First of all, I have been a Christian since I was 10 years old. I grew up going to church with my mom and knowing early on that God had a calling on my life. I attended a Christian school in N.C., and I am glad my parents sacrificed to send me there. The discipline and preaching was instilled in me early in life.
The Bible says to train up a child in the way of the Lord and he will not depart from it. This was true with me. When other kids were drinking and partying, I always had a conscience that would not allow me to do these things. Thank God! As I moved into the 10th grade, I began to fall in love with Robin and I knew that God had made her to be my wife. I was already heavy into bass fishing, so when my parents bought a marina on Lake Gaston, NC, I began guiding and fishing tournaments at the age of 11. By my junior year in high school, I developed a disease in my large intestines or colon, called Ulcerative Colitis. At first, it was just some abdominal cramping, and I did not think it was serious enough to slow down my future-fishing career.
The year after high school, Robin and I were married at the young age of 18. I knew God had put us together and I knew that we were called to be fishers of men and not just fish. I started fishing the Bassmaster Tour in the 1992-1993 season at the age of 18. I thought I would set the circuit on fire right from the get-go, but God had other plans for me first. This sport is very hard to keep your priorities straight, and for me, God wanted to mold and make me in His Image before His blessings would come.
In November of 1992, I was at a tournament in Georgia and my disease flared up, as it often did under the stress of tournaments. This time I was bleeding badly and lost 7 lbs. in 5 days. The last day of the tournament, I rushed home praying for God to heal me of this disease because I did not need anything getting in the way of my fishing. When I got home, I went immediately to the
This is where I really started questioning God about why this was happening to me. I was a good person and I served the Lord. I did not understand why I had to go through all of this. Our trials and hard times will always bring us closer to God. After I prayed and sought the Lord I read the verse that says “All things work together for good for those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose.” I knew this was all in God’s will. God had given me the talent to catch fish and he had called me to be a pro fisherman and a fisher of men, so I knew that it was going to work out. When things were not looking so good, I began to pray for God to heal me and show me His will and His way, and He did.
I had my second surgery in January 1993, just 2 months after the first one. I told the doctor that God was allowing things to move quickly and that I would like to have the final surgery as soon as possible. He said if I continued recovery as fast as I was and that if everything inside were healing after the second surgery, he would consider it. When I returned in two weeks he was amazed that the X-rays showed total healing from the surgeries. He said he did not know what kind of faith I had but it was working.
He scheduled the final surgery for February 24th, just one month after the second and three months after the first. He said this had never been done before, but he was going to do it. The final surgery was a success and after about 6 months of learning to use the bathroom again and training the new J-pouch inside of me to work normally, I was healed.
God taught me so much through this time of tribulation. First, He taught me to totally surrender to Him. Second, He taught me to seek his face and truly put Him in control. He also showed me that at any time He could heal me as He did. He allowed these things to happen to build character in me and to show me how important knowing and serving Him is. If I had never gone through any of this I would probably be just another laxidazical Christian doing my thing and never caring about anybody else. God called me to be a light in a dark world of fishermen who may never darken the door of a church. Without these tests that I endured, I would not have a testimony. After these things happened, God began to open the doors for me to speak at various functions all over the nation and it all started with a seemingly bad situation that God made good.
God has blessed us through my last 7 years on the tournament trails. We have had a lot of ups and down professionally and spiritually. God has to allow these tests throughout our spiritual walk to keep us close to Him.
There is one last story I want to share before I end. It is about God leading us to move to Alabama and some things that happened along the way that I hope will touch your heart. In 1996, God blessed us with a new vehicle sponsor, Rod McSweeney, who owns Southern Comfort Conversions in Trussville, AL. He signed me on to be a part of the Southern Comfort Angler’s Team. His brother Steve also worked there and pretty much took care of our fishing team vehicles. As we began to get to know the McSweeney family, we felt a closeness, that made it evident that God was allowing them to be more than just a sponsor. As the years passed, we would often find ourselves in AL going to and from tournaments. We stayed at Rod and Robin McSweeney’s house quite often and began attending Cathedral of the Cross Church in Birmingham, AL. Several times while driving back to NC after tournaments, Robin and I would talk about how we both felt so comfortable at that church. It was almost like God was calling us to move to this area. We began praying about it and said if it really is God leading us to move 9 hours away to AL, He better give us a big sign. We had never even thought of moving away from our families before, so this would have to be a God thing.
The next tournament after we began praying about this was at Lake Wheeler, AL and it was the $100,000 FLW event. Needless to say, I won the tournament, my first major victory. We were very excited and after we calmed down on the drive home, it hit us both that this was God’s sign and His financial provision for us to move to AL. Soon we began looking in the Trussville area and found a home. We bought it in May of 1998. We could not move in until July, so Steve McSweeney volunteered to cut my grass and take care of things until we moved in. We grew really close to Steve and his wife and two daughters. Steve had a true servant’s heart; he would always do all that he could for anyone. He also loved the Lord and did not mind telling people about it. Steve taught me that witnessing to people was really all that mattered. In all the success and business going on around me I had not been thinking about my true calling as much as I should have been. God put Steve in my life to show me the importance of serving God everyday and not missing a single opportunity to tell everyone you come in contact with about Jesus.
We moved into our home on the 4th of July weekend with Steve and all the McSweeney’s help. The following weekend Steve and I were cutting the
I challenge anyone who reads this today to examine your life. If something happened and you died today, would you spend eternity in heaven with Steve or in Hell with all the other people who thought they were invincible and did not need God? In the end, whether it comes now or later, it matters not what we have accumulated on earth, but that we know where we are going.
It is no accident that you are reading this today. There are no accidents with God. It does not matter how bad of a person you think you have been, God can forgive anything and wash away all your sins immediately and daily. If you had to be perfect to make it to heaven, heaven would be empty. It is totally by Jesus’ saving grace that we are able to go to heaven. If God can save a country boy fisherman like me and use a little green fish to reach people for Christ, then surely he can save you. You only have to believe in your heart that Jesus loves you and He died for you so that you could have eternal life in heaven with Him. Ask Jesus now to come into your heart and forgive you of all your sins.
If you prayed the prayer of salvation, you are saved. Thank God that He can save us from hell one day. I challenge you to find a good Bible believing church and go to the pastor and tell him that you have been saved, and ask him to tell you what is next. Also, get yourself a Holy Bible and begin reading. God will show you the direction to take.
I pray that my testimony has touched your heart today and whether you were saved before or after, I hope you will use your talents and opportunities to tell others about the saving love of Jesus Christ!
Also, since I have written this testimony, my wife and I have had a little boy named Laker. We are so blessed to have him in our lives and we now truly know the love God has for His children!
Since I have written this testimony God has blessed our lives with two little boys, Laker and Oakley. We are blessed to have them in our lives.