How I stopped being an atheist
In September 2011, on the wrong side of 55 years old, I lost my job as an environmental specialist. My first thought was I’d never get another job at my time of life.
The hopeless weeks passed. My job search of the local area expanded to a 50-mile radius, then 100 miles – still nothing.
Depression and drinking took hold of me. I was heading down a really bad path. I sought medical help, and my doctor said, “God doesn’t let bad things happen to good people.”
“Really?” I thought, “Then why am I in this situation?”
I had always doubted God’s existence. I was pretty much an atheist.
A Long Way From Home
Early the following year, I was really clutching at straws. I was job hunting on Craigslist, of all places, and my search area had now expanded to north Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina.
Then I came across an ad for an industrial chemist in Darlington, South Carolina. I looked at the requirements and checked nine out of 10 boxes! I submitted my resume, never expecting a reply. About five minutes later, the phone rang. It was the vice president of the company I’d applied to!
I started work in March. The months passed by, and, on odd occasions, I’d noticed my co-worker wearing several different T-shirts from NewSpring, but I never really thought to ask about it. We were renting a house right next to a church, but even that was not enough to encourage us to attend a service.
I used to think, ‘What’s with these happy, smiling people waving and greeting us on our way into church?’
Preparing for a big Sunday with the greeting team.
December then rolled around, and my co-worker invited us to a NewSpring Christmas service, which we decided to attend.
Needless to say, I was surprised by the format of the NewSpring service, music, and message. I grew up in a small English town, Bawtry, and I was a choir boy in a church built in the 12th century, where the vicar preached down to the congregation!
Initially, our attendance at NewSpring was sporadic, at best. I decided to go along because I knew my wife wanted to go. "Happy wife, Happy life," I would tell myself.
But then we started attending on a regular basis. Each Sunday when we got out of the car I used to think, ‘What’s with these happy, smiling people waving and greeting us on our way into church? Are they a little over-the-top crazy?’ This was church after all!
It was as if the hand of God had lifted me up.
My outdoor baptism involved freezing cold water!
A Special Day
I had always doubted God’s existence. I was pretty much an atheist. I knew there must be a higher power, but I thought it was based on visitation from other planets.
During this time, I remember watching a TV show on the theory of the Big Bang and suddenly realizing that something cannot come from nothing. Almighty God was the creator of all things!
The end of the service on Aug. 25, 2013, was not like any others before. Instead of turning a deaf ear to the invitation, thinking I was doing just fine as I am, it was as if my body wasn’t mine. There I was, standing up, then walking to the front. It was as if the hand of God had lifted me up.
I knew my life was not in a good place. I felt like a boat adrift on the high seas, and I needed Jesus to take my hand and walk me down that beautiful path of salvation and to a life worth living.
I remember my wife was in tears. The noise of clapping and cheering was amazing, and I felt so different, so alive, like a huge energy surge had coursed through my body.
My co-worker never gave up, and neither did the Lord!
Cathrine, the former co-worker who invited me to church.
A Public Commitment
My next step was baptism on Sept. 22, 2013. I had no doubt in my mind; no hesitation. It was crystal clear what God was guiding me to do.
As I waited to be baptized, a long line of people on my left and my right were clapping and cheering. It took me aback momentarily until I thought “OK, let’s do this!” So, arms wide open, I just ran, high-fiving as I went, cheering myself on! It was a freezing cold, outdoor pool, but celebrating my transformation from death to life warmed me through and through.
The co-worker who invited me to NewSpring told me that in January of that year she had written my name in her journal along with the names of other people whom she prayed to be saved and baptized in 2013. She never gave up, and neither did the Lord!
I was pretty much an introvert. Now, I’m just crazy outgoing.
God gave me the gift of being outgoing.
My Church Family
Since I was saved and baptized, I have served on the Greeting Team, most recently becoming a team leader.
My wife is amazed how much I’ve opened up in the past three years. I was pretty much an introvert. Now, I’m just crazy outgoing. If I could be in two places at once, I’d be at the front and back doors. God has given me a gift.
My community has helped me grow and guided my path as I continue my walk with Jesus. I regularly attend a small Bible study group, where I have learned more about God's Word, and it has given me a greater, clearer understanding of everything.
I have had more tough times. I lost my father and a cousin within six months of each other, but I did not doubt God as I had done when my mother died just before I moved to South Carolina. They are free from pain and suffering and are enjoying eternal life with Him!
Both the Greeting Team and small group supported me and my wife greatly in our times of loss. I used to depend on alcohol in difficult times, but now I find comfort and solace in Christian community and God’s Word.
My small group, which has offered me comfort and solace in difficult times.