The first unlikely encounter with the gospel occurred when John Tice was racing his motorcycle from Amsterdam, New York to the Marine Corps Base in Camp Pendleton, California.
As he sped across the country on his bike, he glimpsed two other bikers, heads down and speeding, attempting to catch up to him. John wasn’t about to slow down or stop, but as the two reached him, one pulled beside him. To John’s surprise, he reached out with one arm to give him something. Still riding, John took what turned out to be a small tract about the gospel and stuck it in his pocket.
Though he didn’t fully understand the tract, the unusual meeting stuck with him, and God would use a series of unlikely encounters with the gospel to change John’s life. It’s a story that paints a picture of a creative Savior, lovingly designing places for us to meet Him in ways we’d never expect.
“One weekend, while enlisted in the Marine Corps, I headed to a motel room to get away from base for few days – this was just before I went on a long overseas tour. I spent the time drinking and enjoying a motocross race. As I got ready to return to base, I pulled open a dresser drawer and spotted a Gideon Bible. Knowing I’d have a good deal of downtime during my tour and figuring I’d just found overseas reading material, I stuffed the Bible deep into my duffle bag.”
John had never read the Bible before. The youngest of four, he grew up in Gloversville, New York. As he puts it, his father divorced his family when John was only six years old. Though he couldn’t articulate it then, he felt abandoned and developed a deep-set anger. Driven by this anger, he often got into fights, and at the age of 16, the Marine Corps became another way for him to fight.
Then, through what can only be described as the grace of God, John picked up that Bible.
“Aboard the ship in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, I opened the Bible. I started at the beginning in Genesis and didn’t understand much of what I was reading. By the time I got to Leviticus and its strange particulars about lambs and the sacrificial system, I shut the book in confusion.”
But John believes the spirit of God was moving even then. “For the first time, I saw that God had a problem with sin. Sin, to me, was never an issue. It wasn’t a matter of right and wrong – it was a matter of consequence.”
Months passed, and the 1st Marine Division returned to the States. They lived in close quarters at Camp Pendleton, and John still harbored a great deal of anger. “There were these twins in my platoon I used to make fun of. They were these radical guys who were always talking about their faith with others, but I’d never known a Christian and didn’t want to.” John kept his distance. “But,” he says, “the Holy Spirit still pursued me in a very creative way.”
One day, a fellow marine asked John to keep his boom box for him while he was away. “I was only able to receive one radio station in my car [on the boom box]. That station was a Christian broadcast, and reluctantly, I began listening to it.”
John began to drive his car just to listen to the radio station and the pastors who preached from the Bible.
“Then, on the evening of March 21, 1985, I heard a pastor clearly connect the lamb I learned about in Leviticus, while in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, with the Lamb whose death on the cross was the final and ultimate sacrifice for our sins. The Spirit of God just opened my eyes. I felt very strongly that I needed a lamb. At [the pastor’s] invitation to pray for forgiveness and to receive Jesus as Savior, I sat there alone in my car, bowed my head, and surrendered my life to Christ.”
The transformation was immediate. Someone in his platoon heard about the changes John was making in his life and invited him to church. There, John saw the twin brothers he’d always made fun of. “They could not have been more shocked if they’d seen a ghost in that room. One of the brothers grabbed me and asked what I was doing there. I told him that I’d given my life to Jesus. ‘We never shared with you,’ he said, ‘We thought you’d never trust Christ.’ Here I was, having lived in the states for 21 years, and I only had two indirect gospel interactions. But God used all of that in my life.”
In a way John could never have imagined, he’d encountered Jesus. And he describes how Jesus brought life and light into an otherwise spiritually dead, lost, and angry soul, “My life has not been the same since that evening. My sins were washed away, my offenses to God were pardoned, and all things were truly made new!”
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved.” Eph. 2:4-5
After his enlistment, John Tice felt called to full-time ministry and has served as a Children’s Missionary and Children’s Pastor for over 30 years. He currently serves on staff as Children’s Minister. John and his wife, Andrea, have three children, Laura (23), David (21), and Emily(15). They have been members of Brook Hills since 2013.