My first memory of God was as a five to six year old boy in St. Stephen’s Catholic Church in Richwoods, MO. This seemed, to a small child, to be a huge place. Tall ceilings and the sound of the choir surrounded me as I sat with my family Sunday after Sunday. In Catechism (youth class), I was introduced to a desire to respect the Lord, but there was not a pull to know Him. I later became an altar boy, assisted the priest in services and funerals, and always tried to respect the Lord in a heart of reverence. This has not left me even to this day.
At the age of twelve, while going to a youth meeting in the Freewill Baptist Church in Richwoods (to see the girls), I was introduced to the fear of God for the first time. A five year old boy asked me if I was ‘saved’ and that word shook me to my core. I could not answer that question. What was this ‘saved’ ? A service or two later the teacher, probably spurred on by my ornery attitude, taught us very plainly on Hell. I couldn’t escape this and even after the bus took me home that night, the fear of Hell gripped me so powerfully that I had to get my mother to call the deacon of the Baptist Church to come and get me. That night, I wept in his basement with him and his wife. The seed was sown but it wasn’t long before my flesh put my conviction to sleep. It would be six more years of sin and dangerous living before I would be brought back into contact with the fear of God.
At eighteen years old, my eyes and my entire heart went after a girl who had moved back to town after being gone a few years. We had spent much of our young lives in school together and I had always liked her. When she would pass by I would always stop and watch, and I didn’t think she noticed. After seeing her twice in Walmart, I decided to find out everything I could about her. I had always thought she was too pretty for me but asked myself, “What do I have to lose?” She had a boyfriend in another state but agreed to go on a date with me. I was determined that, boyfriend or not, I wasn’t going to watch her ‘walk by‘ any longer. As part of the ‘thing to do’ I went to church with her every now and then. I guess I’m not the first man to be captured for the Lord by beautiful bait because on one of those church visits I came face to face with the fear of God. Oh, the goodness and mercy of the Lord! The pull on my heart was so powerful, that even as I think about it now, the tears want to flow. But, once again, my flesh put to sleep the conviction of the Lord and I went on a rampage of self-destruction.
I was very wild and reckless and it wasn’t long, to the dishonor of Tracy’s mother (who is a Pentecostal preacher), that we moved in together and Tracy’s nightmare began. Over the next two years my party lifestyle and rage took its toll on her and she became sick. For six months she vomited so much that she dropped down to around 85 pounds. The doctor couldn’t figure out what was wrong with her. Our life was a mess and our relationship was tormenting.
Tracy had started going to church with her mother a lot and I’m sure that many times Rhonda probably wanted to hate me. She even told me years later that the Lord had told her, “Leave him alone because I have a plan for his life.“ That took a lot of faith because this paper cannot contain the many dangers I put her daughter through while she waited for the Word of God to have its time in me.
Tracy’s sickness began to get the better of her; but one night she got saved. After service, which I had missed, she came
home and said, “I’m not smoking, drinking or dancing any more and you are not touching me until you marry me.” What a shocker! We were married in a few days.
Tracy had been sick a long time and she went to her great uncle, Pastor Frankie Declue, and he prayed the prayer of faith and God healed her. She began to recover and her thankfulness to God was seen all over her and her faith shot through the roof. She began to pray for everything and Jesus was answering her prayers. She had joy and I was miserable. I would go party and she would go pray. I would be bad and she would go to Mama’s. She was showing me God by her prayers.
One Thanksgiving, we had no money and no turkey and I said, sarcastically, “Why don’t you go pray for some money?” She went in the back room and got down to business with God. We had no home phone and this was before cell phones. She prayed and 30 minutes to an hour later, there stood an elder of her church, Forest Bowman, with a turkey and thirty dollars. Prayer is the best phone line to have. This was just the beginning. She would pray and God would give: appliances, cars, money and later a new house. He even healed a broken jaw on a dog as she prayed. Her Jesus was in her and ‘in my face’ constantly, and I was getting meaner. One night, I threw her Bible and punched a hole in her Jesus picture. A day or so later I said, “You are going dancing with me like we used to.” She said “no” and I got mad and went after her. She was across the room from me and as I went toward her, God knocked me to the floor. I couldn’t breathe and I said, “Pray please.” She acted like she was praying and told me later, “The Lord told me not to pray for you because He was teaching you a lesson.”
I still wasn’t done running. I could not break her faith and she would not bend . Her convictions were worth more to her than me. I did many shameful things during that period of time but her faith in God was going to save me. She would hang notes in the house that said, ‘My husband is going to preach the Gospel all over the world’. Even though others would tell her that she had Biblical grounds to divorce me, she wouldn‘t do it. The Lord gave my wife a dream of a snake drowning underwater and said “He is bound”. Years of drugs, alcohol and sexual immorality had made me a puppet to, no doubt, many demons; but my wife and her mother, through intercession, broke through and in a few days time my whole life changed.
I was like a man waking from a nightmare. Their prayers had been remembered in heaven and God’s will for my life had come to time. I was drastically saved at my kitchen table after putting a note on a car window at my wife’s church. I had written and asked Pat and Linda Boyster to come pray for me, with full intentions of taking my life if ‘nothing happened’ after they left. They showed up at our house to pray for me. They had barely greeted me when I broke. It seemed like I cried for hours. I felt very hot ‘things’ leaving my body; and I know now that they were demon spirits. I was made free by Jesus Christ. About three months later, I was filled with the Holy Ghost during a revival at The Way of Life Tabernacle in Richwoods, Missouri. My world was transformed from darkness to light by the power of God. I was loaded in the Spirit of the Lord and study, prayer and church consumed me. I grew by leaps and bounds and in about six months or so God was using me in the supernatural. I had been very busy for the Lord for about a year and a half, but was still battling fleshly lust from time to time.
One day, on the job site as a union laborer, laying drainage lines 13 feet in the ground, I heard the guys yelling above me. Before I knew what was going on, I was buried alive and was being crushed. The ditch I was in had given way and the bank fell in on me. An estimate given later by a expert, said I had every bit of ten tons of dirt on me. My foreman said a wall of dirt the size of his house fell on me. All I know is I couldn’t move and I was being crushed. I could see through a crack of daylight that I was pushed against the bank. There was a clot of dirt that had created an air pocket from my belly to my shoulder that gave me enough room to barely breathe. As I watched, dirt filtered into my breathing space, and the pressure of settling dirt was slowly twisting my head. I felt the back of my neck popping and I couldn’t control it. I could hear the mumbled voices of my coworkers above me screaming and cursing. I asked forgiveness because I had been going to church but was still struggling with lust. I had even sinned the night before, but as I said, “Forgive me” I felt the peace of God flood me and I immediately saw Jesus forgive me.
I knew I was dying but was no longer afraid. I wasn’t screaming. I was ready to go. Then I thought of my little boy, Devin, who was less than a year old, and I said, “Jesus, if you will let me raise that boy I will do what you tell me.” After 20-30 minutes of furious digging by my coworkers, I was standing on the bank looking into the hole where I should have died. I heard the voice of the Lord say, “The old man died there. Now leave him.”
The firemen and ambulance driver tried to get me into the ambulance, but I refused treatment. I went home and never returned to that line of work. I did have a few troubles in my body after that, but I lived to preach the Gospel. It has now been almost eighteen years since that day. By the mercy of Jesus Christ., the blind see, the deaf hear and the poor have the Gospel preached to them.