GASTONIA, SC–Eight months ago, Larry Dunne was alone. He didn't have a friend in the world. But all that changed with his baptism at the New Hearts Fundamentalist Church. Ever since becoming a born-again Christian, Dunne has a friend through Jesus. "Let's see, there's Richard and Janet and Craig," said Dunne, a data technician at Quill Paper Distribution. "Oh, and Brent, too. He stands next to me in the choir. Now that I'm saved, I've got a whole bunch of friends."
Dunne said he has experienced a 180-degree turnaround since finding the Lord.
"Before I joined Christ's flock, everyone used to make fun of me and call me a weirdo," Dunne said. "But the people at New Hearts accepted me unconditionally–so long as I accepted Jesus Christ as my savior. Once I did that, all sorts of wonderful things followed, like having plans on Friday nights."
Dunne first became aware of the 37-member church during a Saturday-afternoon walk.
"I was wandering around the neighborhood by myself, much like Moses wandered the desert for 40 years, when I saw a sign for a church rummage sale," Dunne said. "I was only at the sale a few minutes and didn't find anything, so I was just going to buy a brownie and leave. The two women at the brownie stand started talking to me, asking me questions about my life and stuff. I was really taken aback by their interest in me. It was nice."
Eventually, the conversation turned to religion, a subject Dunne admitted he knew little about.
"They asked me if I was familiar with their denomination," Dunne said. "I said no but that I'd be open to learning about it. Then they invited me to their Monday Bible-study meeting. I thought, hey, we're really hitting it off here."
According to Dunne, his first Bible-study meeting went well, with parishioners enthusiastically welcoming him into the fold. By the end of the night, Dunne proved such a hit, he was invited to a church sing-along the next night.
"I've never met a group of people I get along so well with," he said. "Sometimes, we get together on the weekends to play basketball, but instead of playing 'Horse' or 'Pig,' we play 'Jesus' or 'God.' And then there are the bake sales and other church fundraisers. The gang never fails to invite me along to those, either."
According to Dunne, being born again has improved his love life, as well.
"I've been dating Linda for about a month now," Dunne said. "She joined the church a year ago, right after going through a messy divorce. She needed Christ's wisdom to get her through that tough time. Even though she's 16 years older than me, I really think we're soulmates."
"Everything's been so much better since I took Jesus into my heart," Dunne continued. "For the first time in my life, I'm surrounded by people who actually want me to hang out with them. In Christ, I am liked."