In 1902 Joakim Gundersen received Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. From that day forward, he made it his life’s mission to tell others of his Savior. On October 30, 1959, Joakim wrote the letter below to encourage his grandson and to share his testimony.
Dear Willmore, I have long thought of sending you this letter. I hope you can understand my handwriting. I could write about the seasons, the weather, people or cattle. But there is something more important than that. I want to ask about where you are spiritually!
You are young and I am old, but we still have much in common. Please listen and don’t reject what I am saying, as I believe it can be of good help for you all through life. Life can be divided into two segments. You can live according to the flesh, your old nature. Or you can live according to the Spirit, the new nature we receive from Jesus.
My father and mother were Christians. They taught me about Jesus in my childhood. I was taught to pray. I went to Sunday school. In grade school we had Christianity as one of our subjects. And I learned many things in Confirmation.
But I did not remain in that childlike faith. After Confirmation I wanted to live the way I felt like living. My mother’s and father’s warnings went by the wayside. I lived according to my own desires until I was 20½ years of age. God was calling me during those years, but I did not want to listen. I just wanted to live my own life and have fun. I followed the way of the world. Contentment and peace never lasted very long. Finally, a great conversion took place in my life.
Here is the story: I went out to sea and sailed on ships at the age of 15. It wasn’t long before I got malaria fever, and I was sent back to Europe. I was very sick. One of the men on board the ship said to me, “You’ll never get home to see your mom again. We are going to have to fix up the goat quarters, and make it into a church before we throw your dead body overboard.” However, I believed that the God of my mother had power over me though I was so sick and weak. This happened in 1896. The following year, 1897, was a good year at sea. I was healthy. We had good weather and no storms. I felt great, with no sickness.
In 1898 our ship sprang a leak and sank in the North Sea. I lost everything. We drifted in the water until rescued by an English fishing boat. During this experience the Lord was calling me. I prayed to the Lord and promised I would be a good young man, but I didn’t keep my words of promise. I did my own thing and lived it up, and then I got sick once again. They had to get me to a hospital where I stayed three months, very near death. Once again I prayed and told the Lord I would change. Again, I did not keep my promise.
In 1899 I sailed, for a short time, on a boat where the captain prayed to Satan. The boat was in sad shape. Things were not good on board. “I’m going to hell on our next voyage,” the captain said. That’s the way it went. On the next voyage the boat, men, even the mice onboard, were destroyed and went down into the sea.
Then in 1902, the last boat I worked on was called Spira. This boat sailed from Risør, Norway between Christmas and New Year’s. I was on board that boat 4½ months. I left the boat when we landed the 17th of May in Lillesand, Norway. While on board that boat, the Lord really called me in a powerful way. In the middle of the night we were sailing in the North Sea. A voice called out my name, “Joakim!” I said, “hello,” but nobody answered back. I lay down once again and this voice called out once again, “Joakim!” That same night I had this dream:
There was going to be a war between Jesus and the devil, on a big open field next to a mountain. The devil, with all his followers, was ready to fight. I was on the devil’s side, standing not far from him. But then Jesus came, with just a few people following him. Jesus called out to me and said, “Joakim, whose side do you want to fight on?” I turned and saw millions of people on the devil’s side. I didn’t know what to answer Jesus. But then it was as if I could hear my mother whisper in my ear, “Remember, this is Jesus who is speaking to you.” Hearing this, I called out with a loud voice, “I want to be with you!”
As I was running over to Jesus, I woke up. Right then and there I asked Jesus to save me. I also prayed that I could become sick, so that I might be released from the ship, and then I did get sick. During that time of sickness I was saved. The Word of God opened my heart to the Lord. As I read the Bible, I felt like the lost son that had left his father, and now was returning home. I experienced the great, great love of my heavenly Father.
A pastor later said to me, “Just as that father loved his wayward son, who returned home penniless and in miserable shape, that’s the way God loves you.”
“Oh my, is that true?” I said. “Has the Lord really loved me like that? Then I want to love him in return.” From that moment to this day, I have had assurance of salvation. Yes, Jesus is with you every day until your life is over. Don’t wander off to the right or left. Remain in him and he will remain in you. In that way you will be building your life on a sure foundation. Yes, on a sure foundation, because Jesus is that foundation.
These are important things I want you to be aware of, Willmore. This has been my life experience these last 58 years. Nobody is like God. Nobody is as good as God. If you want to see him and hear him, follow him. Jesus Christ has all the answers. He solves all of life’s problems and puzzles. Take to heart that which you have heard. This is your grandfather’s personal life experience.
I greet you with 2 Timothy 2:2, 11-13, 15—“You have heard me teach many things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Teach these great truths to trustworthy people who are able to pass them on to others.
“This is a true saying: If we die with him we will also live with him. If we endure hardship, we will reign with him. If we deny him, he will deny us. If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself.
“Work hard so God can approve you. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth.”
I lovingly greet you. Greet your parents, sister, Leif, and Johannes.
Joakim Gundersen was born in Risør, Norway on August 26, 1880. He died March 15, 1972. Joakim and his wife Tora had ten children.