I spent a couple hours today writing a hand-written letter to a guy I used to play baseball with back in Little League and high school. He’s in prison now.
His dad (he was adopted) coached our teams for about seven to eight years, so we saw each other quite a bit. We didn’t know each other well, though. You know how high-school and sports relationships can be.
My mom found out a few months ago that my old teammate was in prison, and she told my old coach (his dad) that I might be willing to contact him. It’s taken me awhile to get to it, but God stirred me to do it today. I share it for a few reasons: it contains much of my testimony which I love to tell; it reminds me of all the people in my past who need to hear about what God has done in my life through the Gospel of Jesus Christ; and I hope it might inspire some of you to write or call an old friend and renew a relationship that the Gospel might flow through. Every one of you has lots of people in your past, people who need to hear about the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ. Pick up your pen, get on the phone, or pull out your keyboard. You have life to give.
Please pray for my friend. Perhaps God may be pleased to send heaven into a joyful pandemonium over one sinner who repents.
David Gundersen here. Man, it’s been a long time. I’m twenty-four years old now, been married for almost three years to Cindi, graduated from The Master’s College in 2002, and am in my third year at The Master’s Seminary training to be a missionary or a pastor or teacher in the States. I work at The Master’s College overseeing a dorm of seventy-five guys. I’m in my fourth year doing that. (The Master’s College and Seminary is in southern California, thirty miles north of Los Angeles.)
It’s amazing that it’s been almost a full decade since the years that I was in centerfield and you were at first base, playing for the Athletics and the summer league Sandites, trying to beat the Yankees and the Rebels and the Zephyrs, and whoever was in that Sapulpa summer league. I seemed to move around in the batting order, but you were always third or cleanup, and deservingly so.
I tried to get in touch with R—– Z——— a couple years ago when I was back in Sand Springs visiting my family, but I got a wrong number, I think. Have you kept in touch with any of the guys? I talked to C—– a couple months ago and heard where you were at. I wanted to see how you’re doing. I can’t pretend to understand or to be able to fully commiserate with you. I bet it’s really tough, though. I’d love to talk to you sometime, if you’re up for it. I’ll give you my contact information at the end of this. Feel free to call collect or write.
I guess there’s no way to communicate how different I am now. I’m sure all the guys are in some ways, but my life is turned around. That probably makes you laugh since I was always the shy, squeaky-clean, church-going homeschooler who never cussed. :) But I was so self-serving… I don’t know if this will make sense, but my heart was so wicked in those days. All I cared about was what people thought of me. It was all me, me, me. I’m sure you didn’t know this, but when I was a senior, playing in that Sapulpa summer league, I was just starting to see this and to understand how desperately I needed to be forgiven of my idolatry — my self-idolatry. I had been miserable throughout the fall of 1997 and much of the spring of 1998 because God was convicting me of my sin. I knew I was going to hell and that I deserved it, clean mouth and all. My years of church-going would never earn me a good standing before a perfect God who rightfully demanded perfection. I was scared to death, R—.
But during the spring and summer of 1998, I began to learn why Jesus Christ had come and lived and died and rose again. I had always known why in my head — you know how I attended church throughout the years — I just didn’t recognize that I had to see my sin and my helplessness and my need for a Savior. And I was being called to repent from my sins and trust in the sacrifice of Christ in my place as the only way that I could be forgiven and reconciled to God. And praise be to God — He gave me the faith to trust Him and to turn to Jesus. Seven years later, I can’t help but be devoted to living and dying for the one who gave His life that I might live. The one who died for lawyers and schoolteachers and politicians and welders and bank-tellers and criminals and prosecutors and drug dealers and homeschoolers.
During the spring and summer of 1998 (my senior year), I was also deciding where to go to college. Before, all I wanted was to play baseball somewhere, and maybe major in business or athletic training. Then I visited The Master’s College, a Christian liberal arts school. The people were amazing. Authentic, unashamed Christians who loved me like we had known each other since childhood. So I came. I tried out for the baseball team, made it, and played for a couple months of fall ball. But I began to realize how many opportunities there were to be involved in different relationships and activities at school, so I “retired.” The main reason was that I was taking a first-year class in biblical Greek and was noticing that I couldn’t do baseball and Greek at the same time (I could’ve if I had been disciplined, but I wasn’t too disciplined my freshman year). So I chose Greek. Can you believe that? I still can’t sometimes. After years of dreaming about playing ball at the highest level I could reach, I walked away. God was redirecting my heart. My sophomore year, I decided to major in Biblical Languages (Greek and Hebrew) because I loved studying languages and wanted to understand the Bible better. I also ran the intramural sports program that year, so I didn’t fully leave sports behind. :) During my junior and senior years, I got involved in student leadership in the dorms, and God continued to solidify my desire to be in Christian ministry full-time, a desire that I first had my sophomore year. I graduated in May of 2002, was hired as a Resident Director in July 2002, got engaged in July 2002, got married that same December, and started grad school in May of 2003. I’m planning on graduating from seminary in May 2006 and either staying on as an R.D. for a year or two more, getting further training, becoming a pastor or teacher in the States, or going overseas to do Christian missions work.
So that’s my story. Christ is now at the center, which is the happiest thing in the world. Life as a Christian is hard — really hard. I feel like an alien and a foreigner, because Christ’s values are so different than the world’s. And a lot of people who claim to be Christians are hypocrites and posers, which makes life sad and wearying. But fellowship with true believers who live like the Bible says to live and who are fully devoted to Christ is a joy. And no matter how hard life is, I know that I’m forgiven and am on my way, in a few short decades (at most), to heaven.
You may be wondering if I’m telling you my story because I want you to turn to Christ, too. Absolutely. I hope and pray that you will, because He is full of grace and mercy, and He will abundantly pardon.
Give me a call sometime if you want. I’d love to know how you’re doing and what you’re thinking about as life goes on. Whether you’re bored or want to talk baseball or Bible or life, I’m here. I think God had us on the same team all those years for a reason.
Your Friend, David “Gunner” Gundersen