NORTH WILDWOOD – “It still smells the same,” Debby Amundsen said Jan. 23, as she sat in the fellowship hall at the First Baptist Church of Anglesea. Memories flowed as Amundsen shared her journey of faith.
As a small business owner, Amundsen’s profession parallels her experience: Working out the knots and finding wholeness once more.
Life on a Sandbar
Amundsen, 58, was born to Candy and George Amundsen, in 1962, after the infamous nor’easter. Candy, originally from Garfield, relocated to North Wildwood during her high school years, while George grew up along the docks, in Wildwood. Amundsen is the youngest in her family.
“They stopped at perfection,” Amundsen said, with a chuckle. Her father worked a variety of jobs, but one of his greatest loves was fishing – a pastime Amundsen never fully embraced.
Although her mother was raised in the Lutheran church, as the child of German immigrants, the family began attending First Baptist Church of Anglesea in the late 1950s. According to Amundsen, her mother’s hunger for God and to know the Bible continues to inspire her journey.
“This church was full of life. My friends used to come,” Amundsen said. From youth group activities to vacation Bible school in the summer, Amundsen’s early life revolved around the church in her community.
“This was home base,” Amundsen explained.
Church softball games offered recreation in a wholesome environment, in summer, and basketballs swished through nets during winter, in Margaret Mace Elementary School. Even memories of singing in front of the congregation bring a smile.
“I am most grateful for learning about God. He is in your world. He will take care of you,” Amundsen said.
She grew up in a time when many women wore hats and gloves to services, even as the culture shifted in the 1960s and 1970s. The Wildwoods were not immune to these shifting tides, and Amundsen also felt the inevitable tug to venture beyond North Wildwood.
“God never let go of me,” Amundsen said, as a tear sparkled in her eye.
Here and Back Again
Amundsen did not immediately leave Cape May County after graduating from Wildwood High School.
“I wasn’t ready to leave yet,” she said, referring to her time at Atlantic Cape Community College, in the early 1980s. Amundsen enrolled and attended Montclair State University, majoring in business.
A new vista opened and was more of a culture shock than when Amundsen later lived in Atlanta, Georgia. She pursued chiropractic training before returning to Five Mile Island.
To Amundsen, young people can stay in the Wildwoods and have a good life.
“It depends on what you want,” she clarified. Although Amundsen grew up in Cape May County, she always finds something new, i.e., running trails she never knew existed and other natural wonders.
Amundsen founded Back to Health Family Chiropractic with coworker Yvonne Wood, in Wildwood. For Amundsen, success is doing what truly matters in life.
“Success means we go to sleep at night knowing that our talents and abilities were used in a way that served others,” states a quote on Amundsen’s website (https://bit.ly/3iPVMJg).
Although raised in the Baptist tradition, Amundsen was searching for a deeper intimacy with God.
“I don’t remember the moment I was saved,” she said. Amundsen said she never doubted God existed, but something was missing.
When she was 40, Amundsen discovered what it means to have a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
“It was when I realized that he is my friend,” she explained. Joy filled Amundsen’s life and, in her words, “has been good ever since.”
Surprised by Joy
Amundsen believes that the path to economic and personal recovery from Covid rests with individuals in their communities, not with politicians alone.
“I can only be me and influence who is in front of me,” Amundsen said. If everyone loved their neighbor, regardless of their beliefs, the change would come from the inside out. Economics must submit to kindness; security follows goodness.
“Twelve people changed the world,” Amundsen said, referring to Christ’s Twelve Apostles, who spread the Gospel throughout a hostile world.
Today, Amundsen attends Crest Community Church, in Wildwood Crest (https://bit.ly/3ch31sE), yet she is not bitter over the stricter environment of her youth.
“We are all in a different place. It’s who God made me to be. It’s okay for us to be different,” Amundsen said. She is thankful for the journey, twists and turns, and all.
In December 2020, her father, George, unexpectedly passed away. Amundsen spoke at his memorial service held at First Baptist Church of Anglesea, surrounded by family and church family. She rejoices that her father is entirely who he was meant to be.
In recent years, Amundsen served on mission trips in the Dominican Republic and Southeast Asia.
“I was a chiropractor by night and a carpenter by day,” she said.
She accompanied her friend, Nancy Vallese, on several occasions. Vallese’s brother is Crest Community Church’s pastor.
Amundsen traveled with “Youth With A Mission” (YWAM), a global movement of Christians, headquartered in Colorado (http://bit.ly/36hSOZ4).
She hopes to travel again soon.
Until then, Amundsen is content in Wildwood, seeking to make a difference one life at a time.
“We need to see everyone as Jesus. We are all one, all created by God,” Amundsen said.
Faith Matters is an ongoing series exploring the connection between individuals and their faith, impacting their families, community, and beyond. Those with a story of faith to share should contact the writer at email@example.com.