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All of the Christians I meet who are amounting to anything for God are Christians who are very much out of key with their age -- very, very much out of tune with their generation. Tozer

 
 


Home : Testimony :
Part One - The Early Years



My Testimony

Part One - The Early Years

 

I have no home, until I am in the realized presence of God. This holy presence is my inward home, and, until I experience it, I am a homeless wonderer, a straying sheep in waste howling wilderness. ~ Anonymous

I was born March fifth, nineteen thirty-eight. I was born in a small town outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania called Monaca. My parents had just gone through the depression of the early thirties and lost their home and had to move in a small two-bedroom house. I was born in that small house in Monaca. There were five kids at the time, three boys and two girls.

I remember the food lines at that time. I remember not having enough money to buy clothes and being content with anything we had to wear. Often food was not available in large varieties and I developed a fond love for bread mixed with milk in a dish. To this day, I like to dip bread in milk.

We had a toilet in our dirt basement; it was an old black cast iron toilet. I remembered how afraid I was to go to the toilet, I was afraid that I was going to be bit by a spider. We had an old coal stove in those days, and on Saturday my brother and I would haul the ashes from the coal furnace to a dump about a half-mile away in a little wagon.

We had lots of friends in those days and people would help one another. There was no TV, and as a family, we would play games like Parcheesi and monopoly. We had an old radio, and we would sit around listening to the radio programs with the use of our well-developed imaginations. World War II was going on at the time and on occasions the sirens would blast and we had to put out all the lights. At times I was afraid the Germans were going to invade us.

Finally my father found work and we bought a larger house near the railroad tracks. Our house was a three bedrooms and one bathroom house. Outside my bedroom window was a level backyard extending about 40 feet then dropped off in two tiers. The first tier was about 5 feet and the second about 10 feet. The ground gradually sloped to a large field where we played football and baseball. Crossing the field was a large raised area about 50 feet, built up to accommodate the railroad tracks that joined to a bridge, which crossed the Ohio river. I remember hearing those old steam engines puffing and chugging along the tracks and then crossing the bridge. Often I would sit at my window and look to the clear skies and wonder about God and where He came from. Why did He make me? How could there be the realization of life without me? Where would the feelings come from? The awareness come from? At times as I would kneel at that window, I would fold my hands and pray. He must have been such a great God to make all those stars.

My mother

My mother was an extraordinary woman. She loved the Lord and lived a victorious and courageous Christian life. All who knew her loved her. She always made herself available to help others. She maintained a constant smile and knew Jesus in ways that others envied. Her faith always brought her through the difficult times and she proved His faithfulness. I never was close to my father; in fact, I grew up believing he hated me. He would call me names and constantly discourage me. No matter what I did, I couldn't please him and it seemed he always found fault in what I did.

On many occasions my mother's faith stood out. On one occasion my sister Dorothy Ann had cancer in both her hands and the doctors told my mother they would have to amputate both her hands. My mother prayed and she was instantly healed. On another occasion, my brother Jimmy had a serious accident with his truck and was admitted into the emergency room with a crushed liver. He was not expected to live; the operation was not expected to save his life. My mother quickly went to his bedside and as Katherine Kuhlman was praying over the radio, he was healed. He never had the operation and left the hospital the next day.

My mother lived a supernatural life and maintained a presence of the Lord that I covet to this day. Our family and her walk with the Lord seemed so simple back then. Love, friendship, loyalty and devotion seemed a part of living. Divorce was out of the question and close family ties were a strong social deterrent against crime and violence.

Growing up

After graduating from high school, my father got me a job at J&L steel in Aliquippa. I started off as a millwright helper and quickly became a class "A" millwright. I was your typical rebellious teenager. I was into cars and drag racing. I made good money at the time, and could do anything I wanted. I bought new cars and would customize them. Everyone knew my cars and me.

In September of 1961, I was drafted into the military. After basic training I was sent to military police school for training at Fort Gordon, Georgia. I was asked if I wanted to go Airborne (paratrooper). I inquired if being airborne paid any more money and was told it paid another $120 a month. I was a heavy drinker at the time and needed the drinking money, so I went airborne. In September 25, 1963, I was released from active duty and went back to my job at J&L. The war in Vietnam had just got started while I was serving, so I carried Vietnam veterans' benefits. I used the benefits to go to collage.

Finding Jesus

You have chosen the roughest road, but it leads straight to the hill-tops. ~ John Bunyan

Though I made good money, owned a new car and had many girl friends, I was lonely. At night I would hop from club to club. I would dance and drink till the early morning hours. Often the emptiness and loneliness was overcoming. I didn't want to live any more. I prayed to God, but He was silent. I felt like the dirt swept under the carpet and hidden from view. Each night my tears covered my pillow; I could not bear to live another day. Though many thought I was cool and had everything a young man could want, I could find no reason to live. I owned a 44 magnum pistol, and on two occasions I put the gun to my head fighting to squeeze the trigger.

On one occasion, my mother's pastor came to the house. I was lying out in the sun and studying some material. He came up to me and attempted to witness to me. I later told him to leave and he went in to speak to my mother. He told my mother I was a hardened person and it would be difficult for God to save me. Unknown to him and my mother, I snuck in the other door and went into my bedroom and got on my knees at my bedside and prayed. I told God I would be a major undertaking for Him and didn't know if He could change me. There was no good thing in me and I clearly knew it. I knelt there weeping and ask Him forgive me and to take charge somehow. I could offer Him nothing but problems and one messed-up life.

I was not looking forward to going to church. Church seemed to be the most boring place on earth. Everybody just sat around and listed to one man speak who knew nothing about you. I finally went to church with my mother and it seemed so sterile. Everyone seemed so happy and married. I would leave church and get in my car and often drive home in tears.

There was nothing to do but go to meetings and give 10% of your earnings. I spent hours everyday reading the bible over and over. I read how the early church loved one another and all participated. I got angry with God, I couldn't understand why He gave the early church all the power, the fellowship and the life, and left us with nothing but teaching.

I couldn't deal with my many sins and weakness. The more I tried, the more I failed. tears seemed to be part of my life and my search for reality. I would not quit until I truly found Him. I reached out to others that were struggling, though it appeared I had more problems then them. I was so hungry. I wanted Him. I wanted to go on, but I had so many character flaws and was so weak. Satan seemed to bash me at every turn. Hope only led to more disappointment.

Men in the steel mill began getting saved. I started bible studies with them and their families. Their families would get saved and the numbers kept growing. I had three bible studies in three different areas. My knowledge of the scriptures grew stronger and stronger. I found myself reaching out to more and more. I didn't want to be a minister, I just didn't like ministers, I though) they were a bunch of freeloaders. I said if God ever called me, I would hold down a job and not live off the people.

Baptism in the Holy Spirit

I believe it would be appropriate to inject this testimony of my experience in the Holy Spirit at this point. Not long after I gave my life to Jesus, I attended a Full Gospel Business Men's Fellowship. The speaker that night was a young college student and he was sharing his testimony of being filled with the Holy Spirit. During the meeting I felt this hunger to have more of Jesus. I went up to be prayed for and nothing happened. This happened two other times and on the forth time the Holy Spirit came on me and I whispered in tongues. After the meeting, I shared my experience with those who came with me; they quickly turned on me causing me to doubt my experience. I didn't know what to do. I prayed to the Lord and told Him I was satisfied with anything He gives, even if it is a whisper. The next meeting, the speaker was Harold Bredeson. After he spoke, they started their normal alter call for the unbeliever, the sick and those seeking the Baptism of The Holy Spirit. I wasn't going to go up any more; I was just going to accept what God gave me. Then the strangest thing happened, Harold said, "There is someone here who has received a dribble of a baptism and God wants to meet you." In 38 years I have never heard that phrase. It certainly didn't make sense theologically, but God meets our needs not our theology. I ran to the side room expecting to meet Jesus. Harold was praying for the sick with Cosmo Debartola, the president of the Youngstown chapter. As they were leaving, Cosmo asked me how I was doing and he mentioned that he had to quickly get Harold to the airport to catch a plane. I bowed my head as I saw them leave the room. I told Jesus, "It's between me and You." Suddenly I felt a hand touch my shoulder, it was Harold. He said the Lord prompted him to come back and pray for me. There must have been 30 people there at the time seeking to be filled. He laid his hands on me, It felt as though my body was expanding. A flood of peace, joy and love began to fill my whole being. It filled me and then burst out in a new language that was streaming from my uttermost being. I was glorifying and magnifying Him in the Spirit. "He that speaks in a tongue edifies or builds himself up." I didn't want it to (stop; I felt invaded by heaven and lifted into the worship of the throne. I spoke for about a half hour… it was glorious!

Jesus said, "You shall receive power after the Holy Spirit comes upon you." The next day at work, God began to supernaturally work through me to witness to the guys at work. God flooded me with wisdom and men began to give their lives to Jesus. I went to a Presbyterian home bible study, God drew many of them and they received the Holy Spirit. Healings, demons were being cast out, discernment, prophecy, were the manifestation of God's love to His people… that is why they are called the "gifts" of the Holy Spirit.

The calling and The First Conflict

God creates out of nothing, therefore, until a man is nothing, God can make nothing out of him. Martin Luther

The church I was attending was experiencing an astonishing revival. People were flocking into the church to get healed, saved and baptized in the Holy Spirit. Many came seeking salvation, the Holy Spirit would fall on them and they would speak in tongues. There was no prompting or "claiming" the gift of tongues and then speaking in "faith." It was a true manifestation of God's presence and power. The singing and testimonies were heaven sent. I must add at this point: since then, we have imitated by method what the Lord did in power.

One night in leaving a young couple's house about midnight, I was driving through the streets of Beaver, PA. Suddenly a voice came into the car and said, "Andy, can you see I am calling you to be an elder?" I said, "Yes Lord." He then said, "Are you willing to accept the responsibility?" I was startled at the seriousness of the voice and paused, then replied, "yes Lord."

Soon the church came to the Christmas season. The ministers started preaching against Christmas. The new converts were confused, they thought Christmas was a celebration of Jesus birth. Many couldn't wait to have their first Christmas with Jesus. Gossip broke out everywhere. Many stated they didn't care what was preached; they were going to celebrate the Savior's birth. Many came to me and asked me what I thought on the subject. I told them it wasn't important, but for them to keep their eyes on Jesus. News got back that I wasn't speaking out against Christmas, the message was then given that I wasn't permitted to speak in the mission and at the bible studies. People called me up and told me not to sit with them in church. People I loved turned against me. I shut down all my meetings, I back away not wanting to cause a division. Word got back to me that one of the pastors received a prophecy that I was of Balaam. I was crushed. I decided to go back to the world.

The Call to Fort Lauderdale

Take your burdens, and troubles, and losses, and wrongs, if come they must and will, as your opportunities, knowing that God has girded you for greater things than these. ~ Horace Bushnell

I didn't want to backslide in my hometown, I didn't want to let down those that thought so much of me. I had a friend who moved to Ft. Lauderdale just recently and I quickly scheduled a vacation in January and to stay with him. I stayed with him for about a week.

Everyday I would drive to the beach, and on Davie Blvd. there was a triple-X theater, the Devil would tell me, "Why don't you go in there?" I told him I would, "Tomorrow!" I would arrive at the beach and would see all those girls; again the Devil would say, "Go over and talk to those girls, you are good-looking and would have no problem with them." Again I responded, "Tomorrow!" In driving back to my friends house on sunrise blvd, there was a (triple-X bookstore; again Satan would speak, "Stop there, and buy a book." Again I responded, "Tomorrow!" I kept putting him off in hopes that the Lord would come through.

At night I would cry myself to sleep. I had one prayer. "Jesus I need you. Capital "N" six million "e's," a "d", I need you, I can't say any more. If you don't help me… I'm gone."

This went on for 3 days. I got a phone call from the chairman of the deacons at West Lauderdale Baptist church. He asked me if I would be interested in a position as youth pastor at West Lauderdale. I told him No. He kept persisting for a time to get together and discuss the matter. I turned him down at least three times, but he persisted. I couldn't understand what he didn't understand about "No." Finally I agreed to at least meet him for lunch.

The waitress brought the lunch, and he asked me to pray. I thought, "What a hypocritical prayer this is going to be." I bowed my head, and there He was, His face next to mine. He was looking straight into my eyes and kept repeating over and over, "Andy I love you, I love you Andy." I can't recall what I prayed in the lunch prayer; I only know for about one minute, which seemed like an hour, no one said a word. finally the deacon looked at me and said, "Wow! I could feel the presence of the Lord." If he only knew.

I remember him asking me, "Andy would you consider coming down here and being a youth director for us?" I will never forget my answer, "The bible says they shall take up serpents; it didn't stress what kind of a serpent it was, a Baptist serpent or a Presbyterian serpent. If God wants me here, He will call me."

The trip back home

As I was about to board the plane to return home, the friend I was staying with said, "On your return flight, the Lord is going to meet with you and you are going to cry on the plane." I thought to myself, "How ridicules (ridiculous), I would not cry in public."

I got my seat and the plane was full. I had a window seat and realized the two seats next to me were empty. The plane took off and all of a sudden I began to hear this beautiful music and then this voice came back again, "Andy, I have called you, man has not called you, but I have called you." It must have said that a thousand times. Before I realized it, the plane was landing and I was on my way home. I worked that night 12-8, and when I got home, I called my brother Johnny and asked him if he wanted to go to church with me. I couldn't go back to my regular church, so we went to one where nobody knew me. Well after the singing, I woman stood up and prophesied, "There is someone here that I have called into the ministry. A cold blanket has been thrown over you and you have been rejected in this area. I am calling you to a new place. Go and I will be with you."

I thought I was going to pass (out; looked at Johnny and didn't know what to say. Later I prayed and threw out two fleeces. The Lord knew I carried two burdens, the simplicity of Christ and the unity of the body of Christ. I told the Lord I would go if: one, He would send me a message concerning "It's just Jesus"; and two, the unity. I am not referring to a "Jesus Only" doctrine, I believe in the trinity.)

First I received a message from Judson Cornwall on Exodus 33. Moses refused to move without the Lord being with His people. It truly was a "Just Jesus" message. Second, I attended a Pittsburgh full gospel meeting. My friend Tony was the president at the time and he asked me to sit at the speaker table. The speaker that night was John Poole. I had no conversations with him before or after the meeting, since Tony was talking to him. The singing began and then a moment of silence; I could feel the Holy Spirit moving on me to prophecy (prophesy) on the unity of the body, but I refused to fulfill my own fleece. Suddenly, John Poole rose to the mike and said, "Jesus prayed for the unity of the body of Christ, who are we to divide it? When you divide the body of Christ, you are coming against Christ."

I then received word that the church in Ft. Lauderdale voted for me to take the position. I went to my boss and told him I would be leaving. Everyone thought I was nuts; I was leaving a good job with a future for a job that paid nothing.

Seeing The Institutional Church From The Inside (part 2) >>

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