I was 16 when I went away to the Young Life Camp called Woodleaf, north of Sacramento. I had been attending Young Life meetings which were connected with my high school, Valencia High School in Placentia, CA.
The meetings were mostly fun with some singing of popular songs off the radio. A lot of the popular kids attended the Young Life club meetings, and some of them invited me to go. Someone would usually do something crazy like swallow a live goldfish or something. There would be skits and other fun things. Then there would be a talk at the end, and the talks would be about Jesus. I don’t remember many details of those talks, but they were about Jesus.
We went away to summer camp in 1972, and the camp was fun. We rode mini motorcycles, swam in a pond, played team games, etc. There were also nightly meetings which included skits, music, and talks about Jesus. I don’t remember many details of those talks either. In fact, there were a lot of things I didn’t pay much attention to in those days. They were difficult days.
My parents had divorced when I was in Jr. High, and I kind of checked out of life emotionally. In high school, I clung to my girlfriend, and to sports, and that was about all I remember paying much attention to. I was confused, lonely, and insecure. It was hard to live in the moment. I pretty much tuned a lot of things out. I had already experienced drinking alcohol at an early age, and was very susceptible to dealing with the pain of life in an unhealthy way. Reality was a bit much for me to handle.
But somehow, those talks about Jesus in the summer of 1972 cut through the confusion and pain that I was experiencing, and on the bus ride home from camp, I talked to God. My prayer wasn’t theologically deep, but it went something like this: “O.K. Jesus, if you are really there, I am ready for you”. I didn’t understand a whole lot about Jesus, but I had a strong sense that if He was real, I needed Him.
Experiences can be hard to prove, and they probably don’t need to be, but I still remember what happened next. I felt something physically happen in me, almost like standing under a cold waterfall. I didn’t lose control or have some ecstatic experience, but I did experience a physical sensation that followed that simple, sincere prayer. As I now understand it, I had become born again.
And so, my journey of faith began…