‘I started to weep and sob’

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When Andrew Slater learned Will Graham Celebrations were coming to Ontario’s Sudbury and London regions, he knew he had to get involved. He’d seen the results of the ministry first-hand, starting with his late wife, Sue.

When Sue was in her early teens, she had to have surgery to repair an abnormal curvature of her spine. The surgery forced her to stay in bed for a month, and the bed was set up in the living room of her family home in Sudbury.

One summer evening, Sue’s family went outside and left the TV on for her. When a Billy Graham Crusade began playing, she had no interest in watching, but without a remote control, she couldn’t change the channel. She yelled for help, but her family didn’t hear, so she ended up watching the entire broadcast, including Mr. Graham’s invitation to accept the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit touched Sue’s heart in that moment, and she accepted that gift. “She was one of the most spirit-filled believers I ever had the privilege of knowing,” Andrew said.

Sue died of cancer in 2015, but she left a legacy of faith in their sons. Both are Christ followers, and one is pastor of a church in Woodstock, Ontario.

Andrew, who attended a Sudbury Celebration breakfast just before the COVID-19 pandemic, feels blessed that he met Will Graham there and was able to tell Will how God used Billy Graham to transform Sue.

Andrew married Sue in 1991, not long after he had accepted Christ as Savior. His life before Jesus had been filled with pain and loss.

Raised in a Catholic family, he married his first wife in 1978 and started a law practice. “I thought I had the world by the tail,” Andrew recalled. “But after six years, I was financially, morally, and spiritually bankrupt.”

And an alcoholic.

He lost his law firm and in 1984 moved to Timmins, 300 kilometers north of Sudbury, to find a job in a different law office. Soon after, he came home one weekend and his wife told him she didn’t want to live with him anymore, so he lost his wife, his house, and his kids.

The enormity of that setback caused Andrew to take significant action. He called a rehab center in Toronto and arranged a four-week stay. Then came the challenge of telling the law firm partners.

“I had just worked a few months for them and thought, If I tell them I need a month off for alcoholism treatment, they’re going to fire me.”

Eventually, Andrew found the nerve to arrange a time to tell Ralph Carr, one of the law firm’s partners. That appointment changed Andrew’s destiny.

“I went to Ralph’s home, and he patiently listened to me for three hours and didn’t say much. Finally, Ralph said, ‘You know, I believe in Jesus, and if you had been the only person who ever lived, He still would have come and died on the cross for you.’”

Until that day, Andrew wasn’t sure there was a God, but if there was, Andrew figured He must be mad at him. Otherwise, why would a loving God allow someone to go through so many miserable things?

But the minute Andrew left Ralph’s home, the Holy Spirit began to change his perspective.

“I knew what Ralph told me was absolutely true, and the way I’d been living my life was the equivalent of spitting in Jesus’ face.

“I started to weep and sob; I don’t know how I managed to drive home, but I did, and once I got home, I got on my knees and said, ‘Jesus, I’m sorry. Please forgive me; I want You to come into my life now.’”

The instant he said that prayer, Andrew felt a weight lift off his chest and he went to bed that night with peace in his heart.

The next morning when he went to work—for reasons he still can’t explain—he was determined not to give Ralph the satisfaction of knowing God had worked through him to change the direction of his life. But when Ralph dropped by his office to ask how he was doing, Andrew found himself saying, “A funny thing happened to me after I left your house.” When he finished the story, Ralph’s face broke into a broad grin.

“Your name was written in the Lamb’s Book of Life last night,” he said.

Andrew then went to the rehab clinic in Toronto, where he started reading the Bible regularly, and upon returning to Timmins, he started attending Ralph’s church.

In the years that followed, God did a transforming work in Andrew as he attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, eventually gave up smoking, and stopped reading pornographic magazines.

Looking back more than 35 years later, Andrew readily concludes that his decision to place his faith in Christ saved his life.

“When I was 32, I didn’t think I’d survive to see 40,” he said. “I had no doubt I was going to die early.”

As he ponders the spiritual temperature of the Sudbury region, he immediately sees the need for a Will Graham Celebration.

“I don’t want to come across as sounding negative, but the state of the church in Sudbury is not healthy,” Andrew said. “I think the church here is asleep.”

Among the region’s other challenges are a lack of meaningful career opportunities (compounded by the local university’s financial difficulties) and a drug problem that’s similar to what’s plaguing numerous Canadian cities.

“Many people refuse to go downtown because there are used drug needles lying on the sidewalks,”
Andrew said.

“We’re a community that is flagging,” he added. “We need to be revived, and only one Person can do that.”