One day I may have the desire to go into the long version with the painful and shocking details of who I was and what I did before I gave my life to God. This is not the time. Suffice it for me to say that I am firmly grounded in my faith that there is a God in Heaven, he sent his son Jesus Christ to die on the cross so that our sins against God could be forgiven and we can have eternal life with God. I have been ridiculed for years by non-believers for having these beliefs and yet I have continued on my journey, day by day, since Sunday, June 27th, 1982 when I dedicated my life to serving God.
I was raised in the strict Roman Catholic tradition. I prayed to Mary, the mother of Jesus, confessed my sins every week to a priest (who tried to abuse me from time to time) and I believed that if I left the Church I would go to hell.
I had some terrible experiences (like being raped by a man when I was 12) while growing up. My parents fought often and my Dad would stay at the office (There was an apartment upstairs) for days (occasionally with the company secretary) and my sister and I would be alone with mom (or the baby sitter if mom had to work).
So then, life went on. I did more terrible things while in high school (sex, drugs and rock and roll were a natural outlet for everyone since we didn’t have the internet back then). I was a young man full of anger and the priests showed me in the bible where it says “be angry, but do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26) But they failed to tell me how? So I quit going to Church. I took out my anger through brutality. Anytime someone insulted me or my friends, I fought. If we won a football game; I fought the losers. If we lost; I fought the winners. If they insulted my mom (your mom is so ugly…) I fought. My wife makes comments every time she gives me a haircut, about all the various scars I have on my head from the rocks, bottles, bricks, baseball bats and tire irons which I have been struck with during those fights. During High School I hung out with the guys wearing leather jackets, riding motorcycles and drinking beer or doing drugs. I hated them as much as I hated myself but I would deny it if anyone asked because they were the only people who accepted me as I was. I felt lost and alone even when I was surrounded by crowds because I was not like them. I’m lucky I only got knifed in the back and shot in the arm one time each.
After high school in 1975, I joined the US Marines. Why? Because A) they were the toughest fighting force I knew of, B) my friends joined either the Army or Navy and I wanted to distance myself from them and C) I was rebelling against the lifestyle I had been living and the Marines are the absolute farthest in their nature from where I was coming from. While in basic training I went to Catholic Church so I could have at least an hour a week break from the brutal treatment we received back then. They refined my fighting skills. They trained me to only fight when commanded to fight (Unless some punk insulted the Corps or my mom. Then they looked the other way while I fought). They trained me to use a rifle and machinegun to kill at long distances and a knife or my bare hands if up close. Upon Graduation, my parents divorced and I went to live with my mom while continuing my training 12 miles from home.
For four years I fought with them and for them. I resented people in authority over me.
Then one day I complained to an Army Recruiter about my dead end job in the Marines. He smiled and promised me that if I joined the Army he would put me in Military Intelligence, pay me a $2,500 cash bonus and send me to Germany for 18 months. I laughed as I told him “Put that in writing”. He did it! 5 days later I was signed out of the US marines and into the US Army through an Inter-Service transfer. I went to the Intel school in USAICS
(U. S. Army Intelligence Center and School) for 2 months for training on the new equipment I would be using then I was transferred to Germany. I helped form an American Motorcycle club known as the “Caste of Assassins”. We figured we were trained by the military and paid to kill so we must be assassins right? We drove our Harley Davidson’s with a German club known as The Resurrection. I did my job and I also sold drugs to support my own habit. I have written several of my war stories giving more details of my military experiences.
At the end of my 18 month tour of duty I received my orders sending me back to the states (to Fort Lewis Washington, just a 24 hour drive North from my home!). When I went looking for my port call (paperwork for my flight back to the US) they told me “Oh, Your MI (Military Intelligence), we need you here for another 6 months”. They then took my orders and stamped “REVOKED” on them.
THAT’S IT! I thought. They are onto me. They are going to find out about my drug dealing and send me to jail. Where can I hide?
One of my sergeants asked me to go to church with him. YES! The CID (Criminal Investigation Division) guys would NEVER look for me in a church; so I accepted the invitation. My sergeant (Rosario Maysonnet) is Puerto Rican and he failed to tell me the church he went to was a Pentecostal Church of God. They believe in baptism of the Holy Ghost, speaking in Tongues and a host of other things totally foreign to the Catholic tradition (and me in particular).
The church service lasted 3 hours with singing, preaching, people prophesying, more preaching, people speaking in tongues, others interpreting what the person who spoke in tongues had said and more singing. I had never experienced anything like this in my life. These people seemed to have something inside them that I lacked. They were filled with joy and peace and happiness. I wanted what I saw they had. I went back for the next three Sundays to assure myself that it wasn’t just a onetime thing but that these people had something real to offer me. It turned out that it was God, all along, who had something to offer me.
The 3rd Sunday (June 27, 1982) when the American missionary who ran the church invited everyone who wanted to be saved to come down to the alter; I went. I got down on my knees and I prayed that God would forgive me of my sins and fill me with his Holy Spirit. God heard my prayer and answered it immediately! I felt the anger fade from inside me like a wind blowing away smoke from a camp fire. I felt the peace of God descending upon me and filling every nook and cranny of my being like being plunged beneath a waterfall. They Joy of the Lord sprang up from inside me and overflowed as if I had a fountain living within me running at 100 gallons a minute. I felt alive and renewed and forgiven and I wanted everyone everywhere to feel this way forever with me.
When I returned to the barracks, I threw away the cigarettes, the drugs and poured out the alcohol (I did not want any of the reminders of my old lifestyle around me anymore). Many of my friends just thought I was going through a phase. They joked that in day or maybe a week I would return to them and their way of life. They did not understand that I was dead to that old way of life. They did not understand that I was now free. I am saved forever and those former things have absolutely no meaning for me. I never went back and I even brought one of the gang (Corporal Hip) to salvation because he saw the changes in me and followed me to church where he also dedicated his life to God. With every breath I take I am reminded that I am living only because God has allowed me to live through the terrible times I experienced.