It was the spring of the year 1979 which would be end up being my first year of High School. Mike and I were still altar boys and we had grown a few inches so we looked like the priest’s bodyguards. I will never forget when the priest gave us the sacramental wine to sip from during Mass. I do not know why he did it and did not realize the significance of it at that time, but it was a great honor, since they only give you the bread in the Roman Church. I believe it was truly a sign of change and God’s providence. Eventually due to our new-found faith we were not allowed to serve the altar.
That year during Easter we watched movies about God. There was one movie about the crucifixion of Christ. Something strange happened. My mother, brother and I started weeping like our hearts were broken. My father was shocked and felt terrible and kept asking, “What happened? What’s the matter?” We did not know. We just could not stop crying. This again was I believe the Spirit of God working repentance in our hearts.
On Richmond Avenue there was a church, Calvary Assembly of God. My brother in passing saw the words evangelistic service. He went that church because unbeknownst to me he was watching evangelists on television. He connected the word evangelist to evangelistic. How God uses such simple things to draw people to his Son Jesus! He was responsible for winning my whole family to Christ by that simple act. My brother told the Sunday School superintendent at that time something to the effect, “I have got to get my brother to come, he will be a great preacher.” He must have remembered me yelling out the words of that Bible on that hill so many years ago.
Through a succession of events over years God was patiently orchestrating everything that would lead to the salvation of my entire family. We were baptized in water that year. While I was in the water, although I was quiet most of the time, I started preaching to everyone. It just would bubble in me. My conversion to Christ was not full of fireworks but the results would be lasting.
The thing that had the most effective impact on me is when we started attending Sunday School and began learning about the Bible. I loved it. I would borrow my brother’s King James Bible (the only one we had besides a huge Catholic family Bible) and I got the idea that I should memorize scripture. When I did not have that one I would carry around that big one and read it too.
I thought, “If I am going to know the Bible I should know it by heart.”
What should I memorize?
I turned through the Bible pages and my eyes fell on these large print words for the first time, “Therefore being justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1). I figured I was part Italian and it was written to the Romans so that was a good place to start-right? So I memorized that chapter.
Afterwards, I memorized Psalm 139. “Oh Lord you have searched me and known me!” I loved saying the verses.
The verses of scripture were like food to my soul. I could not get enough. I loved going to church and hearing preaching. I would listen to the Word on TV and the radio and I would read books and listened to music that taught the Bible. I had a voracious, heaven birthed, alien appetite for the Word of the living God.
But now I would be introduced to something, someone unexpected, someone I overlooked. The Holy Ghost.
This is the fifth installment of my testimony.
©2015 Rev. Stephen S. Gibney, give credit where credit is due.