Like many new converts, I had an immediate burden to reach my family with the gospel. Like many new converts, I had more heat than light and came on a bit too strong. My family were good, decent, moral Roman Catholics (Catholics put their trust in their church. Christians put their trust in Christ). Why would they listen to their son?
I did have some initial success with my younger brother, Dominic. He was open to discussion. He came with me to church several times, read the literature I gave him, and talked to others from my church. I believe he was thisclose to getting saved at the time, until one time he left some tracts on the living room table. They were tracts exposing the Roman Catholic church and doctrine that I had given him.
My mom found the tracts, and she was not ready for them. My mom blew up. We had a big fight. She forbid me to take Dominic to church with me anymore. I remember responding, “You never had a problem with me taking him to the bar, but I take him to church and you go wild?”
That made my mom hostile to the gospel and Dominic went on in confusion to become a professing atheist. Dad was ambivalent.
But as the years went by, they at least saw I was consistent. It wasn’t just a phase I was going through. Even when they disagreed with things I did (like leaving the winning game of the 1984 World Series because it was time for church), they respected my consistency.
They softened some. They came to church to hear me preach. They came to a revival meeting with evangelist George Grant (the former famous pro-wrestler “Gorgeous George” of the 60s and 70s). When I married the pastor’s daughter, they came to the wedding and got to know her family.
Then my wife and I moved to Wisconsin (from Michigan). That started a chain of events that led them all to getting saved.
It removed us as a “religious crutch” for Dominic. He started to consider his one-on-one accountability to God and started visiting churches and seeking the truth. Mom and dad eventually went to church with him, trying to allay his confusion. They were astounded they now had two sons dealing with this salvation thing.
Our neighbors, the Tillisons, got saved, and while it was at a Charismatic ministry, they were a confirming voice to the gospel.
My grandma (Lucy Groppi) was dying of cancer (and diabetes). On a trip back home, we led her to Christ. On her death bed, my parents were reassuring grandma that she had gotten things settled with the Lord and had nothing to fear in dying. THAT let me know my parents were considering their eternity as well, and were finally contemplating trusting Christ for their salvation.
Dominic had finally made his salvation sure and settled on the Grace Bible Church, of Warren, MI. Pastor Tom Bruscha and Karl Trimboli among the key figures. They came to witness to my parents, and they were the confirming voice they needed to hear – someone not associated with me, not even Baptist, that gave them the same gospel. They could no longer dismiss it. Both of them trusted Christ as their Saviour! Later my sister, Tina, also made a profession of faith.
So after years of trying, praying, arguing, and crying – my entire family had come to Christ! Dad would eventually become a deacon and Dominic became the youth director.