My Testimony of Faith:

I grew up on a dairy farm in northeastern Pennsylvania, born into a moral, God-fearing family, for which I am thankful. We attended church regularly, but I knew nothing of a personal relationship with God. I was always taught to try and please God through my own good works. So I actively served in my church, both proud of my piety and hopeful that it would count toward my salvation. As I entered my teens I began to have troubling thoughts. I thought I knew God, but He seemed so far away and impersonal. I also feared His future punishment. I would lay awake at night and worry because I had no assurance of eternal life. I could not understand why as a “Christian” I would have these thoughts, but I was ignorant of any solutions. I merely lived my life each day and tried to block those terrible thoughts out of my mind.

I drifted along like this through high school and into college. It was at this point that God intersected my life on April 15, 1980. I had an older brother who had become a believer, and he invited me to his church to hear a missionary speaker. Here for the first time I heard and understood the truth clearly: I could never earn salvation through my own good works. Rather, I had to accept salvation as a gift by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. That night as an eighteen-year-old college freshman I believed in the Lord Jesus Christ and was saved.

As a new believer that summer I was blessed to have Christian fellowship with my brother and also a cousin who had come to know the Lord. However, when I returned to college that fall I found myself without Christian fellowship and surrounded by my old friends. I subsequently drifted back into the same sinful lifestyle I had previously led.

The most important decision of my life next to salvation was to repent and turn back to the Lord at the end of my second year of college. I realized that the Christian life was either all or nothing, and that God wanted my whole life to be dedicated to Him and Him alone. The verse of Scripture that the Holy Spirit used at that time was 2 Corinthians 5:15, “And he died for all, that they who live should no longer live for themselves, but for him who died for them, and rose again.”

Looking back on my years as a believer, I can see four key elements which God has used in my life. First, the decision I made one year after my conversion has been an invaluable signpost for subsequent decisions. At that time I promised God that my life was completely His. Thus, when I sensed His call to vocational Christian service it was not a matter of “Will I or won’t I?” but rather “When, where, and how?” The same held true when I later sensed His calling to missionary service.

The second key element is that God in His grace has given me a love for His Word. As a new believer I was thrilled to discover how the Bible could guide and comfort me, as well as give me hope for the future. I loved to study the Bible, uncover its rich truths, and then share them with others. Of course I have had my struggles with daily devotions, and with applying to my heart what I knew in my head, but I have never been far from God’s Word for very long. I am thankful to Him for keeping me close through His Word. A special verse regarding God’s grace in my life is 1 Corinthians 15:10, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored … yet not I, but the grace of God with me” (1 Cor 15:10).

Third, God has enabled me to couple this love for His Word with a desire to help others understand and apply it to their lives. In college, after my renewed dedication to the Lord, I served as an officer of our campus Christian fellowship group, taught Bible studies, sang and spoke with our traveling gospel team, taught Sunday school, and had many opportunities to share my faith and advise fellow believers in spiritual matters. God also brought Sharon Waldschmidt into my life, His gracious gift to me for lifelong companionship and ministry.

Upon graduating from college I moved to Delaware and, together with my wife Sharon, became very involved in our little church. We grew close to the pastor and his family, and I was encouraged to minister in many capacities. I served as deacon, taught Sunday school and Wednesday Bible club, went through all six levels of our discipleship training course, discipled new believers, was involved in visitation, sang in the choir, and did special music.

When Sharon and I moved back to Pennsylvania to attend seminary we simply picked up where we had left off, serving where we sensed the leading of the Lord. Again, throughout my four years of seminary, I was heavily involved in my local church, teaching Sunday school, co-leading our evangelism training program, discipling new believers, organizing and leading the children’s church ministry, and singing in the choir.

I spent my last year of seminary as a pastoral intern in Indiana where I again served the Lord in a variety of ministries. I started and taught an adult Sunday school class, taught in the Christian school, counseled at children’s and youth camps, supervised children’s church time, Bible clubs and Sunday school classes, preached in church services, a rescue mission and Christian school chapels, discipled teens and adults, led evangelism and follow-up teams, visited in hospitals, counseled, coordinated a church volleyball league, and co-led a youth wilderness trip to Canada.

The fourth key element God has used in my life is godly men who have influenced my spiritual growth. They have been role models and mentors in ministry. God has used godly men to expose those gifts given to me by the Holy Spirit, and to encourage me to exercise those gifts. Godly men have guided me in my important decisions. When God called us to vocational Christian ministry, my pastor counseled us and took us to visit seminary. When God called us to missionary service, again my pastor encouraged us wholeheartedly and arranged for us to meet with the president of the mission we would later join.

After seminary graduation Sharon and I served as missionaries to Poland. God used three factors to lead us there. First, when I was finishing up my seminary degree, I felt that the Lord was leading me toward theological education. Second, right at that time Central Europe was opening up and I saw an opportunity to join in training the next generation of spiritual leaders in that part of the world. Third, all of my ancestors were Polish immigrants and God literally called me back to the land of my forefathers.

The years we spent in Poland were significant for growth and ministry. We had opportunity to help plant a church and organize a seminary with Polish and American co-laborers. I can see how God used all of my past training and experience to prepare me for and use me in this cross-cultural ministry. The most exciting part of those ministry years in Poland was training young men for the gospel ministry in Central and Eastern Europe. It was certainly challenging at times—for example teaching Russian students Hebrew in Polish!—but God blessed our efforts and grew us and stretched us greatly to be more like Him and to serve Him more faithfully.

From Poland, God led us back to my seminary alma mater in Pennsylvania to continue the task of training gospel workers for God’s harvest field. I am still amazed by the grace of God and the fact that He has called me to the ministry. As I close this testimony I echo the words of the apostle Paul, who never got over God’s marvelous grace in his life, and the high calling of God to gospel ministry:

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who had strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus. It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. (1 Timothy 1:12–17)

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