• A trucker who drove through hell before he found heaven

    by Erika Fiske

    Anthony doesn’t need to open his Bible to know what Hell is about. He lived there awhile.

    But the former truck driver, drug user and homeless man turned his life around a few years ago and now stands with the homeless on Sundays at Window on the Bay, sharing his Bible with those willing to listen.

    On a recent Sunday he filled in for the regular preacher, leading the outdoor service and later talking about his life. He made it clear he probably wouldn’t be alive today if not for God.

    And at 58, Anthony knows his life could end any day. He suffered a massive heart attack a few years ago and wasn’t expected to live. Then a miracle of sorts occurred. Thirty to 40 people of different faiths came to see Anthony and pray over him at the hospital. He survived.

    “The right side of my heart was totally destroyed,” he said. “And three stents had to be put in the left side.

    “I led a destructive life,” he explained. “I used many drugs. Crystal meth was the worst drug I’ve ever done, but it also was my drug of choice. Those drugs will open the door to the darkest places in someone’s life―and to evil spirits. They’ll turn a good man into an evil man.”

    Anthony began using drugs at the age of 16, “when I took my first hit of LSD,” he said. That was followed by everything from peyote and mushrooms to heroin.

    At the age of 18, Anthony got into trouble with the law, and the judge gave him a choice: Jail or join the military. He chose the Army.

    “I was stationed at Fort Hood, Texas. We had a lot of Vietnam veterans coming back with a lot of problems―-mentally, physically and spiritually,” he said, noting most were on drugs. It wasn’t long before Anthony was using again. After 10 months in the army, he was discharged.

    “I could not cope with the military and what it was doing to me,” he said. Among other things, his pay records were lost so he was without an income. Anthony went AWOL, but later turned himself in at Fort Bragg.

    “I applied for a Chapter 13 discharge for good service,” he said softly. “On the day of my discharge, they gave me all my back pay.”

    Most of that money went for fees dealing with going AWOL. And so began his life on the streets. “I was homeless for years, hitchhiking all over the U.S.,” he said. “I slept in doorways and under bridges, and I ate out of dumpsters.”

    What finally made Anthony realize he had to change were words from a favorite cousin who said he didn’t like what he’d become and didn’t want to associate with him anymore. Anthony also knew it would just be a matter of time before he killed someone.

    “I was driving a truck and doing drugs at the same time,” he said. “I knew if I didn’t stop I’d kill someone.”

    Anthony got another push to change his life when he found himself in a 7-Eleven parking lot at 2 a.m. and was visited by what he believes was an Angel of God. A man in a T-shirt with Jesus printed across the front walked up and spoke briefly to Anthony about his life, asking “Have you ever felt there was something wrong with your life and you were being watched and you didn’t know why?”

    When Anthony answered, “Yes,” the mysterious man asked if he knew what he should do next. Anthony responded, “Ask our Lord and Savior for forgiveness.” At that moment, the man turned and walked away into the darkness.

    As Anthony stood alone once again, he tried to understand what just happened. Then, a Bible passage came to mind that went something like this: “Beware of who you entertain, for they could be Angels of God ministering to you,” Anthony said.

    With no one around to care if he woke up on any given morning, Anthony turned increasingly to God and prayer. He prayed for everything in his life—from a ride to the next town, to a coat on cold, winter nights, to money for a day’s labor. Anthony will tell you that his prayers were answered again and again. But when he finally decided to head to the West coast from Las Vegas, he couldn’t find a ride for days, despite his prayers.

    One day, a truck pulled up and the driver said he could carry Anthony to Fresno, where a car with two Christians inside stopped and asked Anthony where he was going. “Wherever God leads me,” he said. The pair took Anthony with them to Monterey.

    That was 2009, and Anthony has never left.

    Not far from where limousines carry the very rich from multi-million-dollar estates to stunning golf courses along the coast, Anthony made his place in the sand to sleep.

    Before long he discovered I-Help, which gave him shelter at night , and Brian Bajari, who was preaching at a Carmel church and currently leads prayer breakfasts for the homeless at Window on the Bay.

    Brian put Anthony to work right away—praying for a small child who was on life support with a respiratory illness. Within a few days, the girl was better. Anthony believes God heard his prayers.

    But one morning, after waking up at a church where he was a monitor with I-Help, Anthony collapsed on the floor with sweat pouring off his body. His arms became numb and pain shot through his chest. Anthony had a massive heart attack. It was Oct. 5, 2010.

    This time it was the prayers of others that made the difference. After three days in a coma, with doctors expecting the worst, Anthony woke up. “I never knew so many people cared about me,” he said, taking a moment to remember that day.

    Anthony was offered a place to recuperate, and Brian offered something even better―a baptism on the beach. Anthony continued to pray, this time for a place to live on his income of just $856 a month in disability payments.

    “A friend with I-Help called me and said there was a place available where I could live for just $400 a month,” he said. Anthony took the room, located just three blocks from Window on the Bay.

    After so many years in a daze, living on drugs, Anthony can now look at his past with clarity. “Now that I’ve grown so much, I see God’s hand in my life,” he said. “I see God’s work everywhere.”

    posted to Cedar Street Times on August 24, 2012

    Topics: Homeless Chronicles

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