I did not come from a Christian Home really. We went to church on Christmas Eve. Other than that there really was not much involvement. I never knew Christ until this past year. I got heavy into partying, and raising Cain when I was in high school and on to college and well until I was 24, 25.
When I was 24 I had gotten arrested for a DWI, as well I was in the Coast Guard at the time. The Coast Guard sent me to REHAB in Florida. Funny, but this was my first experience with God that I can recall. It was the 1st day i got there, I was reading a book my mom gave to me under a tree, we had not even started the classes or anything, I had only checked in; all of a sudden the weight of the world was lifted off my shoulders, and I knew in an instant God was alive.
I quit the hard partying after that, though I still had an occasional beer or five, so it wasn’t altogether gone. My mind was right though for the most part, was able to refocus my efforts and got off my butt and got my captains license. It took me 6 years in the Coast Guard instead of the 4 that I had originally signed up for. Anyway, the rehab had cleared the way for me to enjoy a life I would not normally have had. All of it was good, my children, a sober walk in life, my jobs, my wife, all of it was good, but not the greatest.
The low point in my life was my mom dying when I was 26, it was difficult and close to the darkest time of my life. She had died of psorosis, too much alcohol! So until recently I was living every day for my family and for money, so that I can retire and not ever have to worry about anything again as far as work was concerned. It was all a farce. Fast forward to three years ago when I got orders to go to South Carolina with the Coast Guard. I knew I would only be there for a year, but not knowing where we were going to go next we sold our house in Newport News. We sold it during the big downturn of the housing market, but miraculously we were blessed, we got what we wanted for the house, by the people that were renting it from us.
A few weeks after it sold I got new orders to go right back to Virginia where we just sold the house. At the time, we thought what terrible luck, we should have kept the house. So we came back up and looked for a new house to buy, and made an offer on the one we live in now, but they did not accept the offer at first. Gina and I waited for almost two months for some kind of counter offer, but nothing, even after praying. So we rescinded the offer, and told them we were making an offer on another house in the neighborhood. As soon as we did, that first offer on this house was accepted. There is significance to this, which will be revealed later.
Fast forward to fifteen months ago when I was out to sea. When we were coming back from New York we got into some heavy seas, 20+ feet, and well long story short, that was the storm that broke my back, literally, and therefore surgery happened December 2008. 2 rods and 6 screws. I was in the hospital for 5 days, learning to walk again, 5 steps out, 5 steps back, then sleep for 24 hours. The next day 10 feet out, 10 feet back, sleep……Finally by the end of April I was walking up to 5 miles at a time, without any problems. No pain, no nothing, and I was on my way to recovery, and actually was scheduled to go back to my boat August 2009, this past year.
My back surgeon told me to go get on my bicycle and start to get strengthened for riding. Two days after on Saturday May 2nd, I was riding my bicycle and got hit by a Dodge Truck in a hit and run accident, on the ground, back to the hospital, and sort of had to learn to start walking again. It was so painful to walk that I really had (and still having) a hard time. My shoulder was messed up as well, and have had to get 6 surgical procedures done on my shoulder since.
The doctors said that I will be in pain for the rest of my life, though they are unable to do much more work, they not sure why there is so much pain, except that my body is twisted now, I have scoliosis now and one leg shorter than the other. The police never found the man that hit me. My life as a captain and at sea is pretty much gone now. My life in the Coast Guard is going soon, and my quality of life will not be as good as it ever was, but I am happier than I have ever been. (Go figure right?) By July, the physical pain was too much to handle, as well as the mental anguish of my life (as I knew it) was over, forcing me to bend to my knees to ask God to help me.
The end of August, first of September I started seeing signs from God, that I knew was Him trying to communicate to me, but I didn’t know what to do. Signs, something as small as a license plate that said HEVANS, which I found out belongs to Helen Evans, or a road sign to “Surrender Road”, that I had driven by every day for the better part of 6 years, that I never noticed before, and it had never occurred to me to surrender my heart to God. As I was walking in the woods, as I have been doing religiously since the surgery, I was about a mile deep in the woods and stopped at the same bench I have stopped at a hundred times before, and saw the words ascribed on the bench “Jesus Loves You”.
I had never seen it before, and though we have all seen those words a thousand times before, I had never seen them on my bench, a mile deep in the woods, where I walk all of the time, I put my hand on those words and I could feel something in me stir right then and there, God was calling me. I told Gina for these few weeks more than once that God was calling me, she asked me “for what?” I said I do not know, but He is calling me. I kept telling her this as the signs kept coming. So I called the only friend I knew who had given his life to Christ right in the middle of our crazy partying days. I found him on Facebook, and called him for the first time in 18 years, and told him what I told Gina “God is calling me, and I do not know what to do”.
He asked if I had asked God into my life and I had, then proceeded to tell me God was trying to answer my request, and I needed to draw near to him too. Not knowing how to do this, he told me about John Bevere’s book Drawing Near, so I bought it immediately, read the prayers and the first chapter, and was completely overwhelmed by the love of Christ immediately, and the tears flowed like a river for an hour. The Holy Spirit had descended on me. The last words I read after The prayer, were “Welcome Home”.
Now for the last year and a half since we moved into our house, our neighbors had asked us to join them at church more than once. We had politely declined for 18 months. Well I needed to go to church that morning (Sept 13th). So I went by myself, to my neighbors church, and the 1st service was still going, so I stopped in the lobby area, and the first person i saw was a big black man by the name of Coach, who came up to me, gave me a huge hug and said, “Welcome Home”. I knew I was in the right place, and that all of this was real, and that Christ was alive, and I belonged to Him. I have not missed a Sunday yet, and so many prayers that have come true, the Words from God that I have heard, and the unbelievable things that have happened, that too many people would have considered a coincidence, but not!! I did not believe in Christ until that day.
The Bible is alive now!! It is amazing. Though there is still a lot of back pain, it is only a reminder that I am part of God’s wonderful plan. He has since assured me that He will take the pain when He gets me where He needs me. If that is next week or 50 years from now that is fine, I am here for God, not for myself, and the only thing I want in this life anymore is to do God’s work. It is all for Him, for His glory. Being saved by Christ was how God wanted to rescue me, not only from physical pain, but from all of the sins, all of the pain I caused others, for anything, and everything. I have been able to lay everything at the cross and let Christ carry it for me. I could not be happier or more alive. I am more tender hearted than I have ever been in all my life. I want this for you too. You can have every bit of this, if you just ask Him. I cry at a great Christian song. Anyway, that is it in a nutshell, a big nutshell. And though there are some other stuff, and signs, etc, that is it. Well I have a wild twist to add to the beginning of my story when coming to Christ. Around the September/October 2010 time frame, a year and a half after my salvation, a friend of mine, Barry, was trying to get me to go to a Tuesday night men’s group meeting. After a couple months of hesitation I finally went.
I found out just recently that God had been telling Barry to stay after me, and to make sure I made it to the Garage. The first time at the Garage I sort of listened, did not join in much, and wanted to see if the Lord’s presence was there. Although I didn’t immediately feel God’s presence, I met a few nice people, one of whom had asked the group to pray for him as he had a court date for that Thursday. His name was Kevin. Though I did not feel God moving in that place, I decided to go back a couple of weeks later to try again. Again, I did not feel His presence but asked about Kevin. For some reason he was on my heart, I was very interested in him for some reason, and it made me ask about how he was doing. He actually had gone to jail for a couple of weeks, and so I thought maybe I just needed to pray for him. I did. After that second group meeting
I was driving home and was thinking that I would not come back to the Garage again, as I did not feel the Lord’s presence that evening, and felt that this was not the place for me. When I got home I was going to my knees to pray when God, as audibly as if someone was standing next to me, and before my knees even hit the floor, said, “You have to go back to that group in two weeks.” I was like, “Excuse me, God?” Then again, “You have to go back in two weeks.” And, before I could question Him again, He said “Two weeks!” Not next week, or three weeks from now, but in two weeks. I told my small group leader from church, my pastor and my wife about this, and they said “Well, you have to be obedient and go back in two weeks”.
During this time, I was reading a book called The Bait of Satan about forgiveness, given to me by my neighbor’s (pastor’s) wife. Though I had not realized that I had harbored any resentment towards people or situations in the past, I had, and this book gave me a path through Jesus to forgive people and myself for many things I had forgotten about from the last twenty to thirty years. I could literally see any non-forgiveness I had harbored for years leave my body as a liquid escapes through a funnel, and I could see the unforgivable names and faces fall and leave me. I will not forget this ever. Jesus cleansed me of all of the past hurts and anything else I was harboring that would be in the way of our relationship.
Two weeks had come, the date was Dec 28, 2010, and I remember telling my wife I really didn’t want to go, but she told me “then don’t go”, but then reverberated what my small group leader said, “God told you to go, you need to go, you have to be obedient.” So I went expecting something, but not knowing what, as God had a reason for me to be there this particular evening. Anthony saw me when I came in and smiled and pointed over to Kevin to show me he was back from jail. I stopped and chatted with him for a while as a few other guys came in. One of the guys was in a wheelchair and was asking why I had such a hard time standing up and walking.
I proceeded to tell my story about being hit by the truck and my coming to God, the story I just told you. By the end of the story about 6 or 7 people were around listening. The guy in the wheelchair asked where this had happened and I told him on the corner of Smith’s Neck Rd. and Reynolds Rd., and I described the mid-1980s Dodge truck that hit me. This was not too far down the street from where we were meeting, and they all seemed to know where the hit and run took place. “The pain I experienced and was carrying after that was too much for me to handle by myself,” I told them, “which is when I bent to my knees and had asked God to take this pain, as I cannot handle it on my own.” I proceeded to tell them the whole story I wrote about earlier. But I finished the story with my appreciation for being struck by the truck, as God used this to bring me home to Him. That was the end of that.
The group meeting started off with some worship music to invite the Holy Spirit in and to sort of help set the tone, and during our music worship time that evening, I started praying and worshiping God, when God again said to me, “Things are getting ready to get difficult, but I am here with you, do not worry.” I was freaking out a bit by this time as I never hear from God, especially when it is about me, but I know He is with me. After I asked God if it was about my friend who was in the middle of a divorce, he said, “That is one, but that is not what I am talking about.” And He left it at that. Nothing happened after the worship music, even though I had come expecting something, and we continued to talk about any praise reports, specific prayers needed, or anything else that was on their minds. The meeting ended without anything extraordinary happening. After the meeting and a little small talk, I walked outside to go home and Kevin (the guy who went to jail) stopped me outside and said, “I need to tell you something. But I do not know how.” I told him, “it is just you, me and God here, you can tell me anything”. He said, after about a 10- second hesitation, “I am the one that hit you”…… I was awestruck, dumbfounded. A jaw-dropping pause would have been appropriate. A thousand emotions may have stirred in a split second, but settled on one and in that split second after, as if I was not in control of myself, I threw my arms around him, and said, “I forgive you, completely” and I did immediately.
That book The Bait of Satan primed me for this too. He apologized from the bottom of his heart, and asked if he could do anything for me, and even offered money. I just told him to draw closer to God, and keep coming here every Tuesday. I also told him to forgive himself and that God had already forgiven him, as I had. Needless to say, God was working at that men’s group. There are no coincidences. God set me up for that encounter with the book I was reading about forgiveness, and I had finished it the night before the meeting. He made me go back to the group just for that encounter, even though I was planning on never going back to that group there.
Truly a miracle if ever I had experienced one. God Bless you all. God, thank you for The Garage and Anthony, for your ministry through him. I hesitated to tell my wife that night, as I was not sure if she would harbor the same forgiveness. She was only upset that I did not tell her as soon as I had come home. I love you Gina. I have told everyone I have met since then, that story. This is my story of coming to God and proving to the world God is real, and that He is still in the miracle business. He has moved mountains for me.