My Former Baptist Church Edifice
Some years ago, while a member at a Baptist Church in Maryland, I was designated as their ‘roving reporter’ whose assignment was to contribute informative articles about our members and supply entertaining trivia, etc., word games like crossword puzzles, cryptograms, children riddles, etc., for our monthly church newsletter.
I took my job very seriously and throughout each month I would interview certain members that had been on mission trips, retreats, conferences, and special speaking engagements. I would also love to corner the Sunday School teachers that taught the young children and pry juicy information from them because as you know, kids say the darnedest things.
So, for this week’s blog I would like to share with you a true serious story about one of our members who had a real-life encounter with the Lord one evening while participating at a men’s weekend retreat. I’ll call this man, John Smith (not his real name) and casually mention that he admitted he was a reluctant participant at this meeting. In other words, at the time of his experience, John was initially a member of our church in name only, but after his ‘rude awakening experience’ he recommitted his life fully ‘sold-out’ for the Lord.
Following is John’s interview with me in 2003 which I entitled…….
“A Spiritual Encounter, Re-visited”
On July 28, 2003, I drove up to the Smith’s house and found all three of them, Annie, Big John and Little John Smith in the driveway cleaning out a huge black van, readying it for return to the car rental office. Little John had just moved his belongings out of the dorm of his alma mater (Morehouse College-Atlanta). He was returning back to Maryland from the trip and was unloading all his stuff into his parents’ garage. Actually Annie was the only one inside the now-emptied van, sweeping it out. Big John was on the outside inspecting the fresh dents and chipped paint and musing out loud if the rental company was going to charge him. As I approached, and was warmly welcomed, I could tell this was a happy residence filled with loving and endearing memories of the goodness of the Lord.
The Smith’s were expecting me because for about two weeks I had been trying to interview Big John for this month’s article. Indirectly, it has a whole lot to do with Annie because she’s the cause of it all. Before I go any further, I want to tell you that both John and Annie are long-time members of the Deacon and Deaconess Boards of our church. Their son, Little John was also a member of the Jr. Deacons until he left for college four years ago. The entire family aide and assist each other in their Christian walk and have been instrumental in the furtherance of spiritual growth for many others, as well.
While comfortably situated inside their house, John and I began our interview at the dining room table. After a short prayer, I asked John to begin narrating just how his initial spiritual encounter with the Lord took place and what keeps this experience burning alive within his heart, low these many years.
It’s Annie’s fault, John said. If it had not been for her, I would still be playing church. It was the fall of 1985 and the men of our church were getting ready for their retreat to Harper’s Ferry, Va. I was attending the church, but not yet a member. Sam C. asked my wife if I was going on the retreat. She said no. Sam kept asking and finally, Annie said to add my name on the list. Annie paid the fees and told me I was going. I realized that there was something special about this retreat while traveling to the destination. As the Lord would have it, our drive became very hazardous. Several vehicles were snowbound along the roadway, but our twelve-passenger van made it without any trouble. Just a lot of white knuckles and frayed nerves by the time we arrived.
“That evening the opening message was delivered by our former Pastor. After his sermon he asked if anyone wanted to be ‘saved’. Now I had received numerous blessings from the Lord and was feeling pretty good about my status with Him, but was desirous of a more intimate relationship with Him. Upon hearing that invitation from the Pastor, ‘Something’ made me go forward. All the men, about twelve including the Pastor, laid hands on me and prayed and asked that I might repent and be saved. To be honest, afterwards, I didn’t feel any different, but everybody else was excited and rejoicing.
“Later that night, in my room, I decided to read my Bible. My roommate was asleep and all was quiet. Suddenly, without warning, a grayish cloud appeared in the room and was definitely moving towards me. It was transparent, but I could not escape it. All emotions of fear were fleeting. Softly, the cloud came to rest upon me. I could feel myself changing. I felt differently. At that precise moment I had a sense of realization that everything was True. As quickly as the cloud came, it vanished.
“I could not wait to tell of this experience to others the next morning at breakfast. My countenance had changed but I must have looked like a crazy man while reliving that moment. Most of the men wanted to know if my roommate had seen it, too. All I can say is that that mysterious rendezvous with Jesus changed my life! Even now, as we speak, my sister, I could shout! God opened my eyes and I saw my shortcomings.”
I drove back to my house after our meeting rejoicing. Thankful to God for our members at our church and praying that John’s message will inspire others to seek a closer walk with our Savior.
John later told me that the second night of the retreat he positioned the chair in his room at the same place it was the night before and sat down in it with his Bible. He watched and prayed all night for the ‘Cloud’ to return…but it didn’t come. So his only alternative is to wait for his change to come…that is, when he goes to meet Jesus. Amen (At this writing, some 16 years later, John’s wife, Annie has already met her Savior.)
Scripture Lessons: “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”
“And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will become a rewarder of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.” Colossians 3:23-24
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