Saved 2/16/99

Written: 4/11/00 (revised 11/21/02)

I first and foremost want to thank Jesus Christ for allowing me to have a testimony to share. I am blessed and GIVE GOD ALL THE GLORY for what has happened in my life.

I was not brought up with "religion" nor did I, sadly, ever really open or read the bible, I remember my dad putting me to bed at an early age and having me say the "Lord's Prayer" and hearing about Jesus. I've always believed in Jesus Christ, BUT never knew Him. I never truly heard the gospel until February 1999.

My testimony really starts back following my graduating High School in Rochester, Michigan in 1982. I already thought I had it all together, left home, rebelled against my parents and headed out into the "world". I got hooked up with the wrong crowd, got in a punk rock band, sang satanic music, hung out in bars 5-7 nights a week, and became not only a womanizer, but a racist as well, "learning" very quickly to hate society. I couldn't hold down a steady job, I was heading down the wrong path, even tapping into the beginnings of new age, hypnosis, psychics and spiritual things on the dark side of it.

I broke off from my family and most of my high school friends to become a rebellious man of the world. Thank God for those who prayed for me, thank God for those who still loved me for me, and not for what I had become.

It was amazing to see how my life changed in a couple of years, from being an athlete and tournament fisherman (started at age 16 fishing B.A.S.S. events), to a social outcast. This lasted for about 4 or 5 years of my life and the harvest of what I had sown in my life lasted for years.

In the summer of 1985, I went fishing with a guy from my band, we went out and caught a couple bass and I realized how much I had missed it, since I had went 3 years without touching a fishing rod. This was a start of my path back to fishing and fishing tournaments. I purchased my first used bass boat in 1986 and started fishing full time as a guide in 1990, after qualifying for the 1990 BASSMasters Classic, through the B.A.S.S. Federation ranks. Though, it seemed as I was doing well, I was also getting a bad reputation of being a self-centered, arrogant fisherman and found no peace through it all.

Much went on in my fishing career between 1990 and 1999, though I had some tough times in fishing, it had gone well. I have been able to fish full- time, though deeply in debt at times, I had managed by the grace of God (though I didn't know He was loving me even as a sinner). I have lived and guided in Clewiston, Florida during the winters since 1990, working for Roland Martin on Lake Okeechobee while during the summer months, I have been able to guide and tournament fish on the Great lakes of Michigan. I have had an opportunity to work with some great sponsors over the past years. I really appreciate them all.

I would have to say the turn around point of my life was while fishing a tournament over Memorial Day weekend, 1997, on Saginaw Bay (bay off of Lake Huron) in Michigan. The weather got REAL bad during the day. We were fishing in a protected canal about 30 miles from where we had launched and didn't know the severity of the wind and I had to drive my boat through gusting winds of 25-35mph, with waves of 10 feet or more at times for over 13 miles!!! I had made a bad calculation on when to cut toward the Saginaw river mouth where the weigh-in was and positioned us where we had to run directly with the waves. That was not good, and I would have to give that Mercury full throttle just to climb a wave, and then slide down the wave like a surfer to keep the nose from spearing the next wave. We would literally disappear between waves for 20-30 seconds at a time. I will NEVER forget that day. Ed Dietrich , my partner, and myself were being drenched by every wave as they crashed over the back and sides of the boat, the water temperature was 56 degrees, and if we would have flipped or the boat sank, we would have gotten hypothermia within 15-30 minutes and most certainly died.

I remember for the first time in my career, I didn't think I could drive my boat any longer. I slowed the boat about 9 miles off shore, we pulled out every life vest and cushion we had in the boat, and I was going to ask Ed to drive, I looked over at him, he is a big guy and he was shaking like a little child, hypothermia had already set in and he was as scared as I was. I had no choice, but to keep on going. I truly thought we were going to die.

I put my helmet back on and PRAYED to GOD, with all my might, and promised Him that if we get back alive, I would CHANGE my life, I would live for Him. I remember praying out loud, scared to death! Well, praise God we made it, to this day, I have no idea where I got that strength, except through God. But, as many of us do, after a prayer, we often forget what we asked for and how gracious God was to answer us. We kind of take it for granted. I very shortly put that behind me and forgot what I had promised and went back to my ways.

Almost 2 years went by without me showing much effort to change. I didn't keep up my end of the deal. I do remember a sudden interest in preachers on radio and TV though. People on TBN, such as Joyce Meyer and that funny hair of Jan Crouch would catch my attention and I would stop flipping the channel to hear what they were saying. God was reaching me without any idea of it (Romans 10:17).

Then, on February 11, 1999, a woman named Jamie, booked a trip at the marina, wanting a guide to take her fishing, I just so happened to have 2 different trips booked on that date, and miraculously they both got cancelled and I was available out of 18 or so other guides. I was stunned by her, and instantly knew something was different about her. Little did I know she was the person to deliver the gospel of Jesus Christ to me.

We drove out from the marina, and started talking, I guess I was saying G.D. this and G.D. that, trying to impress her with my talk. She spoke up and defended God by saying that she was a Christian and didn't appreciate me using God's name in vain. I was aware of my sins, knowing I didn't know her God and was impressed with her saying something so bold and was instantly convicted. As the days went on I asked her to share anything she wanted to about God (Matthew 7:7-8, I was seeking).

We ended up spending the next 4 days together, getting to know each other. Had a lot of fun together. She was from Tennessee and was heading back north, I had a tournament practice at Wheeler Lake in Alabama, so we drove up and got a motel room for the night at the Ramada Inn, in Clermont, Florida.

On FEBRUARY 16th, 1999, in that motel room, Jamie and I were sitting, talking and had the TV on a religious channel from what I recall. She spoke to me about God and right then, I WENT BLIND, all I could see was a whiteness I cannot describe, like the purist cloud, like nothing I had ever experienced, I remember squeezing her hand, and saying "oh my God, I can't see, something's happening to me", as soon as I got that out of my mouth, I felt the presence of God (I know now it was the Holy Spirit) go through me, I told her "oh my God, I feel the most peaceful feeling I've ever felt in my life" and she told me that I needed to accept Jesus Christ into my heart right then. I DID!!!!!! It felt like I really had no choice, I was very fortunate to be touched by God that way, as I was "saved" (was I ever amazed when I first read of Saul/Paul's conversion in Acts 9 of him going blind). One day I was blaspheming God, the next, He saved me and set me free from my sins.

I'm not sure how long of a time this all took place, if it was seconds, or minutes, but I KNOW I was washed clean at that moment. I embraced her and wept for what seemed like eternity.

(Jamie was kind enough to send me an email recently (March, 2000) and shared something very special to me, she said: "The room we shared lightened up and washed all your sins away. I never did tell you this, so I will now. So many people take things to the grave with them and don't even mean it that way. So, before I forget, and in case I never get the chance again, listen to me. Although I had you in my arms at that moment, I felt JESUS lift you gently away into his. I've been a lot of places, seen a lot of things, but there's nothing like being right where God puts me") I thank God for Jamie, I thank God for my salvation.

One of the first things God took out of me was the racism and hatred towards others. I used to think I was better than others. I know now that God loves us all equally. I remember the next morning, looking outside and the first person I saw was an elderly black woman. I wanted to go to her and give her a hug. I felt love for her. I knew something had happened and it was good. Some of my best friends now are people that I wouldn't have associated with just a month or so before my salvation. I thank Jesus for that, for taking away the hatred that used to rule my life.

Thank you for reading my testimony. I pray you are touched and if you are not "saved", one day soon, you will find salvation and have a testimony to share with others and myself.

Salvation is so simple, but religion has turned it from the "work of Christ on the cross, dying for our sins" to "our" good deeds and how if we are "good enough", we'll get in right standing with God by our actions. This is NOT true (Galatians 2:21). We just have to believe in who Jesus is and what He did, dying for "our" sins and live for Him through obedience to the Word and Spirit. For it is by grace we are saved, through faith, not by works. (Ephesians 2:4-9, Romans 10:8-18, Acts 4:12, Romans 8:13-15, 1 Corinthians 15:2).

Just speak to God, confess you are a sinner, ask for forgiveness, believe in your heart that Jesus died for your sins and was resurrected from the dead and ask Jesus to be Lord of your life.

God's Word (bible) declares if you do this, you are now born again (saved) and the Holy Spirit has just entered your life to direct your path through obedience!!! You are now "bridged" back to your heavenly Father through your faith in His Son. HALLELUJAH!!!!

For the Lord is good, and His mercy endures forever!!!!!! (Psalm 100:1)

May God bless you,

Art Ferguson III

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