This is quite a long read, but I thought that there may be some that would like to hear my testimony. I know that as far as testimonies go, most are short. Mine differs in that it actually took place over many years.
My exposure to religion began at a very early age. As a young child I can remember my grandmother taking me to church. She was a staunch Catholic and attended church quite regularly. I can still remember the awe I had as a child, in relation to the pomp and ceremony of the Catholic Mass, the statues, candles, confessional, holy water and all the things that go to make up the Catholic worship.
My mother and father were not religious people and I can never remember a time when they went to church. Interestingly enough, in about the second grade they put me in a Catholic school run by Nuns. They also made sure (at my grandmothers insistence I am sure) that I studied for and received my “first communion.” This was about the extent of my exposure to religion for many years.
My mother and father divorced when I was in the third grade and there were times when I would go to spend time with my father and his second wife. They did not go to church, but insisted that my brother and I go. We hated church, so every Sunday we would pretend that we went, when really we went to play in the park.
As a young man, I never though about God or religion very much, except on Christmas. I guess the old teaching of the Catholic Church still held some influence for me. Most Catholics, even if they did not attend church the rest of the year, would make an attempt to attend Midnight Mass. I would usually find some big Catholic church to go to on Christmas Eve for their Midnight Mass.
The years went by; I married, had two children, and completely ignored God and religion. After seven years we divorced and went our separate ways. I became more intolerant and hostile toward religion and God and anyone who tried to talk to me about it. I actually took some pride in the fact that when someone would try to talk to me about religion; I usually thought I got the best of the conversation. I had a set series of questions and statements that usually did the trick and they would leave me alone after that…..until one day I met a Baptist preacher. That meeting, although very short and for the most part unproductive in the eyes of that preacher, made an impression on me that I never realized until years later. I do not remember his name, or the circumstances under which we met. And I am sure that he went away thinking that this was a very unprofitable meeting. I remember that he was not the least bit flustered by my incessant questions and assertions concerning creation and how this or that thing could possibly be. I am sure that he went away thinking that this guy is hopeless; he has no spiritual understanding and is very antagonistic to say the least. His answer to the questions and statements I kept banging his ears with was simplicity in the extreme. When I had finished, he simply said that all the things I was asking about and trying to reason out could not possibly be found out by reason and intellect. He said that to have those questions answered and to actually find God, it must be done through the eyes of FAITH….and that was all he said, there was not the usual argument I had come to expect, but with those words he planted a seed that was not to come to fruition for another 8 years, and in the most profound way possible. Of course I left that meeting with the idea that I had won again and felt pretty good about his inability to form a good argument in response.
Again the years passed, I remarried, we moved to Florida and life was pretty good. In all this time I never went near a church and the people I associated with were not Christians. By this time I had even stopped going to the Midnight Masses on Christmas. Church, religion and God were for those religious nuts that went to church three times a week and were always trying to get you to go to church also. I actually hated and ridiculed people like this, they were fools, I knew better than to be taken in by this foolishness.
Then began a chain of events that, had someone told me were ordered of God, I would have said they were nuts. But looking back on it from almost thirty years in the future, I would have to agree now that these events were no accident….God had a plan and it was yet for me to realize this plan. I have always loved nature and the outdoors, hunting, fishing, the wilderness and all that went with it. While living in Florida, I read everything I could about my obsession with the outdoors, including any articles about a far away place called Alaska. Alaska began to draw me like a magnet and when I read a book by someone who was living the wilderness lifestyle, I was sure that this was for me. In his book he said that there was still free homestead land available in Alaska and that it was indeed possible to live a subsistence lifestyle. That was all it took, we sold our home in Florida and hit the road to Alaska.
All my life I had always been awed by the splendor of true wilderness. Although at that time I would never have admitted that it was God that instilled this awe in me, I can see now that this was the case. The trip up to Alaska made a lasting impression on me as we traveled through mile after mile of wilderness, and with each new vista my awe and wonder took on an almost spiritual awareness. Psm. 19: 1“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. 2 Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. 3 There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.” In later years I would come to see the truth of this scripture and the power it holds to witness to man that GOD IS. I believe that at this time God was preparing my heart for an even greater truth than simply the fact that He Is. But at this time I was still a long way from God, both spiritually and in years.
In later years I would come to see that the following scripture was to have great significance to me, although at the time I was not even aware of it.
“Ro 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;
19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.
20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:”
When we arrived in Alaska, we immediately set out to find our little corner of wilderness. There was no land free for homesteading that was even remotely close to a road. We decided on land about 100 miles west of Fairbanks that could only be reached by plane. This began what I can see now as a well ordered chain of events. When we flew in to this remote parcel of land, it became evident very quickly that we were not prepared for the exacting wilderness lifestyle. We had spent all of our money trying to find the wilderness, and once we found it there was only enough money for one flight and we had to pack everything we would need for a year in the woods in one trip. Fortunately as we were unloading the plane at this remote lake, we had a pet dog break his leg while we were unloading. This in itself would not have deterred me, but it was a major problem. We sat down on the shore of this little lake to take stock of our situation and decided that discretion was the better part of valor. We had tried and failed and our pilot was concerned that we did not really know what we were getting into, for when he left us, there was no help or even any people for a hundred miles. The only reason we got as far as we did was my tenacity to see a project through to its finish. But when the decisions you make could mean the difference between life and death, I was convinced that going back to Fairbanks was the right thing to do. We left on the same plane that brought us. It was a crushing blow to my ego that all our planning had come to failure.
I was devastated and the only recourse I could see was to try to get a refund on some of the Arctic Gear and provisions we had bought and tuck our tail between our legs and go back to Florida. When I had written to the State of Alaska about what I intended to do, they very emphatically told me that jobs here were very few and far between and to be sure I had one lined up before coming.
We spent the first night back in Fairbanks in a campground and talked about how we would get some money back to leave for Florida as soon as possible. As we talked, my wife said, “Why don’t you just try for a couple of days to get a job and if in that time you don’t have one, we will leave.” I agreed and the next morning, in the first place I tried, I landed a job making 3 times as much as I had ever made in my life. This chain of circumstances, as I look back on it, is so profound that it is hard to believe. Perhaps two or three of these circumstances could be chance, but the sheer number of them, as well as the direct trail that led me to God is now unmistakable.
We were elated at our good fortune in finding a job and we set out immediately to look for a house to rent, we did not want to be in town, so looked for places outside of town. We saw an ad in the paper for a log cabin about 25 miles outside of town and went to look at it. The rent was very cheap, and when we got there it was obvious why it was so cheap. There were no windows, just holes in the wall covered by plastic. The cabin had a lop-sided tilt to it where it was settling on the north side. The floor consisted of planks that were painted battle-ship gray, and it was all one room divided by a large closet. The only heat was a giant wood-burning furnace in the dirt-floored cellar. It had a wood cook stove as well as an electric range. The logs were old and the roof obviously leaked and had a definite sag in the middle. And last but not least…. there was no water!
The man who owned this cabin seemed nice enough and we had spent some time talking to him before we actually saw the cabin, we had told him of our dream of living in the wilderness and how it seemed to be impossible. He suggested that we could live in this cabin for a year and gain the experience we would need to live in the wilderness and then try again when we were better prepared. After seeing his cabin, we told him we would think about it and left. On the ride back to town we were laughing and amazed that this guy actually thought that he could rent this dump to someone, well it certainly was not going to be us.
A week went by and we did not find anything else we could rent and it was getting expensive living in an apartment in town that was rented by the week. During that week, while I was at work, I kept thinking back to that cabin, and little known to me, my wife was doing the same, but neither one wanted to say anything about it. Finally one evening I told her that for some reason I could not get that dump of a cabin out of my mind. To my amazement she had been having the same thoughts. We decided to see if it was still for rent and go look at it again with an eye toward what we could do to make it livable. It was still for rent and we did rent it. Later the man who owned it told us that he was sure that these “city slickers” with a brand new truck and used to the comfort of living “outside”, meaning outside of Alaska, would never rent this dump.
After we had fixed up the place and made it livable we discovered that there was a young man who had just been divorced living in an old barn next to our cabin, it was only about twenty feet away. After meeting him we found that we were from the same part of New England and we became fast friends. He had been in Alaska for some time and was, among other things a trapper. He was to be my door to the wilderness, but not in the way I had envisioned in far away Florida. He was very much anti-religion and not afraid to make it known, so he and I hit it off right from the start. It was through him that I learned that my landlord was a religious nut. Although he and my landlord were friends, he hated to have to listen to him “preach at him” and made his objections known in a very sarcastic manner. He only lived in that run down shack for the summer and when he could not take any more of my landlord’s preaching, he left and rented an apartment in town.
This was in the summer of 1973. Unknown to me, the summer before that, a group of people arrived in this little dead end, out-of-the-way place to start a mission work. They built houses before the winter set in and were holding services in one of the houses. By this time, my landlord, having no one else to preach to, began preaching, or “witnessing” as he called it to my wife and I. He would come and visit quite often and more times than not the visit would end with him being asked to leave. I did not know it at that time, but he had been saved in that little enclave of religious nuts up the road a mile or so. Every once in a while he would ask us to go to church with him and we always refused. But about three years after we moved into this cabin, we decided that we had had enough and something had to be done about this guy’s incessant “witnessing”. I decided that the way to accomplish this was to go with him one time, that way I could say that I didn’t like it and had no interest in his religion and that would be the end of it.
Up until this time in my life, I had never stepped foot inside of a Bible believing church, but this was not a church, it was someone’s house and the guy doing the preaching looked like something out of movies you see of a stern, turn of the century, bible thumping preacher. He was a very large man with a beard like you see the Amish wear. They had moved all the furniture around to make room for folding chairs, and the preacher spoke from a huge Burl pulpit in the corner of the room. There were not many people there except for those that had started this mission with him and three of four others who I assumed lived in the community. There were very few people who lived beyond this point on this dead end road 25 miles from Fairbanks.
This was a Thursday night service and I was thinking that all I had to do was to get through this next hour and then my problem of being preached at would go away. But something happened that night that will remain forever indelibly etched in my mind. The preacher was talking about Jesus Christ in a way that I had never heard before. He was also saying that each person in this world had sin that had to be dealt with and that the only way to deal with that sin was to accept the provision that Jesus had made by paying for that sin. He was very graphic in showing that Jesus died on that cross to pay for our sins. The words rang true, I had no idea why at that time, but somehow I knew that this was a truth to be dealt with. At the end of his sermon, we stood and sang a hymn and he gave an “invitation”. With that invitation came the most powerful experience I have ever felt. I had the definite impression of words forming in my mind that I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt were put there by God. There was a …. This is hard to explain…. Except to say that I was aware of the words without an audible voice, and they were this: “what you have heard is the truth, you have to deal with this NOW.” I was impressed in a way that I can still not explain to this day.
It was then that the words of that Baptist preacher so long ago came back to me…. “These things can only be seen through the eyes of FAITH.” It was then that I gave my life to God, I did not know the first thing about salvation, but turned my life over to Jesus and asked Him to show me the truth of this new way, because I was not able to understand it myself. The rest is now history. I have one regret; I did not come forward that night and make known my decision. I now realize that this would have been a great encouragement to this new and struggling mission work. I never made my decision known for the next year, although later, the Sunday school teacher said that they could all see the difference and the change in me.
And our son is now here! He arrived at 5:30 Sunday morning (drove all night so he could beat our 5 day/4 night record).
He's staying with us a few days, and putting out applications. Then he'll stay with my sister, who is closer to where he needs to be to get a job. If you think about it, would appreciate prayer that he finds good work.
Our precious girl getting ready to head out today on her school's field trip to the new airport in Brasov then to the bread factory in town. She is so excited to be able to do things and see places she has never had the chance to do before now. Please keep all of us in your prayers, especially for Cristina's safety and well-being while away. Doesn't she look just gorgeous? We love her so much!