The Halloween That Saved My Life

On Halloween night in 1998, I threw a party in my apartment at Virginia Tech University. I was 20 years old and in the wildest season of my life. I had three female roommates and a live-in girlfriend, and I spent most of my spare time smoking weed, doing lines of cocaine, and drinking.

I was geared up for a good time. Because the party was going to be “epic,” I invited an old friend from high school down for the weekend. Dave and I had played ball and partied together over the years, so I was excited to see him.

I greeted Dave when he arrived and escorted him back to my room, proudly unveiling the welcome gifts I’d prepared. On my desk was a bag of weed and his favorite beer, and I told him I had a girl he could get to know for the weekend.

I was geared up for a good time. But Dave told me he didn’t do those things anymore. He loved Jesus and he’d come to tell me that Jesus loved me too.

But Dave didn’t respond like I expected. Instead, he gently closed the door and sat on the bed. He looked me in the eyes and told me he didn’t do those things anymore. He said he’d become a Christian; he now loved Jesus and the reason he’d come was to tell me that Jesus loved me too.

I laughed him off.

Dave stayed at our crazy party all night. Friends came up and asked me what was up with my buddy. When I told them he was a Christian, we all sneered and said “poor guy,” like he’d caught a disease or something.

Haunting Holiness

But as the night went on, my heart grew uneasy.

In that room, amid all the music and laughter, I was haunted. Dave had a peace no amount of drugs or alcohol could provide. The end of that night proved to be the beginning of the rest of my life. Over the next several days, Dave and I spoke about the gospel. He gave me Scriptures to read and tried to answer my questions—he even endured my mocking. We spoke on the phone several times. We exchanged emails. What follows is the family-friendly version of an email I sent him about a week after his visit:


Dude, we have to talk. Its great and all that you’re Mr. Religious now, but I want you to know I’m worried about you. I want you to be careful that you don’t go overboard and start getting all weird on me. I mean, I know that going to church is a good thing and that God is real and all that, but if you don’t watch it you’re going to miss out on what life is really all about.

I know you’re just trying to be a good boy and all, but when you came down here and wouldn’t drink, you looked like an idiot. I mean, you were just sitting there with a cork in your mouth. What is wrong with you?

I’m not trying to be a jerk, but I’m really worried about you. I know you’re just preaching at me because you’re my boy and all that, but I know that I’m OK—God and I have our own little understanding. I know I get crazy now and again, but I don’t think God is going to send me to hell for having a good time. I mean, he understands I’m just having a little fun. I’m not a bad person and he knows my heart. I agree I get a little crazy now and again, but it’s good for the soul, right? Well, enough of that. I’m sure you’ll be back to normal soon and we can smoke a fatty to celebrate. Be a good boy and tell Jesus I said hi.

Despite my bravado, I began feeling uncomfortable at parties. I felt dirty and confused. Finally, I retreated to my bedroom and closed the door: OK, God, if you’re real, show me something. As I looked down in exhaustion, I saw the corner of a Bible my parents had given me when I went off to college. Until then it had been hidden under my bed. But for some reason, that night, it was peeking out.

I sat at my desk and played Bible roulette. It opened to Ezekiel 18. I began reading and came to this:

The person who sins is the one who will die. . . . But if wicked people turn away from all their sins and begin to obey my decrees and do what is just and right, they will surely live and not die. All their past sins will be forgotten, and they will live. . . . Do you think that I like to see wicked people die? says the Sovereign LORD. Of course not! I want them to turn from their wicked ways and live. . . . Put all your rebellion behind you, and find yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die? . . . I don’t want you to die, says the Sovereign LORD. Turn back and live! (Ezek. 18:20–23, 31–32, NLT)

That freaked me out.

So I closed the Bible and said, “God, let’s try this again.” This time it fell open to Romans 2:

Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin? (Rom. 2:4, NLT)

That really freaked me out.

There He Stood

A few weeks later, I was home on Christmas break, doing a drug called ecstasy. Sometime after midnight I became strangely sober and felt an overwhelming burden to call Dave. Dave came to my house, carrying his Bible, tears rolling down his cheeks.

We sat down and I told him I needed to know more about God. He asked if I knew what he was doing when I called him. He proceeded to tell me that when I called, he was doing the same thing he’d been doing every night since he left Virginia Tech—praying for me.

I continued to read the Bible and talk with Dave. He told me God made me to love and worship him. The guilt I was feeling, Dave explained, was God showing me I was in rebellion against him. I was on my way to hell. But Jesus died for sinners like me—and then rose from the dead to extend mercy if I would turn from my sins and believe in Jesus. He told me Jesus would forgive all my sins, change my life, and make me his forever.

I’m not sure if it was that night or in the weeks that followed, but God saved my soul. I began devouring the Bible. No longer did it read like a book of old stories—it became like a spotlight that searched my soul and showed me the depths of my sin and the even greater depths of God’s love for me in Jesus.

I didn’t want Jesus. But for some reason, he wanted me.

Dave made a stand for Christ that night at Virginia Tech. God used him to relay a message to me that altered my life for all eternity. I call Dave every Halloween night and thank him for his stand. I’m a very unlikely candidate for Christianity. I loved my sin. I loved my life. I had a very hard heart. Many people before Dave had tried to have a gospel conversation with me. I didn’t want Jesus. But for some reason, he wanted me.

It Can Happen to Anyone

I encourage you to remember this: God’s grace is stronger than the hardest heart. Romans 1:16–17 says “the gospel . . . is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith. . . . ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’”

Who’s the most unlikely person to become a follower of Jesus that you know? Take a moment to think. You have a name? Jesus can save that person. And you just might be Dave in that person’s life—the one he uses to deliver the gospel.

Make a stand for Christ, and trust him to use it for his glory. It might just save someone’s soul.

Garrett Kell

Published by Intentional Faith

Devoted to a Faith that Thinks

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