From Gambling To God
"I had loving parents growing up. Mom taught me about God and how to pray at a young age. Dad always had time to play different sports with us and saw all our games even after long hours of work although he never had time for God. We would say, “If Dad’s not going why do we have to go?” Then many times we wouldn’t go. After years of trying to get us to go as a family, Mom stopped trying.
I was in and out of different neighborhood churches. I knew about God at an early age, but never had a personal relationship with Him. I thought about it a lot as a teenager. When I graduated high school and was away from family, I read my Bible at times, but stopped because I was living for the world.
I had a serious gambling problem for about 35 years. My grandfather taught me how to play poker at the age of five. I was instantly hooked. At first it was just for pennies, but for a five-year-old a pocket full of pennies seemed like lots of money. As I became older, we played for more money. I made bets on ball games with anyone who would. Dad told me not to bet, but I would anyways.
I could not wait to turn 21 so I could gamble in casinos. That’s when the addiction became really bad. I didn’t drink or do drugs, so I didn’t think I was doing anything wrong or hurting anyone. It sure hurt my wallet though. I was gambling anyway possible, making huge bets on sports, lottery tickets, and going to casinos. Even though I lost a lot of money I would tell myself that I could win it back next time. But that would not happen. The debt just piled up.
I lived in California and took many, many bus trips to Nevada: Las Vegas, Reno, Laughlin. I was so addicted I rode my bicycle to Table Mountain, a casino 28 miles from home, in the middle of summer in over 100-degree weather.
I kept telling myself throughout all that I was doing, I needed to get baptized so I could be saved. I thought that’s all I needed to do. Being baptized did not change my behavior or my way of living. I was still living for the world.
When I traveled to Nevada, I would not open the drawers in the hotel rooms because I knew there was a Bible and I did not want to feel convicted. Throughout this, I knew I needed to get back into church. At the same time I thought I was too messed up for God to love me. I kept asking myself, “What if I died tomorrow without having a relationship with Jesus?” My mother kept telling me I needed to get back into church, but I kept putting it off.
Since I was not doing anything about it, God brought Heather into my life. I was living in a five-bedroom house for years where the owner rented the rooms. One day Heather knocked at the door interested in renting one of the rooms. She moved into the house. We had conversations, and she told me she went to church with The Salvation Army. My first response was, “The Salvation Army has a church?” Every Sunday, she invited me to church, but I always had an excuse not to go and would say, “Maybe another time.”
During different conversations we had, she mentioned if she ever got married her husband would have to be a Christian. After knowing each other for over two years we started dating. Then the thought really hit me. If I wanted to keep dating her, I would have to start going back to church. No more excuses.
In 2006, I went to a Salvation Army for the first time. It did not take long to start going every Sunday and eventually every Wednesday as well. God used Heather to get me back in church. I never stop thanking Him. Who knows where or what I would be today if it wasn’t for God bringing Heather into my life?
I started going to church again, but I still had my gambling addiction. One day I told Heather, “I don’t think I could become a soldier because I couldn’t ever give up gambling.” Her response to that, “What if God convicts you?” That’s all she said. I replied, “If that happens, we will deal with that then.” In the meantime, I still gambled.
About two months before our wedding God spoke to me in a dream. At first, I was scared about the dream. After talking with our corps officers, we decided that this was God convicting me. Since that dream 15 years ago I have been gambling free without any rehab, thanks to God and Heather.
I now have a personal relationship with Jesus, am a soldier in The Salvation Army, and moved across the country to work for The Salvation Army. I have a whole different outlook on money. Instead of throwing money away and being greedy for more, I am content with what I have. I tithe faithfully. For years, at our corps in California I was Stewardship Secretary, in charge of the offering. Now I speak about tithes and offerings at the Atlanta International Corps. I now have the love for God instead of money and pray that my dad and all my family will have love for Him as well.
Don’t give up on God because He never gives up on you! With God’s help, you can get through any addiction problem you may be facing in your life. Put God first in your life and see what He can do for you. Nothing is impossible with God!"