God is going to use me

Testimony: From homelessness to security in God's family

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Fortunately, it doesn’t get too cold in Fresno, Calif., because I lived on the streets. I would say probably 75 percent of people who are homeless use drugs, and that was the case for me. When you’re living on the streets, you have no place to shower. You’re filthy dirty. People look at you like you’re not human.

But I’ve learned that God uses people of all forms. No matter what I’ve done in life, there’s forgiveness, and I can help advance the kingdom.

I grew up in an abusive situation. My parents used drugs, and both were alcoholics. Structure was foreign to me, and that carried on into adulthood as I, too, experimented with drugs.

I lived in Reno, Nev., for 30 years, and in 2007 I cleaned up a bit from my “colorful” past. I was actively involved at a mega church. I married, had a son and secured a great paying job. For a guy that was just a high school graduate, I was pretty blessed. I thought I was doing everything right.

But on Christmas Day in 2011, a divorce blindsided me, and my world came crashing down. Three years later, I wound up homeless on the streets of Fresno. I had followed a girl there, intending to get clean and sober but ended up falling back into old habits.

The more I read, the more I believed. It convicted me. I’d read some of the Bible before, but this time, I understood that God was real. I hit my knees in tears, wondering how God could forgive someone like me.

We camped in different spots with tents and blankets. Cardboard was our friend. We slept on asphalt and in alleyways, but we never froze. When you’re chemically induced, it’s different.

We camped in a part of Fresno that’s known for violence and gangs. I faced guns and endured beatings. I got hit in the face with a lock in a sock. I saw people die.

For about six months we camped on the San Joaquin riverbank, hiking 3.5-miles just to go to the store, but nobody bothered us there.

We had food stamps, but I’m not going to lie. At times we ate from dumpsters. We knew where they were throwing out food, and it was warm.

I began to get comfortable. In the back of my mind, I knew it wasn’t right, but it’s hard to get out of that kind of situation once you’re in it. Programs exist, but you have to jump through so many hoops to get into treatment facilities.

Then I began having health problems. I had a heart attack in 2015. A year later, blood clots in my heart and lungs floored me. I couldn’t breathe. Paralyzed in my lower extremities, I was coughing up blood. I conceded the fact that I was going to die on the streets. I thought I’d never see my son again, and he wouldn’t know what happened to his dad. I spent 28 days in the hospital, but by the grace of God I survived.

I returned to my old ways, though. I was staying in a trailer on property owned by someone from Madera Avenue Bible Church, and he kept asking if I wanted to go to church with him. I eventually agreed but didn’t clean up my act.

In 2018, I got sick again. Doctors thought I would die from sudden cardiac death, so they put a defibrillator in my chest. Right before I went to the hospital, I saw a bright flash of light in the middle of the night. I lived in the country where there were no lights. I saw it a second time, leaving no doubt in my mind that Jesus revealed himself to me. Did I see an actual figure? No. But I made up my mind to stop doing what I was doing, and I haven’t looked back since.

I started going to church at Madera Avenue more. At first I felt unworthy. I was still coming off homelessness. I was dirty. I didn’t have many clothes. Pastor Jim Kennemur gave me a Bible, and I started reading it. I started with Proverbs, then made my way through the New Testament and then the Old.

The more I read, the more I believed. It convicted me. I’d read some of the Bible before, but this time, I understood that God was real. I hit my knees in tears, wondering how God could forgive someone like me.

The people at Madera Avenue believed in me. They didn’t care about anything I had done. They wanted me to know God and experience the love that Jesus tells us to show each other. I’d been in church before, but I’d never felt anything like that.

After a short visit to see my son in Reno, doors opened for me to return to California. Pastor Jim offered me a place to stay in Madera. When he retired and relocated, I moved into an apartment in a house owned by another family from church.

I’m confident that prayer is part of the reason I’m here today. My health has improved. My heart function improved from less than 20 percent to 55 percent, which is in the normal range. Doctors removed the defibrillator. The only thing I can tell you is God healed me because I think he wanted me to be part of this church.

At the end of 2021, current pastor Mike Unger asked me to help lead our youth group. While I didn’t think I was ready at first, I agreed because I want to give back what’s been so freely given to me. God used people like Moses, Rahab and Solomon, and that helps me understand God’s going to use me. He uses the foolish to shame the wise, and I’ve been foolish, trust me. I share with the youth about my past and let them know I’m not a kid who grew up in the church. That helps them relax, I think. It’s great to help a young person understand what it’s like to be a child of God.

God has opened my eyes so that I can see the world as he sees it and have a heart that breaks for what breaks his. I can take the message to people no matter what my past looks like. My passion is talking to people on the streets and riverbanks and letting them know that if I can come through this, they can, too. I think that’s one reason God provided the path he has for me.


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