I accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior on September 29, 1980. I was not looking for Jesus Christ at the time but, through his grace and mercy I found him. I was a sophomore attending the University of Arizona. During the first week of the new semester I was walking down the university’s mall and there was a small table with members of the campus Episcopal church. I felt led or more accurately, pushed to go talk to them. I had not attended church for several years; I quit going sometime during my senior year because I felt the members of the high school youth group were hypocritical and phony. After a brief introduction, the members of the Episcopal campus church invited me to attend their services. I begrudgingly accepted their offer.
When Sunday came, I attended church and found the members more genuine then those of my high school youth group. Within the next few weeks, I attended services regularly. During the course of one of the services, the priest announced that the congregation of a local Episcopal church was going to celebrate Saint Michael’s day feast and that we were invited to attend.
I attended the church service with the members of my collegiate group. It was like nothing I had ever attended before and only once thereafter. It was a “high” Anglican service with censors filled with incense. To say the least, it was out of the ordinary for me. After the church service, we attended the celebration in the courtyard. Sometime during the celebration, I felt lead to go back inside the church. When I entered the church, a set of steel gates blocked the entrance into the main church sanctuary. The irony of the situation then struck me. I wanted to get close to God but, something was blocking me from him. Then I realized what it was. I broke down and wept. God showed me that the only way to him was through his son Jesus Christ. During that moment, I accepted Jesus Christ and the burden of my sin was lifted off me.
After I finished confessing my sins, I returned to the celebration with joy that only the Lord could provide. For the next few months I cherished joy the Lord had given me and told everyone about what Jesus had done for me. What struck me later, is that the majority of the college group and for that matter the high school group had not accepted the Lord. They had not been “born again.” They (for the most part) were simply church goers, going through the religious motions that they had been taught from their youth. It was a social club for them.
A short time after I accepted the Lord Jesus Christ, I was walking down the university’s mall and there was a debate going on between “Christians” and “non-Christians.” I approached the debate and listened for awhile. While there, one of the debaters turned to me and asked me if I was a Christian. I reached into my backpack and pulled out a bible. He said that did not answer his question; he pressed the issue and again asked if I was a Christian. What seemed like an eternity of thought, and with hesitancy, I said yes. It was at that point, I understood the difference between Christians and church goers
At the end of my sophomore year I left college and went to work for my uncle. I worked for my uncle for about eight months and during this time, I decided to join the US Army. I enlisted and went to basic training in March of 1982. I completed basic training, advanced individual training, airborne school, and was assigned to Fort Bragg, NC.
When I arrived at Ft. Bragg, they were building up a unit to go to Sinai, Egypt and I asked the Lord if I could go. The Lord answered my prayer and I was the first new medic assigned to the unit is six months. At Ft. Bragg, I attended a post chapel. Military chapels for the most part are sterile and tame. They aim to please the masses. While I attended church there, I knew part of what I heard preached was correct but, I still felt that there was something missing. I did not understand, however, what was missing.
My unit arrived in Sinai, Egypt in February 1983. As a medic my job permitted me to travel extensively in our patrolled part of the country. During this period, I was blessed to with a few trips to Israel and was able to see the land the Lord Jesus dwelt in. The only place I did not have the opportunity to visit was Mount Sinai. I had been told about a well at the base of Mt. Sinai and I really desired to draw some water from it and bring it home. I prayed that the Lord would allow me to go.
As my last rotation in the desert ended, I was permitted to return a day early to South Camp (the permanent base of operations for the unit). When I arrived, I ran into a couple of soldiers I knew from another unit and they told me that they were going to Mt. Sinai the next day and asked me if I wanted to go! The Lord had answered my prayer. It was early evening when this offer was extended and getting permission to go was difficult at best. But, since this was an answer to pray, the Lord opened the door and provided a way to obtain permission.
The next day, as we prepared to depart, I realized that I did not have the proper travel papers to venture into the Egyptian held zone. Since my friends had the proper papers, we altered the number in the travel party from two to three and set out for Mt. Sinai. When we hit our first check point, we presented our papers for inspection. What we had not known at the time (for it was dark) the travel papers were hand written in black ink and we altered the number in red ink and that they had the number two written in arabic. After what seemed like a great while, we were finally permitted to pass and continue on our way.
When we arrived at Saint Catherine’s monastery at the foot of Mt. Sinai, we were able to arrange a private tour of the monastery. After the tour we headed up the mountain for an arduous hike. We stayed on the top of Mt. Sinai for an hour and headed down. I had been looking for the well that I had heard of and found it about half way down the mountain. I drew a canteen of water and brought it home with me.
After my enlistment was over, I headed back to Arizona to attend college. During this period of time my growth in the Lord became stagnant. I still trusted in the Lord Jesus, but the word I heard preached in the church that I was raised in was not correct. My church had changed bible versions to the Good New Bible and the priest insisted that version was the only one permitted to be read by the lay readers of the church. Shortly after accepting Jesus Christ, I had bought a King James 1611 version and was given a Revised Standard Version (RSV). I found the King James difficult to read and stuck with the RSV until 1992.
In 1992, the Lord led me to Vermont from Arizona. I moved to Vermont to become a comptroller for a business. The business relationship fell apart quickly and I was forced to find other work or move back to Arizona. At the time, I had no desire to return to Arizona. During this period, I moved into a tent and started to look for work. This search led me to a computer business where I was offered and accepted a job. I have to admit that I had reservations about the business and the people.
While living in the tent, I had attended the local Episcopal church once. After the service, one of the members of the congregation asked if I attended Norwich University (a local military school). I informed him that I was not but that I was a commissioned Army officer in Field Artillery. As it happened, he was an officer in the Field Artillery and they were looking for junior officers. I gave him a local number I could be reached at and thought nothing else about it.
I had to go back to Arizona and take care of some business. I had left for Vermont in a hurry having decided on a Wednesday to move on Saturday; I threw everything I could carry into a backpack and left. When I arrived home, there was a message that the Vermont Army National Guard had called and wanted me to contact them. They somehow tracked down my home phone number in Arizona. I called them and begrudgingly sent them what they requested. After a few weeks, I felt I needed to go back to Vermont and made arrangements to return.
Back in Vermont, I showed up to work but, there was not much for me to do. I entered into the Vermont Army National Guard and the Lord provided me with ample work through them. I continued to live in the tent for another eight weeks and eventually found a place to live.
The owner of the computer business was a minister of the Lord. He invited me to dinner and I accepted. After dinner, I was informed that they were going to have a bible study and I was asked to join them. I had some reservations but accepted. I had been raised in an Episcopal church and had never attended church or bible study except in a traditional church.
The bible that they used was the King James 1611. I, through the years, had thought that the RSV was adequate, but later learned the difference. We studied the first three chapters of the book of Revelations. This minister taught like no one else I had ever heard. I knew what I was hearing was the truth and I could not deny it. After the bible study, I was invited to attend church and other bible studies. I had mixed feelings about this, but accepted. The next few months my knowledge of the Lord increased and I quickly replaced my RSV with a King James Bible. Shortly thereafter I was baptized as an adult and received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. I have never regretted the decision to attend church here.
The Lord provided me ample work through guard and I stopped working at the computer company. During this period of time, I grew in the Lord but, not as I hoped.
In 1993, the guard sent me to Europe and I was able to arrange a trip back to Israel and Sinai. I arrived in Sinai in July of 1993. It had been a full 10 years and I wanted to get back to see Mt. Sinai. When I arrived in Sinai, Egypt, it and Mt. Sinai had changed. On my first visit, it was a destination for a few. When I returned, the place had become a tourist stop. I wept at the change for I had loved the solitude of the desert. While there, I thought, I would draw some more water from the well. I decided not to because I still had the original water at home. When I returned home, I found my canteen of the original water empty. One of my roommates had borrowed my canteen and dumped out the water.
In September of 1993 we held a revival and I was asked to go out on the road. I accepted and went out on the road for 10 weeks. After a while, I decided to return to Vermont to attend my officer’s advance course in Oklahoma. I left for Oklahoma and played the prodigal son.
After my officer’s advance course I returned to Vermont. Shortly thereafter, my father suffered a stroke and I was force to go back to Arizona to take care of him. While in Arizona, I continued to play the prodigal son, but after he got better, I returned to Vermont and continued working in the guard part-time.
During this period of time, our church held meetings off and on but, we somehow became unfocused on what we were doing. The minister of the church had moved to South Carolina and we were forced to learn to walk. The Lord caused my work in the guard to dry up and times became lean for me. The Lord also showed me what one of my problems was (Isaiah 57:15-16 For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones. For I will not contend for ever, neither will I be always wroth: for the spirit should fail before me, and the souls which I have made.). And I was forced to start dealing with it. Eventually, I was offered another job at the computer business and I went to work with them full-time in January 1997.
Times at the computer business were tough, both in the business and in my personal life. I was forced to reevaluate what it means to serve the Lord and serve others. Eventually, the Lord whittled the church and the business down to a handful and their families. After many months, the tough times were lifted and the Lord started to bless the church and business.
In the summer of 1997, the minister returned for a series of revival meetings. I was fortunate that my father was visiting and was able to attend these revivals. One of my prayers is for salvation to come to my family. During the course of theses meeting, the Lord told me that my father would be saved. On the second to the last night, my father accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior! A prayer had been answered!
Shortly after the revivals, the Lord blessed us with a church building and we started to hold church services again. The church started to grow in spirit but, I had become angry and started in a period of rebellion again. Going to church was becoming a chore for the first time since I had lived in Vermont. I was getting tired of working all day and then having to go to church at night.
After a while, I was given an ultimatum for not only my sake but, also for sake of others. Either get my act right or leave the church and business. While I would have greatly rejoiced at leaving the business, I would have mourned at leaving the church. I accepted the ultimatum and sought the Lord for help. During this period, in retrospect, I felt like Jonah. I was trying to run from the Lord but, he would not let me leave. Jesus Christ is truly a merciful God.
Eventually, the Lord delivered me from a lions share of my problems. But, as a dog that returns to his vomit, I have looked back upon the “old” man and have wavered in my ways. I find that “old” man distasteful and I look forward to dwelling in the presence of the Lord. I trust the Lord will continue and finish the good work started in me. Praise be to God and his son Christ Jesus the Lord.
Charles C. Hocker