not teaching them some of this, sometimes we just don’t know. So I didn’t know Jesus was God. I had understood that a man, maybe I knew his name was Jesus, had died on a cross, but I didn’t know why. So the idea that he had died on the cross to pay the punishment for our sins, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.

Here’s a funny one, Kelly. After I became a Christian, then it was, okay, so here’s this [00:21:00] Bible. I should bring it because I still have it. Here’s this Bible. You should read the book of John. And I said, Oh, where do I get that book? Because I didn’t know it was in the Bible. So

Kelly: yeah, sure. How could you? Yeah.

Kim: So for ignorance, a people perish. And a lot of it was ignorance.

Kelly: I can’t help but think of 2nd Corinthians 5:17 that says. If anyone is in Christ, he’s a new creation. The old has passed away. The new has come. And one of the ways where we see the newness of life happening in your story is that you read the Bible and you thought I can’t believe anyone’s crazy enough to believe this. And then after you gave your life to Christ, the next time you picked up the Bible, the living active word of God started to click.

And instead of thinking, this is absolutely crazy. Things actually began to make sense. I love that. What we see in your story is the transforming power of the Holy Spirit and it’s just beautiful, Kim. I love it.[00:22:00]

Kim: Yeah. Amen. That’s my story and that would have been in April of 1994.

And I think I met you guys like in August of 1994, maybe September, whenever it is that the school year started, I was a brand new believer. And I was teaching at this little deaf school, a school for the deaf. And I had four homeroom kids that were like my main kids. And I think Kayla was one of my main kids.

And I remember. You guys coming and you were trying to find a good church and you somehow found out that I was a new believer and you were, you invited me to your church and that was amazing. And Kayla would come in her little Awana vest and she would say, Awawa. And I’m like, I have no idea what Awawa is because I didn’t know what Awana was.

And she’s saying her little Bible verses [00:23:00] to me. And years later, my daughter Emily went through, my oldest daughter Emily went through Awana and she learned A is for all have sin, C is for Christ, Christ died for us. And I remember on Kayla’s little vest, I know she had this little A and she had this little C and she would come and say those little verses to me and you just think like God was doing something.

And now here we are, almost 30 years later, and here we are. It is just, God is faithful, and, yeah,

Kelly: gosh, I didn’t even remember. I didn’t remember that. That’s so sweet. So Awana just for those listening who don’t know what this is. It’s just a little thing that they did at church where young kids could start to learn the Bible and learn the message of the Bible.

So cool. So I’m wondering what you have found is the most effective way to share your love of Jesus with people in general, but really specifically with hardcore atheists like the way you were. [00:24:00]

Kim: Okay, so I would love to share a couple little tips. So I went from a evangelical outspoken trying to convert people atheist to an evangelical outspoken trying to convert people Christian. I think God used who I am.

I’m thinking of, God takes a caterpillar, and he uses that stuff in that caterpillar, and he makes him into a butterfly, and he uses that same stuff, and he transforms it to be a new person. Likewise, I think God takes who I was, and then he goes, let’s get rid of this. Ugly stuff, but let’s take that and let’s make it into this,

Kelly: Well, just like Paul, he was zealous for the Pharisees. And then when he became a Christian, he was zealous for Jesus.

Kim: Yeah. I really identify with Paul. I also identify with Peter, so thank you for asking me this question because it’s near and dear to my heart.

So I’ll start with one: is ask questions and listen to the answer. [00:25:00] So this is just a practical life skill for all of us. Is to learn to ask questions, even this kind of format, Kelly, that you ask question and then you just wait and listen. And sometimes you might rephrase it so that I know that you’ve heard me, but you’re asking a question and then you’re really listening to me.

I think Jesus is such a great example of this. He often he would just ask questions, listen to the answer and. Sometimes I’m afraid that we as Christians, I’m speaking to the Christians that might be listening, we might ask a question, but really, all we’re looking for is an in road for us to talk again.

We’re asking a question just so we can say whatever it is that we want to say. It’s more listen to what they have to say. And really care about the person. If your husband homes home from work and you ask him, how was your day really? Just cause you want him to ask you how your day was, so ask questions, listen to the answer, [00:26:00] care about the answer, and then have a conversation from that and Likewise, on a second note, though, I hope this doesn’t seem contradictory, but you can steer that conversation in such a way that you could open doors to share about your faith.

So when you’re asking them questions, Oh, so how was your day? How are your kids? Well, what are you doing for Christmas? What you know, right? You’re asking questions. You can also be looking for opportunities where you could share your own. Life or share your own experience with something. I think the more transparent you are, the more free, the other person will be able to be transparent.

So like my own testimony many people come to Christ because of some kind of hard, like that was the lowest point in my 21 years of life is having broken up with this guy feeling like my life was over and moving to a [00:27:00] city where I knew no one. It was the bottom of the barrel for me and for someone to come in and care about me and do life with me. That’s the beginning of being able to get to a place where I can listen to him.

And so likewise, then, tell stories about your own life and be transparent. Don’t expect the other person to admit their need, to admit their fault, to admit their own struggles and junk if you’re not.

Sometimes we as Christians try and come off oh, well, my life is perfect. Nothing is wrong. Oh, how are you? I’m terrific. Well, why are they going to tell you anything’s wrong with their life? If you want to pretend like everything’s okay with yours.

And then finally share the gospel. I don’t really want to say finally, but if I think sometimes we are. Just want to eat about denominations or Bible translations [00:28:00] or evolution or moral decisions, or, whatever kinds of things that we debate about.

But we’re not just sharing the simplicity of the gospel and then like inviting the other person to receive that, do you believe this? Are you ready to place your hope in Christ and okay, what’s preventing you? And then maybe they’re not ready right then. Maybe you’re not going to get a green light the first time you share.

I think my experience is rare, right? But then don’t consider that a closed door. Maybe there are some questions that the person needs to have answered or, be willing to rock the road with them a while. It might take some time.

Kelly: Yeah. That is very good. I was reading a book called Seeking God by Trevor Hudson, and I just saw this little passage in here about what it looks like when somebody has an intimate relationship with Jesus, and I just wanted [00:29:00] to read it so it says:

Imagine we wake up in the morning. We’re aware that God knows us by name, loves us as we are, and is closer than we can ever imagine. We know that nothing can separate us from the glorious reality of God’s everlasting love. We move from being polite with the Lord to sharing ourselves openly, truthfully, and vulnerably with God. We begin to listen for any divine whisper that may be in our hearts. This is the intimate friendship with God into which Jesus gradually leads us within our daily lives. So I just thought that was such a sweet description about what it is to experience falling in love with Jesus and receiving His love for you that’s already there.

Kim: That was beautiful, Kelly.

Kelly: Before we close, I’m wondering if you could just offer any words of hope to somebody who’s [00:30:00] been praying for a family member or a loved one and wanting them to come to know that saving grace of Jesus.

Kim: Yeah, it’s never too late and prayer matters. I am 100 percent sure that my grandparents were praying for me. I truly believe that my grandmother knew Jesus and, and I’m just certain that she was praying for me.

I look back on those times, and I wish that she had shared the words with me, but God had a different plan, and I just imagine what it’d be like to be in heaven with my grandma someday. Isn’t that just crazy to think about? No one is beyond God’s power to save.

And my other. I hope this isn’t bad to say, but you know, God is sovereign and you’re not. And sometimes it’s not going to be you that brings that person to saving knowledge. It’s in God’s hands. They’re in God’s hands and you be faithful. You keep praying. You keep, doing what you’re supposed to do [00:31:00] and speak when you’re supposed to speak, but

Kelly: and be quiet when you’re supposed to be quiet. And just love them with the love of Jesus.

Kim: Love them where they’re at. Yeah. My favorite verse, Romans 5:8, for while we were sinners, Christ died for us. And this is love. Not that we loved God, but that he loved us. This is love is loving people where they’re at.

Kelly: Yeah, thank you, Kim. That was so encouraging. . I just loved celebrating your story. Thank you for sharing it with us today. Thank you. Thanks for having me. Absolutely.

Thanks for listening to the Unshakable Hope Podcast. If you enjoyed today’s episode, please subscribe and leave a review. To continue the conversation and for free resources, be sure to visit me at kellyhall. org. Thanks so much.

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