I had a spiritual encounter unlike any I had ever experienced before...or since.
Here's what happened:
I was living/stationed in Oslo, Norway at the time. I was active duty in the United States Air Force. This was a very difficult assignment in many ways...mainly because of the horrible working conditions/situation in which I was placed.
I was stressed beyond any reasonable limits, and was having a real spiritual battle in my heart, head, and soul as well. I felt as though I could tell no one, and that made me even more "isolated" than ever. I was part of two great congregations in the Oslo area (one met on Sunday mornings, and the other met on Sunday evenings). So "fellowship" and being part of a local congregation wasn't the "immediate need"--or at least I don't think it was.
May 1, 1992 was a holiday in Norway: "May Day"...Europeans love their holidays. And the American service/government personnel living in Norway also had the day off. On the night before, I had decided that it was 'time to do something' about the angst and confusion in my soul.
I lived about 500 feet from the train station in my neighborhood, so after work, I went home, changed clothes, and jumped on the train to go "downtown" for the evening. I was clearly wanting to engage in some type of activity that would help ease the "emotional pain" and the frustrations in my life.
Never been an alcoholic drinker (save for less than three glasses of wine, up to this point), but thought I might try it. [Beer looks like urine and smells worse, in my opinion, so that was definitely OUT]. I was 30 years old, so I could "do what I wanted with whomever, wherever I wanted"--or so I thought. As long as it was legal, and caused no "harm" to anyone else...hey, I was open to it. Even as a Christian, I was so troubled in my mind and heart, that I just wanted to find some "relief" for all the emotional turmoil and pain I was experiencing.
I went into a few bars--had a few Sprites. Went into a few clubs, and watched alot of people dance, and flirt, etc. Yet, the pain wasn't going away. The deep frustration in my soul wasn't being eased. Of course with only a SPRITE in my hand, the best I would get would be a "sugar buzz"...and I was just too cheap to buy anything stronger!
About 11 p.m. that evening, I was in OsloSentralStasjon (the main train hub in the center of the city), and knew that I needed to talk with someone...have someone pray for me...anything...
So I tried calling my friend Rick Polachek (at the time a Navigator in the USAF, stationed in Plattsburg, NY), from the pay phone in the train station. The line was continually busy. I needed to talk with him, and pour out my heart....I had to....I must!
After several failed attempts, I was about to give up, when a young Norwegian army fellow came by me, and asked about a pay phone. I pointed him to the nearest one. He was still dressed in his military uniform, and had traveled from the far northern part of the country. He was down to visit a friend of his.
He tried to call someone, and couldn't reach them. I heard him say a few things (nothing off-color, or vulgar), and went to see if I could assist him in some way. I identified myself as American military, attached to NATO/Embassy, and wanted to offer any help that I could. He explained his situation to me--he needed to reach his friend, so he would have a place to spend the evening.
I lived in a beautiful three bedroom home, and had plenty of room. I offered him the room for the evening, and after a short conversation, he accepted. His name was Jan Torge. I can't remember his surname. But that's beside the point.
We got in a taxi, and were on our way to my house. It was well after midnight by this time. As soon as we arrived, I showed him the guest bedroom, and the kitchen. (Every man needs to know where the food is stored...LOL). He asked if he could take a shower. I consented, and showed him where the "necessities" were.
He took a rather long shower....actually a REAL long shower.
I went in my bedroom, climbed into my bed, opened my Bible, and began my "guilt trip." I shed a few tears, and told God how sorry I was that I had disappointed Him, myself, and that I needed help. This little "episode" lasted for about 30 minutes.
About the time I was getting ready to turn out the light, my houseguest gets out of the shower, and knocks on my bedroom door. "May I come in? I need to tell you something..."
At this point, I really didn't want to talk about anything. I assumed I had already caused enough grief for myself and God for one day. However, Jan Torge then said, "While I was showering, the Lord spoke to me, and you need to know......"
At that point, I knew that I needed to "hear" this good man out. (Keep in mind, when I offered him a place to stay, I didn't even know he was a Christian...maybe, because I never asked.)
I invited Jan to come in and talk with me. He made some small talk, and then said,
"Phil, my English isn't very good, but the Lord wants you to know that He loves you. He has seen every place that you have been tonite. You've been searching for _________, but God wants you to know that He has something so much better for you." He then proceeded to tell me everything that I had done that evening--to the place, not missing any details.
He then opened my Bible, and shared some passages with me. The next thing I knew, we were on our knees that evening weeping before the Lord, repenting, and confessing.
This lasted until about 3 a.m. in the morning.
The next morning, I got up, and started preparing breakfast for myself and my house guest. He asked if he could use the telephone to reach his "friend" whom he couldn't reach the previous evening. "Of course," I said, "Go right ahead."
Now this had to be God: The person he was trying to reach, Jon Erik Selle, was my very best friend from the Oslo Kristne Centre (the Sunday evening church where I worshipped and fellowshipped)!
So yes, God is still very active in the lives of His children today! That was sixteen years ago last night...and I remember it as though it were yesterday.