Reason for Testimony
Answering a Request
In January of 2013 James P Finn Jr. posted via Facebook a request for those who are saved to write out their personal Testimonies. His goal was to have the work edited by Sage, correcting spelling and grammar, then having it published.
This is a noble purpose and one with wisdom. The best witness of Christ is the personal witness.
The apostle Peter recommends that we have a testimony.
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;
1 Peter 3:15 NKJV
One of the first reasons of hope involves the point at which a person comes to salvation. This is a powerful witness to those who have already found the peace of God through the saving grace of Jesus as well as to those who have yet to find that place of rest.
Who am I?
I was physically born in Jamestown New York on February 14, 1955. My parents belonged to a Methodist Church, now it is a United Methodist Church. We were the average middle class family of the fifties and sixties: mother and father, 2 boys, a dog, a car, and a middle class home.
My given name is Keith Lynn Terrill.
I was infant baptized as a baby. My parents took me and my brother to church most every Sunday morning. They dropped us for Sunday School and picked us up when it was over.
September 1964, the First Methodist Church School presented to me the Holy Bible as a gift. It is red leather bound with my name hand written in gold leaf. It is the Revised Standard Version, printed by Cokesbury. It is still on my bookshelf.
My parents seldom went to church. They took us as a family on Christmas and Easter. That was the extent of my early childhood church experience. It was very confusing, and scary.
One time stands out in my memory. My father took us and because we promised to be still and quite we sat in the main sanctuary instead of the side room. They had communion that morning. One row at a time, we made our way up to the front and kneeled at a rail. There they gave us a round wafer to eat, then a sip from a cup. It was strange. I had not recalled seeing this before, and my father was not able to explain it to us.
After third grade we stopped going to church altogether. My father belonged to a Motorcycle club in the area. On Sunday’s we would all head to the club house. The club put on motor-cross and enduro races which were all day on Sundays.
In the first week of sixth grade we moved to a small hamlet, Kennedy New York. It had two churches: Kennedy United Methodist and Kennedy Baptist. They were on the same block. Most of my friends parents belonged to the Methodist and of course, my parents registered us there.
The youth group was very active. We were there on Fridays and Saturdays. They had a pool table, ping-pong, etc. They served snacks. We just hung out there and had a fun time being rowdy. Of course, they expected us to listen to devotion, but we just tolerated that, not paying much attention.
As we all moved through the teen years, the attraction of the opposite sex developed. Then going to the church was about meeting the girls. We spent more time chasing and fooling around then paying attention to church.
In short, we almost heard nothing about the Bible, let alone Jesus, or salvation. What we got was a social gospel. There is nothing wrong with a social gospel. It may help you learn how to live life here on Earth, but with out salvation it is of no use. No one told me:
And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment
Hebrews 9:27 NKJV
What use is knowing how to behave on earth if you are still heading towards hell?
Mockery of Church
I found no reason for church other than hanging with my friends and chasing the girls. My parents rarely went to church. We did not have fellowship in the home. No praying. Even the children’s prayer, “Now I lay myself down to sleep…” was no longer required of us.
Mormons visited my father one summer. I think I was 14 years old then. One day, after he politely told them to leave I asked him what he thought of what they had to say. He responded by telling me, “I believe when you die it is like going to sleep. There is a wall and nothing beyond it.”
I began to look at other possibilities. I discovered The Satanic Bible by Anton LaVey. In reading it, I discovered the “truths” that would set me free. Or, so I thought.
I continued to go to the church youth groups, but that was for the girls, now grown into young women. But, I also began to practice the dark ways of the Satanic Bible. I purchased The Satanic Rituals by Anton LaVey and delved into using the nine rituals.
Twisting the Truth
While attending the local community college a classmate of mine attempted to witness to me. She would share gospel quotes and statements. I would in turn give back standard objections.
At one point, I began to declare that we are all gods therefore I am a god. The New Age movement was taking hold. I wrote lengthy documents demonstrating how we all are gods.
It is no surprise that one of the practices that we were involved with was the Ouija board. Like many unsuspecting parents, mine gave me one for Christmas thinking it was just another fun game.
Without giving the details, let me say that over the course of time, the Ouija became less and less of a game, and more serious and sinister. On an October evening, with a male friend we merged my Satanic worship with the Ouija. The effect was more than a little unnerving. It was freighting.
The result was my hurrying from my friends house back to my room. As soon as I was there I took my Satanic Bible and Satanic Rituals and placed them between two bibles on my book shelf. I believe they were between the RSV given to me by the Methodist church and a King James Version also gifted to me.
Zen is the way
The new friends acquired while attending the local community college introduced me to tobacco, alcohol, drugs, and sex. The drugs brought me into contact with Zen Buddhism. I looked at, but did not fully read, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Some how I believed that my marijuana use was part of the Buddhist journey, and that I was on that same journey. Many times during a drug and alcohol party we would discuss God and our lives. I do not think we consulted the Bible much, nor any other religious book. We just gave each other our opinions. We encouraged each other that we were following a Buddhist journey, though none of us really knew about it, nor had any education in it.
This Zen Way gave me permission to indulge in the counter culture of the time. I quickly engaged in being drunk and stoned almost daily, often times continuously. One of my friends let me live at his place. There we would smoke marijuana or ingest it in food (brownies) constantly, at work the brake time would consist of smoking a marijuana joint on the back deck, or eating a marijuana laced brownie at lunch. Even when sleeping at home I would often be awakened by a friend shot gunning me with marijuana or even hashish.
PHD in Drugs
In January of 1976, I began my junior year of college at a State University. There in the dorm environment, my drug and alcohol abuse increased. It was not uncommon to arise in the morning to make my way to a bar and drink a pitcher of bear, head back to class and smoke a marijuana cigarette before lunch, and then attempt to attend classes. I would attend every bear blast party known, and often was at drug parties held off campus. One of my friends, as a joke because of my complete indulgence in drugs, presented me with a diploma: PHD in Drugs. It was little wonder that the school asked me to not return at the end of the semester.
There were a number of women in my life, one that had accepted a proposal of marriage that lived back at home. Others while on campus were short term, normal one-night-stand, relationships. Most of the women I approached went on a “date” with me. But, two never accepted my approach.
I saw Sally one day and thought she was beautiful. I introduced myself. We were able to talk and she was engaging in conversation. But, when I asked her to go to a bar with me, or to step out to smoke a “joint”, she would decline. Of course, she had to know what life style I was in. So, now in retrospect, I understand why she even declined to attend a movie or dance with me.
But, Sally was always polite and willing to speak with me when ever I saw her and approached her. It was frustrating because no mater how I tried, she would not allow me to get any closer to her.
Joanne, known as Joe, was in my dormitory. I liked her. I wanted to spend time with her. I would ask her out and she would decline, much like Sally. She always took time to talk with me, but she never gave any indication that she would even be a close friend. I learned that she was one of those Christians. The kind that carries a big black Bible with them, just about everywhere they go.
As anyone could expect, my grades were less than good. I was failing every subject. My relationship with my fiancée was strained at best. My life style left me feeling empty. Life was becoming very meaningless.
I new that I was to “be true to myself.” However, that Buddhist teaching was false in my life. I recognized that my Buddhism was false, a sham. My whole life had no meaning.
To escape this world, to escape suffering, the Buddhist tenant was elusive. The only solution I could think of one night was death. I did not like blood, so cutting my veins was abhorrent, as well as shooting myself. Taking pills to kill myself did not appear to be effective. A number of those I knew on campus had tried that and failed, as someone got them medical help.
The solution, in my mind, was to crash my car at a very high rate of speed, causing my death. I reasoned that at 100 mph or greater, hitting a large tree would kill me. So, on May 1, 1976 a black Saturday night, both physically and spiritually, I got in my Impala and went for a drive, looking for a road and tree combination that would finish my life.
Plea for Help
As I drove, I became unsure of what would happen when I died. I remembered Joe and her Bible. One of the things I liked about her was that she appeared to have a happy and good life. I thought that perhaps she knew something and had an answer. So, I drove back to the dorm to seek her out.
She was in her room, down the hall from my room. The door was ajar, and I pushed it open and said hello. I thought fear was on her face as she turned to look at me from her desk. I just pleaded, “Will you take me to church with you?”
She simply said yes, and told me what time to be ready on Sunday morning.
Missed the Bus
That morning I rose early, showered and put on my best clothes. I made my way to Joe’s door, but she told me she wasn’t ready yet and asked me to wait. I may have been nervous, but while waiting the need for the restroom arose. While I was in the men’s restroom I could her Joe down the hall at my door knocking and calling out my name. By the time I got out of the restroom she had given up on me and left.
Running to the hall window I could see her walking to the parking lot towards her car. Dashing downstairs and out the door I saw her car pull out of the lot and head towards the road. I ran across the yard behind a building hoping to catch her before she got down the road. I made it to the road in time to see her taillights turning towards down town.
There I stood on a cold Sunday morning, showered and dressed with no place to go. I wanted a cigarette and had none. I mulled over the phrase, “Be true to yourself.” With that in mind I decided I would walk towards town and go to church, any church.
As I walked the first church building I came upon was Roman Catholic. Something within me did not feel comfortable about the church, so I kept walking. The second church was a United Methodist. Since, I was “brought up in one”; I knew that they would not be of any help. So, I kept walking.
The third church I came upon was not a church. It was a community building. There were people dressed up as well as not so dressed up. They were going in to the building through a number of doors. Most had Bibles with them. But, what I noticed the most is they had smiles, were talking in up lifting tones, and appeared to be happy. I thought these people must know something. So, I went in.
It turned out to be the Koinonia Church. It was an outreach to the campuses in the town. There appeared to be a couple hundred people inside. It was already full and they were just starting their service. They had wooden folding chairs to sit on. I took an empty one in the very far back right.
Right away I felt uncomfortable. It was as if there was an electric force around them, and I was outside of it. I did not want to touch it, or have them touch me. It was so uncomfortable that I was about to get up to leave when a group on stage began to sing.
In the middle of the group singing was Sally, the one that was so nice but always politely turning me down. It was a revelation to me. Of course, no wonder she stayed aloof from me; she was one of these Christians. It never occurred to me. She never once told me or gave me any indication that she was anything but a nice girl.
It became necessary for me to apologize to her for my actions towards her. So, I endured the service and stayed to the end so I could see her.
The pastor announced that the next week on Saturday May 8th they were going to have a Baptism service down at the river and all were welcome. I was going to be sure to miss that.
After the service ended, I made my way up the center isle to catch Sally before she left. That electric force was still there. I could not stand to touch them, or have them touch me. I kept moving so as not to be in contact with anyone, when a hand grabbed my arm.
I turned to look at and reprimand the person who had a hold of me. It was Joe. She said, “Keith, what are you doing here?”
I told her that I walked and excused myself because there was someone that I wanted to see.
With that I continued my way to Sally. When she saw me she broke out in a large smile and acted as if she fully expected me to be there. She was excited about the fact that she, herself was to be baptized next Saturday. She insisted that I come to see her be baptized and excitedly asked me repeatedly to say I would come.
The easiest way to get out of this, I thought was to agree, so I said I would come to the baptism service. She was happy.
Church did not do a thing for me. My life went on just as it had, with no changes in my life style. But, all that week various students that I did not know would approach me and ask, “Aren’t you Sally’s friend?” When I would reply, “Yes.”, they would then tell me how she said I would be attending the baptism service that week.
The Farm House
On that Friday there was a party at the Farm House. I drove there, but have no idea how I drove back. The party had plenty of alcohol and drugs. There was a candy bowl were different people tossed their pills into it. We would then be able to just grab some and take them. There was marijuana being passed around in pipes and cigarettes. Hashish was being smoked. There were lines of cocaine being done. I participated in everything I could, and then made my way back to my dorm room in the early morning.
A knock on the door awoke me Saturday morning. It persisted even though I tried to ignore it. The door opened to reveal two students who identified their selves as friends of Sally. They said they had come to take me to the Baptismal service. Feeling stuck and on the spot, remembering that I wanted to “be true to myself”; I quickly dressed and went with them.
To me, it looked like they were all fools. Here it was May, and the snow was still on the banks of the river. The water had to be near freezing. A dozen or so people were ready to be dunked under water. All I could think was that they were fools.
A group played Christian music. People sang Christian songs. There was a message given. The clouds separated and the sun light was warm on my skin. It felt like it was warming up just at the time they were scheduled to begin getting in the water. The speaker kept talking and talking. The time passed and the clouds closed and the wind began to blow. Then the pastor and some others stepped into the water. One by one the people walked down into the water. The pastor with his helpers said some words over each one as they laid them back fully immersed in the cold water. Then as soon as they were lifted up they made their way up the bank and into a waiting van where they were whisked away to be warmed up.
I watched as Sally came up out of the water. She was shivering as they put a towel over her shoulders. She had blue lips and looked very cold. I felt sorry that she would be foolish enough to do such an unhealthy thing.
Sally saw me and thanked me for coming to the see her being baptized. Then she said that she would look for me in church the next day. She said it in such a way I felt as if I was obligated to go.
So, I told Joe that I would go with her in the morning. She told me again what time she would leave. This time I was ready and she drove me to the church. She also took a young man with her that I thought may be her boy friend. I had seen him on campus chasing people with his Bible.
In the church meeting Joe lead us to a seat almost directly in the center of the whole room. Joe sat next to me and the young man sat on the other side of her. The wooden folding chair I sat in had a broken slat on the seat and was not very comfortable.
Even less comfortable was the atmosphere around me. I could once again feel that electric force, but now it was all around me. I could almost reach out in any direction and touch it.
At one point in the service the pastor brought out a loaf of bread and a large metal cup of wine (turned out to be grape juice). He read from the bible how this was the body of Christ and the Blood of Christ. It wasn’t as scary as when I was a little boy, and since that time I had learned that this was communion. But what I heard the pastor read went right to my heart.
Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.
1 Corinthians 11:27-30 KJV
This with my very poor attempt and understanding of Buddhism began to run through my mind. If I were to “be true to myself” and not take of this communion because I was not a believer, not a Christian I reasoned that the man with Joe would notice and then chase after me with his Bible and preaching. On, the other hand if I did take of the communion I reasoned that the man with Joe would assume I was a Christian and he would leave me alone. But, in that case I would be lying to myself. Worse, what if the words the pastor had just read were true? I would be eating and drinking damnation to myself. And, I was sure that the phrase, “may sleep” really meant death. I wasn’t sure now if I really wanted to die. Not if I was going to be damned.
I wasn’t sure about what to do. I felt trapped. If I could get up and flee, I would. But, that would mean steeping over many people, and I could not and did not want to touch them.
I truly felt trapped with no place to go and no place to look.
I looked up at the ceiling. There was a water spot on the ceiling. As I looked at it, it began to look like a silhouette of a man with long hear and a beard. I recognized that it was a lot like pictures of Jesus that I had seen.
That is when I heard a voice inside my head. It almost sounded like it was right behind my head, but I thought it was just in my head. It began telling me about myself, my life, and things that I had done through out my life. It told me about the good and the bad. There were things being told to me that I had not confided to anyone else.
Then it said that I could come to Him and that He would forgive me.
I said, “If I were you I would not forgive me, but if you will forgive me, I will follow you. And if I don’t, kick me.”
Then, I added, “Amen.”
As soon as I had said “Amen” the bread was handed to me. I did not even think twice about it. I took a piece of bread, passed the loaf to the person next to me and ate the bread. It stuck in my throat.
The cup was passed to me and I tipped it to my lips and took a sip. The bread was washed down.
As I passed the cup to the person next to me the person sitting directly behind me starting singing:
Let’s just praise the Lord, praise the Lord
Let’s just lift our hands to heaven
And praise the Lord
Let’s just praise the Lord, praise the Lord
Let’s just lift our hands to heaven
And praise the Lord
Everyone starting singing the song. And most of them had both of their hands in the air.
The thought went through me that I was tricked. That this was all a set up. That the voice I had heard was the person behind me. That the person had leaned forward and whispered all of that in my ear. That some how they had found out about my personal past and sins and used it to trick me.
They stopped singing. The service finished. I waited for someone to approach me about what had just happened. But, no one said anything.
I was confused about the whole event. I wanted to tell Joe about it, but wasn’t sure how or what to say. It was just weird for me.
Joe was busy flitting around talking to others. She ignored me as I tried to get her attention. Finally, she dragged me out a side door and blurted at me, “Keith, what do you want? I have had it with you.”
I was so confused. I just stammered as I tried to tell her about the water spot, the voice I heard, the prayer I had prayed. As I mumbled she stopped me and asked if I had accepted Jesus.
I wasn’t sure of the term, but I thought it sounded correct so I nodded yes.
Joe smiling, took me by the hand and led me back into the church. She dragged me from one group of people to the next. At each she introduced me by name and then announced that I had just accepted Jesus.
I felt embarrassed. I had not yet been able to process what had happened. After all, I was just the day before thinking they were all fools.
But, I also noticed that the electric force that I felt was not there. I no longer wanted to avoid touching anyone there. I actually began to feel like I was part of them.
When Joe said she was ready to drive back to the dorms I told her I would walk back. I needed time to think. Things were different now.
When I got back to the dorm, I went to a friends room. They wanted to know where I had been. I told them church. Ruth asked me if I had kissed someone’s ring. I had no idea what she was talking about, but of course since I had not, I told her no.
I wanted a cigarette and asked for one. They gave me a filtered menthol one. When I lit it, I began to choke. It was as if I had lit the filter end by mistake, but when I took it out and examined it I saw that it was lit correctly. I just could not smoke the cigarette.
They then passed a marijuana cigarette around. I puffed on it, passed it on. When it came back I did the same. After the third or so time around and I wasn’t feeling any effects I accused them of having “Indiana Grass”. They said they were getting a “buzz”. I just could not get any effects from smoking the marijuana.
Our conversation wasn’t of interest to me either. So, I took a walk back down town to the bar I would frequent. There I ordered a bear. The first sip of that bear was also my last. It tasted very bad. I could not drink it.
Thinks were different.
It was over a year before I knew that God doesn’t want us to abuse our bodies with tobacco, alcohol, or drugs. Many people come to the Lord and struggle giving up these habits. I figure that God knew that I was too “stupid”, so He just took it away from me.
Joe and Sally quickly invited me to prayer and study groups. I attended the Church services immediately. I could not put the Bible they gave me down. There was life, new life happening at the groups, prayer, and service. I was finding things from God I had never known or heard of in the Bible.
It was too late to change my academic standing in the school, but it was not too late to make a change for God. The early discipling in my walk took root. The Holy Spirit was working in me on a daily basis.