I was raised in a family with a long tradition of Catholic beliefs, dating back to the early 1600s in France, and I was educated in the Catholic school system. Through the years, though, I came to feel an emptiness in my heart. I felt that there was still something missing, that there was a void in my life, but I couldn't quite put my finger on what it was.
When I joined the military, I drifted away from my Catholic beliefs and didn't go to church as often as I used to. But thank God that when I got married, my wife, a member of the True Jesus Church, patiently waited and shed many tears in prayer for me. After fifteen years, God finally began to work in my heart. He began to show me what I needed to fill that emptiness inside me.
My family and I began to have Bible studies in our home on Sabbath mornings. My children had already been baptized in the True Jesus Church, and I had no problem with my wife's desire to improve their spiritual life. Both my wife and my son Randy had received the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues, and even though I didn't object to them praying in this manner, I couldn't bring myself to seek after this gift. I felt that I needed to hold on to my old belief and pray in the way that I had been taught.
After we concluded our morning Bible studies, I would kneel down, and my wife would ask me to pray out loud. But I would say, "No, I'm going to pray my own way." So I'd pray in understanding, silently. I'd pray to Mary and the saints, saying the various prayers that I'd been taught to say in the Catholic church.
The First Vision
I prayed this way for quite some time until one Sabbath morning, when something happened. We had been planning to go to the True Jesus Church in Pacifica, California, to attend a spiritual convocation. My wife wanted my youngest son, Sean, who was an infant at that time, to be baptized. I kept saying, "Okay, sure, we'll go," but inside I really didn't want to go. I tried to find some excuse to get out of it, so they could just go on their own and I could stay home. Since I was still in the military, I thought that I could just lie and say that my request for vacation time had not been approved. But God knows our hearts, and He knows what's best for us. Once God chooses you, there's no turning back.
When we knelt down to pray that morning, my wife again said to me, "Please, why don't you just pray out loud? Just say, 'Hallelujah, praise the Lord.' Just say it out loud, over and over." But I said, "No, don't bother me, I'm not going to say it that way. I'm going to pray my own way."
But as we knelt down to pray, I experienced something that I had never experienced before in my life. If you told me that I would have such an experience, I would have never believed you.
When I knelt down to pray, God gave me a vision. I saw myself kneeling in a circle of light, and on the edge of the circle were six figures wearing monks' robes, with their hoods over their faces. They had flaming swords in their hands. And they were closing in on me.
I had never experienced anything like this before, so the first thing I did was open my eyes. But when I opened them, I didn't see anything unusual. Then I closed my eyes, and the vision was there again. This frightened me. I remembered from our Bible studies that we can cast out demons in Jesus' name, so I said, "Hallelujah, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, Satan be gone!" I didn't realize that I had said it out loud, but my family told me later that I had.
Suddenly those six dark figures were replaced by six glorious, white figures. I felt very warm and touched, very safe and secure. The prayer ended at that moment.
I didn't want to tell my family about my vision, because this was strange and totally new to me. But my family knew that something had happened, because they had heard me say out loud, "Hallelujah!" So they asked me, "Dad, what happened?" I said, "Oh, nothing." But they said, "No, something happened! You shouted 'hallelujah' over and over, several times." I then told them what I had seen, and my wife said to me, "God is trying to tell you something. We need to pray again."
The Second Vision
As I knelt down to pray again, another vision came upon me. In this vision, I saw myself on an old wooden ship, like those in biblical times. The ship and all the sea around it were on fire. I was terrified; I didn't know what to do.
I looked off into the distance, and I could see a beautiful green island. Then I saw that my family was standing on the island, and my wife was holding our youngest child. They were motioning to me to join them. But I thought, how can I join them? The sea is on fire, the ship is on fire, and there's no way I can get to them.
Then suddenly I heard a voice say, "Seek and you shall find, ask and you shall receive, knock and the door shall be opened to you." I looked over to the island, where the voice was coming from, and behind my family was a beautiful white figure. I couldn't see His face, but I knew it was our Lord Jesus. He was standing behind them, holding His arms around them. I lost my fear, and I saw myself going into this sea of fire. As I went in, I began to cry like a baby. The prayer ended at that time.
I cried for thirty or forty minutes after that. My wife asked me several times what I had seen, and I described the vision to her. She asked me, "What do you think God is trying to tell you?" I said, "We're going to San Francisco. We need to go, and I need to be baptized for the remission of my sins."
The Gift of the Holy Spirit
So we went to California for the spiritual convocation. I had never before experienced that many people praying in tongues, with that much joy and that many tears being shed, as I did at the first morning prayer of the spiritual convocation. It was very comforting to me. I could definitely feel the Holy Spirit working, not only among the believers, but also in myself. I could feel myself moved by the Holy Spirit.
My daughter, who was thirteen years old at that time, received the Holy Spirit during that morning prayer. When I saw her face and how radiant she looked, and when I heard her testimony about how happy and joyful she was, I made a determination that this was something that I had to experience for myself.
So during the next prayer, in the late afternoon, I came right up to the front to pray. As I prayed, I tried to focus on our Lord Jesus on the cross and on all that He had suffered for me. I thought about all the sins that I had committed in my life, and I humbled myself before Him to ask for His forgiveness.
The minister came to lay hands on me during the prayer. As his hand neared the top of my head, the heat from his hand began to penetrate my heart. I began to perspire, and a glorious white light shone through the right side of my head and went down into my heart. When it came back out, all of my troubles, sadness, and frustration were taken away from me.
I began to cry and speak in an unknown tongue. My tongue began to roll, and I knew that the Holy Spirit was filling me. I had never experienced anything like that before in my life. I praise God and I thank Him so much for the precious gift of His Holy Spirit.
From Servant to Friend
During the rest of the week prior to my baptism, Satan began to work mightily to try to stop me from doing what I knew God wanted me to do. I began to experience the most awful, nauseating headaches every day. There were times that I couldn't sleep and couldn't even open my eyes. Thank God that my wife recognized what was happening. She gently, but firmly, coaxed me into making my way into the chapel for the class lectures. Gradually, after about three days, my headaches disappeared, and with the help of God the battle with Satan was won.
My son and I were baptized on July 5, 1985, in the Pacific Ocean, and since that time, our lives have been filled with one blessing after another. We have our share of trials and tribulations, but we know that our Lord Jesus is here with us, and He's guiding us every step of the way. Through Him, all of our sins have been washed away, our eternal life is in His hands, and one day we will join Him in heaven.
What a great blessing and joy it is to know that God has called me out from the world to be His friend. In John 15:15-16, the Lord Jesus says,
No longer do I call you servants for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.
I praise and thank the Lord Jesus so much for His wonderful gift of love. May all the glory be unto His Holy name!