"The [drug rehab] clinic even called to ask why [my brother] didn't come in for his next methadone appointment, and he told them that Jesus saved him. They didn't believe him, but it was true. That was seven years ago, and he's never had to go back to drugs."
When Jim and I were first married I prayed often, and God would answer me. Those were happy days. For the first time in my life, I began to find God through the words of the Bible. I really began to know him and would sing songs and pray to him as a natural part of my life.
But somewhere during those first years, between giving birth to four children, watching Jim become more involved in his job, and finding that life had been getting busier and busier, I began to feel more alone. I actually became afraid of people, until this fear grew so much that it became a monster in my life.
During this time I stopped reading the Bible. I hardly ever prayed anymore. I seemed so busy with the kids and everything. My days went by so fast that I never thought about God. After a while, when I tried to reach out to people, I'd find myself paralyzed with fear. The more I tried, the worse it got. Whenever I forced myself to go to coffee klatches in the neighborhood, I ended up worse. At Jim's company parties I would hang on to him for dear life; I was so terrified of people. A trip to the shopping center would make me cry — all the people there, I'd be so frightened. Or Jim would take me to the movies, and I'd walk into the back of the theater and see all the people and be frightened to death. We'd have to sit in the back, and I'd be torn with anxiety through the whole movie. It was really hard for me, and for him.
That was one trial. The second hit us at the same time and involved my younger brother David.
I was always very close to David. When he was just a baby I'd take turns with Mom rocking him at night. For his birthday I'd help buy baby clothes for him. He was very special. Our family never showed much emotion when I was growing up; we didn't hug or demonstrate our love. But when David came into the house, he brought out that show of love from everyone. A baby really brings out love, and that's what David had always meant to me. He came into my life as a source of love.
Now, at the same time that I had begun to feel so alone and afraid of people, David came to stay with us - for a few days. He was just a teenager, but he had become a heroin addict.
I was crushed for him. When he was in the ninth grade he had been an A-student, president of his class. He was on the student council, an outstanding athlete, who had everything in the world going for him. He seemed so happy at the time. Then, he got hurt playing football, and wasn't able to play any sports. He became disillusioned by the people he thought were his friends — people in the school, in the student government. I think he was disillusioned himself, too. So he started going around with kids who were involved with drugs and gradually got into them himself. Before long he had become a heroin addict. I didn't know what to do, but I wanted so badly to help him.
Finally he overdosed and ended up in the hospital. I went to see him and told him everything I could think of. I told him how much we loved him, that life was hard, but that if he really tried, he could make it. I told him about how Jim had worked hard and succeeded. If only David would do this, he would find happiness too. But nothing I could tell him could meet the needs that he had. I didn't know how deep his needs were. I couldn't see them or fill them.
When he finally got out of the hospital, I invited him to visit again, but he gave excuses. He wouldn't come. We sent him to a rehabilitation center, but it didn't help. The first thing they did was shave his head. Next they put him in a very hard-core group that he didn't feel a part of. Before long he ran away from the center.
A psychologist started to work with him, who was really a kind man. He tried so hard to help. He would even drive out in the middle of the night to sit with David and drive him around. But he couldn't help either.
Then we tried methadone. David went to a clinic and before long was hooked on methadone. He came to see me, and he'd scratch and scratch and sleep on the couch half the day, and he had such a darkness in his eyes. It was a look that really scared me, because it was a death look. He told me that he had overdosed before. The last time, he had prayed repeatedly, "Please God, don't let it be this time." He knew, you see. He knew that he was somehow in death. But he also knew that God was there. Down deep he believed, but he was resisting God.
He claimed he was an atheist, but when he got to that point of death, he would reach out to God. In fact, one time when he overdosed his heart actually stopped beating, and he cried out in his mind, "Oh God, if you're there, please save me," and his heart started beating again. But he still didn't accept God.
About the same time, my sister started going to weekly prayer meetings, and she would talk to me about prayer and the Lord. I resisted going to the meetings because of my fear of people, but I knew that there was also great despair in my heart. I was calling out so hard to God, but I didn't hear any answer. So I prayed secretly, in my own heart; and I told the Lord that if he would really do something for my brother, then I would go to a prayer meeting.
Well, the Lord did. I wouldn't go to a meeting at that point, but my sister took David to one. He just listened that first night, and left without making any commitment, but the next week he went back on his own. Then, after the prayer meeting was over, he went up to be prayed with. The people layed their hands on him and prayed, and he just reached out his arms and said, "Jesus Christ, if you really are the Son of God, please save me." And Jesus saved him. Jesus Christ healed David totally of that long addiction, on the spot. He even healed him of the methadone addiction. He healed him instantly and completely. There was no withdrawal. The death-look went out of eyes and he was totally free, completely healed. The next time I saw him I looked into his eyes and saw life.
The clinic even called to ask why he didn't come in for his next methadone appointment, and he told them that Jesus saved him. They didn't believe him, but it was true. That was seven years ago, and he's never had to go back to drugs. We continually saw the light in his eyes after that, and from that time on it is pure joy to be around him. It was like watching a small child walk again. He was so in love with Jesus. It was like heaven itself to be near him. He said it was as though God had wrapped him in a big blanket and put him in a feather bed, and that he just felt God's love constantly. It was a beautiful experience.
After I saw that, of course, I wanted what he had. I needed it. I had seen the miracle, and now I needed a miracle, because I was still very afraid of people. I had also promised the Lord that I'd go to a prayer meeting, so I did go, though I was still very much afraid. And the Lord touched me there. He blessed me with his presence and he began to change me.
I went to a Life in the Spirit Seminar and was prayed with to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. I really expected the same kind of extraordinary experience at David had, and was somewhat disillusioned when I didn't receive it. But the night I was prayed for, I told the people that I felt I had become part of a family. And I know now that God gave me a loving family of people, so I wouldn't have to be afraid, a family I could go to for love and support.
I was even asked if I would take part in the introductory session before the prayer meetings, where new people are greeted. I was terrified to be asked to meet new people every week, but I said, "Yes." I felt that the Lord was asking me to do this. So from then on, week after week, I would proclaim the good news about Jesus Christ, especially as I had seen it in David's life. And it was in proclaiming this that I was healed and set free. I became very comfortable with people and loved to be with them again.
The more I spoke about Jesus, the freer I became. At first it seemed like the hardest thing in the world to do. But it was God's healing plan for my life.
After that, my faith in God grew steadily. I believed that he wanted to work a miracle in my whole family. My relationship with Jim was not as good as it should have been at that time. The world just seemed to be pulling at us. Jim's work kept demanding more of him at the same time I had been leaning on him for everything. He just couldn't take the pressure. The more I demanded, the more he ran. But now I felt so much trust in God! I was sure that God had a plan for our lives, and that he was working constantly to draw us into that plan. Over the next year I saw again how true the Lord is to his word. Our daughter recommitted her life to the Lord. Then Jim began to share in our prayers and all that God was doing in our lives. All of our children, one by one, took Jesus into their lives in a new and real way.
Life has not always been easy since I've entered into a more personal relationship with Christ, but can really see that new strength is growing in me. He's not just a surface-working God to me anymore. I can remember asking God in the past to make me stronger person, someone with deeper faith, and he's done that. I know now that I couldn't have found the Lord the way I have if I hadn't experienced some of the valleys I've been in. Maybe some people could but I couldn't. He is a miracle-working God, and I love him!
Joan of Royal Oak, Michigan
Age 43 (at the time this story was written in 1980)
married 23 years, 4 children
(Read the story of Joan's husband Jim)
How Wtness.org heard of this story: Bob Ovies, the long-time deacon of the now-closed St. Columban church in Birmingham, Michigan, shared with Bill Griffin, Managing Editor of Wtness.org, a book Bob had edited titled "New Lives". In this book was the story of Joan of Royal Oak, Michigan, who Bob knew personally in 1979 when this story was written, and still knows today. In 2015, Bill contacted Joan, who still lives in Bill's neighborhood. She gave Wtness.org permission to reprint her story.