After I was taken to jail my friends returned to find a note from the police letting them know where they could find me. They came to the jail to visit me and told me they would try to send some help when they got back to Pennsylvania. That never materialized, but it could be because I wasn't there long enough. Because it was my first offense and I had no record, and because I didn't resist arrest or give the officers or the judge any trouble, I was given a misdemeanor charge and was sentenced to eighteen days in Broward Country Prison. My friends left for Pennsylvania and I never heard from them again until I was finally able to return to Pennsylvania myself over a year later. In the meantime I was put in a large community type cell with one table in the room and nothing on the table but a book. That book was the Bible. Once again God's hand was on my life, and I didn't understand or realize it. I began to read the Bible and ask the other prisoners questions about what I was reading, but none of them could give me answers to my questions. One old man who was in there with me told me that he didn't know the answers, but he was going to find out the answers after he got out of prison. I have prayed for that man too that God would lead him to the answer that I found. I believe that was my first day of ministering to someone even though I had no idea that my questions might lead someone to Christ. I expect to see that man in Heaven or on the new earth of Revelation 21 someday. As I read the Bible day after day, I prayed to God with all my heart and said, “God, if you are real and you can prove it to me,I'll give you my life.” I have told many people over the years that God didn't open up the roof of the prison and say to me, “Here I am boy!”
I remember that as we were coming down the highway toward Florida we saw a monastery in the woods somewhere, but I didn't know where it was. I also remembered watching television movies where monks would walk through the halls of monasteries and chant and carry their Bibles and were wearing long robes with hoods, and that is what I thought being a godly man was all about.
So when my sentence was up I decided that I would go North until I found that monastery and live there. While I was thinking about that and other things I still talked with different prisoners about giving my life to God, and one of them met me on the beach the day I was released. I told him where I was headed, and he told me that there were some"Jesus Freaks" on the beach telling people about Jesus and the Bible, and he thought I should go talk to them. I told him God wanted me to be a monk, and that was what I was going to do, so I left him.
I found some people on the beach who were friendly and they gave me a beer, a cigarette and passed a joint to me. I started to drink and smoke, and then I thought to myself, if I am going to give my life to God I shouldn't be doing this stuff, so I handed the beer to somebody, gave them the joint and put the cigarette out in the sand and left. I had no idea where I was headed because I couldn't remember where the monastery was, but I was determined that I would find the
monastery and intended to hitchhike until I did. So
I started walking North out of Ft. Lauderdale
hoping for a ride. The weather was beautiful so I didn't mind the walking. I actually walked from Ft. Lauderdale to Pompano Beach which is 10.6 miles. As a hippie I had never walked much of anywhere so to walk that far was like an Olympic event for me.
I reached Pompano beach in the early evening, and I had about 39 cents in my jeans pocket, a prison shirt, a pair of beat up shoes someone gave me in prison and nowhere to sleep. There was a little store on the beach that I went into and I was able to buy some junk food to eat and my money was gone. There was a young man in the store, and he had sympathy for me and told me he would like to invite me to his home but he knew his parents would not allow it. He did tell me that after the store was closed I could crawl into the newspaper bin on the side of the store and sleep. He said the ocean breeze would be cold, and I could use the papers to cover me and keep me warm.
I waited until the store closed and did what he said. I slept well that night, and the next morning I slid out of the bin, folded the papers up as neat as I could and started to stand up when awful pain shot through both of my legs and I fell to the ground. In anger I raised my fist toward God and said, “Why are you doing this to me? I am giving you my life!” Of course, it was my own stupidity that put me in this situation in the first place, and God had nothing to do with my decision because I didn't ask him for any help. After a while I was able to stand and went over to a bench near the highway, sat down and tried to hitchhike once again. Nobody would stop for hours, and night was coming. I thought that I better get back to Ft. Lauderdale and try to find the Jesus Freaks
before dark so I would have a place to stay. I crossed to the other side of the highway and stuck out my thumb hoping to get a ride back to Lauderdale. The first car stopped and picked me up, and I thought that was cool! They took me part way and then left me by a bench where I went
and sat down to rest while trying to get another ride. I stuck my thumb out again and the next car stopped and waved me over. I couldn't believe it! This guy was driving a bright yellow Corvette, and I thought to myself, “This S.O.B. won't pick me up!” I got up and ran over to his car, and I noticed a big sticker on his car saying "Jesus Loves You." I got in and noticed that he had a container in between the seats with orange and grapefruit slices in it. I was starving and could not take my eyes off it. He said I should help myself because there was plenty of that where he came from. I ate all but one piece, and apologized for being so greedy. He said it was no big deal, and then took me ten miles out of his way to within seven blocks of the Jesus Freak's camp. Not knowing my way around I turned and went seven blocks the other way, and my legs were aching and I wanted to sit down. I stopped a little boy and asked him if he could tell me where the Jesus Freaks were and he said they were on 31st and Sunrise about 14 blocks the other way, so I had to walk back the seven blocks I had gone and an additional seven.
I can still get a picture in my mind of me walking toward the camp. I had on a head band and my long hair was flapping in the breeze. I had the prison shirt over my shoulder, my shoes tied to my belt and the sky was sunny and beautiful. I looked up and saw a huge tent about the size of a football field, and a man digging a trench around the tent. I walked inside and sat down on the front row seat and thought, “Home at last!” I don't know what made me think that, but I do know I was glad to get off my feet and rest. The man who was digging the trench around the tent stopped digging and came over to me asking if there was something he could do for me. I said, “Yeah! I came to give my life to God.” He said, “That's not the way you do it.” In anger, I said, “What do you mean, that's not the way you do it?” He patiently told me to wait while he got his Bible, and he left me and returned with it. He tried hard to lead me to the Lord but I didn't understand just what it was he was trying to tell me. He then invited me to eat supper with them and attend a tent meeting afterward. Food sounded awfully good, and I was more than happy to oblige him. After supper we went to the tent meeting.
I don't remember if the tent had many people in it or not, but the Jesus Freaks were there and they looked like me for the most part. They had long hair, jeans, and headbands, and the girls had long skirts, long hair and looked like hippie girls I was used to so I felt right at home. The service began with singing, and I listened to it. Then this man got up on stage and he had the Bible in his hand, long hair, a cowboy shirt and jeans and cowboy boots. He began to teach and preach out of the Bible and at some point in his message I thought, “I hope this guy is soon going to shut up because I want to get right with God.” He must have read my mind because within a minute or two of me thinking that he closed his Bible, turned to the people present, and said, “If anyone wants to get right with God tonight now is the time. Come to the front of the tent. Before he could say anything else I was running to the front of the tent, and I noticed a dirty piece of old yellow carpet lying in the sand, and I knelt on it and I began to pray, “Jesus, I am so sorry for the way I have been living! Please forgive me, and come into my heart and change me so I can be the kind of person who loves others more than I love myself.” It was February 19, 1974 about 10 in the evening.
What happened next overwhelmed me. It was as if everyone had gone away, and God and I were there alone. I didn't understand it, but his presence was so powerful that I could literally feel him cleaning up my life physically, mentally and spiritually. I could feel him sweeping over my entire being from my head to my feet. I felt like the evil in me was being flushed out and replaced and it was so incredible that I didn't know what to do or say! I sat in awe, and I said over and over again "Wow!" That was the only word I said for what seemed a long time. The cleansing was so very thorough and so real that I knew completely and without question that God had forgiven me.
I didn't stand up for what seemed a long time, but when I rose to my feet, I knew deep within me I would never be the same again. My eyes were red from crying, but inside I was completely whole! There are not enough words in the world to describe what I was experiencing. In one moment of time, God delivered me from 17 years of cigarettes, 12 years of alcohol, six years of drug use, an excessive lust for women and a very vile mouth that cursed him every day and many times a day for so many years. It was strange, but I don't remember anyone coming over to me to minister to me at that time. It was just God and I ina place alone and it was so fulfilling that human company could do nothing to help.
My whole life was transformed and spreading the news of
salvation to mankind was what I wanted to be about.