years: I grew up in the small town of Ellis, Kansas, located about half way between Denver
and Kansas City. The town was predominately Roman Catholic as
was my family. Both my father’s
families were very strong Catholics.
When I was in third grade at St. Mary’s
grade school, I became an altar boy in the Catholic church, recited Latin
verses in response to the Catholic priest and helped at the altar service. As I started to mature and attend a local,
public high school, questions about being a Catholic started bothering me. Friends made comments and asked questions
that I could not answer.
years: I attended CornellCollege in Iowa.
CornellCollege had strong Methodist ties and
many attendees and teachers were of the Methodist faith. During my freshman year, my English teacher,
Ms. Meers gave us an assignment that was somewhat unusual: Outline the third chapter of the Book of
Romans in the Bible. Given that I had
never read the Bible and instead relied on what the priests and nuns told me as
well as a Catholic Catechism, this proved to be an intriguing assignment. Did not have a Bible, so off to the college
library. Found the book and started reading
chapter three. It never occurred to me
to read Romans chapters one and two, or for that matter, the gospels.
outline was horrid, truly embarrassing.
Ms. Meers gave me a C which I did not deserve. I ignored God’s
direction in Romans 3:10 “As it is
written, There is none righteous, no, not one:”and
Romans 3:23 “For all have
sinned, and come short of the glory of God;”However,
her witness to me stuck with me and I remembered the assignment for many years.
following summer I worked at the YMCA Camp of the Rockies in Estes Park, Colorado. My job was on a maintenance team, cleaning
restrooms, buildings, and whatever needed to be fixed, built, painted, or
cleaned. When the teams were formed, another college student and I were picked to work for a man named “Ty”. He was an older man who had a reputation as a
stickler for doing the job perfectly.
His inspections of our work were precise and unyielding. Second best was not tolerated, only your best
effort was acceptable. Throughout the
summer Ty watched, corrected, and demonstrated the proper way to keep the camp
in excellent shape.
the end of the camping season, Ty pulled me and the other college student aside
at lunch time one day and said our attitudes were not right, we did not have
the right spirit. Ty was a Christian and
let everyone know it. He opened a Bible
and read to us some scriptures. That was
the first time anyone witnessed to me directly.
I ignored Ty and the Bible, because I was very uncomfortable. Did not understand what he was trying to
accomplish and did not like what the Bible had to say. But I did not forget Ty reaching out to me.
Several years after finishing school, I went to work for the US Army in St. Louis, Missouri. I did not read the Bible, nor care about
spiritual matters. I was all about
myself. In September of 1973, the Army
had a need for additional civilians in Alexandria,
Virginia to work in industrial
preparedness, a part of war planning. I
thought it sounded interesting so I volunteered for the assignment. The Army accepted and transferred me to Alexandria, Virginia,
and the US Army Material Command. A
large research, development, and logistics command with a worldwide presence.
was there approximately four weeks when my boss approached me one day and asked
if I was interested in going out to dinner with him and a lady friend. This lady friend had a niece visiting from
the ClevelandOhio area and he thought that my coming
along might make the evening more lively.
Besides that, he offered to pay for dinner. I thought "why not". I was living in an apartment with my
belongings from St. Louis
still largely unpacked. A free meal
sounded good to me.
night I met for the first time the love of my life and my wife of 41 years,
Janet Bigler. I came, I saw, and I knew
there was something different about her.
We started dating over a long distance since she had to travel back to Cleveland, Ohio
where she worked as a bank examiner. In
the March of 1974 we were married and she moved to Virginia.
we were dating, Janet mentioned the Rev Billy Graham a few times, but I did not
pay much attention. Janet had accepted
Christ as her Savior through the ministry of Billy Graham. I told her that I knew the Lord, but in
reality, I was as lost as a person could be.
We lived for a year near Mount
Vernon, Virginia. Janet wanted to attend church and I was
reluctant. So, I proposed that we each
pick a church, attend and see what happens.
picked a Unitarian
Universalist Church in nearby Mount Vernon, Virginia. I chose this church because I knew that you
could believe whatever you wanted to believe.
I would not be held accountable to a specific doctrine. So we drove over to the church to check out
the start times for Sunday, location, and travel time. I saw a large sign on the door as I came up
to the church. It said, “Closed”. The church shut down for several weeks during
the summer because the church leaders were on vacation. I turned to Janet and she said, “My
turn”. Those three words changed my life. For you see, Janet picked a church, Calvary
Road Baptist Church, that taught the Bible.
attended the church for several years. I
heard the gospel for the first time in my life.
The gospel message was making an impact in my life, but I still did not
put my trust in Jesus Christ’s
death on the cross. Remember, I had been
a Catholic and I still had this false impression that going to church, reading
your Bible and being involved in many church activities would somehow produce the
salvation experience. These activities
are good, but they do not get you to heaven.
Army sent me to Ft. Lee, Virginia for almost a year. At the end of that school, a new Baptist
church was starting up near our home.
Our previous church, Calvary Road Baptist, was 18 miles distant and so
we started with the new church, from its inception. The
pastor, Michael Edwards, was used greatly in the new church, Heritage
Baptist. In January of 1982, Pastor
Edwards preached a sermon on Sunday morning on what true salvation is. I did not go forward at the invitation, but I
was deeply troubled. All Sunday
afternoon, I grappled with the thought that I might not be saved. I was depending on my works, my activities,
my knowledge of the Bible, my church attendance.
that same Sunday during the evening service, we had a missionary preach to
us. At the end of the service, our
pastor, Michael Edwards, asked if anyone would like to come forward; my hand
shot up and I ran down the aisle. We
went back to his office. I told him I
was not saved, I had been troubled since the morning service and I was still
trusting in my works and not on Christ’s
death on Calvary. As I knelt on his
office floor, I finally understood John 3:14-18 “And
as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man
be lifted up: 15That
whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. 16For God so loved the
world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him
should not perish, but have everlasting life.
God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world
through him might be saved. 18He
that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned
already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of
prayed to God and confessed that I am a sinner and I needed to repent of my
sins, I deserve hell, Christ loves me so much that He died for me and His blood
paid for ALL OF MY SINS, PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE, and lastly, I must depend
on these facts and these facts alone for my salvation.
believed and trusted on that and nothing else. I got up from my knees, wiped
away my tears, and celebrated what Christ had done for me.