By Mark G. I was born into a Word of God family. My parents took me to church, to prayer meetings, sent me to Christian schools and even gave me and my brother a Life in the Spirit Seminar when I was 9. But all this stuff didn’t really make a whole lot of sense to me. I didn’t understand why we went to all these things or why all these people like my parents got so excited at these prayer meetings. I knew it was about God, but I didn’t get it. I just didn’t see what the big deal was.
When I was 10 my brother and some of his friends started holding a kids’ version of The Word of God prayer meetings during the adult sessions. I wanted to see if I could make sense of what was going on, so I went. These little simple prayer meetings were my first experience of real understanding of God. Things began to click in my mind about who God was and what it meant to be a Christian.
In 1995, when I was 12, I went to Pine Hills Boys’ Camp for the first time. I had heard a lot about how cool the prayer meetings were and how God came and all. It all sounded very strange and far-out to me. I was really surprised by the military style of the camp, and even more surprised by the prayer meetings. In them I could see people getting affected directly by God. I can’t remember how much I personally experienced, but at least I saw the reality of God.
I think it was that autumn that my family first visited the Toronto Airport Vineyard. I remember seeing all that was going on and thinking, “This is really weird.” People were doing and saying all sorts of crazy things. I remember getting prayed over, getting “slain” in the Spirit and then getting “holy laughter.” That was my first tangible experience of God’s presence. I felt so loved. But I still didn’t “get it.”
The next spring I was preparing for Confirmation in my church. My grandfather, Bobbie Joe Cavnar, came up to visit my family and he prayed over me. I had gone through the Life in the Spirit Seminar, but the gift of tongues really had not worked for me yet. So my grandad prayed over me and taught me some simple things and the Holy Spirit showed up and I started speaking in tongues! That was pretty cool, but the teachings I was receiving at Confirmation class still weren’t fully comprehensible to me.
At our pre-Confirmation retreat I remember praying over one of my friends with Father Ed. I was holding out my hand to pray, but Father Ed took my hand and placed it on my friend. That single action spoke to me about how real the power of the Holy Spirit is. So I got confirmed, which was cool, but I needed something more. I got the Life of St. Francis by St. Bonaventure and began reading it along with the New Testament. I also received a little wooden cross, which I began wearing around my neck everyday and did so for the next four years.
Then I went to Pine Hills 1996. I was ready for it this time. I didn’t let the military stuff bug me too much. I wanted to go to the prayer meeting to see if God was there. At the prayer meeting Peter Herbeck spoke excitedly about giving your heart to Jesus. I remember him holding his hands like a cup and lifting them up to Jesus. That night some people were praying over him and I knew that this was the time. I either had to give my whole life to Jesus or there was no point in believing in God or going to church. I had to give everything to Him. So I cupped my hands and lifted them up, with my heart as an offering to Jesus. I remember the person praying for me whispering in my ear, “Jesus has seen and accepted your offering.” That was the greatest turning point in my life. God was no longer a thing I “didn’t get.” He was real. He was alive and he knew me and wanted me to know Him.
He is still my only Lord.