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His War Was Only Beginning

Marshall Brandon was raised by an alcoholic father and a mother who was filled with rage. Once, when Marshall told his father that he had seen his mother kissing another man, his father deserted the family and Marshal was beaten bloody by his mother and locked in a closet. So began many beatings throughout his adolescence.

Then at age 17 he joined the Army. He longed for someplace to be somebody, and was eager for a life of peace and order. He had to wait until his 18th birthday before being sent to Vietnam and this resulted in Marshall being assigned to a new unit. He was scared, lonely, and sick with feelings of abandonment. He wondered how he would survive.

Within a week, a guy introduced Marshall to marijuana. That started his long journey with drugs. Marijuana eased his worries about making it home, so he smoked every day.

My anger was kindled when I saw my Black brothers being abused by the authorities. I turned my rage against white commanding officers and even had thoughts of killing one. After serving about a year in Vietnam, I returned home, and I brought my anger at white people with me.

But he was soon also enslaved to morphine and his addiction was so great that he began stealing it. A group he was with was arrested for armed robbery and Marshall was sentenced to 10–25 years at the Ohio State Reformatory. He wondered anew, “How will I survive this?”

He decided to never use drugs again so he joined recovery groups in prison. With mostly good behavior, he was released to go to college on a furlough program. However, drugs soon found him again and the habit came back with a vengeance.

Then he met Katika, the woman who would change his life. There were married and for two years he managed to hide his addiction from her until she discovered the truth. Katika encouraged him to go into rehab but Marshall never did. She said, “I love you too much to watch you destroy yourself,” and she announced she was leaving me. Marshal said, “Our separation devastated me. I remember asking God, ‘Do you really exist? Make yourself real to me.’”

He occasionally saw his wife and after six months he noticed something different about her—peace. She was patient and showed genuine concern. He asked her what was different. She said, “I got saved.” Katika invited him to church where he “heard about a man who loved me just as I was.”

In June of 1977, as I sat and listened to the preacher say, “Come as you are,” I stopped questioning whether I could ask Jesus to save me. I knew he would. I ran so fast from my seat I knocked some hats off nice ladies in the pews. I will never forget that moment I was set free! Upon my profession of faith in Jesus Christ, God delivered me from my drug addiction on the spot.

After my reconciliation to God, he began the process of reconciliation in my other relationships, starting with my wife. This year, we will celebrate 48 years of marriage. During that time, I’ve had the privilege of serving God as a pastor and an evangelist. From childhood abuse and gangs, to Vietnam and drugs, to armed robbery and prison—through it all, God loved and protected me. Isn’t he a wonderful Father?

Editor’s Note: Today Marshall Brandon is an elder and visiting pastor at Citizens Akron Church in Akron, Ohio.

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