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This I Believe

I believe in the power of talking with others about my faith. When I was a child I wasn’t afraid to witness to others about God. In public places, I sang all the worship songs I knew until some stranger would ask me about God or my parents would hustle me out of sight with red faces. I don’t know the exact moment when that changed, but by college I had a firm grasp of Adventist doctrine, yet lacked the courage to share it.

That all changed when I attended Pastor Dybdahl’s World Religions class at Walla Walla University. As an assignment, we were required to interview someone about what they believe. The catch? They had to differ from us in two to four areas: age, gender, culture, or religion. If you interviewed someone who was different in all four areas, you got extra credit.

It was the extra credit that drove me to interview one of my grandmother’s friends who I’ll call Dave. We could not have been more different. I was a young female Adventist college student born and raised in the pacific northwest where the idea of interrupting a preacher with shouts of “amen!” was unthinkable; he was an older gentleman from Texas who used to be a Pentecostal preacher. To him, our silent white churches were dead, completely drained of the Holy Spirit. I was nervous. What if he didn’t want to talk about religion? He never seemed fully comfortable around my Adventist family and I don’t think I’d ever heard him say prayer, though we’d occasionally ask him to. He’d stopped preaching after being imprisoned for two years for a crime he didn’t commit, losing his son in the war in Afghanistan, and losing his wife and right eye to cancer. He also suffered from chronic back pain. I thought of him as a sort of Job who’d failed his test. With shaking hands, I dialed his number.

To my surprise and delight, he was very excited to talk with me over the phone. Heart pounding, I began to go through my list of prepared questions. I didn’t get any farther than my second question before he launched in and carried the rest of the interview with more passion and excitement than I’d ever heard from him before. He’d given his heart to God and was baptized into the Assembly of God when he was seven years old. He began preaching when he was fifteen. He told me stories about miracles he experienced while preaching, things he hadn’t talked about in ten years or more. I was skeptical, having been taught to distrust charismatic healings and exorcisms, yet, he spoke with conviction about the things he’d seen in churches throughout the south and Tijuana. “You can’t put God in a box,” he told me, “and assume that there are some miracles he just don’t do anymore.”

I thought about how much he’d suffered and how reluctant he usually was to talk about his faith with my family. I finally worked up the courage to ask him why God hadn’t healed him from his pain as he had so many others. Dave told me he’d fallen away from the God he loved as a kid. After his wife died, he’d told God to leave him alone. He wanted nothing to do with a God who wouldn’t answer his prayers despite working so faithfully for him for thirty years. “When I was a teenager, I was so hungry for God,” he said with a sigh. “I looked for him and I found him. I want that again.”

I looked at my watch and realized that we’d been talking for almost two hours, well over the required time our interview had to last. I suggested that we pray together before we got back to our ordinary lives. I even volunteered in case he felt uncomfortable praying. To my surprise, he said he wanted to be the one to pray. He prayed the usual blessings and well-wishes for both of us. Then, he did something I will never forget—he began to cry. “I love you, Lord,” he sobbed. “I know I haven’t said that in a while, but I do. I want you to be in my life again.” I found myself crying too. I was overwhelmed with the realization that our conversation had inspired him to rekindle his relationship with Jesus.

I believe in the power of witnessing. I believe in being open to allow others to talk about their faith. I believe that when we step out of our comfort zones and talk with people about what we believe, God can work miracles in our hearts that are infinitely more amazing than physical healing.

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About Sophia Rich

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