Thank you for taking an interest in reading my testimony. If you’ve landed on this page first, you’ve skipped My Testimony Part 1, and should go read it first since it builds context. Or not. I’m not your mom. But starting at the first entry in a series is always a good idea.
When I eventually started high school, my core peer group of five other guys that I’d been friends with for two or three years were all starting to get into drinking, partying, smoking pot. This stuff was really unappealing to me. I didn’t know why at the time, but now I understand it was the light of God in me that I was just unable to do these things without my conscience bothering me.
Don’t get me wrong, I never tried a drop of alcohol. I never smoked a single joint. I just didn’t want to “lose control” and never understood why anyone else would want to use something to make them behave in a way they wouldn’t if they didn’t use the substance. Drunkenness and getting high were things I didn’t ever want to try — and never did, except being drunk in the Holy Ghost, but that was later on in life.
I quickly lost this group of friends and became a loner for a while during which time I figured things out. I had a few surface level friendships, but really felt alone during this season of my life.
But something happened over the summer, I’m not sure what, and I decided I didn’t care anymore. I developed some kind of resolve that I’d be myself and didn’t have to compromise in order to make any friends, and that one day I’d have real ones. That’s the best way I know how to explain it because I don’t really know what happened during all that time, and then I entered into the tenth grade.
Also, it was then that I met another pivotal person involved in my life story: the new youth pastor.
It was the beginning of my tenth grade — or second year of high school for you Dutch peeps reading — that he and his wife moved to Peterborough fresh out of Bible college to become the youth pastors at our church. I’d gone to youth group for a few years on an “if I feel like it” basis, but it was once Jay and Christy came that I felt more appreciated, and I desired to be involved. It actually was an alternative to going out and doing other things young teenagers might be enticed to go do. If there wasn’t a high school dance that particular Friday night, I’d go to youth group.
Something about this couple was still nerdy and dorky to me, just like how I thought of most Christians, but the way they usually treated me was what won me over: their gentleness and actual concern for me as a person, which is where I began to do what I always did — aggravate them as best I could to see if I could make them lose their temper like I did with all the other Christian adults in my life growing up. It was my personal goal to destroy Jay and make him go away and prove to myself and any others that he wasn’t for real.
I liked Jay, but I didn’t like this Gospel stuff before it started to challenge and convict me differently than before, even though I was beginning to become more open to it. It seemed that I now was “getting it”, that Jesus died for me, and implicit in this knowledge is the fact that if I was going to follow Christ, then that meant he owned me since He paid for me. All I had been interested in was a fire insurance policy to get out of hell, but still live my own life with His death.
All this time I believe I did understand the Gospel, but never wanted to surrender to Christ completely.
During the spring/March break of 1997, I got really bored of reading my horoscopes, because I was starting to realize they never came true. Who believes that crap anyway?
I’d decided something like this: “Well, Christians read their Bible, and God seems to do for them what they want, so maybe I’ll try reading the Bible.” It ain’t how it works of course, but it’s how I got started.
I wiped the dust off of my Bible and opened it to roughly the middle, towards the beginning of Psalms, and read all the way through.
Then I read Proverbs, and the whole time I was going “man, that’s exactly how I feel — I never knew the Bible said what I think, too — and it puts it into better words than I could!” I specifically bonded with the book of Proverbs because it just “made so much sense”. Then, when I was done, I went all the way back to the beginning of Psalms and read up to where I had begun. It was late, I went to bed, and realized I had just read the Bible for five hours and it seemed like 5 minutes!
I did this the next day, and the next day, and the day after that, and I would randomly read entire books of the Bible in one sitting. It was easy to do since I was 15 years old, had no school for the week or a job other than delivering newspapers. I recall for the months after until the next summer break, hurrying home from school to read the Bible, and then once it was time, going off and delivering my newspapers.
Over the summer of that same year, I hung out a lot with a guy named Charles, a friend I had made from Auburn Bible Chapel, and with whom I was in Sunday school with for some number of years already. Only, at this point in life was I beginning to spend a lot of time with him.
Charles introduced me to the concept that there are Christians out there making rock music, which was good news because I was quickly learning that my favourite alternative rock bands were not really that compatible with a walk with Christ.
So I destroyed over $1000s worth of CDs I’d accumulated using a hammer, and then restocked my collection with Christian music. Emmaus Family Books probably got another few thousand of my dollars over the next 8 years!
Also, I probably read the entire Bible by the time school started again the next fall, and for the first time, I led one of my friends to the Lord. It was cool and took place over the phone at like midnight or 1 am during the time all the public school teachers were on strike for two weeks, so we were talking late on a weeknight just because we could.
Lots of interesting stuff happened for the rest of my high school experience. I could show you yearbooks of mine, and let you see messages people wrote about how much I’d changed or how much they admired my passion for ‘religion’.
I got involved in my school’s Christian group that met during the lunch break in a classroom one day of the week called “Highlife”. Each of the leaders were about to graduate and were responsible for picking one person to replace them so there’d still be a leadership the following year. They invited me to one of the planning meetings, and without tooting my own horn, each of the 5 or 6 guys made it clear they were “fighting” over who got to pick me to replace them.
I wish they picked more leaders, because in the fall of my 12th grade (4th year of high school) I was all alone with some of the responsibility of that, and invited whoever could join me, whether they were living a life of integrity or not. The group shrunk from like the 40 or 50 that had been coming out, to just around 20 or less, and really suffered due to the lack of direction those of us leading it took it in.
My last year of high school back when they still had what we called O.A.C., things were a lot better, and we had people who were committed to the group helping lead it, including a friend who I’d go on to Bible school with.
But that was my first taste of leading something, and learning “not everyone will be satisfied, so go with your gut and take the flack“.
Youth Unlimited Placement
That same school year also began with me doing a co-operative placement for one semester at the Kawartha Youth For Christ (eventually named The Bridge Youth Centre) with Tim Coles. Tim had a hard time coming up with things for me to do some days, and my assignments were often things like going to the mall to pay attention to what the youth who had skipped school are doing for fun.
I remember pouring coffee at the board meetings where they prayed and sought the face of God for a name for the place, a vision, and policies, and other things. It is really cool to see how Tim’s vision has come to fruition all these years later, and has a strong momentum and reputation.
I mention him because like Jay, my youth pastor at the time, Tim had a big role in mentoring me during that season. At a time later on when I couldn’t get back across the border into the USA for my second year at FIRE School, on very short notice he wrote up a letter for me about my time working under him and the years I volunteered there, in order to help me with having paperwork to show to prove my case with US Immigration. Of course, I did not get the Religious Worker’s visa I was told to apply for. The whole previous paragraph is years after the story I’m currently telling.
A reincarnation of Jesus?
I also remember how everybody somehow quickly knew who I was in my school and that I was a follower of Christ.
In my last year of high school, there was a yearbook survey going around on behalf of the graduating class. One of the questions was “who do you think would be the reincarnation of Jesus Christ” and I was picked. I took offense to this and convinced the guy in charge to change it. He did, but the question was now “who is the most likely to become Santa Claus.”
Ah, much better, but I hope they’re not prophesying about my weight as an old man. Don’t get me wrong, I was flattered that they noticed Christ in me and picked me, but I didn’t want it being published like that. I was actually afraid at the time that if I backslid in the years to come, and people knew it, all they had to do was look at their yearbook to see what I once was, and I didn’t want to bear reproach on the name of Christ.
And those are some examples of memories I have of being a light in a dark world as a teenager prior to my senior year, which had a big impact on me.