By Lortourme Hang’andu —
As a biker in the 1960s, Joe Campbell always carried a gun with him. He had gotten into many fights and stolen from people. He needed to be ready for anything.
“I carried a gun around,” he said, “because of the amount of people I had wronged.”
His life was a chaotic mix of violence, drugs, alcohol, gambling and other biker gang activity in Illinois, and he knew it “would destroy my marriage,” Campbell says.
When his wife Connie got saved, Joe didn’t immediately join her. In fact, he mocked her and constantly hounded her to return to their former sinful lifestyle.
After six months, Connie invited a church couple over for lunch and when they skipped out on the date, Joe got mad — mad enough to go to the church of 25 members and find out why they were a no-show. (At the time, Joe and Connie didn’t have a landline phone to call and find out.)
But instead of confronting the couple for standing them up, Joe got confronted by the Holy Spirit in the sermon. At the altar call, the lanky, longhaired, rough and tumble character responded to the invitation for salvation.
At 29 years old, he didn’t immediately feel any different. But Jesus had come into his heart at that moment in 1971.
The next day, two of his friends came to visit and asked him if it were true, according to word on the street, that he “got religious.”
Yes, he said.
They invited him to their normal routine of parties, but instead of using and abusing drugs,
Joe witnessed to all his old friends. He was a changed man.
This was the 1960s, a time when it wasn’t uncommon for churches to hold revival services every night for a month. Joe’s church was in the midst of one of those extended revivals, and he attended faithfully.
After a month, he poured his Jack Daniel’s down the drain and disposed of his drugs. Nobody knew about his stash, so nobody told him he should do this. It was simply the Holy Spirit who convicted him, and he spontaneously responded.
“I didn’t have a real problem turning away from the drugs and alcohol,” he said. “It was just such a powerful experience that my wife and I just walked away from.”
A few days later, some old biker buddies subtly seduced him to fall back into sin. He wouldn’t have to drink at the party, they said. They invited him to ride, not doing anything wrong.
Joe remained steadfast — he would sell his Harley Davidson, he retorted.
Eventually they gave up and roared off on their bikes.
Joe loved his Harley dearly and never wanted to sell it, but he made a vow and was loathe to go back on his word. He later replaced it with a pickup truck. Selling his Harley was one of the hardest things he had to do, he says.
“When I sold my motorcycle that was a major breakthrough.” he says. “Something broke in the spiritual realm.”
After his old friends drove off, he walked home and God spoke to him: “If you continue to walk with Me, you’ll preach to the nations.”
Before being saved, Joe made money as an entrepreneur and by gambling. After he got saved, he needed to find a job and began working in the telephone industry.
Within two years he was named youth pastor of a church in Maryland, Illinois for one year.
He eventually became pastor of a church in Mounds, Illinois, for three years.
Joe visited an old Christian friend at the Door Christian Church in Arizona. Joe responded to the fiery preaching at a conference and caught the vision for church-planting and revival.
He pastored for a year and a half in Phoenix, Arizona and then four and a half in Maryland, Illinois. Then he moved to Chandler, Arizona, where he is pastor today (with a stint in Malaysia from 1987 to 90). He now totals 46 years pastoring and has preached in India, Ghana, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Holland and Russia.
But best of all, Joe has preached in Nigeria. That’s where my parents’ serve in ministry, while I and my sister study at a Christian high school in Los Angeles. Pastor Joe oversees my parents’ ministry.
And Pastor Joe is like a grandfather to me.
Lortoumi Hang’adu studies at the Lighthouse Christian Academy in Los Angeles.