Born and raised a Catholic in upstate New York, Karlie Vavrinek was always a curious child. She asked a lot of questions about the Bible and felt the Catholic Church didn’t provide many answers. She stopped attending services when she grew old enough to decide for herself.
Fast-forward to her early 20s, when a friend in upstate New York introduced Karlie to a cousin, whom she started dating. He was a Christian—and different. Realizing that she would need to convert and attend an Adventist church, should they get married, Karlie started to study. She even got books online and read about Ellen White.
“I loved learning about the Bible. I found answers to questions I had been asking as a child. God’s word answers my questions.”
Although she and her boyfriend grew apart and broke up, 13 years later they got back together, even though they lived in different states. About one year ago, he moved from Florida to Georgia, and they started going to church together every Sabbath. His mom helped Karlie continue her Bible studies.
This time Karlie’s boyfriend encouraged her to convert for her sake, not his. She visited the Auburn Adventist Church once but didn’t like its pastor, Jeff Westberg. Then, after deciding that maybe she could try going one more time, something clicked, and she felt at home there. “Pastor Westberg said, ‘Don’t listen to what I say; validate it in the Bible,’” Karlie recalls.
After six months of Bible study with her boyfriend and his mom, Karlie got baptized in March. “I am extremely involved in church and couldn’t be happier,” she says. She serves as a primary Sabbath School teacher, an adult Sabbath school superintendent once a month, and a Pathfinder staff member.
“Karlie is an answer to a pastor’s prayer,” says Jeff Westberg, who shepherds the Adventist church in Auburn, Ga. “She wants to know what the Scriptures say, and she wants the Holy Spirit to help her apply it to her life!”
Recently Pastor Westberg encouraged Karlie to consider attending Engage, a youth leadership training event offered by the conference. Karlie felt a bit awkward, knowing that she might be both the newest Adventist and the oldest trainee attending, since she is 35 years old. She decided to take a chance, however, and said later that while she was indeed “the oldest chick there,” she felt like she belonged.
Karlie and her boyfriend’s relationship came to an end a few months ago, but she is grateful for the amazing, beautiful
relationship she still has with his mom. Years ago, when Karlie was 14 years old, she was so devastated after losing her own mom to cancer that she ate her way up to weighing more than 400 pounds. She has spent the past four years on a path to a healthier, happier life.
Just four months ago, she quit her corporate job of 16 years and created her own health business. “I can serve people, make a living, and have a healthier and happier life while combating lifestyle disease,” Karlie says of her decision. “It is an amazing gift to share with people about how God gave us our bodies that are to be treated as a temple.”
Karlie also ministers as a caregiver for her father and his girlfriend. They say they’ve noticed a tremendous change in her; she is less stressed, calm, more giving, and has found joy. Karlie says that her dad reads the Bible now, and whenever she learns
something new, she shares it with him. She hopes that both he and his girlfriend will continue to attend church with her.
by Karlie Vavrinek and Tamara Wolcott Fisher