Cathy and I were saved and born again on August 6, 1977 at a Bill Gothard seminar in Dallas, Texas. I wrote about the experience in a post entitled “A Shopping Trip To Dallas,” and both Cathy and I have told the account to numerous people in various situations since. The transformation of our hearts and in our home was immediate, and although we looked the same we didn’t act the same. There are some who have an emotional experience at such a Christian conference and following are left with the nagging question, “Was my experience with the Lord Jesus really real?”
Bill Gothard spoke to that question on the last day of the conference and challenged all who prayed for salvation to ask the Lord to give them a sign of the reality of their life change. Both Cathy and I prayed that very prayer. This type of praying was a new and different experience for us, because we never prayed together for specific requests despite being married 12 years. My brother Berry Lee (Bubba) and his wife LaNell along with most of their children were present at the conference, and they were the first in our family to know about our prayer of surrender. This was significant because Bubba was the one who urged us from the beginning to attend the conference. He had promised if we “didn’t love the conference and were blessed by it he would reimburse us for all of our expenses.” This was enough of a challenge for me since I would have enjoyed having Bubba pay our expenses.
Following the close of the conference on Saturday we left Dallas to return to our home in El Dorado, Arkansas eager to share what had occurred. Our children; John Aaron age ten, Mary Kay age seven, and Ginny age four were the first to hear. They couldn’t fully comprehend what had happened, because we looked and sounded the same. They would soon know we were definitely different.
We had not given much thought to our prayer for confirmation from the Lord until the mail arrived the following week. Within a few days of our return home Cathy received a letter from her Mom who lived in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Mom Young wrote letters and notes to us on a regular basis, so this letter itself caused no immediate excitement. When Cathy opened the letter there was a folded envelope inside along with an explanation for the addressed and stamped empty envelope. Mom was always in search of commemorative stamps and coins, and this particular stamp was a special one concerning the Young family. It had been issued to honor General Herkimer.
General Nicholas Herkimer was a brigadier general in the New York state militia during the War for Independence in the 1770’s. He was a distant relative of the Young family, and we had been told by her of this relationship years before. What we were not aware was the fact on August 6, 1777 General Herkimer along with his troops were ambushed by British regulars assisted by Mohawk Indians in what was known as The Battle of Oriskany. General Herkimer was mortally wounded in the leg and died 10 days later. The stamp on her empty envelope was commemorative of the 200th anniversary of the general’s brave sacrifice to free our nation. He has been memorialized in the state of New by naming a town and a county in his honor.
What caught Cathy’s and my attention was what was imprinted on the envelope. On the stamp was a painting of General Herkimer leaning against a tree encouraging his troops to continue fighting at Oriskany. The post mark was from Herkimer, New York dated August 6, 1977, two hundred years from the date of the heroic battle. The date corresponded to the day of our spiritual conversion in Dallas. Cathy’s name as a Herkimer family member and her address were written by her Mom. Under the stamp were the words, “First Day of Issue.” After studying the envelope for a few moments Cathy exclaimed, “This is our confirmation from the Lord of what took place on that very day in Dallas. This is our letter from God!”
Was the envelope a mere coincidence or did it have a divine purpose? Both Cathy and I are confident God answered our prayers by transforming us in Dallas and was responsible for her Mom sending us a confirming letter of the event. Cathy had the envelope framed, and it hangs on our bedroom wall opposite our bed. It is a daily reminder of God’s love for us and his power to transform and encourage us in our prayer life and faith walk.
PS: We did not ask Bubba to pay our expenses for the Dallas trip. In thinking now about it, we should have paid his!