Our Current Elders
Rayford A. Betts, Sr.
Member since 2004, Wife: Caldonia.
My name is Ray Betts. My journey began at the age of twelve. I asked my Mother and Grandmother what does the phrase, “Accepting the Lord” mean. It was explained to me in great detail. “As a young man, I too am a sinner. Jesus was our Savior and that He forgave us of our sins, if we would only accept Him and His forgiveness for our sins and follow Him”. I decided, I would like to confess my sins and be forgiven for my sins by accepting Jesus as my Lord and my Savior. My Grandmother helped me with the prayer and confession but she told me I had to make a public confession of my faith before the entire Church.
She explained to me that you must not be ashamed to tell the entire world that He is your Lord and Savior. Several Sundays later, in Church, I made that public declaration that I wanted to make Jesus my Lord and Savior and I wanted the entire Church and world to know. As I grew, my Pastor took a special interest in my development to becoming more like Christ. He mentored me in God’s Word. From high school to college it has been a journey. I have grown to become more and more like Christ with the help of that old country Pastor, my Mother and Grandmother.
Today as a husband and father, the Lord has continued to shape and transform me into his image each day. This has been an ongoing process, but a wonderful journey that I have the pleasure of walking daily with Him.
Member since 1999, wife Macy.
I had the privilege of being raised in a home where the Bible was taught and lived out. Both my mom and my dad were committed to following Jesus and His Word. And they instilled that in both me and my brother. And so from an early age I heard the truths of the gospel; that God loves me, I am a sinner, and Jesus died for my sins. Along with the instruction of my parents and the teachers in my church, I knew that I was in need of a Savior. And at the age of seven years old, on a Sunday night at church, I felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit that I was a sinner and I needed and wanted Jesus to be my Savior. Did I understand then what I do now about salvation? Of course not. But I can remember that night very clearly and the prompting of the Spirit in my life to make a commitment to follow Jesus. And so the journey began. Because I was part of a Bible teaching church and a family that prioritized following Jesus, I began to grow in my new faith. And now today, some 46 years later, I am still learning and growing in my faith.
Member since 2006, wife Cheryl, children and spouses: Adam and Rochelle Chase; Sarah and Danny Lightner; James and Bethany Chase; Karen and Christian Buenos; Robin and Andrew Riggs.
I was in church quite often as a youth. My mother took me to the local Methodist church in town where I remember singing what seemed like 20 verses of Onward Christian Soldiers every Sunday. I also remember earning a Bible for memorizing the books of the Bible and once in another church I was chosen to pray before the congregation and thanked God for making all the animals, trees, and everything else that a young boy had on his mind.
I did not have much time for God in my teens; my time was taken up with sports and girls. But I feel that God had his hand on my life and kept me close even though life was tough in a broken home. A life with parents who were divorced and everyone going their separate ways, including me.
I went to college locally in Brunswick, Maine to a liberal, secular school with a bunch of spoiled kids that liked to party. I actually found myself defending Christianity in a religion course I took. Again, I felt that there was a God, He just was not that important with everything else going on in life. Cheryl and I were married in 1969 in a Catholic Church when we were both 19, and I still had 2 years to go in undergraduate school. We rarely went to church where the charging for seats did not sit well.
Married life got me out of the partying life. Cheryl worked diligently in a Standard Romper factory sewing baby clothes and did it well. God provided a house from a summer client of mine so that Cheryl was able to go to secretarial school in Portland.
A week after graduation we were in Boston where I was in master degree classes for accounting for non-accounting majors and Cheryl went to work at the First National Bank of Boston. We lived on the 51st floor of an apartment house on Commonwealth Avenue, which was quite a change for a couple from the woods of Maine.
One weekend was the start of Christ calling us. We checked out the churches in the newspaper and picked Ruggles Street Baptist Church as a good sounding place to go. From there we were invited to a Bible study outside Boston with some young people who were certainly different.
During a home visit to Maine in 1972 we endured impatiently Cheryl’s brother Valmore who had been saved through Campus Crusade for Christ. That night he came into where we were to sleep and gave us the Gospel and asked if we would like to receive Christ as Savior and Lord. Cheryl said yes immediately, but I think it took me a couple more days. All I know is that my life was changed that weekend. I no longer saw Val as someone to be avoided or refuted but rather as a brother, not just a brother-in- law.
We went back to Massachusetts a changed couple. We eventually moved from Boston, hunted for a good church, and landed at the First Baptist Church of North Reading. We were both baptized by immersion and went before the elders for membership.
Life has been good. Our family started in North Reading, but continued to grow in NH. We adopted two little girls into our family of three other children in 1988. All five were in Christian School where Cheryl worked to keep them there. All five children grew to know the Lord as Savior and Lord and to serve Him. They have all gone on to graduate from Christian colleges and also to choose Christ following partners. They all continue to serve Him in their local churches. The Lord has blessed us with 13 grandchildren, including one who has yet to come into this world and one who is still to be adopted.
The Lord has blessed our marriage. I cannot remember one single time that Chery and I have ever had an open fight though there are probably some instances where I deserved a beating and did not even know it. The Lord has seen us through some financial struggles but I do not ever remember Cheryl and I not being in agreement. We pray together every week day morning that the Lord would not only keep us safe but that also he would use us.
Cheryl and I have been honored and blessed to serve in every church we have been part of especially at McGregor Baptist Church. We prayed when we moved from NH to here that our opportunities to serve would be increased. The 101, 201, and 301classes opened up doors to us that we are very grateful for.
God has blessed us at MBC in ways that we could not have imagined.
Being selected to serve and then to serve on the Finance Committee, the School Committee, and then the Deacon Board has blessed me greatly and has allowed me to make friends and to serve in so many ways. Cheryl, has been active as I have in special events but also through being a counter, a facilitator in Women’s’ Ministry, a counselor at the Food Pantry, a teacher in preschool, and VBS and also leading a home Bible study. We both serve in Life Group and I have had opportunities to teach in not only our Life Group but to serve as a substitute in other classes as well. Cheryl is known as the hugger in the family and is in much demand though I get my share.
We look forward to our Lord and Savior using us in whatever service He plans.
Member since 1996, wife Beverly, children and spouses: Krista and Matthew Hoffman; Steven and Gabrielle Chestnut; Jonathan and Sarah Chestnut; Corban Chestnut.
My wife and I had been married around 2 years. I was 22 and she was 20. We got married very young. I had no real understanding of how to be a husband and this was reflected in my marriage. Beverly worked for a doctor and one of the ladies in the office attended McGregor. We were invited to come hear a pastor by the name of Jim Holbrook. We attended the service and Jim Holbrook was not preaching and the lady who invited said we really have to come back again when he is preaching. We attended again and Jim was preaching. They gave an invitation and I did not go forward. The service was over and we were leaving and Jim was at the door shaking hands. As we got to the door, Jim looked at my wife who had tears in her eyes and asked if she wanted to talk. Heads nodded yes and we were led to his office. He soon joined us and went over the plan of salvation. When he asked if we wanted to pray my wife said yes and I said yes and we both prayed to receive Jesus as our Savior. We were baptized at McGregor and have attended and served as we have grown in our faith.
Member since 2005, Wife: Debbie.
I was fortunate to have been brought up in a Christian home, by a loving and praying Mother. I heard and understood the gospel message from a very early age; however, I didn’t surrender to its demands of repentance and faith until much later in life. Although I had “walked the aisle” and was even baptized, more than once, I had never truly turned from my sin in repentance towards God and faith in Christ.
At 19 years of age I married my High School Sweetheart, Debbie Bryant. We loved each other very much, but after 13 years of marriage, we began to drift apart. The tension in our marriage was exacerbated when in September of 1997, Debbie was saved. She began to pray that God would do something to change my heart and save me. Her prayers were answered when, in June 1998, my liver suddenly began to shut down. Faced with the prospect of death, all of those years of gospel preaching and teaching began to come back to me, and I knew where I stood with God.
On July 9, 1998, I prayed a prayer of simple faith asking God to forgive me and save me based upon what Jesus had done for me. It was as if a great weight had been lifted from me. About a month and a half later, as suddenly as they had appeared, my liver problems disappeared. God had healed me both spiritually and physically.
My life was immediately different. It was as if everything was now seen from a different perspective. I had finally embraced the truth of the gospel, and it had set me free!
I began to serve in the church that I was a part of and eventually was given opportunities to preach and teach in both jail & nursing home settings, as well as participate in mission trips.
In July of 2004, after moving to Fort Myers, our family began to attend McGregor. We officially joined in early 2005 and have been given many opportunities to serve over these last 13 years. And if God is willing, our desire is to be a part of this local body for the rest of our lives.
Peter FinchMember since 2006, Wife: Yuri, married for 12 years. I was exposed to the Gospel at an early age. My parents were missionaries in the Philippines, and through them, God blessed me with a Christian upbringing. I understood the basic concepts of salvation as early as 5 or 6 years of age; I knew that I was a sinner and that I needed God to save me through what Christ did on the cross in order to go to heaven. God started to speak to my heart more clearly when the young daughter of a local pastor in the Philippines died after being ejected from a vehicle in a car crash. Suddenly, the reality of death and the fragility of life became apparent to me. So one evening, when I was about 6 or 7 years old, I talked to my parents about what I was feeling and how I wanted to accept Christ as my personal Savior. They made sure I understood what I was talking about to the best of my knowledge, and they lead me in a prayer to accept Christ in my heart. Although I praise the Lord for His preventative grace in my life through my Christian upbringing, growing up constantly surrounded by the message of the Gospel can sometimes prove to create confusion in the Christian life. Although intellectually I understood (in the faith of a child) what Christ did for me on the cross and although I was constantly involved in church and Bible studies and growing in my knowledge of the Word, periods of fruitlessness and unconfessed sin in my life over the years have caused me to pass through times when I have doubted the sincerity of my decision years ago. As I have grown, I have learned that true salvation and regeneration is not about a "decision" that one makes; it is about the complete transformation from being dead in my sins to being alive in Christ - something that I can never "decide" to do! It is completely and utterly the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit in my life because of the grace of God through the substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross! Looking back over my life, I do not know if I can tell you an exact date that I passed from death to life, but as I heed Paul's exhortation "Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you - unless indeed you fail the test?" (2nd Cor. 13:5), the Holy Spirit confirms to my spirit that I am a child of God (Rom. 8:16)! To this day, God continues to teach and to mold me, conforming me to the image of His Son Jesus Christ (it's a long process and I am thankful that He is a patient God!). In the different areas of my life where He has allowed me to be of impact, both in church ministries and most importantly in my primary ministry- my family, I desire to be an example of a humble, dependent man of God who seeks to do His will each and every day. One of the verses that describe my desire is found in Jeremiah 9:23- 24, "Thus says the Lord, 'Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,' declares the Lord." May I be found a man who understands and knows the Father; to Him be the glory for who He is and what He has done in my life!
Member since 2011, wife Sherie, children and spouses: Jeff and Kris Broome; Alan Jr. and Paige Green.
I grew up being taken to church by my parents. At age seven, I responded to a sermon on Hell and accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Savior. The next Sunday I was baptized by immersion.
When I reached my later teen-age life I drifted away from the Lord, got married and for five years I did not go to church. Finally, through a book given to me by an unsaved friend (The Late Great Planet Earth), my wife and I decided to return to church and get busy serving God.
Over the next two years we got involved in the bus ministry, choir, and taught a middle school boys Sunday School class. We also began to attend a local Bible Institute.
In 1975 God called me into full-time ministry. I attended Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan for three years, and then transferred to Bob Jones University to obtain by B.A. in Bible. After graduation, our family moved to Cedar Rapids, Iowa to establish a new church on the north side of town. We were there for nine years and oversaw a growing congregation that purchased land and built a building.
After resigning from that ministry, we have spent many years in Florida, pastoring in East Naples and working secular jobs. I continued my Bible education through correspondence from Andersonville Theological Seminary, being just once class short of obtaining a Master’s of Divinity.
It was during my pastorate of Berean Baptist Church in East Naples that I became connected with Word of Life. For two years I travelled to Recife, Brazil to teach in the Bible Institute. For the last five years I have been connected with Word of Life Hungary, teaching in the Bible Institute and leading short-term missions’ trips.
Wade HarmonMember since 2001, Wife: Janie, married for 32 years. My story of when and how I came to follow Christ. I was blessed to grow up going to the County Club Congregational Church in Kansas City, Missouri on a weekly basis. The long-time pastor there was Charlie Hueser, a former missionary to Tahiti. The church had a formal, 10-week confirmation class that I attended in 1973 at the age of 14. It was an excellent course and at the end of the study the gospel was clearly presented. I realized the depth of my sin and separation from God and that Jesus Christ was the only way to bridge the gap between me and our Heavenly Father. I responded positively as well as prayerfully and became a born-again follower of Christ.
Member since 2002, wife Gail, sons: Philip and Kyle.
I was born in December, 1961, in Jacksonville Beach, Florida, the second of three sons of my mom and dad, both of whom had known the Lord since their own respective childhoods in Greenville S.C. They had moved to Florida in the late 1950’s.
My early childhood is blessedly unremarkable. I grew up in the same house, actually in Atlantic Beach, from the time I was brought home from the hospital until I was a fifth grader. It was in that house, in the fall of 1971, as a nine year old boy, that I came to faith in Christ. The Lord who loves me had truly stacked the deck. From my infancy, I had been taken to church every Sunday. I was a product of years of Sunday School and other church activities.
The night of my new birth, I was watching a Billy Graham crusade on television (from Dallas), when the reality of my own sin, and indeed sinfulness, crashed home to my heart. There in my den, I repented of my sin, and committed to follow Jesus.
I have never looked back.
Soon thereafter, I was baptized into the membership of the First Baptist Church of Jacksonville Beach, Florida, where my membership briefly remained until, in February of 1972, we moved inland and slightly north to Callahan, Florida, where my parents and younger brother still live.
I have never doubted my salvation, and the Lord has been extravagantly gracious to me. As I progressed in my faith, even in my teenage years, I was given extraordinary opportunity to teach adult Sunday School and, at the age of 15, to begin serving on a Senior Pastor Search Team for what I now consider to be my home church. (By the way, the Pastor that we sought God for, Lynn Hyatt, has served that church in humility and grace for approaching 40 years – he is my truest elder brother in ministry).
And in the Fall of ’83, the Lord gave me the privilege of marrying the former Gail White, my first and only bride. Our two sons, Philip and Kyle, both of whom love the Lord, each other, their churches, and their parents, came along in May of 1988 and September of 1990.
I have had the joy of being lovingly mentored and discipled. I have made significant errors, only to see grace ultimately prevail. I have been greatly loved by the Lord Jesus. Today, in one of the greatest honors of my life, I am pleased to be under consideration to serve the Body of Christ at McGregor.
Member since 1990, Wife: Patti, married for 41 years.
I was born in Bismarck, North Dakota and am the oldest of 4 children. My parents were very moral and ethical and exhibited many godly qualities, but we were unchurched and unsaved. The only time we went to the local Methodist Church was on Christmas and Easter.
At age 10, we moved to Edina, Minnesota (suburb of Minneapolis). At a young age I always wanted to be a dentist and I worked hard in school for good grades and was a good athlete and a good kid by my standards. My first exposure to the gospel was from the older sister (Jill) of my best friend Brad in high school. Jill used the 4 Spiritual Laws and attempted to cram the Gospel “down my throat”. I would have nothing to do with that, because I figured I did not have any need for God in my life.
After graduating from high school I went to undergraduate at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. Again, I was a good student and fair athlete, but I got involved with “normal” fraternity type activities such as drinking and carousing as a non-Christian would do. But deep down I realized that something was missing in my life such a definite purpose and meaning. I was fairly insecure and tried to cover that with an arrogant and cocky attitude. In my senior year I took a philosophy course and my thesis my “Religion- A Crutch for the Weak”. That is pretty much how I felt about any religion- I didn’t really need it and it certainly did not apply to me. I wasn’t an atheist, but probably an agonist at best. Also in my senior year I dated a girl and we talked about marriage and she insisted on getting married in the church. Of course, I wanted no part of that. But she challenged me with the idea that I should investigate God anyway. We eventually broke up, but I still remember that challenge.
The next fall I entered Northwestern University Medical/Dental School in Chicago Illinois. That summer before heading off to school, I remember praying- “Lord, if you are real, then show me”. God answered that prayer in two providential (miraculous) ways. First of all, I roomed with a very strong born again Christian (Jay) who exhibited a peace and calmness and a security about him that I wanted. Second, we started our basic science courses such as gross anatomy lab, physiology, microbiology, biochemistry, neurology, histology, etc. It was in gross anatomy dissection of a cadaver that it struck me that we could not have evolved, but had to be created because of the complexity and intricacy of how the human body was put together. Then with all the rest of the other studies lead me to conclude that there was a designer, a creator, a God. My roommate Jay shared with me Jesus Christ, who was the son of that God that I saw in creation and that I was a sinner, and was going to hell; that Jesus died for me, was buried and rose on the third day. He also said that God had a purpose in my life. The peace, quietness, fulfillment, security, and purpose I saw Jay’s life, I could now have which I had been searching for. On November 29, 1971, I accepted Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior. To me, it was the most logical and rational thing I could do after viewing all the evidence and hearing the Gospel. Eph.2, 8-9 “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast.” I still don’t understand why or how God chose me and saved me. But I was and am eternally grateful. I was a long way from spiritual maturity, but I noticed an immediate change in my life. Some of the things I enjoyed doing, were no longer appealing. Religion was no longer a “crutch” for the weak, but my new strength and support. I went to Moody Church in Chicago when able. Pastor Warren Wiesbe was the new pastor there and I got to meet him and spend a little time with him. I was not able to fully get involved in Moody, because I had to walk 2-3 miles to church and my Sundays were spent studying, working in the hospitals, and doing different rotations. Therefore, I lacked a discipleship program and fellowship and my growth was not as I would have wanted.
After graduating from dental school, I moved back to Minneapolis to open up my dental practice. But I was out of fellowship with the Lord. I was very miserable spiritually. I had the proverbial one foot in the world (wrong friends and activities) and one foot in the Kingdom (I wanted to do right). I had no fellowship or spiritual support. My high school best friend sister Jill (who years earlier tried to cram the Gospel down my throat) suggested I try the singles group at a local Baptist Church- Wooddale Baptist Church in Minneapolis. I went with no expectations. In fact I had a caricature of a Christian as wearing skinny black ties and carrying big bibles. Boy- was I mistaken. Joining Wooddale Baptist Church changed my life. I started to have fellowship with other believers and dropped old non- saved friends and activities. I was biblically baptized by emersion and was discipled in the Navigator program, attended many bible studies, was trained in evangelism, and started to experience spiritual growth and peace. I finally saw that I had a purpose in my life that I was searching for. A year later I met Patti and we got married shortly after that. We committed our lives to serve the Lord together these many years. God used my spiritual gifts of administration (organization), encouragement (exhortation) and teaching. I served as a teacher in Bible Study Fellowship, LG teacher and leader in our church as well as part of boards in startup ministries in Minneapolis – Pro-life of Minnesota, HIS Ministry (a home apologetics study).
We moved to Ft. Myers in 1986-87 with our two daughters Michelle and Natalie (ages 5 and 3) and joined MBC in 1989. We first came to MBC because of the strong children’s ministry led by Miss Kelly, Rita, and Sheri. Our daughters grew up in MBC and are now faithfully serve the Lord elsewhere. And secondly, Patti and I also felt we could use our spiritual gifts in serving the Lord together at MBC, and also because of the strong fellowship groups (LG) that MBC had. We immediately joined Steve and Bev Chesnut’s LG . After a few weeks I was asked to teach a LG. I became a LG teacher in 1989 and Patti served as the secretary and we continue to do so. Over the years I have served on many committees, played in the orchestra, and teach a Precept class with Patti on JT (Wednesday nights) and continue to hold many home Bible studies throughout the year.
I feel called to be an elder because I love the Lord, love MBC, and its people. I use John 21 as a text where Jesus asks Peter if he loved Him three times and the command back to Peter was- “Tend My lambs, Shepherd My sheep, and Tend My sheep.” I feel one of the most important things an elder does is equip the saints for the ministry, build up the Body of Christ, and encourage and disciple the Body. I am honored and humbled to be asked to be an elder; and I feel it is a privilege and I take this responsibility very seriously.
My life verse- Matt. 6:33- “But seek first his Kingdom and His righteousness; and all things shall be added to you.”
Member since 2002, wife Tamar, sons: Anthony and Carson.
I grew up in a very loving and stable family that took me to church almost every week. Even though I grew up attending church regularly, sadly, it was not until I was a teenager that I actually heard the Gospel. I had, of course, heard about Jesus and what he had done for me, but I was never challenged to respond in repentance to what He had done on my behalf. Thankfully that changed when I was thirteen. The previous school year was my older brother’s first year of college and as a freshman in college, God had saved him. So when he returned to live at home again with us that following summer, I knew something had changed about him. I inquired and he shared the bad news about me; that I was a sinner who had offended a Holy God and I was in need of rescue. In that conversation, I also heard the good news about what Jesus had done for sinners like me. With my brother’s encouragement, I turned from my sin that day and placed my faith in Jesus to save me.
My life has never been the same since that day. Early on in my walk with the Lord, my family and I changed churches and several leaders from that church were instrumental in encouraging my early growth as a Christian. I would eventually consider giving my vocational aspirations to the Lord and pursuing local church ministry as my life’s calling. Even though I have been at McGregor for 14 years, I have only served in two other churches prior to McGregor, with the first being the formative church during my early years as a believer.
I began a significant wrestling match with God in 2007, that lasted for several years and to some extent, still exists today. Long before ever having children, my wife and I watched her sister face the challenge of raising our nephew who lives with autism. So when we both began to see signs of that neurological condition in our youngest son’s life, it was a difficult pill to swallow. As I recently shared in a sermon at McGregor, I was frustrated, confused and angry with God when we realized our youngest son had autism. I was disappointed in God because when disability touches a child, something akin to death occurs. The death of the dream of a normal child that I could play soccer with, throw the ball to, and have conversations with about the Gospel.
Over the years that followed, God patiently and mercifully showed me so many things about me that were wrong, the rough things that needed to be chiseled away by His grace to more resemble Christ and reflect the glory of God. In my wrestling with God, I lost. Just like Jacob in Genesis 32, I lost. God prevailed and for His purposes, I now walk differently.
I never thought I would have a son with a disability, but I also never thought I would be at McGregor during such an important time of transition as we are in now. God is funny like that. I’m confident, though, that the Lord has healthier days ahead for our church. Just as our church has gone through a difficult few years, I believe God will cause us to walk differently as a congregation than we did before. I look forward to being part of a church that not only reflects the character of God, but exists for the glory of God.
Job 1:21, “The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Praise the name of Yahweh.”
Member since 2005, Wife: Dina.
I was raised in a Christian home by a mother and father who were both believers and both strong in their faith. I was one of those kids who was at church any time the doors were open: Sunday School, Wednesday night, youth camp, VBS, special events, etc. I knew every story in the Bible backward and forward, and knew who Jesus was – that He was God’s Son, and had come into the world to save me from my sin, that He died on the cross and was raised again. But I had never made Him my Lord and Savior. The summer I was 14, I went to youth camp with our church, and in chapel on Thursday evening that week, I knew I needed to submit my life to Him and follow Him for my salvation. I got saved that night, and was baptized by immersion a week-or-so later (at the post-youth camp Sunday evening service).
Member since 2005, wife Jill, children and spouses: Joe and Jennifer Behun; Matthew and Staci Perkins; Andrew Perkins; Paul and Heidi Dakin.
I grew up with an awareness of God and had heard Bible stores when I was young. I tried to be a good person, and thought that if I did enough good things I would go to heaven.
I was married in August of 1969, and after our first child was born we decided that as a “good” family we should go to church, since that is what “good” people do. We attended for several years, even teaching Sunday School to small children, but not really understanding anything about a relationship with God. I had no idea, nor had the churches we attended taught us, about a personal relationship with Jesus for the forgiveness of my sins. We were going through the motions of empty ritual.
10 years later, in July of 1979, my wife and I were invited to attend a dinner meeting by a friend of ours. He had realized that I was trying to do a lot of “right” things, but had no concept of a personal God, or that I needed a Savior. We went with our friend to what he told me was a Full Gospel Business Men’s dinner. I knew that my friend attended a Pentecostal church, but I figured what could happen at a dinner meeting? Little did I know that my eternal destiny would become my dessert.
Following the dinner, a speaker began talking. He told us that he had been in prison and was released through faith in Jesus long before he was physically released from prison. Here was a man who had physically been a prisoner, but despite all we hear about prison life, had been set free from everything that had held him captive. He spoke about how he had released control of his life to Jesus and how he had asked Him to save him, even while in prison.
As he spoke, I was intrigued by what he said and wanted to know more about this Jesus he spoke about. While I was not physically in prison, I felt just as captive and desired the freedom he spoke about. I believe the Holy Spirit was working on my heart and inviting me to Himself. The speaker ended his presentation and asked all present to bow their heads as he prayed. He asked if there was anyone who wanted a personal relationship with Jesus and to give Him control of their life. That night I asked Jesus to forgive my sins and be my Lord and Savior.
My wife had accepted Jesus several months prior and had been praying for my salvation. She had asked the Lord earlier that day that I would come to accept Him at the dinner that night. I realized that our previous church involvement was empty and I began reading my Bible and we started attending a Bible teaching church where we could grow.
Since that time, I have continued to grow in my walk with Jesus and my desire to serve Him has grown. I have typical daily struggles but know that Jesus has saved me through His grace alone and not by any merit of my own. I deserve eternal punishment, but because of God’s love for me, He has determined to set this prisoner free and forgive my sins and accept me as His child. He can do the same for you… if you only ask Him to.
Member since 1985, wife Vicki, children and spouses: Joshua Robinson; John and Carissa Rodriguez; Kaylee Robinson.
My early spiritual nurturing came through my mom dropping me off at church for Sunday School, and she would make sure that I attended summer VBS. It was in these environments that I began to learn the lessons from the Bible and began to relate to some great people who really loved the Lord and represented him well. While my mom and dad were good hard working people who loved their kids, they were unengaged spiritually. So, having role models and people speaking into my life as a young boy, who came at things from a biblical perspective was really important.
When my older sister started driving, we started going to both Sunday School and worship. It was in one of those Sunday morning worship services that I really began to understand my lostness and my need for a Savior and His name was Jesus. At the invitation time, I went forward and spoke with one of our deacons, and he shared more about how I could receive Christ as my Savior, and he led me to pray to receive Christ that morning. I was 10 years old.
Shortly after that Sunday morning our Pastor came by the house to talk with my parents about me getting baptized. My dad, with all good intentions, said that I was too young to understand, and that they wanted me to wait until I was older. The next Sunday, I went forward in the service and told the Pastor that I really wanted to get baptized. My parents eventually agreed and I followed the Lord in baptism.
For a child who had a serious desire to please his parents, this act of “rebellion” really showed me how much salvation meant to me. It has helped me never to look back with doubt as to that early salvation experience.
Of course, like many, I had moments as a teen and young adult that I really had to process my salvation and what Christ meant to me at a more mature level. This process for me came to a real head when I was 17-18 years old. I felt like I had one foot in the world and one foot in the Church – I was struggling with being in the world but not of it. So, I made a decision, recommitting my life to following Jesus.
Shortly after that, the Lord called me into full-time Christian vocation, which is a whole story in and of itself.
Member since 1985, wife Candy, children and spouses: Patrick and Sarah Bell; Daniel and Jaclyn Schroeder; Kirk and Elizabeth Swope.
I was born in Birmingham, Alabama where I lived for 13 years. My mother was a Christian and felt it was important to take her three boys to church at Canterbury United Methodist Church. I found out later in life that dad was not a believer but was a great provider and wonderful dad. I was blessed to have two wonderful parents who would do anything for me and had a very stable and loving childhood. I had fond memories in Birmingham and learned that God was our Heavenly Father and Jesus was God’s Son at Church. I always believed that the Bible was the Word of God and truth, but didn’t read the Bible, did not know what it said, and did not know I had to do anything to be saved. I just had to be a good person. Only the bad people go to Hell. My older brother passed away at age 13 while in Alabama. The church did not support my parent’s grieving and actually drew us away from church. A few years later, my father was offered a job opportunity in Fort Myers so we moved.
I did attend church in Florida a few times with my family when we first moved to Fort Myers, but quickly faded away. Early in my employment career with Bank of America, I met my wife Candy at work. She was attending McGregor Baptist Church on McGregor Boulevard. I was actively involved in sailing & racing on the weekends, including Sundays. While dating, she told me that if I wanted to be with her on Sundays, I had to go to church with her, so I did. While in church, I heard Jim Holbrook preach from the Bible which was interesting and captivating, and heard that everyone is born with sin, the need to confess their sins, and trust only Jesus Christ for what He did on the cross to save us from our sins.
During that time, Sarah was born and I had the joy of witnessing her birth. I feel God used this miracle to draw me to Him to something much bigger in life. I have always enjoyed music & concerts, but not Christian music. However, I was drawn to the soloists and worship choir at McGregor that lifted the sensitivity of my sprit to the calling of God thru the Holy Spirit. Shortly thereafter, Jim Holbrook visited our home to walk us through what the Bible says on how to be saved. As stated before, I always felt that the Bible was God’s Word, but did not know what it said. Jim walked Candy and me through the “Road to Romans” Gospel Message and we prayed to receive Christ as our Lord and Savior that night in 1985. Shortly thereafter, Candy and I were baptized by Jim at McGregor. I remember leaving the church that evening and seeing a huge rainbow in the sky which touched my heart of God’s grace.
I had the sincere joy of giving my Testimony via video at the Christmas Program in 2015. My story is one I feel touches the heart of most today where people feel they are good people and automatically go to Heaven. My dad was saved at age 85 just before a massive stroke, who also believed that being a good person is all you needed. However, God softened his heart to hear the true way to salvation through only Jesus Christ and what He did on the cross for us. I have the assurance that both mom and dad are in Heaven today. I found my older brother’s Bible in my parent’s home after they passed. In his Bible, he had hand written a message where he also prayed to receive Christ as His Lord and Savior prior to his passing at age 13. All of my children and their spouses are saved and serving the Lord through their ministries!
Praise be to God!