I am the sixth of thirteen children, eight brothers, and four sisters. In the summer of my ninth year, I began thinking, “Where did you come from?” “Where did your brothers and sisters come from?” “Where did your parents come from?” “What is this place called earth and where did it come from?” These thoughts continued for a couple of weeks and someone from a local Baptist church knocked on our door and invited us to church. We all went to Sunday school and I got the answers to all those questions! I also heard about Adam and Eve and how they sinned and that is why there was sin in the world. Then I heard about Jesus and how he came to die for my sin and I could be forgiven if I asked him to forgive my sin and save me. The previous summer I had been caught stealing from a local grocery store and felt really guilty about it, it was gnawing at me. My parents never found out until I told them when I was much older. Anyway, I felt really guilty about it and asked Jesus to forgive me and save me. As soon as I did, it was like a light turned on in my mind and things made sense to me. I was relieved to be forgiven and happy to be on my way to heaven.
It just so happened that my oldest sister was too old for Sunday school so she attended the big church with the older people. We went to that church for a couple of Sundays and the second Sunday, the pastor was telling the congregation that they needed to be more concerned with the poor people in our town. He said, “Did you know that there are families in this town that don’t have food in their cupboards?” Well, my sister went home and told my dad that the pastor was talking about our family in church. We were not allowed to go back.
I was truly “born again” at that time and the experience was not imagined. However, that was the extent of my bible knowledge and experience until I was twenty-three. From the age of nine to twenty three, I lived in the flesh; i.e. I tried to find fulfillment in everything the world had to offer. God had given me a good talent for the work I do and I had a good job. I had all the toys and had been through several trial relationships with the opposite sex but there always seemed to be something missing. At the age of twenty-three, I got tired of looking for contentment and always ending up empty. At that time I was playing basketball four nights a week and one night on my way to Grand Valley to play a pick-up game, I had a talk with God that went something like this.
God, what am I here for? I’m tired of this existence and don’t want to live anymore. If I’m here for a reason, show me what it is. If I’m not here for any reason, take me away because I’m sick and tired of this rat race. You say, Jesus is your son, I believe that. I know I’ve done a lot of things wrong, forgive me, but who do I follow? I learn honesty from my dad and then hear him lying on the phone. Who do I believe? All I ever wanted in my life was total love and understanding from one person in my life and I’ve never found it!
For the next two weeks, I went to and from work each day expecting to be killed in an accident. In my mind, I didn’t have any purpose. Each night I got home, smoked pot, watched TV, and listened to the radio at the same time, just wasting my time, hoping to be taken out soon. After a couple of weeks of this, it became obvious that I needed to do more than just sit at home so I decided to go out to the bar. I used to like listening to the bands and dancing. Before I left for the bar, I told myself, “watch you’re going to go out and some girl will lead you on and then let you down before the night is through; this is just a waste of time.” When I left the house I headed for Danny J’s on Division by Burton but before I got to the exit, I thought I’ll go down to the Bavarian Inn. I got to the Pearl street exit and thought; I will go over to the Green Apple on 4 Mile rd. I finally got to the Green Apple, opened the door and looked inside and thought, I will go up to the Alibi on Alpine. I opened the door at the Alibi and there was a girl standing there that I knew. She used to go steady with a guy that I played basketball with. She always seemed to be a nice girl and I thought that maybe I was supposed to meet her that night. I told her I would go inside and get a table while she waited for her friend. She came in with her friend and her friend had a friend with her. As the night progressed, I danced with her and her friend, hardly saying anything to her friend’s friend. After about an hour or so, the girl I knew got up and said, “We’re going to go and get something to eat.” I sat there for a moment and thought to myself, “I’m not chasing anybody anywhere for anything ever again” and said, “See you later.” Then I said to myself, “I never should have left the house, I told myself this was going to happen, God why don’t you just end this for me!”
This was a strange thing; they left her friend’s friend at the table with me. After a few moments of self-pity, I asked her what her name was again, since I had forgotten it. She said her name was Sheryll and I asked her to dance. We danced a song and came back to the table and I said to her, “Do you believe in God?” She said yes and asked if I was a Christian? I said yes, I believed in Jesus, I didn’t know much about him but I trusted him once. Then we began to talk about God, Love, reality, and the people all around us looking like they were having a great time but just drowning their sorrows with alcohol. Then it hit me, it was like she was reading my thoughts and I was reading hers. We were in total sync and I thought about what I had asked God for a couple of weeks earlier. We seemed to have a “total understanding of one another.” I then told her what I had asked God for a couple of weeks earlier, and she explained that she never went to the bar, but her brother said that he was going to be there and that was the only reason that she came. While she was sitting there, and I was occupied with the two other girls, she noticed a family friend of hers was there. He was a really nice guy but she couldn’t have a close relationship with him because he was like family. She asked God, “If there’s someone here like him, point him out to me.” So there we were, I would have married her that night and I told her so. When I got home that night, I sat in my chair and just marveled at the thought that God answered my prayer. After sitting for what seemed an hour, probably only five minutes, I had so much peace flooding my heart and mind that I got scared, and thought my heart would stop if I didn’t get up. I got up but I have had that peace ever since. Sheryll thought she would never hear from me again. However, I called her every day for the next nine months until we got married.
The first time Sheryll came to my apartment about four days later, she asked if I had a Bible and I said no. She said, “Would you like me to bring you one?” I said sure. After she left that night, I opened it up and started reading. I read about two pages, closed it up, and said, “God, I tried to read one of these in the seventh grade and it was like Greek, if you want me to understand this you’re going to have to help me.” I opened it up again, started to read, and couldn’t put it down! So began my education in the Bible.
When we got married, we agreed that if we ever disagreed on anything and the Bible didn’t have anything to say about our subject of disagreement, that we would pray for each other until God showed us what to do. This has been a great blessing to our lives, as we have never had a “fight.” We have had some strong disagreements and I can tell you that God has humbled me 99 out of a 100 times where she was right and I was wrong, but never a “fight.” I know it sounds strange, but ask our children. We have now been married 33 years and counting. We have seven children, six daughters and a son, eleven grandchildren and two more on the way.
I’m grateful that God never left me alone in my ignorance and even today, when I make a bad choice, he is faithful to keep me. He took me from a life of meaninglessness and gave me purpose. I will praise him until my last breath and then in his presence for all eternity.
My prayer is that if you don’t know Jesus, you would humble yourself and call out to him to cleanse you of all your sins. He alone will give you purpose in this life and beyond.