Ray Hoffman - Testimony

Testimony told by Ray Hoffman from Florida in the informal meeting held after dinner in the tent:

Ray spoke of Psalm 34 or this poor man crying and God heard my cry and delivered me from all my troubles and from all my fears, "This is my testimony as I was in a desperate situation when God found me or when I found God."

I grew up a Catholic, my parents were good Catholics and went to church regularly and so did I. There were 6 children in our family. As I got older about 5, I wondered about God and whether He could see me. My Mother told us that God could see us all the time at whatever we were doing. So I did not feel comfortable with God seeing me all the time so I decided to find a place where God could not see me. I decided to go into the closet and I could hardly get in there because of all the junk but I did get in there and when I closed the door, it was so dark and I thought that God would not see me but God spoke to me or made me understand that He knew I was there.

As I got older, I went to church classes regularly. When I was 12, I got to understand that the Priests had the best chance of going to heaven, for as the Catholics were living, not many expected to go to Heaven, they would be happy to get to purgatory and although the fire there was just as hot as in hell, you did eventually get out of purgatory by praying and paying the priests. So I would go to confession every week and confess the same sins. We were told that the Priests had the best chance of going to heaven so I wanted to become a priest, not because I loved peoples' souls but because I wanted to go to heaven and knew that this was the best way to be sure that I would go to heaven. So then because this was the safest way, I wanted to be the Pope as I figured he would have the best chance of going to heaven.

At 13, I went to a 4 year seminary where I would learn to become a Priest and there I got more disillusioned. I used to go to confession each week but I had no power over the sins I was committing, I would confess them, the same sins over and over. One day I asked the priest, "Would it be better if I came more often? Would I get over this?" He said, "No, it would not help."

If you were to ask me what led me to quit the Catholic Church I would say it was in the 1960,s when the Catholic Church had a revival and changed lots of things, lots of thinking that they had and I began to question, that if the Catholic Church was the only Church then why was there a need to change, and so doubts began to come into my mind. Before we were told that the only way we could be saved is to be a Catholic but now the thinking was that you could be any other religion as long as you lived like Christ you would be okay.

Now I asked, "If I was to become a Buddhist, would I go to Heaven?" They said, "Yes, as long as you lived like Christ." So at the end of the 4 years, we were asked to go to a higher seminary for another 4 years or we could quit, so half the class quit and the other half went on. I was with those who quit. I then went to university in the City and quit church altogether, I was so sad and disillusioned.

Then it was the era of the hippies and I became a hippie. They were wearing poor clothes. I had a beard, had long hair, was against the government in attitude. I lived in a house with 4 other young men my own age, gong to university each day. All were Catholic boys except one who was an atheist and we had lots of debates about religion. This atheist always won the argument as what he believed made more sense, religion did not make any sense to us.

When I was 20, I went to another school. There, I met a young man who was different. He did not mix with the other boys. I was drawn to him but there was a barrier that I could not get through. He would talk about school work but then when I would ask him about a movie, he would go silent and not answer. So one day, I asked him what he did last night. He said he went to a gospel meeting, so then I knew he was religious but I did not want to know any more as I was by now an atheist. I did not come near this boy when I knew he was religious. Then the next day, I was drawn to him again. I was very unhappy and very disillusioned with life.

One day, I got so desperate that I was scared to die and scared of life. When I was in my room that I shared now with my brother, I did not put the light out all night. That night I prayed desperately to God. I prayed all night, I really did not know how to pray so all I asked was, "God help me, God help me." A voice came to me, "How can you ask help from a God that you don't believe in?" Then I prayed, "God if You are there, please help me." That night, I got an answer and that was to go to the school and ask that boy how to get help from God. It was not an audible voice but it was a strong feeling came to me.

The next day, I went to this boy and asked him if he would help me. He said that he would take me to meet the workers. However, I had to wait two months as they were away for special meetings. So then the time came when I could go to meet them. As I phoned this young man up, as by this time I was living with my younger brother and not at the university, he said that he would let me know when the meetings would start, these gospel meetings. He said, "There is one tomorrow night, so I will come by and pick you up." I knew he had to come a long way, so I insisted on meeting him there. He said, "Well, okay, but if you are there before me, please don't go in." He must have felt that if I went in the workers would kick me out.

Before this, some weeks before, I went to a second hand store to get a suit, I don't know why but I knew the clothes I had were not very suitable. I had no shoes just hippie clothes, so when I saw this old brown suit that looked as though it was 30 years old, it fitted me and it was $7.00 to buy. When the lady saw me,  she said, "$5.00 will do," so this is what I paid for it. Then my brother had some old army boots and I did not like the colour. I went to the garage and saw some old blue paint and so I painted the shoes blue and this is how I went to the first gospel meeting.

As I got there, I sat outside on a bench waiting for my friend. Then I saw the women come in to the meeting, and they were so modestly dressed, so humble so Godly. I could see that these ladies were seeking to please God. I had been told by my friend that the workers were like the early Apostles, like Peter and John, the friends were like the saints you read of in the Acts of the Apostles and they go out two by two. This is just what I had been asking the Nuns, why cannot they go out like this today. "Oh," they said, "You cannot live like that now." I also told my brother this and he knew me better. He said, "You will never be able to live like this. It is too strict and too difficult."

I did get there. There were 4 workers there that night, two men and two Sisters. As we went in, later the older brother worker said that when he saw me come in, he said to himself, "Who let this person in?" This affected his ministry that night as when he preached, he had a bad time, for he did not know that Jesus had died for my sins as well as all the others. But there was an older Sister worker who spoke that night and I was so very glad for her as when she spoke it opened up my heart and exposed it, it was like she knew all that was in my heart. It had never happened in the Catholic church, and it was so wonderful to me, as I knew for the first time that I had found the truth.

In three weeks, I was ready to make my choice. The older Sister worker spoke to me and told me what it would cost to serve God. This was what I knew, that there would have to be changes as I could not serve God as I was living. One week later, the meeting was tested and we were told that if we were not willing to change out lives, please don't begin. I began and there have been some changes made and there are still some to make but I am glad that we are in a good school.

My younger brother also professed later but we are the only two in our family professing.