Well I was asked by a dear brother and fellow contender to be a contributor to this blog. To be honest this isn’t the sort of thing I usually do, I’m not what one would consider “tech savvy”, and to make matters worse my grammar is horrendous. I would like to begin by first giving thanks to God for the opportunity and privilege to serve Him. Next I would like to thank Ashton for inviting me to step outside of my comfort zone, and lastly to apologize for the numerous typos and crimes against the English language you will all be exposed to at my hand.
I guess it is appropriate to first introduce myself. My name is Joseph Peppers and I am the pastor of a small Southern Baptist Church in Rhinehart Louisiana. I am 32 yrs old and have been in the ministry for a whole of 2 1/2 years. Ashton asked me to begin by sharing my testimony with the good people who frequent this blog, so here it goes.
I guess the best place to begin is in my childhood. At the age of 8 my mother developed a drinking problem. My loving father did everything in his power to protect me , my younger brother, and older sister from the consequences of growing up in a house with an alcoholic. Unfortunately it is impossible to shield children from such a situation. As things progressed my mother’s drinking got more and more out of control, she became violent at times and our house was regularly in turmoil. As the middle child and oldest son I felt it was my duty to protect my siblings from my mother’s fits of rage. My father did everything in his power to fix our broken home but to no avail.
At age 15 my sister got pregnant and had a daughter when she was 16. We now had an infant in the house exposed to all the chaos, and I now felt I had another ward to protect. As children we were exposed to all sorts of things no child should be witness to. Many felt my father should expel my mother from the house in order to protect us, but we as a family were determined to see my mother cured.
As time passed on my mother turned to drugs. It wasn’t long after this my father decided that he had no other choice but to separate from my mother for our protection. My father received full custody of us and my mother moved in with another drug addict. At age 15 I watched cops put my mother in handcuffs and place her in the backseat of a cop car in our front yard because she showed up at the house while my father was at work. As I watched them drive away with her I never imagined that it would be the last time I saw her. She died that night in jail due to drug related complications. At age 15 I watched my mother be lowered into a grave, and all I could think was, “Where was God?”
At age 18 I joined the Louisiana National Guard, and was married to my high school sweetheart. I spent our one year anniversary in Iraq. War was familiar to me, never knowing when everything would bust loose and I would be fighting to survive. I actually flourished in that environment; it was my element. I returned home in 2004, but the effects of war and a troubled childhood remained with me.
Suffering from the effects of PTSD I turned to the same evil that had consumed my mother, alcohol. By this time we also discovered that my wife was unable to have children. This only served to fuel my desire for alcohol. Consequently at the same time I was battling alcohol my sister who now had three children was battling drug addiction. Her daughter was living with her biological father and her youngest son was living with my father and my step mother. She had her middle son with her and her husband. Realizing that she wasn’t able to raise a child my sister sent him to live with us. His name is David and he was 6 years old at the time.
I know what you’re thinking, from a drug addict to an alcoholic isn’t much of an upgrade. Well to be honest I wasn’t involved much in his upbringing for the first few years he was with us. My wonderfully strong and loving wife basically raised him by herself.
At some point we began to attend a small church in our community. Maybe a year after we started attending my wife and I both became children of God. I was still battling with alcohol, and I know what some of you are saying. You can’t be saved and still be a drunk. Well that’s where you are wrong friend. There was a dramatic change in my life at that point. I didn’t put down the bottle just yet but something strange happened. I began to feel an overwhelming sense of conviction for my sin. I decided it was up to me to quit so I could serve God, I was an arrogant little sinner. After a couple of years of stopping and going back to the bottle I was at my breaking point. One night after a huge fight with my wife she got in her car and drove away. She didn’t give up on me but she turned me over to God. About an hour later I saw headlights and thought to myself “Ha! I knew she’d be back.” So in all my drunken glory I burst out the front door looking like something off of an episode of cops only to be face to face with my preacher and a deacon. I realized at that point Just how arrogant I had been towards God. The three of us got on our knees that night and I turned my addiction over to God. I haven’t touched alcohol since.
At the time I was working on a drilling rig and was constantly exposed to drinking and drugs. It soon became evident to me that such an environment was not conducive to my recovery. I hesitated at quitting because the economy was bad and I wasn’t sure if I would be able to find another job. So God solved that problem for me, He stacked my rig and I was laid off. I was unemployed for a solid year, but God provided for me and my family the whole time.
During that period God opened the door for me to go on a mission trip to Honduras. It was on this mission trip that I got my first opportunity to share my testimony and it was my first taste of preaching. Shortly after returning home my pastor, who apparently realized my calling before me, started mentoring me. I fought the call that God had laid on my heart for a while, until one day while filling in for a church who had recently lost their pastor, God confronted me, so to speak, for my disobedience.
I had been filling in more often here and there and I could feel the pull to surrender to the ministry but I ignored it. That morning I stood before those people full of conviction with my notes, but stricken with an inability to string together a coherent sentence. I couldn’t focus, I couldn’t think, and try as I might I couldn’t preach. I realized then that God was telling me that if I didn’t surrender He wasn’t going to use me. It was like when Jeremiah decided he wouldn’t prophesy anymore and the Word was like a fire in his bones trying to escape. I knew I wouldn’t know a minute’s peace until I was obedient. I apologized to the congregation, explained my predicament and surrendered. Many call it surrendering, but I tell people I was beaten into submission and taken hostage by the ministry.
Later on I was asked to take the very church I surrendered in, and I have been there since.
I have left a lot of details out of this testimony, because: 1.) I am terrible at this sort of thing. Typing it out causes me to miss a lot, when speaking it is easier for me to keep up, and 2.) it would turn into a novel instead of a blog if I shared all I have experienced. But I will add a short list of somethings that I missed.
My sister is now clean, saved, and active in church. She is also productive part of her children’s lives. She has an amazing testimony that truly speaks to the power of God. David her son still lives with us and is 16 now, and has truly been a blessing from God.
Unfortunately my younger brother also fell into substance abuse, but is, at this time sober and in a recovery facility for going on 10 months now.
I would like to share with you the “moral” of my story. It is true there have been some serious valleys in my life, even a period of time when I questioned the existence of God. But looking back I realize that it was in those valleys that God prepared me to save me. When asked about my life I tell people that what I went through was necessary for me to be humbled before an almighty God. I would never have looked up, had I not been flat on my back.
Oh yeah and my wife returned that night after my pastor carried off a garbage bag full of whiskey bottles. It’s a good thing he didn’t get pulled over on his way home, that wouldn’t have been easy to explain.
Again I would like to apologize for the lack of flow to this testimony. And if you were to add all the years and time periods mentioned up I can’t guarantee they would match up, many are approximations.