I grew up in Wyoming, Michigan, which was the largest suburb of the city of Grand Rapids. In 1981 I was a Junior at Wyoming Park High School. The school had an assembly planned in our auditorium on one particular December day. I sat down in the middle of the auditorium with two of my friends named Lou and Jeremy. Usually we would take the end seats when we went to assemblies, but for some reason we sat one seat over, leaving the end seat nearest to the aisle open. A few minutes later, a guy named Don came along and took that end seat. I looked at him, but he spoke first.
"Hello," he said.
"Hi," I said back.
When I looked more closely, I noticed that he had a Bible with him. I had been seeing him walking around with a Bible recently and I was a little curious as to why he had one.
"Are you religious?" I asked.
"Yes! How about you?" he replied with intensity.
"No! No!" I quickly exclaimed. "Don't push it on me! If you want to be, that's fine. But it's not for me." I hesitated for a moment, and then added, "And you don't seem like a religious person."
"I've only been 'saved' for a couple of months," he said.
At about this time the assembly started. We stopped talking and started watching. When it was over and we all went our separate ways, I thought that this would be the last I'd hear about the "religion" thing. I was wrong.
Lunchtime rolled around. I bought my lunch in the school cafeteria and started walking over to sit with Jeremy and Lou as I had done almost every day since September. But when I walked by the table that Don sat at, he said, "Hey, Robert! Come here!"
"Oh, no!" I thought. But I sat down anyway. Don then took out a small flier entitled "Are You Sure ...?" and gave it to me.
"I've seen these before, " I said.
There was another Christian sitting with us and the three of us began talking. Don started telling me about hell and I began to get scared. I wanted to get up and leave, but I didn't because another part of me wanted to hear what he was saying.
"I don't want to be religious, " I said. "But I can go to God if I have problems."
The Christian who was with Don gave a quick laugh and said, "Oh, you're one of those, huh?"
At about this time, Jeremy walked over and said to me, "Lou wants to know why you're not sitting over there with us."
"This would be a perfect excuse to leave," I thought. However, once again I didn't listen to my thoughts. I stayed with Don until the end of the lunch period.
That still wasn't the last I saw of Don. He talked to me every day about the fact that I was a sinner and that I was going to hell unless I accepted Jesus Christ, God's only Son who died for me on the cross, as my "personal" Savior. However, I couldn't do that because, as I told Don, "I'm not willing to give up my sin." Don, however, wouldn't give up on me, and he would "bug" me during every chance he got. I kept wanting to scream, "Don, leave me alone!" while another part of me wanted to hear his words.
A week and a half passed and the school's Christmas vacation started. I thought I'd be free of Don for two weeks. Once again, I was wrong. On the first day following Christmas, Don called my house. He wanted to know if I wanted to go to church. I didn't, and I told him so, making an excuse.
"Do you mind if I bring a friend over to talk to you?" Don asked.
"No!!!" I thought. But I said, "Well . . . maybe . . . I don't know. Who are you bringing?"
"His name is Dan. He's better at talking about it than I am."
I told him to go ahead, but I didn't want to tell him that. He said they'd be by on Wednesday. I was relieved when they didn't show up. Don didn't give up, however, and he called again and asked if they could come over on Sunday.
"Well, I don't know," I said. "Give me a call on Sunday and ask. I'll give you an answer then."
"Okay, 'bye," Don said.
"Safe for another day!" I thought.
However, Don surprised me! At 1:00 Sunday afternoon while I was enjoying a peaceful sleep (I always slept in when I could), my dad came into my bedroom and woke me up, telling me that there were two people here to see me.
I got up, got dressed, and walked into the living room where Don and Dan sat on the couch wearing suits. I reasoned that they had just gotten out of church. My dad went back to the kitchen to finish doing bills.
"Hello," I said.
"Hello!" Dan said shaking my hand. After a little talk, I found out that Dan was a Senior at my high school. He had at one time dropped out of school, and one year later, after becoming a Christian, returned to school.
"I suppose you know why we're here," Dan said.
"Yes," I nodded with a laugh.
Dan took out the same flier that Don had given me a couple of weeks back and said, "Then let's get started. Now what I want to ask you is, if you were to die right now, do you know for sure that you would go to heaven?"
"I know I wouldn't," I replied.
"What?" Dan said looking surprised at my response. It seemed like he wasn't expecting it.
So I clarified, "If I were to die right now, I am 100% sure that I would go to hell."
Dan went on and asked if I knew that I was a sinner, and I said that I knew that I was. But when he asked if I believed that I deserved to go to hell, I said, "No."
"You don't?" he asked.
"I don't believe anybody deserves to go to hell," I said. "I know I'm going there, but I don't think it's right."
"Do you think you deserve to get away with your sins?" he asked.
"No, I deserve to pay for every one of them. But not forever burning in a fire!"
Dan then talked about Jesus Christ's death on the cross, which Jesus did because He loved me so much that He didn't want me to go to hell. All that I had to do was receive him into my life, Dan said.
"I like my life the way it is," I said. "I don't want to change."
"Well," Dan said. "We can't force it on you. You have to make your own choice."
"Well, then tell that to Don," I said. Then Don laughed.
Dan looked around the living room and noticed a picture of Brenda, a girl who lived next door to me. Brenda had just graduated from high school on the previous year. "Who's that?" he asked.
"Why?" I said. "Do you think she's cute?"
"She just looks familiar," he said.
He had changed the subject, and shortly thereafter, he and Don left.
When school started again in January, Don was still trying to persuade me to give my life to Christ. I asked him to cool it for a few days so I could "think about it." He did. Then by the end of the week he was at it again. I told Don, "I want to receive Christ. I really do. I just can't give up my sin." I asked God to make me willing. This was a step in the right direction.
A weekend went by with a blizzard on Saturday and Sunday. I caught a cold. I remember coming home from a movie with Lou and another friend named Jerry as a snowstorm started and my cold got bad. My whole family went to my grandma's that night, and the snowstorm stopped. But on Sunday, it was at it again, stronger than ever, as it had become a full force blizzard with winds over 30 miles per hour, extremely high wind gusts, white-out conditions, air temperatures down near zero, and windchills colder than 50 below zero. The storm closed the school on Monday, and because of my cold I didn't go to school on Tuesday.
I was a member of Columbia Record and Tape Club. On the Tuesday that I was home sick, one of the tapes that I had ordered, AC / DC's Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheep, came in the mail. I already had the vinyl record, but it was wore out because I had played it so much, and it had been scratched up after I loaned it to a friend for a party. It was my favorite album at the time, so I ordered it from the record club, but I got the tape instead of the vinyl record.
I started playing it in my cassette player. But something very strange happened. When I got half-way through the first song, I began to get a very weird feeling inside. It felt like anger, but not quite. I had never experienced anything like it before. This feeling continued to intensify with each passing moment, and it was directed toward the tape that I was listening to. I was suddenly angry and sickened by the violent, vulgar, and profane lyrics that were contained in the songs that were on the tape. Something in me was screaming at me to turn the tape off! The anger-like feeling built up to such an intensity that I slammed my hand down very hard on the "off" button and stopped the tape. The feeling left instantly. It was a very strange experience, and I could not explain what had happened. But as I sat in the quietness, I began to think about my life. "I ain't going nowhere," I thought. I took out the flier that Don had given to me, and I read it. At around 12:30 P.M., on Tuesday, January 12, 1982, I accepted Christ as my Savior.