I understood and received the most wonderful message that "one can possibly hear", at the age of six. (The message that most adults find difficult to understand...). No, I'm not some kind of genius. I'm just like everyone else, a sinner. You see, someone showed me John 3:16, which says, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believeth on Him, should not perish but have everlasting life." I understood that I was a sinner and that Jesus Christ had died on the cross for my sins. I understood that "whosoever believeth" included me and "should not perish but have everlasting life" meant going to heaven. So that night when I got in bed, I pulled the covers over my head and accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior. The next night, I did it again to be sure that God had heard me and the third night also. By then I realized that God had heard me and I knew that I had eternal life.
When I was 13, we moved to Spartanberg, S.C. where we lived for a little over a year before we moved on to Lake Park, Florida. During this time I began going downhill spiritually, I wasn't a bad kid by most standards but just the average "luke warm" Christian, not too hot and not too cold.
While I was in 10th grade, the Lord brought a friend into my life by the name of Mark Alder. He was really, really dedicated to what he believed. He was a Jehovah's Witness, witnessing to me. Mark asked questions about what I believed and why. He showed me verses in the Bible that seemed to contradict what I had been taught all my life.
I would go to my Sunday school teacher with these questions and verses and then go back to Mark with the answers. He would take the answers to his parents and come back with counter-answers and more questions. So I would go back to my Sunday school teacher... So back and forth it would go.
The Lord used this ordeal to bring me to the point of asking, "Lord, I want to know the truth. Is my friend right, or is what I have been taught right? I want to know the truth!" The Lord answered this prayer within a few months. My father was laid off from work and my family moved back to Georgia where we were originally from. I decided to stay in Florida until my father found a job and things were settled as to where we were to live. The guidance counselor at school suggested a family with whom I could stay (the Chamberlain family).
The first night at the Chamberlain's home, Reid (their oldest son and a guy I casually knew at school), came in and gave me the "Am I going to Heaven?" tract. Reid was involved in the West Palm Beach Youth Ranch to which he invited me.
The first meeting that I attended, the speaker spoke on the luke warm Christian. I had never seen this man before in my life, but the Lord was speaking to me through his message. One of my J.W. friend's questions was, "If you believe what you say, why don't you witness?" Well, the second Youth Ranch meeting that I attended the singing group "Free Joy" sang. These young people were excited about sharing their faith with others. One did not need to be a Jehovah's Witness to witness. Reid also gave me a copy of "Soulwinners Digest" that had an article on the Deity of Jesus Christ with Bible verse after Bible verse, another of the big questions of my Jehovah's Witness friend.
During those three weeks that I stayed with the Chamberlain family, the Lord had answered my prayer. He had shown me the truth.
While I was in 11th grade, I went to a Youth Ranch Easter Camp in Covington, Georgia. It was there that I dedicated my life to the Lord; it was there that I began seeing that the Christian life is a life that reaches out to others with the gospel.
Through the leadership of Mike and Tonya Moore, I began growing spiritually. My relationship with the Lord became more than just going to Church each Sunday.
By the middle of my senior year at Campbell High School in Smyrna, Georgia, I knew that F.B.C. was where I was going to go, at least for a year to get a good Bible background and then secular college. I arrived at F.B.C. during orientation week for the fall semester of 1973. Within a few weeks I knew that I was to graduate from F.B.C. and then some form of Christian service would follow.
By the time that I had reached my Junior year at F.B.C., I developed the idea that I would graduate, then work with a Church and eventually pastor a Church.
Near the middle of that year, Rev.Tucellie. A missionary from Paupa New Guinea presented a chapel program. He showed a standard type missionary film and then he showed something else - I don't know why - except for the Lord to use it to challenge me. He showed a film in living color of a native woman cooking, preparing and eating a rat. This was my mental stereotype of a foreign mission field to which I did not want to go.
My conversation with the Lord over the next few days was something like this:
The Lord (from Isa. 6:8): 'Whom shall I send and who will go for us to the foreign field?" Then said I: "I'm not here. Don't send me somewhere like that! Send my room-mate" The Lord answered: "Whom shall I send then...?" My response: "Send someone else, but not me." The Lord (from ROM 10:14-15): "How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without à preacher? And how shall they preach except they be sent?" Me: "But Lord, I don't speak another language.!!" Lord: (from Ex. 4:11-12): "Who hath made man's mouth? I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say..!! Me: (But Lord...) "Why me?" The Lord: "Whom shall I send and who will go?" Then said I: "Here am I, send me."
Finally the Lord had me willing to go where ever He wanted me to go. As I prayer as to where I should go, I thought "all missionaries go to Africa" and I knew several going to latin America, but as I thought of Europe, I didn't know of anyone there. The Lord began placing Europe on my heart as he showed me the great need there. So I wrote two different mission boards, which offered summer programs in Europe and I asked about Germany (I had studied a little German in high school). I wanted to spend the summer in such a way as to see the mission field, but both mission boards wrote back, both saying that they did not have anything in Germany for short-term missionary work for that summer and both suggested France. With the summer quickly approaching, with the door being shut as a summer missionary and being unable to find any other doors open, I decided to go home for the summer (in Georgia).
The Grace Brethren Church in Marietta, Georgia had become my home church during the past few years so that summer, I found myself once again involved with the bus ministry and visitation ministry of that church.
The Lord had that summer well planned for me, as a young missionary from France by the name of Mark Penfold, came home for furlough. His parents attended this Grace Brethren Church. It was there that I met him and he shared with me the spiritual need of France. He told me of the work of the Society for Europe's Evangelization (S.E.E.) in France.
By the end of that summer, I had a conviction that France was where the Lord was leading me. When I returned to F.B.C. for my senior year, I found that the Lord had given my best friends, Herb and Sue Williams a burden for France also. This confirmed in my mind where the Lord was leading me. After praying about and investigating various possibilities, the Lord showed that the S.E.E. program was the way that He had for me to serve Him in France.
I graduated from F.B.C. and was ordained by Florida Bible Church in May 1977. I had hoped to be able to arrive in France in the early fall but the Lord in His wisdom did not provide my support until February 1978. So I arrived March 13, 1978 in Toulouse, France.
Before arriving, I was warned of the culture shock but I think that the "spiritual shock" was even greater. I knew of the spiritual famine in France but I really did not comprehend it until I saw it. The spiritual blindness of the masses of people is staggering.
In January 1979, the small church in Montauban was without a pastor. The Lord led so that I filled this need. At the time, my broken French was to the point where I could communicate but it was not yet to where I could preach effectively. So I took the work in hand. Someone else would come and preach for the church services and teach the weekly Bible study and I would lead the singing, give the announcements, lead the prayer and give a short meditation. As for the other pastoral work such as visits and door-to-door, I was leading, but Judy Taylor (my teammate who later became my wife) was doing the speaking.
Being put in a situation where I had to use the French language continually, my speaking improved so that soon I was more completely filling the role as pastor.