The formative experiences of my Christian life began when I was short. We lived in Indiana and attended church for morning and evening services each Sunday, and on Wednesday evenings we went to Prayer Meeting. During the summer I always attended Vacation Bible School. I learned all the stories, and I came to believe that I wanted Jesus as my savior. I was baptized after a public declaration of faith when I was eight years old.
A year later we moved to Tennessee, and my world was rocked. I immediately began to suffer horrible sexual abuse at the hands of a family member. I was so full of hurt and shame that I couldn’t tell anyone, and it continued for three years. In those years I prayed and prayed for God to make it stop, and it didn’t. Somewhere in there I made a conscious or not decision that I couldn’t trust anyone to take care of me, and that God either couldn’t or wouldn’t either.
I ran away from God and church and began a thirty plus year journey to nowhere. I joined the Air Force a week after graduating high school and never looked back. I ended up in a downward spiral of alcoholism, drug addiction, and self-destructive anti-social behavior.
In 1986 I was being released from my last incarceration. I wasn’t happy, in fact what I felt was hopelessness. In my cell I cried out to the God I had been blaming and cursing for as long as I could remember. I said the most sincere prayer I have ever uttered. “God, please help me.” I knew I couldn’t continue to live as I had been living, but didn’t know any other way.
I went to a “Twelve Step” program, I had been there before, and made the decision that I would do anything necessary to recover. This program uses a generic God, and that is what I needed at the time. I had blamed the Church and God for my woundedness and couldn’t yet acknowledge Jesus.
I sought my spiritual growth in the Native American tradition of my ancestors, and found way to relate to God, myself and other that began to work. I made and used a ceremonial pipe, and after a couple of years performed a vision quest. I began supporting a sundance. After four years of supporting, I made the commitment and sundanced for four years.
Throughout the years of following this tradition, God was constantly and consistently working in my life and in my heart. I had my last drink on June 4th 1988, and was blessed to put down all the other drugs I had used. I managed to get back into a real job, and a life that wasn’t all misery. Today, I still carry a pipe and use it in ceremony. I have made a lifetime commitment to pray for, and be of service to the people.
In 1999 I met my wife Joy, and we were married in 2000. Joy sang in the choir at her church. I steeled myself and would attend her church just to watch her sing. It is in the singing of classical worship music that she feels closest to God, and it radiates from her face. I still love to watch her sing. And God was wooing me back home.
I don’t know when it was, but one Sunday about six years ago I was there and they were offering communion. I had been not participating for so long, and I do not know what was different that Sunday, but I found myself kneeling at the rail and accepting the Bread and Wine. I was crying, and praying and pouring out my confession, asking for forgiveness and an allowance to come home.
From then till now, I have been faithful to publicly acknowledging and following Jesus. It took me on an Emmaus walk, and into active participation in my Church, and in the “Body of Christ.” I began seeking ways to be a part of the Church. I worked in the youth program at Bartlett United Methodist Church for a couple of years and when we transferred to Heartsong, began working with the younger children.
Three years ago, I was invited to be on a Kairos Prison Ministry team. I said “NO!” But the man who asked me kept pestering me until I agreed to go one time. I fell in love with Kairos, and felt God pulling me into that ministry. After my second Kairos weekend, I received a letter from a resident of the prison that told me how God had used me in a way that made a difference in eternity. I was humbled, blessed, and at a loss for words to describe what I was feeling.
For the last few years, I have been experiencing a sense that God was calling me into ministry. I tried to answer that call by the work I do at church first with the youth and then with the kids. I have been active in outreach through Kairos, and continued working with alcoholics and addicts. But still God was calling me further.
About two years ago it became clear to me that God wanted more. I began by denying, making jokes, and looking for loopholes. I felt strongly He was calling me to full-time ministry, and I knew that included ordaination. It was like “You got to be kidding me.”
I sought council with my pastor and with a small group of men that I have been meeting eith weekly for years. And I really got into my own prayer. Everything I thought I knew was saying “no way”, but everything I sensed from God and all that I heard from others was “Yes Lord”.
I opened my heart to the possibility, and have entered seminary, began this process of candidacy, and trusted God to provide for and prepare me for where ever this leads me. I am committed to this process now, and putting one foot in front of the other, still following where He leads. I am currently working in the area of ministry that I feel a special call to in Kairos, and in the Grace Place Ministries at the Mark Luttrell prison for women.
I feel God using my past experience of life in a way that makes me effective in carrying the message of salvation and hope to those who by choice or circumstance have been pushed to the margins of society, and helping them to find their way home. There is a chasm between the church and many of these people that, whether real or imagined, is too great to cross in most cases without help.
I believe God is calling me to be for them not just a messenger, but a minister, and a priest, to bring them everything they need to find their way home.
And I am passionate about it.