My parents immigrated to America from Italy. They were soon visited by the local parish priest, asking for the yearly subscription. My dad informed the priest that since he had become an American citizen, he now had the freedom to choose his own church, and would not be attending or giving a yearly subscription. Our family began to attend the local Italian Baptist Church. Dad began reading his Italian Bible and prayed very loudly at bed time. The words I could understand were “Lord, help me.”
Our family had to move to California for my Dad’s health. He was told that his lungs needed a dry climate. He was later diagnosed with stage four cancer and passed away within six months. I was devastated. I had never experienced a death in our immediate family. My world had turned upside down. Where had my dad gone? I would dream of him saying, “It was all a mistake, I’m alive.” I was afraid to go to sleep, afraid that I would never wake again. If dad is in heaven, I thought, he now knows what kind of a boy I really am. If dad knows all about my bad language and lies, I’m sure that God knows. I was fourteen years old and sad and afraid.
My sisters and I started to attend a church in downtown Los Angeles. The people there were very friendly and welcoming. I loved being with the young people my age. The youth pastor was a high school principal who had played football at USC. He asked if I wanted to go to summer camp in Sequoia National Park. Someone had given extra money and I could go for free. Every night there was an evangelistic service. Every night I felt the Holy Spirit speaking to me. Every night, I said “no.” When we came to the last night of the meetings, the preacher took for his text, Romans 6:23 – “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.”
I knew I was a sinner. I knew that God knew I was a sinner.
Jon Hall met me at the altar, and knelt with me in prayer. I confessed to God that I was a sinner and asked if he would forgive me. Jon shared 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Yes, God forgave me. I became a new creature in Christ Jesus. All my fears disappeared. The burden of sin I had carried for 14 years was lifted.
I can envision Foothill Church, carrying the gospel message throughout the San Gabriel Valley.