Ray Hoffman - Story

In Vanderbilt, Michigan 1995 after the evening meeting on Saturday, we were getting ready in the men's dorm to bunk down for the night, when Ben Tenniswood came in with Ray Hoffman to visit us. I suppose it was Ben's prompting that cause Ray to climb up onto the top of the bunk and sit here and tell us his testimony. Normally this place is all a hustle and bustle at this time as people are making preparation for bed. It took about a minute and you could have heard a pin drop in that large building as Ray in his normal voice told us about his experiences before he met the Truth. What I relate to you I recall only from memory as we sat, laid and stood around and listened and visualised in our minds the working of the Holy Spirit dealing with a young man's life. I'll try to share this with you as if Ray was telling it.


Some of you young lads may feel that school can be a bore and the teachers overly strict. Well now, I would like to tell you a little story of my school days and what it was like to be raised up in a Catholic home and having to go to a Roman Catholic school. Strict is a mild word of describing it, to say the least, and I do not think that it hurt us at all! One day stands out in my mind. We had sisters for our teachers and I remember this one lady, Sister Rheta Maria. At any given time, you could hear a pin drop in her class room. There was complete silence all the time! At this particular time, I was walking up the stairs when the batwing doors in her class room flew open and this heavy set lad crashed against the wall on the other side. Out she came and gave him a boot and he went flying down the stairs. When she caught up to him, I could hear him yelling, "I won't do it again." I do not know to this day what it was all about, but let me tell you, nobody crossed that lady. Does that sound like any of your teachers today? I don't think so!


As I grew older, things occasionally happened that caused me stop and ponder my destiny in life. I had a relative die and us folks were not all that rich and due to a backlog of masses, it was three years before we could get our relative out of purgatory. For those of you who are not familiar with this, when a friend passes away in the Roman Catholic faith their souls go to purgatory, this is sort of like a waiting room, so to speak. After a number of masses are said - and you have to buy the mass cards on behalf of the poor soul - then they are let out of purgatory and allowed into Paradise. Just the thought of this put fear in my heart, because I could not visualise anyone spending money for the benefit of my poor soul. Through enquiries I was told that if a priest dies, his soul automatically bypasses purgatory. It goes straight to Heaven. I figured this was for me. It is a sure way out of purgatory. So I joined a Seminary to study to be a priest. While attending this seminary, I began to ask questions but soon found that the response to my enquiries were very vague.


After several years of studying for the priesthood, there was an occasion that came up where our group was confronted with the question of God's present relationship with earth and man. To my surprise, our class of sixty was split down the middle in our theory to this question.


Group 1 believed that God created earth and man, but left man to create his own destiny and existence. Group 2 believed that God has a direct and positive influence on the lives of men.


I joined the ranks of the latter group and soon found out that we were regarded as the odd ones.  Here we were young future priests and half of my fellow students were thinking like this. I was astonished and rather dismayed.  After this I soon began to realise that I was becoming more and more disenchanted with the Roman Catholic faith. Now this was back in the "hippy" era, so I became a hippie. You wanna believe it? Sloppy cloths, long hair, beard, the whole lot. Your gotta fit in, man! I moved over to Chicago and stayed with my parents.

Around this time, I realised that I had to do something with my life so I decided to become a Chiropractor. I enrolled in a reputable Chiropractor school and I immerged myself in my studies.  I found that my capabilities for learning this profession were being taxed to their limits. I recall once our class had thirty cadavers to examine in detail and the next day, we were going to be tested on our findings. I was in a panic because I knew that I would most likely fail one and I needed help badly. There was a lad in my class who I would describe as being a loner. Greg did not fit in at all, he was a nice guy, but when lewd jokes or stories were told, you would see Greg leave. I also saw that he was gaining very good marks on tests and this indicated to me that he would be a good fellow to have as a friend in my times of need. Prior to this test on the 30 cadavers, I got friendly with Greg and I found out that even though he did not fit in or go out with the rest of us, he was very obliging and helpful to me. One time to make conversation while talking to Greg, I asked him what he was doing that night. To my surprise, he said he was going to a Gospel Meeting. Then again one Friday, we were told that on the following Monday we would have a big test to study for it. I went to my buddy Greg and suggested that we spend Sunday studying together. Greg promptly told me that he would be doing his studying on Saturday because his Sunday would be tied up with Meetings. A fellowship meeting in the a.m. and a gospel meeting in the late afternoon.  Oooo, this boy was different.!


I don't know if any of you folk would remember anything about this, but back in the late seventies, there was a movie out called, "The Exorcist." It had a high rating and I wanted to go and see what everyone was talking about. This proved to be my undoing! The theme of the picture was that of a little girl possessed of the devil and two priests, who attempted to cast the devil out of her life, lost their lives in the process. Like I say, I do not know if any of you saw the picture but let me tell you this, if you have seen it you will never forget it as long as you live. As for me, I was literally shaking. Scared right out of my wits was a better way of putting it. At that time, I had a part time job cleaning rooms in a Roman Catholic school in the evenings. There was another lad working with me, and I never wanted to be alone or have the lights off where I was. I was terrified! I went to the priest and drew a blank. I talked to others and they could not help me. Finally, I broke down and asked for God's help. I prayed like I never prayed before. I asked God to show me Truth because the answers I was getting to my questions showed me that organised religions did not have any answers that appealed to me. So I prayed!


I felt at first that I did not need to see any workers. But I had heard enough of the good things from Greg to so arouse my curiosity that I wanted more! I met Greg one day and asked him if there workers were still having Gospel Meetings? He said, "Yes, they are, why?" "I want to go and see what it is all about." Then Greg says to me, "Well, how about if I pick you up next week and you go with me?" "Nope! I will go myself." To shorten the story here, we finally agreed that I would wait outside the hall and when Greg, arrived we would enter together. Now, let us stop here and I want you to visualise what I looked like at this time. Remember I was a hippy. Long hair and scruffy cloths, very untidy, to say the least! And I wanted to go to a gospel meeting?


No wonder poor Greg had second thoughts! I went home and took stock of myself. My old running shoes would have to go. Now, when my brother was discharged from the Navy, he got to keep his old boots. I got them out and tried to clean them up, but when I spied a can of blue paint, I decided to paint them blue. They sure looked good! Next, I went down to the Salvation Army thrift store and checked out the suits. If I was going to go, I had best go in style! I found a nice suit, shirt and tie combination of $7. When I brought them up to the cashier, she took one look at me and said "How about $5?" There was only one problem with this, the suit was brown, the shoes were blue. So...what difference does that make?


The evening finally came for me to go to the gospel meeting. I got the address of the hall from Greg, after I promised that I would wait outside until he came and we would walk in together. I got all dressed up in my new "outside" and headed out. I found a park bench not very far from the hall, and while sitting there waiting for Greg, I was able to observe people walking into the hall.  I could see and sense that there was something different about them. This evening, two brother workers were going to be in the meeting, along with two sister workers. The brothers were leaving the mission for the sisters in a couple of days, as they were going up north somewhere to start their own mission. Now, I am going to tell you what went through the mind of the older brother worker when I came in through the door, because he told me this several years after. First try to visualize what I looked like. Long hair, long beard, and wearing a BROWN suit, that was obviously the wrong size for me. And to top it off, BLUE boots. You know what went through the mind of the older worker when he saw me? "Who let the likes of that in here?" My being there bothered him throughout the meeting, but a voice was speaking to him throughout the meeting saying, "I died for him, too." Well, I stayed and they did not chase me out and I like the things that I heard. I kept going to those meetings that the sisters were having and began to realise that this was what I have been looking for. This was the Truth and God had answered my prayers after all. As for Greg, he just stepped back and left me for those two sisters to try and help me understand and see the Way of God. I told them that I wanted to profess right away, but they advised me to wait and be sure. The opportunity finally came. I told my parents and my brother and their response that they felt this was just another sect. Here today and gone tomorrow!


After I had indicated my choice, the workers asked me if I would like to come to the Sunday morning fellowship meeting which I did, I could not bring myself to join them in prayer. I remember the older worker saying before the testimonies, "Only those that have a desire in their hearts for change, need participate." You know, I could not speak in that first meeting. But what she said really bothered me. "Only those who desire change in their lives." That was me, what am I waiting for?

Next Sunday, I was there and when it came for time to pray, I thanked God for showing me the Truth. And it was all - that many words. I also had about one sentence when the meeting was open for testimonies. I was truly thankful for what had been revealed to me, then the sister workers asked me if I would like to go to the Wednesday night Bible study. Hold it! First, the gospel meetings then the Sunday morning meetings and now, you want me to go to another meeting Wednesday evening? I felt that I was going to be "meetinged" to death! What have I got myself into? Eventually, I began to see things differently, because the Holy Spirit was working in my heart. In time, the long hair went. Then the long beard went along with the brown suit and the blue shoes. I knew what I had was right and I wanted to tell others about it, so I decided to go into the work. I offered, and in time the Overseer saw that I was ready. I left home and entered the Harvest Field, and I have not regretted that I have done so.