My life growing up was like hell on earth. I was raised by parents that were abusive, especially my father. He was like a dictator – very controlling and he insisted everything had to be his way. It was a day-to-day struggle just to survive, and I was in total fear all of the time.
I lived in a small, flat-roof, two-bedroom house in the country with my parents and my three siblings (one brother and two sisters). We had very little running water, with most of our water coming from a well. The roof leaked every time it rained and an old kerosene stove in the living room kept the house somewhat warm. My brother, sisters, and I slept in one bedroom while my parents slept in the other. Our clothes were hand-me-downs and at times we had very little food in the house. It was easy to say that we were poor.
As difficult as my physical surroundings were, the real struggle and pain was the abuse us kids endured. I would often get the worst of it. Much of the abuse I can’t, or don’t care to, remember. But I do remember having my hand run across the cooking stove burner and being made to stand outside in the bitter cold with no coat or shoes.
I was a very shy, skinny, and depressed boy. My bad stuttering problem meant that I was often bullied in school. The insecurity, bitterness, anger, and hate inside me grew. It even reached the point where I became suicidal because I just wanted to escape all the torment.
We started going to church when I was nine years old. Even after my parents were saved and became Christians, the abuse from them continued. I accepted Christ at the age of nine, but we never had family devotions or prayer in the home. Everyone thought my parents were the ideal father and mother, but they didn’t know what really went on behind closed doors.
When I turned 20 years old, I met my first wife and we ended up getting married. We had three children - two boys and one girl. My wife was very controlling and self-centered. I had just gone from my father controlling me to now my wife controlling me. The marriage didn’t last and we ended up getting a divorce.
After my divorce, I became lonely and depressed. I turned to alcohol and it didn’t take very long for me to start drinking heavily. Alcohol became my addiction. My attitude became more and more negative, and I started to smoke and curse as well.
I began spending time with a young lady, but she quickly found me out. My drinking and bad attitude made her to not want anything to do with me. I was so angry and upset that I began thinking about how I could get revenge – how I could take her life. But something made me stop before I could act on these thoughts. However, I still did damage and made bad choices against her and wound up being arrested. All of those years of being abused, being told that I would never amount to anything, all of the heartache and disappointment, came out to cost me seven and a half years in prison because I made the wrong choice. I had listened to the enemy.
After I was released from prison, my parents wanted me to come live with them. I had nowhere else to go, so I moved in. I lasted there just six months. I could no longer take their controlling attitudes and false love. Before I left, my mother told me that she wished I had never been born and my father told me that if I tried to come to the house again, he would shoot me.
Hearing about the Peoria Rescue Ministries and not knowing where else to turn, I went to the Rescue Mission. I walked through the doors with a bad attitude, scars from my past, and not wanting to be there at all. But I reached out for help. I wanted to find out who I was as a person and if I had a purpose in life.
While at the Mission, I was told about the Christian counseling offered at the Barnabas Center. I decided to go and see what they were all about and if there was a counselor there I could trust. What I found was a place where I could be completely honest, so I started to open up about everything, not holding one piece of information about myself back. My healing started and I found that God could use me and had a purpose and plan for me.
As time went on, my healing continued and I was able to forgive my father and mother as God wants us to do. God even opened a door for me to become an employee of Peoria Rescue Ministries, first as the van driver and now as a custodian. It has been 16 years since I first came to the Rescue Mission, and I have been an employee at PRM for 14 years now. Every day, I have the opportunity to share my story and encourage the men at the Mission. Through my job, I’ve found out that I have different abilities that I didn’t even know I had. My favorite verse is Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Life is full of choices. I have learned that if we want to make the right choices, those that glorify God and benefit us and others, we need God’s guidance. Even though I had lost everything, God gave back to me even better than I had before. He gave me a wonderful wife, Kathy, who I have been married to for over nine years. I have a great relationship with Kathy’s family and my children and siblings. Most of all, I’ve turned my whole life back over to God and now I have real peace, contentment, and a love for others I thought I would never have.
I have found Romans 8:28 to be true in my life – “God can work all things together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”