The Testimony of A Priest

The Testimony of A Priest

Family Background
As a small boy I grew up in an unbelieving family. Neither my parents nor my uncles, aunts or cousins were believers in God. Probably among them there was a formal belief in God’s existence, but there was no dynamic relationship with God. In my family going to church on Sunday was unknown, as were also reading the Bible and praying.

A Crisis
However, when I was about ten years old I got into trouble by stealing a bicycle chain from my neighbors barn. I needed to replace the broken chain on my bicycle so I took the necessary tools and a flashlight to remove the chain from my neighbor’s bicycle one night after dark. The next day the neighbor traced my steps across the field to my house and told my father that he believed I had taken his bicycle chain. That afternoon when I came home from school my father asked me if the neighbor was right and I confessed that it was so. My father was just getting ready to go to work but before he left he told me to take the chain back.

A Boy’s Cry and God’s Answer
That was a very difficult thing for me to do. After wandering around for a while I went to the barn {for my family lived on a small farm} and knelt down in the hay to pray. This was a totally spontaneous act brought about by the heavy feeling in my heart and was not something I knew how to do. Although this occurred over sixty years ago, I still clearly remember what I said that afternoon. I said, “Oh God! If there is a God, help me now.” I had no more than uttered those words and was still kneeling in the hay when I heard my mother calling my name – “Gene! Gene!” I jumped up and ran outside to see what she wanted. She said, “Your dad just called and said you don’t need to take the chain back. He’ll go with you tomorrow.” This word from my mother seemed so remarkable and even miraculous and sudden following my prayer that I became a believer in God on the spot. I was so thankful that God had heard and answered my prayer.

A Young Teacher And an Old Pastor
A short time later my fifth grade teacher, who was a believer in Jesus and just out of college and beginning her teaching career took an interest in me and invited me to attend a little neighborhood community Methodist church. The old pastor, who also loved the Lord, likewise took an interest in me and it was through these two that I received my early shepherding and feeding as a young Christian. It was also in that environment that I developed a strong desire to serve God for the rest of my life. So from that early beginning I set my sights on the goal to complete my education and become a minister of Christ.

Of course, my only understanding of “serving God” was conditioned by what I saw around me so I decided to get the necessary education to become a Methodist minister and that is what I did. I finished high school and college and attended graduate school for three years to get my masters degree in divinity and was eventually ordained to the ministry of the Methodist church.

But by the time I was ordained to the Methodist ministry I was not at all happy with that church and I left the Methodist church to become a Priest in the Episcopal Church. As a priest I held a Bible study every Tuesday morning in the Episcopal Church to which a good number of Christians from different denominations came.

A Mysterious Lady With A Little Book
One Tuesday morning after the meeting had begun, I noticed a woman unfamiliar to me, walk into the back of the room and sit down. I was wondering to myself who this woman was. After the meeting was over she lingered behind and we met. She was traveling by bus from New York and we were in Washington State. While she was waiting for a bus connection, someone told her about the Bible Study and so she decided to spend her time there. As she opened her purse and pulled out a little booklet, she said, “After listening to you I think you might appreciate this”, and she handed me the booklet. I put the booklet in my pocket and bade her goodbye.

Later in the day while at home I sat down to relax and pulled the booklet out. This booklet had a very interesting name and its author also had a very interesting name. The name of the author was Watchman Nee and the name of the booklet was Ministry to the House or to the Lord. I opened that booklet and read it with great interest. The subject matter was on Ezekiel, chapter 44. I felt as I read that little booklet that I was in touch with a kind of spiritual supply that was feeding me inwardly in a way I had never before experienced. I was very much attracted by this writing and began to look for more writings by this man, Watchman Nee. Although there was not much in print by him at that time {1963} I did find a few of his books in English.

Introduced to Witness Lee by Watchman Nee
As I kept pursuing along the spiritual pathway set before me by this brother’s writings I also came into contact with one of his coworkers by the name of Witness Lee. Witness Lee had been living and ministering in Los Angeles since 1962. Six years later, in November 1968, my wife and I made the trip from Washington State to Los Angeles to visit the church in Los Angeles and to meet Witness Lee. A short time later, in January, 1969 we packed up our belongings and moved to Los Angeles to be with the church there and to be under the ministry of Witness Lee.

The Best Wine Saved till Last
Next to my physical birth and my salvation experience as a 10 year old boy, being brought to the local church and under the ministry of Witness Lee were the greatest events of my life. It is not an exaggeration to say that without being brought to the church and to the ministry of the age, dispensed by these two brothers Watchman Nee and Witness Lee, the first two events would have had much less significance.

Through the years, since 1969 my wife, Joyce and I have had opportunities to serve the Lord’s interest in many ways. Perhaps the greatest privilege which has been ours was to be commissioned by Witness Lee in September, 1991 to go with others to the Former Soviet Union to serve the Russian people with God’s economy dispensed through the ministry of Watchman Nee and Witness Lee. We returned to the United States in February, 2000 and at present are enjoying the local church life in San Gabriel, California.

Gene Ford