Today is my birthday and a very special day it is. I had no idea that I would fall in love on my birthday. Nevertheless, I did. Seventy years ago, on this day in 1951, I entered this exciting world. Forty years ago on a beautiful Sunday morning just like today, I found love on my birthday in a church. I especially remember that day because I was broke and I needed a job.
Two weeks before my birthday, I was feeling down so I called the 700 Club to ask someone for prayer. I wanted someone to pray with me that I might find a job. A man prayed with me and suggested that I get rooted in a Holy Spirit-filled church. He asked if it would be okay if he passed my number on to someone at a local church in my area. I told him it would be okay and then we ended the conversation.
About three days later, I started receiving phone calls from a man named John Bertucci. John was a member of Victory Assembly (Now Victory Fellowship Church), a local church in the area where I lived. He told me that he got my phone number from the 700 Club and that he was following up on helping me find a church.
Every day John would call and talk about “the goodness of God” as he put it. At the end of every conversation, he invited me to visit his church. Although I had never met John, the way he pronounced his words told me that he was a white man. I did not want to go to church with John; partly because I had never attended a so-called “white church” before, and I just wasn’t ready for the commitment.
John called me every evening for a little more than a week. The Wednesday before my birthday, John called, but this time he sounded different. There was a sense of urgency in his voice He was both commanding and gentle. He said,
“I perceive by the Holy Spirit that I am beginning to bother you. However, I believe you will get blessed if you go to church with me. Therefore, I am going to make you an offer. I want you to go to church with me this coming Sunday. However, if God does nothing for you, I promise to never bother you again.”
I thought this deal would present the perfect opportunity to say goodbye to John Bertucci forever, so I accepted.
“You’ve got a deal, John,” I replied. “Good,” said John. “The service starts at 7 a.m., I will pick you up at 6:45 Sunday morning.”
Sunday at 6:40 a.m. the telephone rang. It was John. He apologized for not being able to pick me up but said he would send his son Mike instead. At 6:45 a.m. promptly there was a knock at the door, When I opened the door there stood a tall, redhead, freckle-faced young white man in his late twenties.
“Hello. Are you Eric?” asked the young man.
“Yes,” I replied. “And you must be Mike.”
“I am,” he answered.
After a quick informal greeting, I got in the car and we headed for church. It was my birthday and to be honest, I was not excited about spending my special day in church.
That was my first time attending a predominately white church service. To my surprise, everyone was friendly, a little reserved, but friendly. I thoroughly enjoyed the worship service, although I was not familiar with any of the songs. In his sermon, Pastor Bailey talked about how Jesus meets us wherever we are in life. That day, I needed Jesus to meet me in my brokenness because I was down in spirit. Near the end of the service, Pastor Bailey gave an altar call for people who wanted prayer. He asked anyone desiring prayer to come to the front of the church. I was among those who went to the altar for prayer.
Quite a few people went up for prayer so I did not feel out of place. People stood before the podium in the front of the church as the pastor went from person to person laying hands on them and praying for them. When he got to me, he said,
“Today the Lord is going to give you what you have been seeking Him for.”
When I tried to tell the pastor what I wanted him to pray for, he turned off his lapel microphone and said,
“Don’t tell it to me; tell it to the Lord.”
I closed my eyes and began to pray within that God would give me a job. After church, as I was leaving the building, a young man came up to me, handed me a card, and said,
“The Holy Spirit told me that you were looking for a job.”
I could have passed out. I had not told anyone why I came to church. Only God knew. Most miraculously, God had answered my prayer. The next morning I started my new job. October 10, 1951, is the day I was born. However, October 10, 1981, was undoubtedly the best birthday ever. It was the day I met John Bertucci whom I call my father in the Lord. On that day, I quietly asked Jesus to come into my heart. That day, I became a new creation. I got an answer to my prayer and my name was written in the Lamb’s Book of Life on the same day. It was the best birthday ever.