Forty-three years ago I did not know Jesus Christ as my personal Savior. My name is Charlena Brooks, and I was born in Washington, D.C. The Almighty God introduced Himself to me first by healing my mother. Mom contracted a virus that paralyzed her, and the doctors could do nothing for her. Her only hope was in God. She received her miracle from God. Mom is 93 years old now, and she isn’t paralyzed. I had a four-year-old friend die, and this was the beginning of my knowledge of God.
Mom took my sister Shirley and I to every church she attended, churches of different denominations. My dad would not go to church. I heard people in the churches speak of feeling the Spirit of God, but I never felt it. They never told me how. I never saw an altar call or heard anyone saying the sinner’s prayer. My parents gave me a Bible. I would read the Sunday school lessons and look at the pictures in my Bible. One passage I will never forget was the fiery serpents biting the Hebrew people that had sinned. This really left an impression on my heart.
I graduated from Howard University in 1969. By then I was trying to stay high most of the time. I would go to work high on pot. I was asked to teach in one of the grammar schools in the fall of 1970. My best friend had gone to Los Angeles for a vacation; she was as much into pot and drugs as I was. She sent me a letter filled with enough cash to get a ticket to LA. She wanted me to come and have fun with her. In the summer of 1970, I flew to Los Angeles.
Well, I decided to change my life. I got a job at UCLA. God was taking over, and I never even guessed. During this time before I received salvation, I was almost killed. I never thought of God, but God thought of us—Carolyn and me.
On September 13, 1970, Carolyn and I went to Hollywood to check it out. It was a Sunday. Carolyn had a lot of pot on her, and we smoked so much, we ran out of rolling papers. She said she had more in her purse. I went through her purse looking for them, and I saw a small piece of paper that looked like a rolling paper. I pulled it out. But it was a gospel tract from the Tony and Susan Alamo Christian Foundation. I read it. It said, “Jesus is coming back to earth again. Repent or perish.” It said there were services every night at 8pm, and on Sunday at 3pm and 8pm, and it gave the address.
I asked Carolyn, “What is this?” She said a hippie gave it to her. She thought that it was a coffee house, where hippies talked about Jesus and smoked dope. That sounded good to me, so off we went looking for this place, and we found it. I got out of the car and headed up the walkway. I looked to the side, and I saw the church sign in the yard. I thought, oh, no, it’s a church, I’m not going to church! As I turned away, a lady opened the door and invited us in. She said that her daughters loved this place. So, out of respect, we went in, planning to leave as soon as we could.
Thank God! That never happened. The room was set up with folding chairs, and a hippie asked us to take a seat. Then the room started filling up with all kinds of young people, black, white, Indian, Spanish, Jewish, Canadian, European, and Asian. They were from all over the world. Pastor Tony Alamo opened the service, and the band played Gospel music like I never heard before. They played and sang with joy. These people were happy. They had something great.
Then, one by one, they gave victorious testimonies of deliverance from sin because Jesus Christ washed away their sins with His Blood and gave them power to sin no more. No one in any of the churches I had attended ever said that. I wanted that. I wanted what they had.
When the altar call came, this Japanese teenager named Barbara invited me to get saved, to be born again of the Spirit of God. I kept saying no because I knew I was a sinner, and I knew I would walk out of that church and continue living like a sinner. I didn’t want to play around with God. God gave her the right words to say to me. She said, “What are you selling your soul for?” Immediately I remembered a book I had read in college about a man named Faust. He sold his soul to the devil. The fear of that happening to me caused me to follow her to the altar.
Pastor Alamo knelt down with those of us at the altar. He said, “Say this prayer to God,” and as he began the sinner’s prayer, I just stared at him. I was so cold, and I trusted no one. I could see that he was praying harder and with more sincerity than me. So I closed my eyes and prayed. I felt the light of Jesus Christ come on inside of me. I was saved, born again, and I was new. My sins were washed away. Thank you, Jesus. I hope that when you read what God did for me, you will say this prayer of repentance with all your heart, and you too will be born again.