I am currently in Duffield, VA, lying on an inflatable mattress, in a room filled with new friends. It’s summertime, and every summer I lead mission trips for Adventures in Missions. It’s a time of scratching the travel itch while simultaneously making new friends from all over the world. Meeting new people is my jam—I love hearing people’s stories. So much so, that I’ll just jump right in and ask someone ten minutes within meeting them, “so…what’s your story?” Some people love this question and will talk my ear off, while others look at me with a puzzled, “huh?” or a shy, “I don’t really have a story…”
[Just to make it clear: WE ALL HAVE A STORY. Each is unique and important]
Anyways…you never know what to expect when asking people to share their stories. Sometimes, you get an unexpected surprise—something that will stretch your faith and move you to praise God for how incredible, creative and personal He is with each and every person.
Sometimes you encounter a story like Bo’s.
Bo is our lodging host. He owns the 40-acre mountain property that we are staying on. I met Bo in 2013 while leading a couple trips here in Duffield, and was immediately drawn to his peaceful and joyful spirit. We got along great, but I never had an opportunity to really hear what he’s all about. As this year rolled around, you can imagine that I was beyond excited when he asked the leaders and I to grab lunch with him and his wife.
Bo is nothing short of, well, stinkin’ awesome. I sat wide-eyed across the table from him watching him chow down a plate of shrimp and tilapia. I listened intently as he spoke, not missing a beat. His wife, Donna, sitting next to him, giggled shyly at the animation and emotion Bo expressed while remising on the year 1972.
The Hippie Movement was in full swing, and Bo was all in. He rocked the jet straight long hair and matching long beard. He played in a rock band and his drug of choice was LSD. Everything was fine and dandy for Bo as he spent his days getting high and making music—living for nothing in particular—too lit to care or even notice on most days. He was riding, top down, on the proverbial “Highway to Hell.”
I love God stories that start like this…because chances are they don’t end like this, and the process in between is all whacked-out and radical.
One fine morning as Bo puffed on his joint, an old high school friend came knocking on the door. Bo opened the door and before saying hello, he offered his friend a hit, how he usually would have done…except this time was different. The friend pushed through the door, the joint, and Bo himself. “I have to talk to you,” he said.
“His countenance was different…you could immediately sense this overwhelming joy over him,” said Bo as his bright-blue eyes got wider, “I looked at him and asked him what he was on, ‘I want whatever it is’ I told him.” Bo didn’t expect to hear his friend’s response, and little did he know it would be Day One of the rest of his life. His friend responded, “I’m not on anything. It’s Jesus Christ, Bo—he’s in me now. You need to come with me.”
Bo hesitated, but he thought that whatever excited his friend more than the usual—women and drugs—had to be good. Before he knew it, the two men were out the door and headed to a near-by church meeting. “It was strange in there. I didn’t understand what was going on. I just watched in awe. Towards the end of the meeting, they called us to the altar. All I remember was walking up and asking Jesus to come into my heart.”
Things began to change that night. Bo went back to his band members and told them what happened. They laughed and rolled their eyes, “Oh no, not you too! That ‘Jesus thing’ happened to our bass player a few months ago.” Bo was excited about his new change, but he didn’t really know what to expect. He hadn’t ever opened a Bible or even knew exactly what following Jesus meant. A few days later, a friend offered him a joint. He took the offer, and according to him, “That was the end of Jesus for the next six months.”
The next few months, Bo dove straight into his old life…but deeper than he ever had before. “It just wasn’t the same this time. Everything started falling apart—my whole life. I did more drugs than I ever had before. Every woman I touched diseased me.” It had finally been three days before Bo about gave up. “I couldn’t get high enough…I did more drugs than thought imaginable, but nothing worked. I couldn’t get any higher…so I just stopped. I didn’t take anything for three days,” Bo admitted.
You see, little did he know that God had begun the weaning process. First, weaning him off women—since they all, at this point, had made it worse through infecting him with STD’s. And second, with the drugs—since he had reached a point where they just weren’t enough.
That day at the altar had changed everything—Bo couldn’t shake what happened. He knew he had felt the wholeness that Jesus offers—that supernatural sense of completeness, fulfillment and joy. Bo tried to reconstruct those same feelings on his own…with the cheap and fleeting things the world has to offer. But, it didn’t work.
On the third night of being sober, yet still high, and a brain so fried he could barely think, Bo came across a roommate’s book that had been sitting by the coffee table. As he began flipping through it, he noticed that each chapter highlighted a different religion. Once he realized what he was holding, Bo frantically turned to the Christian section. He immediately caught a glimpse of the portrait of Jesus. All of us, including Bo, have seen a portrait of Jesus getting nailed to the cross hundreds of times. But for Bo, this time was different, “you could see a nail being driven into His wrist, but you couldn’t see who was hammering it in, you could only see Jesus’ face. My eyes filled with tears. In Jesus’ face it was a look of utter compassion.”
Now, Bo didn’t know if the artist had purposely drawn His face with compassion, or if God was changing the eyes of his heart, but he immediately slammed the book shut and headed to the only person he knew could help—the same friend that showed up on his door step six months prior. “This time, I went looking for him,” he said.
Upon arrival, Bo accompanied his friend to his basement, where a couple of them had been down there doing a Bible study. One of the men opened the Bible and set it in front of Bo’s face. “At this point, my brain was so fried from LSD that I couldn’t read anything—every word would dance around the page,” he said. The very next second, the man pointed straight to Romans 10:9, “the second he put his finger on the Bible, all the words stopped moving. They just stopped—and I could read the verse! It said, ‘If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.’”
“I BELIEVE,” Bo shouted.
Suddenly, the other two men fell back onto the floor as Bo’s hands shot up to the sky. “I began praising Jesus in a language I didn’t understand,” said Bo (now to all my Southern Baptist friends, we can chat about this later, ha).
Whatever happened to Bo that night changed him for eternity. “I knew this was it. There was no turning back. I was headed forward from here,” he said.
And head forward is exactly what Bo did. Bo’s drug and women addiction had been cured. He began the life-long journey of seeking Jesus whole-heartedly. A few months later, he met a beautiful farmer’s daughter and got married. Bo became a student of the Word, and began pastoring a church that brought people out of the sinking sand he was once stuck in.
Bo still pastors Grace Community Fellowship in Duffield, VA, where he also leads worship (God is even using his band skills!), preaching and jamming out on his guitar every Sunday morning. He owns a beautiful 40-acre piece of land in the middle of the mountains, where the church rests on. He also built a few cabins up in the mountains that he rents out only to missionaries (currently where I’m staying) that want to experience the incredible power and presence of God that transformed him from a junkie to a God-glorifying life-changer and storyteller.
Thanks Bo, for using your story to impact mine.
Dear friend, what’s your story?