United Church of God

Only One Story

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Only One Story

One Saturday morning in 1967, the father of one my best friends came to our door weeping. He told me that his son was killed during a gang fight when he was pushed out in the street and hit by a truck.  

Not long after, I learned that another friend had committed suicide in the Milwaukee County jail.  

I was just a teen at the time, but my sense of safety and even life itself felt precarious. I did not feel safe in my neighborhood, my school or even my family.   

Running with a bad crowd seemed the only safe place, though most of what we did was wrong. Gangs are made of those who are afraid. They feel a sense of security inside the group and one will do what is expected to stay in the “safe zone.” It is a “pseudo-family.” (There is an article on dysfunctional family issues at ucg.org/blogs/breaking-free). 

For some time, my parents had been receiving the Plain Truth magazine and listening to the World Tomorrow broadcast. Though we were a large Polish Catholic family (there were nine children in our family), somehow the information from the Church of God was of interest to them, but that is as far as it went. They never acted on what they read and heard. 

About the age of 16, after the death of my third friend in a short span of time, I happened to find in the trash in the basement of our home, a reprint article. It was from the Worldwide Church of God titled, “If You Die Will You Live Again?” I read it with interest as I was concerned I might be joining my other three friends soon.  

I began to read more literature from the Church that my parents had in our house and little by little God mercifully began to open my eyes. He lovingly shared His truth to a confused, terrified and suicidal delinquent. 

I wrote to the Worldwide Church of God in Pasadena and was connected with the pastor of the Milwaukee congregation. I was invited to his home. He told me two things that I have not forgotten.  

First, he told me that God is creating a family, and second, that upon baptism I would be part of the Body of Christ—part of that Family. He also told me that if he, as the pastor, ever left the Church and God, that I should not follow him. He did eventually leave and I have not followed (though not without deep help from the best Father and His dear people.). 

On Feb. 23, 1973, I was baptized. I was 23 years old, but still had a long way to go in understanding what I had committed to.  

A third life-sustaining event took place after my baptism in 1973 and remains as a “rock” in my pocket when the winds of life have blown. At that time there were a number confusing, at least for me, stories coming out of the church headquarters Pasadena and I was wondering what I had gotten myself into.  

One Sabbath my best friend and I went out for dinner after Sabbath services. I was sharing with him my frustrations and fears of what I thought might be happening in the Church at that time and worried I had gotten involved in another dysfunctional family relationship. He, in so many words told me to go home and “soak your head.” He was done with me and tired of my questions. 

Well, I did not go to my apartment but rather to a part of my old neighborhood and entered a bar at the local bowling alley. I was wrestling with suicidal thoughts which had plagued me when confused and scared. I felt utterly alone, with deep concern over what this Church and faith I was inside of was about and where it was headed. To this day I marvel at the fact that there on a Saturday evening there was no one else in the place but the bartender and me! At least I did not see anyone else at first. I sat at the bar and spoke briefly with the bartender. After some time, a man came in and sat next to me at the bar. Without any introduction he turned to me and asked, “So, what is it that Mr. Armstrong teaches that bothers you so much?”  

Stunned, I looked around to verify my surroundings. It was as though time was suspended. I do not remember any answers I gave him if I did. At intervals he would offer thoughts to me and then we would both be quiet. He got up and left. I thought he must be someone at church I had not met yet, but if so, how would he know to come here? My friend with whom I had dinner did not know my whereabouts. I quickly followed out to the street to ask if we could get together but found no one and no cars anywhere. 

I have no explanation except that God, in His mercy toward a very undeserving person, may have sent an angel to encourage me and to save my life that night, for His purpose and to share love for a struggling newcomer to the faith.  

I don’t remember many of the things that were said, but his words encouraged me to stay the course and not give up. I can’t tell you how many times I have needed this. There was a peace that night that I ask God for every day (Philippians 4:6-7). As someone has said, “When you are down to nothing, God is up to something.” 

While attending the Milwaukee congregation I met and married Patricia Hodzinski in April 1974. We have been married for 47 years and we have one son. There is so much more I could write as Patricia and I have continued our journey.   

This is but one person’s story. What’s yours? 



  • katbird_27

    WOW! When I came into the Church in 2009, shortly after I was hearing things online that made me wonder if I had made a mistake. I will never forget what one of the people I met at the feast that year (who I had been corresponding with on Facebook prior) told me, something to the effect of "listen to God". Last I knew he is no longer attending with us, but I am.