Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Testimonial Of Karl Schrier

Carl Schrier has the look and voice that puts one in mind of Wallace Beery, the Hollywood actor of the 1930s who played in such movie classics as “Treasure Island” (1934) where he portrayed the lovable pirate “Long John Silver,” the father figure to the young Jackie Cooper who became a matinee favorite with his peg leg, parrot and eye patch.

This character of a pirate with a conscience is the persona of Carl Schrier who was born in 1957 in Salem, New Jersey, the son of a very competent skilled working man who had only one major flaw: alcoholism. Carl reports that he took his first drink at age 8 and continued to drink until 2001. He says that drinking was simply part of the family culture and it seemed to him normal. Carl relates that though a heavy drinker his father always took care of the family and never missed work, despite the occasional weekend when he indulged too much.

Like father, like son and Carl adopted both the negative and positive of his father’s character and became a highly skilled workman able to literally build by himself the average family home with an expert knowledge of carpentry, electrical installation, plumping, concrete work, carpet installation, dry wall installation, window installation, and so forth. In addition, Carl became a very competent welder, mason and diesel mechanic. If he had so desired, he could have become early in life a contractor and made a considerable fortune building private homes. Carl took these skills into the U.S. Army where he served for several years and given an Honorable Discharge and a Good Conduct Medal.

Carl relates that he rewarded himself for a hard day’s good work by drinking that often started with a breakfast beer and continued all day long and into the night. He reports that he always has able to work and never had so much as a hangover, but the intense use of alcohol put his nerves on edge and destroyed his family life and marriage, and resulted in legal difficulties including the loss of his driving privilege.

However, despite the obvious warning signs of alcohol addiction and a life that was clearly becoming unmanageable, Carl continued his lifestyle of hard work and excessive drinking until one day on the city bus (He was forced to take public transportation to work because his Driver’s License was suspended) in Lakeland, Florida he happened to pass by “Mission Possible” for the first time. He said the bus route was such that the bus rounded the block and a second time, then Carl heard a voice....

Jesus spoke to me and told me to get off the bus and go into Mission Possible for salvation, which is what I did. I met a man named Brian who invited me to the Nazarene Church the next day where I was baptized. It was there that I met William Lowry and told him of my decision to accept Christ as my personal savior. After the church service, I traveled with William to Central Care Mission here in Orlando where I have lived since that time. This happened on June 2, 2001. I am now a staff member at CCM in addition to being in charge of maintenance at this facility, and I continue with a full time job as an electrician employed by Palmer Electric. In the near future I will return to Lakeland’s Mission Possible as the Director of that institution. My life before I met Christ was a living Hell, it was all about me and my wants, but now I see the outline of paradise, and it’s all about God and his needs, so I can rightly join Audie Murphy (World War II Medal of Honor winner) by saying that I, too, have been, TO HELL AND BACK.

The Testimonial Of Craig Willson

Craig Willson is a native Central Floridian born on April 6, 1972. He was raised in the Roman Catholic faith and attended church as a child with his mother. Craig attended Public Schools and graduated from Lake Mary High School in 1990. He attended Stetson for one year on a music scholarship before going on the road with a band at age 19.

Craig relates that the next eight years were spent in travels around the country and state as a musician drug user/dealer and he considered himself a functional addict. At age 28 married a woman he had an affair with who was pregnant with his child. The new responsibilities encouraged Craig who had first started using drugs at age 15 to clean up his act. He went back to college and received a B.M.E. degree in Elementary Music Education in 1999. He acquired a part time job as Music Director at Trinity Methodist Church in Orlando, gave private piano lessons, and became a Band Director at Sweetwater Music Academy.

However, the drug addiction problem became worse, which Craig described as an “A to Z” in addiction that ended with the injection of heroin. The increasing addiction and the focus on drugs led to divorce with his unstable wife who battled addiction and mental health problems herself. The mask that Craig wore, a double life as addict and functional adult, ended one day when he came to work at Sweetwater in a drugged state that scared the children and resulted in his termination of employment as Band Director. It was then suffering from clinical depression and thoughts of suicide that Craig turned himself into detox and drug rehab at a local hospital.

When Craig was finally released from care he went almost immediately on a drug binge that cost thousands of dollars. He had somehow managed to keep his job with Trinity Methodist Church and the Minister he worked for there knew of Central Care Mission and its focus on the Gospel of Jesus Christ as the primary means of ending addiction. Craig relates that although he had been baptized as an infant in the Roman Catholic Church and had attended that church for years and in addition to working for years as a musician at Trinity Methodist Church, he thought of Christianity as a wonderful fairy tale that an adult could not believe.

Nevertheless, he agreed to meet with Director William Lowry of Central Care Mission on December 21, 2004 at the request of his employer. This fateful meeting proved to be the turning point in the spiritual life of Craig Willson when he heard what he calls the “Crack The Demon Speech” by William Lowry in which the scales finally fell off his eyes and he realized that he was involved in a spiritual battle for his soul, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ the key to freedom and salvation.

Craig says that he has now read the Bible cover-to-cover twice in the last year at Central Care Mission and understands that only the Word can deliver him from addiction, which is at root a worship of a false god of drugs who promises paradise on earth, but instead leads the user to Hell on earth and in the afterlife.

The Testimonial Of Paul Gaspard

Paul Gaspard was born in New York City, New York on November 17, 1959. He grew up in an upwardly mobile African-American middle class family those point of origin was New Orleans, Louisiana who moved to “The Big Apple” to improve their living standards. This did happen and Paul’s father advanced from the ranks of a common laborer to the New York Public Service Commission professional position as a labor moderator. Gaspard senior then used the higher wages he had acquired to speculate in real estate finally ending up as the owner of 13 apartment buildings in the New York City area.

Paul relates that he had a happy childhood with a stay at home mother who was always an encouragement and interested in his well being. The family was Roman Catholic at this time and went to church often. Paul was educated the Catholic school system until Grade 8 and served as an altar boy at church. He attended public school until Grade 12 when he dropped out for business reasons, but quickly obtained his GED and attended “State University” on 42nd Street in New York City where he received an Associate of Science Degree in “Social Science Labor.” Paul next joined Union Local #3 as one of the few selected when the Union, “Open Books” program allowed new members. He said that Union membership translated into a job rate of $24.50 per hour.

As a young man Paul had also developed an interest in music and says that by the time he was 12 years old his parents had encouraged his hobby by turning the basement of their home into a “D. J. Studio” full of expensive equipment. Later as a teenager and adult Paul learned the necessary skills to become a D.J a night clubs that provided him with drinks free of charge. Thus by day Paul worked a good trade in Electrical Construction and by night combined recreation and work as a D.J. and the money came rolling into his bank account.

At age 13 Paul fathered a child. This caused much concern in the family and he said that it was a factor in the divorce of his parents some years later. This affair was a turning point for Paul in that he began to drink at this early age. He relates that alcohol acted as a “Gateway Drug” and he begin to smoke Marijuana and take LSD as a teen. Later Paul began to use cocaine in the form of smoking “Crack” which he relates was a very expensive addiction to finance. At one point, for example, his savings of about $132,000 literally went up in smoke.

In the 1990s Paul began to travel to Florida to work as his addiction became more intense. In 2000 he received a terrible blow when both his beloved parents died within six months of one another. He said he “Went Crazy” for a period of time and did not smoke or drink. In 2003 Paul went to live with an Aunt in New Orleans in an attempt to end his drug addiction, but relapsed within a short period. Paul came back to Central Florida after this and continued the downward spiral of drug addiction. In 2005 he found himself living at the Coalition for the Homeless in downtown Orlando and sleeping on the concrete floor there for $1.00 a night even though he was earning upwards of $200 a day as a skilled worker with the rest going to support his cocaine addiction.

Paul’s spiritual turning point happened one night at the Coalition when he began to think about how ashamed his parents would have been if they could only see what he had become. He prayed to God to forgive his sin and felt a great peace and hope come over him. The next morning, which was a Sunday, February 14, 2005, he was told of the “Good News” Ministry in a church near the Coalition that served breakfast and the Gospel and began to walk towards the church. At first he thought of drinking the two last beers he had in his backpack but instead gave them away. At the “Good News” he made contact with Central Care Mission and Director William Lowry and was admitted.

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.

The Testimonial Of William Andrews

In September of 1997, a man who was hungry, tired, frustrated, and in a vicious cycle of drug use and irresponsibility came to find a hot breakfast and a warm smile. For several weeks he had arrived at Good News appreciating the smiles, and thankful for the food.

This morning was different from the rest. William Andrews was about to make decisions that would change his life forever! He listened to the speaker of the morning and completed his meal, but when it was time to leave he felt "glued to his chair". He was so tired of the loneliness, the despair, and all of the pain he had created in his own life, as well as the lives of those he loved. On this day, he would stay and ask for help. He knew that Central Care Mission also had a program for men. He asked for help. They led him to the staff of Central Care and some people who truly cared about his life. He prayed that day and committed his life to God asking for His help. On that day he was accepted into the program to begin a brand new journey.

William never dreamed his life would take the turns it had. Living in the New England states, William had graduated from Universities in Boston with two degrees, one in Political Science. He had played semi-pro basketball. His six-foot nine-inch height was a great plus. After several years in the political circles he had become a regular user of alcohol and drugs. His usage led to strong addiction, and his addiction led him out of mainstream society and eventually to migrant work camps in the South where he could be paid daily to support his addiction. After a few years, he came to Orlando where the streets became a way of life. Who would have guessed this journey would lead him to Central Care Mission and the Good News feeding?

Month after month in the program, William learned through classes, counseling, and every day experiences how to be set free from the addictions which had controlled his life. He learned about accountability, integrity, and how to build meaningful relationships. After several months, he expressed the sense of a call on his life to be in ministry. He felt he had run from that call most of his life. He enrolled in college level courses and began to prepare for this new direction. Not only was he discovering freedom, but he found a special person who would decide to work along side of him in ministry too! After almost two years, William married Rose and accepted a position as the Pastor of a newly formed community church in Orlando. Because the church is located in an area where William at times had wandered the streets in his addiction, many people who used to know him as "six nine", now come to him for prayer and guidance.

William remembers vividly that morning when he woke up restless and hungry. Today his life is different! Today his plans are different! Today his future carries hope for so many others who are in great need. What a difference!

Central Care Mission is able to make a difference because of your support. The new journey for William Andrews was possible because we were there! We were only able to be there because you cared enough to help!