Dave’s interest in spiritual matters led him to a high school for young men interested in the priesthood. Although he loved the priests who taught there, their inability to offer satisfactory answers to his questions about faith discouraged him. That inability led Dave to conclude that, if the priests commissioned to prepare young men for the priesthood couldn’t answer the questions of a high school freshman, then the faith they represented had no value. Dave declared himself an agnostic but requested permission to stay at the school because he loved the educational environment. “I was open about my decision,” he says, “and the school administration decided that the best way to resolve the issue was to assume I ‘was going through a phase.’”
From that moment, he felt as if his life went into a decade-long spiral. Graduating from college at 21 and married at 22, he came home to open a small art gallery which quickly became a center for the area’s “hippie community.” When Dave’s mother left their family home for an extended stay with a sick relative in Pittsburgh, the family home became a place to party. It was common for 100 people to gather there on Saturdays to engage in some great volleyball tournaments and a lot of other behavior better forgotten.
Joan, a childhood friend, often visited Dave’s gallery with Blossom, her three-year-old daughter. The child’s exceptional beauty and joy brightened Dave’s day. One day, the gallery phone rang with tragic news. Blossom died after being hit by a car.
“My first question was what can I say to Joan? And the answer was that I had nothing. I had nothing to offer, nothing to say to her. The reality of my own spiritual bankruptcy crashed in on me,” said Dave.
Shaken by the loss of Blossom and disturbed by the truth of his spiritual life, Dave sought refuge in a workroom at the back of his store. He wanted to be alone but heard the gallery door open. His wife had left to run errands, which gave him no option but tending to the customer. Aggravated, he returned to the gallery to hurry her out the door. Leila, the woman who had unwittingly walked in on this very tense moment, walked through the gallery, and admired some framed needle work containing a Bible verse. She turned to Dave, “Are you a Christian?”
“That’s a silly question. Who are you to define what Christian means?
“Can I rephrase the question?”
“I’ll give you one minute.”
“In your life, is the person of Jesus of Nazareth more alive, more present, and more conversational than is your spouse or your best friend? Do you hunger for him, feel his presence, hear his voice, know his love more on a minute-by-minute basis than you do any other person in your life?”
He ushered Leila out of the store. She returned with a Bible. The series of discussions that followed answered the unanswered questions of his youth that led him to be an agnostic.
One day, Leila said, “Are you ready to meet Christ?”
“What does that mean?”
“You can meet him simply by opening a door in prayer,” she said. “All you have to do is repeat after me.”
He repeated the prayer and called himself a Christian from that day forward. He eventually became a missionary, and then a pastor.