As I awoke that beautiful July morning, the thought raced through my mind that I would take my boat out for a sail after work and have an enjoyable evening on the river. Little did I know, that very night I would narrowly escape death.
A short time later, with lunch pail in hand, I started for the door. As usual, my mother asked me, “Ivon, are you coming to church tonight?” I gave my customary reply, “No, I will be taking my sailboat out.” My thoughts were more like, Mom can you ever lay off? However, I didn’t speak those thoughts because I had a sincere respect for my Christian parents.
I had smarted off to my mother once. I said, “How do you know you’re going to the right church?” She looked me right in the eye and said, “When our ministers pray, God answers.” I had been healed several times, and there was no question in my mind that God had healed me, so that ended the conversation right there.
There was no excuse for the sinful life I was living. My parents lived godly lives every day of the week, having made their choices years before to serve God wholeheartedly. They had owned a homestead in South Dakota and had been very successful at farming, but they were troubled because there was no Sunday school for my sister to attend out there on the prairie. They received Gospel literature from the Apostolic Faith Church and in time God led them to sell out and move to Portland, Oregon, to be a part of this work at the headquarters location.
My father had a wonderful crop that year and it seemed a poor time to move, but they knew this was what God wanted. As they prayed, God showed my father the day to hold the auction—right in the middle of harvest. Neighbors wondered if my father had lost his sanity. They said, “Nobody will come to your auction and you won’t get what your stock and equipment are worth.” But Dad was sure of what the Lord had showed him and flyers were printed for the auction.
The night before, a heavy rainstorm came and soaked the fields so much that the farmers could not get into them to harvest. With nothing else to do, everybody came to the auction. And my dad got top price for his stock and equipment!
I grew up knowing this event as well as many other answers to prayer. I planned on getting right with God sometime, but that day out on my sailboat, it was far from my mind. At 4:30 p.m. I left work and headed for the moorage. I owned a twelve-foot sailboat and had spent a lot of time getting it painted and all fixed up. Now, the wind was fair—just perfect for a good evening sail.
I climbed on, lowered the center board, cast off, paddled out from the float, and hoisted the sail. The wind was warm on my face as I tacked down the river with absolutely no thought of God or eternity. But though I was as carefree as could be, God was watching the whole scene.
On my return around eight o’clock, I approached the float to secure my boat. I got up from the stern and moved toward the bow in preparation for tying up. Just as I was moving past the sail, a gust of wind caught it on the other side and jibbed it across the boat. It struck me—and seconds later I found myself struggling in the water.
My work clothes and shoes weighed me down, and I had no life preserver on. Many times in situations like this, a boat will move rapidly away from the person in the water. I was facing death.
People sometimes think, If I ever get into a life and death situation I will pray—but prayer never entered my mind. The only thought I had was that I didn’t want to drown. Even though I didn’t pray, God spared my life and allowed the boat to stay close to me. I got hold of it and crawled back on board. I didn’t give God any of the credit at that moment, but a short time later I came to the realization that God had spared my life.
Camp meeting was in progress at the Portland campground, and a few nights later I attended an evening service. I had no real thought of giving my heart to God, but God was drawing me. Sitting in the service, I paid as little attention to what was going on as possible. Tuning out the service was not too difficult, but trying to turn off the conviction that God was placing on my heart was an entirely different matter. I began to think about eternity and my never-dying soul.
I wanted to get away from the Voice of God, but that was impossible. I walked, God talked, and the devil fought.
As soon as the closing prayer was finished, I left the tabernacle and went out to the street. I wanted to get away from the Voice of God, but that was impossible. I walked, God talked, and the devil fought. God let me know that if I had drowned in the river I would have gone straight to Hell. I realized that this was my night to pray through to salvation. I had been getting further away from Him and deeper into sin all the time, and that night the battle raged. I walked and walked. It seemed as if I walked for hours.
Finally, right there on the street, I gave up. I decided to go back to where the saints of God were praying and see if I could get saved. When I arrived at the church, the prayer service was still going on, but the devil had a grip on me and I couldn’t get up the courage to go forward to the altar of prayer. I stood watching, unable to move, and wondered if I had gone too far to be able to pray.
Then I noticed one of the brothers talking to two boys about my age, a little ways from me. It was clear that he was talking to them about going to the altar and getting saved. I thought if I stayed right where I was, he would come over and say something to me.
That was a wise decision, because as soon as he was finished talking to those two, he headed straight for me. He said, “Ivon, don’t you want to pray?” At other times when people had asked me to pray, they had been met with a rebuff or some smart answer, but this night was different. I had paid the price in my heart and I was “coming home” to God.
I don’t know that I even answered the brother. I just turned, and we walked down to the altar area together. There, some of the saints of God gathered around and began to pray with me. I asked God to be merciful to me, a sinner, and He saved my soul. I literally felt the burden of sin leave. Tears of joy flowed down my cheeks, and those about me began to praise God and sing hymns. What rejoicing there was around that altar of prayer!
I did not join a religious organization that night, turn over a new leaf, or shake the preacher’s hand to be saved. What I did was pray an honest prayer, and God did the work in my soul. He picked me up out of the life of sin I was living and transformed my life.
In the days and weeks following, I learned that salvation worked! Although I was still in high school, I was employed in a machine shop that summer. God helped me to go back on that job with the same men that I had run around with in sin, and live for Him. No more blasphemy came out of my mouth, and I didn’t get angry with the machinery in the shop and throw tools around. That fall I returned to Benson High School for my senior year, and there, too, I lived a victorious life. It took God to make that possible.
After I was saved, God helped me make restitution for the wrongs I had done. What a good feeling to know everything was clear between God and me, and me and my fellow man!
The Lord has directed my life from that time on. About a year after my conversion, I enlisted in the U.S. Navy. I went into the service a Christian, and God kept me with the victory. During my time of duty, I received a letter from the church telling me that a vessel had been purchased for use in missionary activities in the Puget Sound area, and up in Canada and Alaska. God drew the consecration from my heart that I wanted my life to be one of service for Him, and I had the privilege of being part of the crew of that vessel for a number of years.
As I look back over the years, I see so many blessings God has given me. I want to live in the center of His will—to see people saved, the sick healed, to encourage those who are discouraged. Today there is a hope of Heaven in my heart, and I do love the Lord.