Fifty years ago, before genealogy and tracing family history were in vogue, a stranger knocked at our door. He claimed to be related to my dad. Soon we were calling him “Uncle Jim.” I couldn’t believe his excitement at finding us. As a twelve-year-old I was astonished why anyone would want to find us. Our family was severely dysfunctional, and dad’s fits of rage sometimes involved the police. It was humiliating. Our house was a place of turmoil, not a home.
Uncle Jim’s family attended a small gospel church. I became involved in their youth activities. That church demonstrated the unconditional love of Christ to me. I still remember their joy at having me, an obnoxious and troubled teen, around. I know now that when Uncle Jim knocked on our door, Christ began knocking on the door of my heart.
Four years later, I went through a crisis of self-worth. I was not an athlete or anywhere close to popular. The only thing I had going for me was my singing voice. My vocal talent gained me entrance into select groups, but I was usually the youngest. Then my voice changed, and I had no control. The older teens dubbed it my “elephant call.” During this time, my dad started applying pressure as to what I was going to do with my life. At this low point, I had no idea. He claimed I was worthless and good for nothing.
My life spiraled downward. I began cheating in school, shoplifting, and swearing so I could appear cool. One evening during this dark time, I was drawn to an old, borrowed book, the owner’s name written in front. I suppose Mom meant to return it or at least read it.
In the yellowed pages of that Depression-era book, I found my life in Christ. When a fictional character answered the invitation, “Just as I Am” on page 79, I kneeled beside my bed and surrendered to Jesus. I know the unconditional love of Uncle Jim’s church primed my heart for this decision. I had seen and felt their love for Christ and wanted it.
But I am still baffled… why would I, a depressed and rebellious teen, have opened that worn cover? It is the mystery and wonder of my life. I imagine with gratitude that someone prayed, perhaps the owner of the book. I marvel at God’s plan. If not for Uncle Jim’s search and that unreturned book, I might not have found my home in Christ.
God saved me through Christian fiction and nineteen years later, almost to the day, I had my first Christian short story accepted. One year later I had my first fiction children’s book accepted. God is so amazing. I ended up writing eight children’s books in two series and two fantasy novels.
God has touched my heart through writing and now my desire is to reach others in the same way. During my forty years of pastoral ministry as a church planter, I’ve had over 400 poems, articles, and short stories published, and another 200 since I retired three years ago.
My wife and I served as church-planters, planting five churches across the western US. We have a grown daughter and son, and four grandsons.
Mark Weinrich lives a creative life as a writer, photographer, musician, and artist–all wrapped together in an outdoorsman. He is a retired pastor and cancer survivor. His writing and photography have appeared in over 138 news stand, inspirational, and literary publications.