Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Testimonial Of Keith Oldenberg

In this writer's mind, the most striking characteristic of Keith Oldenberg is his honesty. He tells his tale of a personal odyssey from being a homeless and Godless drug addicted wanderer to becoming a God fearing member of the Church in a very matter of fact tone.

Keith was born in New Orleans, Louisiana on January 30, 1966 of German and French ancestry. He grew up in a family structure that, in many ominous ways, parallels with the city of his birth, "The Big Easy" where drinking, parties, corruption and fine dining could be considered the standards of behavior. Keith says that religion played little or no role in his middle class family who (both his parents were heavy drinkers) always managed to maintain an outward appearance of respectability and did not abuse him or his siblings in any emotional or physical way. Keith felt loved and says that his parents provided all the emotional and material support he needed to establish himself in life.

Keith took his first drink at the age of 12 or 13, and by his 18th birthday was a daily drinker. It was not long into his drinking lifestyle that Keith quit school. He was in the ninth grade. He went to work in the career path of many residents of New Orleans, working in the restaurant industry, and became a short-order cook. This new career continued to develop in New Orleans and at last Keith landed a job with the Del Frisco chain of restaurants and became a manager. At the zenith of his career with this company Keith relates that he had charge of a staff of 15 people and control of a multi-million dollar enterprise.

Unfortunately, Keith's addiction to alcohol kept pace with his growing paycheck. If he earned $2,000 in a week, then he spent $2,000 in that week, mostly on alcohol, parties and good times. He would spend only the bare minimum on basic needs. As can be imagined, management increased stress and late hours, and further fueled Keith's downward spiral. He reacted by attempting the "geographical cure" and went on the road. He lived in at least four states after his eighteenth birthday: Texas, Washington, Missouri, and finally Florida. But no matter where Keith ended up, the outcome was always the same. He reports failure after failure as an increasing addiction led to social isolation and an endless cycle of "obtaining a nice apartment and vehicle only to once again lose nearly everything." It was usually because of an arrest for being drunk and disorderly. This was a seemingly endless cycle. By the year 2000 Keith had cycled to the bottom of a pit of despair and hopelessness. He now constantly needed to a drink lest he go into withdrawal. Keith washed up in Central Florida and, as usual, in his cycle of personal destruction lost everything material. But this time, he also lost his will and ability to keep full-time employment and was reduced to working the day labor pools in Orlando. Even with such a low income he could have obtained temporary housing, but opted instead to live on the streets.

Then one Sunday morning Keith went to the Good News breakfast (a part of Central Care's ministry from it's conception). The service had an impact on Keith . Although he did not immediately seek placement at Central Care Mission, the wheels in his head began to spin and he slowly but surely he began to realize that the root cause of his drinking was a spiritual problem; that he had cut himself off from God and that the only possible path to survival would be an unconditional surrender to His outstreched arms.

This knowledge was the turning point in Keith's life. Late one night, alone and on the streets of Orlando, he prayed for the Lord to come into his life and his prayer was answered. The message of Good News had reached his heart and would change him forever. He went to Compassion Corner at the First Presbyterian Church in downtown Orlando. They contacted Central Care Mission and on October 2, 2002 he became a resident . After eighteen months and completion of the program, Keith stayed on as a driver taking residents to job sites in the greater Orlando area. He enrolled in culinary classes at Florida Technical College. After graduation he became a line cook at the Hyatt Hotel near Disney and continued his training to become a Head Chef. Keith at last became Head Chef when he was hired by Center Pointe Community Church. He is currently there and serves with distinction.

Keith takes no credit for his resurrection. In his opinion the Lord did all the heavy lifting, so that getting his life back together was no great feat; in fact his life, which had before been so difficult, lonely, defeatist and filled with terror and shadows of demons has become bright, positive, and filled with hope, glory and companionship. "As I grow in Christ, I'll always need to keep my personal relationship with God strong thru service to others at Central Care Mission and Center Point Church. They are my life-lines," concludes Keith.

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