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
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
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.