Because I had a job on the dish crew at one of the dorm cafeterias, I had returned to campus right after Christmas. I was a diver, which means I took the meal trays as they came through the window.
It seemed that most students did everything they could to make my job as miserable as possible. They mixed food together to create a big mess and crammed napkins into the bottom of glasses. But then Intervarsity’s Urbana Student Missions Convention came to the campus, and there was an immediate difference: The trays coming through the window were not messy. These students were nice; they even put their utensils together. It really got my attention.
The previous Easter, despite my friends’ teasing, I had started reading the Bible. I was up to Deuteronomy 6 but wasn’t able to understand a whole lot. One of the guys on the dish crew, Dave Koetje, was talking about Jesus with everyone he met and inviting them to attend the student missions convention. I was hoping he’d share with me–and he did. He invited me to hear Billy Graham speak on New Year’s Eve. As I sat in the meeting, I found myself attracted to the possibility of finding freedom and hope through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
I remember two things that Mr. Graham said, as if it were just yesterday: “If the Holy Spirit is convicting you of your sin, then you need to stand up right now and give your life to Jesus.” I was the original gutless wonder, so I just sat there. And then he said, “Because if you don’t, you probably never will.” Still, I just sat there.
But after the meeting in Assembly Hall was over, I went back to my dorm room and got out my Bible. Dave had written down some Bible verses for me and had drawn an illustration that explained how Jesus is the bridge between God and sinners. Just to make sure he was not trying to pull the wool over my eyes, I wanted to read the verses in context. One week later I gave my life to Christ.
Dave influenced a lot of people, but I’m sure he had no idea what God would do in me through his obedience. I quit gambling, began studying again and got involved in Christian ministry on campus. After graduation, I served in the U.S. Navy for three years and then joined the staff of The Navigators. In 1970, I married Judie Hoffman. We were missionaries with The Navigators in Canada for 27 years. Four years ago we moved to the Boston area where we have continued with The Navigators ministry. God has been faithful to us as we’ve committed ourselves to sharing God’s message of hope with others. And looking back, I’m thankful that Dave loved me enough to invest his life in mine by sharing his passion to know, love and become like Jesus Christ.