I’ve not met Garrett Kell in person, but we’ve interacted some online, including him reaching out last year to say he was praying for my precious Nanci. That meant so much to us. Garrett is an author and the pastor of Del Ray Baptist in Alexandria, Virginia, and also posts great things on Twitter, including video clips (sometimes quite funny ones), which he pairs with spiritual insights. I’m grateful for his life and ministry and encouragement. (This is a positive example of being on Twitter!)
I hadn’t read Garrett’s testimony before, but one of our staff shared it with me. It’s powerful. I think you’ll be touched just like I was. —Randy
By Garrett Kell
On Halloween night 1998 I threw a party in my apartment at Virginia Tech. I was 20 years old and was in the wildest season of my life. I had three girl roommates, a live-in girlfriend, and I spent most of my spare time smoking weed, doing lines of cocaine, and drinking.
On that Halloween night, I was geared up for what I expected to be a good time. Because the party was going be so “unforgettable,” I invited an old friend from high school down for the weekend. Dave and I had played hoops and partied together over the years, so I was excited to see him.
When Dave arrived, I greeted him and escorted him back to my room where I proudly unveiled the welcome gifts I’d prepared for him. On my desk was a fat bag of weed, a 6’er of his favorite beer, and I told him I had a girl he could get to know for the weekend.
But Dave didn’t respond like I expected he would. Instead, he gently closed the door and sat on the bed. He looked me in the eyes and told me he didn’t do those things anymore. He said he’d become a Christian and that he loved Jesus now and the reason he came to the party was to tell me that Jesus loved me too.
I laughed him off.
For the rest of the night Dave stayed at the party with people going crazy all around him. Other friends came up and asked me what was up with my buddy and when I told them he was a Christian we’d all sneer and say “Oh, poor guy” like he’d caught a disease or something.
But as the night went on, my heart was uneasy.
In that room, with the music bump’n and laughter roll’n, I was haunted. As I looked at Dave, I saw he had a peace that no drink or high or lover could give. The party eventually ended, but the story was just beginning.
Over the next several days, Dave and I spoke about Jesus and about the Gospel. He gave me Scriptures to read and tried to answer my questions and endured my mocking. We spoke on the phone several times and exchanged emails. What follows is the family friendly version of an email I sent him about a week after his visit.
Dave, dude, we have to talk. Its great and all that you’re Mr. Religious now, but I want you to know I’m worried about you. I want you to be careful that you don’t go overboard and start getting all weird on me. I mean I know that going to church is a good thing and that God is real and all that, but if you don’t watch it you’re going to miss out on what life is really all about.
I know you are just trying to be a good boy and all, but when you came down here and wouldn’t drink, you looked like an idiot. I mean you were just sitting there with a cork in your mouth. What is wrong with you?
I’m not trying to be a jerk, but I’m really worried about you. I know you are just preaching at me because you are my boy and all that, but I know that I’m OK, God and I have our own little understanding. I know I get crazy now and again, but I don’t think God is going to send me to hell for having a good time. I mean he understands I’m just having a little fun. I’m not a bad person and he knows my heart and all that. I agree I get a little crazy now and again, but it’s good for the soul, right? Well, enough of that, I’m sure you’ll be back to normal soon and we can smoke a fatty to celebrate. Be a good boy and tell Jesus I said hi.
During another party a week or so later I felt myself becoming uncomfortable. I was feeling haunted, though I couldn’t explain it to myself. I felt dirty and confused, so I retreated to my bedroom and closed the door and said, “OK, God, if you’re real, show me something.” As I looked down in exhaustion, I saw the corner of a Bible that my parents had given me when I went off to college. Until that night it had been hidden under my bed. But for some reason, that night, it was peeking out.
I sat at my desk and played Bible roulette. The Bible opened to Ezekiel 18. I began reading and came to this,
“The person who sins is the one who will die…But if wicked people turn away from all their sins and begin to obey my decrees and do what is just and right, they will surely live and not die. All their past sins will be forgotten, and they will live…Do you think that I like to see wicked people die? says the Sovereign Lord. Of course not! I want them to turn from their wicked ways and live…Put all your rebellion behind you, and find yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die…I don’t want you to die, says the Sovereign Lord. Turn back and live!” (NLT).
That freaked me out.
So I closed the Bible and said, “God, let’s try this again.” I opened again and this time it fell open to Romans 2 which says, “Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?”
That really freaked me out.
A few weeks later I was at home on Christmas break, and I was doing a drug called Ecstasy. Sometime after midnight I became strangely sober and felt an overwhelming burden to call Dave. So at 2 a.m. Dave came up to my house, carrying his Bible, with tears rolling down his cheeks.
We sat down, and I told him I needed to know more about God. He asked me if I knew what he was doing when I called him. He went on to tell me that when I called him, he was doing the same thing he’d been doing every night since he left Virginia Tech—he was on his knees praying for me.
Over the next few days and weeks, I continued to read the Bible and have conversations with Dave. He told me that God made me to love and worship Him. He explained that the guilt I was feeling was God showing me that I was in rebellion against Him and was on my way to hell. He explained that Jesus died for sinners like me and then rose from the dead to extend mercy to me if I would turn from my sins and believe in Jesus. He told me that Jesus would forgive all of my sins, change my life, and make me His forever.
I’m not sure if it was that night or in the weeks that followed, but God saved my soul. I began reading the Bible, and it was no longer a book of old stories, but now it was like a spotlight that searched my soul and showed me the depths of my sin and the even greater depths of God’s love for me in Jesus.
Dave made a stand for Christ that night at Virginia Tech. God used him to get a message to me that eternally altered my life. Now, every Halloween night I call Dave and thank him for the stand. God used Dave’s stand to save my soul and my life from utter destruction.
I’m a very unlikely person to be a Christian. I loved my sin. I loved my life. I had a very hard heart. Dave was the 17th person to have some sort of Gospel conversation with me. I didn’t want Jesus. But for some reason, He wanted me.
As you read this, I want to encourage you to remember that God’s grace is stronger than the hardest heart. Romans 1:16-17 says “the Gospel…is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, as it is written, ‘But the righteous man shall live by faith.’”
Who is the most unlikely person you know to become a follower of Jesus?
Take a moment to think.
You have a name?
Jesus can save them.
And you just might be the person He uses to get the Gospel to them.
The Gospel is the power of God for salvation, for rebels like me and rebels like you.
Make a stand for Christ and trust Him to use it for His glory.
That stand may just save a soul.
Photo by Aaron Owens on Unsplash