James H. Bookhout's Testimony
A Walk On The Wild Side
I have never seen God turn water into wine literally, but I have personally experienced God turning a motorcycle biker into a pastor and minister of the Gospel!
My quest for truth started in the summer of 1970 when I made a decision to find out what the good life was all about. My family had a summer home on the Great Sacandaga Lake where our entire family would go on weekends. Well, this year for some reason they said that I could use the camp uninterruptedly by myself. Of course, to a young man and his rebellious high school friends, that meant party time. That's exactly what took place during that whole summer. I thought, if this is what life to a youth meant, then I had it made in a flash. I felt we had it all — the family boat, our own private bachelor's pad, friends, money, drugs, fast cars, motorcycles — everything that would seemingly look successful by all outward appearances.
However, one thing was missing. I was empty and lonely inside even in the company of all my macho friends. I didn't know what it was and couldn't put my finger on it, but it was as if there was a hole in my soul that could not be filled.
Through several tragedies, broken relationships, and the loss of some close friends who were murdered or killed in car drag racing accidents; a feeling of eternity gripped me as I walked by their caskets and viewed their lifeless bodies. I was questioning again, "Is this all there is to living?" I couldn't help but wonder if that were me lying there, where would I be spending eternity? To escape those painful memories we would party some more. However, there was something telling me that if I didn't straighten out my life style in the fast lane and stop some of the dangerous things we were doing, I could possibly be the next one to die.
Then one night it happened. After a dance in the village of Broadalbin, NY, I was involved in a street fight with a gang from Amsterdam; when all twenty of them, with chains and knives, jumped me. During the brawl, I was struck with a metal pipe and suffered a broken arm and several lacrations from knives and chains. The next day, I was released from the hospital with a cast on my arm and went to visit a friend whose family was camping out on Scout Island.
Knowing that I was walking on the wild side, they tried in their own way to help.
They mentioned that some young people from Sacandaga Bible Conference were up on the hill, along with some pretty good looking girls. Of course, that's all we needed to hear! Much to my surprise, I had an appointment with destiny that day and ended up listening to a man preaching about things that were seemingly pointed directly at me. It felt as if I was glued to my seat. I tried to leave but could not. He was answering those probing questions. The friends that were with me pulled on me to go. Finally they left me there alone as they turned away and laughed that I would even consider staying.
I could not tell you so much what the preacher was speaking about but I knew it was personally for me. After the message was finished someone walked over to me and asked what I thought about it, and if I would like to go with them to pray. So just to get him off my back I said yes. Immediately after I spoke those words, in my mind there was a war-like feeling that I began to battle with. It was as if two voices were talking to me at the same time. One was saying, "Go with them; this is what you have been looking for;" and the other was screaming, "Leave right now; you don't need these religious fanatics! You're the macho kid; you don't need anybody." That struggle went on inside of me for some time, and at one point I thought I was going crazy. Suddenly I felt that unmistakable (even to a sinner) still small voice speak to me and say, "Go! I have a work for you to do."
Although I had never recognized the voice of God like that before, I felt like I was being called into the ministry. I was still not totally convinced that this was for me, so I reasoned it away. I literally turned around and began to run away from those religious people, when I was struck by something that stopped me in my tracks. I heard what sounded like an audible voice say, "This is your last opportunity to make things right with me." At that moment a flash picture went through my mind and I saw myself water skiing (remember with a broken arm), falling down and drowning, and not coming back up again. At that moment I realized I had to make a choice. For me that day, God, who is a God of love and mercy, had to deal strongly with me in order to get my attention, and I'm so glad he did.
Today, twenty-four years later, I am a pastor of a growing church with various outreach ministries. Now, whenever I see new young people come into our church service with that searching look in their eyes, I remember all over again the wonderful experience of conversion that I had on Scout Island. Thank you Sacandaga Bible Conference for being there for a former street kid.
James Bookhout is currently the pastor of the Spirit and Truth Christian Church and the director of David's Tabernacle, a Christian School of The Arts, located at 2020 Broadway in Schenectady, NY 12306. (518) 374-4693
Caption on photo:
James H. Bookhout at Spitzie's Motorcycle Shop