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Read the story of my somewhat winding road to Jesus: From stripping to Scientology to Jesus


From stripping to Scientology to Jesus

I'm just a normal guy. I know, "normal" is a vague word. But I'm truly just an average Joe. Well, my Mama thinks I'm special, but she's biased.

I grew up happy in a family of four. Me, my brother Troy, Ma and Pa. My brother was 11 months older than me, so a lot of people thought we were twins when we were younger. 

Growing up in small town Montezuma, Iowa, USA, we didn't go to church when I was young. In high school I sometimes called myself an atheist. But I wasn't a die-hard. I just didn't want to talk about God because I was ignorant of Him.

There was a short time in my early teen years when I would watch preachers on TV (Pat Robertson and Jimmy Swaggart are two that come to mind). And I remember looking through an old illustrated Bible that I found in my bedroom closet (the same closet where I kept my girly magazines). I was attracted to the drawings in the Bible, but I didn't understand the stories.

I wondered for a short time who Jesus was, but my heathen life was calling me to come out and play. I was too busy having fun to be distracted by God.


Stripping for a living


After high school, I left town and attended art school in Waterloo, Iowa for 2 years. I partied a lot and got my Associates Degree.
The exciting life of a stripper.

Things didn't go so well after graduation from college, and the unimaginable happened - I moved back to my hometown ... and lived with my parents. I love my parents, but this was a low point for me.

There weren't a lot of jobs locally, but I did eventually land one as a stripper. But my boss told me to keep my clothes on while at work.

I worked as a stripper at a local printing company, laying out negatives for books and magazines before they went to press for printing.

I eventually moved up to the art department at the same printing company.

Around that time I got back together with my smokin' hot high school girlfriend. And life was pretty OK for being stuck in my small hometown.


The dreaded early a.m. phone call


My girlfriend and I moved in together.

Early one morning, around 2 or 3 a.m., I got one of those calls you don't want to get at 2 or 3 a.m. My brother Troy had been in a car wreck. He was alive, but was paralyzed. He lost use of his arms and legs. He was 23. Troy died when he was 31 from complications caused by his paralysis.

After his accident, I wanted so badly for him to be healed. So I began to pray constantly to God to heal him. I asked my girlfriend how to properly pray, because she knew more about this stuff than I did.

Eventually I began to feel guilty asking God to heal my brother. I was living with a girl and wasn't married. I was still in my heathen lifestyle. I knew I wasn't right with God. So I moved out of the bedroom and started sleeping on the couch. I was trying to clean up my life so God would hear my prayers and heal my brother.

I soon asked my girlfriend to marry me. She did.

I continued to pray for my brother, but I knew I was still disconnected from God. And I wasn't sure how to get connected.


Stuck in a rut

It was 25 years ago (1991), and I was 22 years old (ah, to be that young again). I was walking back to my desk in the art department at the printing company. Out of nowhere this thought began to hammer in my mind - “Is this all there is to my life - get up, go to work, go home, go to bed, wait for the weekend, then party, and start all over again the next week? Do this over and over and over ... and over and over some more, until I die? What a waste. What’s the point to my life, what’s the purpose? What's my purpose?”

I’d never really thought that deeply about my life before. But when I did, I didn’t see a meaningful purpose.

So I began to look for a satisfying purpose in my life. I pondered this for some time - “What’s the greatest purpose I can find to give my life real meaning?" I eventually came to this conclusion - "I’ll help other people.”

I decided I would try to get into counseling to help people. I'd always been curious about psychology. But I'd recently graduated from college, and I didn’t feel like going back to school.


Captain Ron tries to save me


During this time I'd been reading a book that I bought for my Dad (that he never did read).

The book was Dianetics by L. Ron Hubbard. I'd seen it on TV.
Uhh ... wrong Captain Ron.

I was fascinated by the book and what it claimed Scientology could do for people. Also, they would train me on the job to be a counselor using their techniques. I could become a counselor and help people without having to go back to school. I was in. Meaningful life - here I come!

But I lived in Iowa, and the nearest Church of Scientology was in Kansas City or Minneapolis. I was familiar with Minneapolis, so I began to talk with a lady at that Church over the phone.

We decided to make the move to Minneapolis so I could be a Scientologist.

My wife and I went on a week long trip to the Twin Cities to meet people at the Church and look for a job for her. She found one in a daycare.

I remember the first time I went to the Church. It was located on busy Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis. Members of the church were standing outside the building talking with people passing by. The first time I walked through the door into the Church, a really weird physical feeling came over me. It felt kind of like getting my bell rung when I played football in high school. I stood there dazed for few seconds, not really knowing what to make of it. It was kind of eerie. No one seemed to notice, so I just kept going.  

There he is - the real Captain Ron.
Within a short time of our week-long trip, my new bride and I were headed from small town Iowa to the Twin Cities. I was excited. I think she was a lot less excited. We were leaving both of our families and moving to a place where we knew no one except the lady at the Church I'd been talking with.

I loved the city. I was excited with my new job in Scientology, and I was trying to learn as much as I could. One perk of my job was getting free personal counseling at the Church.

One of my first tasks was cold calling to get people to the Church to get counseling so the church could help people and get money.

My boss took me down to the basement. Nobody worked down there. Just a bunch of empty cubicles. She plopped a 3-inch thick Minneapolis phone book in front of me with a script and told me to start calling and getting people to come in.

I spent several hours doing this for a few days. Nothing. Some people got mad because they were interested in what I had to say until I told them who I was with.

I remember when I was given a tour of the Church, we entered a very nice office with lots of books on very nice bookshelves and a large, fancy desk. I asked whose office this was, and they said it was Ron’s. I hadn’t met Ron yet. I assumed he must be one of the bosses with this nice, huge office. They informed me that Ron was the founder - L. Ron Hubbard. He was dead. They said every Church building has an office ready for him if his spirit decides to visit. “That’s weird,” I thought to myself.

The people who were at the Church, some who had been there for many years, were very dedicated to their mission. And they were paid very little.

But I quickly started to notice some things in my co-workers and bosses that didn’t jive with the claims of Scientology. Some of the leaders who’d been Scientologists for 15 to 20 years would get mad at each other, argue and cuss each other out right in front of everybody. This didn’t jive with the bold claims I'd read in Dianetics. So I began to get a little suspicious and paid a little closer attention to the leaders’ behavior.


My road takes a turn


Tom still doesn't understand why I left.
One day on my lunch break, I walked across the street from the Church to an art store. I began to talk with the lady who was the owner. When I told her I worked at the Church, she became concerned and told me she didn’t trust the people there. She'd met some of them when the Church first moved into the area. She'd done some research on them and gave me the name of a book she read that was written by a former Scientologist. I went to the library and got the book.

I started to read it at the library and was fascinated by the stories I read about how far the Church would go to silence their critics - usually former members. It unnerved me a bit, because I had already seen firsthand the tempers of the people I worked with.

I devoured the book and talked about it with my wife. After a short time I decided not to go back to the Church. They began to call and see what was going on. I told them a little of what I had learned. And that was the end … for now.

All of this had happened in just a few short weeks after moving to the Twin Cities.

My wife had a decent job at the daycare that got us by while I looked for another job.


An unexpected visitor


Shortly after I left Scientology, one night I decided to go to bed early. I usually fell asleep faster while reading a book. So I grabbed the most boring book I could find on our rickety little bookshelf - the Bible. It was my wife’s. A little white King James Bible with her name stamped on it.

I'd tried to read the Bible before and may have made it to Leviticus, but I got nothing out of it. To me it was just another book.

As I settled into our waterbed in our tiny one-bedroom apartment, I opened the Bible and read in Genesis 1, "In the beginning." Those 3 words were all the farther I got before something happened to me I had never experienced. The only way I can explain it is that the light came on in my understanding. And God was the One Who flipped the switch.

After reading “In the beginning” and God turning on the light in my mind, I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt these things that I had not known before - the words in the Bible are God’s words, I can trust them, and I can trust Him. I KNEW I was holding God’s book in my hands.

I just laid there thinking. I was overwhelmed with the new thoughts that were now in my mind, and the new convictions I felt in my heart. I knew God had just visited me, revealed Himself to me, and had done something dramatic and life-changing to me. It was real.


God directs my footsteps to His Son


Image result for late great planet earth I went to the library shortly after God visited me and began to look in the Christian section for something to help me understand the Bible. I checked out Hal Lindsey’s book The Late Great Planet Earth.

What stood out to me through the book was that Lindsey kept talking about the need to have Jesus in my life.

My recent encounter with God was life-changing. But I knew that I didn’t yet know Jesus. How do I get to know Him? Where do I start?

One night shortly after this my wife and I went out to eat in downtown Minneapolis. As we walked along busy Hennepin Avenue looking for a place to go, a man caught my attention. He was standing on the sidewalk with his back against a building. He was handing out booklets and trying to talk with people. He seemed very discouraged to me. People ignored him as he tried to get their attention.

So I walked up to him to see what he was giving away. We didn't talk, but I took one of his small booklets and began to read it. The booklet explained how to know Jesus. Just what I was looking for - and needed.

I read the booklet as I walked with my wife. But I was so captured by what I read that I would stop walking, not realizing that my wife had gotten ahead of me.

God used this short booklet, There is Hope in Jesus , to change my life. I don’t think the booklet’s changed much since the early 90’s.

Side note: A few years later, I met this same man again. He was a professor at the Christian college I attended. He created the booklet and often took students downtown to talk to people about Jesus. He had given out a lot of booklets over the years. He didn't remember giving me one. But when I told him the story, I think he was the happiest man I'd ever seen.

The next morning, I was home alone. I got the booklet and read it again - eager to get as much out of it as I could.
              
The booklet had simple drawings in it to illustrate the message. It talked about me (and everyone else) being sinners. I knew what it said was true. I'd lied. I'd stolen. I drank too much beer. I was often not very nice to my wonderful wife. I'd ignored God pretty much my whole life. I'd done a lot of things that I knew were wrong. And I knew that God knew about all the things I had done wrong in my entire life. I knew I was guilty of sin, and deserved God’s judgment. I knew I deserved the proper payment for my sin - I deserved death.

But there I was, still breathing.

God, Who is very merciful, patient and gracious, hadn’t judged me yet. He hadn't given me what I deserved. He had a better plan for me.

The booklet went on to say how I could be set free from my guilty condition, and be made right with God - forgiven, and delivered from judgment. That sounded pretty good to me.

My sin had to be dealt with. God's solution for me (and everyone else) was, and still is, Jesus. Jesus, as my substitute, had taken my judgment of death that I deserved. He did this for everyone. And God accepted Jesus’ sacrifice on behalf of the whole world.

Jesus paid the price for all sin through His death. He was buried. And He rose from the dead.

The booklet said that I could be saved from my sin and judgment and come into God’s family. If I believed that God raised Jesus from the dead, confessed my sin to God, turned away from my sin and called on the name of Jesus, I could become His child in a very personal way.

It was a no-brainer to me. The deal of a lifetime - too good to be true. But it was true. I was overwhelmed by what Jesus did for me. How could I now know these amazing truths and walk away? I couldn't. I accepted Jesus and God’s awesome gift of hope.

There was a prayer at the end of the booklet that I prayed. I hadn’t prayed much before this. But that morning as I kneeled beside my bed, I prayed the prayer in the booklet and simply talked with God. I was thankful for what Jesus had done for me. I was forgiven by God. All my past sins were wiped away by Him. I recall this being the first time I felt like I truly connected with God.

I remember the simplicity of the moment as I talked with God. There were no angelic choirs belting out hallelujahs. The earth didn't quake. Publisher's Clearing House didn't present me with an oversized trillion-dollar check. I didn't feel all tingly. No tears.

But I had peace with God. And that's priceless.

I got up from my knees and went about the rest of my day.


God took over my brain


Image result for mind control imageThe the next day when I awoke, I sensed something had changed in me.

I remember walking into the bathroom and seeing myself in the mirror and thought, "You don't look any different. Still as handsome as ever."

But something was different inside me.

One issue that I had recently discussed with a relative was the issue of abortion. The Presidential campaign had the hot topic in the news. My relative was pro-life, and I was pro-choice (I really don't think I cared much either way). The day after I kneeled and called on Jesus to deliver me, I awoke with a totally new perspective on the issue. I hadn’t read anything new or heard anything on the TV or radio. God had opened my eyes to see abortion for what it is - murder of an innocent child. It was like He gave me His eyes to look at the issue - like someone handing you their glasses or binoculars so you could see clearly what wasn't so clear before. From that day on I have been adamantly pro-life.

Another thing that God immediately changed in my life, mind, and heart was how I viewed and treated my wife. I had previously taken her for granted and often wasn’t very nice to her. The day after I called on Jesus, God put this thought in my mind and heart - “Your wife is a gift from Me that you don’t deserve. Love her and cherish her.”

That's God's way - giving us good things in life that we don't deserve.

If there’s one person who could verify the transformation God did in me, it’s my wife. She knew full well the old me, and she experienced firsthand the new me. And she liked the new me. I started treating her as she should be treated - as a cherished gift from God.

Another thing God immediately changed in my life was my drinking. My desire for it had left. It wasn’t important to me anymore. Plus it saved me money not buying beer all the time. I don’t think it’s a sin to drink (but it is a sin to get drunk*). But the question is, “Who’s in control, you or the alcohol?”

I later discovered in the Bible that the self-control I now had is one of the incredible benefits of knowing Jesus.

22 God’s Spirit makes us loving, happy, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, 23 gentle, and self-controlled. There is no law against behaving in any of these ways. (Galatians 5 - CEV, Contemporary English Version) 

I didn’t have self-control in regard to alcohol (and many other things) before I called on Jesus. Now I did, thanks to Him and the power He’s given me. Though I drink occasionally, I haven’t been drunk in 25 years. Before this, I would usually drink ‘til the beer was gone, or the money was gone, or it was sleepy time.


The little engine that couldn't


I thought I could, but I couldn't.
Before Jesus came into my life I knew I had stuff I needed to change. And I’d tried to change on my own. I could do it for a short time. But I would always fall back into the rut of doing things I knew I shouldn’t do - like mistreating my wife.

Jesus said in Mark 14:38, "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." That was my life before Jesus - wanting to do the right thing, but too weak to do it consistently.

But God gave me His power to overcome the things I couldn't. I wasn’t able, He was. I was weak, He was strong. I was the little engine that couldn't, He got me over the hill.

I’m still a work-in-progress. And God is still changing me to be more like Jesus.

I can honestly say that He's never let me down. Yeah, I’ve stumbled over the years. But He’s always picked me up, and He’s never given up on me.

The Bible tells me of His plans for me in this life, and the life to come - and His plans are awesome. I’m sure they’ll turn out even better than I can imagine.


Seeing the invisible God


Be patient, you'll get there.
It's said that hindsight is 20/20. In my case it's true. Looking back, I can see God's work in my life, even before I knew Him.

Looking back, I see it was God Who kept me alive when I wrecked my car in high school. I was drinking and driving. The '76 Monte Carlo I was in wasn't as fortunate.
 
Looking back, I see it was God Who showed me that the routine of my life - work, sleep, party, repeat, over and over and over - had no satisfying purpose.

But He had a purpose for me. I initially thought it was to help other people. I didn’t realize at the time that I was the one who needed help. I needed God. Knowing Him was (and still is) God’s ultimate purpose for my life.

Looking back, I see it was Him that led me to move to Minneapolis.

He led me to the art store lady who pointed me to the info I needed on Scientology.

He led me to the man on the street with the booklet that so clearly and simply helped me connect with Jesus.

These are just a handful of the many things in my life where I have seen the hand of God.

Life doesn't always go as we plan. But God still has a plan for you and me. The twisty-turny road of life has a destination.


Those pesky Scientologists


Captain Ron's crew is tenacious.

Shortly after I came to know Jesus, Tom Cruise called me at home and said I owed him money. Well, it wasn't Tom Cruise, but the Scientologists did want money.

After reading the book by the former Scientologist, I was aware of some of their tactics, which included intimidation.

They did call me at home and threatened me not to talk to anyone at the Church. I asked the caller if she was threatening me. She didn’t respond.

A mother and daughter worked at the Church with me. The daughter was about my age, and I think they thought I would try to convince her to leave also. They also said I would have to pay them back for the free therapy I got while I worked there. I told them I met Jesus and that was the end of it. They never called again. 


Life with God is good


God has always been good to me, even before I knew Him. He does this because His love for me will never fail. But I haven’t always been good to Him. When I’m faithless, He’s still faithful.

He’s my awesome Father. And if you don't know Him, He wants to be your awesome Father too. You should meet Him.  

All of the sins in my life were forgiven and washed away by Jesus. Time didn’t magically wash them away, Jesus did. I was clean. I was free. And I still am today. Not because I've become perfect in my living, but because of this,

If we live in the light as He is in the light, we share what we have in God with each other. And the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, makes our lives clean from all sin. (1 John 1:7)

As I walk with Jesus, He keeps me on the right path and out of the mud puddles in life. As I walk with Him I stay clean and free.

Image result for boy in mud puddle image

If I stray, I get muddy. When I do, I must quickly get back on the path with Him so I don't get stuck in the mud.

He's always there to help me get out of the filth of sin if I get off course. And as I grow in my relationship with Him, my straying becomes less frequent.

I've experienced being stuck in the mud, and I've experienced being clean. I like being clean and free.

I’m experiencing the ultimate purpose in life - knowing my heavenly Father and Jesus, my Savior.

With God, this life is not all that I have. I have the hope and the promise from Jesus of resurrection and immortality.

35 ... those who are considered worthy to gain that [other world and that future] age and the resurrection from the dead ... 36  ... they cannot die again, because they are [immortal] like the angels (equal to, angel-like). And they are children of God, being participants in the resurrection. (Like 20, Amplified Bible)

I want you to have this hope too.

So whether you're a serial killer still on the loose (or in jail), or an average Joe sinner like I was, you can find hope in Jesus.

You need Jesus. We all need Jesus.

Jesus wants you to have the hope that's found only in Him.

Come to Him today.


Sincerely,
Wes

P.S. Did you read the booklet?


* Is it a sin to drink beer?


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