Prior to 1997, I was totally
embedded in the high-level, inner workings of the automotive sales industry.
Believing that we could do no wrong and couldn’t ever be caught, myself and many
others in the industry only concerned ourselves with two thoughts¾make
as much money as possible and give total loyalty to our dealership and
co-workers. Everyone else was the enemy and “fair game.”
But one day my girlfriend talked
me into going to church. I did it for the sole purpose of making her happy.
Our pattern was to arrive late to the service and be the first ones to leave. I
often slept through the majority of the service.
Then one Sunday we arrived to the
service early. Not by design, but because daylight savings had kicked in the
night before. That morning I experienced worship music for the first time,
which touched the depth of my being. This was only the beginning.
As I spent more time with other
church members, my attitudes began to change. Yet, my heart stayed on the
fence, wavering between three important areas: 1) my job and profession, which
was deeply enmeshed in the world of sex, drugs, lies and deception; 2) my new
experiences with church and other believers; and 3) the fact that I was living
with my girlfriend, reading the Bible with her one minute, and enjoying all of
the comforts of a married man the next.
Living on the fence isn’t an easy
thing to get away with for any length of time and I wasn’t doing a very good job
of it, either. It seemed I was making myself a friend or an enemy on every
side. Something had to knock me off the fence, and it finally did.
A young woman I befriended at
church asked me to be with her as she got baptized. It is difficult to explain
what exactly happened in my heart, but when she went under the water and came up
again, I began to cry from the heart and soul. For the first time ever, I cried
for someone else and not myself. It was like I could see God clearly for the
first time. I also experienced a true, pure love for another human being that I
never thought possible.
As a result, the very next day I
took all of my personal records and documents containing fraud, forgeries and
other mass violations of sales practices to the U.S. Secret Service, not knowing
if I would go to jail for the rest of my life. Ironically, for 22 years I had
been an active participant in these deceptive sales practices and now, I was
being asked to help educate them on the intricacies of fraudulent documentation
and how these deceptive trade practices worked. For the next year, I went to
work as an undercover cooperative and have lived on the run ever since.
The catch, however, was that I
could not tell anyone about my arrangement with the U.S. Secret Service, or why
I continued working in the automotive sales industry. To ensure the safety of
the investigation and the people I cared most about, I would have to walk away
from all of them.
To this day, I don’t believe my
friend knows how important her part in my life had become, and still is. Though
I have not seen her since then, she is in my prayers on a daily basis. I want
to thank all of the Christian friends who became part of my life since the day
I stepped into the church in Clearwater, Florida
convincing me to attend that first church. You helped open my eyes.
church music pastor, for introducing me to Jesus through music and song. You
helped open my ears.
assistant church pastor, for teaching me by example how to care for others. You
helped open my soul.
and dear friend, for your strength, honesty and caring. It gave me hope during
the hard times. You helped open the door to believing in others.
church counselor, for three years of life-changing counseling. Thank you most
of all for still being my friend through all of this and instilling five years
of growth in faith and knowledge of the Bible. You helped open the eyes of my
precious friend, for opening my heart. You will never know what you have
accomplished. All of the positive changes in my life now and future success I
have in making a difference in the automotive sales industry are directly
related to you. God used you to knock me off the fence. You will always be in
Being a Christian and following
Jesus is the hardest thing I have ever done, yet by far the most satisfying. He
asked us to follow Him. I have, with the help he put into my path.