Saved and Satisfied…in a Moment!
I was born and raised in the City of Toronto. My parents are of Greek origin, but both immigrated to Canada at a young age. Our family attended a Greek Orthodox Church where we were baptized, attended church most Sundays, and observed religious holidays. I also served as an altar boy for a few years. The Scriptures later taught me that an affluent and religious upbringing does not translate into a pure life before God and that God requires every person to have a spiritual birth for the forgiveness of sins and for true satisfaction.
In school I was involved in sports, leadership, and organizing social activities. On graduation, following in my father’s footsteps, I began a corporate lifestyle, working in the finance department of a large company. I was depending on my career not only to provide money but to satisfy my need for life fulfillment. Unsatisfied with the meaning of life, I decided to try something else. I left my employment to work as a manager in a very busy downtown Toronto bar. Many wealthy, but drug- or alcohol-dependent people frequented this bar. They felt trapped in their non-forgiving lifestyle. Seeing their despondency, I decided that the true meaning of life must be somewhere else. So, at age 23, I gave short notice to my family and friends and set out to travel around the world. I quickly arranged to attend a French program in Quebec on my way to Boston, New York, and California. Hundreds of students from many parts of North America had enrolled in the “French for non-Francophone” program at the University of Laval in Quebec City. There I met Philip McMillen, a Fellowship Baptist missionary from Michigan, who grew up with missionary parents in Togo, Africa. In a hallway outside class, I asked him about missionary life. I did not know the difference between a missionary and a mercenary. I wanted to inquire about humanitarian work as a means of satisfaction, thinking that he would introduce me to an international aide agency. He did not give me an immediate answer, but rather suggested that we meet at the local A&W restaurant for lunch the next day. Later I came to know that both Philip and his wife Kitty prayed for me that night.
What was so striking about my conversion was the contrast of the experience with what was taking place in my heart. The restaurant was bustling with a University crowd. I was expecting Philip to give me some information on international aid organizations. Instead, after lunch he pulled out a Bible, which I didn’t even know he had. This commenced the spiritual part of our conversation that lasted only a couple of minutes. It was surprising to me that we were actually opening a Bible and that anyone had any interest in reading one. His presentation of the gospel message was extremely simple. He began by describing that what he wanted to show me was entirely out of the Bible and not his own teachings. So he turned the Bible my way and turned to Romans 3:23. He then stated that “God says that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” and asked me if I knew I was a sinner. I was amazed that God had anything to say and that any man could know it. Inherently, I agreed that the Bible was the only reliable source. I looked down at the words and consented that I had sinned.
He then read, “The wages of sin is death,” and explained that God says I have to be punished for my sins. That moment of time became the darkest of my life, when I instantly recalled some of the salient sins of my past. The thought occurred to me that God would be perfectly right in punishing me for those things. It seemed like an eternity of time before Philip, seeing my despondency, spoke out, “But God has provided a way of escape.” I was hanging on every word. As a child, I had learned that God was pure, compassionate, merciful, and loving. I knew He would indeed provide an escape. The missionary showed me that the gift of God was eternal life and that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son to die on the cross. I was overwhelmed with the thought that when the Lord died on the cross He died for my sins.
Philip and I walked to the university campus. In a quiet, tree-lined area, we knelt down and I prayed for the first time, thanking God for His Son. We shook hands and I walked to the bus stop. Tall trees lined the quiet school road, seemingly touching the jet-blue sky lit by the bright sun. As I reflected on the past few minutes I repeated again and again, “I’m saved, I’m saved, saved!” For the first time I felt totally satisfied and fulfilled. I no longer had the need to travel the world to find what I was missing. I was a new creation in Christ, on the narrow road of salvation, soon to learn of a new longing to live for Him. That was September 19, 1984.