The acceptance of God's salvation is the greatest of all events in life's history and is unforgettable
in time and throughout all eternity. It is my pleasure to put in writing how God in His boundless mercy
reached and saved me, and how through His infinite wisdom brought events in my life that would eventually
lead me to hear the wondrous story of the cross.
I was not raised in a Christian home, but had loving parents that provided for all my earthly needs and expected me to do my share of hard work on the small farm that I grew up on. I learned responsibilities and thought I could challenge anything in the world. When I graduated from high school I enlisted in the Marine Air Wing and was trained to be a specialist, responsible for all the maintenance on a particular aircraft. Later I was stationed at Cherry Point, NC and found myself at the height of my glory.
In mid-January of 1956 I was home for a two-week leave, out to have a good time. My type of fun was no different than any other young men of my age, drinking and doing things I certainly would not want published. Since our home was in the country, I hitched a ride into Steubenville and the driver left me off several blocks from a bus station. From there my plans would take me into the next city to meet a girl I was fond of. Instead, and not knowing it at the time, God had other plans for me. For some reason I walked several blocks out of the direct path to the bus station only to cross paths with a woman that I once was a neighbor of. She was putting groceries in her car, and we talked for a few minutes. Then she invited me to special meetings at the Toronto Gospel Hall, 10 miles north of Steubenville, Ohio. Two of the Lord's servants, Mr. Albert Klabunda and George Baldwin were conducting Gospel meetings. Even though I had the evening planned to have a good time, I promised her I would be there with the intention of not showing up. In her persistence, she said "Good!" and invited me to her house to have dinner prior to the evening meeting.
The first meeting was enlightening; I didn't realize there was a God in heaven that loved me so much that he was willing to send his Son to the cross to die for my sins. I took for granted that everybody was out for himself and if you were good you would get to heaven and if you were sinful like me, you would be punished. I never took the place called Hell serious even though I used it in my everyday language, yet I began to fear it and certainly didn't want to go there. I heard words that I was "condemned already" because of my sins and was warned by God's word, "Be sure your sin will find you out," Numbers 32:23. I soon learned that I was responsible to God for my own sins. But what struck me most of all that even though I was going to Hell for those sins, I was loved by God. I continued to attend the meetings every night. What was happening to me? This certainly wasn't the Bob Keller that my friends knew. I heard John 3:16, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life," quoted several times during that two-week leave, but it meant nothing to me. I just wanted to be saved and didn't know how.
I shook hands with the two evangelists the last evening that I could attend and took a bus back to Cherry Point, NC, thinking I would never have another opportunity to listen to the Gospel as I just experienced over the past several days.
When I arrived at the base I was told to pack-up my other belongings, I was to take another 2-week leave because I was being shipped to Korea for the rest of my enlistment. The first thing that I thought of was going back home and possibly the two evangelists would still be there. As I walk into the meeting two nights later I was right, they were there and preaching the Gospel. More than ever I listened attentively. God had given me another chance to listen to the Gospel and to trust His Son for my salvation.
The Christians at the Toronto Gospel Hall were amazed that I was back at the meetings and they began to pray more earnestly for my salvation. One evening before the meeting started I went to the lower level of the building to use the men's room. I overheard brethren praying in a closed room and my name was mentioned before God's throne.
I heard several stories during the preaching of the Gospel that related to God's salvation. Trying to do something to earn my salvation, I did exactly those things related from the stories. Men that got down on their knees and ask God's forgiveness and God saved them. In my desperation I did the same thing. That was the problem. I tried to do something for my salvation. That night, I went to bed, troubled and weeping, longing to be saved. I had acknowledged my position before God, "and my sin was ever before me. The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell got hold of me: I found trouble and sorrow," Psalm 51:3 - 116:3.
Then on February 16, 1956, at approximately 8:45, at the close of the meeting, John 3:16 was quoted again. The preacher said there's nothing you can do to be saved, "Just trust Him, believed He died for you, and when you do that you will have confidence in Him." The word confidence was a new word to me. At this moment we began to sing a closing hymn, "Answer Jesus, gladly saying, I'll be saved, yes saved, tonight," hymn 101. With the words of this hymn and pondering over John 3:16, "that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life," combine with having confidence in Him, I realized at that moment that Jesus did died for me, that I did have confidence in Him. I told my sister who was going to the meetings also with me, "Thelma, I'm Saved!" Those that sat in the row behind me overheard me, saying, "I'm Saved." The good news of my salvation was soon known among all the saints that were present at the meeting.
And in that small Gospel Hall that night, there was rejoicing, hugging and tears as the saints of God seen their prayers answered and a wayward Marine, saved. There was rejoicing also in Heaven over one sinner that repenteth. I went overseas to Korea and was told later that eight were saved during those nine weeks of meetings. On March 17, 1957, I was baptized and received into fellowship with the saints at the Steubenville Gospel Hall.
As I mentioned before, it's an event that I'll never forget. But friend, what about you? Do you have a similar story to tell? How and when God reached and saved you? How that there is no doubt that you will be in heaven when you die, that your eyes will never see Hell? Only you can answer these solemn questions. I trust that you will stop for a few minutes today and consider this matter. "O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end," Deut 32:29.
-by Bob Keller