St. John's Christmas church

St. John's United Church of Christ is located in downtown Mansfield.

MANSFIELD -- In 1985 at the end of a trip to Europe, Howard Storm had a near-death experience which changed his life. He went from being an atheist to a God-believer, from an art professor to a clergyperson.

He is the author of four books and has delivered talks about his experience all across the United States and in China, Africa, and throughout the Americas. He will be in Mansfield on Tuesday, Dec. 14, to speak at St John's United Church of Christ from 7 to 8 p.m.

St. John's United Church of Christ in Mansfield

St. John's United Church of Christ is located in downtown Mansfield.

While there is no cost for attendance, donations to support his 12-year mission to a small village, San Victor, in the nation of Belize, will be accepted. Copies of his books will also be available for purchase, and Howard will be happy to sign them.

His near-death experience began at the end of an art tour he was leading for students at Northern Kentucky University, where he was the head of the art department. It happened on the last day of the tour in Paris, France, when, late in the morning, he experienced an excruciation stomach pain.

His bowel had a tiny perforation and his gastric juices were leaking into his abdomen. He was rushed to the local hospital; however, it was a Saturday and no surgeon could be found.

Around suppertime, he suddenly arose from his hospital bed. He wondered who it was who was lying in the bed. He tried to speak to his wife who was sitting close by, and then to his roommate; but, neither responded. It was like they could neither see nor hear him.

Suddenly, he was aware of voices outside the room calling to him.

He followed the voices and found himself in increasing darkness. Then these beings began attacking him, and Howard found he was being tormented both verbally and physically. Soon he ran out of energy, and the beings had torn his body to shreds, and all he could do was lie down.

Most of the beings were now bored and left the area although some remained to continue to torment. Then Howard heard a voice suggest he "pray to God."

He responded to the voice that he didn't know how to pray to God. However, he began to recall words and phrases he'd heard and been taught as a youngster when he attended Sunday School.

"Our Father …" and "Jesus loves me …" and "The Lord is our shepherd …" And although he couldn't remember all the words, the beings withdrew.

Suddenly he became aware of a being of light who descended into the darkness in what appeared to be a globe of light.

When the globe was just above him, he was lifted into it. Suddenly his torn body was restored to wholeness. It occurred to him that this being of light, this friend, must be Jesus. He found the globe rising out of the land of darkness to a land of light.

In the land of light he saw and experienced things he'd never seen or experienced previously. For instance, the spectrum of light expanded from the six primary colors and additional combinations to over 80 and the extent of love he experienced was beyond anything he'd experienced in this world.

That love included much forgiveness.

In the land of light, in addition to Jesus, a number of other heavenly beings gathered around him and he underwent a life review. There were moments of joy and, unfortunately, many additional moments of shame.

He was shown how manipulative he'd been in many of his relationships, how he had held onto resentments, and other selfish ways he'd acted.

However, he was forgiven these things.

Howard realized he wanted to stay in heaven. But the angels convinced him that he must return to his life on earth. He suddenly found himself on a gurney on his way to surgery. He turned to his wife and repeated told her, "It's all love!" "It's all about love!"

Of course, she had no idea what he was talking about. Howard made it through his surgery successfully. Yet he was told he would undergo a lengthy period of recovery.

He realized he wanted to return to the United States for that recovery and convinced the Parisian doctors to let him fly back. He was admitted to the ICU unit at a northern Kentucky hospital where he remained for nearly six weeks. Finally, he was released and returned home.

At home he began reading the Bible, determined to attend seminary, and became an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. He served two congregations before retiring at age 65.

In retirement, he enjoys painting, working with the mission in the village of San Victor in Belize, and telling his story.

You can read about his experience. He is the author of four books: My Descent into Death (2005); Befriend God: Life with Jesus (2019); Lessons Learned: A Spiritual Journey (2014); and It's All Love (2014).

You can also hear him talk and expand on his experiences and insights about the love of Jesus on Tuesday, Dec. 14 at 7 p.m. at the St. John’s United Church of Christ, 68 Park Avenue East in Mansfield. Anyone with questions should call between Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 419-522-2813.

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