By Teena Myers
Pat gave his life to the Lord at the tender age of five. Misguided Christians taught him that life would be wonderful if he served God. Reality shook his faith when his third-grade teacher had him suspended for preaching the gospel in school. Throughout his childhood, he attended church camps, which renewed his zeal, but the blaze quickly flickered into a smoldering ember.
The theology Pat embraced shattered when his parents divorced. Disillusioned by the teaching he accepted as truth; Pat abandoned his faith to pursue a life of crime. He left home at age fifteen and survived on the streets of New York dealing drugs and sleeping on park benches. Two years later, a judge gave Pat an ultimatum: join the army or go to jail.
Before Pat left for boot camp, a friend asked him a simple Bible question. “I don’t remember the question,” said Pat, “but I remember feeling sorry for him. My friend came from a wealthy family. He had everything he wanted in life, but he was so miserable that he wanted to commit suicide.” Pat searched the Bible to find answers for his friend. Instead, he found the truth. The Christians he read about were persecuted, imprisoned, and some died for their faith. Pat closed his Bible with the realization his early instruction in Christianity was wrong.
He hoped a military career would give him a fresh start, and he resolved to abandon drugs. Drugs refused to abandon him. While stationed on an army base in Louisiana, he discovered pushers were scamming unsuspecting recruits by drying leaves and stems, adding seeds, and spraying the fake weed with roach killer. “I helped the recruits find the good stuff,” said Pat. Pat’s activities were discovered, and he soon found himself in jeopardy of being kicked out of the army.
A compassionate sergeant kept Pat from a dishonorable discharge by building on the one thing Pat could do well: run. He assigned Pat to teach the men in his platoon how to run better. Pat quickly improved their running scores. Discovering his natural ability to teach redeemed Pat and set his feet on a new path.
“I was aware of a void in my life when I met Yulanda,” said Pat. “Her parents invited me to attend church with them. My relationship with Yulanda wasn’t working, so I decided to break up with her by embarrassing her family during a church service.”
Pat mocked the congregation, which patiently endured his antics. Then he spoke profanity loud enough for the pastor to hear as he preached his message. When Pat saw the pastor walking toward him after the service, he was positive the pastor would ban him from attending the church. Instead, the pastor gave him a warm handshake and invited him to attend their Thursday night prayer meeting. Disarmed by the love expressed toward him, Pat accepted the invitation.
He arrived with Yulanda’s family, expecting the kind of prayer meetings he attended as a child: fifteen minutes of prayer followed by socializing. Two hours later, the people were still praying. Bored and ready to leave, Pat started an argument with Yulanda. Her father intervened and challenged Pat to consider his life.
Pat walked to the back of the church and sat down. He thought about the constant trouble in which he found himself and admitted that he wasn’t happy. He studied the people in the church. The emotion the people expressed as they prayed contradicted his belief that God no longer speaks. He wanted the kind of relationship with God they had.
In a moment of honesty, Pat told God he would read the Bible and pray, but he wasn’t going to change. He didn’t want another stint in the white-washed walls of a church. Pat kept his commitment, and God did what Pat couldn’t. He turned Pat’s love for drugs and alcohol into disgust. Instead of breaking up with Yulanda, he married her and became a youth pastor.