ORLANDO, Fla. (BP)–Veral Neuschaefer was 6 years old when he started playing pool in a bar. His parents owned the bar and the apartment above it where they lived. In the wee hours of the morning, Neuschaefer and his brother would sneak downstairs after the bar had closed, squeeze their small hands into the coin-operated mechanism that released the pool balls, and then the two would play.
Fifty-seven years later, Veral has his own pool table. It’s where he keeps his Bible — that is, when he’s not reading it.
“That Bible is an answer to prayer,” Veral told Baptist Press.
Veral is one of 44 people baptized so far this year by Fellowship of Orlando, a church started six years ago by former itinerant evangelist Rodney Gage with the assistance of First Baptist Church of Orlando, Fla.
Reflecting on his spiritual journey, Veral said he “wasn’t into going to church.” But Toni, his wife, was. She and her aunt started attending Fellowship about a year ago. And even though Veral wasn’t a church-goer, he said he felt guilty about staying home while his wife was at church.
“Toni would come home and tell me how great Rodney’s sermons were, and how much she enjoyed church,” Veral said. “And I would tell her, ‘Don’t get me started on that church-going stuff. I’m not into that.'”
Veral later began to develop relationships with church staffers when he and Toni attended an open house hosted by the Gages. Also, by Thanksgiving of last year, Veral assisted in an outreach event wherein the church distributed several hundred pounds of canned goods and turkeys to needy families.
On Jan. 16 of this year, Veral realized how God had been orchestrating events in his life for many years. That’s also when Chad Harper, Fellowship’s minister to students, visited the Neuschaefers’ home.
In the weeks preceding that visit, Veral had been considering attending church with his wife. But he said he had a prerequisite for that: “If I’m going to start going to church, I’m going to pray to God to have me connect with someone at church who has a real good knowledge of the Scriptures.” Harper was that someone.
Harper was in the midst of explaining some Scriptures to the Neuschaefers when Veral realized God answered the prayer.
“I remember thinking, ‘Chad is who I’ve been praying for — someone with knowledge of the Bible to befriend me and try to get me encouraged to go to church,” Veral said.
“When I realized this, my whole life started spinning around. This means that God really answers prayers, which I never believed before.”
Veral saw that God had been working in his life all along. He recounted how a chance, social encounter with Toni eventuated into marriage, and also how the couple was able to buy a house, and how, after seven years of marriage, they were finally able to adopt a daughter.
“God did all this,” Veral said. “God was reaching out to me in my lostness. It’s God who did all this. All those things that were really big and important in my life — I credit God for all that.
“I was so excited, I didn’t know what to do,” Veral said.
When Harper asked if Veral had a Bible, Veral produced a copy of the New World Translation given to him by his brother who was a Jehovah’s Witness, and who had tried to instruct Veral spiritually. Jehovah’s Witnesses deny the Incarnation and the divinity of Christ, among other essential Christian beliefs.
Harper committed to bring a suitable Bible to the Neuschafers. And the next morning, Veral found one at his front door.
“I was so excited. I started reading it,” Veral said. “I read it through from January to April, and I don’t like reading at all. Now, instead of watching TV all evening, I read my Bible sometimes three hours a night, sometimes till one or two in the morning.”
Veral also said he prays several times a day — even in the middle of the night.
“Getting a new Bible at the front door — this was God saying, ‘Hey, Veral, wake up. It’s time you started putting your life with Me.’
“Now, reading the Scriptures and going to church and talking about God is never boring,” Veral said. “I love talking about God, and am excited about Him in my life.”
Veral and Toni were later baptized as Fellowship members.
“Being baptized is important,” Veral said. “It’s that first step of obedience to Christ. And, it tells everybody that you’re not at church to take up a seat and make a showing. Baptism tells others that God is in your life.”