When I was growing up as a child, my parents were both Christians and brought us to church every Sunday. I remember when I was very young that I had a very child-like faith…probably because I actually was a child! My faith was innocent and pure. No one had to teach me there was a God who loved me; I instinctually knew that in my heart of hearts.
Later, as I grew older, I began to notice that what was starting to be taught to me in a subtle but dangerous way was: “You follow the, rules you’re in, you break them, you are out”. My image of God changed from one where God was loving to where he was looking for the first opportunity for me to screw up so he could have an excuse to throw me in hell. As harsh as this may sound, I cannot be truthful by putting it in any other way. That is the truth, as hard as it is to read or for that matter to write it. to make things worse I didn't see the
fruit of God’s love in many of the people I expected to see it in. This left me wondering if God even existed. If this Christianity thing was even real? If it was, then why did these people still act this way?
When I turned 16, my father would yell at me every Sunday morning to wake up and get ready to go to church. I would not wake and get ready so he would just leave. This went on for weeks until finally he got tired of pleading with me and would just go on his own. I had strayed away from the Lord so far that if you met me you would not think for a minute that I grew up in church. My biggest desire in life was to become wealthy. It was my way of proving to myself and others that I was worth something and that I mattered. Year after year I went down a slippery slope and lived a life that was further and further away from the life God wanted me to lead.
What happened next I remember as if it was yesterday, and until this day I cannot tell this part without getting either choked up, teary eyed or just downright weep. One day I was driving in my car, and I said to God, “I have strayed so far away from You that even though I would want to come back and don’t know how because I am so lost. I don’t know my way home”. I asked God if I would ever find my way home. Would I find it when I was old and was exhausted from running or would I die in my sins? I did not hear an audible voice, but the Lord spoke to me in a way that He still does today. (He shows me a thought or image that would take several words and paragraphs to explain to someone here on earth but in a tiny moment I understand and receive the whole idea). He said to my heart,” You don’t have to find Me, I love you and it is I who will find you and bring you home. I will find you a loving church and will return to you the years of the locust. You will serve there and be so in love with serving and so in love with the people in that church. In a few short years you will not recognize yourself. “
A few years later I met someone who introduced me to a business venture that held quarterly conventions. At these conventions there would always be a faith service at the end. I remember telling my business associate that I did not want to go. My heart had gotten that cold. He said “if you come you can then keep your seat so we’ll have first row seats for the convention”. So I agreed to go. A few conventions later I remember I was at the back of the reception hall where the speaker was preaching. To this day I have no idea what he was preaching, or if it even had anything to do with salvation or the gospel message, but I felt an overwhelming sense of God’s love, and with tears just gushing down my eyes I went to the front to ask the Lord into my heart. This was unusual for me because I was very self-conscious and normally I hated being in the spotlight, unless it was me being funny and putting on a
show. At that moment everything around me disappeared and it was just me and the Lord. That day I went back home a new creation, the old order of things had passed away as the Bible says.
Later on my wife had a similar experience, and she also gave her heart to the Lord. When we got back home we knew we needed to find a church body where we could grow and serve.
I remember the first time we walked into LCF. A lady named Liliana, who has now gone to be with the Lord, greeted us with such love and kindness. She gave my wife a Bible and invited us to please come back the next week. As my wife and I walked away to go home, we both looked at each other and said “This is our new home”.