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The Lord Is My Strength

In CT magazine, Greg Stier shares his journey from a violent dysfunctional family background to the salvation of his extended family:

To my five-year-old self, it was a perfect afternoon. No gunshots, no gang-filled cars creeping by looking for trouble as they often did in our neighborhood. Everything was good that day—at least until a shiny, new car pulled up. It was Paul, one of the men my Ma had married. He had up and left us without warning, and we hadn’t heard from him in months.

Ma caught sight of him out the kitchen window. Cursing like a sailor, she hunted down our baseball bat. Charging out of the house, she started swinging at the headlights and the windshield. When he peeled off, I knew we’d never see him again.

Instantly, I realized two things: One, I would never disobey Ma again. And two, something had ignited a rage in her that consistently led to incidents like this. Years later, my grandma told me what that something was.

Ma was a partier, and I was a result of one of the parties. She got pregnant. Instead of facing her conservative Baptist parents, Ma drove from Denver to Boston, under the pretense of visiting my uncle Tommy and aunt Carol. But she was really there to get an illegal abortion. Tommy and Carol talked her out of it.

Until my grandma told me I was almost aborted, I had wondered why Ma would often cry when she looked at me while reproaching herself: “I’m a bum. I’m nothing but a no-good bum.” But after I learned her secret, I understood—not only her tears, but her rage toward men. It was a shame-fueled rage.

My entire family was filled with rage. Ma had five bodybuilding, street-fighting brothers, whom the North Denver mafia nicknamed “the crazy brothers.” You know it’s bad when even the mafia thinks your family is dysfunctional.

My Baptist grandparents took me to church, and one day in “big church,” everything suddenly made sense. The preacher shared how Jesus died for our sins and rose again. He said that if we put our faith in him, we would be saved. At the age of eight, I trusted in Christ as my Savior.

Miraculously enough, at around the same time, God was working renewal within my family as well. A hillbilly, church-planting preacher nicknamed Yankee reached out to Uncle Jack, the toughest of the “crazy brothers,” on a dare. When Yankee knocked on the door, Jack had a beer can in each hand. Surprisingly, he listened to Yankee’s gospel presentation.

“Does that make sense?” Yankee asked Jack. “H***, yeah!” was his sinner’s prayer. In just one month, Jack brought 250 people to church, wanting them to hear this same good news that gave him hope. One by one, all my uncles came to Christ. But the person most on my heart was Ma.

When I tried telling her about Jesus, she would shut me down. She’d say, “God can’t forgive me. You don’t know the things I’ve done.” Finally, at the age of 15, I marched into the kitchen and made Ma listen to the gospel. “You mean to tell me that if I trust in Jesus, he forgives me for every sin?” she asked. “Even the really bad ones?” “Yeah, Ma. That’s why he died on the cross,” I explained.

She took a drag of her cigarette, stared off into space for a moment, and said, “I’m in.” And when my Ma said she was in, she was in.

At age eight, I had met the Father I’d never known, the Father who would never leave me nor forsake me, the Father who changed the trajectory of my life and the lives of my whole family.

Editor’s Note: Greg Stier is the founder of Dare 2 Share Ministries. He is the author of Unlikely Fighter: The Story of How a Fatherless Street Kid Overcame Violence, Chaos, and Confusion to Become a Radical Christ Follower.

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