The Chapelwood Story

Why I believe in God, can be traced to a single event. Subsequently,
it has been reinforced many times over in my life, but this one event is the
most important, because of course, w/o it, there would be no others.

Like any good story, some background is required.

I grew up in a family not particularly religious. My grandmother on my
mom's side is very devoted; hardly ever goes to church, but prays
every night. She also made us say our prayers every night before we
went to bed. I went to about three or four Sunday school classes when
I was about 10 years old. Mom thought it was important for us to
go to church on Sundays, but as you are about to learn, that quickly
fell by the wayside.

My dad was an alcoholic and seriously deranged. He would routinely
beat my mother and hospitalize her. Finally she left him when I was
about 10. (or 11 or maybe 12) This period in my life (8 years to 13)
is very fuzzy to me. My memory is a mix of terror, elation, depression
and confusion. When my mom left, my brother, sister and myself had to 
pretty much fend for ourselves. We lived for about a year and a half 
without her. During this time my father would bring home various women.
Some would hang around for a while, some only the night. Some were whores,
some looking for a "sugar-daddy," and some just looking for a place to
sleep. Sometime in this period, my dad decided that us kids needed
looking after. So he had his mom, my grandmother on his side of the
family, come to stay with us. This was the worst thing that could
happen. Today, as an adult, (with counseling) I know why my father
was an abusive, twisted individual. I was about to suffer the same
treatment he did when he was a child. I'll just say, I survived.

Mom grew up in a very abusive home. Her father (and his mother, my 
great-grandmother) were VERY abusive. The stories my mom and uncle 
tell of their childhood are very disturbing. Mom had to endure this,
and as a result, developed a certain personality/behavior. As an adult,
she developed an "addictive personality." That's a polite way of saying
she conducted her life, not by reason and sanity, but by fear and 

By 1978, my mom had remarried a man 10 years older than me. (I was
18.) We had for the most part "shaken" my dad, by moving from house
to house, over and over, through-out Houston. (We were on about our 
40th house.) My step dad was an okay guy, but guess what? He grew up 
in a twisted home too! He had been out of work for about a year, and
my mom was all over him every night about getting a job. The 
electricity had been turned off, water off, gas off and we were 4 
months behind in our rent. Finally he couldn't take it, and left. 

When my step dad left, it really angered my mom. This was his way of
escaping her control and she didn't like it one bit. So she took off
after him. (This was during the time of no lights/no water/no heat.)
She was gone for about 10 days, and again we kids were left to 
ourselves. This was normal, and wasn't all that bad, as we were now 
young-adult/old teenagers. My sister and I were working and bringing
home some money, so that's what we lived off of. (We both worked after

We lived many miles from the schools we attended. Mom felt it was
required to live in a "good" neighborhood (regardless whether or not
we could afford it. :) ) and that it would be a good thing if we kids
could stay in the same school. Mom was right. Even though we would move
as often as 4 times in a year, she always tried to keep us in the same
school so that we had some consistency in our life. This sometimes
required that we travel quite a distance to get to school. I had always
worked. I had amassed enough money to buy a car. Actually three or
four cars, but ALL money earned by any member of the household went
into the "general fund." The theory was the when we kids got old
enough, "the family" would buy us a car, pay for school, etc. Of
course theory and reality didn't quite meet. Each morning I would 
drive myself, brother and sister to school. My sister and I attended
the same high school and my brother's Jr. High was right next to the 
high school. At the end of each day, I would then round up my siblings
and drive them home. I worked some days, my sister worked every day, 
and so my brother had to find something to do. This wasn't a problem
as he was very popular.

This one particular day, (a Monday) I wasn't working. I got out of
school at 2pm and had some time to burn. That past weekend, I had been 
out in my car "street-racing" for money. While this may sound bizarre,
my step dad was really big into hot rods and we built a pretty fast 
car for the money. (I had contributed over $10,000 [at $2.35/hour 
plus tips] to the family during the past several years, so I had 
paid for it.) I would "street-race" for money and turn over the 
"winnings" to the family or use it for lunch money. It seemed
normal at the time. :)

That weekend I had a race and the jerk didn't pay. This resulted in
a tremendous chase and fight. We (my little brother, my best friend,
and myself) chased these guys for over 30 minutes and it was pretty 
wild. To this day, my brother and I talk about it. Since I had some
time to burn (because I was waiting for my sister to get off work)
I decided to go back and "trace" our route.

So I started my little journey where the race had started and burned
away about an hour doing nothing but driving around wasting gas, 
trying to remember where we went, and then, what I was doing. :)

Pretty soon I realized that I needed to get on my way to pick up my
sister. I was on Gessner and about to go to the freeway (I-10) and 
then directly to my sisters place of work. But when I came to the 
light at Memorial Drive, something strange happened. I was going to
go proceed through the light and directly to the freeway, (at this 
point on Gessner you can see I-10 from the intersection at Gessner 
and Memorial). But that didn't happen. When the light turned green I
turned right. I can't even tell you why. I just did. My hands were
turning on the wheel without my brain doing the directing, but I had
this "feeling" as I my hands were going hand over hand, turning the
steering wheel. It was as if another set of hands were on top of mine,
moving them across the steering wheel. I was now on Memorial Drive and I 
remember thinking, "Well this is okay, Memorial runs almost parallel
to I-10 and besides I like looking at all the incredible houses. 
(Memorial is the ritziest part of Houston.) So there I go, driving 
down this road with million dollar houses and million dollar lawns and
million dollar cars. I drove for quite awhile and soon realized this 
road was meandering all over the place. Time seemed to be going by at 
an alarming rate. I realizee I was in trouble if I wanted to get to 
my sister and pick her up on time. It seemed Memorial was moving away
from the freeway, not converging toward it. I decided I needed to find
a cross street that connected the two and get on the freeway and be on
my way.

I passed a street on my left that looked good, but I had doubt in my
mind. So just went by it. All of a sudden the right front tire of my 
car started to pull right.

Background info again. The previous several weeks had seen really bad
rain storms. Houston is known for this. During one of these storms, I
had to drive through a flooded section of the road to get to school and
water found it's way up into the wheel bearings on my car and destroyed
the bearings. This occured during the time my step dad was away and I 
had to try and fix them myself. I wasn't sure what I was doing and
didn't have any guidance, so I called one of my step dad's friends,
Jerry. Jerry worked at a auto parts place and was a good friend of my
step dads since high school. They used to hang out together when they
were kids. I called Jerry, explained the situation, and he said he'd get
me the parts. I worked on the right front bearing and thought I had it
fixed. Then a few days later the left side froze up. I tried to repair
it and then the right side froze up again. I went thru this several
times, destroying the bearings in the process, when finally I had to
call Jerry and tell him I didn't know what I was doing and asked for
help. So he came over and helped me do it right. Unfortunately I had
already done serious damage to the spindles. We did the best we could
(with a file and sandpaper) but the spindles were in bad shape. I didn't
have the money to replace them, so we did our best and hoped...

Back to my story. I thought we had the problem with the bearings solved.
Several weeks had gone by without any problems, ... until now. When a 
bearing freezes it causes the wheel to stop turning and creates a
braking effect at that tire. That causes the car to turn in that direction.

Just as I passed the road on my left, (the one I thought might take me
back to the freeway, but doubted it) the right front tire started pulling
right. I quickly turned into the first street on the right. I was really
mad. I though we had "this bearing thing" fixed. I stopped and felt the
bearing. It wasn't hot. But I knew I felt the car pull. So I thought, 
"I've got to quit goofing around and do something now." So I pulled back
out onto Memorial drive, but in the opposite direction to that road on the
left (now on the right, see below) I thought might lead me to the freeway.
When I turned onto it (sorry, I can't recall the name) I was so pre-
occupied with the front end of the car, I wasn't paying any attention to my

============================ I-10
           // (there was a very long distance between the Memorial
            |  and I-10)
            | {the road I had just passed
 =}===================== {Memorial Dr. (if it was straight)
 (original      |
  direction)    | {the road I turned onto to stop and feel the bearing.

Then it happened. The right front tire really froze and the car made
an abrupt turn towards the right. Luckily I was right at a driveway
and turned into it. The car came to a stop and I looked up. There
before me was a church. This was really wild. I hadn't even noticed
that it was there, because I had been concentrating so much on the front
end of the car making sure it went straight.

I thought, "Great. I'll go in and see if they have a phone." I left the
car and started looking around. I finally found a guy, his name was
John. He was in a little office. I explained that I had car trouble
and asked if I could use the phone. He was very nice and I called my
sister, told her I wouldn't make it and she'd have to get another way
home, and pick up Dayle, my brother. Surprisingly, she wasn't upset.
Now you'd have to know my sister to appreciate that in itself. She's
very hot tempered and doesn't like to be kept waiting or inconvenienced.
But she handled the situation just fine. (small miracle no. 1 :) ) (She's
much better now! :) )

Then I called home, but no one was there. I left a message to my step
dad explaining what happened and told him to call Jerry and Jerry
would explain the situation. I told him to get the parts from Jerry,
where I was, and that I'd just have to wait for him to get there.

John asked, "Well as long as you've got to wait, would you like to 
look around?" So what else was I going to do? John gave me the
complete tour. It was amazing. This church (Chapelwood) was really
impressive. I had never seen such a church. It had an indoor
basketball court, gym, and meeting hall. The kitchen was
bigger and better equipped than the kitchen at the four star
restaurant where I worked. The chapel was amazing. It was in the
shape of a cross and had a huge organ. John informed me that the organ
was the biggest west of the Mississippi. He gave me the grand tour!
It was real interesting, and he was a real nice guy.

Finally we ended the tour and headed back to the office. I just sat
around waiting. I read a couple of magazines they had laying around.
After a few minutes a man came in. John introduced him to me as Kelly
Williams, the pastor of the church. He was very nice, a big smile and
wished me good luck. John then gave him his mail and Kelly proceeded
to his office.

He was in there about five minutes, when he burst out of his office
and very quickly and firmly said to me, "WHAT WAS YOUR NAME!?" This
scared the heck out of me, and he saw that. So he toned down his
advance and repeated the question. I told him and he said, "Come into
my office."

I did as I was told and followed him in. I looked at John and he had
the same confused look on his face that I must have had on mine.

Kelly invited me to sit down, and I did. He started with, "You and I
have a common friend."

"So here," I thought, "it comes. Jesus. Jesus loves you, blah, blah,

But he instead said, "You know a girl named Cheryl?"

"Yes," I said.

"And her boyfriend, Chris?"

"Yes, he's my best friend."

Kelly then went on to read aloud a letter Cheryl had written to him
that he had picked up his mail. Chris and Cheryl were very
strong Christians and it turned out, attended this church. In the
letter she was telling Kelly about our family (she was intimately
aware of our plight, as one time she was there right after my father
broke into the house to beat my mom.) and asking why God would let
something like this go on to such "good people" as me and my brother and

Kelly asked me many questions about my life and family. I was there
for about 45 minutes. Kelly made several phone calls. He gave me $100
cash and told me to get some food in the house. He told me many
things, most of which I forget, but the one I do remember was that
things were going to be okay. I was just dazed. 

So after our meeting, Kelly and I hugged (something extremely rare
for me at the time) and I left. As I was approaching my car, I could 
see my step dad about to lower it off the jack. (it was almost 
night now, the sun had just set.)

I said, "Thanks for coming. Did you get the right parts?"

He said, "Yea, but there's nothing wrong with it."

He then showed me by spinning the wheel and it spun freely. I was
shocked. I showed him the skid mark it had made in the gravel
driveway and he said, yea, but that it was okay now. (The new parts
were still in their boxes.) I drove the car home. (and for another 
7 years and about 100,000 miles on the same bearings and spindles,
all the way here to Tucson.:) small miracle no. 2)

When I got home, the lights were on, the water was on, the gas was on.
It was my first hot shower in about three weeks. I had stopped at the
grocery store and picked up food and we had a regular, family sit down
dinner that night.

I'd like to say, "and we lived happily ever after..." but that's not
true. Life was still a bitch for our family, but ever since that day,
it has been different.

There is much to be appreciated here. Some of the important parts for
me is that "feeling." Actually "feelings." I learned that feeling when
I was turning the wheel. I can't describe it. I don't expect anyone to
ever understand it. But it was as if someone else was directing my
hands. He took control for me. Then there was the feeling of when I
passed up the road, that I ended up going back to. I learned to
identify that feeling of doubt. I knew it was the road I should turn
on, but I doubted myself. Less than an hour earlier I had a similar
feeling when I turned right onto Memorial, but in that case, God just
took the wheel from me. Now he was trying to do it, without Him actually
having to do it for me. He was trying to teach me. But I was so new at
this, I doubted Him. But then the wheel started freezing up, and so I
was forced to "listen" to that feeling. 

When I first felt the right front tire freezing up, I had turned onto 
the first road on the right just off Memorial. From there I could see 
the road I had just passed and thought about turning onto. I just kept
looking at that road. For quite a long time. Finally I remember saying, 
"Okay, I'll listen." (I didn't know who I was listening to, but I'd 
listen. :) ) 

That was the first time I let go, so to speak, and started listening 
to what He was trying to tell me. But again, even after I was traveling
on the road He intended for me to be on, I was so preoccupied with my 
current situation (the problem with the bearings.) I was missing His
sign. (the church) So again, He had to take control of the situation 
and I ended up on the church parking lot!

This was the turning point in my life. :)

I have never been the same.

Could Satan have done all these things? Sure, he has the power, but
why? I was already away from God at this time. In fact I told many
people I was an atheist. (I didn't really feel that way, but I
didn't believe either.) So if Satan did orchestrate all this, he
lost because it is what brought me to God. Maybe not to God in the 
sense that some people think it should be, but unquestionably for me.

Every word of this is true. I haven't embellished a single line.

God works thru me every single day. I know exactly when I'm going 
His will (or on His path for me.) and when I'm not. I still sometimes 
choose to ignore that feeling, but I guarantee you, that at the moment I'm
doing it, I know I'm doing wrong, and usually then go back and
correct my actions. If I don't I suffer the results of my actions. :) 
(NOTE: MY ACTIONS, not God's.) None of this is to imply anything about me.
This is God's story. It's about Him and His love for me. It happened not
to make bring attention to me, but Him. 

So that is the story. As all other times I've told it, my heart is
pounding, I feel that "feeling" and I feel good. I thank God, You took
the time to come to me.

Hope you enjoyed it. I know I always enjoy telling it. :)


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Authored December 5th, 1997.