The Conversion of a Dirty Old Man
Early in the afternoon on the day I was born again, I was sitting in the living room of my girlfriend’s trailer in a trailer park in Herrin, Illinois reading a bible that I had picked up at my brother’s house in Ridgway. As I sat in my favorite chair reading the third chapter of the book of Revelation, one particular scripture kept leaping out at me and each time I read that particular verse, a picture ran through my mind of someone knocking on a door, and I thought, “If no one goes to answer the door – the one doing the knocking will leave.” This image appeared to me three times. Once each time I read verse twenty. On the last reading, a voice said to me as plain as day, “I am knocking on the door of your heart, open it, and let me come in.” I instinctively knew this was the voice of the Lord speaking to me, and I said out loud; “I have tried everything else in this world, I may as well try you.” Instantly there was a change in me. Every burden I was carrying was suddenly lifted from my heart. I rose up from the chair I was sitting in and said to my girlfriend, “I am going to hitch hike down to my brother’s house in Ridgway and I am going to church tonight and give my life to God.” My girlfriend and I had been together for four years and she had seen me do a lot of wierd things during that time; so when I told her what I was going to do next, she just gave me a knowing look as she rolled her eyes and said, “I’ll see you when you get back.” I said nothing more and walked out the door with bible in hand. She didn’t know it then but this was no knee jerk reaction. God had broken into my life, and I knew it.
I walked down to the nearby highway, stuck out my thumb, and caught a ride to Interstate 57 at the Johnston City exit some six miles distance. I wasn’t there for more than a couple of minutes when a homosexual guy came along, gave me a ride, and hit on me as soon as my foot was in the door of his vehicle. My mouth flew open and I had no control over it. I said to him, “I just got saved, and I am on my way down to my brothers house to go to church tonight. Do you know Jesus?” I was wound up tighter than an eight day clock. My mouth just kept running and I saw the blood drain from his face as he turned an ashen gray. He looked like he had just been sucker punched and was about to lose consciousness. He pushed down farther on the gas pedal and as the car picked up speed, so did my speech. The words about Jesus saving me were pouring out of my mouth like water shooting out of a broken water main. I don’t know how fast he was driving, but it didn’t take us long to get down to the Marion exit where he let me out. I never saw him again after that day, but this much I know; he heard everything the Lord wanted me to say to him in that six mile ride down Interstate 57.
When you are hitch hiking on a busy highway it is sometimes hard to get a ride unless the person picking you up knows you or they have an ulterior motive for doing so, like the homsexual guy I mentioned above. But on that day, I had nothing to worry about; I had an appointment with God and He wasn’t going to let me be late. I wasn’t at any spot very long before someone came along and gave me a ride. I arrived at my brothers house shortly before 6:00 pm in plenty of time to catch my sister-in-law before she left for church. When we arrived at the Believer’s Fellowship in Christ Church we parked directly across the street from it. A person whom I had known for many years and who had worked at the local pool hall when I was a youth was crossing the street at the same time we were. I guess I was as surprised to see him there, as he was me. He just smiled and said, “It’s good to see you Don. How have you been?” I thought that was a nice jesture on his part, but a dumb question. This was a small town where everyone knew me and the shanannigans I had pulled over the years. And I couldn’t remember the last time anyone had told me they were glad to see me. As a matter of fact, most times when decent folks saw me coming; they turned and went the other way despite the fact that my father was well known and had been a local mayor for a number of years.
When we entered the little church, I sat on the back row right next to the exit door where all sinners sit. I didn’t know what to expect and the idea of becoming a Christian had not fully settled into my mind yet. The full impact of telling someone you’re going to do a certain thing is certainly much easier than standing up in front of a hundred or so people and doing it. All the people in the little church seemed to be very friendly and were truly enjoying one another’s company. I relaxed somewhat. Then the service began and the music began to play. It seemed like the music was coming down directly from heaven and was filling every fiber of my being. I felt like every song being played was just for me. Twelve minutes into the service I couldn’t stand it any more. I got up from the back row and started moving down the middle aisle toward the front of the church and everyone turned to look at me. Most of them had known me all of my life; and I could see in their faces they were wondering what I was doing up in the middle of the service walking around their church. At that time I had hair down past my shoulder blades and was dressed in a muscle shirt. I had bulging biceps and I was lean at the waist and looked a lot tougher than I was. I tapped Jim Howard, the Pastor, on the shoulder. He was sitting in the first row in the seat next to the aisle and had not seen all the other people staring at me. When he looked up and saw who had tapped him on the shoulder; a confused look came over his face, as, he too, was trying to understand why I was at the front of the church and not where I had been sitting when the service began. I leaned over and whispered in his ear, “Jim, I need to get saved; and I need to do it right now.”
Jim stood up and placed his hand on my shoulder, the music continued to play, and Jim Howard led me through the sinners prayer. Let me tell you, “When I made my confession of sins and asked to be forgiven of them; I looked down toward my chest and I could see clear through my person. God allowed me to see what had once been my old filthy, sin filled heart; and it was cleaner than any freshly washed pane of glass I had ever seen.”
When I left church that evening I told my sister-in-law, “I would like to travel around the world and preach the gospel.” She just laughed. Now where that thought came from I do not know. Just a few hours before I was wondering where my next meal was going to come from, and now I’m saying, “I wanted to travel around the world and preach the gospel.” My new life had begun. I went home to my brother’s house that night and couldn’t fall asleep. I lay there on his couch for hours just thinking about the most wonderful night I had ever had in my life. Early the next morning, I heard someone knocking on the front door. I arose and answered it. Before me stood a gray haired gentleman who said to me, “Are you ready to go?” I had never seen this gentleman before in my life, but I was quick to reply, “Where are we going?” He said to me, “You’re not the guy who came and talked to me yesterday, are you?” I said, “No. But I’ll be ready to go in an hour, if that’s not too long to wait.” To make a long story short, we went to Florida via North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia before going on to St. Mary’s, Florida. And all along the way I had many opportunities to share with a lot of folks the Good News of Jesus Christ and what He had done for me. But that’s another story for another time. DThrash