When Victor Arredondo started dating Thayer Whaley, the young woman who ran a modeling agency in Charleston, S.C., he wanted this relationship to be different.
“I wanted to keep this relationship pure,” says Victor, an advertising representative for a Charleston radio station. “I’d had too many relationships that were improper and I wanted this to be the one that I made right.”
Victor had grown up in a home filled with anger, alcoholism and separation. His dad had moved his family from Mexico to near Chicago when he was a toddler. Victor, his brother and two sisters had to make new friends and learn a new language. Their parents had been married and divorced from each other three times. For years, Victor had dealt with the pain of his childhood by abusing drugs and alcohol himself. In the process, he had destroyed numerous relationships.
“I became very lonely,” he says. “I carried that with me into my young adult life.”
By the time he met Thayer, he was in his early 30s and was becoming disgusted with his lifestyle.
“I hadn’t led a healthy life,” he says. “There was an overwhelming sense of selfishness about me, and I wanted to get rid of it, but I didn’t know how.”
After several dates, Thayer invited Victor to her house for dinner–on a night she knew a Billy Graham telecast was scheduled to air. She had sensed his struggle, and she was beginning to question her own testimony.
“I was always clear with the fact that I knew what was right, even if I didn’t always do it,” she says.
When Victor arrived, she greeted him at the door and led him into the living room. She turned the television on to the channel that would air the Billy Graham program, then she excused herself and went into the kitchen.
“I was just holding my breath,” she says. “I was thinking, I want him to know the Lord, and I want to recommit my own life. We both need this.”
Thayer busied herself with dinner preparations, coming back and forth into the living room to refill Victor’s tea. She listened to Billy Graham’s sermon from the kitchen and when she heard the choir singing “Just As I Am,” she came back into the room. Victor was on his knees in front of the television, crying and praying. She knelt beside him and put her arms around him.
“Billy Graham had said two things very clearly,” Victor says. “He said that we are all sinners and that God loves us and has provided a way for us to have a relationship with Him. It was the most simple, sweetest invitation of love and a relationship with God that I had ever heard.”
As Victor prayed to accept Christ that night, Thayer recommitted her life to Him.
“What a breaking down of walls,” she says. “Our relationship changed. Victor asked me to marry him.”
Victor immediately began to confess his past sins. He made a list of 20 to 30 things he remembered doing through the years that he knew were offensive to God. He went down the list, confessing each sin and asking God to forgive him.
“I started telling Him, ‘God you are real. You are real’ … I just wanted to get clean.”
For weeks, Victor repeated these words: “God, take my pride out. Take my selfishness out. Take my insecurities out. Fill me with love. Fill me with confidence in You. Fill me with Your promises.” God answered Victor’s prayer. “He showed me how to treat people, how to treat Thayer.”
With God’s help, Victor gave up alcohol and gradually released the anger he had carried since childhood. He forgave his dad for his physical and verbal abuse, and he began to share Christ with others.
In 1996, Victor took two friends to a Billy Graham Crusade in Atlanta. At the invitation, Victor went forward to affirm his faith commitment. One of his friends rededicated his life to Christ. The other came forward but did not make a commitment.
About a year later, that friend called him and said, “Victor, I’m ready.”
Victor knew what that meant because he had been sharing with his friend. “I got into my car and went over to his house,” Victor says. “He came walking out of the house. I got out of my car, and we met on the front lawn, and he got down on his knees there in the front lawn of his house and he received Christ.
“We had done drugs and alcohol together, had gone through a lot of sin, but he saw the transformation in me. After his decision we saw a transformation in him.”
God can do anything with a person who is willing to do His will, Victor says. “That’s all He’s looking for–people who are willing to trust Him, to experience Him, to acknowledge that He is real, and then He will do incredible things. There’s no greater adventure than following Christ.”