Matthew chapter 17 has the account of Jesus with Peter, James and John on the Mount of Transfiguration. While they were watching Jesus talking with Moses and Elijah, the disciples fell into a trance. Verse 11 says that when they awoke, “they saw no one except Jesus only.”
As I share with you guys this morning my testimony, this is my prayer, that you will not see me, but Jesus only and what he has done in my life.
“I’m the youngest of twelve children, and I don’t remember a day when I was at home that I didn’t see my mom and my dad read Scriptures and pray, so with that example, I shouldn’t have waited so long to become a Christian. In fact, as far as I know, all of my brothers and sisters are saved. And there are still nine of us around.
I was an OK high school student, graduated top ten and went to college on an academic scholarship as a math major. Life was pretty good then, but when I got to my senior year in college I got mixed up . . . Southern State College was just a few miles from Springhill, Louisiana, where the drinking age was eighteen, so I got to going into Springhill and drinking.
First, I started to go as the designated driver, then I started drinking and became the designated drunk.
There were some guys in my wing of the dorm that smoked pot, so I started smoking a little pot. And that’s what led to the next three years of my life and drug addiction. I didn’t think much about it when I started, because marijuana was not classified as an addictive drug. But believe me, marijuana may not be addictive, but here’s what it does to you mentally – it gives you the I-don’t-care attitude. And if you don’t care, you think you can do whatever you want.
So, I became a speed freak. I got hooked on amphetamines.
You may wonder why I’m in full motion most of the time. That’s why. That’s just my metabolism and it’s always been, but hooked on amphetamines . . . I mean I couldn’t stand to be down. I didn’t do heroin or any of the drugs that make you feel low, because that just wasn’t me.
So as a speed freak for the next three years that’s what I did. I quit college at Christmas break my senior year with 144 hours of college and no degree.
Not only did I become a user, but I became a dealer. I had decided that I really didn’t care anything about being a college student. I wanted to be a hippie; remember this was the early 70’s, so that’s what I became. I even looked the part: My hair was half way to my waist, I weighed 112 pounds and drove a van.
But God pursues those he loves. And he pursued me.
On March 6, 1975, I had a big drug deal that went sour. And through that, God brought me to himself.
I found myself sitting in the back of a 1974 Ford Granada one Sunday with two pistols pointed to my head and three guys in the car saying “We’re going to take these drugs and we’re going to let you out.” Normally that wouldn’t have happened, but they let me out of the car and they took the drugs and left.
There was a drug dealer out of Dallas that I’d been working with for a couple years and he would send drugs to me and I would sell them and wire him money, so there was a trust factor in some sense there. When I called my supplier that night and told him what had happened, he was not happy.
On Monday morning, a man and woman walked into Welder’s Supply Company in El Dorado where I worked and the lady walked up to the counter and said, “Are you Mike?” I said “Yes, ma’am.” And she said, “We are here and we’re giving you three days to come up with the money you owe us or we’ll be back and we’ll get it however way we can.” I never had a woman talk to me that way before, but I knew what that meant.
I had four close friends, and we partied all the time. We’d do speed in the morning to get going and drink beer at night to come down. But I knew I couldn’t turn to those guys.
So I turned to family.
I called my youngest sister who’s two years older than I am. I told her the circumstances and I said, “I don’t have any idea what to do. I don’t have the money to pay these guys, and I need your help.”
“Well,” she said, “meet me at my house tonight at seven and we’ll talk about it. ”But when I got to her house she wasn’t there. Instead, my dad, two of my brothers and two of my brothers-in-law were there. And I kinda knew I was in . . . you know . . . well, I needed help.
And my dad, he’s an old country boy who had very little. I mean when he retired, he was making less than $6,000 a year. He just sat there and listened to everything going on and finally he just said, “God, I don’t know anything to do but pray.”
He started to pray. And as he prayed, the Lord reached out to me, and I gave my heart to Jesus that night.
You know it’s a shame that sometimes some people are so hard headed, that they have to be beaten down so low that the only way they can look is up. And that was where I was. It was a desperation situation. That’s what it was. And I hate to say that I got to that point before I turned to the Lord, but that’s where it was. I trusted the Lord that night.
Of course, I was still in the same situation, but one of my brothers came to me when we finished and said, “Mike, come by the house tomorrow. I’m going to see that you get the money to pay these people off.”
It’s so interesting, so sweet how the Lord gives you boldness. Well, on Wednesday, that same man and that same woman walked back into Welder’s Supply. I gave them the money and said, “And I don’t want to ever see you people again.”
And I haven’t. I don’t know who they were, and I wouldn’t recognize them if I saw them again, I guess. The Lord gave me boldness to just say, “OK, this is it.”
Before that day, I was doing speed every morning to get through the day, drinking beer at night and then doing speed all weekend, for almost two years. But from Monday, March 8, 1975 till today, I’ve not touched any drug.
When God changes you, he really changes you.
I went through withdrawals for almost a month. My boss at Welder’s Supply could sense the change, but he could also tell that I was suffering physically and emotionally. And he came to me later that week and said, “Mike, something has happened to you.”
I shared with him what happened to me. And he said, “Listen, I’m going to cancel all my trips on the road for the next couple of weeks. I’ll run the counter. You do the bookkeeping. Just stay away from the customers.” And he meant it with a sweet heart.
He took care of the clients and the customers and I took care of the bookkeeping and stayed back in my office, working some and crying a lot. But eventually, of course, the withdrawals went away and I was able to function properly.
I joined Immanuel Church in Camden and became a part of the youth group there. I had two incredible men who mentored me. And for the next two years, I traveled with the youth choir and shared my testimony probably 35 or 40 times to teenagers and to college students.
The Lord blessed with many professions of faith and just gave me a real solid start in my Christian life. Then God called me to ministry.
An old man from McNeil, Arkansas, called me. He had heard me share my testimony at Gary, Texas, Daniel Springs Camp. He said, “I need a youth pastor at my church. You come and lead the music and youth.” I prayed about it awhile, then I went.
That old man’s name was Rufus Crawford, and he later became my father-in-law. What a man of God the Lord had put in my path!
But not only did God pursue me, his daughter pursued me. And praise to God, that’s the truth. Diann Crawford was on the mission field in Nicaragua working with Missionaries Paul Robinson and David Dickson and his sister Beverly. Diann and Beverly were doing medical missions and had three or four clinics there.
Diann came home for her sister’s wedding in July of 1976. We met briefly and she went back to Nicaragua. She wrote me two or three times in the next couple of months but I never responded. When she came home for Christmas that year on a one-way ticket, we fell in love and were married in March the next year. We dated three months, but I knew…
God has been good to me. He brought Diann and me together. He has had me with good mentors at the beginning and throughout my ministry.
I had been a member of Immanuel Camden for years and years and had good teaching, so I wasn’t a novice in the Lord’s work. And God just used that past and brought me right into the ministry, and I’ve been in ministry ever since.
I was at First McNeil with Bro Crawford about two years when I met Bro. Paul Bearfield at church camp. The next week, he called Bro. Crawford and asked, “My engineer is leaving and I’d like to interview Mike if that’s OK.”
Bro. Crawford said, “Well, if you decide to hire him, better tie everything down or Mike will throw it away. He’s cleaned out our church since he’s been here.” But anyway, it needed it.
On Saturday, July 4, 1978, Diann and I came up here (to Conway) and interviewed with Bro. Bearfield. We went to the studio and I told Bro. Bearfield I’d pray about it for a week or so. But on Monday morning Bro. Paul called me and he said, “You didn’t happen to make a decision, have you?” And I said, “No sir, not really.”
He said “Well, I got to my office this morning and a note on my desk from my engineer said ‘gone fishing, won’t be back.’ So I need an engineer because I’ve got a session next Monday night.”
I didn’t know anything about multi-track recording, but I said, “Okay, I’ll be there Wednesday.” It was July and we were rehearsing for an August youth choir program. So I came up and lived at CBC and worked and went home on weekends. Diann worked with the youth during the week and I rehearsed with them on Sundays. After the August choir tour, we moved to Conway where I worked for Lifeword 29 years.
God has been so good. Most of you know I went through a bout with Hepatitis C in 2002. And with Bro. George’s understanding I worked when I felt up to it and never lost any salary or anything.
Amazing how God has worked in my life. Because of Lifeword, I’ve been on mission fields several times, the Philippines three times, and Honduras two or three times, Guatemala . . . well, we’ve just been a lot of places.
The Lord has given me a contentment. Oh, I’m not ever content with my relationship with him. I’m never exactly where I want to be with my relationship with him. But he has given me a contentment in life. Very few things bother me.
He has given me great children. And you know how the Scripture says children are like arrows, that they can reach beyond where you can. That’s what he did for me. My kids Rebecca and Jeffery are on mission fields where I cannot go. And, by the way, I’m blessed with five precious grandchildren.
He has given me an outreach. And of course, goodness, what kind of outreach has he let me be a part of with Lifeword and Missions. Unbelievable that God would take someone who was at the very bottom of life, and do with him, or allow him to do what He’s allowed me to do.
It’s unbelievable. And I am so thankful for all of you, and for what God’s done in my life. I would never have thought that back in the early ’70s, while I was driving around in an old Ford Econoline van with black lights and strobe lights and rock and roll music, that God could do in my life what he’s done.
As I said earlier, I had four close friends. And right after I got saved, I asked the Lord to give me an opportunity to share the gospel with all four of them. Over the next two years he gave me that opportunity one on one with each one of them.
I witnessed to one of them in jail.
I witnessed to one of them on the side of the highway.
Number three was a surveyor, Bob Turner. And I know Bob trusted the Lord. I don’t know whether it’s what I said or not, but it was a seed. I went to Bob’s funeral two years ago and his pastor was talking about how Bob was a student of the Word.
The fourth one was a guy named Donny. Donny was a real rounder. While I was at First Baptist, McNeil I got a phone call from his sister at 11:00 on a Sunday night. I hadn’t seen Donny in a couple of years or longer.
She said, “Mike, Donny’s in St. Vincent’s Hospital in Little Rock. He was beat nearly to death in a bar fight tonight, and he asked for you.” I turned over to Diann and said, “What do I do?”
And she said, “You don’t have a choice. This is number four.”
So, I came to St. Vincent’s the next morning and Donny and I talked for a good while, a couple of hours at least. The last thing he said to me was “Mike, I believe what you’re saying, and I know I’m really a bad guy. I’ll think about what you’ve told me.”
And that’s the last I’ve heard about him. I don’t know whether Donny trusted the Lord or not, but God gave me the opportunity.
I also asked him to let me live as many years in service to Him as I had wasted without Him. Well I was almost 25 when I got saved and I’m 68 now, so he’s done more than I asked for. I wouldn’t care if he gave me another 43 years. That’d be fine with me, too.
God’s been good and I want to encourage you that if you’ve got friends or family you’ve been praying for for years, don’t stop. I know my mom and dad didn’t stop. My sisters and brothers didn’t stop.
They kept praying, and God kept pursuing. He caught me. And I’m so thankful.