Hi all. My name is Mark. I joined this site earlier in the year and was touched by some of the testimonies that I read. I would like to share my own.
Growing up as a kid, my family moved every few years. Mostly due to job advancements and promotions of my father. We didn’t always move far, but at that age it felt like I was constantly starting over and having to make new friends and was always the ‘new guy’. This caused me to become extremely shy and reserved even though that really goes against my God given personality. I was a pretty gifted athlete and I used that gift to become popular and be accepted among my peers. That gift made me so popular that I had more friends than I knew what to do with. This resulted in me treating people, especially girls, in ways that I am now ashamed of. Their feelings didn’t matter to me. It was all about me and what I wanted.
When I received scholarships to play sports in college, things suddenly changed for the worse. I became rather heavily involved with things like alcohol as well as soft and heavy drugs. At one point I came extremely close to getting involved in black magic to try and recapture things that I was starting to lose. I grew up in a Baptist church and fortunately those roots I had deep within kept me from commiting myself to these dark forces. Unfortunately I didn’t fully remove myself from this lifestyle and justified it as I was getting to know the enemy and I could more easily defeat that enemy if I better understood it. Little did I know just how dangerous this philosophy was. Little did I know how I was playing into Satan’s hands. My athletic success was now next to none and I began to dig into the Bible for answers.
As I mentioned, I grew up in a southern Baptist church. I specifically remember the point when I was a kid that the church turned me off. Our church was starting to be split up. The pastor had done something to upset some of the members and I witnessed a lot of gossiping behind other’s backs. Even at such a young age, I knew this wasn’t right. People that should be holding hands and praising the Lord were wrapped up in trying to bring others down in an attempt to better themselves. I witnessed so much anger and bitterness inside the Church that it drove me away. Luckily, I did receive enough of the Truth to turn to the Bible for the answers I was seeking later in life.
When everything I loved about my life was starting to disappear, I began studying and concentrating on the Bible. Especially the new testament. The message that I received was that I was being humbled. I was way too full of pride and full of myself and didn’t recognize what Jesus had done for me and my life. I had taken it all for granted. I don’t know if being punished is the right term, but I was definitely being disciplined for my own good.
Once I graduated college I was really lost and without direction. I engrossed myself even heavier in the New Testament and was starting to receive more and more messages and understand Christ’s teachings. It was at this time that I became heavily involved in prayer and was amazed at it’s power. Often times I would receive dreams that I felt were from the Almighty. One dream in particular that really influenced me was where I somehow had stumbled on and discovered the Ark of the Covenant. I was extremely happy and joyed at this. While I was holding it there was a tornado high up in the sky. I lifted the Ark up and watched it spiral it’s way towards the Heavens. This made me extremely happy. But once it reached the top of the tornado, it suddenly came crashing down at my feet. My joy suddenly turned to sadness and I was very confused as to why God rejected it. A few nights later I had a short dream of a voice that only said, “Mark!! You have to change!!” I took this to mean that even though I was beginning to understand Jesus and his teachings, I needed to do much better at applying them to my life. I had prayed extremely hard for wisdom and knowledge, which I received, but I had yet to ask for forgiveness and eternal salvation. I still didn’t fully understand what it meant to do so.
A little while later a job opportunity came up for me many miles away. The thought of me leaving upset my parents, but I felt like it was a Godsend because I needed a fresh start. I needed to get some distance between me and things in my past that I felt I wasn’t strong enough to get keep from getting sucked back into. I prayed hard on this. I asked that if it be His will, that this work out for me and I would give back as a way of thanks. The job worked out and everything felt great again. Sure enough, an old girlfriend called late one night wanting me to come back. I was so relieved that I was too far away to be sucked back in because I knew how bad she was for me and feared where it would lead. I knew that wasn’t the path for me. I was now constantly thinking about the Lord. Almost 24/7 it seemed. Everything seemed to be moving in the right direction.
My job was one of a manual and physical nature and I was suddenly becoming extremely skilled at it. So skilled that my services were being demanded all over the world which has lead to me travelling as much as 8-10 months at a time. My grandfather passed away just before I dedicated myself to a life of working on the road. All of the grandkids were asked to take one item of his to keep for their own. I was one of the last to get to choose and it was obvious to me that I needed to pick his Bible. Without it, I’m not sure I would’ve survived this new lifestyle. It became so much fun to engross myself in the Bible and seek signs during the day that kept me on my path. I would still drink too much at times, but justified it by being a better person who was now closer to God and seeking his signs day and night. Deep down I knew that I needed to work on moderation, which I still feel is the key to everything. If you can moderate it, then you control it rather than it controlling you.
In 1999, after a long stint of working in Europe, I returned home. Shortly after that I was fortunate to get an opportunity to work only a couple of hours from home. I would be able to come home nearly every weekend and sometimes even come home during the week for a night in my own bed, which was a refreshing change. In this new town I met a lady in a store. We didn’t actually meet, we just made eye contact. For some reason she seemed very familiar to me, but I knew there was no way I knew who she was so I continued on my way. That evening I went to the bar/restaurant next door to my motel for a couple of beers after another long, hot, and hard day at work. The place was dead, but after only a few minutes, in came walking the lady I had just seen earlier.
We began talking and I don’t think anyone has ever been easier to talk to. There were never any strange pauses in our flowing conversation. In fact, we were able to finish each other’s sentences. We were becoming good friends and spent a lot of time together with our conversations growing much deeper on spirituality and religion. I was heavy into music and lyrics, especially those I felt related to my struggles. I found them comforting. She listened to several of my favorite groups that I felt offered a good message. She found some conflicts in their messages and gave me some advice that I’m still very grateful for….”eat the meat and spit out the bones”. She was basically telling me to absorb the things that drew me closer to Jesus, and to ignore the parts that wouldn’t.
The next evening, she asks me to get in her car in the parking lot of my motel. She had something she wanted me hear. She claimed that a cassette tape that she had lost suddenly was sitting on the dash of her car that morning and she had no explanation of how it got there. The tape was of the Christian group, Third Day, and the song she wanted me to hear was Love Song. As we listened to it a few times I could really feel it speaking to my soul and could feel something stirring deep inside of me. She was able describe exactly what I was experiencing. I had her make me a copy of the tape.
A few nights later I returned home to play in a sporting event and hang out with some friends. For some reason I didn’t drink as much as one beer, which was not normal for me when socializing with friends. After the event we went to a bar that had live music and was actually sitting on top of a lake next to a large boat dock where many boats were kept. As I wondered around the place I saw people heavily under the influence of alcohol and possibly more that had very lost looks on their faces. They staggered around and obviously had a hard time focusing on anything. All I could think was that I can’t believe that’s probably what I looked like all of the times I was in their shoes. They looked completely lost and without any direction. A little later all of my friends had left, but something kept me there.
It was getting very late and I was starting to get tired. The place was going to be closing before too much longer. All of a sudden I saw a group of people huddling around a small window and people started yelling, “FIRE!!!”. Sure enough you could see flames rising outside and everyone safely rushed out of the building. Once outside I could see that the boat dock had caught on fire and many of the boats were burning. I feel that I was kept there to witness this. My mind was able to relate what I was witnessing to what was going on in the world. Some of the boats were still close to the land and the dock. The firefighters that showed up were able to put out the flames and save those boats from their deaths. Other boats were engulfed in flames and had wandered away from the dock into the deep water where they were destined to burn up and sink. I saw this as a parallel to what happens to our souls. I was beginning to realize that wisdom, knowledge, and understanding is not enough. It won’t keep you from suffering the same fate as the boats that were aimlessly wandering around the lake, unable to be saved. We all need Jesus (the firefighter) to take away our sins (the fire) so that we do not die from it. We all sin which is the reason our bodies die, but we can be saved from it and receive eternal life.
The next morning I got up early and began driving back to the town I was working in. I made sure that I had the tape that I received from my new friend to listen to during the trip. I kept listening to that same song over and over. I could feel something stirring inside me just like before. I suddenly saw people in a different light. I no longer looked at them as imperfect beings, but as brothers and sisters that are all in this together. I stopped at a gas station to get something to drink and use the restroom. Something was telling me to tell the cashier that Jesus loves her, but I held back for fear of the reaction and look that I might get. When I returned to my vehicle I saw that I had a missed call from my friend. Her message said that something was telling her to call me and check on me. I told her what was happening and I could tell she was pleased to hear the news.
I continued driving and listening to the song over and over. I suddenly began speaking directly to Jesus. I told Him that I was finally ready to turn myself over to Him. I wanted Him to use me as a tool, like a carpenter would use a hammer. I told Him that I wanted Him to even use me in ways that I wouldn’t recognize. Even if it was something so small as walking with my head up, looking strangers in the eye, and saying hello if that would somehow serve Him and help them. I then began confessing my sins and imperfections and admitted that I was aware that this act would not make me a perfect person and that I would still sin from time to time. That had seemed to be my biggest hangup. I felt I couldn’t commit myself to Jesus because I wasn’t good enough. I now understood that being good doesn’t grant you Eternal Life, only being saved and forgiven can do that. It was at this time that I felt the stirring inside of me suddenly turn into positive energy. I began weeping uncontrollably, but I wasn’t sad. The positive energy was the Holy Spirit and I could feel a direct connection with the Almighty. The tears seemed to be the negative energy leaving my body and it was the happiest moment of my life. I now understood what people meant when they claimed to have received the Holy Spirit.
I was now about 20 miles from my destination and was traveling on a country highway through the middle of the Bible Belt where there seems to be more churches than one can count. That’s when a voice spoke to me. It wasn’t a voice that I could actually hear, but a voice nonetheless that was speaking to me on the inside. It said, “Mark, You are about to come up on a small church with someone standing outside of it. I need for you to tell them what has just happened to you.” As I drove a little further I came upon a church on the right side of the road, but there was no one that I could see so I kept going. I then had a little bit of doubt and thought that the voice must’ve just been me thinking to myself. A couple of miles later I saw a man standing on the side of the highway. I thought, this is it!!! So I began to slow down, but unfortunately there wasn’t a church in sight so I didn’t stop. Just as I passed the man I saw a little white sign in the ground that said
“<==== CHURCH". When I looked off in the distance I could see a little white church that was hidden by a grove of trees. I now knew that this is what I supposed to do, but I still had a fear rush over me like I had earlier at the gas station. I knew I couldn't chicken out this time so I turned around and pulled up to the man. As I pulled up to him all I could think is that here I am out in the middle of nowhere and this guy is going to think I am some crazy lunatic. I rolled down my window and he approached my vehicle. The first thing I asked him was, "Do you mind telling me why you are standing here?" He responded, "A buddy of mine got a tractor stuck in a field and he's coming to get me so I can help him get it out". I then said, "I know you are going to think this is crazy, but God told me stop and talk to you." He obviously had a confused look on his face, but I could tell he was interested. I continued, "I am not from here and I'm on my way to work in this town, but on the way God has shown me how much he loves us." The man responded, "You see that Church over there?" I said, "Yes, He told me someone would be standing outside the Church and I needed to tell them what I just experienced and that He loves you." He then said, "I wish more people could see what you see. I used to be a very active member in that Church, but I've seen and been through so much......" He then started to drift away in thought and said something about being in a car wreck and seeing his best friend go flying through the windshield. I could tell this experience he was describing and reliving in his mind had really hurt his faith. He then thanked me for stopping and delivering the message to him. We then both said God bless you and I was on my way. As I pulled into town, I needed to gather myself up before going to the job site. So I pulled into a gas station and locked myself in the restroom where I looked in the mirror, began weeping in joy again, and fell to my knees. In a matter of seconds it was like my life flashed before my eyes. I replayed my life in my mind in a flash and saw how everything happens for a reason. How everything in the universe serves a purpose. There is no such thing as a coincidence. Everything that happened in my life brought me to this spot at this point in time, in order for me to be ready to accept Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior. I shared my experience with my friend and anyone else that would listen over the next few days. My friend was thrilled, but she warned me that Satan would be very upset about this and would come at me hard trying to win me back. Just a couple of hours later a co-worker yelled at me, "Hey!! Did you see that snake just go in between your legs?" I thought he was joking with me, but sure enough we went towards where he saw it go and found it coiled up where we pinned it down and cut it's head off. I took this as a sign of Satan (the serpent) coming back after me but not being able to touch me now and I was actually able to defeat him. Friday rolled around and I was heading home for the weekend. As I approached the location where I spoke to the man, something was telling me to slow down. In the exact spot where the man had been standing, there looked to be a large white dog on the side of the road. Perhaps hit by a car on the highway which is not uncommon. I stopped and turned around to get a better look because it just looked to large to be dog. I'm sure you can imagine my surprise to see that it wasn't a dog, but in fact a lamb!!! I took this as a sign confirming everything that I experienced was indeed true and from Jesus, the sacrificial lamb. I was now living by faith, which is a wonderful feeling. I had never completely been able to put my faith and trust in Jesus like I was able to now. My eyes were open to how he could speak to us in such subtle and mysterious ways. I also discovered just how powerful His name is. Not long after this, I was working in a small town in Virginia. I could only find one motel that could accommodate me for the length of stay that I needed. It wasn't a nice place but I could lay my head there and read the Bible until I fell asleep. One night I was really into a message I was getting from the scripture, but suddenly a dog that was caged up behind the business next door was barking so loud and so much that it made it impossible to continue. I had a sense that Satan was doing what he could to distract me from the scripture. So I walked around and back to the dog's cage. He continued to bark even louder as I approached. I knelt down next to him and said, "In the name of Jesus I command you to stop barking." I was amazed that he suddenly stopped and laid down with a defeated whimper. I never heard a peep out of him for the rest of my stay. The next year I was working on the border of France and Germany at a facility right on the Rhine River. A co-worker of mine that I had just met and I went in on a rental car together. His luggage didn't make it on his flight and a couple of days later the airline called asking where he wanted it delivered. He told them the hotel we were staying which was 19 km from where we were working. Unfortunately for him, he had flown into Germany and our hotel was in France. The airline wasn't able to deliver luggage across the border so he had them deliver it to the first hotel we had stayed at in Germany. His plan was to leave work early, drive the 2 hours round trip to get his luggage, and pick me up at the end of the day. This was before the days of GPS so all he had was a map and he got lost on the way back. I continued to work late, waiting on him, until the facility was shutting down and I was escorted to the front gate, basically in the middle of nowhere and 19 km from my hotel. I began walking and figured I would meet him in the country on the way. After an hour I got to the bridge that he would have to cross, but the hotel was in the other direction so I figured he'd eventually come that way and pick me up. As I'm walking I begin praying extremely hard. I told the Lord that if I had to walk all night to get home, I would, but that I could really use some assistance in getting back. After a couple of more hours I come into a small village where I see a group of kids hanging out by a park with a car. I approach them but communicating was difficult since their English was about as poor as my French. They aren't willing to drive me, but offer me a cell phone to call a cab in the town I'm trying to make it to. It's now getting late on a Friday night and the cab company tells me they are too busy to come that far to get me. The kids advise me to just keep going and hitch hiking, which I do. It's now getting pitch dark and I'm walking along a country road in the middle of the night. I have dogs that I can't see barking at me from a field just a few feet away. Luckily there was a fence between us because they sounded vicious. It was not a highly traveled road and no one was willing to stop for me, which deep down I understood. I was now becoming a little frightened so I continue praying harder and harder for Jesus' help. Finally a small car passes me and stops ahead and pulls over. I run up to the passenger door, but I have trouble opening it. I'm not sure if it's locked or stuck, but in the couple of seconds it took for the gentleman to open it, something caught my eye just on the other side of the road and behind the car, out of the view of the people in the car. What I saw was a ball of light about the size of a soccer or basketball. It was extremely intense with a kind of blue hue around it. It was nearly silent with a slight hum to it as it hovered about 4 feet over the ditch on the other side of the road. I couldn't take my eyes off of it. The door opens and the occupants of the car are speaking to me in French, but I can't look away from this orb. Suddenly the orb shot up into the night sky at the speed of light. It was like it was in two places at once for a moment and had a light trail that connected it. It made a swoosh sound when it flew into the stars, and another swoosh sound as the trail it created followed it. I realize that the people didn't see any of this and they are confused as to why I hesitated to get in the car. I tell them the town I'm going to and understood enough French to know that they could only take me a little ways to a turnoff and they'd have to let me out. I was thankful and fine with this because I new there was a restaurant only a kilometer or two from where they were dropping me of that I had visited a couple of times and met a lady that worked there. As I walked up to the place, she greeted me. I explained that I was stranded and needed a ride. She found someone willing to give me a ride once they finished up. The young man that drove me back to my hotel was very friendly and I thanked him and gave him some American currency when he dropped me off. Still puzzled and amazed at what I had just witnessed, it became clearer to me when I asked his name. He responded, "Christoph". I'm certain that what I witnessed was an angel sent by God to somehow get the people to stop for me and answer my prayer. Since I no longer believed in coincidences, I understood why the man who drove me to the hotel had Christ in his name. Whether he knew it or not, he was being used by God to answer my prayer. Perhaps in the same manner that I had asked God to use me to help others. Thanks for reading if you took the time. God Bless you all and thanks for letting me share my story. Jesus is the answer and the way. Even though my travels since this time have revealed to me just what a strong grasp Satan has on the world and how it's growing stronger every day, I know it's not forever and my faith will allow me to spend eternity with many of you in the presence of the Lord.