As a child I grew up in the projects (low income housing). I went to Sunday School sometimes but never really understood what was being taught to me. I knew there was a God but that is as far as it went with me. Early in grade school, I learned that I was different in some way. They tested me and told me that I had a learning disability, so I had to go through the school system differently than most of my friends. I got a lot of names thrown at me because I was different. To compensate for this, I used the tough guy approach to help me get through this problem.
“Growing up, I was always in some sort of a situation that I had to get out of.” Growing up, I was always in some sort of a situation that I had to get out of. I got in a lot of trouble but managed not to have a police record, even though I had a lot of misdemeanors charges. I smoked as a kid and drank beer or wine just to go with the flow, so to speak. I had good friends but they stayed away from me because they knew how I could get when I got mad. Besides, they all went to one high school and I had to go to another. The high school they attended did not have the special schooling I needed.
The fact that I was different was not easy for me to understand and accept. I did things as a kid I was not proud of but I always had a soft spot in my heart for someone who was in trouble and had problems like I did. It was always a real challenge to me to try and stay ahead of the game. They told me in school that I had a short attention span. What else was new? I had no dignity or self worth. I was always told that we all have a purpose for being here and I would ask myself, “What purpose do I have here?” I did not know really.
My Dad liked to drink and get really mean to my mother and us kids. He did all the discipline in the family, and sometimes he got pretty rough, so I had to step in at a young age to help my Mom when he got physical with her. One day, I decided I just had enough of it all. I quit school in 11th grade and went into the Marines in 1969. I quit school because I was not learning anything anyway. I ended up in Vietnam in 1969 and did one tour of duty there. While I was there, I smoked dope and drank and fornicated with the local women. I never really became a drug user but I was only 18 years old when I was there and was willing to try almost anything. I grew up fast—faster than I could imagine. I was discharged honorably from the service. When I got home, my friends all had long hair and they were into smoking weed and using speed. I joined in with them so I would be accepted. Several years later, I met my wife, who actually grew up and lived in the same neighborhood that I did, and we were married on September 2, 1978.
In April of 2006, my wife started attending Lehigh Valley Baptist Church with a friend from work. She really liked the church, and the more she talked about it, the more I saw that it was the right thing to do. I knew that it was showing obedience toward the Lord to worship and praise Him, so I decided to go to church with her. The first Sunday I went, I was scared straight, but I liked what I heard. “The sermon the pastor preached really got me to thinking on some things.” The sermon the pastor preached really got me to thinking on some things. I knew the God of the Bible was a real person, and I wanted to find out who He really was. So I began to attend church regularly.
Up until this time, I didn’t really have a purpose in life. But at church I started hearing from the pastor that we all have purpose here on earth. God loves us, and He is the one who has a purpose for each of us. I started to understand better and feel better about myself and believe in myself more. It didn’t take me long to realize that I needed a Saviour in my life. I knew that Jesus Christ had died on the cross to pay for my sins and to give me the gift of eternal life. I knew my sins weren’t going to go away on their own. I needed to repent of my sins and ask God to forgive me.
As the pastor was preaching his sermon on Sunday morning, June 18, 2006, I took my wife’s hand and we both went up front while the invitation was given and I prayed to God. As I knelt there at the altar, I asked the Lord to forgive my sins and to save me. I took it literally that He would save me if I asked Him to. He knew my heart better than I did, and He knew that I wanted my life to be different. When I got up from praying, I felt so much better. I knew God had heard my prayer. I felt like a huge burden was lifted off my shoulders. All my life it had felt like I had 16 pound bowling balls on my shoulders, but now I felt light. If I were the smartest guy in the world, I couldn’t express the right words on how to define all this.
A lot of things in my life have changed since I got saved. I’m not scared of death anymore. I am looking forward to the day I can see Jesus. I don’t want to sin anymore, and I watch what I say. I am not into TV anymore like I used to be, but read my Bible instead. I have a brother who does not bother with me and a sister who is on a lot of medication and is in and out of the hospital. I want to witness to them so they can be saved too.
I still have a difficult time comprehending things but the Lord knows me better than I do. If He accepts me the way I am, I have no reason to question my purpose here on earth. He is my Creator and I am created in His image. I understand now that I am special in a way known only to my God who created me. I know that the Lord loves me and I love Him unconditionally. I would rather have His gift of salvation than all the money in the world.