(L to R) Nathan, Ryan Bethany, Paul and Kathy Dykshoorn
I was born and raised in Orange County, New York, but I lived my early years wanted to get out and go somewhere else. Having been raised in a Christian home and having gone to Sunday school and catechism in my younger years, I had a wealth of knowledge about God. Knowledge, however, is what you can show on a test, belief, on the other hand, is what is lived out. And I wasn’t living it out.
I believed my ticket to success would be an engineering degree, so when I was about 20 years old I moved to Northern New York and attended an engineering college there. As a young college student I was living my life for myself, God really wasn’t in the picture. I was on my own, away from my parents, supporting myself, in my own apartment, with my own vehicle. I pretty much had things going my own way, but I was unhappy. I was empty. The Bible says “The backslider in heart will have his fill of his own ways” [Proverbs 14:14]. That pretty much described me; I had my fill of my own ways.
I knew enough from the Bible to know what I had to do: surrender. The Bible says “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” [Rom 10:9]. So, I basically told God I was sick of living my life for me, and wanted to live my life for him instead. It wasn’t much of a prayer, but it was sincere, and evidently God honored it, because almost immediately I had a peace that wasn’t there before. I didn’t feel empty anymore. And there was something else that I didn’t expect; I had a love for people.
Almost immediately things started to change in my life. I got involved in a really good church, and started attending a college Christian group. Six months later I found myself at a retreat in the Adirondack Mountains for the leaders of the group. One night at the retreat, some of us sat down in a room to get to know each other, starting with a prayer. The prayer, however, didn’t end. Instead we experienced the reality of the Holy Spirit. It was there that I learned that the Holy Spirit was more than a doctrinal position, but truly a person. And I met that person, and experienced something so powerful that I could never again doubt the reality of God.
At one point on that retreat I basically let go of every hope or dream I had for the future and gave it to God. It was a total surrender. I remember feeling as though the slate had been wiped clean and I was learning everything over again for the first time. I knew I was called to serve God in some way, but I wasn’t sure how. If a traveling evangelist had come along and invited me to go with him I probably would have gone. But instead God lead me to stay on course and I finished my engineering degree and even went for a master’s degree. I subsequently took a job in Alliance Ohio, and began attending the Alliance Christian Center.
At the Alliance Christian Center I began to see how belief in God is lived out in the context of a Christian Community. The challenges that were presented deepened my faith. At first I became a deacon and was later ordained an elder in the church. I married and had three children. After my engineer job ended I taught engineering technology at a local college. My communication skills were honed. When our pastor resigned, I felt God leading me to assume that place. Later my wife felt God confirmed it to her and subsequently I was ordained pastor of the Alliance Christian Center in December of 1999.
It has been a wild ride, and not always pleasant. But I feel in a sense I never left college, I have always been learning. And as I learned I have gained a deeper understand of God and a deeper love for him.
Paul serves as a pastor at ACC.