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Monday, September 21, 2009

The Love Boat Captain is Back on Course
How Hollywood actor Gavin MacLeod’s life was miraculously turned around when he found Christ and then remarried his wife Patti after three years of divorce

By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries

FOOTHILL RANCH, CA (ANS) -- The world knew Gavin MacLeod as Captain Merrill Stubing in The Love Boat TV series, but he has revealed that his personal life was far from joyful – in fact it was all at sea.

Patti and Gavin MacLeod after their marriage was restored

But then he found Jesus Christ as his Savior fell back in love with Patti, his former wife and, after three years of divorce, he re-married her.

In an extraordinary interview on Saturday, September 19, 2009, before the showing of his latest film, “The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry,” at the Regal Foothill Ranch 22, Orange County, California, Gavin, now 78, revealed his own personal secret of how his marriage was restored after his encounter with Christ.

“Patti, my wife and I were divorced in a three year period and we hadn't seen each other during that time,” he began. “Then one day, my former wife received a telephone call from Patti Palmer, the first wife of Jerry Lewis who told her, ‘I want to take you some place.’ That ‘place’ turned out to be a ladies prayer meting with a lot of beautiful, very famous stars. During that meeting, she was asked if she would like prayer for ‘something’ and Patti, who said she had never been in an atmosphere like this in her whole life said, ‘I'd like to have my husband back.’ So the group started praying for me.

“I was out that night with the ‘doctor’ from The Love Boat show and his wife and it was then that I started to think about my ex wife. Later I happened to drive past where we used to live and, all of a sudden, she came to my mind. Although I had no idea that these people were praying for me, it was the power of prayer working.”

The next morning, Gavin faced some terrible news.

“The doctors discovered inside my mother’s left brain, a cyst the size of a baseball,” he said. “We decided to operate and that next morning after that all had happened I prayed to the Lord and I said, ‘Jesus, if you give mom more time, I'll turn my life over to you. I don't care if I act any more.

“That was at 7:10 AM on September 15, 1984. Then at 7:15 AM, something told me to call my wife and I did so and found that she was on the road with a big support group for women who'd been divorced.

“We met the next Monday and, as I walked into the room, she said, ‘I'm sorry your dinner's cold. It's been waiting for three years.’ Patti said that she had something for me and went into the bedroom and brought out a Bible with my name on it. She said, ‘Look, I've been wearing our wedding ring and I have set a place for you at the table. It's always there and whenever I come in the apartment I say, ‘Hi honey, I'm home.’”

It was through that incredible series of events that Gavin finally gave his life to Christ and he then knew that he had to be joined again with Patti in marriage.

Dan Wooding interviews Gavin MacLeod before the showing of his movie

“Ever since that moment that I gave my life to Jesus, life has never been the same,” he said. “We were married in Omaha, Nebraska, on June 13, 1985, in front of thousands of people who had all been standing for their marriages. Pat Boone was my best man and his wife Shirley was Patti's matron of Honor.

“But then we also did it officially to make sure we were all covered at church. We've been going to Church On The Way in Van Nuys with Jack Hayford all these years now and you we're on the board at the church and are part of the seminary.

“We've had a program for twenty something years on Trinity Broadcasting Network hosting a show about marriage called ‘Back on Course’ and God has been using me in ways like I still can't believe. I feel so fulfilled in this life. I believe this is the reason why I as given all those opportunities as an actor.”

And his latest lead role as Jonathan Sperry proves that point.

“I feel this role is the most important thing I've ever done in my life because I have gotten the chance to speak the Word of God here,” said Gavin. “In the few showings we've had throughout the country people have come to Jesus and I think that's our mission.

“Like in the Bible when Paul says, ‘Once you become born again, you become an Ambassador for Christ,’ and that's what we've become now as a result of this film.

“I started participating in this movie because of Rich Christiano, a wonderful Christian filmmaker. I had done another film for him about four or five years ago called ‘Time Changer’ and we really hit it off and I love working for him.

“We were on location one day in Fresno, California, and Rich said, ‘I'd

The cast of The Love Boat

like to take you to dinner tonight,’ and I said ‘Ok.’ Over the meal Rich told me, ‘I have an idea for a new movie. It’s about an older man who mentors these children and ultimately changes their lives.’ So I said, ‘What part do you want me to play?’ and he said, ‘Well, the older man.’ I said, ‘Rich look at me. I'm not an older man.’

“Well it's happened and I played this role and I'm so excited about today. This is the first time we'll be seeing it with a lot of people who weren't in it. It’s going to be a good experience.”

I then asked MacLeod to talk about the character he plays.

“Jonathan Sperry lives in a small town,” he said. “He's a widower and was married 47 years to ‘the most wonderful Christian woman that ever lived.’ He has a heart for everybody and he teaches Sunday school. He especially has a heart for these young boys and he ultimately winds up teaching them Judeo-Christian principles; the principles in the Bible; and basically the story is about salvation and forgiveness two of the most wonderful things that there are in this life.”

I then put it to Gavin that in the past, some Christian movies were not well made and wondered if he felt that Christian movies are now getting a lot more professional.

“They have to because of the competition and that's why I'm so proud of this film,” he said. “When you see it, these young boys are the best actors you could get for these roles. God had his hand on this film and the photography is incredible. It looks like a $25-35 million dollar film and it certainly wasn't.

“And the music has already won awards. Everything about this film has God's hand on it and that's why people are so moved. I mean they laugh a lot and they cry a lot and they're moved and so many people have come to Jesus as a result of seeing this film already, just in the festivals. And that's why I'm so happy to be a part of it. I don't know how I'll ever top this one, but whatever God has in mind I'm His.”

For more information on the film, go to 

Note to the broadcast media: An MP3 audio file of this interview is available for broadcast. Just send your request to Dan Wooding at with your name and details of your radio station, where it is and in which country, and I’ll send it to you. (This is not for personal use.)

I would like to thank Robin Frost for transcribing this interview.

Dan Wooding, 68, is an award winning British journalist now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for 46 years. He is the founder and international director of ASSIST (Aid to Special Saints in Strategic Times) and the ASSIST News Service (ANS). He was, for ten years, a commentator, on the UPI Radio Network in Washington, DC., and now hosts the weekly “Front Page Radio” show on KWVE in Southern California and which is also carried on the Calvary Radio Network throughout the United States. The program is also aired in Great Britain on UCB UK and Calvary Chapel Radio UK. Wooding is the author of some 43 books. Two of the latest include his autobiography, “From Tabloid to Truth”, which is published by Theatron Books. To order a copy, go to . E-mail: Wooding, who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, also recently released “God’s Ambassadors in Japan” which is available at

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