God had a plan for my life and I believe this is what He wanted to do. He wanted to take a 19 year old college graduate in California and put him with an older man who lived in Virginia and served in the Navy aboard an aircraft carrier. The purpose in mind was to get the young man converted to Christ and then made into a laborer for the Master's use.
The God of the universe can do anything He wants to do and He can use anyone He wants to for His purposes. That did not make the young man special- it was only God's election of an individual to service. This is the story of how God did what He wanted to do in the life of that young man. It is my testimony.
In 1965 the war in Vietnam was just getting started, illicit drugs were coming into wide use, and sex was being portrayed more proliferately in the movies. I had never been saved even though I attended church occasionally.
Was there a god somewhere up there beyond the stars? If so, I did not understand why this god would want to have anything to do with this earth or the people on it.
In college I was taught the philosophy of evolution as fact. So I believed that mankind evolved side by side with the monkeys, but that people were descendants of the killer apes and that is why the human species could kill itself off in warfare. I felt insecure and found no love in the society of the humanists, but I held to their philosophy that self-sufficiency and humanism were the keys to the salvation of mankind.
I thirsted for adventure and hated to be bored.
I took their physical exam and passed it, enlisted and was sworn in, kissed my girl goodbye and headed for officer's school. I had to drive from California to Florida.
In Alabama I stopped at a restaurant for breakfast. I ordered fried eggs and toast. I looked out the window of the restaurant and watched cars drive by on the highway. This was my first trip through the state. "There goes one," I said to myself. "There's another one, and another, and there's one on his car antenna." Confederate flags were everywhere.
But when the waitress handed me my plate I knew somebody had goofed. There was an extra serving there, bumpy and white. I just knew I had intercepted somebody's breakfast and boy, were they going to be upset! I halfway expected to be served a Confederate flag but I was lucky. I politely asked what that was on my plate. "Those be grits," came the reply in Confederate English from the waitress. My face turned red. "I should have known," I said to myself.
It was hot in Florida that August of 1965. I was going to the U.S. Naval School, Preflight, located in Pensacola, Florida. I reported to indoctrination not knowing what I was getting myself into. I naively figured it was some simple college classroom bookwork lasting for a few hours where one was logically indoctrinated into the civilized world of the military. Instead, it was sheer terror for ten days. I call it the anti-logical world of the military mentality.
I entered through the doors of the indoctrination building and checked in. Then some tall skinny guy calling himself a Cadet Officer screamed at me, "Mister! Throw yourself up against the wall and come to attention!" The guy did not look that tough, but I committed the unpardonable sin in that building without knowing it. I smiled at him. After all, I couldn't believe he was screaming at me because I hadn't provoked him.
My smile infuriated him. Besides, I could see no logic in standing against a wall. He trembled all over getting red in the face then calmed down and warned me, "If you want to make the program around here and if you expect to eat supper tonight then you better do as you are told." So I did what I was told and ate supper.
The Marines are part of the Navy, therefore Marine Drill Instructors (D.I.'s) were assigned the duties of brainwashing, rifle drill, breaking the will of weak cadets, and military discipline. A cadet could never do anything right no matter how perfect he did it. The nose to nose position was taken when a D.I. screamed in the face of a cadet.
The stress level was phenomenal. What was the purpose of this kind of training? If one of us was shot down over Vietnam and captured by the enemy he was to be strong in endurance to resist the enemy even under torture.
Everyone in the class of about 20 was up at reveille at five o'clock in the morning having only five minutes to get dressed and then fall out for inspection. Our only item of clothing was a dark green "uniform" similar to a pair of coveralls called a "poopy Suit." Each cadet wore it every day for ten days without it being washed. Day after day we marched in the hot Florida sunshine and sweated profusely. Soon, one could see white spots and rings of salt coming through to the outside of nearly every poopy suit, especially under the arm pits and around the shoulder blades. We smelled so bad even the mosquitoes did not want to get near us.
"Now it's time for you shag-heads to get roached", the Marine D.I. yelled, as he marched the class to the barber. Each cadet had to pay the barber to cut all the hair from his head to the point of near baldness. The other marines watched and snickered with delight at the happening.
Each cadet lost his individuality. Cadets looked alike, dressed alike, and were expected to act alike. Orders, even ridiculous orders, were to be obeyed without question. Anyone not "wanting the program" could DOR (drop on request), which very few did.
One Marine D.I. marched my class in the hot sun, gave us rifle drill in the rain during a tropical shower, made us do punishment exercises, and then ordered us to do push ups in the grass and march in the grass in order to mar the surface of our brass belt buckles and "spit shined" shoes that each of us had spent hours polishing. He had us stand at attention and inspected us. Naturally, the class failed inspection. The D.I. was a large burly man with a tight fitting uniform with a large flat brimmed hat. He yelled, "You are not a bunch of cadets. You are a bunch of worms, aren't you!"
"Yes, sir!" we all screamed in unison. "You know what I do to worms? I stomp on them! And when I stomp on you, you are going to like it, aren't you!" he yelled. "Yes, sir!" came our reply.
Then he marched us. "You people don't know how to march!" You are a herd!" he screamed, then continued as loud as he could with a question, "You people like it here, don't you!" Again we all screamed "Yes, sir!" as we continued marching.
I wrote my father about some of the training I was going through. He wrote me back an encouraging letter stating that he knew what I was going through in such vigorous training because he had also gone through similar Ranger training in the U.S. Second Infantry Division prior to World War II. It was one of the few letters I ever received from him because he did not like to write.
Then the highlight of my tour in indoctrination came. It was Sunday. We were ordered to go to church. We had no choice. When that order came I knew they had outdone themselves because we had no church clothes. All each cadet had was the wonderful ripe poopy suit. I couldn't believe it. They wouldn't dare march us into that chapel containing about 300 people with many "top brass" officers and their wives!
But there we were in formation, marching to the chapel in our poopy suits. Someone had even reserved the two front rows for us that were roped off. The formation stopped at the chapel door and we were ordered to remove our caps from off our near bald heads. In we went single file. The chapel was already full. At first everyone seemed to smile, and nodded their heads in approval and seemed well pleased.
Then the stench filtered throughout the entire chapel. It even filtered up to the balcony where high ranking officers sat. Soon the chapel was filled with squirming men and ladies holding handkerchiefs against their noses all the while trying to remain poised. First time guests were wrinkling their noses while listening to the sermon. The chaplain doing the preaching was acting and looking nervous as he gave his sermon. I am sure he must have thought, "How does one get rid of something that bad and still save face?"
The sermon was short, the closing hymn was shortened to two stanzas, and the chapel doors thrown open. Guess who was the first to leave! When we left no one was smiling. We were marched right out and I never saw another indoc class being forced to go to church after that.
Finally, Indoctrination was over and Battalion School was beginning. One time, as a Cadet Officer marched my class over to the battalion barracks, he made this remark that stuck in my mind, "Gentlemen, I have found out that the Navy is much like the Lord- they both work in mysterious ways." At the time I did not know how true this statement would turn out to be in my case.
I studied aerodynamics, navigation, Naval organization, and other subjects. Physical activities included swimming one mile fully clothed, running a mile through sand in under 15 minutes, running the obstacle course, and riding the "dunker," a cage on tracks simulating an aircraft cockpit. The cadet was strapped into this cage which was then sent careening down the tracks into the water of a large swimming pool. The cage turned upside down under the water and each cadet had to unstrap himself and swim free. There were daily studies and inspections and the stress was constant.
But, even though I did not know God at the time, it was not His plan for me to be an air officer serving in Vietnam. One evening I sat down to begin my studies and knew something was not right. I could see it with my mind, but I did not understand it. There was a thin black line midway and horizontal across the inner screen of my conscious mind. When I studied I could sense my memory and knowledge capacity rising until it came to that line and then no knowledge would rise above it. This line in my mind hampered my retention of knowledge.
Consequently, I began failing exams and was suspended from many activities in order for me to have more time to study. The line never budged from my mind for weeks. I became frustrated and at times studied all night long without good results. The stress increased and my attitude began to deteriorate. I never took illegal drugs but I began drinking alcoholic beverages as escapism. But the booze did not offer even a temporary solution for me. I was spending so much time on my studies that I began neglecting other duties.
One duty I neglected was cleaning my M-1 rifle standing in the corner of the closet. It did not rate high on my list of priorities at all. One day we had an unannounced inspection by a Marine D.I. on the drill field before marching. We were all standing at attention. The D.I. stood in front of one cadet. He looked the cadet over, then yelled in the cadet's face, "Mister! you have so much dirt on the side of your shoes you could grow a plant there!"
I snickered along with everyone else. Then the D.I. stopped in front
of me. He had me "present arms" as I held out my M-1 rifle.
He grabbed it out of my hands with one of his, as is the custom,
twirled it around, opened the breach and looked down the barrel. A
look of total delight came over his face. I figured maybe he was
pleased that the inside of my barrel was well oiled with no rust.
"Mister!," he screamed, as he looked me in the face, then
continued, "I see a spider in this barrel! Are you starting a pet
colony around here for homeless spiders?"
"No, sir!," I yelled, as everyone snickered.
Then it came time for me to get paid. When I enlisted, my recruiter was not positive but he thought for sure that I would get officer's pay since I was in officer's school. That is what I was expecting after having to put up with all of the torture that I had been experiencing. My pay came to a total of $80 per month. That was the same pay as a buck private. During the Vietnam War we were doing a little better than the buck privates during World War Two. During that war they only got $20 per month. I got angry because of the low pay I was receiving but I stuffed it because I wanted the gold braid and glory that I would one-day have.
I failed more exams, then one morning the line in my mind disappeared as suddenly as it had appeared. I never saw it again in the military nor have I seen it since. Immediately, I was ordered not to go to classes but ordered to appear before the Officer's Board. It was a surprise meeting to me complete with full shock value.
I was ushered into a room where there were about eight high ranking Naval officers
present. After I was seated before them the Admiral asked, as he
glanced at me, "Cadet Rice, it appears you have failed too many
exams. You have been held back for two weeks and have been given more time
to study. But still your grades remain down. We have been reasonable. We
have done everything we could have done and this Officer's Board is
the last recourse. Do you think we have been fair to you in every way possible?"
"Yes, sir," I replied, knowing I was in trouble. "Do you want this program?," he asked me as his eyes locked onto mine. I look him in the eyes and said, "Yes, sir," swallowing hard. "Well, I fail to understand why the other cadets in your class pass the exams and you don't," he added. I remained silent. I knew he was probing my motives for reasons that might justify failure. If I had a good reason I could have thrown myself upon his mercy, but there was no way I was going to tell him I failed the exams because of a line across the inside of my mind. They would all think I belong in the "booby hatch" and maybe even put me there.
"Do any of you have anything you want to ask?" the Admiral
asked as he looked at the other officers present.
One Captain asked me, "Do you have any particular problems that
might effect you learning the material?"
"No, sir," is all I replied, not having anything to say. "Well, then," one Commander chimed in, "Have you been chasing the girlies around town to the detriment of your studies?" His question would have been amusing to me if the situation hadn't been so serious, so I simply replied, "No, sir."
Another officer had a manila folder laying open before him on the table. I knew this was my file. He picked up one document from the file and studied it for a brief moment before he said, "There must have been a mistake made on his I.Q. (Intelligence Quotient), probably during the initial testing." I guessed he was the personnel officer and wished to rectify this negative and embarrassing situation before the Admiral real fast.
I was asked to wait outside the room they were in while they made a determination. Then I was asked to come in before them again. I hoped they remembered in discussing my I.Q. the fact that I had earned a college degree, but I doubt if this was ever considered.
The Admiral looked at me and said, "Cadet Rice, you have had the same chance
as the rest of the cadets. Our decision is to drop you from this program
because of academic failure. Do you have anything to say?"
My heart sank but somehow I managed to reply, "No, sir."
"Then that is all." he added and I left the room.
I felt crushed, frustrated, and angry. I went to my car in the parking lot to be alone and listed to some good music that help calm down my emotions. I reasoned that flying over Vietnam dropping fire bombs on women and children in villages there would not be very chivalrous. But somehow I figured I could have gotten out of that kind of duty over there, but now, since I was dropped from training I did not have to worry about it.
I requested advance leave to go home for Christmas and ten days was granted.
About four months had passed since I had arrived in Florida to attend Officers Training School. I had taken everything they could throw at me and I had been successful. They never broke my will and had me cry out for my mama as I saw them do to one cadet officer. They had brain-washed me in telling me I was in the top ten percent of the nation intellectually and physically. But I had a hard time buying into their propaganda. Why? Because if I was the cream of the crop and so high as they suggested, why was my pay check so low? That pay check was a reality check for me...
Then all at once the bottom fell out and I was officially "dropped from training as an academic failure." At that time I did know about God closing doors. I explored every possibility in my mind why this might have happened to me except one. I never thought once about divine intervention.
It was only through hindsight that I could see the hand of God guiding and controlling my circumstances. I had no reason to doubt myself. I had been a successful leader since childhood. In the Boy Scouts, not only did I achieve the highest rank possible, Eagle Scout, but I was Junior Assistant Scoutmaster as well. I was successful in achieving a high school diploma and I earned a two year college degree. Later, after my honorable discharge from the Navy, I earned a four year college degree. I had been successful in other areas as well, but the failure at Officers Training School presented a real puzzle to me at the time. And it came as a real blow to me because I wanted the rank, the gold braid, the prestige, the glory, and the adventure.
I was transferred from Florida to enlisted boot camp at Great Lakes, Illinois, near Chicago in January, 1966. I could have been sent back to California to enlisted boot camp there, but that was not part of the divine plan. I commanded 70 men in a prior service company there, but my stay was only for two months until I was officially "processed." I received orders to report to the U.S.S. Randolph, CVS- 15, in Norfolk, Virginia, in March of 1966. My uncle was also stationed in Norfolk so I was comforted in having family nearby.
The Randolph was one of the older 35,000 ton Essex class aircraft carriers left in the fleet from World War Two. During that war it carried 91 fighter, torpedo, and dive bomber airplanes. However, now in the Vietnam War, the U.S. Navy was using it for anti-submarine warfare and training purposes. Instead of a combat tour in Vietnam the ship was designated for good will purposes to nations bordering the Caribbean and Mediterranean Seas plus Europe. In the Atlantic Ocean we chased around Russian submarines for practice. Sometimes, ships from the Russian navy would sail along with us but their ships were very rusty, needing paint. Therefore, we thought their ships were inferior to ours. One time a Russian destroyer came alongside our ship and was trying to count the number of our airplanes on our hangar deck. We just closed the hangar deck doors and that ended that.
The Navy put me to work in V-1 Division with the flight deck crew taking care of airplanes. It was hard work and very boring to me. I hated it.
Have you ever been in a position where your life suddenly goes upside
down due to negative circumstances? God controlled my circumstances to have this
happen to me. This was so that I would realize my need for Him and turn to Him...
But at that time, I did not know anything about Him...
but that was about to change...
I soon became very dissatisfied and starting hating the job. I communicated with my superiors and let them know there was no challenge involved in any of my work and I desired of them to give me work more suited to me. This was a waste of time. It's very rare when the military made full use of the potential of the men who filled it's ranks.
I felt trapped because there was no way for me to get out of my circumstances. The military at that time was not like it is today. Once you were in you had to stay in. My superiors were a snobbish elite. They dished out criticism rather than praise, verbal abuse rather than acceptance, and ignored my hard work and self sacrifice. To make matters worse, I still suffered from an attitude of "superior quality" brainwashed into me in Officers Training School months before. I became really discouraged and depressed. So much so that it seemed like for awhile I lost the will to live. So far, all I had gotten from the military was a lot of abuse, disappointment, and a big head ache.
The small pay check did not help my morale either. The equivalent to a buck private I earned only $80 per month but only cleared $79 because they took out one dollar in with-holding for federal income tax purposes!
In the flight deck division things started going from bad to worse for me. In May the Randolph went to sea and I got terribly sea sick. Also I received a "Dear John" letter from my girl in California stating that she had found someone else and was getting married to him.
I had learned that the supply division was one of the best divisions on the ship, so I filled out transfer papers and turned them into my superior. Later, he told me with a grin that somehow he had lost them, so I would not be transferring to the supply division. I was not going to stay in his division and take his abuse, so I put in a second set of transfer papers and again it was reported to me that they had been lost. But I was determined and got a third set of transfer papers, but before I turned them in I had the Supply Division Officer sign the papers and write a note on them that he desired to have me in his division. I figured these papers would not get lost so easy and I was right, they did not.
I was really getting nervous and had high stress and anxiety. I could not sleep at night. I had migraine headaches and my stomach seemed to be tied up in knots. I was extremely depressed and lonely. I was so miserable I hated the thought of living. I came to the conclusion I had one of two choices to make: I could end my life or I could pray. The third choice of going AWOL (Absent Without Out Leave) was not possible at the moment because the ship was at sea and it was a long swim to shore.
The training individual's at officer's school could not break my will but the Lord could. He could do it very easily. But He did not break my will but bent it so far over that it almost broke. Has He ever allowed negative circumstances to come into your life to nearly break your will? He wanted me to realize my need for Him. At the time I did not know what was going on- it is only by hindsight that I can see it now...
I considered the possibility of ending my life until I found a gospel tract (religious leaflet) on a table in the ship's eating room. The tract was titled "Hell!" From the title I deduced someone wrote a leaflet describing my situation until I read it and it turned out to be a message about the lake of fire in the next life. After reading that, prayer was my choice. There was no doubt that I would seek God's help in prayer and ask for divine intervention.
My circumstances had me checkmated. I prayed and asked God to help me if He really existed. Then I felt a little better. I seemed to have hope where previously I had despair. Also I was able to go to sleep and get a good night's rest. That night while I was asleep a most unusual occurrence happened.
Directly in front of my conscious mind the face of Jesus Christ
appeared to me. He looked at me face to face and without a doubt in my
mind I knew it was Him. His face was partially blemished by large
black splotches I knew to be my sins that separated us. Then He spoke
these exact words to me,
"You are going to be a cook."
Then He left but I never forgot the encounter.
All the next morning I went around thinking about this heavenly visitation. I wondered why Jesus had come to me. After all, who was I? I had heard a little about Him from times I had gone to the Methodist church as a boy, but I did not know what He required from me. Why did He comfort me with those words? Why should He care if I was a cook or not? I wondered if there were truth to His words. Why did He come to me at night while I was asleep?
I still had not heard one word about my third set of transfer papers I had submitted, but I knew if they got approved it would be a miracle. I waited all morning very expectantly. Then the news came. The transfer had been approved! I was on my way to the S-2 Supply Division to be a cook. When I received the news I was astonished and happy all at one time. I knew Jesus Christ had given me that transfer.
My ideas about God were changing. I went from believing that there was no God to accepting the idea that there was One. Another old idea of God I had from childhood was that He was transcendent- one who was way out there in space only checking occasionally on the earth and what people were doing there. But now, my new idea of God was that He was imminent- close at hand and involved in each person's personal affairs. I had invited Him in prayer to help me with my problems I was having at the time, and He had answered my prayers.
Some theologians go around saying that God does not answer the prayers of the unsaved. That's a lot of baloney.
It did not take me long to learn that prayer was the way to communication with God even though God never talked to me again before my conversion experience sometime later. I figured if I had reasoned correctly about prayer, then it could be useful the next time I was in a tight squeeze. But this encounter with Christ really puzzled me for a long time in a great way.
Not long after I was in Supply Division I learned that my immediate boss, a Chief Petty Officer (of equal rank to a sergeant in the Army), was a very religious man and highly respected. His name was J. W. Richards but everyone called him "Chief." Nine months later God was going to use this man and two reservists to lead me to a life changing experience and relationship with Jesus Christ.
In the meantime I prepared and cooked food in the galley for a few months. I liked Supply Division. The people in the division were friendly, happy, and cared about doing a good job. There was high morale. It was so different from the Flight Deck Division. There, hardly anyone had cared about doing a good job and there was low morale.
I soon earned a promotion in rank and became a supply manager. I became a "jack of the dust". I was placed in charge of managing the flow of all dry storage food commodities used by the galley (ship's kitchen). This job allowed my to use my supervisory, organizational, and clerical skills and I liked it. The ship carried a crew of 5,000 men while at sea. We fed these men four times a day and I was responsible for making sure the necessary food commodities had been ordered and transferred to the storage room where the galley crew could readily obtain them.
When not at sea I entered Christian coffee houses from time to time. One such time I was walking in downtown Norfolk, Virginia, with a friend of mine and we decided to enter one located on a major street. There was a sign in the window that read "free sandwiches and coffee to servicemen."
Neither my friend nor myself knew we had to talk to a preacher or Christian worker once we got our free sandwich and coffee. A minister sat down at the table with both of us, introduced himself, and started asking informal questions of a personal nature. About then I lost my appetite.
My friend was more talkative than I and got most of the man's attention, but when the subject of death came up I got to gladly share a quotation on the lively subject I read out of some book, probably on evolution. I said, "I believe death is nothing but the passing of the soul from one dimension to another, transcending that of time and space." The preacher looked at me and replied, "Such a philosophy as that will buy you a one way trip to hell!" I left after that insult, leaving my friend behind me talking to the preacher about the virgin birth.
A few months later I was with another friend in a different section of downtown Norfolk. I used to go to the movies a lot. It was about supper time and we were both out of money, except bus fare back to the base. My friend kept complaining he was hungry, so to shut him up I told him he could get a free sandwich and coffee in one of the Christian coffee houses, but that he would have to let a preacher preach at him.
He said he was hungry enough to endure that, so we entered the first one we came to. As soon as we walked through the doors we were "pounced" upon by two Christian workers who invited us to a table. I let my friend go to the table with the two workers while I waited by the door. I told everybody I was just waiting for my friend. I guess they assumed I was a Christian who had brought in a friend in order to get him converted. I waited and waited. I could see my friend was really getting "grilled."
Finally, I decided if I was going to wait I might as well eat, too. I went to the serving counter and an elderly lady about 60 years old was more than happy to give me a sandwich and a cup of coffee.
Then she asked me if I loved God!
I looked into that lady's misty blue eyes and could see that she was serious.
That was such a preposterous question to ask me I did not want to answer her.
How could anyone love God? To me, that was the same as asking,
"Do you love an invisible abstract molecule floating around in space fifty million miles away?"
But I replied nicely,
"I am sure some people do."
I started eating my sandwich fast and gulping down my coffee. I wanted to get out of there. I could not help but believe this old lady did not have all her marbles in her head. Then she looked at me and said,
"I am going to tell you something. Some day, you will have the chance to accept or deny Jesus Christ as your Saviour. Remember these words, He loves you and you can love Him."
That was all I wanted to listen to. I got my friend and we got out of
there. We walked down the sidewalk. As we walked I asked him,
"Well, what did you think about it? I told you they would preach to you. Was your sandwich and coffee worth it?"
He grinned as he replied, "Boy, they were really getting to me. I do not think I ever want to go back there again, but I did enjoy the sandwich. As a matter of fact, I ate two of them!"
When the Arab-Israeli war of 1967 started, my ship was placed on full alert. We were ready to go to war, we had atomic bombs on our ship, and we had aircraft that could deliver them. We were ready to sail for Israel because Russia said that they were going to jump into that war (take part in it) because the Israelis destroyed or captured about 1,000 or so army tanks that Russia had given to Egypt. We warned Russia that if they jumped into that war, so would we. Fortunately, they did not. By and large, many of us on the ship were scared. Why? Because if Russia had detonated an atomic bomb on the ocean in the middle of our task force, we would all have been killed. One day, at the height of our alert, some wag sounded general quarters without stating that it was a drill test. The drill test usually sounded like this over the ship's PA (public announcement) system: "this is a drill, this is a drill, all hands man your battle stations". No drill test was announced so we thought we were going into instant combat. I happened to be eating in the mess hall with many others at the time that general quarters was sounded. Cups, trays, food, and silverware flew everywhere as we all jumped up to immediately run to our battle stations. My battle station was called fog foam station 6. This station was one of many that would supply fog foam to be pumped onto our hangar deck to suppress oil and gasoline fires there. Water will not work on those kinds of fires. We were relieved to hear over the PA system a little later that this was only a test but we could have wrung the guy's neck for scaring us like he did.
In February of 1967, the U.S.S. Randolph went to sea for a two week cruise. Two Assemblies of God Naval Reservists came aboard in order to take their annual two week cruise at that time. These two reservists were not related nor did they live in the same area. One worked in the field of forestry in the state of North Carolina. God brought these two men, along with Chief Richards, together, and the three of them decided to start a Bible study.
The study was to be held every night after work in Chief Richard's auxiliary office located under the Bake Shop.
The first night I was invited to the Bible study, but I refused the invitation. However, I still had some unanswered questions I needed answers to. I remembered Jesus appearing to me and the fact that His words to me came true.
The invitation came to me again the second day by one of my fellow workers. This time I accepted. I had never read the Bible and I was curious as to what it said and if it contained the answers to the questions I had. I loved to argue. I wanted to learn the Bible so I could argue about it with others. This seemed to be my chance.
By this time I was completely disillusioned with the philosophy of evolution I had learned and believed in college. The cause and effect lifestyle of this philosophy did not comfort me in the middle of my sufferings or give me hope when I needed it the most. To me, a lifestyle based upon this philosophy was one of vanity, emptiness, selfishness, and hopelessness. If there was something better than the lie of evolution then I was ready for it. But what could it be?
I attended the Bible study that evening after work. Chief Richards, the two reservists, and two other sailors from my division were there. If I had remained in Flight Deck Division I never would have had an opportunity to attend this study. So it was a good thing that the doors there had come closed for me.
It was an interesting study covering the entire second chapter of the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament. I was informed I had missed studying chapter one by my absence the previous night, but they were planning on studying one chapter every night in Matthew. I liked the Bible study group. These guys were not a bunch of anti-logical, religious nuts like I had supposed they could be. My preconceived notions were wrong. Instead, each individual there seemed very logical, calm, pleasant to be around, and had love flowing as a river from his heart. These folks presented quite a novelty to me because they had something that I thought unattainable.
The third night proved to be different. Directly after eating the evening meal on the night of February 12, 1967, Abraham Lincoln's birthday, as I was laying on my bed resting, my mind suddenly cleared of all its thoughts as if someone had taken an eraser and erased them.
Then a voice spoke to my mind. The voice was clear and distinct and
"Think of some way to get out of it."
I had been looking at my pocket watch getting ready to get up in order to go to the Bible Study that night when the thought was sent to me. Later, I realized it was the voice of Satan. But his speaking to me was useless because I had my mind made up I was going and I went.
Consequently, I came back the next night and studied the third chapter in Matthew with them.
I got to the Bible study room early and joined Chief Richards and the others. The meeting was opened with prayer, the Bible chapter was studied, and the informal Bible study meeting closed with prayer.
Five people remained after the study was over. We talked and visited
for awhile, then a sailor from my division asked me,
"Do you want to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Saviour?"
What person has not been asked a religious question he fails to understand? I did not know what he was talking about.
"No, I do not think I am ready yet," I replied with a catch-all phrase that was general enough to reply to them and their questions that had no meaning to me. Unusual looks came upon their faces after I answered. I suppose they thought I knew what they were taking about.
Chief Richards said, "Every time you say no it gets easier to say." The reservists agreed. Then Chief Richards added, "Resist the devil and he will flee from you." I knew he wanted me to do something but I did not know what.
"How do I do that?" I asked.
"Just pray, and repent, and ask Jesus into your heart," one of the reservists answered. I asked, "You mean if I stand up and pray with you now that the devil will be chased out of here?". They all agreed this was so.
"Okay, let us chase him out of here," I added, as we all stood up to pray.
I was very sincere when I prayed. We all stood forming a small circle and each person put his arm on the shoulder of each person standing on either side of him. I had the strangest feeling that someone invisible was trying to throw me out of the room. I could sense turbulence about me in the immediate atmosphere, but I did not understand it.
"What do I do now?", I asked when the circle was completed. I had not prayed this way before. "Just pray," one of the reservists suggested. They all started praying outloud at the same time. I felt a little self conscious but prayed anyway. I did not know what to say a first, not having ever prayed very much. I prayed outloud,
"Jesus, please forgive me of my sins and trespasses against You and others. I believe You are the Son of God." I stopped after that, not knowing what else to say. One of the reservists verbally prodded me by saying, "Keep praying." I wondered how he knew I had stopped praying unless he was listening!
I continued praying and as I did so I felt something evil slide off my heart leaving my body under my right arm. I believe this was Satan. Then a large black burden moved in a split second from my heart upwards through my head and kept going. I believe this was the literal burden of my sins being taken away by Christ. At the same time Christ took up residence in my heart.
All the praying was finished by this time as it had only lasted a couple of minutes. I stood there dizzy, sensing something different in my heart. There was joy and peace there for the first time. I knew something had happened to me because I could feel the change. I did not have a desire (the nature) to swear anymore and my conscience was clear of guilt.
I did not mention a word to the others in the Bible study group about it. Firstly, I did not understand what had happened to me. Secondly, I figured it was only a temporary thing and that all the burdens and guilt would be back the next morning.
When I woke up the next morning I was surprised to discover that there was still peace and joy in my heart. I was hoping this was not a temporary experience but a permanent condition and I was happy when I found out later it was. All through the day I kept continually noticing that there was something different about me. (I had a new inner spiritual nature). I had searched for inward peace for a long time but had given up on finding it. I was anxious to attend the Bible study that night to see if they had the answers to many of my questions and why I was so different.
After the Bible study concluded that night I told them about the change in me and that it had occurred the previous night when we had prayed. They started rejoicing and were very happy and were saying things like "praise the Lord!" and "hallelujah!". I asked them to please explain it to me. One reservist said, "Christ has taken up residence in you heart and taken the burden of your sins away. He has made you a new person (created in you a new spiritual nature) because you have been born again. You have peace in your heart because He is the Prince of Peace."
Chief Richards opened his Bible to a passage of scripture found in
2 Corinthians 5:17, and then let me read those meaningful words,
"Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature (creation): old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new."
Chief Richards explained this passage in a simple way to me, "Kraig, you are now a new creature or creation in Christ. Your old lifestyle has passed away and your sins have been forgiven. Christ lives in your heart and He owns you. You no longer belong to yourself. He bought you with His precious blood He shed on the cross of Calvary. He has wiped the slate clean of your past life and from this minute on it is up to you to live a new lifestyle, a life that is clean and holy, and one that will bring forth fruit."
I got saved and I did not even know it!
I thanked the men for what they had done for me. I now had a deep love for God in my heart, a willingness to read and study the Word of God, and a desire to attend church. Then it came back to me how Christ was one's personal Lord and Saviour in response to the question asked the previous night.
And another fact came to mind- I was 21 years old and nobody had ever told me about being born again, nor explained to me what it meant.
After I was saved I thought about what the lady in the Christian coffee house had told me in Norfolk. What she said came true. I was given a chance to accept or deny Jesus Christ as my Saviour and I had accepted.
After He lived in my heart I understood what she was trying to tell me about loving God. He was not some impersonal entity or abstract molecule but a very, very powerful being of total love whose heartbeat was to have a love relationship with every human being on planet earth but only through His Son, Jesus Christ. After He lived in my heart I did love God. It was only then I could grasp the reality that He loved me so much that Jesus died on the cross in my place. There could not be any greater love. Of course, this love relationship was a very personal and individual union between two individuals- God and myself. He became a friend of mine and we loved and respected each other. And it is still that way after all these years.
The night after I was saved God answered a lot of my questions. I
realized God had a plan in leading me to salvation.
It started with the first step of getting me into officer's school.
The second step was getting me out of officer's school with me still being in the Navy and putting me into enlisted "boot camp."
The third step was getting me aboard one Navy ship out of hundreds.
The fourth step was getting me transferred from Flight Deck Division to Supply Division and
the fifth step was presenting me with the opportunity to accept His Son into my heart.
It was a perfect plan carried out in a year and a half with precision timing.
And God runs this universe and this world in just the same way. Because of Satan, sin, and man's inhumanity to man there is always suffering, fighting, and unhappiness in this world but I want you to know if you will personally invite Jesus Christ into your life you will have your own oasis of joy, peace, and a clean conscience inside of yourself that no one else will understand.
You will be persecuted but I exhort you to remain true. The weaker you become the stronger He becomes through you.
After leaving the Navy in 1967 with an honorable discharge, I went to California from Virginia and took the message of salvation to my family. My mother, brother, and sister were soon converted to Christ and living godly lives. My earthly father persecuted me for my faith in Christ but after 17 years of prayer for him, he finally accepted Christ.
Just as I had this salvation experience, so you can have it also. God loves you now as you are, unconditionally, but your sins separate you from God. There is only one thing that will wash the sin away. It is the blood of Jesus. You do your part and Jesus does His part. You repent and turn from your evil and wicked ways and invite Jesus Christ to come into your heart and live there. When He does enter into your heart (you can feel Him) He will wipe away your sins with His blood. When He comes into your heart then you become a new creation in Him, and you also become a Son or Daughter of God by adoption.
My advice to you right now is for you to get on your knees and close your eyes and "pour out your heart to God" confessing those things in your life you are ashamed of having done and experience that sweet peace that only He can give you. Then you have to live a new and different life before God and man always remembering to "fear the Lord."
As of April 5, 2005