From disaster to pastor, this is the real life story – my own personal testimony – of how I came to saving faith in Jesus Christ. I believe miracles still happen every day and the greatest miracle to me is that of human conversion
I never knew my real father. My mother had many husbands and I was dumped at my aunt and uncle’s to live with when I was very young. My aunt and uncle already had a house full of their own children. They had seven children in all plus me and my bigger brother along with my aunt and uncle, this made 11 in one house. I ended up claiming the closet as my own bedroom. I didn’t know enough to feel sorry for myself as a young child. I remember that the only books that I loved where encyclopedias. When my mother finally did come for my brother and me, even if it was for a short time, we had a new step-father. In all those years and in all my mother’s different marriages, I never heard the phrase, “I love you.” I never heard any praise or encouragement but I did remember being screamed at, spit on, shouted at, and cussed out more than once. I also remember being beaten, being slammed to the floor, and one time I was “spanked” with a log from a stack of firewood. Once I suffered a fractured skull at age ten. I became so hardened over time that I never gave my mom the satisfaction of crying when I was beaten.
My aunt and uncle must have felt sorry for me, for when I was with them, they never raised a hand against me and they never yelled or screamed at me and they never told me that I was worthless. My mother lied to the school and I started kindergarten at age 4 and wouldn’t be 5 until my birthday in November. Today, most children whose birthday is in November and age is 5 would wait until next year and be 6. So I actually started school at 4 and I was always 1 to 2 years younger than all my classmates and needless to say, I struggled mightily in sports and academics. By the age of 16 I had graduated already but still being a minor I could only work on a farm.
God Resists the Proud
What an arrogant young boy I was when I left home at 16. I had such hostility that I often got into fights with men who were much older than I was. I couldn’t stand even the slightest insult. I flew off the handle at just about anything. I was a cocked gun with a trigger finger. I stole, I drank, and I used any drug that I could find. It seemed that I was taking life out on me and anyone who happened to be around. I lived with a guy that sold drugs and stole anything that was not tied down to support his drug habit. I tried cocaine, acid, marijuana, alcohol of all kinds and I even mixed drugs at times. It was amazing that I didn’t kill myself. I was at home one day and a police officer arrived at the house I was living in and said that he had a warrant for my friend and then he asked me my name. After I told him, he said that he had a warrant for me as well. So off to jail I went, this being the first of many trips to lockup.
After getting busted for yet another breaking and entering and possession of a controlled substance charge, I was taken before the judge who had gotten sick of looking at me and he sent me off to state prison. After serving there for about 2 years, I knew that I was getting ready to get out. The only person who had ever visited me…and I had only one visitor in those 3 years (1 in the county jail awaiting the transfer to the state prison and 2 while in prison), was my father-in-law. None of my actual relatives wanted to have anything to do with me and ironically, the only visitor I had was neither my family or my friends. I remember nearing my release that I had no home, no car, no job (not likely to find one either being a convicted felon), and apparently no family. I was so down that the only way I could look was up. I attempted a feeble prayer but thought, who was I? I saw the trustee bringing books and at the very bottom of the stack there was a torn and tattered Bible. I asked him for it and signed to check it out.
God Gives Grace to the Humble
Ironies of ironies I found that the God of the Bible was the only true source of freedom. For me, it took prison to be set free. I opened the Bible up and read Psalm 22. Now this is what is called Scriptural roulette and I do not recommend it when you want to find answers in the Bible, but apparently God had planned this as a special circumstance and I didn’t know any better. If floored me what I read and I will give you some of the verses in this chapter that actually foretells of Christ’s torment and abandonment on the cross (I did not realize that at the time). Imagine what I felt when I read some of these verses in Psalm 22. I thought that they were written for me!
1 God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish?
2 My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest.
6 But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by everyone, despised by the people.
7 All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads.
11 Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help.
14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted within me.
19 But you, Lord, do not be far from me. You are my strength; come quickly to help me.
Of all the places in the Bible that I could turn to, I turned to this chapter. I felt so connected and as if God were speaking to me. I cried and poured out my heart and asked God to provide a way for me out in the world. It was a fearful thing getting out because, as most people might not realize, there was a strange comfort being in prison. All your needs were taken care of, there was structure, routine, work duties, meal times, time in the courtyard, and so on. I was going from something that I knew well to an outside world that had rejected me. None of my friends even wrote me while I was in prison, not to mention my family. I had no idea what I would do after I got out.
There are miracles that are far greater than the parting the Red Sea, greater works than God making the sun stand still, more earth shattering than the Walls of Jericho falling. It is the miracle of human conversion. The greatest miracle that may happen today may be the conversion of one single human soul. In fact, this may be the greatest miracle of all. This happens everyday and it happens when people come to the end of themselves. When all of the self-sufficiency disappears, when all of the pride of life is gone, when there is no one else to turn to but an unseen God. The former alcoholic, the former drug addict, and after prison, the former homeless man had reached the end of his rope. I came to the end of myself. And there was God…waiting all the time.
From Tragedy to Triumph
When I think back on my own life, coming from a broken home, having not even seen a picture of my father, what hope did I ever have? I was dumped by my biological mother. She had several husbands and could not find peace within her own soul. My brother and I were beaten. We were bruised, battered, humiliated. And when I fled the coup of my aunt and uncles, I was mad. Mad at the world and I was ready to pay it back. But I really was only taking it out on myself.
If it could be smoked, I smoked it, if it could be shot up, I did it, if it was drinkable, I drank it, and if it was of value, I stole it. I ended up homeless, impoverished, no family, no money and finally in prison. I had reached the bottom. No one could have been more down….so the only way I could look was up. A person so far down has only one way to go…and that is up. And up I went. Armed only with my prayers and a sense of desperation. How could I get out of this mess I had made of my life? The answer is that God is still in the business of miracles. I am a living example of it.
When one sinner comes to faith in Jesus Christ, there is a renewal or regeneration of the mind. I needed a renewal alright. But what a powerful testimony to the power of God, that someone so far down in the depths of a living hell on earth, could be lifted up so high. Human conversion fights through forces stronger than the forces of gravity or any power of nature. In creation, only physical matter was created and organized. In this spiritual birth (being born again), the carnal mind is regenerated by the Holy Spirit. I was blind but now I could see, I was dead in my sins but now I was a new creation in Jesus Christ. What is the greatest miracle of all? I believe it is the fact that God gives us eternal life through Jesus’ atoning sacrifice and then a heart of stone is made unto a heart of flesh by God Himself.
From Disaster to Pastor
I went on to complete two college degrees and today I am working towards a master’s in seminary. I am a blessed father and grandfather and I know it. I make certain and tell my wife and my children every single day that I love them. Today, I have only one left in the nest since my other children have grown and now have their own children. I went from a disaster to a pastor, but believe me, it was not by my own hand. Yes, miracles still happen today and in fact every Christian has gone through a regeneration and a renewal of the mind (Rom 12:1-2). That a former criminal and sinner like me could be forgiven and given the righteousness of Christ is just amazing to me. Second Corinthians 5:21 says that, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Now if that’s not a miracle, what is? This is the kind of a miracle that could only be achieved by God Almighty…the miracle of human conversion. I believe it is the greatest miracle of all.
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