By Tom Duddy, Sr. (Oahu)
I grew up in a traditional Catholic home in New Jersey. My parents were good church members and involved in the local parish. But by the time I was in eighth grade, I found myself asking, Is this all there is--going to church one day a week? I hoped for more, but I didn’t know what the more was.
One day I saw something on TV about Jesus freaks--hippies for Jesus, who read the Bible and had bell-bottom trousers and long hair. (This was in 1969.) I thought, Gosh, they look like they’re excited about their faith. I'd like to be excited about my faith.
The summer after eighth grade I ran into some people my age who were passing out leaflets for an Assemblies of God revival meeting. “We want you to come to this meeting tonight,” they said. I wondered if they were like the Jesus freaks I saw on TV. I decided to go.
The meeting was scheduled to start at 7:00, and I had to ride my bike five miles to get there. About 2:00 or 3:00 in the afternoon it started pouring rain. I made an agreement with the Lord. I said, Lord, if you want me to go, it has got to stop raining by 5:00.
About two minutes before 5:00 the rain stopped, so I got on my bike and started the ride. Then about 10 minutes later--just a downpour! I arrived at the church soaking wet.
I sat at the very back. I was just going to observe.
The music was very enthusiastic. People were clapping their hands, shouting things. I liked what I saw. I wanted what they had. The service went on for quite a while, and then the minister, the revival guy, gets up. I figure, Oh, no, they’re getting ready to end the service, but nothing’s happened to me yet!
I was a very quiet and shy person, but I felt myself get up on my feet, in front of about 300 people, and call out to minister, “Excuse me, sir! I see what you guys have, and I want it, but I don’t feel any different than when I walked in the door.”
“Bring that young man up here!”
(Later I found out that the service wasn’t ending, he was getting ready to take the collection . . . but they never got around to it that night.)
They brought me up to the altar, had a couple of people kneel around me, and they said, “Tell the Lord you are sorry for your sins.”
I repeated whatever they said. “Lord, I am sorry for my sins.”
“Start thanking the Lord.”
As soon as I started thanking the Lord some funny syllables and sounds started coming out of my mouth. Someone yelled, “Baptized in the Spirit and saved in the same night!” I didn’t understand either of those terms.
In that moment, I had an experience of how much God loved me. It was overwhelming. I went home and I told my poor parents, who didn’t know what to think, except they thought that the people at church had drugged me!
I wanted to get more and more of this, and so I started going back to the church every night. (It was a week-long revival.) I went up to the revival leader, a man named Jesse Owens. I said, “I want to go with you guys. I want to do what you’re doing. I want to go on the road with you.” (I hadn’t talked to my parents about this yet.) He said, “Let me pray about it.”
The next day I went back and talked to Jesse. He said, “I’ve been praying about this, and this is what I think the Lord is telling you to do." He read me a passage from Mark 6. “As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon possessed begged to go with him. Jesus did not let him, but said, ‘Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.’”
Then he said, “I think you should go back to your family, to your church, and tell them what the Lord has done for you.”
That really impressed me. Here they had a really interested convert to their own church, but they said to go back and tell your family, your people, what the Lord has done for you.
The next day my parents made me go to the Catholic priest and tell him what happened so that he could "fix it" or whatever. I knocked on the rectory door, and I told him my story, and he said, “I’ve heard of things like this, and most of the people that I know who had the same experience as you ended up leaving the church and joining other churches. And I want you to think about this: If everyone who had the same experience that you had left the church, how would our church learn about this?”
He directed me to a home prayer meeting attended by Catholics from my parish. I got locked in with them. That led to me coming to a conference in South Bend where Kevin and Dorothy Ranaghan preached. That led to learning about the People of Praise and eventually joining the community.
Do you have a story to tell about ecumenism?
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