I was raised in a violent home. My father was an abusive alcoholic. My mother, who has been involved with the Jehovah’s Witnesses for 22 years, now lives in Central America and is not saved. I was the third child of six and am the only one saved out of my family. While I was growing up, I never thought about God, but one thing gripped me as a young child: I was afraid to die. At five or six years old I had nightmares about dying and saw myself in a casket. It terrified me.
My 8th birthday present was to learn how to milk cows and how to get drunk. Dad took me to a tavern and got me drunk. The men there all looked on and laughed as I staggered and fell down.
In my senior year in high school, I met a young girl named Marlene. All my classmates told me I was crazy to be interested in her. The first time I went to meet her parents, her dad asked, “Are you saved?” I wondered what in the world he was talking about, but in order to keep seeing Marlene I agreed to attend gospel meetings. Mr. Paul Elliot was holding meetings in a garage in Soldiers Grove. Marlene and her family were going to these meetings, and she and I would sit all the way in the back of the hall. God and His Son meant nothing to me at that time.
When my girlfriend got saved, her life changed dramatically; that was a shock to me. One Sunday I went to see Mr. Mick. I knocked on the door and Mrs. Mick answered. She told me that her husband was in Ohio having meetings but that there were gospel meetings being held in Blue River. She gave me some tracts to read and told me I should go to the gospel meeting that night. It was about 12:30 on Sunday afternoon. I had been reading the tracts and decided I would try to find the Gospel Hall. I drove up one street and down another and couldn’t find it. I met an elderly man walking across the yard. I pulled over and asked, “Sir, can you tell me where the Gospel Hall is in this town?” He happened to be Alex Studnicka, who then started to preach to me. He told me that he had been saved for almost 50 years. “Art,” he said, “I wouldn’t trade all the gold and all the silver in the world for my salvation.” I had never heard anyone speak like that. That night I sat in the back of the hall, but I have no idea who preached or what they read.
The next morning, Monday, I went to work. Only one other man worked the 3rd shift maintenance. He came over to me and, reaching into his pocket, pulled out a New Testament. “Are you saved?” he asked. I said, “No.” This man (Ray Dearborn) had worked the night before and didn’t know that I had been at the gospel meeting. Later, other workers who went to the Gospel Hall spoke to me. These women told me they were praying for me and gave me tracts. From that day on, I started thinking about my soul. The fellows I used to drink and ride bikes with all laughed at me, but I couldn’t have cared less. If I could be saved, I wanted it.
Thursday, Mr. Dobson and Shad Kember, who were holding gospel meetings in Bridgeport, came to my home after my work. We read from Romans 3, “There is none righteous.” I realized my sins were taking me to hell. God was dealing with me. That night, I read all the tracts and fell asleep reading the Bible. The one thing going through my mind was, “If I die as I am, I will be in hell.” I was miserable.
The next morning, when I went into work, I prayed to God to save me. I thought for sure I would see a light or some sign that I was saved, but nothing happened. I went back to my machine and kept thinking, “I’m a sinner and I know I deserve to go to hell. Christ died for sinners.” I sat on a stool and looked at my Bible and the tracts on the table. “What’s the use,” I thought. “You’ve looked at everything you can get your hands on. You’ll never, ever be saved.” This was the darkest moment of my life. I picked up one of the tracts. Printed on the back was, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.” I thought, “’Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.’ God doesn’t want me to pray, doesn’t want my money or work and doesn’t want me to do anything but to trust His Son as my Savior.” The words came to me again, “and thou shalt be saved.” I thought, “Can this be true; can it be this simple?” Yes, I knew it was. The big clock in the factory read 10 minutes to noon on July 26, 1974. I told the others I worked with that I had gotten saved. Then I told my boss. We had drunk together and I said, “You and I won’t be going to any parties together any more. God saved me today.” Now, after all these years, I can truthfully say that being saved is the best thing in the world. Jesus Christ means more to me than anything.