Pardoned in Paradise
My family is from the island of Oahu in Hawaii. Ours was a good home but not a Christian home, but my parents did let my siblings and me go to the Apostolic Faith Sunday school. From the time I was little, someone from the church would pick us up and take us every week, and we would stay for some church services too. I remember seeing our pastor and others cry as they prayed at the altar benches after services. Even though I didn’t comprehend what it was all about, I knew that prayer meant talking to God one-on-one. However, I didn’t truly understand what salvation was and didn’t give my heart to the Lord.
As I entered my teenage years, I went to church less and less. I had my own ideas about what I wanted to do, and that is what I did. I began living a sinful life of partying, drinking, and doing drugs, though my memories from church always stayed with me and I longed to have what I had seen in the lives of the people there. Occasionally I would go back to church, but never consistently.
As each of my children grew old enough, people from the church came and picked them up for Sunday school in the same way I had been taken.
At age sixteen I became a mother, and eventually had six children. They did not all have the same father and none of the fathers were around for very long. As each of my children grew old enough, people from the church came and picked them up for Sunday school in the same way I had been taken—sometimes it was the children of the people who had brought me years before. I also went with them now and then, and many times I told God I would change my life, but never did.
In my early thirties, I reconnected with a friend from high school named Al, who later became my husband. He was wonderful and he became the father my children never had before. However, Al and I were partiers, and our house was a party house. People from all walks of life came and went around the clock. Our doors were wide open to anything and everything.
Time for a change
My mom passed away in 1997, and that was a very difficult time for me. At that point I had not been to church for quite some time, and at the beginning of 1998, I finally decided I needed to go back. I had just turned thirty-six years old and went to a service with my children. That day, several of the church people helped me pray, and I finally understood that Jesus’ death was something that really happened—Jesus literally shed His Blood for my sins. I knew I had done very bad things, and thinking about that was painful. I was so sorry. I confessed my sins to God and asked Him for forgiveness, and I received salvation! Tears of joy flowed as I realized that God sent His Son not to condemn me, but to save me! I knew I didn’t deserve His love and mercy, but my eyes were opened to understand that God loves me, and that He had loved me all along. Still today I cannot understand why God loves me after the way I treated Him, but He does.
I quit smoking cigarettes, quit drinking, quit doing drugs, and did it with no treatment plans. I never even had withdrawals. I got saved!
I walked out of that church feeling like I was in the clouds! I had been paying for drugs to make me feel good, but salvation from God was better than any drug I had ever used, and it was free! Immediately, all my desires for sinful and worldly pleasures were gone. I quit smoking cigarettes, quit drinking, quit doing drugs, and did it with no treatment plans. I never even had withdrawals. I got saved!
Things in our home changed as well. The doors that had been wide open, closed. I told my party friends, “I love you, but I don’t party anymore.” Al was supportive of the changes, too. Though he was not saved, he had always supported me in whatever I did, including my new faith. He set up two baby gates in one of the doorways, stacked double high to keep our old friends away. They had to learn that ours was not a party house anymore.
The kids were amazed and so happy about what God had done for me. I had been selfish before, and they suffered because of it. When I received salvation, I began to truly value my children and treat them the right way.
My first camp meeting
About a year and a half after I was saved, I went to my first camp meeting in Portland, Oregon. Our church in Oahu had a picture of the tabernacle displayed, and it was exciting to actually be in that spot and take my own picture there.
I was seeking for sanctification at that time. A friend had told me sanctification takes the root of sin out of the heart, so when we seek for it, we have to dig up every bit of self and consecrate it as an offering to God. I prayed so hard but it seemed I just couldn’t get through. Yet, I felt the Lord encouraging me, “Don’t give up!” As I continued seeking, after one of the meetings God sanctified me! When I opened my eyes, I felt like I was in Heaven surrounded by angels. The experience was so beautiful and felt so good! I walked out of the church totally different than when I had come in—I felt so pure and clean. It was even better than what I had felt when I was saved. This walk with God only gets better!
That camp meeting, I also saw Gretchen Friesen, who had been my Sunday school teacher when I was a little girl. She told me she had been praying for me all those years! I was amazed to hear that, and I know it also encouraged her faith to see that her prayers were answered. Now she is in Heaven and I look forward to seeing her there some day.
God works through webcasts!
Al still was not saved, but he did start coming to church regularly with me. The church on Oahu was becoming very small in number, and around 2009, the decision was made to close it. Brother Lonnie and Sister Clara Carlson came from Portland to handle the closing process, and they also taught Al and me how to watch the webcast of the Portland church services. They encouraged us to kneel and have a time of prayer after each webcast, and said doing so would help us stay connected with the Lord and the church.
On the first night of camp meeting, we watched the webcast just as they had taught us, and then got down to pray. Oh what fire and power came down that night! God filled me with the baptism of the Holy Ghost!
The Carlsons returned to Portland for camp meeting that summer. On the first night of camp meeting, we watched the webcast just as they had taught us, and then got down to pray. Oh what fire and power came down that night! God filled me with the baptism of the Holy Ghost! I was so joyful that I just had to tell someone, so I called the church office in Portland. I didn’t know who answered, but I told him, “Hi, this is Blanche from Hawaii and I just got my baptism!” Somehow he got the word to Lonnie and Clara and we were all so happy.
God has brought me so far since He saved me, and I truly appreciate Him and all the people He has used to encourage me in the Gospel. Many people came to encourage us in Oahu over the years, and those people still mean so much to me. Before I was saved, some would come to our home and sing worship songs with us, and others would come just to visit. They knew we were partying at that time, but they came for us and for our children. They never gave up, and their efforts and prayers were rewarded. I love these people so much, and most of all I love God for all He has done. My desire is to keep serving Him, and to see all my family saved and serving Him too.
Growing up, I was from a broken home. My father was hardly around; he was a heavy drinker and died at only forty-two years old. My mom took my siblings and me to a Mormon church occasionally, but I never learned anything about what they believed. We went for the social experience rather than for anything spiritual.
At a young age I started drinking, doing drugs, and partying. It was the same for all of my siblings; our lives revolved around partying. My mom passed away when she was just fifty-four years old, and with no parental influence, my life went further downhill.
One night, at the back of a bar I saw my former classmate Blanche, who I hadn’t seen in years. We were basically inseparable from that time on, and soon her children felt like they were my own. I joined their family and later Blanche and I were married.
I would starting drinking first thing in the morning and keep it up all day long. I was following right in the footsteps of my father.
My first encounter with the Gospel was when Blanche and I went to church with the kids. For many years we only went rarely, but then Blanche was saved and there was a big change in our home. The changes seemed good for her, but I wasn’t interested in becoming a Christian myself. I did gradually stop doing drugs, simply because they weren’t around our house anymore, but I was still a heavy drinker. I would starting drinking first thing in the morning and keep it up all day long. I was following right in the footsteps of my father.
In time, God started talking to my heart about my drinking habit and let me know I needed to make a change. Then one day, Blanche suddenly broke down in tears in front of me. I asked her what was wrong and she told me, “I don’t want you to drink anymore.” I came to the realization that I had to choose between my wife and my drinking, so I told her, “Okay. I’m done.” She was amazed at that response, but what she didn’t know was that the Lord had already been talking to me about it. The next day, I threw out all my alcohol—I was done! Blanche was in disbelief. Most people who drink the way I had go through painful withdrawals and cravings, but I with no withdrawals, no cravings, and no treatments. I knew it was the Lord who had helped me.
Though I did not want to go to camp meeting, she insisted. She told me she wasn’t ever going back to her old life, so I had to move forward to where she was and do things God’s way.
I started going to church with Blanche regularly, but I still did not understand much about the Gospel and did not intend to become a Christian. Then one day in 2012, Blanche said to me, “You’re coming with me.” I asked, “Where are we going?” and she said, “We’re going to Portland for camp meeting.” Though I did not want to go to camp meeting, she insisted. She told me she wasn’t ever going back to her old life, so I had to move forward to where she was and do things God’s way. She wanted me to go to camp meeting and see what Christianity was all about. Finally, I agreed to go.
My first camp meeting
When I arrived at the campground, everything was completely new to me, and I was in awe. I thank God that He took me away from all that I was used to, to a place where I was willing to try something different. On the fifth day of camp, after one of the services I prayed and surrendered my life to God, and He saved me! I was blown away by that encounter with God, and I will never forget it.
As soon as a service would end, I went to prayer, and it felt like we were surrounded by angels at the altars. Just two days after I was saved, God sanctified me!
Hungry for more of Him, I kept seeking. As soon as a service would end, I went to prayer, and it felt like we were surrounded by angels at the altars. Just two days after I was saved, God sanctified me! I kept seeking Him and two days after that, as I was praying I suddenly felt a gush of wind go “whoosh!” in front of my face. I thought, Wait, we’re in the sanctuary. The doors are all closed. What’s going on? Soon, I was praying in a language I did not understand. God had baptized me with the Holy Ghost, and it was amazing! I call that experience “the explosion” because that was what it felt like in my soul. Blanche and I just hugged each other and cried, thanking the Lord. In only a few days, God had changed everything in my life. At the end of camp meeting I was also water baptized. It was the full treatment!
Back in Hawaii, we continued watching the church services on the webcast, but we felt the need for fellowship. In June of 2014, God made a way for us to move to Port Angeles, Washington, where one of our sons was living. It was sad to say goodbye to our children who stayed in Hawaii, but soon another son also moved to Port Angeles, and then two daughters did as well. Today, we are all practically neighbors! We immediately felt at home at the church in Port Angeles, and God helped us find temporary jobs right away. In time, Blanche was able to return to being a school bus driver, and later I was hired in the same school district as a custodian. God worked out all the details and we could not have done it without Him.
The need to straighten out my past
Shortly after arriving in Washington, the Lord reminded me of some restitutions that I needed to make. My driver’s license had been suspended years before because of traffic violations, including one for driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI). For years I had driven with no license or insurance, collecting many tickets for those violations as well as others, and never took care of any of them. The Lord let me know that it is not okay to sweep those things under the rug. Though hard to face, I felt the need to straighten out my past.
When I called the traffic court, I found out there were pages and pages in my record—going back to 1992! I was sentenced to take a class for alcoholics, do over seventy hours of community service, and pay a $2,000 fine. I could not get a license again until I cleared up my record, so Blanche had to do all the driving for us.
When I went to the class for alcoholics, it was funny in a way because by that time I had not had a drink in years. When I introduced myself, instead of the typical, “Hi, I’m Al and I’m an alcoholic,” I said, “Hi, I’m Al and I’m just here to get my papers signed.” Thank God, He had already delivered me completely from alcohol.
For my community service, a friend mentioned that our church had a volunteer program. I was actually able to complete my hours by volunteering for certain jobs at church! That is how our amazing God works.
The last requirement was to pay the fine. Once we saved up the money, we decided to fly back to Hawaii and appear in person at the courthouse to make the payment and take care of the final paperwork. Blanche had put together a folder with all of my tickets and documentation, so when it was my turn to go before the judge, I gave him the folder and then waited.
As the judge turned the pages, his comments were not encouraging at first. He was saying, “Alan, wow! You’ve been cited for a lot of tickets! . . . I see you have some DUIs . . . Some of these are over twenty years ago?” But then he said, “Oh, you have already complied with all you needed to do? Wow! Good for you, Alan. You know what we’re going to do? All of these tickets here, we are going to dismiss them.” He started turning pages and at each one he would say, “Dismissed. Dismissed. Dismissed. . . .” Then he saw the fine I had paid and said, “We will refund that back to you. Congratulations! Take care, okay Alan?”
Even though it was a problem I had created for myself, God helped me to resolve it.
I couldn’t believe it; my record was completely cleared! It was a miracle! Blanche and I just looked at each other and couldn’t help but cry tears of thanksgiving to God. Straightening out my driving record was a burden that seemed too big for me, and it was gone! Even though it was a problem I had created for myself, God helped me to resolve it. Soon I got my driver’s license again and could drive legally. Today I am so glad I took care of those restitutions. It was well worth it!
For about fifty years, I did not know anything about the Lord and my life was a mess, but God has turned my life into something good. Blanche and I know that it’s not because of anything we have done; we made a lot of mistakes, but God is good and He showed us the way out. All we had to do was follow Him. Today, Blanche and I are so happy to be able to serve God together. We want to be accountable and to be ready when Jesus calls.