As a child and a young adult, I was very active in the First Methodist Church of DeKalb, Illinois. I had a special relationship with the minister, Bill White, all the way through catechism. In a childish way, I was very close to Jesus. I served as the president of the Methodist Youth Fellowship for Northern Illinois in high school. We were active in integrating the black Methodist churches with the white ones — a holdover from pre-civil war segregation. I prayed regularly. My father read the Bible every night through my childhood, and I read it myself when I was older. Unfortunately for my faith, the mid-to-late 1960’s were part of a sweeping social movement that resulted in my moving away from God. Through reading philosophy, I got into Jean Paul Sartre and Nietze and the anti-God movement. It was a very confusing but worldly and exciting time.
I got married at 19 without very much commitment, and the marriage fell apart in my early twenties after we moved to Canada. My wife at the time and I moved to Canada in the early 1960s to escape all of the evil in America and the Viet Nam war. She and I helped to found an alternate community center for street kids and draft dodgers in Toronto. At one point we were part of the group which was appointed by Toronto as the Social Planning Council for Metro Toronto. We also engineered a huge grant to set up a tent city for transients one summer. There was spirituality, and we bought a farm to get close to nature, but no one repented of their sins or claimed Jesus as their personal savior.
After a two-year stay in Vancouver where I helped to start a street theatre group and a magazine, I returned to Toronto and met my current wife Patty. From that time until now, we have been together. God has protected us throughout our marriage. He helped us to give up heavy drinking before it destroyed our marriage, without any side effects. We were also neighborhood volunteer social workers, working with youth and stopping street fights, and keeping the peace. We lived in a housing cooperative for 20 years, which was most of the raising of our three children. Working, taking care of kids, and drinking took up most of our lives until we stopped drinking. Also, the sexually libertine attitude of the sixties did not leave me until after I was saved. I was comfortable with strip joints and porno movies. Evil surrounded me.
The person most responsible for my being reclaimed by Jesus was a woman named Heather Pearson. She came to Sharbot Lake via the Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship (formerly associated with the Vineyard Christian Fellowship). She was a very charismatic Christian and glowed with joy when she wasn’t brought down by her mental illness. Everyone in the whole neighborhood knew Heather. She was always on a mission or a project to help someone or to start something to make sure that people knew about Jesus. Heather Pearson was my neighbor and my wife’s best friend. She had grown up on the street, and managed to get a job with the government that drove her crazy. She lived next door to us on a disability pension with her husband Roy, a trucker.
Heather showed me that a demon was living inside of me. Sometimes with my wife Patty, and often with Heather, I would think I was saying something neutral or nice, while I was really being abusive. My tone of voice, which was invisible to me, was mean and sometimes even cruel. Since the golden rule (“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, Matthew 7:12) has always been my motto, I was shocked to hear about this from my wife. Heather was too hurt to confront me. After studying the problem for a while, my wife and I decided the problem was depression.
I went to church with Heather to try to patch things up. I thought I liked her and she thought I hated her. The Pentecostal church in Sharbot Lake where Heather brought me welcomed me with love and holiness. God was present in that church, and later I brought Patty there. Patty loved the church too and it is the one we still attend. The people in the church were obviously uncomfortable with Heather, though they never said anything and were always kind. Heather did not pay any attention to any of this. The purpose of church is getting together with the faithful to worship Jesus and God our father. This came through in church, and has been a large source of my strength in my faith.
Another strengthening influence on my faith is having a home in the middle of a forest. Living in God’s natural majesty and beauty in the forest has brought me close to Him. It is also humbling to see what he has wrought, life in animals and plants that goes on without man and perpetuates itself through God’s enablement. The ego of humans stands in awe and humility at what He has wrought in the natural world beyond man. I started praying again, and I prayed to be released from depression and to be freed from the thing that made me abusive to Heather.
Through all this, Heather acted kindly towards me and was always ready to share time or keep me company. This was an amazing witness of forgiveness. It made me more and more anxious to be free of this evil twist of fate. The church in Sharbot Lake and the faith of my wife also strengthened me to make a change.
One day close to tears I gave myself to Jesus and confessed that I was a sinner. In a rush, salvation descended upon me: I was surrounded by peace, love and acceptance. From that moment, the Holy Spirit began to live inside of me. I was still tempted towards sin sometimes, but on a road to Heaven that included becoming holy in an outward, practical manner. Indeed, God had come to live inside of me — that is what mattered most.
On Canada Day 1999, Heather Pearson was killed in a freak accident that caused my daughter and her to race into a tree on an out-of-control ATV four-wheeler. My wife and I were walking home from our neighbor’s after a party wondering where Janine (our daughter) and Heather had gotten to. At the foot of Heather and Roy’s driveway we came upon the kind of scene that puts one into deep shock. At first we thought Heather and Janine were playing a sick practical joke on us, but within a second we knew it was real. Heather had been thrown into big rocks and bounced around, crushing her head. Janine was unconscious sitting at the front of the ATV, almost imbedded in the tree. Miraculously, Janine’s heart was still beating. Patty tried to resuscitate Heather using mouth-to-mouth respiration, but the damage was too great. I ran home and phoned the OPP to get an ambulance, and returned to stabilize Janine.
Amazingly, the ambulance came in 7 minutes from 19 kilometers away [about 12 miles]. Heather was pronounced dead on the spot. Janine, on the other hand, was raced to the hospital in Kingston 36 kilometers away [about 22 miles] in a Medevac helicopter, and, amazingly, was in the Kingston General Hospital head trauma emergency from a country road within 20 minutes after we found them. God had taken Heather to Heaven, and was looking after Janine, who was was unconscious for the first 3 days. Miraculously, however, she was completely healed within another 7 days. Following this, my wife Patty and I both had dreams in which we were (and still are) convinced that Heather visited us and assured us that she was all right and that she was happy and not mentally ill anymore. This was something we needed, and it was a deeply spiritual time for us.
My doctor prescribed Prozac for the depression, and in order to be supervised on a mind altering drug, I took regular Christian counseling. The Prozac was a dulling agent, hiding my feelings with a gray neutral mood. It was a very hard time, trying to keep a job and get sane. I lost three jobs in a row, one permanent position, and two contracts. The devil was trying very hard to keep me from Jesus, and my temptations were terrible. Finally, the Lord kept me out of work and home for four months. That time off work deepened my faith and took my salvation experience to another level.
Living in God’s splendor in the forest during that time made me realize that we are ants in comparison to His infinite wisdom and power. My ego was slain by the lack of work, and, as a result, I truly repented of my sins. Finally, Jesus could rid me of the demon that made me abusive without knowing it. One day, I was driving into town and had to pull over. My body shook violently, and suddenly peace descended. The “glowing worms” under my eyelids that I saw when I closed my eyes disappeared. Clay peeled from my eyes and I could see. The light was tremendous. God told me that I was free from my demon.
The blindness, in this case, was spiritual blindness, and the clay, spiritual clay. During my depression what appeared to be “glowing worms” appeared under my eyelids when I closed my eyes. I equated this with my blood and signals from my brain being unbalanced, but it just as easily could have been an evil spirit that I could only see by closing my eyes. When the demon was cast from me, the worms went away and closing my eyes meant seeing what one normally sees: redness in strong sunlight, evenly spread lights in artificial light, and black in darkness. The dissapearance of these glowing worms and the voice from God telling me that I was free of my demon were much stronger signs to me than the violent shaking. Also a clear peace like a sunny day with blue skies settled over me after the shaking was done. I felt joy for the first time in a long time. I felt closer to innocence. The feeling lasted for days, and was replaced by a feeling of well-being and a positive outlook that has lasted to today.
I slowly reduced my dosage and withdrew from Prozac, and instead, I started taking vitamins and eating right, as well as praying and reading the Bible every day. Jesus is with me constantly. My walk continues.