The Altar Boy Whose Life Was Altered:
The Testimony of Stephen March
I can thankfully say that most of my life can easily be described as average. I grew up in Hamilton, Ontario, in a middle-class family, enjoyed the love and support of both my parents, and had a healthy, if sometimes heated rivalry with my older sister. We were a typical Catholic family. I went to the Catholic school and we attended Mass on Sundays. But that was the extent of our investment into anything spiritual. Most of my life, like a good stereotypical Canadian, revolved around hockey, playing it, watching it, and talking about it.
When I turned 12, I was eligible to serve as an altar boy at our parish, which I did knowing that if you “worked” weddings it came with financial remuneration above and beyond the normal income for a twelve-year old boy. It was then that I started to get serious about my faith, and pay more attention to what the church was teaching. Fast-forward to high-school religion class. I had a question about the creation account in Genesis, specifically about the Garden of Eden. To a sixteen-year old, the things taught there seemed impossible in my understanding of how the world worked. The answer I received from the nun who taught the class, which I remember to this day, was “Stephen, sometimes we have to understand that things spoken of in the Bible are religious truths, not historical truths.” It was the crushing blow to my young faith. My natural reaction was then to ask myself how much of the Bible was religious truth? Was Jesus real? What about the resurrection? Perhaps it was an example of the rash decisions made by youth, but that was when I completely abandoned faith. By this time, my sister and I had been told that our attendance at Mass was a choice and not an obligation, so I found better things to do with my Sunday morning, and within a few months, no one in the family was attending church anymore.
I left for college at 18, for a three-year program in broadcasting, which covered radio, television and film. During those years I hovered mainly between being an atheist and an agnostic, with a short foray into Eastern Buddhism which was more about my image as an artist than it was any real personal belief. After graduation, I was fortunate to work for a television post production company in St. Catharines Ontario. The pay was terrible but I liked the work. This is where things started to change.
Outside of work, I still wanted to play hockey. There weren’t a lot of adult hockey leagues in the city at the time, so my dad found one in Hamilton, about 40 min from where I was living. I registered for it without question because I needed a place to play. The name of the organization running it was “Reach Forth Sports”, and I quickly discovered that every game I played came complete with a five-minute talk about Jesus. I treated these talks as the price I would have to pay in order to enjoy the game. As for my job, my responsibility with the studio was to work on fishing shows for cable TV, but the studio was also responsible for putting trailers and special features together for a local Christian movie producer. I can remember laughing at how lame I thought these movies were and gave them no attention beyond that.
A couple years into my job, our studio caught a break and got the chance to edit an entire movie. I was able to work as the assistant editor on the movie, but more importantly I got the chance to write the script for the behind the scenes feature for the DVD. But there was a problem. It was Christian movie about overseas adoption and I knew nothing about either subject.
I began to research both, and the first website I found had a banner on the top that read “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jer. 29:11). It was a dagger to my soul. I haven’t said much of my personal life in this article, but simply put, I was lonely. I didn’t really have any friends and my work consumed my life. I was also scared. I couldn’t support myself with this job, debt was mounting, and I didn’t know how to do anything else. My desire to live had faded to almost nothing. This banner spoke of two things I didn’t have, a future and a hope, and I realized I wanted them so badly for such a long time. Two weeks later, I woke up on a Sunday morning with just one thought going through my head, “I have to go to church today.”
I went out and I found a place that had a meeting starting in 15 minutes. So, I pulled into Scottlea Gospel Chapel. I knew nothing about it and I didn’t know anyone who went there. I heard the gospel again, and this time I listened. It was that day, Sunday, January 11, 2004 that I believed in my heart that Jesus was Lord. After attending the midweek prayer meeting the following Tuesday, I was ready to start telling people about the decision I had made.
In the next few months, God moved me out of the broadcasting business and into a sales position for a company that designed and built water treatment equipment. A few years later, He introduced me to my wife, Corinne, which in itself is a story of God’s great provision and answer to prayer. We still live in St. Catharines, with our three children (soon to be four), and remain in fellowship at Scottlea Gospel Chapel. The Lord has blessed us in so many ways, which is amazing as I realize that as good as He has been to me, and to my family, it still isn’t the future and the hope He has in store for all believers. That day is still coming. And, for the icing on the cake, last year God opened the door for me to join in full time radio ministry. In July of 2018, I began serving my Lord through HopeStreamRadio, a ministry of FBH International. When I left the television studio I told myself I was done forever with broadcasting, and felt my college plans had been a waste of time. In the end, I see that they weren’t really my plans after all, and most certainly were not wasted.