Giving my testimony is never an easy task. I’m not shy about it, but so many of my friends have warned me to be careful what I disclose. I will warn you up front, I was not a very nice person before God called me to ministry. Far from it. What you are about to read is terrible, but it is also a powerful testimony of God’s love and grace.
I came to Christ at an early age. I’m not sure how old I was, but I clearly remember that night. I was a child and my mother was putting me to bed. She taught me a simple children’s prayer. After I said my prayer I asked her who Jesus was. She explained and I accepted Him, and from that day forward I never lost my faith in His power to redeem me.
My early childhood was rough. My mother was married, but my father was seldom around. He had little interest in his children and on the rare occasion he was home I found myself locked in closets or in a bedroom with my siblings. My mother married when she was 16 and had 4 kids by the time she was 21. She was so young to manage a large family with no support from a husband, but she managed the best she could. She divorced and remarried a good man in 1972, but by that time I had experienced and witnessed things that would lead me down a dark and destructive path.
Many of the things I had experienced I did not feel I could talk about. I had dark secrets I felt I had to maintain and as a result I wasn’t a very sociable child. I had few friends and found it hard to trust people.
At the age of 12 I began smoking cigarettes and getting high with a group of friends before and after school. I was high most days and drinking with my friends on the weekends. Some of my friends were interested in the occult and I studied it out of curiosity, but did not participate. By the time I was 16 I had failing grades in school and a pregnant girlfriend.
I knew deep down that God was not pleased with my behavior, but I also had faith in his power to save me. When I was alone I would sometimes talk to God and at night I would pray that he would forgive me and deliver me from the life I was living.
When I was 17 I decided I would stop using drugs. I had never been in trouble legally or at school, but I wanted to finish High School and knew I couldn’t if I kept getting high. Every day I would commit to staying clean. I would even leave my money at home, but by the end of the day I was high. I finally went to a counselor who helped me get into a treatment program. I spent several months in an inpatient program and was set free from drugs.
Although I was free from drugs, I was not making any progress in school. I wasn’t interested in most classes and didn’t attend. I eventually dropped out and joined the military.
I spent seven years on active duty. During that time I seldom attended church. I did read the Bible, but sporadically. I married during my first enlistment and soon had two more children. During the 5th year of my military career I began to have violent urges that were difficult to control. I eventually went to an emergency room and was admitted to a military hospital for two weeks. I was put on limited duty and was retired from active duty a year later.
After my retirement I entered college studying computer science. My wife was Native American and I started a small business selling Native American jewelry, art, and spiritual items. As a result I met many people who held those spiritual beliefs and learned a great deal about them. I did not convert to the religion; I maintained my faith, but barely.
My wife and I separated during my first year of college. At that time the Lord moved me to discard all of the Native American spiritual items I possessed. I went to speak to a local Pastor and he agreed to help me destroy them.
I returned to college the next term and found myself becoming impulsive and again having a hard time controlling my actions. I did horrible things and could not understand why. I was embarrassed to seek help and often prayed that God would deliver me. Eventually I was arrested on 30 different felony charges including 1st degree criminal sexual conduct. I pled guilty and was sentenced to 10 years probation.
I was released on probation and two years later I married again. My wife was a Methodist, but did not attend services. She was also curious about Tarot Cards and Witchcraft. We had two children. With our expenses and what I paid for child support we could not make ends meet. I began to think about part time businesses and eventually we started an internet marketing and web hosting business.
During this time I began reading my Bible more frequently. I soon discovered TBN on my cable station and started attending an Assembly of God church. I knew God was trying to reach out to me, but I did not know how to hear him. I had been taught as a child to always ask God to forgive me for sin. I believed if I did not and died I would be condemned. God revealed something very different to me as I was reading Galatians.
A few weeks earlier my pastor had told me if I did not tithe I was under a curse. He used the book of Malachi to make his point. I was reading Galatians and these words seemed to scream at me: Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.” I instantly knew I was free. I had no doubt that I was saved, but I was constantly living in fear of forgetting to ask forgiveness for some sin and falling under Gods wrath. I now knew that God did not see any of the things I had done. It gave me hope, and I began to grow.
Shortly after this I was charged with an assault. The charge violated my probation and I was sentenced to prison.
The first year in prison was tough. My wife left me and I had no support from family. I did attend services regularly and continued studying the Bible. As I read the Bible God began to open it up to me. I began to see and understand scripture as I never had before. I had always believed that I would not experience God until after death. God revealed to me that He wanted to know me in this life.
Shortly after my release I began to attend a Lutheran church. I did not agree with all of their doctrine, but I was comfortable there. One Sunday I arrived and noticed there would be an infant baptism. I was going to leave, but the Lord spoke up loud in my head, “Sit down and be quiet!” I immediately sat down and waited for the service to begin.
As the service unfolded one of the elders got up to make announcements. He informed us of missionaries whose truck was destroyed and asked us to pray for their transportation needs to be met. The Lord again spoke in my mind, “Is this what I taught you?” I replied, “No Sir, we are not to pray for something we can do something about.”
The next announcement was to pray for the painless passing of a person with cancer. The person was fighting to survive, but the doctors did not expect a recovery. The Lord again spoke, “Is this what I taught you?” I replied, “No Sir, we should minister healing.”
Finally, as the Baptism was about to occur the pastor quoted Matthew 19:14 to justify the infant baptism, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” The Lord again spoke to me. “It is my business alone who I bring into my church.” I said, “Yes sir.” The Lord then said “Show them”.
“Show them” has been a difficult call to ministry. The Lord did not instruct me to tell people, or teach people, but to show people. Showing people involves doing the work of the Lord in this world. Helping the poor, healing the sick, and living a life that reveals the love of God.
In my life I have done worse things than most. Yet God was patient, forgave me, and delivered me. If God can call me to serve Him, there is nothing in your past that could keep you from receiving His grace and forgiveness. If you have been running from God, feeling you are too evil to be forgiven, I can assure you that you are not. Jesus did not suffer in vain, He suffered for you. Call out to God, admit you have done wrong, ask him to forgive you and to show you the love and grace that can only be found through Jesus.
In the years since God called me to ministry I have experience many amazing things. I have witnessed miraculous healings, survived two tornados that should have killed me, and I continue to grow closer to God and to hear Him more clearly. If God can forgive and use me in ministry He will surely forgive and accept you.
I currently live in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
Rev. Jim Disbrow