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The Pink Backpack

My name is AnnaLisa and this is a story about something that Josh did 30 years ago that changed my life.

By the time I was in my second semester as a freshman at UCLA, Satan had convinced me of 2 things:

  • My life was worthless.  I had entered college a drama major with dreams of becoming an actress and soon found I was not as talented as I thought I was among so many other talented young men and women.  I also had gotten Rubella—German Measles—and was unable to go to many of my classes.  As a result, I was on academic probation and the fear of failure was overwhelming.  I no longer felt like I had a future and I thought I was a great disappointment.
  • I was utterly alone.  I had been in a relationship with a boyfriend during which I neglected my friends, and when we broke up, I felt I had no one.  To compound that, my mother had moved out to go back to school to get her law degree and had completely abandoned us kids.  Satan made me think no one cared whether I lived or died.

So, one night I walked up to the 7th floor in my dorm and out onto the patio.

I was feeling so sad and worthless and alone and my intention was to jump over the railing and end my life.  I gripped the railing and tried leaning over, but I couldn’t do it because I realized that I was afraid of heights.  So I knew I needed to come up with another plan.  This time, I decided to throw one of my legs over the railing and straddle it and just tip over at the count of three.  This way I wouldn’t have to look down.  I began counting: 1. . .2. . .then I heard someone behind me say “Wait.”

I was surprised because I hadn’t noticed anyone else on the balcony with me, so I spun around and looked, but there was no one there.  I began shaking.  Even though I wasn’t religious, I asked,  “God, is that you?”  I didn’t hear an answer.  So I got down from the railing and made God a deal.

“Okay God, if that’s you, I’ll give you 24 hours to intervene in my life, and if nothing miraculous happens, I’m going to come back up here and finish the job.”

The next morning I was walking back to my dorm in a fog when I saw a large group of about 300 students gathered around a man preaching on our campus (it turns out it was Josh McDowell). I had to get past them and I was at the back of the crowd making my way around.  I wasn’t really listening to him, he was saying something about Jesus, when all of a sudden he stopped talking for a few seconds.

 “Hey you, you with the pink backpack!”

“Hey you, you with the pink backpack!”

Then he said in a loud voice, “Hey you!”

I kept walking (of course he wasn’t talking to me).

Then he said again, “Hey you, you with the pink backpack!”

I thought, “That’s funny, I have a pink backpack.”

So I looked over at him and he was pointing at me.  Everyone was looking at me.

Then he said, “God’s been talking to you, hasn’t He?”

I started to say “No,” but then I remembered the Voice that had said ”Wait” the night before and I nodded my head.  He then told me that God had just given him a message for me and that if I would wait a few minutes with his assistant (he pointed to a lady standing near him), when he was done, he would tell me what that message was.  Of course, I was curious so I agreed.

When he finished speaking, he came over to me and said, “I don’t know what this means, but God told me to tell you that He loves you and He has a wonderful plan for your life.”

I started crying.  Then Josh asked me if I knew Jesus.  I said I knew that He was Joseph and Mary’s son and the Son of God.  I was raised Catholic and was very confused.  Then he asked if Jesus was my Lord and Savior.

I said irritably, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

He said, “Do you have a few minutes to talk?  I’d like to tell you about how you can have a new life with Christ.”

Well, that sounded pretty good to me—I didn’t think my current life was any good so I spent about an hour with him and his assistant that day.   The next day I met with his assistant in the cafeteria and she answered my questions.  Finally I told her I wanted to become a Christian and she asked if she could pray for me.  I thought she meant she would go home and pray for me, but she put her hand on my head and asked me to repeat after her.

At first, I was embarrassed, but when I realized what I was doing, I was so excited that I didn’t care what people thought.  I confessed that I was a sinner and thanked Jesus for dying on the cross so that I could have eternal life and I invited Him into my heart to be my Lord and Savior.  The day I accepted Christ, I was walking back to my dorm and it suddenly struck me that God wanted me to become a teacher.  After that, she connected me to a Christian group (Campus Crusade for Christ) on campus that helped me grow in my faith.

Here’s the weird twist to the story:

4 years ago Josh McDowell was invited to come and speak to the parents at our school.  I thought it would be great if I could somehow get an opportunity to briefly speak to him and simply tell him that he had had a big impact on my life and to thank him (I’d let him think I’d read his books or heard him speak).  He knew nothing about my suicide attempt, etc.   Well, I found out there would be an intermission so I came to our theater early and sat in the front row so I could make a beeline for him as soon as intermission came.  (I had also heard he was leaving abruptly after the show).

Sure enough, as soon as intermission came, I ran for his podium and quickly stammered, “I know you won’t remember me, but . . .” and he interrupted me, by pointing at me and saying, “The girl with the pink backpack.”

I was shocked and immediately choked up (I still can’t recall this without getting teary).

“How did you remember me after 30 years?” I asked.

He told me that the message God had given him for me was so powerful that he had never forgotten it.  I let him know that it had saved my life.  That I had been planning on committing suicide that night and that message stopped me.  I added that as a result, I had also become a teacher and that I was a teacher there at the school and for over 26 years had impacted hundreds of lives.  I asked him if I could give him a hug and he allowed me to give him a little sideways hug. Everyone else standing there listening was awed by the encounter.