Happened to Dave?
In late September of 1981, I finished my seventh year in the Navy, and was discharged not long after my court-martial (see Part 1). After an extremely wild going-away party, I tried to leave San Diego. But every day I tried to depart, something major would break down on my 1965 Rambler (it was a “California car,” so it wasn’t as old as it sounds). After fixing each problem, I would try to leave the next morning, only to have something else break down.
After fixing just about everything that could break down, I finally departed San Diego around the first of October. I had a good friend with me, who was hitching a ride to Chicago with me en route to New Jersey. As we reached the top of the mountains outside of San Diego, the left front wheel of the Rambler began to wobble something fierce. I honestly thought that the wheel was going to fall off. But, upon close inspection, I could find nothing wrong. My friend urged me to turn back. But I replied, “No, we’re gonna keep going, because I’ve got faith.” Why I said that, I do not know, because I was anything but a man of faith. But, unbeknownst to me, a lot of things were going on in the spiritual realm at that time. In fact, once we crossed the mountains, my friend (who claims he has the ability to detect spirits when they reside in certain places) said that he felt an evil presence leave the car. And, wouldn’t you know it, the wobbling of the front wheel stopped!
After about a 2,000-mile journey, we finally arrived in Chicago, to visit the lovely young lady whom I had met the previous year in San Diego (as described in Part 1). I put my friend on a Greyhound bus to New Jersey shortly after we arrived there. The next day was a Sunday, and Bel (the lovely young lady) invited me to visit her church. We almost didn’t make it (another battle in that spiritual realm), but we arrived at the church building just as the service began.
The short, bearded guy at the front of the church kind of exploded the myths I had formed in my mind about preachers. He was one little fireball who could sing and preach! He was preaching a message about the purpose of prophecy, and everything he was saying was making perfect sense to me. But the thing that stuck out in my mind the most was the thought that the folks in this building knew this Jesus about whom he was speaking, but I did not!
At the end of the service, the preacher guy extended an invitation for anyone who wanted to know Jesus to come up and they could talk to somebody who could show them from the Scriptures how to know Him. Against my will (I mean, why make a scene?), I went up to the front of this room, and a middle-aged gentleman (who was an ex-military guy himself) explained to me how I could know Jesus. He said that I needed to acknowledge before God that I was a sinner, and that I needed to believe that Jesus died for my sins, and that I needed to confess Him as my Lord. Well, I got on my knees, and did exactly that.
I will never forget that Sunday (October 4, 1981), because something happened that morning that would forever change my life. Several people came up me after the service and expressed their joy at what had happened. I remember being able to look at them in their eyes. Being a “druggie,” I wasn’t used to looking at people right into their eyes, so this was quite an experience for me. Then, I remember walking outside of the church building and looking at a little tree. The first thing that popped into my head was, “God made that tree!” My mind had been completely transformed. I WAS a new creature in Christ! (See 2 Cor. 5:17.)
Shortly after this experience, I moved back to Minnesota, and lived with my parents. During this time, I began to write to my friends in California about what happened to me. I also began to share with my family and friends in Minnesota about my new life in Christ. It was at this time that the question, “What happened to Dave,” began to be asked with increasing frequency. Some folks from California wrote back in disgusting surprise – how could anyone with your intelligence believe that stuff? People began to shake their heads about what had happened to me. Some even speculated that I had gotten too high on drugs and found God that way!
About a year later, Bel and I were married in Minnesota. I felt God working in my heart to study at a place where I could learn more about the Bible. He led us to move to Chicago and enroll at the Moody Bible Institute. The problem was that Bel was now pregnant with our first child, Josiah. How could we move to Chicago when she was already eight months pregnant? Well, when you believe that God leads you somewhere, you just need to trust Him to take care of the details, and He NEVER let us down. During that time, we ate every meal we needed to eat, and we always had a roof over our heads.
Before graduating from Moody, our second (and last) child, Hannah was born. We were very active in the same church that we had visited that fateful day in October of 1981. In 1988, the church called me to be one of their pastors, and after much prayer, I accepted their call. For the next 7-1/2 years, I served as a pastor in a very multi-ethnic, inner-city church in a gang-infested and crime-ridden part of Chicago’s near northwest side. An experience about which I could write several volumes!
But in 1995, that haunting question began to be asked again, “What happened to Dave?” You see, not only did we leave Chicago and move back to Minnesota. But I also left the so-called “ministry” and the institutional church. You’ll have to read about that in Part 3!