As a 21-year-old living near the Cal-Berkeley campus, Victoria Shephard was on a spiritual quest, looking for answers. And though she wasn't sure where to find those answers, she was convinced that Christianity didn't have them.
"I used to be really angry at Christians," she says.
She taunted the street-corner evangelists on the Berkeley campus. She believed God was "a mean, vindictive God who would smite you for any little thing you did." And, after dabbling in the New Age for a while, she eventually became a witch.
"I was initiated as a witch in 1992," Victoria says. "I practiced Wicca for about four years. I liked the rituals. I also liked the honoring of a female deity and the idea that the power is in your hands."
But of course, the ultimate power was in the hands of God, who would soon bring into Victoria's life a Christian man with a passion for sharing his faith on the Internet.
Despite her commitment to Wicca, Victoria ultimately grew to respect Christians and wanted to learn more about their faith a faith she'd briefly encountered as a four-year-old in a Baptist school.
So she logged onto the Net and dropped by the soc.religion.christian newsgroup and started asking questions. One day in February 1996, she chimed with this one: In one hundred words or less, why are you a Christian instead of something else? Why do you believe? Please, no sermons. I've had quite enough. I just want to know why you believe what you do. Thank you.
A Canadian businessman named Charles Scott read Victoria's question and responded. "I asked her why she was a Wiccan," Charles recalls. "That led into [an ongoing e-mail] conversation about the differences between Wicca and Christianity."
The conversation continued for the next few months. Initially, both attempted to convert the other, but their conversations quickly became more informal and friendly. As Charles puts it, Victoria became a "pen pal who happens to view things differently than I in some important areas."
"He became invaluable to me over the next few months," says Victoria. "He helped to answer my questions and concerns. I believe he was truly sent from God because the timing was too perfect. I asked him questions about God, who God is, and what becoming a Christian had done for him. He gave me honest answers and his e-mails really helped push me toward Christ."
They averaged three e-mails a day to each other in April, 1996. Finally, on the morning of May 3, prompted by the Holy Spirit, Charles sent Victoria an uncharacteristically emotional e-mail, pleading with her to come to faith in Christ. "Basically I appealed to her to let God in, that the happiness that she sought was not going to be found apart from God, and that the peace that she was seeking was not going to be found apart from God."
That night, Victoria called Charles at his home in Canada and told him that she wanted to accept Christ in her life. And so, four years to the day after her initiation into Wicca, Victoria switched her allegiance to Jesus Christ.
And she's eternally grateful to Charles and the Net for that decision.
"Charles played a huge part in my conversion," she says. "I began seeking God and when I did, Charles came along. Our e-mail conversations had a huge impact on me."
Now, more than three years later, Charles and Victoria still find time in their busy lives to stay in touch. Through e-mail, of course.
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