Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story...


In the spring of 1985, I found myself at the doorstep of moms’ house. She was expecting me but unprepared for the shock of her life. I had called to inform her that I was coming back home. I hopped into my car and drove the four and half hour trip. I was a physical wreck for it took every bit of strength I could muster up to complete the journey. I had the shakes and a severe hangover from the previous night. I cannot remember the last time I had taken a sober breath.

I pulled into the childhood driveway, threw the transmission into park, and walked up to the front door. With my right hand, I reached for the doorknob, twisted it and walk through the threshold. She embraced with a loving hug followed by sobbing. The tears falling down the cheeks of her face were not joyful but terror. She did not recognize her youngest son because she remembered her boy being full of life. Bewilderment radiated through her expression, and she was devastated. I was one hundred and ten pounds and the skin on my face was sunken inward giving the appearance of a sick and frail young man. I was speechless, hopeless and desperate.

I was only away from home for three years. I never thought it would end up like this. I was full of ambition ready to take life by the horns. I had visions of prestige by planning to make a name for myself. I had a lot of good intentions. These should have been achievable goals, but the demons inside myself stripped away anything worthwhile.

alcohol1I had reached that point where alcohol had its way with me. I could not stop this insidious reoccurring nightmare because everything I tried to stop drinking drove me deeper into the black hole of powerlessness. Bottle after bottle, time and again, I would repeat the same mistakes always expecting a different result. Instead, I was faced with the fact of being an alcoholic. I had turned into the one thing I despised and a spitting image of dad.

I was baffled, ashamed and did not know where to turn. My parents agreed to provide me a place to stay under the agreement of seeking help. I was willing and took them up on their offer. Mom knew of a counselor who specialized in alcoholic addiction. So I contacted him. After the first face to face session with Mr. Barfield and just before leaving his office he handed me a flyer with a list of twelve-step programs. He highly suggested I start attending meetings.

I decided to choose one and did not know what to expect from the twelve-step program. I was scared. I cannot recall the topic at my first meeting. I continued attending and began to identify with the medical description of alcoholism. The way they laid it out made perfect sense because for the first time concerning my drunkenness there was a logical explanation. It spoke volumes, and as I looked back at the past, there was concrete evidence staring me in the eyes.

Then came their hook, line and sinker that would be the only solution to my predicament. God! That presented me with a significant stumbling block because I was agnostic. There could be no God in this world riddled with evilness. I was highly offended by their seemingly shallow outlook. How could God do anything for me?

Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed;
Save me, and I shall be saved,
For You are my praise.

Jeremiah 17:14

Well, they said to me, just hang in there a little longer. Don’t give up before the miracle happens was a frequent slogan. Things did change. God began to work on me, and I gradually found faith. As a result of seeking God, a transformation began taking root, and I learned a lot about how He works. I came to understand that through trusting Him everything will be taken care regardless of the current situation.

The power I received from His strength allowed me to make amends for my wrong doings as well as healing my heart. Even though, I found the effect of God I failed to maintain it and became complacent. I was content with the way my spiritual life was and started to slack off in my devotion. I did not realize the danger this type of view would bring. This blindness cost me dearly and after eighteen years of sobriety I got drunk.

I remember the moment I started using alcohol again was not wise. Everything God had done for me was tossed aside because I decided to get drunk. The insanity of alcoholism returned with a fury taking my places of degradation. I was in the grip of wickedness unlike any I had known. I was dying a slow and miserable death.

God did not give up on me and continued calling me back. I finally heard Him after eight years of misery.

For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.

Jeremiah 29:11

He opened His arms, and I embraced Him. God picked up where He had left off and quickly showed me the light at the end of the tunnel. As I walked down God’s tunnel, He delivered me to His Son Jesus Christ and into salvation. I now know the Light at the end of God’s tunnel is Heaven.

An Encounter with God

What happened? How could this gentile Jesus manage to get a hold in my life? Truly it was a miracle, that’s for sure. Back to my story at the Sister’s of Maria Del Mar, where I was learning about “Death, Dying, and Beyond” with Elizabeth Kubler Ross. Dr. Schroeder, Maria, (Kubler Ross) and I were the three class dynamite sticks. We connected and worked together extremely well. Maybe it was just about being the greatest extroverts, but what energy! As the class connected and formed its personality I remember feeling totally connected and energized. The energy was wonderful, except for the fact that Marvin, the doctor, followed me every moment out of class trying to tell me more about this Jesus.

I found it totally annoying, interesting perhaps that his Father had carried in the money to start the nation of Israel back in the ‘40’s, but I simply couldn’t connect with this Jesus guy. Days went by, Marvin followed me about like a puppy, telling me about how Jewish Jesus was, how the history of the church began with all Jews, how the temple curtain was torn top to bottom at the time of Jesus’ death, etc. etc. etc. He just went on and on until I felt my head would burst. Actually I remember telling Marvin it was like having cymbals clashed on each side of my head, the noise was getting so painful!

It was now Thursday, the week was typical of the ‘ooey gooey’ encounter work of the ‘70’s, and going well, but I couldn’t take a minute more of the Jesus stuff. I had come to get my head together, and this was interfering with my head. I asked Marvin for the keys to his room, so I could sit quietly by the window (he had an ocean front room) and ‘get the noise out of my head’. I pulled the desk chair over to the window and watched several waves come in and took a deep breath. Ahhhh, enough! Oh no, what was that! Right on the horizon was a huge cross – with someone hanging on it! Good heavens, I blinked and it wouldn’t go away. I scanned the room – was there a crucifix on the wall that I had transposed in my vision? No, no crucifix. How strange, especially to be able to see someone on that cross so far away.

I was pondering this and remembering the angel that had shown up at my bedside several months earlier and taken my hand to bring me up and show me heaven, when an audible (honest, it was deep and resonant and loud) voice spoke to me: “Gay, don’t you understand? I sent that little girl to you so that you could understand the pain it cost me to send my Son to die for you and your SIN”. “Sin”? I hate that word, I had even asked the Rabbi what sin was and he gave me an answer that made no sense. My heart was so hard I had no clue what sin was. Well, this voice, it had to be God, I was totally alone in the room, simply answered my mental question by ticker taping every sin I had ever committed in front of my spiritual eyes from the left to the right, one at a time! I was 38 years old; I remember the first He showed me was stealing 3 trading cards from another little girl at the age of 3.The last I believe, was the box of paper clips I had brought home from Kaiser just before I had the bunionectomy on my right foot. (That is what allowed me to quit my 4 jobs and take this time to figure out how I was going to continue working to support me and the kids.) But I remember also the lying, exaggerating, promiscuity, drugs and excessive alcohol being in that picture show as well, it was staggering.

I found myself sobbing on the floor with no memory of how I got there. Thoughts flew through my head; “Oh, that is sin, I had no idea, He knew my name, He has been watching me, He does know how much Jessica (my daughter who died at 5 from liver cancer) suffered, He does know how many hairs I have on my head like Marvin told me!”

It was literally mind blowing to know that someone knew and had kept track. God did care about me, He knew how painful that death was, He had experienced one also. It was just overwhelming to think God cared about me and knew me intimately. My tears and nose made a puddle on the floor.

The door opened and it was Marvin, coming to check on me – what timing! I lept up and threw myself in his arms, sobbing: “I don’t know what hit me, but I think it was your Jesus!” I am sure he was delighted, and I must have babbled on like a maniac, but I know he was thrilled. I remember that shortly thereafter Marvin took me into Santa Cruz to a Christian Book Store and bought me a bible, and we came back and sat on the beach at the Convent for my first “Bible Study”.

He plopped the bible open to Matthew Chapter 13, the parable of the seeds. It was exactly what I needed to hear. For years, I couldn’t understand why it took God so long to make a connection, why did I have to go through Jessica’s death with no comfort?

“That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop – a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. He who has ears let him hear.”

The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?” “He replied, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. This is why I speak to them in parables: “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.

In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:

“You will be ever hearing but never understanding
you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.
For this people’s heart has become calloused;
They hardly hear with their ears,
And they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
Hear with their ears,
Understand with their hearts
And turn, and I would heal them.”

“Stop!” I said to Marvin Schroeder. I simply couldn’t absorb any more! I was understanding; I was walking down through that garden seeing the seeds grow before my eyes. I understood that if God had planted his seed in my heart any earlier, it wouldn’t have taken root; I had to come to the very end of myself! The Bible’s words hit me in three dimensional power, it was so alive. Truly alive!

To make a long story short; I didn’t put the bible down for four years! I poured through it cover to cover many times, I admit, looking for loopholes, but there were none. The God of the Jews was the God of the Gentiles, the same one who really cares about us. It was right that the New Testament was bound to the Old Testament.

to be continued…

photo by Ryk Neethling
Ralph’s Story – God’s Redemptive Power

I was raised in a Christian home, and have known about God since I was a child. It was at a young age that I first realized I was hopelessly lost and needed a redeemer, and my young heart was filled with His love. As is typical with many who know God at a young age, my heart wandered as I matured, and the world became very interesting to me. God, however, never lets go, and He held on when I questioned what I had been taught, what I had experienced, even what I knew.

God often works in mysterious ways. At one point in our marriage, my wife came under severe attack by the enemy, to the point she questioned God’s love for her and even His very existence. I would like to say what I told her came from my years of wisdom, but that is far from the truth. I now know it was divinely inspired. I said, “Tell Him that, tell Him you’re angry, that you doubt and that you have to see something or you’re just done with it all. He’ll give you exactly what you need”. God is faithful to His children even when we doubt, and He showed up in a very definite way.

Our son, now an adult, was diagnosed as a child with Bipolar Disorder, but as he grew it became painfully obvious that the medication he was prescribed just wasn’t working. He became dangerously angry and often threatened to kill himself and as many others as he could take with him. We were advised often to get rid of him, to just kick him out of the house, but God wouldn’t let us. We just couldn’t take the risk that he would hurt someone else. Year after year, we prayed and worked with him. He knew God, but like many of us, thought he deserved only punishment, and couldn’t receive mercy.

It wasn’t until he reluctantly attended a healing service at our church and saw God at work first hand for himself that he was able to let go of his hurt and anger and accept God’s healing. Today, he is a Godly man, a husband and father, and testament to God’s redemptive power.

So, even though I don’t have a huge crisis story in which I hit rock bottom and God turned everything around, I have seen Him work over my entire lifetime. There is no way I could turn my back on Him now.

Lily’s Testimony

If someone would’ve told me 20 years ago that I would someday be a Christian AND a missionary, I would’ve laughed in their face and told them they were crazy.

In my younger days, God or religion wasn’t even on my radar.

I grew up in a non-Christian home, with an atheist dad, a Catholic mom and two sisters. My parents had decided early on in their marriage to never discuss God or religion, because they didn’t want to spend the rest of their lives arguing about it. So the bible was just another dusty book on the shelf, and nobody ever talked about God, Jesus, or salvation.

My mom did occasionally take my sisters and I to Catholic Church though. There I saw people going through the motions. Stand up, sit down, say a prayer by rote, stand up and sit down again…but the rest of the week they acted just like anyone else. The empty religion and hypocrisy that I saw caused me to assume that religion was just a cultural thing, with no actual truth attached to it. So I didn’t believe any of it, and when I was old enough to make my own decisions, I stopped going to church completely.

I started drinking when I was around 16. We lived in San Diego, just 15 minutes from the US/Mexico border, so on weekend nights my friends and I would go barhopping in Tijuana, since they didn’t card there.

Even though I was drinking and nightclubbing as a teen, I was extremely immature and naive, especially when it came to boys.

The combination of alcohol, naivety and not knowing God was a recipe for disaster. One night, I got myself into a bad situation that led to losing my virginity through date rape. Even though I tried to push my feelings away, it was a wound to my heart, and there would be many more wounds to come.

For many years I lived a life that was very far from God. Getting drunk on weekends, partying, materialism, falling for the wrong guys and of course sexual immorality. There was much pain and heartache, which changed the person I originally was, into someone who was insecure, wounded….but sort of numb at the same time.

In addition to the worldly lifestyle, there was also a lot of irresponsibility and screwing up in general. I was terrible with money, and got myself into debt. I was going to college, but I didn’t have much direction in my life. I wasted time doing stupid things. I was a mess, but at that time I didn’t realize how lost I was.

behold-a-pale-horseAround that time, I started becoming interested in politics. Little did I know that this would be the avenue that God would use to lead me to Him. I read a very controversial, hard-to-believe, but fascinating book called Behold A Pale Horse, by William Cooper. That book opened my eyes to what was going on in the world and changed my outlook completely. It talked about how we’re heading toward global government – the New World Order. In the book, I noticed there was a quote from the book of Revelation…I thought that was interesting, but I didn’t think much of it beyond that.

I also had a political website (exposing the scandals of former president Clinton) and because of that site, I was always doing research. I was genuinely amazed at the things I found. The corruption at the highest levels of government was even worse than I imagined, much worse than most people realize. I learned that it was not limited to Clinton, but to other presidents and to those who are really in charge…the ones behind the scenes, who have the real power.

Learning about the evil and corruption in this world caused me to start thinking about the deeper questions of life. Who is really in control of this world? What’s life really about?

The day I began to believe is one that I’ll never forget. I was in my room and I was thinking to myself, “How can it be that the most powerful people on this planet are so evil and corrupt? How can it be that the person who is running the country is someone I wouldn’t even hire to work at McDonalds, because he’s a total crook? With all the people in the world, isn’t there a true leader who we can actually look up to and trust?”

I could see that the world wasn’t all bad. Yes, there was evil, but I could see that truth and goodness exist too. Even though I wasn’t a believer, on some level I knew that those things – goodness, truth, justice – must stem from a source. But I still wasn’t thinking about God at all.

As I kept asking that question in my mind – “Who is above these corrupt leaders?” – that was when God opened my eyes. He gave me the answer. It came to me in a flash, but in a clear, powerful and deep way. God is above these corrupt leaders! JESUS is the true leader of this world. Wow. Mind blown. Some scriptures suddenly came into my mind. Jesus is the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the Prince of Peace…He is the true power of this world! It all started to make sense.

I was stunned because I had rejected all that stuff my entire life… but it’s true. The Gospel is true. Not religion. Not the going-through-the-motions cultural stuff I saw as a child. But the simple Gospel. Jesus is the Messiah, the true power of this world, the living God… And He seemed to be “knocking on my door” so to speak. That realization was the biggest turning point in my life.

But I didn’t jump into Christianity right away. I knew that if I were to become a Christian, my life would change in a huge way. I thought to myself, “What if I become too religious and I’ll have to get all new friends? What if this changes my life completely?” I was going to San Francisco State, I had a job I liked, I even had a public access TV show that I produced (long story). My life seemed to be pretty good to me, at that time. I certainly wasn’t looking for God or religion. But I sure found God. Or I should say, God found me!

So I said to myself, I’ll look into Christianity, read the bible, but not jump into anything until I’m ready.

Christian testimonyIt took 2 years from that point until the day I surrendered my heart to Jesus and became a Christian. July 9, 2000 was the day that God forgave me of all my sins and I became a new creation.  When I walked out of the church that day (I had gone to my friend’s church and after the service her pastor led me in prayer to receive Jesus) I was filled with so much hope, joy and a desire to learn more about God and His word.  I knew it was the first day of an entirely new life and new path!

A few years later, I clearly sensed that God was calling me to world missions. I was told about Youth With A Mission (YWAM) an international  missions-sending organization that also offers training for new missionaries. I took a life-changing class called “Discipleship Training School” (DTS), in Kona, Hawaii. I can’t even put into words how great that class was. After the 3 month lecture phase, I went on my first missions trip, to Indonesia and Malaysia, another huge learning experience. After my DTS, I continued my training with YWAM, and I did a bible school (School of Biblical Studies), two biblical counseling classes, and a digital media class.  Most of the classes were in Kona, and one was in Switzerland. The funding for those classes was an amazing demonstration of God’s provision.  Much of it came in truly miraculous ways.

I later served on the mission field in Mexico – in Tijuana del Mar and Mazatlan.

The process has taken time, but God has healed me, restored me, taught me important life lessons… He has given me wisdom, a new heart and even a new name! (You can read about that here if you want).   God has shown me who I really am…my true identity. My identity is in Christ, and I have learned through experience (sometimes the hard way) that God’s ways truly are best, and wisest.    I’m still a work in progress though. I’m continuing to learn, grow, and walk with God…not just on Sundays but on a daily basis, in every aspect of my life. It’s about a relationship with our Creator, not religion.

Even though life in this world is not a bed of roses, I have the peace and security that comes with knowing I belong to God, and that He loves me with an unfailing love.

If anyone reading this isn’t a believer, my prayer is that when God “knocks on your door” you will not keep it closed. He created you and loves you and wants the absolute best for you. Surrendering your life to Him will be the best and most important decision you will ever make!

Much love and blessings,