Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.II Timothy 1:13 

          I was leaving Spain, my spiritual birthplace. I was leaving the comfort of brothers and sisters who had prayed for me and with me. As a new Christian I had my first pastor, Ron Waggoner, a man called by God and sent to Zaragoza who we, the Christian believers, had been praying for a pastor. 

          I was being reassigned to a different base in South Dakota (after a brief trip to Lackland AFB for the Tops in Blue competition) to a place and people I did not know. Ron took me aside, a few days before I was leaving, and told me that as soon as I got to the base find a good church. 

          Now the word, “good” might seem to be a little broad, but I knew what my pastor meant. Find a church that preached, taught, and believed in salvation through Christ alone, the inerrancy of the Word, and of Jesus, born of a virgin, crucified and then resurrection, now sitting at the right hand of the Father.      I arrived on a Thursday evening and spent the night in the BOQ. The next day I went to the pay phone booth (what is that Mario?) and started looking through the phone book (is that a book listing the kinds of phones and plans you can buy?) for churches. The first one that caught my eye was Open Bible Church and I thought to myself, “how can I go wrong?” 

          I called the church and Pastor Earl Johnson answered. I explained that I was new to the area and wanted to know about the church. He told me that their beliefs aligned with mine and then asked me if I wanted to go on a fishing trip with the men from the church. 

          I’m not even in town 24 hours and I’m being offered a chance to go fishing? You bet! But, Pastor, I don’t have a license. “That’s okay, it’s on private property.” I don’t have a ride. “Someone will come get you, his name is Hank Thompson and he’ll be there in ½ an hour.” 

          I waited outside and a big Cadillac pulled up and a man wearing a Stetson got out and asked if I was Mario? Yup! So, I got in. 

          “I don’t have a fishing pole.” 

          “We’ll get you one. Do you have a sleeping bag?” 


          “We’ll get you one.” 

          “I’ve got a guitar.” 

          “Bring it!” 

          Off to the church we went to meet the rest of the men. It was about a 15–20-minute ride and the entire time Hank preached to me, “My grace is sufficient for thee!” and it was solid preaching! 

          At the church there was about 15 men all ready for an over night of fishing, food, and fellowship! I shared my “saved” status and was welcomed with open arms. 

          Some of the men there were Hank, Shorty Goen, “Doc” Kopp, Johnny Gap (Jr. and Sr.), a man called “The Colonel”, and Pastor Johnson. We drove for about 3 hours and arrived at this beautiful lake, surrounded by hills, green grass and trees. 

          First order was to set up the tents and get everyone settled in then it was a race to see who could get their line in the water first! And we caught fish! What an amazing time. 

          Then that evening after the meal we had a Bible lesson (I can’t remember who taught) I played some scripture songs and hymns and we all sang. What a time of fellowship! 

          Next week Part II!!

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