I was born and raised in Portland, OR. The city of Portland is not the most religious of cities and in fact it was in that area of America that I encountered more atheism and apathy toward God than at any other place in my life. I should know, for I was once a self-avowed atheist.
My family was not particularly religious either, with the exception of my mother who was Russian Orthodox and a born-again Christian. She had been led to the Lord early in her life and as a small child she would read the Bible to my sister and I and pray with us. I still have memories of her watching over me as I prayed with her own eyes closed. I often wonder if she was just listening or if she was also praying.
Because the nearest Russian Orthodox Church near my home was on the other side of the city, and because my own father was opposed to organized religion of any kind, my mother was never able to go to church and neither were my sister and I. Thus, religion as I grew older was more of a past-time than a present activity. Most of the rest of my family was Roman Catholic and I was familiar enough with Roman Catholicism to accept it as my own faith.
I saw an advertisement for The Book of Mormon and decided to call the toll free number and request a copy. It came in my mailbox about four to six weeks later and for the next six months it sat on my desk collecting dust. It was only after feeling an overwhelming desire to know Christ that I picked up the book and started to read it.
The first thing that I noticed was a picture of Jesus Christ with his hands on top of the head of the Apostle John ordaining him. It was a powerful picture. I read about Nephi and his rebellious brothers, about Enos’ amazing conversion, about Abinidi dying a martyr’s death because of the wickedness of King Noah. I read about Alma the younger, Mormon, Moroni and many others. I read about Jesus Christ coming to the New World after his resurrection to visit his “other sheep” and about how after only a few chapters the people became wicked again only to descend into an all out war that would lead to the destruction of an entire people. It was only after nine years of reading this book on a daily basis that I realized that it was only stories. The individuals may have been described as men of great faith, but they were also men who never existed and men who preached a different gospel than that of the Holy Bible.
However I did not know this and I was soon visited by two young men one day in late May 1994. It was only as it was ending that one Elder started telling me about what Jesus Christ had done in his life and how the Book of Mormon has been a sign of strength to him. I sat there wanting to have what he had. I had been extremely immoral up until that point in my life. I had the feeling of guilt follow me for two years by that time and I wanted to know how to overcome it.
Fast forward to July 1998. I receive what every 19-year-old Mormon desires, my own mission call. I was to serve for two years in New York City and I was to speak the Russian language. It was a shock to me and my family because I spoke German, not Russian and so learning a new language was going to naturally be a new experience for me. I was eager but nervous.
It was on my mission where those doubts began and I had gotten in the habit while I was in New York City of studying the doctrines of other churches. I felt for the longest time after my mission that Catholic doctrine was more to my liking, yet in the LDS Church it was taboo.
In the spring of 2002 I began to ask a question to my LDS friends. “How is a man saved?” I got conflicting answers and it led me to believe that most people I knew did not understand what salvation was. I began to feel God knock on my heart telling me that change was coming. The change I thought was a move to a new location. The city I moved to feels like Utah in every possible way with the exception of the predominate religion. In Utah it is the Mormon faith. In this city it is Evangelical Christianity.
“Have you been saved?” the art gallery worker asked me in my second full day here. That was literally the first question I was asked in this city. I knew this was not Utah anymore.
Yet moving to another city was not the change God had in mind. The knocking only got louder. On December 15, 2002 it hit me like a load of bricks that the LDS Church’s claims of being the one true church were false, that I had been deceived and that the reason I felt empty all the time was because I was looking toward religion to fill a gap that only a personal relationship with Christ could fill.
On that day in December I got an email from a friend with a web site about Joseph Smith. I read the entire web site, even rebooting the computer several times in order to finish. I read about the life of Joseph Smith before and during his leadership as the first “Prophet, Seer, and Revelator” of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I read about the Kinderhook plates, the real history behind the Book of Abraham, how the Book of Mormon had been changed thousands of times. By the end of the day I knew the Mormon Church was not true and the following Sunday I stopped going to church. It was the first Sunday I had been out of church since 1996, a span of seven plus years. I was extremely bitter for several days until I came across another book with a blue cover.
After going through boxes full of items from my LDS mission, I came a cross a blue book called “Power For Living” and I began to read. The book starts out with testimonies of prominent Christian athletes and entertainers. I read the book cover to cover and at the end of the book was a written prayer. I knew I needed to say that prayer and so I did. It was Christmas Eve 2002 and it was in the late afternoon that I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior. I had become a born-again Christian and my life felt happy, lit up, and more importantly my prayers began to get answered. That moment I asked Jesus to come into my heart, I felt a change. I felt filled, I felt like a new man. I felt a desire to go to church again and read the Bible. When I said the sinner’s prayer I felt the hot feeling that came inside of me during that first trip to a Mormon church in 1994 disappear completely. I literally felt it come out of me.
The first church I visited after getting saved was the local LDS Ward. I felt like I should tell them what had happened to me and I told a few people and I did not get the reaction I thought I would. One would have thought that I had revealed myself as the Anti-Christ himself based on the looks I got. I kept going for several weeks but each week I found myself disagreeing more and more with what was being said from the pulpit. I decided to join another church and then the search began.
I looked through the yellow pages to try to find a church. I left message after message and only one pastor returned my call. He was a Methodist pastor in a nearby church. We spoke for an hour and he asked to meet me face to face, which we did a few days later. He enrolled me in a class called Alpha, which helped me understand the basics of the Christian faith, and I eventually was baptized.
As I was reading through St. Matthew where Jesus instructs his disciples to leave without purse or script or anything, it occurred to me that I was being led by the Holy Spirit into ministry. I began to carry a small pocket Bible on me with some tracts. For exercise, I would walk for a couple of hours and show gratitude toward Christ by stopping people and talking to them about the Lord. In this way, I became a traveling minister.
In late May of 2004, I began the process to receive a pastoral certificate and ordination in the Methodist Church. I am eager each day to serve the Lord. I still have a full-time job at a local internet company and have turned that job into a place of ministry as well, following the advice of Paul in Colossians 3:23… “Work hard and cheerfully at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.”
I am sure many people in the coming years may read this testimony. It is even possible that people will read this testimony years after I have gone to be with the Lord in Heaven. It is possible that fellow Christians will read this and be encouraged to witness. It is possible that Latter-day Saints will read this and be moved to accept Christ and look more deeply into the history and doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is also possible that people who are neither Christian nor LDS may read this and feel God’s prevenient grace lead them to Jesus Christ and salvation.
So let me finish with a testimony of what Christ has done for my own life. I find that I have a constant friend in Jesus. I find that when I have problems in life I can pick up the Holy Bible and the Holy Spirit will lead me to truth and to solutions to modern-day problems. I find that when I am stressed out I can go to my Father in Heaven in quiet prayer and feel the burdens of stress lifted. I find that prayer will definitely turn the night to day and will make me feel that I am not alone. I find that I never feel alone because Christ is always with me and promised me that he would never leave nor forsake me. I find that I can joyfully keep the commandments, not to gain salvation but to show gratitude for it. Salvation is a free gift made available to anyone who wants it. If we accept the Gospel and receive Jesus into our hearts as our personal Savior, then we are saved by God’s amazing grace, his amazing and loving and much undeserved mercy simply by placing faith in His only begotten Son. I find that when I sin I can go to God in a contrite attitude and feel constant love, because Christ paid for my sins on a cross of Calvary nearly 2,000 years ago, even for sins I have yet to commit. I find an assurance that if I were to die today I would immediately go to Heaven. I find an assurance that if the Rapture occurred today that I would be taken up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the sky. I find the peace of the Holy Spirit with me always, warning me, comforting me, teaching me, and guiding me. I find that the Lord always makes time for me, and just as Revelation 3:20 says… “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: If any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will eat lunch with him as a friend.”
Christ did not have to save me on the cross. He could have said “no,” but he loved me so much that he died for my sins. He saved me. I have eternal life, a forgiveness of sins, and I know where true happiness comes from. I have seen lives changed by people who have placed their entire lives in the warm and loving hands of the crucified and resurrected.
If you have read this and desire a new life and personal relationship with Jesus Christ, please pray the following prayer with me in your own words and contact the people who run this website. Remember that there is nothing special in the words of this prayer that saves you. It is your heart that God is looking at:
“Our Father in Heaven, I have come to you in much sorrow because of my sins and because of my life. I know, Lord, that I am a sinner in need of a Savior and desire to be with you for eternity in Heaven. I ask that you send your Son, the Lord Jesus, to come into my heart and into my life, and I accept him as my personal Lord and Savior. I wish to follow you Lord and I accept your free gift of salvation. Thank you, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.”
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