My name is Peter Vanneste let me tell you my story…
I was saved July, 1996. Standing on a 100 acre farm in Bonifay, Florida, I had nothing but the clothes on my back. I had spent the last five years either drunk or high; a lot of times both. My path to self-destruction started in 1991. I always felt my entire life I was missing something, like there was a hole in me I tried to fill. I filled it alright – with drugs and booze!
I lost everything trying to fill that hole: a good job, relationships, family. I became destitute – no home, car, no hope. What job I could keep was at a labor pool where my pay was minimum wage, which came out to $30.00 a day. This was just barely enough for one meal, and the rest was spent on drugs and booze. If I found someone I could get a room at a cheap motel so I could take a shower and sleep in a soft bed. Most of the time, I would sleep in cars, at friends places, or camp in the woods. The latter I would rather do so I would have more money for drugs or booze.
In March of ’96 I was living in a halfway house, and I got behind on rent deciding to drink my saved rent money. I had made a few close friends in there, so I was able to stay a couple more days but eventually I got kicked out. That same night, desperate to sleep in the safety of a room, I eased through a window of a tenantless room. Someone saw me and I was then publicly thrown out.
Embarrassed and fed up with my circumstances, I called my younger brother Chuck. Fortunately for me, Chuck had already looked into a few places that could help someone like me. Secular institutions were out of the question, as they would require good health insurance or enormous sums of money that neither he nor I could provide. Chuck found a one year Christian program called ‘Teen Challenge’ that only required minimum funds. Chuck said I had to make the choice whether to go to it. I said yes.
Standing alone in Bonifay, Florida on a 100 acre farm, God and I made a deal. I told him if He would take away my legal problems, I would quit drinking and doing drugs. Since 1993 I was rarely sober, and in the winter of 1995 I started stealing to finance my buzz. It wasn’t too long until I was arrested and convicted of burglary. I was put on 3 years of probation. I never even went to see my probation officer.
I spent approximately 82 days in jail because I couldn’t bail myself out and my family refused to help. One 22 day stint I spent in jail was after my felony conviction for petty theft. I just did the time for it. Before my release, I was afraid they would see I was on probation and had violated it, but I was released. Not long after that I went in ‘Teen Challenge.’
Before being admitted into the program, they asked if there were any warrants on me. I said no. After a few weeks I approached my counselor and told him it was possible I had an outstanding warrant. He called the appropriate authorities and they disclosed there was no such warrant for me. That was God, keeping up His end of the bargain. He knew this place was my best shot at turning my life around.
A year later I graduated from ‘Teen Challenge.’ I found a job, and 6 months into that job, I got a call from my mom telling me a parole officer in Osceola County was trying to get in touch with me. I about collapsed on hearing this news. I thought my life was over and they were coming to collect me.
I couldn’t wait to talk to the officer, so I called from a pay phone while at work. He introduced himself, “I’m so and so from Osceola County Probation.” He then asks, “What have you been doing for the past one and half years?” He said there was a glitch in their computer system and they lost all my records. I told him I went to ‘Teen Challenge’ and graduated. He said since I was doing something to help myself, all he needed was a copy of my graduation certificate and he would waive my probation. I just needed to pay a fine of $600.00, which my parents paid for me. So, God did this so I would complete my discipleship. Praise God!!!
I was born and raised Catholic-catechism, first communion, everything, I was even an altar boy. The priests talked about Jesus, but they never said Jesus could help you personally. They never said that there was power in Him living in you, that something supernatural- The Holy Spirit – could talk to you and lead you in decisions. He has filled my heart’s hole to overflowing. I want to please Him. God has been so patient with me, He puts people in my path to encourage, inspire, and remind me that I am a child of God. I’m special; He chose me where I was at and I chose Him. You see, God gives us a choice. My mother still asks me if maybe I should go to AA (alcoholics anonymous). I tell her God took that addiction away from me. I feel I have purpose now. Before, I was running after something, but now I run after God. Since being saved, I’ve gotten married and have been for 13 years. I’ve had my ups and downs, but one thing is certain, God won’t let me go, and I continue to abide in Him.
Image courtesy of gerasimov_foto_174/shutterstock.com