I have one older brother and 2 younger sisters. We grew up hard and under extreme circumstances. My dad was a hard worker as a carpenter, but he was also addicted to alcohol. Many times our home was like a war zone with fighting and cussing causing me to grow up with a lot of hatred and resentment towards my dad.
Starting at the age of six I started attending a small Methodist church down the road from our house. I was not seeking God, but I wanted a place of peace away from the fighting in our home. From age 6 to 18 I attended three different churches using them as my temporary safe places. I graduated from Buffalo Gap High School in Swoope, Va. in June 6th, 1972 and immediately went into the U.S. Air Force. I no longer attended any church.
I had already been drinking for a couple of years and through the influences of some military guys, I was introduced to a lifestyle of drugs. I found myself with the same excessive addictive behavior as my dad and became what I hated. I had a serious alcohol and drug problem. My life was headed downward quickly. I loved the Air Force and my job, but I could not shake the alcohol and drug addictions.
I was a leader, well liked, and sought after. I look back now and realize that most of my popularity was because I controlled a large portion of the drug market on base and on many occasions, I gave my “so-called” friends free drugs. I felt so empty and so aimless inside. I excelled in everything I did with the military, but nothing satisfied the longing in my heart. The more emotionally distraught I became the more I looked for ways to medicate my pain.
Then it happened. I wasn’t looking for it, but it happened. It was Sept.4th 1974 at 1:00am. I was lying in bed heavy on drugs with my mind going through my life and realizing how empty I felt and how much I needed to find a way to take control of my life. Then out of the blue I felt this overwhelming sense of conviction of the fact that I was a sinner, and if I died, I would go to hell. I suddenly knew that Jesus Christ was God and He was the Savior of mankind. These three things were all I could think about: My condition as a sinner, my judgment of hell and that my only help could be found in Jesus Christ.
Then I had a sensation that I was going to die. I never feared death before, but this time it was different. Before when I had faced death, I believed that once you die that was it, it was all over. Now I was facing death and I realized that I was going to spend eternity in hell. I remember getting out of my bed, falling to my knees, and starting to pray. I remember that prayer as though I just prayed it. I said, “God, I am not afraid to die but I don’t want to go to hell. Lord Jesus I believe that You are God and that You died on a cross for me and for my sins. Come into my life and save me and make me a new person. Thank you for forgiving me and for saving me.”
Immediately I knew something was different. I felt such peace and joy flooding my heart. I did not own a Bible, but I knew that I knew that God had just saved me and given me His life and eternal life in heaven. I immediately took my alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs and flushed them all down the commode. I sat on the edge of my bed from 1:00am to 7:00am praising God for saving a wicked man like myself. One of the greatest joys of salvation was the ability to forgive my dad for all the physical and emotional abuse that a violent alcoholic brings into a home.
Then came my first test. My best friend John came to my room at 7:00am to smoke dope. I told him that I no longer did drugs because I had given my life to Jesus Christ and was a changed man. He left the room laughing at me, mocking me and went through the barracks telling everyone not to come to my room to party anymore because I had become a Jesus freak. It was okay to be accepted as an alcohol freak. It was okay to be accepted as a drug freak. But now I was rejected because I was a lover of God or Jesus freak.
At 10:00am two more of my drug friends came to my room. This time it was not for the purpose of getting high. They were seeking truth. They looked at me earnestly and asked, “Charles, what has happened to you?” I told them my testimony of what happened that night. To my surprise they both started crying and said, “We want what you have, how can we be saved?” I was scared to death. I knew what I had done but I did not know how to share it with others.
Suddenly, the Bible verse John 3:16 came to my memory. I had to memorize it when I was 6 years old for a Christmas play in the Methodist church. I had not read it or heard it for 14 years and here it was on the tip of my tongue like I was the one who wrote it.
(John 3:16 ESV) "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
When I quoted that Bible verse, they both prayed and received the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior. We immediately went down town to the book store and all three of us purchased Bibles. We went back on base and went into the Mess Hall and started preaching about Jesus Christ and His love for us. I immediately knew that I was called to preach and Pastor and set out to read everything I could about the Christian life. I stayed in the Air Force for 14 years and had the joy of leading over 800 military GIs to the Lord Jesus Christ and the joy of leading so far over 8,000 souls to our Savior. To God be the glory and my I be found faithful to the end.