Ray Hoffman's Testimony - Vanderbilt, Michigan - 1995

After the evening meeting on Saturday, we were in the men's dorm to bunk down for the night, when Ben Tenniswood came in with Ray Hoffman to visit. Ray climbed onto the top bunk and told us his testimony. Normally this place is all hustle/bustle as people make preparation for bed, but it took about a minute and you could've heard a pin drop in that large building as Ray in his normal voice told us about his experiences before he met the Truth.  I relate to you here from memory as we sat, lay, and stood around to listen and visualize 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'd 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 have to go to a R.C. school. Strict is a mild word of describing it, to say the least, but I don't think that it hurt us at all!  One day stands out in my mind. We had sisters for our teachers and one was Sister Rheta Maria. At any given time you could hear a pin drop in her classroom. 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 don't know to this day what it was all about, but nobody ever crossed that lady. Does that sound like any of your teachers today? I don't think so! 

As I grew, other things occasionally happened that caused me to stop and ponder my destiny in life. A relative died and some folks weren't that rich and due to a backlog of masses, it was 3 years before we could get our relative out of purgatory. For those of you not familiar with this, when a friend passes away in the R.C. faith, their souls go to purgatory, 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 couldn't visualize 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 and goes straight to Heaven. I figured this was for me. It's 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, an occasion 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 60, 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 dismayed. After this, I realized that I was becoming disenchanted with the R.C. faith.  This was back in the "hippie" era, so I became a hippie. Sloppy clothes, long hair, beard, the whole lot. You gotta fit in, man! I moved over to Chicago and stayed with my parents. 

Around this time, I realized that I had to do something with my life, so I enrolled in a reputable Chiropractor school and immersed myself in my studies. I found that my capabilities for learning this profession were being taxed to their limits. Once our class had 30 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'd likely fail one and I needed help badly. There was a lad in my class who I'd describe as being a loner. Greg didn't fit in at all; he was a nice guy, but when lewd jokes or stories were told, Greg would leave. He had very good marks on tests and this indicated to me that he'd 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 found out that even though he didn't fit in, or go out with the rest of us, he was very obliging and helpful to me. One time to make conversation, I asked Greg what he was doing that night. 

To my surprise, he said he was going to a Gospel Meeting. 

One Friday, we were told that on the following Monday, we'd have a big test to study for. I went to my buddy Greg and suggested that we spend Sunday studying together. Greg promptly told me that he'd 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! 

Maybe you folk wouldn't know, but back in the late 1970's, there was a movie out called "The Exorcist." 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 2 priests who attempted to cast the devil out of her life and lost their lives in the process.  (If any of you saw the picture, you'll never forget it as long as you live.) I was literally shaking; scared right out of my wits is a better way of putting it. At that time, I had a part time job cleaning rooms in a R.C. school in the evenings  Another lad worked 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 couldn't help me. Finally, I broke down and cried for God's help. I prayed like never before. I asked God to show me Truth because the answers I was getting to my questions showed me that organized religions didn't have any answers that seemed right. So I prayed! 

At first, I felt that I didn't need to see any workers. But I'd heard enough of the good things from Greg to arouse my curiosity and I wanted more!  I asked Greg if their workers were still having Gospel Meetings. He said, "Yes, they are, why?" "I want to go and see what it's all about."  Greg says, "Well how about if I pick you up next week and you go with me?" "Nope! I'll go myself."  We finally agreed that I'd wait outside the hall and, when Greg arrived, we'd enter together. Now, let's stop here and visualize what I looked like at this time. I was a hippy; long hair, scruffy clothes, very untidy.....and I wanted to go to a gospel mtg!?  

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'd best go in style!  I found a nice suit, shirt and tie combination for $7. When I brought them up to the cashier, she took a look at me and said, "How about $5?" The one problem was, the suit was brown and the shoes were blue. So, what difference does that make? 

The evening came for me to go to the Gospel meeting. I got the address of the hall from Greg, after I promised that I'd wait outside until he came and we'd walk in together. I got all dressed up in my new outfit and headed out. I found a park bench not far from the hall, sat waiting for Greg and 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, to start their own mission. Now, I'm 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 a BROWN suit, that was obviously the wrong size for me -- with BLUE boots (that I had painted). You know what went through the mind of the older worker, when he saw me? "Who let the likes of that get 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, they didn't chase me out and I liked what I heard. I kept going to those meetings that the sisters were having and began to realize that this was what I've been looking for. This was the Truth and God had answered my prayers after all.  Greg 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 brother; their response was 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'd like to come to the Sunday morning fellowship meeting, which I did. I couldn't bring myself to join them in prayer. I remember the older worker saying before the testimonies, "That only those that have a desire in their hearts for change, need participate."   I couldn't 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: that 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'd like to go to the Wednesday night Bible study.

Hold it! 

First, gospel meetings;  then Sunday morning meetings and now you want me to go to another meeting on  Wednesday evening? 

I felt that I was going to be "meetinged" to death! 

What have I gotten 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 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 have not regretted that I have done so.