I was raised in a home that honored God. Along with my family, I attended a church that prided itself on basing its existence on the Bible. We would regularly hear: “We believe the Bible; the Scriptures are the basis for everything that we do.”
Yet there was hypocrisy and legalism. Racism was prevalent, and I think I heard as much about politics as I heard about the Bible. I became disenchanted and decided it was time to explore other options. I guess you could have called me a “practicing deist.” I believed in the existence of God, but really didn’t want him or anyone else telling me what I should or shouldn’t do.
During my college years, I would get a job for the summer to help pay for school. One summer, a friend helped me get a home improvement job with his uncle. So I said goodbye to my family and headed off to Virginia (nearly 600 miles from my home in Michigan).
One night, I was waiting for a phone call from my boss regarding whether I’d be working the next day. While I waited, I really had nothing to do so I looked around the room where I was staying and noticed a Bible. I picked it up and began to read it. God really spoke to me that night.
My reading was interrupted by a phone call. However, the call wasn’t from my boss. It was the minister of my parent’s church calling to let me know that my father had just collapsed and died at the youthful age of 50, and that I needed to return home. I returned to my room and stared at the Bible that laid on my bed. A spiritual battle began. An intense thought said, “Tom, you should have never opened that book. Look what happened because you did.”
At the same time, another presence seemed to whisper to me, “Tom, you know that’s a lie. I pulled you aside to prepare you for this news. Your father is with me. What will you do with me? Will you continue to try to live your life apart from me or will you come to me?”
I knew that what was happening to me was beyond my comprehension. However, I also knew I had a decision to make — would I walk away from God, or would I come to him? That night, I began a walk toward God that has continued for more than 40 years.
But what if God’s Word had not been available to me in my language? What if I had been among the 25-30 percent of the world who are illiterate? I think you can see why I do what I do. I have helped with the translation of the Scriptures and the training of church leaders (including a focus on literacy) because everyone should have the opportunity that I had to come to faith.
God used a Bible to reach my heart at a time of crisis in my life. If you are distant from him, what will it take to reach you?