Truly Saved by the Grace of God :: by Dan Payne

I was raised in a modest Christian home, being taught the gospel from an early age in the small seaside town of Venice, Florida. As with most coastal areas of Florida nowadays, Venice is not such a small town anymore.

I am thankful for the Christian testimony of my parents. It was not until later in life, while serving in the Army at the age of 19, that I truly dedicated my life to Christ, in tears and trembling.

As an only child, I spent a good deal of time alone but I was fortunate enough to have had the loyal companionship of two great dogs. I had friends too, and we did all the normal stuff that young boys do growing up together in America.

I attended a wonderful Christian school throughout my elementary years, and I attended a public middle and high school. I remain grateful for the solid spiritual foundation that I had during my elementary years at WFCS in Sarasota, Florida.

As a fringe benefit of growing up on the coast of southwest Florida, I had plenty of recreational activities to keep me busy. They also kept me from being as dedicated to my school studies as I should have been. (Nice excuse, huh?) I spent a lot of time fishing, swimming, and playing guitar in garage bands. I took flying lessons while in high school, but it was the stalls (that part of basic flight training that requires the pilot to recover the aircraft upon loss of lift),that finally did me in. (Yes, if you connect the dots, I attended the same flying school as that of a certain 9/11 terrorist hijacker, in Venice, FL.)

My employment career started off at the tender age of four, with me hanging and finishing drywall with my father. It’s amazing the wide variety of characters you will meet while working construction. From the kindest and humblest, to the downright scariest…well at least scary to a young boy.

Although I attended a strong Christian school and church as a young boy, I drifted away from church and the things of the Lord during my public school years. While in high school, I went from washing dishes to flipping burgers, and at the same time still working for my father. Thankfully, I did not become involved with drugs or alcohol past the experimentation phase, most likely due to staying busy and the hand of God keeping me out of serious trouble.

As I navigated through my teenage years, I did not accept that I needed yet to make a personal commitment to the Lord. After graduating high school, I got a job as a light duty mechanic at a local gas station. It was while working at the gas station that I realized I wanted to attend college with the goal of someday becoming a medical doctor.

The next thing I knew, I was signing my freedom away as an Army medic in exchange for all of that college money! (Not such a bad deal after all.) It was while I was waiting to ship out to boot camp that Saddam Hussein decided to annex the tiny country of Kuwait. The next day I was on a plane to Fort Leonard Wood Missouri with a new MOS: truck driver. Turns out the Army really needs truck drivers when engaging in combat operations in the Middle East.

After boot camp, I ended up at a forward operating base near Kuwait. I usually do not discuss what happened over there but it resulted in a monthly payment and the title of “D.A.V.”. Throughout my experiences overseas, I began to think about the Lord again and I also began to seek Him for comfort in the face of fear.

Upon being returned stateside I was assigned to an airborne military police unit at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. While at Fort Bragg, I was extremely blessed to have had the opportunity to serve alongside some of the finest soldiers ever to walk the face of this earth. I miss them every day.

Also while at Fort Bragg, I was presented with many amazing training opportunities. The flag-bearer for the Golden Knights Parachute Team, SSG Doug Lane, was my personal trainer. (Man, that guy was tough.) While training with the post boxing team, I ended up in the ring with a former heavy weight champion of the world, James “Bonecrusher” Smith, when he was training for his comeback tour. (Mercifully, he was not allowed to hit back!)

It was during my time in the Army that I started becoming more and more sensitive to sin and evil. With more sin came more guilt, like arrows that drove deeper and deeper into my heart, until I was finally pierced clean through.

I suddenly found myself completely alone and isolated in a cold, dark motel room. It was then, through the divine plan of God that I cried out for my Savior. I begged Him to save me from the deep pit of wickedness that I had plunged myself into before it was too late. He very mercifully answered my supplication, and I have had the comfort and peace of His Holy Spirit ever since, for over 20 years.

Soon after my salvation, while on leave from Fort Bragg, I met my very beautiful and kind wife, Vera. I was so excited and honored to share the gospel with her, and she accepted Christ as her Savior soon thereafter. We have been married now for over 20 years and have three wonderful daughters, two of which work part-time while attending college.

I, like most people, have had several “near death” experiences of my own, a few of which occurred during the Gulf War. There is no doubt in my mind whatsoever, that the Lord guided and protected me through those experiences.

One quick example: Somehow as a little boy, I survived being taken down from behind by two large white wolf hybrids. Although I still bear the scars, the Lord used my German shepherd, Tosha, to save my life that day.

I have also had my fair share of health problems too; a broken jaw, missing disc in my lower back, deep ankle injury with severe blood loss, kidney stones, appendicitis, double hernia, etc. which have resulted in numerous surgeries, procedures, and several brief hospital stays. I can’t leave out all of those middle-of-the-night ER runs, what fun! (I will never forget that first kidney stone when I was 20 years old.)

I am so thankful that the Lord stood by my side through all of those painful and fearful events. However, I count all of that as nothing compared to the life-threatening diseases and conditions so many of my fellow brothers and sisters live with every day. I know that so many of you have suffered through severe trauma and I can’t help but think about you daily.

One of the first jobs I obtained after “not” finishing college was as a surgical tech “in training” at a busy surgery center. It was my continuing interest in medicine that prompted me to apply for that position. While working at the surgery center, I was afforded the opportunity to assist in a cornea transplant. I will never forget seeing the label on the side of that “lunch box” cooler that read: “Human Organ.”

After I began to suffer from more kidney stones, and the accompanying “procedures” I found that operating rooms weren’t for me. I soon realized how well driving 18-wheelers paid, and I was all in. It was from my experience as an Army truck driver, among other jobs I had while in the Army, that I knew I could drive the big rigs. I was “grandfathered” into the civilian trucking world via my military experience and my still current military truck-driving license.

My first trucking job was driving a giant Peterbilt cab-over pulling a 45 foot flatbed trailer. I had the “privilege” of always being overweight and oversized, which required special Federal permits to allow me to bypass the inspection and weigh stations along the interstate highways. The Lord rode with me along many lonely miles, keeping me alert and safe from danger.

Funny story: On one particular delivery, I can’t remember what I was hauling, I was guided to a stop within the unloading area of a giant shopping center project. When I got out of the truck and handed the manifest to the supervisor, I was promptly asked where my “daddy” was because an “adult” had to sign the paperwork! He proceeded to doubt my explanation that I was the sole human driver in charge. He naturally assumed that since I looked no older than 16, due to my thin frame and young face I guess, that I couldn’t possibly be driving an enormous truck hauling hazardous cargo for a living!

It was while driving trucks that my very young wife at the time exhorted me to take the computer test at a local temp agency in Jacksonville Florida. At first I did not trust that was the Lord’s will for my family. After all, I had a steady job that I was fully capable of doing and quite frankly, computers intimidated me. I did not quite have enough faith that the Lord was leading me in that direction.

After a little while, I finally did trust the leading of the Lord and the rest is history, as they say. I passed the computer test and within a week I was “filling” a database with advanced fluid dynamics calculations. I worked for a team of mechanical engineers who were designing a giant paper machine being built in Indonesia. From there, I was given the opportunity to design an Accounts Receivable accounting system for the Canadian Company, Bombardier Capital (Sea-Doos, Ski-Doos, and corporate jets).

I found myself suddenly pulled from a delivery truck to the executive offices of major companies in the financial services industry. These jobs required that I write many business and technical papers, as well as many lines of computer programming code. I also worked for Volvo Financial Services heading up a project to build a new General Ledger accounting system. I began to teach classes in relational database design and techniques at various companies, and writing technical training manuals.

As I look back, I realize that it was the Lord’s gracious providence that led me into the software development industry which in turn allowed my family the financial stability to home-school our children.

My health put me back on the sidelines a few years ago but the Lord allowed my wife to earn her Master’s Degree and secure a living for our family in the business world. Between working on computer software projects from home, I am very thankful for the opportunity to be able to serve alongside the many talented writers who contribute to Rapture Ready.

It is my hope that this brief testimony may inspire others to keep pushing forward for Christ, through triumph and tribulation. He has been with me as long as I can remember, and now looking back, I realize that He NEVER left my side.

“For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).

Dan Payne