I was born in Monroe, Louisiana. My childhood was filled with many happy moments and blessings, but difficult to say the least. The longing for a relationship with my biological father caused me to look for love in the wrong places, like the streets. My grandmother and many members of my family were Christian. In fact, I myself believed I was a Christian because I went to church and could pray and sing many of the hymns by heart. Yet, I struggled to believe in a God who was killed on a cross. I was involved in gangs and was taking drugs to the point that I was kicked out of my home. Many miles away in Ohio, lived my wife Toni. Her family was not religious, and she was heavy into drugs. She found herself addicted to drugs and living a reckless life. Our paths would soon meet.
I joined the military because I had nowhere to go. I was sent to Korea for a year and I considered this a fresh start. I was introduced to many different belief systems, but any belief I had as a child about God was long gone due to my hardened heart because of my past. My wife also joined the military around that time and we met through a mutual friend. We fell in love and married right before I was sent to Natick, Massachusetts. We both hated Massachusetts and we were not getting along with each other. We both were still struggling with our addictions and our brokenness from our past. My wife could no longer deal with my depression and anger and she decided to leave. I decided that I wanted to die, and I purposed in my heart to kill myself that week.
On the night before I was going to commit suicide, I stepped outside to sit on the porch. I looked at the sky and said, “If you’re real, you have less than 24 hours to prove it”. The next day, a lady named Joanne knocked on my door. She asked if she could measure my windows. She was moving in soon and wanted to go shopping. I told her to go away, but she begged me, promising me it would only take a second. I let her in and she started to measure the windows. As she was measuring the windows, she started to sing “Amazing Grace”. I asked her if she was one of those Christians and she said yes. She invited me to church and called her pastor on the spot! I told him I wouldn’t come, but he begged me.
I asked my wife to attend church with me that night. We went to church, and after the service, the pastor invited us to his office to talk. I asked him “why would a God have to die?” It was then that the pastor gave me the gospel and explained “Grace”. It touched my heart and opened my eyes to all the sin and pain I had caused others in my life. Most importantly, it opened my eyes that I had sinned against a Holy, Righteous, and Loving God. It opened my wife’s eyes to the fact that the love she was seeking, couldn’t be found in drugs. That night my wife and I were saved. We spent every day with the pastor and deacons and it was amazing to see the change of the mind and heart that salvation brings. We spent so many nights repenting and thanking God for being so forgiving.
God showed us that the false idols of this world cannot bring peace. My wife and I had put our trust in people, drugs, and even our marriage. None of that will give you the peace and joy that we all desire. We are a living testimony to the people of Fitchburg that God can heal our brokenness. God can create beauty out of ashes. Urban ministry is difficult like all ministry and it takes time. We understand that. We have weighed the cost, but we know that seeing families restored, chains broken, and making disciples will be worth it all.
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—