I left for the Marines in 1952. My dad, a Gideon, took me aside before I left and handed me a pocket New Testament.
“Son,” he said directly, “Read this book every day. It is the most important book you will ever read.”
I wasn’t a Christian yet, but I took it with me and put it in my shirt pocket. I had listened to my dad all my life, and I wasn’t going to stop obeying him just because I was a Marine.
Boot camp was boot camp. The drill sergeants reduced us down to nothing. We were up early with inspections around the clock. Line up. Shut up. Listen up. Stand straight. Shine your boots. Tuck in your shirts. Look sharp. March around the compound again.
During a regular inspection, our drill sergeant held up the green Marine Corp manual. “This book is the only book you need while you are here. This book is the most important book in the world to you. Does anyone disagree?”
I timidly raised my hand. “What do you have to say Martin?” The sergeant moved directly in front of me, nose to nose. “What were you saying Martin? And what is this lump in your front pocket,” he barked.
“It is my New Testament. My dad gave it to me before I left home. And he said that this was the most important book in the world.”
The sergeant disagreed loudly, and I spent the next several days with extra KP. “It could have been worse,” I told myself as I did dishes three meals a day for the week.
Later, several of my fellow soldiers quietly thanked me for making this statement; they too believed the same, but were unable to take a stand. My humiliation and the extra KP were worth it.
I went on and became one of the fastest typists the Marines had ever seen. My job was to type orders for court marshaled soldiers. Occasionally, I transferred soldiers from the base to a lock down location.
I left the Marine Corp a Christian. After a short time in the service, I had accepted Christ after attending a revival-type meeting outside of Los Angeles. I returned to my base in San Diego with a new song in my heart and on my mind. That night was the first time I had ever heard the song, “If you want joy, real joy, wonderful joy, let Jesus come into your heart. If you want joy real joy, wonderful joy, let Jesus come into your heart. Your sins He’ll wash away, your night will turn to day, and your life He’ll make it over anew”. And He did.
For over 55 years I have been repeating the same answer that I gave to that drill sergeant back in 1952, “The Bible is the most important book in my life.” Not once have I ever changed my mind or lost my nerve to share the Gospel.