Mark I. Travin, M.D.

Department of Nuclear Medicine, Montefiore Medical Center

I was born and raised in a Jewish family. My mother's paternal grandfather was a rabbi, having immigrated to the United States from Eastern Europe at the beginning of the 20th century. I never knew him, but I knew well his son, my grandfather Harry, who was extremely devoted to orthodox Judaism, meticulously following the laws, including saying his prayers with tefillin every morning. No one else in my family was this devout (my parents joined a Reform Synagogue), and he made an impression on me. My grandfather had the pleasure of seeing me, his only grandson, go through Hebrew school. I remember how joyful and proud he was the day of my Bar Mitzvah. He passed away about 1 years later, just before I entered high school. I remember my mother commenting that all of his religious devotion was "for nothing."

In those days I, and I believe most of my friends as well, went to Hebrew school because our parents made us to do so. Yet, as I now look back, it is clear that I was beginning to develop a relationship with God. I recall praying frequently then, often for things such as for the New York Yankees to win baseball games, and often, to my surprise, this seemed to work against all odds. However, I would at the same time have doubts about the existence of God, something that I could not actually see, hear, or feel. I thought that God was perhaps something that I and society had created in our minds to make us feel good and to give meaning to our lives. Towards the end of my high school days and during college, I became influenced by the writings of Jacob Bronowski and Carl Sagan. Their message was that the way to truth and knowledge was through careful observation, experimentation, logical deduction, and testing one's conclusions to demonstrate a basis in reality, in essence, the scientific method. Bronowski and Sagan frequently warned against believing things that don't have a basis in reality as this at best can lead to myths and falsehoods, suppressing the real truths of the world and universe, and at worst can lead to intolerance and horrible destruction and inhumanity, such as in the case of Nazi Germany.

My belief in the scientific approach to truth was challenged, and at the time strengthened, by discussions I had with a Spanish boy named Nacho. I spent July, 1975 with him and his family in Bilbao, Spain. In those days, Spain was an authoritarian country, and this authoritarianism appeared to me to be pervasive throughout Spanish society, particularly in the religious undercurrent of the country, Roman Catholicism. Nacho began to try to convert me to Catholicism. He began by asking me an innocent sounding question: "Do you want to be something or someone?" Our discussions quickly became more intense, dealing with the "true religion", the concept of faith, being saved, damnation in Hell, etc. Nacho felt that there was only one way to salvation, and that everyone who didn't follow the "true religion" was wrong and condemned. I, being brought up in a pluralistic, democratic society, having been strongly influenced by ideas of tolerance and the scientific method, was extremely repulsed by Nacho's dogmatic and intolerant attitude, and felt that his kind of thinking led to many of the problems of the world.

From that point on, I had a strong antipathy towards organized religion. I continued to pray to God from time to time, feeling that my relationship with God, if he were real, was my personal business, and that I didn't need to go to a church or synagogue weekly to show this to others. I didn't feel that I needed to join an organized religion to interact with God, and that the only reason most people practiced a particular religion was because their parent's brought them up that way rather than it being their informed, thought out choice.

However, Christians kept appearing in my life in important ways. In medical school I became friendly with one of my anatomy partners, Lancelot. I was shaken when I found soon out that he was a devout Christian as I was fearful of a repetition of what had happened between Nacho and me. However, Lance seemed to have a more mature way of thinking and a tolerant attitude, although he was at the same time strong and firm in his beliefs.
At about the same time I was interested in a Chinese girl. Our final meeting ended with her surprising me by saying that a major reason that she could not have a relationship with me was because the most important thing in her life was God, and that she was becoming a Christian. She had never said this to me before, and I was very upset by it.

Finally, the roommate in medical school with whom I had the best relationship was Wayne, a devout Christian. He is a very kind and tolerant person, yet firm in his beliefs, and this also made an impression on me.

A major change in my life came when I met my wife Makiko at the end of medical school in 1983. I felt that a lot of my hopes and dreams had been fulfilled and that, if there were a God, prayers had been answered. At first I felt much contentment and thereafter didn't give much thought to God. However, this contentment was short lived as I had trouble finding fulfillment in either my wife, a son, or work. I reached a particularly low point in the fall of 1992.
It was shortly thereafter that I came to know a young intern at the hospital in which I worked named Hanchu. From the beginning I sensed that there was something special and different about her, but I couldn't quite "put my finger on it." I felt so comfortable talking to her, but at the same time nervous and scared. For some reason situations kept arising in which I could spend time with her. This created a tremendous conflict in me, with all kinds of feelings and enormous stress. One day in the Spring of 1993, in my car on the way to work, I began talking to God, asking Him to help me with this situation. A terrible contradiction had arisen in my mind between competing wishes, coupled with a strong desire for personal righteousness. I concluded that it was impossible for me on my own resolve the conflict, and that only God, if He existed, would be capable of solving my dilemma.

During that time I was surprised one weekend by a visit from my medical school friend Lance. It was nice to see him and his family after so many years, but at first I didn't think much else of it. However, later that week, I had a deep discussion with my friend Hanchu on a wide variety of issues. In response to something I asked, she said that only one thing mattered to her anyway. I asked what that was, and she said "CHRISTIANITY!" WOW! I was shocked. I understood that her being Christian was an answer to my prayer in the car, and this coupled with Lance's visit, convinced me that God was clearly speaking to me, that He must be real. The date was April 22, 1993, and I knew that I must immediately investigate the truth of Christianity. I told Hanchu that I wanted to know more, and she provided me with C.S. Lewis books: Mere Christianity and The Screwtape Letters, John Bunyan's The Pilgrims' Progress, and an NIV Study Bible. I wasted no time getting started. As I read, I felt that my eyes had been opened. The Gospels all seemed so clear and so believable to me. When I re-read Old Testament passages that I had last seen during my Hebrew School years, they now took on an entirely different meaning to me. Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac was a preview of God's sacrifice of His only Son. The blood of the lamb sparing the Hebrew first borns in Egypt was a symbol of the blood of Christ saving us. The perfect lambs without blemish for sacrifice in Leviticus pointed to the true, perfect, sacrificial lamb of God, Christ. The words of Jesus, I concluded, were not those of an ordinary human. Correspondence with Hanchu (who had moved to NY), interactions with colleagues at the church I was attending, and listening to radio teachings of Charles Stanley, Steve Brown, Gary Hedrick and others, strengthened my knowledge and faith. On January 1, 1995, at Barrington Presbyterian Church, with my wife Makiko, my children Daniel and Namiko, and my dear sister in Christ Hanchu present, I publicly accepted Christ as my savior and was baptized by Rev. Jim Lockhart.

As I look back, I can see how close God has been to me throughout my life, taking care of me and carrying me through multiple trials. All along the way He kept putting in my path Christians who so faithfully served the Lord. It was not because of any merit of mine, or anything good or special in me, but only that God loved me. I accept that love and His forgiveness of my sins through Yeshua Hamashiach, the Lord Jesus Christ. Praise the Lord! May His Name be glorified forever and ever!