I grew up in a small town Amityville on Long Island, New York, with my two sisters. My parents took us to church almost every Sunday. In Sunday school we learned many Bible stories but I never remember being confronted with the Gospel. At 16 years old I became aware of the hypocrisy of church members and mentally shut off anything the church had to say. In church one Sunday morning the pastor was droning on about the evil of drinking. I knew that most of the adults sitting around me had been at the Amityville Yacht Club season opening the night before and had consumed a lot of beer, wine and liquor. How foolish I thought. These people don’t believe a word of what’s being said! Hypocrites! I shut off anything the church had to say and began my descent into Atheism. By the time I was 24 and approaching completion of my BS in Chemistry I had become a strong, hardcore Atheist. I was living in New Jersey and met my future wife, Terry, through one of my roommates who was her cousin. Weekends were spent visiting family. My wife is of Italian descent and has a very large family. Sundays were often spent in great feasts at her aunt Tessie’s, with 20 or 30 people. We married, in a Roman Catholic Church, to please her family, had our first child and moved to Rockland County NY. Although marriage had brought some changes I was falling more and more into sinful practices. We had our second child and the company I worked for moved us to Greensboro, NC. By this time I had become addicted to pornography and was well on the way to alcohol dependency. He had a long argument in January 1977 and Terry, unknown to me, called out: “God help me and help my marriage”. We talked seriously about divorce. My life was coming apart and there seemed to be nothing I could do about it. Because we had lost all the Sunday family gatherings, Sunday became a barren time. Most of the neighbors and fellow workers, in Greensboro, went to church. Terry decided to attend an Episcopal church, leaving me at home with two young children. I didn’t like managing the children alone so I decided to attend with her. I really had no interest in anything the church had to say. The people were friendly, social activities were fun but Sunday morning was boring. It was a good place for, Terry the ex Catholic and Charlie the ex Methodist to go. Nothing was said from the pulpit that challenged either one of us. There were, however, three families in that church whose lives were different, very different. I couldn’t explain why or how, but they were. We attended a Bible study with them called Edge of Adventure and our marriage relationship improved for a short time. The study was over and we went back to the way it was, bad! One of the men from that group suggested I attend a men’s weekend retreat in Asheville, NC in early 1977. Terry encouraged me to go. After all it was a chance to get away from all my problems and there were a lot of them.
At the beginning of the weekend, on Thursday night, we gave up our watches so we would not keep track of time. We took a vow of silence until breakfast Friday, which gave us some time to think. Friday morning, after breakfast the first speaker asked three questions; “What is your purpose in life? Where are you going? What does it all mean?” As I sat there I realized I had no answers. Yes I had a wife, two children, a house, two cars, but I knew that was not the answer. These questions really bothered me. After many talks, I hardly remember, I went into the chapel alone on Saturday night because I was troubled by these questions and the obvious impending disaster my life was becoming. I knelt and began to think and remember. I remembered sitting in the apartment in New Jersey, before I met Terry, with my other roommates, drinking beer and watching Billy Graham on TV. We made great fun of his telling, we were lost sinners and needed Jesus. But now that some how seemed real. I said in my mind; “God, if you’re real, (and I wasn’t sure if he was) you can have my life because it is an awful mess”. (God true to his Word took it.) In the next moments there was someone in the room with me that I could not see but I felt His presence. Something strange had happened and I had no clue yet what it was. When I came back home to Greensboro I came down into the den where Terry was watching TV. Her first reaction was: “What happened to you. Did you see God?” I wasn’t really sure. I developed a very strong desire to read the Bible. As I got back into my daily routine, I asked the friend that had invited me to the retreat were I should start reading. He suggested the Gospel of John. When I got to John, Chapter 3 where Nicodemius encounters Jesus I read about being born again. I called my friend at 2:00 AM and asked; “Was I born again.” He confirmed that was what had happened. God now began to change all aspects of my life. Our marriage began to heal. I was growing in Christ daily and my knowledge of the Scriptures was growing rapidly. Terry would become a Christian 3 months later and we would then begin to grow together. She went to the same retreat weekend for women that I had attended. She was confronted with the Gospel on Thursday evening when they walked through the “stations of the cross”. Her Catholic upbringing came back in a rush. She always knew she was not worthy but had never understood the solution. Giving her testimony she says; “Its as if God was saying to her, Terry, Terry give me your sins because that’s why I died.” I went to pick her up so I could attend the closing ceremony. She did not expect me. When I came into the room our eyes met and I instantly knew that she knew what I knew. God had redeemed another sinner. We went into the chapel for the closing. I had fasted all the time she was at the weekend (I didn’t have Diabetes yet). No one told me you had to drink a lot of water when fasting so I was badly dehydrated. We went into the chapel, knelt like a good Episcopalian and the closing began. The central part of this ceremony is the leader asking the new initiates to ask God the question: “God what do you want of me?” As Terry asked that question, I passed out in a dead faint. She thought God took ME! Of course, I was revived and we returned home. God had made us both new in Christ. The Bible says: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (I Corinthians 5:17)
The next weeks we continued to attend that Episcopal Church but realized we weren’t getting any spiritual nourishment. We met with the priest. Here is the dialogue as I remember it:
Terry: “We’d like to see more Bible taught here.”
Priest: “The Bible is too controversial to teach any more than we do.”
Charlie: “Something radical happened to us. Can you explain it?” (We were both born again and by now we knew it.)
Priest: “You had an emotional experience. You’ll get over it!” (It’s more than 35 years later and I still haven’t gotten over it and don’t expect to!)
We realized very quickly we had to find another church. We found it through those three couples. For the first time, since our conversions, we heard preaching from Scripture. “Halleluiah, what a Savior!” was the first hymn we sang in that new church. Boy! That really struck a cord.
God next took use to Greenville SC in 1978 when CIBA-Geigy bought a small subsidiary. I was asked to go bring its computer systems up to our companies standards. After we moved we started to look for a church to attend. We visited several different mainline denomination churches that were very dead. Both of us recognized the need for spiritual food and it wasn’t there. We also visited a wild Charismatic church. We became increasingly frustrated by not finding any place that preached the Word and had life. I went to work on a Monday feeling very down about our church hunting. One of the people I worked with was a Jewish engineer from Brooklyn NY. At lunch we were talking and my church problem came up. He said with a twinkle in his eye; “Charlie I know just the church for you”. I said: “How can you, a Jew, know what church would be right for me, a Christian.” He said; “Because they are about as obnoxious about Christ as you are.” So a Jew, one of God’s chosen by the flesh, led us to Mitchell Road Presbyterian Church (MRPC).
While in Greenville on Tuesdays before work I joined a Bible study with other men from MRPC. One Tuesday was a holiday so because we didn’t have to go to work, we all sat around having a second cup of coffee enjoying the great fellowship. A new believer, in the group, asked the teacher: “Dean, tell us some great spiritual nuggets”. Dean though for several minutes and then said: “I’ll give you two.” First, he began to sing the children’s song “Jesus loves me” and quickly we all joined in. Next, he hesitated and with a very serious look on his face said: “There is a chorus from a hymn that sums it all up. ‘Trust and obey for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus than to trust and obey’”. Those two thoughts have stuck with me my whole Christian life. “Because Jesus loves me I will trust and obey! There really is no other way!”
Soon after we arrived in Greenville Terry tried to register our son for second grade in the local public school. On three separate occasions she was unable to register him. The pastor from MRPC came to visit us the week before school was to begin to encourage us to enroll our children in MRPCs school. I remember Dr. Thomas Cross saying: “As Christians you want to bring your covenant children up in the faith and become believers as you are. Christian School will be consistent with everything you teach them at home. Since public schools foundation is Humanism, when you put them there, you put them in the camp of the enemy for 5 hours a day. Most parents can’t or won’t undo the daily damage done in those schools.” So began our commitment to educate our children in Christian school. NOTE: Home Schooling was not available at this time in South Carolina. Had it been available we may have done that.
After we had been in MRPC for more than a year Terry and I were asked to help start a mission church in nearby Simpsonville. I had been trained as a Deacon and then as an Elder. Three elders, John Wheeler, Render Cains and myself were the founding elders of Davenport Road Presbyterian Church. One of my responsibilities was teaching the high school class. One Sunday the lesson was on Jesus teaching about building your house on the rock or the sand from Matthew
Matthew 7:24-27 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”
The lesson included little paper houses and pages with pictures of sand and rock. I thought this is a really poor lesson, BUT I taught it faithfully. I even told Terry on the ride home that I thought it was a stupid lesson. Years later when we were back in Greensboro I met one of the students from that class. He said: “Mr. Liebert do you remember teaching the lesson about the two houses, one built on sand and the other built on rock”. I confirmed I remembered. “Well that lesson changed my life!” Lesson learned by me! NEVER underestimate God’s ability to use weak vessels to carry out his will and don’t trust your own sinful judgment to sell God’s Word short!
While at MRPC we met many missionaries and had several opportunities to support them. More than a years after we started to attend MRPC a college student came to visit us who was taking a short term missions trip to South America. She told us she needed just $50 more the make the trip. I said of course we’d give her the $50 and wrote her a check right then. When she left, Terry became very upset about my giving her $50. Terry was right I had no idea were the money would come from. We had some extraordinary expenses in the last two months including paying the deductible on a minor auto accident Terry had several months before. When I left for work that Monday she was still quite upset about my “giving away $50.” As I drove to work I considered if I should not have done it but I couldn’t come to a clear answer. “Yes I wanted to help the student go, No I did not have the money” At about 11:00 that morning, I had just come out of a meeting, my phone rang. It was Terry. I could tell by her voice something was up. She said: “I have to apologize for getting upset about the $50.” I said: “Why?” “About 10:00 a man came to the door from the insurance company and gave me a check for $75 for the accident. God gave us the $50.” I added: “And a $25 bonus.” James says: “Faith without works is dead.” So the Word came back: “Because Jesus loves me I will trust and obey! There really is no other way!”
We came back to Greensboro in 1980 and have been here ever since. Now in 2015 we are members of Providence OPC Church.