My Fourth Day Story

December 16, 2022 by J.D. Elshoff

I began my journey with the Cursillo movement in Helena, Montana, in 1984. I had never heard of Cursillo or The Walk to Emmaus, although I was familiar with Luke’s account of two friends walking to Emmaus in chapter 24, verses 13–35. I served on several subsequent Cursillo weekends. Then in 1987, the Helena community began the second Emmaus community in Montana (the first is in Billings), and I immediately became involved with them, serving on several weekends. I am now a member of the Hays Praise Emmaus Community in San Marcos, Texas, and the New Life Emmaus Community in Universal City, Texas.

While I at first said, “Oh, thanks, Ray, I don’t need that,” I had no idea what “that” was. Eventually I accepted my sponsor’s invitation to go on a Walk. Later I realized that my Walk was the most significant event of my life. I had PTSD from my service in Vietnam, had just gone through a divorce, and couldn’t pass the California bar exam. Then God led me to move to Montana, helped me pass the Montana bar exam, and introduced me to my forever person! Later, after we moved to my wife’s home state of Texas, God called me to the ministry, and I served as clergy on The Walk to Emmaus and Bridges to Life (in the prison system).

My Growth in Piety

I was a Catholic for the first years of my life—I was an altar boy, and I still remember my high school Latin. As I continued my Christian journey, I changed to the Disciples of Christ, where I met many others who had made their Walk to Emmaus. Since my Walk, I wear a fisherman’s bracelet wherever I go, and to those who ask what the bracelet is about, I mention the Walk. So far I have sponsored at least 20 pilgrims on their Walk. I meet weekly with my Fourth Day group, as I have for 38 years.

My Growth Through Study

The Bible is my favorite book. I constantly refer to scripture for guidance. My favorite movies are Field of Dreams, Heaven Is for Real, and Let There Be Light. I try to watch every Christ-related movie that comes out, and there are more and more every day.

My Growth Through Christian Action

As a member of the Disciples of Christ, I pastored a church in Austin, Texas, for about seven years, and then I planted another church in Buda, Texas. Today, as a Baptist, I am a licensed gospel minister, without the requirement to pastor a church. I also teach Sunday school at a local retirement community.

I have served as clergy on at least 20 Walk to Emmaus weekends in Texas, in three different communities. I have also served on Kairos weekends in the prison system, and several terms on the Bridges to Life program, also in the prison system. Bridges to Life helps inmates realize the impact their crimes had on their victims; it also teaches them about the need to seek forgiveness and turn their life around. Those two programs are significant. Without any spiritual exposure, the typical recidivism rate for inmates when they are paroled is approximately 80%. However, for inmates who participate in Kairos and Bridges to Life, the average recidivism rate is approximately 17%.

My Writing

I have written several law books. When I practiced family law in Montana, I invited and encouraged my clients to consider mediation before going through a divorce. I gave them a copy of Paul’s letter in 1 Corinthians 10–20 to help them be at more peace about the need for mediation. When I spoke of Paul’s words, some would reply, “Oh, I am still a believer; I just sit on the other side of the church.” I reminded them that Paul’s words have two applications: belief in God and belief in the marriage. That helped them be at peace about going through the divorce process. I also wrote a small book about my close moments with Christ, Evidence That God Is at Work in Our Lives. In the preface, I commented that I have no evidence God is doing anything for me that God is not doing for everyone.

My Hope for the Future

For mutual encouragement, I meet weekly with a men’s group and meet weekly with my Emmaus brothers, as I have done for the last 38 years in Montana and Texas. I participate in every Emmaus weekend for which I am asked to serve, and I hope to bring any Walk pilgrims and prison inmates closer to Christ through my participation.

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