Eight true stories – She had two abortions. He did five years for manslaughter. She was raped in fifth grade. His mother was murdered in front of him. What they all have in common is God’s amazing grace that transformed their lives. Dr. Chris Brown shares real life stories that will challenge, inspire, and encourage believers and skeptics alike.
Targeted Age Group:: 29-54
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
Everyone has a story. Everyone has a testimony. I wondered what would happen if people knew the stories behind the smiles of the people they meet – and this book is the answer. I wanted to share the real stories of seemingly ordinary people who have amazing testimonies.
63 Years – Ken’s Story
In the fall of 2006, at the age of 68, I was volunteering with Kairos Prison Ministry for the first time. We were doing a weekend program inside Limestone Correctional Facility in North Alabama, and, that Saturday night, along with a group of 42 inmates, I was listening to the final talk in a series about forgiveness. The speaker told all of us, team members and inmates, to take out a clean sheet of paper and write down the names of anyone we needed to forgive. I thought and thought, but I couldn’t for the life of me call to mind someone I needed to forgive. At the end of the talk, we are told to pray for the Holy Spirit to bring to mind the name of anyone for whom we harbor ill will or hold in unforgiveness. As soon as I started that prayer, the Holy Spirit spoke in a still, small voice and said, “What about Henry?” I was stunned! I heard it again, and, in this time of reverent prayer, I replied to the Lord and said, “You don’t mean that bastard that murdered my mother, do you?”
My great-great-grandparents on my father’s side emigrated from Germany to eastern Pennsylvania about 1850. Shortly thereafter, they crossed the Delaware River to the Garden State, New Jersey. To my knowledge, the next three generations of children were all truck farmers, raising fruit and vegetables on small farms as opposed to raising grain, cotton, soybeans, etc., on large farms. Truck farming at that time was heavy manual labor, six days a week, from sunrise to sunset. It was into this environment that I was born in Mt. Holly, New Jersey, just a few miles from the family farms, in 1938.
Although I have a very limited memory of my early life on our farm, there are a few things I do recall. At the age of five, I remember my mother giving me a bath in a washtub in our kitchen; at that time, we did not have an indoor bathroom. I’m sure that I received more than one bath in five plus years, but I only remember one. Related to not having an indoor bathroom, I do have one vivid, not-so-pleasant memory: our outhouse!
Although I was born during the Great Depression, our family was always blessed with having sufficient food to eat, primarily because my mother, grandmother, and aunt canned fruit and vegetables all summer. My dad loved homemade ice cream. Except for a small Allis Chalmers tractor and the farm truck, the only other gas-powered gadget on the farm was an ice cream churn. It was a homemade device that in no way would meet today’s OSHA standards, but it cranked out some good ice cream.
Henry was a hired hand that worked around the farm. Even though he had been disabled by polio as a child, he got around quite well on crutches. Henry was a jack-of-all-trades when it came to repairing farm equipment, so my dad hired him on a part-time basis to do just that, keep the farm equipment running.
The one thing I remember about Henry is that he gave me a hatchet for my sixth birthday. For a six-year-old, it was the best of all possible gifts. My hatchet had a smooth wooden handle, a shiny sharp blade, and a leather blade protector. I tested my hatchet on some small saplings that had grown up around the barn. I placed my hatchet under my bed for safekeeping, but not for long. The next day Henry dulled my hatchet, supposedly for my safety, on one of the large rocks that lined our driveway. My hatchet had large chips in the blade. It was useless! I cried and took it to the outhouse and bid it goodbye.
I hated Henry!
Just two months after my sixth birthday, on a pleasant July evening in 1944, Dad was tending his corn crop in the field across the road from our home. I was playing in the front yard while Mother and my two younger sisters were inside. Mother hurriedly gathered her children together and was headed down the driveway toward the road with my younger sisters, Fay and Ruth, in a baby carriage and me in tow. From sensing the anxiety in my mother’s voice, I realized that something was terribly wrong. Before we were halfway down the driveway, a shot rang out and I saw my mother collapse, struck by a single shot to the temple from a small caliber pistol.
I raced across the yard, jumped the ditch, crossed the road, and headed through the cornfield to find my dad. Together, we returned to the front yard and we saw the tragedy: Mother laying on the gravel driveway in a pool of blood, my two sisters still in the baby carriage and Henry lying on the front porch.
Not knowing why Henry was in this position, Dad approached cautiously and found that Henry had turned the gun on himself. He appeared to be alive, but unconscious. The pistol was on the front porch floor next to Henry. Dad picked up the pistol and pointed it at Henry, ready to empty the remaining four shots into Henry’s head when he heard a still, small voice say, “Don’t do it.” Hearing that voice, Dad tossed the gun a safe distance away and went to see what he could do for his wife and daughters.
By that time, a neighbor had called the sheriff, and, within a few minutes, both the sheriff and an ambulance arrived. Mother and Henry were placed in the same ambulance. The neighbors took care of my sisters and me. Dad followed the ambulance to the hospital. Mother died in the ambulance. Henry survived his self-inflicted gunshot through his mouth and neck.
At the age of six, I was not ready to be a motherless child.
Who was going to tuck me in at night?
Who would fix my breakfast?
Who would hold me when I was afraid?
Who would take me to my first day of school that fall?
Sometimes God knows that we need Him and He sends people to be His voice, His hands and feet, His hugs and kisses, His tears, His compassion.
Many people came to the aid of our grieving family, including neighbors, family members, law enforcement, a compassionate judge, and people we did not even know.
At Mother’s visitation a couple of days after her death, Dad helped me place three white roses in her hands, representing her three children. That’s my last memory of my mother.
The untimely death of my mother had a major emotional effect on my life.
I jumped at the sound of loud noises.
I had nightmares.
I became a bed-wetter.
I couldn’t get out of my mind the picture of my mother in her casket, holding the roses from her three children.
Mother’s death also impacted my dad to the point that he sold the farm and recommitted his life to Christ. Knowing that he could not raise three children by himself, my three-year old sister went to live with dad’s sister and my one-year old sister went to live with Mother’s sister. Dad and I moved into my paternal grandparents’ home.
As the only witness to my mother’s murder, the judge who had been assigned the case asked Dad to bring me to the courthouse to speak with him. I recall going up the courthouse stairs and Dad telling me to not be afraid and to just tell the judge what I saw. We were accompanied to the courtroom and the judge came down from the bench and asked us to sit down on one of the benches at the side of the room. He pulled up a chair and I told him everything I had seen. At the end of the meeting, Dad told the judge that he and the family did not want Henry to be given a death sentence. We learned that Henry had pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life in the New Jersey State Prison in Trenton. Near the end of his life, Dad shared what he believed the motive was: he had heard that Henry was in love with my mother and that he wasn’t willing to let anyone else have her if he couldn’t.
I still hated Henry.
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