When I was young, my family did not go to church regularly. We visited various churches with aunts, uncles and grandparents when we had a chance.
Early Introduction to the Gospel
One Sunday while visiting my uncle’s church I remember the Gospel being taught to the kids in children’s church. I was 9 years old and even raised my hand indicating that I wanted to be saved. A man took me to another room and tried to tell me more about the Gospel. He tried so hard to explain it all to me, but I just could not understand why Jesus would die for me. I knew that Jesus died for other people—they were sinners. But I thought that I wasn’t a bad person. Therefore, I did not need to accept Jesus as my Savior.
The next summer as we returned home from a family vacation, our parents told us that they were going to put us into a Christian school the next school year. My older brother started in the Christian school in 5th grade. I was in 4th grade and my younger brother started kindergarten.
On a Wednesday morning in November 1979 (a few weeks before I turned 10 years old) our school principal gave a clear Gospel presentation  in chapel. It was then that I understood that I was a sinner. I needed a savior because of my own sin. Jesus did die for me and not just for other people.
Again, I raised my hand indicating that I wanted to talk with someone about salvation. The kindergarten teacher took me to the back of the church auditorium where we were having chapel. She helped me understand what it meant to ask the Lord to be my Savior.
That was over 30 years ago when I accepted the Lord. I am very thankful that I understood my need at a young age and that I was spared from a wicked lifestyle before coming to Him. That does not mean that I have not struggled with sin or obedience to the will of God at times.
By the way, the kindergarten teacher who led me to the Lord was working in the school that year while her husband was starting to raise their support to go to Paraguay as missionaries. In 2010 when my family and I were serving the Lord in Argentina I was privileged to meet that missionary couple in a pastors’ conference. They are still faithfully serving as missionaries in Paraguay.
Call to Ministry – Surrendered
Though my parents had not gone to church much when we were younger, they were both saved at a young age. My brothers and I started riding the bus to the church where the Christian school was located. Eventually our parents began to attend church regularly. But we three boys still rode the buses on Sunday mornings and were very involved in the bus ministry until each one of us went off to college. Dad was even one of the bus drivers in the ministry when his work schedule allowed his involvement.
One Wednesday night in church I clearly remember being impressed by the Lord to surrender my life to full-time ministry. I don’t know what the sermon was about that night, but I know that the Holy Spirit was leading me to surrender to whatever God’s will might be. I went forward in the invitation to tell the pastor that I was surrendering to ministry. I was 12 years old.
I spent my teenage years doing everything I could to prepare for future ministry; I was involved in any church activity I could be. I didn’t know how the Lord wanted me to serve, but I studied the Bible and tried to put myself under any good Bible teaching and preaching I could find.
How to Serve?
One of the things I did not know as a teenager was in what capacity God would want me to serve. At the time I thought of four main ministries I might do. I could be a pastor, youth pastor, missionary, or evangelist. But as I grew older I began to really focus on being a pastor.
My reasoning for being a pastor went something like this: I didn’t want to be a missionary because missionaries had to go to Africa and eat grub worms. Besides, I would have to move away from my mommy.
I didn’t think I could be an evangelist because they traveled all the time. I had done very little traveling as a young person and didn’t think I would like the traveling lifestyle. Besides, I would have to move away from my mommy.
I certainly didn’t want to be a youth pastor because they had to deal with teenagers like me. I didn’t want to do that. As a teen I often found it much easier to interact with adults rather than kids my own age. Adults were not intimidating like teenagers were. So, I resigned myself to being a pastor. That became my focus through my teenage years.
When I was a freshman in Bible college I finally started to think about what I had been saying to God for the last seven years. Essentially my comments to God were, “I will do anything you want, but I don’t really want to be a missionary, evangelist, or youth pastor. So let me be a pastor.” I had not been outwardly rebellious to God’s will , but I did tell God that I had my own will and I would rather Him choose something for me that I wanted to do.
During my first year at college I fully surrendered to God’s plan for my life. I was willing to go to Africa and eat grub worms. I was willing to travel as an evangelist or even work with teenagers. I didn’t know if God would lead me in those ways, but the point was that I needed to be willing and obedient.I would even be willing to move away from my mommy if that was God’s desire.
During my freshman year I began learning sign language in the church I attended while in Bible college. Derrell, a friend of mine, invited me to attend the sign language classes at church with him. I thought that if my brother (who was also at the same college) and I learned sign language, we could play practical jokes on people. That really was my initial motivation for learning signs.
Sharing the Gospel with the Deaf
I continued to take sign language classes that year and the next. My parents had moved to the town where we were attending college to make our school bill cheaper. Mom was a nurse and easily got a job at a local hospital. One day she came home from work during my sophomore year and told me about a deaf man in the hospital. She wanted me to go visit him and share the Gospel. But, she felt it was important to tell me about all the diseases he had. The list was very long and scary sounding. But, I still agreed to go.
That Wednesday night at church I asked my friend Derrell if he could go with me to the hospital to witness to Dewey, the deaf man. I conveniently neglected to tell him about all the problems Dewey had until we were already on the way to the hospital Thursday afternoon. Derrell did not back out and we nervously went on to the hospital.
When we arrived on the floor where the patient was, we were told by the nurse that we had to put on protective coverings to enter the room—hair bonnet, mask, disposable gown, gloves and even booties for our shoes.
Dewey was very sick and weak. It was difficult to communicate with him because he only had the strength to fingerspell words instead of using formal signs. On top of that, he was missing all of one finger and part of another on his strong hand. Reading what he had to say was pretty tough for two new sign language students such as Derrell and I.
After we had been in his room for just a few minutes a doctor came in. The doctor started his conversation with, “It is great to have an interpreter here!” (We were far from being skilled interpreters.) “You tell him that if he does not cooperate with me then he is going to die.” I did not want to tell him that! I came to tell him how he could have eternal life, not that he was going to die. I felt sick.
What was worse was Dewey’s response. He saw what the doctor said and spelled, G-O-O-D. I then asked him if he wanted to die. He said that he had no reason to live.
The doctor was already angry with the patient from previous interactions. The patient was mad because he was very sick and wanted it all to be over. Derrell and I were upset because of getting ramrodded into a sticky interpreting situation. Needless to say, when the doctor and the patient finished arguing—through me—no one was happy. Dewey did not care to listen to what Derrell and I had to share.
We left and went to the car. Derrell and I sat in the parking lot crying and praying. This had not gone anything like we planned. But we did not give up.
We went back the next day and began to slowly build a relationship with Dewey. We even started sharing the Gospel with him. He knew nothing about the Bible. He had a small understanding of who God was, but knew nothing about Jesus. Over the course of five days of going back and forth to the hospital, we were glad to see him accept the Lord as his savior.
When we went back the next day to see him, the nurse told us that Dewey had been transferred to another hospital where he would probably die within a couple of weeks. There was nothing the doctors could do for him. We are glad that God gave us an opportunity to share the Gospel and that we did not quit with that first disappointing day.
Deaf Ministry – My Calling
Through that experience God started to show me that while there are many different types of ministries in which I can be involved, there was a definite need to share the Gospel with the Deaf. Through the years I have worked with the Deaf in camping ministries, deaf churches, church ministry, and even as a professional community interpreter.
Looking back on 20 years of full-time ministry, I have rarely been in a pastoral position, which is what I told the Lord that I would most enjoy doing. I have worked with deaf teens in camps (much like a youth pastor). When not living as missionaries in another country, my family and I drive about 40,000 miles each year in a traveling ministry helping churches and missionaries expand their outreach to the Deaf (like an evangelist would). I have been to Africa. Though I have not eaten grub worms (that I know of), I don’t mind the thought of spending the rest of my life there if God called me to do so.
Even though I tried to dictate to God what I wanted His will for my life to be, I am glad I surrendered to allow Him to lead me. Let me encourage you to do the same.
Your Relationship With the Lord?
Where are you in your relationship with God? Have you accepted the Lord as your Savior ? That is where your journey begins. Realize your need for His forgiveness and surrender your soul to Him.
Once you have taken care of your need for salvation you can begin a daily walk with the Lord. Build a relationship with God through talking to Him in prayer and listening to Him through His Word. As you grow more and more aware of His leading in your life, He will show you His will.
God won’t lay out the next 20 years for you all at once. He wants you to trust Him with today. If He had shown me 30 years ago where His will would lead me, I probably would have quit before I got started. We need to learn to trust Him even when we can’t see or understand the outcome. Though I didn’t always know where He was taking me, I can look back with great joy when I see His leading in my life.
I am excited to see where He will take me in the next 30 years! (And I am still hoping there won’t be grub worms on the menu.)
Take a look at this related article, also by David: