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My Salvational Experience

By Lee M. Carter, MD

Having grown up in a Baptist's preacher home, I heard the gospel in more churches than most lay_members children will ever hear in a lifetime. I knew what stood before me and what I was supposed to think, feel, and do at a very early age. I remember at the age of ten, I attended the revival at Landmark church, for my father was the helper for that particular year's revival. During an alter prayer, at which the lost were seeking salvation, the pastor's wife asked me if I felt lost, as well. I knew I was old enough to be lost, and I knew I had never experienced salvation, but I did not feel the urge to seek salvation at that time. I remember a Gospel singing at New Cross Roads church, where three or four of my closest younger friends were on the alter actively seeking salvation. I wanted to be saved, knew I needed to be saved, would have given anything to be saved, but did not feel the urge to seek salvation at that time. The easiest way to explain it was that I did not feel lost. I knew I was not saved, because I had not experienced it on a personal level, and therefore by definition was lost, but there was no driving sense of urgency, pain or Godly sorrow.

I entered the summer after my fourteenth birthday having experienced the terminal stroke and subsequent death of my maternal grandfather, the only grandfather I would ever know secondary to the death of my paternal grandfather just a few months before my birth. At that time, my family all held membership at Bethel church. New Cross Roads church was having her revival the first week of July as usual, and my father was still pastor at this time, which was 1975. I felt no different spiritually or physically, and from the start of the revival Sunday morning through Tuesday night service, I felt no sense of repentance within.

On Wednesday morning, July 2, 1975, during the morning service, a congregational testimonial service was held instead of a preaching service. Many good saints of the church stood and told of their experience of salvation and how much God had done for their lives. As always, for those present, it was a wonderful spiritual time. I remember sitting on the left side of the church at the end of the second pew and listening to their comments. An alter call was given when all had spoken what was placed on their hearts, but I could not respond. I knew at that time that I needed to repent and seek forgiveness for my unbelief, but the weight building inside of me was still bearable. Since no one came forward for prayer, a Christian fellowship hand shake was called for. As the members and visitors mingled, shaking hands with one another, hugging one another, and expressing their love for each other, the full weight of my lost state fell upon my heart. Coming around the left side of the pew from the left aisle was my Sunday School Teacher, sister Maxie Neely, a woman I dearly loved and respected then and still do now. She took one look at me and hugged me for dear life. My mother was the next person behind her. I seem to remember her letting go of me, turning to my mother, and stating that I needed to go to the alter. I particularly did not care where I was at that instant in time, I just wanted God to help me. The two of them led me to the alter, which was maybe 12 feet away, where I placed a bear hug around my mother's neck and we both sat on the mourner's bench at the head of the alter.

I knew from past experience at that church, that the saved present fell on their knees in the alter and prayed many prayers in my behalf. I do not know how many actual prayers were offered up or whether any singing occurred. I remember at one point my mother saying in my ear to "Turn it all over to God and ask him to save you." I remember little of time or space until such time I could hear Sis. Emma Davis praying from the alter for me. Someone watching me saw me relax my hold on my mother and stop crying, Inside of me, I suddenly felt that the weight of sin was no longer upon me and that it was OK to relax. I was no longer burdened and distraught or repentant as I had felt just moments before. At this moment, I knew that I was no longer lost that God had removed the pain and agony I felt. As my current pastor once preached, I had "been to Calvary." No one had to tell me what had happened or what God had done for me because the answer came from inside me. I spoke into my mother's ear and told her that the Lord had saved me. The church rejoiced with me with many shouts of joy. I heard my father say, "My family is now whole in heaven." As the people came around to shake my hand, each face looked brighter than ever before, and I chose not to shake hands but hug every neck that came by. As soon as the service was over, I had my parents carry me to the nearest telephone so I could call my brother to tell him the news. When we spoke, he had already heard it from a cousin who had been at the service that morning, Good news can travel fast. I could not wait until the revival occurred at my family's church, Bethel, so I could offer myself for membership and baptism, There was a strong urge of necessity, which I will always be thankful for. The Baptism was held at Carroll Lake in Carroll County, TN, on July 27, 1975. My father, Elder Clarence Carter, was also pastor of Bethel at the time, and he was the minister who baptized me.