I was raised in the Zion Lutheran Church in Sunbury, PA. My dad worked most Sundays, but it was a ritual for my mom and me to attend every week. I wasn’t too excited about church because I had no friends there. There was no fellowshipping, the singing was morbid, we never took our Bibles, and the sermons were just reading and repeating after the pastor from a Lutheran book.
But I knew that if I didn’t get out of bed on Sunday morning and go to church, I wouldn’t be allowed to go anywhere else the rest of the day. So I got up and went with my Mother. We sat every Sunday on the left side of the church. I knew they dimmed the lights on that side at a certain time in the service. After they dimmed the lights, I knew I could sleep!
In our church, we were taught that you earned your way to heaven by being good to others, by being a good person, and of course by being sprinkled. So we did all these things. My mom taught Sunday School even though she didn’t know much about the Bible. But she was doing her duty. I sang in the choir and we always went caroling to the older folks at Christmas time. Our family also polished the brass rails throughout the church. We did this for years—it was extra bonus points for us! “We were sure that we were going to heaven because of all the “good things” we were doing.” We were sure that we were going to heaven because of all the “good things” we were doing.
When I was 12 years old, something happened in that church with the pastor, and we decided not to attend there anymore. Several months later, while at home on a Saturday afternoon, a man and his wife came to our house. They told my mom that they were starting up a bus ministry in the area, and wanted to know if she had any children that would be interested in riding to church on the bus with them. So of course my mom sent ME on the bus the next day!
Actually, I found out that it was fun riding to church on a bus. The lady, Miss Vicki, stood up in the front of the bus and led all the children in singing. I had never heard these songs before—songs like Zacchaeus, Jesus Loves Me, He’s Able, and I’ve Got a Mansion. Wow, this was really neat! There was something different about Miss Vicki and her husband, the bus driver—but I couldn’t figure out what it was. When we got to our Sunday School class, the teacher preached to us from the Bible. They never did that at the Lutheran church. Then we all went into the auditorium and listened as the pastor preached a wonderful message. They never did that at the Lutheran church either. It really bothered me because I couldn’t raise my hand that I knew for sure I was going to heaven.
I decided that I loved going to this new church, so I rode the bus every Sunday. After a few weeks, Miss Vicki announced she would give a prize for anyone who brought visitors with them on the bus. I was so excited, I invited everyone I knew – my parents, my cousins and my friends – to ride the bus with me so I could win the prize. Surprisingly, my parents agreed to go. When we got to church, they were taken to the adult Sunday School class, and I went to my class. After Sunday School, we all went over to the auditorium for the church service.
Well, when we got home from church that Sunday they were so excited. The next week, they drove to church. They couldn’t believe what they were hearing at the church. The messages were so different from anything we had heard in the Lutheran church. The pastor preached about being born again and being saved. What was that? He preached that Jesus died for our sins. What sins? He also preached that a person can know they are going to heaven when they die. “All this information was so new to us we just listened week after week, soaking in all the wonderful news.” All this information was so new to us we just listened week after week, soaking in all the wonderful news. I heard the gospel preached in my Sunday School class and in the services. I was so excited and wanted to hear more and more.
After a few months of learning about this new life we could have, I realized that my good works could not get me to heaven. I knew I needed to be saved. (Note: salvation, saved, and born again are Biblical terms referring to the forgiveness of sins by God and the rescue of a person from the power and penalty of that sin. This is God’s requirement for everlasting life.) One Sunday morning I walked forward with my parents at the end of the service. Someone took me in another room, and showed me from the Bible that I was a sinner. The Bible says, “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one.” (Romans chapter 3, verse 10) “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans chapter 3, verse 23) I understood that I was lost and needed to be saved. I also understood that Jesus Christ died on the cross to pay for my sins.
That day, I repented of my sins and accepted the Lord as my personal Savior.“That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation…For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans chapter 10, verses 9-10 & 13) My parents were both saved that same day also. We took classes on baptism and joined the church.
No more dreading Sundays! I went to church because I wanted to and could not wait to learn more about the Bible. I started reading my Bible every day. We got involved serving in the church and growing through weekly Bible studies. And by the way, I won the biggest whoopie pie I had ever seen from bringing everyone I knew on the bus! But more importantly, I received the real, true prize— Jesus Christ as my Savior!