Date of Salvation: Fall 1970
Location: Spokane, Washington
Saved from: Backsliding
Age at time of salvation: 16
I was born in 1954; however, my testimony starts in the late 1800s. At that time, my great- grandfather George Alteneder heard the truth of God’s word preached in Iowa and took his stand with the Church of God, and handed it off to his children. As a result of his stand for truth, his family was persecuted so he relocated to Idaho. In the mid-1920s he contracted typhoid fever and before his passing prayed earnestly for his grandchildren. I am one of the great-grandchildren that became an answer to his prayer.
Between the time of my great-grandfather’s passing and my birth, the Church of God passed through turbulent times, with many congregations falling from holiness. These congregations and the one my family attended organized into a sect with a new headquarters in Anderson, Indiana. My family left the Anderson Church of God because of that church’s fallen condition. As a result, during my youth we mostly worshipped with other families on some Sundays and had family devotions. For my growing-up years, I was privileged to attend Church of God campmeetings all over the west and in Newark, Ohio. At 8 years old I asked my grandparents to go with me to the altar at a campmeeting, and I got saved.
During this time I was up and down (saved then unsaved) in my experience like many children. I am sure not having a church to attend on a regular basis was part of the challenge. Regardless, being up and down had an impact on my faith.
At around age 13, I had gotten saved and God sent a preacher to hold a special service at the Paradise, Montana Church of God. (We attended services here on occasion with my grandparents; my grandfather Frank loved God and was the son of my great-grandfather George.) I don’t recall the preachers name but their message was on the wonderful experience of sanctification, and the beautiful life it produced. I wanted that life – God clearly called me to have it – but my carnal nature ruled my life and I refused to answer the call. Without sanctification, I lost my salvation again.
Around this time I traveled with my family to the Washington State coast. The weather was cool and snowy in the mountain passes. On the way home I was asleep in the camper (no seat belt), and slick roads caused the driver in front of us to lose control, driving backwards looking at my Dad. God had mercy and helped my Dad drive through without incident. Dad told us of the incident at a rest stop, and being unsaved at the time, God spoke plainly to me and said: If you had died in that crash (quite likely since I had no seat belt and was in the camper), you would be in hell!
Age 13-16: During this phase of my youth, I had a hard time getting a settled experience with God. I still had a tender heart and a real love for God in the times I was saved. But ignoring the warning God gave me earlier on the near-tragic slick roads, I continued my up and down, in sin and out of sin, condition which would affect my faith for years to come. While saved at 14 years old at the Newark, Ohio Campmeeting, God burdened me to share a tract I had read about the ‘Hell Bound Train’. The burden to share the tract was strong during the altar call and I shared it before a large audience of perhaps several hundred people. Someone commented about the testimony, I assume they were surprised at my courage to tell about the tract in front of so many people. Sad to say, lacking an experience of sanctification, I disappointed God again and backslid.
Age 16 – Wakeup call: At this time, God was no doubt tired of my failures and I was tired as well. One day, he stopped me in my tracks. I was out on our driveway playing basketball by myself in the fall of 1970, my junior year of High School. In the distance I heard a siren which was not too unusual, except this night God spoke to in me a very clear voice. Remember when you were 13 and I spared you from the crash on the slick roads! You would have been in hell! Here you are 3 years later! It was like the handwriting on the wall to Belshazzar in the Book of Daniel. “Thou art weighed in the balance and found wanting.” I’m thankful he didn’t tell me my life was finished. I went to my room to repent of my sin, and God would not forgive me until I settled it. No more sin for the rest of your life or no pardon! This time I settled it with God and made a commitment in prayer that by his grace I wouldn’t go back to sin again. With that commitment, God forgave me and glorious peace flowed in. He also let me know that to keep that commitment I needed to get sanctified.
After I was saved, I was tempted by many of the old temptations but through God’s help I prayed and let God know if I had to go through life with my eyes closed I wouldn’t turn back to sin. During the first church service I could get to, about two weeks after I got saved, I went to the altar for sanctification and through much prayer, sold out to God. That has been almost 47 years and God has been faithful to keep me even when I lacked understanding. God healed my backsliding (Hosea 14:4) through an experience of Sanctification.