Captivated by Christ

By Jerri Menges   •   June 5, 2006

On a late summer evening in 1957, Carl Washington turned on the television in the front room of his Baltimore, Md., home. The house was quiet. His wife, Minnie, and their three small children were visiting with friends.

Maybe he could catch a movie. Between his college studies, his job as a hospital orderly and being a husband and father, he seldom had free time alone. He started changing channels, in search of a good show, and found himself staring at Billy Graham, a Southerner from North Carolina, preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ from a New York City Crusade.

Carl had never heard the Gospel presented quite this way.

“Billy Graham spoke about there being in each person a place that God has made for His occupancy alone, and that you would never be satisfied until God had filled that place.”

It made sense to Carl. He had grown up in church, but he’d never known he could have a personal relationship with Christ. Now he had a beautiful wife, three adorable children and a fourth on the way. He and Minnie had parties in their home almost every Saturday night with their friends. Still, he didn’t feel complete.

“I felt like something was missing,” he said.

When Mr. Graham gave the invitation to accept Christ that night, Carl got down on his knees and invited Christ to come and live in that place in his heart that God had reserved for Himself.

The next morning, he told Minnie about his decision.

“That’s fine,” she said. “So long as you don’t bother me with your religion.”

Carl started praying.

“I knew that Minnie loved me and that I loved her. Basically, we were pretty good people, but the Gospel pointed out that we were all sinners in need of a Savior. I felt a strong calling on my life to share what I had learned, to win others. And the first person to win was my wife.”

One Saturday night, he made a proposal to Minnie: He would give the kids a bath and put them to bed if she would watch a television show with him.

“That was an excellent bargain for me,” Minnie said. “I thought, ‘This is really going to be nice.'”

Carl put the kids to bed, then came back to the front room. He turned the television on, the lights off, and sat down on the couch beside Minnie. She had no idea that the program he wanted her to watch was the Billy Graham Crusade, which was continuing in New York City.

Minnie grew up under a doctrine that only presented God as a condemning Father who sent people to hell for their sins.

“Although I was baptized, I had sinned,” she said. “So I felt that God would not receive me into heaven. I was in a place that felt comfortable. I was going to hell anyway, so I was enjoying the trip.”

As she watched the Billy Graham Crusade with Carl, she heard about a forgiving, merciful God–One who loved her and desired a relationship with her. She was captivated.

Mr. Graham preached from Joshua 24:15: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (NKJV).

“I didn’t know it, but Carl had been praying for me, and he was praying based on this Scripture,” she said. “I could have walked away from the invitation that night, except that the message was so clear and it left no back door for me to walk out.” I repented of my sins and surrendered to Christ there in the darkness of our living room.

“I will always be grateful that Carl prayed for my salvation and the salvation of our children–and that God heard his prayer. ”

Immediately, they set up a place of prayer in their home. Every morning and night, they knelt with their three children, 4, 2 and 1, and prayed for their friends, the unborn child Minnie was carrying and the world.

“Because of how the Holy Spirit had drawn us, we believed that not only we, but also our children, were called.”
Following the Apostle Paul’s instruction to “do the work of an evangelist,” Carl and Minnie started telling others of their faith in Christ. Soon, instead of parties, they were having Bible studies in their home.

“All of our friends knew that we had received Christ,” Minnie said. “We were able to witness to them through our life and by the Word of God, and one by one, our friends came to Christ. It was such glory to see.”

Carl accepted God’s call into the ministry. He and Minnie both enrolled in a correspondence class through Trinity College and Seminary in Newport, Ind. Within months, their Bible study group had grown into a church–St. Timothy’s Christian Baptist.

“We rented a little storefront building on Lafayette Avenue here in Baltimore,” Carl said. “A couple of years later we purchased another building and had our Sunday school meetings there.”

They tried not to pass up any opportunity God gave them to share their faith.

“We joined a missionary group and we’d take our missionary friends into the bar across the street from the church,” Minnie said. “We’d sit on the bar stools, drink ginger ale and witness. Eventually, the bar closed.”

Carl felt called to pastor different churches three times, but after seven years, God called him back to St. Timothy’s, where he and Minnie have served for 33 years. They now have four daughters and two sons, and all are involved in ministry.

St. Timothy’s congregation has grown to about 400. In 1981, the church participated in Billy Graham’s Baltimore Crusade. This spring, 40 members were trained in preparation for the Franklin Graham Metro Maryland Festival, July 7-9, at Oriole Park in Baltimore.

At 75 and 71, Carl and Minnie plan to spend the rest of their lives in service to Christ.

“My husband did some serious praying for me after he became a Christian,” Minnie said. “If I had known he was praying, I would have been very rebellious because I would have felt that he was seeking to bend me. Of course, I now know that only God can bend us toward Christ.”