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Dennis…You’ll be Blessed by His Story!

“It was absolutely the work of the Holy Spirit that I came to faith!”

Let me introduce you to Dennis, a deacon at our host church in Denver last week. He shared some of his story at a pastors’ lunch at PLI last week. Allow me to try to briefly share it here

“First, I’d like to say thanks to all of you young guys for so warmly welcoming Lynn and me into PLI. We were nervous that we wouldn’t ‘fit in’ or be ‘well received.’ You’ve had a deep, deep impact on our lives.”

Here’s his story:

When I was 16 I lied about my age. Entered the army to fight in Vietnam to escape an alcoholic and abusive father. I moved through the ranks. Joined a secret, special ops unit eventually known as the Delta force. I saw things no one should see at such an early age.

I grew to 6’5”. 340 pounds. About 5% body fat. Special ops. I was in control of my destiny. Feared by many. Respected by many.

I didn’t need God, why would He want anything to do with me anyway, I am unworthy of love.

Then a tank I was riding in rolled over. I was crushed beneath it. 149 bones broken. 18 months hospitalized in Frankfort. 12 more months in Walter Reed. Not sure if I would live. Not sure if I would walk again. Heavy drugs for the pain. Met my second wife Lynn.

Intervention. Able to walk. Pain management.

15 years of bouncing from job to job. Truck driver. Police officer. Computer programmer.

…nothing. Soldier was my identity.

Bitter. Angry. Resentful. Confirmed atheist. I was a small arms expert. Tried to kill myself. Failed each time. How does that happen?

My step-daughter…she was the only one that seemed to have a path to my heart…asked me to go with her as a camp counselor to a week-long Christian camp for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (campers). I couldn’t say no to her. I had absolutely no desire to go but I couldn’t say no to her.

(Atheist. Miserable. Resentful.). At the orientation we were told that the campers had been looking forward to this all year. They’d saved for this week all year. They deserved to have a great week and it was our job to deliver.

It’s there that I met Justin. I was assigned to Justin. Justin stuttered. It sometimes took him five minutes to explain what he needed.

At one point during the week we were supposed to ask our campers what happens to us when we die?

Justin, without hesitation said: “I’m going to heaven!”

I expressed my surprise. And most likely my shock. I said, “How can you know you’re going to heaven?”

What happened next? I’m convinced it was the working of the Holy Spirit through the life of my camper Justin. Without stuttering, Justin said;

“I’m going to heaven because Jesus died on the cross and was punished for my sins. And he’s alive.”

It was like those words went straight to my heart. I knew they were true.

Two things resulted….

Justin and I became lifelong friends. Since the death of his grandparents who cared for him, I now have a say in what happens to him.

It set me on a search to learn everything I could about Jesus. His love. His purpose for my life.

I wish you could have heard his story in person. There’s probably someone that might benefit from hearing Dennis’s story.

Today? Dennis has earned a doctorate in apologetics. Frequently shares his faith. High school kids flock to him because he listens to their stories. And he’s about to wrap up PLI’s leadership essentials. He frequently visits the shut in and hospitalized in his congregation.

“It was absolutely the work of the Holy Spirit that I came to faith!”

Please forward this a friend that would be blessed by Dennis and his story, too.

PLI learning communities gather this week in a former Soviet country and in New England. Please take a moment to pray for our leaders where the soil is hard for the seeds of the Gospel.

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