My name is Anthony Courtemanche. My wife Patt and I live in Tyngsboro with two children at home, Hannah, and Max. We have two other daughters who are out of the house and married: Amanda with her husband Andrew also in Tyngsboro, and Molly with her husband Stephen in Oregon.
My parents divorced when I was less than three years old, and I was raised by my grandparents on their farm in Lewiston, ME. My grandparents took me to Catholic Church regularly, and through Mass and 8 years of parochial school, I became very conscious of God’s standard of perfection, His righteousness. I also became very aware of how far I had fallen short of that standard, and how sin had made me guilty. Very guilty. As time passed on, this feeling of guilt, of missing the mark, grew and grew and grew. I felt like I was drowning in a sea of sin. I was at the bottom of a cliff of guilt, and sin was piling on top of me. I needed a rescue, but neither my church nor my religious education seemed to offer me any solution.
When I was twelve, my best friend and I spent a lot of time hanging out at the local mall to entertain ourselves by looking at the goods in the stores. Back then it was quite normal for kids our age to do things like this without parental supervision. One day, as we were walking out of the mall, someone stepped up to me and handed me a little booklet. I don’t remember seeing who gave it me. I don’t know if it was a man, or a woman, or whether it was a young person or an old person. I just remember a hand and the little booklet. Suddenly, my friend and I were standing outside the mall with these little gospel tracts in our hands.
As we sat on the bench waiting for my friend’s Mom to pick us up, we read the little tracts. I read about how I was a guilty sinner and deserved eternal punishment. That part was very familiar. But for the first time, I read about and understood God’s solution. Jesus had paid the penalty for my sin on the Cross at Calvary, and He had born the weight of my guilt completely before God. If I would just put my trust in Him, my sins would be forgiven, and I could benefit from a righteousness that wasn’t my own, but rather, the righteousness of Christ.
My friend and I each said the sinner’s prayer right there on the bench outside the mall. Things didn’t change for me right away that day, but that day really was the beginning of my rescue. My friend and I didn’t have transportation, so we couldn’t get plugged into a church where we could learn more about the gospel. But 6 months later, my friend’s 16-year-old cousin became a Christian, and he had a driver’s license and a car. This changed everything. This cousin began taking my friend and I to a little non-denominational church that was committed to the Bible. There, we learned about Jesus Christ, preached very simply from God’s Word. The faith and trust I placed in Jesus outside the mall reading that little booklet grew as I learned more about God’s plan presented in the Bible.
Today, I can trace every good thing in my life back to that rescue at the shopping mall. My involvement in music started at that little non-denominational church. I met Patt though the youth group there, and we played in a little worship band we started. By God’s grace, we got married only a few years later. My later achievements, where I went to college, my children, my professional career path, where I have had the opportunity to live, everything traces to that rescue. God has blessed me with so many interesting adventures, with the most interesting being many missions trips to Russia. I’ve met interesting people, made unique friends, gone to interesting places, and done wonderful things that I never thought would have ever been possible. All of this happened because God rescued me.
I hope someday in eternity I’ll meet that faithful person who handed me God’s rescue plan for my life. I don’t know who they are, but I’m so grateful for what they did. I’m not the hero in my story. And, as wonderful as they are for what they did, the person who handed me the tract is not the hero in the story either. The hero is Christ, who did what I couldn’t do, who did what none of us could do. Romans 6:23 says “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (NIV®) A rescue from death, a rescue to eternal life, not earned by me, but the gift of God, because of Jesus Christ.
If any of this story interests you, or you want to know more about God’s rescue plan, please come and talk to me. This is a story I love to tell, and I’d like to hear your story too.