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Turning Point

Jim Vaus

November 6, 1949 was a turning point in the life of my father, Jim Vaus. Up until that day, he had recently been working for gangster Mickey Cohen and others in organized crime. He had designed an electronic system for past post betting on the race horses for a friend of Mickey named St. Louis Andy. My father figured out a way to intercept and delay transmission over the Continental Wire Service for 90 seconds, not long enough for authorities to notice, but just long enough to signal their team the winning results of horse races so that they could make bets off track and clean up the cash every time. My father's "gang" was very successful controlling race results coming into Southern California via Arizona. Thus, he was scheduled to go to St. Louis on November 10, 1949, to set up his electronic system to control the entire western half of the United States in illegal off-track betting.

However, my father never made that meeting. For on the sixth of November he happened to attend a tent meeting at the corner of Washington and Hill in Los Angeles where a young preacher named Billy Graham was speaking. My parents went into the tent on the spur of the moment because they had nothing better to do that day and my father was curious. That night, Mr. Graham preached on the passage of Scripture where Jesus said, "What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world but lose his own soul?" (Mark 8:36) My father felt like that question was personally addressed to him. He had made lots of money working for Cohen and others in organized crime, but he had also seen people killed right in front of him, and he wondered how long his life might last.

When Mr. Graham gave the invitation that night he said something to the affect of: "There is a man in this audience tonight who has heard this message many times before, but he has never given his life to Christ, and this may be his last opportunity."

My father felt like God was speaking directly to him. He turned to my mother and said, "I'll go." He walked the saw-dust trail to the front, and knelt in the prayer tent where he said, "God, if you'll mean business with me, I'll mean business with you. If you can straighten out this messed up life of mine, you can have all of it."

Dad kept his promise to God made that night. He broke ties with organized crime and set about repaying everyone he had cheated or stolen money from. When he was finished with restitution, he and my mother did not have anything left. But God provided for their needs all along the road of life.

My father later found out from the FBI that had he gone to St. Louis on November 10, 1949, he would not have lived more than thirty minutes past his arrival. A rival gang was set up to kill him there. That night in the revival tent was truly his last opportunity to get right with God.

I am grateful for Billy Graham, whose 97th birthday is tomorrow. I am grateful for the good news of Jesus Christ he has preached so faithfully over a long life. I am thankful for the decision my father made on November 6, 1949 to turn his life over to Jesus Christ. If it wasn't for that decision, my father never would have lived past November 10, and I never would have been born.

My father never forgot those important dates in his life. Years later he enjoyed piloting his own plane. I can still in my memory hear him calling out the identification number of his plane to the control tower: "November One Zero Juliet Victor"--N10JV--that all important date, and his initials.

I wonder if today might be your appointment with destiny, the turning point in your life, when you turn control of your life over to Jesus Christ?  If you make that decision today, you will never be sorry. A whole new life can begin for you, as it did for my father, with a simple prayer. Why not pray something like this, right now....
Dear Jesus, I confess to you that I am a sinner. I believe that you are the Son of God who died on the cross for my sin. I believe that you rose again from the dead. I turn control of my life over to you. Come into my heart and life right now, and help me to live from this moment forward in fellowship with you and your Church. Amen.
I would like to know of your decision. If you write to me at I will be happy to send you some Christian literature that will be of help to you in your spiritual journey....


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