Here's a testimony I had to write years ago to Bethany Christian Adoption agency to explain why they should let a convicted felon adopt a precious little baby.
I grew up in a modest area of Columbia South Carolina. My father was a sign painter and never made a lot of money, and my mother never worked. My mother has always been a very loving person, but my father seemed grouchy most of the time. He always appeared worried about how he would pay the bills. He worked for himself and paid his taxes in one big lump sum at the end of the year. Of course, he never had that big lump sum at the end of the year, so every year he and my mother had to go and apply for a loan to pay the taxes for the current year, while last years loan was just barely paid off. I guess looking back I can understand why he may have been so grouchy, he was under quite a bit of financial pressure and I don't think he ever knew how to handle pressure very well. Thank God neither of my parents ever drank.
My earliest memories are happy ones, as I was a very rambunctious child that always wanted to learn new things, and it never took much to keep me occupied. You could give me a magnifying glass and I would keep myself busy for days in the back yard just looking at insects and leaves and whatever else would fit under the lens. I can remember going to church on and off as a small child, but never with any consistency. I think my parents probably believed that living a moral life was really all that mattered, if you believe in the Christian God that should be enough. And that's probably the normal, moral, non-Christian thought pattern. When I look back at those times I realize that we were rather poor financially, but at the time I didn't have any idea what our financial situation was. I knew we didn't have much but I didn't know of anything we were in need of, my father always seemed to keep food on the table and clothes on our back. All I wanted to do back then was play, and our neighborhood was chock full of kids willing to take me up on that offer. We had some great times back then; we would play kick the can or freeze tag for hours on end. I think times were different back then before video games came out.
My parents did the best they could to raise me as a moral person. But my dad never just sat around and talked with me, teaching me little things here and there like I think a father should do with a child, just spending that quantity time with me. He seemed to have plenty of time to read the newspaper, watch TV, and play golf, but he never seemed to have the time to just be with me. I never really thought about it back then, but after I got saved and saw other Christian fathers spending time with their sons, doing nothing in particular, I realized what we both had missed out on. Oh, he taught me from an early age that lying, stealing, and cheating were wrong...but it was usually in lecture format after I had done something wrong. But it did sink in. In fact, my conscience bothered me pretty bad when I went against those teachings, but of course, as time went on it became easier and easier to ignore my conscience. The major thing my parents failed to teach me about, was Jesus...but then how could they...they hadn't met Him yet themselves.
Many of the kids in my neighborhood were getting in trouble for most of their lives. It seemed like most of them were in reform school in their early teens, some earlier than that. But I never really thought I was like those kids, in fact, when I would go to their houses and see the way they lived and how their parents were drinking and cursing and fighting, I would be glad my house was different. Yet, I was still amazed at how they did these things and not only did they not feel terrible about it, their parents didn't really seem to care either, it seemed to be expected of them. It was in my early teens that I really started hanging around with these types of kids and, of course, that was the beginning of a lot of heartaches for my family and me. My brother, who is a couple of years older than I am, started getting in trouble first. He ended up in reform school when he was fourteen years old, and was in and out of trouble until he joined the marines at age seventeen. From about 1970 until now he has lived a very successful life as a law-abiding citizen. However, he is the only person left in my immediate family who has not received Jesus as his Lord and Savior. My mother, father, older sister, and I have been praying for his salvation for many years. My father went to be with the Lord in 1996; it's so much easier to lose a loved one when you know they will be spending eternity with God.
I started using drugs, alcohol, and other substances in my early teens. I was fourteen when I started sniffing glue, gasoline, and whatever else had intoxicating fumes. At age fifteen I began drinking and smoking pot. It wasn't long before most drugs were in my repertoire. I figure I was an alcoholic by age seventeen. I can remember being on military bases at that age, not knowing a soul, and going down to the TV room with a pocket full of quarters. You see it was legal back then for anyone in the military to drink alcohol on the base, no matter what their age, and all barracks had beer machines in them, just like coke machines. Just drop in a quarter and out pops a Coors. So I did a lot of drinking back then. At age eighteen I had been sent to a drug and alcohol abuse center. I am absolutely amazed that I lived through all of the drunken brawls, drunk driving, and just overall drunkenness of those wild years. I thank God that crack cocaine wasn't around before I became a Christian or I'm sure I would have tried that and probably become addicted like everyone else does.
I always thought that there was something missing in my life, I felt out of place no matter which crowd I was running around with, and although I tried different crowds, I always migrated back to the rougher group of people. I joined the navy at age seventeen...deep down I must have thought that I could just remove myself from that rough crowd, but of course, I always gravitated right back to the same sort of people. I was in trouble quite a bit on the various naval bases where I was stationed, but that had just become the norm for me. After about two years of naval service I was out motorcycle riding with a friend, and as always we were high on something, drugs are readily available on military bases, especially in California. I decided that I didn't want to ride on the back anymore so we rode around until we saw an unattended motorcycle and I hot wired it and stole it. I got caught riding it around and plea bargained the charge down to 'Receiving stolen goods'. The civilian court gave me thirty days in jail and two years probation. But, as is the case with military personnel, I then had to go in front of the captain of my squadron. I was given a general discharge under honorable conditions, which I thought was a pretty light penalty given the circumstances. So back I went to Columbia, South Carolina to look up the old crowd.
The old crowd was still there. But now, two years later they were a little rougher around the edges, a few more had done prison sentences...I fit right back in as if I had never missed a step. But I still felt like there was something missing in my life. I kept trying to leave that life behind and travel to other geographic locations in search of the missing area of my life. One of my 'Away' trips even took me to the US military base 'GITMO', in Cuba, as a construction worker. I ended up getting several D.U.I.'s while there and engaged myself in numerous fights, as always. One fight with the Security Force had me ejected from the island...wow...the crowd back in Columbia would think that was cool, how many of them had ever been kicked out of a country? Each time I left Columbia, I came back with a little less hope that I would ever be able to make it in this life. I came back thinking that I was doomed to spend my years in Columbia, with that same crowd of people, hopelessly stuck in that horrible cycle of drugs, alcohol, violence, and poverty, and probably spend a lot of those years behind a prison wall like most of my buddies were doing. Although there was nothing wrong with Columbia, I just thought that if I were to stay there I would never be able to break the chains of crime and addiction that linked me back to that crowd. But I was able to keep up the 'Eat, Drink, and be Merry' facade, after all, they all seemed happy and content with that lifestyle, why couldn't I? I finally had to admit it...I was one of them after all...and had been for some time now. I don't know why I ever really left those buddies of mine anyway, wherever I ended up I always sought after people just like them. I still didn't realize that it wasn't the outside forces that kept me bound to the wild lifestyle...it was the inside forces.
I found out early in life that my crowd really loved it when I did crazy things and I seemed to have no problem doing crazy things, especially when I was drunk or high. And I seemed to have a mystical knack for getting off real easy when I went to court for anything while my buddies were always going to prison for the same type crimes. Of course, when this all started, in my early teens, it was fantastic. Hanging out with kids that weren't afraid to take risks, so what if you went to prison for a few years, in fact, it wasn't until you served a little time that you really got the respect you deserved. We were the cool crowd back then, with the tattoos all over our bodies, always with a beer in our hand, we were tough. We were going to live our lives to the fullest while we were still young and then when we got old, maybe...just maybe...we would settle down to that hum drum life of the 'old fogey'. Well, as we got older the crimes became more serious, the sentences became longer, the drinking and drugs weren't used for a good time anymore, they were used because we were addicted. It's amazing how I can still talk to some of my old buddies when I go back to my hometown and they still swear that they are not alcoholics. If being a heavy drinker thirty-five years out of a fifty-year life doesn't qualify you as an alcoholic I don't know what does.
I can't really describe what I was feeling when I committed each crime I was arrested for. I was usually drunk when I got arrested. There were times when I woke up in jail and didn't even remember what I was in for. I know I really didn't care if I went to prison, heck, at any given time I knew many people in prison. I think I somehow believed that all of the stress I was under, to get a good job, find a place of my own, pay bills, etc. would disappear if I were in prison...who could expect me to be making any progress while I was doing time? I remember how I felt as a teenager and young adult. I felt lost, angry, without direction, scared about the future, would I ever be able to make it out there, would I ever be able to maintain a healthy husband-wife relationship, could I possibly get a job making decent wages... it all seemed so hopeless...tons of insurmountable problems. And I could never talk to my dad about these tough problems because by this time in my life, we had a terrible relationship, and anyway, he really didn't appear to be able to handle his own problems, much less any of mine. The drugs and alcohol helped keep all of these fears on the inside. I was high as much of the time as I could be, as was almost everyone I knew, and when I was high I didn't dwell on these thoughts for long. I thought that suppressing these thoughts was good at the time, but of course, in hindsight I see that I had to clear my mind from the drugs and alcohol long enough to think clearly about these problems, to admit that they were real and solvable...but I obviously hadn't sunk low enough yet.
My mother was saved when I was about twelve years old, probably in an act of desperation while trying to deal with my older brother and all of the trouble he was beginning to get in. As I headed down that wide path of disobedience she witnessed to me many times about the power of Christ and how He could change my life. But I didn't want to hear about any of that junk, because I thought Christians were wimps who were afraid of really living life to it's fullest. Let's face it, my mom had never drank, taken drugs or partied, how could she possibly know what real living was all about. I mean, come on, we boys were the worldly ones of the family, always willing to try something new, our parents were just a couple of fuddy-duddys. And I somehow knew that if I listened to that nonsense she was always spouting off to me, that my life would indeed change, and all of the fun stuff would be gone, I would be walking around in a stiff suit with a twenty pound bible under my arm mindlessly quoting scripture to any unlucky passers by, and people would be talking about how wimpy I was just like I used to talk about how wimpy all of those other Christians were.
At age 24 I decided to stop drinking. By this time I wasn't doing crazy things while I was high for the praise of others anymore, I was doing them because I had absolutely no control over myself when I got high. These crazy things were no longer cute to anyone, not even to me. I knew I had a problem, but I still don't think I would admit I was an alcoholic and a drug addict. I did know that if I were ever going to have a decent life, I had to quit drinking and using drugs. My mind began to be clear for long enough periods of time that I could actually focus on my problems. Although that's not why I quit drinking and using drugs, I quit so that I would not add any new problems to my already large list. But this was the time when the Holy Spirit was really able to begin His work in me. This was the beginning of 'The Beginning' for me.
About three months before I stopped drinking, a very good friend of mine by the name of Danny Martin, gave his life to Christ. I didn't really know what that meant, other than he didn't want to go out partying with us anymore, he was now going to church all the time, and he was even trying to return everything that he ever stole...man, what's up with all that, I thought! What had happened was that he had been busted for a pretty sizable drug deal and was facing a long prison term. What I thought, and what most of my other non-Christian buddies thought, was that he was either scared enough to hope God would get him off the hook or that he would try to fool his new preacher into going to court with him and talking about how great of a Christian he's been for these last few months. Well coincidentally (yeah right, Holy Spirit again), I started working for Danny about the same time I quit drinking. I worked as a trim carpenter and we rode to the job sites in his work van. He had lots of gospel music that he listened to while we drove from place to place and he even sang gospel song most of the day as we worked. After working with him for a few months, I realized that Danny was not pretending to have a changed life, nor was Danny faking this until he got off the hook in his court case (by the way, he got probation), but something had really changed the way Danny was...on the inside. He witnessed to me on a daily basis, through the Gospel music he now listened to, through his new life style, and through communicating to me about what God was doing in his life. He was constantly talking to me about the sermons his pastor preached. I had heard about people getting 'SAVED” before, and a few were people that I actually knew, but I never really had enough contact with any of theses people to see that things were really changing in their life...until now. Danny was the first person that I had ever really had the close contact with that I could say with complete confidence, 'God, or something, has changed this persons life'. That's complete confidence isn't it, 'God, or something'. Actually the confidence was that I saw Danny was a different person, and he wasn't some 'Assembly line Christian', like I must have been expecting. He still had his same sense of humor and personality, and he had a background very similar to mine...hummmm, could there be hope for me?
Well, I started doing a little praying of my own during this time, and of course, my mother and Danny were praying for me, my mother had been praying earnestly for me since her salvation twelve years earlier. Well, after several weeks of really rough and tumble wrestling with God, the Holy Spirit started convicting me of my sins and one day while showering I was absolutely overwhelmed with the need to be saved, although I wasn't really sure how to get saved. After trying to fight it off, but miserably losing this wrestling match to God, I called my mother to ask her how to get saved. Of, course she was as happy as any mother could be whose prodigal son was coming home so we prayed and cried and read the bible for hours that night. That was March 19th 1980, over 25 years ago. My life has changed so much in these 25 years that people don't believe it. The Lord made it possible for me, a high school drop out, a druggie, an alcoholic, a thief, a brawler, an all around scumbag, to turn away from those old ways. God has enabled me to start a new life in Christ living completely contrary to any way I ever thought I could live. God gave me the perseverance to complete a BS degree from the University of South Carolina in Computer Science at the age of thirty, no easy task for a now 'old fogey' with my background. Certainly the best thing that ever happened in my life was receiving the gift of salvation through believing that Christ, who was born of a virgin, died on the cross for my sins and then rose from the dead three days later to defeat death. I'll never forget that evening when I anxiously invited Jesus into my heart through choking tears of shame and repentance. I've never looked back and my life has never been the same.
The second best thing that happened in my life was meeting my wonderful bride, Cathy. She is so unlike any girl I'd ever known in my pre-Christian days. She went to a Christian school most of her life, never drank, smoked or cursed, was saved in her early teens and never went through the heartaches that are associated with the lifestyle I once lived. We were married in January 1988, almost nine years ago. I never thought I could be as happy with a woman as I've been with her. Oh, don't get me wrong, we've had our arguments, but they never last long. We can't seem to be angry with each other for very long so one of us is always quick to apologize, thus ending whatever the silly argument was about to begin with. And she knows just how to handle me when I'm angry too. I'll never forget the Sunday afternoon we were having a heated argument, I was not yet ready to end it, but she was. She picked up the phone and dialed a number...who could she be calling, I thought? Then she said to the telephone, 'Wanda, can you have a talk with your son?'. Of course, the argument was immediately de-fused, and we still laugh about her shrewd battle tactics. Yes, we are a normal couple; we both have our good sides and our bad sides. But, we both love the Lord and are seeking His guidance in our lives, especially in the area of children.
We have been trying to have children now for almost eight years. We've gone through a lot of infertility testing, to the point that we never want to see another infertility doctor. But we want very much to be parents, and are certain that we could provide a loving, nurturing, Christian home for a child. Cathy currently works part time at a Christian daycare center. She has worked with children since she was thirteen or fourteen except for the few years she did secretarial work, and really enjoys it. But she plans to become a full time mom if God is willing for us to adopt a child, or have a child naturally.
I know that my past will always be with me, and I am very ashamed of it. When I think back on those days, it's hard for me to believe that I was actually living that way, I just shake my head in wonder. When I run across some of my old buddies that are still living that way, I'm flabbergasted by the fact that I was just like them, and but for the grace of God, I would still be right there with them. But I can't change the past, and although I've repented and God has forgiven me, I can understand that some people will never forgive me. My past has closed many doors in my life and will probably close many more doors, but I've learned to accept it and just move on. The future is ahead of us, and Cathy and I are looking forward to a wonderful future raising children of our own. I'm sure that after reading this testimony, any Christian will feel as certain as one can feel without seeing straight through to the heart, that my life has been forever transformed by Jesus. I hope that you will do all you can to assure whoever needs assuring that we can provide a wonderful, healthy, Christian home for a child. We realize that a written testimony can never be evidence enough of a changed life, certainly not enough to entrust such a precious thing as an innocent child to our care. We look forward to a home study with careful, magnifying glass scrutiny of our lifestyle. We are certain that nothing in our present lives could ever prevent us from adopting a child and pray that my past situation will be given very prayerful consideration.
We realize that if a young lady, who is looking for a couple to raise her child, were looking at the profile of two similar couples, apart from my arrest record, that the other couple will probably be chosen. We completely understand that, and I've told Cathy that if I were in that young ladies place, I'm sure I would make that same decision, for the baby's sake. We also realize that our God is a huge God and if He wants us to adopt a child, we will be adopting…and if He wants us to have a child through childbirth, we will be sending you an invitation to a baby shower!
I can provide numerous references from work associates, pastors, friends, and family members who can attest to my changed lifestyle. Thank you very much for spending the time to read my testimony and we very much look forward to a face to face interview.
God bless you
Guess how it ends? My wife got pregnant soon after that!