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Al Ward's Testimony

Hello my friends!


Giving all honor and glory to God our father and our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, I want to share some of my Christian experiences with you.....


I grew up in a family that were members of a relatively obscure Christian religion or denomination.  They are the Primitive Baptists of the Big Creek Association.  They were also known as Hard Shell Baptist.  The group consisted of a scattering of a few churches in several states including; California, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Illinois and Tennessee.  I apologize if I missed anyone.  The bulk of the churches were in Tennessee and largely but not completely, family oriented.  They did not believe in having any organized music in the church.  There were no pianos or other instruments and no choirs.  They did not need these devices, the entire congregations all sang like angels.  The music would ring out through the country sides and city communities.  Neither did they have Sunday schools for either young people or adults and there were no bible studies or revivals of an type, but they were a group that overflowed with strong faith.  They believed in covering everything with prayer.  I never heard anyone pray for riches or prosperity, it always seemed to be for health and survival, more or less, as to the best of my recollection.  Their big events centered around what were called union meetings and association meetings.  I believe these events were quarterly and yearly.  The Sunday morning and evening meetings were very long and all elders present were allowed to preach.  The elders were the pastors and other preachers.  There were also deacons who served the sacraments during the Sunday morning meetings whenever the communion ceremonies were in session and the water and towels during foot washing ceremonies. All of the songs were very slow tempo hymns and they tended to sound very sad but also sounded very, very beautiful.  It was customary for the members to fall into  shouting frenzies under the influence of the Holy Ghost.  I have never witnessed any other expressions, normally considered charismatic, other than the expected feedback to encourage the preacher during his sermon.  Since there were no formal activities for the children and the children were not generally encouraged to become members, we just sat throughout the meetings with little or no participation waiting for the meal to be served (only on special Sundays).  It is my understanding that the general consensus was, the Holy Ghost would just overcome you when the time was right and the sinner would confess and become converted which led to baptism by submersion.  If I have given any incorrect account of, or misrepresented this group in any way, may the Lord forgive me, and I do apologize.  I have not been around them since my childhood except for a few occasions such as funerals.


Since I had little or no formal training in Christian living I did not know much about the Lord.  Of course the children were taught the ten commandments at home and mostly anything else we picked up was strictly through observation.  When I left home and joined the navy at the age of eighteen, I had never belonged to any church and continued that way until the year 1979 when I was thirty eight years old.  It was then that I joined 'Second Baptist Church' of Rahway, New Jersey.  About three years prior to that time I was in Chicago, Illinois on a business trip.  I had my second wife and my two step sons with me.  One night I had a very strange dream that was in beautiful bright colors.  No words were spoken in the dream, but I was standing on the shore of a beautiful lake looking at a strange city being built up out of the water by one whom I thought to be Jesus.  He was larger than the buildings he was constructing.  He had removed his shirt and it did seem to be a rather warm or perhaps tropical climate.  It was a beautiful clear day.  As I stood admiring the scenery and watching Jesus busy at work, a woman was standing in the edge of the water in front of me with her arms and hands extended toward me, inviting me to step into the water.  I felt the warmth of her hands as I started into the water and then I woke up.  I am sharing this dream with you because it tended to haunt me, on and off, for the next several years.  It really had a strong impact on me for some reason.


In the year 1979, I felt as if I had sunken to the bottom of my conscience and was feeling very guilty about some things I had done.  My second wife and me wanted to get married. I still had not yet been born again but I was beginning to feel the need for regeneration.  I called around trying to find someone to marry us.  We didn't know any churches nor did we have friends that attended church.  It was summertime and it seemed that all the pastors of nearby churches were on vacation, so I left messages for several of them.  Then I thought whichever one answers my message first is the one I will try to use for our marriage and then join that church.  The pastor of Second Baptist is the only one that ever answered and we proceeded to matrimony very quickly.  Instantly, I became the stepfather of two young boys.  True to my promise to myself, I joined the church the following Sunday but my wife and children did not join. 


Shortly after saying, 'I do', is when I had another dream but this time is was a horrible nightmare.  Normally I do not remember any dreams unless I am ill or otherwise very, very uncomfortable.  But this dream had special meaning for me and I was not ill nor was I uncomfortable in the bed.  I lived in Rahway, New Jersey at the time which is about thirty minutes from mid town Manhattan of New York City.  If you have been to Rahway, New Jersey, you may know the only claim to fame is the Rahway Prison, which was only two blocks from my home.    This dream really scared me that night and it continued to worry me for some time.   I guess you may be wondering are you ever going to hear what the dream was about, so let's get on with it.


In the dream my wife and our two little children and me, were running through the ruins of New York City trying to escape the wrath of God.  The entire city had been bombed out. There was heavy smoke and stench everywhere.  I did not see any other persons, just our little family.  There was a very large towering beast that in some ways looked like Godzilla and in some ways did not.  He was as large and as tall as some of the buildings had been before they were turned to ash and smoldering rubble.  We were trying to avoid its large feet that caused the ground to rumble each time it took a step.  It seemed very angry and agitated and was just smashing everything in site.  We were frightened, no, were just plain old scared to death.  It was to the point of where it was difficult to even breath.  We felt so helpless not understanding what had happened, not knowing where to turn and there seemed no where to run.  Then we saw what appeared to be a formation of some kind of flying air craft that did not seem to be of this world.  The craft were glowing brightly and performing acrobatic maneuvers, doing tumbling tricks as they rapidly approached.  I became very excited and started screaming, here comes Jesus, he has come to save us.  Then immediately I found myself in some sort of craft that was very different and much more primitive looking than the ones seen earlier.  But I was being whisked away from the earth, saved from all the destruction around me.  But at the same time I was sad because my wife and kids were not with me, and the dream ended.  They joined the same church about three week later and I had the same dream again except this time my wife and kids were saved with me as we were whisked away to safety.


Now that we were converted to followers of Christ, we wanted to start reading the bible.  The problem was the only bible in the house was a 'New World Translation' and due to some earlier experiences with the organization that uses that book, we did not even want to read it.  It was a lovely day, it was Saturday and we wanted to just go out and purchase a bible.  We tried to figure out where we could find a bible and after wracking our brains for a while, I remembered seeing a bible book store in a nearby town that  sometimes I passed on my way to work.  So we eagerly jumped into the car, very, very excited about the possibility of having our own bible.  Well guess what, the store was empty and had a sign in the window saying, sorry we are in the process of moving, visit our new location on Monday.  Oh, we were soooo disappointed.  We went home like defeated little puppies and just gave up for the weekend.  But wait a minute, there was a knock on our door.  It was at the rear entrance on the side of the house that only we and our close friend used.  We wondered who it was, so I went to answer the door.  Would you ever believe, it was a man standing there with bibles, yes bibles.  Has anyone ever knocked on your door selling bibles?  He said would you like to buy a bible?  He invited us to his car where he had a trunk full of very nice and expensive bibles that he was selling for an unbelievable low price.  I bought several of them.  They were all the King James Version.  At this time I did not even know there were different versions of the bible on the market.  We were completely shocked and very elated.  The bibles included great concordances and topical bibles all in the same book.  Some had beautiful pictures, maps and explanations.  We could not have asked for anything better or even anything as good, nor would we have known to ask.  I have not seen nor heard of any incident like that ever again. 


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