Most Christians are familiar with the Old Testament story of Jonah, who tried to avoid the voice of God when he was commanded to go and preach repentance to the city of Ninevah. Jonah was not inclined to obey, since Ninevah was the capital of the Assyrian empire, one of Israel’s fiercest enemies, and was infamous for its wickedness. Jonah’s subsequent actions almost cost him his life. Not only did he end up “all wet,” he learned the hard way that he could not avoid the will of the Lord.
However, he didn’t exactly seek God as his father had admonished. Instead, he pursued the pleasures of life with the motto of “eat, drink, and be merry.” At the end of the Christmas and New Year festivities of 1975-1976, he admits he could not have heard the promptings of the Spirit had they come: “I had drunk too much, without control or reserve,' Brother Vandam explains. “I also slept more than necessary, which is to say, from Saturday until the early hours of Monday. That Monday I didn’t go to work because of excess of liquor. Tuesday, I woke up very refreshed and finally went to work. When I arrived a few meters from my workplace, I felt the Spirit of God chastising me for consuming alcohol and following the behavior of my friends.”
Brother Vandam knew the Lord wanted a promise from him that he would not do it again, which was a big promise, so he hedged and made a commitment to “not consume alcohol for at least one year.” Then he asked the Lord for a favor: to remind him of the commitment he had made.
He left with the assurance that he would be reminded in due course at the same place. Despite the magnitude of his experience, he gradually forgot about it as the year wore on.
However, he reports, “One year later, as I had forgotten, the Lord stopped me at the very same place and at the same time. He reminded me of our conversation and the promise I had made.”
Once again, he asked the Lord for a favor first. He was planning a trip to Europe and did not have enough money to get a passport or pay for the trip. He promised the Lord that if He would help him, “This trip will be to a country of Thy choice, one that will welcome me in order to discover other things according to Thy will.”
As it turned out, he was able to get his finances together enough to take a flight to Belgium. He reports, “When I arrived in Belgium, I met two full-time missionaries who approached me and introduced me to the message of the restored gospel of the Lord. “
Brother Vandam was now a believer in the power of God. He agreed to meet with the missionaries again and attended sacrament meeting with them the following Sunday. He says, “Since that first Sunday meeting in 1980, I have never been absent from Church a single day....” Brother Vandam continued to grow in the gospel. He was ordained to the priesthood and served faithfully in different callings.
Shortly after he was ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood, he was given a different challenge. He says, “ I might have stayed in Brussels forever, but Brother Marcel Khane, Counselor in the Brussels Stake, told me that the Lord needed me to strengthen His Church to save my brothers and sisters in the DR Congo and Africa.'
This time Brother Vandam simply nodded in agreement. He didn’t hedge for more time, and he didn’t request a favor first. He simply obeyed.
He knew the Lord had said: “When thou art converted, warn your brothers and sisters.” He encourages others, “Listen to the whisperings of the Holy Spirit. When you come across such a brother on your way, never resist his testimony.” And when you hear a retelling of the story of Jonah, try to be a little understanding. Some of us just take a little longer to learn than others.
Excerpted from Il Etait Une Fois, Un Homme Qui Voulait Eviter La Voix de Dieu.