Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus was dramatic. Before God called him out, he was “breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord”(Acts 9:1, NKJV).
Just a few years ago, Micheal Freeman was similarly full of rage. He wasn't necessarily angry with God's people, but he was "breathing threats and murder." Fueled by drugs, alcohol, depression and five sleepless nights, Freeman loaded every weapon he owned into the trunk of his car with ill intent.
Freeman remembers driving down his driveway and looking both ways. The next thing he recalls is being parked in front of a Celebrate Recovery (CR) meeting sponsored by Celebrate Church, a Wesleyan church in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. CR is a national Christ-centered, twelve-step addiction recovery program. With nothing to lose, Freeman joined the gathering.
There, he heard Romans 8:1: “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (NKJV). When Freeman left CR that night, he drove straight home.
Freeman had been abused by a distant family relative when he was five. To avoid the pain and numb the memory, Freeman started using drugs and alcohol when he was only a child. As an adult, Freeman was extremely professional and had a successful military career. But he “always had a buzz on” in order to cope. The day he set out to end it all, he was exhausted. “I didn’t want to live any longer,” he said.
Freeman attended CR again the next week. Sitting at the back and wearing a hat and sunglasses, the message was “like an email about my entire life.” Convicted and broken, Freeman left CR and headed north on Interstate 29. Overcome, he pulled over. Alone and on his knees, he gave his life to Christ.
From his driveway to the shoulder of I-29, Freeman’s Damascus Road was dramatic and providential. Plucked from destruction and compelled by the Holy Spirit, Freeman withheld nothing. “When I became a Christian,” he explained, “I drank of the living water. I don’t thirst for drugs and alcohol. I do have struggles, but the living water has quenched my thirst for so many things.” He has been clean ever since. “The night that I got on my knees, I was all in.” He prayed, “Before you ask, God, the answer is yes.”
Freeman began attending Celebrate Church faithfully. Soon thereafter, Pastor Keith Loy, who had a vision for church planting, asked who in the congregation would stand and go. Freeman said that he felt like a young boy whose father was pulling him to his feet by grabbing hold of the belt at his waist. He stood.
“After 50 years of addiction, Freeman’s life was radically transformed when he came to know Jesus Christ.”
“That radical transformation has been so evident to everyone around him. His life of anger and control has been replaced by a heart of love and submission to Christ and serving others.”
Celebrate’s vision for church planting, Devries explained, “now permeates everything we do,” and Freeman is an important part of the vision.
Freeman is headed two hours west of Sioux Falls to Chamberlain, South Dakota. He and his wife, Dawn, are part of 50 Celebrate church planters being sent. To prepare Freeman, Celebrate has been discipling him since his conversion.
“Freeman has been mentored by a number of people, and for the last two years has been in regular training regarding church planting. As a part of that, he came on our staff for six months in a church planting residency,” explains Devries. “There will never be a time we won’t be mentoring and walking with him.” Freeman and other Celebrate church planters meet weekly for accountability and training.
Rev. Anita Eastlack, executive director of Church Multiplication and Discipleship, understands the importance of Freeman’s story: “We like to say, ‘celebrating every time a disciple makes a disciple and a church multiplies itself until The Wesleyan Church has a transforming presence in every ZIP code.’ The population of unchurched people is growing faster than the conversion rate. This has created a conviction within us and a sense of urgency to reach our generation for Christ.
“The Holy Spirit is speaking a common message to all of us,” said Eastlack. “Wake up. The time is short. Focus on the kingdom. Reach people with Christ’s love, hope and forgiveness.
“If we all prayed fervent and focused prayers, imagine the revival that would break out! When lay people begin praying and realizing that they are ‘qualified’ to participate, many will begin to hear God calling them.”
Freeman’s transformation should bring hope to us all.
As he said, “When I read about the Damascus Road, I thought, ‘That is me. That is what happened.’ I know this is a second chance. I want to reach as many people as I possibly can.”
God is calling people of all sorts of backgrounds to say, like Freeman, “Before you ask, God, the answer is yes.”