Sharing what we believe can be rewarding, as well as discouraging. Maybe you're a Christian who has witnessed to someone, and in a short time, you were able to see them make a decision for Christ, and even be baptized into the church. But maybe, you're like many Christians who try and share their faith with someone, only to be ignored, mocked or even resented as a result. It's easy to question yourself and even think it's not worth the trouble. But the truth is, planted seeds grow, it just takes time.
Mike McCabe is a living testimony of that principle. McCabe grew up in Texas and California but eventually landed in Las Vegas. Looking back, he said, "God seemed to direct us to Las Vegas Some people wonder at this. Las Vegas? But somehow, He did."
The McCabe family moved to a neighborhood where there was only one child his age, and they quickly became friends. That friend was being raised in an Adventist home, and McCabe realized they lived differently. His new friend's mom invited him to go to church with them, and he accepted. "I looked forward to going with them on Saturdays because he was my friend." McCabe said, "I went home and started telling my mom and family what I was learning." He even made a decision that he wouldn't eat bacon or pork any longer.
His family didn't respond positively to the decisions McCabe was making, especially his father, who said, "There’s something wrong with them — they go to church on Saturday, they’re always studying the Bible."
At first, McCabe was forbidden from going to church with them. Yet, as time went on, he went anyway. But then tragedy struck at home. McCabe's dad died when he was only 7 years old. The Adventist neighbor tried to reach out to his mom during this time, but his mom didn't really care for her. McCabe witnessed his mom starting to drink, something she'd never done before, to cope with the pain. He recalled, "Being an Indian and drinking ... a lot of problems come with that. And then, we didn’t have a dad anymore. I always looked at everything as if life would be so much better if I had a dad."
New life was added to the family as his mom had a baby girl. Coincidentally, McCabe's neighbor friend also gained a baby sister at the same time. So, as time went on, Mike and his little sister went to church with them. His mom then got remarried to a wealthy businessman who also had an alcohol problem. His sister was still going to church, but McCabe decided that church wasn't for him any longer.
"My sister was still going to church. Me, now I’m older, I’m bad. I’m drinking, partying, chasing girls around, and I don’t want anything to do with religion. My mother wonders why her daughter knows so much more about the Bible than she does. So, my mother goes down and talks with this neighbor lady ... mom wanted to learn from her neighbor about the Bible more and started studying it. She even [started going] to church with the neighbor!"
The same changes McCabe had made previously in his life, his mom began to make. She stopped drinking and even became a vegetarian. But most importantly, she began spending time in God's Word, and even shared her faith with others. His mom was then baptized in a Utah river.
Witnessing his mom's conversion experience didn't seem to affect him. He was living the life in Vegas, making a lot of money, had his own place and owned his own car. "Life was going good," he said. Until it wasn't. "I got myself in trouble there with the wrong people, beat up and almost got killed."
In the meantime, his mom had a passion to get back to her home state of Montana to start a church for Native people. At first, McCabe had no desire to move to Montana, but when he hit rock bottom, he knew he had to get out of Las Vegas and didn't know where else to go, but to his mom in Fort Belknap.
Alcohol continued to have its grip on McCabe, no matter how hard he tried to give it up, it just seemed to make its way back into his life. He shared "I wasn’t really relying on God to take it away from me like I should have. I was trying to do it myself and failing." In all of this time, Jesus was still knocking on the door of his heart. "I felt convicted to go [to church] even though I didn’t want to, but the Bible said to. Jesus kept saying to me, ‘You must go.' He kept pushing me, pushing me.'" In response, McCabe started going to church — the same one started on the reservation by his mother and Pastor Hickson.
It wasn't long before McCabe started to witness people getting baptized — people he knew. People he thought weren't good enough to be baptized. In fact, he himself thought he wasn't good enough to be baptized. He recalled "Members started telling me that I should get baptized. 'Well, you guys don’t know me. I’m an evil man! I’m an evil-hearted person! I am a bad, terrible, unforgiving, hateful person. I can’t get baptized.' Oh yes, you can, they would say!"
McCabe believed that if he went underwater a sinner, he would just come up a wet sinner. So he kept putting it off saying, “I will eventually. When I know I’ve given up this bad life, I’ll do it, but only I know that.”
McCabe received a phone call, and low and behold, it was his Adventist neighbor friend from childhood. As they spoke, his friend said, “You should get baptized, Mike. Look what it says in John 3, what Nicodemus and Jesus are talking about. You have got to!"
But he replied, "I can’t right now. I’m not ready."
"He said back to me, 'You’re never going to be ready.' And I said, 'Yeah, but there’s a point where you know what you’re supposed to be doing for God and what you’re not supposed to be doing for God, and if I’m only going to go back to doing what’s wrong for God, I can’t do it.'"
McCabe's friend replied, "Well, you’d better hurry."
During the pandemic, McCabe ended up with COVID-19, and it took its toll on him. He ended up in the hospital where he thought he would die. "I really did think I was going to die," said McCabe. "But the only thing I could do was to pray that I would be kept alive long enough to get baptized."
Michael Hope, Montana Conference pastor for the Fort Belknap and Havre Territory, called to check on McCabe. During their conversation, Hope asked if he was ready to make a decision about baptism. Hope told McCabe that Jim Jenkins, Montana Conference vice president for administration, would be coming to speak that Sabbath. Jenkins used to pastor the Fort Belknap church and had been McCabe's pastor.
McCabe said, "[Pastor Jenkins] always wanted me to get baptized. I always told him I wasn’t ready. I had said to him, 'well, I’ll tell you what, when I do it, I want you to do it.' So, that day I decided — Jesus decided. 'Mike, it’s time.' That’s why I got baptized ... because of [Jesus] ... so that I can be with Him!"
McCabe summed up his story. "From beginning to end, it’s all about Jesus. He wanted me to be in the way of Him and not in the way of anything else in knowing Him. He’s taught me and worked with me. He’s taken things out of my life that are bad. I know there’s still bad in my life. I’ll have bad in my life until the day I die, but He’ll always take care of me for it and that’s why I need to get my feet washed now and then (John 13). I can continue after my baptism, but I have a struggle with anger, I have a struggle with those things, but I’m not as angry anymore. The devil doesn’t abide in me anymore, and then I also heard of John and James the sons of thunder, and if He could work on them as fishermen, then He can work on me."
"It's been a long road," he continued. "And God knew from an early time this guy is going to be hard to get through to, this guy has got a hard head, this guy’s got an arrogant heart, this guy’s evil. He started on me when I was 5 and 6 years old. It took me all this time to get here and hopefully, prayerfully, through Him, I’ll never ever go back to those ways again. I’ll stay away from them."
"If somebody as bad as me can accept what Jesus came and did," McCabe said, "then anybody should be able to come in and accept Him too."
A neighbor, just sharing Jesus with a 5-year-old little boy, planted a seed. That seed grew and saved an entire family, started a new church, saved more families and transformed generations to come.
Seeds grow, they just take time.