My name is John Schroeder. California born, and West Coast raised, I journeyed through abandonment, abuse, near-death experiences, and eventually an encounter with the Almighty God of Biblical proportions. After years of drug abuse, military service, and countless concerts as a recording artist, I was called into ministry and a loving relationship with Jesus Christ.
** - First off... why "J Lynch"? During my time at Job Corps, where I completed high school and studied to be a chef, I played football. I was one of two or three white guys on the field. Due to my childhood and upbringing, I was ridiculously resilient and a little psychotic. The guys started calling me "Lynch" after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Denver Broncos player, also white... and psycho. Some called me "Lynch", others "John Lynch" as that was the NFL players' full name and my first name, and still others called me "J Lynch"... because, I suppose, "John" was tool long a word? LOL
I was born in Gilroy, CA on August 4, 1982 to Cali Jean and Scott Schroeder. Not wanting children, my father literally ran away to Philadelphia, PA, leaving my mother to raise me and my two half-brothers, Paul and Joe. My mother tells me that I taught myself to read and write, apparently by tracing letters on whatever magazines, books, or newspapers I could get my hands on.
From the age of 6 to 15 ½, I lived with my dad, as he jumped from place to place. In total, I attended 23 different schools as a child. I had behavior issues, and some schools refused to work with me. Other times, my dad got in too deep with the wrong people, or lost his job. Sometimes, there was a job opportunity somewhere else, or family that he wanted to be closer to (usually a parasitical arrangement).
My father was a 240 pound Golden-Glove boxer with a serious anger problem and a very short fuse. He was quite fond of all drugs, usually leaning more towards methamphetamines and alcohol, and of course marijuana was always available. At 12 years, having been diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, my father decided that my medication was much better than any drugs he could find on the street, so he decided to try a little experiment. Threatening me with physical trauma, he forced me to smoke marijuana for the first time. I enjoyed it greatly, and inhaling it was very smooth, as opposed to the coughing fits I’d experience when I snuck one of my parents’ cigarettes. We immediately decided this new arrangement was beneficial for both of us, and so my father proceeded to get high on my medication, and he kept me supplied with ample marijuana to keep me somewhat sedated at all times.
The physical abuse I endured during my time with my father was epic. In second grade, I was punched in the face as punishment. Also in second grade, my father woke one morning still drunk from the night before to find me in the living room sitting at the bookcase, perusing for my next book to read. He physically assaulted me the way a father would beat a man that had raped his daughter. He didn’t say a word, he just kicked me, punched me, and stomped on me until I stopped moving. Then he went back to bed. Being thrown into a wall by my throat, or taking heavy blows to various parts of my body was typical of my day-to-day life.
At 15 ½, his marriage disintegrated, and blaming me, he sent me to California to live with my mother. She quickly stopped my medication, as it had stunted my growth. I was 4’11”, and probably the main reason I was picked on and beat up at school much of my life. I was very small, and showing no signs of entering adulthood.
My brother, Joe, was an instructor at a local dojo, teaching Crazy Eagle Style American Kenpo Karate, one of the most brutal martial arts on the planet. Naturally, I gravitated towards him as a role model, and I began my training. My mother was quite supportive of her baby learning to defend himself and gain some sorely needed confidence. Unfortunately, being so small, I’d developed a large chip on my shoulder, and of course there were years of rage stored up from the plethora of abuse I’d received at the hands of men throughout my life. This, combined with my newly found power and invincibility, created a bully.
At 18, an unfortunate school error had left me shy on credits to graduate, and refusing to stop smoking weed in my mother’s house, I found myself on the street. A friend was there for me to keep me company and help me find places to stay where I could eat and sleep. My friend had a problem, though. He was a crystal meth addict. It wasn’t long before he introduced me to the drug, and I too became addicted. With a new affinity for trying new drugs, I wandered from San Jose, to San Francisco, and eventually Sacramento, living on the streets and befriending anyone I met who had access to drugs. I slept on cardboard in bushes, on bus stop benches, under bridges, in fields... you name it. I panhandled for food and cigarettes.
There were two occasions where I was supposed to die, but I didn’t. In San Francisco, a notorious gang stole all my belongings. One of the gang members was a friend of mine, so he took me to their den to retrieve my things. Turns out he didn’t have quite as much clout as I’d hoped, and I ended up toe to toe with their whole gang (maybe 20 people?). I stood up to the biggest of them, toe to toe, and got hit by a guy behind me. I took a couple more shots from the guy to my left and the big dude in front of me. That was enough to summon the beast in me, and I dropped down into my fighting stance… ready. I just happened to look to my right as the leader, who was leaning up against a tree, lifted his shirt to show me the revolver he had tucked in his pants. I put my hands up and backed away slowly. Never had I heard of a person walking away from a conflict with them. They let me. I suppose I earned their respect with my willingness to fight all of them by myself. I guess we’ll never know. I didn’t ask. I counted my blessings and headed for McDonald’s to clean up my face. I hopped a bus to the train station and panhandled until I could afford a train back home. I showed up at my parents' house empty-handed and humbled like never before.
The other time was in Sacramento, and was once again gang related. Several gang members got a good ‘ol fashioned whoopin’ as I was super drunk and belligerent. My friends stood by watching. Good friends, huh? Well the next night, they came looking for me, three carloads deep. And guess who they brought with them? One of my friends! He was calling out my name as they looked around for me. Little did they know, I was behind the bushes watching. Most of them had guns, as they were sticking out of the tops of their pants, and some had them in their hands. I spent probably 20 minutes jumping over bushes, jumping through bushes (ouch!), and rolling under vehicles to avoid being spotted as they circled the area, up and down the streets and in and out of the parking lots where I was. Amazingly, they never saw me, and I escaped with my life.
Just before I turned 20, I overdosed on crank and crack. A friend of mine had robbed a drug dealer. He scored a kilo of crack and crank and had them both on the table in his dining room when I arrived at his house. He told me that as long as I didn’t take any with me, I was free to consume as much as I liked. I sat at his table for 14 hours.
The next day, I was expected to be at work four miles away at Tower Records. I walked. I almost made it, too. I got to the corner where I only needed to cross the street to get to where I was going. As I stood there at the stoplight, I realized something was wrong inside me, and I chose to enter the Lyon’s Restaurant on the corner there. I walked in and sat at the counter. The lady asked me what I’d like, and I told her that I would like an ambulance. She asked if I was serious, and I told her I was. I nearly died. In fact, the paramedic told me that if I had continued walking to Tower Records, instead of calling myself an ambulance like I did, I likely would have died in the Tower Records parking lot before I even got to the actual store… across the street.
After I was released from the hospital, I made my way back to the hotel I was staying at with my boss and his wife. He was quite happy to see that I had survived, and presented me with a gift to celebrate… more crack. It was in that precise moment that I realized this man was not my friend, and I was playing a very dangerous game that just may cost me my life. I packed my things, much to my boss’s confusion, and panhandled on the streets until I had enough for a Greyhound ticket to Reno.
Once in Reno, being homeless lost its luster quickly, as the temperature was much lower, making it difficult and very uncomfortable to sleep outside. Seeking solace, I agreed to enter a Christ-based drug rehabilitation program in downtown Reno known as the Reno-Sparks Gospel Mission. They provided me with a bed, some possessions, and greatly appreciated food. I’d found my home for the foreseeable future, and poured my efforts into becoming sober and acting like the rest of these Christians I found myself surrounded by.
After rehab, I tried to make my life work on my own terms, working various jobs and living in various apartments all over the country. I even attended Job Corps for a short time, half-heartedly pursuing a career as a chef. With a penchant for marijuana and alcohol still, nothing worked out, and I found myself back at my mother’s house in California. I found work painting with my brother, and was getting quite good at it, when one day I was confronted with the option to join the military. Apparently, I had taken the military battery test earlier in life and came very close to acing it. They were very interested, and offered me a lot of money to sign my life away to them.
My basic training was in “Relaxin’” Fort Jackson, South Carolina. A few weeks in, I was diagnosed with shin splints. Hairline fractures in both shins from my knees to my ankles grounded me for a few weeks, and I had to rehab my way back to pass my final physical tests and graduate basic training. Luckily, I could, and I moved on to Advanced Individual Training in Fort Lee, VA, where they taught me to do my job as a Petroleum Supply Specialist (92F).
In AIT, I excelled, and even qualified to go Airborne, meaning that after AIT, I’d go to Fort Benning, GA and learn to jump out of airplanes. Just before graduation, however, I was diagnosed with Acute Plantar Fasciitis in both feet. The muscle fibers in the bottoms of my feet would tear apart as I walked. Sometimes, it was excruciating, and I even remember one time getting stuck in the middle of a crosswalk, as I was physically unable to take another step. This led the Army to cancel my Airborne qualification. I couldn’t run and had to undergo extensive and torturous physical therapy for eight months to recover from that.
At my duty station in Fort Stewart, GA, I made a life for myself drinking and buying everything I set my eyes on. I made friends, I threw parties, and I trained. Lots of training. Guns, fuel missions, weight-lifting, jiu-jitsu, kung fu, and more.
One day, at a party I threw at my own place, I got wasted and began to berate everyone at my party one at a time, to my own delight. No one stepped up to me, as my reputation was well known… that is, until I decided to drop a racial slur on one of my brothers. That incited incredible animosity towards me. I took a punch to the face before my roommate stepped in and physically picked me up and moved me to my bedroom. I fought this isolation and escaped out the window once before he decided to physically detain me in my room. He ended up kicking my shoulder out as I tried to get up off the floor. I suppose he thought I was going to attack him or something. He permanently separated my shoulder from my collarbone with one kick. It’s a good thing he did. Because he was busy detaining me, my drunk buddy outside my room couldn’t get in to shoot me with the gun he’d gone to his room to retrieve. Party guests managed to calm all my friends down, and we all reconciled afterward, but the damage to my shoulder was done. Clearly all my fault.
More rehab, and several months later, we began to prepare for Iraq. Just before we deployed, I received word that my father had passed away. I made my way to Sacramento, CA to take care of his affairs and find out exactly what happened, as no one could give me definitive answers. I was told by family that he had drunk himself to death, but I didn’t believe them. I’d visited him just months earlier, and he was sober. He’d finally undergone neck surgery to fix his neck, and had put away all his vices but smoking cigarettes. Crying, he apologized to me and asked me to forgive him for the years of abuse. We had a good relationship after that, and he told me often that he was proud of me and what I had become. So, yeah… I didn’t buy it. I ordered an autopsy done, arranged for military honors for him, even though he didn’t even make it through basic training in the Army. I later found out that he had gone next door for coffee with his friend, and then returned to his apartment where he had a heart attack and died on the floor. No traces of drugs or alcohol in his system.
That was September 2007. I deployed on Halloween. Come to find out, the Army was supposed to give me at least three months to cope with the loss of my father before sending me off to Iraq. Apparently, the Army isn’t always worried about Army Regulations. I spent two weeks in Kuwait, learning rudimentary Arabic and Iraqi culture. We received some updates on our Anti-Terrorism training, and outlined our mission in Iraq. Then we went in. It was awesome. We flew into Baghdad on a C130, and then took a chinook (two propeller helicopter) to FOB Iskan in Southern Iraq next to the Euphrates River. Our Forward Operating Base was located next to the town of Iskanderiah in an area that had become infamous and named “The Triangle of Death”.
A few months into my deployment, I was almost caught huffing canned air in a headquarters tent while on radio guard. I was asked about it and confessed. I stood before the Lt. Colonel and received three months “hard labor” and was demoted from E-4 Specialist to E-3 Private First Class. I was told that my punishment was very light because I was honest and took responsibility for my actions. I spent the next three months working 20 hour days. I would wake up, shower, get dressed, eat breakfast, and go to work as a fueler. When I got off work, I’d go eat dinner, and then report to Battalion headquarters to fill sandbags for several hours. I was re-promoted shortly after completing my hard labor.
Shortly afterwards, in June, I decided that my job as a fueler was not providing me with the “G.I. Joe” experience I had anticipated in my tour of duty in a combat zone. I didn’t feel like a hero. I didn’t feel prestigious. This wasn’t true, of course, as my job was to drive a fuel truck through combat zones. Basically, it was a giant bomb, just begging to be hit with a rocket-propelled grenade or missile. That’s dangerous. I chose to join “Guntruck” and provide security for those fuel trucks, as well as water, ammunition, food, and personnel as they traveled through Iraq.
My first job in guntruck was driver, so it was my job to learn how to drive a huge up-armored vehicle down dirt roads riddled with potholes (some of which were known to have bombs in them). It was challenging, as hitting any pothole was not just potentially a death sentence for everyone in my truck, but it also slammed the gunner around as he stuck out of the top of the truck. You can imagine that gunners were not happy when you hit a pothole. I also had to be mindful of things on the side of the road, like dead animals, garbage, or even TVs. Any of those things could be hiding explosives in them and could potentially kill everyone in my vehicle.
One day, we received a mission to FOB Kelsey to resupply them with fuel, water, food, etc. We made our way to Company Headquarters to receive our mission brief. In our mission brief, we learned that the road we would be travelling down was incredibly dangerous, as there had been attacks on our convoys recently, and those attacks had all come in two stages. There was an initial explosion, disabling vehicles and leaving the convoy stuck on the road picking up the pieces and trying to save the lives of the soldiers hit by the blast. While this went on, a wave of insurgents would attack the convoy with RPG and gun fire. This news did not breed confidence in us.
As we made our way to FOB Kelsey, we encountered an IED, or an Improvised Explosive Device (a homemade bomb on the road). Later, we would find out that the bomb was a pressure-plate IED. It was two strips of cardboard stretched across the road with wires glued to them and spacers between the wires to prevent them from touching. As a vehicle ran over the pressure plate, the wires would touch, which were connected to a clicker (you know, the kind that you would click with your thumb to count the number of people entering a room? It has numbers on it that increase incrementally as you click the button). The clicker would advance every time a set of tires ran over the pressure plate, and was designed to detonate in the middle of the convoy, doing the most damage possible. Apparently, this bomb was geared up to detonate at my front tires. That would likely kill everyone in my truck.
However, on this day, the truck in front of me was a fuel truck. The resulting detonation would have blown up the fuel truck and probably killed everyone in the entire convoy and all the people on the side of the road. God had different plans that day for us, as the fuel truck in front of me somehow had all four tires perfectly synched up at precisely the right moment, and the pressure plate got stuck in between the tread on all four tires simultaneously. The tires picked up the pressure plate off the road and the pressure plate made its way around a full revolution and was just about to hit the ground again, when the pressure plate got too far away from the device and the wires detached. As the pressure plate hit the ground again and the fuel truck’s tires compressed the cardboard, the wires touched for the last time. The blasting cap blew, but the wires were no longer attached to the bomb.
The resulting explosion was deafening, and blinding, but was all light and noise. No vehicles sustained any damage, and no one was hurt. We were all stunned, of course, and temporarily blinded, at least in my truck, and we immediately stopped. Every vehicle checked its occupants and reported no damage, but we were forced to stay put anyway, as protocol dictated that since something exploded, we had to secure the area long enough for the explosives guys to come out and investigate. Plenty of time for that second wave of attackers. We sat there for what seemed like hours… waiting to die. There is no defense from a rocket or missile, so we all sat there looking around, hoping we would spot them before they got close enough to hit us. It seemed like forever, but no one came to attack us.
Many more things happened in Iraq that I don’t think they would appreciate me talking about, but I turned my life around and was awarded with a Driver’s Badge for my many successful missions with no driving incidents. I was also awarded an Army Commendation Medal and an Army Achievement Medal. My guntruck unit was presented with an honorary plaque congratulating us on our 600+ successful mission in Iraq (I think that number was exaggerated), and we were done.
I flew into Georgia a couple days before Christmas after debriefing in Kuwait for another week. I’d been talking to a girl in Washington, and she agreed to meet me in Reno, NV when I flew in to visit my family and vacation. Kristina met up with my family, and my mom helped her to find something cute to wear she knew I’d like, and they all waited for me at the airport in Reno. I was totally surprised. My nieces and nephew even drew huge pictures and signs welcoming me home as a hero. I’ll never forget the moment I stepped out of the terminal.
Being a typical guy, I was far more interested in this beautiful girl who had dressed up for me, and I wasted no time in whisking her away to begin my vacation. My family was largely unimportant to me, as they had very little to offer me that could trump this 19-year-old all-star soccer girl. I hugged them all, expressed my gratitude, and left them all with my new girlfriend in tow. We were married two weeks later.
I took Kristina back with me to Georgia, and we got a place together in Hinesville, not far from the base. We furnished our new home and built a life together. Unfortunately for her, I was not interested in a wife so much as a cute girl to cook for me and have sex with me whenever I liked. Otherwise, I really preferred her to stay out of my way, giving me the room I needed to play video games and hang out with my friends. She just wanted to spend time with me, as she genuinely liked me, and I had promised her the world. That was the last thing I wanted, so I treated her with disdain, insulting her and degrading her on a regular basis. She was a trophy that I deserved because I was such an amazing war hero.
Truth be told, I was no hero, and I don’t recall doing anything heroic on my combat tour, nor was I amazing. After all, I was caught using drugs and demoted. Arrogance is amazing, as no matter how many times a person screws up, they can still convince themselves that they are the coolest guy on the planet, and people should feel lucky that they get to be around them. That was me to a T.
Not long after we were married, the Army informed me that they were going to let me go. I had sustained more injuries. I had carpal tunnel in both hands from fueling missions, degenerative arthritis in my left knee from jumping onto and off trucks, photosensitivity in my eyes from a concussion, and my wife and I were in a car accident where I sustained great injury to my neck, leaving me with muscle spasms. Add to that my feet, which had fits from time to time, and my shoulder, which I’d reinjured in Iraq and Reno, and the Army had had enough. I argued that there was nothing I could do at home, as they had trained me to be a killer, and that’s what I was good at (although I didn’t kill anyone, I could perform brain surgery with a 50-cal machine gun). They told me they would give me retirement and pay me every month for the rest of my life. I agreed immediately.
Little did I know that my retirement would start off at $800 a month. Kristina and I made our way back to Reno, NV to stay with my family as we both looked for work. After several weeks, neither of us had found work, and Kristina had little reason to stick around and put up with my treatment of her. She told me she wanted to go visit her family in Washington for a couple weeks. I agreed, as I knew what it was like to miss my family. My cousin informed me a few days later that Kristina had no intention of coming back. I drove Kristina to the airport, kissed her, hugged her, and told her good-bye. I’m sure she wondered to herself why I chose to use those words. She broke the news to me a week later, and I told her I knew all along, and thus began the animosity. She had no reason to like me anyway. I had very few good qualities.
I’d started rapping as a meth addict in Sacramento, CA, and my skills had evolved to the point where I was superior to most, and far above anyone in little Reno, NV. I decided to pursue a career as a rapper. I landed a job as a bouncer, and started doing concerts in Reno and Sparks.
Eventually, I was promoted to bartender, and I started taking classes at Truckee Meadows Community College in pursuit of a degree in Computer Information Technology. Unfortunately, I smoked weed constantly, and was unable to keep up with my homework, so I failed most of my classes. Soon after, I lost my job due to a corporate error, and depression hit me like a ton of bricks. I also found myself spending more and more time alone in my apartment, so I started going out once a month to drink and engage other humans.
One night, as I drank and talked with people at a bar in South Reno, the couple I was hanging out with decided to leave and told me they would give me a ride home. After getting into their truck, I realized that they were also drunk, and I stopped the guy from starting the truck. This made the couple very mad. I welcomed him to attack me, as that would make me very happy, but he instead decided to go back to the bar. He told the bartender what was happening, and all three of them came outside to confront me. I began yelling at the three of them, the couple for attempting to drive drunk, and the bartender for serving me far too much alcohol.
I was so busy yelling that I didn’t notice the Washoe County Sheriff attempting to get my attention from behind me. When he realized that I was not responding, he tackled me. That proved to be a very foolish decision, as I immediately rolled onto my back, pulled him into my guard, and headbutt him in the face. It was about that time that I realized he was a police officer. Then I blacked out.
Several days later in court, I was told that the D.A. wanted me to do at least two years in prison, but as I had chosen to represent myself, the judge decided to ask me why I was at that bar, and what happened. I explained about being alone all the time in my apartment, and my attempts to combat it. I told him about the couple and the bartender. I didn’t know that I had hurt anyone. The judge gave me those details, much to my surprise. He decided that it would be better for me to be on probation with U.S. Marshalls and ordered me to go to the local VA hospital to undergo a mental health evaluation. I was diagnosed with PTSD, Major Depression Disorder, and Combat Adjustment Disorder. I completed my one-year probation with the U.S. Marshals, and that was the end of it.
I couldn’t find work, so I lost my apartment and moved in with my late grandma’s boyfriend, Peter, in Cold Springs. I worked for him here and there, and he paid me very well. I also began an affair with his secretary, who was married at the time, and working up the nerve to serve her husband with divorce papers. I spent most of my time smoking synthetic marijuana, playing video games, and making music. I did some more concerts, and my popularity was growing exponentially.
After a few months, I moved out of Peter’s house, and I moved in with my parents just outside of Sparks, NV. They let me put my newly purchased travel trailer in the driveway in their backyard. My music gained so much attention, that I was given the opportunity to headline with biggest hip-hop party of the year, ‘A Nightmare on 4th Street’, a massive Halloween party at a hip-hop club known as the Underground. I had four concerts booked. I was getting attention from girls. I completed my probation. I had a girlfriend. I was happy.
One day, as I lay in my trailer, my girlfriend just driving away from my parent’s house, God spoke to me. Now, when I say that God spoke to me, in this one instance, I really mean that he verbally spoke words I could hear with my ears. He spoke only two words: “It’s time.” It shook my trailer. It shook my bones. I knew what He meant immediately.
My whole life, I was convinced that I was a Christian. Although, I had no interest in anyone talking to me about Jesus, I did grow up going to church, and my parents told me that they were Christians. My grandparents were Christians. I was even baptized when I was 16! I believed that Jesus was God’s Son, and He died on the cross. I believed that He rose from the dead and went back to heaven. I believed all of that. Of course, no one could tell by the way I spoke or acted, but I was nonetheless convinced in my heart that I was fine, and saved.
Within two days, I cancelled all my concerts but the one coming up in a few days (too many people were invested in my being there). I pulled all my music off the internet, deleted my Facebook, and threw away my entire CD collection of Eminem, Lil’ Wayne, etc. I got myself a Bible and started going to church. After reviewing the evidence available to us humans, I confessed with my mouth and believed in my heart that Jesus was who He said He was in the Bible. I surrendered my life to Him and asked Him into my heart to be my Lord (master).
Eventually, I moved out of my parent’s house and moved in with my friend Matt. Around the same time, I began a relationship with a girl I’d met on Facebook, Alicia. I led her to Jesus in my car in front of her house, and she in turn invited me to Thanksgiving with her family. We soon became boyfriend and girlfriend. We did Bible studies together, and she began attending my church, Calvary Chapel Reno/Sparks.
She was an extreme introvert, and with four kids and lots of family, she got virtually no alone time, and spent most our relationship pushing me away. I spent my time starved for affection, pushing her to spend more time with me. I worked, cleaned, cooked, read bedtime stories; everything a good husband would do. We weren’t married, but that didn’t stop us from acting like we were. I asked her to marry me, and she agreed. I ordered a ring for her online, and we were broken up by the time it arrived at my parent’s house.
The relationship was largely unhealthy for both of us, and we struggled to let each other go. We got back together twice. Right around this time, I reached out to Bill and Penny Roullier to see if they had an apartment available. Bill informed me that he had one that would be available in a couple months. He then told me about the church they were planting, with the help of Life Church, and he wondered if I would be willing to come and lead worship for their church. I spoke with my pastor about it, and he gave me his blessing, telling me I should go do it. So, I agreed, and I joined the “core group” that would eventually become Denslowe Community Church. A couple months later, I moved into their apartment complex, less than a block away from their church.
For two and half years, I lived on Denslowe Dr. leading worship for DCC. I engaged one more failed relationship before God told me to stop dating for two years and just pursue Him. I attended a conference in San Diego, CA with my pastor’s family and a friend of mine, Scott, to learn how to make disciples and share the gospel.
In August of 2016, while at work, God brought to my mind Peter. I hadn’t seen him in months, nor had I even thought of him. I immediately felt bad about it, as just a few months earlier, he had given me one of his vehicles. I decided that day to go out to Cold Springs and see what he was up to.
Upon arriving at his house, I found that he had no power and he hadn’t eaten in three days. I began bringing him groceries twice a week, and one day he asked me if I would consider moving in with him. I told him that I would need to speak with my pastor. He told me not to bother, as he knew my pastor would say no to me moving in with a Jewish Atheist. I told him I didn’t think that was true, and he asked me why I thought that. I replied that, “God loves Jewish Atheists”. He asked me how I knew that, and I told him that I knew God. He seemed genuinely surprised by this information.
I spoke with my wise counsel and my pastor, and much to my dismay, they all agreed that I should move out there and help him. Naturally, the next step for me was to decide if the church out there in Cold Springs was the church for me, or if I should stay at DCC. I attended the church once, met the pastor, Tommy Thomas, for lunch, and spoke with my pastor and wise counsel about my findings. I prayed on it quite a bit, and everyone told me that I should go out there and church where I live. We soon decided for me to step down as worship leader, and begin attending Cold Springs Valley Church.
Tommy informed me that they had been praying for a man of God to come to their church and reignite the flame in their men. He also became immediately interested in my discipleship training, and we began talking about starting a discipleship class for the church and intentionally spreading the gospel and making disciples in Cold Springs.
In January of 2017, I began attending Multnomah University in Reno to acquire my Bachelor’s Degree in Bible & Theology. My goal was to push past this and attain my Master’s Degree in Marriage & Family Counseling. I got a 3.0 GPA my first semester and loved it. School is so much better when you love what you're studying. Unfortunately, some of the issues I have from my military service became a problem and school quickly became too much for me to deal with. I had to withdraw for my own sanity. I miss going to school very much.
In February of 2018, I got a call from a family member in Coeur d'Alene, ID asking me to consider moving up there to help him get his life on track. I prayed on it, spoke with my pastor and wise counsel, and even fasted for the first time, and God made it clear that He wanted me to make the move. Currently, I'm playing percussion in our church's worship team, leading a song here and there, leading a men's Bible study Sunday mornings before church, and at one point, was discipling six people. Funny how God works. He called me to this new mission before the church could move forward with creating another worship team for me to lead, and... through several very different situations, I found myself with only one steady disciple... who had gotten through the main curriculum already.
So, now I'm off to Coeur d'Alene, ID. I've never been to Idaho, but I am told that it's very beautiful, get's 3-4x the rain and snow that Reno gets (which is WONDERFUL), and is only 5 hours from Seattle (which I love). Yes, I have to leave my family again, my friends, my church, my church family, and everything I've been working on and all my comfort. However, I also get to be a tool in God's hands to use in the work He wants to do. I couldn't ask for a better job. And God's plan for me is infinitely better than anything I could imagine, so I trust that He will guide me along the way and it will be awesome.
Well, Idaho didn't go as expected. I moved everything I own to where I was supposed to be living and went to sleep. I woke the next morning and drove the long journey back to Reno to return the trailer my pastor had let me borrow. Once there, I was out of money. I pulled all the strings I could over the next couple days but couldn't get more. I was stuck. Confused, I cried out to the Lord. Why had this happened? I did exactly as He had commanded me to. I sacrificed everything in obedience to Him. Even though I did not want to go, and had just begun a relationship, I went anyway. Why all of a sudden did it seem like all roads were blocked for me to get back and start my work in Idaho?
And then the answer came. Everything I knew about my mission to Idaho turned out to be lies. I had to seek wise counsel once more. With everything completely changed, I needed to be sure before I continued any further. All of my wise counsel, including my pastor and my parents were all in agreement. No. Stay home. With nothing. So, there you go. No possible way to continue the mission; the mission itself, now changed, full of deceit and changing the parameters completely; wise counsel all in full agreement that I should not continue. And everything I own in Idaho. Ugh.
It didn't take long for me to see God's plan in motion, however. God had given His word a few years earlier, telling me that (1) my wife would come from within the church, and (2), that I would not date her, because I would have gotten to know her through ministry. A conversation with her parents would tell me how excited they were, as they had been hoping that I would take an interest in their daughter and they thought we should be married "as soon as possible"!?!?
Interestingly enough, here I was, staying on the couch at my parents' house, everything I own in Idaho with no possibility of retrieval, and this amazing girl, now free from marriage (by no fault of her own) and in dire need of support and love. (also note that in her desperate situation, those closest to her in the church had mysteriously withdrawn their assistance... all except for the pastor). She had an apartment she couldn't afford. Everything fell in line. So... we reached out to the Lord in prayer. Pastor friends of ours lent their support and we did a couple different pre-marital counselings simultaneously, all which turned out perfectly, as we had already gotten to know each other so well and we both on the same page simply due to our uncompromising stand on God's word and His designs for marriage. The wedding was set up. The weather was perfect. Offices with paperwork were open. The most important people to us were available to come. A good friend of mine officiated. Done.
Things got flowing rather quickly. We both found jobs immediately. We found a church very close to her downtown apartment. Just so happens that the church that had planted Denslowe was having a grand opening of a new campus just blocks from our place. Perfect! We did try a few churches and were in prayer, but God made it very clear that LifeChurch was the place for us. I met with pastor Bill for lunch and got him up to speed on me, my new family, and... my intentions. No solo ministry for a year. I would dedicate a year to focusing on my marriage with Crystal. No teaching. No worship. Discipleship would move forward with my wife participating, and she would begin her own discipleship with me as well. We could explore my serving the church in a greater capacity later. Making sure our marriage was solid and centered on Christ was the most important. Little did I know how important it would be.