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I Tried to Rescue My Son
Gerry found his son's talk of God and Jesus and a new brand of better friends alarming. He was determined to do all he could to rescue him.

As a young adult my curiosity in spiritual matters took me in many directions. I sensed that there was something out there, but I just couldn't understand what it all had to do with me. Logically I had to be a part of it, but I never felt a connection.

I Tried to Rescue My Son
Kevin and Gerry Chernenkoff

Like many people I saw no need to change my views of anything until personal disaster hit. After more than 20 years of marriage, my wife decided that our relationship had to end. I moved to Calgary from a small town in British Columbia to find work. Separated from my family, I went through a complete emotional meltdown.

It wasn't long before I realized that it wasn't just me who was ripped apart by our break-up, but my kids as well. They all coped in their own way, but one of them became progressively worrisome to me — my 15-year-old son Kevin. Before I left he had become involved with a church youth group in Revelstoke with what I thought were just social gatherings. Everything seemed normal. He enjoyed what he referred to as an association with "a better brand of friends."

I talked with him only every few weeks, but what I started hearing was new and foreign to me. He started saying things like, "I gave my life to Christ" and "God has a plan for all of us." I started thinking, "He's turning into a religious fanatic or something." I was worried about him, but there was nothing I could do but try to keep the lines of communication open in hope of talking him out of all of this nonsense.

The more he became involved in the church, the more concerned I became for his state of mind. I thought it had gone too far, and I had to do everything I could to rescue him from it all.

When he came to Calgary every few months to visit me, he would ask if we could attend services Sunday mornings. Keeping my objective in mind, I figured that if I could engage him in open discussion I could persuade him to forget all about this God and Jesus stuff. So I decided to go.

We attended his church for the first time more than a year ago, and returned on Sundays whenever Kevin was in town. Our subsequent discussions tackled some of the more preposterous claims that Christianity is famous for. I remember that I actually told Kevin how I thought things really worked. I put forward arguments designed to respect him and at the same time discredit his new view of things.

… it felt as though someone was installing some new software.

In autumn Kevin moved to Calgary to live with me and work towards a chemical engineering degree at the University of Calgary. I was excited to be reunited with him, but now the pressure was on to go to church every Sunday! I had painted myself into a corner. I took comfort in that at least we would be spending time together in a way that he wanted. And remember, I was on a rescue mission.

As the weeks passed, I grew more comfortable attending services and found the sermons to be thoughtful and engaging. A sense of humour combined with a feeling that this was somehow a big family came through in the messages. Except for my kids, I still felt very much alone and wanted to be a part of something.

I set my judgmental attitude aside and decided to give it a fair chance. Deep inside I knew that I had tried many things in my life, and that no matter what I did things weren't working. I knew that something very big was missing.

Then I learned about the Alpha course. I decided to attend so I could make a decision about God based on knowledge rather than my preconceived ideas. I thought I might find evidence to back my misconceptions because I believed I was losing the battle.

After attending Alpha for a few weeks, the idea of faith started seeming a lot more real. The discussions were answering some very basic questions in my mind. It wasn't that there was one point of evidence that won me over. I just learned to trust, and I found out that the more I let go, the more it absorbed me. After 20 years of trying to make sense of things on my own, I was so down in life that it just set me up for what I was learning at Alpha.

Somewhere in the process the discussions between Kevin and me became less argumentative and allowed for the possibility that his beliefs about Jesus were true. On November 15, 2004, I met with the pastor. He explained things in a way that I was ready to understand. He seemed to know why I believed there was a missing link and why I couldn't sense a relationship with God. It was because I hadn't given my life to Christ. Minutes later I found out how right he was.

After he led me through that short, five-line prayer asking Jesus into my life, I felt something happen to me. Inside my heart it felt as though someone was installing some new software. The following rush of emotional energy, as the Spirit of Christ entered, left no doubt that something had changed. There was no questioning it at all. It was like that song "Amazing Grace" — "I was blind, but now I see." I was crying inside, shaking, disoriented.

I left the church and drove home thinking about the decision I had just made and wondering if it would really matter. When I got home I still had a sense of euphoria. I laughed out loud. For some reason I was emotionally lighter. I realized that I had left a lot of anger and loneliness in that room and felt very relieved. I felt like a child holding on to his father's hand, as though he would never let go.

When I decided to give my life to Christ everything became so real, so positive. It was as if a huge weight was gone. I read everything I could to find out more about what had just occurred. The words that seemed to be in some kind of code previously now rang with new clarity and purity of truth. The skepticism had lifted. There were no questions left about whether or not to believe in God and Jesus. My only regret was that I hadn't done this a long, long time ago.

When Kevin returned from school that day, I told him what I had done, and we celebrated. Since then I have felt a strong need to learn more about Christian life, and I think I am now making better choices in life. I have a real sense of trust in God, and for the first time in my life, I can be by myself in a room and not feel alone.

So as you can see, my rescue mission had failed beautifully. I thank my son Kevin for his love, his wisdom beyond his years, and especially for his courage to reach down through the dark cloud over his father's heart and rescue me.

I'm so thankful for the encouragement and information that I received through the Alpha course, where I was made to feel so welcome. Above all, I thank the Lord Jesus Christ for coming into my heart and giving me a new start in life.

Gerry Chernenkoff originally submitted this article to Alpha Ministries Canada. If you are interested in starting an Alpha course at your church, please visit www.alphacanada.org.

Originally published in Alpha News www.alphacanada.org, and reprinted in Testimony, June 2005.
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