#193 First Step: Surrender

 Photo by Larry Ball

I was born in 1955 and grew up in Frankfort, Kentucky. My biological mother died when I was just six years old. My father got remarried fairly quickly to a woman who was so good to my brother and me. She tried to take me to church, but my dad didn’t like that idea very much. So, I had a great childhood but didn’t go to church. My dad and stepmother were great!

My parents really couldn’t afford to send me to college but they did, and I flunked out. So, I came back to Frankfort and went to work. I decided I wanted to be a policeman. I got a job in 1977 with the Lexington Police Department. I wasn’t a Christian at the time. Really all I cared about was working. Early in my career I met the police chaplain, and he saw something in me. He took me under his wing and mentored me. It wasn’t really about being a Christian but more about how to be a compassionate policeman with integrity. I saw in him some things I really liked but it never occurred to me what a better policeman I would be if I were a Christian man. He was a great role model for being a Christian and a police officer. 

I worked at the police department in narcotics two or three different times. I was undercover, buying drugs from people by myself. It was dangerous work and I had a lot of crazy things happen to me. All aspects of being an officer, whether a detective or in uniform, has built-in dangerous situations. Looking back, I thank God for protecting me, but during that time I wasn’t a Christian and I never stopped to thank God for how He protected me.

I never really thought I would get married but, in 1983, I met a wonderful woman, Keene. We got married in 1985. She had two children and their father had died long before I met them. The children really didn’t remember much about their father, just as I didn’t remember much about my mother. As I look back, I can see what a good role model my stepmother was for me. She showed me how to step into a marriage with children and be a good, loving parent. It’s amazing how God worked that out. I adopted both Jason and Shannon after just one year of marriage. They have been wonderful children. God really knew what I needed. 

My wife was a lifelong member of a Methodist church. She asked me many times to go with her to church while we were dating, but I usually had an excuse. Occasionally, I couldn’t come up with an excuse and I would go, mostly because I loved her and she wanted me to go. I began to get involved with the church and liked the people there. The people at church liked me as well, and they began to put me on committees. After we got married, I was still really attending for my wife. I was playing church. 

Keene kept on being a role model for me and the children, but she wasn’t pushy. In 1986, I was preparing for the test to be promoted to the rank of police sergeant. It was very stressful. I was working so hard to prepare. One day Keene asked me, “Are you praying about getting promoted?” I said, “No, you can’t pray about that stuff. God doesn’t want to hear about that.” She said, “Yes, God does want you to pray about things like that.”There were 155 people who took the test, and I had the third-highest score. This taught me that I could pray about anything and that God listens to all prayers big and small. 

Keene was still chipping away at me, and I was still going to church. The police chaplain and I were still friends. But I wasn’t really committed to God. In 2001, I was having a discussion with Keene about sin. I told her that I prayed about the same things over and over again. I said, “I ask for forgiveness for two things over and over again.” She didn’t ask me what the two things were but she said, “If you ask for forgiveness once, you are forgiven. You don’t have to ask again and again.” One day after that, I was talking with my pastor about the conversation with Keene about forgiveness. It was just the two of us at church. He said, “Let’s go down here and pray about that.” We walked to the front of the church, and I knelt at the altar. The pastor said, “Quit praying about this. God forgives you but you have to surrender. You have to move what you have in your head to your heart.” He led me in prayer and after we finished that prayer, I felt totally different. I was a changed person. I had tried to read Mere Christianityby C.S. Lewis before that day, and it was like there was something that was blocking my understanding. But after that day, it just clicked with me. The same thing happened with the Bible. Before, I was reading the Bible so I could quote scriptures. I could “play” church as well as anyone. I put on the best act going. But after that day in 2001, I read the Bible for a different reason, not to impress anyone but to change me. Really everything changed for me — my marriage, my friends, being a policeman. 

Many people know Jeremiah 29:11, which says:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” 

But you have to read down a little further to get a more complete picture of the message. This is one of my favorite verses:

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).

God had a wonderful plan for my life, and He had been preparing me; but I had to surrender first before His full plan for my life could be realized.

I left the police department after 20 years to become the director of police training for the Department of Criminal Justice in Kentucky. During that time, I was really able to share my Christian faith with many people. In 2004, I was appointed to work for the governor in a statewide law enforcement job. There were a lot of Christian men and women in that organization. We prayed at meetings, and there were Bible studies that started as part of our work. I felt like I was not only doing a good job, but I was being more significant. I started to really grow in this job. In 2008, we had a new governor and I left that job. I went from making a really good salary, to making no money. But God provided for us and our way of living did not change. Still, I wanted to work. 

The County Attorney offered me a job working as a gang enforcement specialist. As a part of this job I worked to help identify criminal gang members in conjunction with the police department in the community and in jails and worked in the school system to put gang prevention initiatives into place. Working in the schools was challenging because I was older. But God provided a partner for me in this work. One of my friends got into a conversation with a man named Gerald Gibson (Geo) who worked at a local gas station. Geo told my friend that he was looking to work with young people. He was a convicted felon and while he served time in prison, he developed a program called Operation Make a Change (Story #187). The purpose of OMAC is to invest in the lives of troubled youth to promote change. My friend invited Geo to come to the police station to talk with us. I knew when I met him, he was the real deal. But he was a convicted felon and I wasn’t sure my boss, the county attorney, would permit him to work with me. When I went to my boss and told him I wanted to work with Geo, he was very reluctant. But when I told him that I would vouch for him and I would work closely with him, he agreed. The school system let me bring Geo into the schools with me, but I had to be with him in everything we did. We led the OMAC program in the school. Then we started leading the program in jail. Here you have a younger African American man working with an older white retired police captain. It was like Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte!

At first, Geo worked as a volunteer but we ended up hiring him part-time through the county attorney’s office; then we hired him full-time. Geo was a changed man. It was his faith that had changed him. I called myself a changed man, but I still believed that people in jail deserved to be in jail. I had separated the person who committed the crime from the person God created them to be. Over time my perspective changed. I sat in the group when Geo talked to the men in jail. They loved him and hated me. But after a few weeks, the men began to see me differently and wanted to interact with me when they got out of jail. I helped them find work and find a church. During my 10 years in this job, I had many other jobs offers, but every time I turned to God for an answer, the answer was “No.” I was right where God wanted me. I can remember many incarcerated men found so many blessings in the two of us working together on their behalf.  They were quite surprised to see this unlikely duo. 

We were still working together, but my work was dwindling down. There was another transition in our governor, and I was told I would get a big job in justice with the state. However, I didn’t get the big job and was disappointed. Out of the blue one evening, a national leader for Alpha, a prison ministry, called me. Typically, I don’t answer calls at 9:30 p.m., especially if I don’t recognize the number, but that night I answered. He asked me to think about becoming the Kentucky director for Alpha prison ministry. I was familiar with Alpha because my wife and I had taught a 14-week Alpha course in the church and had been involved in the marriage and business components of the Alpha ministry, but I didn’t know that Alpha had a prison ministry. The national director came to Lexington the next day and spent three days talking with me. He told me that all my years of work had prepared me to go into prisons and do ministry. I was open to this because I had begun to see jail as a real dark spot for many lost people. The least and the lost!

I accepted the non-paying job to be the Kentucky director for Alpha prison ministry. We started that ministry four years ago in one jail, and over time it has expanded to other jails and prisons. This has been the most rewarding thing I have ever done. Had I not been working with Geo in jails prior to this, I probably would not have taken this ministry job in prisons and jails. 

I have come to see people who are incarcerated in a different way. Their crime is what they didand they have to have accountability for that, but that is not who they are. I have recruited many people to help in the prison ministry. They all say they get more out of prison ministry than the inmates do. 

It has often been uncomfortable work for me. Sometimes I run into men in prison whom I arrested — sometimes for murder. This has really grown my character. I trust God and have seen God work in amazing ways. Once a man I had really connected with asked me if we could start a Bible study in his area. I said we could if he picked the people and the topic. We have been doing this Bible study now for four years. One Saturday afternoon he called me saying he had just talked by phone with a friend who said she was going to kill herself. He gave me her name and address. The police found her just as she was getting ready to take the pills to take her life. It was the anniversary of her son’s suicide, and her parents had been murdered a few years earlier. The police were able to get her help. I talked to the man later and told him that I had never known anyone who wasn’t a police officer who had saved a person’s life — but he did. He started crying. He and I would have never met if it hadn’t been for the Alpha ministry. 

A few years ago, I met a retired police officer who was dying from cancer. I started visiting him every week in the nursing home. We talked about police work and we also talked about God. I asked some of the inmates to make cards for him. This man was so touched by the love that poured out from the inmates that he left a large sum of money to be used in prison ministry when he died. He wanted to reward people who were surrendering their will to God. With his generous donation, we formed the nonprofit Kentucky Alpha Prison Ministries, which helps many people. 

Two of the most important things I have learned is that God is very forgiving, and God is very patient. I’m thankful that God accepts me as a sinner. I’m thankful that God’s Son took my sins and was crucified, died and arose from the grave. I’m so thankful to God for a great wife of 35 years. Keene has played such a big role in helping me to become the man God created me to be. 

You have to totally surrender every part of your life to God. Many people want to hold onto one corner of their life and not turn it over to God. They try to manage sin, but it is impossible to manage sin. Until you completely surrender every aspect of your life, you are always going to have problems. You will not be able to become the person God created you to be and live out the fullness of His plan for you. Complete surrender made all the difference in my life. If I can do it, anyone can. 

Joshua said to them, “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Be strong and courageous” (Joshua 10:25a).

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.

#187 Operation Making A Change

 

Photo by Jeff Rogers Photography

I was born and raised in Waukegan, Illinois, near Chicago. My mother divorced my father but later got involved in a relationship with a man who I would call my stepfather. He was a very violent man. He drank a lot and there was a lot of drug use. My mom didn’t drink or do drugs. She suffered a lot of physical, mental, and financial abuse from him. He abused me as well. I didn’t look at education as important and I didn’t think I was as smart as the other kids. I was disruptive and disrespectful. I was taught not to trust people and that hindered me from letting anyone get to know the real me. I was afraid that if I told what was going on at home that social services would come in and take us away from my mother. Between eight and nine years old, I experimented with marijuana for the first time. I had watched my stepfather use it over and over, and curiosity got the best of me. I didn’t know that going down that path was going to create a whole different chapter in my life. In my community there was gang activity and a lot of crime. A lot of the kids I hung with were drug dealers and users. I became criminal-minded at a very early age. I was trying to survive by doing whatever it took to get money and food. 

My grandmother was a positive person who spoke hope into my life. She was the backbone of my family. She took us to church periodically. My grandmother was someone I loved very deeply. She had a good home where I got a chance to see healthy relationships. I had other people in my life who were positive influences. I made a friend named Louie at around second or third grade. His life was much more normal than mine. He witnessed what my stepfather would do to me and tried to protect me. He taught me to play baseball and I taught him how to steal. 

A woman named Holly, who was a mentor, picked up a group of us a couple times a week. She took us to a church and we would play basketball, study Bible scriptures, and eat food. She said the school gave her my information because they were concerned about me. She gained my trust so fast. Looking back now, I know she was God-sent. Eventually she took us to her home, where we would cook meals and talk about God and pray. When she came and got us, there were no more worries in my life. But when she dropped us off, we were back to darkness. One night she cooked a special dinner and told us she was getting married and moving away. That was one of the worst days of my childhood. I was about 14 at the time. When she moved, my life became much darker.

In high school I decided I wanted to join the military, so I enrolled in the ROTC program. For the first time in my life I was able to be a part of something positive other than a sports team. Unfortunately, that was short-lived because while at school one day my grandmother called and requested that I come home immediately. When I got home there was a moving truck sitting in our front yard. My stepfather was gone doing an odd job and my grandmother said, “Get your things. We are moving you out.” We went to a shelter and then moved to the state of Wisconsin, which was not too far from Illinois. The school that I attended did not have the ROTC program, so I got involved in criminal activity even more (drugs, gangs). My drug addiction was getting significantly worse. By the time I was 17, I had dropped out of high school. On my 18th birthday I became a teenage father to a daughter. A year later my son was born. Two years later, the mother of my children and I broke up, but she was pregnant with our third child. At the time I didn’t have a job, I was doing drugs, I was a full-fledged gang member, in and out of jail, creating an unsafe environment for my family. I didn’t know anything about being a parent. I had forgotten about God and I wasn’t attending church regularly like I used to. The only time I called on God was when I was drunk and high and wanted to sober up, or when I was about to get caught by law enforcement for doing something wrong. But I always remembered what my grandmother and my mentor, Holly, had taught me . . . pray and God would answer my prayers. I knew scriptures from the Bible and I knew who God was, but I thought God didn’t hear me because I was a criminal, a drug dealer, a deadbeat father, etc. I thought God only listened to people who were perfect. I didn’t think I was good enough for God to do something in my life. 

In 1994, there was a sweep of my neighborhood, arresting people for dealing drugs and gang activity. Law enforcement were looking for me as well. So, I went on the run, but eventually I was arrested and charged. I had three counts of delivery of crack cocaine on three different occasions. The charges carried a maximum sentence of 36 years. When I went to jail, I felt so alone but still remembered what my grandmother and Holly had taught me about prayer. I believe God had been trying to get my attention because I had been running from a relationship with Him for so many years. After the court negotiations, two charges were dropped, which exposed me to one charge and a possible 10 years. Of that the judge sentenced me to four years in the state prison. I got classified for a medium minimum, which made it possible for me to go to boot camp. This program showed me so many things that I didn’t know about myself. It was ugly and I believe God set that up for me to take a look at myself. I ended up doing about 13–14 months total. When I got out, I got a job and started spending time with my kids. I was clean and sober. But my mistake was to go back and visit the old crowd. I started using and selling again, and I ended up going back to prison for two and half years for violation of parole. I wasn’t really locked in with God’s plan yet. I didn’t see it. I was going through the motions being in prison, so I wasn’t focused on change. I walked out of prison for the second time. The day I got out was the same day I relapsed. What a nightmare. I had a $300 or $400 drug habit a day. The drugs had such a stronghold on me. I couldn’t escape the urges until I fed it. It was much worse than before. 

By that time my children had moved to Missouri with their mother. I ended up going back to prison, this time for three years. I was mad and blaming others for my situation and not taking a deep look at myself until December 31, 1999. While sitting in prison I was scared because they said the world was going to end. So, I started taking a much deeper look at who I really was as a person, deadbeat dad, convict, drug addict, gang member, drug dealer, etc. I thought, “Wow, this is how I am going to die, a nobody. I have not accomplished anything but a life of crime.” That is when I decided it was time to reevaluate my life (again). People around me were dying from drug overdoses, getting life prison sentences, yet God still allowed me to live through it all.

I got on my knees and prayed to God wholeheartedly, “I don’t know if You hear me, but I am ready to be a new person. I just want You to take charge. I keep messing everything up. My way isn’t the way. I just need Your help.” I was ready to surrender. I knew I wasn’t ready to face the outside world when I got out of prison. God gave me the idea to develop a program called Operation Making A Change (OMAC) while I was in prison. This program helped me get ready for my release from prison. God gave me a vision that someday I would use OMAC to help many other people. I walked out of prison almost 18 years ago. I didn’t have a plan. I didn’t know what or how. I just knew my mind was made up and I wanted to do better. Instead of running from people who wanted to help me, I sat down, listened and learned. I started picking up different ways and habits. I was terrified of change because I didn’t know what to expect. I had made so many mistakes and didn’t know if I could really change. I had asked God to forgive me but many people didn’t forgive me. I had to realize it’s not about people. It’s about what God wants me to do. I surrounded myself with ministers, law enforcement officers, educators, and community activists, and I started to become like them. 

After being out of prison for about three years not knowing where my life was headed, a miracle happened. I was on my way back to prison because I was about $40,000 in arrears in child support. I had $30 to put toward the child support. They laughed at me in court. I realized I had nothing and couldn’t take care of my responsibilities. I was embarrassed. Just as they were about to put the cuffs on me, the judge said, “Wait a minute. Sit down. I don’t know why I’m doing this.” She gave me 30 days to get a job and start making payments. I had been praying before I met with the judge, asking God to be my lawyer, to help me. I had only 30 days and I knew how to get the money from drugs, but I also knew that came with another challenge. If I got caught, I would go back to prison, and if I start using, I would probably die. I got a call from some people I knew from a church in Racine, Wisconsin. They told me they had been praying for me. They got me a job interview at a school. I was saying to myself these people have to have the wrong person (I’m a convicted felon). I was sitting across from a woman at the interview, and I was just about to tell her I had been to prison. She said, “We know who you used to be. But my question is: What are you going to do if we give you a chance?” They hired me as a lunch monitor and to take the kids out to recess. Within two months, I became the gym teacher of the school. Every kid knew my name and I knew every kid’s name in that school. I was actually making a name for myself in a positive way. 

I started playing semi-pro football for the Racine Raiders. I became a personal trainer and got involved with the YMCA Young Leaders Academy. I became a case manager for Safe Haven and Safe Passage runaway shelter. For years I was building up my integrity and credibility. But I still felt like I had a dark cloud over me in Wisconsin, so I moved to Kentucky in 2010. In the beginning, I wasn’t able to find a job working with kids, so I got a job at a gas station. After six months, a police officer walked into the gas station. I said, “Sir, I am looking to work with young people.” I told him my story and he wrote everything down. He said he would get back with me in a week. I didn’t believe him because I was used to being let down. But he actually called me. He asked me to come to a meeting at the police department. I thought they were trying to set me up or I had an old warrant. But I went and he introduced me to a retired police captain who was working with the county attorney as a gang specialist. He said, “I’m getting ready to retire, but I believe I’m not supposed to retire because of you.” It was like God was joining us together at the hip. You have an ex-con, ex-gang member joining with a 40-year veteran of the police force. The captain took me under his wing for a long time. I still worked at the gas station all night; then went to work with the captain as a volunteer during the day. He treated me like a son. He introduced me to his boss, the county attorney, and tried to convince him to hire me but he said no. I didn’t get mad or discouraged. I just kept doing what I was doing, going with the police captain into schools, doing outreach work to prevent violence. 

In 2014, I won a Golden Apple award and the county attorney showed up. We met in his office again but he still wasn’t convinced about hiring me. The captain said he would put his name and career on the line for me because he believed in me. We had prayed a lot together and were spiritually connected. He wholeheartedly wanted to help me with no strings attached. The county attorney told the police captain that he was responsible for me and gave me 99 hours of work per month. God kept His promise to make me new if I would just trust in Him. Months later the county attorney hired me full-time and gave me an office with benefits. That was the first time in my life I had ever had benefits. They were the first ones to adopt the OMAC program I had developed in prison. The purpose of the program is to invest in the lives of troubled youth to promote change. OMAC is implemented in the county jail and the public schools and more. A few months later, a part-time position opened up as a substance abuse violence intervention specialist, and the captain encouraged me to apply. I doubted myself and the captain told me to have faith. God had taken me so far. How could I not apply? There were people with high credentials applying for this position as well. But God says He will put the last first, and I got the job. Four years ago, I got a call from the chief of the police department. He said they had someone retiring in the community service part of the police department and they would like me to fill that position. I hesitated because, where I come from, the police have a stigma attached. I said, “If I take the job the kids won’t trust me anymore.” But if I didn’t take the job, I felt I would be going against God. I decided to take the job and of course I did get push back but it didn’t matter. I just wanted to carry out the mission and the vision that God has given me. 

My faith in God is very powerful. I am an example of what God can do. There is no way I should even be telling this story right now. I should either be dead or locked up for the rest of my life. There had to be a Higher Power to get me out of my situation. My platform to help kids has just gotten bigger. God placed all these things around me for a reason. I used to think I was supposed to die violently in the street, now I just want to live and be a light for others, to witness to others. God motivates me every day to want to keep going. OMAC went from a small piece of paper in a prison cell to helping so many people stay away from crime, drugs, and gangs. This is God’s program not mine.

God is real. God loves us and doesn’t want to hurt us. God has ways of getting our attention. I believe the times I spent in prison, drug houses and gang activity — all of that allowed me to have firsthand experience so that now I can minister to other people about it. If you are going through life and trying to do it on your own, give God a try. What do you have to lose? I knew there were things that were better than what I was doing but I didn’t want to learn. You have to open up your mind and heart. God can help you with that. God will elevate whatever you are doing if you stay obedient. God protected me and covered me. He gave me the vision and He has opened every door along the way to make that vision come to life, even more than I ever imagined. I have learned that God can take pain and turn it into something good. I have learned to never give up, to never doubt that God is good — amazingly good. 

No weapon formed against me shall prosper. (based on the scripture from Isaiah 54:17)

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.

#182 Unceasing Prayer

 

Photo by Jeff Rogers

My father passed away when I was four years old, leaving my mother who didn’t have a job or even a driver’s license. She remarried and I had a great relationship with my stepfather. He was such a humble and serving man. He taught me how to really serve people. My mother’s family was of the Old Regular Baptist faith. Her father was a deacon. My mother wasn’t a Christian but she attended church. As a child, I didn’t understand what was being said in church, and when they prayed, I slipped out to play in the creek.

I met my wife when I was in kindergarten. We married after I graduated from college with a degree in civil engineering and mining engineering. Early in our marriage, my wife was a Christian but I wasn’t. She tried to get me to go to church and I went occasionally, but I wasn’t committed. Each morning on my way to work I dropped off my two aunts to work at the Five and Dime. One morning, my Aunt Silvy said, “We are having a revival at church and you are coming.” April 15, 1986, I attended the revival with my wife. As the evangelist preached, I felt the Holy Spirit urging me to follow Christ. I was baptized the next night. My mother was present. She had never made a profession of faith and she wasn’t happy with me.

I started actively serving at the church, first teaching the fifth-grade Sunday school, then sixth, then seventh and eighth grade classes. Our youth classes exploded. We had a fantastic time with the kids.

About a year after I became a Christian, I lost my job. We had just purchased our first home. We signed the mortgage on our new home on a Friday and that Monday I got laid off. I told my wife, “God will provide. I know He will.” Two days later, on Wednesday morning, I got a phone call out of the blue from a guy who used to be my former basketball coach. “I just lost my engineer. I need a new engineer. Do you know where I can find one?” I said, “I think I do!” I started the new job the following Monday. We were faithful in our service and God continued to provide.

Eventually the coal company I worked for was bought out by another large coal company and they only kept two people. I was one of the two.

I was very grateful to keep my job. About a year later, the chief engineer at the coal mine left and they asked me to do this job. I worked every Saturday for a year. I finally took a Saturday off to get my wife something for Christmas and my boss called and said, “Where are you?! I need to talk to you. The VP of operations is leaving and I want you to take on that role.” I agreed and did both for about a year, serving as both chief engineer and head of operations, requiring 10 to 12 hours every day. I was still teaching the youth and serving as a deacon at church. My excessive work schedule was really hard on my wife and particularly for my oldest child who was around seven at the time. My wife was busy with our two youngest who were babies, and I was always working. I came home every night overwhelmed and exhausted but not to the extent my wife was. She is a great mother and wonderful wife, always being there for our children while I was away. I am a very fortunate and blessed man!

The president of the company was a very hard boss. He was hard on me. But he taught me a lot. He called himself a sinner man, but there was still an influence of God at our company. He cared about the men and their families and understood the importance of a good job to support their families. In 2001, my boss retired and I was asked to become president of the company. I went from being responsible for a couple of people to 348 people. Two years later, the coal business tanked and our parent company claimed bankruptcy. The market was so bad that we couldn’t sell the coal. A new CEO reorganized the company and took the company public, which gave us the funds to help us out of bankruptcy. After the reorganization, I was asked to take over a second location for the company and then was responsible for a little over 800 employees. In 2013, the market declined again and the company filed bankruptcy and split up, but I was allowed to stay on by the new company that acquired our company. All employees were laid off except about 40 people, but within a few months we were able to hire people back. Then in 2016, we were unable to stay open. I had to tell the men that I couldn’t give them any hope of a future at the company. That was the hardest day of my life.

I received six month’s pay from the company, and after that a different company put me on retainer as a consultant, and when they no longer needed me, a friend provided some work which provided health insurance. I have continued to ask the Lord what He would like me to do in this new season of my life, and while I sometimes find it hard to wait for the answer, I have experienced joy in the unknown. I am at peace and know that God’s got it. I am just open to wherever and whatever the Lord leads me to. In the meantime, God is allowing me some down time, and I have been able to spend time with my wife (we are going on 36 years of marriage), our three sons, and grandchildren. God has blessed me beyond measure, and I am so grateful.

I recently started teaching a young adult class at church. I encourage them to get out and take what they have learned and apply it out of the church walls. I tell new Christians, “God has a calling on your life, but you have to keep seeking and you will find what God wants you to do. Wherever you are, you can have an impact. You just have to love people.”

Several years ago, my stepdad passed away. At his funeral, my mother made a decision to follow Christ. She was 64 years old. I had been praying for her since 1986. I prayed for her every day that God would touch her life. Never give up praying for someone you care about. Never give up.

I also prayed for my boss (who called himself “sinner man”) and many of the men who worked at the coal company. I prayed that the Lord would touch their lives too. I would tell the men, “We have this in common: we are put on this earth by our heavenly Father to love each other and help each other and take care of our families.” Many men came to know Christ during their time at the mine. And then one day, I got a call from a friend who said my old boss had accepted the Lord. I saw him later and hugged him, “I’m so happy for you.” He said, “I guess you heard. You were right. It does make a difference in your life.” I told him, “I’m a sinner man too. But the Lord takes our sins and they are covered and forgiven.” I told him that I had prayed for him for years. Never give up praying for someone you care about. Never give up.

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.

#181 Blessings from China

Photo by Jeff Rogers 

I have had it on my heart to adopt since I was a young child. After having two biological children, my husband and I began to prayerfully explore adoption options. Our idea was to adopt a healthy baby because we felt like we couldn’t handle special needs, and didn’t think we could do foster care. We started the international adoption process but faced one closed door after another. After becoming pregnant with our third child, we just assumed the adoption idea was over.

A few years later my husband told me about studying John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” My husband said, “we don’t have to die for someone to lay down our lives. I think we should look into adoption again.” I was all in! That very day I got an email from Rainbow Kids who helps to find families for kids all over world who are hard to place. There was a little girl from China who caught my eye. When I looked deeper I realized we fit every adoption qualification for China at the time, though we didn’t those few years back. We started the process and there were lots of details that can only be explained as God’s work. Although we had said we couldn’t handle an older child or a child with special needs, we realized those were false barriers. It didn’t have to be a healthy baby. We could do anything with God’s help! Our beautiful daughter was revealed to us in September 2015, and when we saw her date of birth, we knew she was ours despite her special needs. She was born the very week my husband and I had the first conversation about moving forward with adoption again. God was in this!

When we traveled to China to adopt our daughter, we were privileged to visit the foster home she had lived in for the past 6 months. What a blessing that was! But my heart went out for the children still there. One little boy with the same special needs as our daughter specifically tugged at my heart. After we left, I begged my husband with no avail to let us go back and get him. I continued to pray for him, and he was eventually placed with a good family. But it was still in my heart that we needed to go back to China.

The following year, our adoption agency began looking for volunteers to help with a camp for harder to place children in a Chinese orphanage. The idea was to get to know the children beyond their picture and information on a paper and advocate for them. The agency asked me to go. I went and spent two days in the orphanage with these precious children. One of these was a sweet 10 year old girl with Down Syndrome. My best friend (who is a special education teacher) had seen this little girl’s picture before I left and told me to pay special attention to her because it had always been her dream to adopt a child with Down Syndrome. She was the first child I met…and I knew she was special! I knew my friend would love her but I couldn’t tell her to adopt the child. I didn’t want to force or seem pushy. When I got home I told my friend, “you would love her but I’m not telling you what to do.” Adoption is difficult and expensive. But with the support of our community, my friend went to China and brought her home! She is truly a blessing to so many. Also during that time, I had another friend who adopted another little boy from our camp. He is now my little girl’s best friend and is an amazing child!

Months after my trip, my heart was still breaking for one particular boy in our camp. He was about to become ineligible for adoption because he would “age-out” at age 14, and we were having no luck finding him a family. He was fun, smart, and super brave. He didn’t talk much, but he smiled a lot. He was a great kid—but who was going to adopt him? I read the story of Moses telling God that he wasn’t good enough to go face Pharaoh in Egypt but how God promised to be with him to help him. And I realized something. God wanted me to go back for this boy. I wasn’t equipped for this job, but God would be with me. After having major conversations with our children because we didn’t know what to expect about adopting an older boy, they simply said, “he needs a family. He will be our brother.” We raced to get him home with us before time ran out. That was in 2017, and he has now been home with us a year and a half. It is evident God is blessing us with this young man. I am unbelievably thankful God wanted me to be his mother.

When looking back over this story, I realize it is far from over. I really feel like I’m in the middle of it. God continues to teach me important lessons. I have learned that sometimes we simply limit ourselves and God helps us go beyond what we think we can do. Sometimes you just have to step out and let Him work. I have also seen God shapes us through the difficult times, and we can help other people because of our own struggles. I have also learned to be patient and trust God. God delays our requests for reasons we don’t know or understand until later. Most of all, I’m thankful for my children and that God protected them while they were in China and protected us in all of our travels. The children bring us much joy! They have a hope and a future and they are loved.

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.