I am the 5th of seven children of an Irish Catholic family, born in
The priest used what I had been confessing to him to his advantage. I was a naÃ¯ve teen, and slowly and methodically, the priest seduced me into his sick and perverted world. I felt this wasn't right, but the priest insisted that we were developing a Godly relationship. I felt totally powerless to prevent or stop what was happening. I couldn't tell anyone. Who would believe me over this priest who was so highly regarded? I don't remember how long it took until I was finally able to put a stop to it. I still couldn't tell anyone though. I still had to attend church, but I couldn't be an altar boy or an usher. I couldn't go to confession or receive communion. Left to myself, I began to grow very bitter, and hatred festered. A couple months after turning 18, I walked away from the church wondering why my God had let this happen; blaming Him, the church and, most of all, the priest. I was on my own. Who needed church or religion? I could still believe in God and just do my own thing.
I started smoking and drinking beer. After high school graduation in 1973, I went into the Marine Corps. I started drinking heavier; getting into hard liquor. Just a couple of weeks after arriving for my technical schooling, I was called home for my father's funeral. Afterwards, I drank even harder, to the point I had black-outs. This was a lonely time. I was engaged to my girlfriend, but separated from her. I still didn't have God in my life or believe I needed Him. When I was stationed in Japan, I was diagnosed as an alcoholic. When I received a "Dear John" letter from my fiancÃ©e, my drinking only got worse, and I went through one immoral relationship after another.
Returning to the states in late 1975, I found myself lonelier than ever before. I was still smoking and drinking, and I was deep into pornography. I began an immoral relationship with an 18 year old girl that ended up in a whirlwind marriage, a daughter being born, and then divorce. Prior to the birth of my daughter, out of concern for her, I put down the alcohol and have been sober since.
I met my current wife, Pandora, in 1978. Although she wasn't actively attending church, she was always telling me of her experiences with the Church of the Nazarene when she was a teen. But I still had my back turned on God and had no need for church.
Years later, we began trying several different churches and eventually began attending a church on a regular basis. Still, something wasn't right. We were outwardly doing all the right things, but, for me, nothing really seemed to have changed. I felt like a hypocrite. I was still being tortured by memories of my past. I was still smoking, cursing, and addicted to pornography; basically still the same degenerate I had always been.
Pandora once again started talking about getting back into church. She suggested the Nazarene church again. I almost cringed at the thought, but then figured why not? The first Sunday we attended services at Hagerstown Church of the Nazarene, we felt so welcomed and comfortable. Everyone was so friendly and genuine. We took several weeks to settle on a home we bought, and to move, before returning to the church to see what the new pastor had to offer. I couldn't believe the number of people that remembered us, and warmly greeted and welcomed us back to their church.
After meeting Pastors Johnson and Guertler, participating in worship service, and listening to Pastor Johnson's message, I was hooked. It was like I was being led to this church. The pastor's message had caught my attention and I found myself once again opening up to the message of God's love. When Pastor Guertler offered his assistance, I discussed my early church experiences with him. Pastor Guertler was sympathetic and comforting, offering invaluable advice and support.
I was becoming more enlightened by the word of God. Through Pastor Johnson's messages, I realized that even though I had turned my back on God, He never turned his back on me. He was always there for me, turning me around and pointing me in the right direction. But it was my stubbornness and unwillingness to submit to His will that kept me taking a different direction. Another of Pastor Johnson's messages made me realize that the Lord Jesus Christ had been knocking on the door to my heart for a very long time, and I had been deaf to His presence. I now knew that I needed to answer the door and invite our Savior into my heart. I then gave my heart to the Lord and truly accepted Him as my Lord and Savior. This was my deliverance from cursing, pornography and the rest of my sins.
The following Sunday Pastor's Johnson's message dealt with the conditions necessary for having God answer your prayers. One condition was forgiveness to anyone that had done wrong to you. A couple days later the impact of that message hit me. I realized I no longer felt angry or bitter about my abusive experiences of the past. The pain was gone. I seemed more at peace, and contented with myself. I no longer wanted to pursue any type of revenge, nor did I want retribution. I only knew that I needed to forgive the priest.