Dale Walley, Elder Candidate
I was born and raised in the Deep South part of the Bible Belt and grew up attending church regularly with my family. My parents were not Christians early in my life, but very moral and made sure that their children had a good religious exposure to church and the Bible. What is quite amazing to me as I look back on my life is that it is clear to me that God was indeed working in my life as I progressed through grade school. When our church had what might be called a revival, although I don’t recall our denomination using that term, and we had services throughout the week both in the early morning and at night, I would ride my bike to the church service and then go on to school from there. One Christmas, my parents gave me a book about an NFL Football player that was not only successful in his career, but also made it his goal to introduce people to the reality of having a real personal relationship with God. I believe the book made an impression on me that an individual could actually know God and experience His presence in life.
As I arrived in Junior High, one of my good friends from elementary school was tragically killed. At the funeral, I kept wondering what happened to Sammy and where was he now. Also, praying “Now I lay me down to sleep….if I should die before I wake” all the years before was beginning to make me aware of my fear of death and if I died, what would happen to me! The next year we moved to another state and having to start all over with friends and leaving all my relatives created some stress and a kind of identity crisis about whether people would like me and what did I need to do to win the acceptance of others. I grew up loving sports, so being a good athlete seemed to be my best possible strategy for achieving success, gaining acceptance, and feeling significance as a person. That strategy didn’t get me where I hoped it would, but it did help me develop character and discipline. During my sophomore year in high school, I attended a youth crusade that had some amazing speakers like Bobby Richardson of the NY Yankees, an area war veteran who was severely wounded in the Vietnam War, and a former college athlete from the University of North Carolina that lettered in four sports. I was so impressed with their own personal testimonies of how they had come to know God through the salvation He offered in Jesus Christ. I walked forward to “accept Christ” with high hopes that everything would be different for me now. I will confess that not much changed in my thinking or behavior that I can remember. During my junior year, tragedy struck again as the younger brother of a classmate was killed while driving a tractor. At the funeral service, the minister spoke of the grief and sadness at David’s death, but his family knew where he was now. I remember wondering in that Presbyterian Church how anyone could actually know for sure that they would go to Heaven when they died and my desire to know such truth had become a reality that I wanted to experience for myself.
I really enjoyed my senior year in high school. I was the president of our church youth group and looking forward to going to college, although the uncertainty of the future and a fear of death were still present. Another youth crusade was planned for the three small towns in our area only weeks before graduation. I was asked to be an usher. I suppose most adults thought I was a fine young man, but I knew of the sinful impulses that constantly confronted my thoughts and tempted me to do things that I knew were wrong. As the evangelist was preaching and I stood at the rear of the auditorium, it seemed to me that all the “pieces of a complex religious puzzle” all came together for me in a sudden and dramatic way. For the first time Christmas, Easter, the Cross, Communion, and numerous hymns all pointed to a gracious God who loved me and offered me eternal life through His Son. He gave me faith to trust in Him and to receive forgiveness in Jesus Christ. That night, I humbled myself before God and asked Him to forgive me for all of my sins which I understood had created a spiritual gulf between us. I dedicated my life to The Lord reasoning that He really did love me more than I could actually love myself and that since He created me, my future would be far more certain with God being the one in control instead of me. I became a child of God and my life did begin to change. The most significant change was in my assurance of the salvation God had given and I no longer feared death.
Spiritual growth was very slow during my freshman year in college. I was introduced to a recent college graduate who began to spend time teaching me some basic means of how to grow in my relationship with God. During college, I met Jan and we progressed from enjoying one another a great deal to getting married after graduation. The Lord has helped me over the years as a man, husband, and father to walk with Him and seek God’s will and glory in and through my life. Serving The Lord at Peace Presbyterian has been a very important aspect of my walk with Him along with my callings as a husband and dad. I continue to experience God’s grace and mercy in obvious ways every day of my life. My Mom is always telling me that I am very blessed by The Lord. I totally agree!
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