My family was not in the habit of going to church when I was a child. My parents were good people but being with other Christians was not important to them. My father was in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II. He participated in some horrific battles in the South Pacific including Guadalcanal. I believe this is one reason he questioned the existence of a loving God.
When I was sixteen, I had an emotional experience where I cried out to God to forgive me of my sins. I had recognized my sinful state and my need to be forgiven, but I had not made the connection between that need and the necessity of totaling surrendering to God in gratitude for what He had done for me through His Son Jesus Christ. I had a lot of questions and I considered myself a very intelligent person, but the bottom line was that my pride interfered with my completely giving control of my life to Jesus. If someone had asked me if I were a Christian, I would have said that I was but I think I knew deep down that I was not.
Karen and I started dating in high school and were married at the end of my third year at the University of Oklahoma. That summer we started visiting a church nearby. The pastor preached on being assured of your salvation. I felt a tremendous urging from God calling me to Himself. I prayed to accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior. The next Sunday I went to the front of the church at the invitation time to speak with a minister and inform him of my decision. That night I was baptized. I think it is important to point out that I had not done anything to merit God’s favor. It was only by accepting the sacrifice that Jesus has provided for me that I was able to be reconciled to God while I was yet a sinner. There was a tremendous feeling of peace as I knew that I had turned my life over to God. I would also like to point out that we cannot always base our beliefs on how we feel. Feelings come and go, but God’s word, the Bible, never changes. God does not change and His truth does not change. We must always check our beliefs against His word to see if it is true, not on whether something “feels right” or not.
That December I graduated from OU and began to work for an oil company in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Karen and I soon joined a church and became actively involved in ministry there. Our daughter Sarah was born five years later and our son Taylor was born three years after that. After 20 years in Tulsa my job took us to Oklahoma City. We thought we would stay in OKC for the rest of our lives. We were happy living there and I enjoyed my job; but just when we thought everything was settling into place, my company announced they were closing the OKC office and that we would move back to Tulsa.
We found a small church near our new home. Less than two months later, Karen was diagnosed with cancer. While Karen was undergoing chemotherapy, my father passed away unexpectedly. Right after Karen finished her treatments, I found out that my company was going to close their Tulsa office. I went to work for an old friend of mine at an engineering consulting firm that he was just starting up.
The new company did extremely well and we grew dramatically until September 2001. After 9/11, capital spending dried up and the company went through a very difficult time. By September 2002, the company went from 25 employees to four and I was not one of the four. For the first time in my adult life, I was without a job. The next month, Karen’s father passed away. After 15 months of praying and seeking God’s direction, God called me into teaching. By this time Sarah and Taylor were both at OU and Karen had a home-based business so we were excited and totally open to God moving us. He led us to Miami, Florida. I taught in an inner city high school for 2½ years. It was very challenging given that a majority of the student’s first language was not English but I loved the students and we enjoyed our time in Florida. We joined a church where we lived and were able to become active in ministry there as well, even though we knew we would probably not be there very long. We feel very blessed for the time we spent there. During that time, Sarah graduated from OU with an industrial engineering degree and got married. Taylor traveled to China on a month-long trip to teach English. He also graduated from OU and was accepted into law school.
In 2006 we moved to Norman and I went to work at Norman North High School where I taught for 10 years before retiring in 2016. I loved teaching but am enjoying retirement. I am now active in an organization that distributes Bibles around the world, Gideons International. Sarah and her husband now live in Oklahoma City. Sarah had twins (a boy and a girl) on March 5, 2014. They were 10 weeks premature but they are both doing well now. Taylor graduated with honors from law school and now works in Jacksonville, Florida. He was married in 2015.
Karen and I have enjoyed having more time to travel and be with our family, especially our grandchildren! This April we traveled to China to see many friends who had lived and studied in Norman and returned to China. We were also privileged to meet many of their family members and friends in these cities: Guangzhou, Meizhou, Shantou, Nanjing, Qingdao and Beijing. It was a wonderful trip in so many ways and we sensed God’s presence and guiding us everywhere we went. We are excited to be back in Norman with our friends in the Trinity Chinese Fellowship. Karen and I love working with the Chinese here and seeing God’s hand at work.
I hope you can see that being a Christian does not protect you from the circumstances of life. We have had trials and grief in our lives, but God has been able to use those times to demonstrate His love and faithfulness toward us even more than in the “good” times. In the Bible God said, “Never will I leave you.” So we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid.”
Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”