Date of Salvation: March 1977
Location: Northside Baptist Church, Tennessee
Saved from: Childhood sins
Age at time of salvation: 16
I was not raised in the Church of God, but I had an honest heart from an early age. I knew about God, the devil, heaven and hell, which I learned from going to Sunday School and VBS. I attended many different churches while growing up. When I was 10, I started attending a Christian church which took
communion each week. I remember getting to ring the church bell that was so
large that it lifted me off the ground. At age 13, my sister took me to the Anderson Church of God in our little town. Looking back, I found the Baptist church was more conservative than the Anderson Church of God. (Imagine that!)
When God started to talk to my heart at age 16, I went to a Baptist church that taught if you die in your sins, you cannot go to heaven. I was a sinner knowing if I was to die, that I would die lost and go to a devil’s hell. God’s spirit convicted me of my sins and, with the truth I knew and an honest heart, I got saved. Despite the Baptist teaching, I got saved there and the load of sin was lifted. I was a changed person and God gave me a desire to help others get saved and feel the joy of salvation. Growing up, I have seen family members and friends live a life of sin, but I remember saying to myself one day, “If that is what having fun is, I don’t want it” or as the Bible states in Hebrews, “Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.” But because I was not raised in the truth, I still wore my long hair, a ring on my finger and went to the movies. Imagine, dear reader, if you happened to meet me when I was only 17, dressed that way, going to a Baptist church and telling you that I was saved and thankful for what God had done in my life. How would you have responded or treated me? If you would have had nothing to do with me or told me there is no way I could be saved, it could have crushed my tender spirit. Or
would you take time and tell me of God’s truth and pray for me that God would open my eyes to the truth? Christ told Peter, “What God hath cleansed, that call not common” (or unclean or not saved).
I am glad it’s not “once a Baptist, always a Baptist”. I was an honest soul, saved by Christ
who gave His life for me, while I sat in false religion for over three years. I felt my love for God being challenged, sitting where I was surrounded by worldliness and carnality. I knew something needed to change. I prayed to God to keep my love for him strong and to stay close to Him. I was living in the hills of Tennessee with no true Church of God congregation, and the other church that called themselves Church of God had let down the standard. I know now that God would not have sent me back there because God does not send his people into Babylon or false religion; why would he? What good would it have done? It only would have deceived my soul, which would not have drawn me closer to God as I was praying. This placed the challenge back on God, and God loves a good challenge when helping an honest heart. I finished high school and felt impressed to sign up for the Air Force. I took the test but failed by three points and could not enlist. I had a peace knowing God was in control and left it in his hands. A month later, the recruiter called me up to say that there was about 1,000 other people across the US that had also missed the test by a few points and that the Secretary of Defense changed the requirement for one month, lowering the test score five points and he wanted to know if I still wanted to enlist. Not even government red tape could keep God from answering a young man’s prayer to draw closer to him! I wanted to go to Florida for my training, but God said Arizona.
Once again, God changed government orders to get me where he wanted me to be. Through the power of God, he kept me saved through three years in the Baptist church, six weeks of basic training in Texas and three months in Colorado. He did all of that to get this 19-year-old man to the place where the true people of God met together in spirit and in truth; to the desert of Arizona, far away from the hard wood trees, rivers with water in them and grass for lawns.
The first person God lead me to on my journey to truth, was a man that was a part time
Catholic at best, and had just gotten saved and sanctified in his own dorm room just a few weeks before. You may question if God knew what he was doing in trying to get this young Tennessee boy to the truth but I assure you He did, and there was no way I could have figured out his plan.
So, God used Brother Tom Salisbury who knew nothing about the Church of God to help
me find the Church of God. (Maybe God does have a sense of humor.) As far as I was concerned, I didn’t care if he was a Catholic in the past or that I was a Baptist. The spirits clicked within and the truth that God was showing us rang true to our hearts.
I met Brother Tom one night when I was going to get something to eat at the base dining hall. I was impressed by God to go to the TV room where I might be able to find someone there to talk to about the things of God.
“Now Brother Ward, God would not have told you that!” I’m just telling you my testimony. How God chooses to work is his business so you will have to take it up with him. I stopped by the TV room and found Brother Tom talking to someone else about what God had done for him, and it sounded a lot like what God had done for me. We became friends that night in January of 1980 and are still friends to this day. I am so glad that God had mercy on me by saving and sanctifying Brother Tom before we met. He was a bully, a drug addict and all-around bad person. There was no way I would have wanted to be friends with that kind of guy so God went to work on another young man’s heart before we met. You can read his testimony.
God used Duane Spanogle’s son, Steve, who was stationed at the same Air Force Base,
working in the same area with Brother Tom. Steve told Tom about the true Church of God and living free from sin. (We need to be sure we never tie God’s hands and limit how he will work to get a soul to the truth.) The truth that Steve told Tom sounded good and right to him but sounded strange to me.
How can a person live free from sin in this wicked world? You’ve got to be kidding! Those were my thoughts, even though God was helping me to live that way despite still being tempted, having bad dreams and bad thoughts that would come to my mind. (I had a lot to learn of the truth of God’s word.) I decided not to go to Steve’s strange church but with Brother Tom to a good church that he found.
When we met to go to church the next morning in the dorm room, Steve was there. I soon foundout that Tom’s “good church” and Steve’s “strange church” was the same church. It was the Church of God on 3946 West McDowell Rd. As they say, the rest is history.
The devil still tried his best to keep me from the truth by trying to allure me to other false religions like the “Navigators”. They are a very ecumenical group on at the base that I tried to get Brother Tom to go too but he was an old-stick-in-the-mud – thank the Lord. There was another group on the base called “The Way International”. I later realized they were a cult after I attended a few of their meetings. Once again, Brother Tom would have nothing to do with them after only one meeting he attended. Brother Tom was already sanctified and I was not. I was only looking for a place to get close to God. I was going around like that little bird in the Dr. Seuss book who got lost
and kept asking everything he came to, “Are you my Mother?” I’m thankful for God’s mercy, praying saints and good friends by my side. I found my mother, The Beautiful Church of God which is the mother of us all.
Nothing is too hard for God if we allow him to have his way in our lives. Who would have guessed a teenager from the hills of Tennessee, saved in a Baptist church, would one day marry a beautiful saint of God from Los Angeles, California that God had called out of a compromised Church of God; then later, call him to the ministry and pastor the same congregation that God led him to years before? This proves that there is nothing too hard for God. As his Word tells us, “But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought
things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence.” (I Corinthians 1:27-29.)