What would make someone who had been an atheist for more than 30 years surrender his life to Jesus? What could
cause that sort of transformation?
For Dan, it was a slow process that included his wife’s witness and a growing realization that he was not happy that led
him to consider the truth of Christianity. His search led him to Alpha, where Dan had the opportunity to ask questions,
find community, and review his stereotypes of Jesus’ followers.
Jesus is daily transforming the hardest of hearts and leading people back to the good news of who he is. And Alpha is
one of the tools he uses to reach people who do not know him. This is Dan’s story.
Dan was raised in a religious home but distanced himself from his parents’ faith as he grew up.
After graduating from college, Dan began working as a systems engineer for Bell Laboratories. “I found myself surrounded by some of the brightest minds in the world. I was working in the world-renowned cathedral to science and reason, surrounded by devout, evangelical atheists with absolutely no social skills. I finally fit in!” he said. It was in his early days at Bell Labs that Dan began to consider himself an atheist and would debate the truth of Christianity with Christians.
Dan met his wife, Laura, who shared his distaste for religion. The couple had successful, high-paying jobs, and they
spent their free time traveling the world.
As the years passed, Dan had a growing awareness that he was not truly happy despite having everything he thought
he wanted. He said,
“I started feeling that something was missing in my life. I turned to Eastern philosophies like
Buddhism, Taoism, and Zen. I meditated. I did yoga. Nothing worked .”
Then tragedy struck. Dan’s aunt and father died weeks apart. During the same time period, Dan’s older brother was hit
by a car and was left in a coma. Dan said,
“This maelstrom of tragedy was a wake-up call which made me realize just
how fragile life was.”
The next year, Laura’s mother passed away. Laura began to attend church and explore the faith of her childhood. For
years, Laura invited Dan to Mass and church functions, but he repeatedly refused to participate.
As time passed, Dan noticed how happy Laura was. He said, “It dawned on me that while I claimed to be an
engineer, I had never actually examined the evidence for the existence of God.”
Dan began to read books on Christianity and watch videos by Bishop Robert Barron. Laura would share what she was learning from her courses, and the couple would talk about religion as they hiked on the weekends.
Eventually, Dan agreed to attend Mass. He said,
“I was instantly floored by the love I felt. Everyone seemed genuinely happy to meet me. The gathering space was alive with joyful children. I thought I took the wrong exit off of Route 10 and ended up at Chuck E. Cheese. These people seemed genuinely happy.”
Dan began regularly attending Mass, went to confession, and received communion. He said,
“I no longer considered myself an atheist, but I still wasn’t all in. I was going to church because I loved the sense of community, but I still had my doubts about the existence of God.”
The parish was running Alpha, and Dan and Laura decided to participate. At first, Dan made jokes during the table
discussions and dreaded attending. During week four, something shifted. Dan began to look forward to the sessions
because he felt so accepted.
As his tablemates prayed for him, Dan began to sob. During the Alpha weekend away, Dan experienced the love of Christ for the first time in his life.
He said, “I had feelings of euphoria mixed with guilt and joy mixed with remorse and regret . But when it was all over, I felt a profound sense of peace and calm like I had never felt before . I had been renewed . For the first time in my life , I felt at home . I felt that nothing was missing any longer .”
“God, please forgive me for turning my back on you for so long”, he prayed.
Dan went through a radical transformation in a short period of time. Just three months after devoting his life to Christ, Dan launched Alpha Online at his parish during the early days of the pandemic. He has since led four online Alphas, led the eight-week prayer course twice, and has been trained as an Alpha coach. He has also reached out to parishes in his area and encouraged them to run Alpha.
He said, “What I do for the church and for Alpha is so much more rewarding than anything I ever did for pay.”
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