I grew up in central Canada in the Prairie Provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba. My dad was a pastor and so lots of my growing up years were spent going to church. And church, well, it was a bore! Getting into mischief was the only way I survived those long hours of meetings. And as I moved into the higher grades in school, I saw that the way to really do life was to enjoy it to the max in every way possible. So life began to be about hanging out with the guys, doing as many drugs as we could get our hands on, partying hard, attending all the Rock Festivals that were in our area, and the like. And living as a kleptomaniac in those years was what kept me in cash.
And all went well for about three years. Life was good! The highs were great. This was the way to go. And yes, playing keyboards in a rock band was a ton of fun too. However, as we continued to party and stay stoned most of that time, this all began to have an effect on me. Life wasn’t so exciting after all. Sure acid was nice but dropping the tab each weekend month after month began to get old….as did the other things. The excitement and rush began to fizzle out. And then in the summer of 1970 after I had graduated from High School, I was out in the country attending yet another party at some large farm house. We had gotten drunk and had taken acid once again. And at about 1 AM, I started getting sick and nauseous, and so went outside and sat under a tree. There I thought about life for quite a while. I remember sarcastically thinking, “Yeah right Merrill, this is really living! This is really bringing me lots of satisfaction and joy!” The truth was that my life was totally devoid of meaning, joy, peace and contentment. These things that I had sought after turned out to be a big zero. And then as I sat there, I remember thinking about a huge balance with Hell on one side, and eternity with Christ on the other.
At about 4 AM I arrived home still sick. My beloved mother was still up waiting for me as she always did. I could see that she had been crying yet again. I greeted her, answered a few of her questions, and then headed downstairs to my room. I fell asleep immediately and woke up the next day still thinking about life, my own emptiness, and about the huge balance. And suddenly about half way through the morning, I just got out of bed, and knelt there beside it. I began to pray saying something like this:
Lord, I know I’m a sinner and that I can’t save myself. I know that Jesus, your Son, died for my sins on the cross, and that he rose again. God, I accept Jesus as my Savior now. Thanks for your forgiveness. Amen!”
From that time on my life changed radically. The first thing I did was tell my parents what I had done. Then in the days ahead, I went to see my group of friends and let them know one at a time about the decision I had made. Then I felt compelled to get a job and begin to pay back all the people that I had stolen from. It turned out to be a year’s worth of labor to cover all those bad debts but it was worth it because each visit allowed me to give my story about how Christ deeply touched and changed my life. I made restitution with each of them with joy!
During my years of living as an unsaved person, I had always figured that the Christian life would be a total drag, a complete bore. However, I found quite the contrary to be true. Life became fuller and joy deeper. Whereas before I had always felt driven with the need to get out of the house and get to the next party or whatever, now I could relax, hang with my parents, take it easy, go for walks, and simply enjoy being alive with a relaxed contentedness. And yeah, my relationship with my parents became so much more meaningful, and the friendships that I developed with other believers also offered so much more. And so I discovered that becoming a Christian had all kinds of additional benefits that I had never imagined.
In October of 1970 about two months after I put my faith in Jesus, we had a week-long missionary conference at our church. There were lots of speakers from all around the Globe. They represented many different Mission Organizations working with many different People Groups. And I found this all fascinating!! Wow, here were a bunch of people going to live overseas in strange lands to do what Jesus had commanded the believers to do. He had said to go and preach the Gospel to every tribe, tongue, people and nation….and these different folks had gone! I remember being very challenged by the quote from Jim Elliot that says: “A man is no fool if he gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” This really challenged me! And so did the command of my new LORD to take the Good News of the Gospel to the ends of the earth! I had never considered doing anything this wild before. But as I saw all the commands from the Lord Jesus throughout the Scriptures to get the Gospel out, and when I saw that He was so concerned about all these different ethnic groups around the world, I decided to give up my chosen career of music to go take the Gospel to an Unreached People Group where there was no Gospel availability. And what a ride it has been to live among the P people and give them the Words of Eternal Life!!