In the middle of 1992, I was on top of the world. I had it all. I had a loving wife, a wonderful son, a new house, the perfect job, a big salary, a nice office, lots of friends, and the respect and admiration of my peers. I was a Quality Engineer working as a Quality Manager and chairman of the local chapter of a national professional organization. Life was good -- or so I thought.
One day I went home for lunch and my whole life crumbled. I discovered my wife was having an affair. I felt sick, hurt, angry, and confused. All I had worked so hard to accomplish fell apart. Nothing mattered any more. During the course of the next two years, I felt like I was in hell on earth.
My marriage ended in divorce. I wasn't saved and there was no way I could live with what had happened.
Two months later, I caught pneumonia. My parents were called in from Alabama. When asked how long it would take for them to arrive, they said "five hours." The doctor told them they "might" make it while I was still alive but it would be close. After three weeks, including one week in ICU on a ventilator, I was released from the hospital.
While recovering at home, my boss decided to break our contract and stopped paying me. (I was on salary and supposed to be paid whether I worked or not. I didn't get sick leave or even regular vacation.) I wasn't informed until it was too late. My savings were eaten away as I tried to keep solvent. I didn't get paid again until I returned to work several weeks after my release from the hospital.
Two months later, my son was riding his bicycle in the street in front of the house and was hit by a truck. The most terrifying moment of my life was as I rushed down the street and saw him lying motionless on the ground. I was crying as I knelt next to him, then burst into loud sobbing when he opened his eyes and his tiny voice said, "Daddy, I remembered not to move anything." It chokes me up right now to even recall that terrible day. He suffered some major scrapes and bruises; however, he was wearing a helmet which likly saved his life. The helmet was cracked from the impact with the pavement. Why it happened, and how, we didn't know. My son was riding on the left side of the street and was struck from behind. The driver had no business in the neighborhood.
A few months later, my son and I went to Alabama to visit my father who was about to undergo surgery for lung cancer. We visited him in the hospital the day we arrived. The next day we went to be with him just prior to surgery. My mother and I escorted him to the operating theater. He never awoke from the anesthesia. He went into cardiac arrest in the recovery room and died.
The following month, I learned my mother had terminal pancreatic and liver cancer. I made almost weekly trips to Alabama to see her. Sixteen months after my father's passing, my mother died.
Then, in the space of a week, my boss fired the Office Manager, Marketing Manager, and Quality Manager. He hired his daughter to take over and run the company. I lost my home, car, savings, and retirement fund. I took the last of my savings and went for a walk.
For over 20 years, I had wanted to hike on the Appalachian Trail. I never had the time. Suddenly, I did. I spent 2 months hiking over 200 miles from North Georgia to and through Smoky Mountain National Park. My son spent one month with me as we journeyed through part of Georgia and into North Carolina.
When I tired of walking, I decided to return to Georgia and head for Florida. I wanted to take a bicycle tour along the coast of Florida, from Panama City all the way to St. Augustine. I got as far as Albany, Georgia.
I arrived in Albany on a Thursday morning after a rather exhilarating 4 hour bike ride from Georgia Veterans State Park. I ate lunch then went on through town. By the time I got about 5 miles out of town, night was falling. I got off the highway, found a nice wooded area near a stream, and made camp for the night.
The next morning, I decided to return to Albany to spend the weekend. It'd be a chance to rest up before the next week of long distance riding. I intended to get to Panama City, start heading east along the coast and get a lot of miles toward the Tampa area.
When I got back into Albany, I located a park where I could cook a meal, read a newspaper, and decide on a place to stay. While eating, a man I had never seen before walked up to me. He didn't say "Hi," "Hello," or anything one would normally expect to hear. Having never seen or talked to me before, he said, "You ought to be at the mission." He didn't stop to get a response. He just kept walking.
A few hours later, while I was at a phone booth calling about a place to stay, he walked by again. Once again, all he said was, " You ought to be at the mission." The next morning I was walking downtown when he came by again and said, "You ought to be at the mission." Three or four times each day that Friday and Saturday, he happened to be where I was, and say, "You ought to be at the mission."
Finally, on Sunday afternoon, I saw him walking by the McDonald's where I was eating. I went outside and caught up with him. I asked what the "mission" was and why he thought I belonged there. He told me it was a place on Monroe and that I just looked like someone that could get some good from it. He claimed I wouldn't really understand until I saw it for myself. I told him, "Maybe my next time through town." After all, I was leaving for Florida in the morning. The next day I awoke early, ate breakfast, packed my gear, and headed to Florida. The ocean was calling!
About the time I cleared the city limits and passed the airport, the strangest feeling came over me. The next thing I knew, I had turned around and was headed back into Albany. Without really knowing what or where the "mission" was, I found myself in front of a sign that said, "Albany Rescue Mission." Still not knowing why, I approached one of the men sitting at a picnic table and asked what I needed to do to see about staying there for a few days. One young man jumped up and said, "Why, just come with me." He took me to the office, I talked to the office manager, and next thing I knew, I had a bed assigned and was going to dinner.
That was a Monday. That evening, I went to a chapel service with the others. Over the course of the next few days, I was in chapel services three times a day and working at a thrift store the mission operated. On Wednesday, I met the mission director. He talked with me about my history, then presented the plan of salvation. I was resistant. I told him that I couldn't commit to the Lord because I felt too much bitterness in my heart toward my ex-wife. I wasn't ready.
Then, Friday evening, I knelt at the altar, asked Jesus to forgive me a sinner and turned my life over to Him. The awful weight of bitterness was lifted from me and I felt the joy of forgiveness; not just the Lord's forgiveness for me; but, also my forgiveness toward my ex-wife.
The following week, the two men working in the mission office left and got drunk. The Assistant to the Director came to me and asked me to work in the office. I refused. Then the Director came to me and asked me to at least help out for a few days until they could find someone to take the responsibility full time. He was most persuasive. I agreed to help for a couple of days.
Now, years later, I know that the Lord had a plan and a place for me. He had to break me in order to mold me. Once He had my attention, He received my heart.
Now I'm where I belong; at the mission, working for the Lord, sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and helping others. I've met, fallen in love with, and married a remarkable Christian woman and have a blessed life. He provides all my needs and many of my wants.
All praise and glory goes to Him!
In His Service,
1 John 2:6