The year was 1982, sometime in the second half of August, and it was Reorganization (reorgy) week at West Point. Reorgy was supposed to be one of the hardest weeks at the Academy, and at least in my book, it lived up to its reputation. I did something wrong – doing things wrong was the plight of Plebes – and some upperclassman threatened that I might not be able to go on the retreat I was so looking forward to.
The retreat was a Sunday school teacher’s getaway, organized by the Protestant Chapel, and the Chaplain had invited me – not for my winsome ways with the kids – but I assume because he pegged me as fresh meat for evangelism if he could get me away for the weekend. He offered me the post of teaching three and four year olds in the Sunday school chapel, assuming, I suppose, that I couldn’t do much harm at that level. So I accepted the challenge, and in God’s providence, the threat to my weekend didn’t materialize. Off I went.
This was the weekend that I called on the name of the Lord for salvation. The Chaplain gave a group of us that opportunity, and I took him and the Lord up on the free offer of salvation. Glorious. Don’t remember much about that, truth be told, but I do remember my first prayer meeting.
Towards the end of the weekend, sometime after that gospel presentation, a group of cadet old-timers and some of us newbies gathered around a table and held hands. Someone explained the plan: we would pray around the table, and when the person next to you was finished saying his piece to the King of kings, he or she was supposed to squeeze your hand.
I was scared. What was I supposed to say? More than that, what if I said the wrong thing? But for all my discomfort, it might have been most unpleasant for the persons on either side of me; I don’t remember for sure, but I’ll bet they could have nicknamed me old “sweaty-palms”.
It came my turn. I said my piece. Lightning didn’t strike. And I’m here to tell you about it today, thirty years and a whole lot of prayer meetings later…but now thankfully, with dryer palms.