As a practicing, Bible-believing Christian, I felt it was important to use a portion of this website as a ministry. I’m aware that there are those readers who have walked with the Lord for a long time, but if they have not I invite them to read my story as to how I embarked on that journey as an invitation for them to take that initial step.
This was originally delivered to my church as part of an annual summer series we at Faith Baptist Church call “Picnic on the Go.” In the summer of 2017 several members delivered their personal testimonies as part of that series; mine was delivered in August of that year. I later retold portions of it at our baptism and subsequent acceptance for church membership in December of that year.
I didn’t become a Christian in the normal way, but then if you go beyond the surface I don’t think a lot about my life has ever been normal.
I suppose I should start from the beginning. Most of you know, or can figure out, that I’m not from around here originally. I was born and raised in Ohio, with the first eleven years being in the suburban part of Toledo and the last seven before college spent on the farmland of Fulton County. Every once in awhile, Pastor will bring up the Biblical town of Ai, and it makes me laugh because I always wondered where the hamlet I lived near came by its unusual name. (Yes, there is a town of Ai, Ohio.)
You see, while I believe I was baptized as a baby in a Catholic church as was tradition, my mom and dad were not churchgoing people. That’s not to say they were bad people – I’ve never seen my dad drink nor have I heard a word of foul language come from his mouth, and the same was true of my mom until I was an adult. (She does like a glass of an adult beverage once in awhile.) But for my brothers and I, Sunday mornings were spent being forced to listen to dad’s polka music on the radio before we got in the car and went to grandma and grandpa’s for the day – they lived about 45 minutes away. They weren’t churchgoers, either, and I would suspect (being a kid you don’t think about this as much) that my grandma was an alcoholic because she was always drinking a beer. Being Catholic, both parents and grandparents had the depiction of Christ on the cross hanging in their house but He was looking over a house not necessarily serving Him. I never went through any of the Catholic church training, and we went to public school so there were no religious teachings there, either.
Years later, starting in my junior year in high school, I went to a vocational school that combined schools from four different counties. (Creatively, they called it Four County Joint Vocational School.) There in my drafting class I met a kid from a town called Liberty Center named Rick, who was definitely a bad seed. Now, believe it or not, I was probably the prototypical nerd from Central Casting in high school – I wore glasses, had braces, my face was all broken out, and yes, I was on the quiz team. So there was a part of me who wanted to be cool and break all the rules and Rick was the type unafraid to do so.
It was probably toward the end of my junior year, and my mom and dad somehow allowed me to go with Rick on an overnight trip to a nearby YMCA. I had no idea it was a church function, and Rick was intent on going to it with a serious buzz. So between four of us in an old Pontiac on the way home from school we probably drank close to a case of beer. (My contribution was maybe 2 or 3 in about an hour, since we made some stops. The other guys in the car were pros at this.)
Maybe it was a good thing that the car broke down and Rick and I had to walk back to his house, probably about 3 or 4 miles along a railroad track. It gave me time to sober up, so I went and had a nice time at the overnighter. (Meanwhile, Rick tripped on a railroad tie and bruised his knee and had no recollection how he did it the next day.) But I remember in the morning at the end the pastor asking for people who wanted to be prayed for, and with heads bowed and eyes closed I slipped up my hand.
Now all this really didn’t dawn on me right away…in fact, it took about 30 years of making mistakes to figure out that I wasn’t quite getting all this right. (I can tell you He was looking out for me on more than one occasion in situations I shouldn’t have been in, both with Rick and with others in my life.) You see, when I said I didn’t come about this in the normal way what I meant was that I kind of had the idea and the concept down rather quickly that Christ paid the price for my sins so I could go to Heaven and I was cool with that. But what I never really had was the fellowship and the teaching part of it, because church wasn’t something that appealed to me. My few experiences I had with it came with my first wife, and we would go once in a great while to her dad’s Methodist church. The problem with that was we were probably the youngest people there by forty years in a dwindling congregation and they really took no steps to be welcoming, at least in the eyes of one who was in his mid-twenties and had a completely different cultural outlook.
So when I met Kim, she was the first woman I’d ever dated who made her faith a priority. Yet she never pushed me to go to church, which was a good thing because my German heritage makes me stubborn like a mule, or our dogs at bedtime.
So I didn’t go to church, but I did go in the summers to her daughter’s church camp rodeos over at Salisbury Baptist. And slowly some of those pieces began to come together as I would hear the various messages from the preachers they would have come in each week. They buttressed that idea and concept I had about Jesus more and more, and if you whack a mule upside the head enough times he figures things out. But I needed a test of faith, too.
This was a point where Kim had began coming here to Faith some time before, so I decided to see how dedicated she was to the church before I tried it – once she went a certain number of weeks in a row, I figured she was comfortable enough there that I would be too. (Obviously it helped that we already knew a few people through the school.) I think it was right around Christmas of 2014 that I surprised her and told her I was going to church, too. I remember there was a Lord’s Supper, so it must have been early December.
Since then most of you know the rest: we got married in the church – although that’s a story in and of itself – (Kim’s daughter) will be a senior here this coming school year, and more than likely in the next few months we’ll actually become members. (We already have the mail slot, so why not?)
My journey has been a roundabout one, and to me it’s still ongoing. It may be strange because, unlike a lot of others I’ve heard here there really wasn’t an “aha!” moment where I knew I was saved as a young child. (Remember, I already was cool with the concept.) I mean, I know I’m saved, but the challenge for me is getting better at praying, learning, and fellowship, and how to be a better witness using the talents I have to light the way for others on the path.
But someone once said the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, and in order for me to better utilize this pleasant stroll I’m having with my Savior I figured I had to gather my thoughts on paper and come up here to testify. This, then, is that first step in front of God and everyone of you as my witnesses.