WHEN I was about five years old, I remember going to literally dozens of churches with my parents. First one and then another. My dad was searching for something, and I don't believe even he knew what. One night on our way to a sports arena in San Diego, California, to hear an "evangelist" named Jack Shuler, my dad's twisting of the radio knob stopped abruptly as he heard Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong's voice. Little did my parents know that from that point forward our lives would be drastically changed! At last my dad found what he had been searching for! My mother, however, did not share his enthusiasm. "He is just another crackpot," she retorted in regard to Mr. Armstrong. (By this time, she had "had it" with religion.) But the fruits proved Mr. Armstrong was not "just another crackpot." A short time later both my parents were baptized. What a dramatic change took place! Suddenly we could not observe Easter, Christmas, or any other pagan holidays, nor could we eat pork, shrimp, lobster or clams. Our whole world was turned upside down! My life was suddenly changed very abruptly and, I thought, cruelly. Overnight I became an "oddball" and a "freak." I soon learned that I wouldn't get anywhere by telling my classmates about the pagan origins of this world's holidays, or about pork being unclean. So I decided to compromise. I would live a dual standard, one standard at home, and one standard at school. I had no idea to what extent I would have to fight this habit of "dualism" later on in life. However, for the time being, the compromise theory seemed to work fairly well. I took notes in Sabbath services, and everyone thought I was a "good boy." But when I was at school, I would act like all the others. When Valentine's Day came around, I made valentines, and I received them. But before I got home I got rid of them. I sang "Silent Night" at the "Christmas" assembly we had at school — after all, everybody else was singing, and I didn't want to be different. And anyway, that was "dad's religion," and since he couldn't see what I was doing while at school, why kick the system? — Why go against what all my friends were doing? It was a lot easier to go with the tide than to stand up for what Ad believed. For some reason, at age eight or ten, it was far more important what my "buddies" thought of me than what God thought, or what my dad thought. My philosophy of life began to cause problems for me. I found myself compromising more and more. I began making up stories about the times I missed school for the Holy Days and became more and more a follower. My two best friends were not teaching me anything good. They taught me a lot of nasty, dirty, vile little things that were the exact antithesis of the way of peace of mind and true happiness. Down, down, they pulled me to the depths of childish depravity. I began a lonely, disappointing, heartbreaking, futile search for some new thrill that could somehow give my life more spice, more meaning, more of a "kick." A song that was popular when I was a teen-ager should have given me a clue as to how far I would get. It was called "Kicks." Part of the words were: "Kicks just keep getting harder to find, and all your kicks won't bring you peace of mind; before you find out, it's too late. You'd better get straight, but not with kicks." But somehow I just wouldn't listen. I had grown up in the shadow of the Ark, so to speak; I had grown up with the words of Mr. Garner Ted Armstrong reverberating and echoing in my ears, and nothing he or my parents said had any meaning to me. I had heard it all before, and my only hope was that I could "get mine" before the bombs fell. The knowledge I had was not precious to me. It had turned me into a "freak" when I was in grade school, and in high school it kept me from having any "fun." So I ran as far away as I could from the truth. I closed my ears to it, and I had a "good time." Or did I? I got into one kind of trouble and then another when I was in junior high and high school. The world was a brightly wrapped package of tinsel and glitter that whispered in my ear and enticed me to come and have my 611 of the cheap thrills it had to offer. And I was too weak to resist. Yes, the thrills were cheap in that they had no real value — but what a bitter price I had to pay for them! The price was paid in mental and physical suffering that I would never wish on anybody. I spent countless nights lying in bed at night, staring at the ceiling wondering if someone was going to find out about the times I sneaked out at night to ride my Honda in the mountains against my parents' orders, or something else I had done. What had been sweet in my mouth became bitter in my stomach, but somehow, after I had vomited it up, I went back to it and started the process all over again. I just wouldn't learn the lesson. The worry, the heartache, the trauma of getting caught did not even begin to compare with the momentary kick of doing what was wrong. I cursed the fact that I had been the child of a member of God's Church. I knew too much, and every time I did something wrong, I knew what was coming. Why wouldn't God just leave me alone? Why couldn't I have a few minutes of "pleasure" here and there without someone finding out about it, or without my own feelings of guilt coming up to choke my "good times" away, turning them into a horrible nightmare? Why did it bother me so much? My guilt seemed to eat at me like some kind of cancer that started in my intestines and spread its corruption through my entire body. I tried to rationalize it away, but it was like a ghost that came to haunt me at night and steal my sleep. As time progressed, I found myself relieved when I got caught. Yes, I walked down the road some of you teen-agers may be walking down right now. I tried to reject the training I had received. I turned my back on God, and I found out how easy it is for Him to bring a person back. He didn't let me get too far before I got on my knees and called His name — and amazingly, in spite of my rebellion, He heard me. Throughout this entire time, I never once considered what I was doing to my parents. My dad was so totally dedicated to the Work I had grown to resent, that there was no communication between us whatsoever. Thankfully though, something happened to change all that. When I was a senior in high school, I had a "good time" — but it seems the teachers found out about what a "good time" I was having. I found myself in the same old mess. After telling the principal my side of the story, he said: "Well, Tom, I want you to tell your dad what you have done, and we will talk to you later." Oh, boy! Was I ever in trouble! My dad was going to kill me! He would beat me until the flesh fell off my bones and I died — or so I thought. After many hours of torment and mental anguish, I finally got the courage to tell him what I had done, and then I braced myself for the verbal onslaught I knew was coming. I was in for a surprise. I watched dad, and I couldn't believe what was happening. I might as well have hit him in the face with a brick. I saw the hurt of many years come up from somewhere deep within him and spread itself over the lines chat I had helped etch into his face. He grabbed a chair and sat down, and with head in hands, my dad cried. Suddenly it dawned on me how much I had done to hurt him over the years, and as that realization came, so came my own tears. And there we were. He stood up and hugged me, and we both just wept for a long time. And do you know, at that precise moment a bond was created between my dad and me that will never be broken. I wish some of you could have what we have. I waited until just before I was graduated from high school to get to know my parents, and then I went off to college. I missed them then, and I wished I had gotten to know them so much better, so much sooner. Isn't it time some of you young people got to know your parents? Don't wait as long as I did. Don't be like I was. When you know too much, you can't just reject the knowledge you have been given. Believe me, I tried! When I realized that God was really working with me and calling me, it was not hard for me to heed that call. I had been beaten down until I had no more strength to resist. I had resisted what, deep down inside, I had known was true for years. I had seen too much to ever really turn my back on the truth for very long. Let me give you a few illustrations. My entire family was involved in a car accident on the way to the Feast of Tabernacles in 1957. My mother sustained internal injuries which were of a very serious nature. She lost more blood than the average human being could normally stand to lose. She didn't have a blood transfusion — she was anointed and relied on God for healing. Physically speaking, she should have died — but she didn't. I believe God healed her. That same year, ignorantly, we drove our twisted, broken, imperfectly repaired car home from Big Sandy, Texas, without knowing the steering column was not properly connected to the wheels. Over tortuous, winding roads we drove, across the burning desert and through rugged mountains to San Diego. And there, as we reached home, we found we could not even turn around on the street in front of our house. The insurance man was horrified when he learned the condition our car was in. Oh, I suppose you could explain that one away somehow, but I think it was a miracle. As a result of the car accident I mentioned, my mother was unable to have any more children. I was an only child, and I was sure I always would be. And then came the time, 19 years later, that I held the new life that was my first little sister in my own trembling hands. She was half an hour old, and tears streaked down my face as I looked at her sleeping form and realized what a miracle she was! Now to top it all, I have another sister! Well, I guess I am an emotional person. But when I think of the tremendous way God has worked in my life, and in the lives of my parents, I can't help being very deeply moved. Not only did I experience these miracles with my parents, but I saw many more signs of God working in MY life. I was personally healed many times. I personally had many prayers answered, even when I was still finishing high school. I personally had it proved to me time and time again that this is God's Church which I have been associated with now for over fifteen years. I have seen literally dozens of prophecies from the World Tomorrow broadcast come to pass. I would have to be a raving imbecile to so blind myself to the prophecies being fulfilled, the handwriting on the wall for modern civilization. Any of you young people who really want to CAN prove that God exists, that the Bible is His inspired Word, and that this i s the ONE TRUE CHURCH. The key, is, you have to WANT to prove it. You need something very few people possess today — an open mind. I think that in a great many cases, the young people in God's Church don't want to believe the truth. Why do I say this? Because that was my attitude! However, the only thing that can come from such an attitude is an untold amount of heartache, misery and pain. You can take the route I took if you want to, but I wouldn't advise it. You see, I had one thing working for me that you may not have — time! You may have more time than I think you have, but then you may not have as much time as you think you have. Why gamble with your life? Consider the facts. Coming to conversion can be a slow agonizing process for a "second-generation Christian." We take too many things for granted, including repentance and conversion. No one can come to repentance on his own (John 6:44); however, if you ask God for it He will grant it to you (Matt. 7:7). But you must begin demonstrating repentance by keeping His commandments (I John 3:22). "Here comes the pitch — here comes the altar call," some of you are now probably thinking. Well, whether you like it or not, the fact that God has called your parents is a pretty big indication that He is also in the process of calling you. Most of you will come to the point sometime in your lives when you will realize that you can't go on anymore — that you need God's help. Don't kid yourself! You are receiving a witness right now! You know too much! Sometime in the future, you will come to a crossroads in your life, a time when you will have to make the choice mentioned in Deuteronomy 30:19. If there was some way I personally could help you make that choice, I would. But it is entirely up to you. Don't choose to die! Choose life, and experience how truly full, rich, abundant and thrill-filled it CAN BE! And why don't you read dad's open letter — parents are just people too; they need understanding just like we do.