“Look at that chick!” my buddy yelled. We were pretty loaded. For no particular reason, he slid his upper body up and out the passenger window. With his legs braced against the console, he was free to use both hands to make an obscene gesture toward the girl. “Hey $#*@%, you want some of this?” We laughed and continued around the block. Flopping back in the seat and laughing hysterically, he yelled, “Lets go back!”
Again he yelled, “*&$#@,” taunting the young girl and her apparent boyfriend, whose arms were covered from shoulder to palm with tattoos. This time they yelled back, matching our obscenities and raising us one. This was great. We had to go back and show that we were louder and more obnoxious.
As we rounded the corner our eyes searched the crowd of people wearing various gang colors, as we yelled and laughed. The couple seemed to have disappeared. We now started deriding them, laughing at their apparent inability to take our chiding. Suddenly a big, black Cadillac squealed it’s tires and pulled in immediately behind us. Its headlights flashed and several sets of arms were raised out the windows giving us “the bird.”
Our laughter immediately chilled as the car revved its engine raising up on our tail and then breaking at the last minute. These guys looked pretty tough and we weren’t interested in getting shot. I yelled, “We’re getting out of here!”
“No kidding,” my previously loud mouthed friend said.
Moments ago I had felt invincible in my mom’s Jeep Cherokee. Now I wished I was in something that cornered a little better as I broke free into an open lane and raced forward. Our pursuers weren’t even mildly fazed. Their engine roared as we came to a red stoplight. One of them got out of the car brandishing an aluminum baseball bat. Just then, the light turned green and I slammed the throttle to the floor. Racing to the next intersection, I saw that it was a one-way street headed left. I turned right!
Surely this will cool them. My adrenalin really surged when I saw the big Cadillac roar around the corner. Cars heading toward us swerved, flashed their lights and honked their horns, but they were the least of my concerns. The car continued chasing us.
“Come on Pat,” my friend half pleading, half demanded, “lose this guy!”
I swore, “what do you think I’m trying to do, you idiot?” I ran off a long string of cursing as I vowed what I was going to do to those guys if we met, but beneath the facade, I was scared like never before. We led the traffic as we headed toward Burnside Street with the Cadillac immediately on our tail. The speedometer needle rotated to 70 miles per hour, then hit eighty as we swerved and careened through the streets of Downtown Portland. As I approached an intersection, I thought I’d fake a left turn and go for a right. When I swerved to the left, then back to the right, the Cadillac didn’t do anything but barrel on ahead, connecting with my right, rear passenger door, pushing and rotating the car 90 degrees to the right. I hit the throttle again now running for my life. Our car now pointed toward the river and First Street where our chase had begun. When we got to First Street we headed south, the Cadillac still on our tail. As we approached Madison Street the river was on our left. The light was red and traffic was flowing into downtown Portland from the Hawthorne Bridge. Without hesitation I plunged into the traffic, somehow, miraculously, avoiding a collision while passing through both lanes.
With Madison Street diminishing in my rearview mirror my friends looked back, but the Cadillac seemed to be waylaid. We had escaped. The car was eerily silent and we drove on. A real awareness permeated the car, that somehow we had narrowly escaped a brutal end. We felt the breath of death breathing down our collars and it chilled us all.
I had no purpose in my life. I was at the bottom of the bottom. From the moment I was born in Eugene, Oregon, I was nothing but trouble for myself as well as my parents. In the third grade I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder, or ADD, and we spent a lot of time going to various counselors. Both of my parents had been educated in the drug and alcohol field, and they did a lot of research while trying to figure out what would help me.
The doctors tried many different medications on me, and I had a different reaction to every one of them. I was up and down and all around the place, just so hyper! My parents never knew what to expect of me, and I didn’t know what to expect from myself either.
From kindergarten through fourth grade, I was constantly in trouble. I attended a Christian school, and I got spanked a lot. In the fourth grade, my parents moved me to a public school where things just got worse. I didn’t understand things. I was rebellious and upset because I just wanted to be normal like the other kids. My home life was chaotic.
“Patrick? What are you doing?” my mom called to me.
I didn’t answer her. I was running frantically around my room, turning things upside down, trashing things.
It was the same at school. On the school bus, I went wild.
“Patrick, sit down and behave yourself!” The driver was beside himself.
I never listened. I finally got kicked off the bus.
“Mrs. Walton?” The school principal had called my mom. “I’m afraid we are going to have to suspend Patrick. He is just uncontrollable.”
We lived in Eugene until the seventh grade, and then moved to Washougal, Washington, a very small and close-knit community. Everything took a spin when I go there. I was now the outsider. The other kids had been together since kindergarten and had established friendships. They really tormented me. They talked about me and cracked jokes about the “new kid.” While I was getting off the bus, they knocked my hat off and my school bag out of my hands.
I thought I was a cool kid. After all, I was from the big city of Eugene. I knew how to snowboard and rollerblade. Washougal was totally different. The people were different. I found my ground of friends among the skateboarders. They were a rough group, and most of them were one or two years ahead of me in school. But it didn’t last, and I was kicked out of middle school in the seventh grade
My parents were almost at their wits’ end, so they decided to home-school me. They gave me the work to do and hoped I would do it. I was left on my own because they both left the house to go to work. After about two hours of study, I felt I had done enough and it was time to take off. I did whatever I wanted to do.
“Well, since I’m home alone, let’s learn to smoke,” I told myself.
I started running with a bunch of kids who were hard-core meth users, until I was in the ninth grade. I am sure it as by the grace of God that I never tried the stuff. But I was running crazy. I spent a lot of time trying to fit in with this group of kids.
In the summer we went to Eugene for a short visit, and I visited with my old friends and neighbors. What a shock! I felt like I had entered the drug capital of the world!
“Hey, Patrick! Want to eat some acid?”
“Come on, Patrick. Try some mushrooms!”
I experimented with LSD and had nothing but horrible trips. It was just a nightmare. All I can remember is crying and laughing, and laughing and crying and staying up all night.
When we returned to Washougal, my parents threw up their hands with home-schooling and sent me to an alternative school. If you weren’t making it in regular school, the alternative school was a place to go so they could try to salvage you, keep you from dropping out and help you get your diploma or GED. I couldn’t have cared less. I was busy running around with friends. We went to Portland to attend concerts and small clubs. By this time, I was smoking a lot of pot and drinking heavily. I was on the brink of being kicking out of school again. The Washougal school district stepped in and set up a meeting with my parents, the Superintendent of Schools and me. Then something incredible happened.
“There’s a special school in Portland called Serendipity,” the Superintendent told me parents. “It will cost us about $5,000 a year to send Patrick there, but we believe he has some potential and we don’t want to lose him. We will make that investment in him for one year. We will bus him from Washougal to Portland. Let’s see if we can make this work.”
I wondered to myself, “Why did they pick me to do this?”
I am sure my parents were wondering where things had gone wrong. Ours was a Christian home. My mom was a women’s ministry director at a large church, and both my parents were actively involved in church. My sister was an incredible entrepreneur and very successful. But there was really something different about me. I didn’t have a clue what it was and, apparently, no one else did either. I guess all of us were thinking that I was the “wild hair” in the family.
The school was crazy. I spent my time drawing pot leaves on my school papers. Others threw chairs at the teachers and stabbed their friends. There were padded, soundproof rooms where they would put you so you could hit, kick, scream and freak out. It was so bad that some of the kids even urinated and defecated in that room. Many of them were hard-core gang members from Portland. We even had 16-year-old drug pushers in the class.
The only good thing about that school for me was an incredible teacher named Geoff Richmond. He was brilliant. He was young, rode his bike to work and played Frisbee golf. He was so cool! He had a degree from some huge college in Boston. He had a wonderful way of teaching, and for the first time in my life, learning became fun. He taught me a class on music. He would crack jokes about some of the songs, but he was never demeaning. He had an incredible way of meeting you on your own level. I remember a slogan he had hung on the wall in his room: “You are a bunch of dope-less hope fiends!”
Other people were thinking, “You are a bunch of hopeless dope fiends!” His slogan was a great statement. It was Geoff’s influence that got me to start thinking about going to the University of Oregon.
In the eighth grade they told me I was pushing my limit there. They called a conference, and my parents and the Washougal Superintendent of Schools attended.
“Patrick, this is it. You are at the bottom of the bottom here. You have to make a choice because something drastic is going to happen.”
One day I was walking through the park in Washougal. I was wearing my big, baggy pants, and had weed in my pocket. The wind had picked up and the trees seemed restless, stirring uneasily. The morning air was chilly and the earlier pale sunlight had faded as the sky clouded over with the threat of rain. As I walked along, a strange feeling started to overtake me. I reached into my pocket and my fingers sifted through the weed, as I tried to get my mind off whatever was reaching out to me. Suddenly I stopped. There was this vivid moment — it was just crystal clear. I stood there motionless. In the clarity of that moment, I saw exactly what was happening. I was trembling, and I felt very, very weak.
“What am I doing? I have to change!”
I took the weed out of my pocket, walked to the public restroom and flushed it down the toilet.
I ran home. My folks were there, and I said, “I want to change.”
My parents took me shopping and I changed my wardrobe completely. No more “Mr. Cool.” I chose more conservative clothing.
Next, I cut off old friends and made new ones. I stayed sober, and I didn’t party.
I completed the ninth grade and my folks and I got all dressed up for graduation. At the ceremonies they gave me an award. It was called the “Bob Award.” The name of the man who founded the school was named Bob. The award was for the student who had made the most positive changes during the year. Out of the 500 students they gave it to me!
My parents took a picture of me holding the “Bob Award” plaque. Everyone, including me, thought it was just amazing. I felt proud of myself, which was a feeling I was not accustomed to.
When I look back on that chapter in my life, I realize that God had parted the curtain and gave me a look at what life could be like. It was a spiritual moment, and, at the time I made all the changes in my life, I didn’t realize how badly I would backslide.
At the end of the ninth grade, I was enrolled again in a public school in Washougal. This time it was very hard for me. It was so different.
I was walking down the hall, feeling weird, like I had some kind of stigma. I was edgy. Things were very quiet. I could hear them whispering.
“Look! It’s him!”
“Oh, my gosh! Is it really him?”
They remembered me from the seventh grade, and what they remembered most was how crazy I had been.
After a while, I began to fit in. I had a new circle of friends. They were the “popular” kids at school. My whole mentality about partying changed. My group didn’t party through the week, but we couldn’t wait for Friday and Saturday nights. That’s when we would hang out and get stoned.
In eleventh and twelfth grade, I did a lot of group partying. We went to downtown Portland to the underage clubs on Friday nights. We danced and met girls. I was getting more and more used to group partying and drugs.
I got a job at a car wash. One of my many jobs I would lose in my life. As it would turn out, I would get fired from fifteen different jobs between the ages 15 to 20. I was always calling in and asking for time off. The longest I held a job was three months. But I needed money s I could party. I met a really cool guy at the car wash. I thought he was neat, and I looked up to him. He was an “old school” break dancer.
He was into the rave scene, and he introduced me to it. The funny thing about the Rave scene is that people thought the kids were crazy and mixed up, but there were athletes, preps, varsity lettermen and jocks, all stoned and wearing crazy outfits. Hip hop stuff! It didn’t seem weird to me because I had been doing the group thing. I got very involved, and started eating ecstasy. Before long I got fired from the car wash. I had fallen asleep on the job.
When I was a junior in school, my parents wanted me to start thinking about going to college, a Christian college. There was a possibility I could go on a soccer scholarship. We tried a few colleges, and I played some soccer with the guys, but I wasn’t motivated for the college deal and didn’t do well. As I approached the end of my senior year, I became aware that my friends were beginning to look at colleges, and the day came when they took off. They went all over the place to go to college. They had a vision and goals. I was left behind with the unmotivated.
I enrolled at Clark Community College in Vancouver. Now I had my “old friends” back in my life, the ones who “weren’t going very far”. Just before enrolling at Clark, I had made an observation about myself and drinking. No matter how much I drank, it was never enough. When my friends and I drank, I always had to have more. I wasn’t satisfied with a couple of beers like they were. I always wanted to get drunk. I knew I was different, but I didn’t know why. There was an edge about me.
Clark was an entirely new lifestyle to me. A whole new life of partying and getting loaded. None of us had parents around. We all had our own apartments, dorms, etc., and no one was watching over us. Such freedom! I wasn’t interested at all in school. I was just going through the motions. My interest was in getting loaded and getting high. I ran with kids who were hard-core weed users, even some hard-core marijuana dealers. I often got stoned with them.
As time went on, my parents really became unhappy and discourage with me. “You need to get yourself together. You’re 20 years old and you can’t hold a job. You need to figure something out.”
I managed to get a job at the airport working for Avis, checking in rental cars. I figured out a way to work the system and ended up extorting money from the company. One day I was working my scam on a guy, and he turned out to be an Avis Corporate employee. I told him, “Hey, I’ll help you out. Give me $20 and I’ll check you in and mark the gas tank as full.” Normally it cost $50+ to fill up, but no one kept records. I could make $20 or $30 off the customers and put it in my pocket making upwards of 300 bucks a day. A week later they called me into the office. I felt a little weak and shaky walking over there. “What am I doing here?”
I sat down. “Have you been trying to get money out of the company? Are you taking money from anyone?”
“No! Not at all!” I lied.
“That’s really funny because we’ve got the story. You did this to one of our corporate staff members. Do you want to ‘fess up?”
I squirmed in the chair, and felt a knot of fear in my stomach. “Well, I might have said…” Suddenly it all came out. They had me.
Before I left the airport that day, I had another job lined up with Huntleigh. I pushed wheelchairs and checked baggage. I had to take a urine test. Since it took about a month for the results to come back, they let me work in the meantime. I guess I wasn’t too surprised when it came back dirty and I got fired, but I was very discouraged.
I thought, “There’s a good way to cure the blues.” I called some of my friends and we arranged to meet at a Rave in Seattle on Saturday night. Five of us decide to leave on Friday morning, and we all piled into an old Lincoln that belonged to one of them. We had a bunch of weed and a radar detector. It was pouring down rain and the windshield wipers didn’t work. We drove about 90 miles per hour and we were smoking like crazy. The inside of the car was cloudy with smoke. We all got high.
When we got to Seattle it was about 9:00 p.m., and we stayed up partying almost the rest of the night. We ended up parked by a Fred Meyer store and we slept in the car. Saturday morning I took my fake ID, the one I had used many times in clubs, and I went into a convenience store and bought three 24-packs of Budweiser. We decided to party until we met our friends later that night. We drove around and decided to park under a bridge by Safeco. We were well on our way to getting drunk when we met up with the other guys at 5:00 p.m. All of us continued to drink. We were trying to get high before we went to the Rave.
Around 9:00 p.m. we entered the building where the Rave was being held. It was a huge, multi-level monster. And there were about 17,000 kids partying inside. I ate two ecstasy tabs right away. We had been inside about 20 minutes when I became separated from my friends. I was suddenly overcome with the powerful feeling of loneliness. I will never forget it. I just stood there, rooted to the floor, and tried to take in the immensity of the evil scene.
It was dark in there, an ugly, thick darkness. You couldn’t tell what people were doing, and it seemed to me like the dead were walking around. Kids were sick and throwing up. It was the epitome of hell. I immediately felt a huge conviction. Something in me said, “You’ve got to get out of here!” but I brushed it off. I knew a life without Jesus was a life headed for destruction, but I put the thought out of my mind with another hit of ecstasy. The next thing I knew I was done. I was fried out. We had been partying from 5:00 p.m. Saturday until noon Sunday. We walked out of there on a bright Sunday at noon. I was disgusted with myself.
One of my friends drove the car, and I slept. I slept all the way to Washougal. When I got home, I slept the rest of the day. My dad asked me questions about the Rave and drugs. My parents knew something was up. I couldn’t even answer them coherently.
By the time Monday rolled around, I felt like I was a little kid again as I said to my father, “Dad, I’m going back to bed. Will you come with me?” As I lay there we started to talk. I got very “real” with my father. I told him I was into ecstasy, that I must be crazy, and I knew I had to change. I told him about the Rave. He listened and talked to me. Then my dad shared something with me. He told me my grandfather had died from alcoholism, his mom had been a heavy drinker, one of his brothers also died of alcoholism, and another brother was an alcoholic. I had always known there was something different about me, and I never had a clue what it was, other than I had a propensity for drinking. Now I knew the alcohol genes were running rampant in the family.
“Dad, doesn’t grandma have an extra room at her house? I need somewhere I can just go and stay. Somewhere I can get away for a bit.”
“Yes, Patrick, I think she does.”
We called her and she said I could come. She was living in Raymond. I heard later that when she hung up the phone she freaked out. She told grandpa, “There’s no way we can take Patrick into our house.” She was 67 and grandpa was 75. They knew my past and didn’t think they could handle this.
I went up there on a Friday. It was late September, and I thought, “I’ll go work in the woods. Cut lumber. Be a man.” The only stipulation my grandparents gave me about coming up to stay was that I had to go to church. I thought, “I can handle that.”
My grandparents had told their church that I was coming. “Make him feel welcome. He’s our grandson.”
Saturday I didn’t do much. I was just hanging around the house. Sunday we got up and went to church. When we got home, I went to sleep. I was sleeping upstairs when my grandparents left to go to evening church. They didn’t want to wake me. Something jolted me awake, and I woke up and sat up simultaneously.
“Church! I have to go to church! I have to be there!” I got up and ran down to the church. Got brought me to church on Sunday, October 8, 2000. I listened in suspense and Jamie Joiner preached about the very thing my life lacked. I was captivated.
I sat on the edge of my seat, just rapt with attention. I had never been a part of anything like this in my life.
There was heaviness in the air. I found it a little difficult to breathe.
My eyes were riveted on the piano player, who had started to weep. Within seconds, he got up from the keyboard and went over to another member seated on the platform, touched him on the shoulder, and he started crying.
“What’s going on?” I wondered.
I felt something very powerful gradually start to work its way through my body. It was a gripping feeling that started to take over my heart, my thoughts.
The piano player had gone over to the pastor, and when he started crying, my palms started to perspire.
From the pastor, the man migrated over to the microphone, bowed his head and wept. I found myself holding my breath.
As he gained some control over himself, his voice rang out with the words, “There are some people who are here for the wrong reason.”
I felt a stab at my heart. I felt immediately convicted. I had decked myself out in Abercrombie to come to church with my grandparents. I was a visitor at their church, and I wanted to impress people. It had nothing to do with God and everything to do with me. I felt prideful and stuck up. When we left home I had felt really cool, but I looked inside myself when he said those words, and I believed, without any doubt, that his words were directed toward me.
The man continued, “Whoever you are, if you will come right now, God will soften your heart. If you don’t come, it will take you time in the Word and prayer to get back to this place.”
Grandma stood up quietly and moved into the aisle. Intuitively, I knew she was moving aside so I could get out. There was something supernatural in the air, and it just picked me up out of my seat and put me into the aisle.
I slowly walked to the alter at the front of the church. My legs felt shaky and a ball of emotion started to knot up inside me.
When I reached the alter, I fell to my knees and I just broke. I cried with great sobs, gulping for air, and just poured myself out. It was a divine moment as I shed my old life at the foot of the cross. I heard the Holy Spirit saying things to me as I cried. The voice caressed me. “I will never leave you or forsake you. I will be with you forever.”
“Yes, oh yes, Jesus!” I sobbed.
“I will be your partner, Patrick. It’s going to be me and you.”
I felt surrounded with tremendous love and security. As my heart was rent before God, I cried loudly, “Oh, Jesus!”
I was saved! My heart was full to the point of bursting.
Later, my grandparents told me of how my dad had been at a very similar place in life when he got saved at the same age. He was also 20 years old like I was. It was the same time of the year too, October! Grandma and grandpa weren’t my real grandparents. They were a terrific couple that had been in the ministry for 50 years. When my dad was saved, they were rehabilitating hippies.
After my experience at the altar, my heart was just on fire. I was spirit destitute. I was in church every night of the week and twice on Sundays. I started reading the Word, but it was difficult for me. I wasn’t a big reader. I would climb on the kitchen counter while grandma was cooking and she helped me with the Word. I would feel so good. Then my parents got me a New Living translation. Without that, I don’t think I could have read the Bible. The New Living translation brought life to the Word, just unlocked it. I filled journal after journal with all my thoughts, various sermons, and even some revelations that came to me. I had all these writings. “What are they all for, Lord?” I asked. He didn’t answer me right away, so I waited patiently on the Lord.
I went to a Valentine’s Day service in Aberdeen with a good friend of mine. There were about 150 kids at the church. A young lady, part of the college ministry, asked me if I would share what happened in my life. “No problem.” I shared, and afterward the pastor got up.
He said “I believe the Holy Spirit just spoke to my heart. Can we just take a minute to pray?” Quiet settled over us like a gentle blanket as we bowed our heads and prayed. I heard him say, “I have a word for you Patrick. Patrick, you are on a roller coaster. It’s at the top and it’s just about to cut loose. It’s going to be incredible. I need to pray for you. Will you come up?”
He laid hands on me. The Lord powerfully touched me. The pastor began praying over me. As he prayed, I knew that I was called to preach the same good news that had so recently changed my own life. He said, “Patrick, you have been pulled up out of the fire. It hasn’t been on your strength, but on mine says the Lord. He has called you to preach the gospel. I don’t know how that will look, but He has called you to preach.”
It all began to make sense to me. Why I had all my writings, why I had such a burning in my heart, why I knew the minute I heart Pastor Jamie Joiner preaching in grandma’s church that I would love to do that. I had been accumulating messages for the church. They had been hidden in my heart, just like God’s Word.
I became a servant in the church. I started out doing all the maintenance work like weeding, mowing the yard, and organizing clean-up days. Then I did the tape ministry and became an usher. I began to spend a lot of time with the pastor. I rode around with him. I wanted to serve him. In January 2002, he called me and said, “Patrick, I have a task for you. I want you to start a youth ministry for me.” I wasn’t sure that God had called me to that, but I told the pastor I would serve him any way I could.
Late one night, right before I went to sleep, I heard the Holy Spirit say, “Don’t think it’s strange that I have called you into youth ministry.” The hair stood up on the back of my neck and I just tingled all over.
I saturated myself in prayer, and read the Bible like never before. I decided not to date during this time. This was particularly difficult because I had just met Jennifer. She was so special. She was just so much more than anyone I ever thought I would meet, let alone date. But I had to tell her “no” about dating at that time. The Holy Spirit spoke to me in my heart, and told me she and I would get married someday. I prayed over her and watched her while she dated others. When the time was right God let me know, and Jennifer and I went out to dinner and have been together ever since. We were married in August 2005.
The Holy Spirit has filled both Jennifer and I with passion to give ourselves to the place of prayer and from there to do ministry among the nations. When I quit McDonald’s to serve the Lord, they begged me to stay. What a turnaround!