Friday, August 11, 2000

Couple believes strongly in miracles

By John Johnston
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Christine and Donnie Lambert.
(Luis Sanchez photo)
| ZOOM |
        It's not a miracle that out of a half million listings in the Cincinnati phone book, a dart hit Donnie and Christine Lambert's name. But without a doubt, the Lamberts believe in miracles. Because they believe they've experienced them, firsthand.

        He is a 27-year-old independent real estate appraiser. She is a 26-year-old human resource administrator for Procter & Gamble. Theirs is the story of two people who found God. And each other.

        It begins six years ago, when Donnie Lambert and Christine Gould were college students, she at Bowling Green State University, he at the University of Cincinnati.

        Donnie had been raised as a messianic Jew. He and others in the movement believe that Jesus is the son of God, but they still consider themselves Jewish.

        He had grown up at Beth Messiah Congregation, the movement's only congregation in Greater Cincinnati. But as a teen he had drifted away. In college, he became an alcoholic and a drug abuser.

Everyone has a story worth telling. At least, that's the theory. To test it, Tempo is throwing darts at the phone book. When a dart hits a name, a reporter dials the phone number and asks if someone in the home will be interviewed. Stories appear on Fridays.
        His turning point occurred on a summer night in 1994. His mother had returned from Beth Messiah, eager to share her experience at a prayer meeting. But Donnie was drunk, and he'd have nothing to do with her.

        The next morning, he apologized. Then, unexpectedly, he began crying. “It was almost like the tears were purifying,” he says.

        “Donnie, God's calling you back,” his mother told him.

        Later that day, he threw away his drug paraphernalia. That night, he attended a prayer meeting with his mother.

        “Just like that, I was dry and I was clean,” he says.

        A miracle, he says. It wouldn't be the last.

        He didn't know Christine, but she was was facing several crises of her own: the breakup of a relationship; the divorce of her parents; impending decisions about what direction her life would take after graduation; and anorexia.

        She met Donnie in December 1994 when their mothers and a mutual friend took a three-day trip to Toronto. Donnie and Christine were invited to go along.

        On Donnie's birthday, Dec. 23, he took Christine to a Toronto art museum while the others shopped. The two spent the day together.

        “From that point, it was like something was starting to happen,” Donnie says.

        Something did happen in Toronto, Christine says. For the first time in a long time, she felt hungry. A miracle, she says.

        Back at college, she sought nutritional counseling. “I felt like I could start over again,” she says. She was on the road to healing.

        For most of her life, Christine had attended Sunday services at a Methodist church in her hometown of Piqua, Ohio. Her father began taking the family there when Christine was 6, despite the fact he was a mainstream Jew.

        Christine was never sure what prompted her father's decision. Regardless, “Once you go to church, you aren't Jewish anymore,” she says. “All my friends were Jewish, all my other family was Jewish, except I wasn't.”

        Early in 1995, the woman who had invited Christine and her mother to Toronto asked them to come to Beth Messiah.

        “I felt like I was home,” Christine says. “There were things I'd seen only in other families' houses, like Stars of David, menorahs, the Torah. When I saw these things, I was like, "This is who I am, and I can't deny it.' ”

        Donnie, meanwhile, had begun reading the Bible and praying regularly, asking to experience God's power.

        In March 1995, he says, he got his wish. Riding his bike to UC, he collided with a minivan, head-on. His body smacked a front panel, then hit the windshield.

        The left side of his body was paralyzed. He prayed to God: “If me being paralyzed is going to have some purpose for you, then I'm OK with that.”

        He was taken to a hospital, but didn't stay long. “I ended up walking out of there that same night,” he says.

        A few months later Christine graduated from college, accepted a job at Procter & Gamble, and moved to Cincinnati. She and Donnie rekindled the friendship formed during the Toronto trip. They began attending services together at Beth Messiah.

        Soon, it became a romantic relationship.

        In May 1996, they married.

        They're a young couple, sometimes unsure about what direction life will take them. But they're sure about this: They want to continue to grow in their faith. And to talk to others about those miracles.

        “The Bible says our lives are a testimony to others,” Christine says. “So why did this happen to me? So I can tell other people that they can receive healing, too.'


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