From Swinger to Saint
From Shout It From the Housetops
By Pat Robertson
"You are the
Lord's guest," the handsome Dutchman said as we looked at the
menu in the elegant Philadelphia restaurant. "God is generous,
not stingy. He wants you to have the best. Order anything you
I was impressed.
Even though I had a sneaking suspicion that my mother had asked
this missionary-evangelist to invite me to dinner, I could
not escape his obvious sincerity. I was used to the expensive
bistros around New York, but that a faith missionary should
say the Lord had led him to dine at this restaurant where the
waiters wore white tie and tails was more than I could comprehend.
I thought that God's people wore shabby clothes, baggy trousers,
and suit coats that didn't match. I thought they ate hamburger
and boiled turnips. But Cornelius Vanderbreggen certainly didn't
fit that description.
approached the table. Stiff. Dressed impeccably. Pencil poised
over his order pad. I glanced back at my menu, and when I looked
up I saw Vanderbreggen pulling a small pamphlet from his coat
pocket and handing it over to the waiter. "My name's Cornelius
Vanderbreggen," he said warmly. "Here's a little booklet I've
written, and I want you to have it."
Evangelism and White Ties
I couldn't believe my eyes. The man was handing the waiter a
Gospel tract. I was mortified beyond expression and quickly
shifted my eyes back on to the menu again.
at the waiter, I saw him standing there, his face set like granite.
My image as a swinger was rapidly dissolving. It took all the
self-control I could muster to keep from groaning as I placed
my order. Beads of perspiration were popping out on my forehead
as the protection of the menu was removed and I was once again
face to face with this strange man. What had I gotten into?
Was my mother to blame for this? I had never had any real contact
with "religious" people who did crazy things like handing out
tracts in restaurants. What next?
I didn't have
to wait long to find out. Vanderbreggen, with no apparent awareness
of my embarrassment and mortification reached into his expensive
briefcase beside the table and pulled out the biggest, blackest
Bible I had ever seen.
Pat, this afternoon I was reading the Word and ran across an
extremely interesting passage. Let me share it with you."
Embarrassed by a Bible
He pushed back the silver and the water glasses, and laying
the huge Bible on the table, began to read out loud. I knew
I had no choice but to sit there and act like I was listening.
I could feel the moisture in the palms of my hands now, and
little rivulets of perspiration running down my face. I tried
to smile, but sensed my mouth had the shape of a crooked stick.
I could feel a hundred pairs of eyes staring at us from all
over the room while Vanderbreggen continued to read in a soft
voice, accenting his thoughts with occasional gestures.
I tried to
speak. "Mr. Vanderbreggen, you know I’m a Southern Baptist
and...' I didn't get to finish. I saw the waiter coming.
With quick strides he was advancing toward us, a dark scowl
on his face. I knew we were about to be humiliated and asked
to leave the restaurant. I kept wishing there were some way
I could disappear under the table.
And then he
was upon us. He cleared his throat. "Ahem..." Vanderbreggen
hadn't seen him, or else chose to ignore him. He continued reading
aloud from the Bible.
waiter cleared his throat again. “Sir?” Vanderbreggen
looked up innocently. "Sir, there is a lady over at the other
table who is wondering what you are discussing." I knew it.
I dropped my head in my hands. Here it comes.
continued in his starched voice. "I gave her the little booklet
you gave me. Can you give me another one?"
Had I heard
correctly? I looked up as Vanderbreggen reached into his pocket
and handed the waiter another tract. "Certainly, brother." He
smiled. "By the way, have you ever had a personal experience
with Jesus Christ?" This isn't really happening, I thought.
"No sir," the waiter said, his eyes seeking the face of my host.
"But recently I've been praying that God would help my friend
in the hospital. Would this experience help me get through to
Conversing about Christ
I was aghast. Right here in the middle of this plush restaurant
these two men were carrying on a conversation about Jesus Christ!
"Of course it would. Jesus said, ‘No man cometh to the
Father but by me.’" There it was again - the same verse
my mother had quoted.
Vanderbreggen gave the waiter his card and invited him
to call him. The waiter thanked him and marched stiffly back
to his post. I don't know the outcome of that encounter, but I
do know that while Vanderbreggen was speaking to the waiter, something
was happening to me. Suddenly I found myself sharing some of the
deep things in my heart.
past year I've been reading the Bible. Actually I've been devouring
it. At times I think God has talked to me from it." I paused,
waiting to see how my host would react to such a radical idea.
He just smiled. I continued. "I'm convinced God is the only
hope for this world." I paused again, waiting for a reaction.
Cornelius just nodded his head in agreement. "In
fact," I blurted out, "I've decided to enter the ministry. My
only problem is how to get out of business without losing everything
Vanderbreggen totally ignored my "problem" and asked,
"What do you believe about God?" I felt my nervousness return
and reached for a roll. "I believe He is the source of all power,
the guiding intellect of the universe. Not only that, but I
believe He has a destiny for each man's life, and that none
of us will ever be happy or productive unless we are in the
center of His will." I had said it. I buttered my roll expecting
his word of approval.
"Pat, any Mohammedan could have told me what you just said.
Isn't there something more?"
was oblivious to the surroundings. "Yes, there is something
else. I believe Jesus Christ died for the sins of the whole
world." I hesitated. I knew what he wanted, but I had never
been willing to say it before.
Now, to my
amazement, I heard myself continue, " ... and for my sins,
too." As soon as I said it, I looked up at my host. A slight
smile was playing over his tanned face. A Bible verse I had
learned flooded my consciousness. "If thou shalt confess with
thy mouth the Lord Jesus ... thou shalt be saved."
I knew I had
been resisting that moment. Several times I had wanted to say
it out loud, but never had been able to. Now the words had come
from my mouth as well as from my heart, and no one could have
been more amazed than I. Yet, even as I said the words, God
turned on a light within me.
All my experiences
with God so far had been religious -- not spiritual. They had consisted
of my search for Him. Now I was beginning to understand His
love for me, poured out through Jesus Christ. Every day for
the last year I had prayed, "O Lord, in this life grant me the
knowledge of thy truth and in the world to come life everlasting."
Now suddenly, at this moment, God was answering both prayers.
It was as
if I had walked through a curtain, which had separated me from
God. Suddenly I knew Him, not just as God, but as Father. And
I knew Him because He had come to me in Jesus Christ. I don't
think Cornelius actually realized all that was taking place
inside me at that moment. We continued our dinner and talked
about many things, none of which I can remember. My mind was
too caught up in the excitement of the fact that Jesus was God's
Son -- my Master!
shook my hand and quoted from Proverbs 3:5-6, a Scripture
that was to be the guiding principle for my life from that moment
on. "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto
thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and
he shall direct thy paths."