Leona Koehn Nichols was born into a loving Holdeman Mennonite family and grew up within the Mennonite community, being very much a part of this ultraconservative culture. Her parents were devout and committed to their church but were also balanced in their views of what it meant to follow Jesus. Raised in a family of five, with an older and younger brother, Leona enjoyed a happy childhood in rural California. Her father was a respected leader in the church and also in the community. Her mother enjoyed life and had visitors in the home frequently. She loved reading and read often to her children, both Bible story books and children’s classics.
Having been baptized into the church at age ten, Leona fully expected to spend her life as a faithful member of the Church of God in Christ (Mennonite). She married a minister’s son, and they began a family. However, as their six children got older and decisions regarding what they would or would not be allowed to do began to immerge, so did the questions. Desiring to have biblical reasons behind their beliefs and decisions caused them to search the scriptures, looking for answers. This was met with concern. Being part of a church culture that emphasized unity in all things, including clothing and grooming styles; it was expected that their family would conform without question.
When Leona and her husband met Jesus in a very loving and unexpected way in their own living room, it was soon obvious they would need to make a choice. Who would take first place in their hearts? Jesus, the Savior of their souls, or the church of their fathers? After months of trying to find a solution to conflicting views, their church fellowship was severed through the ordinance of excommunication. Now they would learn to trust in Jesus alone as the foundation they could build their lives on. Follow their story as they moved from legalism to grace.