July 1, 2012

From Violence to Victory

Using and selling drugs, carrying a gun, living in motels—that became my lifestyle while I was still a teenager. It shouldn’t have been like that, because I was raised in a Christian home and taught the stories of Jesus from my birth. My grandfathers were both pastors and evangelists who faithfully preached the Gospel all through the southern part of the United States. My father was a strict and hard-working man, and my mother put great effort into keeping all eight of us fed and clothed, sometimes even making our clothes. Our family spent a lot of time in revival services and camp meetings when I was growing up in the South.

Our lives changed dramatically when my father went to the northwestern part of the United States for work. We did not see him for long periods of time, and the house always felt incomplete when he was not around. After some time, we took a Greyhound bus to Seattle, Washington. What I thought was the end of tough times was actually the beginning of what seemed like Hell on earth to me. Once we moved to Seattle, I soon realized that my father was no longer living a Christian life. The impact on our family came quickly. We lived in eight different places within a five-year period.

By the time I was in the seventh grade, I had already started drinking and skipping school with friends. Crips, Bloods, and other gangs were all over the area where we lived, so shoot-outs and gang activity were daily events in our neighborhood. One of my school friends who was in a gang told me how he made money selling drugs, and soon I started down the same path. I was afraid of the gangs, but that was not enough to keep me off the streets that were very violent at the time.

It seemed like things were going well for awhile because on the streets I could buy the things I had always wanted. The year that I turned sixteen, I was robbed for the first time, so I bought a gun and carried it everywhere I went. Even though I did not like gangs, I became worse than the people I disliked the most. The people that I hung around seemed to hate me more than my enemies did.

Then my world started to close in around me. I dropped out of school before I was eighteen, and lived in motels with my girlfriend and her child. To pay the rent, we sold drugs. It seemed that death and violence were all around us everywhere we went. I was stabbed and shot in the same year, then four months later went to prison for eighteen months. Once I was released, nothing in my life changed. Instead I just got worse and started using heavy drugs along with living a violent life.

One day I was with some friends in a grocery store. My eyes were bloodshot and I was really high. As I was on my way out the door, a lady was coming in who looked me in the eye and said, “You know, God can take that taste right out of your mouth.” It seemed like her words reached down into my soul. Not long after that, I tried to leave the streets on my own. By that time, I had lost many friends to death or long prison terms. However, in trying to turn around, I realized how strong of a grip Satan had on my life. I started using even harder drugs and nearly overdosed on multiple occasions. Once I called my aunt down in the South and told her that Satan was trying to kill me. She said, “Plead the Blood of Jesus!”

About that time, my girlfriend gave her life to God. She began trying to get me to go to church with her, but I would just make excuses. My mother told her that the Bible says not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers, and suggested that my girlfriend kick me out, which she did. I saw the change God had made in her life, and it was beautiful. Deep down, I wanted God to help me, but I did not call on Him. I was ashamed of who I was and felt like I needed to clean myself up first and then come to God.

God spoke to my heart and said, “You can’t get right to come to Me. Come to Me and I’ll get you right!”

One Sunday morning I decided to go to church with my girlfriend just to get her off my back. All through the service, I felt God calling me to come to Him. At the same time the enemy kept reminding me of the forty dollars I owed to a drug dealer. I felt like I could not answer God’s call just yet. That particular Sunday the church had a visiting minister, and while he was preaching he looked at me and said, “God has something for you today.” He came over and put forty dollars in my hands. God spoke to my heart and said, “You can’t get right to come to Me. Come to Me and I’ll get you right!” At that very moment I said yes to God, and joy filled my soul as I experienced God’s love for me.

Some months went by and after prayer and asking God for His will in our relationship, my girlfriend and I were married. As we prayed and asked God for direction in our lives, he helped me understand that He wanted me to go back to the Apostolic Faith Church where I had been raised, and we did that in January, 2000.

God began to heal our family through repentance and faith, and because we obeyed His leading and His Word, His favor overshadowed us mightily. I went to the pastor and told him of some unresolved issues that called for eighteen months of jail time, and said that I wanted to turn myself in. He told me to pray about it and trust God and His timing. When the time came, I did turn myself in, and the prosecutor said, “Just give him four days.”

God is good, and He didn’t stop there. After not having a driver’s license for over eight years, God’s favor made it possible for me to reinstate my license. The Bible says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9), and I have proved that verse to be true.

God began to reveal and remove things in our lives that we didn’t know were affecting us—past hurts, brokenness, lack of trust, and anger.

God began to reveal and remove things in our lives that we didn’t know were affecting us—past hurts, brokenness, lack of trust, and anger. Time and time again I went to God because of dreams about my past life. The Lord through His Word gave me a hunger, and I started seeking the experience of sanctification. Our church had a combined meeting with several Apostolic Faith branch churches from nearby areas. As we prayed afterward, the power of God fell and filled the room, and I received my sanctification. Some were saved and one received the baptism of the Holy Ghost in the same prayer service. I have not had one of those recurring dreams since! God took away what that old nature tried to keep me reminded of.

The Lord revealed His healing power in our home when He spared our son’s life. Our little boy choked, and he turned blue and laid limp in my arm. Desperately my wife and I cried out in prayer, and God gave him a gasp of air and he came to. God is mighty and hears the prayers of those who love Him!

Our church holds outreach services at the Union Gospel Mission, a place that gives food, shelter, and recovery help to those in need. One night while at a mission meeting, I felt God speaking to my heart, pulling me closer to Him. This prompted me to start praying more earnestly and seeking God for the baptism of the Holy Spirit. In January 2008, at another combined meeting of Apostolic Faith churches, the Spirit of God came down in the room in a mighty way, and God baptized me with the Holy Ghost and fire. He helped me see how much more effective witnessing is when it is done in the Spirit!

The Lord has been faithful to our family with much favor and grace, all because we are learning to trust Him more. God has shown His mercy and many of our friends and family are calling on the Name of Jesus. Some years before my father passed away in 2009, God had restored our relationship. While he was in the hospital, after reading the Bible to him one day, I asked, “Daddy, are you right with God?” He looked me in the eyes and said, “Son, I’ve done that.” A peace came over me that only God can give. What is impossible with God?

The Lord paid the price for my salvation and I want to live forever to serve Him!

apostolic faith magazine