Pastor Rick’s Testimony
The Old Life
I grew up in a church going family. Though I heard of God and Jesus, I never knew the love and the relationship they had for me. For whatever reason, the only thing I learned about God was He was a punishing God. My earliest memory of my relationship with God was when I was about five years old. I was running across the yard with my sister and I fell down and skinned my knees. I remember hearing “God punishes people for their sins,” so naturally, I took it as God was punishing me by causing me fall and hurting myself. I remember later in life at the age of twelve, I was hit in the head by a flying rock that was thrown out from under the lawn mower. While I was in the hospital, I remember hearing that God punishes the sinner so again, I took it as God was punishing me by smacking me in the head with a rock and almost taking my life. Wow! He was serious! Well, I was the type of kid that had several "accidents" growing up; my family even called me “reckem rickem” and with my understanding that God is punishing me every time something bad happened, I soon came to realize that He really doesn’t like me very much. I can remember asking myself why isn’t He punishing my friends as much as me? After all, I wasn’t any worse than they were. I came to realization that it was personal; God had a personal vendetta against me. To show Him, I decided to rebel and that I did to the maximum! I took my new identity as a rebel seriously; I rebelled against my parents, my teachers, my coaches, my bosses, and anyone else that was in authority over me, because in my twisted mind, they were working with God and conspiring against me.
By the time I turned thirteen, I was drinking, smoking, lying, cheating, manipulating, and even trying drugs. All through high school, I was the worst of the worst. I took pride in being bad. No one could keep up with me when it came to being deceitful, evil, and rotten. The more rules and punishments the “authority figures” in my life tried to put on me, the more I broke them and rebelled. I just couldn’t beat the voices in my head that said I was the black sheep, the worst, the most unloved, the most despised and so I decided I would join them and prove it! I carried this attitude with me throughout high school and into my adult life. But through this whole fiasco something amazing happened. The absolute worst of the worst (me) asked the best of the best out on a date and she accepted. This is really true! Julie has never had a rebellious bone in her body. She was truly the “good girl”. Good grades, obedient to her parents and teachers, good manners and values. It seems that the only area in which she was lacking was her choice of company … me! Not only did she accept a date with me, but in spite of our total opposite life styles, we fell in love and eventually married.
Throughout my adulthood I truly lived a dual life. Though I had a very successful business and career, when it came to my personal lifestyle, I was still the worst of the worst. People who knew me in the work place could not believe the lifestyle I lived outside of work. I was a major drug addict, a drug dealer, a cheat, a hustler, a player, a liar, and an overall scum. I was totally self-centered, self-absorbed and had no morals or values. By the time I was twenty-three, I had completed the first of what would eventually be three drug and alcohol treatments. I would stop at nothing to climb the ladder to the top of every job I ever had; my co-workers were totally expendable. I was promoted to plant engineer of a major national cold storage corporation at the age of twenty-four and quickly worked my way into upper management. By age thirty, I was completely bored with the upper management job. By now I had completed treatment center number two and was still living the wild life style. I was continuously in trouble with the law. I was convicted of one felony and was acquitted of a second only because I had a good attorney. In order to try to keep out of trouble, I put my effort into something different. I studied for and quickly passed the national tests for electrical contractors, HVAC contractor and master plumber; so I started a contracting business. At this point in my life, my entire self-worth was based on how much money I made, how many drugs I did, how much praise I received, and how successful I was daily at quieting the voices in my head that said “you are lower than dirt and God hates you”.
After a few years of ups and downs in business, my whole world came crashing down. I had gone against the two major contracting rules of “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” and “don’t take on more than you can afford to lose”. There it is again; I just didn’t know how to follow rules! The company I was contracting for went bankrupt and I was broke and out of business over night. I was now out of work with a truckload of due and overdue bills. Every thing that was important to me, my sole source of self-worth was gone! What was the point of going on living? Then a “friend” had a solution….an opportunity to make some quick cash and get back on top.
The plan seemed so easy……lie to everyone about where I was going for the next couple of days, drive to Brownsville, TX, leave the car with the parking valet at the motel, check into a room and get some sleep. Then eight hours later, I was to get in the car and drive back home. I was told to obey the speed limit, wear my seat belt, and drive safely……it would be alright. However, a couple small details were omitted though, like the Federal check point that I had to go through on the way home and the fact that the people I was driving for was using me for “bait”! Needless to say I never made it home. The car was pulled to the side and stripped down, the drugs were found, and I was detained and charged with “transportation of a controlled substance”.
The New Journey Begins
While sitting in the holding cell at this Federal check point waiting for the DEA to come and transport me to the nearest Federal jail, the Lord started showing me the filthiness of my life….how badly I'd hurt my wife and my kids, all the lies, the dishonest actions, the cheating, the greediness, the rebellion, the meanness, all the immorality, an my hatred towards God. I was sickened and wanted to die, because for the first time in my life I had to look at me. This wasn’t the usual condemnation and it wasn't the usual voices I heard in my head telling me how worthless I was; for this was real, genuine conviction.
By the time the DEA arrived and transported me to a jail in Corpus Christi, I was so ashamed of myself and my life that I couldn’t take it anymore. I was so grieved by how badly I had hurt my family, friends, customers, co-workers, and anyone else who got in my way and by the fact that I literally couldn’t see any way out of this situation. As I mentioned before, I had tried to change my life in the past via treatment centers, self-help programs as well as pure will power and I failed every time. For the first time in my life, I could see that I had to get off this insane roller coaster of life that I was riding, as it was dragging my family along with me and it had to stop. The only possible solution I could see was to die…..that way, my family could grieve my death and move on. But how could I do that from behind bars? Then I thought God will do it……after all, He hates me! After I was booked into jail and was assigned a cell, I put the plan into action. I would get on my knees in the middle of the day, in the room where all the inmates hung out and cry out to God like a crazy man. With all of those “hateful bad people” that are in jail I thought surely one of them would be appalled at this act of crying out to “God” and kill me, just like you see on TV. So “GOD”, I cried out, “I KNOW I AM NOT WORTHY OF LIVING ANY LONGER AND I KNOW MY FAMILY WOULD BE BETTER OFF WITHOUT ME. I HAVE TRIED TO CHANGE BUT I CAN’T, SO GOD PLEASE JUST TAKE MY LIFE AND LET ME GO TO HELL SO THAT THEY CAN GET ON WITH THEIR LIVES!”
At that moment, my life was transformed! I was taken to what I can only describe as a heavenly experience or a third heaven experience. I saw the love of God, I felt the love of God, and I experienced the love of God. For three days, I spiritually “floated on the ceiling” and looked down on all the other inmates as they were going about their daily routines. All I could feel for them was compassion because they didn’t have what I just got and I had no idea what it was.
had so much mercy on me and my family….He let me go home on bond to get
things in order. First and foremost was
to let my family know how sorry I was and to begin the process of healing. I was able to get most
things in order with the house and business before I went back in for
sentencing, so as to make it as “bearable” as possible for the family while I
was incarcerated. God
knew exactly how long I needed to be locked away with Him for the purpose He
had for our lives. I
went back in for sentencing and the judge sentenced me to four years in
Exactly two weeks from the start of my sentence, I was placed in a two-man cell in Houston. The cellmate I was assigned to had a muscle contraction on his shoulder blade. Every day as he went about his daily routine it would go away. However, in the evening as he would be sitting around resting, and as he went to bed, it would bind and swell-up like a grapefruit sticking out of his shoulder blade. I have no idea how long this had been going on before I got there and became his cellmate. Early one morning around 3 am about three weeks after I arrived there, I woke up hearing this whining noise. My cellmate was sitting at the desk crying. He said his shoulder blade hurt badly and it just wouldn’t go away this time and it seemed to be getting worse. (Now I should probably stop here and say that it had been about 6 months at this time since my conversion experience and yet I still had not read or opened a Bible.) My heart hurt so bad for him as he sat there and I asked him if I could pray for him. He said, "Sure, I will try anything." So I got out of my top bunk and stood behind him and put my hand on this “muscle knot” and said something like God please make this go away. The power of God shot through my hand so hard it felt like lightning! He felt so shocked he actually thought I had something mechanical that I'd shocked him with and I thought for sure he was going to beat me up. I told him that I was as scared as he was and in the midst of all the excitement, he realized that the knot was gone! We started laughing and praising God, not having a clue as to what just happened.
A few days later, I finally got a Bible and God led me to the book of Acts. I read about how Peter and John would lay hands on sick people, pray for them and they'd be healed. I shared this with my cellmate and said this is what happened to us. After reading about this and seeing it happen first hand, we just assumed that whenever you pray for someone this way they are healed! I remember thinking, Wow, this is a guide-book for how to live and what to do. I started reading the Bible from the beginning. After all isn’t that how you read a book? And while it was interesting reading, for the most part, the stories in the Bible just didn’t make sense. I didn’t understand all the genealogies and cultures. I just wasn’t as interested as I thought I would be.
Once again, God’s mercy was overwhelming. He had me transferred from prison in TX to one that was 75 miles from my home in the Midwest. There wasn’t one weekend the entire time I was there that my family didn’t come to visit. By this time, for the most part, I had put the Bible down as I just couldn’t stay interested. Shortly after I my transfer, I was feeling so sad and grieved in my spirit and I assumed it was because I wasn’t reading the Bible. One Friday night I couldn’t sleep as I just feeling this burden inside me. The next morning when the compound was opened, I went out side and walked around the walking track, crying out to God to change me inside so that I could read the Bible. I asked Him to do whatever was needed so I could feel like I did when I first got this "new life." As I was walking and talking with God, something came out of the heavens and blasted me! It knocked me to my knees and I started speaking this “unknown language”. I had no idea what this was and I thought I was going crazy. I couldn’t stop it at first and I thought for certain that I was going to be put in the “rubber room”. While it felt refreshing, my mind was trying to stop it in order to analyze it. After a while I could turn it on and turn it off and it felt so good; but I still didn’t know what it was. I told an inmate who I knew was a Christian about what had happened and he told me it was speaking in tongues and he showed me in the appropriate scriptures.
Now at this point, I assumed there were Catholics and everyone else, as far as Christian religions go. I seriously thought that the name on a church building was just a name and not actually a representation of different interpretations of what the Bible says. That night an announcement came over the loud speaker stating that there was a Christian Bible study going on in the chapel at 7 pm with pastor so and so from the so and so church. I was so excited to go there and tell everyone of my new experience! I went there almost on a run to testify. I went in and said I have a testimony; today I GOT THE GIFT OF TONGUES!!! This pastor stood up and said “that is of the devil and you need to leave”. I was crushed and confused; but God spoke to me and told me to not listen to the opinion of man, but to study His word and He would teach me the truth.
After that, the Bible came alive and was a river of living water for me! From that point on, I went to every Christian service and / or Bible study that was held at this prison, regardless of the denomination of whatever Christian church that came in. For the Holy Spirit would teach me through the scriptures what part of the teachings to keep and what parts to throw out. I studied everyday from morning till night and during every free moment I had. I was able to pray for other inmates and witness to the unsaved. But more importantly, I was FREE! For the first time in my life I was FREE, even though I was physically locked up in prison. I attended non-Christian religious services so that I could witness to them about the gospel of Jesus. I would watch their rituals, listen to their chants and then I would preach and speak the love of Christ to them. I was blessed to see so many miracles and so many people transformed and saved!
Then one night shortly before I was released, I returned to my room from a service in the chapel, and I spent a few hours in study and prayer. As the sweet presence of the Holy Spirit covered me, I climbed up into my bunk to try to sleep. As I lay there glorifying in the Spirit, the Lord spoke to me and said, “Ask me for anything you want and I will give it to you”. My spirit spoke back to the Lord and said, "All I want is to know your peoples’ hearts more, to love them more, to see them through your eyes, and to help them." I basked in His glory for a while and then went to sleep. After that something changed in that I began to have more compassion for people. I realized that I could feel the pain, turmoil and frustration deep within the hearts of other people. The thing was, I didn’t know what to do with it.
Shortly after I got out of prison, we held our first 4-day revival meeting. It was so awesome! I actually had a vision of it while I was still in prison and every single detail was exactly what I had seen in the vision. Following that we started having 4-day revival meetings every month all over the Midwest which quickly evolved into two per month. I really learned how to be an evangelist and how to line-up and coordinate meetings during this season of my ministry. But I still had this gift inside me that I didn’t know what to do with or how to use.
During one of our 4-day tent crusades, a lady I'd never met before showed up on the second night. When she got there I was taken away in the spirit with the anointing that flowed out of her. She sat and worshipped God during the meeting and at the end when we made an altar call, I asked her if she would come and help us pray for people. As I got to know her I found out she was a missionary Pastor from South Africa and she was called as a missionary to the United States. She has the same gifts in her (and many more) that God gave to me back in prison and she operates in them every day of her life. She quickly became my mentor and helped me to see and use the gifts of God. I learned so much from her, watching as she serves God, loves people, while mentoring me. During my time with her, she helped me to heal so many of the hurts from my life, while helping me to be free of bondage and generational curses.
Then, as I progress in my walk, I met another brother in Christ who operates in a spectacular anointing and gift of discernment. He too, helped me to be set free from some spirits that carried over from my old life and he also became a teacher and mentor to me. Although he has different gifts and talents and he operates in a different style ministry, he has taught me much and helped me tremendously. I still go back to both of them when I need help with someone I am working with or when I need prayer for myself.
Now remember that “good girl” that married me? The one who stuck with me when most every other woman would have cut and run? The one who thought I was crazy in the world and even crazier in the new spiritual life? Well it turns out that as she sat quietly and waited for me to find my place in the Lord's plan, that God had placed some special gifts in her and was just waiting to release them. I tell people every day that she is my spiritual barometer. When I minister to someone, while Julie isn't normally "hands-on", in her spirit she knows the person I am working with and she helps me to see things that I may miss because I am too close. It is awesome how God uses us together in this ministry. I really don’t think I could do it without her.
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