My wife, Catherine and I, succumbed to the wooing of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ in the year 1987. We were not married at the time and were both actively involved in Catholicism, but soon realized our entrapment when we began secretly reading the King James Bible. Through the scriptures we learned quickly that we should leave the Catholic church when God showed us that Jesus Christ, His ONLY BEGOTTEN Son, was the ONLY way unto salvation. "Come out from amongst them and be ye separate," saith the Lord...."and touch not the unclean thing." Our exit from Catholicism was justified when our Priest told us that there were other ways unto Salvation besides Jesus Christ. We soon found a small Baptist Church where the Word of God was highly reverenced.
First of all, I want to say how much I love and thank my Lord and Saviour, JESUS CHRIST, that I HAVE a testimony.
Born in the year 1940 on the seventh day of the seventh month,in a small Nova Scotia town in Canada, I was the youngest of three sons to a non-practicing Catholic dad, and a non-practicing protestant mother. To my knowledge (according to the scriptures) I shall never again see either of them.
PRAISE BE UNTO GOD! ALL GLORY AND HONOR belong to Him!
Growing up in a "forced to attend" Catholic church, I learned much about the toxic superiority of Catholicism...
I learned that the Pope was the Vicar of Christ.
I learned that one could only become a Saint through
the Catholic church.
I learned that the Communion wafer was the actual body
of the living Christ and how to lick it from off the
floor if it should fall from your lips.
I learned that the Communion wine was the ACTUAL Blood
of Christ, my Lord.
I learned to always call a Priest "Father" and a Nun
I learned to always make the sign of the Cross before
talking to God.
I learned how to enter the "confessional box" and the
proper words to speak into the ear of the Priest.
I learned the "exact" prayers to repeat over and over
until my sins were forgiven.
I learned how to pray to the Saints and light candles
for the dead (as if they needed more fire in Hell).
I learned that if you weren't good enough to go
directly to Heaven, there was a place called PURGATORY,
(a mid-way point), a place to wait until you were
prayed into Heaven.
I learned that the Catholic church spent a lot of money
on candles and matches.
I learned the difference between "venial" and "mortal"
I learned that it was acceptable by the Catholic church
for one to drink, smoke, steal, lie, cheat, and cuss,
but only in moderation.
I learned that being an "Altar boy" was a very risky
I learned that Mary was CO-REDEMPTRESS with Jesus
Christ and that Jesus "was NOT the ONLY way to Heaven.
I learned that if I believed all of the above I would
surely die and go to HELL.
I had been a soldier in the Military for over ten years and
was really having too much fun to take my Catholic religion
When I left the Military and went back to civilian life, I
began hearing the "wooing of the Holy Spirit" of God.
Although I had tried to reconcile with the transparency of
my Catholic beliefs,it soon became apparent that God was
drawing me to His Son and away from this "sesspool" of
My wife, Catherine and I, found our way to a tiny Baptist
church soon after we had both accepted Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour. I can still see the faded wooden sign above the old church door..BIBLE BAPTIST INDEPENDENT,PREACHING THE BOOK, THE BLOOD, AND THE BLESSED HOPE. Serving our Lord was just grand and we quickly grew in our faith and fellowship.
In the years that followed, the Lord God greatly blessed, and though living for the Lord meant giving up a lot of worldly pleasures and working at numerous menial and low-paying jobs, God always saw to it that we were taken care of. Where once I was an award-winning commercial writer at a local radio station, I soon became a simple "car washer".
Where I had began a promising career as a national award-winning playwright, I had now traded my quill for a janitorial mop. I had been a smoker, a drinker, and a blasphemer, but now, thanks to God, the indwelling Holy Spirit had cast these old habits into the deepest sea. And the real truth is...I never missed a thing about that old life style.
God began to speak to me in many ways. He gave me great peace..and joy..and contentment. Those who were once my old buddies were now my new enemies.
During those "growing" years, the Lord God revealed Himself to me in so many ways. For example, when I was washing cars at a local dealership, during my lunch break, I couldn't go into the lunch room because of the language and blasphemy.
So, I would slip out the back with my Spurgeon booklets and read one or two by the fence over-looking a quiet brook. While I was here, God spoke to me in a very direct way. There was a growth of ragweed that had sprung up akin to that fence and I began to notice some birds trying light on the tiny branches so they could eat of the seed they bore.
As I watched, I noticed that the larger birds could not be supported by the frail branches, and therefore could not partake of the seeds. But then, God revealed something very special to me....the branches that could not hold the robin or the black bird, were just perfect to support God's tiny sparrows. My heart leaped with joy.
God looked after His creation; man plundered and destroyed it.
I knew in my heart that God would show me great and marvelous things...things that to the unsaved eye seemed so trivial. However, what happened next would almost cause a dent in my armor of faith. God allowed a rare skin disease to envelop my entire body. It was like a heavy red rash...
It spread quickly up one side and down the other...on my face and even inside my eye lids. I looked like some kind of monster. Then the palms of my hands and the soles of my feet became thickly calloused..and then cracked and bled. And I began to freeze..and itch. The doctor was at a loss and gave me a jar of emollient cream that had to be applied over my entire body.
I couldn't sleep...I couldn't wear shoes...my eye lids turned inside-out and the lashes rubbed hard against the eye ball.
Catherine and I prayed unceasingly that God would take away this dreaded affliction. It was the middle of summer and I was freezing. There seemd to be no end. Just as the callouses on my hands and feet cracked and bled and seemed to disappear, new one would form.
Sometimes a man will just pray for death. My faith was sorely tested. Finally, God in His great mercy, sent us on a thousand mile journey where a doctor was waiting for a resolve to my condition. After a few days, God allowed the healing process to begin. God is so good!
So, here I was, at another crossroads, and another dimension in my walk with God.
Next on God's agenda for me would take place at a home for the elderly just outside my home town. It was late in November when the Lord took my hand and walked me to the door.
As I entered, I noticed in the lounge some of the elderly and several staff members decorating a Christmas tree, and though I was a total stranger, they welcomed my assistance, and by the time it was all said and done it was as though I were one of the family.
Oh...did I mention...I always carried my Bible.
Soon thereafter, once I had passed my entrance protocol, police checks and what have you, I was given complete freedom to roam the premises and mingle with these dear souls one or two nights each week. I would just drop by in the evening, Bible in hand, and at the ready (for I knew what God's plan was)...and make my rounds...get to know the folks and earn their trust. Before long they would be inviting me into their rooms for a time of prayer and Bible study. Within six months I was just like one of the family.
God is so good!
For the next eight years I would enter in to the private lives of the lonely and forsaken...the feeble-minded and the dying...one on one, as the Spirit of God would lead.
God had given me a great freedom, and they so loved His Word.
That very first week, as I wandered about the corridors, I was led by the Spirit to a single room, where a man by the name of CECIL HAGGART was confined to his bed by muscular dystrophy, and could only use one arm...an arm he exercised fervently, swinging it about to the music on his radio. I would later learn that the hand that moved so freely was also very volatile and was often used as a sign of intense frustration. In his anguish, he would relentlessly slap his brow until he found some repose. Cecil never left that bed during those eight years of my visitation. We had become instant friends. He was the mainstay of my visits. God began to work. No matter where else I went in the home I always had a special time for Cecil...and though his voice was sometimes hard to understand, we communicated real fine. We were about the same age at the time.
Cecil loved the Lord God, which made it easy to read his favorite scriptures and sing many of his favorite hymns. We had become very good friends...and brothers in the Lord.
In the ensuing years our fellowship grew and I was always anxious to get to Cecil's room to strengthen him in the Word.
I recall one evening as I entered his room he was virtually flogging himself about his head with his one good arm. I took hold and held him still, as his voice, filled with great emotion, wept with the words..."I wanna die! I wanna die!" In a moment I was weeping with him...and for the first time, God had placed me inside Cecil's body, just so I would truly understand his torment.
Once Cecil was subdued, I sat beside him and we both wept and prayed for God's mercy. This scene would be repeated numerous times in the days ahead.
My entire journey to Valley View Villa was filled with sudden crashes in faith, but yet, the Spirit of God was ever on cue to calm the storm and renew my strength.
Up and down the corridors of loneliness and suffering, filling every need with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, this was my assignment. In the end, hundreds of sick and dying souls would be without excuse when their time was come. How we loved and laughed...and cried...and YES, oh, YES, how we rejoiced in the Lord...and no two of them were alike.
For eight years I had known Cecil Haggart..and oh, how he loved to hear me read Revelation 21 (all about the New Jerusalem)...where there would be no more pain or heart ache...no more tears or suffering...for the former things will have passed away.
And so it was, that last time I sat and prayed, and once more shared the wonderful Word of our living Saviour with my dear brother. And then I heard a voice...that of a woman behind me. Her tone was threatening and decisive.."YOU ARE NOT TO COME IN THIS ROOM AND BOTHER CECIL WITH YOUR BIBLE AND SINGING ANYMORE!" That's all I can recall. I turned and looked at the strange intruder, awed about what I had heard. Suddenly she was gone. I had never seen her before, and I would never see her again.
As I left Valley View Villa that night and walked to my car, an unusual chill encompassed me...and when I settled in behind the wheel, every water-filled emotion pent up inside me let loose..and I wept as I have never wept before. And then the Spirit of God spoke to my heart. I shall never forget His Words..."IT IS FINISHED.....IT IS FINISHED!"
WHAT IS finished, I gushed forth?
The following day, at a church social, a friend of mine came up to me...and these are the words I heard him say..."Too bad about your buddy...."
"What buddy," I inquired?
"Cecil...out at the home...."
"What are you talking about?" Then, the words I already knew were coming....
"He died last night.."
My eyes welled up.... "No..no, he didn't die...he just moved into a mansion, that's all."
Eight years and now it was finished. No more Valley View Villa. Cecil didn't live there anymore.
Even today...many years later..I often sit and wonder about those times when I was used of God and how He looked after me. Like one day when I was returning home from one of my visits to the home. I was so cold and hungry, and there wasn't much of anything to eat in my one-room apartment, for I had not been employed in some time.
As I trudged through the snow I began praying in earnest. I remember it well.
I said.."Lord..I sure am hungry...I sure am hungry, but my cupboard is kind of bare." Then the Spirit of God spoke again...He said..."There...in the snow..see it!"
I looked toward a roadside snow bank just ahead of me, for I had paused at the intersection in wait for the lights to change. God had carefully placed a brand new five-dollar bill in a mound of snow directly in my path. I retrieved it as quick as I could and scampered off to the nearest Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet to fill my belly. PRAISE BE TO GOD!
My God sure blessed me a lot when I was down and out. He blessed me with a wonderful wife of like-precious faith, whom I adore more and more every day. In the days that followed it was one blessing and then another. And there were testings too. I didn't always like them, but the Lord knew best, and it was all part of God's plan to make me a better servant.
God always had His way of talking to me...and He always used something out of the Bible to get my attention...like His tiny sparrows.
I recall a time in the middle of the coldest winter I had seen in years. Finances were a bit tight...and Catherine and I were both drawing unemployment benefits.
As we sat at supper, I looked out the window across the alley to an upper window ledge and saw a tiny sparrow perched all alone on the sill. We watched in awe as he fluttered his tiny wings and crouched down in preparation for a long cold night.
Catherine and I talked about the sparrow and how God made reference to them in the scriptures..how He always looked after them..and how much more He would look after us.
Just before we turned off the light to retire I took one last peek through the curtain. The sparrow was so still I was almost certain he had frozen.
The following morning we hurried to the window and the tiny sparrow was still on the ledge, but he wasn't moving. I had commented to Catherine that he was simply frozen to the sill and he was surely dead.
Then, I could hardly believe what happened next. That little fellow began to move. It was just a little nudge. He was alive! Then, all of a sudden, he simply flapped those tiny wings like nobody's business, gave a yawn and soared from that loft like a jet plane. PRAISE THE LORD!..I shouted. God sure does look after His own...and God will look after us!
In the months that followed, God's footprints were everywhere in our lives. First he gave Catherine a job as a Christian School supervisor...and he gave me a job as church janitor. God sure is good!
Later, the Pastor called me to his office and told me that his school supervisor for the upper grades was not returning and asked if I would be interested in the job of supervisor. I was so shocked I said I must go and pray about it. Ten minutes later I was back in his office with a grin from ear to ear and God's blessing in my heart.
One thing I want to make clear here...this whole thing was orchestrated by almighty God. HE hired me..and HE told me I would keep the job until HE HIMSELF fired me or closed the school. When I told this to all the moms and dads, they had a good laugh.
"So let it be written; so let it be done."
Six years later, God closed the school.
I would advise all who attend, or have their children attend a Christian school to use great caution and God-given wisdom. Not all...actually very few so-called CHRISTIAN SCHOOLS are "CHRISTIAN SCHOOLS". That's a shame...but it's also a fact. My wife and I have taught in these schools for over twenty years combined. Need I say more? God does not bless sin.
Another trial: My doctor sent me to an oncologist. I was at the age of every man's prostate check-up. The tests revealed a count on the PSA scale of 26.5, well above the acceptable 1-4 normal. My first biopsy showed nothing...my second found its mark, deep inside the gland.
We prayed for God's intervention.
The specialist in Halifax suggested I submit to a 6-week radiation treatment. I recall every moment of every day and night during those weeks. Sleep was next to impossible, and I spent more time in the bathroom then in bed.
We prayed all the more earnestly.
At the four-week point my oncologist told me was cutting down on the dosage of radiation they were giving to me. The reason being..he feared damage to the surrounding organs.
Many of you men who have gone through this procedure will know the following:
While under-going radiation, one can hear a humming sound as the rads are administered. For myself I would estimate about 15 seconds per burst. The first day they had reduced my radiation I noticed a significent reduction to about half the dosage. The following day I was escorted into a different treatment room with a different radiologist at the helm. It was here that I noticed my "hum" time to be once again elevated to the previous dosage. I was back to square one and nobody could explain why. I was simply told that this was what the doctor ordered.
Not wanting to cause any trouble by becoming argumentative, I remained calm until the entire treatment was completed. When I asked the doctor to explain, he could not.
In the end I was happy and blessed to be released.
Praise be to God!
However, what I would discover several weeks later was nothing short of alarming...I had no control over my bowels. I could be walking down the street or sitting in a restaurant and suddenly have to run to the nearest restroom When I explained to my family doctor, she informed me that nothing could be done to correct the problem. A subsequent colonoscopy confirmed that the severe radiation had scarred the lining of my colon and burnt away the tiny fibre-like hairs that helped to regulate bowel movements. I have since, by God's mercy and blessing, recovered enough to gain some control over the problem.
Something else the radiation did was to adversely affect my stamina.
However, in conclusion, I praise God...He has cured me of my prostate cancer.
God called Catherine, my dear wife, to teach at a Christian School in Ontario...and since I wasn't doing much of anything at the time, except janitorial work, God gave me peace about making such a move.
About three years had passed...and one day while I was scratching the bald spot on my head, I discovered something that didn't feel quite right. I immediately prayed and told the Lord God that I wasn't angry at Him, but I would sure appreciate His hand of healing one more time. A trip to the dermatologist was in order. She sprayed a few pre-cancerous tumours on my hand and face and surgically removed the tumour from my bald spot. A month later it returned, so I prayed a little harder than before. I then went to a specialist for major surgery and this time the Lord God had His hand on me. Now...thanks be to God..all I'm left with is a hole in my head. PRAISE THE LORD!
Just how loving and powerful and kind is my God? Well, as far as Catherine and I are concerned...He's the BEST!
LOOKING BACK....I had my tonsils and adnois out at age nine...my appendix removed in my twenties...a kidney removed in my thirties....gall bladder taken away in my fourties...lost all but six of my teeth in my sixties...
Add to this, two bouts of cancer and I still say...PRAISE GOD! He is so good. I love him because I know He first loved me.
What have I learned because of all this? That if you give your life to Jesus Christ in faith believing that He suffered and died on the Cross at Calvary for your sins and all the sins of the world..and rose again on the third day,
that he'll never leave you nor forsake you.
God doesn't always take away your afflictions, but He bears them with you...and that's the God I serve. In Christ..........
Bro. Tom L Bonvie