Editor’s note: February 11th marks the 40th year that Mike Joens (Theo’s creator) has been in Christ. On February 11th, 40 years ago, in a Marine Barracks, Mike came to know Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. In commemoration of that night, we have asked Mike to share his testimony.
I was a 20 year old Marine in Naples, Italy, where I served as a NATO guard. The truth is, I was a blasphemer of God's Name and a practicing atheist; that is, my lifestyle had no room for any thoughts about God. I actually hated Christians and mocked them openly. To me, they were weird, weak, and despicable hypocrites.
A fellow Marine had shared the Gospel with me on two previous occasions, but I had told him (in hostile terms) to keep it to himself.
However, on the night of Feb 10, at 9:00 pm, I was on Liberty in downtown Naples with my Marine buddies. We were making the bar circuit that would conclude in the wee hours of the morning. Suddenly, I felt an overwhelming compulsion to go back to the barracks. Something I NEVER did.
I got to the barracks at 9:30 and walked straight into the room of the Marine who had shared the Gospel with me. It was like I had a hook in my nose yanking me straight into his room. He was alone, sitting on the edge of his bed on Liberty night. He appeared to be waiting for someone.
I told him what a great time I was having and just stood there looking down at the floor. But after about 20 minutes, when I finally looked over at him, his face was wet with tears. He was sobbing! Then he told me four words that changed my life. He said, "Mike, Jesus loves you!" When he said those words I literally became stone-sober! This scared me.
Next thing I know he was taking me into another Marine’s room, this other Marine was also a Christian who had just come to the Barracks a week earlier. The two men shared the Gospel with me for an hour and a half. I had NEVER heard the Gospel presented to me as they did that night. But of course the Holy Spirit was moving in me in powerful ways!
Finally, I went into my room across the hall to be alone. The lights were off, the door shut. I looked up at the ceiling, and I remember praying, "God, if you're really there, I'd be a fool not to want you." Then I got into bed and immediately I was back into an altered state of mind. God had opened a window in my mind for an hour and a half to hear what His two servants had to say, then He let me suffer the consequences of what I had put into my system.
The next day, Feb 11th, they invited me to the Serviceman's Center in downtown Naples, which was run by Jessie and Nettie Miller, missionaries to servicemen. This was a place like a Christian USO, where servicemen could come and receive a home-cooked meal, play guitars or board games, and hear the Bible taught by Jesse. Truly an amazing place with amazing, godly people serving there.
I was blown away. The Biblical metaphors for spiritual darkness and light are so apt. When I walked into the Center that night, I felt as though I had walked out of Darkness into a roomful of Light. I knew immediately that these men and women were different from me. They had something truly beautiful. The men were engaging, the meal was superb. Later Jessie taught from the Epistle to the Ephesians and I was enthralled with the message. These people had Something that I desperately wanted.
Later that night in the Barracks I came to trust Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord. It was 11:00 pm on February 11, 1972!
I have never looked back.
Editor’s note: The months following Mike’s conversion were quite eventful. Mike saw God do some extraordinary things both through and around him. But that, as the saying goes, is for another story; one we hope to share with you soon.