More than “Dive-Bomber Religion”
January 01, 2016
An encounter aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise forever changed the course of this sailor’s life.
God has blessed my life. As a young child, I attended church and Sunday school with my mother. At night, Dad would lock the door and kneel on one knee to ask the Lord to keep our family safe through the night. My parents loved each other, and they loved their children. Yet in spite of that good home, I did not fully grasp my need of salvation until after I was in the Navy.
In 1943, with the country embroiled in war, I used to wake my dad up at night and ask him to sign me up for the Navy. Finally he did, and about two months after my sixteenth birthday, I passed the exam to get in. They said a train was leaving in three days, and I told them, “Put me on it.”
After boot camp and some time in Bremerton, Washington, I was assigned to the naval carrier U.S.S. Enterprise. Some of the sailors on board had a Bible class. They were young fellows who really loved the Lord and testified to that fact. They made their mark on that ship, and they invited me to their Bible studies.
I will never forget that first meeting. There were only a few in the group. They sat on their heels and sang old Gospel songs without any hymnals, and they testified about what the Lord had done for them. I could detect something that I did not have. They had peace, contentment, and joy in their lives. Their testimonies were thrilling. The Spirit of God witnessed in my heart that this was real.
One of the men in that group worked on the ship’s garbage grinder. When feeding three thousand people, there is a lot of garbage to throw overboard, and the officials did not want it floating across the water. Enemy ships could follow a trail like that right to a ship, so we had to grind up the garbage to make it sink. The grinder was located on the hangar deck right where the fellows lined up to go eat in the mess hall. This young man volunteered for extra duty for one reason: so he could talk about the Lord to the men who walked by him.
Another young man in the engineering department whose name was Jeff Woods used every opportunity to talk to me about the Gospel. He got right down to where I lived. He told me about my sins; he just named them right out. Sometimes he would make me mad, but he would not give up.
One day Jeff told me, “We are having a meeting tonight up in the library. Why don’t you come?” To my own surprise, the words that came out of my mouth were, “I will be there.” As Jeff turned and walked away, I said to myself, “Why did I say that?” Jeff hadn’t been gone long when another member from the Bible class, Cal Wolf, came along and said, “We are going to have a meeting tonight up in the library. Why don’t you come?” Again I said, “I will be there.” Although I could not understand why I had responded that way twice, I felt committed. I never did like liars, and I didn’t want to be one, so I went.
After the meeting, they moved to the flight deck to have prayer. They invited me to come, and by the time we got up to the top of that ship, God had my attention. I asked to be left alone and walked forward toward the Number 1 elevator. It was time to make a choice. I didn’t really know what salvation was, but I knew these boys had something that I wanted.
There on that flight deck I prayed a simple prayer. I just bunched my whole life up and held it up to the Lord and cried out for God’s salvation. It wasn’t a fancy prayer, but it came from the bottom of my heart. I let Him know that I gave up; that I would give myself to Him. Something happened! That burden of sin lifted, and oh, the peace, the joy! There, in a moment’s time, I knew the Lord had accepted my simple little offering. As I walked across the flight deck of that ship in the starlit, peaceful night, I watched the waves as they went out from the bow of the ship and lost themselves in the vastness and peace of the ocean. I said, “Oh, that is the way I feel down on the inside. I have peace!”
"Just wait until we get back to port again. You’ll be the same old fellow you used to be.” They were wrong.
The Lord had made a change down in my heart. It was real. Before I was saved, I had a temper that I could not control and a tongue that got away from me, but all that was gone in a moment of time. The change in me did not go without notice. The fellows I used to drink and fight with laughed and said, “You’ve got dive-bomber religion. Just wait until we get back to port again. You’ll be the same old fellow you used to be.” They were wrong, because I wanted to hang on to that treasure in my heart. I had absolutely no desire to be the “same old fellow” I used to be.
After my conversion, there were times when I was awakened from sleep by the sound of the anti-aircraft guns going off, and I knew there were dive bombers attacking the ship. In spite of the war raging around me, I felt the peace of God flooding my soul.
My heart was hungry to commune with the Lord. There was a diesel generator on the hangar deck. I used to go up and “inspect” it daily, real early in the morning. There was no official reason for me to be there, but I could hide away and have my time of prayer. It seemed the Lord blessed me from day to day, and I expected it to be like that all the time. Then I went through a trial, and it felt like a weight was on my shoulders. I did not understand what was happening, so I found one of the young men from the Bible class and said, “Pray for me!” He said, “Go and pray for yourself. You are young and healthy.” I did not crawl into a corner and say, “Well, Lord, I guess You do not love me and he doesn’t either.” I just did what he said—got down and did a little praying—and the Lord lifted me back up.
The fellows in the Bible class talked about sanctification and the baptism of the Holy Ghost. I had never heard of those experiences. I asked them, “Have you been sanctified?” Four of them said they had been. I asked, “Is there anybody here who has received the baptism of the Holy Ghost?” They said, “No, but it is in the Word of God, and we are seeking to receive it.”
Not many weeks later, our ship pulled into Pearl Harbor, and the men who had been sanctified went up on Diamond Head. There they had a prayer meeting in an old car, and God baptized them with the Holy Ghost and fire.
On the ship, Cal Wolf said to me, “You have to quit fooling around. We need to pray about you getting your sanctification. We are going to get together tonight and pray about this.” I had read in some of the Apostolic Faith literature of people who had been saved and sought the Lord for their deeper experiences, but it seemed to me they were veterans of the faith. The thought of seeking that experience really had not occurred to me.
Cal took me up in the direction finder, and did we ever have a prayer meeting! I checked my consecrations over and told the Lord how I loved Him. Finally, I couldn’t think of anything else to do. Cal said to me, “Why don’t you just believe the Lord?” I realized he was right, and just like that, the Lord sanctified me. Oh, it was real! The next day I didn’t want to open my mouth for fear that I would disturb what I felt down on the inside.
Three days later we went to church on the island. A couple of the young fellows were praying for the baptism of the Holy Ghost. I didn’t even think about asking God to baptize me. I had been saved for three months and sanctified for just three days. The Lord was blessing. I was rejoicing in what was happening when someone said, “The Lord is baptizing you.” I just said, “Well, amen!” and opened the door of my heart a little bit further. The Lord came down and baptized me with the Holy Ghost and fire.
After the war was over, God led me to Southern Oregon, where I was able to attend Apostolic Faith church services. There I met Phyllis Peery, who became my wife. Our home was blessed with four children, two boys and two girls. Over the years, we have had many opportunities to prove that God loves to answer prayer. We have seen Him heal, provide work, and help in every area of life.
In 1963, I had the opportunity to visit the West Indies with the veteran missionary, Forrest Damron. Since then, it has been my great privilege to make many trips to the Caribbean area to help spread the Gospel. The joy of my life is to share the Good News with others. The Gospel is worth more than anything else in my life.