My Key Encounter with Jesus

by Rick McKinney

When I was a junior in college, I was rather a lonely and self-sufficient soul without a clue about what to do after college. However, I knew from my upbringing in various Protestant churches that Jesus had all the answers and that I needed to encounter Him if I wanted to find those answers. With this in mind, I went on a retreat weekend held by a Protestant church which I was attending, but that retreat still left me empty, so I asked my brother Ron, who had already converted to the Catholic Church, if he could arrange for me to attend a Catholic retreat for college kids in which he had been participating, known as Encounter with Christ.

On the first evening of that Catholic retreat weekend the young people in my discussion group were all talking about various theological matters, which was fine, but that wasn’t why I came. I came to encounter Christ. So, I asked the young facilitators of my group whether I could help lead the group the next day in a more personal direction and they agreed. And lead I did, and I started to really care about those in my group.

After one of the talks, we were all asked to pray about giving or sharing something for each individual in our discussion group. While I was earnestly praying about this, I had my fists closed and my palms were getting sweaty. It then occurred to me that perhaps I could give each person a kiss on their forehead and the sweat from my hands onto their cheeks. And so I did. This was all very unlike me, but it made a huge impact on everyone in the group as became quite apparent that evening when we were all asked to share about what we were experiencing on the retreat. Everyone in my group shared except me, for I was starting to feel rather numb about it all, yet I couldn’t share that out loud, because everyone seemed to say that I was a key catalyst to their own faith-filled experience. What was I to do?

That night I could not sleep, but I kept wrestling with the thought which the accusers of Jesus made to him, “You saved others, you can not save yourself.” I even thought of the possibility of suicide and the room appeared to be getting darker. I was truly scared and so around 2:00 am I reached up and grabbed the crucifix on the wall above my head and when I brought it down to my breast, I instantly fell asleep.  When I awoke that morning, I was feeling very much at peace and I was able to share with some others about what I had been experiencing.

However, when I got home to my parent’s house, my Pentecostal grandmother, who was living with us at the time, said to me, “What happened to you on that retreat because the Lord woke me up around 2:00 am this morning to pray for you.” I knew then, without a doubt, that God, the God who created and loved me, had reached down and touched my life and had been waiting all this time for me to reach up to Him in true neediness. I had indeed a personal encounter with Jesus who gave his life for me. And that was just the beginning of my walk with Christ.