A while back, a brother asked me if I would like to share my story…an outline of my walk through life to where I am now. How can I put into words all the emotions felt along the trail to this moment…right now? How can I explain the countless conflicts and battles leading up to this point? How can I explain the highs, the lows, the sorrow and more importantly, the joys I have experienced ever since inviting Christ into my life? Since there is no way of conveying my thoughts/feelings/emotions, I will stick to a basic outline and pray you can understand.
Before I start, I want to make it clear that this is my story. The things I share I do so because of the effect they had on my life. I do not judge or condemn anyone who might have different views. I ask that you respectfully do the same. There will be some things in my past that I will share that are very dark; it’s not my intention to glorify satan but I have to share them for the sake of knowing what I’ve come out of.
Although I grew up in a Hutterite “colony” where there was every opportunity to accept the saving power of Jesus Christ, I never accepted it. Quite frankly, I wanted nothing to do with it. Satan got ahold of my life at a very early age. This was not because of a lack of anything my parents or teachers did. This was because I was a natural born sinner.
My parents loved me very much and tried the best they knew how to raise me with a knowledge of God and the Bible. Mom was always the firecracker of the family. No matter how upset or mad I was she could always make me laugh. My father is the most peculiar and loving man I know. I have zero memories of him getting angry or beating me like some of my friend’s dads did. When I’d get in trouble and got a spanking from him, I’d see the pain in his eyes from having to do it. He’d plead with us “zu kola fulgn.”
The same goes for the schul lehra (teacher) in my life. He too was of a kind and laid-back spirit—doing the best he knew how in keeping us kids in line and teaching us the precepts of God’s Holy Word. I honestly felt sorry for him at times, watching him do what he had to when a punishment was deserved.
I’m not sure at what point satan completely took over. I imagine it was sometime during my early teen years. During my whole life as a teenager in the colony I had one mission and that was to leave. I developed a hatred for any type of authority including my loving parents. I’d lie and tell people whatever they wanted to hear to avoid conflict. This became a habit and eventually part of my character for many years.
Looking back now I can say that by the time I left the colony at 17 I was fully controlled by satan. There was not one thought or connection to God that I’m aware of. I could go into details about the things I did, but you can use your imagination. I came to hate being sober, and did every stimulant and drug I could get my hands on. My life consisted of a continuous circle of drugs, women, sex, partying and crime to support my growing habits.
I imagine at this point satan was certain I’d be his for life. My life was like a freight train of sin barreling for a cliff. Looking back, those years seem like a blur. I remember some faces, some places, and some details. It is by the grace of God that I never died or got killed during those years.
Eventually I hit rock bottom and I believe that’s what made me finally realize what I had done, who I’d become and to look to God for help. My wife was taking the kids and leaving for the last time. It wouldn’t be long before the bank would come take the farm and I was in debt deeper than I thought possible to ever come out. There are things I was guilty of at this point for which I knew I deserved nothing less than life in prison. I don’t know why it didn’t bother me before; if it did I brushed it off. Now it hit me like a sack of bricks.
I came home and got on my knees in a dark part of the yard out of sight and just wept. I don’t know if my voice called on God but my heart did. I was horrified at who I had become.
Sitting here now writing this reminds me of a scripture from Lamentations 3:54-59: Waters flowed over mine head; then I said, I am cut off. I called upon thy name, O Lord, out of the low dungeon. Thou hast heard my voice: hide not thine ear at my breathing, at my cry. Thou drewest near in the day that I called upon thee: thou saidst, Fear not. O Lord, thou hast pleaded the causes of my soul; thou hast redeemed my life. O Lord, thou hast seen my wrong: judge thou my cause.
God heard my cry and by His grace started me on a most wonderful journey. The first thing that happened was the courage to come clean to my wife about my meth addiction. I won’t burden you with the details but I can tell you that by the grace of God I became sober. If you have never overcome a hard core addiction then no words can describe to you the miracle of a victory like that.
A hard thing for me at the time was knowing I would lose my acquaintances..and I did. All of them. I made new friends though. A local pastor had reached out to me and sparked my interest in getting back to the Bible and going to church again.
I remember that the first time I went to an “English” church I felt extremely uncomfortable and out of place. But on the wall behind the podium hung a huge banner with words that jumped out at me immediately as I saw them. “I have called you by name, you are mine” (Isaiah. 43:1).
Then the battle began. Satan did not want to give up. He kept trying to tell me that I could never be forgiven for the horrors I’d done, that because of my sins God had long forsaken me, that God has condemned me to burn in hell, that all these victories in my life were just part of “growing up” and had nothing to do with God, that going to church is pointless because it’s not the “colony church.”
These were just some of the few things I’d battle with, and end up finding the answer to his accusations in scripture. As soon as I’d feel the comfort of abolishing one accusation, another would come up. By the way, this is something satan still tries to do to me today. Fortunately for me there is a guide, a light, a map drawn out by God and laid before us that can tell us precisely where we are in life and where we should be headed. It’s called the Bible.
Before long I signed up to do a Wednesday night Bible study with “the guys.” I’ll never forget it. It was a six-week study called Turning Trials To Gold by James MacDonald. We would get together once a week, sit down, do the study, and afterward have supper with some beers and on the way home I’d get stoned (high off marijuana). I justified that since marijuana was natural it wasn’t a sin. Plus, it helped me not lose my temper and sin even more…or so I thought.
Eventually that foothold of satan was also broken off. At the time it may have seemed like not much was happening, but looking back now I realize that link by link satan’s chains on my life were being clipped away by the grace of God. After the marijuana, went my cigarettes. I had been a smoker since I was 15. Next to go was alcohol. At one point I smashed my hand at work and afterward realized I hadn’t even cursed about it in my head. Curse words used to be part of every sentence out of my mouth. These are just some of the examples easily noticed by my family and others in my life.
You remember I told you that I was deep in debt? For some reason, by filing taxes that year, I got more back then I ever had before and it was just enough to cover all my high interest debt and past due bills with a few dollars left over.
It is Written
The Bible tells us that satan used to be one of the most beautiful creatures in heaven, that he is extremely crafty…so crafty that he convinced a third of the angels in heaven to join him in his rebellion against the authority of God. Scripture tells us that he would deceive almost the entire world, “if it were possible even the elect” (Mark 13:3). The question that arose for me was, How do I know the difference between the voice of satan in my head and that of the Holy Spirit?
There is only one way–by “what is written.” Satan knows scripture as well as the best preacher on earth. He has had thousands of years to practice and knows what tends to work on humans. The Holy Spirit inspired God’s Word and will NOT EVER contradict Himself. It is for that reason that it is so important to know “what is written” in God’s Word—so that we may know the will of God for us in our lives and not be deceived by the enemy.
I quickly learned this knowledge comes with a price. I will not name any of the denominations I went to on this walk, but I will tell you I went to several. Not only did I long to know more about God and His Word I also longed for fellowship. For brothers and sisters to lean on. I longed for a “colony.” At this point of the journey I longed to go back to the Hutterite colony where I grew up, but this wouldn’t have been possible with my “English” wife and three children.
One common theme I noticed amongst the different churches I went to is that they all claimed to have the faith of Jesus yet they were all slightly different. With so many different denominations all claiming to have the truth I was reminded of what Paul wrote to the Corinthians: Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul? For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent (1 Corinthians 1:12-13,19).
It seemed to me everywhere you looked people had built boxes around themselves by placing their hopes of salvation in their church instead of continually looking to Christ for guidance and light. One church that I attended was the church of the pastor who had befriended me after I got sober from meth. Between him and some other men from that church we had become good friends. Every morning for many months, on the way to work I’d stop by his house at 6 am to pray together. We would read the Bible and study together every chance we had.
At the beginning of this story I made it clear that this is my story, my perspective, my walk. Before we continue, I’d like to do so again. I stress this because what I will share next has been the grounds for many a controversy and that is not my intention.
One day we were studying the Ten Commandments. In Revelation chapter 12 and chapter 14 are two of my favorite verses describing God’s people in the last days. It says: “And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.” And then: “Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.”
Upon investigation it didn’t take long for me to realize that all Christians claim to have the faith of Jesus (biblically or not)…but not all of them choose to keep the commandments of God. This pastor pointed out to me that there is one commandment out of the ten that indeed almost the whole world (including us Hutterites) has forgotten about. Ironically it’s the only commandment that starts with the word “remember.” This commandment has been changed by “man” and is now held by tradition without any authority from the Bible. I realize these are strong words. If this is news to you, it won’t take much research for you to understand what I mean and why I say it.
It became an issue for me. We studied it together and both came to the same conclusion of the truth. That’s as far as he wanted to go though, and that hurt me deeply. I wasn’t ok with just knowing the truth–I wanted to follow it. The way I saw it, I could choose to follow the truth that I’d learned and if it didn’t matter to God then I wasn’t out anything…but if it did matter to God and I was to reject it, I’d be out everything.
1 John 5:2-3 says: By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.
After doing a lot of praying I finally asked this pastor if he knew of any church that chooses to keep all the Ten Commandments of God and has the faith of Jesus Christ. He told me where to go and I did. I started studying and going to church with these people and it didn’t take me long to decide that this is where I was going to stay.
This decision also came at a price. Once again I lost all my friends…even the pastor. Because I went to this church I was made fun of at work also. But I didn’t let it bother me too long. Jesus’ promise was, ” Lo I am with you always, even unto the end of the earth” and “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake”. Instead of friends in the churches before, here I now had family. The love amongst these people for Jesus, the Bible and each other reminded me of only one other place–the colony. Although they didn’t live in a closed off community, there was more fellowship, community and love amongst them then I’d ever experienced before, even in my own colony where I grew up (this I say with love and respect, realizing also that not all colonies are the same).
It was here also I began to learn the importance of outreach and different ways of sharing the gospel with not only those around us but around the world. As followers of Christ it is our duty to seek out and share the gospel with the lost.
In March of 2019 I got baptized there—not for the sake of becoming just another church member but for the sake of proclaiming my acceptance of Jesus Christ as my Savior. My allegiance is to Him and Him alone.
Redemption and community
There is one story I’d like to share about the day I got baptized. For many weeks leading up to this decision I kept being convicted of all the horrible things I had done and the countless people I had hurt for so many years. I tried the best I could to make right what I could and apologize to the people I had hurt.
One of those people was a person by the name of Marvin Hoffman. I had broken into his farmhouse and stolen jewelry and some other things. The thought of going to face him and admit to what I had done troubled me deeply. I couldn’t muster the courage to do it, but knew I had to. The day came that I was to be baptized and guess who was there. Marvin Hoffman came that day. He had never been to that church before and hasn’t been back since. When I saw him my stomach did a flip. When I asked him what made him come, he said he was just driving through town, saw all the vehicles and decided to stop. He had no idea I was getting baptized that day. When I told him afterward what I had done we were both crying and have become good friends since.
There are many more such stories I could share. Within me there is a passion to share the gospel of Jesus Christ and Bible truth wherever I go, although I fail at this many times. The battle is far from over.
It wouldn’t be right to end this without sharing about my wife. She is the strongest woman I know. For what she put up with from me and the pain I put her through, she stuck by me without fail. I hurt her in every way possible and she never left. She never cared much for going to church or the study of scripture but I can now plainly see that battle starting within her. My wife is now going through the same battle with satan I did. She has seen the changes in me from the beginning to now. I’m fully confident the day will come where she too will accept Christ as her Lord and Savior.
A different world
I look at the world differently now. We are nothing but strangers in a foreign land looking forward to going home. None of us knows how much time we have on this earth but if we, from now on, make every minute count that’s all the time we need. It is written in Hebrews 3:15: “To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation.”
I pray that this story might inspire you to invite Christ into your life–no matter where you are or what situation you are in—and follow Him. There is nothing that is so dark and so deep that cannot be covered by His wonderful grace, love and mercy. There is no situation that He cannot deliver you from.
Study His Word to seek out His will for your short time on earth. Stick to “what is written” and claim His promises for yourself without any doubting. If you call for Him, He will answer for He has promised that He will. I know…He heard me.
Christopher Hofer is a member of the Lehr Seventh-day Adventist Church in North Dakota.