My summer job site was a janitorial position at an elementary school. I started on a Thursday in the middle of June. I had to be to work by 7:00 A.M. Since my grandmother lived close to that school, I rode my bike to her house, left the bike at her house, and then walked to the school. I met Ronald, the head custodian at the school. He loved to talk. I knew that my friend Matt had worked at this elementary school during the school year, so I asked Ronald if he knew Matt. He told me that Matt was a good worker.
But my friendship with Matt was in the dumps. During the early part of the summer, Matt came over to my house with one of his friends who was not my friend, and both of them made fun of me and my Christianity. Matt came over later and apologized, and it looked as if our friendship was getting back to normal. But one week later, he was back to mocking me.
Edward's mom had been a Christian for about three years, and I knew that she was a Christian. I wanted to tell her that I was now a Christian, but didn't know how to. But one night when I called Edward, Edward said to me, "I told my mom that you're a Christian."
"Wonderful," I said.
"I think it's great!" I heard Edward's mom say in the background.
Edward told me that he told his mom about an incident that happened to me back in March or April when all my gospel "tracts" flew over a classroom. Steve came up behind me as I walked into my Algebra 2 / Trigonometry class and he "roasted" me. (Recall from Chapter Two that "roasted" means that he knocked all of my books out of my hands.) Steve shouted "Roasted!" and took off running down the hallway. The class was almost full of people, but (as was the case most of the time) nobody said anything. My friends and I did this to each other all the time and there was nothing unusual about it. Anyway, as my books flew out of my hands and landed on the floor, papers flew out and went all over the place. I had a lot of gospel tracts that Don and Dan had given me to hand out to people. All of these tracts went flying everywhere. People were looking at me even though they didn't say anything. I was embarrassed, but not because I had been "roasted." I was embarrassed because people could see my gospel tracts. I was ashamed about the possibility that I could be perceived as being a "Jesus freak." I was still ashamed of the gospel. Out of my embarrassment, a blurted out an expletive. Edward didn't tell his mom about my swear word. He didn't communicate the inconsistency of the whole situation: that gospel tracts were flying around and I was swearing because I found it embarrassing. He just thought his mom might find it exciting that tracts with the gospel on it were flying all over a classroom full of people. After the night that Edward told his mom that I was a Christian, Edward's mom and I began to have some good spiritual talks whenever I came over to see Edward.
Near the end of June, the Lord began speaking to my heart about getting back into the Bible. The Word of Life program through my church had something called the Quiet Time Diary. Back during the school year, people in the youth group tried to talk me into doing one. I felt like they were pressuring me to do it, so I kept refusing. But when they quit asking me in the summer, I started to think instead of rebel, and I decided to do one. Dan found one in the church three months earlier, and since no one had claimed it, he gave it to me. The Diary assigned passages and then asked a question about each passage. The program was set up such that it would take six years to go through the entire Bible. At first, I loved doing it! I wanted to do more than what was assigned. As time went on, however, I lost much of that initial excitement and it became harder to keep up. But I managed to keep up until I stopped some time after I started college.
Back at the elementary school, I was getting to know Ronald. I still hadn't talked to him about Christ. So I started praying for a chance to do it.
A couple of days after I started working at the elementary school, a guy named Tony started working there as well. He was 17 years old and deaf. He couldn't hear except a little with a hearing aide. I witnessed to Tony on the first day he was there, and he said a prayer to receive Christ into his life. He prayed the prayer that was on the tract that I gave him. However, I didn't think that he really understood the gospel. He seemed to view the prayer on the tract as just another prayer. [Note: In the late 1980's Tony gave his life to Jesus Christ for real. I saw him get baptized at a Pentecostal church. As I watched him get baptized, I couldn't help but think that God had used me to plant or water a seed in his life that later led to him finding Christ.]
I still wanted a chance to talk to Ronald, so I decided to wear my "Champions for Christ" button that I had gotten from my church. But because I was embarrassed about the religiousness of it, I wore a Detroit Tigers baseball cap to "balance" things out. I only wore the button for one day. Ronald never said anything about the button as I hoped he would.
But in the beginning of July, Ronald and I had a conversation in which we started talking about the end of the world.
"Do you think the world will end?" I asked.
"Yes," he said. "But not until the book of Revelation [in the Bible] is fulfilled."
I was happily surprised that he said that, so I increased the level of discussion. When I asked him if he ever received Jesus, he said, "Long before you were born!"
In spite of this, it began to seem that Ronald didn't live as if Christ was the Lord of his life. Of course, it's risky to judge someone's standing with God. One could say that many of my own actions (such as cheating on the Chemistry test and "taking on" Henry) did not truly demonstrate that Jesus was the Lord of my life. But I was becoming increasingly aware that many who called themselves "Christians" (myself included) frequently lived in ways that were far from what it truly meant to be "Christian."
At the last part of June, Ronald said that he was going on vacation. My job co-ordinator sent me over to another elementary school for a week. Tony went too. When I got over there, I met the head custodian, and a 16-year old worker from Rogers High School named Derek.
During that week, a lot of elementary school kids came to the playground, and I went out and witnessed to them on my breaks and lunches. I'd get them to say a prayer accepting Christ as their Savior. This was typical of my methods in general, even when I was witnessing to adults. I'd just try to get them to say a prayer to accept Christ as Savior. Even though I was becoming increasingly aware that there were a lot of nominal Christians who didn't consider Christ their Lord, I didn't tell people that they needed to receive Christ as Lord. Some of the youth at the church had convinced me that I didn't need to tell people to receive Christ as Lord, but that I only needed to tell them to receive Christ as Savior. (Officially, the church taught that all Christians should have Jesus Christ as their Lord.) Thus, the significance of what it really meant to be a Christian was often watered down when I told people about Christ.
If the kids didn't show up, lunch breaks seemed boring to me. This happened on Friday, so I ate lunch with Tony in the teacher's lounge, and we watched games shows and "I Love Lucy" on TV.
On my 5th and last day at this elementary school, my job coordinator came in the morning to give Tony and I our first paychecks of the summer. She told me that most of the janitors were taking their "snow days" on Monday, so there probably wouldn't be any work Monday. (When the schools were closed during the winter because of snow, the janitors still had to come into work. Thus, they got a day off in the summer to make up for working on a day when the school was closed. This is what my job coordinator meant by a "snow day.") This was the start of the 4th of July weekend.
My whole family went to Sandy Pines that weekend, although my dad and I didn't go until Sunday. My younger sister and brother brought friends with them. I brought Edward when I went down. We were there until Monday night, and I had fun swimming, renting a canoe, building fires in a fire pit, roasting food over the flames, and other stuff. Most of us got up at 3:00 A.M. Monday morning to watch an eclipse of the moon. I didn't get up because I was too tired. I also missed the holiday fireworks because they shot those off on Saturday night.
Late Monday afternoon, all of us teen-agers were sitting around the fire pit talking. Thus, all of my brother's friends, all of my sister's friends, and Edward and I were talking. A conversation that disturbed me took place. It went thusly:
"Did you hear what happened to Jamie?" someone asked
"I heard she got thrown into a mental health hospital," another said.
"Jamie?" I asked for confirmation.
"Yeah!" someone said. "The chick's weird! Her mother couldn't handle all the trouble she got into. So she sent her there!"
"I remember her," Edward said. "She got into a fight with my sister once."
I was very upset at how uncaring they were toward Jamie. I had met Jamie when I was in 9th grade. She was in 6th grade at the time. My mom and dad worked every night until 7:30 p.m. at that time, so my brothers and sisters and I had the house to ourselves until they got home. We used the time to invite many of the kids in the neighborhood over. One night, one of the neighbor kids brought Jamie along. I was surprised when I was told that Jamie was only in 6th grade, because you wouldn't know it by looking at her. Calling her a "hottie" would have been an understatement. She had already developed sexually, and looked several years older. She acted older as well. I found her to be extremely attractive. I became friends with her.
Jamie took the wrong combination of something one night at our house. She started freaking out big time, screaming and acting wild. My older sister had to take her to the hospital. She was the kind of girl that was always getting into trouble. She also had a problem with stealing. She became friends with my younger sister, and thus would spend the night at our house frequently, especially when my younger sister had slumber parties. By the time I was in 11th grade (before I became a Christian) she began to be hated by a lot of the neighborhood kids. I pretended that I hated her just to conform to peer pressure, but I really didn't hate her. I had a "crush" on her.
During the autumn of my 11th grade (back in the days when Allen, Matt, and I went to the movies every week), I was on the bus with Matt and Allen coming back from a movie. Jamie got on the bus. I pretended that I hated her. I gave her the finger, and she gave me the finger back. I harassed her. I said to Matt and Allen, "She's an [expletive deleted]-hole! I hate her [expletive deleted]-ing guts!" However, I really liked her because I had a crush on her. I just didn't want anyone to know that I liked her because everyone else hated her.
Anyway, getting back to the conversation at Sandy Pines in July of 1982:
The conversation that we had at Sandy Pines really bothered me. I wanted to tell Jamie that I had changed and that I was sorry and ashamed for the things that I had said to her and about her. I wanted to share Christ with her, and I wanted her to find the forgiveness that only comes from Jesus Christ! I wanted her to know that I didn't hate her. I started praying to God for a chance to share Christ with her. Little did I realize that God would eventually answer that prayer in a rather interesting way. However, that story is for a later chapter.
On Tuesday morning I went back to work and found out that I was supposed to be there on Monday. Ronald had already used his snow day. I made up some of the missed hours by working until 4:30 p.m. instead of 3:30 p.m. on several afternoons.
On one of the Fridays in early July, my grandparents took me to the bank at Roger's Plaza to get my check cashed. After I got it cashed, I went into Muir's Drugs while Grandma and Grandpa went shopping around. While I was in there, I saw Bob and another guy named Dave, two people that I had worked with last summer. I'd been praying for a chance to witness to them for three months! This was an answered prayer!
"Hi, Bob!" Bob said.
"Hi, Bob!" I returned. "You still working?"
"Yeah! Me, Dave, and this dude" (he pointed to someone I didn't know) "are working together!"
I told him where I was working, but I never witnessed to them because I was afraid that they would laugh. I never saw them again. I prayed for a chance to talk to them about Christ, and God answered my prayer. But I didn't take the opportunity.
At the beginning of June, I started going places every Friday night with Jerry and Lou. Lou had a car, so he would drive. We'd go somewhere to play video games, or we would go to a movie. Whenever a conversation started that I felt was vulgar, or when we planned to go someplace that I felt was wrong, I was always able to stop it. But that was until Edward and my younger brother started riding along. Conversations became vulgar. Things got more active.
One night we drove around the city of Wyoming (and Grandville) looking for things to do. We decided to follow a car around. We followed it down every street it went down, even on to the side streets. Finally it went into a residential side street area, stopped, and turned around.
"Oh, no! He's coming back at us!" Lou said.
"Let's get out of here!" Edward shouted with a laugh.
Lou, laughing all the way, slammed on the breaks and quickly turned around. He drove out of there at high speed. All of us, including me, were laughing hysterically.
On another occasion, Edward hopped out of the car to make a "nature call" in the woods. Lou started driving away. But Lou stopped the car so that Edward could catch up with us. It was only meant as a joke. On that same night, we were cruising through a city park and passed by a group of parked cars that had all of the windows steamed-up. We reasoned that those cars contained couples who were in the "heat of passion," so we rolled down our windows and started shouting at them, "Police! Police!"
Once we were stopped at a red light on 28th Street and Lou started revving up his engine, challenging the guy next to us to race us down the street. The guy responded by revving up his engine as well. The light turned green, and Lou "burned rubber," and we had a very brief "drag race" down 28th Street. It wasn't all that much of a race because the driver of the other car chickened out very quickly. He slowed down to get far away from us. [28th Street is the busiest street in the Grand Rapids metro area. It is frequently jam packed with an extremely large volume of cars.]
Much of the time we had the rock stations blaring full blast on Lou's car stereo while all of the windows were wide open. Dirty jokes, profanity, and sexual remarks about girls were common dialog.
We did this for eight straight Fridays. A year ago, this wouldn't have bothered me. But now the Holy Spirit was living inside of me, and I couldn't do these things anymore without spiritual alarms going off inside of me at full volume. I grew increasingly depressed with each passing week, ashamed over what I was doing. I didn't feel that as a Christian, I should be going along with what was happening. Finally, on the 8th Friday, I was feeling so bad, that I literally jumped out of the car at a stop sign near my house, and started walking home. Lou drove after me and asked me what I was doing.
"It's 1:A.M.! I'm tired! I'm walking home!' I said.
Lou told me to get back in, and he took me home.
That night, I told God that I wouldn't go again. Lou stopped coming to get me on Friday nights.
Jerry had just gotten a new car, and in mid-July, I went to a movie with Lou, Edward, and Jerry. Jerry drove us in his new car. We saw the movie Tron. Afterwards, we went to a video game place and saw a game based on the movie. We kept playing the game over and over again.
After we got done in there, we went to Jerry's car only to find out that the battery was dead and the car wouldn't start. Then on top of that, it started to rain.
"Who's gonna' get out and wave someone down so we can get a jump?" Lou asked.
"Not me!" Jerry and I said.
"I'll go!" Edward said. "You all are lucky that I'm a Christian!"
He tried to wave a truck down, but the truck went right on by.
"Man!" Edward shouted loudly. "If I wasn't a Christian, I'd flip you off!"
Someone finally stopped and we got it started. But before we got home, the muffler on Jerry's car fell off, and the car stalled one more time while on the road. It stalled while Jerry was trying to turn on to another street, so the car ended up perpendicular to the flow of traffic!
Jerry, Edward, and Lou all claimed to be Christians. But when we were all together, we never acted like Christians. One day I said to Jerry while he was visiting me at my house, "Look me right in the eye and tell me that you have received Jesus." He couldn't do it. That was the last time for about a year that Jerry came to my house.
Matt came by to see me in June, and we had a good talk. He said, "You know, I was afraid that I'd come over here and find all the lights out and you sitting in the middle of a circle of candles." We both laughed about that.
I still went to church, but now "revival" meetings were being held on Thursday nights, but nothing was happening on Wednesdays. Dan, Don, I, and others would go to Mr. Fables Restaurant after Thursday church to talk and "fellowship." (Whenever we spent time with other Christians, we called this "fellowship." It was another one of our many "Christian" terms.)
In the middle of June, Dan and Don disappeared without telling me where they were going. I later found out that they went on a church youth retreat for one and a half weeks, and then to camp for another one and a half weeks. While they were gone, I felt that I was in bad shape spiritually, and "had" to go to church. I knew that Edward's mom went to Grandville Baptist Church, so I went to church with her. (Edward's dad was a Catholic, and Edward went to the Catholic church with him.) On my way to church, Edward's mom told me that she didn't think that Edward was a Christian.
"I know Edward is," I said. "I see Christ working in his life."
I was unaware at the time that Edward had not yet truly come to Christ. His conversion experience was yet to come, but this is for a later chapter.
Nonetheless Edward's and my friendship continued to grow.
On one particular time that I was over at Edward's, Joe (a friend of Edward's from school) was there. The three of us started talking about strictness.
Edward said, "One time my dad caught my younger sister with a Bible that said 'Grandville Baptist Church' on it. My dad made her write 'I am a Catholic' 500 times!"
I looked at Joe and said, "Since we're on this subject, if you were to die right now, do you know that you'd go to heaven?"
He responded by saying, "Yes. I haven't done anything that I regret." Joe also stated that he had never committed a sin in his life.
After a very brief talk, Joe said, "Oh! I gotta' go!" and he got up and left. Edward and I were both surprised at the sudden choice by Joe to leave. We wondered if maybe he was feeling uncomfortable talking about Christ and sin.
I really started to explode in my telling people about Jesus Christ. I witnessed to job coordinator, and to others that I met at work. One day I went to get a bottle of pop out of the pop machine at the elementary school where I worked. The bottle opener on the machine didn't work right. After I got it opened, I walked by a woman who just happened to be in the same room. I thought to myself, "I should witness to her."
"Did the bottle chip?" she asked, interrupting my thoughts.
"What?" I asked startled.
"Sometimes when it don't work right, it'll chip the bottle."
I looked at the bottle, and sure enough, it was chipped. This gave me a witnessing opportunity. I took the opportunity and gave her a tract. She cracked up laughing, but I found out that she laughed because she was surprised that someone my age was a Christian.
She told me she'd give her life to Christ saying, "I think that it's about time for a change in my life!"
Later in the summer, Ronald went on vacation again. I went back to the other elementary school. I wanted to talk to Derek, the 16 year-old guy who worked there, about Christ. I didn't do it until the last possible moment. I talked to him on Friday at 3:30 p.m., quitting time on my last day at that school.
He told that he would accept Christ as his Savior. I would meet Derek again in the future, but that is for a later chapter.
My job ended in mid-August, and I applied for employment for the school year. I bought my grandmother a "Thank you" plant (a huge fern) because she let me come over to her house on every day that I worked. However, I was too embarrassed to buy it myself, so I gave Edward the money and he bought it. Then Edward and I made plans to go to Sandy Pines. We decided that we would go on the following week.
My older brother came for a visit in August of 1982. When I was 12 years old, I discovered that I had an older brother. He was 16 years old at the time. He lived in Alaska and he came down to stay with us for a summer. I discovered that my dad was married once before he married my mom. My older brother came down to visit every once in awhile. I always looked forward to his visits because I didn't see him all the much. He lived so far away. However, I frequently wrote letters to him.