Christ Our Light parishioners collect, share testimonials of encounters with God
TROY — Bill Griffin was looking for a sign from the Lord to begin his evangelization work.
He got one, but it wasn’t what he was expecting.
It started in 2005, when Griffin, a Christ Our Light parishioner in Troy, collected a column series titled “Jesus is Alive,” written by Deacon Bob Ovies of then-St. Colomban Parish in the parish publication New Lives, with the intention of publishing them on the web to inspire people.
“The column included stories, personal testimonies from people who became more convinced that God is real,” Griffin said. “I kept the book and columns, and in 2005, I thought I could republish these. So I came up with a concept document, prayed about it, and the Lord said I wasn’t ready.”
Griffin put the idea away for a while, until in 2011, he felt the calling again, this time getting the “green light” from God and creating Wtness.org, a website where contributors can shares stories of personal encounters with the Lord.
Griffin enlisted the help of Deacon Dan Gonos to set up the website and incorporate it as a nonprofit, along with fellow parishioner Tim Schwab and Dr. Robert Halpert of Kensington Church in Lake Orion, to contribute to the site and edit submissions from readers.
“Generally when people submit stories, we pour over them so they don’t ‘lean’ Catholic,” Schwab said. “We’re looking for real experiences,” regardless of a person’s denomination, he added.
To date, there are 91 stories on the website, from various sources such as Griffin, Schwab and Dr. Halpert, along with people they’ve met or those who’ve come across the website — wtness.org, without the “I” to avoid confusion with the Jehovah’s Witness’ website.
“I think people genuinely want to be heard so they can help others in the same situation,” Schwab said. “It’s about God working through different things, working to reach down into people’s souls.”
In addition to editing the stories for content, Griffin, Schwab and Dr. Halpert investigate the stories, looking for secondary sources to confirm the events related in people’s encounters with Christ.
“We go look for stories from others to confirm and verify the submitted stories,” Dr. Halpert said. “We had one from a man at the crossroads of life; he was going to commit suicide, but decided to head to a diner first. He met a man and talked, and he spoke to him on a spiritual level. The man never knew him and never got his name. He just talked to him for hours and left, and nobody ever saw him again. The young man, who was so down about life before he went home, was convinced he met Jesus.”
While not all the stories are as dramatic, all are meant to inspire by validating faith or offering something to consider in times of doubt.
“The stories themselves are meant to solidify people in their faith or be uplifting so people can find comfort,” Dr. Halpert said. “In Florida, I had a patient who was going under a breast biopsy for a tumor in the breast. Going into the room, you could tell there was this great tension. Before the surgery started, she told me, ‘Doesn’t matter what you find, my life is in the hands of the Lord.’ Instead of tension, there was this pleasant exchange which had the calming effect on everyone in the room.”
The group hopes more people will come across the website, and more will share their own stories of life-altering moments with Christ.
“There’s an inherent desire in most people to be writers, to tell good stories,” Dr. Halpert said. “They come out as fairly well-written. For every story, we get the sense of, ‘Here’s my story, here’s what it did for my life, and what it could do for you.’”
Griffin said many people have experienced a deep encounter with the Lord, but are unwilling to share for fear of shame or ridicule. He hopes Wtness.org, where people have the option to share anonymously, will offer a safe place for people to read, reflect and share moments where God was there for them, inspiring the next person who’s a click away.