My story begins with my upbringing, my background. I am from a one-hundred percent Italian family. Being Italian means that your faith is to be Catholic. It is your identity or I’ve been told it’s my license in life.
I saw a flyer up at Wheeling High School and they were looking for people to help with running some tech for a show. So I built up the courage and I went. Through that opportunity I met a friend, Steve. Steve would invite me to church or to youth group many times, but going back to my time as a Catholic, what I had been taught and trained was to go to anything that wasn’t Catholic was bad and wrong. God was working on my heart, softening it and three years later, I finally told Steve “Hey I’ll go with you.”
Fast forward a couple of weeks and Steve’s parents, Wayne and Terry, offered to our friend Joel and I, to sleep over on a Saturday night. Now this was the Saturday night before homecoming, so it was very convenient and easy. One of the things that his parents said to Joel and I was “If you sleep over Saturday night we go to church early on Sunday, and we really want you to come with us”. I started to build trust with them, so I agreed to go with them.
It was really interesting because this was the first time that I had been to a church experience where it was engaging and very very real. I say real because when the pastor came up to the to the pulpit he opened his Bible, then he said “please join me in opening your Bibles.” What really stuck out to me starting there was, wow this is a community of people that love each other and care for for each other. It was just another way that God was building on my heart that the Christian walk is real and it’s alive.
One weekend in October we needed to dig a hole for the new sign that is in front of our church, so a couple of us guys and girls, went and helped dig the hole for the sign. The night after we dug the hole it rained and filled the hole. Steve being a very handy guy and involved in the church, said “hey Jerry come with me. We’re going to throw a sump pump in the hole. We’re gonna get that water out of there”. This was an important moment for me because I had started coming to church, going to youth group, hearing about God’s love, and how there is a savior that you need.
As I was sitting at the hole, looking up at the front of the church at the cross, and putting all this together. I looked back at that hole and realized if I don’t accept this Savior, this God I’m going to go into this hole and I’m going to go to hell. At that moment that hole became very real, it became hell for me per se, and I knew that I needed to rise out of that hole and accept God’s free gift of salvation.
That was around October 22nd 1998, I accepted Jesus Christ as my savior. One of the things that I have continued to struggle with, which I mentioned at the beginning, was what’s my identity. Who is Jerry? When you are in Christ, when you are saved, you cannot hold anything back. You need to be one hundred percent on board to follow him for your life. I feel that this is one of these things that as we grow and we learn more about the Bible, more about what God has for us. We start to realize these things that we have hidden in our hearts, how we need to trust in the Lord stronger with them each and every day.