#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.

#168 Walk by Faith

 Photo by Nicole Tarpoff

I was one of seven children. I had the best mom ever; I have never seen a stronger woman. She went without so we could eat. My dad was in and out of jail and did over 20 years in state prison and federal prisons. My dad was my role model. He taught me how to con and hustle. I thought he was a gangster and that’s what being a real man was.

My grandma lived next door. We were very close, and I stayed at her house many nights. She had so much determination and was a hard worker. She loved the Lord, went to church every Sunday, and talked to me about Jesus. In 2005, she died in my arms. That was a turning point. I was 16 and had been getting in trouble before that, but I wasn’t doing drugs. I had friends that were doing drugs, and the drugs were easy to get. Some people have a slow downhill spiral, but for me it was immediately falling apart. I started with one pill and then went to IV drugs. I got suspended from school, kicked off the ball teams, and went to juvenile detention.

At 18 I was released and went right back to doing dope. I got into more trouble and was a three-time convicted felon and spent eight years in jails and prisons and detox centers. During this time, I felt I was destined to be in jail. I didn’t trust people and was ashamed. But on the outside, I wanted everyone to think I was a tough guy. In 2010, my little sister who was 18 years old overdosed and died. She had called me a few hours before she overdosed and had a bunch of pills. I was so consumed in my own addiction I did nothing to help her. I was so lost I used her funeral to make people feel sorry for me to get dope. Not long after that, the girl I was with got pregnant. After our daughter was born, my aunt and uncle took her into their home. I’m thankful to God that they took her. They provided a good, safe home for her. We named our daughter after my little sister who had just passed away. 

In 2014, I went through a substance abuse program in jail and stayed clean 19 months. I was sober but I wasn’t in recovery. I hadn’t changed anything about myself. I just wasn’t using. I started dating a girl I had known since I was a kid. We got a place and she got pregnant. I was still clean from drugs but didn’t have a job. I wasn’t free and was ashamed and miserable. I was running around with my old buddies, hustling people for money. I was not being a man to provide for my family. We were living off my girlfriend’s child support for her two children that were living with us.

Eventually I broke and started doing dope again and relapsed bad. I robbed my family’s food stamps and sold their toys and diapers. My girlfriend wasn’t into drugs. She was a good girl. It was the relationship I had always wanted, and I was throwing it away. Our son was born November 2, 2015. On Christmas Eve of 2015, I came in and threw down a rug I had stolen, and my girlfriend thought it was her Christmas present. She hit me hard and evil took over me. I was a monster. I beat her. The next morning her father was at our door with a shotgun and the law was on the way. I went to jail, and when I got out she wanted nothing to do with me. I couldn’t see any of my kids. They told me I had to get help if I wanted to see my kids. I went to my sister’s grave and asked God why He took her and not me.

In February 2016, I checked myself into a detox hospital. I waited for about 10 hours and wanted to leave, but something kept telling me to stay. I thought, “If you leave, you are going to die.” A month later, I checked into a residential drug treatment center. I hated everybody and hated myself. I couldn’t stand to look at myself and had no hope whatsoever but knew if I didn’t do something different I was going to die. For eleven days, I wanted to leave. I couldn’t get focused. One day I was using my phone and as I was typing “Walk by Faith Not by Sight,” I got caught with it, and you can get kicked out for that. However, the pastoral counselor at the home talked to me and said, “What if you could take all this bad and turn it into doing something good? What if you can take all that hustling and conning that you learned from your dad and use it to help people and show people hope? What was meant for evil God uses for good. You have a chance to change your family tree.” This conversation changed me. The Assistant Director spoke with me about accountability and it opened my eyes and planted a seed that changed the way I saw things and I began holding myself accountable for everything I had ever done in my life.  The Director of the program also talked to me that day and gave me hope. He said he had been through eight rehabs and now he was the Director. I said, “I wish I could be where you are.” He told me to reach higher than that. After that I got focused. I worked on the old baggage inside of me—the anger, the shame. I wanted to be free from that. I was still struggling with spirituality because of my sins. I hadn’t submitted fully to Christ yet, but God was working in my life and shaping me. I was learning patience and humility. When I graduated from the recovery program, it was the only thing I had accomplished in my life. I framed the graduation certificate, and it is now hanging in the center of the wall at my office where I work.

I had already worked on moving beyond my past, but I hadn’t really found Jesus. I was still stuck on following laws. The last night I was in the recovery program, we went to church and I heard a sermon about how believing in Jesus saves us and about Jesus’ relentless love and forgiveness. I finally got it. I got saved that night and felt so free. The next day, I went home. I had come to terms that my girlfriend was not coming back, but I still wanted to be a good father to my children. I was living my life by faith. I told God, “I don’t know what I’m doing, but I’m going to trust in You and have faith and stay the path.” I was trusting in something totally different than I ever had.

I started going to church, and it was around Mother’s Day. I knew all the sorrys couldn’t change what I had done, but I sent my girlfriend a Mother’s Day card and wrote Proverbs 3:5-6 in it.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

I started taking my children to church and then asked if she would go to church with me. She started going to church with me and ended up getting saved too. We got married in June, just two months after I graduated the recovery program. My family was restored with custody of all children except my first daughter who is still living with my uncle and aunt. I want to do what is best for her. I want it to be God’s will and God’s timing when we get reunited. I have prayed that God would let me know the right thing to do at the right time.

After we got married, I was honest about who I was and couldn’t find a job anywhere. I went back to school to get a college degree. We moved in with my mom, but it was a hard situation. We had to take showers with a water hose outside. The only thing I owned was a car and that blew up. I had to walk everywhere I needed to go. My wife and I didn’t pray for money or things, we just prayed for our relationship with God to get stronger. But God always provided. The pastor of our church and his wife offered us a house to stay in rent-free, and the church bought us a 2009 minivan. I got certified as a peer support specialist and was hired on as a residential staff at the recovery program I went through. I was promoted to pastoral counselor in October 2017. We just had another baby April 13, a boy named Gage, which means “a deposit of good faith.”

Six days after the baby was born, my dad got hit by a car as he was leaving jail and was killed. I hadn’t talked to him in a year. I had tried to help him but he didn’t want it. I felt so bad. When I looked at him in the casket, I thought, “What if he had taken the opportunity to follow Christ? If he had known the love of Christ everything would have been different.” And I thought, that could have been me. I have so much regret about the things I have done, but God is using those experiences to allow me to help others. Today I find my joy in helping people find hope and helping them get their families back. Today I realize life is not about material things it’s about people; it’s about family! I love my beautiful wife and my 5 amazing kids. God restored all the broken pieces of my heart and today I know what true freedom is.  I never thought I could break the bond of addiction. I never thought I would be able to be a good dad, son, brother, and husband. Without Jesus, there is no way I could do what I am doing. I’m so thankful.

To me God is love, grace, and mercy. I have many days that I fall short and struggle with self- doubt, but I snap back and know that God loves me. It’s the religious stuff that turns people away from God. But His love chases you down and finds you and pulls you out of the pit of hell. Once you experience that, how could you ever go back?

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

John 10:10 

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.

#164 Every Moment is a God Moment

 

 

Photo by Brianna Rapp

Several years ago at Thanksgiving our pastor asked our congregation what we were thankful for. Growing up, I had good parents and grandparents. I come from a big family, with four brother and four sisters. We grew up in a loving home and we were very close. I remember many times we prayed together as a family. All my siblings are still living and both my parents are living. When my pastor asked this question, I thought about how blessed I have been to have such a good family and felt so thankful to God for this blessing.

On another day at church, our pastor challenged each of us in the congregation to start reading the Bible daily. On January 1, 2007, I started doing this—reading the Daily Walk Bible early every morning. My wife and I live out in the country. The end of that same January, as I was going to church on a very icy Sunday, my truck slid off the narrow bridge and fell upside down into the creek. Thankfully, it landed on the passenger side and I was unharmed. God protected me. I went back into the house, warmed up, and picked up my Bible to read. Nearly every morning since then I have read the Bible. Now it feels like my day is not started off right if I don’t read the Bible.

Both our son and daughter have been into drugs. Our daughter got pregnant and we raised her son for five years. Without being in God’s Word and knowing how forgiving God is, I don’t know that I could have forgiven or made it through these situations. Because of our kid’s addiction, they stole from my wife and me—guns, tools, cash, even my wedding band. Each time it happened it was harder to forgive them. My wife and I both work hard at our jobs and we don’t have a lot compared to what many people have. That made it even harder when our kids stole from us and we had to replace things. But when I read the Bible I learn how many times that Jesus has forgiven me—too many to count. This realization has helped me forgive them.

But we did have to do hard things. We turned both of them into the authorities and they both went to jail. After our daughter got out of jail, her life began to change for the better.  She and her husband now come to church and have jobs. Our grandson has gone back to live with them.

After you start reading God’s Word, it changes everything. Many days I have had things going on in my life and I could pick up the Bible and hit on just what I needed to hear for that day to help me get through it. Since I have been reading the Bible each day, I find myself being more grateful, seeing things each day that I am thankful for. God is a giving God. When I try to think of a particular “God moment,” well … everything is a God moment. He put air in my lungs this moment and gave me this day. I don’t care what we do, we could never thank Him enough.

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.

#163 Changing Jobs, Finding Life

Photo by Brianna Rapp 

The first time I remember the Holy Spirit convicting me of my sin was in 1972 when I was 18 years old. My mother was being baptized in John’s Creek and I was standing on the swinging bridge overlooking the creek. The song that was sung was “Shall We Gather at the River?” I felt a tug at my heart, but I didn’t really know what it was.

A few years later, in 1981, I was invited to play on a softball team with a member of a local Baptist church. I had anger issues and I always wanted to win. Sometimes I got really upset, but the man who had invited me to play never got upset or angry. There was something different about him. He was a super person—very helpful, very patient.

He and his wife came to visit my wife and me in our home. I remember the night very well—it was on a Thursday—and before they came I knew someone was coming. He shared the gospel with my wife and me that night. I responded, “Not today,” but told them I would go to church with him. He gave me a New Testament outline Bible which had outlines of different topics in it, such as “What is faith?” and “What is sin?” The next day at work I read the topic, “What is sin?” and after I finished, I knew I was a sinner.

The next Sunday morning, we played a softball game early and then later that morning I went to church. My wife, daughter, and mother-in-law went to church with me. When the invitation was given, my mother-in-law made a profession of faith. Then after the service was finished, my wife made a profession of faith, but I didn’t. I knew I was a sinner, but I thought I had plenty of time. “Not today.” However, that afternoon I kept thinking about it—and it was the most miserable day of my life. My wife and I went back to church that evening. I will never forget the invitation hymn that was sung that night: “O Why Not Tonight?” I went forward and made a profession of faith.

It was the beginning of my walk with the Lord. The people at our church were so loving and good to us. It was as if we had fallen into a gold mine of love. Within a month after my baptism, I began the Continuous Witnessing Class. It was a 13-week study of scripture memorization and training about how to share Christ with others. I decided to go through the study twice because I felt like I had just memorized it the first time. The second time I really learned what it meant. After completion, our church had a visitation program. My wife and I participated in the weekly visitation. Once a week we went to different homes in the community to talk with people about Christ. Sometimes we would know the people we were visiting and sometimes the people were strangers to us. We would knock on the door and I would say, “Hi, I am Roger. I am from the Baptist church and I wanted to sit down and talk with you for a few minutes if you’re got the time.” It was very rare for people to say no. Sometimes I could tell people were not receptive and we did not share the gospel, but many times people were open and we would share. The home visitation was fruitful. One year we had over 100 baptisms at our small church and a good part of this was a result of the church-wide participation in visiting. At church, the gospel is shared in general but not in a personal one-on-one way. This one-on-one sharing is what many people need, as it becomes personal. I am a very shy person, and knocking on doors and sharing with people was hard for me, but along the way God changed me. God was always with me and He always preceded me in everything. He gave me more confidence and helped me to share what He had done for me—which is the best testimony of all. God gave me the words; I was just a tool.

One of the ways that God has worked in my life is through my job. I started working as a heavy equipment operator when I was 18 years old. I worked 10–12 hours a day, six days a week and sometimes on Sunday. Several years ago I felt the Lord was calling me to do something different. I didn’t have any time for my family and my body was beginning to ache. It was not a healthy way to live. I started praying, “Where can I get a different job start to support my family?” Out of the blue someone called me and asked if I was interested in beginning a new career. The job would be for the county school system. I was told the staring salary. It was a $2,200 pay cut per month! I accepted the job. My wife is a school teacher (former banker) and she created a budget to make the new salary work. I am now on my 17th year in the school system and we are debt free!

In my job at the school system I take care of all the textbooks (ordering and distribution into the classrooms), and I also drive a school bus. It is 40 hours a week, compared to the 70-plus hours per week I was working before. It has been so refreshing to spend time with my wife and daughters that I never had before. After I changed jobs, I was able to drop my youngest daughter off at school every morning. Now I have a granddaughter that I can enjoy activities with. It has been the best money I have never made in my life! Also, physically and mentally it is so much healthier for me. My body would have been broken by now if I had stayed at my old job. Now I get up at 4 a.m. every morning and walk six miles before I go to work.

The change in jobs also allows me more time for ministry and service for my Lord and Savior. My wife and I are very involved in our church. I have an opportunity to visit people who may be sick and in the hospital. I also have opportunities for ministering at funerals. I also know some of the needs of the children and the families in our church field as a result of driving a school bus. This allows me to better serve them because I see what they really need. My job often requires me to be out in a lot of our schools daily. I have had people ask me to pray for them, and I pray for them right then wherever it may be.

God has saved me and has given me the opportunity to serve Him and grow spiritually. I am so grateful for the opportunity. He didn’t need me but He used me. God has always placed positive people in our lives that have helped us to grow spiritually. My Savior is so loving and forgiving, so full of grace and mercy. I don’t know where I would be without Him. The blessings of God are all around us. All we have to do to receive them is to be obedient.

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.

#155 Celebrating the Milestones

 Photo by Nicole Tarpoff

My parents were young and there were some problems at home. ​I moved out when I was 16 years old. I got pregnant when I was 17 and then got married. I got pregnant again when I was 18. The marriage ended in divorce when I was 22. After my divorce, I thought it would be best to move back with my children to my hometown where I had family and friends. My ex-husband hired an attorney who told the judge many bad things about my home county. The judge said he couldn’t prove I was an unfit mother but that my home county was such a bad place to raise children that he had to award residential custody of the children to their father. 

This was a turning point for me. I started not caring about anything after losing my children. I went to see a doctor and was prescribed a nerve pill.  I started taking massive amounts of these daily. This became a lifestyle and because of multiple arrests and drug charges I was unable to get a job. I felt trapped into selling drugs to make a living. For 16 years, this was my life.  I was locked up for many years. I lost so much time with my children and my mom. My mom had always been there for me and had continued to be a support to me. But she passed away while I was still in addiction. 

I never stopped believing in God, and one night in the jail cell I asked God to help me. Sometime later, I was offered drug treatment at a residential center instead of incarceration. About that time, I was allowed to leave jail to attend my uncle’s funeral. While I was there I told my dad about the offer to go to treatment. I told him I wasn’t going to go, that I planned to cut my ankle bracelet and run again. He tried to talk me out of it. I really was tired of running so I agreed to get treatment. But once I was there I wanted to leave. I was going to run away, but there was a massive snowstorm and I couldn’t. I know that was God keeping me there!

I could see the women at the home laughing and having a good time and wanted to know why they were joyful. I started to become more open to the idea of a life without drugs. The CEO came around for a tour of our home and I heard him talking about a job opportunity if we would complete the program and stay clean a year. I asked him afterwards, “I have 17 felonies but you would hire me?” He said, “Absolutely.” That was the turning point. Then I started taking treatment seriously. But I hadn’t had any hope of any kind of decent life for 16 years. I knew God had to help me—and He did.

While I was in treatment, we went to church and I started getting it. I heard a sermon from Luke on building a good foundation. I knew that l needed a good foundation moving forward. After I completed my treatment, I became an intern with the addiction program, but that didn’t work out so I worked as a volunteer in return for my rent as a part of a church program. During those three months, I was really soul searching. God was really working on me.  It felt so good to have my life back. I knew that I wanted use the rest of my life to help people. I got a new job as an intern in a different department, with the same addiction program I had been with before. I truly believe God put me in this department because it is such a good fit for me. My supervisor is a woman. She is the same type of person I am and God placed her in my life as a mentor.

During my internship, I made a mistake and got into a relationship with a recovering addict. I felt like God was telling me the relationship wasn’t healthy and that it would be easy to slip back into addiction. I stayed clean and stepped away from that relationship, but I was already pregnant when I left. I had no idea how I was going to provide for the baby. But God provided people in my life to help me. The organization I was interning with provided an apartment for me during the internship. After one year, I was hired full-time as the Intake Coordinator in the program and one year later I was promoted to Assistant Director of Intake. These opportunities provided the income for me to take care of myself and the baby. God also gave me a family at work. The intake team has really been my family. The pastors that work with our company and the leadership of the company have all supported me.

After I was hired full-time I needed to find my own apartment. I prayed, “God please let us find a decent place to live and be able to make it financially.” One day I looked at Craigslist for a place to live, and the first place was so pretty and I thought, “That is so nice, but with my background there is no way they will let me rent there.” My boss went to look at it with me and because the landlord knew him I was able to rent it. This was the first place I had ever lived on my own and I found out that my landlord’s mother had the same first and last name as my mother! Not only did I get to live there but all utilities are paid, making it affordable. My landlords are Christians and it has been such a blessing. 

I thank God every day for even the little things—the water in the shower, the electricity in our house, the sunshine, and my job. I love my job as an intake coordinator. I talk to a lot of people every day. Sometimes it is a person’s lawyer or family member,but sometimes the person calls themselves about getting placed in one of our residential treatment programs. I get their information over the phone and help get them out of jail and into treatment. I understand where they have been and can communicate hope to them. Each month we celebrate milestones in recovery for the residents, and when their names are read each month I think how special it is that God let me be a part of their recovery. 

God is a loving God. He cares about the smallest things. He knows us personally. He knows what we need. He has much grace for the mistakes that we make. I am so thankful for my recovery. I was one of those people that people would say would never be clean. It’s true that after you mess up your life, you just feel like there is no way out. But God saved my life and He changed me. I am so thankful that He gave me the opportunity to be a mom again. 

​My daughter is now 6 months old and has been​ an amazing gift. At first I had a hard time accepting the​ gift of a new baby​. But my neighbor said, “Children are a gift from God, and He is not going to give you this gift if He isn’t going to provide a way to take care of her.” This changed how I felt about it. My neighbor was right—God has provided for our every need. 

God restores what has been taken from you. I now have a relationship with my older ​children. My daughter is 20 and my son is 19. It is not a perfect relationship, but God is working this out too. When I took my daughter out recently to eat she said, “I am so glad, Mom, that I get to be here with you.” She has a daughter now, my granddaughter, and she lets me see her and now I get to be a good influence and a good part of her life. When she comes to visit, I take her to church. It is funny how God brings things around. I loved my grandmother. I felt safe around her and found comfort with her. Maybe now I can be that person to my granddaughter.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning .  Lamentations 3:22 – 23 

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.