“Amazing grace! How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now I’m found; was blind, but now I see.” Every time I hear these lyrics tears come to my eyes, and I feel the complete and overwhelming presence of a Lord whom I only recently have come to know.
Joining this church family has brought up moments of joy and sadness. Joy in seeing the youth so enriched by the Lord and so knowledgeable of the Bible, but sad by the fact I was not raised in a solid Christian family, and sad that I did not bring the joy of knowing God to my young family.
My father was a WW2 Vet, who fought in one of the worst battles in the Pacific. I was born within his first year of return from service. My first memories of church were going to Sunday School at a church down the street from us in Los Angeles, where I remember learning the Lord’s Prayer. My mom, sisters, and I would attend off and on, our only true dedication was attending at Christmas and Easter. Never did we pray at dinner, or any other time, and never do I remember my Father going to church with us. Today, I feel as though my Dad would have been classified with PTSD from his role in the war, as he carried many demons with him.
My church ventures lasted only through my elementary school days. I was never a part of a school group based on Christ and do not remember any available in my Southern California schools. But looking back, the Lord was always knocking on my door; as I was shipping off to Vietnam, I was handed a small bible to put into my sea bag to carry throughout the deployment. I did pull it out several times and started with Genesis but, regretfully, never did finish it.
Years later, when my son wanted to be a Scout, I discovered the scouts were sponsored by a local church in our small farming town. The minister there told me that Alan (my son) was welcome, but that it would be best if we, as a family, committed to the church. We did for a short time but eventually moved away from the area and the church, and once again I was lost. The kids grew, the marriage went in and out of good and bad times and all without walking in the Lord’s steps.
Then, my wife of thirty plus years developed cancer and did not make it out of the multiple surgeries. As I was notified of the failure of her last surgery, the hospital sent their resident minister to visit with me. I had questions, so many questions, and she wanted to set up another meeting the next day, and I agreed. The next day she brought a Bible that had so many torn sheets of yellow paper as bookmarks that it appeared old and frail. I had questioned her on where my wife had gone, what and how and where does the afterlife take us?
After some time passed, my sister introduced me to Jan, who during our first conversation asked if I was a believer and if I attended church. Well, right off the bat, my lack of faithfulness to the Lord was exposed to her, but she hung in there tough, and we started attending local churches during our courtship. I started to finally realize how little I knew about God and how much I enjoying learning. We decided to combine our families (all grown adults by that time), and we were married in our backyard.
Later, I developed an autoimmune disease with no known cause and no real cure. I prayed for any relief possible from the disease. Although difficult sometimes to leave the house, Jan and I continued to go to a church that was nearby. One of the Sundays, we sang ‘Amazing Grace’ and I, for the first time, heard the words. My eyes watered, my chest heaved with new breath, and I felt like a wave had come over me. At that time, I felt the Lord and the Holy Spirit had taken my hand.
Soon after, I was hit with my second auto immune disease, and we decided to move to Florida. God provided Christian neighbors and a good church, but my disease increased in severity, and my doctor suggested a team of doctors at UNC. By this time, we were fully involved at the church and had an entire church family praying for us. I was going to small group bible studies, and men’s bible studies in an all-out attack on reading, learning, and understanding the Bible. (I am still in that stage today!). After much praying and a visit to Durham/Chapel Hill, Jan and I decided that I did not have much choice if I was to beat this thing. So, after a year of treatment every 8 weeks, with an infusion at UNC, I was told I am in remission! Truly a blessing from God! But that’s not all of the story. After trying other churches in the area, and driving past Waypoint on the way to some of them, we planted ourselves with this new family and give thanks everyday for all that the Lord has done! So, as I was reminded by Josh, there is always time to find the Lord (like the thief on the cross), but I want to encourage young adults raising families, do not give up or put off the chance to be with Him now!
“Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.”