My grades in high school had never really been very good. My cumulative grade point average was lower than 2.0. I made a decision that I was going to work a little harder during my Senior year, and my grades started to go up. In spite of this, classes like Analysis (math) and Physics still gave me difficulty. I got scores of 60% on my first two Analysis tests. I asked Mr. Baker if I could take some extra credit, but he told me that he preferred for me to work on the assigned problems.
The amount of "witnessing" that I did dramatically increased during my Senior year. I set a goal to do everything that I could to "win my high school to Jesus Christ." I "witnessed" to Mrs. Jones, the librarian, and found out that she became a Christian when she was 18. Tom asked her if we could print some tracts using the library's copy machine. She said yes. Tom then printed 1,200 tracts using the tract that was from my church. Mrs. Jones charged Dan, but only $6 or $7. We gave out about 700 of them during the course of the next year.
Don had a speech class that was taught by Mr. Curtis. Don told me that the only reason he signed up for it was so he could preach the gospel of Christ to other students. The first assignment in that class was to do a pantomime to a song. Don used a traditional Christian song and only a few people clapped. All the assignments after that were actual speeches, and Don made sure that he was able to give the gospel in every speech that he made. Mr. Curtis didn't mind that Don was giving the gospel, but he was concerned about the fact that Don rarely gave speeches on anything else. He took Don aside and spoke to him about his concern. Don told me about this one day and said, "Mr. Curtis doesn't like the fact that I always preach the gospel. He keeps saying that he wants me to get an education." Don was somewhat upset about this because he felt that Mr. Curtis seemed more concerned with education than he was with the gospel. It seemed to me, however, that Mr. Curtis was only trying to broaden Don's horizons a little, and not to prevent him from telling the gospel.
Don and I were talking after school one night when I was getting ready to go to work, and a guy in Don's speech class came up to us.
"How 'ya doing?" he said.
"Fine," Don said.
"Hey, what did you get on that last speech?"
Don then told him what grade he received for it, and then they talked some more about their class while I just listened. After a minute or so, Don and I asked him if he knew whether or not he was going to heaven.
"Uh . . . no, I don't," he said.
We explained Jesus' death to him and asked him if he was willing to receive Jesus as his Savior. He said that he'd think about it.
I took plenty of opportunities to tell others about Jesus Christ. I started witnessing to Eric, who told me that he didn't believe in God. "The Indians didn't have Bibles," he said. Eric was in my 1st hour class.
I continued to talk to Eric throughout the school year, and he became increasingly interested in what I had to say. However, one day I went too far, and I learned a hard lesson about tolerance and respect. First, however, I need to set some background for what eventually happened. At my church, many of the people that I knew from the youth meetings, including Don, believed that we should not tolerate rock music and that when people played it in school, we should take a stand against it. I began to go along with this belief. One day, there was a yearbook assembly in the school auditorium. Rock music was being played to the pictures that flashed on a screen. There was clapping, loud cheering, and shouting going on. Tom, Edward, Don, and I all walked out and sat in the cafeteria and complained to each other about it. Then a guy came into the cafeteria carrying a stereo that was cranking out music at a high volume.
"Oh, no!" we all said in disgust. "Not here too!"
We angrily walked out of the cafeteria, but I went back and gave the guy a tract. Don followed me back in.
"Do you know if you'd go to heaven?" I asked.
"I don't know," he said.
"Do you believe that you're a sinner?" I asked.
"Yes," he said.
"Do you accept the fact that because of that, you're going to hell?" I said.
"No," he said. "I deserve to, but that doesn't mean I'm going."
Don stopped me and very gently said to me, "Don't say that he's going to hell."
I was surprised by this because I thought that this was the way that Don wanted me to share the gospel. I backed down a little, and tried to be more gentle in the way that I presented the gospel.
The guy took the tract and said that he would receive the Lord as his savior.
Don took many stands against rock music, including regularly skipping pep assemblies because rock music was played at them. The assemblies were held every Friday during the fall and started at 2:00 p.m. or 2:10 p.m. during 6th hour. All students were required to attend them. I skipped the homecoming pep assembly with Don. We were standing in a hallway near the offices during the assembly when Mrs. Johnson from the attendance office saw us.
"Aren't you supposed to be at the assembly?" she said.
"I'm not going," Don said.
I was afraid that I would get a detention, so I quickly headed up the nearest stairway while Mrs. Johnson was dealing with Don. As I headed up the stairs, I heard their conversation.
"Go!" she said. "Or you'll get a detention!"
"Where do I take my detention?" Don said. Don ended up spending 20 minutes in the attendance office, but they never gave him the detention.
All of this led to the situation that eventually occurred between Eric and I. Most teachers allowed students to play radios during non-lecture portions of the class, and Don frequently complained when rock music was played in Mr. Walters' class. On one particular day, Eric started playing WGRD (the "Top 40" rock station in Grand Rapids). I was afraid that Don would get mad at me if I didn't stand against it.
I walked over to Eric and said, "Eric, turn it off!"
The whole class saw what I did, including Don and Mr. Walters. Mr. Walters then said, "Okay, Eric. Turn the music off." Eric angrily turned it off. This, however, was not the end of the situation. The conflict erupted between 2nd and 3rd hours when I was in the bathroom. I was standing at the urinal when Eric walked in. He angrily and aggressively pushed me into the urinal.
Angry that I was now slightly wet with my own urine, I screamed at him, "What is your problem, Eric?!"
"YOU!!!" he screamed back.
Then I remembered what happened in 1st hour class. I went into feelings of very deep regret. I was supposed to be loving, not condemning! I asked myself, "How am I supposed to win people to Christ when I am doing this kind of thing?" I asked God to forgive me and told God that I was going to start loving, not condemning. I wondered if it was too late to get through to Eric. Had I gone too far? Had I turned him off to the gospel because of my stupid behavior? The future would show that this was not the case, but I will write more about that later.
I quit taking public stands against rock music. Tom and Edward also stopped publicly protesting rock music, but Don kept going. A girl named Leah walked into the school cafeteria one day playing WZZR (a rock station) on a huge stereo. Don complained and yelled at her.
"And she claims to be a Christian!" Don said in disgust.
All of this eventually led to a major confrontation between Don and I. It happened after the school's jazz band performed a concert for the students. The concert was held during the 2nd hour class period. I was very impressed with the band, especially with the drummer. Don, however, was not. After the concert, Don asked, "How'd you like those drums?" He thought that I'd condemn it. I had recently implied to him that I felt that rock music was evil. I implied this to him because I wanted him to quit harassing me because I listened to Christian rock music. But after Don asked me about the jazz band's drums, I decided that it was time to stop lying and tell him what I really believed.
"Well," I said. "The music was okay, but the purpose of it was wrong."
By saying that the "purpose was wrong," I meant that the purpose of the concert was not specifically to honor God. At this time in my life, I believed that all music that wasn't "Christian" was misguided. I didn't believe that "non-Christian" music itself was wrong; only the intentions of the artists were wrong.
All that Don heard, however, was my comment about the music being "okay."
"WHAT?" he shouted. "You liked that!?"
We were in the hallway outside of the school auditorium, and the hallway was filled with students. I was standing with Tom. Tom took off very quickly. I tried to follow Tom to get away from Don.
"There was nothing wrong with the music!" I shouted.
"Then there must be something wrong with your heart!" Don shouted back.
"Thank you!" I screamed sarcastically. I was very hurt by that statement.
I tried to follow Tom, but Don shouted, "Where are you going?"
Don followed me and we argued quite fiercely. We screamed and yelled at each other incessantly as we walked the crowded hallways on the first floor. We walked up a crowded stairway to the second floor. Hundreds of students heard us. I looked around at the students as Don and I shouted at each other, and I was ashamed. I knew that we were presenting a bad "witness" for Christ. I wanted this argument to stop, but I didn't know how to stop it. Don kept following me and yelling at me. Eventually, Don and I went our separate ways because we had to go to different classes. When I sat down in my classroom, I became very depressed. I was hurt and devastated over what had just happened, and I was afraid that we had damaged our Christian "witness" in the eyes of people who saw the argument.
In spite of this, Don and I continued to "witness." Don witnessed to Mr. Walters once and found out that he was Catholic. I witnessed to Katie when she sat next to me in my 1st hour class before she transferred out. She said that she was a Christian. I also talked to two girls named Tina and Paula about Christ, and also to a girl named Mary. I will write more about Tina and Paula in a later chapter.
My third hour class didn't go very well for me. I had almost no communication with the other students in there. I was one of only two guys, and I became shy around the girls. Some of them tried to talk to me, but they didn't get very far. My response was minimal, and they soon gave up trying to get a significant response from me. I didn't quite know how to talk to them. There were actually many girls in my high school who tried talking to me, but gave up in frustration when I wouldn't respond. I started counting the number of girls who gave up trying to talk to me, but I stopped counting at 13 after the first semester ended. I wasn't shy around all girls. I was only shy around the ones that I thought were good looking, or the ones that I liked.
In my 4th hour class, the student aide (who was called a "helper") was a Junior, and she often walked over to talk to Ralph and a few of his friends. I gave her a tract, but she laughed and didn't talk to me about it. I witnessed to another guy in that class who responded by saying, "You're doing that here?!!"
"Yeah!" I said with enthusiasm.
When we had to do book reports, I chose to do it on a book called The Pearl because it was a short book and it was all that I had time for. I read three-fourths of it the night before it was due! When Mrs. Williams went around asking everyone which book they were reporting on, Ralph said to me, "Hey, Wabit! What are you doing yours on? The Bible?" He asked this question with a tone of voice that implied mockery. However, by this time, Ralph and I were getting along better and it was not meant with as much mockery as it would have been had he said it earlier in the semester.
Mrs. Williams, however, confronted Ralph (and maybe rightly so, considering what Ralph had done in the past), and said, "Hey! That wasn't necessary!"
I was originally going to do my book report on Huckleberry Fin, but it was too long for what I wanted to use for a book report. Most of the books that I had read up to that point in my life were science fiction, and it was very rare that I enjoyed a book that wasn't science fiction. I did enjoy reading, but I didn't have much appreciation for "the classics." I therefore just wanted to get this assignment over as quickly as possible. A shorter book like The Pearl made that possible.
Mrs. Williams had us read a book called The Great Gatsby, and then she got a film based on the book. We watched it in the school auditorium. Many parts had been cut from the version that she received, so Mrs. Williams got the uncut theatrical version of the movie and we watched it in class. It was twice as long. Everyone in the class was charged $1 to see the movie.
Mrs. Williams also showed another movie to the class, but I had already seen it a year before. Four students and I didn't want to pay 50 cents to see it again, so Mrs. Williams gave all five of us passes to the library. None of us went to the library, however. We all skipped out. I went to the cafeteria to talk to Cheryl and Dick (the janitors) while they worked. I later felt guilty about skipping. When the second part of the movie was shown, I went to the library like I was supposed to. I was the only one of the group that went to the library.
Ralph and Bert got into a conversation with me about rock music. Ralph said to me, "God created all things, right Bob? So if God created John Lennon and rock music, then it's all okay!"
"Not quite," I said. "God created John and the music, but it's God's music, and it's our choice how we use it, whether for right or wrong. By the way, I'm not against rock music. I like a lot of Christian rock."
I had many more conversations with Ralph about spiritual matters. I wrongly judged him on one occasion. I said to him, "You probably don't even believe in God!" I instantly regretted what I said because I knew that I had judged him on something that I couldn't possibly know. Ralph knew it too, and he laughed and said, "You amaze me sometimes, Bob."
"Why's that?" I asked.
"Just the way you do things," he said. "You judged me."
I then said to him, "I know. I realized it was wrong when I said it."
On the last day of the first semester (and the last day of that 4th hour composition class), I walked up to Ralph and said, "Well, Ralph. At least you don't have to worry about my preaching anymore!"
"Well, Bob," he said. "I really didn't mind your preaching too much."
I have already stated that I had quite a bit of difficulty with my fifth hour Physics class. If Edward hadn't been sitting next to me, I don't know if I would have made it. I didn't understand what was going on, and Edward had to help me extensively. I often sat by my locker after work and worked on Physics and Analysis until 6:00 p.m. or 7:00 p.m. at night. On some nights I was there until well after 7:00 p.m. I said to Barry the custodian, "Barry, I don't think I'm going to make it!"
"Sure you will!" he said. "Just hang in there. I know you'll make it!"
Those problems frustrated me! I'd spend hours working, but would understand very little. Once in awhile, however, I'd make a startling discovery and figure a problem out. Sometimes a fellow student would show me how to do it, and sometimes Mr. Baker would. But Barry was right: I made it ... barely!
I had a chance to witness to all but four people in my sixth hour Sociology class. I asked one guy if he knew whether or not he was going to heaven, and he said, "Can anybody be sure?" I tried to answer yes, but I stumbled through my words for some reason. I didn't give as good of an answer as I would have liked to.
Once when we were preparing group speeches in sixth hour, Katie (who was in my group) took my Bible and said, "If I turn anywhere in this Bible, can you quote me a section I tell you to?"
"No," I said. But at least the presence of the Bible was something positive.
A girl named Carla told me she would not receive Jesus as her savior. "You wouldn't want me to say anything I can't mean, would you?" I appreciated her honesty.
A guy named Brad said that he had already reviewed Christ as his savior.
The most interesting "witnessing" opportunity that I had in my sixth hour class was the one I had with a girl named Heather. I started talking to her after her speech group gave their orals. I had been counting how many "uhms" people said in their speeches. I was doing it as a joke, but Heather was curious to know how many she had said. I told her, and this set up a chance for me to witness to her.
I pulled out a tract and told her the gospel.
"But how do I know if I'm 'saved'?" she asked.
"Just trust Him, " I said. "You don't need to feel anything. God said he'd save you if you make Him your savior, and He don't lie."
Her boyfriend came to meet her after class. He did this every day. I had "witnessed" to him before, but he was quite hostile toward me, Christianity, the Bible, and Christ. He had responded in a very hostile and angry manner when I had talked to him about Christ. When he walked up to Heather, he noticed that she was holding the tract that I had given to her. He started goofing around with her and caused her to drop it.
"No!" she exclaimed, and started to walk back to pick it off the floor. Her boyfriend pulled her away from it and they left. I was upset and mad because what he had done was obviously deliberate. I picked up the tract and started praying that God would give me another chance to talk to her. It came early the next week. I gave her another tract.
"I noticed that you had dropped the last one," I said.
"Yeah," she said with a laugh. "My boyfriend and I were goofing around."
I thought, "No he wasn't! He meant for you to drop it!" But I didn't say it. I just laughed a little along with her. I was very excited that God had given me another chance to talk to her. She was extremely open to the message of Christ.
My sixth hour class was also the most enjoyable class that I had. On the week following the first time that I "witnessed" to Heather, Mr. Smith taught us a board game called Ghetto. Will and I were partners and we played the character "Billy." We had a good time! The purpose of the game was to show what life was like on the street, and to show the kind of struggles that people in ghettos face. Will and I made "big-time" hustler! We had met all the requirements to make it as a "big-time" hustler, except for the fact that we needed to throw a "six" on the die to finally make it. Will threw the die and a six came up! However, we ended up losing the round because Will threw "snake eyes" next.
"Now that you've made it big-time," Mr. Smith said, "you can either play for keeps or help the neighborhood with your money."
"No," Will and I agreed, meaning that we wouldn't help the neighborhood.
Then I joked, "No way, man! I'm going to the top! I'm in this world for myself! I don't care about the neighborhood!" (I was trying to get fully into the game.) Everyone laughed at my comment.
Will and I had the second highest score in the class, but since we didn't go anywhere in education or occupation, we did poorly in what the game called "future score." Thus, even though it appeared that we were winning, we ended up loosing. The game had made its point! Mr. Smith also told us that our class had the lowest scores in the history of all of the games played in his classes! We played Ghetto for a total of five class times.
My semester grades were not impressive, but they were better than what I had done in my previous years in high school. My final grades were (in order from 1st to 6th hours): B-, C-, B-, B-, D+, and B-. I was quite satisfied because I had made it half-way through my senior year.
I didn't yet know what I was capable of doing academically. My parents knew, however. They regularly encouraged me to do better, as they saw abilities within me that I didn't know I had. I didn't even imagined that, later in life, I would not only get a master's degree, but I would also work on getting a doctoral degree. At this point in my life, I was just getting by in school.