by Charlie Marsolini as told to Maxine Marsolini
It wasn’t until I was forty-four years old that I became a Christian. Although periodically attending church services, I did so more out of guilt than anything else. In fact, I didn’t even believe God could love a guy like me, the son of a mafia man. I was full of anger and sinful baggage. Survival in the Italian ghetto of Boston depended on exhibiting a tough exterior that others could not penetrate. Power and money were very important, bringing respect from those in the neighborhood. I learned early on to go after what I wanted. There was always a way, even if it meant using intimidation and bringing fear to others.
In 1982 I was perilously close to destroying my third marriage. Out of desperation my wife joined Bible Study Fellowship and received Jesus Christ as her Savior. I made fun of her and even accused her of hiding behind the cross, but it wasn’t long before I was deeply impressed by the peace she now had. She even stopped yelling back at me and began to love me in spite of our difficulties. I know forgiving me over and over again couldn’t have been easy, but it certainly diffused arguments and allowed God to begin a bigger work in me.
In 1983, I agreed to attend an Easter service with my family. Several men stepped forward and spoke about receiving Christ into their lives. They talked of knowing God personally. Their lives had been strewn with anger and broken relationships, just like mine, only God was making a difference. I had never heard of such things before, yet their tears and testimonies convinced me these were true changes. Two weeks later some of those same men came unannounced to my house. Before the evening was over I prayed for Jesus to forgive my sins and come into my heart.
We started attending church on a regular basis. To my surprise, I liked this new life. I began to grow rapidly in my relationship with the Lord and the atmosphere of our home continued to change for the better.
Because I am a certified public accountant I was often asked to offer financial advice to people in the church. Money problems were destroying the joy and peace in so many lives, posing a major factor in divorce among Christian couples. Even though our church had over five hundred active members, there was no effective means of helping people learn how to handle their money biblically. This burdened my heart and became a matter of prayer. Soon I began a diligent search for a financial study suitable for our church family. The Lord impressed upon both my wife and me that the study we sought would need to be solidly based in the Scriptures. Personal experience has convinced us only the Word of God brings lasting change, even in the use of money. The best of financial aids known to man would only be effective with Christ at the center. Through a series of phone calls, books, and the overlap of many financial ministries, we learned about the Crown Ministries Small Group Study. This was it ... lots of Scripture and great practical applications! Our Pastor got excited, and the church sent us eight hundred miles away for leader training.
I was no longer just a pew sitter. God was using me to meet a need in His family. This felt good. We started leading Crown classes in our church in 1990 and saw the immediate impact it brought to lives, ourselves included. At that time neither of us understood the far reaching impact my decision to serve the Lord was about to have.
Soon I accepted the challenge to become the Crown Ministry regional director for the Pacific Northwest. This meant representing a six state area. By 1992 we were entirely debt-free, and totally amazed at how quickly the Lord allowed us to attain this goal. Even our home mortgage was paid off! This new-found freedom felt wonderful. Two years later the Lord directed me to merge my thriving accounting practice with a larger firm. This allowed more freedom with my time.
Sometimes people like me discover God’s calling only after they step out and start serving. Speaking opportunities, brought about by my involvement in Crown, soon confirmed God had gifted me to preach and teach. I began to study and prepare myself for the pastorate, and in 1995, at age fifty-six, received my minister’s license from the Church of the Nazarene. I joyfully tell the congregation, I may have the body of a fifty-six year old, but in my spirit I feel like I’m twenty-six. Walking with the Lord has renewed my energy.
Together we began to pray that we would be called to a church that really needed us. Our prayers were soon answered. When the call came last summer, it was from a congregation of about 100 people twelve miles northeast of where we live ¾ a wonderful little church in Eagle Point, Oregon, whose pastor, Reverend B.J., was very sick. In fact, he was awaiting a suitable donor for a heart transplant. The little church was not able to pay the salaries of two ministers, and their congregation faced a serious dilemma. Because we were debt free, with income from my business, I was able to say yes to their invitation, and together with my wife offered our services without need of a salary.
We began serving the Eagle Point church in August. What a warm congregation. They loved and accepted us so easily. Pastor B. J.’s health continued to weaken but God sustained him until a call came in October. In the wee hours of the night he was jetted to Seattle where he received a new heart. Today he is continuing to recover. Praise God! Saying yes to God’s call on my life blessed a prayerful congregation in Eagle Point, Oregon, allowing me to be a very special piece of the puzzle God was working on in that church.
I now understand why it is easy to misunderstand God’s delaying an answer to prayer. He’s just fitting all the pieces together! Scripture says, “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose”. (Romans 8:28)
Everyone is born a piece of some puzzle. From my childhood it would have been easy to assume I would become a piece of the mafia’s puzzle. Many of my friends did. Many are dead or in jail today.
I am thankful I chose to answer God’s call on my life. My wife and I have experienced such a sense of satisfaction in realizing that we have been a significant answer to prayer¾that I was the missing piece of the puzzle chosen for just such a time as this. God, and only God, could have orchestrated such details into place. And who knows what other wonderful things the Lord has in store for us if we continue to walk in obedience to Him. Life with Jesus is proving to be an incredible journey.