#246. God’s Blessing of Multiplication

Photo by Rob Collins

My name is Adeboye Taiwo and I was born into a Christian family in Nigeria. We attended the Anglican Church. I served in children’s ministry all the while, taking care of children in the church, teaching them the ways of God. 

I met my wife, Ajibola, at church. We met as children’s teachers. She was born into a Muslim home and converted to Christianity. She had a calling into children’s ministry too. We started a relationship and got married in the year 2000.

In Nigeria, when somebody gets married, immediately a few months after that, the wife is expected to be expecting a baby. So, after a year or two, if there is no sign of pregnancy, pressure starts coming in.

It was not too easy for us when we started waiting for five, six, eight, nine, ten years. In our culture, if it takes such a long time, you might be asked to divorce the person you are married to and get another wife because there was no child.

Even if no child is coming, provided we are living happily, I think ‘I’m okay,’ though it was not easy.    

“Even socially in our culture,” my wife said, “people don’t reckon with you if you’re having issue of having a child. They look down on you. We prayed. We sought the face of God but nothing was coming.

“But, to the glory of God — after 17 years — God decided to answer us. And He gave us … a set of sextuplets.”

“It was an assisted pregnancy through in vitro. We had four eggs transferred,” Ajibola said.

We were prepared that from the four, maybe two or one would survive, but to our surprise two eggs split, creating six viable embryos.

“When we confirmed the pregnancy in Nigeria,” Ajibola said, “the ultrasound did not reveal six. The first one revealed three.” Because of the joy, we made plans to visit Adeboye’s family in Northern Virginia for two or three weeks.

“When we came, a few days after, I found that I wasn’t feeling good and I was taken to an emergency room and it revealed six,” Ajibola said.

She’s laughing because when they first mentioned six, I was so excited, but she wasn’t. She wasn’t because she knew the implication of what she was carrying. 

When the complications set in and we saw this, we realized that going back would be like endangering our life. We had to find out how to get a hospital. It was not an easy thing and we — I was praying anyway. Then one day I made up my mind that, well, we have to go back to Nigeria. We cannot sit down here without having a doctor, without getting treatment that is expected. So while I was doing that, our host family called. They now said that a hospital had accepted us.

It was like, wow, is it possible? They said the hospital is VCU in Richmond and the doctor said we can come, they will take up the treatment in order to save our life. At the time my wife was admitted, and for the whole two months we were together in the hospital.

It was the most fearful period of our lifetime.

“It was tough,” Ajibola said. “It got to a time that I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep. I carried the pregnancy for 30 weeks and two days. I was on hospital bed for eight weeks for bedrest.” 

She was so tiny and oh, she has gone through a lot for me and for our babies.

At birth the babies’ weight ranged from 1.5 pounds to 3 pounds, so they were in the neonatal intensive care unit for some time.

“All of them did well,” Ajibola said.

So while we were in the hospital for these 60 days, a lady — a nurse — in the hospital, just approached us asking if we were Nigerians. She said there is a Nigerian who has worked in the hospital, but she is no longer there, she is now in another place. The nurse asked if she could tell her about us.

Well, we said, good. At least let’s be able to see somebody. And, when Mrs. Christiannah came in, she spoke our dialect. Oh, we were happy. She accepted us like as if she knew us long before then. 

When the babies were to be discharged, they were not all discharged together. Because of their medical appointments, we cannot go back to Northern Virginia. We needed somewhere very close. Mrs. Christiannah said, “No, I have a big house! You are free to come in.”

She’s a wonderful lady.

While in the hospital we also connected with Mrs. Judy, a volunteer in the NICU who met our babies when they were there. Mrs. Judy used to come every week and she’s like a mom to us. We call her our white grandma. She has shown the Christ light in her. We said we’d like to join her church – First Presbyterian Church of Richmond.

Everybody in the church accepted us immediately. They made us feel that we belong to a family, a church community. It gives me more courage and assurance to tell anybody who is trusting God or believing God for anything that no matter what, God can do it. No matter how difficult the situation is, God can turn it around.

The sextuplets were given names that honor and glorify God:  

Morayo (I have found joy in the Lord, Morayoninuoluwa)
Sindara (God still performs wonders, Oluwasindara)
Jubeelo (God is not quantifiable, Oluwajubeelo)
Funbi (God gave me a child, Oluwafunbi)
Setemi (God has perfected my own, Oluwasetemi)
Semiloore (God has favored me, Oluwasemiloore)

When it was that 17 years, I had made up my mind that no child was coming and there was no longer to be anything, but at the same time I had concluded there was not going to be anything, that was when God said, “I will do a new thing, now will it spring forth.” (Isaiah 43:19)

Is anything too wonderful for the Lord?

– Genesis 18:14 

Video by Rob Collins

In a recent letter to the entire church family, Adeboye and Ajibola expressed their sincere gratitude for the hospitality, love and concern they have received since joining FPC-Richmond in 2018. This is an excerpt:

You gave us hope when we thought all hope was gone. We lost count of how many times you drove your cars to our house … fit car seats into them, carefully buckled our children to their seats, and drove us to and from church.

You got me a job by which I am able to put food on the table and a roof over my family. My children are not left out as you always plan and guide us in making good decisions about their education, including plans for their summer school to ensure they have a better future.

All our grandmas and grandpas have been so wonderful. They have always been there at all times to help and assist us whenever we needed them.

Special thanks to Adeboye and Ajibola Taiwo, the Rev. Mary Kay Collins and Rob Collins at First Presbyterian Church of Richmond and Paul Seebeck, Presbyterian News Service, for sharing this God story with us.

#244. My Story Isn’t Over

I have spent over half my life in prison.

All totaled, I have been to prison four times. The sad part is that none of that prison time helped me; to be honest, I truly think it made me worse. I had gotten to the point where I didn’t care to break the law, as long as I didn’t get caught. And for the most part I didn’t even care if I did get caught!

I truly believe that God led me to Addiction Recovery Care (ARC). I’ll never be able to put into words what God and ARC have done for me. While going through the program, I have learned a lot about myself and have come to understand the core beliefs I developed over the years were wrong.

My parents did not care much about me. I didn’t realize how much this would affect me growing up, and I tried to act like I didn’t care, but deep down I was dying inside. They lost custody of me when I was nine years old, and they never looked back.

My aunt and uncle stepped in and did their best to raise me, my brother and my sister. My uncle, who to me is my father, worked all day every day to try to make a living for us. He worked himself to death to take care of us — no matter what. He always tried to instill in us a good work ethic. He taught us to always be honest and do the right things no matter what.

My aunt and uncle were raising us, along with their four kids. They loved us when no one else loved us, and to me that’s what matters most. They were young and doing the best they could with seven kids. Honestly, they did a great job, cause no matter what we went through or what we did, they always taught us right from wrong and always made sure we were safe.

My aunt and uncle decided to get all three of us involved in sports and, we all were really good at something. I played football, basketball and baseball every year. I started in all three. When I was 12, my all-star team went to state in baseball, and I helped pitch for us at the state tournament. So, to say I excelled in sports would definitely be accurate. In high school I continued to do the same.

I think I remember my junior year the clearest. Maybe because it would be the last full year I would get to play. That year in baseball I batted 108 times. The first game of the year we played Allen Central and I struck out swinging twice in that game. The next 106 at-bats I would only strike out one time and end up with a batting average of 608. I had 69 base hits out of 108 at-bats, with six home runs and a slugging percentage of over 1000. That year I made the all-district team and became the only player on my team to make all-region. In football that year, we went 11-2, losing the regional championship game to Paintsville.

In my senior year, our first game was against the Hazard Bulldogs, thought to be the best team in our region. I pitched that game. I remember it well because Alice Lloyd College scouts were there. We only played six innings because our lights were torn up. In six innings you can only get 18 outs. I ended up striking out 15 batters and pitching a shutout against the top team in the region. We beat them 2-0. That game would be the last of my high school career.

My life changed forever on April 17, 2003. I was charged with two counts of first degree assault, two counts of first degree burglary, and two counts of first degree robbery. From that point, my life spiraled completely out of control due to drugs. After several months of being locked up for crimes that I didn’t commit, I started to lose hope in anything and everything. I honestly couldn’t see how this had happened to me. All the doubts and all the fears started to set in, and I began to believe the jailhouse talk. How the justice system isn’t fair and how it didn’t matter if I had done the crimes I was charged with or not — I would be going to prison.

I was hurt and angry, lonely and sad, you name it. I was a kid in a man’s world. I heard talk of a couple other inmates making plans to escape. I didn’t want to be there anymore, so when they brought it back up, all I knew is that I was broken and ready to go. That night, I joined them in trying to escape. A guard ended up getting stabbed, two others ended up getting assaulted, and my situation just got a whole lot worse.

After doing a lot of time in the hole [solitary confinement], I finally got to take my original charges to court. I was facing 120 years, but I didn’t care. I was just ready to have this all over with. To say I had lost hope in everything would be an understatement. By that time, I was almost completely broken.

It took me a couple of years to do so, but I ended up getting acquitted for all those charges I’d originally been locked up for. I remember falling to my knees and crying like the kid that I was. I thought I could finally shut the door on that part of my life. But I had to face the new charges, the escape and assault of the guard. I clearly remember how I felt as I watched my so-called codefendant walk out of the doors that day, and me having to stay behind.

The rest of me broke.

In my eyes it mattered that I shouldn’t have been in jail for something I didn’t do. However, all that mattered to the prosecutor was that I wouldn’t testify against the one who stabbed the guard, so they sent me to prison. I ended up making parole the first time up but the damage to me was done. I had no trust in the justice system and wasn’t ever going to listen to another judge or cop in my life.

Over the next nearly 20 years, I was in and out of prison, descending deeper and deeper into addiction. Each time I was released, I turned to drugs, since that’s how I dealt with everything. My lifestyle had become just like the quote you’ve heard that is often attributed to Albert Einstein: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”

I ended up catching more felonies and going back to prison two more times before serving out a 13-year sentence walking out of the doors of the Eastern Kentucky Correctional Complex in 2014.

I was “dope sick” from heroin and/or suboxone. The first time I ever touched any of those was in prison, so I truly believe prison only hurt me and never helped me in any way.

I was strung out and hating life. On Nov. 14, 2014, while I was taking a part off of a vehicle, the car fell on me. It pinned me to the ground, broke my pelvic bone and my back, and nearly shut down my kidneys and other organs. When I look back, I know in my heart I was supposed to die that night, but God spared me and, at the time, I had no idea why.

I was a pitiful excuse of a man who had let life dictate every decision he had ever made. I was paralyzed from the waist down for several months and didn’t know if I’d ever walk again. Depression became a part of my life. I turned to the only thing that would numb my pain, the only thing that would help me forget all my past failures, hurts and hangups — drugs.

I burned every bridge I had ever crossed, and I hurt almost everyone I had come into contact with. I wasn’t the father I wanted to be, the son or brother I wanted to be. I was hopelessly lost and didn’t know what to do or which way to turn so, as always, I turned to drugs.

In 2016 I got in trouble again. I ended up serving five years in a prison in Virginia. When I finally got out, I was so tired, I didn’t have much strength left in me. Over the next couple years, I went on a meth binge. Boy, I thought I was bad then. Meth was a whole new and different kind of animal. I had done it before, but this was different. It’s all I thought about. But, like I said, I was breaking the law, running from the law, always angry. I was exhausted and coming to the point where I didn’t even want to live anymore. I had already overdosed twice and thought the only way I was going to stop was to end it all.

One night before coming to treatment at ARC, I decided to go and trade the car I had just bought for a gun, so I could end it all. That night I went to the drug dealer’s house to talk to him about trading. I was done. I couldn’t stop hurting the people I cared about, so one way or another, I was going to stop it. While in the house, little did I know that God was doing for me what I couldn’t do for myself. My car was towed away. As I look back, I realize that if that had not happened, chances are I wouldn’t be here today.

A few days after my car got towed, I ended up getting a DUI and, in doing so, I received a court order to complete Phase 1 at Lincoln Oaks drug rehab center in Annville, Kentucky. All I was worried about was completing Phase 1 and then going back to my miserable excuse of a life. Along the way things started to change; my mind started to clear. At first I saw treatment as a hindrance, but then I started to see it as an opportunity to change my life.

The people in the ARC program were different. There were no degrees that made them different, it was their life experiences, they had been where I was. They knew me and what I had gone through because they also had lived my experiences in their own way. They suffered heartache, pain and loss, and they had come out on the other side. They were living the kind of life that I had been dreaming of. I was so tired and hopeless, but these people who had previously been incarcerated, who had lived lives of addiction similar to mine, they were sober and productive members of their society.

For once in more than two decades, I began to see hope. I started to believe that it was possible for me. I truly believe God used ARC and the people there to show me the way.

“This is your way out if you want it; then here it is.”

They saw something in me that I thought had died; and they believed in me. Every rehab center that I went to, I saw people who were just like me. People who had been beat down by life like I had, people who suffered great pain but were taking the necessary steps to have a better life. From the directors to the residential staff, none was any different than I was. They kept talking about how if I did certain things and applied the tools I had learned, I could live the life I was meant to live. This gave me hope, ’cause no one saw the silent tears. The heartache. The constant pain I was truly in.

People only see what we allow them to see. And I never let anyone close enough to see anything about me. The botched suicide attempts. The overdoses. For once in my life I had true hope, and there is no price tag on that. Jesus hung on the cross for that hope. He died to give broken, misguided, helpless people like me a chance at life.

So, here I am, more than two years sober, and people from my community reach out to me and look to me for help in getting into treatment — me of all people.

I am married for the first time in my life. I have a beautiful, Christian wife with a gentle soul and a huge heart. I am a father to my kids, I’m actually a big part of their life now, I am no longer the family disappointment. I no longer have to worry about spending the rest of my life in prison or dying with a needle in my arm. God and Addiction Recovery Care are helping me live a life free from the chains of addiction, something I never thought possible.

All the bridges I once burned are no longer burnt.

Someone once asked me, “After all the time you wasted in prison and addiction, what’s one year (in the program) compared to the rest of your life?” That is one of the many things that has stuck with me. So, I gave myself a year to complete the entire program, internship and all. And here I am living the rest of my life free, truly free. I am a husband and father and blessed to have a job helping others — just like me — at the place that saved my life, ARC. Today I have purpose in my life and I wake up every day and thank God for that.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord. “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. To give you hope and a future.”  — Jeremiah 29:11

And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. — Isaiah 30:21

#243. School Bus Baby, Part 2

Photo by Billy June Richardson

I remember her. That little girl in pink and pearls. I remember reaching tiny fingers up to touch those gritty pearls and wondering if I could eat them later if I got hungry. 

I remember. I always remember. At least I want to always remember… because, “Who knows when something or someone will leave, and all you’ll have left are your memories.”

When I look at this photo of a younger me, I see the pain. I wonder if a lost childhood is like the phantom pain of a lost limb. I still secretly grieve. I see the confusion that still haunts my heart to this day. I see a little girl wondering if she is cute enough to be allowed to stay. I see her pale little face, full of questions about who she is and why God would allow her to suffer. I see her yearning to be loved and to belong. I ask God, “Why?” 

For nearly three decades I have roamed the dark hallways of my mind, calling my own name over and over, reaching out for answers. I have battled demons of depression, anger, anxiety and bitterness. I have survived the reoccurring trauma of my memories on a daily basis. My flashbacks are like bits and pieces of an old movie flickering with intermittent static on a black and white TV. 

Some of my childhood memories leave me shaking. “What kind of parents try to drown their own baby?” 

There I am again — in an empty bathtub at six years old — determined to be a lifeguard as soon as I turn 16. 

Some of my memories are sad. The blurry face of my birth mother screaming beside my hospital crib still leaves a ringing in my ears today. Memories of being unwanted and unloved will haunt me to the day I leave this world. 

I haven’t battled alone though. 

Through it all, even when I didn’t know He was there, I had a Friend. A Friend who is gentle and meek, but also stronger than the demons and darkness I battle. A Friend whose arms are always wrapped around me, shielding me. A Friend who is never sleeping when I need help. 

When my biological father and mother tried to drown me, God gave me the breath of Life. When they tried to starve and poison me, He sustained me. And when my birth mother turned her back on me, condemning me to a lifetime of mental and emotional anguish, God held me fast. 

When I thought I had no one, He was always there.

My God is a Provider. He took the shell of a little girl that I was, and filled my cup to overflowing. I met my forever family about a year after my rescue. Three years later I was adopted by my second pair of foster parents. They opened their arms, hearts, and home to me. They promised to never leave. They promised to always love. When my broken little mind doubted, they stayed faithful. When I tested boundaries to determine if they could be trusted, they withstood the test with patience and understanding. They taught me about Jesus. The One who brought me from the brink of death into a beautiful new life. 

I’m now married to a wonderful man and together we are raising our daughter to know and love Jesus. We are raising her to love, and together we are repainting my life’s canvas. 

My God is a healer. He has taken the broken pieces of my spirit and made me whole. He has walked with me through every dark valley and shadow of death. He has been the key in my dungeon of despair. He is my Almighty Fortress. He is still restoring my soul day by day. 

God has blessed me beyond anything I could have dreamed up myself (Ephesians 3:20–21). He has raised me from my pile of ashes, like Job, scraping away at the sores in my soul. He has been my rock. 

No one could have known the joy that was coming to me, and I cannot wait to see where God will lead me next. I know it will be beautiful though, simply because I am walking with Him. 

“For it is you who light my lamp; the LORD my God lightens my darkness.” — Psalm 18:28 (ESV)

The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” — Exodus 14:14

#242. School Bus Baby, Part 1

Photo by Billy June Richardson

I love these big beautiful mountains of Southeastern Kentucky, but I almost didn’t get to experience the beauty of them. I almost lost the chance to dance on their peaks. I almost lost the chance to grow up in these hollers and see the glory of God in their beauty. But, by the grace of God, I blossomed like an evening primrose in the dark shadows of a coal mine.

There is an ugly poison in our beautiful mountains. Its name is addiction. It has poisoned generations and — no matter what form it takes — its clutches are visible and heartbreaking. It’s heartbreaking for those in its grasp and for those like me, who have felt the generational curse and consequences of addiction’s reach. 

My story is not one of a Phoenix rising from the ashes reborn. Mine is a Joseph story (Genesis 37–50). A story of victory over all the demons in hell and forces of sin and darkness. Mine is a story of angels of mercy and hope. Mine is a story of redemption.

Addiction is an expression of despair, a slough of despondency. My birth parents wallowed in it — blind to the beauty of the eternal paradise before them, and enslaved to the god of alcohol. As they worshiped at its altar, I drowned in the consequences. 

I couldn’t find the steps to get myself out; then God sent an angel!

Billy June came on wings of hope with a food basket from her church. (My birth mother had somehow reached a point of despair and contacted Billy June’s church, asking for food for herself.) 

This was the kind of despair that spent the food money on alcohol and cigarettes, a despair that caused a mother to attempt to drown her own baby in a bucket of water. It was a despair that nearly ended my life. 

Several food baskets later, Billy June was even allowed inside the rusty school bus we called home. That’s when she saw me for the first time. My birth mother had been trying to conceal me and had tried to “get rid of me,” so she could leave Kentucky and go back to my father in Georgia.

“There’s a baby on that bus,” Billy June told a social worker, who agreed to come along on the next food delivery to see for herself and to evaluate the situation for social services. 

On that next visit, they were met with ugliness and carbon monoxide fumes so strong the social worker had to leave the bus to vomit outside. They found a baby living on that bus — a baby so pale — with her eyes rolled back in her head. This baby (me) was dying from starvation, multi-organ failure and carbon monoxide poisoning. I had a blood count of 2.4 and had stopped crying and expressing my needs, realizing it was fruitless.

For many months I had lain in a pit of darkness until the doors of death opened to receive me. What a glorious salvation it was the day those doors were slammed shut by the God of all creation! 

After I was taken by social services and placed in a loving home, doctors said I wouldn’t last a week. I spent a year recovering physically. However, if I’m honest, every day is a new victory mentally and emotionally. Every day is a testament to God’s mercy. Every day is a day that I can glorify God as a walking billboard of His mercy. 

I still suffer from the lasting consequences of addiction’s reach. Mental turmoil and emotional scars from the abuse and abandonment I went through are still potent today. But, through it all, one truth remains: All the forces of evil and darkness cannot compete with my Champion in heaven. What the devil and this fallen world meant for evil, God has transformed into good. Those doors of death have been refined and reformed into beautiful gates of heaven awaiting me one glorious happy day. The chains of addiction haven’t just been broken. In my redemption, the forge where they were created has been razed to the ground and, in doing so, I have been raised to a new life, full of hope. 

What a beautiful privilege it is to give my life and place my trust in my Champion! May the rest of my life reflect His glory, redemption, and the hope and comfort that can be found in Him. 

Some people say I should have been aborted or left to die. That my suffering should never have happened. That the emotional and mental turmoil I still experience to this day could have been prevented by abortion or death. But I defy them to ignore the immense blessings my God continues to rain down upon me. 

Nobody knew the joy that was coming! May my every day be a hallelujah!

You Light a lamp for me.
The Lord, my God, lights up my darkness.
Psalm 18:28 (NLT)

For you are my hiding place;
you protect me from trouble.
You surround me with songs of victory.
Psalm 32:7 (NLT)

Even if my father and mother abandon me,
the Lord will hold me close.
Psalm 27:10 (NLT)

#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.

#188. Listening To God

 

Photo by Jeff Rogers Photography

I grew up in a loving family. We went to church every Sunday morning. I am one of three children, all girls. I went away to attend college and became a nurse. I moved back after 10 years to be closer to my family. Family is so precious to me. I have been working as a nurse for 21 years. 

Jody was really more of an acquaintance than a friend. We grew up in the same county but attended different high schools. I knew of him in high school because he was a great basketball player and was well known for that. Years later when we both had daughters about the same age, I was the coach of a softball team his daughter played on. We had some conversations during that time, but we were still more of acquaintances. We are friends on Facebook, and I noticed that he had made some comments that he was having some decline in his health. The comments were a bit vague, but as a nurse I picked up that he wasn’t doing well health-wise.

I sent a message, telling him that I was praying for him and that I hoped things were getting better. He sent back a nice thank you. Maybe a week or so later he made a comment that a friend or two had tried to be a kidney donor and hadn’t matched. It clicked with me then that he had chronic kidney disease. As a nurse, I have taken care of people on dialysis and have seen the terrible effects of chronic kidney disease.

I remember after reading his Facebook message, I was lying in bed resting from a shift at work. The thought came to me—it was like running into a wall—“Why are you just praying for him? Why can’t you do something more?” I know God put that thought there. “Why stop with praying?” I thought of his three young daughters. I am one of three daughters, and I can’t image having grown up without my dad or having him so ill he couldn’t have participated in my life in a meaningful way. I just kept having the thought, “You can do more than just pray.” I knew that God wanted me to do more than just pray for those girls and his wife. I needed to do what I could to make sure they had their husband and their dad. 

I reached out to Jody and told him I would like to do more and asked him who to contact. He was hesitant. Then a couple of weeks later, I reached out again and again said, “I would really like to do more.” He then gave me the information about contacting the transplant coordinator at the hospital. Interestingly, even though the transplant coordinator works for a big university hospital many miles away, he also grew up in our county. I contacted him and they mailed me a packet of questionnaires, which I filled out and sent back. Later the coordinator called me and let me know that I was ready to move to the next step. After that was the blood work and urine test to make sure I was healthy enough to donate my kidney. There were no maybes or buts. Everything was perfect. The initial bloodwork was done in February to see if I could proceed, and it appeared that I was a perfect match. I believe it was God ordained. During this time, there was a lot of time for me to reflect. I think we all go through a time of wondering what our purpose is. I believe every turn in my life journey led to me to give my kidney. I felt a complete peace about it. I had no hesitation, no worries. I gave up drinking soda and taking ibuprofen to make sure the kidney I was going to donate would be as healthy as possible. I believed at the time that God would take care of me and He has taken care of me. 

In April I had to go to the hospital to meet with a social worker for a mental evaluation and more physical tests like an EKG and chest X-ray and more blood work to make sure I was still that perfect match. I talked to the transplant coordinator. You have to have specific markers in your blood that match. The more markers that match the greater the chance the transplant will be accepted. The whole process was like rolling down a 100-mile highway with no potholes, no red lights, and nobody breaking in front of you. You just go. 

In July, 10 days before our surgery, Jody and I both had appointments with the surgeon. We met with him separately but were in the waiting room at the same time. That was the first time I had seen Jody since he had been on dialysis. It weighed on my heart that he didn’t look well and reconfirmed my decision to give him my kidney. There was a kind Christian woman in the waiting room who had given her kidney three weeks prior to her dad. Remarkably, she was also from our county. It was as if God was providing people all along the way to make us feel more comfortable with the process. The woman was very helpful. She filled me in on what to expect, which was a blessing to me. 

Our surgeries were on a Thursday. There was a wall between our bays in pre-op. They took me back first. When they were getting ready to take me back to the operating room they said, “He is beside of you.” I asked if I could see him, and they rode my stretcher to him. We linked hands (my sister and me and Jody and his wife) and he said a prayer. They offered anxiety medicine before taking me back, but I refused it. At no time did I have anxiety. We had to wait on the surgeon for 15 minutes after I got into the operating room, and even then, I had no nervousness. I was calm. Even when I woke up afterward, I messaged a friend to see if she wanted to go for a run. I walked to Jody’s room and went in to see him. My whole family was so supportive throughout the process. My mom brought two balloons to the hospital. Jody’s balloon said, “It’s a girl!” 

It has been a little over two years out now. I am wonderful and have had no problems. I continue to donate blood on a regular basis and keep an eye on my blood pressure which has been fine. I have had no ill effects from it and I don’t intend to have any ill effects.  

In September, Jody preached a sermon in a church in our county. I attended the service and Jody looked so healthy. I would do it all again in a heartbeat. I try to encourage people to be organs donors while they are still alive, and they will actually see the benefit that the recipient gets from it. I get to see that now. People knew Jody for his basketball, but he is so much more than that. He means so much to so many people. I get to see that joy is restored in his household and with his friends and in his church. He is back to doing the things he loves like golfing, things that the disease had taken away from him. I get to relish in his joy, and this a great gift. His youngest daughter turned six today, and she has her daddy here for her birthday. 

I try to encourage people to not doubt what God puts on their hearts and to be willing to listen. We can ask God to speak to us, but we have to listen to God and not doubt that He will take care of us. If I never receive another blessing from Him, I couldn’t ask for any better earthly life than what He has provided for me. 

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Philippians 4:13 

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.

#180 Thankful Nevertheless

 Photo by Jeff Rogers

I met Rick my freshman year of high school. We dated in high school and married young. I was saved and baptized in January of 1980, and three years later, Rick was saved. The first time I heard him share his testimony, he said he couldn’t figure out why I would go to church not just once, but twice on Sunday, because that was our only day to be together since he worked six days a week. Rick said he wanted to know more about this man called Jesus who I loved more than I did him.

My husband loved basketball and coached a little league basketball team. He coached two little boys, Todd and Earl Reed, who went to my church. Every Sunday, between Sunday School and church, those two little boys would run to the church office and call Rick and ask him if he was coming to church. The boys were in two separate Sunday School classes, so they would both make calls to Rick as soon as they got out of Sunday School. They kept calling every Sunday and didn’t give up. They knew they were waking Rick up, but they didn’t care. They just wanted him to come to church. I cannot tell you how thankful I am that God placed those two little boys in our lives.

Rick was saved during a revival service at our church in 1983. He promised the two little boys that he would come to that revival service. When he came in the door that morning, they flocked to him and wanted to sit with him. When the preacher gave the invitation to come forward and accept Christ, he asked that we bow our heads and close our eyes in prayer. Rick shared with me later that he bowed his head, but he didn’t close his eyes. During that invitation, he saw one of those little boys, Earl Reed, pointing to him and then pointing toward the altar in the front of the church. Rick told me that was Earl Reed’s way of praying that he would give his life to Christ that morning, and he did! The Bible says a little child will lead them, and those two little boys did lead him. Rick got involved in church right off the bat, mainly working with the Youth. We didn’t have children of our own, so we had the time to devote to them.

My husband was a wonderful, selfless man, always putting others before himself. He was all about helping and ministering to people. He went on two mission trips a year; one with World Changers, an organization that goes all over the United States helping people who can’t afford the needed work on their homes, and one with Joshua Land Ministries to help build churches in Kentucky. In 2011, he was working with a crew to help put a roof on a new church in Mt. Sterling, Kentucky, when he fell off the roof and landed on his head. There didn’t seem to be any indication that he tried to catch himself, so we think he passed out before he fell off the roof. They flew him to the regional university hospital, and he stayed there approximately two weeks. He never regained consciousness and had two strokes during that time. After about two weeks, the doctors told me Rick’s brain was dead, and that I was going to have to make the dreaded decision to take him off life support. Immediately after the doctors telling me I was going to have to make that decision, my pastor called to check on us. I asked him, “How do you make a decision like that? I feel like I’m taking his life.” He told me, “You’re not taking his life. If it’s God’s will for him to live, even if you remove the life support, he’ll live.” God knows what we need and when we need it, and I needed to hear that. Rick’s family and I made the decision to remove the life support. The doctors explained to us that, after we took Rick off life support, it was possible he would live for a few days because, even though his brain was dead, physically he was very strong. He lived almost a week. I got to bring him home to our local hospital under Hospice care, and he passed away on July 17, 2011.

It was really hard and very lonely for me, but God was always there. You don’t know God is all you need until He’s all you’ve got. My family, Rick’s family, and my church family were wonderful, and my work family was too. They stayed with me at the hospital during Rick’s illness and for a couple of weeks after his passing. My church family came by often to see if I needed anything and tried to keep me busy. My job gave me a reason to get up every morning. But, it was during those times by myself, especially in the evenings and at night, that were my loneliest times. It was just me and God. At the end of the day, I would pray, “God, I made it through today. Tomorrow is another day, and I’m going to need you to help me through tomorrow”. In the mornings, I would say to God, “Your Word tells me that your mercies are new every morning and your grace is sufficient. I need your grace and mercy today.” I grew more spiritually during that time than I ever had. I know God was with me every minute. At night when I was lonely and sad, I would open up the Bible and it would give me comfort. I drew such strength from God’s promises.

“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.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)

In September 2013, more sorrow began. My middle sister was diagnosed with cancer. She went through various treatments and surgeries, and we had to watch her suffer terribly. She passed away in February 2015.

Then God, in His infinite wisdom and perfect timing, sent someone to me. I had bought a new car and someone hit it in the parking lot of Food City right after I bought it. I called my current husband, who owned the body shop and had repaired cars for me before, to repair my car. We were married in January of 2018. He’s a wonderful man. God has blessed me doubly – with a whole family! My husband has two children, a daughter and a son, who are both married, and we have two grandchildren and one on the way.

I have so many things to be thankful for. First and foremost, I am thankful for my salvation. I’m thankful for the time I had with my first husband and for my new husband and new family. I’m thankful for the closeness I have with my mother, father and my sisters; for Rick’s family with whom I am still close today; for my church family; and for my job and my work family. God has given me many people to love, and who love, support and encourage me. He is so good!

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.

#172 Marketplace to Ministry

 Photo by Brianna Rapp

For many years I held an executive position in a major technology corporation in the United States. In my mid-forties I began to feel uncomfortable, sensing that there was something more important than working in the corporate world. I asked myself, “Why am I spending so much time building the kingdom of this company, when I could be spending time building the kingdom of God?”

About this time, our church wanted to plant a new church. A friend and I were asked to lead the church plant with our families. Four other families joined, and in 1994 we began the new church. I shared the pastoring with one other fellow for two years as a lay pastor. Our growth was explosive. We first started meeting in a conference room and outgrew that space; we moved to a junior high school and outgrew that space as well. In 1996 we were meeting in one of the largest high school auditoriums with about 250 parishioners. However, in a completely unexpected move, the administration told us one day that they would soon start renovations on the auditorium, and so we had to leave within four weeks. 

Faced with no place to meet, we contacted other big high schools in the area multiple times. Each time all of them told us their policy was to not allow any organization to use their facility. Our situation became desperate. We needed God to provide and God did.

The pastor of our church was in a prayer meeting with several other men and he explained our situation. An ex-NFL football player was among those at the prayer meeting and he asked if his high school alma mater—one of the schools who had refused us multiple times—had been asked to help. The pastor told him that the high school had been asked by our church several times and the answer was always no. 

Hearing this, the ex-NFL player decided he would ask his alma mater high school for us. To our surprise (but not God’s) they agreed! Not only were we allowed to use the auditorium, which held 600, but we also were allowed to use all the classrooms for our children’s programs.

I am so grateful to God for many things: for the corporate job that provided so well for my family for many years, for the call out of this job into ministry, for the many people that God brought into the church, for the lives that were transformed by the planting of the new church, and for providing a connection that led to a place for our church to meet. 

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.

#171. In His Way

 Photo by Nicole Tarpoff

When I was born and the doctor spanked me, he said I had the loudest set of lungs he had ever heard. He said, “He’s going to be a preacher!” My mom always took me to church growing up, and that was the greatest thing she could do as a parent. At 16, I received the Lord and was saved. For the next two years, I was a model young Christian man. I sang in the church choir and attended services regularly.

I always loved sports growing up. I was cut from the basketball team in high school but played baseball and was pretty good at it. I played baseball in college and also helped with the college basketball team. The head basketball coach was one of the youngest college coaches in the country and he became my best friend.  He was one of the winningest coaches in the history of the college.

Unfortunately, I got hooked up with the wrong crowd. I started smoking and drinking. Sin is pleasurable for a season, but when the season is over it’s like gravel in your mouth. I quit going to church. I stopped seeking God’s will in my life, and I became my own god. Any time you take your life in your own hands, it’s going to lead to failure.

My dream was to be a head basketball coach. It was all about me. I wanted to build my name up. When I graduated college, I got hired as an assistant basketball coach at a high school. The drinking got worse and I missed a lot of work. I developed a gambling habit and missed almost every Friday to go to the racetrack. I was let go from this job and got a job at another high school as assistant coach and was there three years. My dream was still to become a head coach, and the opportunity presented itself when there was a head coaching positon open in the mountains of Kentucky.  

I got recommendations from my college coaching friend and ended up getting the job. I thought my dreams had come true. I was finally a head coach. Everything went wrong, but it was all part of God bringing me back to Him. When the team started losing, I started cussing out the players because they were not fulfilling my dreams. I couldn’t move up in my career with a losing record, and I blamed the players for our losses. My drinking got worse. For three years, everything went downhill. I got a reputation in the community and there was a push to remove me as coach. Finally, the superintendent said, “There isn’t support for you. We are going to have to let you go.”

I was at rock bottom. I had been fired and had a bad reputation. I bought a 12-pack of beer and was going to drink my sorrows away. That night the Lord spoke to me and said, “Come on home. I love you.” I prayed, “Lord, I have made a mess of my life. Take my life and make something of it.” I recommitted my life right then and asked God to do whatever He wanted with my life.

I started going to church again and got very involved. God took drinking from me. I knew every time I took a drink it was breaking God’s heart, and finally I just threw it away. I was out of work for eight months after I got fired. I got a job sacking groceries. My first check was $60 from the A&P grocery, and I put $6 in the plate. God has truly blessed me. I eventually got a very good paying job. I got hired full-time by UPS as a 32-year-old, and that was such a miracle because at that time they were hiring people younger than me.

One year after I was fired, I married the librarian from the high school where I had been the basketball coach. I thank God for her. She is a wonderful woman and has been a true blessing to me.

God transformed me so much that the high school invited me to preach the baccalaureate service in the gym where I had been cussing the basketball players just two years before.

God also called me to preach. I realize now that He was preparing me to preach through all of my background. I had been a teacher for seven years at three different high schools. You must be a teacher to be a preacher. I was also a coach, and coaching a team is like pastoring. You want a team to play together in unity as one. A church is successful when everyone works in unity.

I was ready to preach but didn’t find a church for two years. In 1990, I accepted a short-term job at a Baptist church, filling their pulpit while they looked for an interim pastor. They liked me and asked me to also preach at their Mission Church, a very small church way out in the country with only 12 people attending. I accepted and was preaching two services on Sunday morning and two Sunday evening. My wife and I fell in love with that little mission church, and one day the parishioners asked if I would become their main pastor. I was still working at UPS when I became their pastor and kept my job at UPS, working as a bi-vocational pastor until I retired.

I have been at this church for 27 years. I’m the only pastor they have ever had. It has been amazing what God has done at that church. We now have over 200 attending. We started a Christian school in the building 15 years ago. Since I have retired from UPS, God has opened up many other ministries. We want to take God’s love beyond the walls of the church. We go to the homeless shelter in a bigger community nearby and have seen many come to Christ. We run a bus from this shelter to our church, welcoming our homeless friends to our church and showing them the love of Jesus. We have a prison ministry, a ministry at an assisted living facility, a high-rise complex ministry, and a ministry at a drug rehabilitation center. 

There is nothing in our little town—even the post office got moved. But God is reaching many people through media. Our services are on the Internet, and we have two television programs airing in five states.

I still love sports, but God took that away as an idol. God has used my love of sports for good. Years ago, the radio station asked me if I would do some play-by-play on a radio sports program. I ended up doing a sports talk show as a hobby. Many people got to know me this way, and this helped when I began preaching and we began airing the services on television.

Now my life is about Him and not me. God took everything that I desired and gave it to me, but it was in His way and I had to surrender to Him first. It was kind of like the wrestling of Jacob with the Lord. I was totally broken that night, and God blessed me. What I thought was the worst night of my life, was really the greatest night of my life. He totally transformed me.

God is loving, gentle, restoring, and long-suffering. He is forgiving, forgiving, forgiving. He doesn’t look at our faults; He looks at our faith. He saw my heart even in my wild and undone times. He knew what He was going to make out of me even when I couldn’t see it. I cannot praise Him enough for everything He has done.

Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. Hebrews 12:11 KJV

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.

#170 God Knows My Heart

 Photo by Nicole Tarpoff

My parents were divorced when I was 3 years old. My mom was married nine times and we moved every two or three years. I was surrounded by drugs growing up. I was 5 years old the first time I saw cocaine being used. My dad wasn’t involved in my life in a meaningful way, and as time went on he spent less and less time with me. Many times, I can remember having my bag packed and watching for him to come and get me for the weekend and him never showing up. To fill the void, I ran to the streets. I started smoking cigarettes and hanging out with kids that huffed gas and White Out. At about 15 I met a friend who introduced me to alcohol and acid. Our moms would buy us alcohol thinking it was safer for us to drink at home. I needed money to buy a car and went to my dad. He gave me marijuana to sell. I started smoking marijuana with my mom and dad. When I was about 20 I was introduced to cocaine.

In 1998, I had a car wreck while speeding over 120 miles per hour. This is the first time I went to jail, but the charges were dropped. In 1999 I went to jail for possession of marijuana. This was the year my son was born. His mom and I had both been meth users and he had serious health issues from birth. His lungs were not producing oxygen. He was in the hospital for weeks but thankfully he responded well to treatment. We took him home and two hours later Child Protective Services came to our home. We had periodic drug tests after that. In 2000, my son and his mother were in a bad car wreck and she was killed. Miraculously, he only had a few scratches. I wanted to be numb after this. He went to live with his maternal grandmother and that gave me the freedom to do what I wanted, which was to indulge in meth.

I went to prison in 2001 and was in and out of prison for over a decade. During this time, I learned to manufacture meth, and my relationship with my son was non-existent. In 2013, I was put into solitary confinement in prison. There was no window and no interaction with people for five days. It was unbearable. I prayed, “God, if you are real, get me out of this room.” In two days, they moved me to another room with a window. But I felt this was a coincidence. Again, I prayed, “God, if you are real get me out of this jail.” Not even 36 hours later they came to get me and moved me to another jail. There I met a guy who convinced me to read the Bible. I read the Bible for about two weeks and this softened my heart. On August 18, 2013, I cried out to God and received Christ and the Holy Spirit. I had a spiritual experience that night that changed my life. The experience was like liquid love. Everything was broken off of me. I no longer had the desire for drugs after that. Everything was changed. Another inmate said to me, “I’ve never seen a change in anyone like I have seen in you. I want what you have.”

In 2014, I got out of prison in one state but I was facing a 20-year prison sentence in another state. I asked the judge to lessen my bond and he cut my bond amount by 90%—from $10,000 to $1,000. My dad and a friend posted my bond and I was able to spend time in a halfway house and spend some time with my son before going back to prison. My 20-year sentence was cut in half and I began serving my 10 years in July 2015. This was the best time I had ever spent in prison because I went back saved and I met some wonderful people. I witnessed to my roommate and prayed for him and for his release, and he was paroled. In two years, I had the opportunity for parole. Everyone was skeptical because it was so unlikely given my history, but I felt strongly that I would have favor and that they would grant me parole. When I went before the parole board I told them if I was paroled, my plan was to go back to the halfway house. They granted me parole.

 

I spent six months in the halfway house, and as soon as I got out I started going back into the jail to minister. I am now a part of Residents Encounter Christ (REC), an organization that has three-day weekends with inmates to teach them the Good News and bring them into a relationship with Christ. God has prepared me for the ministry I am doing now, offering hope and bringing people to Christ and discipling them. I spend time with the Lord every day. The power of the Holy Spirit is the only way I have the strength to live the life I am living now. It is an honor to bring Him glory and exalt Him.

 

God knows our heart and wants to give us the desires of our heart. He is restoring my relationship with my son. I am so thankful for the many ways God protected him over the years. I can now see all of the little and big things God did to save me and draw me to Him. I’m so thankful for God’s love that is beyond our understanding and that He answered my cries for help and changed me. I am a new creation and His power in me strengthens me every day.

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4

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.