Steven Atherton's Testimony

Steven Atherton's Testimony

I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior on January 21, 1991. At the time, I was not looking for the Lord at all. In fact, when I quit my job at a major law firm in New York City and started off to visit my sister in Northfield Falls, Vermont I was reading a book on African religions and planning to hitch hike cross country, stopping along the way at various radical hot spots (i.e. the West Virginia mining union that had created an International Peace Park) and hedonistic havens (i.e. Mardi Gras). Little did I know that the Lord had other plans for me. At the time of my arrival in Vermont, my sister and her children were staying at their minister’s home on a temporary basis as she was looking for work and a place of her own. The minister’s house was incredibly busy as my sister and her three children; the minister, his wife, adult son and young daughter; and his daughter and son-in-law were all sharing a three bedroom house equipped with one bathroom. Moreover, they were having bible studies five nights a week and services every Sunday morning. Needless to say the place was hopping and personal privacy at a minimum, but somehow the place “worked”. I recall when I first arrived. Despite the hubbub of activity, I was graciously welcomed and had many old-fashioned kindnesses extended to me – i.e. the minister’s son giving up his bed for me, a special meal made to welcome me and other such acts.

Moreover, although everyone was Christian, no one was preaching at me – in fact, no one mentioned the Lord to me at all. After one day and two nights of such pleasantries, I decided that it would be interesting to attend Sunday morning services, held in the living room. Immediately, I noticed that this church was different. The singing was joyous, more like a celebration than the funeral dirge-like church fare that I had experienced previously. The sermon also was quite interesting. Afterwards, I sat down next to the minister in the dining room and began peppering him with questions. As he began to answer me a few points stood out in my mind. First, he actually believed the Bible to be the inerrant word of God and all of the miraculous stories contained therein to have occurred precisely as recorded. Second, he taught as one having authority, just as Jesus did, in contrast to the many other ministers, missionaries, and laypeople that I had met in the past. (I recognized the significance of this fact because I had recently read the gospel of Mark in connection with a class that I attended that was led by some radical Catholic priests who worked with AIDS patients in New York City.) Third, he taught that God would confirm the truth of the Bible to me by His power working through believers in the same miraculous ways that it did through Jesus and believers in the early church. As we talked, the minister began calling upon others in the church to share their testimonies. Person after person came forward to testify of the powerful ways that the Lord had moved in their lives to deliver them from alcoholism, drug addiction, and depression or heal them of crippling injuries and terminal diseases. I listened intently to all and knew that they were sincere in their stories, but still I knew that somehow they must be mistaken. Surely, there had to be another explanation. My interest had been piqued, however, and so I continued to pepper the minister with questions. Hours passed quickly as we continued forward in our own private bible study. Around 2:00 a.m., I believe everyone had either left or gone to bed but the minister and I continued forward. I had so many questions. At about 6:00 a.m., the minister asked me if I wanted to accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. I remember thinking to myself – “Am I really about to do this? Richard is a nice guy and all, but he is not at all my vision of who and what a man of God would be like.”

Still, I could not deny the fact that I knew that what he was saying was true. And so I said “yes” and Richard guided me in prayer to accept the Lord. After I accepted the Lord, Richard and I resumed our bible study, but now we were operating at warp factor speed. People would wake up, eat breakfast, use the bathroom, etc… but they all seemed (literally) to be operating in slow motion. The only way that I know how to describe it was that it was as if I was standing on the East Coast skipping stones across the Atlantic ocean all the way to Europe and with every skip of the stone, the bottom would drop out and I could see every fish, every piece of coral, every mountain and every valley in the ocean all along the way. At around 3:00 p.m. on Monday afternoon – nearly 30 hours since we had begun the previous day – our bible study ended. I recall asking Richard before going to bed “What should I do now?” He answered, “Well, what do you want to do?” I said, “I want to be a minister of God”. Richard then said, “Well, you are welcome to stay here if you like.” I took Richard up on that offer that day and I have been in Vermont ever since. Richard has since moved on to South Carolina and then on to Texas, returning periodically to teach or conduct revivals. I am now an ordained minister of God and walk in the power and authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, leading others to the Lord as Richard did me.

In my walk, I have had the most gut wrenching and the most joyous experiences of my life and I thank God for them all. I only know to encourage you to hang in there. There are many trials along the way as the Lord works to perfect us in the faith, but always remember that Jesus is the Author and Finisher of our Faith and He is faithful to complete the work that he has begun in you.

Steve Atherton.