It was a Friday night, July 9, 1971. I had just left the frat house after a rather raucous night of drinking and partying. On my way back to my dormitory, I passed out, face down on Railroad Street.  My first contact with Chi Alpha was when Hal and Billy found me on the sidewalk lying in a pool of my own vomit. They picked me up, took me back to the dorm, cleaned me up and got me to my bed. More than that, they shared Jesus’ love.

A drinking habit, that started as a child, climaxed in my senior year of high school. As a result of my escalating addiction, I was arrested for robbing an IGA store. I was charged with grand larceny and facing years in prison when God miraculously intervened. I committed my life to Jesus Christ and He supernaturally delivered me from the charges. In fact, this run-in with the law, became an opportunity through a “second chance” program. I came to the Lock Haven campus as a “summer trial” freshman with the prospect that, with passing grades, I could be considered for admission in the fall.  

I went to college thanking God for the miracle, but my commitment to walk with Jesus was short-lived. Faced with college life, I gravitated to the frat houses, keggers, and my old friends--Boone’s Farm Apple and Mad Dog 20-20.   The problem was, even though I was not living right Jesus was in my heart convicting me of sin. When I would start drinking, I would be convicted and start to preach.  “You know what we’re doing is wrong. Jesus is coming soon, we are all going to hell!  We are gonna burn in hell…”

The frat guys would laugh and joke, “You better knock it off or we’re not going to party with you anymore.”

Hal and the Chi Alpha guys  knew my reputation. I still remember Hal's words that night,
“You’re either crazy or a backslidden Christian.”
“I want to believe, but I can’t change,” I confided, as I shared my testimony.
“God can do it,” he responded.

Looking down, I replied, “I’m such a failure; I’ll believe it when I see it!”

HE handed me a Chi Alpha gospel of John. He said, “Bernie, read this and every time you see believe, underline it, every time you see receive circle it. Saying, ‘I’ll believe it when I see it, is like standing in front of a fireplace and saying give me some heat, and I’ll throw you some wood. You have to believe.’”  For me, it really started there.

Hal shared," When you say 'I'll believe it when I see it, it is like standing at fireplace saying give me heat, I'll throw you some wood!' "

These Chi Alpha men didn't just laugh and step over me on the sidewalk like my frat “friends.” They prayed for me. I could see that something was different about them as they began to share the Word, their testimonies, and most importantly, their lives. As I began to read the Word and attend the Chi Alpha meetings, the passionate prayer, enthusiastic testimony and vibrant worship captivated my heart. I learned that walking with Christ was more than meeting Jesus and a “get out of jail free” card.  I needed to be set free from more than the prison bars. God wanted to take the bars from my heart.  That fall, I was baptized in water by C.D. Gable, the National Chi Alpha Director. He encouraged me to take my music and reach our campus. At Chi Alpha, on that secular campus, I found freedom in a whole new way.

In November 1971, at the Thanksgiving combined interfaith service, my gaze caught the sparkling blue eyes of a beautiful, vibrant co-ed with flowing auburn hair. Our love for Jesus connected us. As I became President of the Lock Haven Chapter of Chi Alpha, Cathy and I led worship and directed the Chi Alpha Choir together. God did amazing things on that campus.

In 1972, we laid claim to a wing of Smith Hall for Chi Alpha. As we addressed the Dean of Men, we shared our hearts for a place where students could pray and grow in their relationship with God. He told us, “We are a secular college. We cannot recognize a religious organization with select housing.”  I knew God had spoken to us, and I blurted out, “You can’t stop us, our Father owns this campus!”

Long story, but miraculously, God gave us our wing!

The Holy Spirit gave us radical evangelism strategies. Once, when the theatre department was doing a vampire play, we commandeered Dracula’s coffin and set it in the middle of a square in front of the Student Union. With a few Chi Alpha students assembled, a the curious crowd gathered. When the crows grew t over 100, I stood up in the coffin and preached Jesus, “I am the Resurrection and the Life! “

God transformed me from an academic failure, and I graduated cum laud with a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts/Mass Communication in 3½ years. After graduation, Cathy and I married and worked in our respective fields, ministering in our local church and the community.

The promise that God gave us as through Chi Alpha as we reached out on the Lock Haven State College campus continues to grow but now   ….  our campus is the world.

In 1977, I worked with the City Wide Mass choir for David Wilkerson for his Anniversary Crusade in Clearfield, PA. That is where we began our ministry with Teen Challenge. I met Sonny Oliver and the Teen Challenge Choir. With some men looking for a place to go after graduation, we started a Teen Challenge re-entry home called His House. In 1981, we moved full-time to the Teen Challenge Training Center in Rehrersburg, PA. We have directed National Touring Choirs in the USA, Canada, and Great Britain and have had the privilege of launching working with over 150 Teen Challenge vocal teams on six continents.

Now, as Global Evangelism Coordinator for Teen Challenge, Cathy and I travel over 100,000 miles each year, carrying the Good News of the Gospel to the world.  The foundation for my life, family, and Christian ministry were built through the Chi Alpha outreach and I praise God for that ministry. 

Today, Chi Alpha continues to grow as a Global force for the Kingdom of God. I believe God is calling Chi Alpha students to still greater levels of impact as a last-days army to carry the Gospel. This year, TWMS4 was one more step toward that amazing future. God has an amazing story for every student!  

Cathy and I travel over 150,000 miles on 6 continents every years serving the 1,4000 Teen Challenge Center in 120 nations Worldwide. In 2-16, we saw over 70,000 men and women make first time confessions of Faith in Jesus Christ in our meetings we partnered with around the world. Don't allow you life to be defined by your past. I do not know how you started, but I can promise you this, God has an amazing conclusion in store.  Listen for His voice!