I Couldn’t Outrun God’s Love

A testimony by Bill Rudge

At the age of 18, I decided that whatever I was looking for, it had to be somewhere other than in Pennsylvania. I thought I would find what was missing in my life out West. Or maybe I was running from the God my girlfriend, Karen, kept telling me about. All I knew for sure was I had to get away. So in May of 1971, my weight-lifting buddy and I hitchhiked west.

Albuquerque

A few months earlier, my brother and I had spoken by phone. I said I might come out to see him sometime; he said he could get me a “hot” motorcycle to ride from there on out to California. He didn’t really believe I would ever come out, so when (after two adventurous days and nights on the road) we reached Albuquerque and called the hippie compound where my brother was living, I was told he had left the previous day to go swimming in some mountain springs 100 miles away. No one knew when he’d be back.

Deciding then to hitchhike on to Santa Fe (about 50 miles north), we walked three miles before finally getting a ride that took us straight in. On the way, the radio reported night temperatures would drop to 25 degrees – a record low for this time of year. We had anticipated warmer weather out West and were wearing only short-sleeved shirts and a plastic poncho.

Santa Fe 

With darkness setting in, we wandered the cobblestone streets seeking a place to spend the night; it seemed the whole town had closed down. We eventually found an open bar but were not allowed inside because we were under-aged. “Could we just go in long enough to find someone to put us up for the night?” we asked. The manager, however, didn’t really care about our problems and again refused us entry. We saw a girl cycling by so we yelled at her to stop. She pedaled all the faster, and disappeared down a side street. Now even the bar was closing, no one was willing to help, and our hope of finding shelter plunged right along with the temperature.

Then, seemingly out of nowhere, down that narrow street came a small, yellow foreign car with four longhaired hippies, a German shepherd hanging out the window. We began to wave and yell, and suddenly one of them yelled back, “That’s my brother! That’s my brother!” The car screeched to a halt. My brother Larry, who was supposed to be swimming in the mountains 100 miles away, did not know I was even in New Mexico. Yet there, in the small town of Santa Fe, on a narrow street, The God who knew I would one day give my life to Him, intervened at our hour of desperate need.

Back to Pennsylvania 

Somehow managing to scrunch into the little car, we drove on to where my brother and his friends were staying. We smoked some marijuana and talked. My brother explained they came down from the mountains to return a borrowed car. But he also explained he couldn’t get us that “hot” bike, after all. The following day, greatly disappointed, my buddy and I headed back to Pennsylvania.

The first thing I did upon my return was to see Karen. She asked, “Bill, why don’t you go with me tonight? There’s going to be a fantastic evangelist speaking in Youngstown, Ohio.” I wanted nothing to do with her Jesus, but she looked so beautiful that I finally agreed to go. I expected to hear the usual pitch, and resigned myself to sit there and watch those stupid Christians walk down the aisle and pray.

But this night was different; the speaker talked on Bible prophecy – on how we can know a real and personal God. The Holy Spirit dealt with me as never before. I’d been searching for meaning and purpose all my life but knew already the futility of looking to alcohol, drugs, sex, weight lifting, karate – or anything else – for lasting peace and happiness. I saw that no self-improvement plan, no patterning my life after anyone else’s could truly change or fulfill me.

A New Man 

In a moment, the truth of Jesus Christ became reality to me. The spoken words seemed to pierce my very heart and reveal what I’d always longed for: to be restored to my Creator, through His only Son, Jesus Christ. Though in the past, others had tried to prod or persuade me to a decision, this time I willingly stood to make that long walk to the altar. On the way I said, “God, if you prove Yourself real to me today, I will live my life for You.” Down on my knees, I was totally sincere for the first time in my life. “Lord, I am sorry for all my sins! I want to give my life to You. Please, forgive me.” On the following evening, the evangelist said to me, “Young man, last night there was a battle between heaven and hell. Hell wanted to keep you, but God won.”

My whole life was changed. Now that I had accepted Christ I had to grow in this new relationship with God. I was baptized and began changing from someone who only cared about himself and used people, to someone who really cared for others.

I am a new person in Christ. When I sincerely asked Him, Jesus did what no one or anything else ever did or could have done. Through Him, I found meaning and purpose. Only through Christ could I begin to conquer all the problems I had throughout my life. He truly is the Ultimate and Only Truth. Those who knew me before cannot believe that I am now a minister, and those who meet me now, who do not know my past, cannot believe what I once was like.

My Journey from Atheist to Christian

by Dr. Michael Abdul-Malak

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Dr. Michael Abdul-Malak

Dr. Michael Abdul-Malak, a highly respected gynecologist, is not only a friend of Bill and Karen Rudge, having delivered two of their grandchildren, he also is a supporter of the Bill Rudge Ministries. The following testimony describes his journey from avid atheist to devout Christian.

I was born and raised in a nominal Christian home in Homs, the third largest city in Syria. I attempted to read the Bible regularly and to live according to its teachings to the best of my ability. However, no matter how hard I strove to be religious, I nearly always failed to adhere to the teachings of the Bible.

In my early teenage years, having failed to live according to the teaching of the Bible on the one hand, and influenced by the strong atheistic environment surrounding me on the other hand, I became skeptical of the Bible’s teachings. I concluded that Christianity was impractical, and in fact impossible to truly adhere to. Later on, through the study of evolution in public school, reading Darwin’s book “The Origin of Species,” and being exposed to the writings of Karl Marx, I became an avid atheist.

By the age of 17, I had co-founded and led an atheist group that strove to convert fellow students to atheism. At the age of 18, I graduated from high school with the highest score in the entire central district of Syria, and was one of the top ten students in the entire country. Had I not been so skeptical of Christianity, I would have been the top student. In every subject except for religion and sociology, I had received a perfect score.

I went to Damascus for my first year of Medical School in the fall of 1972, and just like Saul of Tarsus –– who made the same journey –– I was full of enthusiasm to fight those who believed in God.

Midway through my first year in Medical School, my closest friend and co-founder of the atheist group converted to Islam. He immediately started to pressure me to become a Muslim.

After a few months of studying the Qur’an and interacting with that group, I was quite impressed, mostly by their dedication to what they believed and how much they supported each other. I became convinced that Islam was the most realistic and the most practical religion to follow. I was ready to announce my conversion to Islam. The only obstacle in taking that step was my concern about the reaction it would provoke within my family members and friends.

In the summer after finishing my first year in Medical School as one of the top three students, I went to my hometown in contemplation of announcing my conversion to Islam.

One day before the end of my visit, I asked my cousin if we could go see the cedars of Lebanon. He took me to a friend of his who owned a car, with the hope that he would be willing to give us a ride there. We were greeted at the door of his friend’s house by a middle-aged man who appeared to be very friendly. He immediately initiated a conversation with us. When he found out that I was attending Medical School in Damascus, he informed me that he was from Damascus as well. He then invited us inside and gave us the most amazing testimony I had ever heard in my life up until that point. He proceeded to testify to us how God had changed his life from an adulterer, gambler, smoker, and an alcoholic to a new man who was able to establish himself and start a wonderful family. He then told us how a man had once visited his shop and had spoken to him about the changing power of the Lord Jesus Christ. He then described to us how he had immediately changed as soon as he surrendered his life to Christ. It was a very powerful testimony about the ability of God to change lives.

I thought to myself, “If that is what Christianity is all about, then I want to be a Christian.” I was, however, curious about the difference between Christianity and Islam. I inquired of him, “What is the difference between Islam and Christianity?” He stated in very simple terms, “Islam is like any other religion. It will teach you what to do, but it will not give you the power to do it. Christianity is Christ Himself living inside of you and giving you the power to do what he wants you to do.” I knew at that moment that Islam was not the solution that I was looking for. I knew also that it was Christianity, and more specifically, Christ that I truly needed. I definitely changed my mind about becoming a Muslim, however, I was not yet ready to accept Jesus as my personal Savior.

Soon the summer ended, and I returned to Damascus to start my second year in Medical School. Even though I became busy immediately in trying to focus on my goal of staying at the top of my class, God continued to work in my life through my studies and in many other ways. One peculiar way he worked on me was through a calendar someone had placed in my rental room. It had a daily Bible verse of encouragement, as well as a commentary on the backside. Every night before I went to bed, I had a strong urge like a still, small voice inside my head that was calling me to read the verse of the day. One night, I was so exhausted from studying I went to bed before I read the verse. I could not go to sleep. I felt strongly compelled to get up and read the slip. “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matt 16:26, NKJV). That verse was exactly what I needed to hear. It penetrated so deep within my heart that I could no longer resist God. I was ready right then and there to surrender my life to God, but I did not know how to do it. I felt at that moment the urge to go and see that man whom I had met in Lebanon in the summer. The moment I greeted him, he recognized me and invited me inside. He asked me about my relationship with the Lord as if he had known all along what had been going on in my life. He invited me to go to his church the next day.

When the preacher got up to the pulpit, read from the Bible, and began preaching. I felt as if he was speaking directly to me. I could not wait for the sermon to end, just so that I could talk to him and ask him to explain to me how I could become a Christian.

The pastor explained to me that we are all sinners and that the only way to have our sins forgiven is through the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross. He read Revelation 3:20, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” He cautioned me however that following Christ could be very costly. I told him that there was no question in my mind that I wanted to open the door for Jesus to enter my life and save me from my sinful nature, regardless of the cost. He told me to repeat after him as he prayed, asking Jesus to forgive my sins, enter my life, and make me a new person in him. I prayed with all of my heart, and I felt an enormous burden fall from my shoulders. I felt like I was indeed a new person, and that the past twenty years of my life were a total waste. I wished that I had known Jesus much earlier.

To Him be the glory now and forever. Amen.

Trusting God With Unanswered Prayer

by Tabitha Rudge Smith

Is there a situation in your life that you have been praying about and feel God is not answering? All of us have felt this way one time or another. There have been many in the Bible who have felt this way too. John chapter 11 (concerning Lazarus, Mary, and Martha) deals with this issue and has much to say regarding God’s timing and answers to our requests. This chapter encouraged me in the middle of a trial my husband and I were facing.

My husband and I had been praying and crying out to God to have another child. After one year of trying, I found out that I had a tumor in my stomach the size of a seven month fetus and they thought it was cancerous. After a four hour surgery in San Diego, the tumor was removed and, thank the Lord, there was no cancer. The surgery raised my chances for infertility, but I kept praying and trusting God. Four years later I was pregnant and ecstatic. Then at 10 weeks I miscarried.

Here is what the Lord showed me using John, chapter 11. Lazarus is very sick and his family sends word to Jesus telling him, “Lord, the one You love is sick.” Jesus loves Lazarus and loves this family deeply. When Jesus hears these words, He chooses not to go directly to them like they requested. Jesus instead chose not to honor their request and waited a few days to go and see them. By this time Lazarus has passed away.

The family knew if Jesus had been there Lazarus would not have died. When Jesus arrived He found them weeping. Verse 33 says that when Jesus saw their sadness, He was deeply moved in Spirit and troubled and He wept. Jesus was moved by their sorrow. Jesus was moved by my sorrow and every tear I cried for years when I would find out I was not pregnant again. He is moved to tears and deeply troubled by your sorrows too: a failing marriage, the job you desperately need, an unsaved loved one, or your sick child. He is weeping for you too because He loves you as much as He loved Lazarus.

So why, if He wept, did He wait? Verse 45 of John, chapter 11, gives the answer. It says, “Many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, saw what Jesus had done (raised Lazarus back to life), and put their faith in Him.” Jesus knew if He waited the faith of many would grow stronger and others would put their faith in Him. I realized at this point that I had to surrender everything to God and I prayed, “Lord whatever Your will –– to have more children or not –– I pray you are glorified.”

You may feel like Martha and wonder, “Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died.” But if you know He loves you as much as He loved this family, you have to allow your faith to be strengthened and know you are serving a God who answers prayers according to His perfect timing so that He may be glorified and His purpose accomplished.

We do not serve a God who does not care, but One who weeps with us and will give us strength to wait for His timing and answer. Hold onto your faith and He will strengthen you. 2 Corinthians 4:16, 17 states, “Therefore we do not lose heart. … For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” One day Our God will come in all His majesty and He promises to wipe away every tear and there will be no more mourning or crying or death. This is the God we serve and to whom we pour out our hearts.

Even now that memory is painful but the Lord is our Refuge. He will be glorified in our lives and the trials we go through. We just have to let Him do the work He needs to do and cling to Him with all our might, while keeping a thankful heart in the midst of the trial.

The Most Priceless Gift

God had us wait six years to answer our prayer, but, even though we waited for Him to answer, we never had to wait for Him. He was with us the whole time holding my hand during surgery, collecting my tears in a bottle when I found out the baby’s heart in my belly stopped beating. He never left me. I thank Him for strengthening my husband’s, children’s, and my faith through those situations. Without those trials, the family we are and our faith in Him would not be what it is today.

And because God’s ways and timing are better than ours, He gave my family the most priceless gift at the most perfect time. He also gave me the best birthday gift ever. I found out I was pregnant with Reghan Mae on my birthday.

While writing this article I came across a note, which along with roses, was delivered anonymously the day after I was informed the ten-week-old baby in my womb had died. I cried. I later discovered this note and flowers were from my husband Clayton:

To Mom: I wish I could have met you, but I’m told that I have to wait. I know it’s worth it; I love you.

To my sisters: The names you came up with seemed fine to me, but my Father in Heaven has given me a great one. I won’t tell you what it is until you come; now it is you who will have to wait.

To my brother: I know you would have taught me many things and you would have worked hard to keep me safe. You may be worried about me even now, but if you knew the size of the angels in Heaven, you wouldn’t worry any longer. And now, when we finally meet, it is I who will be teaching you since the school I’m going to is much better than yours.

I’ll see you when you’re finished.

Yours

The Testimony of Alvin C. York

Sergeant Alvin C. York American World War I Hero Recipient of the nation’s highest military award — the Medal of Honor

by Colonel Douglas Mastriano

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Sergeant York at the spot where he captured 132
German soldiers on October 8, 1918. (National Archives)

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General John J. Pershing, the commander of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF), inspects his soldiers. (National Archives)

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German machinegun crew — World War One (National Archives)

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German soldiers clearing a trench —1918. (National Archives)

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American soldiers returning home from France in 1919 aboard the Agamemnon. (National Archives)

The Argonne Forest, France, October 8, 1918. After his platoon suffered heavy casualties, Alvin York assumed command. Fearlessly leading seven men, he charged with great daring a machine gun nest which was pouring deadly and incessant fire upon his platoon. In this heroic feat the machine gun nest was taken, together with four German officers and 128 men and several guns.

The Making of a Man of Character

Alvin York was born into a poor family in Tennessee on December 13, 1887. When Alvin’s father died, York said:

I got in bad company and…got to drinking and gambling…I used to drink a lot of moonshine and had a lot of fist fights.

On January 1, 1915, Alvin attended a revival meeting conducted by Reverend H.H. Russell. During the sermon, York felt as if lightning hit his soul and was moved to accept Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. From this point on his life was forever changed and he stopped “smoking, drinking, gambling, cussing and brawling.”

York took this commitment seriously, grew in his faith, taught Sunday school, led the choir and eventually became an elder in his church. York’s old friends tried to persuade him to go drinking, but he refused. It took moral courage for York to remain committed to the Lord, but with the strength of the Holy Spirit and personal resolve, York prevailed. This sharpened York’s character and moral courage, directly contributing to his heroic deeds in the midst of battle only two years later.

Thou Shall Not Kill

York immersed himself in the “trinity of Christian growth”: prayer, Bible study, and fellowship. As Alvin grew in his faith, World War I raged across Europe with the U.S. entering the fray in 1917. Alvin’s world turned upside down in June 1917 when he received a draft notice. When he read “Thou shall not kill” in the Bible, he took it literally. However, he also believed that God ordained governments as instruments to be obeyed. Alvin York summed up this dilemma when he said:

I wanted to follow both [the Bible and the U.S.]. But I couldn’t. I wanted to do what was right…If I went away to war and fought and killed, according to the reading of my Bible, I [wasn’t] a good Christian.

York applied for exemption from the draft as a conscientious objector, but his request was denied. This put York into doubt and confusion. He trusted God to get him out of what he perceived as doing something contrary to the Bible. As he said:

I was [sort of messed] up inside [worse than] ever. I thought that the Word of God would prevail against the laws of men….

York did not know what was ahead, but reported for duty to Company G, 328th Infantry Regiment, 82nd Infantry Division at Camp Gordon, Georgia. York’s Company Commander, Captain Danforth, and Battalion Commander, Major Buxton, were both committed Christians. Buxton and Danforth knew their Bible and dedicated hours of their time to contend with York’s doubts. They literally walked through the Bible together to debate the issue. For every verse the commanders used to support their position on warfare, York countered. Finally, Danforth read Ezekiel 33:6 ––

But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, and the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand.

With this, York said, “All right, I’m satisfied” and resolved to serve as a soldier. Armed with this assurance, he sought to excel in all that was entrusted to him.

Argonne Forest, France

October 8, 1918 –– Argonne Forest, France. It was another wet and foggy morning along the edge of the rugged Argonne Forest. At precisely 6:10 a.m., the battalion attacked, with a mission to take the German Decauville Railroad in the midst of the forest. This would force the Germans out of the Argonne. The attack would take the Americans up a funnel-shaped valley, which became narrower as they advanced. On each side and the far side of the valley were steep ridges, occupied by German machine guns and infantry troops. As the Americans advanced up this shallow valley, the Germans opened up with intense machine gunfire from the left and right and the front. Soon, artillery poured in upon the beleaguered attackers, compelling the American attack to stall. The Americans were caught in a deadly crossfire. As York recollected:

The Germans… stopped us dead in our tracks. Their machine guns were up there on the heights overlooking us and well hidden, and we couldn’t tell for certain where the terrible heavy fire was coming from… And I’m telling you they were shooting straight. Our boys just went down like the long grass before the mowing machine at home. Our attack just faded out… And there we were, lying down, about halfway across [the valley].

The Germans took a heavy toll on the Americans with the survivors seeking cover wherever they could find it. The German machine guns had to be silenced. Sergeant Bernard Early was ordered to take three squads of men (including York’s squad) to get behind the German entrenchments to take out the machine guns. They successfully worked their way behind the German positions and quickly overran the headquarters of a German unit, capturing a large group of German soldiers who were preparing to counter-attack against the U.S. troops.

While the Americans were contending with the prisoners, the Germans on the hill above poured machine gunfire into the area, killing six Americans and wounding three others. The fire came from German machine guns on the ridge, which turned their weapons on the U.S. soldiers. The loss of the nine American soldiers put Corporal York in charge. As his men remained under cover, and guarding the prisoners, York worked his way into position to silence the German machine guns.

As soon as the machine guns opened fire on me, I began to exchange shots with them. There were over thirty of them in continuous action, and all I could do was touch the Germans off just as fast as I could. I was sharp shooting. I don’t think I missed a shot. It was no time to miss… All the time I kept yelling at them to come down. I didn’t want to kill any more than I had to. But it was they or I. And I was giving them the best I had. Sergeant Alvin York

One of York’s prisoners, German Lieutenant Paul Vollmer, emptied his pistol trying to kill York. Yet not one shot struck York. Seeing the mounting losses, he offered to surrender the unit on the hill. In the end, York and his men marched 132 German prisoners back to the American lines, silenced the German machine guns, and enabled the Americans to capture the Decauville Railroad. For his actions, York was promoted to Sergeant and awarded the Medal of Honor. York’s life is relevant for us to contemplate as his physical courage on the battlefield reflected his moral courage in his spiritual life.

The Legacy of York’s Life

There are several lessons derived from the testimony of Alvin York that reach across the generations and speak to us today. The primary one is the impact that godly leaders made in Alvin’s life. Major Buxton (York’s Battalion Command) and Captain Danforth (Company Commander) had every reason to decline speaking with York –– foremost was the serious time constraints the unit was under. The 328th had only a few months to train raw recruits for combat. Despite this, they helped York overcome his doubts.

We talked along these lines for over an hour… We did not get angry or even raise our voice. We just examined the old Bible and whenever I would bring up a passage opposed to war, Major Buxton would bring up another which [sort of] favored war. I believed that the Lord was in that room. I seemed to somehow feel His presence there. Alvin York

These two biblically knowledgeable Christians gave hours of their precious time to help Sergeant York work through his doubts about the ability of a Christian to take up arms in defense of his nation. Their boldness for the faith, patience, and understanding were crucial in helping York fully commit to the tasks that lay ahead. Without the influence of Buxton and Danforth, York might have ended up not serving his country, and thereby not saving his unit from annihilation only months later and depriving us of an incredible Christian witness.

God used Sergeant Alvin York to save the lives of hundreds of Germans and Americans on that fateful day of October 8, 1918. In the decades since his heroic deed, the testimony of Sergeant York echoes across the ages to remind those who have inherited his legacy to live up to God’s calling. As Alvin York, we must endeavor to take our faith seriously, endeavoring to build our character and moral courage “muscles” by choosing to do the right thing every day. This will prepare us for the day of battle that lies ahead. Certainly, York was physically courageous on the battlefield, because he was morally courageous in his spiritual life.

Character is like a muscle; the more it is exercised and used, the stronger it becomes. Every time we choose to do what is right, we build character and moral courage. York consistently chose to follow the Lord’s Way and was faithful in the little things. As a result, he was able to accomplish unimaginable feats later in the heat of battle.

God has endowed each of us with distinct talents and gifts to fulfill His purpose for our lives. In the case of Alvin York, his sharp eye as an expert rifleman made the difference during the fierce battle for the Decauville Railroad in October 1918. With such confidence, believers can move forward knowing that God has equipped us in the right place and the right time to fulfill His plan for our and others’ lives. York’s life is an example of this –– of how an obscure, albeit talented Tennesseean sharpshooter would rise as a witness for Jesus to the nation. What a difference a Christian can make.


A conversation between Sergeant York and his Division Commander, General Lindsey, in January 1919 when they toured the site where York captured 132 Germans three months earlier.

General Lindsey: “York, how did you do it?”

Alvin York: “Sir, it is not man power. A higher power than man power guided and watched over me and told me what to do.” And the general bowed his head and put his hand on my shoulder and solemnly said.”

General Lindsay: “York, you are right.”

Alvin York: “There can be no doubt in the world of the fact of the divine power being in that. No other power under heaven could bring a man out of a place like that. Men were killed on both sides of me, and I was the biggest and the most exposed of all. Over thirty machine guns were maintaining rapid fire at me, point-blank from a range of about twenty-five yards. When you have God behind you, you can come out on top every time.”

Conversion of a Voodoo Witch Doctor

by Bill Rudge

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Jacques (witch doctor by Mission Possible) & one of his girlfriends (Chalesia) right outside Mission Possible.

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Bill sharing Christ in Jacques’ hut.

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Jacques’ hut surrounded by villagers as Bill leads Jacques to Christ.

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Burning Voodoo items.

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Bill preaching as Voodoo items burn and some of the villagers watch and listen.

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Hands raised in committment after Bill’s message.

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Discipleship group at Mission Possible. Jacques, in brown checkered shirt, has hand raised.

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Tabitha playing with kids outside Jacques’ hut while Bible study going on.

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Bill having Bible study at Jacques’ the day after his conversion – Salvation Army pastor (Boisrond) interpreting.

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Jacques preaching & Salvation Army pastor interpreting.

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Recreation on Sunday afternoon (Jacques).

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Village ministry by Sanu’s hut.

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Chalesia – before giving life to Christ.

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Bill baptizing Jacques and Chalesia.

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Jacques and Chalesia during his marriage proposal and Bible study.

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Jacques and Chalesia’s wedding (morning we were leaving).

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Jacques kisses Chalesia after vows.

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Jacques shares his testimony with Sanu and they both are in the center of our circle.

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We all prayed with Sanu.

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Introducing Jacques to witch doctor at Du pen.

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Jacques and Bob before wedding. 

In the midst of coup attempts, embargoes, political upheaval, excessive poverty, and oppression from voodoo, God’s Spirit still moved in a powerful way. The following are excerpts of an actual encounter with a voodoo witch doctor including details supplied by other eyewitnesses. These well-documented experiences occurred during five mission trips to Haiti.

He was known to be the meanest man in the community…a killing machine who murdered and tortured many people through voodoo. His name was Jacques, the voodoo priest (more popularly known as the witch doctor). I met him in Haiti during my first outreach there. He was living with a woman near the Mission Possible compound.

Except for what Leila, my interpreter who was serving as a missionary in Haiti, told me, I knew little about Jacques when we first met. Leila told me that a few years earlier Jacques had been preparing to sacrifice a baby when she intervened and rescued the child from his arms.

Another account involved Idelette, a beautiful Haitian girl, who worked at the mission compound. Her mother was seriously involved in voodoo with her boyfriend Jacques, the witch doctor, and was quite upset that Idelette was working at a Christian mission where she would reveal Jacques’ voodoo secrets. This also greatly angered Jacques.

One day, those at Mission Possible heard awful blood curdling screams and voodoo drums. Some of the missionaries looked over the mission compound wall and saw that Jacques had tied up Idelette naked to a chair and was beating her and using hot charcoal to burn the religious spirit out of her. He cut her head with a machete and tried to force her to drink a cup of animal blood and denounce Jesus. She would not denounce Him!

I asked why they did not intervene. I was told that it was unlawful to interfere with a voodoo ceremony and they were afraid the voodoo practitioners would come and machete everyone to death in the mission compound.

Again, I was hearing firsthand about the paralyzing power of darkness. Yet I knew through Scripture and years of personal experience that the power of God is greater. The awesome, transforming power of God is what this story is all about.

Jacques and I met for only an hour that day, but it was enough to plant the seeds of God’s powerful truth in Jacques’ mind. I asked probing questions about voodoo; he remained elusive. So I turned instead to sharing my testimony of how God changed my life.

I felt great compassion for him from the Lord. God’s Spirit was leading me to share the love of Christ gently with him rather than to come on too strong. So I said it in love, but it was bold. I declared to him that the spirits which gave him power and information were not gods but demons. I warned him that when the spirits, which he thought he controlled, had no more use for him, they would discard him like garbage. “When they do,” I said, “the only One who is powerful enough to help you is Jesus Christ. So call on Him!” Jacques said he was not ready to give his life to Christ, but he did want me to pray for him.

The seeds of truth were planted. During the following two years they were watered by Bettie, director of Mission Possible, who greeted Jacques with “Jesus loves you!” whenever they met. The Lord was working on Jacques’ hardened heart to the point that when Bettie told him I was coming back to Haiti he got excited! Shortly after I arrived, Jacques came to the mission compound at night to see me.

I brought a team of seven people with me during this second outreach to Haiti. We spoke at several churches and schools, including remote mountain schools that few missionaries ever get to. We ministered hut to hut in several villages and delivered thousands of pounds of food to many mountain communities. This was also the appointed time for Jacques’ conversion.

The day after we arrived I went to Jacques’ hut with several team members. I stood face to face talking to him as Rosemond, the interpreter, stood to the side of us. Jacques towered over me by almost a foot. I shared with him from Revelation 20:11-15 that unless he gave his life to Jesus Christ and his name was written in the Book of Life he would be separated from God’s presence for eternity.

After sharing for a little while longer, I told him I would come back the same time tomorrow and we would have a Bible study together. I did not want to push him too fast, but he called me back to pray. I believe he had cast many spells on me during the past two years, but when he saw they were ineffective and that I had courage and love from the Lord, he wanted to know the God I served. So during the prayer I mentioned the power of Christ being greater than the power of voodoo and renounced Jacques’ past voodoo involvement—all of which he sincerely repeated after me.

By this time Jacques’ hut was surrounded by people who were peering in—some of the men had hateful glares on their faces. Their eyes seemed enflamed with anger.

During this whole ordeal I was focused on Jacques and aware of little else. Things were unfolding so quickly and happening spontaneously as some team members were praying and others were playing with the children to keep them occupied. My wife later told me that she started to pray outside the hut when suddenly a strong evil presence almost knocked her over. She started to quote Scripture and a peace came over her. She prayed a hedge of protection around the hut and all of us.

Jacques led me into an inner room of his hut where all his voodoo items were kept. He lit a candle in this dark room and began to gather all the voodoo pictures, fetishes, leaves, and other items to burn. The Spirit of God was so powerful in that little room that I said to the others, “Get on your knees.” Simultaneously myself, Jacques, Rosemond, and two team members who had just joined me fell to our knees as I prayed a prayer to dedicate Jacques’ hut to the Lord.

Jacques was gathering up the voodoo items and taking them outside to burn. By now almost 100 villagers were gathered outside the hut. Jacques went back in his hut and even brought out the stand his voodoo materials were on. Rosemond got some dried grass and found a neighbor with a lighter and burned them.

Jacques went back in the hut and dug up some bottles. An inverted cross in his yard was burned. Jacques even pulled out an aloe vera plant he used for herbal medicine and spells and cast it into the fire.

I have never felt God’s power so great. It was like a chapter out of the book of Acts. Through the interpreter I said to the people gathered in a large circle around the burning voodoo items near Jacques’ hut, “You may want to know what has happened this day. The God who created the heavens and the earth has revealed Himself to Jacques and Jacques has given Him his life.”

My daughter Tabitha and another female team member saw two men with machetes and one man with a lead pipe run over. Their nostrils flared and their eyes were inflamed with rage and hatred. I am sure Satan’s plan was for them to kill me, the interpreter, and Jacques, and thereby put an end to all of this, but God protected us. Besides, His presence was so real that I had no fear at all.

After finishing my message and sharing the truth and reality of Christ and their need to accept Him, I said, “All who want to have the courage Jacques had to accept Christ, raise your hand.” I raised mine and so did all of my team members, as well as most of the women, all of the children, and some of the men. But still many men stood there with hate in their eyes.

I knew Jacques might be greatly persecuted or even killed, so I told the people that I would hold a Bible study the next day at the same time. I went to the two meanest looking men and said that I hoped they would come. They said they would.

Bettie later told me that the whole village and community were talking about it. Later that night Jacques came to the mission compound on his own and joined in the singing. Everyone at the mission compound praised and thanked the Lord for the tangible miracle He brought through Jacques that day.

The next day we went to Jacques’ hut and had a Bible study. It went well. Pastor Boisrond of the Salvation Army who interpreted for me said he would help disciple Jacques when I returned to the U.S. After Bible study, I had our group split into three teams, each group with its own interpreter. We went into the nearby villages to minister and all had great experiences.

Jacques told us that God began dealing with his heart two years ago, after I initially talked to him. Then when I came back to Haiti, he made his final decision to give his life to Christ when he burned everything. Bettie said this was the greatest miracle they had seen that year.

We learned that several days earlier, Jacques had been given thirty-five dollars to perform a voodoo ceremony for someone. But when he converted, he said he would not do it and that he would pay back the thirty-five dollars. Jacques is a changed man.

A fax from Bettie to the Mission Possible headquarters in Florida titled, “Witch Doctor Saved In Haiti,” stated—

The air was thick and heavy as the bonfire burned brightly behind the compound. The gods of voodoo were being burned up. For miles around, people were talking and gathering toward the site of the fire. He’s been converted! After hearing this report of the dreaded witch doctor Jacques Innocent, some came to the place with great joy, others with machetes. What a miracle!

The last time Bill Rudge was here was two years ago. At that time he asked me to get him an interview with the witch doctor who sometimes tried to torment us. This man had been known to be vicious, even a killer. Bill asked him some questions, told him that he loved him and so did Jesus, and that he would pray for him. From that time on when I would see him, I would stop and greet him. Sometimes he would respond, other times not.

When Bill came back this week, along with a group, he asked again to see Jacques, so I arranged it. When they met again, Bill talked to him about the Lord. He accepted Jesus with tears of joy. Jacques remembered the man who took time for him. He said that God had been working on him since that time.

The bonfire was his statement to the community that he had made his choice. He burned cards, jugs of potions, beads, feathers, and pictures. The last thing to go was an aloe plant in his yard. He used it for the basis of his potions. When all the things were burned, the power of God was awesome. When our Haitian helpers heard the news, they danced in the kitchen singing, “Jacques is converted! Jacques is converted!”

Jacques stated the following while sharing his testimony in a nearby village:

If there are any of you who do not know me, it is because you have not been here long. This was my district as a witch doctor. You looked to me as your god, but I am here to tell you that I am not your god. Then he pointed his hand toward heaven and said: “My God and your God is up there.” He proceeded to share what happened to him and how his conversion has affected his life.

Right after his testimony at one of the villages, a man came up and said that he wanted what Jacques had. Not long thereafter, when the Gospel was shared with Jacques’ mother, she responded by indicating that she wanted what Jacques had, as she had observed the change in her son.

One of the men who had a machete and wanted to kill us during Jacques’ conversion became a believer in Christ after several years of watching the change in Jacques’ life. I have no doubt that Jacques’ conversion has touched many lives in Haiti and there will be many Haitians in heaven as a result.

Since his conversion, Jacques has endured much suffering for the name of Christ. He has gone through many difficulties, but continues to be faithful because the truth of God’s Word has set him free and the love and power of Christ, which are greater than anything he had known before, sustain him.

During my fifth outreach to Haiti, more than ten years after Jacques’ conversion, Bruce Lozier was one of the team members who went with me. It was a powerful trip in the midst of much turmoil and danger during which Jacques traveled with us to minister. Bruce writes:

During Jacques’ testimony, he told of some dreams that he had. One was before he came to know the Lord and one he had after coming to know the Lord as Savior. The first dream was that a white missionary was going to come to share the good news of Jesus Christ with him. In the dream, he was told that if he did not accept Jesus as Lord he would soon die. One day this dream was fulfilled when the Bill Rudge ministry team returned to Haiti and Bill had the blessed opportunity to lead Jacques to Jesus Christ. This was the beginning of a lifelong friendship between these two men as well.

The second dream that Jacques shared was that Satan came to him and told him that he was going to make him a very wealthy man, but first he had to denounce Christ and serve Satan. As proof of his allegiance to Satan, he had to thrust his hand through a dark hole. Jacques refused and his response was that he was through with all of that and he said, “I serve Jesus now.”

I had heard many stories about Jacques before coming to Haiti and I was elated to get to know him and hear him give his testimony. I was greatly encouraged to see how God turned this man’s life around.

It seems like only yesterday that we met Jacques when he was steeped in voodoo and occultic superstitions. Truly, God has changed his life. Many other amazing things have happened as a result of Jacques’ conversion, but are too numerous to share in this article. God’s grace and power continue to touch lives that have been bound in darkness with the light of His Gospel.

I have also had encounters with many other voodoo witch doctors on their turf. The power of Christ has always proven superior, and the love of Christ has always touched their hearts in some way.

Faith Through The Fire

Testimony of BJ Rudge

by BJ Rudge

soccer21At the age of six, I started playing soccer. I didn’t like to practice nor did I see the importance of it. All I wanted was the excitement and challenge of the game and to score goals.

Having been a fitness instructor in the past with some soccer coaching experience, my dad knew that if I was going to be good and achieve my potential, I had to train. He made me practice every type of kick imaginable using both feet, run laps, and do various drills he would invent. He made me practice soccer in the rain, mud, and snow. Above all, he sought to teach me the importance of honoring the Lord and having a good attitude. I became so motivated and dedicated that I would train two to three hours on my own almost every day.

soccer20The fruit of my labor paid off. In June of 1991, at age 14, I was to leave for Europe where I was selected to be on Teams USA in soccer to compete for one month against teams from around the world.

Everything was set for me to leave. I had been training for hours every day in preparation. Five days before I was to leave for my “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity with Teams USA, I was trying out in Erie, Pennsylvania, for the Keystone State Games that were to be held in August. In the process of scoring a goal, I collided with the goalie who kicked me in the ankle, flipping me over. The coach thought my ankle was only sprained and planned to put me back in the game, but I was unable to walk.

After an hour-and-a-half drive back from Erie and X-rays in Hermitage, we discovered that not only was my ankle broken, but I would also need surgery. My dream appeared ruined and my heart was broken. As tears ran down my face, my dad promised me that if I trusted the Lord and honored Him, somehow the Lord would bring good out of this tragedy.

In the meantime, the coach, still unaware that I had broken my ankle, called to say I had made the Keystone League (Great Lakes Region) team.


At church the next Sunday morning, special prayer was offered to God on my behalf. My dad said he really sensed the Lord’s presence and felt a strong witness in his heart. He believed God healed my ankle, as did the pastor and everyone else. But X-rays on Monday proved otherwise. We had many more difficulties to go through, but we continued to trust the Lord.

After my surgery, my dad told me that the Lord wanted me to learn two main character traits through this — patience and kindness. It was amazing how the Lord worked in my life. Instead of this adversity driving me away from the Lord, it drew me closer.

Initially my parents were told that I would need three to six months for full recovery. As it turned out, I was able to have my splint removed three weeks after an excellent surgery by Dr. Bonier. I was able to resume normal soccer participation only two months following surgery. During the fall of 1991, I helped coach two younger YMCA soccer teams, played on my own team, and also refereed for two different soccer leagues.

Although the Lord was obviously still working in my young life, He used something of this magnitude to teach me to trust and honor Him — no matter what. The Lord greatly blessed me for staying faithful in the midst of trying times.

The following article, BJ Rudge: Striving For Excellence, written by Ashley Sharapan, was printed in May 1992 on the front page of The Hickory Leaf, the Hickory High School newspaper, and is a good summary of the events:

Although BJ Rudge was eligible for Teams USA, a very prestigious soccer team, in 1991 a soccer injury prevented him from traveling with the team. This July [1992] BJ will travel with the East-West Soccer Ambassadors for three weeks in Sweden and Denmark to play in the Gothia and Tivoli Cups.

Since he was six years old, BJ has played soccer. …He has been named the most valuable player at least three times and has won awards for the most goals scored, yet BJ still strives to achieve further goals.

At 14, BJ was honored by being chosen to represent the United States throughout Europe with the soccer team, Teams USA. However, his dreams were shattered five days before he was to depart for Europe. While trying out for the Keystone League soccer team, a state team, BJ was injured when the goalie kicked him in the ankle. BJ comments, “The hour-and-a-half trip home from Erie was extremely painful, but I hoped that my ankle was only sprained.” Just as BJ found out that he made the Keystone League team, he also found out that he couldn’t go to Europe because ankle surgery was necessary. “My dreams seemed ruined; my heart was broken, but I believed in the Lord and trusted all would work out.”

Initially it was thought that BJ had to be off his ankle for three to six months, but the splint was removed just three weeks after surgery. He began playing soccer regularly, coaching two YMCA younger teams, and refereeing for two different soccer leagues. BJ even coordinated his own team to play indoor winter soccer in Austintown. He is continuing rehabilitation to strengthen his ankle and practices and plays a hard game. Dedication, determination, and heart have paid off for BJ! Because of his and other students’ love for the game, having an official school team was presented to the school board. On April 27th [1992] it was approved at the school board meeting. BJ is thrilled to hear the news!

During the July 1992 European tour mentioned in the above quote, I was able to make significant contributions to the USA team. Not only was I appointed team captain by the coach during the whole tour of both Gothia (Sweden) and Tivoli (Denmark) cups, I scored the most goals for my team and was leading scorer in my age group for all East-West USA teams. I also scored the one and only point of the game against Norway to help the American team qualify for the Gothia cup playoffs.

Time would soon prove, however, that the Lord was not yet done refining me through the fire. I had many more trials to face as the Lord continued shaping my young life, like a potter molding clay (Isaiah 64:8).

The Refiner’s Fire

I was only 16 and in a few weeks would begin my senior year of high school. Much of the summer was spent traveling in the eastern part of the U.S. during my soccer itinerary. I was on several different teams, as well as the Olympic Development Program. My parents felt it was a wise investment of their time and money since this was the year I needed exposure beyond our area to enable me to get a college scholarship for soccer.

I had high expectations that my senior year would be my best year of high school. I would be playing soccer in the fall for my high school’s first year of varsity soccer. My soccer coach had hopes of being in the playoffs our first year with me on the team. I was instrumental in helping start soccer at my school, which then quickly spread to many other schools in the area.

Also in my senior year, I was going to kick for the high school football team –– something I had never done before. After seeing me kick, one of the football coaches began training me for the position. The soccer and football coaches were going to cooperate so I could participate in two varsity sports during the fall season. Then in the spring I anticipated another great season of running track. I was certain it was going to be a great senior year. Life, however, does not always turn out as expected.

A few days before starting both soccer and football summer camps, the Slippery Rock University soccer coach saw me at a tournament at a university in northwest Pennsylvania and was impressed. Not only did he want me to go with him the following Saturday to play on his team in a tournament at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, but he also offered me a scholarship to play on his college team once I graduated from high school.

On Saturday, August 14, 1993, I played in this tournament. During one of the games, I jumped over the goalie on the way to score and heard a pop in my knee. I could barely walk. It was just two days before football and soccer summer camps were to begin.

The news couldn’t have been worse concerning my knee injury. When our family doctor drained my knee, instead of clear fluid there was blood. We then went to several knee specialists who informed us that not only was there cartilage damage, but I had also torn a ligament. The MRI results confirmed a near-complete tear of the anterior cruciate ligament. Reconstructive surgery was recommended. To make matters worse, I was covered by insurance on all the 30-plus soccer games I had played that summer for PA West, Keystone League, and Olympic Development Program, but not the tournament in which I was injured.

I had previously broken my collarbone and left ankle, and now I “blew out” my right knee. My dad reminded me how two years earlier when I had broken my ankle trying out for the state games and lost my trip to Europe, the Lord worked it all together for good. He assured me that God would do the same this time. With tears in my eyes I said, “I know God was faithful and that I was able to repeat Europe the following year, but I can never repeat my senior year in high school.”

Since it was my senior year, I opted to postpone surgery until after soccer season. I decided to do rehabilitation to strengthen my leg enough to be able to play with a brace. I did not want to let down my team, and I still had hopes of getting a scholarship for college. After five weeks of excruciating rehabilitation, I returned to play with my team.

A few days before my second game I received threats that if I played, opposing players would re-injure my knee. Word had gotten out that players on the other team were saying, “If BJ plays, we lose; if BJ doesn’t play, we win.” I asked my dad if he thought I should play or not. He said, “I’m not one to back down to threats, but it’s your choice.” After prayer, I decided to play. As soon as I dribbled the ball, I had three of the other team’s players all over me. I was able to weave through them the first time, but the second time I had the ball would be my last. Within a few minutes of playing in the game, I was slide-tackled from behind, which re-injured my right knee. I went down in excruciating pain and was carried out of the game.

Two days after re-injuring my knee we were able to see Dr. Fu, a knee specialist in Pittsburgh. We were informed that the anterior cruciate ligament was completely torn, and there was no alternative but to face extensive surgery. My dad told me on the way home from that appointment, during which we set the surgery date, that “Trials, obstacles, and difficulties put iron in our blood and make us strong as nails.”

After I arrived home from Pittsburgh, my dad returned my soccer uniform to my coach. That very day I also took down all my plaques, trophies, and jerseys from my bedroom wall. My parents thought I had thrown them all away, but later found them in a bottom dresser drawer.

Tacked on the wall where the plaques had been, I placed two pieces of paper with hand-printed words. The first stated: “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.” The second one stated: “The end result is always victory.”

I recorded the following in my journal:

I always wondered why people had to go through hard times. Also why the Lord doesn’t always intervene when you want Him to. But since I injured my knee, I learned a lot of things. First, I learned that I had the best family who loves me and really cares about me. Second, I learned a lot of character, and my relationship with the Lord grew stronger. Maybe things didn’t work the way I wanted them to. I didn’t get to play soccer and football my senior year. I didn’t even get the healing I wanted from the Lord. What I did get is more important than playing soccer and being the big star. I found the true meaning of what it is to love the Lord. Lord, I thank You for Your faithfulness and Your love. Help me continue to grow stronger in You.

On October 8, 1993, I had the reconstructive surgery and a ligament transplant in my knee. As the Lord continued to stretch our faith, He assured us that this too would work out for good, and the end result would be ultimate victory.

When I initially injured my right knee on August 14, 1993, my dad fasted. My mom and I also fasted as together we sought the Lord with all our hearts. My dad said, “In all my walk with Him, I had never sought Him so earnestly or felt so close to Him. I knew of no other way to seek Him anymore but to seek Him with all my heart.”

The promise the Lord gave us from the day I first injured my knee was to trust Him, and everything would work out for ultimate victory and blessing.

One such blessing came later when we discovered that since I was injured during a school game, the school insurance would cover the surgery and hospital expenses. My parents would personally only have to pay a few thousand dollars for the previous rehabilitation and brace, and could make interest-free payments for that.

I told my dad one day before surgery that I had more fulfillment from and desire to play soccer than anything else. But I also said, “I desire the Lord even more.”

My dad said, “The Lord wants you to have a desire for Him which is greater than your desire for soccer. The Lord will eventually give you greater fulfillment than soccer ever could. And the Lord wants to take the skill you have in soccer, and give you even greater skill in serving Him!”

What I temporarily lost physically, I gained spiritually. Not only did the Lord use these circumstances to greatly mold my character, but I also ended up at a Christian college instead of going to a secular university as originally intended, where I would have played for what appeared to be a more prestigious opportunity. In March of 1994, during my senior year in high school, I decided to attend Geneva College from which I had received a soccer scholarship.

In April of 1994, while I was on a senior class trip to New York, my parents put all my plaques and trophies back up on my wall. I was pleasantly surprised when I returned home. My parents told me that it took a long time to put them back up so, if I got injured again, to please not take them down. At the bottom of my sign stating, “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away,” my dad added the words, “And the Lord giveth back!” Gradually, the Lord instilled in me a desire for ministry, to pursue my doctorate in theology, and to one day teach at the university level.

All Things Work Together for Good

Although only a freshman, I was on the varsity team at Geneva College. On November 4, 1994, just two weeks after knee specialist Dr. Fu told me that my right knee was fully recovered, I injured my left knee during soccer practice. I had spent one year rehabilitating my right knee and had been playing with a brace while at Geneva.

A few days before my injury, the team ran nine miles on cement. My dad was concerned because my right knee was sore from it and I didn’t want to complain or make excuses. During a practice session at the college, another player pushed me just as I kicked the soccer ball. I heard a similar pop in my left knee exactly like the one that occurred in my right knee a year earlier. I knew I had torn another ligament. Sure enough, on November 7, 1994, Dr. Fu drained blood from my left knee and said I needed the same surgery as I had on my right knee. The MRI showed a complete tear of the anterior cruciate ligament and other damages. From November 7-30, my parents fasted from all television and, occasionally during that time, they fasted on just liquids and fruits and vegetables for one to three days at a time. They fasted for the “Lord to be glorified through BJ’s left knee.”

My injury occurred two weeks before we were to leave for a ministry trip to Haiti. Although Dr. Fu told me upon examination on November 7 that I needed surgery, the plans were finalized the next day to go to Haiti on November 23. So in spite of torn feelings and pressure to stay home, we planned to move ahead on the trip and trust God to work things out.

On November 14, the MRI report confirmed the doctor’s prognosis — a complete tear of the anterior cruciate ligament plus other damage. I was scheduled for reconstructive surgery on December 13, 1994, and would then have many months of intensive rehabilitation. In spite of this report, we continued our plans to go to Haiti.

Just days before our trip to Haiti, I called my parents from Geneva College to tell them the exciting news that Geneva won the national championship in soccer — a first for the college. Since I had played for the varsity team at Geneva, the coach made sure I got a national championship plaque even though I was unable to be at the game.

The Haiti mission trip was quite a challenge for me, but I made it. I walked many miles in hot weather over rough terrain wearing a leg brace. One slip could have been a real tragedy, but everything went well. My knee injury and brace gave even more impact to the message I shared in the school assemblies in Haiti — the students knew I identified with their even greater suffering.

On December 13, 1994, I had surgery on my left knee. Although the MRI showed other damage than the ACL, Dr. Fu said he only had to repair the ACL and everything else was fine.

My dad told me after my surgery, “We sought the Lord for six weeks and you had to have surgery. Let’s show the Lord we were not trying to manipulate Him to give us what we want. Let’s continue to seek Him now with all our hearts to find out what He desires us to do. We have a chance to walk by faith like Abraham, not knowing where we are going.”

I took a year off from playing soccer, not knowing if I would ever play again. I earnestly sought the Lord’s direction for my life. I filled much of that time with coaching and refereeing, as well as studying Scripture.

Later that spring, some of the guys from the team that injured my right knee in high school asked if I would coach their indoor team. I graciously accepted. Then in the summer, the head coach of the high school team that had injured my right knee asked me to be his assistant soccer coach in the fall, since I would not be playing for Geneva College. He told me that my virtues would be a great asset to his team. Once again, I graciously accepted. Although I was only 18 and a sophomore in college, I became assistant soccer coach for an area high school.

In February of 1996, I was hired to be head coach at Hickory High School for the fall 1996 season. At the age of 19, I was quite possibly one of the youngest head coaches in the country.

The Lord gradually changed my focus from being a soccer star to being more totally committed to ministry and helping others. I ran soccer clinics and summer recreation for Hickory High School and helped at the YMCA camp.

I fully recovered from knee surgery. After a year off, I played for two college teams and a highly competitive men’s regional team. I also coached soccer, and spoke at various churches and schools.

“Soccer Was My God and It Destroyed Me”

I was now 20 and actively involved in coaching soccer, running clinics for area youth, training individuals, coordinating indoor soccer tournaments at the ministry, and also playing in a men’s league consisting of some of the best players from throughout the region. I was playing well. Even though I had a ligament transplant in each knee, my knees seemed to be fine. We were thankful to the Lord for providing such an excellent surgeon and physical therapists.

It was Saturday, June 7, 1997, that I played in a highly competitive game on the same field where my  knee was re-injured during a high school game. As I shot on goal a defender ran into my extended leg. I heard the familiar pop in my left knee as I was spun around from the impact and knocked to the ground. Two of my teammates helped me limp off the field. I was certain it was the same injury as before. My team ended up winning the game, but it cost me another knee injury. I was on the verge of losing everything again: playing on this team; running summer recreation which would start in a week; leaving on an outreach trip with my family to Nevada and California in three weeks; coaching in the fall for my second year as head coach; and taking my team to an amusement park (four days after the injury).

My dad had that same gut-wrenching feeling again as he examined my knee on the sidelines. This was the calmest I had ever been after such a traumatic injury. I guess I knew in my heart that my days of playing competitive soccer were finally over, and I resigned myself to the inevitable.

Late that Sunday afternoon I went to the emergency room. After examination and X-rays, the doctor at the hospital thought I might not have completely torn my anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). An area knee specialist saw me the next day and also felt after examination that the ACL was not completely torn. He requested an MRI the following day and said he would call us in the evening to give us an overview.

The stress and emotions from the ordeals of my previous injuries returned as we went from doctor to doctor and experienced the same roller-coaster emotions from elation to despair.

We were hopeful the MRI would show minimal damage requiring only rehabilitation or simple surgery to correct the problem. The local knee specialist called to inform us that the MRI report revealed ACL damage — a rupture or complete tear. With disappointment in his voice, he said he would look over the MRI himself and call us back later that evening. Upon further evaluation of the MRI, he felt we should go back to Dr. Fu in Pittsburgh who had done the previous surgery, because the screw from that surgery on my left knee obscured the view of the ACL. Believing I would definitely need more surgery, the local knee specialist said that although he could do it well, Dr. Fu had done so many that he could do it with his eyes closed.

Hoping and praying for a diagnosis of no surgery, we went to Pittsburgh on June 12. I had already determined in my heart to give up competitive soccer, so we were hoping no surgery would be needed in order to seal that decision. My parents added my situation to their growing fasting list. My dad earnestly prayed and cried out to the Lord for His assistance.

If immediate surgery was required, the upcoming ministry trip to Nevada and California would have to be canceled. I would not be able to run summer recreation for Hermitage, which started in a week, and I would have to resign as head coach for Hickory High School — even though I had just signed their contract for my second year. I had just finished three weeks of commuting to Geneva College, so I would have enough credits to graduate the following year, and still be able to coach in the fall.

When Dr. Fu’s associate saw the MRI, he immediately said, “There is no ACL.” He said it was completely gone. Once again we were facing the worst possible scenario.

We had prayed that the Lord would put into Dr. Fu’s mouth the words of what we should do. When Dr. Fu came in and looked at the MRI, he said, “Let’s wait and rehabilitate it for a while.” For the previous knee injuries, he had immediately recommended surgery as the only alternative, but not this time. We’re not sure whether it was because the MRI did not conclusively show the ACL being completely torn or because second surgeries on the ACL do not have the same success rate. Nevertheless, we felt the Lord honored our prayer, and for the time being, no surgery was scheduled. I continued my regular knee conditioning as well as more extensive therapy for the new injury.

At least with the previous injuries I knew that even though I had to face surgery, I could at least probably play soccer again after doing rehabilitation. Now I knew I may still have to face surgery eventually, but would probably never play again competitively.

On July 17, we had a follow-up appointment to determine if I needed surgery. I had been doing physical therapy since the injury, and the physical therapist felt my knee was too tight to have a complete ACL tear.

My dad told me on the way to Pittsburgh that it would be great if Dr. Fu said it was only partially torn. Then I would be motivated to not return to competitive soccer, but could still coach and demonstrate moves for my players, and live a relatively normal life.

An associate of Dr. Fu’s came in and checked my knee. He was amazed it was not looser with a torn ACL. He indicated that maybe it was only partially torn as he reevaluated the MRI.

Then Dr. Fu came in and seemed bewildered as he examined my knee. He, too, was amazed how tight it was, and also examined the MRI. He said to his associate, “These people are very religious people,” as if to explain the amazing improvement of the knee.

He told me to resume normal activity, but to wear a brace for the next two months. He wanted to examine me again in six weeks.

In the Midst of the Fire, 
God Was Faithful

My broken collarbone, broken ankle, and four knee injuries each seemed hopeless at the time. But the Lord kept encouraging us to stand strong in faith and reassured us that everything would work out for good. The end result would be ultimate victory.

Seeing no way for this to happen, but trusting the Lord, we sought Him with all our hearts. By God’s grace and empowerment, our faith endured the fire. In the midst of the fiery furnace, God was faithfully accomplishing His purpose.

With each injury God would refine and mold my personality. Each time I was injured my dad saw a little bit more of the world being stripped away from my life — a little bit more pride — and instilled with a little bit more humility — a little bit more trust and faith — a little bit more courage from the Lord — a little bit more indifference to be lured away by all the cares of this world. So I say, “Thank God for His faithfulness.” Not, “Thank God for the tragedies,” but “Thank God for His faithfulness in the midst of the tragedies.”

I kept personal records listing spiritual goals while experiencing pain, setbacks, and disappointments. Three quotes in review are:

  •  Let my heart pursue Your will, the way it does to score a goal
  • The greatest thing I learned from this was something that has completely changed me. I now know it is time to start focusing on the Lord’s calling for my life
  • Build within me a desire to serve You; stronger than my desire to play soccer

Our family has been greatly blessed of the Lord and my sister and I have excelled at almost everything we have attempted. Both of us have received many honors throughout our school and college years. My dad always reminded us that I Samuel 2:30 says, “Those who honor Me, I will honor.”

We have attempted to honor the Lord and put Him first, and He has honored and blessed us in so many ways. We have faced obstacles and difficulties repeatedly which have kept us humble and built our faith. Trials have made us even stronger in Him, and taught us perseverance.

The Lord has taught us the importance of staying faithful to Him — even when we may feel He has forsaken us. As time always proved, He was not unfaithful, but faithfully working all things together for good. He has greatly blessed us for staying faithful to Him throughout trying times.

I graduated from Geneva College in May of 1998 with a bachelor’s degree in Biblical studies. At the graduation one of my professors said to my dad, “What a change the Lord has done in BJ’s life. When he first came here all he wanted to do was play soccer, and now all he cares about is ministry.” This statement is indicative of the transformation that has occurred in my life over the years of fiery trials.

By taking six more credits in the fall of 1998, I also received a double major in philosophy. Commuting one more semester to receive this double major from Geneva College enabled me to coach my third year at Hickory High School. Although they did not make the playoffs as I hoped, the impact I had on the players through the many adversities I faced was realized months later from comments and letters I received.

In January of 1999, I entered Talbot School of Theology in California. Following a rigorous and disciplined schedule, I was able to graduate only a year and a half later with a master’s degree in theology. I married Tara Rowe, my high school sweetheart, on June 17, 2000. That fall I began pursuing a doctorate degree in philosophy and apologetics from Trinity Theological Seminary which I finished in December of 2005..

I also went on to get my national coaching license. As long as I am able, I am sure I will continue to train individuals, coach teams, referee, write books, and speak at churches, schools, and various other groups. In addition to coaching and serving full time in ministry, I am an adjunct professor for a couple of universities.

In a paper I wrote at Talbot while working on my master’s degree, I stated:

I look back now and I am thankful that God did not heal my knee. I had placed soccer before God and it became my identity. However, these surgeries helped me to straighten out my priorities in life. It took me a while to realize this, but as I look back on it now I realize that I gained more from my surgeries than I had lost. The Lord gave me more than I could have imagined. I would never be the person that I am today if I had not gone through those surgeries.

People ask me all the time if I had the option, would I go back and change the past. I tell them there is no way that I would. Sometimes I do wonder what I would be like if I had played my senior year and had been able to play all four years in college. Every time I do, I remember where I was then, and how I could only have gotten to where I am now through the reality of losing something so important to me. Soccer is still a part of my life, but now I keep it in perspective of what is most important – my relationship with God.

Only the Lord knows what is ahead. But when He takes us through the fire, we know that somehow He will use it to build our faith and mold us for His purpose and glory. He is the potter and we are the clay.  Therefore, we submit to Him and His dealings in our lives knowing that He loves us, is in control of all that we face, and that ultimate victory will come.

I have learned that the road that leads to the fulfillment of God’s purpose requires faith and perseverance because it goes through barren deserts, treacherous wildernesses, and lonely valleys before ultimate victory is achieved.

In closing, keep in mind what my dad told me during a difficult time in my life:

Out of the ashes of our dreams,

God performs His will.

Excerpts from “Faith Through The Fire” book.

 

Various stages of BJ’s soccer career 
as player, referee, trainer, and coach

soccer1 soccer2 soccer3 soccer4 soccer5 soccer6 soccer7 soccer8 soccer9 soccer10 soccer11 soccer12 soccer13 soccer14 soccer15 soccer16 soccer17 soccer18 soccer19   soccer22 soccer23 soccer24 soccer25 soccer26 soccer27 soccer28

Drug Dealer’s Life Transformed

BeforeGodBook

by Mike Sarkissian

The following is the powerful testimony of Mike Sarkissian.  Mike was a former student of BJ Rudge’s when he was on staff as a professor with California Biblical University and Seminary.  His testimony is a reminder of how God can change the heart of anyone, even the heart of a drug dealer. 

Mike has also written an excellent book on prayer called Before God:  The Biblical Doctrine of Prayer.  You can purchase this book by going to amazon.com or by clicking on the following link http://beforegodbook.com/ 

The time in which I actually ceased living worldly and truly surrendered my life to Christ was a very interesting period in my life. When I reflect on it, it does not seem too different from many other people’s experiences (that I have met). However, some have described it as ‘amazing’ and ‘powerful.’ All I can say is that our God is ‘amazing’ and ‘powerful’ and every sinner who comes to Christ is an ‘amazing’ and ‘powerful’ testimony to the power and love of the Living God.

It all started years ago. To make sure I was saved, my parents baptized me as a baby, both in the Catholic Church and the Armenian Orthodox Church. Our family, for the most part, was irreligious and did not value the things of God. Yet, we were ‘Christian’ because of the following reasons: my parents’ upbringing was Christian, we were ‘good moral citizens,’ and we were ‘Americans.’

From the age of ten until about fifteen my mother took my two brothers and me with her to a small Evangelical Christian church down the street. My father stayed home and did yard work. I enjoyed going to church and I learned a lot. Nevertheless, even though I did not want to, I always reverted back to my old self, usually by Monday or Tuesday.

At the age of thirteen I went forward to ‘accept’ Christ. For the next couple of years I began to be involved in the youth group as a leader and studied the Bible somewhat regularly. Yet, when High School came, other interests took over my life. I became one of those who were in the ‘in-crowd.’ Though I was still going to church occasionally, there was no fruit of repentance in my life. I had not taken the call of discipleship and forsaken my old self. One could wonder whether or not I was even saved.

Towards the end of my High School years and immediately following it, I had fallen into a deep pit of sin and depravity. I was consumed with the thought of making money and ‘coming up.’ In my lust for money, power, and ladies, I ended up becoming involved with a family connected to the Mexican Mafia. Though I never even touched a cigarette, when the summer of my senior year arrived, I became one of biggest drug dealers in the city. I already had a problem with pride, and with my love for Italian mafia movies, this really drove me farther from God and more into my self.

For over three years I began to sell anywhere from twenty to fifty pounds of marijuana per month. Trips to other counties and states were routine for me. There were close to twenty people working for me at any given time – growing, selling, driving, etc. Networking hallucinogenics, such as LSD and mushrooms, from various places also became common as well. I had even begun to get involved in connecting and distributing illegal cell phones for a brief time. Though I never had to use them, there was a clean up crew who were always one phone call away. They would take care of anyone or get anything I needed. Praise God I did not ever go that far.

Interestingly enough, while all this was taking place I read the scriptures, prayed daily (including to and from picking up drugs), and even went to church often. My theology had evolved into a hybrid of Rastafarianism (I was heavily into Reggae music) and Christianity. Though I never audibly denied the Lord Jesus my lifestyle proved otherwise. I was a connoisseur of marijuana, writing papers at Riverside Community College, traveling the state to trade or purchase the best types available. I was even planning on going to be a judge at the Cannabis Cup (an exclusive marijuana festival in Amsterdam that is held annually).

Then the Lord started to break into my life rather forcefully. In a period of approximately six months two associates of mine were busted immediately after I left the scene. I was arrested for a DUI, and I was involved in three major car accidents. In the first accident, a car pulled out in front of me, which resulted in my show truck getting totaled. This took place directly in front of a church, which no doubt had my mind wondering. The fire department had to use the ‘jaws of life’ to get the other driver out of her car. Both she and I were taken to the hospital in ambulances. I was also cited for driving on a suspended license.

Though I was receiving treatment for my injuries, two months later, as I was trying to resist God’s calling on my life, I was in a mini-truck that hit a semi on the freeway while leaving a club. My head actually grazed the truck! Yet, I still did not submit to God. I increased my illegal activity moving more and more drugs and came ever so close to funding and operating a meth ring.

I was involved in another car accident three months after that. This one took place within one mile of the first one. We could actually see the site of that first accident and pondered the significance of it with the police officer. This officer, remarkably, was the same officer who arrived at my first accident! He reminded me that I ought to have died in both wrecks.

Miraculously the old woman, who was in the other vehicle that my friend hit with his 67’ Mustang, walked away unscathed. Thank the Lord! We, on the other hand, had some major bruises and managed to limp away from the site.

Besides all this, the Lord was warning me to cease my activities or else. The Lord practically spoke to me audibly through a dream of which I can recall every detail. A couple of times, people I knew were stopped or raided and questioned about me and my operations. I had many close calls where I was pulled over with a substantial amount of drugs, yet amazingly I was let go.

In one instance, a carload of us were pulled over late one night on the premises of an elementary school. We had paintball guns, marijuana, and all the ingredients to make fifty pounds of meth. The police searched the entire vehicle. They pulled out everything, even the bottles with the skull and cross bones on it, and they let us go.

I remember at least two car accidents happening within one hundred feet of me. It was like the movie Final Destination. Friends of mine thought death was chasing me down. Moreover, I began to sense a deep emptiness in my life. That lifestyle was not very exciting anymore. Everything that I did became increasingly convicting. This led me to reflect on my sin and how far I had fallen away from God.

I began to study the Bible in depth more than ever and slowly began to decrease my wicked ways. Though I struggled in my mind with my illegal activities, constantly trying to justify various things, it all came to a halt when the Holy Spirit used a passage from Galatians to wake me up from the dead.

“The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19-21).

This passage haunted me, because I knew that my lifestyle demonstrated that I would not inherit the kingdom of God. It was at this time (after about nine months from my first accident) that I fully devoted my life to Christ, was baptized, and got a job as a 411 operator. It paid pennies, but it was a legal job. I praise God for His protection from numerous temptations to go back to the world. Four nights a week I was involved in a Bible study or some type of fellowship, being saturated with the Word of God. The Lord placed such a love in my heart for Him and His Word that He led me to Biola University to finish my degree and later to Seminary, where I would focus on biblical apologetics.

Praise God for His amazing grace! Five years later, the Lord would have me serving full time in a local church. I would never have thought that this would have been my lot. It has now been close to twelve years since the Lord delivered me from that horrible lifestyle of sin.

I had served the Lord at D.C. Christian Fellowship in Moreno Valley for ten years, the last five as a teaching pastor. From there, God in His providence led me and a handful of others to start a church in a neighboring community. We started with twenty people and by the grace of God grew to over one hundred. Many people were leaving their lives of sin and coming to Christ as Savior. It was apparent that there was an amazing spiritual battle going on in the community we were ministering and amongst our families.

At that point in time the Lord led me to study deeply on the subject of prayer and even write a book, Before God: The Biblical Doctrine of Prayer. As the book was going to print, and by God’s grace receiving some excellent reviews, there was a ferocious spiritual attack on my family in numerous ways. For the next three years I went through some tough times of depression, yet, God never left me.

This past year I received my doctorate from Covenant Theological Seminary, was awarded another degree from California Biblical University, and more significantly married a wonderful woman who loves the Lord and is a true helpmate. She has a wonderful heart for people and is a tremendous blessing to me.

These last fifteen years, I have learned a multitude of lessons, theologically and practically, and I know that there are many more lessons God has in store. We have been ‘stretched’ in many ways in our current ministry and have really been learning how to show grace to others. The community that our church is in is very poor and needy. Yet, the Lord is faithful to us and continues to show His favor upon us in many ways.

Early in my Seminary training my eyes were open to the doctrines of grace and my love for God and passion for His Word grew even greater. Contending for the faith that was once and for all given to the saints has been a value in my life. From 2005-2008 I participated in three formal debates regarding historic Christian doctrine (two pertaining to the Trinity, and one on the existence of Hell).

It has been a great privilege for me to know God and be used by God to share his love and grace with others. I remind myself often of the greatness and saving power of God not only in my life, but in my family’s life, and in my church. Soli Deo Gloria