THE RIVER-BED & GENERATION
The Story of Vern Dugan
On December 12, 1994, the world that I knew was going to be turned upside down. That was the day my mother served me with a restraining order forcing me to leave what I thought was my own home. I wasn't to be within 100 yards of my mother or I would go to jail! I didn't believe she would really call, so I told her that if the order was real that she should call the police and have them kick me out of the house. I knew she wouldn't call the police, even if it was true because my mother was a drug dealer and had been for some twenty years. She would get busted if I told what I knew. So, that's what I thought! Within twenty minutes, the police were knocking at the front door and I became homeless. The reason I became homeless and she didn't go to jail was because she had taken the dope (meth amphetamine) to a friend's house ahead of time.
Mom did have a few good reasons for putting me out, though. For starters I was bad for business; an addict of about 1/2 gram a day, five days a week for ten years. Mom was my supplier and because she was my mother, I never paid. She also paid the rent and I hadn't contributed for months. I just took her drugs, sold them and kept the profit. Plus, I was mean, I hated everyone and everything, and I didn't care about anything. One day just before she got the restraining order I was forging five or six metal rods, about as long as broom handles, to a point, out in front of the garage. I was pouring gasoline into a big 55 gal drum that I built a bonfire in to heat the rods. Mom drove in the driveway and when she inquired, I announced, “ I am making your Christmas present.” She later told me that she thought I intended to kill her and her friends and it was that day that she decided she had to do something. Another time, I was running around naked, howling at the moon and asking, “Who am I!?”
What I was really asking the moon-- or myself-- or God?-- was who am I supposed to be! I denied what I really was. I denied that I ever did drugs while I accused Mom and her friends of being tweakers. (tweaker: someone who fiddles with stuff, making projects, cleaning everything and ultimately loses ones mind) I was doing the same things she was and even worse. Breaking doors and knocking holes in the walls became my M.O. every time I got ticked. I was the biggest hypocrite, even though at the time I didn't know what the word meant.
Outcast! And it was my own doing! I had burned (burned: borrowed or taken money and things that I never returned) everyone I knew in one way or another. No one liked having me around anymore, both because I ripped them off and because I had become so “weird.” Every one called me weird and strange and said stuff like, “Hey Vern, you're losing your mind.” It's really no wonder they said that, because for the previous six months I had been hearing voices and seeing things and letting everyone know. The voices told me that I was a loser and a drug addict. I also started to notice people in a different way. Everyone looked the same and did the same things and seemed to know what I was thinking and what I was about to do. Then I started to know what they were thinking and what they were about to do. Now, that became interesting! Of course, I shared these things with everyone too. I believe I had entered the spiritual realm in the physical. Becoming “weird,” and doing things that had me prying on death's door, scared the people around me. These people became the hand of God to lead me out into a homeless desert so He could talk to me. My devilish activities got me kicked out of the very coven that bound and haunted me.
The police gave me 30 minutes to get some stuff and get out. I packed up what I could carry with me. The whole time I was telling them that my Mom was a drug dealer. She was the one at fault! I was kicking and screaming and crying profusely, but they weren't paying attention to one word I was saying! I really couldn't believe that this was happening! I was telling the truth but I felt the world was against me and these two police officers were the devil's storm troopers. Even though I had never heard of Jesus Christ, I still believed there was a Darth Vader and a Luke Skywalker. I had a very keen and twisted sense of good and evil.
Having no success at trying to bring my Mom to justice, I resigned to start my journey. But to where? I knew I didn't want to go to the infamous streets of skid row in downtown, Los Angeles. However, the San Gabriel riverbed was just fifty yards to the west of my house and quickly became the clear choice. I climbed the fence and started to walk south toward the beach. When I had carried my bundle of earthly goods about three or four miles, I decided to stop for the night and wait until morning. There was a narrow soft dirt shoulder along the bike path, so I made myself as comfortable as possible and went to sleep.
By first light I was already afoot and began to wander on a circuitous course never far from my concrete, homestead. I spent a week and a half skulking back and forth to my previous residence, on the sly, to pet my dog “Lady” and to pick big naval oranges off the tree in the back yard. Cold ,late December weather, thoughts of Christmas and a nagging communication from my shrinking stomach drew my mind to meticulously review my twenty two year history to where it intersected the San Gabriel River. While pondering, I frequently became angry because the house I was kicked out of was my inheritance from my grandfather but at the same time, I was also comforted because grandpa had been good to me sometimes. He used to bring home big blocks of cheese that he said he was given near the old Bellflower railroad station. That clicked. I decided to see if I could find it. I was not having any trouble getting high on the streets and I was still staying up nights, but I couldn't seem to get enough food. I found the old railroad station and warehouse, surrounded by a six foot chain link fence. There was a sign on the fence that said, “Lifeguard Food Ministry.” I had no idea what the word ministry meant and besides “ministry”, there was a big trailer off an eighteen wheeler that had the word “Hosanna” painted on the side of it. I had no idea what that meant either.
My amusement was interrupted when a man drove by me motioning with his hand to follow him inside the gates. At that moment, everything shifted into slow motion and I felt a sense of urgency to get inside those gates before they shut. I started to run after his car as fast as I could. Inside the gates, I felt like crying but I didn't know why. I understand that feeling better now and it is not foreign to me anymore. I caught up to the burley, gray-bearded man that had motioned me in. He introduced himself as Jimmy. “Can I have some food? Do you give away food?” I implored. He advised that if I would work for four hours that I could take home a whole box of food. I started right away.
Sitting on top of a huge green dumpster sorting eggplant with ten other guys, I imagined that a helicopter was going to fly in, pick up the container and take it to “Bosnia.” It felt good to be a part of such a noble project. Of course, it wasn't going there at all! I was totally out of my mind and hadn't a clue what to think. Later, I decided to ask one guy how much he got paid for sorting eggplant. “A box of food.” he replied. I was amazed to see how many people were doing the same thing-- all for a box of food. I had assumed they were getting paid big money! I really thought that!
After the four hours passed someone asked me if I wanted my food. I didn't have a place to take it so I asked if I could stay longer to help. The offer was accepted with no questions. I returned every day after that.
The week passed to January 2, 1995. The newspapers headlines read “FLOODED” in huge letters. It was the worst rain storm the Long Beach area has ever experienced and I thank God and Jimmy, that I was working inside now. I remember hearing a lady named Francis expressing how upset she was that she would not be able to go to church that Wednesday night. The thought popped into my head that I would do her a favor. I asked her if she would like me to go to church for her. She looked at me and then at her friend and then back at me again and said, “Oh, do you think you could? That would be great.” I explained that I hadn't gone anywhere in three weeks and I would not mind taking her place-- because it was just a favor. Do I have to do anything? I asked. What kind of clothes do they wear? She assured me, ‘just go as you are!’ So I went.
It was wet. I got there with an hour
and a half to dry out before the service started. The Oasis
was open; that's the church coffee shop. I begged a drink of water
to sip on and began my wait until the thing started. My disapproving
voices had come along with me as did my ability to know what people were
thinking. After a few minutes, this old man came in and I knew he
was going to sit down next to me and start talking. I didn't want
him to. He came over and asked if this chair was taken. I told
him, “Yes.” He sat down anyway. (Years later I discovered that
Ed Brown is hard of hearing and probably never heard my answer.)
He began telling me about a lawsuit that he'd won for twenty-five thousand
dollars. This kind of got my attention, so I started to listen real
good and then he said he blew it all and I wasn't interested anymore. “Look,
I don't want to hear your sad stories because I've got my own.
I've been homeless and can't stand living anymore, so if you wouldn't mind,
just leave me alone,” I barked. He took a step back and gave
me a business card that said ‘Schroeder's Pianos.’ He told me that
this Schroeder guy had a house full of bunk beds and might be able to help
me with a job or something. I said, “O.K. I’ll be there tomorrow.”
This guy still had the nerve to invite me to sit with him inside the church. So, I did. When we went in, he knew everyone. He said ‘hi’ at least a hundred times. I thought wed never get to sit down and when we did, it was in the front row. I was so mad! Well, I believe the next forty-five minutes were when my ears were opened and my eyes were made to see. The speaker that night was Danny Lehmann and his message was “Generation X.” I had no idea what that meant except that he was telling my life story, including the details about my mother, our drugs and about my dad leaving when I was little. He even told me where I would end up. He was right all across the board. I was scared, but my heart was hard. I just wanted to leave. I knew everyone was just waiting for me to get up and walk out. After the service was over, I told ‘Ed Brown’ that I would see him tomorrow at the piano store.
So now it's the 3rd of January 1995. I’ll never, ever, forget that day. I went to the piano shop and met Mr. Schroeder. He was real busy and seemed to have a lot going on at the time of my arrival. Completing what he was doing on the computer, he turned around in his chair and asked me, “How can I help you?” “ I need a job” I managed. He quipped, “You don't need a job, you need JESUS. Tell me about yourself.” (I thought that if Jesus can get me a job, I’ll take Him.) I said a few sentences and he interrupted “Are you using drugs? Crystal meth? I told him that it had been at least a few days since I used. He said, “Wait a minute. I’ll be right back!” He came back and ordered, “Come with me to the other room.” So I did. As we were walking, the devil was having a field day with my mind. “Now you are going to find out what this guys motives really are. These guys are homosexuals!” At the same time, I wrestled with the antithesis, “You can't accept or live for God because... you love drinking, smoking, girls and drugs too much.” I started to agree with the devil in my head and believe that I couldn't accept what I really knew Steve was going to offer me.
Sitting down on a piano bench in a corner of the piano showroom, Steve listened while I told him my story. I felt squeezed. How could I go on with this pretense. The devil continued, “But you could have me as your lord forever-- and keep doing all the crazy stuff that you enjoy.” I was about to agree and leave with my alter ego when, interrupting again, Steve seemed to shout at me, “ARE YOU DONE SERVING THE DEVIL OR WOULD YOU LIKE TO DO IT FOR A WHILE YET???” “I'm DONE!!” was my response. He said, “You pray, I’ll listen.” I told him that I had never prayed before and didn't know how. He said, “It's easy, just talk to God like you're talking to me.” Right away I started crying and Steve cried too, while I was asking for things like, “God please help Bosnia, and O.J. Simpson, and my Mom”-- whatever came to my mind. I also asked God to forgive, and to help me. I knew that He heard me! I knew, I KNEW!
After my prayer, Steve got up and started to walk away. I asked him, “What do I do now?” He said, “Follow me-- look around and find something to do, make yourself useful, God will take care of you.” I reminded him that I didn't have a place to stay. He said “God will take care of you. Look around. Find something useful to do.” I protested once more and Steve tried again to assure me without completely committing himself, “You'll have a place to stay tonight, trust God and find something to do.” It seems profound that Steve answered my question. “What do I do now?” with, “Follow me.” Looking back, I understand what he was saying. I didn't then, but after reading the gospels, I know Jesus picked up the disciples the same way. They were casting their nets when Jesus said, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” Now Steve was using that same calling and it was the Lord. I believe that with all my heart.
My mind was still going through crazy changes. I could see myself crying and that made me start crying again. O.J. Simpson and Bosnia made me cry too. It is as if I instantly had God's heart about sin and suffering. That was not the only thing that changed instantly. God delivered me from smoking cigarettes and took away the urgency to get high on meth amphetamine. Steve didn't even know that God had delivered me from cigarettes and some of the other things that I had been involved with until a week later, when I began talking about it. I didn't know anything but to accept my new situation 'as is'. I guess I was a little child like. I had simply purposed to test whatever this was, just to see if it was right. God met me, He empowered me and I totally felt what I now know was the Spirit of God coming upon me.
A little later Steve got a call to go to the court house for a guy they called Big Mike. As soon as I climbed into his Jeep, he put on the generation X tape from the night before. Hearing it all again confirmed for me that this was the right way.
That night Steve had a Bible study at his house and I had nowhere to go. I was still living on the streets and Steve and his friends invited me over for dinner. I didn't think that it had been established that I would spend the night so I was still a little scared about where I was going to sleep. This was a test. I was wondering if I shouldn't be looking somewhere else to try to get a roof over my head. Ed Brown kept coaching me, saying, “Just ask him and I'm sure he'll let ‘cha stay. You just have to ask him.”
I had no idea what was going on during the Bible study because I was so concerned about where I was going to go. I took Ed's advise and went to Steve to asked him if it was possible that I could stay in his home for a while. Steve answered, hesitantly, (but I know in his heart he was saying, “Of course!”) “We'll see how it goes. You can stay here tonight, grab a bunk and then we'll see what happens next.” So I stayed there that night, awoke the next morning, had breakfast and prayer. I can't quite remember all the details and everything, but I remember him giving me a T-shirt that said “Will Work for Jesus” to replace my Marlboro shirt and then saying, “Let's go!” So I got in the Jeep and went with him to the piano store. That was pretty much the routine for the next five and a half months. I worked at the piano store four days a week and at Lifeguard Food Ministry another two days. I attended three Bible studies and a men's prayer meeting at Hosanna Chapel and then two more Bible studies at Steve's house. This was definitely a new life for me, while God prepared me and provided various incidental tests to teach and discipline me along the way.
I remember in the beginning of my walk (walk: 1John 2:6 He that saith he abideth in Him ought also to walk, even as He walked.) that there was a point where I had so many thoughts rushing through my head. I guess it was the meth amphetamine, but I just kept hearing myself. I was hearing hundreds of questions while trying to keep up with my mind while it was asking all the questions. I couldn't say a complete sentence. I spoke only in ramblings and fragments. I remember one time when Steve and I were making dinner for the Monday night Bible study and we had to go to Max’s Foods, grocery store. We were walking through the isles and I must have bombarded him with a thousand questions and topics. He was just pulling his hair. I remember him looking at me and saying, “Why don't you just shut up.” For the next two weeks, if you're going to stay with me, you're going to need to be quiet and not talk.” I can't tell you how hurt I was. I still think back and wonder why he said that, but I had no choice but to obey. I mean, I was living in his house and I believed Steve, that if I wanted to stay there I just needed to shut up. Of course it turns out that it was the Lord and my new challenge was, to keep quiet. This was harder than you can imagine because the little guys in my head were just going off. The good part was that I slowly learned to ignore them.
The Lord took me to the Bible. The first book I tried to read was Acts and it just wasn't working. It took me an hour and a half to read seventeen verses of Acts but I didn't quit. My perseverance resulted in a simple breakthrough while I was going through the book of Psalms. In Psalms 150:6, it says, “Everything that hath breath, just praise the Lord!” The main phrase in there was, “Praise the Lord-- PRAISE THE LORD!” The Lord gave me these words, “Praise the Lord.” For some reason I felt an urgency to keep those words in my mind. I would replace all the crazy thoughts I was having with, “Praise the Lord!” Pretty soon I was seeing if I could keep saying, “Praise the Lord!” over and over in my mind a thousand, two thousand times. I’d start counting how many times I’d say it. Anytime someone asked me how it was going or greeted me in some other normal way I just said, “Praise the Lord.”
This went on for about two weeks. I found I was giving thanks in everything and I was truly praising the Lord because it was what God had put on my heart to say and think. In that time, I caught the fire of the Lord and just wanted to read and read and read the Word. I understood that slowly but surely all these questions in my mind were just nothing and didn't mean a thing. It seemed the only thing that mattered was to say, “Praise the Lord!” I continued saying, “Praise the Lord!” and was trying to say it as fast as I could all day. While I was reading I was thinking, “Praise the Lord!” My thoughts were only, “Praise the Lord!” but I was starting to understand the words I was reading. I was reading and reading and things were really sinking in. Even today, I’ll tell ya’ that's the most on fire that I've been. I didn't care what anybody thought or said. I was only concerned about saying, “Praise the Lord!” Consciously taking control of my thoughts resulted in helping me to grow in maintaining a purpose and even to begin to have vision because I put away my foolishness to do things that “Praised the Lord.” This was now my heart's desire.
Now that I had a Godly desire, God began to refine it. There was this one roommate of Steve's named Mark Schewe. He had these big giant poster pictures of himself taken with some little kids in Mexico. I remember looking at the kids and seeing their tattered clothes and all the mud on and around them and trying to understand the smiles on their faces. I asked Mark what the picture was and he said, “ Oh, I was with an organization called Youth With A Mission, we went on an outreach.” I said, “Oh, really? Well, what was it like?” He said, “They had this program called a Discipleship Training Program (abbreviated DTS)....” I thought, “Aw, that's for me, I just know that's for me.” I was like, “Mark, I want to be a disciple of Jesus. I want to do this so bad.” He replied “Well, you know Vern, you were homeless a month ago, and this program cost about three thousand dollars and another thousand for outreach and stuff.”
I was taken aback, but Mark said, “Why don't we just pray right now?” He prayed with me, and I kept praying, and within about a week and a half the Lord brought this couple; Doug and Kay Able to Steve's house from Youth With A Mission. They were going back to Hawaii to be “mission builder coordinators” at the University of the Nations in Kona. (“Mission builders” help with daily chores at a YWAM base.) Doug and Kay brought new vision into Steve's house, just for me. I'm like, “Kona, Hawaii-- mission-builder program-- what is that? Youth With A Mission?” My mind was running away again. Doug and Kay stayed with us for about a month and when they finally left they had me all wound up about going to be a missionary. My faith was still tiny. I didn't have money or a job and even I knew I was too irresponsible to have either one for awhile. I was still praying and desiring in my heart to be a disciple.
As God would have it, in May or thereabouts, Kay and Doug phoned Steve and said we have been praying and we want to ask if Vern is still interested in coming to help at the university. Steve was a little hesitant, but he prayed and then one day he came to me and said, “Lets start making plans for you to do the mission building thing in Kona.” I agreed and was trying my hardest to believe it would come together, even though I had no idea how I would get the finances or what was going to happen. All I knew to do at this point was to pray and study. I had a little faith. I took odd jobs when they came up and began to save my money.
One job was with Steve's roommate Mark. He was a truck driver and the one that had the picture of the orphans in Mexico. I went with him and helped him load semi-trailers. While I was riding with him one day we heard a commercial on the radio. Chuck Smith was inviting me to attend Calvary Chapel Bible College in Murrieta, California. I said, “Mark, after I go to Youth with a Mission, I want to go to Bible College.” He said, “You know, Vern, that's going to cost thirty five hundred dollars or so.” I said, “I don't care. I want to start praying about it today.” Mark agreed and so when we pulled off the side of the road to wait for his trailer to be loaded, we spent the time praying about Bible college. (I just thought I’d throw that in there right now-- O.K.?)
Another thing I did was to start getting my past taxes in order hoping that the small refund, I might have coming, would provide the some of the money I needed. I was praying, hoping and ignoring some of the other obligations that I had. The accountant did the figuring and showed that I would have just about the right amount for the air fare when the refund came. After the wait, what actually came was a letter from the IRS stating that they would apply my refund to some of my other debt that they had uncovered. Steve didn't lose any faith over this but kept encouraging me to continue praying and saving what ever came in. When I had saved about half of the money from the odd jobs, Steve said it was time to set the date to leave. We picked the 29th of May. By the 29th of May, I had my ticket and I was flying off to Kona, Hawaii to become a mission-builder. God had provided!
I arrived at the Kona airport without a penny in my pocket. After I was there waiting for over two hours I began experiencing a little anxiety. I realized that no one was there to pick me up. I called Steve at the piano store, on his eight hundred number, and told him that no one was there and that I didn't even have a quarter to call someone. Steve laughed and said “Praise the Lord, I taught you what to do-- Pray!” He prayed with me, said good by and hung up. Shortly after that Doug Abel found me and explained that he had been waiting at another part of the airport for all of that time. I became the warehouseman for the kitchen and gained thirty pounds. During that three and half months at Youth With A Mission I met hundreds of loving people, brothers and sisters in Christ, with oceans of love, affirmations and encouragement. I had become a servant and disciple of Jesus.
Mission building presented new trials and temptations. I began to take an interest in a girl that didn't have spirituality as her number one priority. I guess that means that I didn't either. She ended up being asked to go home. I managed to confess my lies and other sins and it must have been God again, because circumstances were such that I was forgiven and allowed to continue, even against the concerns and best advise of Steve, Doug and Kay.
Not only did I stay-- God continued to guide me and take care of everything. Doug and Kay had previously encouraged me to fill out an application for the Discipleship Training School. I followed the Lord by stepping through the doors that He opened. The cost of the application was forty dollars which Doug and Kay had paid out of their own pockets. I also remember one of the questions being, “How do you intend on paying for this?” I responded, “God will provide.” Within a month I was accepted and was doing a DTS'. It was September of ‘95. The program included three months of lectures and two and a half months of outreach to another country. The total cost was three thousand three hundred and ninety five dollars for the lecture phase and about a thousand and something for the outreach.
The first day of school, Randy Thomas opened up in Isaiah 6, “Whom shall I send?” If God was sending He would also be doing the providing. Throughout the lecture phase the money began to fragment its way in-- two hundred, two hundred, two hundred.... I was getting all these receipts! It was wonderful to be able to sit back and watch God supply all my needs. I was never pressured for the money by the university. You know that's not normal to feel that way! While it's true, I thought, “Oh my God, I owe so much money. How will I ever be able to pull this off? At the same time, the Lord was reassuring me to keep my eyes on Him and his leading.
The last week of school, I still owed twenty five hundred dollars. Five of us were praying for a total of ninety six hundred dollars. The word came down that if I didn't get the rest of my money for the lecture phase, I wasn't going to be able to go on the outreach phase. The university simply would not be able to absorb my school debt and finance my air fare. The five of us went to the regular Friday night meeting at the university and somehow I became the speaker / representative for the needy-- Us!
The others threw me up on the stage to put our prayer request before the congregation of Youth With a Mission Staff and I was excited to do it. All the attention focused on me for the first time in my life. There were so many people. The attention produced a ball or something in my throat that I just couldn't cough up. I was weak and shaking while trying to allow the Lord to speak to me. I prayed coarsely, but knew it was the Holy Spirit. I know it because there is no way I could have done it. I still can't! After the prayer, the leaders decided to take a second offering which was a first for this congregation. This second offering was to be specifically for our DTS and Outreach. That night the Lord provide three thousand two hundred dollars.
I made an urgent call to Steve the next morning, asking him to pray. What I didn't know was that Scott, our leader, had already arranged for all fifty-seven of us in our DTS to fly to Los Angeles, have Steve pick us up, stay at the piano store and return the next morning for our connecting flight to Costa Rica. Steve said like, “Yeah-- I am praying.” I told him I needed two thousand five hundred dollars by Friday. He said ,“I know.” I questioned, “Oh, really?” Steve said “ I have been praying for you since I heard. I will give you a dollar for every other dollar that the Lord sends you up to nine hundred dollars.” Unknown to me, at the time, I had already been given the nine hundred dollars to match Steve's, even before I hung up the phone. Shortly after that, another twelve hundred dollars was given. In the middle of it all I became so confident that I gave away six hundred dollars to another girl even though I owed it on my school bill! That might have been a problem because it wasn't mine to give but God covered my immaturity anyway.
When I finally left for Costa Rica I even had four hundred dollars extra. God used us and we saw many people come to the Lord to be saved. He also continued to teach us. We learned about open air meetings and intercessory prayer and a little bit of Spanish. ‘Pequito!’ I also learned how difficult it is to work and live closely with other people while the devil is trying to do everything he can to spoil the effort. I learned that I had a lot to learn.
Upon returning from Costa Rica to Youth With A Mission I took up my old job as kitchen warehouseman. Not long after that Davis Norman, a leader in operations, asked me to come on staff as the Security Manager of the whole university and YWAM base! I felt inadequate for the job, but they believed in me and I accepted. I was then walked through the procedures of knowing the Fire Marshall, codes of the alarm systems and was given manual after manual with which to become familiar. Then they asked me to write manuals to add to the other manuals! I was given a great deal of grace and I began to learn to extend the grace I was given to others.
After a year working as Security Manager, the
Lord put the desire to attend the IBC (Introduction to Biblical Counseling)
school on my heart. The lack of funds didn't stop me. I applied
and was accepted. This time the Lord provided another miracle of
seven thousand dollars! But, right when we were getting started with
the school, I had to fly home.
There was a medical emergency with my younger brother, Eric. That wasn't especially surprising considering Eric's long medical history. One expects medical emergencies from a brother that has endured six years of dialysis, twenty seven operations including three kidney transplants in twenty six years. But I still didn't expect things to unfold the way they did. This time, while in the hospital to accomplish one more procedure that we hoped would improve his existence he pulled out his feeding tube. When it was replaced, it punctured his stomach wall. Eric passed away. I was so relieved to have shared with him about the way that God was changing me. I am especially please and comforted because I had explained to Eric the way to heaven through accepting Jesus Christ and His provision for our sins. We had Eric's memorial service at Steve's house. (To get ready we graded, formed and poured a concrete patio in two days so we would have enough space to put the people and a piano.) It was an amazing day with my Christian, converted, set free, x-drugy, church friends on one side of the patio and my mom and our family friends on the other side. A peace officer and pastor Ken Masse preached and Steve did the eulogy. But, the best part was that the Spirit of God lead me to apologize to my Mom and all of her friends for my past behavior.
Three short months later, I was in the Philippines, just four weeks into the outreach, when one of my leaders said I had an emergency call from my friend Gregg Scott back in Kona. Gregg is the head of operations at the university in Kona. When I returned the call his wife Allison thought that I already knew and began talking carefully about my mothers murder. I was back on the plane again to California to do another funeral and bury the remains of my immediate family. God supernaturally provided for me through all of these difficulties. Mom's funeral was also at Steve's house. It was already set up for funerals! So many thoughts but I knew how to handle them “PRAISE THE LORD” I was determined not to miss the opportunity to invite our family friends to accept Jesus like I did. I asked Steve to preach the urgency of the gospel message as hard as he knew how. He did and the Lord seemed to move in the peoples hearts.
During the time around the funeral I had an opportunity to enjoy the support of our friends the Masses. They invited me to go with them on a peace officers outreach to Venezuela. This outreach involved work with kids clubs and police officers. God, of course provided the thousand dollars that was needed while I was waiting to complete my responsibilities as executor of my Mom’ s estate. The outreach was tightly organized and I saw a lot of people get saved there. I learned a little more Spanish, grew immensely in my walk, while still learning how the Lord provides and continues to provide for us to do His will.
I flew back to California. I had been in ‘missions’ for three years, by now. This was March 1998. Remember the prayer I prayed with Mark Schewe about going to Bible College? Well, while I was in Kona I visited several of the local churches there. One of the local churches was a Calvary Chapel, just like Hosanna Chapel back in Bellflower and just like the bible college. The pastor of Calvary Chapel Kona, Izzy Manzo was passionate for the Lord just like me and inspired me with his clear explanations of scripture. That kept me going back and Calvary Chapel Kona became my home church away from home. Well, pastor Izzy’s dad, Frank Manzo, obviously enjoying his and God's success with Izzy’s ministry began to work on me. He started urging me to check out Calvary Chapel Bible College in Murrieta, California. He kept on telling me during my IBC that it was time to go to school and that he could hear Bible College calling. He would always whisper, “Murrieta, Murrieta, Murrieta!” every time I’d walk through the door. Frank had kind of adopted me and supported me through all of my YWAM outreaches and schools. When I left Venezuela and the Masses to return to Hawaii, the first order of business was to settle for myself what the Lord wanted me to do. As I began asking the Lord about it, the final details for attending Calvary Chapel Bible College all fell together. The encouragement from everywhere, the acceptance at CCBC, the first finances and my desire and excitement to take on the scholastic discipline all echoed Franks, “Murrieta, Murrieta, Murrieta.”
Today I'm in my second semester at CCBC.
It's going very well even though I am still attending the murder trial
for the guy that killed my mother. As of today, February 17, l999,
this testimony cannot have a period at the end because God continues to
provide in my life. Ephesians 1:3 says, “We've obtained every spiritual
blessing. In heavenly places.” In my life, I want to persevere
to the point where I have obtained every spiritual blessing!
I'm excited about reaching that point.
I WITNESSED MY MOM MANY TIMES THROUGH MY LIFE AND WHAT IS GOING ON, BY BEING CLEAN, AND WE'VE BEEN DOING DRUGS --WE HAVE BEEN DOING DRUGS SINCE i WAS -- SHE WAS DOING IT FOR 20 YEARS SO -- AND IT WAS A LIFESTYLE WE WERE LIVING. AND I JUST KNEW THE LORD WAS CALLING ME OUT, AND THE LORD GAVE ME -- HE GAVE ME A VERSE. HE GAVE ME MANY VERSES FOR GARY, AND I'M JUST GOING TO ASK GARY THAT '' I WOULD ASK THAT GARY WOULD HEAR ME.
THIS IS FROM MY HEART, AND I WANT HIM TO KNOW HOW I FEEL, JUST WHAT HAS HAPPENED, AND THAT SAME FORGIVENESS GIVEN TO ME, I WOULD LIKE TO GRANT TO HIM, BUT I COULDN'T DO IT BECAUSE I AM NOT THE LORD, BUT THE LORD IS SPEAKING TO YOU. SO I CAN -- I WANT TO SHARE A LITTLE STORY, IT'S IN THE BIBLE. IT'S IN JOHN, AND I JUST PRAY THAT GARY WOULD HEAR ME, HEAR ME OUT, HEAR MY HEART.
THERE WAS A WOMAN WHO SAT IN THE SAME SEAT AS GARY WAS SITTING, THAT HE IS SITTING IN TODAY, AND SHE WAS FOUND GUILTY OF A CRIME THAT SHE HAD COMMITTED. AND THERE WERE PEOPLE ALL AROUND HER WAITING AND WANTING THE JUDGE TO SENTENCE HER TO DEATH BECAUSE THE LAW REQUIRED THAT IF SHE WAS CAUGHT IN THIS CERTAIN ACT THAT SHE WOULD HAVE BEEN SENTENCED TO DEATH.
AND SO THE PEOPLE THAT BROUGHT HER INTO THIS COURTROOM HAD ROCKS IN THEIR HANDS AND STONES, AND THEY WERE WAITING FOR THE JUDGE TO SAY THE LAW TO SAY THAT YOU'RE GUILTY AND WERE SUPPOSED TO STONE HER. AND THAT WAS WHAT WAS SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN. SO EVERYONE WANTED TO HEAR WHAT THE JUDGE WAS GOING TO DO AND SAY, BUT THE JUDGE, HE GOT OFF THE THRONE, AND HE CAME DOWN, AND HE STARTED TO WRITE ON THE CHALKBOARD, STARTED TO WRITE NAMES AND STUFF.
AND EVERYBODY HAD THE ROCKS AND STONES IN THEIR HANDS AND STARTED TO BREAK THEIR BACK TO SEE WHAT THE JUDGE WAS WRITING. WHEN THEY NOTICED WHAT THE JUDGE WAS WRITING, THEY SAW HE WAS WRITING THE PEOPLE THAT WERE HOLDING THE ROCKS, THEIR NAMES, AND THE PEOPLE WERE LIKE KIND OF CONFUSED.
AND ONE BY ONE WHEN THEY SAW THEIR NAME, THEY STARTED TO WALK AWAY FROM WHAT WAS GOING ON. AND EVENTUALLY, THERE WAS ONLY TWO PEOPLE LEFT, AND THAT WAS THE JUDGE AND THE GUILTY, THE GUILTY PERSON.
AND SOMETIMES THAT'S HOW WE FEEL IS LIKE WE'RE LEFT ALONE WITH THE JUDGE, AND WHAT I WANT GARY TO KNOW, HE'S NOT THE ONLY ONE SITTING HERE TODAY GUILTY, HE WAS CONVICTED GUILTY, BUT EVERYONE IN THIS ROOM IS GUILTY, IT'S ONE THING OR ANOTHER. I'M GUILTY. HE'S GUILTY. EVERYONE OUT HERE IS GUILTY, AND THE WHOLE WORLD IS GUILTY, AND THE CRIME IS SIN, THE SIN THAT WE WERE BORN INTO, AND THE SIN THAT DWELLS IN OUR LIVES WHETHER IT BE IN THE FORM OF MURDER OR WHETHER IT BE IN THE FORM OF LYING, ADULTERY, CHEATING ON OUR WIVES. IT'S SIN.
IN THE STORY, BEFORE EACH PERSON HAD WALKED AWAY, I BELIEVE THOSE THAT WERE CONDEMNING THE WOMAN WERE REALLY WANTING -- I MEAN, IT'S JUST THE ATMOSPHERE WAS LIKE THIS GUY NEEDS TO DIE FOR WHAT HE'S DONE, AND THAT'S NOT MY HEART.
I KNOW THAT I LOVE MY MOM WITH EVERYTHING, AND I LOVED HER, AND I KNOW SHE PROVIDED FOR ME, BUT I KNOW THAT THERE'S ETERNITY OUT THERE, AND SHE COULDN'T HELP ME TO GET TO ETERNITY, THERE'S ONE WAY, THERE'S HELL, OR THERE'S HEAVEN, AND THERE'S ONLY ONE PERSON WHO CAN FOR GIVE THE SIN I'VE COMMITTED, AND GARY HAS COMMITTED, AND THAT'S OUR LORD, JESUS CHRIST.
SO I JUST WANT TO SAY TO GARY THAT IT'S NOT -- EVEN THOUGH -- IF HE'S -- IF HIS SENTENCING IS LIFE WITHOUT THE POSSIBILITY OF PAROLE, THE ONLY SENTENCE THAT COULD BE POSSIBLY GIVEN IS ON EARTH AND NOT IN HEAVEN. IF HE GIVES HIS LIFE TO THE LORD, JESUS CHRIST, WHILE HE'S IN PRISON, HE WILL RECEIVE HEAVEN AS GLORY, AND HE WILL BE ABLE TO SHARE IN THAT GLORY.
I WILL BE ABLE TO GIVE HIM A HUG LIKE I WANT TO HUG HIM. AS MUCH AS IT EVEN HURTS AND LUDICROUS AS IT SOUNDS TO THE COURT AND ANYONE THAT'S HERE, I WANT TO SEE HIM IN HEAVEN, AND I KNOW THE LORD WANTS TO SEE HIM IN HEAVEN. HE DOESN'T WANT ANY OF US TO PERISH AND HAVE THE DEVIL HAVE VICTORY.
IN OUR EVERYDAY LIFE OF HARD KNOCKS, WE MURDER IN OUR HEART WHEN WE'RE DRIVING DOWN THE STREET AND SEE SOMEONE CUT US OFF. THE FIRST THING THAT HAPPENS IS, MAN, THAT PISSES ME OFF, BUT WE ARE NOT -- WE ARE GUILTY OF THAT. THAT'S SIN WITHIN OUR HEART, AND IT'S JUST AS BAD AS MURDERING SOMEBODY, MURDERING SOMEBODY THAT I LOVE.
BUT GOD IS FORGIVING GARY, AND THERE'S NOT GOING TO BE MANY CHOICES GARY IS GOING TO HAVE BEHIND BARS, AND IT'S GOING TO BE, WHAT, 40 OR 50 YEARS. AND I BELIEVE GOD IS GOING TO COME BACK BEFORE THEN. AND I BELIEVE WITH ALL MY HEART. I KNOW HE'S CALLED ME OUT OF THE STREETS. AND I PRAY GARY WOULD TAKE THAT TIME TO -- IT DOESN'T TAKE LIKE A SECOND TO GIVE YOUR LIFE TO THE LORD, AND HE KNOWS.
AND I JUST PRAY THAT WHILE YOU'RE IN THERE THAT -- I REALLY -- YOU GOT SOMEBODY PRAYING FOR YOU, MAN. I MEAN IT WITH EVERYTHING THAT'S IN ME. I THINK OF YOU ALL THE TIME WHEN I THINK OF MY MOM, BUT I DON'T THINK OF YOU IN THE WAY THAT THE DEVIL WOULD HAVE YOU THINK, LIKE WHAT A JERK OR CUSSING AT YOU. I'M OVER THAT.
I KNOW THE DEAL, AND I KNOW THAT TWEAKING IS A BAD THING, I KNOW THAT I TWEAK SO MUCH, MANY TIMES, MANY MANY, MANY NIGHTS, AND I KNOW MY MOM WAS. I'M NOT BLAMING HER. YOU STILL HAD THE CHOICE OF DOING WHAT YOU DID, BUT, AGAIN, I HAVE THIS RESPONSIBILITY TO SHARE WITH YOU THAT I DON'T CONDEMN YOU. TURN YOUR COMBINATION INTO CONVICTION, AND, YEAH, I WOULD LIKE TO SEE YOU SOME TIME FACE TO FACE WHILE YOU'RE IN JAIL OR SOMETHING IF YOU EVER WANTED TO TALK WITH ME OR SHARE WITH ME, OR HOPEFULLY, YOU WOULD GIVE YOUR LIFE TO THE LORD AND MAKE IT IN HEAVEN.
I DON'T SAY THESE WORDS JUST BECAUSE THEY'RE SOFT. I MEAN IT WITH EVERYTHING I KNOW, THAT EVERYTHING IN MY HEART, GOD DIED FOR ME. THERE'S PEOPLE THAT DIDN'T BELIEVE, AND THEY HAD TO SEE THE HOLES IN HIS HANDS BEFORE THEY BELIEVED. THEY HAD TO PUT THEIR FINGERS IN HIS HANDS AND IN HIS SIDE. WELL, I WANT TO SEE WHEN YOU SEE THOSE HOLES IN HIS HANDS. YOU'RE GOING TO SEE ME RIGHT THROUGH THAT HOLE BECAUSE HE PAID FOR MY PRICE, AND I WANT TO SEE YOU ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THAT HOLE TOO. THANK YOU.