Keep in mind this was in the 60’s and a teenager in high school with rampant hormones and music playing whose siren song told me to question all that I’d been taught. I continued attending church with our family, but this event caused me to wonder if all this religion stuff was just so much hoo-hah and as soon as I entered the Navy, all church attending ended. I still felt that there was something more to the universe than could be explained by science alone, but was not sure what. There were times when I would have a narrow escape from some catastrophe, and I would exclaim, “Thank God!” That or I would see a beautiful sunset or other natural beauty and think, “Good job, God!” But for some time, that was the extent of my belief.
He’d ask me almost every week if I wanted to join him at Gerrard Hall on campus at UNC where the Chapel Hill Bible Church was meeting at the time. I finally caved and continued to join him there each week, not necessarily because I was intrigued by Jim Abrahamson’s sermons (though that was true), but because (as a former sailor) I noticed that it was a ‘target-rich environment,’ filled with many lovely young ladies. Regarding issues of faith in Christ, I didn’t have a clue! I remember after one service when many gathered outside Gerrard Hall, seeing Jim and complimenting him on the lesson that day. His response, “Well praise the Lord! ” threw me off. I remember smiling and moving on to see if I could engender any interest from the co-eds gathered there. Jim even had me come out to his home on occasion, possibly at the behest of Malcolm, to engage me in conversation.
My second Sunday there I went with a few others to the weekly worship service in the prison chapel. The head chaplain, Skip Pike (never did learn his real first name), gave the lesson, but it just bounced off. It wasn’t until the next Sunday (I went just to get out of the dormitory for a time), and another chaplain was there. His manner of speech reminded me much of Malcolm; to this day I cannot recall what he spoke on for the sermon. All I can say is that when he gave an invitation to receive Jesus as Savior, it was as if I’d heard a voice tell me, “Now or never, Shook.” The following weeks, Eugene Wigelsworth mentored me, encouraging me to grow in my new found faith.
When I reached Orange Correctional Center in Hillsborough and was able to begin getting ‘passes’ to get away for a time, I reconnected with Malcolm (we’d corresponded for a time while I was incarcerated) and Jim Abrahamson who kindly agreed to be a sponsor for me to take me out. Sundays were always a day I looked forward to; the mornings Jim would take me to the Chapel Hill Bible Church and in the afternoon I got to see my beloved Kathy during visitation. Upon my release we discussed where to go for a home church; Kathy had attended a Christian & Missionary Alliance Church in Winston-Salem for a time, and we both became close friends with the pastor there, Doug Klinsing. Kathy had an apartment in Morrisville and had gone to a CMA Church in Apex (even took me there once when I was on home passes). I suggested the Chapel Hill Bible Church, both because of my history there and because they had a new pastor named Jay Thomas. We went there once and at the end of the service Kathy turned to me and said, “He makes me think!” We became members and continue to enjoy learning and serving there.
I am not yet the man that Christ wants me to be, but my desire to be such grows with every day. Yeah, I still blow it (and still, though thankfully, rarely) do so in a grand manner. I’m not home yet and Philippians 1:6 is a verse I refer to often.
“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6 ESV)
The journey continues…