It was January 1976 and I was sitting in the university clinic waiting for a doctor. Woozy from a bout of mononucleosis, I had just wobbled in from the arctic gusts and glacial snowdrifts of an upstate New York winter, and had taken my seat among the other coughing, wheezing, and sniffling students.
About the time I had almost thawed out, a doctor was ready to see me. A dark-complected, congenial-looking woman, she asked me into her office, where I weakly eased into a chair.
The doctor, who was originally from India, was very kind. She not only gave attentive care to my physical ailments, but also showed genuine concern as I shared with her some of the personal difficulties I was facing at the time. As we continued to talk, she told me about a God who loved all of His creation and who loved me personally. She took out a small green book and handed it to me. It was a New Testament.
Like most Jewish people, I had never read it. But I had no aversion to it, and so I accepted the gift. In the next few weeks I read portions of it as I rested and recuperated from my illness.
I didn’t look at the book again for quite some time, but the words the Indian doctor had spoken had made a lasting impression on me. Was there a God who really cared about me? If that were true, then I could expect Him to show me His love in some of the important circumstances and events in my life. It wasn’t long before I began to see this kind of evidence.
I was to graduate at the end of that year, in December 1976, with a Masters degree in journalism. I had done well in my studies, and I wanted to get a job as a sports reporter for a daily newspaper. But with finals just a week or so away, I found myself in a crisis situation—I didn’t have a job offer.
One night I returned to my apartment and found a letter in my mailbox from a daily newspaper. I was excited but a bit puzzled because the letter was from a paper to which I had not even made application. They wanted to know if I would be interested inn applying for a job—as a sports reporter!
That letter was like a life preserver thrown to a drowning man. I called them immediately, arranged an interview, and two weeks later I was working at the sports desk of the Cortland Standard in Cortland, New York.
I learned later that a newspaper I had applied to had referred my inquiry to the Standard, and the only reason the Standard had an opening was because the Sports editor, who had been there for decades, had retired one month previously!
Around this time, I also had begun to meet a few people who believed in Jesus. One I met in a laundromat. Another I met within my first few weeks as a sports writer in Cortland, and again the circumstances were a little bit out of the ordinary.
I was covering a wrestling match at a local high school, and, as is customary, I stayed to talk with the coach after the match. He took me into his office, then realized that he had left the team statistics in another part of the building. He excused himself and told me he would be right back.
While he was gone, the custodian, a young man about my age, came in to clean the coach’s office. He entered into conversation with me, and I soon learned that he was a believer in Jesus. We talked for quite a while longer, and I enjoyed getting to know him. What really baffled me was that the coach never came back!
I felt at the time that I had met that young man for a reason, and that the reason had something to do with Jesus.
One year later, in the winter of 1978, I experienced another “coincidence,” only this one really sent me reeling.
It was around 9 or 10 at night, and I was at home, engaged in an absorbing conversation with a Jewish friend, Carol. By now, both of us had seen enough “coincidences” in our lives to believe in a God that was real. Both of us had also heard others say that the answers to life’s questions and problems were in a relationship with Jesus. But although neither of us had been raised in very religious Jewish homes, we both were well aware of the fact that we were Jewish! So how could Jesus fit in with our belief in God? How could one be Jewish and believe in Jesus?
One of the “coincidences” in life which I happened to mention to Carol was that I would occasionally get telephone calls from people I had just been thinking about.
Moments after I said that, the phone rang. I looked at Carol and rolled my eyes as if to say, “I’ll bet it’s one of those calls I was just talking about.” I picked up the receiver. The call was from a young man who wanted to speak with a Jewish friend of ours who no longer lived there. I explained that our friend had moved, and I was about to hang up when the young man mentioned that he was calling to invite that friend to a Hebrew Christian Bible study!
To get a telephone call from a Jewish person who believes in Jesus at the moment I was discussing that very subject as well as the subject of “coincidental” phone calls was a little too much for me. I must have looked somewhat dazed when I put down the receiver, because Carol was gazing at me strangely. I explained to her the nature of the call. Then I told her that I had ignored many incredible “coincidences” in the past, but that I could not disregard this one. I was going to attend that Bible study!
I did attend, and I found myself in the company of a number of Jewish people who believed in Jesus. I had a lot of questions, and these people had some good answers. In the meantime, I had been reading the Bible on my own, and one passage in particular had a very strong impact on me. It’s in the book of Romans, where the apostle Paul (Saul) says:
“Salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious.” (Romans 11:11)
I had met a number of people who told me they had a personal relationship with Jesus, and all of them seemed to have a peace, a calmness, a sense of inner happiness that I did not have, and that I knew I wanted. So when I read this particular verse, it made a very strong impression on me.
Over a period of months, as I continued to read the Bible and related literature, and as I asked more questions of my friends who believed in Jesus, I came to an understanding of who Jesus is. I also came to believe that the Bible—both the Old and New Testaments—is true. When I came to this belief, I saw that I needed to make it a real part of my life. So on August 6, 1978, I asked Jesus the Messiah into my heart, and the peace that I had envied in all the Gentile and Jewish Christians I knew became my own.
Since that time, I have continued to be amazed by the “coincidences” in my life. Now, however, I know that they are not coincidences. I know that there is a God who loves me, and that one way He shows me His love is through the people, events and circumstances He brings into my life.