I was raised in a church-going family. Mom and Dad were very strict. They never missed a service and were very active in church. Until I was 13 years of age, I never questioned the rituals and teaching. When I was 13, I started working on farms other than the family farm. One day, a co-worker, named Bob, asked me an intriguing question. He said “Randy, if you died today, do you know what would happen to you?” I truthfully replied, “No.” He explained that the Bible said that if I wasn’t saved, I would go to hell, defying all I had learned in my parents’ church as a child. (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.) I told him that he could go jump in the lake, and I went back to work.
Every day that I worked with Bob, he shared a new verse with me, or asked a new question that challenged me to think about my eternal destiny. But, like many young men growing up on the farm, I thought I was indestructible. I could throw hay bales all day long and not get tired. But then, things started happening on the farm. Every year, I had some kind of accident. One year, I fell off a silo, just underneath a grain bin, into some fresh-plowed snow. I fell off a ladder another year. I got caught in the power take-off shaft on the back of the tractor that tore my trouser leg off. I totaled my first car. I went to visit my brother, and totaled his vehicle. I bought a motorcycle, and crashed it. It started to scare me – every year the accidents got somewhat more intense. With each mishap and recovery, Bob would say, “Do you know where you would be if you died now? You would be burning in Hell.” “It seemed like God was trying to get my attention.” It seemed like God was trying to get my attention.
That fall I met a young lady in the tenth grade at school, who promptly told me that I needed her parents’ permission to spend time with her. When I met her parents, the first question they asked was, “Have you been born again?” They attended a gospel preaching church. They were the next people who told me that I needed to be saved. About this time, my parents allowed me to make my own decisions about religion and personal freedom. So, instead of attending church with my parents, I started going to church with my girlfriend and her family. That stirred up my family quite a bit, because I was breaking family tradition.
For three years, we went to church together until we were out of high school. I asked the young lady if she wanted to get married—and she refused. My unsaved condition and sinful habits were stumbling blocks, costing me what I believed at the time would have been a good wife. Again, God was working through other people to get my attention. I kept searching, leaving the farm and my friend’s church to drive tractor trailers. But, those accidents kept happening like clockwork once a year. Motorcycle accidents, work accidents—all kept making me ask myself what would happen to me if I died? I knew the answer: I would be in Hell.
I joined the Marine Corps, and finally met Karen, my wife-to-be, in August of 1982. Soon after we met, we went out to eat. She said, “Let’s pray before we eat.” With my past experience in church, I knew enough words to put on a good act. I led her to believe that I was a Christian—but I really wasn’t. She and her children were Christians—but I just played the game. We got married in September of 1983, and the next six months were a living Hell.
We started going to church but, I wasn’t saved yet. We still had a lot of turmoil in our marriage—and with my civilian job and my Marine Corps Reserve duties. My wife had talked to me a few times about getting saved, and I told her that I wasn’t ready yet. In June, 1984, I was assigned to a special military job for two weeks. I carried a New Testament Bible with me, with all the salvation verses highlighted.
On June 19, 1984, I came within a few yards of being completely blown to pieces. We were driving a truck to a forward area when three high explosive howitzer rounds landed not far from our vehicle during a live-fire exercise. The concussion forced the truck off the road—with dirt and shrapnel whizzing by us. “If it had been any closer, we would have been killed.” If it had been any closer, we would have been killed. My fellow Marines thought it was just a fluke, but I knew what was happening.
That night, I was stirred and shaken. On the night of June 20, 1984, I couldn’t take it any more. I went to my tent, got out my Bible, and started reading the highlighted verses on salvation. At about 10 p.m., I repented of my sin, admitted to God that I was a sinner, and asked Him to save my soul. He heard my prayer. I came home the next week and met my wife at the airport. I never told her what had happened between God and me a few nights before in the desert. Later that night, as we were talking, she looked at me and said, “You did it, didn’t you? You asked God to save you, didn’t you?” I told my wife that I had called on His name, and that He had saved me, and was now there to guide me every step of the way. I was baptized in July, 1984, and started serving the Lord in earnest.
I was involved in everything. Sunday morning services, Sunday night services, Tuesday night visitation, Wednesday night services and youth activities. The Lord was providing for our needs, and I built a log house on 12 acres I owned. I started getting ideas of a new pick-up truck, new this and new that. I was caught up in the things of the world. At the time, I was bringing home $400 a week, and spending evenings home with my family. But, I was hungry for more money. My boss offered me an opportunity to work more hours, and to make an average of $1,000 a week. Because of the extended work schedule, I was leaving my home at 10:30 p.m., driving 632 miles, and putting in 14-16 hour days. I was getting home at 4 p.m. I would take a shower, eat, get some sleep, and start all over a few hours later.
Soon, I was making a $1,000 a week – good money in 1985. But, it took a toll on my service to God. I would come home on Tuesday afternoon, and be too tired to go out on visitation. Then, Wednesday night services were sacrificed, followed by Sunday night services. I justified it by saying to myself, You have to be obedient to your employer. But, the truth was that I chose to work the schedule that I did. It was nothing more than the greed of money. “It got to the point that Sunday morning was all the time I had left for the Lord—everything else was on the back burner. Extra money was more important.” It got to the point that Sunday morning was all the time I had left for the Lord—everything else was on the back burner. Extra money was more important.
I had started this schedule in July, 1985. On December 2, 1985, at 3:30 a.m. the Lord finally got my attention. He took away some things that I loved —driving big equipment and deer hunting—to get my attention. A deer leapt from the side of the road, and the Lord put that deer right through the windshield onto my lap. I lost control of the rig I was driving. As the tractor flipped, the deer was thrown out and ground up underneath the skidding wreckage. Although I wasn’t belted in, something kept me in the cab. I sustained severe injuries to my face, left arm, and internal organs. I was conscious throughout the accident, and I knew exactly why it was happening. The Lord was once again teaching me a lesson. I should have been dead. The truck was torn up like a tin can. So was my body—but I didn’t bleed. The Lord shut down my system, until I could get proper medical attention.
When I got to the hospital, they would not let me have a mirror. I was in surgery for 15 hours the first day, and for 10 hours the second day. I was told that I would be in the hospital for four to six months. But, the Lord healed me faster, and I was released in six weeks. Every weekend, someone from my church family came to visit me. In a few short seconds, I went from having no time for God, to having nothing but time for Him. Laying in a hospital bed, I was completely dependent on Him. I got 144 cards from my church family. Anonymous gifts of money covered all the medical bills. God provided every need for me and my family. Someone took care of our kids, allowing my wife the freedom to be with me continually throughout my hospital stay. She read the Bible to me—and brought me tapes of the messages preached at church.
My accident was in 1985—and God is still healing my body. I learned that when you serve God and have a righteous testimony, that God will provide and meet all your needs. But, when you fail the Lord and go running after the world, He will do whatever it takes to get your attention back on Him. I know that when I die, I will stand before Jesus, and He will let me into His Heaven. Not by my own strength, but because I trusted in Him alone. It was not church attendance, confirmation or baptism—it was because I repented and trusted in Him. Won’t you do the same?