When I left home at 17, I stopped going to church. Though I had grown up in a Catholic home, I didn’t believe in anything. I decided to search for God myself, outside any religion.
After three years of college, I dropped out in 1971 to travel to Mexico in a camper truck with my oldest sister, Marie, and her boyfriend. We stopped for a few weeks in Tarpon Springs, a little historical town on the midwest coast of Florida.
One day, while hitchhiking to the beach with a new friend, we were picked up by a woman named Norma Neal Gause. She asked us: “What do you think about Jesus Christ?” I was stunned by her question, but I didn’t fully understand the conversation because I didn’t speak much English. I did notice a sticker on Norma Neal’s windshield that pictured a hand pointing upward with the words “One Way.” I wondered what it meant.
I wanted to stay in the little town instead of continuing our trip to Mexico. My only hope was to reconnect with Norma Neal. I didn’t know Norma Neal’s address, the model of her car or the color. All I could do was search for the sticker I had seen. After many days, I found the car, so I knocked on the door of the house where it was parked.
Norma Neal invited me in, and I dared to ask if I could stay in her house. She told me to come back for supper with my sister. I did, and Norma Neal and her husband welcomed me into their family while my sister and her boyfriend continued on to Mexico. I soon learned that the sticker on her car meant that Jesus is the only way to Heaven.
Norma Neal showed me so much kindness. And in her husband, God provided an earthly father for me. I never experienced any love from my real father, who was an alcoholic and was violent.
One day, Norma Neal was playing a cassette tape of a sermon, and suddenly, I heard the preacher saying, “Don’t try to have faith. Don’t search for faith. HAVE faith!” I asked God to give me that mysterious faith.
After five months in Florida, I returned to Quebec. No one would talk with me about God, including the man I loved. He couldn’t stand me talking about God, so he left. I was heartbroken, so I joined my younger sister Andrée in Cowansville, Quebec, where I lived as a hippie in an attempt to forget Florida and my desire for God.
I tried to find happiness in what the world offered. Eventually, I reached a breaking point. I told God, “If you take me out of here, I will read the Bible and follow You.” But I was unable to keep that promise in my own strength.
One night, a co-worker who was supposed to drive me home, drove instead into the woods and warned me, “If you resist, I will kill you.” I didn’t scream, but my heart cried out to God for protection. Then, without a word, the co-worker turned the car around and took me home. God saved my body and, at that moment, I felt my soul needed saving, too. I told God: “Do something! I am a sinner and I am not able to please you!”
Suddenly, I wanted to change my life. I left my job, then packed up and dragged Andrée back to my mother’s house.
One evening, I tuned in to an English television channel. Billy Graham was preaching the same message I heard in Florida. Listening to him, I finally understood that Jesus died for me, personally. In tears, I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior, receiving the faith I had learned about from Norma in Florida two years before!
Immediately, I wrote to Billy Graham: “I am alone in Quebec with my faith. Can you do something for me?” Soon, a pastor affiliated with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association came to my mother’s house. I was not home, so he explained salvation to my mother. The Association also sent me a Bible and the book “Peace With God.” The day the package arrived, I came home from work and found Andrée had opened it, read “Peace With God,” and had given her life to Jesus.
Two months later, when Andrée and I were baptized, the pastor explained salvation and my youngest sister, Céline, came forward to accept Christ.
I returned to Cowansville to evangelize. I talked about God to anyone I met: on the bus, on the street, door to door. Many of my old friends were convicted by the Spirit of God and accepted Christ. They were baptized by a pastor who had just started an evangelical church in that town.
My husband and I now have two daughters who follow Jesus. Our older daughter, Eveline, is running BGEA of Canada’s Easterrific children’s program in her church. It brings me joy to see her evangelizing through a BGEA ministry, especially when I remember how, 36 years ago, God used Billy Graham to change my life.