1. Testimony

My Christian Story

As life-changing as the salvation event (the acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior) can be, no one starts his Christian walk as a mature believer. For everyone who accepts Christ, there is a growing and maturing that must take place in that person’s life. This is a little bit (the condensed book club version) of my story.

Although my childhood and youth were not completely void of spiritual guidance, I think the seeds from our cousins’ Sunday School, our Grandmother’s prayers, and an epiphany while a 12-year old boy scout, all fell on rocky soil. The mandatory Remembrance Day service for Air Cadets did nothing to whet my appetite for God’s Word. Thirteen years in the Air Force saw me moving even further (if that were possible) away from God.

I left the AirForce to remove our children from the military lifestyle, and provide for them a more stable environment. Two days after I began my terminal leave from the Air Force, I crashed my motorcycle. The broken ribs and flailed lung almost cost me my life. While hospitalized for two weeks (9 days in intensive care), there were people on both coasts and several points in between praying for my healing. I didn’t know the prayer was happening, and had I known I would have rejected it as superstition. I was not sympathetic to the “religious fanatics” around me.

Over the next few years I found myself searching more and more for a meaning to my life. I even went so far as to buy a Bible (King James, of course) at Coles Books (I didn’t know there were Christian bookstores), but found it difficult to read and not very enlightening. While spending the 1984 New Year’s weekend at an Amway convention in Kentucky, we decided to stay for the Sunday service before heading back to Ontario. I don’t know the theme or content of his message, but when Mac Evans gave the altar call he was blown away by the response. Of the 15,000 or so people who stayed over from the convention for the Sunday service, about 1,000 responded to the altar call. Corinne and the kids accompanied me to the altar area, not because they thought they needed Christ, but because they didn’t want to get lost in the crowd.

So, back in Waterloo, there we were. Sid pumped up by new-found faith, and wife and kids skeptical. They well knew my feelings about church. I had spouted off frequently enough about the holier-than-thou hypocrits who gossiped about who was sleeping with who. I wanted nothing to do with church! We picked up three more copies of the Navigator’s New Believer study they had provided and I proceeded to be the pastor and teacher for my family. Talk about the blind leading the blind! It was an uphill struggle all the way. For almost a year (January to November of 1984) we struggled. Ocassionally Corinne would take the kids to a local United Church, but I wouldn’t darken their doors. Nosireee Bob, not me!

After coming of age in the military, I had been indoctrinated to the importance of Remembrance Day. November 11th that year fell on a Sunday. My first Remembrance Day as a Christian (albeit a struggling one) and I thought it would be neat to spend the day of remembrance for Canada’s fallen warriors in church rather than in a military bar or at the Canadian Legion. When I asked Corinne if she wanted to go to church that morning, she almost fell out of bed. I told her that a couple of the guys at work had been encouraging me to take a look at their church, Waterloo Pentecostal Assembly. She was dumbfounded, but delighted. “YES, let’s go.”

We had no idea of the service times, so we arrived late and sneaked into the back row. “Wow! This place is huge! I didn’t know there were this many Christians in Waterloo.” But it felt right. It felt like we were home. We tried to sneak out unseen, but were welcomed by Alf Knechtel, the head usher, and that made it feel even more right. On the way home we agreed that we would like to visit again someday. Someday was the following Sunday. And unless we are out-of-town we have missed very few Sundays since that Remembrance Day of Nov 11, 1984.

This whole “church” thing was still so very new to us, but we wanted to learn. We described ourselves as dry sponges, and got involved in activities (ministry) right away. Corinne joined the choir, and I started ushering (don’t have to know much Bible to show people where to sit and hand them a bulletin). We were encouraged to attend the New Believers Class, and after some grounding, the New-comers class. After about a year, we were invited to become members of WPA. During the morning service of Oct 20, 1985, we (along with 20 or so others) were presented to the congregation, extended the right hand of fellowship by the Pastoral staff and the Deacon Board, and presented with a certificate of membership. During that evening’s service, at the altar, I was so filled with His presence, so overwhelmed by His power, so filled by His Spirit, that I shall never forget the feeling. It felt as though warm oil was flowing down over my body from head to foot. To this day I am convinced (although I can find no Scriptural basis for my convictions) that as I commited myself to continued growth and to the well-being of that part of His Body (the church at WPA), God honoured my commitment by blessing me beyond anything I could have ever hoped or dreamed by His Touch upon my heart.

We sat in an adult Sunday School class taught by the Senior Pastor, and got involved in a small home cell-group. Eventually we taught and led other new believers on their own faith walk. We were growing and maturing in Christ… until I heard His voice!

The first full week of January 1997 was a week of prayer meetings at WPA. Each evening that week we met in the sanctuary for an extented time of prayer and intercession. On Thursday evening (I think it wan Jan 9/97) I was lingering at the altar as the gathering dispersed, just standing and basking in His goodness when I heard a voice say “I have a place for you…”. There was more, but it is private. I turned to see who had spoken, but found I was alone, no one else was within 25 feet. I was so shaken that I ran from the sanctuary to compose myself, sought out my wife to share what had transpired, and we went together to our senior Pastor.

Most Christians will agree that they have never heard the audible voice of God. Most will say that sort of thing does not happen anymore. Well, believe what you will, but I know what I heard although no one else in the room heard anything. Regardless, that was another turning point along my path of Christianity. I took a couple of courses provided by my church, then enrolled in the distance education program of Eastern Pentecostal Bible College. As part of that program, I even got to preach a few times in a small, struggling church in Drayton, Ontario. By taking three or four courses per year, some in a classroom setting and some by internet, I graduated in the spring of 2002 with a Christian Ministry Certificate in Pastoral Care.

Since that time I have been expanding my horizons wherever and whenever I may be used to be His hand extended. I completed the training to become a visiting volunteer with Hospice of Waterloo Region. I have been a volunteer, on-call Chaplain with Grand River Hospital in Kitchener-Waterloo since about 2002. I served as the resident Chaplain in a long term care facility in Kitchener, until a funding crunch forced them to release several staff members (including some nursing staff). I have made a connection with the staff Chaplain at another long term care residence, and have been blessed with the opportunity to do several Chapel Services for the residents each year, with a particular emphasis on Remembrance Day (my military background).

Meanwhile, back at WPA, I have continued to be a sponge, and continued to be involved wherever I may. I have served as usher, choir member, greeter, Sunday School teacher, cell group leader, adult class teacher, deacon and elder. Together, Corinne and I have been involved in outreach activities, conferences, hosting visitors, office activities, water baptism classes, and marital counselling. God is GOOD!

One Response to 1. Testimony

  1. Cynthia Gray says:

    Thank you Sid. Lots of insights here! Blinders off!!

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