Dean’s Story

Dean Chollar

I LOST MY EYESIGHT
BUT NOT MY VISION

 

I spent my teenage years in the 60’s when morals were cast aside and drug use was prevalent. I found myself caught up in all the mayhem and decadence. My physical eyesight (poor, but corrected by glasses or contacts) only served to be a doorway for all kinds of temptations. Drugs proved to be only a temporary answer for the peace that I was seeking. So I began to try to figure out the difference between various faiths such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Mormonism, and Christianity.

When I was 20 years old, I was on a traveling team surveying leaks on gas pipelines. Many of my teammates moved on from smoking marijuana to shooting up heroin. They would go out at night to make their “score”, and I stayed back at the hotel trying to figure out the true meaning of life. God used those times of searching to begin to open my spiritual eyes. A few months later, I left this band of rebels because I could see where they were headed. All of them, I learned years later, eventually landed in prison.

In the summer of ’72, I moved back home with my long hair and bushy beard. I was determined to continue my journey to find God. To my surprise, He had been pursuing me all the time. God allowed me to cross paths with a youth leader in San Antonio, Texas, Lee Patton, who headed up an organization called Hub. And there, at a Hub meeting at someone’s home, the fuzziness of all the major questions I had about God and the meaning of life were resolved.

God Opened My Spiritual Eyes

That night in August of 1972, at the age of 21, God’s eternal and pursuing love captured my heart. I heard clearly the message of God’s love. Lee explained that all the good works I might ever be able to do would never be enough to qualify me for Heaven. But rather, the free gift of entrance into Heaven came through simply trusting in Jesus Christ alone, who died on the cross for all my sins and rose from the dead. It was such a simple message and yet so very powerful and profound. At that meeting, he shared the verses of Ephesians 2:8 and 9: “For by grace are you saved through faith and not of yourselves. It is the gift of God, not by works, lest anyone should boast.” He explained clearly that a person was saved by faith apart from his own goodness or works or a religion.  The forgiveness of all sin and the free gift of eternal life came not through some kind of volitional commitment to submit or promise to obey God, but as a gift, free and clear, by simple faith in Christ, Who died for our sins and rose from the dead.

This answered the question I had in my mind: Why can’t doing good works play a role in getting me to Heaven? Lee explained to me that Heaven is a perfect place and God cannot allow sin into Heaven, which would pollute it. Jesus died to take away those sins so that we could enter Heaven with His perfection. It’s not good people who get to Heaven but forgiven people.

That night I made that decision. The best I knew how, I put my trust in Christ alone to forgive all my imperfections and God gave me his gift of eternal life. This simple step of faith gave me what the Bible calls salvation–by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone. And even more amazing, I learned that this eternal life was secure in the hand of God (John 10:28, 29).

The Good News Keeps on Rolling

And the good news doesn’t stop there. I discovered that once people place their trust in Christ alone for their eternal salvation, God gives them the privilege of participating in His work here on earth. He allows you and me to serve Him and others, not to gain or secure our salvation, but to tell the Lord thank you for all He has done. What a privilege! Just as if some king offered me a post as an ambassador, wouldn’t I be foolish not to accept this offer, too?

Four months after trusting in Christ alone for my salvation, I went off to study at Florida Bible College in January of 1973 and then to Capital Bible Seminary for a degree in Old Testament Studies in 1975. After that, I served for 2 years in a San Antonio church. Then, I enrolled at Dallas Theological Seminary for doctoral courses, but I had to leave in July of 1980 due to my first serious eye problem–detached retinas. It forced me into the business world for a time.

I served as general manager for Ross-McClain Homebuilders in Arlington, Texas for several years.  Then I started, with two friends, Texas Heritage Homes.  In the course of this building experience, we were building anywhere from 30 to 60 custom homes a year.  This was just before the collapse of the housing market in 1985.

In March of 1984, while attending Park Springs Bible Church in Arlington, Texas, a visiting preacher gave an invitation to those present to consider going into the mission field. My two oldest kids, then 7 and 8, went forward to become missionaries. That night, God broke my heart. I went forward as well, and gave up a thriving home-building business to become a missionary in Belgium. My wife, Joan, and I, with our four young children, left in 1986 for that country, where we served for 11 years.

 The Challenge of Physical Blindness

Near the end of our service in Belgium, at age 44, I was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa (RP), a genetic issue that can result in total blindness. I apparently had inherited it from my grandfather on my mother’s side, who went blind about the same age.

Could God use an older man who was going blind? The answer is yes.  I had had the privilege of having seen my grandfather, Frank Robertson, deal with his blindness and how he had helped start a 500-acre Lion’s Club Camp in Kerrville, Texas, for blind and special-needs kids. His Christian testimony and faith in God inspired me to continue on and trust that I also could be used for God’s service. God seems to delight all the more in using broken people.

In March of 1997, my wife and I started a mission organization, CrossWay International, which has allowed me to share the good news of God’s loveDean and Jackie Zinner Hill Liberia in more than 50 countries. We continue to grow, taking on more missionaries and coworkers overseas.  We reach out to the hurting of the world through various humanitarian means such as drilling water wells, caring for orphans and needy kids, and starting schools. After we establish rapport with those whom we serve, we share the clear message of God’s free gift of eternal life through Christ’s death and resurrection. For more current information of how God has used us, simply go to www.gocrossway.org.

Yes, I am, and have been for many years totally blind. But I still have a vision–to travel the world and share the good news of Jesus Christ. I have lost my eyesight, but not my vision.

 Spanish Version here.

For an interesting short clip on 3 Things God Cannot Do, click here.