Former Atheist & Alcoholic's Life Forever Changed
Radio Host Erin Campbell Saved at Billy Graham Crusade
December 10, 2009 - “What’s an atheist alcoholic doing in a place like this?” 30-year-old Erin Campbell asked herself in 1993, when faced with a decision that would change her life forever.
Courtesy of Paula Pinto, ChristianNewsToday.com
Growing up was not easy for Campbell. Molested at the age of 7, her life was defined by fear, insecurities and isolation.
"My life changed from then on. I had become a child with adult experiences, but I kept this painful secret to myself." said Campbell
She described her parents as "extremely loving people," who believed in her potential. Their beliefs, however, did conflict in the sense that one was a Mormon and the other an atheist. Inwardly, Campbell was rebelling and refused to conform to becoming Mormon.
"I remember my teenage and adult years being stricken with deep fears. Ironically, my three greatest fears growing up were flying, speaking in public, and Christians," Campbell said.
As the years progressed, so did her insecurities. Campbell described her High School years as "a very lonely time."
"I had no friends. In fact, I still haven't been invited to a high school reunion. They just didn’t know I existed," Campbell said.
By the time Campbell was in college she labeled herself an Atheist. She was enticed by the party scene, and after hitting it off with some college buddies, she found herself drinking a lot.
As the years progressed so did a lifestyle that led to an addiction. By the time Campbell was 30 she was a full-blown alcoholic.
"I was a functioning alcoholic. I had an excellent career as a national sales trainer, but with a dark secret," Campbell said.
She remembers partying on Bourbon Street, in New Orleans, in 1993. "It was 3 a.m. and there were people everywhere celebrating March Madness," Campbell said. “And directly in front of me stood a street-corner evangelist, preaching the Word of God.”
Campbell walked up to him to mock his words, but as soon as she opened her mouth, her destiny would be forever changed.
"As an proud atheist, I thought I had mastered every argument against the existence of God, yet for the first time ever, this man overcame my argument...with love. He looked me in the eyes and said, 'Darling, you don't have to do that anymore. You are just looking for your long lost love, and His name is Jesus.'"
Campbell didn't know what he was talking about, but all of a sudden she couldn't speak.
"You are not defined by what happened in your life or by what people have done to you. You are defined by what God thinks of you," said the evangelist.
He then went on to explain that Jesus is God and that He came from Heaven to Earth to share about the Father's love. "In fact, if Jesus were walking on Bourbon Street today, do you know who He would choose to dine with? He would choose you! Jesus hung out with the most peculiar people!" he said.
Stunned by Love
The crowd laughed at his humor, but Campbell was stunned by his love.
Until that moment, Campbell thought that you had to be good to get in to Heaven, and she figured she had blown that a long time ago. But she was wrong!
Campbell learned from this man on the street corner, that Jesus lived, died, and was resurrected for her! That her mistakes would be forgiven, her past wiped clean, her future secure in heaven, if she would turn from her ways and accept Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior.
Suddenly, Campbell was challenged with the most important decision she would ever make in her life. With a tall glass of beer in one hand, and the man’s invitation for salvation in the other, Campbell chose the beer and walked away.
"I walked away! Can you believe it? Yet, that man planted a seed in my heart which would grow deeply in the months ahead.” Campbell said.
Billy Graham is Coming to Town
Six months later while Campbell was in Columbus, Ohio on a business trip, she noticed billboards everywhere stating that Reverend Billy Graham was coming to town. One night, while seated at the bar in a local tavern, she saw a huge banner behind the bar; “Billy Graham in town!”
Campbell looked at the bartender and giggled, "This is the strangest sensation. I feel I should go to that."
The bartender looked at how many drinks she had and said, "Maybe you should."
“I received permission from a bartender to go to a Billy Graham Crusade!”
"I had never woken up early on a Sunday before. I had never heard the Gospel message before New Orleans, and now I'm motivated by something I cannot explain!" Campbell said.
Campbell entered the outdoor stadium to attend the Billy Graham crusade, along with 65,000 Christians. “I asked myself, ‘What is an atheist alcoholic doing in a place like this?’" said Campbell.
“However, when Graham began to speak, a familiar feeling of love resurfaced within me.” Graham’s words of Christ's forgiveness and absolute acceptance had Campbell captivated with an insatiable desire for more.
Come to Christ
"Come, just as you are. You don't need to clean up your act first. In fact, you cannot clean up your act without Him. Just come as you are," Reverend Graham proclaimed.
Suddenly, the most beautiful yet overwhelming feeling began to overtake Campbell, and she sprung up from her seat. She wanted to go forward with the thousands that moved toward the alter to receive the gift of salvation but then, a strong grip of fear clung to her. Campbell began to hyperventilate, and turned the opposite direction, running against the crowd to exit the stadium.
"I had to get out of there to get back to the place from which I came. I just needed to get back home! But as soon as I reached the exit doors, something very strange happened! I suddenly had an overwhelming realization that I didn’t belong to the "world" any more. Yet, I couldn’t go back in there! And for the first time in my entire life, these two worlds were colliding and I was in the middle about to be crushed." Campbell said.
Campbell walked along the sidewalk perimeter in deep confusion, listening to Graham over the loud speaker.
Then it happened!
“Reverend Graham began to recite the Sinner’s Prayer ... and that was the only thing I recognized the entire day. Even an atheist knows the Sinner’s prayer.” Campbell’s knees buckled beneath her as tears began to pour down her cheeks. She grabbed the chain link fence on the way down and surrendered her life to Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior.
"I was saved … in the parking lot of a Billy Graham Crusade! God pursued me, even though I was running away from Him. I soon learned you cannot out-run or out-sin God’s grace," Campbell said.
“My entire life was changed after that. Christ delivered me from years of debilitating alcoholism and brought me into a lifetime service preaching the Gospel to others. What an honor it was to finally lead my mother, father, and sister to Jesus.”
“I was once lost, confused and hopeless, but God used Billy’s presentation of the Gospel and the faithful prayers of the thousands of Billy Graham workers, to lead this ‘lost sheep’ safely home.”
Today, 16 years later, Campbell is the director of a national conference and broadcasting ministry, managed by 12 directors and 120 ambassadors.
Erin Campbell Ministries’ purpose is to “meet the unique needs of the Christian woman at every stage of her faith” through syndicated radio broadcasting, the Deeper Living Discipleship Series, and the Captivating Women Skill Development Conferences and Speaker Bureau.
For more information, visit www.ErinCampbellMinistries.org.
Reprinted courtesy of Paula Pinto, christiannewstoday.com.
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