My experience and story with God begins when I was 17 years old. I was a very wild and out-of-control teenager. I was waiting to go to court, and when I went to court, my probation officer said they were going to put me away. I didn’t want to be incarcerated, so my plan as a 17 year old back in 1974, was to rob a drugstore with my friend and run away to Canada. As I was walking to the closet to get my coat to go do this thing, my mom stopped me. She was very distraught and crying, she knew I had problems. She asked me to go to this Christian live-in program that was for teenagers that had drug problems. This place was called Teen Challenge. I didn’t want to go because I had tried to be a Christian, but I never could work that out in my life. Also, I didn’t think I had a drug problem, which was actually a joke, because if anything characterized my life as a young person, it was the fact that I had a drug problem. So, we went to this inner-city part of Indianapolis with these rather dilapidated buildings; I walked into this big old home, and as soon as I walked in, I knew God was there.
Now, I didn’t know how I knew God was there, because I didn’t know you could even know where God was, but I knew God was there. As I walked in, there was a young man reading the Bible. His name was Victor and he was excited about what he was reading. He was explaining it to people as they walked by and I was totally taken back. I didn’t know people my age got excited about the Bible. I thought that the Bible was for old people and for pastors, but he was excited about the Bible. They took me to the chapel and I met the director, Dan. We talked for a little bit, and I remember Dan said, “We don’t have a program here, all we have is Jesus Christ. We believe that He is the answer to all of your problems.” As soon as he said that is was like the entire chapel just lit up; I felt that the crucified and resurrected Jesus Christ was standing right there in front of me, and I knew that God still loved me. That day I entered Teen Challenge.
I gave my heart to Christ and I had this wonderful experience with God. It changed my life, all the rebellion and anger I had just went away. I still had lots of problems to work through, but I knew that with hope and faith in Christ that God was going to see me through. God was going to give me a good life and deliver me from this life I had lived. Within weeks of becoming a Christian, I felt that God had called me into ministry, so I went to Bible college at a small school in Lakeland, Florida. After this I continued on to seminary and got my Masters in Divinity and Classical Guitar. I fell in love with studying the Bible, so I went on to Princeton Theological Seminary and graduated with my second Masters in Theology.
I was probably the only one in line at that graduation that had flunked out of high school! I give God all the glory for that. The degree I earned at Princeton is the second most advanced master’s degree in America. I’ve since gone on to do some more graduate work at Marquette, working on a PhD in New Testament and finishing all of the course work required. Today, my wife and I serve as the senior pastors of a church in Indianapolis which is my hometown. This is the third church we have served in since working there at Teen Challenge Wisconsin.
My mom and I spend a lot of time together and she is still in good health. My wife and I have two children. My daughter is a senior at Lee College in Tennessee and my son is in college here in Indianapolis. Today, I’m passionate about experiencing God. I want to experience God in worship, in prayer and in the unity of other believers. I want to experience God in my every day life. I want to teach people how to experience God. And not only to experience God yourself, but to bring others into that experience. So our first passion is to experience God. My second passion is to study the scriptures in God’s book. It’s the only book in history in which the author comes with it. The Holy Spirit comes and helps us to understand it and bring it to life. It’s a book of life, not a book of rules. It’s a book of life, a book of hope – it’s God’s book.
Thank you for supporting Teen Challenge Wisconsin. My wife and I were honored to be a part of the early days of the program there. May the Lord bless you!