I grew up as a Jewish boy in Dallas, Texas. However, my family was not very religious, attending the synagogue only a few times a year during the major Jewish holidays. I did, however, attend Hebrew school once a week from fourth to tenth grade and had a bar mitzvah at the age of 13. I remember my time at the synagogue as mainly a social activity for the Jewish kids of the city. We were taught Jewish culture and history, but had very little contact with the Scriptures. I don't recall any mention of who God is, what He is doing, or why we are here.
My parents were very loving and supportive and worked hard to provide for us materially. Basically, I was able to have everything I wanted. However, I soon realized that the things that I yearned to have became uninteresting a short time after my parents bought them for me. I learned that material things could not satisfy me.
In high school I excelled academically, was active in sports, and had many friends. Yet often I would have times of despair and depression, not knowing why. I was hoping that I would get some kind of answer, a purpose and direction in life, when I went away to college at the University of Texas in Austin.
I did very well my freshman year as a biology/pre-med student. I also met new friends, developed relationships, and had many new experiences. Yet, I still felt dissatisfied, unsure of my future, and unhappy with myself.
During my sophomore year I had to withdraw from a physics class I was failing and suffered a strained relationship with my roommate/best-friend-since-4th-grade. These, as well as some other personal situations, caused me to drop to a new level of hopelessness.
It was in this condition that I returned to Dallas for the winter break. While there I spoke with a friend who grew up across the street from me. We had not seen each other in years and I was interested in how he was doing. During our conversation he mentioned the Bible. This was shocking to me because of all my friends he seemed the least likely to have anything to do with the Bible. He shared with me how he had come to know Christ during a low point in his life. Just from his speaking I realized that he had touched something real and that it had radically changed him.
Growing up Jewish, I had never heard the gospel (good news) of Christ. I knew generally about Christ, but that knowledge seemed distant and impersonal. As my friend spoke I realized that what he had was not a dutiful attendance in an organized religion, but a close relationship with a living Person. I was astounded when my friend said, “I believe the Lord brought you over here tonight, so that you can get to know Him.” My friend told me about how we can come to know God directly by our human spirit (John 4:24). He told me that I did not have to go to a special place or to go through someone else. We can contact God directly by means of our spirit (1 Corinthians 6:17).
This contact with my long-time friend piqued my interest in Jesus. I began to wonder if He was really the Messiah since I was told from an early age that He was not. I returned to Austin to continue my studies with an awakened spiritual hunger. One day that semester my roommate entered our apartment with a huge family Bible in hand. He said, “I found this in the trash, does anybody want it?” I gladly took it and began to read the New Testament for the first time at the age of twenty. I was captivated by what I sensed was THE TRUTH. The more I read, the more real the Lord Jesus became to me and the more I wanted to have a close relationship with Him as I had seen in my friend. I finished the New Testament that semester and looked forward to speaking again with my friend in Dallas.
When I returned home for the summer break I quickly got in touch with my friend. He, with some other Christians, shared a simple word with me and asked me to kneel to pray to receive Christ as my Savior. They then baptized me in my neighbors' pool. Although I did not have the intense emotional experience that I had expected I did have an inner peace. I began to meet with them in informal meetings of prayer, Bible reading and fellowship in different homes.
I returned to Austin and at the end of the next semester I began to meet with Christians on Campus, a student organization at the University of Texas. I was impressed with their focus on the Scriptures, their love for the Lord and their living for Him absolutely. In the evenings and weekends, I along with many other students, met with the local church in Austin, where my experience of the Lord deepened and my understanding of the Bible became more clear.
Upon graduation I attended a Christian Bible training in California, which was under the direction of Witness Lee. (In my Christian life I have been most helped by his ministry and by that of his coworker Watchman Nee.) During my year in the training, Russia opened to the West and there was a possibility for some to go there to speak about the Bible and Christ as the meaning of human life. Thus, I moved to Russia in 1992 and participated in the Lord's wonderful move in that country until 1999. In that year I returned with my wife to the United States where we are now enjoying Christ in a wonderful way as we meet with the local church.
(Norman, Oklahoma, USA)