I was born to an alcoholic father and mentally ill mother. My father had 3 children from his first marriage that he left in the rain on the steps of a Catholic church in Norfolk, Va. He met my mother a few years after abandoning his first group. I am the youngest of all the children. I will be 54 in just a few days. My father left our family shortly before I was born and never came back. For the first 12 years of my life, my father would show up periodically on the weekend and take us to visit my grandmother. After that, I would occasionally run into him every 3 years or so until his passing in 1997. While it was difficult at times not having a father, God was always a Heavenly Father to me. There is much more I could say about my relationship with my father at the end of his life but that doesn’t fit into this. I was able to find my other siblings through Ancestry DNA.
Because of the situation I grew up in we were on welfare. My father never paid any child support. As a child I always thought my mother’s behavior was embarrassing not realizing that all the way back then she was a paranoid schizophrenic. An old family friend once told me that my mother wouldn’t wear high heels so that she could run in case the Communists invaded. There were many other incidents that my two older brothers and I experienced that I now see were part of that illness.
In spite of my mother’s behavior, she always loved the Lord and took us to church. Albeit, we sometimes ran the gamut of churches from Pentecostal, Church Of God and IFB. We mostly attended IFB churches. During the 70s, we attended the same church where Lloyd Legalist also was. I didn’t know him until 1982.
As a child, I attended kindergarten for one year at Norfolk Christian School. The next year I repeated kindergarten (failed) because they felt I was not well grounded in the basics. This was at the same school where Lloyd Legalist attended. For my year at Norfolk Christian, I don’t know who paid for me to go there. You have probably forgotten by now but we were on welfare for many years until I was 17 years old. The first day at my second year of kindergarten was one that has shaped my entire life. Somehow, my mother was able to get me in to this Christian school. On that first day, me and my two brothers got on the bus and went to school. Maybe my mother had high hopes or she was misinformed. After we arrived and I went to class, the bus driver informed my two brothers that they were not supposed to be there. When I came home, there they were already at the house. I continued to attend the school through the 4th grade. To this day, I do not know who paid for me to go there.
From the 5th through 7th grades, I attended public school. In the 8th grade, I was able to return to the Christian school with settlement money from a school bus accident in the 4th grade. That paid for my education through part of the 10th grade. I got a job and was working to help pay my school bill. Without giving specifics, I lost my job so that my mother could work at the same store and get off of welfare. I had one other job at McDonalds that didn’t last long.
I graduated without receiving a diploma. At the school Athletic banquet, my principal called me into the lobby and handed me my diploma. I will never forget his words to this day. “You better get on your knees and thank the Lord you even got this” This is the same man that would say to me from time to time even into my adulthood if I thought I would ever amount to anything. The only answer I ever knew to give was, “By the grace of God”. By the way, I have no idea who paid for the rest of my high school either.
Briefly to go back to my two older brothers, both of them ended up at Lester Roloff’s in the early 80’s. I wish I could say that they are walking with the Lord after all these years but they aren’t. In my experience at the Christian school and the church, I know that some meant well but there was a lack of love. I had a few friends but always felt a bit of a stigma also being poor. My mother had one car when I was young and that barely lasted. We had a telephone for a month or so early on.
In having attended the Christian school and church along with two other IFB churches in the area, I was blessed with learning good doctrine. That helped me when my mother would take us to meetings at the Pentecostal Holiness Church and they would speak in tongues. I knew something wasn’t right. We even joined a Church of God briefly but I think we convinced my mother to leave.
Fast forward to 1988 to 90. I lived in the Bible Institute Dormitory at the church where I had gone to the Christian school. On a few occasions, the pastor would point me out from the pulpit and say I had been one of the bus kids. True. We had no car but I felt a bit like a token to be used to give credit to the pastor. Let me be honest. Could I have given more effort in some areas? Yes, I could. I appreciate how they allowed me to attend the Christian school. God was no doubt at work in my life. I don’t know why. I could have easily been sent home like my brothers. I always felt though like I just wasn’t good enough. While I was living in the dormitory, the pastor called me into the office and told me I was lazy. Really? Maybe I was but that was it. No offer to meet with me and see how he could help me. I have said for many years that fundamentalism is quick to give you a kick in the rear before putting an arm around your shoulder. After I moved out, I later heard that the head deacon had asked a friend if he had me. His commentary on me was, “that bum can’t even hold a job down”. If you saw I was having problems, why didn’t you offer any counseling. No. That wouldn’t be fundamentalism. Looking out for your own. Now that’s a different story. His daughter was in a group that had gone to Chi Chi’s and someone purchased a pitcher of beer. Everyone from my class that was there was kicked out except her. I also remember being invited over to watch Back to the Future at the head deacon’s on video even though we would get kicked out of school for going to see the movie.
There is much more I could say but it would take too long. I have only shared my testimony with a few people. I am not the hero of my story. I truly am a trophy of grace needing much more sanctification in my life. I was never perfect and never will be. When I left the church in 1991, I was very discouraged and sat out of church for almost a year. Through a friend, I decided to attend one of those “liberal churches” we used to criticize. I experienced major growth in my Christian life while there. I met my wife there and we are still married after 25 years. I have been attending Community Baptist Church in Garner, NC for almost 12 years. We are independent but our pastor preaches expository. He comes from a Bob Jones background. I also attended BJU for one year. The difference in our pastor is that he does not lord over the congregation. He is always pointing out that we are church filled with messed up people including himself. He does not set himself above everyone else like I was used to.
My apologies for the lengthiness of this email. All the glory goes to God for His work in my life. Thanks for the ministry of RFP. I share it with my friends on Facebook. I am Heavenly Citizen on Twitter.