Baptism Story

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Troy’s Baptism Story

What’s my story? In 2015 I was baptized as a Christian, but why?  The journey to that point seems so simple, started going to church with the family, liked what I was hearing, took a leap of faith.  Pretty straight forward, but it takes a lot to get to that point, the point where you realize everything up to that point has taken place for you.  The path and the journey is just as important as the finish line.  Then when you get there you realize you’ve been walking not to get to the finish line but to get to the starting line.  So, back to my question, what’s my story and why did I get baptized?  The truth is complicated, but here we go.

I was born, a miracle in itself, but it happened in December of 1976.  My father was in the Army and working for NATO in Belgium, that’s where I was born.  Both my mother and father grew up Methodist in a small farming community in rural Indiana.  A few years after I was born my parents moved back to that small town and began to raise their family.  We were not wealthy by any means, my father took a job at GTE (Verizon) at entry level and my mother worked at the retirement home, the United Methodist Memorial Home.  We lived in a rented house in the country and watched Star Trek on a twelve inch black and white television.  My mother worked third shift, my father would drop off my brother and I at 6am every morning at the “Home” so my mom could get us after she got off.  We would sleep in the back of the wood paneled station wagon my mom drove and my dad would drive to Ft. Wayne in his Ford Pinto.

Every Sunday we would get up and put on our best and head to church.  Dillman Church, build in the 1800’s, it was the quintessential small town, white washed, steeple bell, stain glassed windowed country church.  It always screamed little house on the prairie, but charming none the less.  I would always sleep during service and never paid too much attention during Sunday school, but it was a ritual I knew I had to partake in.  When I became a “pre-teen” I really started to engage in my church.  Pastor Steve was a big influence in my life at that time.  He was engaged with the youth of the church, he was young (early 30’s) and played guitar during service sometimes.  He knew everybody and had a real caring approach to all who attended the church.  He seemed very laid back, not judgey, and a joy to listen to.  I really liked Pastor Steve, pardon the absence of a last name, it was a long time ago.  When Pastor Steve left the church I was heartbroken, his replacement was old, smelled funny and the first sermon was about money (the dreaded sermon).  I quickly became unengaged and turned my back on the church in anger, my parents soon followed with the same feelings (I’m assuming),

As my “pre-teen” years turned into full blown teen years things in my life started to change.  I started hanging out with the wrong people, drinking, smoking pot, stealing cars, you know, teenage stuff.  After being arrested and going to a court ordered alcohol abuse support group as a fifteen year old, I hit rock bottom.  My walk away from God was more of a sprint at that point in my life.

Luckily my father got transferred to Tampa Florida and at age 16, and I found myself with a chance at a new start.   Three months after moving to Tampa I met Tania (my wife) and then things really  starting to change in my life.  I wanted to be a better person for her.

Religion was still not a part of my life, well it was, but I didn’t know it.  God has the greatest hindsight, and we’ll get to all of that soon enough.  I felt myself slowing down my walk away from God, the part of your life when you say, “I’m going to do better”, “I’m going to be a better person”.

My senior year of high school, a few months away from graduation, Tania got pregnant with our daughter, Justine.  We got married a year after she was born and things in my life were pretty good.  But it was a lot, a lot for a 20 year old, and I was not content with standing still.  I started running away from God again, this time in a more destructive and violent manner.

I was struggling with alcohol, abandoned my family and started to associate with vampires.  I was torn, battered and bruised and hit rock bottom again.  I had to turn my life around, I had no place to live, my bank account was empty, my credit cards maxed out and my family was gone.  I begged for forgiveness from Tania, and after almost a year, she took me back in.  Again, I stopped running and slowed down my walk away from God.  I didn’t know it at the time, but he was pursuing me and never stopped, even in my darkest hour, he never stopped.  I figured out years later, at the darkest and lowest point in your life there are two people with you.  God and the Devil, but only one will stay with you, pursue you, forgive you and give you new life.  The other will abandon you, put negative thoughts in your mind and leave you for dead.  God lifts you up, Satan gives you up.

My family and I moved to Ohio in 2005, we had our son Nathan here and soon became very connected to the community.  Religion and God were still not part of our family, we just didn’t talk about it, and that was fine with me.  I worked hard, Tania worked hard and we enjoyed our family and our friends.  In 2009 we opened Troy’s Cafe, one of the hardest things we had ever done.  We tried our best to do things right and become good responsible employers and a good representation for our community.

When our daughter was in High School she expressed interest in a church that met in her auditorium on Sunday mornings.  She went a few times, bringing my mother once, and then my wife.  She said she wanted to go to Guatemala with the church, I then had to step in.  My first experience with New Life Chapel was at the home of Neil and Tiffany Schmitz.  A Guatemala meeting, l was skeptical.  Then when Tania started attending regularly I wanted to make sure she wasn’t joining a cult or something worse.  My first time to church, I stood, I clapped with the songs, I listened to Lonnie {Lonnie Snell is the Pastor at New Life Chapel in West Chester Ohio) and I gave my stamp of approval for my family to continue to go.  (still thought Lonnie might be starting a cult, just saying)

On a particular Sunday, I slept in while everyone else in my house got ready for church.  After they left I got up, turned on the TV, and began to settle in to a Sunday morning routine.  For some reason I took the day off from the Cafe, not sure why or how but I was home.  Noon had passed and still no family, I tried to call, no answer, I started to get worried, then upset, then angry.  After some time the garage opened and in came a laughing, smiling, happy trio and my anger boiled over.  I yelled and complained “where have you been?”.   The response was telling, “We always go out for brunch after church, you’re usually never home so we didn’t think to invite you.”  Two weeks later we decided to close the Cafe on Sunday’s so we could spend more time with our families.

I started to attend church every Sunday, and yes, at first it was so I could be included in the brunch outing.  I listened to the music, clapped my hands, listened to Lonnie and started to take in the message.  (Lonnie is not starting a cult) Every week it seemed like he had picked out the sermon just for me and then one sermon in particular got me thinking.  It was the sermon about Samson and his walk away from God.  No matter how many steps he took away from God all he needed to do is stop and turn around.  I knew were my feet had taken me and I knew that it was time to turn around.

At the end of June, a week before the 4th of July, 2014 we had gone to Detroit for my nieces first birthday party.  I had one beer and a half of another one before I started to feel bad.  I had a pressure building up in my abdomen that was aching and painful.  I had excused myself from the party and laid down for a while.  We headed home a short time later, my pain was increasing, and the next day it had become unbearable.  We went to the hospital and I was diagnosed with Pancreatitis.  This is where it gets good.

Two months earlier we were securing a loan from the SBA for our second location,  a stipulation was that we needed to carry life insurance just in case something happened to one of us.  During the application process for the life insurance  we needed to get blood drawn and our blood pressure taken.  An older gentlemen came to the Cafe one afternoon to do the test, no worries right?  My blood pressure was skyrocketing, 175/110 I believe.  He then took the blood pressure cup, put it on himself and wrote down that number.  This is what he said to me “If I put down your number you would never get coverage, let me make a deal with you, I’ll put down my number and you get on the phone and make a doctor’s appointment right now.”  I did and two days later got on blood pressure medicine.

When I reached the ER for my Pancreatitis my blood pressure was 180/115.  I was asked if I had taken my blood pressure medicine that day, yes I did, and then the nurse shook her head.   I know in my heart , pardon the pun, that if I wasn’t on blood pressure medicine that I would have had a stroke or worse.  Part of Pancreatitis is elevated blood pressure from the pain and infection, it would have been bad.

I spent 4 days in the hospital and another 3 days on bed rest at home.  In that time, Kent and Jordan Humphrey came to visit me.  I realized at that point what the church was, and my life was forever changed.

God’s hindsight is incredible, what brought me to that point was incredible, and what has happened since then is incredible.  Recap, My walk away from God as a young person (I think) influenced my fathers decision to move to Tampa.  The new start led me to my wife who had our daughter to took us to church.  Closing on Sundays helped us focus on our business which led us to expand.  That expansion meant we had to get our life insurance, and a stranger lied for me to save my life.  For all I know that guy was an angel, and when I get to heaven I want to shake his hand and say thank you.  And when I was in pain and needed a sign, my church showed up and basically said “we see you walking towards us, don’t stop”.

I can never forget, the Devil will test you.  When I was in the hospital, in so much pain, I was given heavy narcotics and prescribed percocet.  My pain stayed with me for a long time after I was sent home but the pain medication stayed with me even longer.  I had phantom pains, some so extreme I would go to the hospital.  Every time, I could get my prescriptions refilled, and every time I could feel myself turning to walk away again.  I eventually started to come off the pills, first slowly and then all at once.  My pains had subsided and the availability of prescriptions drugs became less accessible.  But I could see how someone could follow this path and get into heavier drugs.

A few months later one of our employees crashed his car on the way to work.  I’m taking liberties of telling this story only because I think God was working some miracles here.  Jeremy died on the scene that day, a police officer who was first arrived administer Narcan and was able to revive him.  Jeremy had taken a hit of Heroin before getting into his car that day and blacked out wrapping the front end of his Camry into a utility pole in front of St. Anne’s church on Taylorsville Rd in West Chester Ohio.  The officer said if he would have impacted just a few more inches to the driver’s side that he would have died twice that day.

In the next couple days Jeremy confided in Tania and I about his struggles with drugs, depression, abandonment and how he was going to take his own life that day.  I couldn’t help to think that God had placed some angels in Jeremy’s path that day.  In my mind I saw angels pushing his car over that couple of inches, or an angel putting that Narcan in the offices car who was first to respond.  Or the fact that he wrecked in front of a church, that had to be done by angels.

A few days after the accident I wrote this letter to him.

“I want to invite you to church but I know it’s the last thing you want to hear right now.  I thought about it and I don’t care, no time is the right time to invite you to church, I just have to do it.  If I wait any longer something might happen and I couldn’t live with myself knowing that church might have changed how you feel about your life.  I know you might not believe in Jesus or God and that’s fine, you don’t have to.  Church isn’t about either of those, it’s about you, church is about you.  You see, God doesn’t need you to believe in him to go to church because he already believes in you.” “I know church can be a place that you feel you don’t belong.  Trust me, I know how you feel.  In the beginning I thought I didn’t belong, a non-believer in a room full of Christians with all the answers.  I was wrong though, I was in a room of people who had the same questions I did.  You don’t go to church because you know the answer you go because you have questions.  You have to know your questions are not ignored and some answers are hard to take but that someone is there to listen, that’s what church is.” “I’ve been praying for you, and I can understand that praying is something you might not know about.  It’s a scary thing to do, put your problems, worries, fears out there and hope that something changes.  And how can you pray for others if you have so much going on inside that you need help with.  You think, is this worth even doing, if I don’t believe in God than how can he answer my prayers?  Or maybe you’ve tried prayer before and it wasn’t answered.  To me, God doesn’t directly answer your prayers, he puts people or things in your path that help you heal.  When I prayed for you I think god was telling me that the answer is that I need to step in the path of your life.  I might not have the answers you need, I might not be your healer, but I can be the person who invites you to the place were all these things can start.” “So, I’m going to invite you to church, and I pray that you will say yes.”

God does things in his own time, it took me 25 years of walking away from God to turn around and start walking back.  They call them trials and tribulations because it’s all for a reason, to prepare you for what he has waiting.  If I hadn’t gone through the struggles with pain killers and didn’t see how someone could be led into heroin then I might not have been sympathetic to Jeremy’s situation.  God spoke into me and gave me the strength to give him that note.  When Jeremy walked over the bridge on Easter Sunday, I cried like a baby.

So, yes, it’s more complicated than just going to church with my family and liking it so I decided to be baptized.  This was an emotional journey that took 37 years to decide.  And as I grow stronger and keep walking I become more aware and more enlightened.

My description of being baptized. “I covered my nerves that day by overly parenting Nathan.  Making sure he was okay every 2.5 minutes and checking to see if my shorts were on tight enough.  The last thing anyone wants to see is my butt when getting out of the pool.  From the time we hit the stage to the time I was in the water is all a blur.  My mind had discovered it’s blank spots and I completely became unaware that there was an audience.  I still have no idea what Lonnie said to me or what I was doing, until I was asked to except Jesus as my savior, I said yes and then went under.  When you get baptized the total time under water is less than 2 seconds, but it felt like eternity.  My life flashed before my eyes, the picture of my family became clearer and I felt weightless.  I felt like I wasn’t in the pool, I felt like I was above it.  I did not feel wet, I felt dry and looking down at myself getting baptized.  When I came up I took the biggest deepest breath I had ever taken.   Eight years of swimming lessons, I can swim a half a lap in an Olympic sized pool without coming up for air.  I’m literally the best swimmer I know.  I don’t smoke and I can hold my breath for over a minute.  So why then in less than 2 seconds I felt like I hadn’t taken a breath before in my life?  After getting dry and dressed and setting with my family I realized that today would forever change my life, I had got to the starting line.”

,Troy Meyers