I was raised in a “God-fearing” home, although as my brothers and I grew up our parents did not read Scripture to us or teach us the gospel. We were taught what was right, and that we needed to be in church every week. We went to Protestant churches, usually the nearest to home. As a result, I practiced living a “good moral life.” I never even thought about going to heaven or hell; I just did what was right in my own eyes and tried my hardest to be accepted by people.
In my youth my self-worth came mostly from playing sports in school. Whether it was soccer, basketball, wrestling, baseball, or track, I excelled. However, I remember a growing dissatisfaction with life. The summer I was 16, our family went on a camping trip to Florida. While staying in a campground in the Clearwater area, I met a young girl named Jackie. She witnessed to me about Jesus Christ and His dying for my sins on the cross. I remember asking how could she believe the Bible when different authors wrote about Jesus and said different things. She was patient with me and explained that there were no contradictions, just different points of view of the Savior.
After leaving the campground, I saw a sign along the highway with Romans 6:23 in bold letters, “For the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” The Lord was beginning to awaken me to spiritual things, but I did not know it at the time.
Back in New Jersey after that summer trip, I was still interested in sports. Another young woman named Rene sat next to me on the school bus. One day on the bus ride home she told me about a youth group that she went to on Friday nights. There was a player there, (who was also a pastor) who had been scouted for the New York Knicks pro basketball team. She invited me to come and meet him. So, for a few weeks I went along and got rides from one of the youth leaders. It was great. Everyone was friendly to me, and I noticed quickly something was very different about these guys. Later I found out that they were all Christians. Rene then asked me to come to a special meeting called a “Wing Ding.” It was to be on Halloween, and she told me it would be a lot of fun with lots of teens and games and eating. I went along to this meeting also.
I had never played wide area games with huge teams, but it was a lot of fun just as Rene had said. After the games we went inside a huge new gymnasium and sat on the concrete floor. They passed out booklets with songs in them.
I did not know many of the songs even though my parents had faithfully taken us to church for so many years. Then the message began. The youth leader spoke about the woman at the well in John chapter four. He pointed out that the woman was a hypocrite. She had a mask on just like Halloween masks and costumes, but she was living a lie. While he read the Bible and explained our need of salvation from sin, I remember getting a guilty feeling, but I didn’t think I was a sinner. I was so glad when the meeting was over because the kids started talking and eating the treats and I was “safe” again.
The next outreach meeting was at Thanksgiving in November. Rene asked me to go, but I already had plans. Not to be put off she made me promise I would come out on New Year’s Eve.
Two months later, on December 31, 1970, I went to the New Year’s Eve service. That night they opened the service with a hymn I had never heard before. It was “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.” I listened to the hymn and tried to sing but didn’t know the words. The preacher got up and began the message. This time it was from the book of Hebrews chapter 11. The scripture he preached on that night was, “Moses chose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season” (Heb. 11:25).
Much of the message was again convicting for me. I knew it was from God. I was only enjoying the pleasures of sin for a season. I remember saying in my mind, “Lord, I need you to be my Savior.” Then I thought how selfish that sounded and I prayed again, “Lord, I want you to be my Savior, will you come into my heart?” I felt as if a huge burden had lifted off me.
After a few minutes of silence, we had an opportunity to confess Christ. I stood with tears running down my cheeks and simply said, “I had victory tonight!” and then sat down.
A good verse to conclude my testimony is Romans 10:10: “With the heart man believes unto righteousness and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
I have never had any reason to regret that decision. The Lord has blessed me in so many ways I cannot count them all. Praise be to His name!