Wednesday, February 18, 2009

"My Life, My Testimony," as told to me

Does finding God make a difference?
Is the day of miracles past?
Is it ever too late to turn to God?
Read on. . .and you tell me what you think.

My life really began when Glenn and Betty St. John adopted me at three months of age. We moved frequently, but lived happily, following my father’s work. We later returned to greater Cincinnati where marital problems escalated into a divorce--I was twelve.

I spent weekends with my father, even after he began experiencing emotional difficulties. One Father’s Day weekend, I woke up early--alone. Discovering my isolation, I quickly called Mom and we. Talked--until she abruptly announced “I love you, I need to go,” and hung up!

Minutes later Dad returned, carrying a handgun. He hustled me into the bathroom- saying “I love you, son, and this hurts me worse than it does you.” Five shots left four bullets in me, two in my stomach, one in my hand, and one in my face.

He quickly left the room, retrieved his shotgun, and dialed the telephone. “There has been or there will be another shooting at ___.” he announced, as I numbly followed him into the Living Room. There, I watched him place the barrel under his chin and pull the trigger.

The Police arrived after what seemed like hours. The EMT’s loaded me into an ambulance and raced toward downtown Cincinnati’s Children’s Hospital.

Millions of thoughts pounded in my head. I wanted my mother, but got no response. Everything was blurring. Hours later, I awoke, still asking for my mother. An unknown voice finally admitted she “passed away.” Confusion clouded my despair and feeling of forsakenness. The drugs wore off over the next six weeks, but the gnawing loneliness lingered endlessly. Eventually, the hospital released me to my aunt and uncle in Winchester, KY, where I started life over again.

Aunt Judy and Uncle Lonnie kindly and lovingly tried to soften my anguish. They did their best, but I now realize how overwhelmed they surely felt. They tried to involve me in church, but anger controlled me. I needed no God that allows things like this to happen, and I bounced from one extreme to another--angry and resentful.

I stiff-armed the people trying hardest to love and support me. I refused friendship. To put it mildly, I behaved like a jerk! Yet, from the beginning there remained one person that refused to be pushed away--uncle’s mother, Cornelia Mathis (Mamaw). She accepted me as her grandchild.
She told me about a man that loved me. He would care for me no matter what and His name was Jesus. Although others talked about God, I heard Mamaw. I was not sure she understood all my feelings, but I told her how I felt. She never stopped telling me about Jesus and praying for me--out loud. She was always there. She will always be a major part of who I turned out to be (“I love you, Mamaw”).

I spent my teen-years as a loner. I wanted no part of anything. I cared about no one--not even myself. I rebelled at everything and everybody. I was a self-destructive, rebellious dare-devil When tired of being bullied and pushed around, I developed an “I ain’t afraid of nothing” attitude. And, I wasn’t! Simply said, I could care less if the sun came up--ever.

Quitting high school in my senior year, I went job to job--restless, edgy, seldom long in one place. I also discovered how to numb my feelings--Marijuana. When stoned, I temporarily forgot my troubles. Soon, I added alcohol.

While nursing a hangover one day, I headed for the store for some Aspirin. En route, I met the Army Recruiter. He quickly saw my anger and hostility, took advantage of it, and persuaded me to enlist. I signed on Monday, left on Wednesday, and spent seven years exploring every insane thing the military offered. In 1990, just before Desert Storm, I returned home, still wandering, still aimless.

My “one constant” was Mamaw. She still prayed that I find Jesus. She described His peace as “the peace I so richly deserved.” I began working Security in Pennsylvania, frequently filling difficult and dangerous assignments. Being a body guard for a CEO that had threats made on his life put me in precarious situations frequently, but I did it with reckless abandon.

Heavy drugs and drinking took additional toll. Depression and suicidal thoughts hounded me into my thirties, filled with cold hatred. Angry at myself, hostile toward others, I resented life. I wanted only to end my torment--die. Arriving in Collegeville, PA I had my fill!

I picked up my 357 Magnum, rolled the cylinder, stuck it in my mouth, and pulled the trigger. When it snapped, I re-checked the cylinder. It being loaded, I put it in my mouth and pulled the trigger.

It snapped--again! Going through the routine a third time, it snapped again. Desperate, I called a friend with whom I worked. He convinced me I needed professional help and for many months I worked with therapists--PTSD and severe depression. Eventually, they found me normal and released me back into society.

Faithfully, letters came from Mamaw. She still prayed for me. She still told me about Jesus. I left the hospital, returned to Kentucky, and began working as an electrician--still using recreational Marijuana. While visiting Mamaw in 2002, I promised her I would try church and visited a church in Winchester.

There, the Holy Spirit began to deal with my heart. I realized I had gone as far as I could humanly go. I accepted Jesus and He began an immediately transformation. First--“I mean immediately“--He removed my desire for drugs and alcohol! “I PRAISE GOD, for I have lived clean and sober since that wonderful night.”

God’s “next thing” was to draw me close to Him and bring me closer to the person I am sure prayed all of this into fruition--my Mamaw. I began reading my Bible daily. I stayed in contact with Mamaw, by phone. Reflecting back, her weekly letters never stopped coming, even when I joined the Army. I received letters--weekly--even when others in my unit did not.

She always told me to tell people my story--my testimony. She constantly reminded me how “good and gracious God had been to me,” but in 2004, she fell ill. At ninety, Mamaw was hospitalized in nearby Corbin. The family told me the end was near and I went as quickly as I could. In a coma, she could not respond, although the doctor thought she could hear us.
Joining my uncle in her room, I leaned over and kissed her. Although she had neither moved nor spoken, she hugged me, without sound. Through my tears, I saw my uncle‘s astonishment, and speaking to no one, I rushed from the room, to the Chapel.

I began talking with THE ONE Mamaw always told me about--Jesus. Selfishly, I asked God to spare her. Then, it dawned on me how sick she really was, and how selfish I was. I began a different prayer: “She deserves what you have waiting for her more than anyone I can think of God, so it’s Okay if you want to take her home. But, I would give anything to speak to her one more time.”

Back in her room, family and doctors awaited the inevitable. Comatose, she could not communicate, but she had no pain. I had already made peace with God about her situation and I prepared to leave, knowing I must work the following day.

Before leaving, I knelt beside her still body and reminded her, “I love you, Mamaw, and I will miss you, good bye; I will see you in heaven.” Before I could back away from the bed, a weak voice declared “I love you too, go preach to them about Jesus.” She wrapped me in a big hug, leaving astonishment on every face in the room. Her last words remain forever etched in my mind.

Days later, she went home to live forever with Jesus and I spent several months questioning God and myself about preaching. I never told anyone what Mamaw said to me. Finally, I admitted to God: If that is what you want, then here I am because without you I am nothing. Give this backward, bashful country boy the words and I will speak them whenever and wherever you want (italics added).

Later, I spoke with the Lord about needing a wife--a partner to share in ministry--one He would have for me. Days later, helping at a local fish fry, I met Delora. We soon wed, assured in our spirits that God wanted us together. Next to accepting Jesus into my life, Dee is the best thing that ever happened to me.

She has been there--without fail--my constant strength. Her unwavering faith shines a beacon in my life. Through the Holy Spirit and Dee‘s strong faith, I am becoming the preacher and man God is calling me to become. Daily, I study, pray, and share God’s Word--at every opportunity.
In October 2006, God impressed upon me the desire to begin the Credentialing process for the ministry and I thank Clarence Thomas, Boonville Pastor, for helping me take that first leap of faith. I met another wonderful man of God, Brother Luther Keaton, who introduced me to a wonderful, God fearing congregation in Polksville.

In March 2007 I accepted the call to pastor the Polksville congregation at Salt Lick, KY. I love the Lord with my whole being. I am eternally committed to His service, although I found it difficult to express the turmoil and suffering I experienced without God. I pray sincerely that this testimony will touch the heart of some lost, undone person. There is a man that brings “peace and tranquility to even the most restless and desperate of souls. He is our reward.
as told to me by Raymond Todd St John

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