I was born and raised a Catholic and attended seven years of Catholic seminary. In 1968 problems surrounded my life when I left the seminary in July, enrolled in a public college, and continued my education with a military deferral. In the fall of 1968 the military switched from a draft system to a lottery system which allowed no deferrals. Having just left the seminary, I decided to enlist in the Air Force before I was inducted into the Army, shipped to Vietnam, and expected to carry and fire a gun.
I became a Vietnamese linguist, so my overseas assignment was set. During my more than 40 combat missions on a reconnaissance plane, fear terrorized me as I considered my apparent hopeless condition. I didn’t know what to do. My wife and I attended regular church services while in Okinawa, but my life (our life) remained in shambles.
In November 1971, I received orders that would relocate me on a remote base in Thailand. Talk of alcoholism, drug addition, and marital unfaithfulness were all I heard about this tour of duty. To say the least, I was greatly terrified with fear strangling my life. I believed I would become one of the statistics.
While on leave at home in the States before leaving for Thailand, I was reintroduced to the Bible; and I knew that this book held the answer to my dilemma. As I was about to board my flight from Portland, Oregon to Travis AFB, I told my wife I was determined to find the answer we both needed and were searching for.
When I arrived at Travis AFB, I happened to meet an old language classmate of mine. As we talked, he told me how he had gotten saved and what a difference that made to his life. Over the next two days as we flew to Thailand via Alaska and the Philippines, he told me the wonderful story of Jesus and our salvation He purchased on Calvary. When we finally arrived at Nakhon Phanom, Thailand, I asked him if I could bunk with him. I had found someone I thought could keep me on the straight and narrow.
Over the next three weeks I attended Bible studies, Saturday night meetings, and Sunday masses. I believed I was doing well until Saturday night, the last weekend of January 1972. After our usual meeting I headed for my barracks, totally exhausted. I got ready for bed and for over 45 minutes tossed and turned in my bed. Why couldn’t I go to sleep?
Suddenly I heard, “If you were to die tonight, where would you spend eternity?” I sat up, looked about the room, and saw no one. I knew God was speaking.
I replied, “I think I would go to heaven.”
“You would go straight to hell!” God said.
“What must I do to be saved?”
“You have attended all these Bible studies and heard men who know me. Now all you must do is surrender your will, your life, your all to me.”
I answered, “I will do whatever you want me to do and go wherever you want me to go. I am yours.”
At that very moment my life was filled with a peace I had never had before. I knew I was God’s and headed for heaven. My life changed completely that night, and over the course of the next three weeks I sent envelope after envelope of tracts to my wife to share with her the good news of Jesus Christ. Praise the Lord, He reached down His merciful hand from heaven, touched her heart, and she became a child of God. The scriptures declare: “Delight thyself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37: 4). That has happened to me.