Coming Home: My Testimony, Part 4
(This is the fourth of a four-part article)
Then another thing happened which really finalised my conversion process. Two old Christian ladies in Tacoma were another real timely and strategic Godsend for me and my journey. They had weekly Bible studies in their home, and I and my hippy buddies tagged along, complete with long hair, no shoes, and probably no baths in months. Yet they said nary a word, but loved us and shared God’s word with us.
I soaked it all in, and loved all these Bible studies – learning about God’s word in a much more orthodox manner than what I had previously done. They patiently tried to answer all sorts of gnarly questions I put to them. It was a real time of grounding and growth for me. I remember one Bible study night in particular. It was covering 1 Peter 2 which talks in part about suffering for doing what’s right.
As vv. 19-20 says in the KJV (which is basically what we mostly used back then): “For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.”
Immediately as we discussed this passage I was convicted big time by the Holy Spirit. I knew instantly that my drug use had to stop. If I got arrested for drugs and tossed in jail would I be suffering in a manner which brought glory to God? Clearly not.
It would merely be a case of being “buffeted for my faults”. But if I suffered for doing what is right, then God gets glorified. So I determined then and there never to do drugs again. And I never have. Not once. After around four years of very regular drug use – or abuse – I have never had so much as a puff of a joint since, not in 40 years.
And I have not even had the slightest craving for drugs as well. Such is the powerful liberating power of God. He set me free from drugs that night and he has kept me pure in this regard ever since. All glory to his name.
At the same time I also became quite convicted about my long hair. I figured I was getting a lot of attention because of it – but I wanted people to see Jesus in me, and not just see me. I felt this was detracting from his glory as well. So I had a friend chop it almost all off. (I later learned I might have made a lot of money by selling it to a wig-making company.)
A few other bits can be mentioned before the trip back home. As I said, I had been without glasses for nearly a year. I have for a long time been extremely nearsighted. Thus I can see things close up OK, and I can read. But anything at a distance – beginning from a foot or more away, starts getting real blurry real fast. I recall playing a game of baseball in Tacoma with some freaks (which is what us hippies called each other).
I was put out in left field, mainly because I was never a good athlete nor very good at sports. And to make things worse, I was effectively a blind left-fielder. A pop-up ball would be hit my way, and I would be squinting like mad to see it, and of course it would fall harmlessly to the ground nearby. You don’t want me on your baseball team under those conditions.
One gal who happened to work at an optometrist’s office noticed my plight. How couldn’t she? I was squinting all the time, and couldn’t see much of anything. So she took pity on me and booked me in to her doctor’s office. (It was here that I started almost getting derailed again, this time by the cultist literature that was there.)
You should have seen me when I got my new glasses! After nearly a year of stumbling around in a haze, all of a sudden I could see again! I was like a little kid. I went outside and said things like, “Wow! There’s a car! Wow, look at that tree! Hey, look at that sign!”
I was amazed. And I think God also used it to give a pointed physical lesson to a spiritual reality. Just as I now could see straight with my physical eyes, I could also now see straight with my new spiritual eyes. For almost as long as I was walking around in a physical cloud, I was also walking around in a spiritual cloud.
Now both were clearing up simultaneously, and real sight on both levels was now mine. Thank you God for sight. While we can – if we must – live without physical sight, we all need to have our spiritual eyes healed of their blindness and opened to the glorious gospel of God.
Home at last
The sealer on all this, which confirmed to me that I needed to get home real soon, was a series of letters going back and forth with my dad (remember no emails then – just snail mail). One letter stands out. In the letter handwritten in pen (no computers and printers back then) I noticed a bunch of round blotches making the ink run.
They were tears from my dad as he was writing back to me. I had been telling him about my real conversion to the real faith, and how I was thinking about perhaps coming home. Imagine that: the prodigal who once was lost was now coming home! His joy was mingled with tears.
His letter, dated June 17, 1972, begins this way: “Hi son. I just got your letter and read it. So did your mother. She is crying with happiness. I am so happy too to hear from you. And that you are becoming such a wonderful young man. Your letter makes me feel a hundred years younger and it seems like a big load was lifted from my shoulders.”
He then went on to talk about his life and how he was never much of a Christian. He spoke about his time in Washington State during his army years during WWII. He spoke of how often he had been praying for me over the past year.
He included a $25 money order to help with my expenses. “You are like the Prodigal Son come back. And we will do all we can to help.” He said he could understand if I stayed there with these wonderful new Christian friends, but it would be great if I could come back, “even if only to visit”.
“You finally have found some wonderful friends, the way it sounds and really are learning a lot about Christ. Could you do that here too?” He closed with these words: “Thank you for writing Bill, the best Father’s day present I could have. All our love, Dad.”
Of course my tears are flowing now as I type this. My dad passed away at 94 just last September. I missed his death but made it for his funeral. Thank you Jesus for your grace, mercy, patience, and love. I will see him again one day, along with my mom.
So I soon set out again, hitchhiking back to Wisconsin. The trip home was also quite interesting – never a dull moment in that whole year. Over the years I had never bothered to get my driver’s licence, preferring to walk, bicycle or hitchhike instead. That caused no few small problems along the way. For example I got a great 1000-mile ride from Idaho to Bismark, North Dakota I believe.
Trouble is, the guy was heading to his own wedding, to be held on the next day. And here he was, driving through the mountains at night, with me hanging on for dear life. Not only was he in a bit of a hurry, but he kept dozing off, and I kept thinking that any minute I was going to meet my maker, and not see my family!
So I had to keep waking him up to keep the car on the road, instead of down a very steep ravine. I eventually made it back to Madison and stayed with my brother and his wife for a day or two, then actually completed my journey by taking a bus to Sheboygan.
So I finally got back home on July 4, 1972: Independence Day. Nearly a year had passed and my parents had heard frightfully little from me in all those months. They were obviously so very relieved to finally have their prodigal son back home, after so many months of worry and heartache.
These 11 months made up one very extended conversion process. So when was I actually saved? In August of 1971? Spring of 1972? God knows. These were all steps along the way for me to break from my dark and fruitless past and get onto a new journey with God. There were many detours and hazards along the way, and the whole process took many twists and turns.
Many wrong turns were encountered along the way, and the devil tried his best to get me off course. But when I first heard the simple gospel message during that afternoon 41 years ago in Sheboygan, that began my never-ending journey. There has been no turning-back, and never a question of not going on with Jesus – not once.
Perhaps I can say just a few quick things to round this story off with. My early love of reading and study of course was sent out the window in my cult experience. And for a while back in Sheboygan it sort of remained that way. I was reading some theology and stuff, but had not really reclaimed my mind for the glory of God.
Then a Christian gal I knew who also had been part of the hippy culture introduced me to two authors. She loaned me a book or two by C. S. Lewis and Francis Schaeffer. The rest of course is history. After avidly and quickly devouring those books, I bought every single volume by those two great Christian apologists that I could lay my hands on.
Those who know about my current ministry will appreciate the fact that all the giftings, callings and passions that I had even as a non-Christian hippy were in fact planted there by God – and he is now using them for his glory. Thus my life-long love of reading, learning, writing and research is now obviously still being used – and hopefully being put to good use. My concerns back then for truth and that which was right is being used now for the Kingdom.
So God can put into you – even when you are still Joe Pagan – various abilities, desires, talents and gifts which can be harnessed and channelled into his glorious purposes once we do become sons of God through faith in Christ. Thus even my BC (Before Christ) days were not in vain or completely wasted.
Sure, my concerns about truth and justice were often misdirected: like a good leftist I saw all evil as lying solely in America, capitalism, the military, authority, and so on. I did not realise that evil really lies in the human heart, and that on the whole, America and the West have been a tremendous force for good in the world. Not perfect by any means, but clearly superior to so many other places.
In Joel 2:25-27 we read about God making up for all the years which the locusts have destroyed. My first 18 years of life were a huge waste in so many ways, yet God was able to redeem and bring some good out of that dark period in my life.
But the rest of my story will have to be told on another occasion. A lot has passed in the 40 years since my conversion days. Hopefully I have been able to be used for Christ and his Kingdom to some limited extent, and can offer others some hope, healing and restoration in Christ, just as I found.
If anything, that very small boy who once sadly said, “The only thing I am good at is not being good at anything,” is no longer the same. He has been forgiven, set free, transformed, and remade in the likeness of God’s Son. To God be the glory.
Part 1 is here: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2012/06/27/coming-home-my-testimony-part-1/
55 Replies to “Coming Home: My Testimony, Part 4”
The part about your dad’s letter made me cry. Thank you, Bill, for sharing this.
Thank you for sharing this, I am so glad I took the time (over a cuppa of course) to read it and even more glad that you took the time to write it. There were many times I laughed out loud and one time that I shed some tears while reading your dad’s letter, what a precious gift it must have been when you returned to him. I wholeheartedly agree that you should continue the story, I know I would love to read more …
Testimonies are very powerful, as you have said, and I will endeavour to record mine as well while it is still fresh in my 29 year old mind 🙂 I have personally seen the chains that can be broken by the simple act of sharing my story of the transformative power of Jesus. It is probably as epic as yours and has caused a few jaws to drop in the telling of it, but that is how miraculous our God is!
You are a special person to Josh and I, even if we have only met a couple of times, because we know how hard you work and why you do what you do, so keep it up and be encouraged that you are in our thoughts and prayers and that we have been not only informed, but blessed and challenged by your articles, book and commentaries.
Thanks again, you have really inspired me with this.
Yea, thanks Bill. With Lucy… a very moving letter from your dad. The simplicity and genius of Luke 15 is ever new.
And home on ‘Independence Day’ – kinda significant hey! I guess we are most truly independent, when we discard some of our poor, proud autonomy, and ‘come home’ to the richness of dependence. A great story.
Tremendous story Bill.
Keep up the courageous work you are doing!
I laughed and I cried and then I thanked God for His gentle guidance in bringing you home where you belong thus enabling you to do His work here on earth.
We were traveling in America in the late 80’s and took a tour in San Francisco and the driver kept talking about ‘hate ashbury’. Of course we asked why everyone hated Ashbury. It caused much laughter within the bus and finally we came to the corner of Haight – Ashbury and listened to the story of how it was the home of the hippies, flower people and the junkies. Didn’t see any sign of them that day.
Many thanks guys for all your kind and encouraging words.
Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch
What a wonderful story, Bill. Thank you so much for writing it today. This last part was so touching. I wonder why, though, you didn’t just “know” when Jesus came to you in the kitchen and tried to save you then. What kept me from having faith for so many years was my need to really “see”. I needed some type of proof since I was raised to be so cynical. Once I had that, even if I lacked spiritual faith, I had the knowledge that He was real even when I would distance myself spiritually. I hope that makes sense! Now, though, it’s much easier all the time. And, while I’m saying all that, I might as well also take the time to thank you for all the help you’ve given me through my own journey. Even though we haven’t met and all our communication has been through short messages, you’ve really helped me very very much and I’m so grateful and always will be.
Kendra Adams, US
Many thanks indeed Kendra
Yes I sure hope we can catch up one day; maybe on my next trip back to the States – or your vacation Down Under! If not, we will have a very long time in eternity to chat, compare notes, reminisce, and celebrate Messiah.
Bless you heaps,
Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch
Awesome testimony, Bill. Thanks for sharing it.
Great read Bill. Glad I didn’t get a cuppa – it would have gone cold. I love testimonies. Would like to read parts 4,5,6,7,….
Knowing Jesus Christ is to know the truth and to keep being set free from the lie of sin. Another prodigal son gives thanks for you and your story in parts 1-4.
I’m glad you shared your story, Bill. One can see the hand of God on your life throughout. And no matter what the journey has been it surely is a golden path when one becomes born again by the Holy Spirit. The likes of Schaeffer and Lewis have been a great God-send to so many, and particularly young Christians, including myself 25 years ago.
Blast the powerlessness of text to convey emotions.
But please accept my sincerely meant thanks for sharing this part of your story.
I found my way to God at 16 and ten years later I am nowhere near where I want to be in terms of what I am achieving for God’s kingdom. But seeing what God has done with your life makes me determined to ever press on, submitting my will to His.
I also just wrote out a skeleton of my testimony that I posted on my blog, and you’ve inspired me to fill in the gaps when I can get the time.
Again, thank you. Reading this was a great blessing.
Praise be to God for his hand in your life and all of our lives that follow Jesus. Blessings to you and all your family. Thank you for such personal thoughts and meaningful messages.
Thanks for sharing Bill, it was a good read! I got the impression that although you were quite reckless in those days, the wise you was there as well, hanging on for dear life!
To Bill with Respect.
Wow you really did push the envelope in your teen years of drugs and leftist agendas. I’m always amazed at people who seriously abuse drugs and don’t die or have a seizure or left brain dead and then lo and behold, become just as passionate about God. I love that about God.
Dear Bill, Thank you for your four part testimony. Your musical groups which you experienced when you were a teenager sound familiar. The business about Herbert W. Armstong and the J.W.s sound familiar. The early Church had similar experiences in the early centuries. My parents took me to a video evening about various drugs, including some of the drugs you used to use. I have never used drugs, except what has been prescribed by family doctors, thanks be to God. I wish you and your family all the best.
Regards, Franklin Wood
Bill, you have been a tremendous source of strength for me ever since I stumbled on your site (was led) in 2007. Since those days, the world has become a madder and darker place. I pray that we will all still be able to communicate in year’s time.
David Skinner, UK
Many thanks guys for all your kind words.
Yes David, I hope so too.
Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch
What joy to read this wonderful testimony. It fills me with praise and gratitude to God, and with great hope for the youth of today. However lost they seem there is always hope, even for those who neither seek Him nor pray to know the truth as you did Bill. We can all be intercessors for them.
Hi Bill, many thanks for your testimony. So much relates to my transition from rebel to believer, the music especially, (My Blue Oyster Cult album resisted the heat of the incinerator!), and the impact of Late Great Planet Earth in the early 70s. One day this might be a chapter in a bigger volume. Now I know where the sandals fit in. (Are they from Taos?) What an incredible blessing it is for the Body to have you in the mix in this season of our lives. 1 Cor. 15:58 exemplified. Thank you Bill.
I disagree with this one sentence, ‘hopefully I have been able to be used by Christ and his kingdom by some limited extent …’ You’ve been used by the Lord to a tremendous extent that most of us can only dream of. Keep up the great work!
It’s comforting that you cannot remember the exact day you were converted. I too do not have an exact date. I’ve been told by someone that I can’t be truly converted since I can’t pinpoint the date. But you and I show that it doesn’t always happen in an instant and that conversion is a process.
I have often wondered how all that wisdom, insight and the ability to express so much of the truth which is hard to articulate is contained in your articles….and now, after reading your testimony, I see the Hand of God has been on you, preparing your mind and your life for His Message to His own to be poured out through your writings. You have always been a deep thinker, an avid reader, a searcher of truth and freedom, and it is amazing to see how God has led you into your work of the Spirit for the Kingdom. What a Glorious God who never wastes anything, even our worst moments, our bad days, our painful experiences, our sinful rebellions and our human nature, all used to bring us to see our need of Salvation and to accept our Wonderful Saviour and all that He has to offer us – Abundant Life.
God bless you Bill, and thank you for your testimony. I too pray that it will speak eloquently and powerfully to a multitude of readers.
Many thanks guys. Many thanks indeed Lorna – bless you too.
Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch
In awe. And God is doing it still. Never give up on a child or spouse or friend. Keep on planting the seed.
Thank you Bill for openly sharing you testimony. It is quite cunning how the Lord often uses old ladies to bring back young blokes to reality and a more focused love for the Lord. A dear old lady had a strong influence over my walk with the Lord. Pity old blokes don’t get this credit as often, must work on that, but for sure we must be instrumental to draw young people closer to the Lord. On the issue of drugs. Yes it is amazing that you where set free cold turkey,
I am sure that is how I managed to go cold turkey on smoking at age 30. I just give thanks that drugs never ever had any influence over me. The story you tell of your encounters with mind altering drugs certainly would help young people think twice to not touch the stuff at any cost.
Keep on writing, hope to enjoy opening you postings for many more years.
To God be the glory! What an amazing journey – so full of hope that God can reach down and pluck anyone out of their quagmire if they are open to His hand.
God bless you Bill.
I have finally had the chance to read these Bill. This whole thing could be a book one day.
Just a reply to Luke. For years I was concerned that I had no “birth date”. Then at secondary school I attended a “missionary volunteers” house party. We had to introduce ourselves including when we were born again. Most of the younger people put dates on conversion but most of the old retired missionaries mostly either couldn’t or didn’t. Luke I suspect your friends cannot remember their birth but obviously the fact they are alive proves they have been born. Show you are alive and don’t worry about who was the obstetrician.
Finally had some time to read your story Bill. Wonderful and a great read. Loved the depictions of your ‘sightless’ years and could relate to that hippy era well. Just glad to hear you were born earlier in my birth year, so at least someone is a little older than me.
I would love to see you write this as a whole book. It is a great story and of course, well written. Thanks for sharing it!
Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful & amazing testimony Bill. I really think you should put it down in book form along with the years after leading to the present time.
Many thanks guys for your kind words and words of encouragement.
Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch
I loved reading your testimony. Now I know more about you! Thanks for writing it. Glory to God!
Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch
God is great, Bill. What unbelievable grace! He saved a wretch like me too.
Good on you Bill,
Your dear Mum and Dad, they had their grief turn to joy Praise His Name.
Blessings to you and your family and I am very grateful that as sheep we are in the same paddock.
I’m glad I made time to read your story. It is interesting how two very different personalities such as we could have shared so many similar experiences. The fact that I am a little over five years your senior altered my perception of the drug culture and cultish experiences due to the four years I spent in the military. This was right before the advent of the hippie lifestyle—something in which we both became immersed at the same time. I could go on almost ad infinitum, but I will spare you the many redundancies of our mutual paths. Good testimony, Bill.
Many thanks John – and others above.
Just read this on “barbwire.com.” Thank you for sharing your story. I cried as I read it. Am still crying. It gives me hope for my prodigal daughter who once loved the Lord but took a wrong turn in her walk and Is now having trouble finding her way back to the road she once walked with Him.
I love reading your articles. So many of them give passionate expression to the truth I long to hear that is absent in far too many “Christian” fellowships today….even among the homeschoolers I have been part of for more than 20 years.
Your website has now become one of my favorite places to visit.
Many thanks indeed Cindy. Yes there is always hope. I will pray for you and your daughter. Bless you.
Thanks for sharing God’s work in your life, Bill… Great story!
Dear Bill, I am so glad that your story written, judging by the early comments, in 2012, you decided should be re-presented in 2015. I have just finished the last chapter. The day your Dad wrote you that special letter was the same day as my 29th birthday. You were 19. I was married with four sons. I thank God for our friendship and more than that, I thank Him for all your writings, your wisdom and knowledge, and the way you use your time to share, to encourage all who read what you write, to stand strong in the faith and to be active for the causes of Jesus Christ.
So here it is, the 6th of October, 2017, and I’m reading this for the first time. Your Dad was crying when he wrote his letter, you were crying writing this testimony, and I cried whilst reading it.
And how timely is God’s timing? A friend’s son was saved just four weeks ago tomorrow and is also struggling with the hangovers of drug and alcohol addiction. I have sent this to her for her encouragement. Thanks for posting again today, Bill. God bless.
Many thanks Vicki.
Bill, I have just finished reading all four parts of Coming Home, which I found totally engrossing! Just one thing surprised me… You didn’t mention Keith Green anywhere, although he was born around the same time as you and had a similar experience to you. In many ways. Did you happen to meet him during your ‘experimental era?
Thanks Ann. No I did not know Keith when we were both non-Christians, but I did meet him when we were both Christians.
Wow….thank you so much for sharing your story Bill (via Great Leaders, Unhappy Childhoods. 15 Jan, 18). It was a ‘good read’ and very moving. One of my brothers has struggles with his sons. He works hard to lead by example, prays so hard for their conversion but often gets discouraged. Fortunately the conversational door is open with them and he hopes as they mature so will their views and habits. I know your story will give him and many others who have read it – hope.
Your story also highlights in our Instagram perfect world that we must never take others at ‘face value’. No matter how great those around us might seem, pretty much everyone has a back or current ‘story’ that may be less than perfect. Thank you again for making yourself so accessible to your readers.
(Note: I won’t leave my name as my brother’s story is not mine to tell.)
Thanks guys. For those who prefer listening to reading, here is a 20-minute video featuring my testimony:
Dear brother (Bill),
Your testimony about how our Savior saved you from sin (and yourself) was truly wonderful. So interesting that your story intersects with my own at many points. Even though I was not a hippy, and my experience with drugs is very minimal, your story reminds me of my own. Born in 1959 in Iowa and saved at Iowa State University in 1979. Sure wish we could share our faith together over a cup of coffee. That would be fun. I’m sharing your story on my facebook page. Keep pressing in your faith, Bill.
Thanks Bob. Yes either in this life or the next we can share stories together!
Like many have said, including you- wow! Bill, I have been a Christian for what will be 25 years in January. I never did drugs or smoked cigarettes and I only got drunk once, but the hippie scene (Woodstock in particular) has fascinated me quite a bit, even into my walk with the Lord- admittedly a fleshly snare, but not potentially harmful. I’m a singer/songwriter/guitarist and have 77 songs I’ve written whose melodies consist of a hodge podge of guitar licks from classic rock and folk and rockabilly songs I’ve heard through the years. The songs are about biblical principles and characters. I have also written a very allegorical novel, unpublished as yet, set in the 1960s, in which a hippie named Charlie Jameson comes to salvation and goes home to his pastor father in Boise, Idaho who for years has sent tearful prayers for his son’s return. Four traveling evangelists stop by the pastor’s home and are told of this estrangement, and then discover his son on the road a few weeks later- 16 of the 37 hippies come to Christ, including Charlie. The evangelists perform a regular stage play based on the Prodigal Son. Your testimony solidly validates that part of my book. I am so very happy for you, Bill, and while I can’t imagine the hard times you endured in those early years, I know the Lord used them to set your foundation for the future. Thank you for your time and effort- love in Christ, brother.
Thanks Bill for sharing your testimony and much of your path in life. Really enjoyed your story. It is quite fascinating, and an amazing journey.
On the topic of cults, we share one similarity. I grew up with a mother who was on a journey toward Christ, and for her and us that meant being part of Herbert W Armstrong’s church here in Australia. But my mum was a reader. She was also strong and intelligent and it wasn’t too long before she couldn’t reconcile what she read in the Book with what she was being told, so she got into trouble with the leadership and they excommunicated us because she asked way too many difficult questions, and even challenged them on their answers… it wasn’t appreciated, but then that’s the case with any leaders who are insecure about their beliefs or foundations.
But she, like a lot of people in cults, struggled with whether to remain silent or speak up because we had built a strong friendship with so many people in that cult, and it was painful to be excommunicated. But after leaving, along with another family who saw the light, we started meeting in our homes and discovered the Holy Spirit and how he moves powerfully among his people, even today, just like in Jesus’ times. We didn’t need any titled person or leader to show us truth because it is there in the Book if one has eyes to read, the desire to know Him, and the faith to believe.
My mum’s legacy, the first Christian in a long line of non-believers, is in her children and grandchildren who believe and live lives most focused on serving Christ on various mission fields, local and abroad.
You equally have a great legacy that will survive you. Praise be to God Almighty.
Thanks for sharing your testimony with us – what a story. Parts of it reminds me of my husbands and I will share this with him. Bless you in all you do and I love reading your posts.
Many thanks Heather – blessings.