Why am I Sharing Some of My Story…
Part 1: The 1st 24 years
I want to be clear, the reason for my testimony is single focused, to tell about how God through His Son Jesus Christ (Yeshua haMashiach) can change a life and that the acknowledgement of this through my life summary, will cause the reader to glorify God! To those who may not know Jesus Christ as Lord, my hope is that you would be encouraged and moved to ask Christ into your life and heart! Time is running out and the window will close, so I implore you to surrender to Jesus The Messiah now!
Well I’ll start with this. I’m a husband, a father, a brother a friend and a servant of The Lord Jesus Christ or in hebrew Yeshua haMashiach. I am a Jew who has accepted Yeshua, Jesus as my Messiah! Providing you with a brief summary of my earlier years is probably a good place to start… By the way this is only a summary of how I met The Lord. It would take pages upon pages to tell every detail. I’m highlighting the main points.
Summary of My Life Growing Up…
The picture I’ve attached is a picture when I was about 4 years old. I’m the little guy smiling to the left. I still do that today… The kid to my right is my older brother Gary who is always up to no good. I always got blamed for his shenanigans. My mom, Arlene is behind us.
This photo was taken 2 years after my birth father, Seymour Wexler died at the young age of 26. I was under 2 years of age when he was taken from us in a car accident on the 5 freeway in the L.A. area. He was driving home from work, the Cowboy Restaurant that he co-owned with his parents and my grandparents. It was late at night and as he was entering the freeway a truck with no running lights was in front of him. He didn’t see the truck and his car at a high rate of speed went under the truck and he was killed instantly. My mom lost the love of her life in that fearful moment. My dad and mom grew up together in Brooklyn New York in the Jewish quarter. After that night my mom could not talk about her loss of my father, it caused her great sadness to talk about.
My mom had to move in with her grandparents home where we lived until I was about 4 years old. Below are some photo’s of my father Seymour and my mom at their wedding and my grandparents Sam and Miriam whom I adored and my step-dad Bruce McCarroll with my mom Arlene.
I should note here that after my mom and Bruce got married, Bruce McCarroll adopted me and my older brother Gary and our last name was changed from Wexler to McCarroll. My parents thought that as they had more children it would be easier on all of us if we had the same last name. Here’s a photo of all of us kids, Me, Gary, Charles and Stacey along with my mom. Of course we’re all much older now…
Now that I’ve introduced you to a few family members, let’s continue with my story.
I come from a Jewish family on both sides. My great grandparents were Orthodox Jews, my grandparents Sam and Miriam were reformed Jews. My family ties are from Eastern Europe. Sam came to the USA, New York by way of Ellis Island when he was two years old. He was brought here underground from Russia at the time the Czar was being overthrown by the Communists. My grandparents on my moms side, Samuel Hummelevsky and Miriam Solomon. My grandparents on my birth dad’s side, David Wexler and Leah Cohen are the first two – to the right of my mom.
I grew up in La Habra, California USA in an upper Middle Class neighborhood. Things were good and we had a comfortable lifestyle. My father Bruce owned a large trucking company with his father John C. Whittaker and they trucked produce and cattle throughout the USA and Canada. I spent a lot of time with my dad, when I could, at the shop, and it was my desire to walk in his footsteps and eventually learn his business and take it over for him when he wanted to retire. Things didn’t work out as I had hoped. I’ll get to that in a bit…
My first encounter with The God of Israel! Yeshua haMashiach…
As I mentioned above I grew up in a reformed Jewish home. My brother Gary and I were very close growing up. Everywhere he went I went. If he got in trouble I was there to help him and the same was true for me from my brother. Gary is 3.5 years older than me and I think we were so close because of the loss of our birth father Sy (Seymour). I have a vivid memory when I was 10 years old and Gary was 13 years old. We shared a bedroom and we were sitting on our beds talking and out of nowhere I asked him this question, “Gary, do you think that Jesus Christ could be the Messiah that our people have been waiting for?”
When I think about that question now at almost age 60, it just blows me away. For a 10 year old Jewish boy who had not been in a church and didn’t read the New Testament; what an odd question to ask out of thin air like that. My bother Gary said to me, “I was wondering about that too.” Remember my brothers comment, it will make a lot more sense later in my story. This was my first encounter that I knew of by The Holy Spirit in my life. There were other interventions by God in my life that I won’t cover here. Suffice it to say I should have died at least 5 times in my early life and I didn’t. All near death experiences I had I consider to be miracles of God, God intervening in my life to save me from sure death. Let’s move on…
While in Junior High School I had been very successful in track and football. I hold records at Rancho Canada to this day. I was extremely fast and talented in the 50 and 100 yard dashes as well as the 440 relay. My record was undefeated. Our team was invited to a national event at the L.A. Coliseum where we would compete in The Junior Olympics. I remember that event like it was yesterday. The sights, smells, weather, the way it looked and felt from the field up to the stands, everything from that event is etched in my mind. When you think that 14 year olds were running and competing where some of our greatest athletes have played, wow, what an honor that was for all of us kids!
Our team won the gold medal in the 440 relay and I won the silver in the 50 yard dash. That silver was my first defeat ever in track. I lost because I broke a cardinal rule, never look at the guy gaining on you, that millisecond can cost you the race. I never had anyone that close to me before and I could hear my opponent breathing and I checked (glanced) at him to my right side at the last minute, he leaned into the tape and I didn’t and lost my first race by one inch. Big blow to me. I had to learn that humility and being humble is good for the heart and soul. All of the top track stars in every state took part in this competition. To place as our team did was quite a feat. See my pictures of the medals below:
back to my testimony… At age 15 my father Bruce had become really ill. He had various tests in the hospital and they determined that he would require surgery for some abscesses he had on his lungs, more than likely caused by smoking Camel non-filtered cigarettes. Being a WWII vet my dad had some demons he had to wrestle with and they got the better of him unfortunately and he became an alcoholic during the last 5 years of his life. He was never abusive physically, but his drinking did cause emotional scars on all of us, my mom included. So, my dad was checked into the VA hospital where he would undergo surgery to remove the abscesses on his lungs. My dad and I sat on the garage stoop a few days before he would go back to the hospital for his surgery, he was free from alcohol because his surgery was forthcoming.
He and I had a talk and he promised that once he recovered he would set a new course for his life and he and I would go on a fishing trip for a week together. At this point in my relationship with my father I had grown to see him as a man who had flaws but a man who wanted to make changes. During my yonger years my dad and I struggled in our relationship. By the time I was 15 a light went on and I began seeing my dad as someone who had very difficult experiences in his life and my level of respect for his accomplishments had grow immensly. By this time we had grown very close.
During this time I was a freshman in High School. I was on the football team. In 1971 we went to CIF and I was the starting running back. I was fast, quick and could out maneuver the opponents. I loved football and I had some talent scouts watching me from the L.A. Rams and elsewhere. While my dad was ill I had dropped out of all sports that I had loved. I felt lost and extremely lonely. I remember being in this VA hospital hallway. It was a long hallway and felt drab and lonely. I spent days there alone pleading with God to spare my fathers life. I cried out to God for His help. My mom and I were so exhausted waiting on my father, we needed some rest so we went home for one night to get some needed sleep and we would return the next day. At 2am the phone rang and I heard my poor mom screaming in her bedroom and crying profusely, just sobbing. I ran into the room and gently removed the phone from her hand and said into the receiver, “hello…” The doctor on the other end said what I dreaded. I heard, “we are sorry your father died 15 minutes ago.” My father was only 50 years old, how could this of happened? To say I was angry would be the understatement of the century. God had not answered my prayers and I thought at age 15…hell with you! I became an angry bitter 15 year old. I learned to bury my feelings and I grew further away from God as the days moved on. I was in so much shock I can’t remember much of my High School years. Large time segments are just gone – missing. It’s like the tape has been erased! I was so emotionally upside down that I passed out at school one day and was admitted to the hospital for ulcers. I was almost 17 years old at that time.
God Begins Drawing Me to Himself…
Something amazing happened at the end of my Sophomore year in High School. I met the love of my life, Karlyn Rhodes. Karlyn came from an interesting family. Her Dad invented the Fender/Rhodes electric piano. Amazing…
I met Karlyn at a tobacco shop where we had a mutual friend who worked there. I was there with a High School friend, Gary Rabco. Karlyn and I had an immediate attraction to one another. She played hard to get though. She was the most beautiful girl I had ever laid eyes on. I thought she would never go out with me, but I had to try. I fell in love the minute our eyes connected, no exaggeration!
As she was leaving to go home I walked out of the shop doors with my friend Gary and as I gazed at her walking away I said to Gary, “Gary you see that girl? I will marry her. She’s the most wonderful girl I have ever seen!” He looked at me with a look that said, are you crazy?
The time Karlyn and I spent together were hours and hours of talking and sharing our deepest feelings with one another. She listened to me recount my father’s passing and I listened to her tell me about the things that she had to wrestle with. Not to reveal very personal information, suffice it to say, we both had issues we were dealing with. That’s what made our relationship work so well. We were two young people who were misunderstood and we helped one another to cope with life’s challenges. Actually, we still do that 43 years later!
Well to make a long story short, we dated for 2 years and in 1975 I graduated early in January and by March of that year we were married. I was 18 Karlyn was 18 going on 19 in April.
It was at this time after we were married I began working for a food chain FedMart. FedMart gave way to Price Club and Price Club gave way to Costco. I digress… While at FedMart I met some Christians there and they began talking to me about Jesus Christ and how to know Him. They told me that if you talked to God in His name He would hear and answer you. I was blown away. How could I talk to God in His (Jesus’ name) name? Jews don’t believe in Him. Because of Him the catholic kids and I fought all the time because they accused me of killing Jesus. Because I had experience the Occult, I was intrigued to say the least. I met a fellow worker Jerry Buchsbaum. He was a really nice guy. Tall guy who was about 6-5. At break time Jerry would always read the Bible. I started doing what Jerry did, I started reading the New Testament and I began talking to God and Jesus. Jerry and I had numerous conversations. There was one conversation where I told Jerry, Jerry I’ve had it with this Jesus stuff and I took my index finger buried it into his chest and said not another word about Jesus, you knock it off or we will have major problems. He looked at me, down out at me because I’m shorter and put his finger in my chest and said vigorously, if you don’t ask Jesus into your life you’ll end up burning in hell! When he did that it bothered me and I remember thinking about that a lot. Those words haunted me for weeks.
This was about April of 1975. Karlyn and I were having real problems in our marriage and it looked like we might not make it. I was desperate to see if Jesus could help me and Karlyn. So, I would read the Bible for 4-6 hours a day. I couldn’t get enough of the New Testament. I was blown away by the Jewishness of Jesus Christ. Because I one time I was involved in the Occult and Ouija Boards when I read the Bible I felt like a dark evil cloud was hovering over me. It was awful and to be real, it freaked me out! I persisted though and kept reading the New Testament. I read the Bible so much that I was not spending time with my new bride like I should have. One day she took my Bible and tossed it into the bath tub out of frustration. Here’s a picture of my first Bible that Jerry, my new Born Again Christian friend gave to me.
It was May of 1975 when I was transferred to the FedMart in Westminster, California. It took about 30 minutes to get to work so I took that time to pray and talk to The Lord. In Westminster I had met Christians as well and my boss invited me over to his apartment to have lunch with him and his wife. Wherever I went Christians were there. They were everywhere! I felt like God was following me wherever I went. I was moved back to the La Habra store for a few weeks and during this time I had finished my shift at 8:30 am and after talking with co-workers I made my way to my car. Something very unusual happened to me before I got into my car. My hand was on the door handle and I heard in my mind coming from outside of myself, “Stephan!” I looked up and it felt as though time had stopped. All sound was gone. I was next to a Firestone Tire shop and I couldn’t hear the air gun removing lugs from tires any longer. I felt like I was in a chamber and I knew that THE ONE who called out to me was THE LORD! I answered, Lord…. He asked me a question. Today is the day that you need to decide to believe in me or not. Do you believe that I am your Messiah who died for you and is alive!? I said, “Lord all I know about you is what I have read in your Word. I believe you Jesus are my Messiah and THE MESSIAH of all the Jews and I put my faith in you based on what I have read. Help me to know you Lord and help me to serve you! At that very second after I answered all sound returned and I could hear the tire shop and I could move again. I got into my car and Satan attacked me by reminding me that to go home I would have to drive past my moms house and what would she think of me believing in Jesus Christ? He reminded me that my family would consider me a traitor to the faith and hold a funeral for me. I yelled in a loud voice, leave me alone! I choose Jesus Christ. I made my decision and I will live with the fall out. Jesus is my Lord and Savior…leave me alone!…
Time to tell someone I accepted Jesus…
My wife Karlyn had accepted The Lord at a Southern Baptist church in Anaheim, California when she was younger. She was a backslidden christian by the time we had been married. Why she went down this road I can’t really say for sure, except to say, I know her father wasn’t fond of her decision to be Born Again.
After I had accepted Christ I wanted to tell someone. Who better to tell than my wife, or so I thought. I remember coming home and walking into the bedroom where Karlyn was, I looked at her and said, “you’ll never believe what just happened to me. I think I’m what you would call Born Again! She looked at me with a look of surprise and frustration and said this, “what have you done? Don’t you know that God will never leave you alone and He will hunt you down if you fall away from Him. Now you have done it, your life will never be the same!” Karlyn’s response to what I thought would be great news was very shocking to me. You see, I knew that when my family was told this news I would be in for a very bad experience, but I never dreamed that my wife would see such a life changing experience as a bad thing. I must say after 41 years of walking with The Lord, what Karlyn said was rather prophetic because her words have proven to be true over the years. My life was never the same and He has never left me alone! I found out later why Karlyn was so frustrated because she wanted to be left alone by God and didn’t want to be confronted by The Holy Spirit. She thought she had it made because after all she was married to a Jew. God had different plans for her and he set those plans in motion the day I accepted Him into my life! Imagine that, God saves an angry Jewish youngman from Southern California and through that saving work in my life He would reach out to Karlyn and bring her back into the fold. God is good!
After 6 months of receiving The Lord, Jerry, our friend and Karlyn thought it might be time for me to start going to church and getting to know other believers. So we went with Jerry to Little Lake Baptist Church in Norwalk, California. I had never been to church before and I found it to be really fun and I thought the hell-fire Pastor was really energizing and entertaining too. I really liked going to Charlie Brown’s Restaurant after church, with the folks, to get a plate of biscuits and gravy. Loved those biscuits and gravy!
Well we continued to go to this little hometown church. I eventually got involved in teaching Bible studies, prayer ministry and resurrected the visitation ministry that had grown dormant at the church. I got on my Honda Motorcycle and visited and prayed with those who visited our church. I had a blast in this ministry!
One day my older brother Gary came over to our apartment to chit-chat and as we talked I told Gary that I had asked Jesus Christ into my life and that I had been reading through the New Testament and I had learned that Jesus is The Messiah we had been looking for. We talked for a few hours and we had shared some scriptures with Gary. My brother could see that my life was changing and changing fast in ways that was hard to imagine. I told my brother that I learned about repentance and forgiveness and that God had asked me to make a list of everyone I had harmed or sinned against and to contact them, one by one, to ask them to forgive me for what I had done to harm them. I told Gary that it took me a few days to get through the list, the list had grown to 2 full pages of names and phone numbers. This would be one of the most difficult things I would have to do. The Lord used this exercise in personal responsibility to teach me that our actions carry heavy consequences. But something great happened. The people I contacted all forgave me and for the first time in my life I didn’t feel guilty and weighed down any longer. All of a sudden Gary excuses himself and leaves to use the restroom and he was gone for a while. He came back into the family room and said his good-byes and quickly left. Karlyn and I just looked at one another and said what was that? We were puzzled.
While at Little Lake Baptist church I wanted to follow the example of Jesus and get Baptized. I arranged to get Baptized by the Pastor on a Wednesday evening. My older brother was there, his wife, Karlyn and Jerry along with the congregation. Amazing being Baptized. It felt so good to follow my Lord’s example. It was a special evening, a real special evening for me!
Earlier I had mentioned that my older brother Gary had left the apartment rather quickly. I found out a few months later that Gary had asked Jesus into his heart in our bathroom that day when he abruptly left. I asked him why he didn’t share that with us? He said, “I didn’t want anyone to know yet.” Well after I got Baptized who do you think Gary ran home to tell that Stephan got Baptized at a gentile church? You guessed it, Gary told our mother. Gary was testing the waters to see what mom’s reaction would be with me. I was his test to gage whether he should brave the waters of rejection from family. When mom found out that not only did I accept Yeshua, Jesus Christ as my Messiah but to further stretch my mom’s patience I got Baptized to boot! Well Gary found out what happens to those who accept Christ in our family! My mom went ballistic. My phone rang and I had to hold the receiver 3 feet from my ear. She basically said I was dead to the family and never to call. My joy had been turned into mourning because now I had to grapple with what my decisions had done to my mom and the entire family. The next shoe was going to drop. My grandma who I loved with all of my heart would have a funeral for me and light a candle for the dead, I was now dead to her, which is Jewish tradition in this case. When you think about my grandma was right I was dead to sin and no longer alive, Christ now lived in me! The relationship with my grandma and I never fully recovered from my decision to accept Christ. To the day she died our relationship was on the cooler side.
The relationship with my mom did get much better and she came around to believe that I had the right to make my own decisions about God in the way my heart was leading me. She chose not to discuss my faith and I respected her positions as well. I tried and made attempts to share my faith with her as did my older brother and Karlyn, but she maintained the position not to talk about our relationship with Jesus Christ. Our relationship was very close until her passing in August of 2008. My mother is sorely missed.
We continued going to the little church in Norwalk for about 6 years. We had moved on to Calvary Chapel where Pastor Chuck Smith was raising up many of today’s leaders, pastors and teachers. The late 60’s and early to mid 70’s had experienced in Southern California one of the greatest moves of God in memory. Revival was moving like a fire among the young people of that day in SoCal. It was called “The Jesus People” or “The Jesus Movement.” Calvary Chapel came out of this as did Jews For Jesus. I came to The Lord on the tail end of this movement and am I glad The Lord saved me! I will be forever grateful for the gift Jesus secured for me through His shed blood and His resurrection – eternal life.
I learned a lot at the Baptist church. I learned to love The Word of God. I learned the basics of teaching the Bible. I learned about prayer and I’m still learning about God’s love, grace and forgiveness. I’ll always have found memories of Little Lake Baptist Church!
My Leadership Experience in Service to The Lord…
- Currently Since The Year 2000 Prophecy Insight’s Podcast
- Middle East Peace Update Report (Analyzing Prophecy and The Word)
- Assistant Pastor Bethel Assembly of God in La Habra
- Pastor of Messiah Christian Fellowship Rialto California
- Senior Citizen Pastor (Karlyn sang and I read The Word)
- Sub-Pastor for Pastors on Vacation or Leave
- Campus Crusade For Christ “I Found It!”
- Usher and Visitation Minister
- Bible Study Leaders
- Food Ministry Leaders
- Intercessory Prayer Leaders
Part 2: The last 18 years… The Story Continues…
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