"My Conversion Story"

Recently, I had a special visit with a senior adult in his home. Paul (not his real name) is in his seventies. He surprised me with this question, “Do you have time to listen to my conversion story?” How could I pass up this opportunity? I love to hear stories about how believers have come into the faith.

Conversational Witness
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Paul grew up in an atheist family. His mother and grandmother had been atheists. He had never gone to any church and had spent his younger years vigorously defending the belief that there was no God. Retired now, Paul had spent his career working in journalism, and writing business articles for a major news organization in his hometown of Chicago.

As fate would have it, a female friend of Paul, had been invited by her parish priest to bring a reading at the local Catholic church Mass. She had invited Paul to lunch with another coworker and persuaded Paul to go with her to the church with a promise that, “The service will only take a few minutes. And besides,” she added, “You can keep our mutual friend company while I do my reading.”

Paul emphasized the fact that any time before this occasion, he would never have agreed to this arrangement no matter how brief a time it would take! But Paul remarked to me, “She batted her beautiful eyelashes, and I couldn’t refuse.” So, here was an avowed atheist who had spent his young adult years espousing an opposition to the church. But now, Paul found himself attending a service of Mass at a Catholic church with two of his work associates and friends.

Little did Paul know that his whole life would begin to change by the time he would leave the church that day! Upon entering the sanctuary, Paul had to admit to himself that he had a strange feeling that came over him from the minute the Mass began. He could not explain it. He felt like he was in a special setting, but asked himself, “Why am I feeling this way?” He told me that he almost fell backwards as he stood there in the pew. It was as if something were pressing upon him, and he could not explain it. His coworker friend had to reach around Paul and steady him to keep him from falling.

When the time came for the woman to share her reading during the service, she took her place at the ambos or podium. Paul watched in rapt attention as she began to read the Scripture lesson. As he listened intently, Paul became focused on the granite wall behind her and began to hallucinate as she read. He was amazed by what he thought he was seeing. Paul described it to me like the wall had transformed into a fresco of Christian art where a figure of Jesus Christ was on the cross.

This experience deeply touched him. At the sight of these manifestations of the divine, Paul had to acknowledge for the first time in his twenty-eight years of life, that he felt a Presence come to him, inviting him to follow Christ. He has called this experience, “My conversion!” While his conversion happened more than forty years ago, Paul relayed and relived some of the details in this conversation with such ease and specificity that I felt as if it all had just happened the day before! I am inspired by Paul’s testimony. Although his story may have been a little unconventional when compared to my personal experience and faith tradition, I am convinced it was no less authentic and transformative!

As I left Paul’s home, it reminded me about how my day had started by watching a popular television pastor who spoke about the importance of telling others our faith story. Using hyperbole, the pastor had emphasized, “You do not need a theological education, a church class, or a mentor, though that might be helpful. Just share your story of how you came to follow Christ. Simply tell others what He has done for you!”

One of my favorite testimonies of newfound faith is the story of Jesus’ healing of a man born blind. After receiving his sight, the healed man, simply reported to some in the crowd who questioned his miracle, “One thing I do know, I was blind but now I see!” Later, Jesus would give this previously blind man the ultimate gift of spiritual sight and salvation. (John 9:25, 35-38). His life would be changed forever!

Can you distill your faith story down to a few minutes? Are you prepared at a moment’s notice to share it with others? The Scriptures remind us, “Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you’re living the way you are, and always with the utmost courtesy.” (1 Peter 3:15-16, MSG). Let us make disciples!

Mike Keppler, retired pastor,

active churchman and
doting grandparent.
Contact: drmjkeppler@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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