The personal testimony of Steve Palomino
I was raised in a home that did not emphasize any religion at all. Although I had been baptized as a baby in the Episcopalian church, we never went to church and rarely discussed spiritual things. My father did, however, say that he wanted his children to do research on their own and make their own decisions.
In high school I declared myself an atheist. In a sense, I felt that I was more accurately pronouncing what I really believed and very much identifying how I lived, giving no notice to any sort of god other than myself.
During college at UCLA, I dated a Christian girl and she took me to some campus Bible studies. In some, I immediately felt like a project, so we didn’t return. But one group, Asian-American Christian Fellowship (AACF), accepted me as I was. But I kind of felt that maybe I could enlighten those poor misguided souls. Vicki and I made AACF our group. For me it was a challenging club, of sorts. We went to Bible studies, and I would always question and challenge.I think many both grew spiritually from and grew tired of my constant challenges.
In the dorm, there were several of us who would discuss life, reality, and truth. Many were of the opinion that truth was only relative, depending on one’s perception. But even as an atheist, I would argue on the side of an absolute, objective reality – of which our perceptions were only partial descriptions at best or misconceptions at worst. It kind of concerned me that it was mainly Christians who sided with me. We would also post quotes from Bartlett’s on our hallway wall every week or so. The one that stuck with me most was by Confucius: “The one who knows Truth is better off than the one who knows not Truth. The one who loves Truth is better off than the one who simply knows it. But it is the one who rejoices in Truth who is best off of all.” I was a philosopher at heart and liked the idea on not just being a “lover of truth,” but one who “rejoices in truth.”
During the summer of 1981, I had a roommate in ROTC Field Training who was a believer. Pondering our discussions, and in my learning about both quantum mechanics and the cosmos during Summer school, I sometimes would question my lack of faith. In the fall of 1981, in AACF we studied the book of John. I disputed things all the way through. But the Holy Spirit was working in me.
The weekend before finals, I had spent the day at my grandparent’s home with them and my dad, who was in LA for some training. Late that evening, my Dad was too tired to give me a ride so he hired a taxi to take me home.
The cabby’s name was Mark, and he asked if I’d like to sit up front with him and talk (it was a fairly long drive). During that foggy drive home, Mark asked me if I’d read the Bible, “the book of John?” Of course I could say, “as a matter of fact, I have.” So he asked me to read beginning in John 1:1, asking me questions along the way. I gave him both what I’d learned Christians thought and my take on it. As he pulled in to drop me off, he asked, “Do you think you’d like to ask Jesus into your heart?” I said, “No, thanks. I think that’s for weak people.” But the Holy Spirit was still working.
As I entered my room the phone rang. It was an old Christian friend. Our conversation pretty much started off where Mark and I had left off. After speaking with him for almost an hour he told me, “Steve, I really think you’re already a Christian. You just don’t know it yet.” “Okay, Dave – whatever …” That concluded the call, but not the Holy Spirit’s work in me. As I lay in bed, I thought about that evening’s conversations and about what I’d been told by my girlfriend and others in AACF. So I prayed this prayer:
“God, if you really exist, then I’m not just speaking to the ceiling. So, if you’re really there and Jesus was who he said he was and didn’t die on the cross in vain – well, then that would be Truth. If I am really to rejoice in Truth, then I must accept it even if it goes against my own preconceptions/misconceptions. So if this is true, and I accept it as true, then according to the Bible, which would also have to be true, I should change from within. If this is all a bunch of hokum then, since I am not going to try to change myself, nothing will happen. I will not tell anyone about this for a few weeks. If the Holy Spirit works in me and changes me, I will tell others that you are real and Your Word is True. If there are no changes in me then I will tell others that I tried accepting you, but that the Bible and the Holy Spirit are a farce. Uh … Amen.”
After that unorthodox prayer, I went to sleep. When I awoke the next morning I had a strong desire to read the Bible. I had a little Gideon’s New Testament that had been handed out on campus that I began reading. Over the next week and beyond, I noticed that my regular swearing reduced itself immensely. And when the Christians would go out on the steps of UCLA’s Royce Hall for a break, singing worship and Christmas songs, they had new meaning to me. Amazingly enough, the Holy Spirit was real and was working in me in spite of me, in some ways.
On a ski trip a couple of weeks later, I told my friends and girlfriend (in that order, for which I got in trouble) that I had prayed to accept Jesus. We all rejoiced together over dinner and then worship – after our day of skiing, of course.
So, that’s how I came to know the Lord.
As I have grown in Christ, I sometimes fall into the trap that many do of trying to do Christian things, instead of just letting the Holy Spirit do His work when the “old man” vies for control. But praise be to God for setting me free in Jesus!