Hello, my name is Mark Geppert, and I’m the president of the Southeast Asia Prayer Center, which is a prayer based ministry operating along the Mekong River in Southeast Asia. It’s a joy to be with you today and to share with you the most exciting thing that ever happened to me.
I was 12 years old. I’d been raised in a Christian home. We had morning and evening devotions, and we had no television, no rock music – a very strict setting there in the 60’s. I think my parents were trying to prevent me from falling into the 60’s traps. And as a result of it, I knew the words, I knew how to do church. I knew how to pray the right prayer. I knew how to sit properly in the pew. Had a perfect Sunday School attendance as a preschooler, elementary, junior high . . . In high school I was a president of the youth group – very, very involved in church.
But at the age of 12 I was shipped out for a summer to the home of an uncle and aunt who lived out in the countryside. We lived in the city, in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. And I was sent out the countryside. And there I was with my uncle and aunt, who had no children, but who were very, very involved in planting Sunday Schools along the northern reaches of Pennsylvania. And the particular place where we were that summer was Crosby, Pennsylvania.
Well, 12 years old, 1960 – looking around at the world around me – and I followed after this uncle very, very closely. He was a farmer. He was an avid fisherman, and he was teaching me that summer how to catch a native trout on a small fly.
We had set a goal that we would catch a limit - we had catch limits in Pennsylvania – that we would catch a limit of bass, and a limit of trout, in the same day. This was our huge goal for the day.
So getting up about four in the morning, we went out before sunrise and we were on the stream just as the sun was coming up, and it was a great day of fishing.
We went for the bass first, and we, by noon, had each “limited out.” We were filled with bass and filled with satisfaction.
So we used the noontime, the heat, the high sun time, to travel. So we went over there to this Potato Creek. Well, we went down through the stream, and he very quickly, within an hour, had his limit of trout.
But I was new to it, and 12 years old. It was a little more difficult for me. And each ripple and each pool and each shaded place, havens for trout, became a challenge to me as I would put the fly in the weeds or I would put the fly in the trees – anywhere but in the water. So it took quite some time, and it was nearly dusk by the time that I had finally got my last trout.
And we were satisfied. And we came home feeling very, very successful, very full of ourselves. We came in with all this fish – and my aunt was there.
I went on to clean up and wash up and so forth because that evening at 7:30 (we came in about 6) – at 7:30 there was going to be an old time revival with a tent and a sawdust trail, and this preacher was coming up there – and I start to wash up.
And as I was washing up I heard her really scolding him. And what it was about was this – that he had taught me greed. He had taught me to set a goal that was more fish than we were going to eat. And she was really scolding him.
Well immediately, having spent the day together fishing, I immediately wanted to rise to his defense. But from the tone of her voice, it was useless.
So I just very sheepishly came to the table, and we ate some of the trout, and then we headed off to this revival.
I sat in the revival and, don’t you know, this preacher began preaching about greed.
As a 12 year old boy I can remember sitting there feeling so convicted because I had been greedy all day. And even my aunt, who knew no sin, the perfect auntie of all time, had been lecturing my uncle, who was my hero of all time, on greed. And if he had greed a little bit, how much more greed could I have.
So I went forward. They gave the invitation to come forward and receive Jesus Christ. Confess your sin of greed. Receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. And I went forward, sawdust trail, wooden benches, a rough 2x6 wooden altar set up, knelt there in the sawdust. And I just wept, and wept, and wept and wept because I knew that I was a sinner and that I had to receive Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.
And so that’s the most significant thing that happened to me, at the age of 12.
I continue to fish, and I have taught both of my sons to fish. In fact, both of them are registered fishing guides. But as I brought them up and took them to the same streams in those same Pennsylvania hills, on the first day of trout season, every year I took them first to that corn field where that tent had been, and said, “Look. The most significant thing that will ever happen to you is when you give your life to Jesus Christ.
Then we’d fish.
So that’s a testimony of the greatest thing that ever happened to me.