Photo by Anna Carroll
In 2007 I was arrested for possession of methamphetamine. I had been married eight years at the time and we had two children. My wife knew I had an addiction problem before my arrest. She just didn’t know it was meth. I was never home and she was ready to leave me. Before my arrest, it was a dark time in our lives and I was very lost. This little church by the creek was on the way to my drug dealer’s house and I would look at it and think, “I need God.” I would go out of my way not to see the church. God was calling me and I was saying, “NO!”
When I went to court, the guy I got arrested with came in with his parents and his pastor. I was upset with the pastor and told him I needed to talk to him. He agreed and I met him at his office. I asked the pastor why he was supporting this guy who didn’t go to church. He said, “My life was messed up before I met Jesus. I am supporting your friend because I was given a second chance and I believe your friend deserves a second chance, and I believe YOU deserve a second chance. If you will come to church and you will listen, I will walk this out with you, and if you fall, I will be there to help.” It felt like he believed in me. He gave me hope. This man was the pastor of the little church by the creek that I had passed on the way to the drug dealer’s. God had drawn me all those years before as I passed by, and now He was drawing me through the pastor. This time I said, “YES!”
I started going to church right after that talk. I sat in the back row. My wife told me that she had also driven past the church for years and she had felt drawn to the church as well. She began going to church with me. I was amazed by everything I was receiving at church. I thought, “I have to get a Bible.” I remember going into my little girl’s bedroom with my new Bible and thinking, “I know there’s something here. But this has just been a book to me. I want it to come alive.” I opened it up and turned to Acts and I couldn’t put it down. It became a light, a mirror, a hammer. I saw my sin, and things began to change in our home. Reading God’s Word changed my life. Two weeks before I was to serve my time, I committed my life to the Lord.
In jail, I participated in a 12-step Christ-centered program led by the jail chaplain called Stepping into Freedom. When I got out of jail, I was required to go to narcotics anonymous (NA) three times a week for two years. I saw that people weren’t getting better. I felt such a need to bring Christ to them. I asked the chaplain, who led the Stepping into Freedom program at the jail, if I could take that curriculum and teach it at our church one night a week. He agreed and I told people at NA and AA about our new ministry and invited them to come. But we needed to become an “approved” program because it is a probation requirement to go to meetings at an “approved” program, and you must get your card signed to prove you have attended these sessions. There was no incentive to attend our program until we had this designation. For one year, I tried to tell the probation officers that I had started the ministry and tried to get them to approve it. Initially, they threw away my fliers, but I kept going back. Finally, they approved our program. Today, my probation office runs the substance abuse coalition and I am partnering with him in this coalition. This coalition now provides grant funding for our ministry.
About a year after we started offering Stepping into Freedom at church, we went on a prayer walk and felt God calling us to something more. Mercy Street was born. Mercy Street is a recovery intervention/restoration ministry that provides worship, a meal, and fellowship. My wife and I are co-directors. We started small with peanut butter sandwiches and a man with an acoustic guitar leading worship. We only had about 10 people coming. Prominent people left the church because of the program, but Mercy Street grew, expanding from 15 to 30 people. I was still working full-time at my day job and I began to get exhausted. First the addiction took me away, and now the ministry was taking me away from my family. The Lord started exposing the junk my wife and I had buried. I didn’t want to deal with it but God led us through it to the other side. The leadership of the church pulled me from ministry for three months to focus on my family. I felt God leading me to dive more into His word and pray more. Our pastor taught us that God comes first, marriage second, then kids, then ministry. We renewed our marriage covenant and the Lord honored that. When I returned to ministry, other churches who had not wanted to partner with us initially, said they wanted to start a Mercy Street program. We are now starting our fifth Mercy Street ministry plant.
God has used my past for good in other ways. I was asked to be part of a meth intercessory prayer team. We were shown a map of areas in the county where there were drug arrests and we would pray that God would begin to take authority over the ground. Because of my past experiences, I knew where the drug deals occurred and we could pray specifically for those areas. One of the biggest dope dealers in a town near here was on a particular street and a pastor invited him to Mercy Street. He then led others to Mercy Street, and now this whole street is cleaned up! God has drawn many people and we have baptized many in the creek by the church. We have felt the Holy Spirit powerfully during these baptisms.
We have also felt the Lord calling us to prevention efforts. We go into middle and high schools and show a documentary on heroin called “Hit of Hell.” We are starting a prevention program with the YMCA. When young people complete the program, the Y gives them a free membership which gives them a place to go and an outlet. We want the kids to not only reject drugs but to become leaders and lead others out of that culture.
At times life has been very difficult. I have put my wife through so much and she has shown me undeserved grace and forgiveness. Sometimes it is difficult for her to juggle her responsibilities co-directing Mercy Street with me while working and raising our children and taking care of our home. This is made more difficult because she has MS. Words can’t express how grateful I am for her and how much I love and admire her.
God is so faithful. Our marriage was in such trouble and God faithfully walked through that with us. I have experienced God as a Restorer and Redeemer. I am right with God because of the cross, not because of anything I have done. So many times, I want to be right on my own merit. But knowing I am righteous because of Him takes the pressure off of me. This is a messy ministry. Often, I am the first responder—the person a teenager calls when they are high and contemplating suicide. I am dependent on God, relying on prayer and the Holy Spirit’s guidance. It is too difficult and complex and dangerous to figure this out on my own. So many things have happened since that day in 2007 and it’s all been the Lord. God has opened good doors and closed the doors that should be closed to protect us. He brought me through the darkness into light. He drew me to Him at the little church by the creek, and there He has done amazing things.
For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:21
A Million God Stories is a Christ-centered ministry which offers a platform for Christians from all streams of Christian faith to give praise for how God has worked in their lives. Christ heals in infinitely creative ways and we acknowledge that His way of helping may differ from person to person.