HANNIBAL – From loveable ne’re do well on TV’s “Growing Pains,” to one of the more prominent Christians in the entertainment world, Kirk Cameron shared the story of how Jesus radically changed his life at the Hannibal-LaGrange University Booster Banquet Nov. 19.
In a nod to his former life as a teen idol, Cameron “popped his collar,” reenacted a few scenes from “Growing Pains” and led the crowd in a sing-a-long of the show’s theme song, “As Long As We’ve Got Each Other.” But he was not there to relive his glory days; he was there to give the glory to Jesus.
“I was an atheist and if you told me that one day I would be doing faith-based projects like ‘Left Behind,’ ‘The Way of the Master’ or ‘Fireproof,’ I would have said you were out of your mind,” he said.
Wealthy beyond his wildest dreams at such a young age, Cameron said he reveled in his fame and rejected God.
“I didn’t need God,” he said. “In fact, I thought He was part of a different trinity: Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and Jesus. I laughed at the idea of a mighty God. The last thingI needed was a religious wet blanket to stifle all my fun.”
Cameron’s feelings began to change when a friend invited him over for the weekend, which included going to church on Sunday morning. He sat in the back row, bored, occasionally listening to the preacher.
“He taught from the Bible and he talked about things I was wondering about,” he said. “How the universe came into existence, about an almighty and holy God that created everything and sustains everything. He taught about how Man is His creation and how we chose to disobey God. He described sin and how it rears its ugly head in a man or woman’s life. He taught from the Bible about a day of judgment and Heaven and Hell and eternity. He taught about God’s loving grace, and His kindness and mercy.
“I didn’t believe everything he was saying, but believed he believed it. I didn’t know that a preacher could be intelligent or articulate.”
Cameron was fascinated by this new spiritual paradigm and began to ask questions of his friend’s father. He began to investigate the claims of Jesus on an intellectual level and began to see that the facts lined up with the Bible’s teachings. Someone gave him a Bible and “it came alive” to him in its descriptions of Jesus Christ.
Soon, he found himself in the seat of his sports car on the side of the highway in Los Angeles praying to accept Jesus as his Savior and Lord.
“All I knew was that I had turned my heart to God in an honest and sincere way,” Cameron said. “When I opened my eyes, it wasn’t like I saw a vision of Jesus on the windshield or the Holy Spirit rushing in through the air conditioning vents. But my heart, my heart was changed. He saved me, not only from the penalty and the power of sin. I’m so grateful to God.
“Of all the things in my life I’ve done and all the people I’ve met, absolutely nothing compares to the joy of knowing Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.”
Second to meeting Jesus, Cameron said the most important person he’s ever met is his wife, Chelsea, who played his girlfriend on “Growing Pains.” They have six kids, including a son who attended the banquet with his father.
Noting that he never got to go to college, Cameron praised HLG for its Christ-centered mission.
“It’s so good to know that there is a college here that places such a high emphasis on the spiritual value of knowing Jesus Christ as the true and living God, the one in whom we find perfect forgiveness of sin and eternal life,” he said, to a rousing applause.
Cameron spent more than an hour after the banquet signing copies of his book, Still Growing.
BRIAN KOONCE/staff writer