A Changed Man

Jim Boone was raised in a Christian family in a small North Carolina town known for tobacco and barbecue. His family was very active in the local Methodist church. Over the years, he had many godly Sunday school teachers speaking into my life. 

“Sir, Why Are You Giving These Things Out?”


After high school, Jim enrolled at North Carolina State University to pursue an engineering degree. “But my real focus was on surfing and partying, resulting in me growing far away from my Christian upbringing,” remembers Jim. During his senior year of college in May of 1973, he had an encounter that changed his life. One afternoon, he left his school building and came upon a group of men who had a box on the sidewalk filled with Testaments.

Several of Jim’s classmates scoffed at them. Jim had a different reaction and said, “Wait a minute, I think I want to have one of those.” He asked one of the men, “Sir, why are you giving these things out?” For the first time, he heard about The Gideons International. He took that Testament, and a few weeks later put it in his backpack as he left North Carolina hitchhiking to surf in California. Over many weeks, Jim experienced numerous lonely moments sitting around a campfire at night or on the side of the road. He would pull out that Testament and read the Helps section looking for guidance and read about God’s love for him.

“Get Out of the Water!”


Jim made it to California, bought a surfboard, and hitchhiked to many of the beaches to surf. He met two lifeguards going to Mexico, and they invited him to go with them. They traveled in a van along the coast of Mexico and many weeks later came to Playa Azul—the blue beach about 1,400 miles below the Arizona border. They surfed there, rented a cabana, and stayed for a couple of months. One day, they were out surfing beautiful 15-foot waves, which was significant for Jim. He got tired of surfing, so he went to the beach, got his underwater camera, and swam back out to take pictures of his friends. He noticed the beautiful scenery, including the blue waters of the Pacific Ocean, the cloudless sky, and the lush tropical forest that came right down to the beach edge.

Suddenly, one of his friends paddled up to him and said, “Get out of the water! We’re swimming in a school of feeding sharks.” He turned and left Jim alone in the ocean. Jim had two distinct thoughts in his mind at that moment. The first thought was: I’m about to die. He was about 200 yards from the beach, and he knew what sharks could do. Even if they didn’t eat him or tear off one of his arms, they could bite and he could bleed out before he got to the beach. They were about a mile down this lonely beach from where they had parked their van, and then it was about five miles to the nearest town. Jim knew his chances of getting to that beach alive were slim. The second thought he had was just as clear: I’m not going to heaven. “I had learned about God all my life, but I didn’t really know God,” Jim sadly recalled.

“I had learned about God all my life, but I didn’t really know God.”

“I Want to Know You”


As Jim swam for that beach, he said, “God, I realize how foolish I’ve been living. I want to know you.” Thankfully, he got to the beach. A couple of days later, he got on a bus headed back to North Carolina to see a Christian friend who was also a surfer. Jim knew he would tell him about Jesus. A couple of nights later, in the Sonoran Desert, about six Mexican army men stopped their bus at around two in the morning. Jim was led off the bus by himself, and as he looked at the bottom of the stairs, there they were with guns pointed right at him. A Mexican army officer shook his pistol at him and yelled for him to get back to the bus. He pulled Jim’s backpack off, and the men started going through it.

He pulled all the clothes out. Then, one of the soldiers pointed to the flap on his backpack and said, “Look there.” The officer reached in, and he pulled out his Testament. “Que es?” (What is this?) Jim replied, “Mi Biblia” (my Bible). The officer looked at the Scripture and smiled as he handed it back to Jim. He put his pistol back in his holster, waved his men away, and told Jim to get back on the bus. That Testament had kept him away from prison, and Jim felt it was one of the most important things he could ever own.

“Lord…Will You Save Me?”


“That night, it was as if the Lord Jesus himself stood in my bedroom,” remembers Jim. Up until that moment, he probably assumed salvation was by works. However, now he knew Jesus was the Savior, and He died not just for the sins of the world, but He also died for him. As he slid down to the floor on his knees, Jim prayed, “Lord, I’m so sorry. Will you save me?” He did not know how to pray with eloquence—he just spoke from the heart of his need for Jesus to come into his life. As he stood to his feet, he knew he was a changed man.

The Bible had new meaning every time Jim read it. Each time he went to church, he felt as if the pastor prepared each sermon just for him. He called his girlfriend and told her about Christ—Jim told her she needed to be saved. She said, “I see a change in you. Tell me what happened.” He opened the Word, and he talked to her about Jesus, and she was truly born again as a result. The couple got married a few months later and recently celebrated their 47th wedding anniversary.


A young pastor and his wife took them under their wings and discipled them, continually grounding them in the Word. Jim and his wife started serving during worship services and in other areas of the church. They worked in the nursery and as young married Sunday school teachers. Jim was a deacon and is now an elder overseeing their Sunday school and prayer ministry.


“I wish I could find that Gideon to tell him how much I appreciate him giving me that Testament,” says Jim. He is grateful for the faithfulness of Gideons in the Gospel, their love of God’s Word, and the lost. “Keep on—be faithful until the end.”

I wish I could find that Gideon to tell him how much I appreciate him giving me that Testament.

Share in the effort