(continued from February issue)
I attended State Street Baptist Church and was involved in the youth group, as a leader. But I still would make regular trips to Bangor to spend time with my other friends and we would continue to hit the bars. I didn’t really have any struggle with the conflicting lifestyles I was living. I simply didn’t think about it. One part of my life was what I did when home, and the other was what took place away from home.
In the summer of 1988, God interrupted my party. I had been spending a weekend in Bangor and was at a bar when my revelry was interrupted by a question that came to my mind: “What are you doing?” I tried to shake it off, but the sense of sadness and that question would not go away.
I left the bar and the next day headed back home. It was a few weeks later that our pastor preached a message. I honestly don’t remember what it was he said exactly, but I do remember knowing that I needed to make a choice about how I was living and who I would serve.
An invitation to come to the front was given for those who needed to make things right with God. I stood up and went to the front of the church. I was terrified. I knew how I had been living, but had worked hard to keep it a secret from everyone else. I knew that I deserved the condemnation and disappointment that was sure to come my way once others knew what was really going on.
As I stood at the front, the pastor called for deacons to come and meet with those who had gathered there. I looked up and was met by Larry Turner.
Larry Turner was a potato farmer. We knew each other well and had many conversations in the past, but at that moment I was afraid of where this was going.
We went into a Sunday school room to talk. He started with, “So what’s going on with you?” I blurted out everything that had been happening and waited for the inevitable sigh or gasp of shock and then a word of disappointment and correction.
Instead, there was a pause and the words, “Hmm, I’ve been there too”. No shaking of the head. No lecture. It was grace that I experienced at that moment. It was exactly what I needed in that moment, and those words changed my life.
What I experienced through Larry was grace in action. He didn’t overlook what I had done, but he simply expressed the understanding of someone who also had failed and yet had seen restoration and the forgiveness of his heavenly Father. We talked a while more, and again, all that he said I don’t really remember. But it was that one moment, that one phrase, that put me on a path to a wonderful relationship with the God of grace.
It was a year later that I went on a short-term mission’s trip to Brazil and then on to Bible School, where I met my wife. I’ve been a missionary and a pastor for 26 years, and have seen God do amazing things. But I’ll never forget the impact of that one moment.
I wish that I could have sat down with Larry and expressed more completely what he has meant to me. But I know what that moment meant and the impact that it had on my life and the lives of others through me. I look forward to someday having that conversation with Larry.