Our Testimonies

john and yvonne

Yvonne

The foundation of my faith came through a small church I went to when when I was a little girl. My sister and I attended with our neighbors across the street.

As we got older church attendance stopped but I never quit believing; however, other things occupied my mind: friends, school, etc. When I went to college I wanted to find a church youth group to participate in for fun. I met a guy in my speech class who invited me to his church and youth group.

Through the pastor's sermons, the kids in the youth group, and the Bible, I learned that Christianity was more than just believing that God and Jesus Christ existed, but that I needed a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

I remember the Sunday morning on November 10, 1968 when I made my decision to accept Jesus Christ as my Savior. The title of the pastor's sermon was "The Last Call." At the end of the sermon he gave an altar call for anyone wanting to know Jesus. My heart was pounding and I was scared to go forward. Inside I said, "If someone else goes forward first, then I'll go down." I looked up and someone else was walking to the front. So, I stood up and went forward too.

A lady took me to a prayer room and talked with me. I prayed (out loud at her insistence!) asking forgiveness for my sins and asking Jesus into my heart. It was the most wonderful day of my life! I walked all the way home singing "Now I belong to Jesus."

When I got home I shared what happened to me with my mom and dad. I've never stopped sharing my faith since!

John

Long before Julie Andrews starred in the beautiful musical "The Sound of Music," twins were born to Franz and Maria Wagner in Enns, Austria. A little boy and a little girl. Because the boy was extremely ill he spent the first few months of his life in and out of the hospital, given little hope of surviving. But due to a strange twist of fate, he did survive. The sad part of the story is that the little girl later died of the same malady that afflicted the boy.

In 1956 when the little boy was five years old, Franz and Maria emigrated to the United States of America. Belonging to the Lutheran Church in Austria they were sponsored into this country by St. John's Lutheran Church in Des Moines, Iowa. This is where the little boy spent the next thirteen years of his life. Following graduation from Abraham Lincoln High School, and having the typical teenage urges to leave his home town and see the world (and not get drafted and sent to the jungles of Viet Nam), he enlisted in the United States Navy.

Being a bright and intelligent young man, and knowing that winter was coming to the midwest, he decided to go to boot camp in San Diego, California where it would be nice and warm! During boot liberty in downtown San Diego he and three friends visited a Christian Servicemen's Center where they were offered coffee and donuts. Little did they realize they were also going to hear a preacher! Being polite young men and and having received the free food they decided to at least hear what the man had to say. At the end of his talk the preacher asked is anyone would like to accept Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. All four guys raised their hands, went into a back room and said a prayer, and filled out a commitment card. That was the end of that. None of them went back to that center and none of them heard from the center again.

Following boot camp and the Basic Electronics course our young man received orders to Treasure Island, California for Electronics Technician "A" school. During liberty one weekend he and a friend went into San Francisco to have some fun. Being too young to drink these two sailors looked for something to do when they met a young woman and another sailor who invited them to a party. The invitation included free food, a place to stay over the weekend, and girls. Wow, what a combination (little did they know what kind of party this would be)!

After a twenty-five minute ride to Castro Valley (worrying all the way how we would ever get back), we arrived at our destination, a place called the 'Port O Call'. The first thing I spotted was a bus stop (our way back)! Then I saw a marquee with one word written on it: 'Friends'. My first thought was that the people were Quakers. We were driven through an eight foot chain link fence to an ominous looking, plain concrete building. When we went into the building the first thing that caught my eye was a huge picture of Jesus Christ over the fireplace! I said, "I knew it, a bunch of religious fanatics!"

The party started and after about twenty minutes I had had enough. I told my friend I wanted to leave because these people were all 'plastic'. No one smiled all the time like these people were! But my friend was having a good time and said he wanted to give it some more time. Twenty minutes later he came to me and said, "You're right these people are all plastic, let's go." But by that time I had started enjoying myself. So we stayed. During part of the evening there was singing, people sharing about their backgrounds, and talk about faith in Jesus Christ. My friend went back to the base on the bus, and I spent the weekend at the servicemen's center.

Sunday night they took all of us back to our bases. I had a really good time! When the next weekend came I went back to the Port O Call again - alone. I met a very attractive young lady (Yvonne) that I began arguing religion with on a regular basis. I also began to notice that the people at the Port O Call were genuinely happy! They weren't 'plastic' at all. As a matter of fact, they seemed to have something I didn't have, but I didn't quite know what.

Yvonne said I wasn't a Christian! I said I was because I had been raised Lutheran and gone to church almost every Sunday of my life! But she said, according to the Bible I had to be 'born again'. I had never heard that before. She showed me the verse in John 3:3 that said, "I tell you the truth, unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." I always believed the Bible was God's Word so I couldn't argue with that.

After several weeks of arguing religion, attending the Saturday night parties, and doing some real soul searching, I realized what these people had was a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. So, In August 1970, in the privacy of my barracks room, I prayed and asked God, "If what these people were telling me was true, that I wanted it too." I asked Jesus Christ to come into my life.

I didn't notice anything different about me after that. No bells and whistles, no fireworks, but friends of mine commented that I had stopped cursing. I had made no conscious effort to do that, that I can remember. Later, when I invited a friend to one of the Saturday evening parties, he looked at me and, out of the blue, asked me if I was a Christian. I stopped suddenly, thought for a moment, and said, "Yes, I am." For the first time I really knew what that meant!