Monday, April 01, 2013


Some years ago, I wrote a "book" .. I simply sat down and typed everything that came to mind. Adventures, misadventures, stuff about my family, etc. One of the chapters detailed how I came to be a Christian and how God had made me into a disciple. It was all a bit out of the ordinary, and some folks (one of the two of you who read my blog...) might gain something from it. 

That chapter follows....
When I was about 7 or 8 or 9, I got to thinking about what it would be like to die. To not exist any more. That's an extremely depressing thought, and I was very troubled by it.
I recall it was summer and just after suppertime. I hadn't eaten much, as I had this big hollow feeling in my chest, and seemed to have a weight on my shoulders. Dad saw that, and that I was moping around, and asked me what was wrong. I remember saying "I'm afraid of dying". He responded "Don't you remember what you heard in (Vacation) Bible School .... if you believe in Jesus, when you die you go to heaven?" I remember as clearly as anything I recall at all ... instantly the hollow feeling went away, and the weight literally lifted off my shoulders. I said "Oh YEAH!!!!"
I went outside and played.
A word to all those who labor in teaching little children, particularly when nothing big seems to be happening. I thank God for the ladies who taught me how to make little loaves of bread out of flour, salt and water, and paste them to a little wooden plaque with alphabet macaroni spelling out bible verses on it. And playing with me in game times. And telling me stories out of the bible. Occasionally, God is gracious to show us the results of our labor (I call those times “God’s little gum-drops”). Mostly, though, we just have trust Him to bring results to our efforts.
Fast Forward to about 1963. Married, living in Carmel, Indiana, on Oswego Drive, kids age 3 and a few months. We were playing Pinochle on Sunday afternoon with Bill & Louella Brown, who lived next door. Bill said "Bob, you ought to come to Sunday School with us next Sunday, You'd really like the teacher". I agreed; I'll agree to do most anything a week ahead of time.
Next Sunday, I was reading the paper and Peg said "You'd better get cleaned up  ... you agreed to go to Sunday School with the Browns". I responded that I'd rather stay home, and she answered "If they were nice enough to ask, we should be nice enough to go". So we went, more out of shame than anything else. Surprised, I enjoyed it. We talked about teenagers and how bad things were getting. I even got to talk and people seemed to respect my opinion. We went back, the next week, and stayed for church. I liked the way the preacher prayed the Lord's Prayer; he actually put some feeling into it. So, the third week, we joined the church.
I'd been sprinkled as an infant at the Evangelical United Brethren Church in Hammond, so I was all set. I was in church, and I got there without anything noticeably Spiritual happening. It wasn't until much later that I realized that God had set the hook, so to speak, when I talked to dad as a little kid, and had just been letting me run until He was ready to move. Bill Brown's invitation was His way of reeling me in.
We got really churchy. I started singing in the choir, and Peg started teaching 4-year-old kids in Sunday School. The pastor noticed our activity and asked me to be the Chairman of the Commission on Membership and Evangelism. It's interesting in that I did not even know the meaning of the word "evangelism".
Shortly thereafter, we moved to Southport. We joined Greenwood Methodist Church, and got active there.  We also joined a Bible Study at the home of a man named Bill Mize. I suggested we use the Methodist Sunday School Material, as it was designed for group discussion.  The only problem was that it wasn't really scriptural, and within a couple of weeks, people stopped coming.
After choir practice, when we normally met, Bill showed up at the church and said no one had come, so let's go sit in on the Van Veld's Bible Study. We went there and found about 15 people sitting all over their living room, just reading bible verses and talking about it. I was instantly hooked, and shortly became best friends with Dave Van Veld, who was Band Director at Greenwood High School.
There were many big revelations in that study, which went on for a couple of years. There were even Missionaries from the Oriental Missionary Society (now OMS International) who'd visit with us when in the USA on deputation. Friendships were formed there, that are still strong nearly 40 years later. More about that later.
Dave and I wound up teaching the High School boys. The Methodist material really did not appeal to us as being effective with the young people we were teaching; so much so that Dave and I refused to teach it. We went out and got some David C. Cook material and taught that for about a year. Eventually, through a series of providential circumstances, the Pastor ordered us to start using the Methodist material. We'd set out a fleece, and that was the answer. The Van Velds and the Clevelands left the church.
It felt as though we'd been set free. Both families eventually joined Southport Presbyterian Church, where I met my mentor and teacher, Elwyn Stafford.
Elwyn is and was an ordained Baptist preacher, teaching in a Presbyterian Church. If you want a real treat, visit him some time. He lives in Southport, and still teaches at Southport Presbyterian. 
Ed. Note: Elwyn has, since I first wrote this, passed away. Precious to God, but sad to me.
A lot of other things happened, but the bottom line is that I simply decided one night, lying in bed in the house in Southport, that I would believe, and trust, God. Period. No exceptions. The ride since then has been a real thrill.
I had to study and learn and read a lot before I came to realize that the moment, at age 7 or 8, that I'd trusted Jesus to take me to heaven when I died, was when I was born again. Everything since, has been His doing. 

Oh .. by the way .. one of the popular "soul-winning" programs features the line "I had a life-changing experience." Unless that phrase can include 20 or 30 years, it doesn't apply to me. 


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home