My dear friends:
There is a call in my spirit to offer my deepest thanks to all of you for being with Karen and I in this challenging journey of faith, that has brought us prostrate before God crying out, “Give us the understanding to know why we are called to suffer so much!”My Lord put a major thorn in my side that I might understand people with their pain I have been called to minister to before my salvation experience at age 20 and after it. In the time of my childhood abuse from my schizophrenic father my Lord is training me for my life’s calling to be a counsellor and pastor of the heart.
God has poured thousands of hours of training into me from so many mentors, more I think than many people have in a lifetime. This occurred I think because the calling I have been given requires I have this depth of Christ’s passion within me for the suffering of others.
It is a journey of my own humanity I would not have chosen because it has taken everything I have to give. Yet, as I reflect upon my salvation experience when I poured out my pain from my abuse, my counsellor felt a call in his own heart to tell me that my calling would be a heavy cross. My life with having two rare auto immune conditions, living with alcoholic parents and an alcoholic stepfather,the pain of having a friend tell my other friends to stop helping me because I am lazy even though I send out enough resumes to wall paper my room with them while dealing with well over 40 collapses from low blood oxygen caused by what we now know was the rare auto immune condition of mastocytosis, being on welfare and then disability, the constant struggling of deciding each month about the medications we could afford and those we would have to do without because many in government still have not got the message that it is more cost effective to give those with chronic and rare conditions the medical supports they need, the times Karen and I have had to go to food banks because after paying for medications to keep me alive there was no money left for groceries, feeling so low trying to sell the remaining amount on my phone card to get a bus token to go to a room in a house that cost me $400 a month including utilities receiving $520 a month on welfare, nearly dying as a teaching missionary in South Korea, the second time there coming close to going into coma while being an Assistant Professor of English as a second language at Kwandong University, dealing with doctors and nurses who tell me by their scorn and rebuke that I am a malingerer seeking attention for conditions that are in my mind — all these things and more are part of my journey and Karen’s because I believe the calling we have requires that we have taken the road none of us would like to travel, so a love that asks nothing in return would be given to those who suffer, those who have been falsely judged and those who cry out to be loved and accepted.
Dr. P.T. Williams, who is the doctor who found my pernicious anemia (B12 deficiency) after over a year and a half of testing said in one of our visits, “Lad, one day you will be preaching over drunkards.” I tell him about a man who had too much to drink who vomited all over my shoes and Salvation Army uniform. I could have been angry for him doing that. Instead, my Lord has me feel some of the pain in this man’s life and his great need to be loved.
I recall this experience. Two drunk men get into a fight while I am speaking to people in my Salvation Army uniform at the Black Sheep tavern in Toronto. In the feisty brawl my hat is knocked off. The Salvation Army War Cry magazines go flying through the air. I am knocked against a wall. I slide down it. I have a throbbing headache. I am dazed. The men expect me to be furious with them. The love of Christ in me has me get up and say to both of them that I am not angry at them. They are bewildered. The people seeing this look on puzzled by my actions. They come to me and say I should insist these men never be allowed to come back. The call is clear in my heart. I must love those who others judge as being the outcasts and the garbage in our society.
My Lord has moved me on from The Salvation Army for His Kingdom reasons.
I am thankful for the lessons I have learned in practical ministry from them. I extend my deepest thanks to David and Evelyn Sears, who spent so many hours showing me what it truly means to be the people of God. We rejoiced together as we saw lives come to Christ and the rocky pathway of knowing God more in their lives. We cried together when two young boys in our congregation drowned. We saw the Downsview extension ministry grow from a small number in a school gymnasium to receiving official church status.
David, thank you for teaching me the importance of laughter in the challenges of ministry. David loves to play jokes on me. One time I go to turn on the TV to play Atari video games. Yes, it was a long time ago. The moment I turn on the TV to my surprise the stereo comes on. He laughs heartily as he has pulled one over on me yet again. He had programmed the stereo to come on the same time as the TV.
Another time he has me stand up in church to read Psalm 151. I am new to Christian faith and like the trusting soul I am, I proceed to look up Psalm 151. I call out to him confused saying, “David, there is no Psalm 151.” Yes, he gets me again, as he chuckles with that ear to ear mishievous grin saying, “Kevin, there is no Psalm 151.”
I am blessed to be seconded from The Salvation Army North York Temple at the age of 20 to join in the challenges and opportunities of ministry in the Jane/Finch area. David spends many hours each week teaching me about what it means to be a man of God and a pastor. He pours conservatively I would say, thousands of hours of training into me in the importance of prayer, pastoral and hospital visitation, theology, preparing sermons and devotional messages and delivering them, Christian education, leadership, youth ministry, how you can use games to teach people about Scripture, evangelism, conducting outdoor services and the list goes on. Evelyn teaches me about how to lead songs and sing them. The greatest lesson they both teach me is to live out the example of Christ’s life of loving others through their pain and rejoicing with them in their spiritual growth.
Commissioner Maxwell Feener (then a Captain) leads me to Christ with that soul-penetrating question Are you riding the horse in victory or walking alongside in defeat? His text is taken from Matthew, chapter 21 verses one through eleven, which tells us the story of Christ’s triumphal entry through the streets of Jerusalem. Conviction in my spirit falls upon me that I am living a life without a firm sense of purpose or direction. Academics has become my god because it is the one thing I can control. I could not control the abuse from my schizophrenic father who is like Dr. Jekyll, kind and loving one moment and without warning becomes the cruel and vicious Mr. Hyde the next..
Tears come down my face as I go to the altar. I shake as I wrestle with the darkness within me of all those horrifying memories of abuse. The counsellor leads me to Christ. Joy floods my soul unlike I have ever known. A huge weight is lifted from my spirit. I have received the wonderful gift of salvation.
That is the day when as the song says, “Heaven came down and glory filled my soul. When at the cross my saviour made me whole. My sins were washed away and my night was turned to day. Heaven came down and glory filled my soul.”
With all I have been through from abuse, illness, eight intubations, disability and a journey of poverty I remain thankful for that day when Heaven came down and Christ’s glory, the passion for souls that beats in my heart, becomes the greatest blessing next to Karen, the love of my life next to God, I could have ever received.
Perhaps, your life has been one long and agonizing hardship after the other. You have been abused in mind, body and spirit. You are holding on to the pain of your past as a badge of honour as I did. I pray, oh how I pray, that this is the day you lay all of your burdens, all your anger, the way you have been judged and how you have falsely been taught by those who abused you that you are a piece of garbage, that you would take every heartache to the Cross.
My dear friends, in this time of our struggles we pray that for you this would be the day darkness loses and the Light of Christ wins because that victory has been purchased for you with His precious blood shed on the Cross at Calvary for you, yes you, yes you.
I carried the emotional garbage of my abuse for far too many years. Please don’t ruin your life by holding on to the anger and wanting to get even as I did.
At age 11 I would lay awake at night thinking of all the many ways I could murder my father and get away with it. I finally come up with a plan of how I will kill him. I will get him so mad at me he will come at me. I will plunge a knife into his chest. I will give it a quick upper thrust and twist it until he falls dead.
I will be so filled with joy to have this Mr. Hyde gone from my life forever! No longer will I have to look on helpless to see my mother bruised and battered over and over again. No longer will I have to hear as my father gets out of the car and kisses the ground that he is God. No longer will I have to suffer seeing my mother huddled in a basement storage room terrified, blood dripping from her legs, the wooden slivers mixed with them from where he had dragged her down the basement steps. No longer will I be told I am a lazy, stupid, clumsy piece of rotting garbage of a human-being who is a sissy, a mama’s boy. No longer will I hear that evil judgement that my brother is smarter than me. No longer will I be told I will always be a failure. No longer will I hear my father tell us that this is God’s house and we are just living in it as he beats my mother while saying it. No longer will I feel the nauseating pain of facing yet another day of abuse. No longer will my father have the opportunity to swat me so hard my left ear throbs with the pain for several hours afterwards. No longer will I be asked, “The hand or the book” as I get my choice of the way I will be punished for doing nothing wrong, just because in some way I don’t remember I offend him. And finally no more as that wounded child of five will I see my mother hanging by a belt attempting to commit suicide because the pain of her abuse is too awful to endure.
My father cuts her down with a knife. I see her choking, gasping for each breath, feeling her overwhelming sadness that she is not successful. From that day on hatred burns more each day within my soul against my father. I love the kind man he can be; I hate the monster he becomes in his manic rages.
I thank my Lord that I never get the opportunity to kill my father with cold and calculated pre-meditation. We escape our living hell when my father is out driving taxi in a taxi business he started that he knows nothing about.
The night before my mother says, “Pack one bag and one bag only. Tomorrow we are leaving your father.”
My fifteen year-old brother, Brian, my mother and me are relieved as the morning comes and my father leaves. With his leaving comes our opportunity for escape.
We run to the car. The paper bag my clothes are packed in rips from the bottom. I think how stupid I am to have packed the bag so full. That is the damage abuse does as the true beautiful person you are is told in countless ways how you are ugly, stupid, a nothing, a waste of flesh.
I pick up the clothes and put them in the bag.
We hide laying down between the front and back seats. We know that if our father sees us he will kill us.
As I see the sign that says Owen Sound fade in the distance, I lift up a prayer of thanks to God that we are finally free from the terror of our abuse.
Before my father dies, I see him one last time in the hospital as he is dying from pneumonia in November 2005. I touch his hand. He is restless, fighting for each breath, no doubt praying for relief from the torment in his body and his soul. I sing songs to him about a God who loves him and will carry him into Heaven where his pain will be no more. I finally ask my Lord to put me on the journey of forgiving my father.
Dad is in Heaven. Today, I say to my Lord, him and you, I forgive you Dad. I forgive you. Lord, please fully heal my wounded heart.
Thank you, Lord, for that wonderful day I will never forget when Heaven came down and glory filled my soul.
Please note: Let me know if you would like me to give this testimony or another, preach or sing at your church. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our phone number is (705)544-2438
We will be leaving tonight for a flight on Hope Air tomorrow morning in Sudbury going to Toronto. This is a Canadian charity which provides free medical flights to those who can’t afford them. I have an appointment October 3rd with mastocytosis specialist, Dr. Jason Lee, at St. Michael’s Hospital . We are believing in faith that he will come up with a treatment program for this rare auto immune condition.
Please, if you give this testimony, my life story and link for our fundraiser to your pastor, family and friends, we would be most thankful. All we ask is that you be guided by God in what to do.
The peace and abounding joy of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
My life story: