Salvation Testimony

I grew up in Syracuse, New York, in the 1960’s and 1970’s. My parents were Catholic and I attended St. Ann’s Catholic School on Onondaga Boulevard (grades 1-8) and Bishop Ludden High School on Fay Road in the Westvale area.

I distinctly remember sitting in first grade at St. Ann’s and looking up at the cross on the wall, closing my eyes, and saying, “God, if you’re real, when I open my eyes have Jesus’ head turned the other way” (this was one of those crosses with the body of Jesus on it with his head turned to the side).

We went to Mass every Sunday, I was an altar boy and I observed all the Catholic sacraments. When I looked around me, however, I did not see evidence of the reality of Christianity. My parents often fought and many of these altercations were intense and traumatic, with me and my two sisters caught in the middle. I remember a number of rip roaring fights on the way to Mass.

When I looked outside my family, I saw the same things. Virtually everyone I knew (adults and children) were Catholics. They would go to Mass and go through the motions – sit, stand, say this, say that – and then leave church and live like the world does – gossip, lie, cheat, swear, become intoxicated, etc. 

I started experimenting with alcohol my parents kept around the house at a very young age. By the time I was in 8th grade I was drinking with my Catholic buddies from school on weekends and doing drugs like marijuana and hash. 

A friend from the neighborhood (also Catholic) turned me on to the Rolling Stones, whose music I became enthralled with.  It’s impossible to convey the degree to which music, and the Rolling Stones in particular, shaped my belief system and values as a teenager (more on this later). This friend was instrumental in moving me on to hard drugs. I remember being at a party and being asked if I would do acid (LSD). I said no. Several months later, I did my first acid trip (I was 13-14 years old). Whom you hang around with and the music you listen to have a tremendous influence on what you do.

When I was freshman in high school, a priest let an older student (a senior, I believe) talk about what Jesus Christ had done in his life. What he shared really grabbed my attention. I thought to myself, either he’s “extra- Christian” because he has something none of us has or we aren’t Christians. Seemed to me it was the latter. This experience stuck with me, although I continued to spiral downward.

I had a number of close calls with death and incarceration. Some examples:

  • One night after drinking until around 2:00 in the morning, I stole my mother’s car so I could drive my friends to Skaneateles Lake (about half an hour away) and continue drinking all night. That was the plan at least. I was probably 14 at the time. I only made it a couple of blocks. I went off the road and struck a tree on the edge of a cliff. Had the car not hit the tree and stopped, my friends and I would have been killed or very seriously injured. I was able to drive the car back home and return it to our garage. The next morning when my mother discovered the damage I denied knowing how it happened and told her someone must have stolen the car and smashed into the wall outside the garage. My story held up for several days until a mechanic found pieces of wood from the tree I hit lodged underneath the car. This was a new Bonneville Brougham, a beautiful luxury vehicle my mother had bought to help her sell real estate to support my two sisters and me.
  • Completely inebriated, I walked off a cliff and fell over 100 feet down the side of a very steep hill smashing my face all the way down. There was a roadway at the bottom of the hill. I rolled into oncoming traffic. It was dark there. I could easily have been run over, but fortunately a car stopped, helped me out of the middle of the road, and gave me a ride home. My face was battered and swollen out past my nose, with major lacerations inside my mouth, and on my face. I looked like I had been mauled. It’s a miracle I did not lose an eye (my eyes were not injured in any way). I was 14-15 years old when this happened.
  • On two separate occasions, intoxicated and on Quaaludes, I drove my car off the road onto lawns, striking houses at fairly high rates of speed. I was 16-17 years old at the time. I proceeded to drive home (about five miles away) going off the road, up onto lawns, back into the road, and back up onto someone’s lawn, numerous times in broad daylight.
  • During my senior prom at the Marriott Inn (Carrier Circle) I went out to my car with a friend to do lines of cocaine. I was parked in the far left corner of the front parking lot, as far from the front door of the hotel as you could get. Just as we were about to snort some lines, something led me to look in the passenger side view mirror. When I did, I saw the principal of our school about 15 yards away heading straight for the car. We very quickly hid the cocaine. The principal was looking for smoke or the odor of marijuana. Not finding any, he told us to go back into the prom.

I want to come back to what I said earlier regarding the influence the music of the Rolling Stones had on me.  When I was around 14-15, I read where Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones said: “I don’t give a ____ about your morals” (using that most vulgar word).  I idolized Richards and couldn’t wait to say that to someone some day. The time came. The prom was over, but my friends and I were still at the Marriott and we were really loud. Hotel security escorted me to the lobby to throw me out. A woman behind the front counter start saying some things to me about disturbing guests of the hotel.  I looked at her, and, quoting the one I idolized, said “I don’t give a ____ about your morals.” For some reason, hotel security was not there at the time – it was just the two of us. What I said to her was so profane, so vulgar, that even I, lost as I was at the time, cringed a bit inside when I said it. She looked at me with pity in her eyes.  She was probably a housewife working a part-time job for some extra money or a single mom trying to make a living.

Somehow I made it through high school.  I never really applied myself as a student, but passed everything (regents level courses). The principal was onto me early, because during my freshman year he caught me in the bathroom with a book with marijuana hidden inside. He called my parents into his office. I did what an unredeemed individual does when cornered - I lied and said I found the book in the bathroom. Somehow I got out of that one.

Lacrosse helped legitimize me at school. My freshman year I picked up a lacrosse stick for the first time in my life. I’ll never forget the day that year when I was playing catch with my stick in the school parking lot and an upperclassman who was on the lacrosse team said, “he’s got the best stick in the world (i.e., made by “Brine”), but he doesn’t know how to use it.” I quickly excelled at the sport. By my junior year, I was one of the best players on the varsity lacrosse team and we were really good – we lost to perennial high school powerhouse West Genesee in sectionals. West Genesee was arguably the best high school lacrosse team in the nation (a number of players from that team went on to win a National Championship at Syracuse University).

My rebellion went far beyond alcohol and drugs. It was a lifestyle I embraced. On numerous occasions, for instance, my friends and I would go into convenience stores, grab six packs or a case of beer and run out of the store. On one occasion, an employee of the store chased me and had his fingers on the back of my jacket, but I outran him. It’s a just a hop, skip and jump to a rebellious, sinful life when the music you love preaches it, those you hang around with all live it, and those in the religious tradition you are part of “hold to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power [for their conduct nullifies their claim of faith].” 2 Timothy 3:5. 

In the midst of all my sin and rebellion, God was at work drawing me to Him. I distinctly remember coming home one night around 2:00 a.m. when I was around 16 or 17 completely strung-out on alcohol and drugs, lying on the couch in my living room on my back, looking up towards the ceiling, and crying out to God saying, “God, I want to be saved.” The Bible says: “Whoever calls upon the name the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:13). I believe God set in motion the plan of my salvation at that time.

Lacrosse was my ticket to college. It’s how I ended up at SUNY Geneseo. It was 1980 and the drinking age was 18. Geneseo was known as having something like a dozen bars within a quarter-mile radius. This was a bad combination. I was still doing all kinds of drugs, but alcohol reigned supreme in my life. One night my freshman year, I was so intoxicated I ran the length of my dorm room corridor, jumped with my left arm outstretched, and smashed my left wrist across the front of the big circular clock in the upper left corner of the hallway just beneath the ceiling. This was one of those big old fashioned clocks with the cover consisting of about a quarter or half an inch of glass. I severed one of the main arteries in my wrist. If I put my thumb from my right hand over the artery, it stopped the blood from squirting. When I took my thumb off, blood squirted like a water fountain.

My friend drove me to the campus infirmary, which was closed (it was around 1:30 a.m). Instead of going straight to the hospital, we drove to the store and bought a six pack of beer. We then drove to the hospital in Dansville which was about a half an hour away. When we got there, I had to wait for a doctor to come to the hospital. The nurse asked me why I did what I did. My reply: I did not like what time it was. I thought I was so cool. My cockiness quickly vanished when the doctor arrived and told me I had lost so much blood that had another five minutes elapsed, I would have lost the use of my left hand.

My junior and senior years I really began applying myself academically for the first time in my life and really excelled in school. I remember getting my first 4.0 grade point average (straight A’s) one semester. I recall that my grade point average the last 80 credit hours or so, which consisted of all upper level courses, was around 3.8. At the same time, drinking got so bad that I would wake up somewhere on campus and not know where I was until I went outside to get my bearings. I was proud of the fact that despite drinking beer, shots and almost straight rum all night, I could remember everything I did the night before. Gradually, however, that came to an end, and the next morning I could no longer remember anything after 7:00 p.m. from the night before.

Another key thing in terms of my salvation occurred when I was hitchhiking with a friend. We were on our way from Geneseo to Syracuse to buy drugs and bring them back to school. One of the public safety officers from Geneseo was off duty and picked us up in his car. We mentioned we went to the college. He asked us what we thought we needed to do in order to go to heaven. I can’t prove it, but I have no doubt he prayed for my friend and me that day when we got out of his car.

My junior year, I met a girl on campus. Initially, we were friends. It developed into a relationship. She visited a church named New Jerusalem in Rochester one Sunday. I was not with her. She gave her life to Christ that day. She began to witness to me and gave me an ultimatum: either come to church with her and see what it was about or the relationship would be over. I give her tremendous credit. I think she really liked me and wondered if I was the one she would marry. She put God first and me on the altar. Many believers in Christ could have avoided years of heartache and suffering had they the bravery to put their boyfriend or girlfriend on the altar like she did and not plow ahead into a relationship unequally yoked with an unbeliever (2 Corinthians 6:14).

I agreed to go to church with her. It was my senior year of college. A guy named Mark, about the same age as me, met me at the door and said, “Do you know the Lord?” I became defensive in my mind and felt like saying to him, “Does he live at your house?” The service started and that same guy was up in front playing guitar. He had a look of great peace on his face. Those in attendance began to sing, clap and raise their hands very exuberantly. I had never been to a Christian service other than a Catholic Mass.  Cat carrierI did not know what to do, so I put my arms around my girlfriend. Problem was, I could not do that for very long. I let go of her and began to look around at those in attendance. They were not looking at me, but were focusing on worshiping the Lord. They had an excitement about God I had never witnessed before. During a song, I began to think of my great-grandmother. She came to America from Poland when she was around 16 years old. She worked very hard her whole life, and loved to garden and grow food. I was her favorite. I was thinking of the time I stole around $5000 cash from the place where she hid money and bought drugs with it (not the only time I took money from her). The Holy Spirit was convicting me of that sin (John 16:8). The song stopped and someone spoke up and said out loud something to the effect: “Someone is here and they’re thinking about some things they did that were really bad and God wants you know this - He’s not concerned about your past, He’s concerned about your future.” This was a very small church consisting of about 30 people. It was obvious that every one of these individuals was saved and had a strong relationship with the Lord. I knew God was speaking to me. I did not know it at the time, but this is what the Bible calls a prophecy or a word of knowledge (1 Corinthians 12:8, 10). I witnessed other supernatural demonstrations of the Spirit of God that day.  

I will never forget the minster of the church who spoke that day. His name was Al Gerhardt. He had a peace, meekness and confidence that made a deep impression upon me. He opened up the Bible and taught and exhorted the church from it for a half hour or more. I had never seen this before. When the service ended, he also did something I had never seen before. He invited anyone who needed prayer to come forward. It was like an angel came and took my hand and led me out of my seat, because I got up and started walking as though there was something compelling me to go forward. I will never forget the look on Rev. Gerhardt’s face and what he said to me when I walked up to him. With a smile he said, “Do you want Jesus?” I thought to myself: how profound, how simple. I knew all about Jesus with my Catholic background, but did not know Jesus like these people did. Rev. Gerhardt led me in a prayer where I confessed my sin and asked Jesus to forgive me and save me. Right there, so simply and yet so profoundly, I passed from eternal death to eternal life (John 5:24).  It felt like a laser went through me and cleansed me of my sin and my past.

It was 1984, and that day marked my spiritual birth. People mock “born again” Christians, yet I don’t think they realize what they are doing. Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3). Jesus goes on to explain in John chapter 3 that what He means by this is that just as someone experiences a natural birth when born into this world, one must experience a second birth, a spiritual birth (i.e., be born again), to be born into the Kingdom of God. If you have been born again, you will know it because there will be a dramatic transformation in your life. (2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 4:22-24; Ephesians 5:1-18; Colossians 3:1-12; 1 Peter 4:1-5). 

My life completely changed. I stopped drinking and doing drugs; stopped swearing; stopped hanging around with my old friends (this was very difficult as they didn’t understand and I was very close to some of them).  It’s not just what I stopped doing, it’s whom I became – a new person. The things I valued in life changed. My relationship with Christ became the most important thing in my life. Every decision I made was now based upon how it would affect my relationship with the Lord. For instance, whom to hang around with, which law school to attend (I chose Syracuse University over multiple other law schools so I could continue to attend Believers’ Chapel, a great church in the Syracuse area, and stay close to the Lord); which women to date (believers in Christ only); etc. He also supernaturally cut off things from my life that were not good for me including relationships.

I give Jesus all the honor and glory for what He has done in me and for everything I have. Never forget, “Whoever calls upon the name the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13).

© 2019 Viencek Law | Disclaimer / Attorney Advertising
290 Linden Oaks, First Floor, Rochester, NY 14625
| Phone: 585.419.8075 | 1.866.818.33VOICE

Professional Profile | Personal Profile | Trusted Voice® | Practice Areas | Injury Alert | Testimonials | Results

Law Firm Website Design by
Amicus Creative

© Viencek Law | Disclaimer | Attorney Advertising. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.