By Mark Ellis —
Dale Walker grew up unchurched in Montpelier, Vermont and doesn’t recall meeting a Christian during his formative years. His parents attended church twice a year, but were not followers of Jesus.
His small, picturesque New England city had such an exceptional quality of life that he never heard a single person speak about having a need for God or desiring to have a personal relationship with God. He didn’t know such a thing existed.
In high school, he considered himself an atheist and refused to say “One nation under God” when the Pledge of Allegiance was recited.
When he went off to college at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, profound cultural changes were afoot. “The hippie revolution started, and I became a Sixties, ‘turn on, tune in, drop out,’ psychedelic, free love person. Then I started to get into Eastern religion. I was trying to find something.
“I graduated from Wesleyan University without knowing who John Wesley was, or who Jesus Christ was. And I never really met a single person that knew God or could tell me about God.”
“Becoming a Bible-believing Christian was near the very top of things that I hoped would never happen to me.”
During graduate school at Michigan State University, he became active in the civil rights movement. “I was around a whole bunch of people that were trying to find some meaning to life, but I had no idea of any meaning or purpose to life whatsoever,” he recalls.
As the Vietnam War raged, Walker was granted Conscientious Objector status by the Presidential Appeal Board and was allowed to serve two years at a psychiatric hospital in Vermont. This was followed by three years as a social worker for the Vermont Welfare Department. “In both of these venues I found the world to be filled with many problems and no viable solutions,” he notes.
Someone gave him a book about “The Farm” – a spiritual commune founded by a hippie guru named Stephen Gaskin who mixed Eastern religion, Christianity, and New Age ideas together. While Walker still didn’t believe in God, he found Gaskin’s ideas about spirituality to be intriguing.
“I was heavily impacted by one teaching in the book which I later discovered to be a quotation from the Bible. It was: ‘Seek and ye shall find.’ Gaskin proposed that if a person honestly searches to find the meaning of life, ‘the Universe’ would guide them and direct them to it.
In 1971 Walker left his job at the Welfare Department on a quest to find greater meaning. He bought a red Dodge Van, equipped it with a camper, and put $2000 in cash under the mattress as a possible down-payment for a house. He headed for Nova Scotia, along with a book about the Communist Revolution in Russia, another about E.S.P. and Gaskin’s book about his New Age commune.
His reading subsequently began to explore the “unknown forces” which might explain the universe. “I bought book after book on mysticism, Eastern religion, U.F.O.s and psychic phenomena of every kind. Each one of them opened my mind a little more to the spiritual realm in some way.”
After failing to find what he wanted in Nova Scotia, he decided to explore nearby Prince Edward Island, continuing to ask the Universe to guide him.
In the village of Montague (population 2,400) he dropped by a small real estate office where a clerk showed him photos of available properties. “And then we have this one,” she said, “for $1,500.”
“Hardly believing my ears, I asked for directions and within minutes was standing in a large field looking at a two-story, gray-shingled farmhouse, ten miles out in the country which was to become my home for the next three years.”
The asking price was supposed to be $2,500, but the clerk mistakenly read the “lowest acceptable price” instead of the asking price.
Walker and the owner – a dying farmer in a nursing home — settled on a sales price of $1750. The house had electricity, no running water, and sat half a mile back from a dirt road — an ideal place for Walker to live close to nature.
Furnished with antiques, the small farmhouse had one bookcase containing three books the farmer left behind: a large, eight-inch-thick 1865 family Bible, a book on Bible prophecy, and a biography of the evangelist, Dwight L. Moody.
Walker didn’t want anything to do with those three books, so he promptly stowed them in the attic. Over the next couple years, he filled the empty bookshelves with books about meditation, the occult, reincarnation, and the search for enlightenment. “I even ordered esoteric books from a New Age publishing house, the Lucis Trust (formerly the Lucifer Trust), which promised to reveal ‘the secret wisdom of the ages.’”
Over a three-year search for meaning, he held onto a New Age meme that says: “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”
Walker often took long walks in the woods and fields around his house and would sit quietly, observing nature. One day he sat on an old tree stump and noticed it was a “ladybug factory.”
“As I watched, I noticed hundreds of the beautiful little red and black-spotted creatures coming and going from their colony inside the rotting stump. The more that I studied nature, the more it astounded me, and, in this case, I sat wondering who had given these little Volkswagon-like bugs their perfect paint jobs. What artist had so delicately hand-painted each of these creatures?” he wondered.
“I had a similar awe for the whole natural world – the swirling galaxies, the brightly colored flowers, the beautiful lace-like designs of snowflakes…While I had no explanation for this wondrous universe, I began to feel that it reflected a brilliant and creative Mind of some sort. I longed to somehow merge with this Creative Force, to blend in with it, find my role to play in its drama.”
Even practicing Eastern meditation, his inner emptiness wouldn’t go away. “At the same time my personal life was tangled into a series of knots which I didn’t know how to untie. I had come to Prince Edward Island on a search for a life and hadn’t been able to find it. At the age of 31 I was empty, at war within myself, and losing hope that I would ever find what I was looking for.”
Feelings of desperation began to overwhelm him. “I felt that if something didn’t happen very soon, I was going to lose my mind, kill myself, or perhaps just die from the implosion of the emptiness and meaninglessness of my life.”
One day on a walk, Walker did something unusual, something he had never done before. “I got down on my knees in the red Prince Edward Island soil, looked up at the sky above me, and prayed the first prayer I had ever uttered in my life. Since I didn’t know ‘Whom’ or ‘What’ to pray to, I desperately intoned: ‘IF THERE’S ANYBODY UP THERE, PLEASE HELP ME!’”
It was the heartsick prayer of a despairing atheist.
A few days later, God answered his prayer. As he meditated in the middle of a 200-acre field surrounding his house, an inaudible, but loud inner voice impressed these words on his heart and mind:
The Lord is my shepherd.
Remarkably, the meaning of these words suddenly flashed into his mind. “Just as these farm animals had a master who fed them, cared for them, and provided for them, I too had a master somewhere up above who was watching over me. This master was called ‘The Lord’ and he had been looking down upon me as I searched for the truth and was trying to find the path which l should take with my life,” he recognized.
Suddenly it hit him that those words came from the Bible.
Walker got up from the place he had been meditating, and began running across the field toward his house, flew through the front door, and raced up to the attic where he found the old farmer’s 1865 family Bible, now covered with dust. “I brought it downstairs and started searching for the Psalms where, despite my almost total ignorance of the Bible, I thought the verse could be found. I finally located the 23rd Psalm and read with rapt attention the rest of the message which had come to me while I was sitting in the green pasture.”
The truth he discovered in the 23rd Psalm thrilled his soul. “It spoke of a loving God who cared for, led, and protected His people as a shepherd cares for his sheep and a farmer does for his livestock. It spoke of a path on which he would lead his people until they could find still waters and green pastures which would restore their souls. These words were like a medicine to my soul and struck me as the greatest truth which I had found in my long search for spiritual reality. I finally had what seemed to be the beginning of an answer to my search – and my prayer!”
The Bible stood in stark contrast to the books he had been reading. “I had two bookshelves of New Age gobbledygook, ascending to 12 levels of spiritual reality, and that kind of gunk. And I started Matthew, and I started reading the Sermon on the Mount and it was like the words were unlike anything I’ve ever read before in my life; I was riveted by it.”
He stayed up until 3:30 In the morning reading the Bible and decided the Sermon on the Mount was the greatest teaching he ever encountered. Moved by the powerful truth, he took an old typewriter and typed the Sermon in red ink on gold paper and placed it in the middle of his dining room table.
He found that Jesus spoke with a wisdom and authority he had not encountered anywhere else in his search for the truth and the words of Jesus “arrested him” like nothing else he had ever read.
Walker went upstairs to retire, and happened to turn on the TV, stumbling upon a program about Roy Campanella, the Brooklyn Dodgers catcher seriously injured in a car accident. Before his accident, Campanella was considered one of the greatest catchers in the game.
While driving home one night, Campanella’s rented 1957 Chevyt sedan hit a patch of ice, careened into a telephone pole, and overturned, breaking his neck. He fractured the fifth and sixth cervical vertebrae and compressed his spinal cord, which left Campanella paralyzed from the shoulders down.
The program dramatically depicted Campanella in the emergency room, not knowing if he was going to live or die. “It flashed back to him as a little boy about 10 years old and his mom, saying prayers by the bedside. And she turns to him, and says I want to teach you something you may need someday. And she said: “The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures…”
“At this point the camera flashes forward to Roy in the hospital Emergency Room where the doctors were desperately trying to save his life. Beads of perspiration had formed on his brow, and he appeared to be semi-conscious, but his lips were moving. I suddenly realized that in the most desperate moment of his life, he was mouthing the same words that his mother had taught him: ‘THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD.’
“I almost fell off my chair. He’s racing to the hospital and his lips are moving and he’s saying,
‘The Lord is my shepherd.’
“As I sat there in astonished silence that night I knew one thing, and one thing only, that my prayer for help and search for a Teacher or a Guide for my life was being answered. My Teacher had appeared, and to my surprise, it was not some far out swami, mystic or guru master; it was the God of the Bible!”
Walker began reading the Bible regularly, but he still considered himself a materialist, so he was put off by the miracles of Jesus. “I still didn’t believe in miracles,” he recalls.
He stopped reading the Bible for a while. “The next time I went to my New Age bookstore where I was getting all my New Age books, I pulled one out that was written by Kathryn Kuhlman, the Christian faith healer, and the name of the book was, I believe in miracles.
Wanting to know more about miracles, Walker began reading her book. “It was all about people that got supernaturally healed as her healing services.”
“Down the lane from me where I was living, was a lady, Mildred Macdonald, who had cancer. And she was told by the doctor that she was going to die very soon. The cancer had spread from her breast into her lymph nodes and into her lungs. They took muscles out and they couldn’t stop it. The doctors told her husband to prepare for the funeral.”
“At the same time, I’m reading a book about a man with cancer that went to a Kathryn Kuhlman service. He went there and she prayed for him. He felt this warm feeling going through his body and was totally healed of cancer. And 10 years later, when I was reading the book, he was still healed.”
Walker gazed out the window of his farmhouse and thought, I would like to take Mildred to see Kathryn Kuhlman. But I don’t even know if I believes this stuff. No, I’m not gonna run down the lane and say, ‘Hey, listen, you can be healed,’ because I’m not even sure about it.
Walker thought about driving Mildred to see Kuhlman in Pittsburgh, but it was a 15-hour drive. I don’t have the money to take her down there, he thought.
The next day Walker was eating lunch at the end of a dock when his girlfriend came by. “Guess what,” she said excitedly.
“Mildred got healed…”
Walker was incredulous. “What?”
“Mildred has a daughter in Toronto who flew her there for a visit. While she was there, Kathryn Kuhlman just happened to be in town conducting a healing meeting and Mildred’s daughter brought her. When Mildred came forward for healing and was prayed for in the name of Jesus, she felt a warm sensation through her body. After that she was able to run up and down the stairs which only minutes before she could hardly drag herself up.”
“Mildred flew back to the Island full of life and x-rays later confirmed that the cancer had entirely left her body. All that remained was a tiny scar on her lungs showing where it had once been!”
The miraculous healing took place at the same time Walker was reading Kuhlman’s book. “I realized how utterly faithful God had been to me and what great lengths He had gone through to prove Himself to my skeptical mind. Looking up at the big blue Prince Edward Island sky over my head, I inwardly said to Him, “I can’t ask anything more of You. You have been more than fair to me. YOU’VE GOT ME!”
“At that moment I decided that God was real and that Jesus was real, that He had undeniably revealed himself to me and that I wanted to know Him. I wanted the kind of personal relationship with Him that the people in the Christian testimony books had described and that Kathryn Kuhlman had spoken about in her book.
“Somewhere, I thought, there must be a church where there are people who know God in this way and can tell me how to find it. I told some of my hippie friends about this and, together, we decided that we would attend a different church every week until we found such a church.”
It was on the third try that Walker and his friends met the pastor of a small church in a fishing village down the road. “He invited my girlfriend and I to dinner at his house. That night, after dinner, he and his wife explained the gospel (or Good News) of Jesus Christ, his offer of forgiveness and eternal life and we both bowed our heads and prayed to receive Him as our Savior.
“Driving home that night I experienced the beautiful personal presence of God in my heart which has been my life, my strength, my guide and my joy ever since. I remarked to my girlfriend: ‘I feel like there’s someone in the car with us!’ And, indeed there was! For Jesus had promised His followers in Matthew 18:20 ‘Where two or more are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.’ And, even better, He had come into our hearts to live.
When Walker was buying the farmhouse from the old farmer, he went by the nursing home where the man had been living. “I walked by his room, and he was down on his knees and the nurse said, ‘He’s in there every single day praying for God to take him.’
One day he needed to have some medical tests and the staff said they were going to take him to the hospital for the tests. “He turned to everybody in the nursing home and said, ‘I’ll see you; it’s been nice knowing you.’ He said goodbye to everybody like he was not coming back. He went in and had his medical test. And he died. And the tests came back, and they said there was nothing wrong with him.”
Walker believes there was divine purpose in the farmer leaving behind the three books on his bookshelf. “I think about that, because Dwight L. Moody became one of my all-time heroes.”
He not only got a furnished farmhouse; he got three books that God used to change his life. “I was waiting for my teacher to appear, and I looked up at the sky out there, it was Jesus that appeared. I found my teacher.”
After these life-changing events, Walker went to Bible school for three years, then started an inner-city church in New York. He also became a drug counselor and was hired full time as a drug counselor at a mission, where he worked for 28 years. Walker also served as chaplain to the New York State Legislature for five years.
The transformation was immense. “The changes which He has brought into my life, the joy, the peace, the supernatural guidance, the beautiful presence, the help in times of trouble, the answered prayers, the miracles He has done for others – all of these things and more have made His ever-present reality so strong that I seldom think about the path by which I got here.”
“If you want to know God, if you want your sins to be forgiven, if you want your life to be
changed and if you want to know that when you die, you will go to Heaven, you can ask God for these amazing blessings at any time. You can even do this right now just by praying a prayer like this:
“Lord Jesus, thank you for dying on the cross to pay for my sins. Please forgive all my sins and come into my heart to live. Help me to live a life which glorifies you and to become the person you want me to be. I accept you as my personal Lord and Savior. Amen.”