I was born in October of 1980. The odds against my birth were overwhelming. My mother and I were both nearly killed during her five days of labor. After my birth I suffered from a variety of physical problems. I was slow learning to talk (since then I’ve been slow learning to shut up) and doctors declared that I would be either retarded or dull normal.
My dad refused to believe them. He prayed over me and was constantly reading the Bible to me in my crib. I fully credit those prayers and attentions with the success that followed me in my life.
I faced a variety of health problems growing up. My parents tell the story that when I was sick up in the Yaak, that I would say as confidently as I could, “I am healed and I was healed. I am healed and I was healed.”
I spent the first four and a half years of my life living on a goat ranch in the Yaak, Montana. My father received a vision from the Lord and felt he was telling us to leave and travel across the country.
That we did, from 1985-91, we traveled across the West and met a lot of interesting people. One man tried to make a point that women wearing pants was wrong by wearing a dress. We traveled from Oregon to Arizona because a family invited us to stay with them.
One day after arriving, they uninvited us because Dad refused to recognize another one of their guests as a high priest after the order of Melchizedek, my Dad insisted rightly that we only have one high priest and that’s Jesus.
During this time, my view of God began to change. The lack of healing began to get to me. I was sick for weeks on end sometimes. I had accepted Jesus as savior and been baptized in Lake Chelan in August, 1988. But I began to have problems believing that God would intervene directly in the affairs of man. He would help me, sure, but he wouldn’t do great and amazing things for me. I watched, “Where the Red Fern Grows” and the grandfather’s explanation that if you go halfway, God will help you go the rest began to make sense to me. I developed a worry-prone personality. I needed to worry and calculate and figure out what to do. God would help me to do what needed done, but first I had to figure out what that was.
During this time, I was abused by my older brothers, Mark and Eric, particularly Eric. Mark was in and out of our lives from 1987 on, his life slipping into a world of drugs, sex, and alcohol, then “coming back to the Lord” only to backslide again. In 1997, he backslid for the latest time and hasn’t come back.
Eric was our babysitter and that was appropriate as sometimes he would sit on us. He would be physically abusive on occasion and more often than not, he would be mean towards me. My brother Josh and I got into more trouble following Eric than anything else. One of the saddest parts of my life at this age was that Eric loved to hang out with kids and play with them. He loved to play with all kids-all kids except me it seems.
Sometimes, even Josh would abandon me for some new friend. When I was a child, I often felt totally alone.
I tried to make up for the lack of love from siblings by sticking close to the adults and listening to them talk. My dad was, of course, the best talker of them all. Only later would I realize that he wasn’t the best conversationalist. I would listen for hours as Dad would tell the same stories over and over again. They never seemed to get old. They always were exciting as the first time I heard them. He told about healings and people coming to the Lord and funny stories about Vietnam and his time in the military.
I also compensated for the lack of companionship by creating friends in my own mind, worlds where I wasn’t alone and totally insignificant. When Josh would take part, we would do skits late at night (when we were supposed to be sleeping). We’d be heroes and scientists, lawyers, and baseball giants, instead of two lonely little boys.
From 1986-90 we traveled through seven states. In 1991, we went through around 30. Dad finally got to hold some real big meetings (at least I thought 50 people was big). We held revivals in West Virginia and Alabama and a series of meetings in Colorado.
I remember that after one sermon, Dad preached so well, that with the exception of me, mom, and Joshua, the entire church went to the altar to pray. I so wanted somebody to let me pray for them. Unfortunately, they didn’t want the ten year-old boy to pray for them but the preacher.
The people were generally pretty nice (until they decided they didn’t want to have anything to do with us). My dad has an ability to find what divides him from others and then focus on those points. This, coupled with some other problems led to a halt to our ministry trips.
We settled down in Kalispell, Montana, where we’d stay until 1995. In late, 1991, at the age of 11, in a McDonald’s, something happened that would change my life. I looked over and noticed a girl for the first time. Puberty had begun.
Puberty wasn’t a happy time for me. I dealt with a lot of guilt. Too many ministers fail to properly balance God’s mercy and judgment in their preaching. Most tend to over-emphasize his mercy, my dad tended to over-emphasize his judgment. I spent my nights having thoughts, I hate myself for. Occasionally, when I was exposed to something that wasn’t good to ingest (like ink), I’d be scared to death that I was going to die and go to hell for having such horrible thoughts.
My dad believes it’s important to keep the Old Testament law. Yet, I found the harder I tried to keep the law, the less I measured up. I didn’t fornicate or actually act out any of my temptations, but the thoughts themselves made me feel guilty and worthless.
While I wasn’t fighting myself, I was taking on the pro-abortion industry. I have a passion for saving the unborn that began when my mother first explained what abortion was at ten. I went across the country collecting signatures on a petition against abortion. I didn’t turn in my 1400 signature petition after I saw a million signature petition being handed to Congressman Henry Hyde (R-Ill) on a video of a national pro-life rally.
I started a teen pro-life group, won three county pro-life oratory contests, protested outside the local abortion clinic, the abortionists’ house and church, and pro-abortion Senator Max Baucus’ (D-MT) office, and was active in the adult pro-life group. I was a guest on talk radio at the age of 13, and testified before the Montana Senate Judiciary Committee at the age of 14.
Many people praised me for my work and the care I put into these issues, yet still I didn’t feel good. I felt ashamed when ever anyone praised me because I thought I wasn’t worthy of it because I was so sinful.
At the age of 15, my family and I moved to Eureka, a weird little town eight miles from the Canadian border.
We moved with some friends and we held services every Saturday. Dad would preach for around eighty minutes and would badger men and boys over the age of 13 who wouldn’t preach, saying that it was their responsibility to have something ready. I would occasionally say something, at first. Once, I turned 16, I had something ready every week. Too much of it merely parroted what my dad said.
I faced the same problem in Eureka that I had in Kalispell, the guilt and the shame that haunted me at night. Ironically, I was also very self-righteous. I kept the Seventh Day Sabbath and all the feast days, I didn’t eat pork, I was Pentecostal, I was post-trib, I was right! I was full of it!
Not to say all those positions were wrong (I still keep a seventh day Sabbath, I’m still Pentecostal and post-trib. I also don’t eat pork, but just because it doesn’t agree with me.)
My dad hated Eureka with a passion. I never really understood why. I liked the people except for the guy who tried to run Josh down with the pickup truck. However, the economic situation was intolerable, with double digit unemployment. I didn’t have a regular job until we left Eureka and returned to Kalispell.
We stopped holding services when we moved to Kalispell and I slowly began to experience spiritual starvation. I felt so far away from God in late 1999, that I was scared. In desperation, I went to a Presbyterian Church for one service. I was fed temporarily but it didn’t last.
In Spring, I began begging my mom to take me to churches in the valley in hopes of finding something somewhere. The first two churches I visited were cold and impersonal, the people didn’t care about me or that I was there. The third church was small and therefore I was warmly greeted. I wanted to stay there. Mom wanted to try one more church and so we did.
And for that I’m eternally grateful. At that church, I met Pastor Jim and Peggy Lawson. They were from Southern Ohio and had been led of God to start a church in Kalispell. They left behind everything they knew and loved to come to Montana.
They taught the importance of faithfulness to God and to church. It bristled against my dad’s teachings. He tended to de-emphasize the importance of church, choosing not to attend churches that didn’t agree with him. Indeed we went months and sometimes as much as 3 years without attending services. He said that it wasn’t important to be in church every time the doors are open.
I realized that the Lawsons needed support. They held many services when no one showed up. I remembered how discouraging that could be, so I started coming. regularly and what I discovered was that coming to church wasn’t just good for them but it strengthened my Spirit.
The feelings of guilt and shame lessened. Brother Jim was confident in his salvation, and didn’t keep rules and standards for the sake of salvation but out of love for God. I grew in love towards God and doing what was right became easier because I was doing them for the right reason.
Due to one of my dad’s prophecies, I had given up any hope of going to college. However, in 2000, I applied to Flathead Valley Community College and due to my family’s income, I received a Pell Grant for $3300, enough to pay for a full year of college. In college, my talents became more clearly defined and revealed. I was particularly helped by Blake Smith, my English Composition and Oral Interpretation teacher and Marita Combs, my Journalism Instructor.
While I had started attending most services, I was not attending the Church’s adult Sunday School. For me, it merely meant getting out of bed an hour early. Brother Jim found a creative way to make sure I attended Adult Sunday School, by having me teach the class. I began to study the Bible and the sermons became more in-depth and focused as God led me deeper into his word.
Song of Solomon
In October of 2000, I first made contact with Andrea J. Hatfield, my wife. I will write a more in-depth story about this at another time. In the course of getting to know her, she and I both resolved many issues and came to find out the truth through our manner of discussion and give-and-take.
In October of 2001, the Lawsons left Kalispell. Without Andrea in my life, I would have been totally miserable. Still, God blessed me and provided for me and in December, Andrea moved out to Kalispell.
Over the course of our engagement, God showed me how powerful he was. We continually suffered economic set-backs. Sometimes, we didn’t know how we were going to pay Andrea’s rent. We certainly didn’t know how we were going to raise $2000 for a wedding neither her parents or my parents were going to pay for. God taught me that he was powerful and able to help me.
In May, I graduated from FVCC, fifth in my class. God had brought the little baby boy who was doomed to be “retarded” or “dull normal” all the way to being a college graduate.
In June of 2002, my mom saw a story on TV about a new statewide Conservative, Christian newspaper. I called the television station and then contacted the person who hosted the paper, finally getting in touch with the newspaper’s publisher. I wanted an application or to know where to send my resume. He surprised me by telling me he didn’t care about resumes but wanted someone who could write and gather news. He gave me two hours on a Friday Afternoon to track down two stories and e-mail them to him. Miraculously, I succeeded at this impossible task and actually got my current job as Independent News Correspondent for the Montana News Association.
In July, Andrea and I were married in a beautiful ceremony in Woodland Park in Kalispell. After the wedding, we went on a wonderful ten-day honeymoon that no one had thought we could afford. God blessed us so much.
I continue to grow in the Lord and become closer to Him. It’s the focus of my life and he continues to bless me in my efforts. The more I get to know him, the more I love him. He challenges me and leads me deeper and deeper in Him. He has blessed me abundantly with all that I need, including improved health.
I know He has more for me ahead, but I am thankful for all that he has given me already. I’m learning to trust in Him and His grace each hour for all of my needs. He’s leading me back to the faith of my childhood, when I knew that He could do anything.
In August of this year, the Lord led Andrea and I to start Living Water Christian Fellowship. He has blessed me with the opportunity to feed His people. I pray that he sends those He wants to be here, so that we all may grow in Him and walk before him in the beauty of Holiness!