I have no idea why, but I’ve been wanting to write about my journey through faith for quite some time now. I just feel like I have a story, and it should be heard. I live in a small city in Newfoundland, Canada, and I really feel like there is nothing I can do for God here sometimes. I feel like I’m trapped, and there’s nobody who I can even muster up the courage to tell my story to. My youth and senior pastor know a fair chunk of it, but not exactly by me telling them everything. I’ve only told them pieces here and there, and they’ve had to piece them together themselves as best as they can.
I don’t know how I will benefit by telling you my story but who knows? Maybe you’ll find an opportunity to tell this story yourself someday where someone in the same situations could benefit from it. Or maybe it will benefit your own life.
My story starts 12 years ago. I was 5 years old. I remember doing something wrong in kindergarten one day, and when I came home from school, I received punishment that involved the use of a belt. I have no idea if that was my first time receiving this kind of punishment or not. This is my earliest memory of it though. I often think about this and wonder what I could possibly do at the age of 5 that was severe enough to receive such a punishment. But as the years went by, I realize that my crime didn’t really have to be very severe to get punished in that way.
I came from a big family. I have 2 brothers and 2 sisters. But for some reason, my family seemed to be split into 2 categories. There was the good side, and the bad side. Unfortunately for me and my sister Victoria, we were on the bad side. We could commit the littlest crime such as disrupting the teacher in class or being a few minutes past curfew and we were in big trouble. Punishments didn’t always consist of beatings. I remember having to stand for hours holding books and other random objects above my head until my arms were ready to drop. I remember having to stay in bed for weeks on end without being aloud to do anything. We were only to leave the bed if we wanted to use the washroom or if it was mealtime. And believe me, life can be pretty boring and restless when you have to lie in bed all day long and do absolutely nothing. We weren’t even aloud to sleep during the day because that would be like skipping our punishment. Let’s just say it wasn’t fun.
On the occasion that I wasn’t grounded it felt almost as if I was. Both me and my sister were always confined to our rooms. We’d stay there all day long unless our parents told us otherwise. We would ask for permission to go outside. We even had to ask permission to use the washroom. We were never ever denied access to the washroom, but still it was rather an annoyance to have to even ask.
I lived with my parents for 14 years and I never ever once opened up the fridge door. I never ever went to any family events. When my parents went shopping I was to go as well, but only to sit in the car and wait for them. I had absolutely no freedom.
What hurt the most though was the emotional abuse. I’d constantly hear my mother on the phone telling about all of the good things that my other siblings done, while telling about that bad that me and Victoria had committed. Many of these things had not even been done by us, but by the “good side” of the family. But they were obviously too good to be blamed for it so it’s obvious who always took the heat. There was no sense saying we didn’t do it though, because then we would be in trouble for lying on top of the crime that we never even committed. We were always put down and considered bad kids, and incapable of doing things, when I knew full well that I could do anything I put my mind to.
I did have a few things to take my mind away from home though. One was school. I loved school. Not many people like school, but I loved it. It was a chance to get away from home for 6 hours a day, 5 days a week. That was a golden opportunity. Reading was also effective. I loved reading more than anything. I could read for hours on end and forget everything that was going on around me. Reading also made my day go by a lot faster. I’d even read while I was grounded but on the occasion that I did get caught I’d end up with more time in bed. But the happy endings in the books always made it worth it.
Another thing that happened once a week to get me away from home was Sunday school. I was forced to go to Sunday school, but once again I didn’t mind. Me and my brother Steven would always sit in the back row and poke fun at everything that was said or done in the church. We would have a huge laugh. In Sunday school class, I always knew what they were teaching about though. Like I said, I was really into reading, so I had indeed read the Bible. I hadn’t read it because I believed it though. I read it because it was a book. A long one, that would take a long time to read, so therefore getting me out of my world and into a book for a long time.
The Bible was an awesome book. It was full of stories of every sort. The book of revelation was particularly interesting for me. It seemed to be a book of fantasy, full of imaginary beats, and unbelievable events. Just my kind of book!
By reading the Bible and going to Sunday school, there were many times when I sort of wanted to believe what I was reading. Although this amazing love and grace seemed to be hiding behind a huge wall in my life because I could find it nowhere, I often wondered what my life could be like with it.
There were a few times when I actually prayed and asked for forgiveness to see if I could find that grace and love, but living in the situations I was in made it horribly impossible to even to anything good, let alone being a Christian.
Being good is hard when you’re marked as a bad person. I stole a lot, but only because I never did get anything like the rest of my siblings. What else was I supposed to do? I lied a lot because if I told the truth I’d be in just as much trouble. I was disruptive in class because being the class clown was the only way I’d feel connected. My classmate’s laughter at my silly jokes and pranks always made me feel connected. So really, I was only bad because of my circumstances.
Needless to say, I was unable to become a Christian because it would be literally impossible. So, I ended up putting it out of my mind each time which made no difference because I didn’t really fully believe it anyway. I just always wondered what it would be like.
I lived this way until I was 14 years old. Then one day in school, we were doing a project on child abuse. I done exceptionally well on this project because I had first hand experience. Nobody outside of my family knew this though. During this project I learned about the options for people that are in that situation, and for the first time ever I learned that I didn’t have to put up with this. I could report it and get out of it. I didn’t really want to do it though because as much as my parents probably deserved it, I did not want them to get into any trouble. It did play on my mind for quite some time though.
My Best friend Janelle and I were building a snow fort one day and she could tell that there was something bugging me, and she kept asking about it until I finally told her. She was the first person I ever told about my situation. Her first words to me was that I should report it. I really didn’t want to do that though, and as much as she repeatedly told me to do it over the coming months, I could never just muster up the courage to do it. I was scared that something bad would happen to my parents or the rest of my family.
My parents ended up splitting up that June, and I went and stayed with my aunt for a bit. I loved it there. I had complete freedom and it was amazing. I was having the time of my life, and then one day my parents were planning on getting back together and I really didn’t want to go home just yet. Could you blame me? I asked to stay with my aunt for a little longer, and surprisingly, she agreed. One night we had a few friends over and somehow or another, a pornographic movie ended up being put into the VCR. I may have watched 10 minutes at most but then requested that it be turned off. It was definitely not my type of movie. It was gross. Like I said, I’m actually not a bad guy. It was just my circumstances.
Well, word gets back to my mother about the movie that we were watching. And 10 minutes to her is the same as the whole movie. She called me from our hometown which was about 150 kilometers away. She was really angry and told her that when they came to get me I would receive the worst punishment ever. Upon hanging up the phone I got to thinking, what could possibly be worse than what I had already put up with? I decided I would not go back to that life, and I would not receive that punishment. I phoned my mother back and for the first time ever, I had the courage to talk back to her. I told her that I put up with them for long enough and I was never coming back. This enraged both her, and my father. My father hopped into his vehicle at once to come and get me. I hung up the phone. I had about an hour and a half to figure something out before he got there.
After thinking about it, I ended up deciding to listen to Janelle and report them so I wouldn’t have to go back to that lifestyle. So, I left my aunt’s house in a hurry and ran down the street towards the police station.
There was one police officer there, and so I told him my situation. While doing so, my father showed up at the police station and the officer would not let him in to see me. But I requested for him to be let in. I knew he could do me no harm there. He then gave me an option. The option was to come home with him the, or to stay and never ever be welcome at home again. I chose the second option. My father ends up going home in anger and I returned to my aunt’s house.
I spent practically all of that night crying. I had no idea what was to happen next. I was scared again. My father said it was over. Never again was I welcome back home. As much as I didn’t want to go home anyway, it still hurt to know that as of that moment I no longer had a family to return to.
Over the next few weeks, several events were brought to my attention. Social Services had received a court order and had shown up at my parent’s house to seize my siblings. My father put up a fight with the officer and ended up in the hospital for the night. The children were seized and placed in foster care. All of the blame rested on me. I was used to blame, but this was big. I was at fault for my whole family being torn apart. And although for once I wasn’t being punished, I felt horrible. I would gladly have taken a punishment to fix all that had happened.
I ended up going into foster care as well. Except not just in one place. Foster care really wasn’t my thing. I was bouncing from home to home, because I just would not let any particular place work out. I’d continually start fights and arguments and be switched to yet another home. This continued all summer.
Eventually, the social workers developed a visiting plan where my family would visit each other to try and patch things up. If all worked out, we would all go back home after Christmas. At first I wasn’t totally into the idea of visiting my parents and siblings. I didn’t want to see their looks of hatred and blame. The visits ended up not being half bad though. My family wanted things to work out so I guess they had no other choice but to get along with everybody.
One day, in the fall, I ended up getting into another argument with my foster parents, and it got to the point where I had to leave. My social workers had no idea what to do. There was no point placing me in another home. I was not going to let it work. They ended up getting my father to come and take me home. They were allowing me to come home earlier than I was supposed to. No more foster care for me! And maybe after all that had happened, my parents had changed.
So, I returned home, and a few weeks later, the rest of my family returned. Things went okay for a few months, until one day my father and I, got into a little argument which ended up leading to a big argument like the ones I used to have when I was in foster care. This as usual, resulted with me leaving and going to a different home! So I ended up moving in with my aunt. Then for the next couple of years, I started taking control of my life. I was sick of being forced to move around. I made up my mind to do things on my own from now on. So the next two years were spent with me traveling across Canada, living with different friends and family, trying different jobs, going through girlfriends, facing new obstacles in life, while breaking down some old ones. I guess I could say I was searching for my identity. I could never find it though. As much as I searched, I just couldn’t find exactly what I was looking for. I didn’t even know exactly what I was looking for. So I end up coming back to my home in Gander, Newfoundland. I got involved with the youth group at the local Pentecostal church.
Our youth group is called DV8. I started going for fun. I’d show up and participate in the fun stuff, but as soon as the worshiping began, I left. I had no idea who I was at the time, and I was going through enough in life as it was, and so I really didn’t want to make room for some God who probably didn’t even exist.
We had a good youth pastor though. His name is Pastor Mike Freake. Let me tell you something about him. I never ever had respect for any man up until that point. As you can see, I hardly respected my father, and I was disruptive in school, so I obviously didn’t respect my teachers. I was disruptive in Sunday school, so there couldn’t have been much respect for my pastors and church leaders. But just hearing Pastor Mike talk made me want to respect him. He just seemed like the kind of person who really deserved it.
I ended up calling Pastor Mike aside one night after dv8 and asked him if he was okay with me going to youth just for the fun stuff and not staying for the worship. I was starting to feel guilty for taking advantage of pastor mike and his youth group. But Pastor mike, just waved my guilt aside and said I was more than welcome to come just for the fun stuff. Not everybody in the youth group is believers. But then he asked me why it was that I didn’t believe. I then started telling him some theories that I had picked up over the last few years that sort of state that God cannot exist. But he always came up with a rebuttal.
I finally said to him, “Pastor, prove to me that God exists and I’ll believe.” He answered by saying that he didn’t have to prove to me that God exists. That’s all he said. Which got me to thinking what he meant by that. It played over my mind for quite some time after that. I was constantly thinking about it. I always said I couldn’t become a Christian because it would be literally impossible in my situation, but I was no longer in that situation. So, a part of me was trying to accept Jesus. At the same time though, I was scared. I just wasn’t ready for that. I stopped going to dv8 for a while after that. I knew I was changing, but I just wasn’t ready to yet.
Several months later I receive a phone call from my brother asking if I would go to dv8. None of my family were Christian. My brother also only went to dv8 for fun. So I decided to go with him and leave when he did.
That didn’t happen. I stayed to hear what Pastor Mike would preach on. And I enjoyed it. So I continued going. Every week. Pastor Mike’s sermons were awesome. He really has a gift. Then one night, I just started worshiping along with the rest. It was good. But I still didn’t pray and ask Jesus into my heart. But less than 2 weeks later, I decided to give church a try as well. I went to an evening service and it was unbelievable. Then, all of a sudden, I was walking up to the alter. I was half way there when I realized exactly what I was doing. I couldn’t turn around then. But upon reaching the alter, I started praying. Like I said, I’ve prayed a few times before, but nothing like what poured out of my heart that night. I prayed for forgiveness, and I finally accepted Jesus Christ as my risen Lord and Savior.
When I finished praying, I swear I was the happiest guy on earth at that moment. It felt awesome. I was free. Free from the standards of sin and death. It was amazing. After the service, I went up and told Pastor Mike what I had done, and he was thrilled. He presented me with a brand new study bible.
I went home that night and started to read it. It was no longer just a book to me. This was a guide to my life. To the life I have always wanted. The next few months were awesome. I was on fire for God. I carried my bible everywhere. Within 6 weeks the cover was falling off of my Bible. I spent hours on end at the church helping out or sometimes just hanging out. The church was my second home. God was everything in my life. It was amazing! Every single day I was learning more and more. I was slowly beginning to realize who I was. I was finding my identity. Things were going great!