God Saved Me On April Fool’s Day!
April Fools’ Day is special for me! It was on that day in 1979 that I began following Jesus! I was sitting in my MIT dormitory room in MacGregor House G Entry 4th floor looking out at the Charles River on a beautiful spring day. I was not in any sort of crisis – there was nothing wrong in my life that I was aware of. I wasn’t upset about anything. Somehow the Jesus who suffered the horrors of crucifixion roughly 2000 years ago and then rose from the dead 3 days later made his presence known to me and made it clear that I now had an opportunity to follow him. The Jesus I now follow is the same Jesus who has been given all authority in heaven and earth (Matthew 28:18-20) and who will ultimately judge and rule over all creation (Acts 17:29-31).
I didn’t grow up in church. My mother took me to Sunday School for a brief period when I was perhaps 5 or 6, but I don’t think that period in my life lasted more than a few months. I did attend Trinity Parish Boys Camp (run by Trinity Church in Manhattan) during the summers of 1971 – 1974 but, although I was curious about the church services, the priests who ran the camp made no effort to “close the sale”, so I re-focused my attention elsewhere.
My ideas about God had largely been formed by watching the Lutheran claymation show “Davey & Goliath” on television (a wonderful show) as a young child. When I was 16, my sister Renée wrote me a letter about how to make Jesus Lord of my life, but by then I found the idea that I needed Jesus in my life offensive and I tore up the letter and threw it away.
When I arrived at MIT in 1976, I met Michael Harrison, who would become my best friend (and eventually the best man at my wedding). He was already a Christian and encouraged me to become one. The following year when, as a tutor in Project Interphase I met my future wife Eva Giliam, I also met Courtney McBath, who would also strongly encourage me to become a Christian. Despite their influence I felt strongly that following Jesus was something I just wouldn’t be able to do. I might be able to start out OK, but I just didn’t believe that it would ultimately work. I would tell them: “Maybe I’ll get saved when I’m 30”.
On Sunday April 1, 1979 however, in my MacGregor dorm room, Jesus somehow made it clear to me that if I decided to follow him then, it would work. I felt free to accept him and confident that I could actually be a Christian. I also felt free to say no to Jesus, but I also had a nagging worry: I didn’t know when I would ever again feel that same freedom to follow Jesus!
I decided to follow Jesus and to attend the Black Christian Fellowship Bible study that Friday. As it turns out, Eva had, quite independently, decided to follow Jesus herself that same week (we were no longer a couple at that point). I wasn’t planning to attend church because my mother had told me that churches were full of hypocrites. I went to the Bible study that Friday because I knew the members and trusted that they were genuine. When they invited people to share testimonies I told them that I had asked Jesus to be lord of my life and that I believed he had saved me. Word eventually went out on campus that the unthinkable had happened – Rocklyn had gotten saved. I didn’t go to church that Sunday, but the following Sunday was Easter and I figured I would go to church for Easter. I went to First Church of God (now Shawmut Community Church of God) in the South End and met Bishop Gideon A. Thompson, (he was Pastor Thompson then) who answered my questions, opened his library to me, and mentored me in ministry. He created safe space for me to ask questions and he saw to it that I got answers. Under his ministry I was NEVER made to feel bad for wanting to understand God, Jesus, the Bible, etc. By the way, “Eva had already begun attending the same church and, as you can guess, we didn’t stay broken up for long.
Yes – God saved me on April Fools Day! I’ve made plenty of mistakes along the way but, here I am many years later, still following Jesus. To God be the glory!