On the night of my older sister's graduation assembly, Lisa and her husband Frank came to visit. They were friends of my family. This was in June of '82, and I started praying for a chance to "witness" to them about Christ. That night, I had to sleep downstairs to make room for Lisa and her baby. Frank also slept downstairs. He took the floor and I took the couch. We talked for awhile, and then I thought, "Now would be a good time to witness." I remembered him saying earlier that our family hadn't changed a bit since he last saw us, as we were the same zany, fun-loving family that we had always been. So I used what he said to start the conversation.
"Do you remember earlier when you said that we haven't changed a bit?" I asked.
"Yeah," he answered.
"Well, I've made one change recently," I said. I took a "tract" out of my school notebook and gave it to him.
"What's this?" he asked.
"Read it," I said.
He read it. Then I asked, "If you were to die right now, do you know for sure that you'd go to heaven?"
"No," he said.
I told him the gospel using Romans 3:23, 6:13, and 10:13. When I told him that "whoever calls on the Lord will be saved" (Romans 10:13), Frank said, "I've already done that."
He then added, "Do you know what a 'backslider' is?"
"Yes," I said. I backslider was a Christian who had fallen away from Christ.
"Well, I backslid. I lost my salvation," he said.
I replied, "No you didn't! Romans 10:13 says, 'For whoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.' Period! It doesn't say, 'unless you backslide!'"
He read the verse and said, "Well, I'll be! Man, I'd like to kick that up in a conversation!"
Frank and I continued our talk in more detail. We talked about our experiences with living by Biblical principles, and from what I could tell, he had been at one time "on fire" for God!
"I think you'd like my old pastor," Frank said.
"Why?" I asked. "What's he like?"
"He's just like you. I think you two would get along!"
I never got a chance to talk to Lisa. The next day, Lisa and Frank left.
The next day was the day of my older sister's open house. One of my aunts came. A few months earlier, her husband George died of cancer. The cancer was discovered in him the day after their wedding.
Back in February, George came to a Grand Rapids hospital. I knew that he was dying of cancer, so I wanted to see him. I asked Dan if he would go with me. He said he would. So, he, a guy named Jim, and I went up there one night. But when we got to the hospital room, George was asleep. My aunt was there. Dan gave her two New Testaments. Then we walked through the halls of the hospital. Dan stopped someone in the hall to give him a New Testament. The guy almost broke down in tears when he saw that Dan was giving him a New Testament, and he said, "Thanks!"
I never went back to see George. One month later, he died.
By this time in my life, most of my friends were starting to drift away from me. Many of them had trouble relating to the fact that I was now a Christian.
One day someone said to me, "You know, since you changed, you've become a loner."
I then became afraid that people were looking at me and thinking that the Christian life was boring. So I prayed to God for friends. (Edward, Tom, Jack, and Jeremy were still my friends, but we never saw each other away from school. I only saw Dan and Don when we were at school or when we went to church. I did get together with Lou and Jerry outside of school time, but this was only once in awhile.)
My parents had a plot of land along a lake at Sandy Pines, which was a private trailer and camp ground south of Grand Rapids. My parents had been members for years. I used to go there frequently when I was younger. I usually brought Jerry when I went. In an attempt to build up what little was left of the friendships that I had, I decided to asked Edward and Dan to go to Sandy Pines with me. But when I asked Dan if he wanted to go he asked, "Do they have mixed swimming there?"
"What?" I said with a confused tone of voice, not knowing what he meant by "mixed swimming.".
"Guys and girls swimming together," he clarified.
"Well, of course! Are you against it?"
This totally caught me off-guard. It was another example of spiritual "legalism," but it was probably the one that surprised me the most. I couldn't even conceive of the possibility that anyone would refuse to swim in a lake unless the sexes were separated! Dan told me that he was against mixed swimming because lustful thoughts could come out of it. As you can imagine, Dan never went to Sandy Pines with me.
But when I called Edward, he said that he would go. I didn't know when we would go, but after that call, Edward and I became closer friends. I thought, "My prayer for friends has been answered!" Edward did indeed become part of the answer to my prayer for friends. I started going to Edward's frequently. He seemed interested in serving God, and we'd talk about the Lord a lot when I went over to his house.