How I (Finally) Surrendered
Today we're kicking off a month of baptism miracles. Today's story is from Brother George Katsaras.
In March 1976, we were at a church camp deep in the heart of the Florida Everglades. There were powerful airboats roaring all around us while Brother Mike Radd was preaching. I was having horrific kidney pains and felt extremely uncomfortable as I sat in a stiff metal chair.
Sister Carmella Mazzeo, the compassionate camp nurse, realized I was in pain and offered me medication, which I refused because I wanted to be in my right mind and alert for the meeting. I was squirming in pain sitting in that hard chair, so Sister Carmella positioned a pillow comfortably behind my back. As I listened to Brother Mike and saw the other elders up front, I felt so much love from everyone.
Coming from another church, I felt honored that Brother Jim Lovalvo, an apostle, knew my name and that I could even consider him my friend. I realized a large family surrounded me, and I knew that they loved me. I suddenly felt ashamed that I was not a member of The Church, that I could not participate in the sacraments, that my immediate family was divided.
I remembered reading 1 Corinthians 7:14, "For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by his wife." This put such a burden on my heart. It felt wrong that my family was so upside-down. Scripture told me that I must be the head of the household, but I was shirking my responsibility by putting it on my wife so that my children were sanctified by my wife and not the both of us. I'm Greek, and through the example of my parents, I've always firmly believed that husband and wife should be one in all things, but here I was refusing to be one in our beliefs.
Now a little history: I was 20 years old when I met my wife of 18, and I immediately knew she was the one I had been praying for since I was 15. When she invited me to The Church of Jesus Christ, I knew that I better accept it if I wanted to be part of her life. Immediately I knew that The Church of Jesus Christ was special, but I had been raised in a church that was a strong part of my culture and heritage.
The Book of Mormon, too — what a stumbling block! As a college student who was well versed in criticisms of The Book of Mormon, I decided to read and study it so I could point out to my wife and everyone else in The Church how wrong they were for believing in it.
As I read and debated issues with many of the members, I realized that for once in my life I could be wrong. The more I read and debated, the more I realized that The Book of Mormon is a treasure, and I couldn't find contradictions between it and the Bible. In fact, one of the confusing parts of the Bible was finally cleared up for me by The Book of Mormon: Mathew 5:3 says, "Blessed are the poor in Spirit." The Book of Mormon in 3 Nephi 12:24 adds "who come unto me." Wow, what an impact that had on me, just four small words! Nothing complicated but yet so clear. My whole reason for reading The Book of Mormon shifted from finding fault to learning and believing. But it still took me many years to yield my heart.
Back to 1976: Here I am some 15 years after I first stepped into the kingdom of God on earth in Youngstown, Ohio. We are back in the hot, sweaty swamp surrounded by God's love. I'm asking myself, "What to do?" I don't want to hurt my parents. I knew I couldn't do this alone, so I asked to have hands laid on me for strength. Sure enough, God had mercy on me.
His grace was revealed to me through the testimony of a pre-adolescent child from the D'Orazio family. Long ago, I had decided to watch Brother John and Sister Linda D'Orazio closely so that I could learn how to be a good parent by their wonderful example. Their then young son, Johnny, had a vision while Brother Jim Lovalvo was praying for me. Johnny saw a black hood rise off of my head and something white come down on me.
I was baptized that same day and became your Brother in Christ, and my children were officially children of The Church of Jesus Christ. There is so much more to this story, but you'll have to sit down with me in person and share your testimony before you hear any more from me. May God bless you all.
Miracles for March
For March's theme, we're asking for miracles related to feet washing. This beautiful ordinance is something we observe four times a year, but the impact can last long afterward. Has the Lord given you a special testimony regarding feet washing? Share it with us!
This article has undergone ministry review and approval.