I was born and raised in a Catholic family in Knoxville, Tennessee. I learned in public school that if no one caught me I did not have to tell the truth. This started me down the road to become an habitual liar. I lied so well, that I believed that it was the truth.
During my High School years, I became involved with Dungeons and Dragons. Soon after beginning to play Dungeons and Dragons, I started having dizzy spells and many thoughts of committing suicide. This led me to be interested in taro cards. The taro cards lead me deep into the occult. Some of the cards had advertisements for other occult materials from which I purchased three books. These books explained occult magic as an ancient Jewish custom of which they said Jesus was the perfect disciple. Since I was so entangled in lies myself, I was unable to realize this lie.
By the time I was in college, I was performing ritual magic to help combat the dizziness. With the increased occult activity, I developed severe paranoia. It was to the point that I was hallucinating about people with machine guns popping up around me to shoot at me. It took a lot of self-control not to react to the phantoms, but it increased my thoughts of suicide. By this time, I had aborted four attempts of suicide. The only thing that stopped me was my love for God.
I know this sounds silly, but the whole time this was going on, I was devoted to my religion. By most people’s standards that I knew, I was a very religious person. I would never intentionally miss a church service and I prayed every day.
I met my wife on December 11, 1985. We fell in love and on December 19, 1987 we were married.
On April 26, 1989, our first child was born and my dizziness was worse. We started having arguments and I was practicing magic in secret. Nothing seemed to be going right.
In February of 1991, I found a doctor that decided that my dizziness was due to food allergies. I was allergic to almost everything. Not eating the foods I was allergic to stopped the dizziness, but not the hallucinations.
On July 8, 1991, our second child was born. That same week, my Dad went in the hospital for a double by-pass surgery on his heart. Soon after that, the company where I was working laid-off over half of the employees. Soon after that, Kristi’s grandfather died. I also ended up needing a cornea transplant due to an eye injury when I was 21 months old. Then after that, I was put into the hospital with an anxiety attack.
Kristi began reading a series of books by Janette Oke. These led to more books written by Catherine Marshall. During this period she became convinced that I needed to be the spiritual leader of our home. She began to pray for God to lead me into becoming the spiritual leader that she felt our family needed.
We ended up moving to Texas in July of 1992. We felt God was moving us to a point where we had to look to Him more and less on others. Kristi had been praying for a church home and felt that God was taking us to Texas to find one! I mostly was asking God to give me a stable job to ease off the pressure that I constantly felt.
While driving by myself one night, I heard an “Unshackled” episode that made me really think. The episode told of some guy that was involved in the same satanic activities that I was doing. The whole episode made the hairs on my head stand up. I really started to re-examine the ritual magic with which I was involved, but I could not bring myself to quit performing ritualistic magic.
In February of 1993, Kristi was saved! She had been reading sermons by Peter Marshall that showed her she was lost. She continued to pray for me to become the spiritual leader of our home. She started to strongly encourage me to do nightly Bible readings with the family. I felt that the material would bore our children. We started to have a Bible reading time, but it did not last long.
In March of 1993, Kristi attended a meeting at the catholic church we were attending. The meeting was about satanic cult awareness. The speaker at the meeting held the viewpoint that anyone associated with Dungeon and Dragons was also associated with satanic cults. When she arrived home, she told me that I had to get rid of all of my Dungeon and Dragons materials (including other role-playing game material). This was very hard for me to accept; but by the next evening, all of the Dungeon and Dragons materials were thrown in the trash, but I still held onto the occult materials. I was still going over the “Unshackled” episode in my mind. I was starting to wonder if God was trying to talk to me. I started to pray more hoping for some clear answers.
I had been using my magic rituals to find God and getting nowhere. Kristi had found a passage of scripture that told that elemental powers were from Satan. This really troubled me, but did not stop me from using the occult knowledge that I had gained. I still wanted more power! I felt that if I had enough occult power, that everything could be controlled. But something was nagging at me that I could not explain.
The day I trusted in the Lord
I decided to take our dog for a walk and pray to God. I had just decided to let God have his way with me when all of the dogs in the neighborhood started barking and baying. The hairs on the back of my neck were standing on end. My pulse was racing and the hallucinations were attacking me from all sides. I decided that something was up and I instinctively raced for the house.
When I was inside, Kristi was asking what was wrong. I told her about my walk. By this time, I started to have shooting pains starting from my chest and going down my left arm. I thought that I was having a heart attack. Kristi put the Bible in my hands and told me to read whatever God showed me to read. Meanwhile, she called our friends to come and help us. They called their pastor and started for our house.
I prayed for the Lord to guide me to read what I needed to read. It was hard seeing through the tears coming down my face. I opened the Bible, which is a Catholic NAS, to a section labeled the “Heathens Prayer.” I started reading and realized that I had been a disciple of Satan and not a disciple of Jesus. I ran upstairs, grabbed the occult books and my magic journal, and threw them out the door. It was not easy to do with the chest pains, but I was determined to get them out of our house.
Our friends and their pastor arrived shortly after I removed the books from my house. The pastor explained salvation to me and lead me in the sinner’s prayer. I earnestly prayed to God to save me from Satan’s grasp. I asked the Lord to forgive me for following self and Satan, and not Jesus. That night, I completely turned over my life to God and asked him to take control. I realized that by doing things on my own, and in my ways, lead me far from the person to which I wanted to be close. That night I fully believed in my heart that Jesus’ death and resurrection is ALL that is needed for my salvation. I believed in my heart and professed with my mouth the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 10:9-10).
I was saved and the heart attack symptoms were gone! God so wonderfully touched our lives.
Several months after I was saved, I answered God’s calling on my life to preach. I announced to the church that we were attending God’s calling on my life.
In January ’95, I was listening to an outreach program on the Bible Broadcasting Network while painting the house we were renting. The program was about the many missionary opportunities in Russia. A desire to help these people started to grow in our lives. After looking into different ways to help the people in Russia, we felt very discouraged when we could not see any open doors. God used this time to make us willing to go anywhere that he would have us go. I completely surrendered to work in the mission field of God’s choosing.
In July ’95, the Lord put me in contact with David Long. David was a missionary in Bangkok, Thailand. He informed me of the vast numbers of people who have never heard the gospel in Thailand and the few numbers of missionaries there. Later, the Lord brought Tommy Tillman, a missionary to the Lepers and homeless children of southeast Asia, to talk to us. He also spoke of the great need for missionaries in Thailand.
While asking God for confirmation on the mission field he wanted us to go to, the Lord showed me Romans 10:14-15:
“How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!”
That day I knew God wanted us to prepare to be missionaries in Thailand. From January 1998 to September 2000, we traveled all over the US visiting churches on deputation. We met many people and learned many things. God proved himself strong to us over and over.
September 2000, we moved to Chiangmai, Thailand. There we studied and practiced the Thai language with a teacher everyday of the week. Eight months before our first furlough, we moved to Tak, Thailand to help in Tak Baptist Church with a Thai national pastor. He helped Richard with his Thai and our family was able to help in a Thai church.
When we returned to Thailand in November 2004 after our first furlough, we decided that we still needed more language help and help in understanding the best way to start a church in Thailand. Really, the many discouragements we faced on furlough and the long year and a half time caused us to loose some of the language. Therefore, we asked veteran missionary Ricky Salmon if we could help him in his church in Bangkok for a year while we worked at getting our missionary work permit and visa, our Thai language up to speed for the sixth grade proficiency test, and learn some Thai Sign language. Ricky started the Independent Baptist Fellowship of Thailand in order to make it easier for Independent Baptist Missionaries to get the needed paperwork done for a missionary work permit and visa. He helped us out tremendously in finally getting our paperwork through the system. We ended up working with Ricky Salmon for a year and a half.
While in Bangkok, three young men from Bangjak Baptist Church taught me Thai every week day. This really helped me to understand Thai. It is essential to hear how different people speak the language to really get good at the language. They took me through the first grade Thai reader to the 6th grade Thai reader. This was a great help since they changed the 6th grade proficiency test to include Thai poetry, which we had never studied before. We also had a lot of practice listening to Thai while attending church there. Bangjak Baptist Church also has one of the largest deaf ministries in Thailand and was a good place to start learning the Thai Sign language.
While helping in Bangjak Baptist Church, we were busy in teaching English at the church every week, at a prison in Nakonpathom, and at Nakonpathom Baptist Church (two hours away from Bangjak Baptist Church). With each English lesson, we also taught a Bible lesson. Everyone that came for English was required to hear the Bible lesson as well. This is a very effective way of reaching people in Thailand since everyone wants to study English. If a Thai knows English, they usually can get a better job. Therefore, we help them learn a skill that helps their life as we teach them about the Lord Jesus Christ!
The jail ministry in Nakonpathom was a blessing. We saw around 11 people get saved and their changed lives really made an impression on the guards and prison warden. We still correspond with two of the men prisoners by mail. One wrote praising the Lord for allowing me to teach him about the Lord in prison. He said that if I was not willing to go to a prison and teach him, he would never of trusted in the Lord!
We also helped in special activities at Bangjak Baptist Church. We helped in Christmas presentations at schools, English camps, the deaf festival every year, and many other opportunities to tell others about the Lord. It was a good learning experience and a good time to grow.
After we finally received our missionary work permit and visa, we looked to the Lord for direction to start a new church. While we were in Bangkok, we heard that pastor Chusak left Tak Baptist Church and the church was now closed. We felt the Lord would have us go back to Tak and open a new church there. Therefore, on July 17, 2006 we moved from Bangkok to Tak and opened Light Baptist Church. The Lord gave us a wonderful place to rent for starting the church and our own house as well.
Problems with Strongholds in my life
While we were living in Bangkok, I kept having more and more headaches and sometimes sever chest pains. The doctors never found anything, but finally just said that I had migraines and put me on medication for migraines.
When we moved to Tak, the headaches became more frequent and painful. Everyone said I looked mean, but I was just in a lot of pain. Finally, I went to a doctor in Chiangmai over the migraines. He thought that the migraines were caused by seizures in the brain. He started me on one seizure medication. That’s when the nightmare began.
Once I started on the anti-seizure medications, I started to really have full seizures. The more seizures I had, the more medications the doctor gave. I finally ended up in the hospital in Chaingmai in Critical Care ward on Christmas of 2007 while they pumped more of the medicines into me. For me, I have no memory of this time period. But, it was an awful time for the family.
Kristi finally cried out to the Lord to show her what to do. Many kept telling her to just leave the field to get me in a hospital in the States. She sent an email to a doctor in Bangkok that specialized in Epileptic seizures. She prayed that if she should take me to him, that God would work it out easily. Otherwise, she was planning to get us back to the states. The government hospital that he worked at would take hours to see a doctor and be very hard. Most likely they would put me in a ward with many others. To Kristi’s amazement, the doctor emailed her during the night and said he had a private room waiting for me and to get me there ASAP!
Once in the hospital under continual observation while monitoring my brain activity for five days, they concluded that I was suffering from psychogenic seizures. These usually happen to people who experienced some type of trauma. Once a person that is having psychogenic seizures understand the problem and what it is doing to them, the seizures usually stop. Mine did, but the panic attacks were still happening.
My trauma was a stick going through my eye when I was 21 months old and my parents were out-of-town. I never realized it, but I had buried bitterness and anger over losing my eye. I also had much bitterness over the teasing I received from school children all my life. Bitterness is a very dangerous thing that will eventually kill those that hold on to it.
After getting out of the hospital, we decided that we needed to go on our second furlough so that I could get some more help. Once in the States, I sought out a Christian Counselor to help me. He showed my the parable of the unforgiving servant (Matthew 18:22-35). He explained that bitterness comes from forgiveness. As the Lord of the servant gave the unforgiving servant over to the “tormentors”, likewise, my bitterness had turned me over to my “tormentors”. He also led me to deal with some of the occult activities that I had done by prayer. All these sins gave jurisdiction to Satan to torment me (Ephesians 4:27). I confessed all to the Lord. That ended all of my panic attacks! Praise the Lord!
Once you remove something from your life, you should replace something else there to keep from dwelling on the past. I started to memorize 1 John 4:18 and many like verses. Meditating upon the Word of God is a great way to deal with deep problems of the heart. The Lord greatly helped me. By focusing on God’s love, God allowed me to conquer my tormentors. During furlough, I relayed this message to many of the churches we visited. Several others were likewise helped from psychogenic seizures.
Unfortunately, the stresses upon Kristi because of my problems, led to her having medical problems as well. Many in her family have Grave’s disease. Her thyroid went hyper-active and needed radiation treatment to kill her thyroid because of developing Grave’s disease as well. The doctor said she was very close to a “thyroid storm”, which is often fatal. Thankfully, the Lord allowed us to get the necessary treatment in America very cheaply. She still did not feel the best, but we prayed that it would improve.
After returning to Thailand, we all got sick with the 5th disease. It is a measles type infection, but is not overly dangerous. But, after everyone recovered, Kristi continued to have problems. She continued to have nerve related symptoms (sharp stabbing pains followed by itching, numbness in hands and feet, burning or freezing sensations, etc). She was checked for everything, but mostly for MS, CIDP, or Lupus. All of which are auto-immune diseases like Grave’s Disease.
She continued to get weaker. It got to the point that she could barely walk. To make a long story short, she has now been diagnosed positively with Celiac Disease (which is also an auto-immune disease). She is now gluten-free and starting to improve. She has some permanent damage, but is able to cope with them. Please keep praying for her to continue to improve and that she does not develop anymore auto-immune diseases.
Current Work at Light Baptist Church
Since we have been in Tak, we have seen many professions for Christ, some of them have followed the Lord in believer’s baptism, and well over 20,000 tracts distributed. Our largest attendance to date was 120 people who came for our Christmas play. Our smallest has been just our own family. The average attendance is 15 people with most of them being children. The discouragement comes when so few come to church even when they profess to know Christ. Many come by to get something from us or use us in some scheme. We all hold onto 1 Thessalonians 5:24 “Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.” God is the one that builds His church. We are just faithful to do as He leads us.
At Light Baptist Church, we teach English every week with a Bible lesson. I have managed to start teaching in the local prison once a week as well. The prison ministry has 40 students. Some are Thai, Burmese, Karen, and Hmong. Karen and Hmong are hill tribes with their own distinct language. The Karen men can not read their own language, but are very good at Thai. We have been able to set up a table at the local playground to distribute correspondence courses about the Bible, tracts, and Bible coloring sheets. As the kids color, Matthew teaches a Bible lesson. We have a weekly tract distribution time along with the handing out of tracts as we do things around town.
At one point, we had three deaf members. We often had other deaf come by as well. But, all of them are now gone. We sometimes see one of them, but they do not talk with us much anymore. We are not sure what happened. We know that the deaf ministry is in God’s hands.
Our “Family” Ministries
Our whole family helps in the ministries here. Matthew, our oldest son, has really done a tremendous job with teaching English and Bible lessens to kids. He keeps everyone’s attention really well. He is also our song leader in church and teaches the Children’s Church. Marah, our oldest daughter, did a great job with the little kids in teaching them English and helping Matthew with the children’s programs. She is now attending Crown College in Powell, TN to get a teaching degree. Joshua and Elisabeth help us by teaching English as well. Kristi is in charge of developing the English materials for teaching. Her years of home schooling has helped a lot in this endeavor. We make our own materials so that it can have a Christian focus and we can give it out freely.
Everyone helps in handing out tracts with zeal! It is a team effort here! We average around 200 tracts distributed each week. During a Thai festival, we are able to hand out around 4,000 tracts. All the kids helped to fill in parts in the Christmas plays we do at the church and in public schools. At the schools, we were able to do the play, I gave the Gospel message, and we distributed Genesis/John/Romans, tracts, and candy. We also had contests for the kids to keep their attention. We are currently working in two different public schools.
As we look into the future, we plan to keep doing everything that we are currently doing and more. We would like to have a radio program on a local station to advertise the church and get the Gospel out to even more people. We are also planning a way to distribute tracts and information about our church in the local newspapers. We plan to try to do more with the deaf school here like deaf plays about Christmas. Each year we would like to present the Gospel in more public schools during the Christmas season. This is a great opportunity because all of the Thai schools are required to teach English. We come in and teach about an American holiday and teach a few English songs. Meanwhile, we give them the true reason for Christmas, a Gospel message, and the same songs in Thai. We are able to give every student a Genesis/John/Romans, tracts, and a snack. We are hoping to open a Bible College here to train and equip Christian leaders. We would like to expand the correspondence Bible course ministry as well. There are so many things to do!
Please continue to pray for Light Baptist Church, the Thai people to know the Lord, and our health and strength to keep everything going! We are currently at 70% of our needed support, but God has supplied all of our needs and we just scaled everything down to what we can afford to do. As God supplies, we endeavor to push forward to reach more than ever with the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.